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and our own bard of Avon, though they are more drawn within the common circle of human life, and may, therefore, be more directly and palpably pathetic, yet want the romantic range and wild accompaniment which make the original an untiring and ever-affecting narrative. It is one of those subjects, the embellishment of which poetry has but vaguely defined, leaving the fuller accomplishment for the sister art. The painter will find in it full scope for his genius; it comprises a series of pictures, each varying in character-it admits of sublimity, magnificence, tenderness, beauty, richness of scenery, forest and mountain, with their subdued and listening monsters, leopards and tigers, and the wild revelry of the Bacchanalian women.

If we must act the Didascalus, the ferule or a sound flogging for Ovid. His jejune narrative has not a single beauty-it is cold and feeble. Nor shall his trite sermonizing save him. And, oh! the puerile conceit that Eurydice did not complain, when relapsing into death and Orcus, because it showed she was too much loved! What business had he to prose it away that we must all die?

"Tendimus huc omnes, hæc est domus

ultima; vosque Humani generis longissima regna tenetis."

And his abominable conclusion merits for him the real taking up.

Now let us see Virgil's accountread it again and again-it is all Music of Affection. If sparingly told, it is well set, and what is told reaches the heart. The sole, the absorbing passion of Orpheus breathes in the inimitable hexameters-inimitable in tone, and in such choice of words, that a substitution cannot be imagined. În all this it is perfect. What a tone of melancholy pervades it! Virgil leaves much of the agony of Orpheus to be imagined, as a thing not to be told. We see what Orpheus saw with his mind's eye-the picture that haunted him his Eurydice in the Stygian bark,

never to be restored. She was even before him in that fearful passage"Illa quidem Stygia nabat jam frigida cymbâ."

Having thus shown that such was the ever-present scene in the mind's eye of Orpheus, he could add no more

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Integrat, et mæstis late loca questibus implet."

The whole tale of the Pastor Aristæus (whom, by the by; we do not at all pity for the loss of his bees), of which the Orpheus forms but a part, is, perhaps, the richest of Virgil's episodes. But even in Virgil we object to the speech of Eurydice. True, it is the best that could be inade for her, but it is destructive of the shadow of mystery, which throws her image upon the imagination as of a creature of love spiritualized, and as yet under the prohibition of the human senses. The injunction renders her invisible, and should have rendered her inaudible.

How striking is this yet remaining mystery of Death upon the living imagined in the Alcestis of Euripides! Simple, too, is the story of Alcestis. Admetus, King of Thessaly, is fated to die. Apollo, who, banished from the Gods, had served him, obtains life for him, on condition that one should die willingly in his stead. Alcestis alone, his wife, consents to die for him. She dies. At the moment of her death, Hercules arrives as a guest to the house of Admetus. The hospitable Admetus receives him, concealing the cause of his grief. This, however, Hercules learns from

the servants, and determines to rescue Alcestis from the hands of Death. He accordingly lies in ambush at the sepulchre, seizes, wrestles with Death, and obtains Alcestis. Hercules returns with her to Admetus, but does not discover her until the lamenting husband has given proof of his love and the depth of his affliction, by refusing to receive her to his care, supposing her to be one whom Hercules (as he had declared) had won as the prize of his toils, and requested Admetus to preserve until his return. The play here terminates in the restoration of Alcestis to her husband. She is thus, in her dying, and more full and happy restoration, the true Eurydice. The dim and faintly sketched character of fable is brought out from the cold shades of Orcus into the warmth and glow of life and love, a mere individual human being, and therefore the more an object of our admiration and sympathy, breathing virtuous patience, unknown endurance, and indomitable affection, in her dying breath. Eurydice is the ideal personification, Alcestis the natural perfection of wedded love.

Every thing in the play is made subservient to the developement of this beautiful character. She has none to support her (no female friend) in her resolution, and her husband is unable and, we fear, unworthy the sad office: she is supported solely by her loveher own gentle, yet firm mind. It is this union of firmness and gentleness that constitutes the beauty, we had almost said the rarity, of her character. Our sympathy is kept alive by her continual dying; there is no cessation from the secret working of the doom under which, whilst she suffers, she loses not one particle of her resolution: nor has her ebbing life less tenderness; as the life-blood chills, life lingers as it were in the surviving warmth of her affections. Mrs Jameson, in her admirable work on the Female Characters of Shakspeare, in that of Hermione not unaptly describes Alcestis. "She is a queen, a matron, and a mother; she is good and beautiful, royally descended; a majestic sweetness, a grand and gracious simplicity, an easy, unforced, yet dignified selfpossession, are in all her deportment, and in every word she utters; she is one of those characters of whom it has

been said proverbially that still waters run deep;' her passions are not vehement, but in her settled mind the sources of pain or pleasure, love or resentment" (the last we would omit as not shown, at least in action, in that of Aleestis), "are, like the springs that feed the mountain lakes, impenetrable, unfathomable, and inexhaustible. Shakspeare has conveyed (as is his custom) a part of the character of Hermione in scattered touches, and through the impressions she produces on all around her." "The expressions, most sacred lady,' 'dread mistress,' sovereign,' with which she is addressed or alluded to; the boundless devotion and respect of those around her, and their confidence in her goodness and innocence, are so many additional strokes in the portrait." There is a striking instance of one of these incidental touches in Euripides; one of the servants speaks of Alcestis as

Δέσποιναν, ἥ μοι πᾶσί τ' οἰκέταισιν ἦν Μήτηρ· κακῶν γὰρ μυρίων ἐῤῥύετο, 'Opyas μañároove avdpós-Line 772.

