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Judas Macc&bffius, Hector, Alexander, Julius Cjesar, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bulloigne, appear from a very early period to hare been introduced occasionally in the shows and pageants of our ancestors. Kitson has extracted a curious specimen of the rude poetry spoken by the characters in a performance of this nature, from the original Manuscript, temp, Edward IV. (MSS. Tanner, 407).
Ector Ds Trot*. Thow Achy lies in bataly me slow
Of my wunhynes men speken i-now.
And in romaunce often am I lcyt
Thow my cenatoures me slow in Conllory,
In holy Chyrche ye mowen here and rede
Aftyr that slayn was Golyas
Jonas Macabetts. Of my wurthynesse, syf se wyll wets
Arthour. The Round Tabyll I sette with knyghtes
Zyt shall I come agen, thow it be long.
Charles. With me dwellyd Rouland Olyvere
Jn all my conquest fer and nere.
Godefret Ds And I was kyng of Iherusalem
In the Harl. MSS. 2057, f. 36, thore is the draft of \ show "Intended to bo made upon the petition to Mr. Recorder, Aug. 1, 1621," of which the Nine Worthies
form a part; and from the description it gives of thoso personages and their esquires, they must have presented a very imposing spectacle.
"The 9 wortheys in compleat armor with Crownes of gould on there heads, every on having his esq* to beare before him his sheild and penon of armes, dressed according as there lords where accostumed to bo : 3 Issaralits, 3 Infidels, 3 Christians, &c."
As Shakespeare introduces Hercules and Pompey among his presence of Worthies, we may infer that the characters were sometimes varied to suit the circumstances of the period, or the taste of the auditory. A MS. preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, mentions the Six Wort/iies having been played before the Lord Deputy Sussex in 1557.
(8) Scene II.—
For the ass to the Jude; give it him:—Jud-as, away/]
Biron's quibble has not oven the merit of novelty, but with the unfastidious audience of Shakespeare's a^e, that was far from indispensable to a joke's prosperity. It occurs as early as 1566, in Hey wood ■ Poems, and if worth the search might probably be traced still further back,—
"on An Tll Govkhnour Called Jude,
"A rultr there was in a countrey a fer,
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.
"Of 'Love's Labour's Lost,' as it was performed in the year 1591, we possess no exact transcript; for, in the oldest edition which has hitherto been found of this Play, namely that of 1508, it is said in the title-page to be newly corrected and augmented, with the further information, that it had been presented before Her Highness the last Christmas; facts which show that we are in possession not of the first draft or edition of this comedy, but only of that copy which represents it as it was revived and improved for the entertainment of the Queen, in 1597.
"The original sketch, whether printed or merely performed, we conceive to have been one of the pieces alluded to by Greene, in 1592, when he accuses Shakespeare of being an absolute Johannes factotum of the stage, primarily and principally from the mode of its execution, which, as we have already observed, betrays the earliness of its source in the strongest manner ; secondarily, that, like Pericles, it occasionally copies the language of the Arcadia, then with all the attractive novelty of its reputation in full bloom ;* and, thirdly, that, in the fifth Act, various allusions to the Muscovites or Russians seem evidently to point to a period when Russia and its inhabitants attracted the public consideration, a period which we find, from Hackluyt.f to have occupied the years 1590 and 1591, when, as Warburton and Chalmers have observed, the arrangement of Russian commerce engaged very particularly the attention, and formed tho conversation of the court, the city, and the country 4
"It may be also remarked, that while no Play among our author's works exhibits more decisive marks of juvenility than Love's Labour's Lost, none, at the same time, is more strongly imbued with the peculiar cast of his youthful genius ; for in style and manner it bears a closer resemblance to the Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, and the earlier Sonnets, than any other of his genuine dramas. It presents us, in short, with a continued contest of wit and repartee; the persons represented, whether high or low, vying with each other throughout the piece, in the production of the greatest number of jokes, sallies, and verbal equivoques. The profusion with which these are every-where scattered, has, unfortunately, had the effect of throwing an air of uniformity over all the characters, who seem solely intent on keeping up the ball of raillery; yet is Biron now and then discriminated by a few strong touches, and Holofernes is probably the portrait of an individual, some of his quotations having justly induced the commentators to infer, that Florio, the author of First and Second Fruits, dialogues in Italian and English, and of a Dictionary entitled A World of Words, was the object of the poet's satire.
