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ideas of later periods, blended together without restraint and in the order merely of inherent fitness; the play is of course replete with improbable incidents; yet the improbability is everywhere softened by distance, and even made grateful by the romantic sweetness, the sober wisdom, and the pathetic tenderness, that still spring up fresh and free in its course. All which may sufficiently account for the strong sentence some bave put in against this “marvellous drama,” as Ulrici justly calls it ; and also of the equally strong and far wiser judgment of the poet Campbell, who regards this play as “perhaps the fittest in Shakespeare's whole theatre to illustrate the principle, that great dramatic genius can occasionally venture on bold improbabilities, and yet not only shrive the of. sence, but leave us enchanted with the offender."

One can scarce help regarding the title of this play as a misnomer. For Cymbeline himself is so far from being the centre of action and interest, that we care little or nothing for him, save as related, personally and dramatically, to Imogen, in whom the wbole interest of the play centres, and whose presence, virtual or actual, fills every part of it. Notwithstanding, Ulrici, the German critic, who at least not easy to beat in the making out of a case, maintains the appropriateness of the title. His argumert is worth quoting for its ingenuity, if for nothing else.

“ Cymbe line,” says be, “ the husband, the father, and the king, whom the miseries of all the other parts more or less remotely affect, in whom the rays of the large circle converge again, around whom all revolveş, forms, as it were, the quiescent centre of motion, which, however passive and latent, regulates the fortunes of all, and is influenced by them. The drama, therefore, justly takes its name from him."

Schlegel pronounces Cymbeline “one of Shakespeare's mosi wonderful compositions." Few will deny that he has chosen the right word for the impression which the play leaves strongest in ibe mind. Less grand and lofty in design than the Poet's great tragedies, Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, and Othello, it scarce falls bebind any of them in grace and power of execution. One cannot easily conceive how a finer and more varied display of poetry and character could be reduced within the same coinpass. We have already touched upon the improbability of some of the incidents. But it should be observed that the most improbable of these, excepting the vision in Act v., were borrowed from general circulation and belief. The story containing them, cast into divers forms, was a popular favourite throughout the then better part of Europe ; and in this case their improbability has been much alleviated by the Poet's art, and by the home breathings of nature that wait upon them. The incidents being granted, Shakespeare's ordering of them to his use and purpose, the whole framing and management of the plot so as to work out the proposed result, are cer tainly most skilful and judicious ; insomuch that he may be fairly said to have shown as much of judgment here, as of genius in the richly-varied poetry and character of the drama. Of course the leading purpose of the play is to be sought for in the character of Imogen. Around this, however, are ranged a number of subordinate purposes, running out into a large diversity of matter and person ; yet all are set off with such artful blendings and tran. sitions of light and shade, and grouped with such mastery of per. spective, and such picturesque effect, that the very diversity serves but to deepen the impression of unity.

It is worth special noting how the constancy of the heroine, in the trial and proof of which the whole play takes its form and process, seems to have infused its spirit into the other parts. All the persons are equally set in their respective courses ; the Queen in her intriguing malignity, the King in his self-blinded dotage, Cloten in urging on his love-suit, Pisanio in his fidelity of service, Belarius in his resentment, Iachimo in his treachery, and Posthumus in his quest of death. All these persons, too, have each their several plot; each is forecasting and scheming for some end which can only be reached by thwarting another; so that the groundwork of the drama presents little else than a series of counterplottings. And all are defeated in their turn, and, what is more, The final resuit is brought about by their defeat ; as if on purpose to illustrate again and again, that men are not the masters of their own lot; and that while they are each intent on their several plans, a higher Power is secretly working out other plans through them. Accordingly, if the bad thrive for awhile, it is that they may at last be the more effectually caught and crushed in their own toils ; if the good are at first cast down, it is that they may be uplifted in the end, and “happier much by their affliction made." And so, while the drama is bristling throughout with resolves and deeds, yet all of them miscarry, all of them fail. It is the very prevalence, in part, of what we call chance over bu man design, that gives the work such a wild, romantic, and legendary character; making the impression of some supernatural power putting to confusion the works of men, that its own agency may be the more manifest in the order that finally succeeds.

