Page images

D. Pedro. By my troth, a good song.
Balth. And an ill singer, my lord.

D. Pedro. Ha? no, no; faith, thou singest well enough for a shift.

Bene. [Aside.] An he had been a dog, that should have howl'd thus, they would have hang'd him: and I pray God his bad voice bode no mischief! I had as lief have heard the night-raven,' come what plague could have come after it.

D. Pedro. Yea, marry; dost thou hear, Balthazar? I pray thee, get us some excellent music; for to-morrow night we would have it at the lady Hero's chamber-window.

Balth. The best I can, my lord.

D. Pedro. Do so: farewell. [Exeunt BALTHAZAR and musicians.] Come hither, Leonato: What was it you told me of to-day? that your niece Beatrice was in love with signior Benedick?


[ocr errors]

Claud. [Aside to Pedro.] O, ay :· Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits. [Aloud.] I did never think that lady would have loved any man.

Leon. No, nor I neither; but most wonderful, that she should so dote on signior Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviours seemed ever to abhor.

7 That is, the owl; VUKTIKоpat. So, in 3 Henry VI. "The aight-crow cried, aboding luckless time." Thus also Milton, in L'Allegro" And the night-raven sings."

8 An allusion to the stalking-horse, whereby the fowler ancienty screened himself from the sight of the game. It is thus de

scribed in John Gee's New Shreds of the Old Snare: "Methinks I behold the cunning fowler, such as I have known in the fencountries and elsewhere, that do shoot at woodcocks, snipes, and wild-fowl, by sneaking behind a painted cloth which they carry before them, having pictured on it the shape of a horse; which while the silly fowl gazeth on, it is knocked down with hail-shot and so put into the fowler's budget.'


Benc. [Aside.] Is't possible?

that corner?

Sits the wind in

Leon. By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it, but that she loves him with an enraged affection: it is past the infinite of thought. D. Pedro. May be, she doth but counterfeit.

Claud. 'Faith, like enough.

Leon. O God! counterfeit ! There never was counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion, as she discovers it.

D. Pedro. Why, what effects of passion shows she ?

Claud. [Aside.] Bait the hook well; this fish will


Leon. What effects, my lord! She will sit you, you heard my daughter tell you how.

Claud. She did, indeed.

D. Pedro. How, how, I pray you? You amaze me: I would have thought her spirit had been invincible against all assaults of affection.

Leon. I would have sworn it had, my lord; especially against Benedick.

Bene. [Aside.] I should think this a gull, but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it: knavery cannot, sure, hide himself in such reverence.

Claud. [Aside.] He hath ta'en the infection; hold

it up.

D. Pedro. Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?

Leon. No, and swears she never will; that's her


Claud. "Tis true, indeed; so your daughter says: "Shall I," says she, "that have so oft encounter'd him with scorn, write to him that I love him?

[ocr errors]

Leon. This says she now when she is beginning

which naturall suggests that there may have been more of pur pose than of 11ath in his statement of them. A liberal, sagarious and merciful ince, but with more of whim and caprice than smits the dignity of his place, humanity speaks richly from his lips; yet in his action the philosopher and divine is better shown than the statesman; al he seems to take a very questionable delight in moving about as an unseen providence, by secret counsels leading the wicked de 3gns of others to safe and wholesome issues. Schiegel thinks he has more pleasure in overhearing his subjects than in governing them in the usual way of princes;" and sets him down as an exception to the old proverb,—“A cowl does not make a monk :" and perhaps his princely virtues are somewhat obscured by the disguise which so completely transforms him into a monk. Whether he acts upon the wicked principle with which that fraternity is so often reproached, or not, it is pretty certain that some of his means can be justified by nothing but the end: so that if he be not himself wrong in what he does, he has no shield from the charge but the settled custom of the order whose functions he undertakes. Schlegel justly remarks, that " Shakespeare, amidst the rancour of religious parties, delights in painting monks, and always represents their influence as beneficial; there being in his plays none of the black and knavish specimens, which an enthusi asm for Protestantism, rather than poetical inspiration, has put some modern poets upon delineating. He merely gives his monks an inclination to be busy in the affairs of others, after renouncing the world for themselves; though in respect of pious frauds he does not make them very scrupulous." As to the Duke's pardon of Angelo, though Justice seems to cry out against the act, yet in the premises it were still more unjust in him to do otherwise; the deception he has practised upon Angelo in the substituting of Mariana having plainly bound him to the course he takes. For the same power whereby he effects this could easily have prevented Angelo's crime; and to punish the offence after thus withholding the means of prevention were obviously wrong; not to men tion how his proceedings here involve an innocent person, so that he ought to spare Angelo for her sake, if not for his own. Nor does it strike us as very prudent to set bounds to the grace of repentance, or to say what amount of sin must render a man incapable of it. All which may in some measure explain the Duke's severity to the smaller crime of Lucio after his clemency to the greater one of Angelo.

Lucio is one of those mixed characters, such as are often gen. erated amidst the refinements of city life, in whom low and disgusting vices, and a frivolity still more offensive, are blended with engaging manners and some manly sentiments. Thus he appears a gentleman and a blackguard by turns, and, what is more, does really unite something of these seemingly incompatible qualities. With a true eye and a just sympathy for virtue in others, yet, so


to write to him: for she'll be up twenty times a night; and there will she sit in her smock, till she have writ a sheet of paper: — - My daughter tells

us all.

Claud. Now you talk of a sheet of paper, member a pretty jest your daughter told us of.

I re

Leon. O!- When she had writ it, and was read ing it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?

Claud. That.


Leon. O! she tore the letter into a thousand half pence; rail'd at herself, that she should be so immodest to write to one that she knew would flout her: “I measure him," says she, "by my own spirit; for I should flout him, if he writ to me; yea, though I love him, I should."

Claud. Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs, beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, cries; "O sweet Benedick! God give me pa


Leon. She doth indeed; my daughter says so: and the ecstasy hath so much overborne her, that my daughter is sometime afraid she will do a desperate outrage to herself: It is very true.

D. Pedro. It were good that Benedick knew of it by some other, if she will not discover it.

Claud. To what end? He would but make a sport of it, and torment the poor lady worse.

D. Pedro. An he should, it were an alms to hang him She's an excellent sweet lady; and out of all suspicion she is virtuous.

Claud. And she is exceeding wise.

That is, into a thousand small pieces; it should be remembered that the silver halfpence, which were then current, were very minute pieces

« PreviousContinue »