Sidor som bilder

And what thou hast, forget'st: thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange affects,
After the moon; if thou art rich, thou art poor;
For, like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee: friend thou hast none;
For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,

Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,

For ending thee no sooner: thou hast nor youth, nor age; But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,

Dreaming on both for all thy blessed youth

Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms

Of palsied eld; and when thou art old, and rich,
Thou 'st neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant.

That bears the name of life?

What's yet in this,
Yet in this life

Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even."



THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR is no doubt a very amusing play, with a great deal of humour, character, and nature in it; but we should have liked it much better, if any one else had been the hero of it, instead of Falstaff. We could have been contented if Shakspeare had not been “ commanded to show the knight in love." Wits and philosophers, for the most part, do not shine in that character; and Sir John himself, by no means, comes off with flying colours. Many people complain of the degradation and insults to which Don Quixote is so frequently exposed in his various adventures. But what are the unconscious indignities which he suffers, compared with the sensible mortifications which Falstaff is made to bring upon himself? What are the blows and buffetings which the Don receives from the staves of the Yanguesian carriers, or from Sancho Panza's more hard-hearted

hands, compared with the contamination of the buck-basket, the disguise of the fat woman of Brentford, and the horns of Herne the hunter, which are discovered on Sir John's head? In reading the play, we indeed wish him well through all these discomfitures, but it would have been as well if he had not got into them. Falstaff in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR is not the man he was in the two parts of Henry IV. His wit and eloquence have left him. Instead of making a butt of others, he is made a butt of by them. Neither is there a single particle of love in him to excuse his follies he is merely a designing, bare-faced knave, and an unsuccessful one. The scene with Ford as Master Brook, and that with Simple, Slender's man, who comes to ask after the Wise Woman, are almost the only ones in which his old intellectual ascendency appears. He is like a person recalled to the stage to perform an unaccustomed and ungracious part; and in which we perceive only some faint sparks of those flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the hearers in a roar." But the single scene with Doll Tearsheet, or Mrs Quickly's account of his desiring "to eat some of housewife Keach's prawns," and telling her "to be no more so familiarity with such people," is worth the whole of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR put



together. Ford's jealousy, which is the main spring of the comic incidents, is certainly very well managed. Page, on the contrary, appears to be somewhat uxorious in his disposition; and we have pretty plain indications of the effect of the characters of the husbands on the different degrees of fidelity in their wives. Mrs Quickly makes a very lively go-between, both between Falstaff and his Dulcineas, and Anne Page and her lovers, and seems in the latter case so intent on her own interest as totally to overlook the intentions of her employers. Her master, Doctor Caius, the Frenchman, and her fellow-servant, Jack Rugby, are very completely described. This last-mentioned person is rather quaintly commended by Mrs Quickly as


an honest, willing, kind fellow, as ever servant shall come in house withal, and I warrant you, no tell-tale, nor no breed-bate; his worse fault is that he is given to prayer; he is something peevish that way; but nobody but has his fault." The Welch Parson, Sir Hugh Evans (a title which in those days was given to the clergy) is an excellent character in all respects. He is as respectable as he is laughable. He has "very good discretions, and very odd humours." The duel-scene with Caius gives him an opportunity to show his "cholers and his tremblings of mind," his valour and his

melancholy, in an irresistible manner. In the dialogue, which at his mother's request he holds with his pupil, William Page, to show his progress in learning, it is hard to say whether the simplicity of the master or the scholar is the greatest. Nym, Bardolph, and Pistol, are but the shadows of what they were; and Justice Shallow himself has little of his consequence left. But his cousin, Slender, makes up for the deficiency. He is a very potent piece of imbecility. In him the pretensions of the worthy Gloucestershire family are well kept up, and immortalised. He and his friend Sackerson, and his book of songs, and his love of Anne Page, and his having nothing to say to her, can never be forgotten. It is the only first-rate Shakspeare is the only

character in the play.

writer who was as great in describing weakness as strength.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »