ページの画像
PDF
ePub

ruly now shows herself the most submissive and obedient. She easily wins the wager for her husband, and excites the surprise of the company.

But, not only is she ready to manifest her obedience, she is also able to state its grounds, and to enforce them with eloquence; thus she concludes by a long lecture on the relation of husband and wife, and the paramount duty of obedience on the part of the latter. Hence it is to be supposed that she is convinced, as well as subdued; to her conviction also she is capable of giving a theoretical statement. Her doctrine has never found many admirers among her own

sex.

It will be seen that the element of Intrigue, of Situation, predominates in this play, and its instrumentality is Disguise. The Romanic origin and coloring are observable in the Italian names, scenery, location, manners - in its Italian form generally. But the Teutonic element of character also makes a beginning. It is, however, rude and simple; it does not show the fine and detailed portraiture which will hereafter be developed; there is a single, dominant trait without relief. The product is unripe and uncouth in some respects, yet at the bottom the procedure is true the retribution of the deed is the fundamental principle. The conviction and the method of the Master thus peer out in his earliest works.

The present play is usually criticised as if

Katharine and Petruchio were its sole leading parts; this is a perversion if the preceding views are correct; the action rests more upon external disguise than upon character. Nor can the many historical questions wliich have sprung up in reference to this drama be discussed here. There has always been some tendency to ascribe its two different threads to different authors, but such an opinion, perhaps, only intends to lay stress upon the diversity already mentioned. Now, Shakespeare is capable of writing Comedy of Situation, as well as Comedy of Character; in fact, he employs both in nearly every one of his comedies. The recent results obtained from the application of the so-called metrical tests have not changed the state of the argument. But the question whether it was written — wholly, partially, or not at all — by Shakespeare, is a matter of minor importance; the play remains exactly the same ; hence a just criticism of it, as a whole, could not be changed by changing its authorship. There it stands in the book, there it belongs, and there it will remain, for it is an organic link in that series called the works of William Shakespeare.

The play has connecting points with all the comedies of Shakespeare in language, incidents and character. On the whole, it connects most distinctly with Comedy of Errors, and in time of origin we should place it near that play. As to

persons, each play has a pair of sisters, and a pair of clowns as servants; in the characters generally there is a tendency to pairs. Adriana and Katharine are after the same pattern of the shrew; Luciana and Bianca are similar in gentleness by way of contrast to their sisters. Each play has a pedant introduced to perform a comic function, and make himself ridiculous. A certain rudeness is in both plays, shown not only in the scoldings, but the trouncings.

The plot is old. A story like that of the Induction runs back through the Occident into the Orient, being found in the Arabian Tales. The disguises of the play are usually traced to an Italian source, the Suppositi of Ariosto, translated by Gascoigne and acted in 1566. If this Italian play first introduced the element of Disguise, it had a vast influence upon the English Drama, and specially upon Shakespeare. An old English popular diversion was how to tame a shrew. Thus the three main incidents of the play were transmitted to the Poet by time. Finally, an old play which is on the same subject with nearly the same name, and which has come down to us, was the foundation of Shakespeare's work.

TIVELFTII NIGIIT.

[ocr errors]

arose.

The Pure Comedies of Shakespeare, at present under consideration, are those plays in which there is no tragic or serious thread, and in which there is found no transition to an ideal world in order to heal the conflicts of society. Everything takes place in the ordinary manner, and in the customary locality; the solid ground of reality is never abandoned; the mediation is effected within the same realm in which the struggle

Of this class Twelfth Night is, without doubt, the most perfect specimen. All the instrumentalities and forms of Comedy, are most successfully employed in its action; not only Situation, but also Character, are here seen in their happiest application. There is introduced Natural Resemblance in its truest function; Disguise also appears as an indispensable element. Both Involuntary and Voluntary Comedy of Character have some of their most striking and complete representatives in the present drama. It will thus be seen to sweep quite the entire field of Pure Comedy; in it the Poet has combined all the essential means and effects which he employs in this department; it unites what is else

where scattered through several plays. Because it thus makes use of all the comic instrumentalities which have been previously unfolded, it must also place them in their proper relation and subordination; to watch this procedure will be one of the main points of interest.

Nor is the style less perfect than the structure. It adapts itself with an absolute elasticity to the varying circumstances of the action, though almost the extremes of poetry and prose are touched in the wild, changing phases of the drama. Nowhere has the Poet given to his thoughts a more complete utterance, or expressed his emotions with a fairer, more delicate coloring than in the language of the group of elevated characters. Then we may turn to the mirthful element- it is a world of boundless humor; the earnest purposes of men seem dissolved in one continual round of jollity; the Comic Muse, in her broadest license, sways the hour. The scenes dance before us through all the hues of the rainbow, and with a rapidity that dazzles, and sometimes for a moment confuses, the mind, which is trying to follow the story through its many-tinted mazes. There is no stagnation not even cessation

of movement; we whirled through a labyrinth most bright - yet most intricate — in delight, yet in wonder at the prodigal display of humor and poetry. Still, there cannot be said to be any wanton excess,

are

« 前へ次へ »