In Imogen not a single trait or line of female excellence is omitted. As if on purpose for the better depicting of a perfect wife, the Poet keeps her out of the other relations through most of the play. Already a wife when we first see her, she acts but little in any other quality ; yet in this one she approves herself the mistress of all womanly perfections, such as would make glad the heart and life of whoever stood in any relationship with her. That her attractions may the more appear as in herself, not in the feeling of others, that is, in her character, not in her sex, the late ter is hidden from those about her : yet, without any of the advantages that would arise from its being known what she is ; disrobed of all the poetry and religion with which every right-minded man invests the presence of womanhood; still she kindles a deep, holy affection in every one that meets with her. Hazlitt, with charac. teristic liveliness and obliquity of criticism, says, —“ Posthumus is only interesting from the interest she takes in him, and she is ooly interesting herself from her tenderness and constancy to her husband.If this be true, how is it that she so wins and wears the hearts of those who know not nor suspect what she is? Why should wise and reverend manhood exclaim at the sight of her « Behold divineness no elder than a boy!” In truth, the “sweet rosy lad," and the “page so kind, so duteous, diligent,” is hardly less interesting, though in a different sort, than the lady, the princess, and the wife. But is it to us, not to the other persons of the drama, that she is “interesting only from her tenderness and constancy to her husband ?” Nay, much of the interest we take in her as a woman and a wife springs from the feelings kindled in others towards her as a sad, sweet, lovely boy. But, if the meaning be, that it is only while acting in the quality of a wife that she nterests us ; of this there can be no question, for we scarce see her acting in any other. Indeed, so far from just is the remark quoted, that there is perhaps no character in Shakespeare more apt to inspire one with the sentiment,

“ What joy to hear thee, and to see!

Thy elder brother I would be,

Thy father, any thing to thee." Imogen has all the intelligence of Portia in The Merchant of Venice, without any of Portia's effort or art. Portia is always trying to be wise, and always succeeds ; Imogen has at least equal success without trying : and her wisdom is better than Portia's inasmuch as, seated more in the heart than in the head, and spring. ing rather from nature than from reflection, it comes forth so freely and spontaneously that she herself takes no thought of it. It is this inward framing and tuning of the heart to the harmonies of truth that enables her to anticipate as by instinct the wisdom that comes to others only by large and ripe experience. For it may well be observed, that in her moral reflections Imnogen is wise far beyond any capabilities of the mere intellect.

And she is as spirited, withal, as intelligent, whenever duty bids or permits her to be so. Her anger is hard indeed to arouse, but woe to the man that does arouse it. Notwithstanding her sharp trials and vexations, though pursued by cunning malice “hourly coining plots” and “sprighted by a fool,” the calm sweetness of her temper is ruffled but iwice, and that is when duty to her husband and to herself requires it. In both cases her anger is liko a flash of lightning, brief, but sure. Not even Cloten's iron stomach is proot against her scorching strokes when her spirit is up, There is no mistaking her meaning: when she speaks, r:very word goes right to the spot ; and her quick keen robuffs crack on the feelings and sting like a whip.

Of her personal beauty we never think at all save when others are speaking of it. And the reason seems to be, partly because she wears it so unconciously herself, partly because, when she is before us, the radiance of her person is quenched in that of her mind and character; she so fills the inner eye, that what touches the outer is scarce heeded more than if it were not. And it is much the same with her disguise : we take no thought of it, because she takes none. For it is remarkable that she shows no® fear and makes no effort, either, like Rosaline, lest she should be. tray her sex to others, or, like Viola, lest she should wrong it to herself. The outward proprieties of her sex are indeed exquisitely preserved; yet she seems no more concious of doing this than of the circulation of her blood. Her thoughts and feelings are all intent on higher matters, and such is her command of our sympathies, that for the time being she empties our minds of every thing but what is in her own.

