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Twelfth Night; or, emhat You Will.
The plot of this admirable Comedy appears to have been taken from the second tale in a collection by Barnabe Riche, entitled, “ Rich his Farewell to the Militarie Profession,” which was first printed in 1583. It is probably borrowed from Les Histoires Tragiques de Belleforest, vol. iv. Hist. viime. Belleforest, as usual, copied Bandello. In the fifth eglog of Barnaby Googe, published with his poems in 1563, an incident somewhat similar to that of the duke sending his page to plead his cause with the lady, and the lady falling in love with the page, may be found. But Rich's narration is the more probable source, and resembles the plot more completely. It is too long for insertion here, but may be found in the late edition of Malone's Shakspeare, by Mr. Boswell.
The comic scenes, appear to have been entirely the creation of the poet, and they are worthy of his transcendent genius. It is indeed one of the most delightful of Shakspeare's comedies. Dr. Johnson thought the natural fatuity of Ague-cheek hardly fair game, but the good-nature with which his folly and his pretensions are brought forward for our amusement, by humouring his whims, are almost without a spice of satire. It is rather an attempt to give pleasure by exhibiting an exaggerated picture of his foibles, than a wish to give pain by exposing their absurdity. “ How are his weaknesses nursed and dandled by Sir Toby into something “high fantastical' when, on Sir Andrew's commendation of himself for dancing and fencing, Sir Toby answers Wherefore are these things hid? Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before them? Are they like to take dust like Mistress Mall's picture? Why dost thou not go to church in a galliard, and come home in a coranto? My very walk should be a jig! I would not so much as make water in a cinque-a pace. What dost thou
mean? Is this a world to hide virtues in? I did think by the excellent constitution of thy leg, it was framed under the star of a galliard !' How Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and the clown chirp over their caps; how they “rouse the night-owl in a catch able to draw three souls out of one weaver!'- What can be better than Sir Toby's unanswerable answer to Malvolio : • Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?'
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 in the stocks. But there is something that excites in us a stronger feeling than all this, it is Viola's confession of her love.
Duke. What's her history?
Viola. A blank, my lord: She never told her love,
Duke. But died thy sister of her love, my boy?
Viola. I am all the daughters of my father's house, And all the brothers too ;--and yet I know not. “ Shakspeare alone conld describe the effect of his own poetry: “O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south, That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing, and giving odour.” “What we so much admire here is not the image of Patience on a monument, which has been so generally quoted, but the lines before and after it, “ They give a very echo to the seat where love is throned.” How long ago it is since we first learnt to repeat them; and still they vibrate on the heart like the sounds which the passing wind draws from the trembling strings of a harp left on some desert shore! There are other passages of not less impassioned sweetness. Such is Olivia's address to Sebastian, whom she supposed to have already deceived her in a promise of marriage.
* Blame not this haste of mine :-
“ One of the most beautiful of Shakspeare's Songs occurs in this play with a preface of his own to it.
• Duke. O fellow, come, the song we had last night:
Like the old age. “ After reading other parts of this play, and particularly the garden scene where Malvolio picks up the letter, if we were to say that Shakspeare's genius for comedy was less than his genius for tragedy, it would perhaps only prove that our own taste in such matters is more saturnine than mercurial"."
1 Hazlitt's Characters of Shakspeare's Plays, p. 256.
Orsino, Duke of Illyria.
'Gentlemen attending on the Duke.
Lords, Priests, Sailors, Officers, Musicians, and other
SCENE, a City in Illyria; and the Sea Coast near it.
WHAT YOU WILL.
SCENE I. An Apartment in the Duke's Palace. Enter DUKE, CURIO, Lords ; Musicians attending.
Duke. Ip musick be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die. That strain again ;- it had a dying fall: 0, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south", That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing, and giving odour?.—Enough; no more;
1 The old copies read sound, the emendation is Pope's. Rowe had changed it to wind. In Sidney's Arcadia, 1590, we have 'more sweet than a gentle south-west wind which comes creeping over flowery fields.'°
2 Milton has very successfully introduced the same image in Paradise Lost:
- Now gentle gales,
Those balmy spoils.' Shakspeare, in his Ninty-ninth Sonnet, has made the violet the thief.
• The forward violet thus did I chide : Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells, If not from my love's breath.' Pope, in his Ode on St. Cecilia's Day; and Thomson, in his Spring, have availed themselves of the epithet a dying fall.