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a mere' bubble. Nay, Antonio's very friendship for Sebas. tian is also somewhat accidental and fantastic in character. Thus the playful capriciousness of love appears only to be the main spring to the merry game of life which is here unrolled before our eyes; it is only a prominent motive for the development of the action, not the nucleus and gravitating point of the whole.
The title of the piece, as I think, points to this even though but in indistinct and indefinite tones. By the choice of this curious title which stands apparently in no relation whatever to its substance, Shakspeare wishes to give us a hint as to his intention, a symbolical intimation as to the manner in which the whole is to be understood
-Twelfth Night was the prelude to the merry season of Shrovetide, and was passed amid all kinds of convivial games and jokes. The 'bean king' who was elected by the lot of a bean which was baked in a cake (hence by pure chance) had then to select a 'queen,'* and established a burlesque kingdom ; his commands had to be punctually obeyed and every one gave free reins to their fun and merriment in this airy kingdom. Games of hazard, also, were exceptionally permitted on this evening, and Tieck justly remarks, that even in the play itself, Sebastian, Viola and Maria (to whom we may also add the Duke and Olivia) win great and important prizes in the lottery of life, and that a blank is drawn by Malvolio alone, who fancies he has the richest prize safe in his own hands. The title also corresponds perfectly with the nature and character of the piece, which as is easily seen
-exhibits life itself as a Twelfth Night, as a merry, fantastic bean-festival. The second title of · What You Will,' is, in reality, even more significant. It indeed refers to the relation between the public and the play, but not (as has been supposed) in the quite inadmissible sense, that the piece was to give and to represent whatever the spectators wished. This is not the case; the play rather creates what it wishes, and the better it is the less can that which it gives be different from what it is. The title is rather intended to signify that that which men all like to see represented is ever the same;
* Drake, Life and Times of Shakapeare, i. 127 f.
namely, a chequered, a varied life, rich in incidents and crossed by misfortunes and complications, one that excites interest and keeps up a state of suspense, but which, nevertheless, does not exceed the bounds of ordinary human life, even though it leads to a happy and harmonious ending through unusual, strange and winding paths. We are, in reality, all as little fond of an existence which passes with nothing unusual, surprising or exciting to the imagination, where everything happens according to well-considered aims and objects, as are of the reverse, a life governed solely by chance, whim and caprice. We would all prefer the greatest possible equality in the mixture of the usual and the unusual, of accident and intention, of whim and reflection, imagination and reason. It is not merely the experiencing such a life, the very beholding it produces that gaiety, that inward contentment at which we are all aiming. And thus Shakspeare could with justice-especially of this one of his comedies maintain that it represented • What You (all) Will.'
Were it necessary, a closer examination of the leading characters would still more clearly establish the interpretation which I have given of the title, and thereby of the play itself. I shall content myself with drawing attention to a few points. Viola is in so far the heroine of the piece, as the whole play originates with and is kept in motion by her and her disguise. And yet her character is given in light touches and delicate colours, and is composed of but a few simple elements. It consists, so to say, only in the apparent contradiction between a tender, gentle, sensitive, longing heart, which, being deeply skilled in the science of love,' retires in maidenly shyness within itself, and a bold, witty and imaginative mind that whispers to her all kinds of mischievous ideas, which she involuntarily follows from her innate pleasure in romance and in what is fantastic. She thereby falls into situations which cause her anxiety and embarrassinent, because, on the other hand, she has not the courage or the practical cleverness possessed by Portia (in the Merchant of Venice') whose mind is somewhat akin to her own. To solve harmoniously this apparent contradiction which
places the two elements of the comic-fancy and intrigue -in close juxtaposition, and to form a true and life-like character out of these heterogeneous elements, is a task that Shakspeare leaves to the talent of the actors. In pieces like this and similar ones, he cannot well do otherwise; he has to content himself with giving mere hints of the characters, he has, so to say, but to touch the light pollen of the characterisation ; a deeper development and deeper motives would obstruct and retard the rapid, easy, graceful movement of the action.
