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All. Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus !
Cor. No more of this, it does offend heart :
Look, sir, your mother!
Act ii. Sc. 1. In Cymbeline, we naturally expect the same from a son like Guiderius, see Act iv. Sc. 4; and from a daughter like Imogen, see Act v. Sc. 5. It is a daughter, too, who in Titus Andronicus says to her father, upon his return to Rome, after conquering the Goths :-
O bless me here with thy victorious hand. Act i. Sc. 2. On the other hand, remembering the treatment which King Lear had received from his two unnatural daughters, Goneril and Regan, we are not surprised that the Fool should say to him, while they are out together in the pitiless storm upon the heath :
Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughter'st blessing ; here's a night pities neither wise men nor fools.
Act ïïi. Sc. 2. While remembering also how he himself had acted towards his good daughter, Cordelia, we are not dis
* Cominius, general in command with Coriolanus, against the Volscians.
+ Volumnia, mother to Coriolanus.
I So Mr. Malone prints it; but surely it should be daughters.' Lear goes on to speak of two pernicious daughters.'
pleased that he should say to her, at the last, when moved to repentance :
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
Act v. Sc. 3. nor that she, on her part, should beseech and protest :
O ! look upon me, sir,
hands in benediction o'er me. No, sir, you must not kneel.
Act iv. Sc. 7. In the Two Gentlemen of Verona, when Launce, the servant of Proteus, is to leave Rome in attendance upon his master, he ludicrously describes all the particulars of the mournful scene, and among
the rest: Now come I to my father ; Father, your blessing.
Act ii. Sc. 3. In like manner, we have already seen,* in Hamlet, Polonius laying his hand upon his son Laertes' head, and blessing him before he set out upon his travels; and in the same play, Hamlet says to the unhappy queen his mother, whom he had urged to repentance and reformation:
Once more, Good night!
Act iii. Sc. 4. that is, I'll beg your blessing, when you yourself are desirous to amend, and so shall be in a condition to receive blessing from God.
Once more, in King Richard III., the wicked
* Above, p. 116.
Gloster, as he then was, has the hypocrisy to go through the same pious form towards his mother :
Glos. Madam, my mother, I do cry you mercy !
Duch. God bless thee! and put meekness in thy breast,
Glos. Amen! And make me die a good old man. That is the butt-end of a mother's blessing, [ Aside. I marvel that her grace did leave it out. Act ii. Sc. 2.
It would be interesting to descend to the relations which exist in a family between the master and mistress and their domestics; and to endeavour to trace the notions which our poet entertained of the reciprocal duties that flow from that relationship. But I must be content to observe that he has drawn no purer or better character than that of old Adam, the servant, in As you like it; and that in Cymbeline he takes occasion, in a speech of Posthumus to his servant Pisanio, to lay down the just and important principle, that no servant is bound to please his master by doing what is wrong :
Every good servant does not all commands:
Act v. Sc. I.
Sect. 9. Of Charity and Mercifulness. If we are to lay a solid foundation of moral duty, we must first learn to entertain a just abhorrence of its opposite. O ye that love the Lord, see that ye
hate the thing that is evil. Ps. xcvii. 10. Thus of the Ten Commandments, not only the three first, but the five last also, are all couched in the negative form, as though the prohibition of vice was designed to form the foundation of virtue. And thus, too, we learn, even from a heathen poet
Virtus est vitium fugere, et sapientia prima
Stultitiâ caruisse. The beginning of Virtue is to flee Vice, and the beginning of Wisdom to have escaped from Folly.
In this and the four next sections I propose to test the teaching of Shakspeare by this rule; and, following the order of the second table of the moral law, to show how, after the model of Scripture, he would teach us : (1) from the prohibition of murder to build up the grace of charity; (2) from the
( prohibition of adultery to build up the grace of chastity and sobriety ; (3) from the prohibition of stealing to build up the grace of honesty ; (4) from the prohibition of false witness to build up the of truth; and (5) from the prohibition of covetousness to build
of contentment. The subject then of this section corresponds with the scope of the sixth Commandment, as developed by our Lord in the sermon on the mount.
In K. Richard III. Clarence thus speaks to one of the men who were sent by Gloster to murder him in the Tower :
Erroneous vassal! The great King of KINGS
Act i. Sc. 4. There is, however, a well-known passage in Hamlet, in which our poet would seem not only to justify the taking of blood for blood by private assassination, but to go much further, by teaching to postpone such an act, out of a refinement of revenge, ' with the view of securing, at the same time, as far as possible, the everlasting perdition of the murderer. And Johnson, accordingly, has condemned the speech—more especially coming, as it does, from "a virtuous character '
-as one too horrible to be
. read or to be uttered.' This is a grave charge to bring against our author; and though the commentators in general appear to have acquiesced in it as just, I would venture to offer a few remarks in arrest of so severe a judgment. For this purpose it will be necessary to produce at least a portion of the speech alluded to. When the wicked king, in attempting to repent,* retires and kneels, Hamlet entering unobserved, says to himself—with reference to the act of murder which he was contemplating
Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying ;
See above, pp. 140, 163.