The Tempest........................................................................................................................ 3
A Midsummer Night's Dream........................................................................................... 10
Winter's Tale ..................................................................................................................... 19
Much Ado About Nothing ................................................................................................ 27
As You Like It .................................................................................................................. 37
Two Gentlemen of Verona................................................................................................ 49
Merchant Of Venice.......................................................................................................... 59
Cymbeline ......................................................................................................................... 70
King Lear .......................................................................................................................... 80
All's Well That Ends Well ................................................................................................ 98
Taming Of The Shrew .................................................................................................... 107
The Comedy Of Errors.................................................................................................... 116
Measure For Measure ..................................................................................................... 126
Twelfth Night; Or, What You Will................................................................................. 138
Timon Of Athens ............................................................................................................ 147
Romeo And Juliet ........................................................................................................... 155
Hamlet, Prince Of Denmark ........................................................................................... 166
Pericles, Prince Of Tyre.................................................................................................. 185
There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhabitants of which were an old man, whose name was Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, a very beautiful young lady. She came to this island so young that she had no memory of having seen any other human face than her father's.
They lived in a cave or cell, made out of a rock; it was divided into several apartments, one of which Prospero called his study; there he kept his books, which chiefly treated of magic, a study at that time much affected by all learned men: and the knowledge of this art he found very useful to him; for being thrown by a strange chance upon this island, which had been enchanted by a witch called Sycorax, who died there a short time before his arrival, Prospero, by virtue of his art, released many good spirits that Sycorax had imprisoned in the bodies of large trees, because they had refused to execute her wicked commands. These gentle spirits were ever after obedient to the will of Prospero. Of these Ariel was the chief.
The lively little sprite Ariel had nothing mischievous in his nature, except that he took rather too much pleasure in tormenting an ugly monster called Caliban, for be owed him a grudge because he was the son of his old enemy Sycorax. This Caliban, Prospero found in the woods, a strange misshapen thing, far less human in form than an ape: he took him home to his cell, and taught him to speak; and Prospero would have been very kind to him, but the bad nature which Caliban inherited from his mother, Sycorax, would not let him learn anything good or useful: therefore he was employed like a slave, to fetch wood and do the most laborious offices; and Ariel had the charge of compelling him to these services.
When Caliban was lazy and neglected his work, Ariel (who was invisible to all eyes but Prospero's) would come slyly and pinch him, and sometimes tumble him down in the mire; and then Ariel, in the likeness of an ape, would make mouths at him. Then swiftly changing his shape, in the likeness of a hedgehog, he would lie tumbling in Caliban's way, who feared the hedgehog's sharp quills would prick his bare feet. With a variety of such-like vexatious tricks Ariel would often torment him, whenever Caliban neglected the work which Prospero commanded him to do.
Having these powerful spirits obedient to his will, Prospero could by their means command the winds, and the waves of the sea. By his orders they raised a violent storm, in the midst of which, and struggling with the wild sea-waves that every moment,threatened to swallow it up, he showed his daughter a fine large ship, which he told her was full of living beings like themselves. "O my dear father," said she, "if by your art you have raised this dreadful storm, have pity on their sad distress. See! the vessel will be dashed to pieces. Poor souls! they will all perish. If I had power I would sink the sea beneath the earth, rather than the good ship should be destroyed, with all the precious souls within her."
"Be not amazed, daughter Miranda," said Prospero; "there. is no harm done. I have so ordered it, that no person in the ship shall receive any hurt. What I have done has been in care of you, my dear child. You are ignorant who you are, or where you came from, and you know no more of me, but that I am your father and live in this poor cave. Can you remember a time before you came to this cell? I think you cannot, for you were not then three years of age."
Miranda said: "It seems to me like the recollection of a dream. But had I not once four or five women who attended upon me?" Prospero answered: "You had, and more. How is it that this still lives in your mind? Do you remember how you came here?" "No, sir," said Miranda, "I remember nothing more."
"Twelve years ago, Miranda," continued Prospero, "I was Duke of Milan, and you were a princess, and my only heir. had a younger brother, whose name was Antonio, to whom I trusted everything; and as I was fond of retirement and deep study I commonly left the management of my state affairs to your uncle, my false brother (for so indeed he proved). 1, neglecting all worldly ends, buried among my books, did dedicate whole time to the bettering of my mind. My brother Antonio, being thus in possession of my power, began to think himself the duke indeed. The opportunity I gave him of making himself popular among my subjects awakened in his bad nature a proud ambition to deprive me of my dukedom; this he soon effected with the aid of the King of Naples, a powerful prince, who was my enemy.""Wherefore," said Miranda, "did they not that hour destroy us?"
"My child," answered her father, "they durst not, so dear was the love that my people bore me. Antonio carried us on board a ship, and when we were some leagues out at sea, he forced us into a small boat, without either tackle, sail, or mast; there he left us, as he thought, to perish. But a kind lord of my court, one Gonzalo, who loved me, had privately placed in the boat water, provisions, apparel, and some books which I prize above my dukedom.""O my father," said Miranda, "what a trouble must I have been to you then!"
"No, my love,"' said Prospero, "you were a little cherub that did preserve me.Your innocent smiles made me bear up against my misfortunes. Our food lasted till we landed on this desert island, since when my chief delight has been in teaching you, Miranda, and well have you profited by my instructions."
"Heaven thank you, my dear father," said Miranda. "Now pray tell me, sir, your reason for raising this sea-storm?"
"Know then," said her father, ""that by means of this storm, my enemies, the King of Naples and my cruel brother, are cast ashore upon this island."
Having so said, Prospero gently touched his daughter with his magic wand, and she fell fast asleep; for the spirit Ariel just then presented himself before his master., to give an account of the tempest, and how he had disposed of the ship's company, and though the spirits were always invisible to Miranda, Prospero did not choose she should hear him holding converse (as would seem to her) with the empty air."Well, my brave spirit," said Prospero to Ariel, "how have you performed your task?"
Ariel gave a lively description of the storm, and of the terrors of the mariners, and how the king's son, Ferdinand, was the first who leaped into the sea; and his father thought he saw his dear son swallowed up by the waves and lost. "But he is safe," said Ariel, "in a corner of the isle, sitting with his arms folded, sadly lamenting the loss of the king, his father, whom he concludes drowned. Not a hair of his head is injured, and his princely garments, though drenched in the sea-waves, look fresher than before.""That's my delicate Ariel," said Prospero. "Bring him hither: my daughter must see this young prince. Where is the king, and my brother?"
"I left them," answered Ariel, "searching for Ferdinand, whom they have little hopes of finding, thinking they saw him perish. Of the ship's crew not one is missing; though each one thinks himself the only one saved; and the ship, though invisible to them, is safe in the harbor.""Ariel," said Prospero, "thy charge is faithfully performed; but there is more work yet."
"Is there more work?" said Ariel. "Let me remind you, master, you have promised me my liberty. I pray, remember, , I have done you worthy service, told you no lies, made no mistakes, served you without grudge or grumbling."
"How now!" said Prospero. "You do not recollect what a torment I freed you from. Have you forgot the wicked witch Sycorax, who with age and envy was almost bent double? Where was she born? Speak; tell me.""Sir, in Algiers," said Ariel.
"Oh, was she so?" said Prospero. "I must recount what you have been, which I find you do not remember. This bad witch, Sycorax, for her witchcrafts, too terrible to enter human hearing, was banished from Algiers, and here left by the sailors-; and because you were a spirit too delicate to execute her wicked commands, she shut you up in a tree, where I found you howling. This torment, remember, I did free you from."
"Pardon me, dear master," said Ariel, ashamed to seem ungrateful; "I will obey your commands."
"Do so," said Prospero, "and I will set you free." He then gave orders what further he would have him do; and away went Ariel, first to where he had left Ferdinand, and found him still sitting on the grass in the same melancholy posture.
"Oh, my young gentleman," said Ariel, when he saw him, 'I will soon move you. You must be brought, I find, for the Lady Miranda to have a sight of your pretty person. Come. sir,, follow me." He then began singing:"Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Hark! now I hear them--Ding-dong, bell."
This strange news of his lost father soon roused the prince from the stupid fit into which he had fallen. He followed in amazement the sound of Ariel's voice, till it led him to Prospero and Miranda, who were sitting under the shade of a large tree. Now Miranda had never seen a man before, except her own father."Miranda," said Prospero, "tell me what you are looking at yonder." "Oh, father," said Miranda, in a strange surprise, "surely that is a spirit. Lord! how it looks about! Believe me, sir, it is a beautiful creature. Is it not a spirit?"
"No, girl," answered her father; "it eats, and sleeps, and has senses such as we have. This young man you see was in the ship. He is somewhat altered by grief, or you might call him a handsome person. He has lost his companions, and is wandering about to find them."
Miranda, who thought all men had grave faces and gray beards like her father, was delighted with the appearance of this beautiful young prince; and Ferdinand, seeing such a lovely lady in this desert place, and from the strange sounds he had heard, expecting nothing but wonders, thought be was upon an enchanted island, and that Miranda was the goddess of the place, and as such he began to address her.
She timidly answered, she was no goddess, but a simple maid and was going to give him an account of herself, when Prospero interrupted her. He was well pleased to find they admired each other, for he plainly perceived they had (as we say) fallen in love at first sight: but to try Ferdinand's constancy, he resolved to throw some difficulties in their way: therefore, advancing forward, be addressed the prince with a stern air, telling him, he came to the island as a spy, to take it from him who was the lord of it. "Follow me," said be. "I will tie your neck and feet together. You shall drink sea-water; shell-fish, withered roots, and husks of acorns shall be your food."
"No," said Ferdinand, "I will resist such entertainment till I see a more powerful enemy," and drew his sword; but Prospero, waving his magic wand, fixed him to the spot where he stood, so that he had no power to move.
"Silence!" said the father. "One word more will make me chide you, girl! What! an advocate for an impostor! You think there are no more such fine men, having seen only him and Caliban. I tell you, foolish girl, most men as far excel this as he does Calliban." This he said to prove his daughter's constancy; and she replied:"My affections are most humble. I have no wish to see a goodlier man." "Come on, young man," said Prospero to the prince; "you have no power to disobey me." "I have not indeed," answered Ferdinand; and not knowing that it was by magic he was deprived of all power of resistance,
they were going to eat, he appeared visible before them in the shape of a harpy, a voracious monster with wings, and the feast vanished away. Then, to their utter amazement, this seeming harpy spoke to them, reminding them of their cruelty in driving Prospero from his dukedom, and leaving him and his infant daughter to perish in the sea, saying, that for this cause these terrors were suffered to afflict them.
The King of Naples, and Antonio the false brother, repented the injustice they had done to Prospero; and Ariel told his master he was certain their penitence was sincere, and that he, though a spirit, could not but pity them.
"Then bring them hither, Ariel," said Prospero: "if you, who are but a spirit, feel for their distress, shall not I, who am a human being like themselves, have compassion on them? Bring them quickly, my dainty Ariel."
Ariel soon returned with the king, Antonio, and old Gonzalo in their train, who had followed him, wondering at the wild music he played in the air to draw them on to his master's presence. This Gonzalo was the same who had so kindly provided Prospero formerly with books and provisions, when his wicked brother left him, as he thought, to perish in an open boat in the sea.
Grief and terror had so stupefied their senses that they did not know Prospero. He first discovered himself to the good old Gonzalo, calling him the preserver of his life; and then his brother and the king knew that he was the injured Prospero.
Antonio, with tears and sad words of sorrow and true repentance, implored his brother's forgiveness, and the king expressed his sincere remorse for having assisted Antonio to depose his brother: and Prospero forgave them; and, upon their engaging to restore his dukedom, he said to the King of Naples, "I have a gift in store for you, too"; and, opening a door, showed him his son Ferdinand playing at chess with Miranda.Nothing could exceed the joy of the father and the son at this unexpected meeting, for they each thought the other drowned in the storm. "Oh wonder!" said Miranda, "what noble creatures these are! It must surely be a brave world that has such people in it."
The King of Naples was almost as much astonished at the beauty and excellent graces of the young Miranda as his son had been. "Who is this maid?" said he; "she seems the goddess that has parted us, and brought us thus together."
"No, sir," answered Ferdinand, smiling to find his father had fallen into the same mistake that he had done when he first saw Miranda, "she is a mortal, but by immortal Providence she is mine; I chose her when I could not ask you, my father, for your consent, not thinking you were alive. She is the daughter this Prospero, who is the famous Duke of Milan, of whose renown I have heard so much, but never saw him till now: of him I have received a new life: he has made himself to me a second father, giving me this dear lady.""Then I must be her father," said the king; "but, oh, how oddly will it sound, that I must ask my child forgiveness."
"No more of that," said Prospero: "let us not remember our troubles past, since they so happily have ended." And then Prospero embraced his brother, and again assured him of his forgiveness; and said that a wise overruling Providence had permitted that he should be driven from his poor dukedom of Milan, that his daughter might inherit the crown of Naples, for that by their meeting in this desert island it had happened that the king's son had loved Miranda.
These kind words which Prospero spoke, meaning to comfort his brother, so filled Antonio with shame and remorse that be wept and was unable to speak; and the kind old Gonzalo wept to see this joyful reconciliation, and prayed for blessings on the young couple.
Prospero now told them that their ship was safe in the harbor, and the sailors all on board her, and that he and his daughter would accompany them home the next morning. "In the mean time," says he, "partake of such refreshments as my poor cave affords; and for your evening's entertainment I will relate the history of my life from my first landing in this desert island." He then called for Caliban to prepare some food, and set the cave in order; and the company were astonished at the uncouth form and savage appearance of this ugly monster, who (Prospero said) was the only attendant he had to wait upon him.
Before Prospero left the island he dismissed Ariel from service, to the great joy of that lively little spirit, who, though he had been a faithful servant to his master, was always longing to enjoy his free liberty, to wander uncontrolled in the air, like a wild bird, under green trees, among pleasant fruits, and sweet-smelling flowers."My quaint Ariel," said Prospero to the little sprite when he made him free, "I shall miss you; yet you shall have your freedom."
"Thank you, my dear master," said Ariel; "but give me leave to attend your ship home with prosperous gales, before you bid farewell to the assistance of your faithful spirit; and then, master, when I am free, how merrily I shall live!" Here Ariel sang this pretty song:
"Where the bee sucks, there suck !;
In a cowslip's bell I lie:
There I crouch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough."
Prospero then buried deep in the earth his magical books and wand, for he was resolved never more to make use of the magic art. And having thus overcome his enemies, and being reconciled to his brother and the King of Naples, nothing now remained to complete his happiness but to revisit his native land, to take possession of his dukedom, and to witness the happy nuptials of his daughter and Prince Ferdinand, which the king said should be instantly celebrated with great splendor on their return to Naples. At which place, under the safe convoy of the spirit Ariel they, after a pleasant voyage, soon arrived.
There was a law in the city of Athens which gave to its citizens the power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever they pleased; for upon a daughter's refusing to marry the man her father had chosen to be her husband, the father was empowered by this law to cause her to be put to death; but as fathers do not often desire the death of their own daughters, even though they do happen to prove a little refractory, this law was seldom or never put in execution, though perhaps the young ladies of that city were not unfrequently threatened by their parents with the terrors of it.
There was one instance, however, of an old man, whose name was Egeus, who actually did come before Theseus (at that time the reigning Duke of Athens), to complain that his daughter whom he had commanded to marry Demetrius, a young man of a noble Athenian family, refused to obey him, because she loved another young Athenian, named Lysander. Egeus demanded justice of Theseus, and desired that this cruel law might be put in force against his daughter.
Hermia pleaded in excuse for her disobedience that Demetrius had formerly professed love for her dear friend Helena, and that Helena loved Demetrius to distraction; but this honorable reason, which Hermia gave for not obeying her father's command, moved not the stern Egeus.
Theseus, though a great and merciful prince, had no power to alter the laws of his country; therefore he could only give Hermia four days to consider of it: and at the end of that time, if she still refused to marry Demetrius, she was to be put to death.
When Hermia was dismissed from the presence of the duke, she went to her lover Lysander and told him the peril she was in, and that she must either give him up and marry Demetrius or lose her life in four days.
Lysander was in great affliction at hearing these evil tidings; but, recollecting that be had an aunt who lived at some distance from Athens, and that at the place where she lived the cruel law could not be put in force against Hermia (this law not extending beyond the boundaries of the city), he proposed to Hermia that she should steal out of her father's house that night, and go with him to his aunt's house, where he would marry her. "I will meet you," said Lysander, "in the wood a few miles without the city; in that delightful wood where we have so often walked with Helena in the pleasant month of May."
