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be the messenger that had so often done enchantment upon her, she drew him aside, and soon courted him into a successful courtship of herself. Of course she was not long in getting tied up beyond the Duke's hope. Now Apolonius had already conceived such a tender friendship for his gentle page as always makes the better part of a genuine love. The appearance of Silla's brother forthwith brings about a full disclosure what and who she is; whereupon the Duke, seeing the lady widow now quite beyond his reach, and learning what precious riches are already his in the form of a serving-man, transfers his heart to Silla, and takes her to his bosom.
The story of Apolonius and Silla, which was evidently made from the matter of Bandello's Nicuola, is in a collection entitled Rich's Farewell to The Military Profession, which was originally published somewhere between 1578 and 1581, and re-issued in 1606;
- a book, says Rich, “ containing very pleasant discourses fit for a peaceable time, and gathered together for the only delight of the courteous gentlewomen of England and Ireland.” Whether Shakespeare drew directly from this source is very doubtful, there being no verbal resemblances whereby such obligations may usually be traced. Mr. Collier thinks there might be in Shakespeare's time some version of Bandello more like the original than that made by Rich; and that, whether there were or not, the Poet may have gone to the Italian story, since Le Novelle di Bandello were very well known in England as early as about the middle of the sixteenth century. It.is observable that the lady Julina of Rich's novel, who answers to the Olivia of Twelfth Night, is a widow; and that Manningham speaks of Olivia as a “ widow.” Which suggests that she may have been so represented in the play as acted at the Readers' Feast in 1602; the Poet afterwards making the change : but it seems more likely that the barrister's recollections of Julina got mixed up with his impression of Olivia; the similarity of the stories being apt enough to generate such a confusion.
Thus it appears that the most objectionable, or rather the least admirable points in Twelfth Night are precisely those which were least original with the Poet; they being already familiar to his audience, and recommended to his use by the popular literature, of the time. Nor is it to be overlooked that his borrowings relate only to the plot of the work, the poetry and character being all his own; and that, here as elsewhere, he used what he took merely as the canvas whereon to pencil out and express the breathing creatures of his mind. As to the comic portion, there is no pretence that any hints or traces of it are to be found in any preceding writer.
Mr. Knight justly remarks upon the singularly composite society here delineated, that while the period of action is undefined, and the scene laid in Illyria, the names of the persons are a mixture of Spanish, Italian, and English. And the discrepancies thence arising he thinks may be best made up, by supposing Duke Orsino to be a Venetian governor of so much of ancient Illyria as remained subject to Venice at the beginning of the seventeenth century; his attendants, Valentine, Curio, &c., as well as Olivia, Malvolio, and Maria, being also Venetians : and Sir Toby and Sir Andrew to be English residents; the former, a maternal uncle to Olivia, - her father, a Venetian count, having married his sister.
This discrepancy in the grouping of the persons, whether so intended or not, very well accords with the spirit in which, or the occasion for which, the title indicates the play to have been written. Twelfth Day, anciently so called as being the twelfth after Christmas, is the day whereon the Church has always kept the feast of " The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles," by the miraculous leading of a star. So that, in preparing a Twelfth-Night entertainment the idea of fitness might aptly suggest, that national lines and distinctions should be lost in the paramount ties of a common Religion : and that people the most diverse in kindred and tongue should draw together in the sentiment of One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism; their social mirth being thus seasoned with a spicery of heaven, and relishing of universal brotherhood.
The general scope and plan of Twelfth Night, as a work of art, is wisely hinted in its second title : all the comic elements being, as it were, thrown out simultaneously and held in a sort of equipoise, thus leaving the readers to fix the preponderance where will best suit their several bent or state of mind; so that within certain limits and conditions each may take the work in what sense he will. For where no special prominence is given to one thing, there must needs be wide scope for individual aptitudes and inclinations, and great freedom for every one to select for virtual prominence such parts as best express or knit in with what is uppermost in his thoughts.
