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I care not:
It is an heretic that makes the fire,
Not she which burns in 't.
Here, while we honour her courage and her affection, we cannot help regretting her violence. We see, too, in Paulina, what we so often see in real life, that it is not those who are most susceptible in their own temper and feelings who are most delicate and forbearing towards the feelings of others. She does not comprehend, or will not allow for the sensitive weakness of a mind less firmly tempered than her own.
There is a reply of Leontes to one of her cutting speeches which is full of feeling, and a lesson to those who with the best intentions in the world force the painful truth, like a knife, into the already lacerated heart.
If, one by one, you wedded all the world,
She I kill'd ? I did so: but thou strik'st me
Sorely, to say I did ; it is as bitter
Not at all, good lady:
Your kindness better.
We can only excuse Paulina by recollecting that it is a part of her purpose to keep alive in the heart of Leontes the remembrance of his queen's perfections, and of his own cruel injustice. It is admirable, too, that Hermione and Paulina, while sufficiently approximated to afford all the pleasure of contrast, are never brought too nearly in contact on the scene or in the dialogue ;* for
Only in the last scene, when, with solemnity befitting the occasion, Paulina invokes the majestic figure to “ descend, and be stone no more," and where she presents her daughter to her,
Turn, good lady! our Perdita is found.”
this would have been a fault in taste, and have necessarily weakened the effect of both characters : -either the serene grandeur of Hermione would have subdued and overawed the fiery spirit of Paulina, or the impetuous temper of the latter must have disturbed in some respect our impression of the calm, majestic, and somewhat melancholy beauty of Hermione.
The character of Hermione is addressed more to the imagination;—that of Desdemona tothefeelings. All that can render sorrow majestic is gathered round Hermione; all that can render misery heart-breaking is assembled round Desdemona The wronged but self-sustained virtue of Hermione commands our veneration; the injured and defenceless innocence of Desdemona so wrings the soul, “ that all for pity we could die.”
Desdemona, as a character, comes nearest to Miranda, both in herself as a woman, and in the perfect simplicity and unity of the delineation ; the figures are differently draped—the proportions are the same. There is the same modesty, tenderness, and grace; the same artless devotion in the affections, the same predisposition to wonder, to pity, to admire; the same almost etherial refinement and delicacy; but all is pure poetic nature within Miranda and around her: Desdemona is more associated with the palpable realities of every-day existence, and we see the forms and habits of society tinting her language and deportment: no two beings can be more alike in character-nor more distinct as individuals.
The love of Desdemona for Othello appears at first such a violation of all probabilities, that her father at once imputes it to magic, “ to spells and mixtures powerful o'er the blood.”