To this proposal Hermia joyfully agreed; and she told no one of her intended flight but her friend Helena. Helena (as maidens will do foolish things for love) very ungenerously resolved to go and tell this to Demetrius, though she could hope no benefit from betraying her friend's secret but the poor pleasure of following her faithless lover to the wood; for she well knew that Demetrius would go thither in pursuit of Hermia. The wood in which Lysander and Hermia proposed to meet was the favorite haunt of those little beings known by the name of "fairies."Oberon the king, and Titania the queen of the fairies, with all their tiny train of followers, in this wood held their midnight revels.
Between this little king and queen of sprites there happened, at this time, a sad disagreement; they never met by moonlight in the shady walk of this pleasant wood but they were quarreling, till all their fairy elves would creep into acorn-cups and hide themselves for fear.
The cause of this unhappy disagreement was Titania's refusing give Oberon a little changeling boy, whose mother had been Titania's friend; and upon her death the fairy queen stole the child from its nurse and brought him up in the woods.The night on which the lovers were to meet in this wood, as Titania was walking with some of her maids of honor, she met Oberon attended by his train of fairy courtiers. "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania," said the fairy king. The queen replied: "What, jealous Oberon, is it you? Fairies, skip hence; I have forsworn his company." "Tarry, rash fairy," said Oberon. "Am I not thy lord? Why does Titania cross her Oberon? Give me your little changeling boy to be my page." "Set your heart at rest," answered the queen; "your whole fairy kingdom buys not the boy of me." She then left her lord in great anger. "Well, go your way," said Oberon; "before the morning dawns I will torment you for this injury." Oberon then sent for Puck, his chief favorite and privy counselor.
Puck (or, as he was sometimes called, Robin Goodfellow) was a shrewd and knavish sprite, that used to play comical pranks in the neighboring villages; sometimes getting into the dairies and skimming the milk, sometimes plunging his light and airy form into the butter-churn, and while he was dancing his fantastic shape in the churn, in vain the dairymaid would labor to change her cream into butter. Nor had the village swains any better success; whenever Puck chose to play his freaks in the brewing copper, the ale was sure to be spoiled. When a few good neighbors were met to drink some comfortable ale together, Puck would jump into the bowl of ale in the likeness of a roasted crab, and when some old goody was going to drink he would bob against her lips, and spill the ale over her withered chin; and presently after, when the same old dame was gravely seating herself to tell her neighbors a sad and melancholy story, Puck would slip her three-legged stool from under her, and down toppled the poor old woman, and then the old gossips would hold their sides and laugh at her, and swear they never wasted a merrier hour.
"Come hither, Puck," said Oberon to this little merry wanderer of the night; "fetch me the flower which maids call 'Love in, Idleness'; the juice of that little purple flower laid on the eyelids of those who sleep will make them, when they awake, dote on the first thing they see. Some of the juice of that flower I will drop on the eyelids of my Titania when she is asleep; and the first thing she looks upon when she opens her eyes she will fall in love with, even though it be a lion or a bear, a meddling monkey or a busy ape; and before I will take this charm from off her sight, which I can do with another charm I know of, I will make her give me that boy to be my page."
Puck, who loved mischief to his heart, was highly diverted with this intended frolic of his master, and ran to seek the flower; and while Oberon was waiting the return of Puck he observed Demetrius and Helena enter the wood: he overheard Demetrius reproaching Helena for following him, and after many unkind words on his part, and gentle expostulations from Helena, reminding him of his former love and professions of true faith to her, he left her (as he said) to the mercy of the wild beasts, and she ran after him as swiftly as she could.
The fairy king, who was always friendly to true lovers, felt great compassion for Helena; and perhaps, as Lysander said they used to walk by moonlight in this pleasant wood, Oberon might have seen Helena in those happy times when she was beloved by Demetrius. However that might be, when Puck returned with the little purple flower, Oberon said to his favorite: "Take a part of this flower; there has been a sweet Athenian lady here, who is in love with a disdainful youth; if you find him sleeping, drop some of the love-juice in his eyes, but contrive to do it when she is near him, that the first thing he sees when he awakes may be this despised lady. You will know the man ]by the Athenian garments which be wears."
Puck promised to manage this matter very dexterously: and then Oberon went, unperceived by Titania, to her bower, where she was preparing to go to rest. Her fairy bower was a bank, where grew wild thyme, cowslips, and sweet violets, under a canopy of woodbine, musk-roses, and eglantine. There Titania always slept some part of the night; her coverlet the enameled skin of a snake, which, though a small mantle, was wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
He found Titania giving orders to her fairies, how they were to employ themselves while she slept. "Some of you," said her Majesty, "must kill cankers in the musk-rose buds, and some wage war with the bats for their leathern wings, to make my small elves coats; and some of you keep watch that the clamorous owl, that nightly boots, come not near me: but first sing me to sleep." Then they began to sing this song:"You spotted snakes, with double tongue, Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen; Newts and blind-worms do no wrong; Come not near our fairy queen:
"Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby; Never harm, nor spell, nor charm, Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby."
When the fairies had sung their queen asleep with this pretty lullaby, they left her to perform the important services she had enjoined them. Oberon then softly drew near his Titania and dropped some of the love-juice on her eyelids, saying:"What thou seest when thou dost wake, Do it for thy true-love take."
But to return to Hermia, who made her escape out of her father's house that night, to avoid the death she was doomed to for refusing to marry Demetrius. When she entered the wood, she found her dear Lysander waiting for her, to conduct her to his aunt's house; but before they had passed half through the wood Hermia was so much fatigued that Lysander, who was very careful of this dear lady, who had proved her affection for him even by hazarding her life for his sake, persuaded her to rest till morning on a bank of soft moss, and, lying down himself on the ground at some little distance, they soon fell fast asleep. Here they were found by Puck, who, seeing a handsome young man asleep, and perceiving that his clothes were made in the Athenian fashion, and that a pretty lady was sleeping near him, concluded that this must be the Athenian maid and her disdainful lover whom Oberon had sent him to seek; and he naturally enough conjectured that, as they were alone together, she must be the first thing he would see when he awoke; so, without more ado, he proceeded to pour some of the juice of the little purple flower into his eyes. But it so fell out that Helena came that way, and, instead of Hermia, was the first object Lysander beheld when he opened his eyes; and strange to relate, so powerful was the love-charm, all his love for Hermia vanished away and Lysander fell in love with Helena.
Had he first seen Hermia when he awoke, the blunder Puck committed would have been of no consequence, for he could not love that faithful lady too well; but for poor Lysander to be forced by a fairy love-charm to forget his own true Hernia, and to run after another lady, and leave Hermia asleep quite alone in a wood at midnight, was a sad chance indeed.
Thus this misfortune happened. Helena, as has been before related, endeavored to keep pace with Demetrius when he ran away so rudely from her; but she could not continue this unequal race long, men being always better runners in a long race than ladies. Helena soon lost sight of Demetrius; and as she was wandering about, dejected and forlorn, she arrived at the place where Lysander was sleeping. "Ah!" said she, "this is Lysander lying on the ground. Is he dead or asleep?" Then, gently touching him, she said, "Good sir, if you are alive, awake." Upon this Lysander opened his eyes, and, the love-charm beginning to work, immediately addressed her in terms of extravagant love and admiration, telling her she as much excelled Hermia in beauty as a dove does a raven, and that be would run through fire for her sweet sake; and many more such lover-like speeches. Helena, knowing Lysander was her friend Hermia's lover, and that he was solemnly engaged to marry her, was in the utmost rage when she heard herself addressed in this manner; for she thought (as well she might) that Lysander was making a jest of her. "Oh!" said she, "why was I born to be mocked and scorned by every one? Is it not enough, is it not enough, young man, that I can never get a sweet look or a kind word from Demetrius; but you, sir, must pretend in this disdainful manner to court me? I thought, Lysander, you were a lord of more true gentleness." Saying these words in great anger, she ran away; and Lysander followed her, quite forgetful of his own Hermia, who was still asleep.
When Hermia awoke she was in a sad fright at finding herself alone. She wandered about the wood, not knowing what was become of Lysander, or which way to go to seek for him. In the mean time Demetrius, not being able to find Hermia and his rival Lysander, and fatigued with his fruitless search, was observed by Oberon fast asleep. Oberon had learned by some questions he had asked of Puck that he had applied the lovecharm to the wrong person's eyes; and now, having found the person first intended, he touched the eyelids of the sleeping Demetrius with the love-juice, and he instantly awoke; and the first thing he saw being Helena, he, as Lysander had done before, began to address lovespeeches to her; and just at that moment Lysander, followed by Hermia (for through Puck's unlucky mistake it was now become Hermia's turn to run after her lover), made his appearance; and then Lysander and Demetrius, both speaking together, made love to Helena, they being each one under the influence of the same potent charm.The astonished Helena thought that Demetrius, Lysander, and her once dear friend Hermia were all in a plot together to make a jest of her.
Hermia was as much surprised as Helena; she knew not why Lysander and Demetrius, who both before loved her, were now become the lovers of Helena, and to Hermia the matter seemed to be no jest.The ladies, who before bad always been the dearest of friends, now fell to high words together.
"Unkind. Hermia," said Helena, "it is you have set Lysander on to vex me with mock praises; and your other lover, Demetrius, who used almost to spurn me with his foot, have you not bid him call me goddess, nymph, rare, precious, and celestial? He would not speak thus to me, whom he hates, if you did not set him on to make a jest of me. Unkind Hermia, to join with men in scorning your poor friend. Have you forgot our schoolday friendship? How often, Hermia, have we two, sitting on one cushion, both singing one song, with our needles working the same flower, both on the same sampler wrought; growing up together in fashion of a double cherry, scarcely seeming parted! Hermia, it is not friendly in you, it is not maidenly to join with men in scorning your poor friend.""I am amazed at your passionate words," said Hermia: "I scorn you not; it seems you scorn me."
"Aye, do," returned Helena, "persevere, counterfeit serious looks, and make mouths at me when I turn my back; then wink at each other, and hold the sweet jest up. If you had any pity, grace, or manners, you would not use me thus."While Helena and Hermia were speaking these angry words to each other, Demetrius and Lysander left them, to fight together in the wood for the love of Helena. When they found the gentlemen had left them, they departed, and once more wandered weary in the wood in search of their lovers. As soon as they were gone the fairy king, who with little Puck had been listening to their quarrels, said to him, "This is your negligence, Puck; or did you do this wilfully?"
"Believe me, king of shadows," answered Puck, "it was a mistake. Did not you tell me I should know the man by his Athenian garments? However, I am not sorry this has happened, for I think their jangling makes excellent sport."
"You heard," said Oberon, "that Demetrius and Lysander are gone to seek a convenient place to fight in. I command you to overhang the night with a thick fog, and lead these quarrelsome lovers so astray in' the dark that they shall not be able to find each other. Counterfeit each of their voices to the other, and with bitter taunts provoke them to follow you, while they think it is their rival's tongue they hear. See you do this, till they are so weary they can go no farther; and when you find they are asleep, drop the juice of this other flower into Lysander's eyes, and when he awakes he will forget his new love for Helena, and return to his old passion for Hermia; and then the two fair ladies may each one be happy with the man she loves and they will think all that has passed a vexatious dream. About this quickly, Puck, and I will go and see what sweet love my Titania has found."
Titania was still sleeping, and Oberon, seeing a clown near her who had lost his way in the wood and was likewise asleep, "This fellow," said he, "shall be my Titania's true love"; and clapping an ass's head over the clown's, it seemed to fit him as well as if it had grown upon his own shoulders. Though Oberon fixed the ass's head on very gently, it awakened him, and, rising up, unconscious of what Oberon had done to him, he went toward the bower where the fairy queen slept.
"Ah I what angel is that I see?" said Titania, opening her eyes, and the juice of the little purple flower beginning to take effect. "Are you as wise as you are beautiful?" "Why, mistress," said the foolish clown, "if I have wit enough to find the way out of this wood, I have enough to serve my turn.""Out of the wood do not desire to go," said the enamoured queen. "I am a spirit of no common rate. I love you. Go with me, and I will give you fairies to attend upon you." She then called four of her fairies. Their names were Peas-blossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustard-seed.
"Attend," said the queen, "upon this sweet gentleman. Hop in his walks and gambol in his sight; feed him with grapes and apricots, and steal for him the honey-bags from the bees. Come, sit with me," said she to the clown., "and let me play with your amiable hairy cheeks, my beautiful ass! and kiss your fair large ears, my gentle joy.""Where is Peas-blossom?" said the ass-headed clown, not much regarding the fairy queen's courtship, but very proud of his new attendants. "Here, sir," said little Peas-blossom. "Scratch my head," said the clown. "Where is Cobweb?" "Here, sir," said Cobweb.
"Good Mr. Cobweb," said the foolish clown, "kill me the red humblebee on the top of that thistle yonder; and, good Mr. Cobweb, bring me the honey-bag. Do not fret yourself too much in the action, Mr. Cobweb, and take care the honey-bag break not; I should be sorry to have you overflown with a honey-bag. Where is Mustard-seed?""Here, sir, " said Mustard-seed. "What is your will?"
"Nothing," said the clown, "good Mr. Mustard-seed, but to help Mr. Peas-blossom to scratch; I must go to a barber's, Mr. Mustard-seed, for methinks I am marvelous hairy about the face.""My sweet love," said the queen, "what will you have to eat? I have a venturous fairy shall seek the squirrel's hoard, and fetch you some new nuts."
"I had rather have a handful of dried peas,"' said the clown, who with his ass's head had got an ass's appetite. "But, I pray, let none of your people disturb me, for I have a mind to sleep.""Sleep, then," said the queen, "and I will wind you in my arms. Oh, how I love you! how I dote upon you!"
When the fairy king saw the clown sleeping in the arms of his queen, he advanced within her sight, and reproached her with having lavished her favors upon an ass. This she could not deny, as the clown was then sleeping within her arms, with his ass's head crowned by her with flowers.
When Oberon had teased her for some time, he again demanded the changeling boy; which she, ashamed of being discovered by her lord with her new favorite, did not dare to refuse him.
Oberon, having thus obtained the little boy he had so long wished for to be his page, took pity on the disgraceful situation into which, by his merry contrivance, he had brought his Titania, and threw some of the juice of the other flower into her eyes; and the fairy queen immediately recovered her senses, and wondered at her late dotage, saying how she now loathed the sight of the strange monster.Oberon likewise took the ass's head from off the clown, and left him to finish his nap with his own fool's head upon his shoulders.
Oberon and his Titania being now perfectly reconciled, he related to her the history of the lovers and their midnight quarrels, and she agreed to go with him and see the end of their adventures.
The fairy king and queen found the lovers and their fair ladies, at no great distance from one another, sleeping on a grass-plot; for Puck, to make amends for his former mistake, had contrived with the utmost diligence to bring them all to the same spot, unknown to one another; and he bad carefully removed the charm from off the eyes of Lysander with the antidote the fairy king gave to him.
Hermia first awoke, and, finding her lost Lysander asleep so near her, was looking at him and wondering at his strange inconstancy. Lysander presently opening his eyes, and seeing his dear Hermia, recovered his reason which the fairy charm had before clouded, and with his reason his love for Hermia; and they began to talk over the adventures of the night, doubting if these things had really happened, or if they bad both been dreaming the same bewildering dream.
Helena and Demetrius were by this time awake; and a sweet sleep having quieted Helena's disturbed and angry spirits, she listened with delight to the professions of love which Demetrius still made to her, and which, to her surprise as well as pleasure, she began to perceive were sincere.
These fair night-wandering ladies, now no longer rivals, became once more true friends; all the unkind words which had passed were forgiven, and they calmly consulted together what was best to be done in their present situation. It was soon agreed that, as Demetrius bad given up his pretensions to Hermia, he should endeavor to prevail upon her father to revoke the cruel sentence of death which had been passed against her. Demetrius was preparing to return to Athens for this friendly purpose, when they were surprised with the sight of Egeus, Hermia's father, who came to the wood in pursuit of his runaway daughter.
When Egeus understood that Demetrius would not now marry his daughter, he no longer opposed her marriage with Lysander, but gave his consent that they should be wedded on the fourth day from that time, being the same day on which Hermia had been condemned to lose her life; and on that same day Helena joyfully agreed to marry her beloved and now faithful Demetrius.
The fairy king and queen, who were invisible spectators of this reconciliation, and now saw the happy ending of the lovers' history, brought about through the good offices of Oberon, received so much pleasure that these kind spirits resolved to celebrate the approaching nuptials with sports and revels throughout their fairy kingdom.