Taking another view of Twelfth Night in the light of the same principle, the significancy of the title is further traceable in a peculiar spontaneousness running though the play. Replete as it is with humours and oddities, they all seem to spring up of their own accord; the comic characters being free alike from disguises and pretensions, and seeking merely to let off their inward redundancy; caring not at all whether every body or nobody sees them, so they may have their whim out, and giving utterance to folly and nonsense simply because they cannot help it. Thus their very deformities have a certain grace, since they are genuine and of nature's planting : absurdity and whimsicality are indigenous to the soil, and shoot up in free, happy luxuriance, from the life that is in them. And by thus setting the characters out in their happiest aspects, the Poet contrives to make them simply ludicrous and diverting, instead of putting upon them the construction of wit or spleen, and thereby making them ridiculous or contemptible. Hence it is that we so readily enter into a sort of fellowship with them; their foibles and follies being shown up in such a spirit of good humour that the subjects themselves would rather join with us in laughing, than be angered or hurt by the exhibition. Moreover, the high and the low are here seen moving in free and familiar intercourse, without any apparent consciousness of their respective ranks : the humours and comicalities of the play keep running and frisking in among the serious parts, to their mutual advantage; the connection between them being of a kind to be felt, not described.
Thus the piece overflows with the genial, free-and-easy spirit of a merry Twelfth Night. Chance, caprice, and intrigue, it is true, are brought together in about equal portions; and their meeting, and crossing, and mutual tripping, cause a deal of perplexity and confusion, defeating the hopes of some, suspending those of others : yet here, as is often the case in actual life, from this conflict of opposites order and happiness spring up as the final result: if what we call accident thwart one cherished purpose, it draws on something better ; blighting a full-blown expectation now, to help the blossoming of a nobler one hereafter : and it so happens in the end that all the persons but two either have what they will, or grow willing to have what comes to their hand.
If the characters of this play be generally less interesting in themselves than some we meet with elsewhere in the Poet's works, the defect is pretty well made up by the felicitous grouping of them. For broad comic effect, the cluster of which Sir Toby is the centre,
all of them drawn in clear yet delicate colours, - is inferior only to the unparalleled assemblage that makes rich the air of Eastcheap. Of Sir Toby himself, — that most whimsical, madcap, frolicsome old toper, so full of antics and fond of sprees, with a plentiful stock of wit and an equal lack of money to keep it in motion, - it is enough to say, with one of the best of Shakespearian critics, that “ he certainly comes out of the same associations where the Poet saw Falstaff hold his revels ;” and that though not Sir John, nor a fainter sketch of him, yet he has an odd sort of a family likeness to him.” Sir Andrew Ague-cheek, the aspiring, lack adaisical, self-satisfied echo and sequel of Sir Toby, fitly serves the double purpose of butt and foil to the latter, at once drawing him out and setting him off. Ludicrously proud of the most petty childish irregularities, which, however, his natural fatuity keeps him from acting, and barely suffers him to affect, on this point he reminds us of that impressive imbecility, Abraham Slender; yet not in such sort as to encroach at all upon Slender's province. There
can scarce be found a richer piece of diversion than Sir Toby's * practice in dandling him out of his money, and paying him off with
the odd hope of gaining Olivia's hand. And the funniest of it
is, that while Sir Toby thoroughly understands him he has not himself the slightest suspicion what he is, being as confident of his own wit as others are of his want of it. — Malvolio, the self-lovesick Steward, has hardly had justice done him, his bad qualities being indeed just of the kind to defeat the recognition of his good
