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Why should I not, had I the heart to do it,
Naturally, the momentary impulse to act dissolves in
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.1
1 Among little traits in common between Sir Andrew and Stephen is pride in a wellhosed leg. Stephen thinks his leg would show in a silk hose' (Every Man in His Humour, i. 2), Andrew thinks his 'does indifferent well in a flame-coloured stock' (i. 3. 144). I had rather
He is the bloodless, as
than forty shillings,' measures
Andrew's most effective touches
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. 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.). But Costard is as sly as he is simple, and gives as good as he
gets in his intercourse with the courtly wits.
the region of comedy altogether.
In a household so richly furnished with comic types as Olivia's, the professed humorist plays a minor part. Feste, the clown, is distinguished among Shakespeare's fools by his comparative realism; he is not sublimated and poetised like Touchstone, but renders, literally enough, the regulation buffooneries of the typical court jester. In one point he stands alone, as the singer of the songs scattered through the play, which so finely touch its various moods-languishing sentiment, rollicking gaiety, and mischief. It contributes something to its harmonious unity that the mocking reminiscence of the 'old Vice with his dagger of lath' springs from the same excellent breast which had recalled for the solace of the sentimental duke antique memories of another order-the old plain song:
That dallies with the innocence of love
OR, WHAT YOU WILL
SCENE I. The DUKE's palace.
Enter DUKE, CURIO, and other Lords; Musicians attending.
Duke. If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more :
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
4. fall, cadence.
5, 6. the sweet sound That breathes, etc. Pope altered sound to south, and Dyce and Singer followed him. But the duke's description is subtler. He tries
to convey the intoxicating richness of the music by comparing it to that which appeals to two senses at once-to the melodious breeze charged with the perfume of violets.
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
Cur. Will you go hunt, my lord?
Cur. The hart.
Duke. Why, so I do, the noblest that I have:
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
How now! what news from her?
Val. So please my lord, I might not be ad
But from her handmaid do return this answer :
Duke. O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame
How will she love, when the rich golden shaft
Hath kill'd the flock of all affections else
ib. till seven years' heat, for
32. remembrance; four syllables.
35. shaft, i.e. of Cupid.