« PreviousContinue »
HELENA, the plebian heroine of this excellent comedy, is of the order of Nature's nobility. The character is a charming compound of courage and tenderness; of modesty and passion ; misgiving and perseverance. In the subduement of her superior mind to the personal qualities of Bertram, we recognize one of those familiar tricks that Love, the omnipotent urchin, devises in furtherance of Benedick's maxim, The world must be peopled.” Notwithstanding the purity and devotedness of the sensitive dependent's affection, her portrait of the laughty young Count refers solely to bodily perfections; and, indeed, he gives neither her nor any one else much opportunity of praising him for others, courage excepted. “ His arched brows, his hawking eye, bis curls, — every line and trick of his sweet favor," — these were the charms which struck that fine-hearted creature whom he contemptuously designates the “poor physician's daughter,” and “sanctified- his relics” to one whom, in the indignant language of the benevolent Countess, “twenty such rude boys might tend upon, and call her hourly, mistress.” He lives,
however, to regret her loss; and, on regaining so sweet a treasure, to give a voluntary promise that henceforth he will “love her dearly, ever, ever dearly.” Heartily do we sympathize with the strenuous achiever of love’s labors, in this summer of her fortunes, her own anticipated time, — “when briars shall have leaves as well as thorns, and be as sweet as sharp.”
The Countess is a no less admirable specimen of female humanity: by nature, as by station, she stands erect and graceful, - a genuine “Corinthian capital of polished society.” Her overflowing benignity enriches every scene in which she figures: it is not the spurious result of indolence or apathy, but an ever-active principle, leading her to seek and love the just and true in every word and every action. The skillful, sharp, and yet affectionate manner in which she probes the secret feelings of the love-lorn maiden, demanding urgently and frequently the simple rigid truth, is highly characteristic of a warm and sincere nature, ready to make all needful sacrifices, but 'impatient of deceit and trifling. Had Helena, instead of breaking into an impassioned arowal of her love for Bertram, in preference even to her friend and benefactress, attempted denial or persisted in evasion, she had never gone to Paris with “ leave, and love, — means, and attendants,” and prayers for blessing on her bold attempt. These two inestimable women form the gems of the play, and finer ornaments no dramatist of the affections need wish to place in his poetic tiara.
The comic portion of the drama is principally sustained by Parolles. This amusing braggart is delineated with great skill; and, despite his cowardice and practical absurdity, he possesses an eye for the ridiculous, and considerable power of sarcasm. His libelous sketches of the French gallants in the Florentine camp are rich and abundant. The mode, too, in which the baffled boaster works upon the self-love of his hearty old enemy, Lafeu, shows him a keen observer of the shady side of human nature: “O my good lord, you were the first that found me.” The old pike bites at this delicious gudgeon; “ Was I, in sooth ?" .. “Sirrah, inquire further after me; I had talk of you last night: though you are a fool and a knave, you shall eat; go to, follow.” — The Clown displays the usual characteristics of his class, as drawn by Shakspeare. The occasional coarseness of “good Monsieur Lavatch” is expressive of an imperfectly-refined, though picturesque, state of manners: his wit and humor are not unworthy of the hand that has furnished so ample a supply of these enlivening materials, and of wisdom, passion, and imagination, still more valuable. — Throughout the play, there is interspersed much spirited dialogue ; its whole strong texture is embroidered with fancy and observation. One of the finest remarks to be found in all the poet (“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn," &c), is given with his usual liberality, to a mere subordinate (the First Lord), who has not even a proper name in the dramatis personæ.
“All's WELL THAT Ends Well" is supposed have been originally entitled “Love's Labor Won;" a production of that name being mentioned by Francis Meres, in his “Wir's TREASURY" (1598), among the proofs of Shakspeare's excellence in comedy. The plot of the play was originally derived from Boccacio's “ DECAMERON ;” but it is immediately founded on the tale of Giletta of Narbonne,” in Painter's “PALACE OF PLEASURE.”
All's Well That Ends Well.
SCENE I.- Rousillon. A Room in the COUNT- Laf. How called you the man you speak of, Ess's Palace.
Count. He was famous, sir, in his profession, Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON,
and it was his great right to be so:— Gerard de HELENA, and LAFEU, in mourning.
Narbon. Count. In delivering my son from me, I bury a Laf. He was excellent, indeed, madam: the second husband.
King very lately spoke of him, admiringly and Ber. And I, in going, madam, weep o'er my mourningly. He was skilful enough to hare lived father's death anew: but I must attend his majesty's still, if knowledge could be set up against morcommand, to whom I am now in ward, evermore tality. in subjection.
Ber. What is it, my good lord, the King lanLaf. You shall find of the King a husband, guishes of ? madam ; — you, sir, a father: he that so generally Laf. A fistula, my lord. is at all times good, must of necessity hold his vir- Ber. I heard not of it before. tue to you; whose worthiness would stir it up Laf. I would it were not notorious. — Was where it wanted, rather than lack it where there is this gentlewomon the daughter of Gerard de such abundance.
Narbon ? Count. What hope is there of his majesty's Count. His sole child, my lord; and bequeathed amendment ?
to my overlooking. I have those hopes of her Laf. He hath abandoned his physicians, mad- good that her education promises : her dispositions am; under whose practices he hath persecuted she inherits which make fair gifts fairer: for time with hope; and finds no other advantage where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, in the process but only the losing of hope by there commendations go with pity; they are virtime.
tues and traitors too: in her they are the better for Count. This young gentlewoman had a father their simpleness: she derives her honesty, and (0, that "had !” how sad a passage 't is!) whose achieves her goodness. skill was almost as great as his honesty; had it Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her stretched so far, would have made nature immortal, tears. and death should have play for lack of work. Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can season 'Would, for the King's sake, he were living! I her praise in. The remembrance of her father think it would be the death of the King's dis- never approaches her heart, but the tyranny of her ease.
sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek.— No