Page images
PDF
EPUB

without effort, power with repose--that soul of grace!

I know a Desdemona in real life, one in whom the absence of intellectual power is never felt as a deficiency, nor the absence of energy of will as im- . pairing the dignity, nor the most imperturbable serenity, as a want of feeling: one in whom thoughts appear mere instincts, the sentiment of rectitude supplies the principle, and virtue itself

seems rather a necessary state of being, than an s imposed law. No shade of sin or vanity has yet

stolen over that bright innocence. No discord within has marred the loveliness without -no strife of the factitious world without has disturbed the harmony within. The comprehension of evil appears for ever shut out, as if goodness had converted all things to itself; and all to the pure in heart must necessarily be pure. The impression produced is en exactly that of the character of Desdemona; genius is a rare thing, but abstract goodness is rarer. In Desdemona, we cannot but feel that the slightest manifestation of intellectual power or active will would have injured the dramatic effect. She is a victim

consecrated from the first,—"an offering without blemish,” alone worthy of the grand final sacrifice; all harmony, all grace, all purity, all tenderness, all truth! But, alas ! to see her fluttering like a cherub, in the talons of a fiend !—to see her-o poor Desdemona!

[graphic][merged small]

IMOGEN.

We come now to Imogen. Others of Shakspeare's characters are, as dramatic and poetical conceptions, more striking, more brilliant, more powerful; but of all his women, considered as individuals rather than as heroines, Imogen is the most perfect. Portia and Juliet are pictured to the fancy with more force of contrast, more depth of light and shade; Viola and Miranda, with more aërial delicacy of outline ! but there is no female portrait that can be compared to Imogen as a woman-none in which so great a variety of tints are mingled together into such perfect harmony. In her we have all the fervour of youthful tenderness, all the romance of youthful fancy, all the enchantment of ideal grace,-the bloom of beauty, the brightness of intellect, and the dignity of rank, taking a peculiar hue from the conjugal character which is shed over all, like a consecration and a holy charm. In Othello and the Winter's Tale, the interest excited for Desdemona and Hermione is divided with others; but in Cymbeline, Imogen is the angel of light, whose lovely presence pervades and animates the whole piece. The character altogether may be pronounced finer, more complex in its elements, and more fully developed in all its parts, than those of Hermione and Desdemona; but the position in which she is placed is not, I think, so fine-at least, not so effective, as a tragic situation.

Shakspeare has borrowed the chief circumstances of Imogen's story from one of Boccaccio's tales. *

A company of Italian merchants who are assembled in a tavern at Paris, are represented as conversing on the subject of their wives : all of them express themselves with levity, or scepticism, or scorn, on the virtue of women, except a young Genoese merchant named Bernabo, who maintains, that by thè especial favour of Heaven he possesses a wife no less chaste than beautiful. Heated by the wine, and excited by the arguments and the coarse raillery of another young merchant, Ambrogiolo, Bernabo proceeds to enumerate the various perfections and accomplishments of his Zinevra. He praises her loveliness, her submission, and her discretion, her skill in embroidery, her graceful service, in which the best trained page of the court could not exceed her; and he adds, as rarer accomplishments, that she could mount a

* Decamerone. Novella, 9mo. Giornata, 2do.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »