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weaver Bottom, is the being who first meets Titania's eyes, after he has been decorated by Puck with an ass's head. Hence ensues a comic scene not without importance. Fancy and imagination predominate in this play. Titania loves an ass because she idealises him. From the same source spring the perpetual changes in the loves of Demetrius and Helena, Hermia and Lysander, which are only symbolically due tas the working of the wonder-flower. The piece is rightly called a dream; a fantastic dream-world is brought before us, in which the hard and fast laws of actual existence are disregarded, and everything is possible, even the impossible. There is no need of any regular description or discussion of the characters in such a play. The personages do not act of themselves; they, and all they say and do, are in the power of the magician, who flings them about as he likes. Hence there is no need of a careful characterisation of the two girls; it is only necessary to mention their divergence.2 Hermia appeals in many ways to our sympathy; she is saucy, resolute even towards the king, who gives her the choice of obeying her father and marrying Demetrius, or of spending her life in a lonely cloister:
So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
d Midsummer Night's Dream, act i. scene 1.
She determines to fly with Lysander, to be married in some place not subject to the stern Athenian law. Helena is, rather lachrymose, and unpleasantly sentimental, but none the less, like Hermia, she has a sharp and bitter tongue. She has learned from Hermia that she is going to meet Lysander in the wood to consult about their flight. When Helena, to please Demetrius, betrays them, it is still her) own doing, because she is not yet under magic influence. But when Demetrius seeks and finds the fugitive pair in the forest, when Helena runs after him, when Puck, either
by mistake or out of mischief, makes the most absurd blunders with the juice of the wonder-flower; when, after all, through the same magic influence, they are once more brought into the right relations, everything is all jumbled wildly and unconsciously together. These people do not act of their own free will, so there is no question of characterising their action. In the world of magic there is neither logic nor consequence. But beside this wonderworld, the poem contains a masterly piece of pure realism, the play of the Athenian workmen, a parody on the condition of the London stage. Its charm lies in its comically effective contrasts, which set forth in the drollest manner, in the midst of the pure poetry of the drama, the “most lamentable comedy of the very cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe," and places the actors thereof in ordinary everyday shape, and in the most natural fashion before our eyes.
"ROMEO AND JULIET"
Juliet-Lady Capulet—The Nurse Lessing, in his Dramaturgy, when criticising Voltaire's Zaire, says that an art critic ably remarked that love himself dictated this tragedy to Voltaire. He had better have said : Gallantry. I know but one tragedy in which love himself seenis to have helped, and that is Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It is true that Voltaire makes his enamoured Zaire express her feelings in refined and appropriate phrases, but what are thcsc phrases beside the living picture of all the smallest, most sccrct struggles through which love stcals into the soul, all the unobtrusive victories he wins there, all the power and art with which he subdues every other passion, until he becomes the absolute tyrant of every opinion and desire ? The passion of love is its groundwork. The play has been called the "higli anthem of love." Mrs. Jameson says: "In Shakespeare all the women love, have loved, or are capable of loving, because they are true women. Juliet is love itself. That passion is the reason of her being; without it she would cease to exist; it is the pulse of her heart, the lifeblood in her veins, entwined with every fibre of her nature. Love, so pure and noble in Portia, so ethereally tender and free from care in Miranda, so sweetly trusting in Perdita, so playful in Rosalind, so faithful in Imogen, so full of submission in Desdemona, is in Juliet all these at once. They all remind us of lier; she reminds us of nothing but her own sweet self. Thus she stands, together with her Romco, in contradistinction to their whole surroundings, full of love in the midst of hatred, full of harmony in the midst of the jarring clash of enmity.”
Verona is kept in perpetual unrest by the ever-renewed strisc between the two great houses of Montague and Capulet. Blood flows in the strects, for the servants of the two familics losc no opportunity of breaking out into strife and flying to arms. The ruler of the city has warned thc unruly vassals, thrcatening that thc next breach of thc city's peace will be punished in life and limb. In these two houscs have grown up, unknown to each other, two beings, both in strong contradiction to their surroundings, doomed by fate to break down with their love the family hatred, and through their painful death to reconcile the inimical houscs, and quench with their blood the flame of discord that had lasted for a century. The poet has nowhere actually described Julict Capulct, but, with consummate art, without any such formal description, he has revealed her to us as infinitely charming. Every utterance of her father, of the friar, of Romeo, unite around her an entrancing picture of young and tender sweetness, whose influence is heightened when we learn that love for her has driven the image of another from Romeo's heart. And from what environment has this lovely creature sprung? Between haughty parents and a plebeian nurse, her purity and gentleness are placed in a high light and prepare us for
her future sufferings. She trembles before her stern mother, before her rough fiery father. Like a spoiled child, she alternatēly flatters and tyrannises over her nurse; hence the mingling of wilfulness and impatience, of strength and weakness, of distrust and confidence, we find in her character. On the other side, Romco Montague, cqually different from his surroundings, in the midst of the clash of arms that rcsounds about him, remains soft and susceptible, and is known, even among the impartial members of the house of his focmen, as a "virtuous and well-governed youth," averse to the wild strife of the time, seeking solitude, giving himself over to love for a beauty who turns from him in cold inaccessible chastity. Thus we find him on the morning of the day on which the fatal action begins that dooms him to an carly grave. Already, before daybrcak, he is "carly walking underneath thc grove of sycamore that westward rootcth from thc city's side." Sccking solitude, avoiding a meeting with his cousin Benvolio, given up entirely to romantic drcams of his cold and cruel bclovcd, whose charms hc, at last constrained to speak by that same cousin, praiscs as above all, fcmalc bcauty on cartlı :
Show mc mistress that is passing fair,
Romeo and Juliet, act i. scene 1.
Juliet's heart, on the contrary, is a virgin page. Her father puts off the Count Paris, who sues for her hand, on account of her tender youth. But the alliance seems so honourable and useful to the clan, that the mother feels constrained to consult her child as to what she thinks of the proposal. She touches on the matter at first in a general way. "Tell me, daughter Juliet, how stands your disposition to be married ?" With childlike indifference Juliet answers, "It is an honour that I dream not of.” The nurse, with the freedom of an old and faithful servant, enters continually into
the conversation, with stories and remarks of a more than doubtful character, such as to make us question whether she be thc best companion for a young girl like Juliet. She praises her answer with comic admiration. Then, when the mother, pursuing the subject, mentions Count Paris as a suitor, nurse brcaks out into extravagant praisc. To the dircct question of her mother, whether Juliet is well inclined to the young Count, whosc physical and mental qualities she lauds enthusiastically, the daughter answers with pious and childlike obcdicncc:
I'll look to likc, if looking liking move ;
Than your consent gives strength to make it Aly. Who could suspect in this passionless, dutiful, obedient girl, the woman who, borne away by a tempest of passion, breaks resolutely every tie that bound her childhood, and with unshaken determination dares every terror of death and corruption, that she may belong to the man she loves ? Most admirable is the poet's art, that forces us to consider this unexpected development as natural to Juliet's character, and as the outcome of the situation in which she is placed. Let us try to trace the sources of this art.
The event leading to the important meeting of the youthful pair, who at a first glance fall passionately in love, occurs in a perfectly natural manner. A brilliant masked ball is given in the Capulet house, to which the whole nobility of the city is invited. With youthful rashness, Romeo's companions start the idea of going to this ball. Romeo accompanies them, not for fun, or that he expects to enjoy the ball, but only to behold, from afar, his beloved Rosaline, who, outshining all the other belles, is sure to be present. But his heart is full of fearful presentiments as he enters the Capulet palace:
My mind misgives