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among the Shakespearean comedies which the town thronged to see :
loe in a trice
To hear Malvoglio, that cross-garter'd gull.1 After the Restoration it was twice revived, in 1663 and 1669, and found great favour, though severely condemned by Pepys as 'but a silly play, and not at all related to the name or day.'
Manningham, as we have seen, thought the play much like the commedy of errores or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. Inganni was the title of several Italian plays, none of which has any further resemblance to Twelfth Night than the elementary one, that the heroine assumes male disguise. called Gli Ingannati, however, had also long existed, which contains the Viola story in its bare outlines, This was itself founded on a novel of Bandello's (ii. 36), which became still more widely known in the French paraphrase of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques. An Elizabethan ex-soldier and pamphleteer, Barnaby Rich, told a story of similar type in “Apollonius and Silla,' one of the eight ‘Histories' of his Farewell to the Militarie Profession (1581). Both of these have in common an indistinguishable pair of twins, brother and sister, an irresponsive lover whom the sister pursues in male disguise, only to be employed by him in wooing a new mistress, who is finally consoled by the brother. Most of this matter reappears in the present comedy; but none of Shakespeare's comedies which can be said to borrow its plot at all owes less to the plot it borrows than does Twelfth Night to these gross, characterless, and in part ill-told tales.2
1 Digges, verses prefixed to likeness of brother and sister is Shakespeare's Poems, 1640. mentioned by Rich, incidentally, 2 Thus the essential fact of the after ten pages of narrative.
Above all, the character and situation of Viola are handled with an exquisite refinement of which none of them shows a trace. By making her fall in love with the stranger she has taken service with, instead of taking service with him in order to gratify her love, he avoids the situation—dear to romance, but supremely difficult in psychological drama—of a pure and high-bred woman pursuing her lover. The immense psychological and dramatic resource pended on this situation in All's Well shows how keenly Shakespeare then realised the problem imposed by the motif he had handled with so much facile grace in The Two Gentlemen. Helena and Viola may be said to divide between them the two rôlesof self-assertion and self-effacement-daringly combined in the forsaken Julia. Helena pursues Bertram, but far from wooing another in his name, she uses his alien love-bonds to seal her own ; Viola takes no single step to further her own hidden passion, but throws all her intelligence into the prosecution of her master's suit. In her we see for the first time the full beauty and pathos of faithful self-abnegation ; her reticence is eloquent, and her eloquence, though it finds vent in two of the most thrilling descriptions of love in Shakespeare (- Make me a willow-cabin at your gate,' etc., and 'She never told her love'), ostensibly expresses the love of others, not her own. COutwardly, her relations with Olivia are like those of Rosalind with Phæbe, but the humour is here far more delicate and subdued ; and Viola, far from exploiting the absurdities of Olivia's mistake in Rosalind's madcap vein, loyally conceals them, as by the adroit fiction, ‘She took the ring of me' (ii. 2. 13), which deceived Malvolio and puzzled Malone. 1
Even the duke is treated without any disposition to accentuate the ludicrous aspect of his character and
fortunes. He is among the figures which suggest that Shakespeare was attracted by the methods of Jonson. Luxurious emotions are the elements in which he lives; they run to seed in him like a ‘Humour.' His opening words, 'If music be the food of love, play on,' incisively denote him. His love is not a master who subdues all his faculties and energies to its service, but an exquisite companion whom he dotes on and dallies with. He has no doubt a choice and graceful mind, and this saves him from ridicule, though hardly from contempt; but it serves rather to extract and formulate the finest essence of each passing moment than to draw obvious practical conclusions from facts. Hence the clown—no inapt observer-admirably prescribes for him a doublet of changeable taffeta, 'for thy mind is a very opal'; his speech flushes with the warmth and brilliance of each passing mood. He is sick of self-love, and his persistent courtship of Olivia rests upon a fatuous faith in his own prevailing fascination; but his egoism is amiable and effusive, and he enters easily into tender relations with his subordinates. Apolonius, in Rich's tale, has no kindness for his serving-man; but the charm of Cesario has conquered the sensitive duke long before the climax, and the discovery of his sex transforms it without effort into love. This change might seem to involve a modification of the climax of Rich's story, where Apolonius vows his man's death to avenge his lady's honour (Hazlitt's Shakespearean Library, i. 408). In Shakespeare's hands, however, the incident adds a piquant trait to the duke's character. His tenderness for the lad he dooms converts the act into a sacrifice, and invests it with a tragic significance full of relish to his artistic sense :
I'll sacrifice the lamb that I do love
Why should I not, had I the heart to do it,
Kill what I love? Naturally, the momentary impulse to act dissolves in the cloud of emotions and fancies it evoked.
