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III.

CHARACTERS IN CYMBELINE.'

1. IMOGEN AND POSTHUMUS.

[March 11th, 1843.]

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The true subject of Cymbeline' is, the trial of heroic affection in the bosom of a wife, and its triumph, not only wrought in the deepest sympathies of mankind at large, but in the fortunes of the heroine herself, -a triumph, not merely over all the worst adversities,not merely over the most cruel doubts and suspicions conjured up by diabolical art in the breast of a noblespirited husband,—but, more glorious far, over the disbelief in all conjugal virtue, held and professed by à voluptuary of the first order in refinement and accomplishment

In bringing ourselves to feel, as well as understand, the character of any one of Shakespeare's more ideal heroines, we should begin with considering the very form and sound of her name; for in them we shall commonly find the key-note, as it were, to the whole rich piece of harmony developed in her person, language, sentiments, and conduct. In the present instance, resolving to give, in one delightful being, “a local habitation and a name

all the qualities that man
Loves woman for, besides that hook of wiving,
Fairness which strikes the eye,-

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resolving to give to that sweet ideal of feminine excellence all possible prominence and elevation, by combining it with, and making it proof against, the possession of the most exalted rank, it would seem as if the very revolving in his mind of this intended quintessence of feminine beauty and dignity, physical, moral, and intellectual, had caused his inmost and most exquisite spirit to breathe out spontaneously the name of Imogena word all nobleness and sweetness, all classic elegance and romantic charm.

- Sweet Imogen,” ever and anon, throughout this drama, comes delicately on our ear, even as the softest note swept fitfully from an Æolian lyre. And as “her breathing perfumes the chamber," even so does her spirit lend fragrance, and warmth, and purity, and elevation, to the whole body of this nobly romantic play.

Her personal beauty is of a character which so speaks the beauties of her soul,-her mental loveliness so perfectly harmonizes with her outward graces,that it is difficult, nay impossible, to separate them in our contemplation. In this case, most transcendently, do we find the spirit moulding the body, the sentiment shaping the manner, after its own image, even to the most delicate touches. This meets our apprehension at once, even if we look upon her with the

eyes

of Iachimo, the unsentimental though very tasteful eyes of the elegant voluptuary and accomplished connois

It was not her external charms alone, however peerless, that could daunt a man like him; it was the heavenly spirit beaming through them at every point.

All of her that is out of door, most rich!
If she be furnish'd with a mind so rare,
She is alone the Arabian bird, and I
Have lost the wager. Boldness be friend!
Arm me, audacity, from head to foot!
Or, like the Parthian, I shall flying fight;

Rather, directly fly. His rapturous commendations of her beauty that follow in the same scene, might, indeed, be set down

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to the account of deliberate and designing flattery;
yet we cannot but feel, that the enthusiastic language
in which they are expressed, could be inspired, in a
man of his character, only by a sincere perception of
the most exquisite loveliness, adorned with such “neat
excellence":
-

Had I this cheek
To bathe my lips upon; this hand, whose touch,
Whose every touch, would force the feeler's soul
To the oath of loyalty; this object, which
Takes prisoner the wild motion of mine eye,

Fixing it only here, &c. At all events, his exclamations over her in the sleeping scene must be regarded as a disinterested homage to her soul-illumined charms, the power of which detains him, in admiration, even from

his perilous task of noting the decorations of her chamber:

Cytherea,
How bravely thou becom’st thy bed !- fresh lily!
And whiter than the sheets! That I might touch!
But kissmone kiss ! Rubies unparagon'd,
How dearly they do 't! – 'Tis her breathing that
Perfumes the chamber thus! The flame o’the taper
Bows toward her; and would under-peep her lids,
To see the enclosed lights, now canopied
Under these windows — white and azure, lac'd
With blue of heaven's own tinct !

On her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops

l' the bottom of a cowslip ! Was ever the victory of silent beauty, elegance, and purity, over the awe-struck spirit of a sensualist, so exquisitely painted or so nobly celebrated as in these lines! It is not “ the flame othe taper” that here “bows toward her," but the unhallowed flames in a voluptuary and a treacherous breast, that render extorted yet grateful homage to that lovely, spotless, and fragrant soul!

This passage exhibits to us the beauty of Imogen surrounded by all its appropriate feminine adornments, amid the elegancies of a court, like the rose yet blooming in her native garden. How charmingly

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do the words of Pisanio, when instructing her how to assume her male disguise, prepare us for the contemplation of the same sweet flower, drooping and faded in the wilderness !

Nay, you must
Forget that rarest treasure of your cheek,
Exposing it (but oh, the harder heart !
Alack, no remedy !) to the greedy touch
Of common-kissing Titan; and forget
Your laboursome and dainty trims, wherein

You made great Juno angry! *
How romantically pleasing the change from the Italian
voluptuary's image of the sleeping Cytherea, to the
British outlaw's expressions :-

But that it eats our victuals, I should think
Here were a fairy.
By Jupiter, an angel ! or, if not,
An earthly paragon!

Behold divineness No elder than a boy! Yet how identical the spirit of beauty that calls forth the exclamations of two so very different admirers ! How exquisite, again, the contrast, at once, and analogy, between lachimo's description of the “fresh lily, and whiter than the sheets,” and that given us by Belarius and his two youths, of their “sweetest, fairest lily," the seemingly dead Fidele !

Belarius. How found you him ?
Arviragus.

Stark, as you see;
Thus smiling, as some fly had tickled slumber;
Not as Death's dart being laugh'd at; his right cheek
Reposing on a cushion.
Guiderius.

Where?
Arv.

O'the floor
His arms thus leagu’d: I thought he slept, and put
My clouted brogues from off my feet, whose rudeness
Answer'd my steps too loud.
Gui.

;

Why, he but sleeps.
If he be gone, he'll make his grave a bed ;
With female fairies will his tomb be haunted,
And worms will not come to him!

* This passage forms one of the dramatic no less than poetic beauties which seein needlessly suppressed in the present acting.

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Arv.

With fairest flowers,
While summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave : thou shalt not lack
The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose; nor
The azur'd hare-bell, like thy veins ; no, nor
The leaf of eglantine, which, not to slander,

Out-sweeten'd not thy breath!

Exquisite sweetness and harmony of voice, again, were not to be forgotten by Shakespeare among the endowments for such a heroine—so fondly conceived a type of feminine perfection. How finely is the idea of this gift of hers conveyed to us in the simple exclamation of Cymbeline on hearing the first words that she utters on reviving after Posthumus has struck her

T'he tune of Imogen!
And Pisanio, when instructing her how to present
herself in disguise before Lucius, the Roman com-
mander, says to her,-

Tell him
Wherein you are happy–which you'll make him know,

If that his head have ear in music.
And Arviragus tells us of Fidele-

How angel-like he sings!
The words of Guiderius immediately following
this observation of his brother's, are remarkable in two
respects. They shew the graceful propriety with
which the poet could ascribe to his ideal princess a
familiarity with the most ordinary branches of domestic
economy; and exhibit at the same time the inimitable
art wherewith he could lend ideal dignity to one of
the homeliest qualifications ;-

But his neat cookery! He cut our roots in characters;
And sauc'd our broths, as Juno had been sick,

And he her dieter.
Even her“ foolish suitor,” the booby coxcomb Cloten,
is made sensible that

She hath all courtly parts more exquisite
Than lady, ladies, woman: from every one

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