My mistress, who to me and all the domestics was

As a mother, for from innumerable ills she freed us,

Soothing the anger of her husband.

Admetus we can scarcely respect; bad as the act of allowing his wife to die for him is, the dialogue between him and his old father, whom he upbraids for not dying, instead of his wife, for him, sinks him lower in our regard than the occasion of the drama requires-and the old man has, unquestionably, the best of the argument. Towards the end of the play, however, he rises, through pity for his unfeigned love and affliction, and his refusal to receive his undiscovered wife brought to him by Hercules, somewhat in our esteem; so that we are artfully thus prepared entirely to sympathize with him, and finally to enter into his full happiness in having the lovely, the lost Alcestis restored to him. His aversion to look at the lady to be intrusted to his eare, and at the first hasty look the resemblance to the form of Alcestis, and his burst of feeling, and wonder, and entreaty that she should be removed from his sight, thereupon, are perfect in dramatic effect.

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And you, O lady,

Whoever you are, know that you have the same stature

As Alcestis, and are like to her in person.

Alas, me remove from my eyes, by the gods I beseech you,

This lady, that you do not utterly destroy me undone.

And his after hesitation, how expressed in the breaking of the line—
Δοκῶ γὰρ, αὐτὴν εἰσορῶν, γυναῖκ ̓ ὁρᾶν


Methinks, as I look on her, I do behold
My wife.

How like Shakspeare, where poor old Lear, in similar doubt and surprise,


"Methinks I should know you, and know this man,
Yet I am doubtful; for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me,

For, as I am a man, I think this lady

To be my child Cordelia."-King Lear, Act IV., Scene 5.

Thus Admetus, that the interest may be still in suspense, has the vision removed from his eyes, for they are dim with tears, and he can for awhile no longer see; and then is his grief renewed with double bitterness, as from a double loss.

θολοῖ δὲ καρδίαν· ἐκ δ' όμματων Πηγαὶ κατεῤῥώγασιν· ὦ τλήμων ἐγὼ Ὡς ἄρτι πένθος τόδε γεύομαι πικρό.

It troubles my heart, and from my eyes

The fountains flow down. O, wretched that I am,
How afresh do I taste the bitterness of this grief!

The refusal of Hercules to deliver her into any other hand but that of Admetus most feelingly and naturally brings about the discovery. He receives her with averted look, and knows not that she is his wife till he is told to look at her, and see if she be like her, and be happy. The recognition (even ending in terror, lest it be unreal-some phantom conjured from the dead-is true to nature) is finely conceived.

Admetus. Ω θεοὶ, τί λέξω; θαῦμ ̓ ἀνέλπιστον τόδε·
Γυναῖκα λεύσσω τήνδ ̓ ἐμὴν ἐτητύμως.

Η κερτομος με θεοῦ τις εμπλήσσει χαρά;
Hercules. Οὐκ ἔστιν· ἀλλὰ τήνδ' ὁρᾷς δάμαρτα σήν.
Admetus. Ορα γε, μή τι φάσμα νερτέρων τόδ' .

O Gods! what shall I say? unhoped for is this miracle ;

I do indeed look on this my wife,

Or does some false heart-cutting joy of the God strike me with wonder?

Hercules. Not so; but in truth you see here your very wife.

Admetus. Oh! take care, then, that this be no phantom of the dead. And what does Alcestis say? Alcestis! the recovered from the dead, "forbid to tell the secrets of that prison-house." Can speech tell her

happiness? And who would dissolve the spiritual awe that is around her? -The spell of Death in Life. She speaks not. When Admetus asks why

she speaks not, who could give the reply but the Hercules who had grappled with Death, and knew the undiscoverable mysteries, and the holiness

which the newly-vested spirit must in part put off, in the resumption of her mortal loveliness?

Ad. Τί γάρ ποθ' ἥδ ̓ ἄναυδος ἕστηκεν γυνή ;
Herc. Οὔπω θέμις σοι τῆσδε προσφωνημάτων
Κλύειν, πρὶν ἂν θεοῖσι τοῖσι νερτέροις
̓Αφαγνίσηται, καὶ τρίτον μόλῃ φάος.
̓Αλλ ̓ εἴσαγ ̓ εἴσω τήνδε. Line 1146.

Ad. Why, then, does this lady stand speechless?
Herc. It is not permitted you as yet to hear her words

Address'd to you before her purification, and rites
To the infernal gods, and the third day shall come.
But lead her now within.