And now, if any are offended with this story of fairies and their pranks, as judging it incredible and strange, they have only to think that they have been asleep and dreaming, and that all these adventures were visions which they saw in their sleep. And I hope none of my readers will be so unreasonable as to be offended with a pretty, harmless Midsummer Night's Dream.
Leontes, King of Sicily, and his queen, the beautiful and virtuous Hermione, once lived in the greatest harmony together. So happy was Leontes in the love of this excellent lady that he had no wish ungratified, except that he some times desired to see again and to present to his queen his old companion and schoolfellow, Polixenes, King of Bohemia. Leontes and Polixenes were brought up together from their infancy, but being, by the death of their fathers, called to reign over their respective kingdoms, they had not met for many years, though they frequently interchanged gifts, letters, and loving embassies.At length, after repeated invitations, Polixenes came from Bohemia to the Sicilian court, to make his friend Leontes a visit.
At first this visit gave nothing but pleasure to Leontes. He recommended the friend of his youth to the queen's particular attention, and seemed in the presence of his dear friend and old companion to have his felicity quite completed. They talked over old times; their school-days and their youthful pranks were remembered, and recounted to Hermione, who always took a cheerful part in these conversations.When, after a long stay, Polixenes was preparing to depart, Hermione, at the desire of her husband, joined her entreaties to his that Polixenes would prolong his visit.
And now began this good queen's sorrow; for Polixenes, refusing to stay at the request of Leontes, was won over by Hermione's gentle and persuasive words to put off his departure for some weeks longer. Upon this, although Leontes had so long known the integrity and honorable principles of his friend Polixenes, as well as the excellent disposition of his virtuous queen, he was seized with an ungovernable jealousy. Every attention Hermione showed to Polixenes, though by her husband's particular desire and merely to please him, increased the unfortunate king's jealousy; and from being a loving and a true friend, and the best and fondest of husbands, Leontes became suddenly a savage and inhuman monster. Sending for Camillo, one of the lords of his court, and telling him of the suspicion he entertained, he commanded him to poison Polixenes.
Camillo was a good man, and he, well knowing that the jealousy of Leontes had not the slightest foundation in truth, instead of poisoning Polixenes, acquainted him with the king his master's orders, and agreed to escape with him out of the Sicilian dominions; and Polixenes, with the assistance of Camillo, arrived safe in his own kingdom of Bohemia, where Camillo lived from that time in the king's court and became the chief friend and favorite of Polixenes.
The flight of Polixenes enraged the jealous Leontes still more; he went to the queen's apartment, where the good lady was sitting with her little son Mamillius, who was just beginning to tell one of his best stories to amuse his mother, when the king entered and, taking the child away, sent Hermione to prison.
Mamillius, though but a very young child, loved his mother tenderly; and when he saw her so dishonored, and found she was taken from him to be put into a prison, he took it deeply to heart and drooped and pined away by slow degrees, losing his appetite and his sleep, till it was thought his grief would kill him.
The king, when he had sent his queen to prison, commanded Cleomenes and Dion, two Sicilian lords, to go to Delphos, there to inquire of the oracle at the temple of Apollo if his queen had been unfaithful to him.
When Hermione had been a short time in prison she was brought to bed of a daughter; and the poor lady received much comfort from the sight of her pretty baby, and she said to it, "My poor little prisoner, I am as innocent as you are."
Hermione had a kind friend in the noble-spirited Paulina, who was the wife of Antigonus, a Sicilian lord; and when the lady Paulina heard her royal mistress was brought to bed she went to the prison where Hermione was confined; and she said to Emilia, a lady who attended upon Hermione, "I pray you, Emilia, tell the good queen, if her Majesty dare trust me with her little babe, I will carry it to the king, its father: we do not know how he may soften at the sight of his innocent child."
"Most worthy madam," replied Emilia, "I will acquaint the queen with your noble offer. She was wishing to-day that she had any friend who would venture to present the child to the king.""And tell her," said Paulina. "that I will speak boldly to Leontes in her defense." "May you be forever blessed," said Emilia, "for your kindness to our gracious queen!" Emilia then went to Hermione, who joyfully gave up her baby to the care of Paulina, for she had feared that no one would dare venture to present the child to its father.
Paulina took the new-born infant and, forcing herself into the king's presence, notwithstanding her husband, fearing the king's anger, endeavored to prevent her, she laid the babe at its father's feet; and Paulina made a noble speech to the king in defense of Hermione, and she reproached him severely for his inhumanity and implored him to have mercy on his innocent wife and child. But Paulina's spirited remonstrances only aggravated Leontes's displeasure, and he ordered her husband Antigonus to take her from his presence.When Paulina went away she left the little baby at its father's feet, thinking when he was alone with it he would look upon it and have pity on its helpless innocence.
The good Paulina was mistaken, for no sooner was she gone than the merciless father ordered Antigonus, Paulina's husband, to take the child and carry it out to sea and leave it upon some desert shore to perish.
Antigonus, unlike the good Camillo, too well obeyed the orders of Leontes; for he immediately carried the child on shipboard, and put out to sea, intending to leave it on the first desert coast he could find.
So firmly was the king persuaded of the guilt of Hermione that he would not wait for the return of Cleomenes and Dion; whom he had sent to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphos, but before the queen was recovered from her lying-in, and from the grief for the loss of her precious baby, he had her brought to a public trial before all the lords and nobles of his court. And when all the great lords, the judges, and all the nobility of the land were assembled together to try Hermione, and that unhappy queen was standing as a prisoner before her subjects to receive their judgment, Cleomenes and Dion entered the assembly and presented to the king the answer of the oracle, sealed up; and Leontes commanded the seal to be broken, and the words of the oracle to be read aloud, and these were the words:"Hermione is innocent, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, and the king shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found."
The king would give no credit to the words of the oracle. He said it was a falsehood invented by the queen's friends, and be desired the judge to proceed in the trial of the queen; but while Leontes was speaking a man entered and told him that the Prince Mamillius, hearing his mother was to be tried for her life, struck with grief and shame, had suddenly died.
Hermione, upon hearing of the death of this dear, affectionate child, who had lost his life in sorrowing for her misfortune, fainted; and Leontes, pierced to the heart by the news, began to feel pity for his unhappy queen, and he ordered Paulina, and the ladies who were her attendants, to take her away and use means for her recovery. Paulina soon returned and told the king that Hermione was dead.
When Leontes heard that the queen was dead he repented of his cruelty to her; and now that he thought his ill-usage had broken Hermione's heart, he believed her innocent; and now he thought the words of the oracle were true, as he knew "if that which was lost was not found," which he concluded was his young daughter, he should be without an heir, the young Prince Mamillius being dead; and he would give his kingdom now to recover his lost daughter. And Leontes gave himself up to remorse and passed many years in mournful thoughts and repentant grief.
The ship in which Antigonus carried the infant princess out to sea was driven by a storm upon the coast of Bohemia, the very kingdom of the good King Polixenes. Here Antigonus landed and here he left the little baby.
Antigonus never returned to Sicily to tell Leontes where he had left his daughter, for, as he was going back to the ship, a bear came out of the woods and tore him to pieces; a just punishment on him for obeying the wicked order Leontes.
The child was dressed in rich clothes and jewels; for Hermione had made it very fine when she sent it to Leontes, and Antigonus had pinned a paper to its mantle, and the name of "Perdita" written thereon, and words obscurely intimating its high birth and untoward fate.
This poor, deserted baby was found by a shepherd. He was a humane man, and so he carried the little Perdita home to his wife, who nursed it tenderly. But poverty tempted the shepherd to conceal the rich prize be had found; therefore he left that part of the country, that no one might know where he got his riches, and with part of Perdita's jewels be bought herds of sheep and became a wealthy shepherd. He brought up Perdita as his own child, and she knew not she was any other than a shepherd's daughter.
The little Perdita grew up a lovely maiden; and though she had no better education than that of a shepherd's daughter, yet so did the natural graces she inherited from her royal mother shine forth in her untutored mind that no one, from her behavior, would have known she had not been brought up in her father's court.
Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, had an only son, whose name was Florizel. As this young prince was hunting near the shepherd's dwelling he saw the old man's supposed daughter; and the beauty, modesty, and queenlike deportment of Perdita caused him instantly to fall in love with her. He soon, under the name of Doricles, and in the disguise of a private gentleman, became a constant visitor at the old shepherd's house. Florizel's frequent absences from court alarmed Polixenes; and setting people to watch his son, he discovered his love for the shepherd's fair daughter.
Polixenes then called for Camillo, the faithful Camillo, who had preserved his life from the fury of Leontes, and desired that he would accompany him to the house of the shepherd, the supposed father of Perdita. Polixenes and Camillo, both in disguise, arrived at the old shepherd's dwelling while they were celebrating the feast of sheep-shearing; and though they were strangers, yet at the sheep-shearing, every guest being made welcome, they were invited to walk in and join in the general festivity.
Nothing but mirth and jollity was going forward. Tables were spread and fit great preparations were making for the rustic feast. Some lads and lasses were dancing on the green before the house, while others of the young men were buying ribands, gloves, and such toys of a peddler at the door.
While this busy scene was going forward Florizel and Perdita sat quietly in a retired corner, seemingly more pleased with the conversation of each other than desirous of engaging in the sports and silly amusements of those around them.
The king was so disguised that it was impossible his son could know him. He therefore advanced near enough to hear the conversation. The simple yet elegant manner in which Perdita conversed with his son did not a little surprise Polixenes. He said to Camillo: "This is the prettiest low-born lass I ever saw; nothing she does or says but looks like something greater than herself, too noble for this place."Camillo replied, "Indeed she is the very queen of curds and cream." "Pray, my good friend," said the king to the old shepherd, "what fair swain is that talking with your daughter?"
"They call him Doricles," replied the shepherd. "He says he loves my daughter; and, to speak truth, there is not a kiss to choose which loves the other best. If young Doricles can get her, she shall bring him that he little dreams of," meaning the remainder of Perdita's jewels; which, after he had bought herds of sheep with part of them, he had carefully hoarded up for her marriage portion.
Polixenes then addressed his son. "How now, young man!" said he. "Your heart seems full of something that takes off your mind from feasting. When I was young I used to load my love with presents; but you have let the peddler go and have bought your lass no toy."
The young prince, who little thought he was talking to the king his father, replied, "Old sir, she prizes not such trifles; the gifts which Perdita expects from me are locked up in my heart." Then turning to Perdita, he said to her, "Oh, hear me, Perdita, before this ancient gentleman, who it seems was once himself a lover; he shall hear what I profess." Florizel then called upon the old stranger to be a witness to a solemn promise of marriage which be made to Perdita, saying to Polixenes, "I pray you, mark our contract."
"Mark your divorce, young sir," said the king, discovering himself. Polixenes then reproached his son for daring to contract himself to this low-born maiden, calling Perdita "shepherd's brat, sheep-hook," and other disrespectful names, and threatening if ever she suffered his son to see her again, he would put her, and the old shepherd her father, to a cruel death.The king then left them in great wrath, and ordered Camillo to follow him with Prince Florizel.
When the king had departed, Perdita, whose royal nature was roused by Polixenes's reproaches, said, "Though we are all undone, I was not much afraid; and once or twice I was about to speak and tell him plainly that the selfsame sun which shines upon his palace hides not his face from our cottage, but looks on both alike." Then sorrowfully she said, "But now I am awakened from this dream, I will queen it no further. Leave me, sir. I will go milk my ewes and weep."
The kind-hearted Camillo was charmed with the spirit and propriety of Perdita's behavior; and, perceiving that the young prince was too deeply in love to give up his mistress at the command of his royal father, he thought of a way to befriend the lovers and at the same time to execute a favorite scheme he had in his mind.
Camillo had long known that Leontes, the King of Sicily, was become a true penitent; and though Camillo was now the favored friend of King Polixenes, he could not help wishing once more to see his late royal master and his native home. He therefore proposed to Florizel and Perdita that they should accompany him to the Sicilian court, where he would engage Leontes should protect them till, through his mediation, they could obtain pardon from Polixenes and his consent to their marriage.
After a prosperous voyage, Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the old shepherd, arrived in safety at the court of Leontes. Leontes, who still mourned his dead Hermione and his lost child, received Camillo with great kindness and gave a cordial welcome to Prince Florizel. But Perdita, whom Florizel introduced as his princess, seemed to engross all Leontes's attention. Perceiving a resemblance between her and his dead queen Hermione, his grief broke out afresh, and he said such a lovely creature might his own daughter have been if he had not so cruelly destroyed her."And then, too," said he to Florizel, "I lost the society and friendship of your brave father, whom I now desire more than my life once again to look upon."
When the old shepherd heard how much notice the king had taken of Perdita, and that he had lost a daughter who was exposed in infancy, he fell to comparing the time when he found the little Perdita with the manner of its exposure, the jewels and other tokens of its high birth; from all which it was impossible for him not to conclude that Perdita and the king's lost daughter were the same.
Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the faithful Paulina, were present when the old shepherd related to the king the manner in which he had found the child, and also the circumstance of Antigonus's death, he having seen the bear seize upon him. He showed the rich mantle in which Paulina remembered Hermione had wrapped the child; and he produced a jewel which she remembered Hermione had tied about Perdita's neck; and he gave up the paper which Paulina knew to be the writing of her husband. It could not be doubted that Perdita was Leontes's own daughter. But, oh, the noble struggles of Paulina, between sorrow for her husband's death and joy that the oracle was fulfilled, in the king's heir, his long-lost daughter being found! When Leontes heard that Perdita was his daughter, the great sorrow that he felt that Hermione was not living to behold her child made him that he could say nothing for a long time but "Oh, thy mother, thy mother!"
Paulina interrupted this joyful yet distressful scene with saying to Leontes that she had a statue newly finished by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, which was such a perfect resemblance of the queen that would his Majesty be pleased to go to her house and look upon it, be would be almost ready to think it was Hermione herself. Thither then they all went; the king, anxious to see the semblance of his Hermione, and Perdita longing to behold what the mother she never saw did look like.
When Paulina drew back the curtain which concealed this famous statue, so perfectly did it resemble Hermione that all the king's sorrow was renewed at the sight; for a long time he had no power to speak or move."I like your silence, my liege," said Paulina; "it the more shows your wonder. Is not this statue very like your queen?" At length the king said: "Oh, thus she stood, even with such majesty, when I first wooed her. But yet, Paulina, Hermione was not so aged as this statue looks."
Paulina replied: "So much the more the carver's excellence, who has made the statue as Hermione would have looked had she been living now. But let me draw the curtain, sire, lest presently you think it moves."The king then said: "Do not draw the curtain. Would I were dead! See, Carmillo, would you not think it breathed? Her eye seems to have motion in it." "I must draw the curtain, my liege," said Paulina. "You are so transported, you will persuade yourself the statue lives."
"Oh, sweet Pauline," said Leontes, "make me think so twenty years together! Still methinks there is an air comes from her. What fine chisel could ever yet cut breath? Let no man mock me, for I will kiss her.""Good my lord, forbear!" said Paulina. "The ruddiness upon her lip is wet; you will stain your own with oily painting. Shall I draw the curtain?" "No, not these twenty years," said Leontes.
Perdita, who all this time bad been kneeling and beholding in silent admiration the statue of her matchless mother, said now, "And so long could I stay here, looking upon my dear mother."
"Either forbear this transport," said Paulina to Leontes, "and let me draw the curtain or prepare yourself for more amazement. I can make the statue move indeed; aye, and descend from off the pedestal and take you by the hand. But then you will think, which I protest I am not, that I am assisted by some wicked powers."
"What you can make her do," said the astonished king, "I am content to look upon. What you can make her speak I am content to hear; for it is as easy to make her speak as move."
Paulina then ordered some slow and solemn music, which she had prepared for the purpose, to strike up; and, to the amazement of all the beholders, the statue came down from off the pedestal and threw its arms around Leontes's neck. The statue then began to speak, praying for blessings on her husband and on her child, the newly found Perdita.
Paulina had falsely reported to the king the death of Hermione' thinking that the only means to preserve her royal mistress's life; and with the good Paulina Hermione had lived ever since, never choosing Leontes should know she was living till she heard Perdita was found; for though she had long forgiven the injuries which Leontes had done to herself, she could not pardon his cruelty to his infant daughter.His dead queen thus restored to life, his lost daughter found, the long-sorrowing Leontes could scarcely support the excess of his own happiness.
