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wouds, and the body of Cloien by her in her love's apparel; and how she was found by Lucius."
All this, to be sure, does not prove that the play was new when Forman saw it; since we know not how long it may have held its place on the stage ; and the fact of its being kept out of print during the Poet's life is strong evidence that the company were interested in retaining it for performance. It appears, also, by an entry of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, that the play was acted at Court, on the 1st of January, 1633, before King Charles I., and was “ well liked by the King." Nevertheless, our own conviction is very clear that the play, as it has come down to us, was indeed fresh from the mint about the time of Forman's notice. External evidence bearing on this point, we have already implied there is none. But the play has the same general characteristics of style and imagery as The Tempest and The Winter's
while perhaps no play in the whole series abounds more in those overcrammed and elliptical passages which show too great a rush and press of thought for the author's space. The poetry and characterisation, also, are marked by the same severe beauty and austere sweetness, as in the other plays mentioned ; while the moral sentiment of the piece comes out from time to time in just that condensed and flashing energy which indicates, to our mind, the Poet's last and highest stage of art. But these points have been sufficiently dwelt upon in the other plays which we reckon to the same period; so that there is no need of pursuing them here.
Every discerning and careful student will easily perceive that some passages of Cymbeline, especially in the fifth act, run in a very different style from the rest of the play. We refer, of course to ihat piece of dull impertinence, the vision of Posthumus in prison, his dialogue with the Jailers, and the absurd • Jabel” found on his bosom after the vision disappeared. For nothing can well he plainer than that this whole thing is strictly impertinent: it does not throw the least particle of light on the character or motive of any person ; has indeed no business whatsoever with the action of the drama, except to hinder and embarrass it. The dialogue with the Jailers is the brightest part of it; yet even here we have, in effect, but a stupid repetition of what Posthumus has already set forth with such utterance as Shakespeare alone could give him. This ugly blemish apart, the denouement is perfect, and the whole preparation for it made with consummate judgment and skill.
Nevertheless, there the passage stands, and, unsightly an old patch as it may seem, we have no doubt it was woven into the place by Shakespeare himself. It is very much in the manner of those rude and inartificial plays of an earlier time, which Shakespeare did more than anybody else to supersede and drive out of
This has naturally led some to consider it the relic of an older drara, perhaps one written in the Poet's youth, and in the
other parts thoroughly rewritten when his powers were in their full-grown and ripened strength. But, whether retained from an earlier effort of his own, or borrowed from the work of some other hand, it must have been worked in with the nobler effluence of his genius for motives which could have no place with him as an art.
How well it was adapted to take with the vulgar taste of that day, may be judged well enough from the comparative thrift that waits on divers stupid absurdities of the stage in our time. Doubt less, in his day as in ours, there was a large majority who, for the sake of this blemishing stuff, would tolerate the glories of the play: and though, in this case at least, we cannot but wish it were other. wise, still it ought to be no prejudice to Shakespeare, that he was not inaccessible to such motives as have always largely influenced men in his line.
Cymbeline was first published in the folio of 1623, where it stands the last in the division of Tragedies, and the last in the volume. The original presents a tolerably well-printed text, with the acts and scenes duly marked, and the stage-directions remark ably full and precise.
The bistorical matter of Cymbeline, what there is of it, was drawn from Holinshed. A few passages from the old chronicler will be found in our notes, including all, we believe, that is of much importance from that source. The whole matter of old Belarius and the disguised princes, for aught that hath yet been discovered, was original with the Poet; the only mention of them in Holinshed being as follows : « Touching the continuance of Kym. beline's reign, some writers do vary, but the best-approved affirmi that he reigned thirty-five years, and then died, leaving behind him two sons, Guiderius and Arviragus.” The name : f Cloten also was found among the ancient British kings ; but the character and all the ivcidents belonging to it are without any historical basis. The part of the Queen, also, is throughout the Poet's own creation ; at least, no originals of it have been brought to light. The main plot of the drama, with all that relates to Imogen, Posthumus, and Iachimo, is of fabulous origin.