In the tale of Orpheus, he is himself every thing-not so in the play. The Eurydice there is every thing in Alcestis. It is sufficient, therefore, in the latter, that the conquest over Death should be by main force; for, had the spell of Orpheus been added, the pathos of the wife's devotion would have been diminished, and the dying weakness of the gentle wife is not ill set off by the vigour of the arm that rescues her; yet the real story is more poetical, and more really grand in itself. Hercules conquers Hades by main force-Orpheus by a new power, his lyre, a thousand times more potent; for the earth yields to his incantation, and opens to him a passage, and Pluto and Proserpine are not constrained, but charmed. Death is but as the minister-the servant-and had not delivered up his charge; but in the case of Orpheus the inexorable deities were moved. We have ob served that Admetus is not the most worthy character. Was this intended to show the nature of woman's love? to enhance it? to exalt it? How perfect is that woman in her all-perfect love, whose sense of duty, and obedience, and affection, absorbs to itself, but to annihilate them, the defects of the man she has chosen, and sees in him but the husband and the father! If Euripides has selected so poor a character as Admetus, we may suppose it was not without reason, for Shakspeare has even worse mated Hermione. And here in Hermione we have Eurydice again-the new version, the invention, but from the original tale, of consummate genius. If, in the Alcestis, the Eurydice be brought within the circle of domestic life, a real dramatis persona, it is much more the case in the Hermione

of the Winter's Tale. The fabulous is altogether dropped. We lose something, it is true, of the awful interest, the wondrous mystery of the rescue from Death itself that bold personification; but the situations, therefore, the more come home to our own hearts.

In the Alcestis, we admire more than we pity. She is a voluntary sufferer. So, indeed, to a certain extent, is Hermione, for she endures a sixteen years' seclusion--unnecessarily, but for her honour's sake-but, in all that relates to her husband, she is vilely injured. Euripides makes Admetus but a poor character. Shakspeare makes Leontes a wicked one. Perhaps the Queen sees but his jealousy as the cause of his cruelty to her, and may therefore be excused for her final reconciliation; but the commanding one of his courtiers secretly to poison Polyxenes, the object of his jealous passion, his friend, and his guest, is so mean a piece of villany, that we are scarcely reconciled to him throughout the play, and are the less interested in his penitence. This would have been injurious to the piece, were it not for the divided interest afforded by Perdita in the two last acts. In Perdita Hermione finds her reward. She is, indeed, reconciled to Leontes, and wonderfully fine is that reconciliation, and therein she, too, like Alcestis, is silent; but Perdita she blesses-like a creature that had for years been conversant with holy thoughts and prayers for the preservation of her child, and as one entitled to bless.

The statue is a fine conception, a beautiful version of the fable, and the peculiar character of Hermione well suits it. She has all the calm dignity, even in her greatest trials, which is

the grace of ancient marbles. We are not surprised to see her represented, for she is statuesque (if there be such a word) throughout. She is sensible of her husband's full peni"Paulina.

tence, and of his love, of the agony of his affection, yet still she moves not! The impetuous Paulina could not have borne this-yet it is not for Hermione that she fears

I'll draw the curtain,
My Lord's almost so far transported, that
He'll think anon it lives."

And even yet Hermione moves not. Nay! she waits the bidding, and as it were the animating the statue by an incantation; and when she stirs, she moves solemnly, as one slowly returning to life. Shakspeare here did not forget the mystery of the original fable

"Paulina. Stir; nay, come away,

Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
Dear life redeems you. You perceive she stirs.

Start not, her action shall be holy, as
You hear my spell is lawful."

[Hermione comes down.

Here, too, as far as he could, has Shakspeare taken advantage of the silence of Alcestis. They embrace, but not a word does she yet speak. We learn her action from others


Oh, she is warm!

If this be magic, let it be an act
Lawful as eating.

"Polyx. She embraces him." Alcestis has no friend, no companion. She needed none. Admetus was to her all in all-and she the selfdevoted. It was necessary for the plot that Hermione should have a friend; Leontes was not all to hershe regarded the Oracle, and lived in hope of recovering her child. But, that she may stand alone in interest, how unlike is the calm Hermione to the impassioned and vehement Paulina, and how little do they come in contact in the play, that the majestic quiet may not suffer.

the riotous Bacchants, so have the two plays their revel and wake. The jovial Hercules, who seems to have taken out a license to be drunk on the premises," is at once the contrast and the relief to the universal wo of the house of Admetus. The country wake, with the merry knave Autolycus, set off the graver scenes, and pleasantly prepare the mind for the concluding happiness. Shakspeare must somehow or other have met with the play of Euripides, for he certainly alludes to the story. Florizel speaks of Apollo serving Admetus"And the fire-robed god, Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain, As I seem now."

As the original Orpheus is among

And it is not impossible that the very idea of the statue may have been suggested by the following passage from the Alcestis of Euripides, wherein Admetus proposes to have a statue made of his wife:

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Can we wonder at the charm of such tales as Orpheus, Alcestis, and Hermione-or in one, of Eurydice-the lost Eurydice!-the just recovered-and the lost again. What is it but the poetical version of bereft affection's nightly dream? Did it not glide in with the stillness of night, and, enacting life, draw Milton's curtain ?

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