Nothing but congratulations and affectionate speeches were heard on all sides. Now the delighted parents thanked Prince Florizel for loving their lowly seeming daughter; and now they blessed the good old shepherd for preserving their child. Greatly did Camillo and Paulina rejoice that they had lived to see so good an end of all their faithful services.And as if nothing should be wanting to complete this strange and unlooked-for joy, King Polixenes himself now entered the palace.
When Polixenes first missed his son and Camillo, knowing that Camillo had long wished to return to Sicily, he conjectured he should find the fugitives here; and, following them with all speed, he happened to just arrive at this the happiest moment of Leontes's life.
Polixenes took a part in the general joy; he forgave his friend Leontes the unjust jealousy he had conceived against him, and they once more loved each other with all the warmth of their first boyish friendship. And there was no fear that Polixenes would now oppose his son's marriage with Perdita. She was no "sheep-hook" now, but the heiress of the crown of Sicily.
Thus have we seen the patient virtues of the long-suffering Hermione rewarded. That excellent lady lived many years with her Leontes and her Perdita, the happiest of mothers and of queens.
Beatrice was of a lively temper and loved to divert her cousin Hero, who was of a more serious disposition, with her sprightly sallies. Whatever was going forward was sure to make matter of mirth for the light-hearted Beatrice.
At the time the history of these ladies commences some young men of high rank in the army, as they were passing through Messina on their return from a war that was just ended, in which they bad distinguished themselves by their great bravery, came to visit Leonato. Among these were Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, and his friend Claudio, who was a lord of Florence; and with them came the wild and witty Benedick, and he was a lord of Padua.These strangers had been at Messina before, and the hospitable governor introduced them to his daughter and his niece as their old friends and acquaintance.
Benedick, the moment he entered the room, began a lively conversation with Leonato and the prince. Beatrice, who liked not to be left out of any discourse, interrupted Benedick with saying:"I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick. Nobody marks you."
Benedick was just such another rattlebrain as Beatrice, yet he was not pleased at this free salutation; he thought it did not become a well-bred lady to be so flippant with her tongue; and he remembered, when he was last at Messina, that Beatrice used to select him to make her merry jests upon. And as there is no one who so little likes to be made a jest of as those who are apt to take the same liberty themselves, so it was with Benedick and Beatrice; these two sharp wits never met in former times but a perfect war of raillery was kept up between them, and they always parted mutually displeased with each other. Therefore, when Beatrice stopped him in the middle of his discourse with telling him nobody marked what he was saying, Benedick, affecting not to have observed before that she was present, said:
"What, my dear Lady Disdain, are you yet living?" And now war broke out afresh between them, and a long jangling argument ensued, during which Beatrice, although she knew be had so well approved his valor in the late war, said that she would eat all he had killed there; and observing the prince take delight in Benedick's conversation, she called him "the prince's jester." This sarcasm sank deeper into the mind of Benedick than all Beatrice had said before. The hint she gave him that he was a coward, by saying she would eat all he bad killed, he did not regard, knowing himself to be a brave man; but there is nothing that great wits so much dread as the imputation of buffoonery, because the charge comes sometimes a little too near the truth; therefore Benedick perfectly hated Beatrice when she called him "the prince's jester."
The modest lady Hero was silent before the noble guests; and while Claudio was attentively observing the improvement which time had made in her beauty, and was contemplating the exquisite graces of her fine figure (for she was an admirable young lady), the prince was highly amused with listening to the humorous dialogue between Benedick and Beatrice; and he said in a whisper to Leonato:"This is a pleasant-spirited young lady. She were an excellent wife for Benedick." Leonato replied to this suggestion, "O my lord, my lord, if they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad!" But though Leonato thought they would make a discordant pair, the prince did not give up the idea of matching these two keen wits together.
When the prince returned with Claudio from the palace he found that the marriage he had devised between Benedick and Beatrice was not the only one projected in that good company, for Claudio spoke in such terms of Hero as made the prince guess at what was passing in his heart; and he liked it well, and he said to Claudio:"Do you affect Hero?"
To this question Claudio replied, "O my lord, when I was last at Messina I looked upon her with a soldier's eye, that liked, but had no leisure for loving; but now, in this happy time of peace, thoughts of war have left their places vacant in my mind, and in their room come thronging soft and delicate thoughts, all prompting me how fair young Hero is, reminding me that I liked her before I went to the wars."
Claudio's confession of his love for Hero so wrought upon the prince that be lost no time in soliciting the consent of Leonato to accept of Claudio for a son-in-law. Leonato agreed to this proposal, and the prince found no great difficulty in persuading the gentle Hero herself to listen to the suit of the noble Claudio who was a lord of rare endowments and highly accomplished, and Claudio, assisted by his kind prince, soon prevailed upon Leonato to fix an early day for the celebration of his marriage with Hero.
Claudio was to wait but a few days before he was to be married to his fair lady; yet he complained of the interval being tedious, as indeed most young men are impatient when they are waiting for the accomplishment of any event they have set their hearts upon. The prince, therefore, to make the time seem short to him, proposed as a kind of merry pastime that they should invent some artful scheme to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other. Claudio entered with great satisfaction into this whim of the prince, and Leonato promised them his assistance, and even Hero said she would do any modest office to help her cousin to a good husband.
The device the prince invented was that the gentlemen should make Benedick believe that Beatrice was in love with him, and that Hero should make Beatrice believe that Benedick was in love with her.
The prince, Leonato, and Claudio began their operations first; and watching upon an opportunity when Benedick was quietly seated reading in an arbor, the prince and his assistants took their station among the trees behind the arbor, so near that Benedick could not choose but hear all they said; and after some careless talk the prince said:
"Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me the other day--that your niece Beatrice was in love with Signor Benedick? I did never think that lady would have loved any man.""No, nor I neither, my lord," answered Leonato. "It is most wonderful that she should so dote on Benedick, whom she in all outward behavior seemed ever to dislike."
Claudio confirmed all this with saying that Hero bad told him Beatrice was so in love with Benedick that she would certainly die of grief if he could not be brought to love her; which Leonato and Claudio seemed to agree was impossible, he having always been such a railer against all fair ladies, and in particular against Beatrice.The prince affected to harken to all this with great compassion for Beatrice, and he said, "It were good that Benedick were told of this." "To what end?" said Claudio. "He would but make sport of it, and torment the poor lady worse." "And if he should," said the prince, "it were a good deed to hang him; for Beatrice is an excellent sweet lady, and exceeding wise in everything but in loving Benedick." Then the prince motioned to his companions that they should walk on and leave Benedick to meditate upon what he had overheard.
Benedick had been listening with great eagerness to this conversation; and he said to himself, when be heard Beatrice loved him: "Is it possible? Sits the wind in that corner?" And when they were gone, he began to reason in this manner with himself: "This can be no trick! They were very serious, and they have the truth from Hero, and seem to pity the lady. Love me! Why, it must be requited! I did never think to marry. But when I said I should die a bachelor, I did not think I should live to be married. They say the lady is virtuous and fair. She is so. And wise in everything but loving me. Why, that is no great argument of her folly! But here comes Beatrice. By this day, she is a fair lady. I do spy some marks of love in her."
Beatrice now approached him and said, with her usual tartness, "Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner."
Benedick, who never felt himself disposed to speak so politely to her before, replied, "Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains." And when Beatrice, after two or three more rude speeches, left him, Benedick thought he observed a concealed meaning of kindness under the uncivil words she uttered, and he said aloud: "If I do not take pity on her, I am a villain. If I do not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture."
The gentleman being thus caught in the net they had spread for him, it was now Hero's turn to play her part with Beatrice; and for this purpose she sent for Ursula and Margaret, two gentlewomen who attended upon her, and she said to Margaret:
"Good Margaret, run to the parlor; there you will find my cousin Beatrice talking with the prince and Claudio. Whisper in her ear that I and Ursula are walking in the orchard and that our discourse is all of her. Bid her steal into that pleasant arbor, where honeysuckles, ripened by the sun, like ungrateful minions, forbid the sun to enter."This arbor into which Hero desired Margaret to entice Beatrice was the very same pleasant arbor where Benedick had so lately been an attentive listener. "I will make her come, I warrant, presently," said Margaret.
Hero, then taking Ursula with her into the orchard, said to her: "Now, Ursula, when Beatrice comes, we will walk up and down this alley, and our talk must be only of Benedick, and when I name him, let it be your part to praise him more than ever man did merit. My talk to you must be how Benedick is in love with Beatrice. Now begin; for look where Beatrice like a lapwing runs close by the ground, to hear our conference."They then began, Hero saying', as if in answer to something which Ursula had said: "No, truly, Ursula. She is too disdainful; her spirits are as coy as wild birds of the rock." "But are you sure," said Ursula, "that Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?"
Hero replied, "So says the prince and my lord Claudio, and they entreated me to acquaint her with it; but I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick, never to let Beatrice know of it.""Certainly," replied Ursula, "it were not good she knew his love, lest she made sport of it." "Why, to say truth," said Hero, never yet saw a man, how wise soever, or noble, young,@ or rarely featured, but she would dispraise him." "Sure@ sure, such carping is not commendable," said Ursula.
"No," replied Hero, "but who dare tell her so? If I should speak, she would mock me into air."
"Oh, you wrong your cousin!" said Ursula. "She cannot be so much without true judgment as to refuse so rare a gentleman as Signor Benedick."
Hero then told her that she was to be married to Claudio the next day, and desired she would go in with her and look at some new attire, as she wished to consult with her on what she would wear on the morrow.
Beatrice, who had been listening with breathless eagerness to this dialogue, when they went away exclaimed: "What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Farewell, contempt and scorn, and maiden pride, adieu! Benedick, love on! I will requite you, taming my wild heart to your loving hand."
It must have been a pleasant sight to see these old enemies converted into new and loving friends, and to behold their first meeting after being cheated into mutual liking by the merry artifice of the good-humored prince. But a sad reverse in the fortunes of Hero must now be thought of. The morrow, which was to have been her wedding-day, brought sorrow on the heart of Hero and her good father, Leonato.
The prince had a half-brother, who came from the wars along with him to Messina. This brother (his name was Don John) was a melancholy, discontented man, whose spirits seemed to labor in the contriving of villainies. He hated the prince his brother, and he hated Claudio because he was the prince's friend, and determined to prevent Claudio's marriage with Hero, only for the malicious pleasure of making Claudio and the prince unhappy, for he knew the prince had set his heart upon this marriage almost as much as Claudio himself; and to effect this wicked purpose he employed one Borachio, a man as bad as himself, whom he encouraged with the offer of a great reward. This Borachio paid his court to Margaret, Hero's attendant; and Don John, knowing this, prevailed upon him to make Margaret promise to talk with him from her lady's chamber window that night, after Hero was asleep, and also to dress herself in Hero's clothes, the better to deceive Claudio into the belief that it was Hero; for that was the end he meant to compass by this wicked plot.
Don John then went to the prince and Claudio and told them that Hero was an imprudent lady, and that she talked with men from her chamber window at midnight. Now this was the evening before the wedding, and he offered to take them that night where they should themselves hear Hero discoursing with a man from her window; and they consented to go along with him, and Claudio said:
"If I see anything to-night why I should not marry her, to-morrow in the congregation, where I intended to wed her, there will I shame her."
The prince also said, "And as I assisted you to obtain her, I will join with you to disgrace her."
When Don John brought them near Hero's chamber that night, they saw Borachio standing under the window, and they saw Margaret looking out of Hero's window and heard her talking with Borachio; and Margaret being dressed in the same clothes they had seen Hero wear, the prince and Claudio believed it was the lady Hero herself.
Nothing could equal the anger of Claudio when he had made (as be thought) this discovery. All his love for the innocent Hero was at once converted into hatred, and he resolved to expose her in the church, as he had said he would, the next day; and the prince agreed to this, thinking no punishment could be too severe for the naughty lady who talked with a man from her window the very night before she was going to be married to the noble Claudio.
The next day, when they were all met to celebrate the marriage, and Claudio and Hero were standing before the priest, and the priest, or friar, as he was called, was proceeding to pronounce the marriage ceremony, Claudio, in the most passionate language, proclaimed the guilt of the blameless Hero, who, amazed at the strange words he uttered, said, meekly:"Is my lord well, that he does speak so wide?" Leonato, in the utmost horror, said to the prince, "My lord, why speak not you?"
"What should I speak?" said the prince. "I stand dishonored that have gone about to link my dear friend to an unworthy woman. Leonato, upon my honor, myself, my brother, and this grieved Claudio did see and bear her last night at midnight talk with a man at her chamber window."Benedick, in astonishment at what he heard, said, "This looks not like a nuptial." "True, O God!" replied the heart-struck Hero; and then this hapless lady sank down in a fainting fit, to all appearance dead.
The prince and Claudio left the church without staying to see if Hero would recover, or at all regarding the distress into which they had thrown Leonato. So hard-hearted had their anger made them.Benedick remained and assisted Beatrice to recover Hero from her swoon, saying, "How does the lady?"
"Dead, I think," replied Beatrice, in great agony, for she loved her cousin; and, knowing her virtuous principles, she believed nothing of what she had heard spoken against her. Not so the poor old father. He believed the story of his child's shame, and it was piteous to hear him lamenting over her, as she lay like one dead before him, wishing she might never more open her eyes.
But the ancient friar was a wise man and full of observation on human nature, and he had attentively marked the lady's countenance when she heard herself accused and noted a thousand blushing shames to start into her face, and then he saw an angel-like whiteness bear away those blushes, and in her eye be saw a fire that did belie the error that the prince did speak against her maiden truth, and he said to the sorrowing father:"Call me a fool; trust not my reading nor my observation; trust not my age, my reverence, nor my calling, if this sweet lady lie not guiltless here under some biting error." When Hero had recovered from the swoon into which she had fallen, the friar said to her, "Lady, what man is he you are accused of?"
Hero replied, "They know that do accuse me; I know of none." Then turning to Leonato, she said, "O my father, if you can prove that any man has ever conversed with me at hours unmeet, or that I yesternight changed words with any creature, refuse me, hate me, torture me to death."
"There is," said the friar, "some strange misunderstanding in the prince and Claudio." And then he counseled Leonato that he should report that Hero was dead; and he said that the deathlike swoon in which they had left Hero would make this easy of belief; and he also advised him that he should put on mourning, and erect a monument for her, and do all rites that appertain to a burial."What shall become of this?" said Leonato. "What will this do?"
The friar replied: "This report of her death shall change slander into pity; that is some good. But that is not all the good 1 hope for. When Claudio shall hear she died upon hearing his words, the idea of her life shall sweetly creep into his imagination. Then shall he mourn, if ever love had interest in his heart, and wish that be had not so accused her; yea, though he thought his accusation true."Benedick now said, "Leonato, let the friar advise you; and though you know how well I love the prince and Claudio, yet on my honor I will not reveal this secret to them." Leonato, thus persuaded, yielded; and he said, sorrowfully, "I am so grieved that the smallest twine may lead me."
The kind friar then led Leonato and Hero away to comfort and console them, and Beatrice and Benedick remained alone; and this was the meeting from which their friends, who contrived the merry plot against them, expected so much diversion; those friends who were now overwhelmed with affliction and from whose minds all thoughts of merriment seemed forever banished.
Benedick was the first who spoke, and he said, "Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?"
"It were as possible," said Beatrice, "for me to say I loved nothing in the world so well as you; but believe me not, and yet I lie not. I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.""By my sword," said Benedick, "you love me, and I protest I love you. Come, bid me do anything for you." "Kill Claudio," said Beatrice. "Ha! not for the world," said Benedick; for he loved his friend Claudio and he believed he had been imposed upon. "Is not Claudio a villain that has slandered, scorned, and dishonored my cousin?" said Beatrice. "Oh, that I were a man!" "Hear me, Beatrice!" said Benedick.
But Beatrice would hear nothing in Claudio's defense, and she continued to urge on Benedick to revenge her cousin's wrongs; and she said: "Talk with a man out of the window? a proper saying! Sweet Hero! she is wronged; she is slandered; she is undone. Oh, that I were a man for Claudio's sake! or that I had any friend who would be a man for my sake! But valor is melted into courtesies and compliments. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.""Tarry, good Beatrice," said Benedick. "By this hand I love you." "Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it," said Beatrice. "Think you on your soul that Claudio has wronged Hero?" asked Benedick.
"Yea," answered Beatrice; CC as sure as I have a thought or a soul." "Enough," said Benedick. "I am engaged; I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so leave you. By this hand Claudio shall render me a dear account! As you hear from me, so think of me. Go, comfort your cousin."
