페이지 이미지


Now, the second brother

For this, from stiller seats we came,

Our parents and us twain,
That, striking in our country's cause,

Fell bravely and were slain,
Our fealty and Tenantius' right

With honour to maintain.
And now, again, the first brother-

Like hardiment Posthumus hath

To Cymbeline perform'd:
Then, Jupiter, thou king of gods,

Why hast thou thus adjourn'd
The graces for his merits due-

Being all to dolours turn'd? &c. In fact, both the sufferings and the deserts of the hero have now reached their climax; nor could they be more affectingly recalled to us than by thus evoking the spirits of his kindred, whose deaths had left him, at his very birth, a brotherless orphan. How fine a change, again, from the brief measure of this artless complaint, to the solemn flow of the lines supposed to be spoken by the descended Jupiter :

Poor shadows of Elysium, hence! and rest

Upon your never-withering banks of flowers :
Be not with mortal accidents oppress’d;

No care of yours it is; you know, 'tis ours.
Whom best I love, I cross; to make my gift,

Delay'd, the more delighted. Be content;
Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift :

His comforts thrive, his trials well are spent.
Our Jovial star reign'd at his birth, and in

Our temple was he married. Rise and fade !
He shall be lord of lady Imogen,

And happier much by his affliction made. &c. And then, with what exquisite versatility does this miraculous artist change his hand once more, to give us that gloriously classical description of the deity's appearance, breathing all the sweet sublimity of a Milton, or even of a Sophocles !

Sicilius. He came in thunder; his celestial breath
Was sulphurous to smell; the holy eagle
Stoop’d, as to foot us : his ascension is
More sweet than our bless'd fields ; his royal bird


Prunes the immortal wing, and cloys his beak,

As when his god is pleas'd ! Posthumus, however, awakes as from an ordinary dream

Poor wretches, that depend
On greatness' favour, dream as I have done ;

Wake, and find nothing. Yet he finds the tablet laid upon his breast, foretelling an end to his miseries and prosperity to Britain, but in terms too mysterious for him to unriddle :

'Tis still a dream; or else such stuff as madmen
Tongue, and brain not : either both, or nothing :
Or senseless speaking, or a speaking such
As sense cannot untie. Be what it is,
The action of my life is like it, which

I'll keep, if but for sympathy. And so he remains in perplexity, mocked by the mere phantom of hope.

We by no means agree with those who are disposed to think that the comic scene with the gaoler, which follows (omitted with the rest in acting), was introduced by Shakespeare more for the sake of making some “ quantity of barren spectators laugh," than from any real regard to dramatic art and propriety. It would be strange indeed to find him so trifling in the very midst of such intense earnestness! No-Shakespeare knew well that he was but presenting to us the last inevitable phasis of the mind in him who is at once condemned to death and desiring it—that "lightning before death” of which he elsewhere tells us—that careless interval when the man has cheerfully parted with this world, and is ready to “encounter darkness as a bride.” The single line of Posthumus to the gaoler, “I am merrier to die than thou art to live," conveys at once the spirit and the vindication of the whole scene.

We are now arrived at a point where it is necessary, before terminating our view of the developement of Posthumus's character, to consider that part of Iachimo's which is unfolded in his remorse and his confession.

[ocr errors]


