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Read and declare the meaning. Sooth. [Reads.] When as a lion's whelp shall, to himself unknown, without seeking find, and be embraced by a piece of tender air ; and when from a stately cedar shall be lopped branches, which, being dead many years, shall after revive, be jointed to the old stock, and freshly grow; then shall Posthumus end his miseries, Britain be fortunate, and flourish in peace and plenty. Thou, Leonatus, art the lion's whelp; The fit and apt construction of thy name, Being Leo-natus, doth import so much. The piece of tender air, thy virtuous daughter,
[To CYMBELINE. Which we call mollis aer, and mollis aer We term it mulier; which mulier, I divine, Is this most constant wife ; who, even now, Answering the letter of the oracle, Unknown to you, unsought, were clipped about With this most tender air. Сут. .
This hath some seeming.
1 It should apparently be, " By peace we will begin. The soothsayer says, that the label promised to Britain “ peace and plenty.” To which Cymbeline replies, “We will begin with peace, to fulfil the prophecy."
2 i. e. have laid most heavy hand on. Many such elliptical passages are found in Shakspeare.
Sooth. The fingers of the powers above do tune The harmony of this peace. The vision Which I made known to Lucius, ere the stroke Of this yet scarce-cold battle, at this instant Is full accomplished. For the Roman eagle, From south to west on wing soaring alost, Lessened herself, and in the beams o'the sun So vanished; which foreshowed our princely eagle, The imperial Cæsar, should again unite His favor with the radiant Cymbeline, Which shines here in the west. Сут. .
Laud we the gods ; And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils From our blest altars ! Publish we this peace To all our subjects. Set we forward. Let A Roman and a British ensign wave Friendly together; so through Lud's town march ; And in the temple of great Jupiter Our
peace we'll ratify; seal it with feasts.Set on there.—Never was a war did cease, Ere bloody hands were washed, with such a peace.
This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes; but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.
* On this critique of Johnson, Mr. Singer remarks :-“ It is hardly necessary to point out the extreme injustice of the unfounded severity of Johnson's aniinadversions upon this exquisite drama. The antidote will be found in the reader's appeal to his own feelings after reiterated perusal. It is with satisfaction I refer to the more just and discriminative opinion of a foreign critic, to whom every lover of Shakspeare is deeply indebted, cited in the Preliminary Remarks.”
To fair Fidele's grassy tomb,
Soft maids and village hinds shall bring
And rifle all the breathing spring.
To vex with shrieks this quiet grove ;
And melting virgins own their love.
Nor goblins lead their nightly crew :
And dress thy grave with pearly dew.
Shall kindly lend his little aid,
When howling winds, and beating rain,
In tempests shake the sylvan cell ;
The tender thought on thee shall dwell.
Each lonely scene shall thee restore ;
For thee the tear be duly shed; Beloved till life could charm no more,
And mourned till pity's self be dead.
On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of Shakspeare's works admitted this play into their volume, cannot now be ascertained. The most probable reason that can be assigned is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave some assistance to the author in revising it, or in some way or other aided in bringing it forward on the stage. The tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft, in the time of king James II., warrants us in making one or other of these suppositions. “I have been told, (says he, in his preface to an alteration of this play, published in 1687,) by some anciently conversant with the stage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts.”
“ A booke, entitled A Noble Roman Historie of Titus Andronicus,” was entered at Stationers' Hall, by John Danter, Feb. 6, 1593-4. This was undoubtedly the play, as it was printed in that year, (according to Langbaine, who alone appears to have seen the first edition,) and acted by the servants of the earls of Pembroke, Derby, and Sussex. It is observable that in the entry no author's name is mentioned, and that the play was originally performed by the same company of comedians who exhibited the old drama, entitled 'The Contention of the Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, The old Taming of a Shrew, and Marlowe's King Edward II.; by whom not one of Shakspeare's plays is said to have been performed.
From Ben Jonson's Induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614, we learn that Andronicus had been exhibited twenty-five or thirty years before; that is, according to the lowest computation, in 1589; or, taking a middle period, which is perhaps more just, in 1587.
“To enter into a long disquisition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare, would be an idle waste of time. To those who are not conversant with his writings, if particular passages were examined, more words would be necessary than the subject is worth ; those who are well acquainted with his works cannot entertain a doubt on the question. I will, however, mention one mode by which it may be easily ascertained. Let the reader only peruse a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred and Gismund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, King Edward I., The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perseda, King Leir, the old King John, or any other of the pieces that were exhibited before the time of Shakspeare, and he will at once perceive that Titus Andronicus was coined in the same mint.
“ The testimony of Meres (who attributes it to Shakspeare, in his Palladis Tamia, or the Second Part of Wits Common Wealth, 1598] VOL. VI.