While Beatrice was thus powerfully pleading with Benedick, and working his gallant temper, by the spirit of her angry words, to engage in the cause of Hero and fight even with his dear friend Claudio, Leonato was challenging the prince and Claudio to answer with their swords the injury they had done his child, who, be affirmed, had died for grief. But they respected his age and his sorrow, and they said:"Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man." And now came Benedick, and be also challenged Claudio to answer with his sword the injury be had done to Hero; and Claudio and the prince said to each other: "Beatrice has set him on to do this."
Claudio, nevertheless, must have accepted this challenge of Benedick had not the justice of Heaven at the moment brought to pass a better proof of the innocence of Hero than the uncertain fortune of a duel.
While the prince and Claudio were yet talking of the challenge of Benedick a magistrate brought Borachio as a prisoner before the prince. Borachio had been overheard talking with one of his companions of the mischief he had been employed by Don John to do.
Borachio made a full confession to the prince in Claudio's bearing that it was Margaret dressed in her lady's clothes that he had talked with from the window, whom they had mistaken for the lady Hero herself. and no doubt continued on the minds of Claudio and the prince of the innocence of Hero. If a suspicion had remained it must have been removed by the flight of Don John, who, finding his villainies were detected, fled from Messina to avoid the just anger of his brother.
The heart of Claudio was sorely grieved when he found he bad falsely accused Hero, who, he thought, died upon bearing his cruel words; and the memory of his beloved Hero's image came over him in the rare semblance that he loved it first; and the prince, asking him if what he heard did not run like iron through his soul, he answered that he felt as if he had taken poison while Borachio was speaking.
And the repentant Claudio implored forgiveness of the old man Leonato for the injury he had done his child; and promised that, whatever penance Leonato would lay upon him for his fault in believing the false accusation against his betrothed wife, for her dear sake he would endure it.
The penance Leonato enjoined him was to marry the next morning a cousin of Hero's, who, he said, was now his heir, and in person very like Hero. Claudio, regarding the solemn promise he made to Leonato, said he would marry this unknown lady, even though she were an Ethiop. But his heart was very sorrowful, and he passed that night in tears and in remorseful grief at the tomb which Leonato had erected for Hero.
When the morning came the prince accompanied Claudio to the church, where the good friar and Leonato and his niece were already assembled, to celebrate a second nuptial; and Leonato presented to Claudio his promised bride. And she wore a mask, that Claudio might not discover her face. And Claudio said to the lady in the mask:"Give me your hand, before this holy friar. I am your husband, if you will marry me."
"And when I lived I was your other wife," said this unknown lady; and, taking off her mask, she proved to be no niece (as was pretended), but Leonato's very daughter, the lady Hero herself. We may be sure that this proved a most agreeable surprise to Claudio, who thought her dead, so that be could scarcely for joy believe his eyes; and the prince, who was equally amazed at what he saw, exclaimed:"Is not this Hero, Hero that was dead?"' Leonato replied, "She died, my lord, but while her slander lived."
The friar promised them an explanation of this seeming miracle, after the ceremony was ended, and was proceeding to marry them when he was interrupted by Benedick, who desired to be married at the same time to Beatrice. Beatrice making some demur to this match, and Benedick challenging her with her love for him, which he had learned from Hero, a pleasant explanation took place; and they found they had both been tricked into a belief of love, which had never existed, and had become lovers in truth by the power of a false jest. But the affection which a merry invention had cheated them into was grown too powerful to be shaken by a serious explanation; and since Benedick proposed to marry, he was resolved to think nothing to the purpose that the world could say against it; and he merrily kept up the jest and swore to Beatrice that he took her but for pity, and because he heard she was dying of love for him; and Beatrice protested that she yielded but upon great persuasion, and partly to save his life, for she heard he was in a consumption. So these two mad wits were reconciled and made a match of it, after Claudio and Hero were married; and to complete the history, Don John, the contriver of the villainy, was taken in his flight and brought back to Messina; and a @@brave punishment it was to this gloomy, discontented man to see the joy and feastings which, by the disappointment of his plots, took place in the palace in Messina.
During the time that France was divided into provinces (or dukedoms, as they were called) there reigned in one of these provinces a usurper who had deposed and banished his elder brother, the lawful duke.
The duke who was thus driven from his dominions retired with a few faithful followers to the forest of Arden; and here the good duke lived with his loving friends, who had put themselves into a voluntary exile for his sake, while their land and revenues enriched the false usurper; and custom soon made the life of careless ease they led here more sweet to them than the pomp and uneasy splendor of a courtier's life. Here they lived like the old Robin Hood of England, and to this forest many noble youths daily resorted from the court, and did fleet the time carelessly, as they did who lived in the golden age. In the summer they lay along under the fine shade of the large forest trees, marking the playful sports of the wild deer; and so fond were they of these poor dappled fools, who seemed to be the native inhabitants of the forest, that it grieved them to be forced to kill them to supply themselves with venison for their food. When the cold winds of winter made the duke feel the change of his adverse fortune, he would endure it patiently, and say:
"These chilling winds which blow upon my body are true counselors; they do not flatter, but represent truly to me my condition; and though they bite sharply, their tooth is nothing like so keen as that of unkindness and ingratitude. I find that howsoever men speak against adversity, yet some sweet uses are to be extracted from it; like the jewel, precious for medicine, which is taken from the head of the venomous and despised toad."
In this manner did the patient duke draw a useful moral from everything that he saw; and by the help of this moralizing turn, in that life of his, remote from public haunts, he could find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
The banished duke had an only daughter, named Rosalind, whom the usurper, Duke Frederick, when he banished her father, still retained in his court as a companion for his own daughter, Celia. A strict friendship subsisted between these ladies, which the disagreement between their fathers did not in the least interrupt, Celia striving by every kindness in her power to make amends to Rosalind for the injustice of her own father in deposing the father of Rosalind; and whenever the thoughts of her father's banishment, and her own dependence on the false usurper, made Rosalind melancholy, Celia's whole care was to comfort and console her.
One day, when Celia was talking in her usual kind manner to Rosalind, saying, "I pray you, Rosalind, my sweet cousin, be merry," a messenger entered from the duke, to tell them that if they wished to see a wrestling-match, which was just going to begin, they must come instantly to the court before the palace; and Celia, thinking it would amuse Rosalind, agreed to go and see it.
In those times wrestling, which is only practised now by country clowns, was a favorite sport even in the courts of princes, and before fair ladies and princesses. To this wrestling-match, therefore, Celia and Rosalind went. They found that it was likely to prove a very tragical sight; for a large and powerful man, who had been long practised in the art of wrestling and had slain many men in contests of this kind, was just going to wrestle with a very young man, who, from his extreme youth and inexperience in the art, the beholders all thought would certainly be killed.
When the duke saw Celia and Rosalind he said: "How now, daughter and niece, are you crept hither to see the wrestling? You will take little delight in it, there is such odds in the men. In pity to this young man, I would wish to persuade him from wrestling. Speak to him, ladies, and see if you can move him."
The ladies were well pleased to perform this humane office, and first Celia entreated the young stranger that he would desist from the attempt; and then Rosalind spoke so kindly to him, and with such feeling consideration for the danger he was about to undergo, that, instead of being persuaded by her gentle words to forego his purpose, all his thoughts were bent to distinguish himself by his courage in this lovely lady's eyes. He refused the request of Celia and Rosalind in such graceful and modest words that they felt still more concern for him; he concluded his refusal with saying:
"I am sorry to deny such fair and excellent ladies anything. But let your fair eyes and gentle wishes go with me to my trial, wherein if I be conquered there is one shamed that was never gracious; if I am killed, there is one dead that is willing to die. I shall do my friends no wrong, for I have none to lament me; the world no injury, for in it I have nothing; for I only fill up a place in the world which may be better supplied when I have made it empty."
And now the wrestling-match began. Celia wished the young stranger might not be hurt; but Rosalind felt most for him. The friendless state which he said he was in, and that he wished to die, made Rosalind think that he was, like herself, unfortunate; and she pitied him so much, and so deep an interest she took in his danger while he was wrestling, that she might almost be said at that moment to have fallen in love with him.
The kindness shown this unknown youth by these fair and noble ladies gave him courage and strength, so that he performed wonders; and in the end completely conquered his antagonist, who was so much hurt that for a while he was unable to speak or move.
The Duke Frederick was much pleased with the courage and skill shown by this young stranger; and desired to know his name and parentage, meaning to take him under his protection.
The stranger said his name was Orlando, and that he was the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys.
Sir Rowland de Boys, the father of Orlando, had been dead some years; but when he was living he had been a true subject and dear friend of the banished duke; therefore, when Frederick heard Orlando was the son of his banished brother's friend, all his liking for this brave young man was changed into displeasure and he left the place in very ill humor. Hating to bear the very name of any of his brother's friends, and yet still admiring the valor of the youth, he said, as he went out, that he wished Orlando had been the son of any other man.
Rosalind was delighted to hear that her new favorite was the son of her father's old friend; and she said to Celia, "My father loved Sir Rowland de Boys, and if I had known this young man was his son I would have added tears to my entreaties before he should have ventured."
The ladies then went up to him and, seeing him abashed by the sudden displeasure shown by the duke, they spoke kind and encouraging words to him; and Rosalind, when they were going away, turned back to speak some more civil things to the brave young son of her father's old friend, and taking a chain from off her neck, she said:"Gentleman, wear this for me. I am out of suits with fortune, or I would give you a more valuable present."
When the ladies were alone, Rosalind's talk being still of Orlando, Celia began to perceive her cousin had fallen in love with the handsome young wrestler, and she said to Rosalind:"Is it possible you should fall in love so suddenly?" Rosalind replied, "The duke, my father, loved his father dearly." "But," said Celia, "does it therefore follow that you should love his son dearly?. For then I ought to hate him, for my father hated his father; yet do not hate Orlando."
Frederick, being enraged at the sight of Sir Rowland de Boys's son, which reminded him of the many friends the banished duke had among the nobility, and having been for some time displeased with his niece because the people praised her for her virtues and pitied her for her good father's sake, his malice suddenly broke out against her; and while Celia and Rosalind were talking of Orlando, Frederick entered the room and with looks full of anger ordered Rosalind instantly to leave the palace and follow her father into banishment, telling Celia, who in vain pleaded for her, that he had only suffered Rosalind to stay upon her account.
"I did not then," said Celia, "entreat you to let her stay, for I was too young at that time to value her; but now that I know her worth, and that we so long have slept together, rose at the same instant, learned, played, and eat together, I cannot live out of her company." Frederick replied: "She is too subtle for you; her smoothness, her very silence, and her patience speak to the people, and they pity her. You are a fool to plead for her, for you will seem more bright and virtuous when she is gone; therefore open not your lips in her favor, for the doom which I have passed upon her is irrevocable."
When Celia found she could not prevail upon her father to let Rosalind remain with her, she generously resolved to accompany her; and, leaving her father's palace that night, she went along with her friend to seek Rosalind's father, the banished duke, in the forest of Arden.
Before they set out Celia considered that it would be unsafe for two young ladies to travel in the rich clothes they then wore; she therefore proposed that they should disguise their rank by dressing themselves like country maids. Rosalind said it would be a still greater protection if one of them was to be dressed like a man. And so it was quickly agreed on between them that, as Rosalind was the tallest, she should wear the dress of a young countryman, and Celia should be habited like a country lass, and that they should say they were brother and sister; and Rosalind said she would be called Ganymede, and Celia chose the name of Aliena.
In this disguise, and taking their money and jewels to defray their expenses, these fair princesses set out on their long travel; for the forest of Arden was a long way off, beyond the boundaries of the duke's dominions.
The lady Rosalind (or Ganymede, as she must now be called) with her manly garb seemed to have put on a manly courage. The faithful friendship Celia had shown in accompanying Rosalind so many weary miles made the new brother, in recompense for this true love, exert a cheerful spirit, as if he were indeed Ganymede, the rustic and stouthearted brother of the gentle village maiden, Aliena.
When at last they came to the forest of Arden they no longer found the convenient inns and good accommodations they had met with on the road, and, being in want of food and rest, Ganymede, who had so merrily cheered his sister with pleasant speeches and happy remarks all the way, now owned to Aliena that he was so weary he could find in his heart to disgrace his man's apparel and cry like a woman; and Aliena declared she could go no farther; and then again Ganymede tried to recollect that it was a man's duty to comfort and console a woman, as the weaker vessel; and to seem courageous to his new sister, he said:"Come, have a good heart, my sister Aliena. We are now at the end of our travel, in the forest of Arden."
But feigned manliness and forced courage would no longer support them; for, though they were in the forest of Arden, they knew not where to find the duke. And here the travel of these weary ladies might have come to a sad conclusion, for they might have lost themselves and perished for want of food, but, providentially, as they were sitting on the grass, almost dying with fatigue and hopeless of any relief, a countryman chanced to pass that way, and Ganymede once more tried to speak with a manly boldness, saying:
"Shepherd, if love or gold can in this desert place procure us entertainment, I pray you bring us where we may rest ourselves; for this young maid, my sister, is much fatigued with traveling, and faints for want of food."
The man replied that he was only a servant to a shepherd, and that his master's house was just going to be sold, and therefore they would find but poor entertainment; but that if they would go with him they should be welcome to what there was. They followed the man, the near prospect of relief giving them fresh strength, and bought the house and sheep of the shepherd, and took the man who conducted them to the shepherd's house to wait on them; and being by this means so fortunately provided with a neat cottage, and well supplied with provisions, they agreed to stay here till they could learn in what part of the forest the duke dwelt.
When they were rested after the fatigue of their journey, they began to like their new way of life, and almost fancied themselves the shepherd and shepherdess they feigned to be. Yet sometimes Ganymede remembered be had once been the same Lady Rosalind who had so dearly loved the brave Orlando because be was the son of old Sir Rowland, her father's friend; and though Ganymede thought that Orlando was many miles distant, even so many weary miles as they had traveled, yet it soon appeared that Orlando was also in the forest of Arden. And in this manner this strange event came to pass.
Orlando was the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, who, when he died, left him (Orlando being then very young) to the care of his eldest brother, Oliver, charging Oliver on his blessing to give his brother a good education and provide for him as became the dignity of their ancient house. Oliver proved an unworthy brother, and, disregarding the commands of his dying father, he never put his brother to school, but kept him at home untaught and entirely neglected. But in his nature and in the noble qualities of his mind Orlando so much resembled his excellent father that, without any advantages of education, he seemed like a youth who had been bred with the utmost care; and Oliver so envied the fine person and dignified manners of his untutored brother that at last he wished to destroy him, and to effect this be set on people to persuade him to wrestle with the famous wrestler who, as has been before related, had killed so many men. Now it was this cruel brother's neglect of him which made Orlando say he wished to die, being so friendless.
When, contrary to the wicked hopes he had formed, his brother proved victorious, his envy and malice knew no bounds, and he swore he would burn the chamber where Orlando slept. He was overheard making his vow by one that had been an old and faithful servant to their father, and that loved Orlando because he resembled Sir Rowland. This old man went out to meet him when he returned from the duke's palace, and when he saw Orlando the peril his dear young master was in made him break out into these passionate exclamations:
"O my gentle master, my sweet master! O you memory of Old Sir Rowland! Why are you virtuous? Why are you gentle, strong, and valiant? And why would you be so fond to overcome the famous wrestler? Your praise is come too swiftly home before you."
Orlando, wondering what all this meant, asked him what was the matter. And then the old man told him how his wicked brother, envying the love all people bore him, and now hearing the fame he had gained by his victory in the duke's palace, intended to destroy him by setting fire to his chamber that night, and in conclusion advised him to escape the danger he was in by instant flight; and knowing Orlando had no money, Adam (for that was the good old man's name) had brought out with him his own little hoard, and he said:
"I have five hundred crowns, the thrifty hire I saved under your father and laid by to be provision for me when my old limbs should become unfit for service. Take that, and He that doth the ravens feed be comfort to my age! Here is the gold. All this I give to you. Let me be your servant; though I look old I will do the service of a younger man in all your business and necessities."
"O good old man!" said Orlando, "how well appears in you the constant service of the old world! You are not for the fashion of these times. We will go along together, and before your youthful wages are spent I shall light upon some means for both our maintenance."
Together, then, this faithful servant and his loved master set out; and Orlando and Adam traveled on, uncertain what course to pursue, till they came to the forest of Arden, and there they found themselves in the same distress for want of food that Ganymede and Aliena had been. They wandered on, seeking some human habitation, till they were almost spent with hunger and fatigue.
Adam at last said: "O my dear master, I die for want of food. I can go no farther!" He then laid himself down, thinking to make that place his grave, and bade his dear master farewell.