In the framework of this serious and poetic tale Shakespeare has introduced his most uproarious fun. But the comic plot of his invention is linked by pretty obvious affinities with the grave plot which he borrowed. The duke's fatuous courtship has grotesque counterparts in the suits of Malvolio and Sir Andrew; and Olivia is feigned to play the same part towards Malvolio which she played in tragic earnestness towards Viola. Olivia, though not the heroine of the drama, is the centre about which its several actions move, as her house is the scene of the richest complexities and contretemps of the comic plot. In variety of comic type, in richness of comic invention, Twelfth Night surpasses both the other two great comedies of Shakespeare's maturity; and here again we may suspect the influence of Jonson's great galleries of Humours. Never before, save in the almost contemporary Slender, had he exploited the humour of mental fatuity-a form of comedy less obvious, perhaps, to his large kindliness than to Jonson's intellectual hauteur. Sir Andrew and Slender are varieties of the 'country gull’-near kinsmen of Jonson's Master Stephen. He is the bloodless, as
Among little traits in than forty shillings,' measures common between Sir Andrew Andrew's desire for 'such a leg,'. and Stephen is pride in a well- and Slender's for his forgotten hosed leg. Stephen thinks his
book of songs.
One of Sir leg' would show in a silk hose' Andrew's most effective touches (Every Man in His Humour, of simplicity ("That's me, I i. 2), Andrew thinks his 'does in
I knew 'twas I, different well in a flame-coloured for many do call me fool') is anstock' (i. 3. 144). “I had rather ticipated by Costard in Love's
Sir Toby is the full-blooded, type of disreputable, gluttonous, and bibulous knight,-comparatively realistic studies from the materials wrought into the great imaginative creation of Falstaff. 'Eating and drinking,' of which Sir Andrew rather thinks life consists, compose it as largely for Sir Toby as for Falstaff ; but Sir Toby, with much of Falstaff's temperament, has little of his wit. The eternal conflict between civic morality and genial Bohemianism, which forms the ethical background of Henry IV., is here more distinctly emphasised. So much so, that the character of Malvolio has notoriously been regarded as a symbol for the party whose regard for virtue' habitually found vent in a disparagement of 'cakes and ale.'
Sometimes,' declares Maria, "he is a kind of a Puritan.' She proceeds immediately to deny that he is a Puritan at all, or anything else but a time-server. Malvolio is drawn with too subtle a hand to be instructively defined by the 'Puritan' or any other label; and critics still discuss, and actors lament, the ambiguous complexion of his character and fate. It is not his Puritanism but his foppery that beguiles him into Maria's well-laid trap. And there are hints enough that we are not intended to take even his Puritan qualities altogether at Maria's or Sir Toby's valuation. Olivia values her poor fool,' and, after all explanations, resents his discomfiture; while he himself grows in dignity as his persecution grows in violence. The Malvolio of the madhouse is a figure some degrees less comic than the Malvolio of the gardenscene, and his indignant yet tempered protest, when released, insensibly excites in the modern reader a sympathy which removes him for the moment from
Labour's Lost (i. 1. 250, 251 f.). gets in his intercourse with the But Costard is as sly as he is courtly wits. simple, and gives as good as he