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So tender over his occasions, true,
How beautifully does this enhance our feeling of the superior intensity of interest which makes her leave this kind master's life to "shuffle for itself," and attracts her to the ring which she espies on the finger of the captive Iachimo. And then, again, how gloriously pathetic is that forgetfulness of her male disguise, which comes over her, for the first time, when she hears her name reiterated in the accents of agonizing remorse from the breast of the still faithful husband, who stands before her as one risen from the dead! The blow which, by springing forward with the exclamation—“Peace, peace, my lord! hear, hear!” she brings upon herself from Posthumus, mistaking her for an impertinent page, is the most pathetic incident of the whole piece, and gives the crowning effect to his recognition of her whom he had thought to be murdered by his own revengeful act:Imo. Why did throw
wedded lady from you?-
Hang there like fruit, my soul, Till the tree die ! And now we see, that if all the sympathetic feelings of her heart were not capable of being extinguished in grief for the loss of her husband, neither can they be absorbed in her over-joy for his recovery. It is not, in fact, those individual attachments which are the most exclusively engrossing to the feelings, that are either the warmest or the firmest. Such all-absorbing devotions are much rather indicative of a narrow heart and a petty mind. Generous love, when it takes possession of a noble heart, guided by an enlightened understanding, much rather opens it to a keener sense and a wider capacity for every
other benevolent sympathy,—makes it overflow with more genial good-will to all with whom it stands in any kindly relation.
So soon as Imogen has solicited her
I will yet
father's blessing, she turns first to her brothers, in
No, my lord;
your sister; I
you were so indeed! Then to Belarius
You are my father, too; and did relieve me,
To see this gracious season.
My good master,
service. Indeed, one sentence in the mouth of Cymbeline tells us emphatically the proud station of Imogen at the close of the drama, as the uniting centre of all the benevolent sympathies which are there brought together:
Is severally in all ! Even Posthumus's forgiveness of lachimo, and Cymbeline's pacification with the Romans, serve but to grace the triumph of the nobly and intelligently sympathetic heart of the heroine. The very oracle has made the peace and prosperity of Britain to depend upon the recognizing and rewarding of her generous affection and unshaken constancy.
The Roman soothsayer may declare with propriety,
The fingers of the powers above do tune
The harmony of this peace : but the instrument through which they tune it is, the harmonious soul of Imogen!
We leave this full examination into Shakespeare's own conception and developement of what would
seem to have been the most fondly laboured of all his ideally feminine personations, to make its due impression upon the reader's mind. An attentive perusal of it, we are persuaded, will enable him to dispose for himself of any estimate of this great character so inadequate as that, for instance, wherewith Mrs. Jameson closes her account of it;—“On the whole, Imogen is a lovely compound of goodness, truth, and affection, with just so much of passion and intellect and poetry, as serve to lend to the picture that power and glowing richness of effect which it would otherwise have wanted.”
Neither can any more signal instance be adduced to confute the position which Hazlitt, singularly enough, bases upon his consideration of this very character: “ It is the peculiar excellence of Shakespeare's heroines, that they seem to exist only in their attachment to others. They are pure abstractions of the affections. 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 Shakespeare. Poor Imogen! - strong as her affections are, had she no strength but theirs to sustain her, she must have sunk again and again!
The more we reflect upon these criticisms, the more we deem it a great moral object, to rescue so exalted an ideal character of Shakespeare from such injurious depreciation - an object only second in importance to vindicating the dignity of a great historical character. The question—what was the conception entertained by Shakespeare, as to the highest standard of female grace, virtue, and intellect?-is, we repeat, hardly less momentous than it is interesting. One word more.
The nobler and richer the ideal portrait sketched by the dramatist, the greater ever is the task, not only of expression, but of completion, in a kindred spirit of art, imposed upon its histrionic representative. With the characters of Shakespeare this is transcendently the case. In a following paper, therefore, while speaking in general of that late re
production of «Cymbeline' at Drury-Lane, which merits far greater attention and encouragement than the public have yet afforded it, we shall be more especially called upon to draw whatever supplementary illustration we find to be derivable from the present personation of Imogen.
4.- -ON THE ACTING OF THIS PLAY, AS
LATELY REVIVED AT DRURY-LANE; AND CHIEFLY ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE PART OF IMOGEN.
[April 15th, 1843.]
We proceed, for the purpose of illustrating more thoroughly the beauties unfolded in the dramatic developement of the character of Imogen, to consider the personation of it by Miss Helen Faucit, its present representative on the boards of Drury-Lane.
By her appropriate manner of delivering that sagacious reflection—“Oh, dissembling courtesy,” &c.
-which forms the very opening of the part, this actress gives at once that tone of dignity, moral and intellectual, as well as of person and of rank—that unaffected majesty of mind, as well as bearing—the accustomed absence of which, in the commonplace conception of the character, has deprived even its exquisite sweetness of its most delicious charm. Her Imogen forgets not for a moment that, in person and character, she is to be no less “the noble” than “ the sweet." She makes us feel this throughout-no less in the tender parting scene with her husband, and her kind communings respecting him with her delicately affectionate servant, than in her vindication of her own conduct against her father's injustice, and her rebuking of the vulgar contempt heaped by her odious suitor upon her banished lord.
Her scene with Iachimo demands a more particular consideration, for it is here that those storms begin to assail the inmost heart of the heroine, which are to heave it so deeply through the rest of the drama. Here, too, it is that Imogen's representative is first called upon for a large display of that mute acting which constitutes so much of the most delicate and difficult execution belonging to this part, seeing that the actress has to personate, almost throughout the scene, a most interested and most agitated listener. From the commencement of Iachimo's exclamations of affected abstraction, begins that course of silent but expressive acting which calls for the highest qualities of the performer, consisting as it does of such variety, such fine gradation, of delicate yet significant touches.
And now it is that the eye of the auditor, if he would apprehend the inmost spirit of the scene, should be intently fixed upon every gesture, upon every the slightest change of countenance, in the heroine's representative. Here, if ever on the present stage, will he be made to feel how much there is of the noble and the exquisite in Shakespeare's dramatic creations, that cannot be realised in the closet. He will be vividly reminded of the fact which we emphatically indicated in commencing these critical notices—that Shakespeare dramatised, not to a reading, but to a seeing and hearing public,—and that for this reason chiefly, amongst others, the more thoroughly any reader shall have possessed himself of the true spirit and meaning of any portion of Shakespeare's dramatic text, the more will he be in a condition to receive that additional and crowning illustration which no critic or commentator can give him—which can only come from the performer whom Nature and Shakespeare have themselves inspired, and which is indispensable to realise that living and breathing creation which each of these dramas primarily was in the mind of its author. Nor is it because we can never hope,