Orlando, seeing him in this weak state, took his old servant up in his arms and carried him under the shelter of some pleasant trees; and he said to him: "Cheerly, old Adam. Rest your weary limbs here awhile, and do not talk of dying!"
Orlando then searched about to find some food, and he happened to arrive at that part of the forest where the duke was; and he and his friends were just going to eat their dinner, this royal duke being seated on the grass, under no other canopy than the shady covert of some large trees.Orlando, whom hunger had made desperate, drew his sword, intending to take their meat by force, and said: "Forbear and eat no more. I must have your food!"
The duke asked him if distress had made him so bold or if he were a rude despiser of good manners. On this Orlando said he was dying with hunger; and then the duke told him he was welcome to sit down and eat with them. Orlando, hearing him speak so gently, put up his sword and blushed with shame at the rude manner in which he had demanded their food.
"Pardon me, I pray you," said he. "I thought that all things had been savage here, and therefore I put on the countenance of stern command; but whatever men you are that in this desert, under the shade of melancholy boughs, lose and neglect the creeping hours of time, if ever you have looked on better days, if ever you have been where bells have knolled to church, if you have ever sat at any good man's feast, if ever from your eyelids you have wiped a tear and know what it is to pity or be pitied, may gentle speeches now move you to do me human courtesy!"
The duke replied: "True it is that we are men (as you say) who have seen better days, and though we have now our habitation in this wild forest, we have lived in towns and cities and have with holy bell been knolled to church, have sat at good men's feasts, and from our eyes have wiped the drops which sacred pity has engendered; therefore sit you down and take of our refreshment as much as will minister to your wants."
"There is an old poor man," answered Orlando, "who has limped after me many a weary step in pure love, oppressed at once with two sad infirmities, age and hunger; till he be satisfied I must not touch a bit.""Go, find him out and bring him hither," said the duke. "We will forbear to eat till you return." Then Orlando went like a doe to find its fawn and give it food; and presently returned, bringing Adam in his arms. And the duke said, "Set down your venerable burthen; you are both welcome." And they fed the old man and cheered his heart, and he revived and recovered his health and strength again.
The duke inquired who Orlando was; and when he found that he was the son of his old friend, Sir Rowland de Boys, be took him under his protection, and Orlando and his old servant lived with the duke in the forest.Orlando arrived in the forest not many days after Ganymede and Aliena came there and (as has been before related) bought the shepherd's cottage.
Ganymede and Aliena were strangely surprised to find the name of Rosalind carved on the trees, and love-sonnets fastened to them, all addressed to Rosalind; and while they were wondering how this could be they met Orlando and they perceived the chain which Rosalind had given him about his neck.
Orlando little thought that Ganymede was the fair Princess Rosalind who, by her noble condescension and favor, had so won his heart that he passed his whole time in carving her name upon the trees and writing sonnets in praise of her beauty; but being much pleased with the graceful air of this pretty shepherd-youth, he entered into conversation with him, and be thought he saw a likeness in Ganymede to his beloved Rosalind, but that he had none of the dignified deportment of that noble lady; for Ganymede assumed the forward manners often seen in youths when they are between boys and men, -and with much archness and humor talked to Orlando of a certain lover, "who," said she, "haunts our forest, and spoils our young trees with carving Rosalind upon their barks; and he hangs odes upon hawthorns, and elegies on brambles, all praising this same Rosalind. If I could find this lover, I would give him some good counsel that would soon cure him of his love."
Orlando confessed that he was the fond lover of whom he spoke,, and asked Ganymede to give him the good counsel he talked Of. The remedy Ganymede proposed, and the counsel he gave him was that Orlando should come every day to the cottage where he and his sister Aliena dwelt.
"And then," said Ganymede, "I will feign myself to be Rosalind, and you shall feign to court me in the same manner as you would do if I was Rosalind, and then I will imitate the fantastic ways of whimsical ladies to their lovers, till I make you ashamed of your love; and this is the way I propose to cure you."
Orlando had no great faith in the remedy, yet he agreed to come every day to Ganymede's cottage and feign a playful courtship; and every day Orlando visited Ganymede and Aliena, and Orlando called the shepherd Ganymede his Rosalind, and every day talked over all the fine words and flattering compliments which young men delight to use when they court their mistresses. It does not appear, however, that Ganymede made any progress in curing Orlando of his love for Rosalind.
Though Orlando thought all this was but a sportive play (not dreaming that Ganymede was his very Rosalind), yet the opportunity it gave him of saying all the fond things he had in his heart pleased his fancy almost as well as it did Ganymede's, who enjoyed the secret jest in knowing these fine love-speeches were all addressed to the right person.
In this manner many days passed pleasantly on with these young people; and the goodnatured Aliena, seeing it made Ganymede happy, let him have his own way and was diverted at the mock-courtship, and did not care to remind Ganymede that the Lady Rosalind had not yet made herself known to the duke her father, whose place of resort in the forest they had learned from Orlando. Ganymede met the duke one day, and had some talk with him, and the duke asked of what parentage he came. Ganymede answered that he came of as good parentage as he did, which made the duke smile, for he did not suspect the pretty shepherd-boy came of royal lineage. Then seeing the duke look well and happy, Ganymede was content to put off all further explanation for a few days longer.
One morning, as Orlando was going to visit Ganymede, he saw a man lying asleep on the ground, and a large green snake had twisted itself about his neck. The snake, seeing Orlando approach, glided away among the bushes. Orlando went nearer, and then he discovered a lioness lie crouching, with her head on the ground, with a catlike watch, waiting until the sleeping man awaked (for it is said that lions will prey on nothing that is dead or sleeping). It seemed as if Orlando was sent by Providence to free the man from the danger of the snake and lioness; but when Orlando looked in the man's face he perceived that the sleeper who was exposed to this double peril was his own brother Oliver, who had so cruelly used him and had threatened to destroy him by fire, and he was almost tempted to leave him a prey to the hungry lioness; but brotherly affection and the gentleness of his nature soon overcame his first anger against his brother; and he drew his sword and attacked the lioness and slew her, and thus preserved his brother's life both from the venomous snake and from the furious lioness; but before Orlando could conquer the lioness she had torn one of his arms with her sharp claws.
While Orlando was engaged with the lioness, Oliver awaked, and, perceiving that his brother Orlando, whom he had so cruelly treated, was saving him from the fury of a wild beast at the risk of his own life, shame and remorse at once seized him, and he repented of his unworthy conduct and besought with many tears his brother's pardon for the injuries he had done him. Orlando rejoiced to see him so penitent, and readily forgave him. They embraced each other and from that hour Oliver loved Orlando with a true brotherly affection, though he had come to the forest bent on his destruction.
The wound in Orlando's arm having bled very much, he found himself too weak to go to visit Ganymede, and therefore he desired his brother to go and tell Ganymede, "whom," said Orlando, "I in sport do call my Rosalind," the accident which had befallen him.
Thither then Oliver went, and told to Ganymede and Aliena how Orlando had saved his life; and when he had finished the story of Orlando's bravery and his own providential escape he owned to them that he was Orlando's brother who had so cruelly used him; and then be told them of their reconciliation.
The sincere sorrow that Oliver expressed for his offenses made such a lively impression on the kind heart of Aliena that she instantly fell in love with him; and Oliver observing how much she pitied the distress he told her he felt for his fault, he as suddenly fell in love with her. But while love was thus stealing into the hearts of Aliena and Oliver, he was no less busy with Ganymede, who, hearing of the danger Orlando had been in, and that he was wounded by the lioness, fainted; and when he recovered he pretended that he had counterfeited the swoon in the imaginary character of Rosalind, and Ganymede said to Oliver:"Tell your brother Orlando how well I counterfeited a swoon."
But Oliver saw by the paleness of his complexion that he did really faint, and, much wondering at the weakness of the young man, he said, "Well, if you did counterfeit, take a good heart and counterfeit to be a man."
"So I do," replied Ganymede, truly, "but I should have been a woman by right." Oliver made this visit a very long one, and when at last he returned back to his brother he had much news to tell him; for, besides the account of Ganymede's fainting at the hearing that Orlando was wounded, Oliver told him how he had fallen in love with the fair shepherdess Aliena, and that she had lent a favorable ear to his suit, even in this their first interview; and he talked to his brother, as of a thing almost settled, that he should marry Aliena, saying that he so well loved her that he would live here as a shepherd and settle his estate and house at home upon Orlando.
"You have my consent," said Orlando. "Let your wedding be to-morrow, and I will invite the duke and his friends. Go and persuade your shepherdess to agree to this. She is now alone, for, look, here comes her brother."Oliver went to Aliena, and Ganymede, whom Orlando had perceived approaching, came to inquire after the health of his wounded friend.
When Orlando and Ganymede began to talk over the sudden love which had taken place between Oliver and. Aliena, Orlando said be had advised his brother to persuade his fair shepherdess to be married on the morrow, and then he added how much he could wish to be married on the same day to his Rosalind.
Ganymede, who well approved of this arrangement, said that if Orlando really loved Rosalind as well as he professed to do, he should have his wish; for on the morrow he would engage to make Rosalind appear in her own person, and also that Rosalind should be willing to marry Orlando.
This seemingly wonderful event, which, as Ganymede was the Lady Rosalind, he could so easily perform, be pretended he would bring to pass by the aid of magic, which he said he had learned of an uncle who was a famous magician.The fond lover Orlando, half believing and half doubting what he heard, asked Ganymede if he spoke in sober meaning.
"By my life I do," said Ganymede. "Therefore put on your best clothes, and bid the duke and your friends to your wedding, for if you desire to be married to-morrow to Rosalind, she shall be here."The next morning, Oliver having obtained the consent of Aliena, they came into the presence of the duke, and with them also came Orlando.
They being all assembled to celebrate this double marriage, and as yet only one of the brides appearing, there was much of wondering and conjecture, but they mostly thought that Ganymede was making a jest of Orlando.
The duke, hearing that it was his own daughter that was to be brought in this strange way, asked Orlando if he believed the shepherd-boy could really do what he had promised; and while Orlando was answering that he knew not what to think, Ganymede entered and asked the duke, if he brought his daughter, whether he would consent to her marriage with Orlando."That I would," said the duke, "if I had kingdoms to give with her." Ganymede then said to Orlando, "And you say you will marry her if I bring her here." "That I would," said Orlando, "if I were king of many kingdoms."
Ganymede and Aliena then went out together, and, Ganymede throwing off his male attire, and being once more dressed in woman's apparel, quickly became Rosalind without the power of magic; and Aliena, changing her country garb for her own rich clothes, was with as little trouble transformed into the lady Celia.While they were gone, the duke said to Orlando that he thought the shepherd Ganymede very like his daughter Rosalind; and Orlando said he also had observed the resemblance.
They had no time to wonder how all this would end, for Rosalind and Celia, in their own clothes, entered, and, no longer pretending that it was by the power of magic that she came there, Rosalind threw herself on her knees before her father and begged his blessing. It seemed so wonderful to all present that she should so suddenly appear, that it might well have passed for magic; but Rosalind would no longer trifle with her father, and told him the story of her banishment, and of her dwelling in the forest as a shepherdboy, her cousin Celia passing as her sister.
The duke ratified the consent he had already given to the marriage; and Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, were married at the same time. And though their wedding could not be celebrated in this wild forest with any of the parade of splendor usual on such occasions, yet a happier wedding-day was never passed. And while they were eating their venison under the cool shade of the pleasant trees, as if nothing should be wanting to complete the felicity of this good duke and the true lovers, an unexpected messenger arrived to tell the duke the joyful news that his dukedom was restored to him.
The usurper, enraged at the flight of his daughter Celia, and hearing that every day men of great worth resorted to the forest of Arden to join the lawful duke in his exile, much envying that his brother should be so highly respected in his adversity, put himself at the head of a large force and advanced toward the forest, intending to seize his brother and put him with all his faithful followers to the sword; but by a wonderful interposition of Providence this bad brother was converted from his evil intention, for just as he entered the skirts of the wild forest he was met by an old religious man, a hermit, with whom he had much talk and who in the end completely turned his heart from his wicked design. Thenceforward he became a true penitent, and resolved, relinquishing his unjust dominion, to spend the remainder of his days in a religious house. The first act of his newly conceived penitence was to send a messenger to his brother (as has been related) to offer to restore to him his dukedom, which be had usurped so long, and with it the lands and revenues of his friends, the faithful followers of his adversity.
This joyful news, as unexpected as it was welcome, came opportunely to heighten the festivity and rejoicings at the wedding of the princesses. Celia complimented her cousin on this good, fortune which had happened to the duke, Rosalind's father, and wished her joy very sincerely, though she herself was no longer heir to the dukedom, but by this restoration which her father had made, Rosalind was now the heir, so completely was the love of these two cousins unmixed with anything of jealousy or of envy.
The duke had now an opportunity of rewarding those true friends who had stayed with him in his banishment; and these worthy followers, though they had patiently shared his adverse fortune, were very well pleased to return in peace and prosperity, to the palace of their lawful duke.
There lived in the city of Verona two young gentlemen, whose names were Valentine and Proteus, between whom a firm and uninterrupted friendship had long subsisted. They pursued their studies together, and their hours of leisure were always passed in each other's company, except when Proteus visited a lady he was in love with. And these visits to his mistress,, and this passion of Proteus for the fair Julia, were the only topics on which these two friends disagreed; for Valentine, not being himself a lover, was sometimes a little weary of bearing his friend forever talking of his Julia, and then he would laugh at Proteus, and in pleasant terms ridicule the passion of love, and declare that no such idle fancies should ever enter his head, greatly preferring (as he said) the free and happy life he led to the anxious hopes and fears of the lover Proteus.
One morning Valentine came to Proteus to tell him that they must for a time be separated, for that he was going to Milan. Proteus, unwilling to part with his friend, used many arguments to prevail upon Valentine not to leave him. But Valentine said:
"Cease to persuade me, my loving Proteus. I will not, like a sluggard, wear out my youth in idleness at home. Home-keeping youths have ever homely wits. If your affection were not chained to the sweet glances of your honored Julia, I would entreat you to accompany me, to see the wonders of the world abroad; but since you are a lover, love on still, and may your love be prosperous!"They parted with mutual expressions of unalterable friendship. "Sweet Valentine, adieu!" said Proteus. "Think on me when you see some rare object worthy of notice in your travels, and wish me partaker of your happiness."
Valentine began his journey that same day toward Milan; and when his friend had left him, Proteus sat down to write a letter to Julia, which he gave to her maid Lucetta to deliver to her mistress.
Julia loved Proteus as well as he did her, but she was a lady of a noble spirit, and she thought it did not become her maiden dignity too easily to be won; therefore she affected to be insensible of his passion and gave him much uneasiness in the prosecution of his suit.
And when Lucetta, offered the letter to Julia she would not receive it, and chid her maid for taking letters from Proteus, and ordered her to leave the room. But she so much wished to see what was written in the letter that she soon called in her maid again; and when Lucetta returned she said, "What o'clock is it?"
Lucetta, who knew her mistress more desired to see the letter than to know the time of day, without answering her question again offered the rejected letter. Julia, angry that her maid should thus take the liberty of seeming to know what she really wanted, tore the letter in pieces and threw it on the floor,, ordering her maid once more out of the room. As Lucetta was retiring, she stopped to pick up the fragments of the torn letter; but Julia, who meant not so to part with them, said, in pretended anger, "Go, get you gone, and let the papers lie; you would be fingering them to anger me."
Julia then began to piece together as well as she could the torn fragments. She first made out these words, "Love-wounded Proteus"; and lamenting over these and such like loving words, which she made out though they were all torn asunder, or, she said WOUNDED (the expression "Love-wounded Proteus" giving her that idea), she talked to these kind words, telling them she would lodge them in her bosom as in a bed, till their wounds were healed, and that she would kiss each several piece to make amends.
In this manner she went on talking with a pretty, ladylike childishness, till, finding herself unable to make out the whole, and vexed at her own ingratitude in destroying such sweet and loving words, as she called them, she wrote a much kinder letter to Proteus than she had ever done before.Proteus was greatly delighted at receiving this favorable answer to his letter. And while he was reading it he exclaimed, "Sweet love! sweet lines! sweet life!" In the midst of his raptures he was interrupted by his father. "How now?" said the old gentleman. "What letter are you reading there?" "My lord," replied Proteus, "it is a letter from my friend Valentine, at Milan." "Lend me the letter," said his father. "Let me see what news."
"There is no news, my lord," said Proteus, greatly alarmed, "but that he writes how well beloved he is of the Duke of Milan, who daily graces him with favors, and how he wishes me with him, the partner of his fortune.""And how stand you affected to his wish?" asked the father. "As one relying on your lordship's will and not depending on his friendly wish," said Proteus.
