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CYMBELINE is one of the most delightful of Shakspeare's histori. cal plays. It may be considered as a dramatic romance, in which the most striking parts of the story are thrown into the form of a dialogue, and the intermediate circumstances are ex. plained by the different speakers, as occasion renders it neces. sary. The action is less concentrated in consequence; but the interest becomes more aerial and refined from the principle of perspective introduced into the subject by the imaginary changes of scene as well as by the length of time it occupies. The reading of this play is like going a journey with some uncertain object at the end of it, and in which the suspense is kept up and heightened by the long intervals between each action. Though the events are scattered over such an extent of surface, and relate to such a variety of characters, yet the links which bind the different interests of the story together are never entirely broken. The most straggling and seemingly casual incidents are contrived in such a manner as to lead at last to the most complete de. velopment of the catastrophe. The ease and conscious uncon. cern with which this is effected only makes the skill more wonder. ful. The business of the plot evidently thickens in the last act: the story moves forward with increasing rapidity at every step; its various ramifications are drawn from the most distant points to the same centre; the principal characters are brought together, and placed in very critical situations; and the fate of almost every person in the drama is made to depend on the solution of a single circumstance—the answer of Iachimo to the question of Imogen respecting the obtaining of the ring from Posthumus. Dr. Johnson is of opinion that Shakspeare was generally inatten. tive to the winding up of his plots. We think the contrary is true ; and we might cite in proof of this remark not only the present play, but the conclusion of Lear, of Romeo and Juliet, of Macbeth, of Othello, even of Hamlet, and of other plays of less moment, in which the last act is crowded with decisive events brought about by natural and striking means.

The pathos in CYMBELINE is not violent or tragical, but of the most pleasing and amiable kind. A certain tender gloom overspreads the whole. Posthumus is the ostensible hero of the piece, but its greatest charm is the character of Imogen. Posthumus is only interesting from the interest she takes in him, and she is only interesting herself from her tenderness and constancy to her husband. It is the peculiar characteristic of Shakspeare's hero. ines, that they seem to exist only in their attachment to others. They are pure abstractions of the affections. We think as little of their persons as they do themselves, because we are let into the secrets of their hearts, which are more important. We are too much interested in their affairs to stop to look at their faces except by stealth and at intervals. No one ever hit the true perfection of the female character, the sense of weakness leaning on the strength of its affections for support, so well as Shakspeare

no one ever so well painted natural tenderness free from affecta. tion and disguise--no one else ever so well showed how delicacy and timidity, when driven to extremity, grow romantic and ex. travagant ; for the romance of his heroines (in which they abound) is only an excess of the habitual prejudices of their sex, scrupulous of being false to their vows, truant to the afl'ctions, and taught by the force of foeling when to forego the furins of propriety for the essence of it. His women are in this respect exquisite logicians; for there is nothing so logical as passion. They know their own minds exactly ; and only follow up a la vorite idea which they have sworn to with their tongues, and which is engraven on their hearts, into its untoward consequences. They are the prettiest little set of martyrs and confessons on record. --Cibber in speaking of the early English stage, ac. counts for the want of prominence and theatrical display in Shakspeare's female characters from the circumstance, that wo. men in those days were not allowed to play the parts of women,

which made it necessary to keep these a good deal in the back. ground. Does not this state of manners itself, which prevented their exhibiting themselves in public, and confined them to the relations and charities of domestic life, afford a truer explanation of the matter ? His women are certainly very unlike stage heroines; the reverse of tragedy-queens.

We have almost as great an affection for Imogen as she had for Posthumus; and she deserves it better. Of all Shakspeare's women she is perhaps the most tender and the most artless. Her incredulity in the opening scene with Iachimo, as to her husband's infidelity, is much the same as Desdemona's backwardness to believe Othello's jealousy. Her answer to the most distressing part of the picture is only, “My lord, I fear, has forgot Britain.” Her readiness to pardon Iachimo's false imputations and his de. signs against herself, is a good lesson to prudes; and may show that where there is a real attachment to virtue, it has no need to bolster itself up with an outrageous or affected antipathy to vice. The scene in which Pisanio gives Imogen his master's letter, accusing her of incontinency on the treacherous suggestions of lachimo, is as touching as it is possible for anything to be :

“PISANIO. What cheer, Madam?

