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DEAR LORD TENNYSON,—
after with her Posthumus, just You looked more than kindly on like all the good people in the my attempts to describe whạt was fairy tales. Do not fear that I in my mind as to some of Shake- shall distress you with any such speare's women, in the days when conjectures about the wife of it was my privilege to impersonate Leontes, although she of a truth them upon the stage. Now you was made more unhappy no less kindly tell me, that you
“ Than history can pattern, though will be glad to hear what I have
devised to say about a near relation of And play'd to take spectators.” theirs — the noble Hermione of “The Winter's Tale."
In accordance with his wellnigh I remember when, at the con- uniform practice, Shakespeare borclusion of my letter on Imogen, I rowed the main incidents of this gave expression to my idea that she play from one of the popular was not likely long to survive the stories of his day. Strangely cruel strain upon mind and body enough, in this instance he had to which she had been subjected,
to a tale by Robert you wrote to me that you liked to Greene, the dramatist and rothink just the contrary, and that mance writer, who in 1592 had she lived long and happily ever
attacked him as an upstart crow, VOL. CXLIX. —NO. DCCCCIII.
beautified with our feathers,” and characters in Sir Thomas Malory's “in his own conceit the only 'History of King Arthur' what Shakescene in a countrie.” How Shakespeare did for the tales from indifferent the poet was to charges which he took suggestions for so of this nature is shown in the many of his plots, it would be idle well-known sonnet called " The to dwell upon the folly of disPoet Ape” by Ben Jonson, which puting his claim to originality is comivonly:bdeed: to have because others had gone over the been directed against Sliakespeare, same ground before. IIundreds, before the days when Jonson pro- thousands, go over the same ground
Ated by his frieta skip, and grew : in a beautiful country, who are * familiar.svitái his: genius.: : dead to its beauties, until some grown,” the sonnet says,
man with eyes to see, and a soul " To a little wealth and credit in the
to illuminate the impressions made scene,
upon him by what he sees, calls He takes up all, makes each man's wit attention to those beauties, and, on
the canvas, or in words that are And, told of this, he slights it."
pictures, glorifies them with Well might he slight such attacks, knowing how much that
“ The light that never was on sea or
land, was absolutely his own he put into
The consecration, and the poet's every play which he recast, or for
dream." which he had taken hints from stories told by other men. So far It is the same with the heroes from bearing Shakespeare a grudge and heroines of history and fiction. for using his tale, Pandosto, or It is only the great poet who sees the Triumphs of Time," as the foun- what scope they offer for inspirdation of “The Winter's Tale,” ing them with life, and for placing Greene might rather have been them under conditions in which grateful to him for so beautifying character, emotion, and passion it with his own feathers that he may be portrayed under ideal redeemed the work, excellent of its forms, but still with a truth to kind though it is, from the oblivion nature which makes them even into which otherwise it would pro- more real, more intimately familiar bably have fallen.
to us, than the people whom we Greene had long been dead, how- have longest known. ever, before “The Winter's Tale” So is it that in “The Idylls of
written, For there is no the King' we find such pictures record of it before 1611, when of true knightliness, tenderness, Dr Simon Forman mentions in beauty, and pathos, as his Diary that he saw it acted at where to be found in the wild, the Globe Theatre on the 15th of quaint, but assuredly tedious and May in that year. Thus it may not unfrequently coarse incidents fairly be assumed that it was one and legends which are chronicled of the poet's latest works, if in- in Sir Thomas Malory's book. deed this were not clear, from No better illustration can be the internal evidence of matured found of how the shaping spirit of power in every element of thought, imagination turns prose into poetry pathos, humour, and dramatic than by comparing " The Winter's construction, for which in their Tale” with Greene's ‘Pandosto,' combination Shakespeare in his or, as in later editions it was later works stands without a peer. called, "The Pleasant lIistory of
To you, who have done for the Dorastus and Fawnia.' In both