Now it had happened that Proteus's father had just been talking with a friend on this very subject. His friend had said he wondered his lordship suffered his son to spend his youth at home while most men were sending their sons to seek preferment abroad.
"Some," said he, "to the wars, to try their fortunes there, and some to discover islands far away, and some to study in foreign universities. And there is his companion Valentine; he is gone to the Duke of Milan's court. Your son is fit for any of these things, and it will be a great disadvantage to him in his riper age not to have traveled in his youth." Proteus's father thought the advice of his friend was very good, and upon Proteus telling him that Valentine "wished him with him, the partner of his fortune," he at once determined to send his son to Milan; and without giving Proteus any reason for this sudden resolution, it being the usual habit of this positive old gentleman to command his son, not reason with him, he said:
"My will is the same as Valentine's wish." And seeing his son look astonished, he added: "Look not amazed, that I so suddenly resolve you shall spend some time in the Duke of Milan's court; for what I will I will, and there is an end. Tomorrow be in readiness to go. Make no excuses, for I am peremptory."
Proteus knew it was of no use to make objections to his father, who never suffered him to dispute his will; and he blamed himself for telling his father an untruth about Julia's letter, which had brought upon him the sad necessity of leaving her.
Now that Julia found she was going to lose Proteus for so long a time she no longer pretended indifference; and they bade each other a mournful farewell, with many vows of love and constancy. Proteus and Julia exchanged rings, which they both promised to keep forever in remembrance of each other; and thus, taking a sorrowful leave, Proteus set out on his journey to Milan, the abode of his friend Valentine.
Valentine was in reality, what Proteus had feigned to his father, in high favor with the Duke of Milan; and another event had happened to him of which Proteus did not even dream, for Valentine had given up the freedom of which he used so much to boast, and was become as passionate a lover as Proteus.
She who had wrought this wondrous change in Valentine was the Lady Silvia, daughter of the Duke of Milan, and she also loved him; but they concealed their love from the duke, because, although he showed much kindness for Valentine and invited him every day to his palace, yet he designed to marry his daughter to a young courtier whose name was Thurio. Silvia despised this Thurio, for he had none of the fine sense and excellent qualities of Valentine.
These two rivals, Thurio and Valentine, were one day on a visit to Silvia, and Valentine was entertaining Silvia with turning everything Thurio said into ridicule, when the duke himself entered the room and told Valentine the welcome news of his friend Proteus's arrival.
Valentine said, "If I had wished a thing, it would have been to have seen him here!" And then he highly praised Proteus to the duke, saying, "My lord, though I have been a truant of my time, yet hath my friend made use and fair advantage of his days, and is complete in person and in mind, in all good grace to grace a gentleman."
"Welcome him, then, according to his worth," said the duke. "Silvia, I speak to you, and you, Sir Thurio; for Valentine, I need not bid him do so."
They were here interrupted by the entrance of Proteus, and Valentine introduced him to Silvia, saying, "Sweet lady, entertain him to be my fellow-servant to your ladyship."
"Aye, Proteus," returned Valentine, "but that life is altered now. I have done penance for condemning love. For in revenge of my contempt of love, love has chased sleep from my enthralled eyes. O gentle Proteus, Love is a mighty lord, and hath so humbled me that I confess there is no woe like his correction nor no such joy on earth as in his service. I now like no discourse except it be of love. Now I can break my fast, dine, sup, and sleep upon the very name of love."
This acknowledgment of the change which love had made in, the disposition of Valentine was a great triumph to his friend Proteus. But "friend" Proteus must be called no longer, for the same all-powerful deity Love, of whom they were speaking (yea, even while they were talking of the change he had made in Valentine), was working in the heart of Proteus; and he, who had till this time been a pattern of true love and perfect friendship, was now, in one short interview with Silvia, become a false friend and a faithless lover; for at the first sight of Silvia all his love for Julia vanished away like a dream, nor did his long friendship for Valentine deter him from endeavoring to supplant him in her affections; and although, as it will always be, when people of dispositions naturally good become unjust, be bad many scruples before he determined to forsake Julia and become the rival of Valentine, yet be at length overcame his sense of duty and yielded himself up, almost without remorse, to his new unhappy passion.
Valentine imparted to him in confidence the whole history of his love, and how carefully they had concealed it from the duke her father, and told him that, despairing of ever being able to obtain his consent, he had prevailed upon Silvia to leave her father's palace that night and go with him to Mantua; then he showed Proteus a ladder of ropes by help of which he meant to assist Silvia to get out of one of the windows of the palace after it was dark.
Upon hearing this faithful recital of his friend's dearest secrets, it is hardly possible to be believed, but so it was that Proteus resolved to go to the duke and disclose the whole to him.
This false friend began his tale with many artful speeches to the duke, such as that by the laws of friendship he ought to conceal what he was going to reveal, but that the gracious favor the duke had shown him, and the duty he owed his grace, urged him to tell that which else no worldly good should draw from him. He then told all he had heard from Valentine, not omitting the ladder of ropes and the manner in which Valentine meant to conceal them under a long cloak.
The duke thought Proteus quite a miracle of integrity, in that he preferred telling his friend's intention rather than he would conceal an unjust action; highly commended him, and promised him not to let Valentine know from whom he had learned this intelligence, but by some artifice to make Valentine betray the secret himself. For this purpose the duke awaited the coming of Valentine in the evening, whom he soon saw hurrying toward the palace, and he perceived somewhat was wrapped within his cloak, which he concluded was the rope ladder.The duke, upon this, stopped him, saying, "Whither away so fast, Valentine?" "May it please your grace," said Valentine, "there is a messenger that stays to bear my letters to my friends, and I am going to deliver them." Now this falsehood of Valentine's had no better success in the event than the untruth Proteus told his father. "Be they of much import?" said the duke. "No more, my lord," said Valentine, "than to tell my father I am well and happy at your grace's court." "Nay then," said the duke, "no matter; stay with me awhile. I wish your counsel about some affairs that concern me nearly."
He then told Valentine an artful story, as a prelude to draw his secret from him, saying that Valentine knew he wished to match his daughter with Thurio, but that she was stubborn and disobedient to his commands.
"Neither regarding," said he, "that she is my child nor fearing me as if I were her father. And I may say to thee this pride of hers has drawn my love from her. I had thought my age should have been cherished by her childlike duty. I now am resolved to take a wife, and turn her out to whosoever will take her in. Let her beauty be her wedding dower, for me and my possessions she esteems not."Valentine, wondering where all this would end, made answer, "And what would your grace have me to do in all this?"
"Why," said the duke, "the lady I would wish to marry is nice and coy and does not much esteem my aged eloquence. Besides, the fashion of courtship is much changed since I was young. Now I would willingly have you to be my tutor to instruct me how I am to woo." Valentine gave him a general idea of the modes of courtship then practised by young men when they wished to win a fair lady's love, such as presents, frequent visits, and the like.The duke replied to this that the lady did refuse a present which he sent her, and that she was so strictly kept by her father that no man might have access to her by day. "Why, then," said Valentine, "you must visit her by night." "But at night," said the artful duke, who was now coming to the drift of his discourse, "her doors are fast locked."
Valentine then unfortunately proposed that the duke should get into the lady's chamber at night by means of a ladder of ropes,, saying he would procure him one fitting for that purpose; and in conclusion advised him to conceal this ladder of ropes under such a cloak as that which he now wore.
"Lend me your cloak," said the duke, who had feigned this long story on purpose to have a pretense to get off the cloak; so upon saying these words he caught hold of Valentine's cloak and, throwing it back, he discovered not only the ladder of ropes but also a letter of Silvia's, which he instantly opened and read; and this letter contained a full account of their intended elopement. The duke, after upbraiding Valentine for his ingratitude in thus returning the favor he had shown him, by endeavoring to steal away his daughter, banished him from the court and city of Milan forever, and Valentine was forced to depart that night without even seeing Silvia.
While Proteus at Milan was thus injuring Valentine, Julia at Verona was regretting the absence of Proteus; and her regard for him at last so far overcame her sense of propriety that she resolved to leave Verona and seek her lover at Milan; and to secure herself from danger on the road she dressed her maiden Lucetta and herself in men's clothes,-. and they set out in this disguise, and arrived at Milan soon after Valentine was banished from that, city through the treachery of Proteus.
Julia entered Milan about noon, and she took up her abode at an inn; and, her thoughts being all on her dear Proteus, she entered into conversation with the innkeeper--or host, as he was called--thinking by that means to learn some news of Proteus.
The host was greatly pleased that this handsome young gentleman (as he took her to be), who from his appearance be concluded was of high rank, spoke so familiarly to him, and, being a good-natured man, he was sorry to see him look so melancholy; and to amuse his young guest he offered to take him to hear some fine music, with which, he said, a gentleman that evening was going to serenade his mistress.
The reason Julia looked so very melancholy was, that she did not well know what Proteus would think of the imprudent step she had taken, for she knew he had loved her for her noble maiden pride and dignity of character, and she feared she should lower herself in his esteem; and this it was that made her wear a sad and thoughtful countenance. She gladly accepted the offer of the host to go with him and hear the music; for she secretly hoped she might meet Proteus by the way.
But when she came to the palace whither the host conducted a very different effect was produced to what the kind host intended; for there, to her heart's sorrow, she beheld her lover, the inconstant Proteus, serenading the Lady Silvia with music, and addressing discourse of love and admiration to her. And Julia overheard Silvia from a window talk with Proteus, and reproach him for forsaking his own true lady, and for his ingratitude his friend Valentine; and then Silvia left the window, not choosing to listen to his music and his fine speeches; for she was a faithful lady to her banished Valentine, and abhorred the ungenerous conduct of his false friend, Proteus.
Though Julia was in despair at what she had just witnessed, yet did she still love the truant Proteus; and hearing that he had lately parted with a servant, she contrived, with the assistance of her host, the friendly innkeeper, to hire herself to Proteus as a page; and Proteus knew not she was Julia, and he sent her with letters and presents to her rival, Silvia, and he even sent by her the very ring she gave him as a parting gift at Verona.
When she went to that lady with the ring she was most glad to find that Silvia utterly rejected the suit of Proteus; and Julia--or the page Sebastian, as she was called, entered into conversation with Silvia about Proteus's first love, the forsaken Lady Julia. She putting in (as one may say) a good word for herself, said she knew Julia; as well she might, being herself the Julia of whom she spoke; telling how fondly Julia loved her master, Proteus, and how his unkind neglect would grieve her. And then she with a pretty equivocation went on: "Julia is about my height, and of my complexion, the color of her eyes and hair the same as mine." And indeed Julia looked a most beautiful youth in her boy's attire.Silvia was moved to pity this lovely lady who was so sadly forsaken by the man she loved; and when Julia offered the ring which Proteus had sent, refused it, saying:
"The more shame for him that he sends me that ring. I will not take it, for I have often heard him say his Julia gave it to him. I love thee, gentle youth, for pitying her, poor lady! Here is a purse; I give it you for Julia's sake."These comfortable words coming from her kind rival's tongue cheered the drooping heart of the disguised lady.
But to return to the banished Valentine, who scarce knew which way to bend his course, being unwilling to return home to his father a disgraced and banished man. As he was wandering over a lonely forest, not far distant from Milan, where he had left his heart's dear treasure, the Lady Silvia, he was set upon by robbers, who demanded his money.
Valentine told them that he was a man crossed by adversity, that be was going into banishment, and that he had no money, the clothes he had on being all his riches. The robbers, hearing that he was a distressed man, and being struck with his noble air and manly behavior, told him if he would live with them and be their chief, or captain, they would put themselves under his command; but that if he refused to accept their offer they would kill him.Valentine, who cared little what became of himself, said he would consent to live with them and be their captain, provided they did no outrage on women or poor passengers.
Thus the noble Valentine became, like Robin Hood, of whom we read in ballads, a captain of robbers and outlawed banditti; and in this situation he was found by Silvia, and in this manner it came to pass.
Silvia, to avoid a marriage with Thurio, whom her father insisted upon her no longer refusing, came at last to the resolution of following Valentine to Mantua, at which place she had heard her lover had taken refuge; but in this account she was misinformed, for he still lived in the forest among the robbers, hearing the name of their captain, but taking no part in their depredations, and using the authority which they had imposed upon him in no other way than to compel them to show compassion to the travelers they robbed.
Silvia contrived to effect her escape from her father's palace in company with a worthy old gentleman whose name was Eglamour, whom she took along with her for protection on the road. She had to pass through the forest where Valentine and the banditti dwelt; and one of these robbers seized on Silvia, and would also have taken Eglamour, but he escaped.
The robber who had taken Silvia, seeing the terror she was in, bade her not be alarmed, for that he was only going to carry her to a cave where his captain lived, and that she need not be afraid, for their captain had an honorable mind and always showed humanity to women. Silvia found little comfort in hearing she was going to be carried as a prisoner before the captain of a lawless banditti."O Valentine," she cried, "this I endure for thee!"
But as the robber was conveying her to the cave of his captain he was stopped by Proteus, who, still attended by Julia in the disguise of a page, having heard of the flight of Silvia, had traced her steps to this forest. Proteus now rescued her from the hands the robber; but scarce had she time to thank him for the service he had done her before be began to distress her afresh with his love suit; and while he was rudely pressing her to consent to marry him, and his page (the forlorn Julia) was standing beside him in great anxiety of mind, fearing lest the great service which Proteus had just done to Silvia should win her to show him some favor, they were all strangely surprised with the sudden appearance of Valentine, who, having heard his robbers had taken a lady prisoner, came to console and relieve her.
Proteus was courting Silvia, and he was so much ashamed of being caught by his friend that he was all at once seized with penitence and remorse; and he expressed such a lively sorrow for the injuries he had done to Valentine that Valentine, whose nature was noble and generous, even to a romantic degree, not only forgave and restored him to his former place in his friendship, but in a sudden flight of heroism he said:"I freely do forgive you; and all the interest I have in Silvia I give it up to you."
Julia, who was standing beside her master as a page, hearing this strange offer, and fearing Proteus would not be able with this new-found virtue to refuse Silvia, fainted; and they were all employed in recovering her, else would Silvia have been offended at being thus made over to Proteus, though she could scarcely think that Valentine would long persevere in this overstrained and too generous act of friendship. When Julia recovered from the fainting fit, she said:"I had forgot, my master ordered me to deliver this ring to Silvia." Proteus, looking upon the ring, saw that it was the one he gave to Julia in return for that which he received from her and which he had sent by the supposed page to Silvia. "How is this?" said he. "This is Julia's ring. How came you by it, boy?" Julia answered, "Julia herself did give it me, and Julia herself hath brought it hither."
Proteus, now looking earnestly upon her, plainly perceived that the page Sebastian was no other than the Lady Julia herself; and the proof she had given of her constancy and true love so wrought in him that his love for her returned into his heart, and he took again his own dear lady and joyfully resigned all pretensions to the Lady Silvia to Valentine, who had so well deserved her.
Proteus and Valentine were expressing their happiness in their reconciliation, and in the love of their faithful ladies, when they were surprised with the sight of the Duke of Milan and Thurio, who came there in pursuit of Silvia.Thurio first approached, and attempted to seize Silvia, saying, "Silvia is mine."
Upon this Valentine said to him in a very spirited manner: "Thurio, keep back. If once again you say that Silvia is yours, you shall embrace your death. Here she stands, take but possession of her with a touch! I dare you but to breathe upon my love."Hearing this threat, Thurio, who was a great coward, drew back, and said he cared not for her and that none but a fool would fight for a girl who loved him not.
The duke, who was a very brave man himself, said now, in great anger, "The more base and degenerate in you to take such means for her as you have done and leave her on such slight conditions."
Then turning to Valentine he said: "I do applaud your spirit, Valentine, and think you worthy of an empress's love. You shall have Silvia, for you have well deserved her."
Valentine then with great humility kissed the duke's hand and accepted the noble present which he had made him of his daughter with becoming thankfulness, taking occasion of this joyful minute to entreat the good-humored duke to pardon the thieves with whom he had associated in the forest, assuring him that when reformed and restored to society there would be found among them many good, and fit for great employment; for the most of them had been banished, like Valentine, for state offenses, rather than for any black crimes they had been guilty of. To this the' ready duke consented. And now nothing remained but that Proteus, the false friend, was ordained, by way of penance for his loveprompted faults, to be present at the recital of the whole story of his loves and falsehoods before the duke. And the shame of the recital to his awakened conscience was judged sufficient punishment; which being done, the lovers, all four, returned back to Milan, and their nuptials were solemnized in the presence of the duke, with high triumphs and feasting.