"If in dramatic strength of painting this comedy be deficient, and it appears to us, in this quality, inferior to Pericles, we must, independent of the vivacity of its dialogue already noticed, acknowledge, that it displays several poetical gems, that it contains many just moral apophthegms, and that it affords, even in the closet, no small fund of amusement ; and here it is worthy of being remarked, and may, indeed, without prejudice or prepossession, be asserted, that, even to the earliest and most unfinished
• Vide Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp, 281, 2S2; and | J Reed's Shakespeare, vol. vii. p. 151, note; and Chalmers i Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 238. Supplemental Apology, p. 283.
t Vol. i. p. 4S8-I), edit. 1598. ]
dramas of our poet, a peculiar interest is felt to be attached, not arising from the fascination of a name, but from an intrinsic and almost inexplicable power of pleasing, which we in vain look for in the juvenile plays of other bards, and which serves, perhaps better than any other criterion, to ascertain the genuine property of Shakspeare; it is, in fact, B touchstone, which, when applied to Titus Andronicus, and what has been termed the First Part of Henry the Sixth, must, if every other evidence were wanting, flash conviction on our senses."—Drake.
"I can never sufficiently admire the wonderful activity of thought throughout the whole of the first scene of this play, rendered natural, as it is, by the choice of the characters, and the whimsical determination on which the drama is founded. A whimsical determination certainly ;—yet not altogether so very improbable to those who are conversant in the history of the middle ages, with their Courts of Love, and all that lighter drapery of chivalry which engaged even mighty kings with a sort of serio-comic interest, and may well be supposed to have occupied more completely the smaller princes, at a time when the noble's or prince's court contained the only theatre of the domain or principality. This sort of story, too, was admirably suited to Shakspeare's times, when the English court was still the fostermother of the state and the muses ; and when, in consequence, the courtiers, and men of rank and fashion, affected a display of wit, point, and sententious observation, that would be deemed intolerable at present,—but in which a hundred years of controversy, involving every great political, and every dear domestic, interest, had trained all but the lowest classes to participate. Add to this, the very style of the sermons of the time, and the eagerness of the Protestants to distinguish themselves by long and frequent preaching, and it will be found that, from the reign of Henry the Eighth to the abdication of James the Second, no country ever received such a national education as England.
"Hence the comic matter chosen in the first instance is a ridiculous imitation or apery of this constant striving after logical precision, and subtle opposition of thoughts, together with a making the most of every conception or image, by expressing it under the least expected property belonging to it, and this, again, rendered specially absurd by being applied to the most current subjects and occurrences. The phrases and modes of combination in argument were caught by the most ignorant from the custom of the age, and their ridiculous misapplication of them is most amusingly exhibited in Costard; whilst examples suited only to the gravest propositions and impersonations, or apostrophes to abstract thoughts impersonated, which are in fact the natural language only of the most vehement agitations of the mind, are adopted by the coxcombry of Armado as mere artifices of ornament.
"The same kind of intellectual action is exhibited in a more serious and elevated strain in many other parts of this play. Biron's speech at the end of the fourth act is an excellent specimen of it. It is logic clothed in rhetoric;—but observe how Shakspeare, in his two-fold being of poet and philosopher, anils himself of it to convey profound truths in the most lively images, — the whole remaining faithful to the character supposed to utter the lines, and the expressions themselves constituting a further development of that character. This speech is quite a study ;—sometimes you see this Youthful god of poetry connecting disparate thoughts purely by means of resemblances in the words expressing them,—a thing in character in lighter comedy, especially of that kind in which Shakspeare delights, namely, the purposed display of wit, though sometimes, too, disfiguring his graver scenes ;— but more often you may see him doubling the natural connection or order of logical consequence in the thoughts, by the introduction of an artificial and sought-for resemblance in the words, as, for instance, in the third line of the play :—
'And then grace us in the disgrace of death ;'—
this being a figure often having its force and propriety, as justified by the law of passion, which, inducing in the mind an unusual activity, seeks for means to waste its superfluity,—when in the highest degree—in lyric repetitions and sublime tautology—(at her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down; at ier feel he bouxd, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell down dead,)—and, in lower degrees, in making the words themselves the subjects and materials of that surplus action, and for the same cause that agitates our limbs, and forces our very gestures into a tempest in states of high excitement.
