Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

would have furnished an interesting play; but the events in Cymbeline, though curiously interwoven, are often «

perplexed beyond self-explication,” as Imogen says of Pisanio's face. The charms which Shakspeare has thrown over the nakedness of his original stories make the reader regret that his attention is ever distracted. How beautiful is the development of Imogen's character; how rich and spirited the dialogue, particularly the scene between Posthumus and Iachimo, after the return of the latter to Rome!. The fine poetry which the dramatist has lavished upon Iachimo is an excuse for having left him the same common place villain that he appears in the novel; and where in Boccacio, or in any other writer, is the wretchedness of impure love so beautifully displayed, as in one of the speeches of this hypocrite, during his conversation with Imogen ? The ancient British story is adorned with many beauties. Though the king and queen are dull, and prate too much, yet Cloten is interesting. He is a natural fool; yet he often talks with the wit of one of Shakspeare's professed fools. He loves Imogen, for she is fair and royal; but he hates her because she despises his person ; and Shakspeare makes his hatred predominate, because vanity is the characteristic of a fool. What vigour and vitality are thrown over the

monkish chronicle by the fable of the Cambrian gentlemen :-Belarius, full of valuable axioms and sentences, embittered indeed by a world that had disgraced him, and Guiderius and Arviragus, with glorious enthusiasm and lofty hopes, piercing through the meanness of their estate.

278

TIMON OF ATHENS.

1610.

From a passage in “ Jack Drum's Entertainment,” Dr. Farmer conjectured that Timon had made his appearance on the stage previous to 1601. There was in the possession of the late Mr. Strutt, the engraver, a manuscript drama on the subject, and if the date, 1600, usually assigned to it be correct, the supposition of Farmer is confirmed. This play bears no more than a partial resemblance to Shakspeare's. It contains a scene resembling Shakspeare's banquet given by Timon to his flatterers. Instead of warm water, he sets before them stones painted like artichokes, and afterwards beats them out of the

He then retires to the woods, attended by his faithful steward, who, like Kent, in King Lear, has disguised himself to continue his services to his master. Timon, in the last act, is

room.

followed by his fickle mistress, &c. after he was reported to have discovered a hidden treasure by digging the earth.

There appears no objection to the belief that thus much Shakspeare was indebted to the old play; but it still remains a question where he acquired that knowledge which enabled him to construct the more material parts of his performance. His well-ascertained familiarity with Painter's Palace of Pleasure naturally suggests the idea that he made use of the twenty-eighth novel of the first volume of that collection ; but the neglect of the novelist to account for Timon's hatred of mankind negatives the notion.

Timon's story is shortly narrated in Plutarch's Life of Antonius, and there the omission of the novelist is abundantly supplied. " Because of the unthankfulness," says Sir Thomas North, “ of those he had done good unto, and whom he tooke to be his friends, he was angry with all men, and would trust no man."* It may be contended that from this hint alone Shakspeare developed the origin of Timon's detestation of mankind; and it has been deemed a satisfactory conclusion that he derived none of his materials from Lucian, because no translation of the dialogue of Timon is

* Page 943.

known to have existed in Shakspeare's age. But it should rather have been inferred, from the many striking coincidences between the play and the dialogue, that Lucian had some influence over the composition of Timon, although the channel through which that influence was communicated is no longer to be traced.

The following is Lucian's description of Timon :-“ To speak the truth, his probity, humanity, and charity to the poor, have been the ruin of him ; or rather, in fact, his own folly, easiness of disposition, and want of judgment in his choice of friends; he never discovered that he was giving away his all to wolves and ravens. Whilst these vultures were preying upon his liver, he thought them his best friends, and that they fed upon him out of pure love and affection. After they had gnawed him all round, ate his bones bare, and, if there was any marrow in them, sucked it carefully out, they left him, cut down to the roots and withered; and so far from relieving or assisting him in their turns, would not so much as know or look upon him. This has made him turn digger ; and here, in his skin garment, he tills the earth for hire; ashamed to show himself in the city, and venting his rage against the ingratitude of those, who, enriched

« AnteriorContinua »