Page images
PDF
EPUB

passages, we should give half the play. We will only recall a few of the most delightful to the reader's recollection. Such are the meeting between Orlando and Adam, the exquisite ap. peal of Orlando to the humanity of the Duke and his company to supply him with food for the old man, and their answer, the Duke's description of a country life, and the account of Jaques moralising on the wounded deer, his meeting with Touchstone in the forest, his apology for his own melancholy and his satiri. cal vein, and the well-known speech on the stages of human life, the old song of “Blow, blow, thou winter's wind,” Rosalind's description of the marks of a lover and of the progress of time with different persons, the picture of the snake wreathed round Oliver's neck while the lioness watches her sleeping prey, and Touchstone's lecture to the shepherd, his defence of cuckolds, and panegyric on the virtues of “an If.”—All of these are familiar to the reader: there is one passage of equal delicacy and beauty which may have escaped him, and with it we shall close our account of AS YOU LIKE IT. It is Phebe's description of Ganimed, at the end of the third act. Si eb239008 Last

[graphic]

“ Think not I love him, tho' I ask for him;
'Tis but a peevish boy, yet he talks well ;-
But what care I for words! yet words do well,
When he that speaks them pleases those that hear ;
It is a pretty youth ; not very pretty ;
But sure he's proud, and yet his pride becomes him ;
He'll make a proper man; the best thing in him
Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue
Did make offence, his eye did heal it up :
He is not very tall, yet for his years he's tall;
His leg is but so so, and yet'tis well;
There was a pretty redness in his lip,
A little riper, and more lusty red
Than that mix'd in his cheek; 'twas just the difference
Betwixt the constant red and mingled damask.
There be some women, Silvius, had they mark'd him
In parcels as I did, would have gone near
To fall in love with him; but for my part
I love him not; nor hate him not; and yet
I have more cause to hate him than to love him :
For what had he to do to chide at me ?”

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

The TAMING OF THE SHREW is almost the only one of Shak. speare's comedies that has a regular plot, and downright moral. It is full of bustle, animation, and rapidity of action. It shows admirably how self-will is only to be got the better of by stronger will, and how one degree of ridiculous perversity is only to be driven out by another still greater. Petruchio is a madman in his senses; a very honest fellow, who hardly speaks a word of truth, and succeeds in all his tricks and impostures. He acts his assumed character to the life, with the most fantastical a. travagance, with complete presence of mind, with untired ani. mal spirits, and without a particle of ill-humor from beginning to end. The situation of poor Katherine, worn out by his inces. sant persecutions, becomes at last almost as pitiable as it is ludi. crous, and it is difficult to say which to admire most, the unac. countableness of his actions, or the unalterableness of his reso lutions. It is a character which most husbands ought to study, unless perhaps the very audacity of Petruchio's attempt might alarm them more than his success would encourage them. What a sound must the following speech carry to some married cans!

“Think you a little din can daunt my car!
Have I not in my time heard lions tour!
Have I not heard the sea, puff d up with winds,
Rage like an angry boar, chafed with sweat?
Have I Dot heard great ordnance in the field ?
And heav'a's artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in a pitched battle heard
Loud larums, neighing stends, and trutapets clang!
And do you tell me of a woman's tongue,

That gives not half so great a blow to hear,
As will a chesnut in a farmer's fire ?

Not all Petruchio's rhetoric would persuade more than “ some 'dozen followers” to be of this heretical way of thinking. He unfolds his scheme for the Taming of the Shrew, on a principle of contradiction, thus :

“I'll woo her with some spirit when she comes.
Say that she rail, why then I'll tell her plain
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale;
Say that she frown, I'll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly wash'd with dew;
Say she be mute, and will not speak a word,
Then I'll commend her volubility,
And say she uttereth piercing eloquence:
If she do bid me pack, I'll give her thanks,
As tho' she bid me stay by her a week;
If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day,
When I shall ask the banns, and when be married ?”

