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other is, that, if we do not receive the things for which we pray, we ought not therefore to conclude that we have been unheard; for it often happens that the denial of our requests may prove a greater benefit to us than the granting of them would have been. Accordingly, the former of these points is brought before us in Hamlet, where the wicked king, after kneeling and attempting to pray, rises with the confession :
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
Act iii. Sc. 3.
And again, in Measure for Measure, the duplicity is exposed of professing to offer up prayer while the heart is bent upon yielding to temptation, in the person of the licentious Deputy :
When I would pray, and think, I think and pray
Act ii. Sc. 4.
He had before said, in the consciousness of suffering himself to be overcome
I am that way going into temptation,
Ibid. Sc. 2.
words which, doubtless, contain a reference to the petition in the Lord's Prayer against temptation, as Mr. Henley has observed; but of which it is not easy
* Substituted by Warburton for invention.
to give altogether a satisfactory interpretation, if we must be content to take them as they stand.
The latter point, which I just now mentioned, is one with which scholars will be familiar, as forming the subject of that most remarkable production of heathen antiquity-the 10th Satire of Juvenal-so vigorously imitated by Johnson; and, therefore, there is at least no impropriety in putting it, as Shakspeare has done, into a dialogue, in Antony and Cleopatra, between Sextus Pompeius and his friend Menecrates :
Pomp. If the great gods be just, they shall assist
That what they do delay, they not deny.
Pomp. While we are suitors to their throne, decays
We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit
By losing of our prayers.
Act ii. Sc. 1.
SECT. 8. Of the Domestic Relations.
We should be glad to be able to feel assured that the marriage of our poet, though formed at such an early age (see above, p. 4 sq.), and in one respect disproportionate (his wife being eight years older than himself), did not prove an unhappy one. Doubtless it assisted to give him, when he was still young, his deep insight into female character; and
* See below, Additional Illustrations, p. 369.
the draught of his female personages, on the whole, would rather lead us to suppose that, as he had been prepossessed in favour of the gentler sex, so the experience which he afterwards enjoyed tended to confirm the first good impression. The views which he has expressed of the conjugal union are such as do him honour; and it is only fair, therefore, to conclude that, though he married early, he did not do so unadvisedly, or without a due regard to the sacredness of the tie, which it is certain he had learnt in his maturer years to regard in its proper light.† Thus, in Twelfth Night, the priest describes the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia as
A contract of eternal bond of love,
Confirm'd by mutual joinder of your hands,
* It must, however, be confessed, that in one of his last-written plays, Twelfth Night, he has left us a warning against the step which he himself had taken-yet a warning put in such a way that, with true delicacy of feeling, it reflects upon himself more than upon her who had been the object of his choice:
Let still the woman take
An elder than herself; so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband's heart.
Then let thy love be younger than thyself,
Or thy affection cannot hold the bent.
Act iv. Sc. 4.
† On Shakspeare in his own domestic relations, see Wise's Shakspere and his Birthplace, p. 72 sq.; and the interesting essay by Dr. Ingram in the Dublin Afternoon Lectures on English Literature, 1863, p. 122 sq. Also see below, Addit. Illustr. p. 369.
Attested by the holy close of lips,
Strengthen'd by interchangement of your rings;
And all the ceremony of this compact
Sealed in my function :—
Act v. Sc. I.
Where Steevens has a note to the effect that 'in our ancient marriage ceremony the man received as well as gave a ring.' It is to be wished that he had produced some proof of this. In the meantime, I would observe that anciently the interchange of rings was a custom which belonged to the espousals, rather than to the solemnization of matrimony. And it would seem, from a subsequent speech of Sebastian, that the former alone were intended by our poet in the present case; an observation which may throw light, perhaps, upon the peculiar circumstances of Shakspeare's own nuptials, as made known through the discovery, in 1836, of his marriage license.* Be this as it may, Jaques, in As you like it, will furnish us with a protest, by anticipation, delivered according to his own quaint humour, against the unholy practice of a mere secular contract between man and wife, too often acquiesced in at the present day :—
Will you, being a man of your breeding, be married under a bush, like a beggar? Get you to Church and have a good priest that can tell you what marriage is: this fellow will but join you together as they join wainscot; then one of you will prove a shrunk panel, and, like green timber, warp, warp. Act iii. Sc. 3.
* See below, Additional Illustrations, p. 369.
And, to pass to a graver strain, in King Henry V., Isabel, Queen of France, is made to say, at the marriage of the English king with her daughter Katharine :
God, the best maker of all marriages,
Act v. Sc. 2.
Nor are the words that follow less worthy of the subject and the occasion, though she who uttered them proved untrue :—
I have forgot my father;
I know no touch of consanguinity,
No kin, no love, no blood, nor soul so near me
As the sweet Troilus.
Troilus and Cressida, Act iv. Sc. 4.
In this last quotation the first half line will remind us of a passage in the Psalms, xlv. 10. It is the same devoted feeling with which Desdemona, speaking of her father, says to Othello :
Othello, Act iv. Sc. 2.
If you have lost him, have lost him too.
See also below, Add. Illustr. p. 371.
Meanwhile, in King Henry VI., Part I., though we have the strongest denunciation of 'wedlock forced,'t we are assured no less emphatically that The contrary bringeth forth bliss, And is a pattern of celestial peace.
Act v. Sc. 5.
* See also her speech to her father in Act i. Sc. 3; and compare Cordelia in King Lear, Act i. Sc. 1.
† Compare the speech of Fenton in Merry Wives of Windsor, Act v. Sc. 5, and the Dialogue in Mid. N. Dream, Act i. Sc. I.