He represents a class of men, not quite extinct even yet, whose leading characteristic is moral vanity and conceit, and who are never satisfied with a law that leaves them free to do right, unless it also give them power to keep others from doing wrong. Of course, therefore, he has too much conscience to mind his own business, and is too pure to tolerate mirth in others, because too much swollen and stiffened with self-love to be merry himself. But here again Mr. Verplanck has spoken so happily that we must needs quote him : “ The gravity, the acquirement, the real talent and accomplishment of the man, all made ludicrous, fantastical, and absurd, by his intense vanity, is as true a conception as it is original and droll, and its truth may still be frequently attested by comparison with real Malvolios, to be found every where from humble domestic life up to the high places of learning, of the state, and even of the Church.” — Maria's quaint stratagem of the letter evidently for the purpose of disclosing to others what her keener sagacity has discovered long before ; and its working lifts her into a model of arch roguish mischievousness, with wit to plan and art to execute whatsoever falls within the scope of such a charac
The scenes where the waggish troop, headed by this “ noble gull-catcher" and most “ excellent devil of wit,” bewitch Malvolio into “a contemplative idiot,” practising upon his vanity and conceit until he seems ready to burst with an ecstasy of self-consequence, and they “ laugh themselves into stitches" over him, are almost painfully diverting. At length, however, our merriment at seeing him “jet under his advanc'd plumes” passes into pity for his sufferings, and we feel a degree of resentment towards his ingenious persecutors. Doubtless the Poet meant to push the joke upon him so far as to throw our feelings over on his side, and make us take his part. For his character is such that perhaps nothing but excessive reprisals on his vanity could make us do justice to his real worth. — The shrewd, mirth-loving Fabian, who in greedy silence devours up fun, being made so happy by the first tastings, that he dare not laugh lest the noise thereof should lose him the remainder; and the witty-wise Fool, who lives but to jest out philosophy, and moralize the scenes where he moves, by “pinning the pied lappets of his wit to the backs of all about him," complete this strange group of laughing and laughter-moving personages.
Such are the scenes, such the characters that enliven Olivia's mansion during the play; Olivia herself, calm, cheerful, of • smooth, discreet, and stable bearing," hovering about them, sometimes unbending, never losing her dignity among them;
often checking, oftener enjoying their merry-makings, and occasionally emerging from her seclusion to be plagued by the Duke's message and bewitched by his messenger: and Viola, always perfect in her part, yet always shrinking from it, appearing among them from time to time on her embassies of love; sometimes a partaker, sometimes a provoker, sometimes the victim, of their mischievous sport.
All this array of comicalities, exhilarating as it is in itself, is rendered doubly so by the frequent changes and playings-in of poetry breathed from the sweetest spots of romance, and which “ gives a very echo to the seat where Love is thron’d ;" ideas and images of beauty creeping and stealing over the mind with footsteps so soft and delicate that we scarce know what touches us, – the motions of one that had learned to tread
6 As if the wind, not he, did walk,
Nor prest a flower, nor bow'd a stalk."
Upon this portion of the play Hazlitt remarks in his spirited way, -“ Much as we think of catches, and cakes and ale, there is something that we like better. We have a friendship for Sir Toby; we patronize Sir Andrew; we have an understanding with the Clown, a sneaking kindness for Maria and her rogueries; we feel a regard for Malvolio, and sympathize with his gravity, his smiles, his cross-garters, his yellow stockings, and imprisonment: But there is something that excites in us a stronger feeling than all this."
Olivia is a considerable instance how much a fair and candid setting-forth may do to render an ordinary person attractive, and shows that for the home-bred comforts and fireside tenor of life such persons after all are apt to be the best ; and it is not a little remarkable that one so wilful and perverse on certain points should be so agreeable and interesting upon the whole. If it seem rather naughty in her not to give the Duke a fair chance to try his powers upon her, she gets pretty well paid in falling a victim to the eloquence which her obstinacy stirs up and provokes. Nor is it altogether certain whether her conduct springs from a pride that will not listen where her fancy is not taken, or from an unambitious modesty that prefers not to “match above her degree.” Her
“ beauty truly blent, whose red and white Nature's own sweet and cunning hand laid on,"
saves the credit of the fancy-smitten Duke in such an urgency of suit as might else breed some question of his manliness : and her winning infirmity, as expressed in the sweet violence with which she hastens on “a contract and eternal bond of love" with the astonished and bewildered Sebastian, “ that her most jealous and