Imatges de pàgina

his actions, elevates him greatly above his predecessor.

The lovely Fawnia is interesting ; but what portrait can be compared with Shakspeare's Perdita ? She embodies the poetic conceptions of Arcadian innocence and simplicity; and with that truth to nature so peculiar to the characterisations of our dramatist, he has endued the princess, though fostered in a cottage, with innate delicacy of sentiment and elegance of taste.

The old shepherd of the novel has a wife who is naturally visited by some qualms of jealousy when her husband brings an infant home for her to take care of. Shakspeare omits this lady, but, not to leave the rustic without a companion, supplies her place by assigning him a son, who is no bad specimen of a country clown. The amusing awkwardness of the father and son at court is an incident of Shakspeare's own conception.

As is the case in many other of Shakspeare's plays, a character is engrafted on the Winter's Tale of which no traces are to be found in the materials he used, and whose business in the progress of the business of the scene is utterly unimportant. Autolycus is a wit, a songster, a liar, and a thief. He is a shrewd observer of life and manners; his bosom is impenetrable to the necessities of

others, and his vigilance ever awake to administer to his own. His fund of humour is inexhaustible, and his impudence matchless. He is moreover interesting, as connected with the manners of Shakspeare's age — as the representative of a class of persons numerous in the middle ages, but who dwindled away as towns increased, and the wants of life did not depend on wakes and fairs for their satisfaction.




Collins, the poet, informed Warton that he had once met with a romance in which the principal character was a chemical necromancer who had bound a spirit, like Ariel, to obey his call and perform his services. His account that the story was printed in Italian, Spanish, French, and English, in 1588, has not led to its discovery. If such a tale preceded the composition of the Tempest, it may be inferred that Shakspeare, agreeably to his practice on other occasions, availed himself of as much of its contents as he found suitable to his purpose. Malone advanced the pretensions of the sixth tragical tale of George Turberville, and Greene's

comical history of Alphonsus, king of Arragon, to the honour of having originated a large portion of the plot; but the points of resemblance are extremely few and imperfect, and the other authority is the more natural course.

The use evidently made by Shakspeare, in his representation of the loss of the king's ship, of the printed accounts of the wreck of Sir George Somers in the Bermudas, in 1609, proves this play to have been written subsequent to that period.

Sir George Somers was admiral of the fleet that sailed from England in 1609 for the settlement of a colony in Virginia. The expedition itself was deeply interesting to the country; the separation of Somers from his squadron by a tremendous Tempest, the uncertainty which prevailed respecting his fate for upwards of a year, and his extraordinary shipwreck and adventures on a desert island, were circumstances of a character so romantic as intensely to excite public curiosity; and Shakspeare was thus led to affix a title to his drama, which, having direct reference to these events insured it immediate attention.

Previous to the wreck of Somers and his companions, the Bermudas (or, as Shakspeare calls them, the Bermoothes) were regarded as an

enchanted pile of rocks whose inhabitants were devils and witches : hence the enchantment of the island inhabited by Prospero ; hence the assigning to him of the powers of a magician; and hence the supposition of its previous occupation by Sycorax, the witch.

How vivid and prevalent were the ideas of magic and supernatural influences, is fully attested by Shakspeare's production of a drama, of which the scene is laid in regions full of

“ Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not,"

and of which the principal agents are a magician and his attendant spirit.

While the illiterate were fully aware of the powers of nature to produce good or bad effects, à knowledge of their actual properties was peculiar to the learned. An air of mystery was thus thrown over science, to which the

grossness of ignorance attached the belief of supernatural interference. It was assumed, that latent qualities existed in waters, minerals, stones, herbs, and plants, their shape, colour, and size, a proper application of which, by the agency of the spiritual world, enabled the student to effect miraculous results. Such was the foundation for a

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