He accordingly gains her consent to the match, by telling her father that he has got it; disappoints her by not returning at the time he has promised to wed her, and when he returns, creates no small consternation by the oddity of his dress and equipage. This however is nothing to the astonishment excited by his madbrained behavior at the marriage. Here is the account of it by an eye-witness :

“ GREMIO. Tut, she's a lamb, a dove, a fool to him:
I'll tell you, Sir Lucentio; when the priest
Should ask if Katherine should be his wife?
Ay, by gog's woons, quoth he; and swore so loud,
That, all amaz'd, the priest let fall the book ;
And as he stooped again to take it up,
This mad-brain'd bridegroom took him such a cuff,
That down fell priest and book, and book and priest.
Now take them up, quoth he, if any list.

TRANIO. What said the wench when he rose up again?
GREMIO. Trembled and shook; for why, he stamp'd and swore
As if the vicar meant to cozen him.
But after many ceremonies done,
He calls for wine: a health, quoth he; as if
He 'ad been aboard carousing with his mates

After a storm ; quaft off the muscadel,
And threw the sops all in the sexton's face;
Having no other cause but that his beard
Grew thin and hungerly, and seem'd to ask
His sops as he was drinking. This done, he took
The bride about the neck, and kiss'd her lips
With such a clamorous smack, that at their parting
All the church echoed : and I seeing this,
Came thence for very shame; and after me,
I know, the rout is coming;
Such a mad marriage never was before !"

The most striking and at the same time laughable feature in the character of Petruchio throughout is the studied approximation to the intractable character of real madness, his apparent insensibility to all external considerations, and utter indifference to everything but the wild and extravagant freaks of his own self-will. There is no contending with a person on whom nothing makes an impression but his own purposes, and who is bent on his own whims just in proportion as they seem to want common sense. With him a thing's being plain and reasonable is a rea. son against it. The airs he gives himself are infinite, and his caprices as sudden as they are groundless. The whole of his treatment of his wife at home is in the same spirit of ironical attention and inverted gallantry. Everything flies before his will, like a conjuror's wand, and he only metamorphoses his wife's temper by metamorphosing her senses and all the objects she looks upon at a word's speaking. Such are his insisting that it is the moon, and not the sun, which they see, &c. This ex. travagance reaches its most pleasant and poetical height in the scene where, on their return to her father's, they meet old Vin. contio, whom Petruchio immediately addresses as a young lady:

* PETRECKO. Good morrow, gentle mistress, where away!
Tell me, sweet Kate, and tell me truly too,
Hast thou bebeld a fresher gentlewoman!
Such war of white and red within her checks;
What star do spangle heaven with socha beauty.
As those two eye become that heavenly face !
Fair lovely maid, once more good day to thee:
Swert Kate, embrace her for her beauty's wake.

HORTENSIO. He'll make the man mad to make a woman of him

KATHERINE. Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet,
Whither away, or where is thy abode ?
Happy the parents of so fair a child ;
Happier the man whom favorable stars
Allot thee for his lovely bed-fellow.

PETRUCHIO. Why, how now, Kate, I hope thou art not mad :
This is a man, old, wrinkled, faded, wither'd,
And not a maiden, as thou say'st he is.

KATHERINE. Pardon, old father, my mistaken eyes,
That have been so bedazzled with the sun
That everything I look on seemeth green.
Now I perceive thou art a reverend father.”

The whole is carried off with equal spirit, as if the poet's comic Muse had wings of fire. It is strange how one man could be so many things; but so it is. The concluding scene, in which trial is made of the. obedience of the new-married wives (so triumphantly for Petruchio) is a very happy one.-In some parts of this play there is a little too much about music-masters and maş. ters of philosophy. They were things of greater rarity in those days than they are now. Nothing, however, can be better than the advice which Tranio gives his master for the prosecution of his studies :

“The mathematics, and the metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you :
No profit grows, where is no pleasure ta'en :
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.”

We have heard the Honey-Moon called “an elegant Katherine and Petruchio." We suspect we do not understand this word elegant in the sense that many people do. But in our sense of the word, we should call Lucentio's description of his mistress elegant :

“ Tranio, I saw her coral lips to move, And with her breath she did perfume the air: Sacred and sweet was all I saw in her.”

When Biondello tells the same Lucentio for his encouragement, “I knew a wench married in an afternoon as she went to the garden for parsley to stuff a rabbit, and so may you, sir ;"—there

« PreviousContinue »