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“ Bonos dies, Sir Toby; for as the old Hermit of Prague," &c.
“ Like to the Egyptian thief,” &c. - Act V., Scene 1. Act IV., Scene 2.
An allusion to an affecting story in the Ethiopics of Heliodorus, the In this speech of the Clown is probably intended " a fling” at the famous sophist, of which an English version, by Thomas Underdowne, jargon of the schools, once so prevalent, in such phrases as “ Whatsa appeared in 1587. Thyamis, a native of Memphis, and captain of a ever is, is ;” and, “ It is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to band of robbers, being deeply enamored of a lady named Chariclea, be;" &c. The old hermit of Prague was, doubtless, a very admirable who had fallen into his hands, and being surprised by a company of logician in his time, and family-physician to King Gorboduc. banditti, stronger than his own, caught her by her tresses with his
left hand, and with his right plunged his sword into her heart, to Nay, I am for all waters." -Act IV., Scene 2.
prevent her becoming their victim after his inevitable death. The old dictionaries define the term water, applied to gems, as “a
“A passy-measure pavin.”. - Act V., Scene 1. certain luster of pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones." This will sufficiently explain the Clown's play of words upon the chaplain's The names of grave pedantic dances of the time. The pavin (pa
ven, or pavan), so called from the Latin pavo, a peacock, was of Span
ish origin, and was performed by gentlemen dressed with cap and “Like to the old vice, &c."— Act IV., Scene 2.
sword, by the long-robed gentry in their gowns, by princes in their The vice, in the old church-plays, called “MYSTERIES,” and “ Mo- mantles, and by ladies in gowns with long trains; “ the motion RALITIES,” was as regularly introduced a personage as is the harlequin whereof, in the dance,” says Sir John Hawkins, “ resembled that of
a peacock's tail.” in our modern pantomimes. The devil, also, was another of their prominent heroes; and the belaboring of this latter worthy by the
“ When that I was and a little tiny boy,” &c. - Act V., Scene 1. vice, with his “ dagger of lath,” afforded as much amusement to the audiences of the time, as to our Christmas holiday-makers do the This ballad-epilogue (for such it is), superciliously sneered at by magic thumps of harlequin's wand upon the backs of clown and pan- some of the learned commentators, is to us expressive, and suggestive taloon.
of much that is sublime. “Whiles you are wiling." - Act IV., Scene 3.
“A great while ago the world began,
With, hey, ho, the wind and the rain! “ Till such time as you are willing."
But that's all one-our play is done." As the play, so is the world. “A great while ago” it began, as did the play: the play is ended, and the world must end:
“ The cloud-capped towers, and the gorgeous palaces, “ Primo, secundo, tertio, is a good play,” &c. — Act V., Scene 1.
The solemn temples, the great globe itself, If the jester's wit be here too latent for the detection of the reader,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve; it is so, also, for that of all the learned commentators, who, accord
And, like this unsubstantial pageant faded, ingly, pass it over in very discreet silence; and we are compelled
Leave not a rack behind! We are such stuff humbly to tread in the steps of their ignorance. Festo is, neverthe
As dreams are made of, and our little life less, in this place, as everywhore, intelligible enough - by implication.
Is rounded with a sleep."
This is a play in which one of the main features of conventional morality is treated in a very extraordinary manner, being equally enforced and set at defiance: sometimes regarded, even to a vindictive and sanguinary degree, as the purest code of conduct; and in the next scene, either by sentiments or actions, ridiculed and utterly dismissed with characteristic impartiality. The philosophy of Shakspeare is always upon the broadest scale; and in that universality of view, each man may find his own likeness, and the world its lasting lessons. The principle and plot of the play, taken as a whole, are very fine; its parts are, however, unequal, defective, and in some scenes as trivial and offensive as they are unnecessary. To speak in general terms, the only really objectionable things in Shakspeare are those which have nothing to do with his subject. “MEASURE FOR MEASURE” is also a good illustration, in other respects, of his mode of composition. He enforces no particular theories or opinions; but, with intense dramatic truth, makes all his characters individually think and act for themselves. They give their own
justifications — good, bad, and indifferent — for their conduct; and according to the understanding, and the natural and acquired moral standard of the reader, so do they become the objects of sympathy, antipathy, of aversion, admiration, or of mixed feelings, in which the abstract intellect and imagination exercise their speculations, and thus, perhaps, add to knowledge, and extend the bounds of mental experience.
Dr. Johnson's estimate of “MEASURE FOR MEASURE” does not tend to enhance our admiration of the play, nor of his critical judgment. “Of this play,” says he, “the light or comic part is very natural and pleasing ; but the grave scenes, if a few passages be excepted, have more labor than elegance.” Giving the elegance or inelegance (a mere matter of style and externals) its due weight only in the question, most readers will be apt to consider the comic part as sometimes very heavy, and always rather idle and supererogatory, however natural; while most of the serious scenes have long been felt to be admirable in spirit and masterly in execution, both as wholes and in the many noble passages they contain.
The story of “MEASURE FOR MEASURE,” and a portion of the construction of the plot for acting, were probably taken directly from a comedy by George Whetstone, entitled “The Right EXCELLENT AND Famous HISTORIE OF PROMOS AND CASSANDRA," of which black-letter edition was printed in 1578. The same story was also published by Whetstone, in his “ HEPTAMERON,” 1582. The origin of the main incidents will be found in an old Italian novel, by Cintio Giraldi, of which no translations, it is said, were extant in Shakspeare's time. The crime of Angelo, in “ MEASURE FOR MEASURE,” has many historical parallels, which the curious reader may find in an anecdote of Charles the Bold, who punished a noble with death for a similar offense, as related by Lipsius (on which story a French tragedy was written); in the conduct of Olivier le Dain, described in “ The MEMOIRS OF PHILIP DE COMINES ;” in the story of Colonel Kirke, as told by Hume; and in the story of Don Garcias, related in “ COOKE's VINDICATION OF THE PROFESSORS AND PROFESSION OF THE LAW,'' 1646. A similar anecdote also occurs in Lupton, and in the writings of Belleforest. But the chief, if not the only source from which Shakspeare derived the raw materials of “MEASURE FOR MEASURE,” seems really to have been the above-mentioned comedy of Whetstone. In this old play, he found enough to save himself much trouble; and to its crude management, after altering various details with the finest judgment, he communicated that spiritual force and reality by which he always so far excels and outshines his models, that it becomes difficult to distinguish their dull outlines amidst his dazzling fullness. “ MEASURE FOR MEASURE” is considered by the most recondite authorities to have been written in 1603 or 1604.
R. H. H.