IMOGEN. False to his bed! What is it to be false ?
To lie in watch there, and to think on him?
To weep 'twixt clock and clock? If sleep charge nature,
To break it with a fearful dream of him,
And cry myself awake? That's false to 's bed, is it?

Pisaxto. Alas, good lady!

IMOGEN. I false ? thy conscience witness, Iachimo,
Thou didst accuse him of incontinency,
Thou then look'dst like a villain: now methinks,
Thy favor's good enough. Some jay of Italy,
Whose mother was her painting, hath betrayed him:
Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion,
And for I amn richer than to hang by th' walls,
I must be ript; to pieces with me. Oh,
Men's vows are women's traitors. All good seeming
By thy revolt, oh husband, shall be thought
Put on for villainy: not born where 't grows,
Bat worn a bait for ladies.

PISANIO. Good Madam, hear me
IMɔGEN. Talk thy tongue weary, speak :

I have heard I am a strumpet, and mine car,
Therein false struck, can take no greater wound,
Nor tent to

When Pisanio, who had been charged to kill his mistress, pats her in a way to live, she says,

" Why, good fellow,
What shall I do the while? Where bide? How live?
Or in my life what comfort, when I am
Dead to my husband ?

Yet when he advises her to disguise herself in boy's clothes, and suggests “a course pretty and full in view," by which she may " happily be near the residence of Posthumus," she exclaims,

« Oh, for such means,
Though peril to my modesty, not death on't,
I would adventure. **

And when Pisanio, enlarging on the consequences, tells her she must change

* Fear and niceness,
The handmaids of all women, or more truly,
Woman its pretty well, into a waggish courage,
Ready in gibes, quick answer'd, maury, and
As quarrellous as the weazel"-

she interrupts him hastily;

* Nay, be brief;
I see into thy end, and am almost
A man already."

In her journey thus disguised to Milford. Haven, she loses her guide and her way; and unbosoming her complaints, sys beautifully,

- * My dear Lord,
Thou art one of the false ones; now I think on thee,
My hunger's gone; but even before, I was
At point to sink for food."

She afterwards finds, as she thinks, the dead body of Posthumus, and engages herself as a footboy to serve a Roman officer, when she has done all due obsequies to him whom she calls her former master

_" And when
With wild wood-leaves and weeds, I ha' strew'd his grave,
And on it said a century of pray'rs,
Such as I can, twice o'er I'll weep and sigh,
And leaving so his service, follow you,
So please you entertain me.”

Now this is the very religion of love. She all along relies little on her personal charms, which she fears may have been eclipsed by some painted jay of Italy; she relies on her merit, and her merit is in the depth of her love, her truth and constancy. Our admiration of her beauty is excited with as little consciousness as possible on her part. There are two delicious descriptions given of her, one when she is asleep, and one when she is supposed dead. Arviragus thus addresses her

_“ With fairest flowers,
While summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave; thou shalt not lack
The flow'r that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor
The azur'd hare-bell, like thy veins, no, nor
The leaf of eglantine, which, not to slander,
Out-sweeten'd not thy breath.”

The yellow Iachimo gives another, thus, when he steals into her bed-chamber :

- Cytherea,
How bravely thou becom'st thy bed! Fresh lily,
And whiter than the sheets! That I might touch-
But kiss, one kiss—'Tis her breathing that
Perfumes the chamber thus: the flame o' th' taper
Bows toward her, and would under-peep her lids
To see th' enclosed lights now canopied
Under the windows, white and azure, laced
With blue of Heav'n's own tint-on her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
I the bottom of a cowslip."

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