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the whole lies, it seems to me, in the subject-matter of the piece, which is not exactly happily chosen ; for it must necessarily be offensive to a fine feeling when, in courtship, woman is the wooer, and especial y when this unwomanly proceeding-however well motived and excusable it may appear-is not merely narrated (as in Boccaccio's novel) but represented to us in a vivid, dramatic and palpable form. To overcome this difficulty, and more particularly to make the surprising conclusion—the heroine's attainment of her wish-appear natural, the poet had, as it were, to take into his service a number of figures simply as motives and to bring the action to a close. But the very choice of this subject, and his adhering to it, in spite of its obvious difficulties, shows us the youthful poet, the youthful pleasure in that which is unusual, the youthful inclination to venture upon a task the difficulties of which have not been sufficiently considered.

Helena, the high-minded, excellent girl, whose virtue and nobility of soul raise her far above the lowliness of her birth, allows herself to be led astray by the ardour of her love, and indulges in the fond belief that she can win the heart of the high-born, rich and powerful Count Rousillon by her own merits; in this she is encouraged by the mother of the man she loves. Fortune favours her; she succeeds in curing the King of what appeared to be a fatal illness, and he, in accordance with a desire expressed by Helena, commands the Count to marry her. But she soon learns the bitter truth that marriage without love cannot even form an external bond, much less one that is intei nal, and that love-the moment its own indefeasible right, its freedom is affected-scorns all rights and duties, even the claims of virtue, beauty and amiability. What she had in vain claimed as due to her virtue and her'merit,' she atiains at last by a fortunate accident; this she makes use of, not as an exactly delicate means of deception, but one that is excusable considering her position, and it enables her to fulfil the apparently impossible conditions to which the Count had linked the bestowal of his love.

Love, therefore, is here also the centre and gravitating point upon which turns the development–beginning, VOL. II.

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middle and end—of the action. It is, however, not concrived in so general and independent a light as in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The significance of the whole is based rather on the one main feature of love, its freedom; this is so essentially a part of its nature that, in fact, love exists only as a free, unmerited and unrequited gift, by virtue of which it has the right-it may be even to its own unhappiness - of sometimes choosing and striving to obtain what circumstances would deny it, and of rejecting what is best and most beautiful, simply because it is forced upon it. But this very freedom is its weak point, as long as it has not freed itself from caprice; for it either degenerates into arrogance and error, or into blind selfwill and pride. Helena pays the penalty of this arrogance which, in spite of her otherwise modest and unpretending nature, shows itself in her wanting to deprive the man she loves of his right to make that free choice which she herself had exercised in so unlimited a manner ; for, notwithstanding her acquired rights, she is compelled to have recourse to degrading artifice to obtain possession of what belongs to her. The Count, on the other hand, wilfully rejects what he himself secretly and half-unconsciously wished ;* he falls from freedom into caprice, because he prides himself in his freedom, and this pride feels itself hurt at being required to take what he had hoped to be able to give freely. Once the victim of caprice and a slave to bis desires, whims, inclinations and wishes, be is even in danger of losing his innate nobleness of heart. He becomes a frivolous deceiver and seducer, till at last, an act of deception restores him to his better self. His unsuccessful wooing of Diana proves that love can as little be forced by promises and gifts, as by merits and good deeds.

This strange concatenation of delusion, contradiction and aberration in the human heart, this direct union of love with the most opposite actions and endeavours, faults and weaknesses, this quick change of maidenly reserve into open courtship, and conversely of original affection into contemptuous aversion, and, lastly, the equally sudden return of love to its own self—all this, which is the result

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* Compare act v. 3.

of the nature of love, of its essential, fundamental attribute—its intrinsic freedom-shows us love wholly absorbed in that universal and all-embracing contingency and caprice in which human life is involved when conceived from the comic point of view. Delusion, contradiction and aberration ultimately neutralise each other, and that which is right and true prevails. The effect is enhanced, on the one hand, by the presumption of the King in supposing that his love and gratitude for Helena can be repaid by the heart and hand of the Count; on the other hand, by Parolles—the little precursor of the great Falstaff

- who makes a complete caricature of the character of Count Rousillon, of his independent and imperious nature, his martial courage and thirst for action, and who holds up the vanity of empty pride in its entire nakedness. Lastly, the Clown, who was so anxious to get married, finds out, after he is puffed up by his visit to court, that our ling and our Isbels o' the country are nothing like your old ling and your Isbels o' the court.'

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CHAPTER V.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING,

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

1. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

IN · Much Ado About Nothing,' as in most of the other comedies, it is again a kind of love-tale upon which the interest and the given intrigue are centred. And yet love itself is not the object of the representation, not the fundamental motive of the poem. The significance of the whole lies rather in the conception of human life from the contrast which it contains—the contrast betwecr its essential worth and nature, and its estimation and aspect in the eyes of special individuals; between that which it actually is and that which it appears to its representatives. Love—as the most common motive of complications, which in themselves are unimportant and ordinary, but which appear very different to the persons concerned-is but the means employed to bring the contrast clearly forward.

It is this contrast that makes its presence felt in all directions, and in all the chief incidents of the piece: we everywhere have relations, incidents and actions, the true internal form of which are unimportant and of everyday occurrence, but which appear in a pompous outward form, and treated with grave consideration by the persons involved in it. First of all, in the shape of a prelude behind the scenes, we have a war and a treaty, half a feud and half a reconciliation between the royal brothers of Arragon, for which no reason existed, and the result of which is nothing. Then in the form of an intermezzo, the misunderstanding in Don Pedro's courtship of Hero, which Claudio suspects of being an unparalleled breach of faith, which suspicion however—as is soon proved—is hut the creation of his own love-sick brain. This, and the story of the loves of Benedict and Beatrice—the two sworn foes of matrimony, who are perpetually engaged in hot skirmishes against each other and against all that breathes the name of love or tenderness, and who are, at last, by a trick both simple and playfully carried out, themselves

ught in the meshes of love, and do just that which they themselves had ridiculed with all possible expenditure of wit-forms, so to say, the scaffolding which exhibits the spirit and meaning of the whole in various modifications; they are, so to say, the side-pieces supporting the main complication which threatens to be the ruin. of the loves of Hero and Claudio. In fact, a quickly contrived and superficially motived intrigue-a freak of the wicked Don John supported by chance — temporarily breaks the newly-made bond of love; this is unfortunately an every day occurrence, but one which is here, in reality, founded upon mere semblance, yet it nevertheless throws the persons concerned into a state of passionate excitement, into trouble and misery, and, accordingly, is by them treated as of the utmost importance. This is followed by apparent death and funeral pomp, by challenges to fight and friendship broken off, and finally-after the nothingness of an accident reveals the truth-by inquiries, vindications of honour, and funereal solemnities, until, in the end, Hero, who is supposed to be dead, comes forth from her concealment, and the piece closes with merry wedding festivities.

Most delightful is the contradiction between appearance and reality, between subjective conception and objective reality, as we have it exhibited in the Clown of the piece, the dutiful constable Dogberry, who considers his position so very important and maintains it so zealously, but who is always uttering contradictory maxims and precepts; who is so presumptuous and yet so modest; who looks at things with so correct an eye and yet pronounces such foolish judgments; talks so much and yet says so little, in fact, perpetually contradicts himself, giving orders for what he advises to be left undone, entreating to be registered an ass, and yet is the very one to discover the nothing which is the cause of the much ado. He is the chief representative of that view of life upon

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