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For life, I prize it

As I weigh grief, which I would spare. For honour

'Tis a derivative from me to mine,

And only that I stand for.

Her earnest, eloquent justification of herself, and her lofty sense of female honour, are rendered more affecting and impressive by that chilling despair, that contempt for a life which has been made bitter to her through unkindness, which is betrayed in every word of her speech, though so calmly characteristic. When she enume

rates the unmerited insults which have been heaped upon her, it is without asperity or reproach, yet in a tone which shows how completely the iron has entered her soul. Thus when Leontes threatens her with death:

Sir, spare your threats:

The bug which you would fright me with I seek.

To me can life be no commodity :

The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,

I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,

But know not how it went. My second joy,
The first fruits of my body, from his presence

I am barr'd, like one infectious. My third comfort—
Starr'd most unluckily !—is from my breast,
The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth,
Haled out to murder. Myself on every post
Proclaimed a strumpet; with immodest hatred,
The child-bed privilege denied, which 'longs
To women of all fashion. Lastly, hurried
Here to this place, i' the open air, before

I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,

Tell me what blessings I have here alive,
That I should fear to die. Therefore, proceed,
But yet hear this; mistake me not. No! life,
I prize it not a straw; but for mine honour,
(Which I would free,) if I shall be condemn'd
Upon surmises; all proofs sleeping else,
But what your jealousies awake; I tell you,
'Tis rigour, and not law.

The character of Hermione is considered open to criticism on one point. I have heard it remarked that when she secludes herself from the world for sixteen years, during which time she is mourned as dead by her repentant husband, and is not won to relent from her resolve by his sorrow, his remorse, his constancy to her memory; such conduct, argues the critic, is unfeeling as it

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is inconceivable in a tender and virtuous woman. Would Imogen have done so, who is so generously ready to grant a pardon before it be asked? or Desdemona, who does not forgive because she cannot even resent? No, assuredly; but this is only another proof of the wonderful delicacy and consistency with which Shakspeare has discriminated the characters of all three. The incident of Hermione's supposed death and concealment for sixteen years, is not indeed very probable in itself, nor very likely to occur in every-day life. But besides all the probability necessary for the purposes of poetry, it has all the likelihood it can derive from the peculiar character of Hermione, who is precisely the woman who could and would have acted in this manner. In such a mind as hers, the sense of a cruel injury, inflicted by one she had loved and trusted, without awakening any violent anger or any desire of vengeance, would sink deep-almost incurably and lastingly deep. So far she is most unlike either Imogen or Desdemona, who are portrayed as much more flexible in temper; but then the circumstances under

which she is wronged are very different, and far more unpardonable. The self-created, frantic jealousy of Leontes is very distinct from that of Othello, writhing under the arts of Iago; or that of Posthumus, whose understanding has been cheated by the most damning evidence of his wife's infidelity. The jealousy which in Othello and Posthumus is an error of judgment, in Leontes is a vice of the blood; he suspects without cause, condemns without proof; he is without excuse-unless the mixture of pride, passion, and imagination, and the predisposition to jealousy with which Shakspeare has portrayed him, be considered as an excuse. Hermione has been openly insulted: he to whom she gave herself, her heart, her soul, has stooped to the weakness and baseness of suspicion; has doubted her truth, has wronged her love, has sunk in her esteem and forfeited her confidence. She has been branded with vile names; her son, her eldest hope, is dead-dead through the false accusation which has stuck infamy on his mother's name; and her innocent babe, stained with illegitimacy, disowned and rejected, has been exposed

to a cruel death. Can we believe that the mere tardy acknowledgment of her innocence could make amends for wrongs and agonies such as these? or heal a heart which must have bled inwardly, consumed by that untold grief, "which burns worse than tears drown?" Keeping in view the peculiar character of Hermione, such as she is delineated, is she one either to forgive hastily or forget quickly? and though she might, in her solitude, mourn over her repentant husband, would his repentance suffice to restore him at once to his place in her heart? to efface from her strong and reflecting mind the recollection of his miserable weakness? or can we fancy this high-souled woman — left childless through the injury which has been inflicted on her, widowed in heart by the unworthiness of him she loved, a spectacle of grief to all-to her husband a continual reproach and humiliation-walking through the parade of royalty in the court which had witnessed her anguish, her shame, her degradation, and her despair? Methinks that the want of feeling, nature, delicacy, and consistency, would lie in such an exhibition as

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