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beautified with our feathers," and "in his Own conceit the only Shakescene in a countrie." How indifferent the poet was to charges of this nature is shown in the well-known sonnet called "The Poet Ape" by Ben Jonson, which is commonly believed to have been directed against Shakespeare, before the days when Jonson profited by his friendship, and grew familiar with his genius.. ND grown," the sonnet says,
"To a little wealth and credit in the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man's wit attention to those beauties, and, on
the canvas, or in words that are
"The light that never was on sea or
characters in Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur' what Shakespeare did for the tales from which he took suggestions for so many of his plots, it would be idle to dwell upon the folly of disputing his claim to originality because others had gone over the same ground before. Hundreds, thousands, go over the same ground in a beautiful country, who are dead to its beauties, until some man with eyes to see, and a soul to illuminate the impressions made upon him by what he sees, calls
And, told of this, he slights it."
Greene had long been dead, however, before "The Winter's Tale was written. For there is no record of it before 1611, when Dr Simon Forman mentions in his Diary that he saw it acted at the Globe Theatre on the 15th of May in that year. Thus it may fairly be assumed that it was one of the poet's latest works, if indeed this were not clear, from the internal evidence of matured power in every element of thought, pathos, humour, and dramatic construction, for which in their combination Shakespeare in his later works stands without a peer. To you, who have done for the
It is the same with the heroes and heroines of history and fiction. It is only the great poet who sees what scope they offer for inspiring them with life, and for placing them under conditions in which character, emotion, and passion may be portrayed under ideal forms, but still with a truth to nature which makes them even more real, more intimately familiar to us, than the people whom we have longest known.
So is it that in 'The Idylls of the King' we find such pictures of true knightliness, tenderness, beauty, and pathos, as are nowhere to be found in the wild, quaint, but assuredly tedious and not unfrequently coarse incidents and legends which are chronicled in Sir Thomas Malory's book.
No better illustration can be found of how the shaping spirit of imagination turns prose into poetry than by comparing "The Winter's Tale" with Greene's 'Pandosto,' or, as in later editions it was called, 'The Pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia.' In both
we find the sudden outbreak in Pandosto (the Leontes of the play) of an insane jealousy of his lifelong friend Egistus (Polixenes), the flight of Egistus with the king's cup-bearer Franion (Camillo), the sending away by Pandosto of the new-born babe to be destroyed, the trial of Bellaria (Hermione), the judgment of the oracle in her favour, and the death of her son Gerinter (Mamillius). But the Bellaria of the story dies, and the subsequent history of her daughter Fawnia (Perdita) and Dorastus (Florizel), in other respects much the same as in the play, is made peculiarly unpleasant by the passion Pandosto conceives for his own child, when she seeks refuge with her lover at his Court, and the winding up of the story with his suicide in a fit of remorse for having entertained this passion. Obviously an impracticable story this for the purpose of a play! But how skilfully has Shakespeare bridged over all difficulty by the invention of incidents, and the introduction of characters - the wittiest of rogues, Autolycus, one of them which give life, coherence, and probability to the action of the play, while they enable him to bring it, as with a strain of noble music, to a perfect close, by making Hermione live to see her daughter restored to her arms, and to be herself reunited to her husband!
richness of imagination, what power, what beauty, what pathos, what humour in what they have to say!
So much for the outlines of the plot; but it is in the delineation of the characters that the marked difference is seen between Greene, the man of talent, and Shakespeare, the myriad-minded man of genius. How clear the lines with which they are drawn; with what precision and delicacy of touch are they individualised; what wonders of light and shade are shown in their grouping; what
Shakespeare shows his usual constructive skill in the very first scene, by bringing into prominence in the dialogue between Camillo and Archidamus the remarkable attachment between Leontes and Polixenes, and the winning ways of Hermione's little son Mamillius. In speaking of the affection of the two kings, Camillo says, "They were trained together in their childhood. Since their more mature dignities, and royal necessities, made separation of their society," they had kept the intimacy unbroken by such interchange of letters and of gifts, "that they have seemed to be together, though absent. The heavens continue their loves!" To which Archidamus replies: "I think there is not in the world either malice or matter to alter it." Then he goes on to praise Leontes' young son: "You have an unspeakable comfort of your young prince Mamillius; it is a gentleman of the greatest promise that ever came into my note."
Here two notes are struck which
reverberate in the heart, when these bright anticipations are soon afterwards turned to anguish and dismay by the wholly unexpected jealous frenzy of Leontes. They prepare us for seeing Leontes in the next scene urging his friend, who has already lingered nine months at the Sicilian Court, still further to prolong his stay. Hermione is by, but she is silent, until Leontes, who appears surprised at her silence, says to her,
Tongue-tied, our queen? Speak you!" Thus appealed to, she shows that her intercession had been reserved until her husband had put still harder pressure upon their guest.
“I had thought, sir, to have held my ing her point, and so accomplish-
You had drawn oaths from him not to
Tell him, you All in Bohemia's well, Say this to him,
He's beat from his best ward.
"To tell, he longs to see his son, were
But let him say so then, and let him go;
"Her. Nay, but you will?
You put me off with limber vows; but I,
Though you would seek to unsphere
Should yet say, 'Sir, no going!'
You shall not go; a lady's 'verily ''s
heart! And with the winning
I may not, verily.
Finding Polixenes makes no sign of yielding, she continues
We were, fair queen, Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
Her. Was not my lord the verier wag of the two?
Pol. We were as twinn'd lambs, that
And bleat the one at the other; what
The doctrine of ill-doing, neither dreamed
That any did. Had we pursued that