The other characters, the musical and dreamy Duke, who suns himself in his own love, and spends his time in brooding over his own sorrows ;-Qlivia, in her girlish self-will, hard to please yet so easy to win over, so serious, strict, and yet so graceful, who is so cold, so shy, so virtuously reserved before she is in love, and so inconsiderate in her desires, so devoted after her love is aroused by contradiction, and has burst forth into a bright flame:
- Antonio, with his fantastic friendship for Sebastian, and Sebastian with his healthy, vigorous, youthful nature, taking with one snatch that which the Duke has in vain endeavoured to obtain by entreaties, lamentations and sighs ;-the roguish, ingenious Maria, and her clever helper's help Fabian—all these characters are sketched in such fine outlines, the transparent colours and delicate lights and shades of which are so harmoniously blended with one another that, only in this manner, and in no other, could they be the agents of such a light, airy, hazy and yet deeply significant composition. The most carefully worked out contrast is that between the Fool by profession and the involuntary fools, Malvolio, Sir Andrew and Sir Toby. While the latter, in their own conceit and foolishness, 'unconsciously draw the cap and bells over their own ears, the former, in his self-adopted mental garb of motley colours moves with inimitable adroitness, and pins the lappets of his wit to the back of all the other characters. The meaning of the poem is, so to say, centred in him. He alone, in full consciousness, contemplates life as a merry Twelfth Night, in which every one has, in fact, only to play his allotted part to the greatest possible aniasement of himself and others. He does not wish to be more or less than a fool in the great mad-house of the world; on this account he has an unconquerable aversion: to all starched common-sense and calculating plans, to that hollow unmeaning gravity which cannot understand a joke, because it fancies
its proudly-adopted dignity thereby injured, and which is never able to rise above the petty, selfish interests of its own dear self; this accounts for his dislike to Malvolio. Again, he alone has respect for his cap and bells, for he is aware that fun and laughter, joke and jest are the seasoning of life, and that there is more depth and sense in humorous folly like his own, than in the sour-mindedness of so-called sensible people, who are in reality devoid of true sense, because the poetry of life, all the higher interests of man which extend beyond common prose, are unintelligible to them.
The chief incidents of the action are spontaneously evolved from the accidental or intentional encounter of these characters, Two groups_stand opposed to one another; on the one hand the Duke, Olivia, Viola and her brother, on the other, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Olivia's household. Both of these groups are again linked to each other, and interact with and counteract one another. In the first place the obstinacy of love, and the freak of accident carry on their bantering play with the first group
Viola, who merely wished to trifle with the love of others, becomes very love-sick herself ;—the Duke, a slave to the scornful Olivia, is happily released from his chains in order to cure Viola ;--Olivia, by way of punishment for her cruelty, falls in love with a girl ;-all, in the end, are saved by the matter of chance which is introduced by Sebastian. In the second group Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are, in the most amusing manner, made the dupes of their own folly and perversity, while Malvolio, in his pride of virtue and puritanical severity, but blinded by conceit, is made the laughing-stock of the intrigues of the Clown, Maria and Fabian. And, in order to increase the complication, Antonio .and Sebastian are also drawn into the wide net of accident and error which the dramatic characters have drawn over their own heads. Chance, whim, and caprice, however, again unravel the intricate web, and each, by some good fortune, obtains that which is good for him or herself. The
common-place prosaic Malvolio alone, and the equally prosaic Sir Andrew, justly reap mockery and derision as their due; for common piose, which, in truth, is always immoral as well, is invariably wrong in the world of comedy. The ingenuity and grace, the ease and playfulness in the flow of the language of this drama must be self-evident to every reader. Thus here also, characterisation, action (invention), and diction stand in the most perfect harmony with one another. Everything grows forth so organically out of the fundamental plan of the whole, that the composition here is not less masterly than in the case of Shakspeare's best tragedies.
In the same way as this pleasing drama stands midway between the two series of Shakspeare's comedies, so in regard to date also, it belongs to the middle of the poet's career. There is no longer any doubt that it was written about 1600. This opinion is supported by the treatment of the language and the versification, by the tone and character of the whole, more especially however by the view of life represented, and which is not usually met with either in a youth or in a man verging upon old age, but in a man's best and most vigorous years, when the gifted mind has reached the climax of life. But external testimonies, also, confirm the supposition which is based upon the style and character of the whole. The allusion in Ben Jonson’s comedy · Every Man out of his Humour,' which appeared in 1599, and which Tieck refers to · What You Will,' is indeed unsafe and indefinite. But the reasons given by Malone, Chalmers, Drake, and others—who place it at a much later date (1613-14)—are of no greater value, and in themselves of no weight whatever, compared with the considerations which language and the character of the whole, place in the opposite scale, even were they not refuted by external, historical evidence. These critics supposed the words in Act ii. 5, ‘I will not give my part of this eport for a pension of thousands to be paid from the Sophy :-to contain an allusion to the allowance in money, enjoyed in 1612, by Sir Robert Shirley, as Persian ambassador in J.ondon; and in Act iii. 1, they found a reference to a drama of Dekker's and Webster's which appeared in 1607. Low little such individual passages are to be trusted