« PreviousContinue »
In Macbeth, we have a similar phrase:--" Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff."
Palamon, in no way moved by the gentleness of his cousin, acknowledges that his rival might once have been bold; but that,
'Their valiant temper
Men lose, when they incline to treachery,
And then they fight like compell'd bears, would fly
This sentiment is common to all the dramas of Shakspeare; but our references will be limited. In Othello, we have— ""Tis not so now. * * * * Man but a rush against Othello's breast, and he retires." In Cymbeline, act iii. scene 4.-"Thou may'st be valiant in a better cause; But now thou seem'st a coward."
And in King Lear, act v. scene 1.
"Where I could not be honest,
I never yet was valiant.”
The concluding sentence of the passage will call to mind the murmuring ejaculation of Macbeth:
They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
After the escape of Palamon, the Gaoler's daughter begins to suffer the 'pangs of despised love,' and her mental faculties become impaired. In a soliloquy which follows, she thus expresses herself:
'I'm very cold; and all the stars are out too,
Act iii. scene 4.
In Romeo and Juliet, we have, "little stars ;" and in Macbeth, the interrogatory phrase, "The thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now ?"
The Tempest and Winter's Tale afford instances of a similar hurried style, in scenes of apprehension and dismay. Act i. scene 1. of the Tempest :-"Good: speak to the mariners fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground; be
stir, bestir. **** Down with the topmast; yare; lower, lower; bring her to try with main-course." Act iii. scene 3. of Winter's Tale :-"I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages, how it takes up the shore! **** Now the ship boring the moon with her mainmast. *** How the poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them."
In one of the songs of the gaoler's daughter, we find the following chorus, which we extract as an evidence of the high antiquity of the origin of our modern nursery paraphrase:
'There was three fools, fell out about an owlet :
The third he said it was a hawk,
And her bells were cut away.'-Scene 5.
A schoolmaster is next introduced, and appears quite as pedantic as Holofernes, that eternal "racker of orthography," in Love's Labour's Lost. One instance only of his quibbling propensity shall we quote:
Upon this mighty morr—of mickle weight;
In the Two Gentlemen of Verona, act i. scene 1. the reader will find a similar play upon the word Noddy, by the conjunction of Nod and I. Although this may be adduced as one of the poet's meanest attempts at humour, we are far from subscribing to the opinion of Dr. Johnson, that his indulgence in this puerile practice was the "Cleopatra, for which he lost the world !"
To resume the play before us. Arcite returns to the forest, and agreeably to promise carries with him both food and armour for his rival; yet endeavours to dissuade him from the encounter. Palamon, however, continues inexorable, and Arcite finally declares,
'Then come what can come,
Thou shalt know, Palamon, I dare as well
Die, as discourse, or sleep.'-Act iii. scene 6.
In Macbeth, a line corresponding to the first, has already been quoted; and for the remainder of the passage, we have in Richard the Second, act iv. scene 1.
"How fondly dost thou spur a forward horse!
Their combat is interrupted by the appearance of Theseus and his court; and to the anger of the Duke (who now discovers that the persons are both outlaws) Arcite makes appeal :
'Tis to me
A thing as soon to die, as thee to say it.'
A similar feeling on a like occasion, in Othello, is expressed by the wife of lago :-"Thou hast not half the power to do me harm, as I have to be hurt."
At the intercession of his wife, and her sister, Emilia, the Duke decrees that the two knights shall retire to their own country, on condition of returning again to his court, accompanied by three knights each; and that he who shall succeed, by fair and knightly strength,' in forcing his cousin against a pyramid erected for the occasion, shall possess the object of their contention; but the other and his friends must lose their heads. Chaucer's doom, on this occasion, (observes an annotator,) is only banishment, and our authors altered it to render the catastrophe more interesting. Emilia, soliloquizing on the individual merits of her lovers, says of Palamon,
These the bright lamps of beauty, that command
In Hamlet, we have the well-known line--" An eye like Mars, to threaten and command."
The return of the two knights with their companions, is at length announced; and the second of Arcite is first described: 'And on his thigh a sword; (Hung by a curious baldrick, when he frowns To seal his will with;) better, o' my conscience, Was never soldier's friend.'—Act iv. scene 2.
In Othello, we have the precise words, and nearly in the same order; affording a coincidence entirely too close to have been accidental:
"Behold! I have a weapon;
The friend of Palamon is then alluded to:
'In's face appears
(Not tainted with extremes) runs through his body,
In Macbeth, we have the like description of Banquo : ""Tis much he dares;
And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,
The Gaoler's daughter, forms an episode to the general plot; and a scene wherein she and a Doctor are introduced, bears in its dialogue a strong resemblance to the similar one in Macbeth. Her deportment throughout is not very different from that of Ophelia ; but as the play of Hamlet was written prior to the one in question, we have declined quoting any general resemblances, from that tragedy.
Doctor. Her distraction is more at some time of the moon
I think she has a perturbed mind,
Which I cannot minister to.'—Act iv. scene 3.
In Othello, we have a similar passage to the first : "It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near the earth than she was wont,
"Canst thou not
And for the second, we have Macbeth:minister to a mind diseased ?"
On the entrance of the Gaoler's daughter, the persons present observe;
'Look where she comes, You shall perceive her behaviour.'
And in Macbeth, on the approach of the queen, they remark ; "Lo you, here she comes! *** observe her; stand close.'
The combatants having saluted each other, Arcite invokes the favour of Mars, and Palamon that of Venus. In the address of the first, he exclaims;
'Thou mighty one, that with thy power hast turn'd
Which is nearly the same expression that occurs in Macbeth. "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green, one red."
The daughter of the Gaoler, in her last scene, alludes to a
story similar to the one in Midsummer Night's Dream, and speaks of;
'Some two hundred bottles
In the latter play, we have the same fanciful application of such a vessel to as singular a use :-Act iv. scene 1. "Truly, a peck of provender; I could munch your good dry oats. Methinks I have a great desire to a bottle of hay."*
The daughter is eventually restored to her reason, by the deception of a 'wooer,' introduced under the guise of Palamon, and, as might be expected, weds the agent of the innocent fraud.
Arcite proves victorious in the trial, and Palamon and his companions are already prepared for execution, when Arcite is thrown from a fiery courser; and dies, confessing himself to have been false to the observance of their mutual oath— (that the one should never rival the other in love,) Palamon having first seen the lady. Theseus accordingly confers the hand of Emilia on the survivor, and, having given directions for the funeral obsequies of the ill-fated knight, dismisses the characters with our final quotation :
'Let's go off,
And bear us like the time.'
In Macbeth, the admonition of Lady Macbeth is to the same effect:-"To beguile the time, look like the time; bear welcome in your eye."
The plot of the play (as has been already observed) is taken from Chaucer's Palamon and Arcite; any remarks, therefore, on its general character, would appertain with more propriety to that, than to the production before us. Besides, in the present instance, it is rendered wholly unnecessary, as none have ever contended, that Shakspeare afforded any other aid than in the detached passages-the general structure of the story, having invariably been ascribed to the coadjutor of Beaumont alone.
*Bottle was a term employed in the measurement of hay, but was not technically used by Bottom, during his temporary transfiguration.