« ZurückWeiter »
Truly “the end of that mirth is heaviness !' Prov.
I cannot refrain from adding that as idleness is the root of vice, so diligence, together with the desire of self-improvement * is, under the guidance of Divine grace, the best road to virtue. And this too our poet would teach us, if I do not misinterpret him, in these comprehensive and emphatic words:
Ignorance is the curse of God,
K. Henry VI., 2nd Part, Act iv. Sc. 7. Or to take only the lower and merely practical view which a heathen could exhibit :
in other words, with such things as, he leaves us to conclude, are not 'honest,' not virtuous,' not of good report.' By 'invidia' we may understand all those evil affections which belong to the irascible, as by amor' those which belong to the concupiscible part of our nature.
And this admonition, important at all times, is especially needful for the young. Hence, it is with good reason that Laertes warns his sister Ophelia :
* See the speech of Hamlet quoted above, p. 129.
In the morn and liquid dew of youth
Hamlet, Act i. Sc. 2. Nor can we doubt of the good fruit which will follow in after life from such self-control and self-cultivation ; for, as even lago testifies
'Tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus.* Our bodies are our gardens; to the t which our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce; set hyssop and weed up thyme ; supply it with one gender of herbs, or distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with industry-why, the power and incorrigible authority of this lies in our wills.
Othello, Act i. Sc. 3. Lastly, in speaking of the cultivation of the body,
not forget-especially in days when no bounds are set to the adorning of the person and to extravagance in dress—the teaching of 1 S. Peter iii. 3, or
'Tis the mind that makes the body rich;
Taming of the Shrew, Act iv. Sc. 3.
Sect. II. Of Justice and Honesty.
We are told in Measure for Measure of a certain sanctimonious pirate that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped one-the eighth-out of the Table,' Act i. Sc. 2. Thou shalt not steal 'was a
* See above, p. 143.
+ See above, p. 19.
commandment to command the captain and all the rest from their functions. I am afraid that conduct similar in effect to this pirate's is still only too common-among landsmen; as we may conclude it was in Shakspeare's day. "To be honest, as this world goes,' says Hamlet * to Polonius, 'is to be one man picked out of ten thousand,' Act ii. Sc. 2. And in Timon of Athens, it is the remark of one of the three strangers, that Policy sits above conscience,' Act iii. Sc. 2. And yet how often have we been taught, in regard not only to dishonest and unjust but to harsh and ungenerous treatment of others, that with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again !' S. Matt, vii. 2. Measure for measure must be answered.
Henry VI. 3rd Part, Act ii. Sc. 6. Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure.
Measure for Measure, Act v. Sc. I. We know that even heathen moralists, such as Cicero, regarded illiberality as a species of injustice ; and though we have a proverb which bids us to be just before we are generous, yet we also know that, as Christians, we can never be said to be truly just, until we are also really bountiful. It is the twofold stigma of prodigality that it has a direct tendency, by disabling us from giving, to make us unjust both towards God and towards man. Hence it is that while the duty of a charitable temper and disposition
* See above, p. 137.
belongs rather to the sixth Commandment, the practical exhibition of that duty in regard to almsgiving may be said to fall more properly under the eighth. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus we see the measure which will hereafter be measured again to those who mete as Dives did to the poor ; and how often our poet has alluded to that parable I shall have occasion to mention in a later section.* The parable of the prodigal son has another and more blessed lesson to teach, besides the evils and injustice of prodigality-a lesson fitted for the pulpit rather than the stage ; but the stage may seize at least upon that portion of the story which represents how the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty,' Prov. xxiii. 21, and how 'want shall come as armed man' upon the sluggard and the dissolute, Prov. vi. 11.
All things that are,
Merchant of Venice, Act ii. Sc. 6.
Mr. Bowdler has not spared this fine passage, but he has allowed what follows to stand without curtail
* See below, Sect. 16, p. 297.
ment. Oliver is speaking, in As you like it, to his unkind and unnatural brother, Orlando :
Shall I keep your hogs, and eat husks with them? What prodigal portion have I spent that I should come to such penury ? Act i. Sc. 1.
The same parable is alluded to in the 1st Part of King Henry IV., Act iv. Sc. 2; and again in the 2nd Part of that play, Act i. Sc. 2; in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act ii. Sc. 3; and once more in the Comedy of Errors, Act iv. Sc. 3.
On the other hand, the poor widow who, in putting her two mites into the treasury, gave 'all her living,' Mark xii. 44, was, I suspect, in our poet's thoughts, when he wrote:
Fool. How now, nuncle? Would I had two coxcombs,* and two daughters !
Lear. Why, my boy?
King Lear, Act i. Sc. 4.
Against the evils of covetousness, which the Bible denounces as 'idolatry,' our poet has given us, in like manner, no feeble or unfrequent warning. Thus, in King Henry IV., Part II., he bids us note
How quickly nature falls into revolt
Act iv. Sc. 4.
And in Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo hands to the apothecary a sum of money in payment for the poison which the latter, though forbidden to sell it under pain
* Fool's caps.