we find the sudden outbreak in richness of imagination, what Pandosto (the Leontes of the play) power, what beauty, what pathos, of an insane jealousy of his life- what humour in what they have long friend Egistus (Polixenes), to say ! the flight of Egistus with the Shakespeare shows his usual king's cup-bearer Franion (Cam- constructive skill in the very first illo), the sending away by Pan- scene, by bringing into prominence dosto of the new-born babe to in the dialogue between Camillo be destroyed, the trial of Bel- and Archidamus the remarkable laria (Hermione), the judgment attachment between Leontes and of the oracle in her favour, and Polixenes, and the winning ways the death of her son Gerinter of Hermione's little son Mamil(Mamillius). But the Bellaria of lius. In speaking of the affecthe story dies, and the subsequent tion of the two kings, Camillo says, history of her daughter Fawnia They were trained together in (Perdita) and Dorastus (Florizel), their childhood. Since their more in other respects much the same mature dignities, and royal necessias in the play, is made peculiarly ties, made separation of their sociunpleasant by the passion Pan- ety,” they had kept the intimacy dosto conceives for his own child, unbroken by such interchange of when she seeks refuge with her letters and of gifts, “ that they lover at his Court, and the wind- have seemed to be together, though ing up of the story with his suicide absent. The heavens continue in a fit of remorse for having enter- their loves !” To which Architained this passion. Obviously an damus replies: “I think there is impracticable story this for the not in the world either malice or purpose of a play! But how matter to alter it.” Then he goes skilfully has Shakespeare bridged on to praise Leontes' young son: over all difficulty by the invention “ You have an unspeakable comof incidents, and the introduction fort of your young prince Maof characters — the wittiest of millius; it is a gentleman of the rogues, Autolycus, one of them— greatest promise that ever came which give life, coherence, and into my note.” probability to the action of the Here two notes are struck which play, while they enable him to reverberate in the heart, when bring it, as with a strain of noble these bright anticipations are soon music, to a perfect close, by mak- afterwards turned to anguish and ing Hermione live to see her dismay by the wholly unexpected daughter restored to her arms, jealous frenzy of Leontes. They and to be herself reunited to her prepare us for seeing Leontes in husband !
the next scene urging his friend, So much for the outlines of who has already lingered nine the plot; but it is in the delinea- months at the Sicilian Court, still tion of the characters that the further to prolong his stay. Hermarked difference is seen between mione is by, but she is silent, Greene, the man of talent, and until Leontes, who appears surShakespeare, the myriad-minded prised at her silence, says to her, man of genius. How clear the Tongue-tied, our queen ? Speak lines with which they are drawn; you !” Thus appealed to, she with what precision and delicacy shows that her intercession had of touch are they individualised; been reserved until her husband what wonders of light and shade had put still harder pressure upon are shown in their grouping; what
“I had thought, sir, to have held mying her point, and so accomplish
ing what she believes to be her You had drawn oaths from him not to
husband's earnest desire. stay. You, sir, Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you “ Her. Nay, but you will ?
I may not, verily. All in Bohemia's well. . . . Say this IIer. Verily! to him,
You put me off with limber vows ; He's beat from his best ward.
but I, Leon. Well said, Hermione !” Though you would seek to unsphere
the stars with oaths, Then note how the mother, to Should yet say, “Sir, no going !' whom her own boy was inexpres
Verily, sibly dear, speaks in her allusion You shall not go; a lady's 'verily''s to the son of Polixenes, of whom As potent as a lord's.” no word has hitherto been said.
Finding Polixenes makes no sign “ To tell, he longs to see his son, were of yielding, she continuesstrong;
" Will you go yet? But let him say so then, and let him go ;
Force me to keep you as a prisoner, But let him swear so, and he shall not
Not like a guest; so you shall pay your stay,
fees We'll thwack him home with distafls.”
When you depart, and save your thanks.
How say you? Polixenes does not avail himself My prisoner or my guest ? By your of the plea thus suggested, and dread “Verily, Hermione continues
One of them you shall be.
Pol. Your guest, then, madam ! “When at Bohemia To be your prisoner would import You take my lord, I'll give him my oilending, commission
Which is for me less easy to commit, To let him there a month behind the
Than you to punish. gest
TIer. Not your jailer, then, Prefix'd for's parting.”
But your kind hostess. Come, l'11 Then, that Leontes may not think
Of my lord's tricks, and yours, when she could bear his absence lightly, she turns to him, saying
you were boys.” “Yet, good deed, Leontes,
On this follows as sweet a picI love thee not a jar of the clock be
ture of innocent boyhood as was hind
ever painted :What lady-she lier lord.”
We were, fair queen, A sweet assurance that might Two lads that thought there was no have warmed the coldest husband's more behind heart! And with the winning
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal. smile playing about her sensitive
ller. Was not my lord the verier mouth, and the loving light in her
wag of the two ? eyes, those “full eyes,” which Pol. We were as twinn'd lambs, that live in Leontes' memory long years
did frisk i' the su, after, as “stars, stars, and all else And bleat the one at the other ; what dead coals,”—she turns to Polixenes we changed with the words, “You'll stay ?”
Was innocence for innocence; we knew
not Hard it must have been for
The doctrine of ill - doing, neither him to answer, “No, madam !”
dreamed But she is not to be put off, That any did. Had we pursued that for now she is intent on carry- life,