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Of the Merchant of Venice the style is even and easy, with few pe
culiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction.
The comic part
raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of
either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two
actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much
pleased with his own address in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critic will find excelled by this play.
AS YOU LIKE IT.
DR. GREY and Mr. Upton asserted that this play was certainly borrowed from the Coke's Tale of Gamelyn, printed in Urry's Chaucer; but it is hardly likely that Shakspeare saw that in manuscript, and there is a more obvious source from whence he derived his plot, viz. the pastoral romance of “Rosalynde, or Euphues' Golden Legacy,” by Thomas Lodge, first printed in 1590. From this he has sketched his principal characters, and constructed his plot; but those admirable beings, the melancholy Jaques, the witty Touchstone, and his Audrey, are of the poet's own creation. Lodge's novel is one of those tiresome (I had almost said unnatural) pastoral romances, of which the Euphues of Lyly and the Arcadia of Sidney were also popular examples. It has, however, the redeeming merit of some very beautiful verses interspersed; * and the circumstance of its hav
* The following beautiful stanzas are part of what is called “Rosalynd's Madrigal," and are not unworthy of a place even in a page devoted to Shakspeare :
Love in my bosom like a bee
Dotb suck his sweet :
Now with his feet.
Ah, wanton, will ye?
With pretty flight,
The livelong night.
Whist, wanton, still ye?
ing led to the formation of this exquisite pastoral drama, is enough to make us withhold our assent to Steevens's splenetic censure of it as “ worthless."
“ Touched by the magic wand of the enchanter, the dull and endless prosing of the novelist is transformed into an interesting and lively drama; the forest of Arden converted into a real Arcadia of the golden age. The highly-sketched figures pass along in the most diversified succession: we see always the shady dark-green landscape in the back ground, and breathe, in imagination, the fresh air of the forest. The hours are here measured by no clocks, no regulated recurrence of duty or toil; they flow on unnumbered in voluntary occupation or fanciful idleness. One throws himself down under the shade of melancholy boughs,' and indulges in reflection on the changes of fortune, the falsehood of the world, and the self-created torments of social life: others make the woods resound with social and festive songs, to the accompaniment of their horns. Selfishness, envy, and ambition, have been left in the city behind them: of all the human passions, love alone has found an entrance into this sylvan scene, where it dictates the same language to the simple shepherd, and the chivalrous youth who hangs his love ditty to a tree.” *
“ And this their life, exempt from public haunts,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
How exquisitely is the character of Rosalind conceived! what liveliness and sportive gayety, combined with the most natural and affectionate tenderness! the reader is as much in love with her as Orlando, and wonders not at Phebe's sudden passion for her when disguised as Ganymede; or Celia's constant friendship. Touchstone is, indeed, a “rare fellow; he uses his folly as a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that, he shoots his wit:" his courtship of Audrey, his lecture to Corin, his defence of cuckolds, and his burlesque upon the “ duello” of the age, are all most « exquisite fooling.” It has been remarked, that there are few of Shak
speare's plays which contain so many passages that are quoted and remembered, and phrases that have become in a manner proverbial. To enumerate them would be to mention every scene in the play. And I must no longer detain the reader from this most delightful of Shakspeare's comedies.
Malone places the composition of this play in 1599. There is no edition known previous to that in the folio of 1623. But it appears among the miscellaneous entries of prohibited pieces in the Stationers' books, without any certain date.
Duke, living in exile.
DENNIS, Servants to Oliver.
Touchstone, a Clown.
ROSALIND, Daughter to the banished Duke.
Lords belonging to the two Dukes; Pages, Foresters, and other
The SCENE lies, first, near Oliver's House; afterwards, partly in
the Usurper's Court, and partly in the Forest of Arden.