"The mere style of narration in ' Love's Labour's Lost,' like that of JSgeon in the first scene of the Comedy of Errors, and of the Captain in the second scene of Macbeth, seems imitated with its defects and its beauties from Sir Philip Sidney; whose Arcadia, though not then published, was already well known in manuscript copies, and could hardly have escaped the notice and admiration of Shakspeare as the friend and client of the Earl of Southampton. The chief defect consists in the parentheses and parenthetic thoughts and descriptions, suited neither to the passion of the speaker, nor the purpose of the person to whom the information is to be given, but manifestly betraying the author himself,—not by way of continuous under-song, but—palpably, and so as to show themselves addressed to the general reader. However, it is not unimportant to notice how strong a presumption the diction and allusions of this play afford, that, though Shakspeare's acquirements in the dead languages might not be such as we suppose in a learned education, his habits had, nevertheless, been scholastic, and those of a student. For a young author's first work almost always bespeaks his recent pursuits, and his first observations of life are either drawn from the immediate employments of his youth, and from the characters and images most deeply impressed on his mind in the situations in which those employments had placed him;—or else they are fixed on such objects and occurrences in the world, as are easily connected with, and seem to bear upon, his studies and the hitherto exclusive subjects of his meditation. Just as Ben Jonson, who applied himself to the drama after having served in Flanders, tills his earliest plays with true or pretended soldiers, the wrongs and neglects of the former, and the absurd boasts and knavery of their counterfeits. So Lessing's first comedies are placed in the universities, and consist of events and characters conceivable in an academic life."—Coleridge.
"Love's Labour's Lost is numbered among the pieces of Shakspeare's youth. It is a humorsome display of frolic; a whole cornucopia of the most vivacious jokes is emptied into it. Youth is certainly perceivable in the lavish superfluity of labour in the execution ; the unbroken succession of plays on words, and sallies of every description, hardly leave the spectator time to breathe ; the sparkles of wit fly about in such profusion, that they resemble a blaze of fireworks ; while the dialogue, for the most part, is in the same hurried style in which the passing masks at a carnival attempt to banter each other. The young king of Navarre, with three of his courtiers, has made a vow to pass three years in rigid retirement, and devote them to the study of wisdom; for that purpose he has banished all female society from his court, and imposed a penalty on the intercourse with women. But scarcely has he, in a pompous harangue, worthy of the most heroic achievements, announced this determination, when the daughter of the king of France appears at his court, in the name of her old and bed-ridden father, to demand the restitution of a province which he held in pledge. Compelled to give her audience, he falls immediately in love with her. Matters fare no better with his companions, who on their parts renew an old acquaintance with the princess's attendants. Each, in heart, is already false to his vow, without knowing that the wish is shared by his associates ; they overhear one another, as they in turn confide their sorrows in a love-ditty to the solitary forest; every one jeers and confounds the one who follows him. Biron, who from the beginning was the most satirical among them, at last steps forth, and rallies the king and the two others, till the discovery of a love-letter forces him also to hang down his head. He extricates himself and his companions from their dilemma by ridiculing the folly of the broken vow, and after a noble eulogy on women, invites them to swear new allegiance to the colours of love. This scene is inimitable, and the crowning beauty of the whole. The manner in which they afterwards prosecute their love-suits in masks and disguise, and in which they are tricked and laughed at by the ladies, who are also masked and disguised, is, perhaps, spun out too long. It may be thought, too, that the poet, when he suddenly announces the death of the king of France, and makes the princess postpone her answer to the young prince's serious advances till the expiration of the period of her mourning, and impose, besides, a heavy penance on him for his levity, drops the proper comic tone. But the tone of raillery which prevails throughout the piece, made it hardly possible to bring about a more satisfactory conclusion: after such extravagance, the characters could not return to sobriety, except under the presence of some foreign influence. The grotesque figures of Don Armado, a pompous fantastic Spaniard, a couple of pedants, and a clown, who between whiles contribute to the entertainment, are the creation of a whimsical imagination, and well adapted as foils for the wit of so vivacious a society." —Schleoel.