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survived, and both are indebted to strangers for their preservation.
Shakspeare makes no mention of the occurrences of Viola's voyage previous to the shipwreck. Silla narrowly escaped violation by the master of the vessel ; but the dramatic captain is a humane and honourable man, and zealously assists Viola in her distress.
It has been thought improbable that Viola, shipwrecked on a foreign shore, should immediately form the plan of captivating an unknown prince, and of supplanting the lady whom heloved. The novel of Bandello does not solve the difficulty ; but we learn from the English tale, that the lady had long previously loved the prince; that she had forsaken her friends and country in pursuit of him. With such violence of attachment, and, after such sacrifices, her resolution to surmount every interposing difficulty is natural; and Viola's conduct is only chargeable with incongruity because Shakspeare has neglected to represent, or narrate, the circumstances that constitute her justification. It is this forgetfulness that has also laid Viola open to the charge of indelicacy, since she at present wants the excuse of a previous attachment, which may be urged in defence of the hazardous experiment of that “ peerless beauty," Silla. On the other hand,
Viola is no contemner of the ties of nature, she deserts not her relatives, and flies not from her country in pursuit of a man by whom she is not loved. A helpless, houseless, friendless orphan may be justified in adopting many expedients not to be sanctioned in a female of more happy circumstances.
Viola is endued with all the warmth of romantic love, which characterises the heroine of the novel, who “altogether desirous to please her master cared nothing at all to offend herselfe, followed his businesse with so good a will as if it had been in her own preferment.” But no where but in Shakspeare is to be found the fascinating tenderness, the pathetic eloquence, and the thousand charms of mental grace, loveliness, and purity, by which Viola is distinguished.
While Bandello's tale was regarded as the origin of Shakspeare's plot, it was regretted, that he had attributed the actions of a young, thoughtless, and inexperienced girl, the indiscreet and wanton Catella, to one who sways her house, commands her servants, and, in other respects, regulates her affairs “ with smooth, discreet, and stable bearing." But Shakspeare followed Riche's fable, and had it not been that he expressly calls her “a virtuous maid,” Olivia might
well have passed for the Constantinopolitan “ noble dame, a widdowe, whose husband was but lately deceased, one of the noblest men that were in the partes of Grecia, who left his lady and wife large possessions and great livings."
In bringing about the conclusion of the play, Shakspeare varies very considerably from his original. Either of the novels would have furnished him with a good and probable reason for the appearance of the brother in the same city with his sister, a circumstance now wearing the semblance of accident. The recognition of the former for the latter, his invitation to the lady's house, and Sebastian's joyful acceptance of it, are closely copied from Riche's tale, but Shakspeare preserves Olivia's reputation by carefully contracting her in marriage with Sebastian, in the presence of a priest beneath a consecrated roof.
Under the same error as Julina, Olivia claims Cesario for her husband before the duke, and meets with the same denial of the contract: Olivia, like Julina, attributes the conduct of the page to fear, and, like Apolonius, Orsino believes his page an epitome of meanness, deceit, and cunning:
The entrance of Sebastián, in the play, while Viola is present on the scene, is the cir
cumstance which leads to the solution of every difficulty, and it is not till that moment that Viola makes any disclosure of her sex.
In perusing Twelfth Night, it is remarkable how small a portion of its scenes is occupied by the incidents of its plot, and that in truth, with the exception of Viola, the principal interest settles in Ague-cheek, Belch, and Malvolio, (characters entirely of Shakspeare's creation,) who contribute but little to the progress of the story. The last, indeed, not at all, and the others are only connected with the fable by the incidents of Sir Andrew's jealousy, and consequent duel with Viola. Sir Andrew Ague-cheek and Sir Toby Belch are studiously placed in mutual contrast. The imbecility of Aguecheek's mind and character falls little short of fatuity : Belch is a reveller and a drunkard, but, withal, a humourist, a satirist, and an attentive observer of the world : with a keen relish for the ludicrous, he is quick in the discernment of foibles, and admirable in exposing them to ridicule. The manners of this facetious and jolly roisterer are aped by the drivelling, imbecile, Ague-cheek, who, of no character himself, complacently culls the peculiarities of all men.
Malvolio, the pedantic, the sententious, the
churlish Malvolio, is one of the most elaborately finished pictures of personal vanity that is any where to be met with. He is, as Olivia tells him, “ sick of self-love,” and “ tastes all things with a distempered appetite.” So active is the principle of vanity within him, that its own potency alone suggests the preposterous idea that Olivia loves him, and he, in consequence, falls immediately by the plot laid for his exposure. The inordinate and deep-rooted opinion of his own merits is the medium through which he sees and construes all things, and he never thinks that the actions and words of others will bear any interpretation but the vain suggestions of his own self-love. 66 Why, every thing adheres together; that no dram of a scruple, no scruple of a scruple, no obstacle, no incredulous or unsafe circumstance — What can be said ? Nothing, that can be, can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes.” And all this vanity is often clad in the garb of modesty,—so fine is Shakspeare's tact in the representation of character. “ Well, Jove, not I, is the doer of this, and he is to be thanked.” Tyrwhitt pertinently observed that Malvolio, in his humour of state, bears a strong resemblance to Alnaschar, the barber's fifth brother, in the Arabian Nights. The passage is too long for