Be it well observed, that he is shown to us from the first as a disbeliever in feminine virtue, not like Iago, from an inherent grossness of nature, rendering him inaccessible to the very idea; but from an experience of the sex, which has been so exclusively vicious, as to work in him a most sincere conviction of the truth of the doctrine which he maintains respecting them. The greatest triumph, we have already remarked, which the poet gives to the pure radiance of Imogen's beauty, consists in the shock which the very first sight of her gives to this article of faith in the creed of the confirmed voluptuary. The result of his interview uproots it entirely: he is already a convert in theory, although too many motives of self-interest and self-love still urge him to be a sinner in practice. At once, however, he undergoes the bitter internal humiliation of being reduced from the part of a first-rate seducer, to the viler and more pitiable one of a cunning slanderer. We see every reason to presume that, as the terms of his final confession assure us, he had set out for Britain with no predetermination whatever to commit so black a piece of deception, but had unexpectedly found himself driven to it as a last desperate expedient. His conscience, which had rather misgiven him on his first interview with the lady, is much more ill at ease in the stealthy chamber scene; and in the following explanation with Posthumus, with all his consummate self-possession, we yet find there is something that withholds him from averring any literal falsehoods, at least, that he can avoid. And when once his vanity and his covetousness are thoroughly gratified, by the saving of his property and his reputation, and the winning of the costly jewel, the foulness of his guilt in calumniating such lovely and majestic purity begins to oppress him, as one who is not by nature insensible to the charms of moral beauty as well as personal. In this frame of mind we find him when, on his reappearance in Britain with the Roman troops, he is disarmed by Posthumus in disguise

The heaviness and guilt within my bosom
Takes off my manhood: I have belied a lady,
The princess of this country; and the air on't

Revengingly enfeebles me.
prepares us

for his behaviour in the scene where, when brought captive before Cymbeline, he is questioned respecting the diamond ring upon his finger :

I'm glad to be constrain’d to utter that
Which torments me to conceal. By villany
I got this ring : 'twas Leonatus' jewel,
Whom thou didst banish; and (which more may grieve thee,
As it doth me) a nobler sir ne'er liv'd
"Twixt sky and ground.

That paragon, thy daughter-
For whom my heart drops blood, and my false spirits
Quail to remember- -Give me leave-I faint. -

Upon a time (unhappy was the clock
That struck the hour!)-it was in Rome (accurs'd
The mansion where !)—'twas at a feast (oh, would
Our viands had been poison'd! or, at least,
Those which I heav'd to head !), &c.

The confession that follows, we have already cited. When the criminal, at the end of it, after describing the imposture he had practised upon Leonatus, begins to speak of the passion into which it had thrown him,

Whereupon,Methinks I see him now,comes that wonderfully effective dramatic situation, where Posthumus comes forward and discovers himself:

Ay, so thou dost,
Italian fiend! Ah me, most credulous fool,
Egregious murderer, thief, anything
That's due to all the villains past, in being,
To come! O give me cord, or knife, or poison,
Some upright justicer! Thou, king, send out
For torturers ingenious ! It is I
That all the abhorred things o' the earth amend
By being worse than they! I am Posthumus,
That kili'd thy daughter;-villain-like, I lie ;-
That caus'd a lesser villain than myself,
A sacrilegious thief, to do't. The temple
Of virtue was she-yea, and she herself.-

Spit, and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set
The dogs o' the street to bay me: every villain
Be call'd Posthumus Leonatus; and
Be villany less than 'twas !-O

My queen, my life, my wife!- 0 Imogen,

Imogen, Imogen!

Nothing can exceed the dramatic beauty of this electric burst of agonizing shame and remorse from the husband's heart, thus taking the place of Iachimo's intended account of the transport of vindictive rage

into which he had fallen when first persuaded of his wife's infidelity. The atonement to the injured name of Imogen is now complete, and the catastrophe of the drama fully prepared; but before proceeding to it, we shall trace the rich developement of the character of the heroine herself, through all that romantic variety of fortune and of situation, by which the poet has so fondly delighted to diversify the exhibition of her personal, moral, and intellectual graces.


(April 1st, 1843.]

THE more

we find reason to believe that Shakespeare designed his Imogen as a type of feminine excellence-a model of rich, genuine, delicate, and cultivated womanhood, the more important it seems that we should truly estimate the qualities with which he has really endowed her ;-since it is plain that any appreciation of them that falls below the standard to which the dramatist has raised them, becomes a detraction either from the power of Shakespeare's own genius, or, which is a more injurious error still, from the dignity of that sex whose

« 이전계속 »