What source Shakespeare directly drew from in this part of the play, is involved in some uncertainty. The chief points in the story seem to have been a sort of common property among the writers of Mediæval Romance. A general outline of the tale, – containing the husband's wager on the virtue of his wife, the successful falsehood practised by the undertaker, to persuade him uf her infidelity, his seeking to avenge himself by her death, her escape, his subsequent discovery of the falsehood, the punishinent of the truitor, and the reunion of the separated couple, has been traced to two old French romances of the thirteenth century, and to a French Miracle-play of the Middle age. Brief sketches of all these are given in Mr. Collier's collection of ancient romances entitled Shakespeare's Library. It is remarkable that the old Miracle-play has two points of resemblance to Cymbeline, which have not been found elsewhere. One is, that Berengier, who an. swers to lachimo, when proposing the wager, says to the husband,
“ I tell you truly that I know no woman living, but if I might speak to her twice, at the third time I might have all my desire." So, in Act i. sc. 5, of the tragedy, Iachimo says, " With no more advantage than the opportunity of a second conference, I will bring you from thence that honour of hers.” The other is, that Berengier endeavours to work the lady up to a fit of jealousy and resentment by telling her,-“I come from Rome, where I left your lord, who does not value you the stalk of a cherry: he is connected with a girl for whom he has so strong a regard that he knows not how to part from her."
But the completest version of the story is in Boccaccio's Decameron, being the Ninth Novel of the Second Day. Here we meet with several incidents, such as the trunk used for conveying the traitor into the lady's bed-chamber, his discovery of a private mark ou her person, and her disguise in male attire, which estab Jish a connection between the novel and the tragedy ; though whether the Poet read Boccaccio in the original or in a translation since lost, is still uncertain. We subjoin a sketch of the story as told by the novelist :
Several Italian merchants, meeting in Paris, fell to talking freely about their wives. “I know not," said one, “ how my wife be haves in my absence ; but, whenever I meet with an attractive woman, I make the best I can of the opportunity.” “And so do 1,” said another ; “ for whether I think my wife unfaithful or nol, she will be so if she pleases." All agreed in this opinion, except Bernabo Lomellia, of Genoa, who said he had a wife perfectly beautiful, in the flower of youth, and of such chastity, that if he were absent ten years she would remain true. Thereupon a young merchant named Ambrogiulo became very facetious and loose-spoken, boasting that he would seduce this modern Lucretia, if opportunity were given him. Bernabo met his boast by proposing a wager, which the other accepted.
Ambrogiulo then went to Genoa, where he soou found that Ginevra had not been overpraised, and that his wager would be Jost, unless he could prevail by some stratagem. Accidentally meeting with a poor servant-woman of Ginevra's, he bribed her to his purpose ; and she, pretending absence for a few days, begged the lady to take charge of a large chest till her return : she consented, and the chest was placed in her bed-charaber. The lady having retired for the night, when she was fast asleep, with a taper burning in the chamber, Ambrogiulo crept from his larking-place, made a careful survey of the room, the furniture, and pictures ; then approached the bed, looking eagerly for some mark on her person, and at last discovered a mole and a tuti of golden hair on her left breast. Then, taking a ring, a purse, and other trides, he crept oack into the chest, where he stayed •1/) the third day, when the woman returned, and had the chest carried home.
On his return to Paris, the villain called together those who were present at the laying of the wager, produced before them the stolen trinkets, calling them gifts from the lady, and gave an account of the room and its contents. Bernabo said his account was correct, and that the purse and the ring belonged to his wife ; but that all this might have been obtained from some of her servants, and therefore it did not make good his claim to the wager. Then the other said, -“The proofs I have given ought to suffice; but as you require more, I will silence your doubts : Ginevra has a mole on her left breast.” Bernabo showed at once by his looks that this was true, and soon acknowledged it in words; then paid the wager, and started for Italy. Arriving near home, he sent for his wife, and gave secret orders 10 bave her put to death on the road. The servant stopped in a lonely place, and told her of his master's orders : she protested her innocence of any crime against her husband, besought the compassion of the servant, and promised to hide herself in some distant abode. He spared her life, and returned with some of her clothes, saying he had killed her.