But it is needless to dwell upon, it is impossible to exhaust the beauty of this delineation. The whole play is full of the divinest poetry, and it is nearly all inspired by Imogen, except what she herself utters and is. Other of the Poet's heroines are equal, perhaps superior, in the conception; but none of them is carried out with such sustained force and wealth of development: she is all or nearly all that a woman can be or ought to be, and we are given to see and feel all that she is. Perhaps she does not strike the imagination quite so enchantingly as Miranda, nor the heart quite 80 profoundly as Cordelia; but she goes near to make up tho account, in that she unites, as far as seems possible, the interest of both.

The design of the play evidently required that Posthumus should be kept in the background. For he could not be in the foreground without staying beside Imogen ; staying there, he could not be cheated out of his faith in her; in which case there would be no chance for the trial and proof of her constancy. Hence the necessity of putting so much respecting him into the mouths of the other persons; and certainly their tongues are rich enough in praise of him. It was no easy thing to carry him through the part assigned him in the play, without disqualifying overmuch the lady's judgment in choosing him; and the Poet manifestly labours somewhat to plant such second-hand impressions of him as may secure the vindlication of her choice in our thoughts. For he clearly meant that her wisdom and insight, as approved in other things, should serve to us as a pledge and guaranty of his worth; that “ by her election should be truly read what kind of man he is." And not the least of his merits as an artist is the skill he has in making his characters so utter themselves as at the same time to mirror one another. And so here, being forced either to with

uraw Posthumus from our immediate view, or else to set hiin before us in a somewhat unfavourable light, the best thing he could do, was to give us a reflection of him from Imogen ; and if that reflection, confirmed as it is by others, be not enough, there was no help for it; it was the best that the nature of the case admitted of. And surely it were something bold in any man to wage his own judgment in a matter of this kind against such a woman's as Imogen ; for, as Campbell says, “she hallows to the imagination every thing that loves her, and that she loves in return."

Still we can hardly keep quit of the suspicion, that his high credit with her and others is partly owing to the presence of such a foil as Cloten, in comparison with whom he is an angel of a man indeed. And at all events one cannot choose but wish that the Poet had made him hold out a little more firmly against the forged or stolen evidences of his wife's infidelity, and keep his faith at least till the last and strongest item was produced. It is observable, that the Poet represents his very fulness of confidence at first as rendering him all the more liable to the reverse in the contingency that is to arrive : because he is perfectly sure that no proofs of success can be shown by Iachimo, therefore, when some such proofs are shown, he falls the more readily into the opposite state. And this, undoubtedly, is in the right line of nature. For to shake the confidence of such a man in such a case is to invert it all into distrust at once. The character of Posthumus is crowned with a liberal measure of redemption in the latter part of the play. After his revenge, as he believes, has been taken, his exceeding bitterness of remorse and penitence turn our reveuge into pity; for his experience presses home to our hearts as well as his own, that, “though those who are betray'd do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor stands in worse case of woe;" and nis persevering quest of death finally repeals the feeling which we should otherwise be apt to have, that death were none too bad for him.

Cloten is a very notable instance of a man or a thing, with not merely a loose screw in the gearing, but with all the screws loose. His character reminds us of nothing so much as the description of Desborough in Woodstock : “ His limbs seemed to act upon different and contradictory principles. They were not, as the play says, in a concatenation accordingly: the right hand moved as if it were on bad terms with the left, and the legs showed an inclination to foot it in different and opposite directions.” Precisely so it is with Cloten's mind. There are the materials of a man in him, but they are not made up : his whole being seems a mase unhingement, disorder, and jumble, full of unaccountable jerks assu twitches : the several parts of him hold no mutual intercourse or intelligence, but appear set at incurable odds one with another, each having a will and a way of its own, so that no two of them can pull or strike together. Hence the excruciating, though at the same time laughable, unfitness of all that he

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