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Whether the analysis here given be just or not, the spirit of his comedies is evidently quite distinct from that of the authors above mentioned, as it is in its essence the same with that of Cervantes, and also very frequently of Moliere, though he was more systematick in his extravagance than Shakspeare. Shakspeare's comedy is of a pastoral and poetical cast. Folly is indigenous to the soil, and shoots out with native, happy, unchecked luxuriance. Absurdity has every encouragement afforded it; and nonsense has room to flourish in. Nothing is stunted by the churlish, icy hand of indifference or severity. The poet runs riot in a conceit, and idolizes a quibble. His whole object is to turn the meanest or rudest objects to a pleasurable account. The relish which he has of a pun, or of the quaint humour of a low character, does not interfere with the delight with which he describes a beautiful image, or the most refined love. The clown's forced jests do not spoil the sweetness of the character of Viola; the same house is big enough to hold Malvolio, the Countess, Maria, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew Ague-cheek. For instance, nothing can fall much lower than this last character in intellect or morals: yet how are his weaknesses nursed and dandled by Sir Toby into something "high fantastical," when, on Sir Andrew's commendation of himself for dancing and fencing, Sir Toby answers- Wherefore are these things hid? Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before them? Are they like to take dust like mistress Moll's picture? Why dost thou not go to church in a galliard, and come home in ‘a
coranto? My very walk should be a jig! I would not so much as make water but in a cinque-pace. What dost thou mean? Is this a world to hide virtues in? I did think by the excellent constitution of thy leg, it was framed under the star of a galliard!"-How Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and the Clown afterwards chirp over their cups, how they
rouse the night-owl in a catch, able to draw three souls out of one weaver?" What can be better than Sir Toby's unanswerable answer to Malvolio, "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale ?"-In a word, the best turn is given to every thing, instead of the worst. There is a constant infusion of the romantick and enthusiastick, in proportion as the characters are natural and sincere: whereas, in the more artificial style of comedy, every thing gives way to ridicule and indifference, there being nothing left but affectation on one side, and incredulity on the other.-Much as we like Shakspeare's comedies, we cannot agree with Dr. Johnson that they are better than his tragedies; nor do we like them half so well. If his inclination to comedy sometimes led him to trifle with the seriousness of tragedy, the poetical and impassioned passages are the best parts of his comedies. The great and secret charm of TWELFTH NIGHT is the character of Viola. Much as we like catches and cakes and ale, there is something that we like better. We have a friendship for Sir Toby; we patronise Sir Andrew; we have an understanding with the Clown, a sneaking kindness for Maria and her rogueries; we feel a regard for Malvolio, and sym
pathize with his gravity, his smiles, his cross garters, his yellow stockings, and imprisonment in the stocks. But there is something that excites in us a stronger feeling than all this-it is Viola's confession of her love.
"Duke. What's her history?
Viola. A blank, my lord, she never told her love :
She let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud,
Prey on her damask cheek, she pin'd in thought,
Duke. But died thy sister of her love, my boy?
Shakspeare alone could describe the effect of his own poetry.
"Oh, it came o'er the ear like the sweet south That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour."
What we so much admire here, is not the image of Patience on a monument, which has been generally quoted, but the lines before and after it. "They give a very echo to the seat where love is throned." How long ago is it since we first learnt to repeat them; and still, still they vibrate on the heart, like the sounds which the passing wind draws from the trembling strings of a harp left on some desert shore! There are other passages of not less impassioned sweetness. Such is Olivia's address to Sebastian,
whom she supposes to have already deceived her in a promise of marriage.
"Blame not this baste of mine: if you mean well,
We have already said something of Shakspeare's songs. One of the most beautiful of them occurs in
this play, with a preface of his own to it.
"Duke. O fellow, come; the song we had last night. Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain;
The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,
Do use to chant it: it is silly sooth,
And dallies with the innocence of love,
Like the old age.
Come away, come away, death,
Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O prepare it,
My part of death no one so true
Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
Lay me, O! where
Sad true-love never find my grave,
Who after this will say that Shakspeare's genius was only fitted for comedy? Yet after reading other parts of this play, and particularly the garden scene where Malvolio picks up the letter, if we were to say that his genius for comedy was less than his genius for tragedy, it would perhaps only prove that our own taste in such matters is more saturnine than mercurial.
Sir Toby. Here comes the little villain :--How now, my nettle of India?
Maria. Get ye all three into the box-tree: Malvolio's coming down this walk: he has been yonder i' the sun, practising behaviour to his own shadow this half hour: observe him, for the love of mockery; for I know this letter will make a contemplative idiot of him. Close, in the name of jesting! Lie thou there; for here come's the trout that must be caught with tickling.
[They hide themselves. Maria throws down a letter, and Exit,
Malvolio. 'Tis but fortune; all is fortune. Maria once told me, she did affect me; and I have heard herself come thus near, that, should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion. Besides, she uses me with a more exalted respect than any one else that follows her. What should I think on't?
Sir Toby. Here's an over-weening rogue !
Fabian. O, peace! Contemplation makes a rare turkey-cock of him; how he jets under his advanced plumes !
Sir Andrew. 'Slight, I could so beat the rogue:
Sir Toby Peace, I say.
Malvolio. To be count Malvolio ;
Sir Toby. Ah, rogue!
Sir Andrew. Pistol him, pistol him.
Sir Toby. Peace, peace!
Malvolio. There is example for't; the lady of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe.
Sir Andrew. Fie on him, Jezebel !