Ginevra then disguised herself in man's apparel, and became the servant of a Catalonian gentleman, who took ber to Alexandria. Here she was so fortunate as lo gain the favour of the Sullan, who took her into his service, and made her captain of the guard. Not long after, she was sent with a band of soldiers to Acre, where, being in the shop of a Venetian merchant, she saw a purse and girdle which she recognised as her own. On her asking whose they were, and whether they were for sale, Ambrogiulo, who had arrived with a stock of merchandize, stepped forth and said they were his, and begged her, since she admired them, lo accept them as a gift. She asked him why he smiled. He replied, that the purse and girdle were presents to him from a married lady of Genoa; and that he smiled at the folly of her husband, who had laid five thousand forins against one that his wife's virtue was incorruptible.
The conduct of her husband was now explained to her. She feigned pleasure at the story, and persuaded the villain to go with her to Alexandria. Her next care was, to have her husband brought thither, who was now in great distress. Then she prevailed on the Sultan to force from Ambrogiulo a public recital of his whole course of villainy; whereupon Bernabo owned that he had caused his wife to be murdered, in the belief of her guilt with Ambrogiulo. “ You see,” said she to the Sultan, “how little cause the lady had to be proud either of her gallant or her husband. If you, my lord, will punish the deceiver and pardon tho deceived, the lady shall appear in your presence." The Sultan assenting, she then fell at his feet, and, throwing off her disguise declared herself to be Ginevra : the mole on her breast soon put an end to all doubt of the fact. The villain was then put to death, and his great wealth given to Ginevra. The Sultan made her a princely gift of jewels and money, furnished a ship, and suffered her and Bernabo to depart for Genoa.
There is also a vulgarized and mutilated English version of the same tale, which places the scene in England, in the reign of Henry VI., and makes all the persons Englishmen. It was published in a book called Westward for Smelts, and was entitled “The 'Tale told by the Fishwife of the Stand on the Green." Malone and some others too hastily concluded this to have been the piece used by Shakespeare, supposing it to have been first printed in 1603. But no copy of that date, or of any earlier date than 1620, has been seen or heard of, and an entry of it at the Stationers' in January, 1620, scems to establish that it had not been published before that time. Besides, il varies from Boccaccio's tale in some points wherein the tragedy agrees with it, as in making the villain conceal himself under the lady's bed, instead of using a chest, and in leaving out the item of the mole : so that, even granting it to have been published early enough, still it would not quite an. swer the purpose.
Those who have undertaken to reform the original classification of Shakespeare's plays, have been something at loss, apparently, what to do with Cymbeline. As already seen, it has somewhat of historical matter ; but the history is so slight, and, withal, so manifestly neither forms nor guides the plot, but merely, as in case of Macbeth, subserves it, that the play cannot with any show of propriety be called an historical drama. Then, the predominant tone of feeling carries too much of tragic earnestness and intensity to permit the regarding it as a comedy, while at the same time there is not enough of tragical impression in the incidents and the ca. tastrophe to warrant the calling it a tragedy. Perhaps it may be laken as proof that the Gothic drama, like the Gothic architecture, is naturally capable of more variety than can be embraced within the ordinary rules of dramatic classification. Hazlitt describes it
dramatic romance," and this description probably fits it as well as any that can be given. At all events, certain it is, that the play has just enough of historical or traditionary matter to give it a legendary character, while the general scope and structure of the piece admit and even invite the freest playing-in of wbatsoever is wild and wonderful and enchanting in old romance. By throwing the scene back into the reign of a semi-fabulous king, the Poet was enabled to cast around the work an air of historical dignity, and yet frame the whole in perfect keeping with the deep, solemn, and all but tragic pathos which sets and regulates the har monies of the piece. A confusion of times, places, and manners, with the ceremonial of old mythology and the sentiments of Christian chivalry, the heroic deeds of earlier, and the liheral