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slight an impression upon an audience, that, when the curtain is dropped, they immediately discourse upon the splendour of Imogen's bed-chamber, the becoming dress she wore as a boy, and the dexterity with which Iachimo crept out, and crept into his coffer ; without bestowing equal observation upon any of those sorrows or joys, which they have just seen exhibited.
Still the impossibility, that half the events in this play could ever occur, cannot be the sole cause of its weak effect. Shakspeare's scenes are frequently such as could not take place in real life ; and yet the sensations which they excite are so forcible, that improbability is overpowered by the author's art, and his auditors are made to feel, though they cannot believe.
No such magic presides over the play of “Cymbeline," as to transform reason into imagination-the spectator may be pleased, but cannot be impassioned. The only scene which approaches the pathetic, is that where Imogen is informed by Pisanio of her husband's command, that she should be murdered ;-and this is a vengeance so unlike the forgiving temper of an English courtier, upon similar occasions, that it appears as if the air of Italy had, as she suspects, in. fected the loving Posthumus with that nation's predominant crimes, and no one heart is deeply affected by so extraordinary an occurrence.
The young mountaineers, the brothers of Imogen, are pleasing figures, among the large group of personages here collected; but still their forest dresses, more than their business in the scene, amuse the
tator. Or, if he be moved by any concern about them, it is with hatred, at the inhuman boasting of Guiderius, that he has cut off one Cloten's head, son to the queen, and sent it down the river, to tell his mother,” &c. Whoever Cloten was, or whatever ill he might threaten, yet, for the author to make this youthful forester lay his foolish enemy dead at his feet, and then be facetious over the horrid act, was sinking him beneath the common bravo, who is ever pourtrayed grim and gloomy, as the good sign that he is still a man, and has a conscience capable of remorse.
Johnson concludes his commentaries on the tragedy of “ Cymbeline" (in which he bestows little praise, except on the soliloquy of Posthumus, when he supposes Imogen has been put to death) with this general criticism.
“ This play has many just sentiments, some natural . dialogues, and some pleasing scenes ; but they are obtained at the expence of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names, and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events, in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecillity, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.”
How would a modern author writhe under a critique that should accuse his drama, of only one half of these failings !-Yet “Cymbeline" survives this just attack-and will live admired, and esteemed, to the end of time,
CYMBELINE GUIDERIUS ARVIRAGUS CLOTEN BELARIUS POSTHUMUS LOCRINE MADAN CORNELIUS PISANIO IACHJMO CAIUS LUCIUS VARUS PHILARIO LEWIS
Mr C. Kemble.
Mrs St Ledger.
Enter PISANIO and MADAN. Pisanio. You do not meet a man, but frowns; our
bloods No more obey the heavens, than our courtiers ; Still seem, as does the king's.
Mad. But what's the matter?
Pisanio. Are you so fresh a stranger, to ask that?
Mad. None but the king?
Although they wear their faces to the bent
Mad. And why so ?
Pisanio. He, that hath miss'd the princess, is a thing Too bad for bad report; and he, that hath her (I mean, that married her, alack, good man! And therefore banish’d,) is a creature, such As, to seek through the regions of the earth For one his like, there would be something failing In him, that should compare.
Mad. His name and birth?
Pisanio. His father
Mad. I honour him
Pisanic. His only child