Shylock, the Jew, lived at Venice. He was a usurer who had amassed an immense fortune by lending money at great interest to Christian merchants. Shylock, being a hard-hearted man, exacted the payment of the money he lent with such severity that he was much disliked by all good men, and particularly by Antonio, a young merchant of Venice; and Shylock as much hated Antonio, because he used to lend money to people in distress, and would never take any interest for the money he lent; therefore there was great enmity between this covetous Jew and the generous merchant Antonio. Whenever Antonio met Shylock on the Rialto, (or Exchange) he used to reproach him with his usuries and hard dealings, which the Jew would bear with seeming patience, while he secretly meditated revenge.
Antonio was the kindest man that lived, the best conditioned, and had the most unwearied spirit in doing courtesies; indeed, he was one in whom the ancient Roman honor more appeared than in any that drew breath in Italy. He was greatly beloved by all his fellowcitizens; but the friend who was nearest and dearest to his heart was Bassanio, a noble Venetian, who, having but a small patrimony, had nearly exhausted his little fortune by living in too expensive a manner for his slender means, at young men of high rank with small fortunes are too apt to do. Whenever Bassanio wanted money Antonio assisted him; and it seemed as if they had but one heart and one purse between them.
One day Bassanio came to Antonio and told him that he wished to repair his fortune by a wealthy marriage with a lady whom he dearly loved, whose father, that was lately dead, had left her sole heiress to a large estate; and that in her father's lifetime he used to visit at her house, when he thought he had observed this lady had sometimes from her eyes sent speechless messages that seemed to say he would be no unwelcome suitor; but not having money to furnish himself with an appearance befitting the lover of so rich an heiress, he besought Antonio to add to the many favors he had shown him by lending him three thousand ducats.
Antonio had no money by him at that time to lend his friend; but expecting soon to have. some ships come home laden with merchandise, he said he would go to Shylock, the rich moneylender, and borrow the money upon the credit of those ships.
Antonio and Bassanio went together to Shylock, and Antonio asked the Jew to lend him three thousand ducats upon any interest he should require, to be paid out of the merchandise contained in his ships at sea.
On this, Shylock thought within himself: "If I can once catch him on the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. He hates our Jewish nation; he lends out money gratis; and among the merchants he rails at me and my well-earned bargains, which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe if I forgive him!"
Antonio, finding be was musing within himself and did not answer, and being impatient for the money, said:
To this question the Jew replied: "Signor Antonio, on the Rialto many a time and often you have railed at me about my moneys and my usuries, and I have borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe; and then you have called me unbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spit upon my Jewish garments, and spurned at me with your foot, as if I was a cur. Well, then, it now appears you need my help, and you come to me and say, 'Shylock, lend me moneys.' Has a dog money? Is it possible a cur should lend three thousand ducats? Shall I bend low and say, 'Fair sir, you spit upon me on Wednesday last; another time you called me dog, and for these courtesies I am to lend you moneys."'
Antonio replied: "I am as like to call you so again, to spit on you again, and spurn you, too. If you will lend me this money, lend it not to me as to a friend, but rather lend it to me as to an enemy, that, if I break, you may with better face exact the penalty."
"Why, look you," said Shylock, "how you storm! I would be friends with you and have your love. I will forget the shames you have put upon me. I will supply your wants and take no interest for my money."
This seemingly kind offer greatly surprised Antonio; and then Shylock, still pretending kindness and that all he did was to gain Antonio's love, again said he would lend him the three thousand ducats, and take no interest for his money; only Antonio should go with him to a lawyer and there sign in merry sport a bond that, if he did not repay the money by a certain day, he would forfeit a pound of flesh, to be cut off from any part of his body that Shylock pleased."Content," said Antonio. "I will sign to this bond, and say there is much kindness in the Jew."
Bassanio said Antonio should not sign to such a bond for him; but still Antonio insisted that he would sign it, for that before the day of payment came his ships would return laden with many times the value of the money.
Shylock, hearing this debate, exclaimed: "O Father Abraham, what suspicious people these Christians are! Their own hard dealings teach them to suspect the thoughts of others. I pray you tell me this, Bassanio: if he should break his day, what should I gain by the exaction of the forfeiture? A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man, is not so estimable, profitable, neither, as the flesh of mutton or beef. I say, to buy his favor I offer this friendship: if he will take it, so; if not, adieu."
At last, against the advice of Bassanio, who, notwithstanding all the Jew had said of his kind intentions, did not like his friend should run the hazard of this shocking penalty for his sake, Antonio signed the bond, thinking it really was (as the Jew said) merely in sport. The rich heiress that Bassanio wished to marry lived near Venice, at a place called Belmont. Her name was Portia, and in the graces of her person and her mind she was nothing inferior to that Portia, of whom we read, who was Cato's daughter and the wife of Brutus.
Bassanio being so kindly supplied with money by his friend Antonio, at the hazard of his life, set out for Belmont with a splendid train and attended by a gentleman of the name of Gratiano.Bassanio proving successful in his suit, Portia in a short time consented to accept of him for a husband.
Bassanio confessed to Portia that he had no fortune and that his high birth and noble ancestry were all that he could boast of; she, who loved him for his worthy qualities and had riches enough not to regard wealth in a husband, answered, with a graceful modesty, that she would wish herself a thousand times more fair, and ten thousand times more rich, to be more worthy of him; and then the accomplished Portia prettily dispraised herself and said she was an unlessoned girl, unschooled, unpractised, yet not so old but that she could learn, and that she would commit her gentle spirit to be directed and governed by him in all things; and she said: "Myself and what is mine to you and yours is now converted. But yesterday, Bassanio, I was the lady of this fair mansion, queen of myself, and mistress over these servants; and now this house, these servants, and myself are yours, my lord; I give them with this ring," presenting a ring to Bassanio.
Bassanio was so overpowered with gratitude and wonder at the gracious manner in which the rich and noble Portia accepted of a man of his humble fortunes that he could not express his joyand reverence to the dear lady who so honored him, by anything but broken words of love and thankfulness; and, taking the ring, he vowed never to part with it.
Gratiano and Nerissa, Portia's waiting-maid, were in attendance upon their lord and lady when Portia so gracefully promised to become the obedient wife of Bassanio; and Gratiano, wishing Bassanio and the generous lady joy, desired permission to be married at the same time."With all my heart, Gratiano," said Bassanio, "if you can get a wife."
Gratiano then said that he loved the Lady Portia's fair waiting-gentlewoman, Nerissa, and that she had promised to be his wife if her lady married Bassanio. Portia asked Nerissa if this was true. Nerissa replied:"Madam, it is so, if you approve of it." Portia willingly consenting, Bassanio pleasantly said: "Then our wedding-feast shall be much honored by your marriage, Gratiano."
The happiness of these lovers was sadly crossed at this moment by the entrance of a messenger, who brought a letter from Antonio containing fearful tidings. When Bassanio read Antonio's letter, Portia feared it was to tell him of the death of some dear friend, he looked so pale; and, inquiring what was the news which bad so distressed him, he said:
"Oh, sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasantest words that ever blotted paper! Gentle lady, when I first imparted my love to you, I freely told you all the wealth I had ran in my veins; but I should have told you that I had less than nothing, being in debt."
Bassanio then told Portia what has been here related, of his borrowing the money of Antonio, and of Antonio's procuring it of Shylock the Jew, and of the bond by which Antonio had engaged to forfeit a pound of flesh if it was not repaid by a certain day: and then Bassanio read Antonio's letter, the words of which were:
'Sweet Bassanio, my ships are all lost, my bond to the Jew is forfeited, and since in paying it is impossible I should live, I could wish, to see you at my death; notwithstanding, use your pleasure. If your love for me do not persuade you to come, let not my letter.'
"Oh, my dear love," said Portia, "despatch all business and begone; you shall have gold to pay the money twenty times over, before this kind friend shall lose a hair by my Bassanio's fault; and as you are so dearly bought, I will dearly love you."
Portia then said she would be married to Bassanio before he set out, to give him a legal right to her money; and that same day they were married, and Gratiano was also married to Nerissa; and Bassanio and Gratiano, the instant they were married, set out in great haste for Venice, where Bassanio found Antonio in prison.
The day of payment being past, the cruel Jew would not accept of the money which Bassanio offered him, but insisted upon having a pound of Antonio's flesh. A day was appointed to try this shocking cause before the Duke of Venice, and Bassanio awaited in dreadful suspense the event of the trial.
When Portia parted with her husband she spoke cheeringly to him and bade him bring his dear friend along with him when he returned; yet she feared it would go hard with Antonio, and when she was left alone she began to think and consider within herself if she could by any means be instrumental in saving the life of her dear Bassanio's friend. And notwithstanding when she wished to honor her Bassanio she had said to him, with such a meek and wifelike grace, that she would submit in all things to be governed by his superior wisdom, yet being now called forth into action by the peril of her honored husband's friend, she did nothing doubt her own powers, and by the sole guidance of her own true and perfect judgment at once resolved to go herself to Venice and speak in Antonio's defense.
Portia had a relation who was a counselor in the law; to this gentleman, whose name was Bellario, she wrote, and, stating the case to him, desired his opinion, and that with his advice he would also send her the dress worn by a counselor. When the messenger returned he brought letters from Bellario of advice how to proceed, and also everything necessary for her equipment.
Portia dressed herself and her maid Nerissa in men's apparel, and, putting on the robes of a counselor, she took Nerissa along with her as her clerk; setting out immediately, they arrived at Venice on the very day of the trial. The cause was just going to be heard before the Duke and Senators of Venice in the Senate House when Portia entered this high court of justice and presented a letter from Bellario, in which that learned counselor wrote to the duke, saying he would have come himself to plead for Antonio but that he was prevented by sickness, and he requested that the learned young Doctor Balthasar (so he called Portia) might be permitted to plead in his stead. This the Duke granted, much wondering at the youthful appearance of the stranger, who was prettily disguised by her counselor's robes and her large wig.
And now began this important trial. Portia looked around her and she saw the merciless Jew; and she saw Bassanio, but he knew her not in her disguise. He was standing beside Antonio, in an agony of distress and fear for his friend.
The importance of the arduous task Portia had engaged in gave this tender lady courage, and she boldly proceeded in the duty she had undertaken to perform. And first of all she addressed herself to Shylock; and allowing that he had a right by the Venetian law to have the forfeit expressed in the bond, she spoke so sweetly of the noble quality of MERCY as would have softened any heart but the unfeeling Shylock's, saying that it dropped as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath; and how mercy was a double blessing, it blessed him that gave and him that received it; and how it became monarchs better than their crowns, being an attribute of God Himself; and that earthly power came nearest to God's in proportion as mercy tempered justice; and she bade Shylock remember that as we all pray for mercy, that same prayer should teach us to show mercy. Shylock only answered her by desiring to have the penalty forfeited in the bond."Is he not able to pay the money?" asked Portia.
Bassanio then offered the Jew the payment of the three thousand ducats as many times over as he should desire; which Shylock refusing, and still insisting upon having a pound of Antonio's flesh, Bassanio begged the learned young counselor would endeavor to wrest the law a little, to save Antonio's life. But Portia gravely answered that laws once established never be altered. Shylock, hearing Portia say that the law might not be altered, it seemed to him that she was pleading in his favor, and he said:
"A Daniel is come to judgment! O wise young judge, how I do honor you! How much elder are you than your looks!"
Portia now desired Shylock to let her look at the bond; and when she had read it she said: "This bond is forfeited, and by this the Jew may lawfully claim a pound of flesh, to be by him cut off nearest Antonio's heart." Then she said to Shylock, "Be merciful; take the money and bid me tear the bond."
"Why, then, Antonio," said Portia, "you must prepare your bosom for the knife." And while Shylock was sharpening a long knife with great eagerness to cut off the pound of flesh, Portia said to Antonio, "Have you anything to say?"Antonio with a calm resignation replied that he had but little to say, for that he had prepared his mind for death. Then he said to Bassanio:
"Give me your hand, Bassanio! Fare you well! Grieve not that I am fallen into this misfortune for you. Commend me to your honorable wife and tell her how I have loved you!"
Bassanio in the deepest affliction replied: "Antonio, I am married to a wife who is as dear to me as life itself; but life itself, my wife, and all the world are not esteemed with me above your life. I would lose all, I would sacrifice all to this devil here, to deliver you."
Portia hearing this, though the kind-hearted lady was not at all offended with her husband for expressing the love he owed to so true a friend as Antonio in these strong terms, yet could not help answering:"Your wife would give you little thanks, if she were present, to hear you make this offer."
And then Gratiano, who loved to copy what his lord did, thought he must make a speech like Bassanio's, and he said, in Nerissa's hearing, who was writing in her clerk's dress by the side of Portia:"I have a wife whom I protest I love. I wish she were in heaven if she could but entreat some power there to change the cruel temper of this currish Jew." "It is well you wish this behind her back, else you would have but an unquiet house," said Nerissa. Shylock now cried out, impatiently: "We trifle time. I pray pronounce the sentence." And now all was awful expectation in the court, and every heart was full of grief for Antonio.
Portia asked if the scales were ready to weigh the flesh; and she said to the Jew, "Shylock, you must have some surgeon by, lest he bleed to death."
Shylock, whose whole intent was that Antonio should bleed to death, said, "It is not so named in the bond."
"Then," said Portia, "a pound of Antonio's flesh is thine. The law allows it and the court awards it. And you may cut this flesh from off his breast. The law allows it and the court awards it."
Again Shylock exclaimed: "O wise and upright judge! A Daniel is come to judgment!" And then he sharpened his long knife again, and looking eagerly on Antonio, he said, "Come, prepare!"
"Tarry a little, Jew," said Portia. "There is something else. This bond here gives you no drop of blood; the words expressly are, 'a pound of flesh.' If in the cutting off the pound of flesh you shed one drop of Christian blood, your lands and goods are by the law to be confiscated to the state of Venice."
Now as it was utterly impossible for Shylock to cut off the pound of flesh without shedding some of Antonio's blood, this wise discovery of Portia's, that it was flesh and not blood that was named in the bond, saved the life of Antonio; and all admiring the wonderful sagacity of the young counselor who had so happily thought of this expedient, plaudits resounded from every part of the Senate House; and Gratiano exclaimed, in the words which Shylock had used:"O wise and upright judge! Mark, Jew, a Daniel is come to judgment!"
Shylock, finding himself defeated in his cruel intent, said, with a disappointed look, that he would take the money. And Bassanio, rejoiced beyond measure at Antonio's unexpected deliverance, cried out:"Here is the money!"
But Portia stopped him, saying: "Softly; there is no haste. The Jew shall have nothing but the penalty. Therefore prepare, Shylock, to cut off the flesh; but mind you shed no blood; nor do not cut off more nor less than just a pound; be it more or less by one poor scruple, nay, if the scale turn but by the weight of a single hair, you are condemned by the laws of Venice to die, and all your wealth is forfeited to the state.""Give me my money and let me go," said Shylock.
"I have it ready," said Bassanio. "Here it is." Shylock was going to take the money, when Portia again stopped him, saying: "Tarry, Jew. I have yet another hold upon you. By the laws of Venice your wealth is forfeited to the state for having conspired against the life of one of its citizens, and your life lies at the mercy of the duke; therefore, down on your knees and ask him to pardon you."
The duke then said to Shylock: "That you may see the difference of our Christian spirit, I pardon you your life before you ask it. Half your wealth belongs to Antonio, the other half comes to the state."
The generous Antonio then said that he would give up his share of Shylock's wealth if Shylock would sign a deed to make it over at his death to his daughter and her husband; for Antonio knew that the Jew had an only daughter who had lately married against his consent a young Christian named Lorenzo, a friend of Antonio's, which had so offended Shylock that he had disinherited her.
The Jew agreed to this; and being thus disappointed in his revenge and despoiled of his riches, he said: "I am ill. Let me go home. Send the deed after me, and I will sign over half my riches to my daughter.""Get thee gone, then," said the duke, "and sign it; and if you repent your cruelty and turn Christian, the state will forgive you the fine of the other half of your riches." The duke now released Antonio and dismissed the court. He then highly praised the wisdom and ingenuity of the young counselor and invited him home to dinner. Portia, who meant to return to Belmont before her husband, replied, "I humbly thank your Grace, but I must away directly."
The duke said he was sorry he had not leisure to stay and dine with him, and, turning to Antonio, he added, "Reward this gentleman; for in my mind you are much indebted to him."
The duke and his senators left the court; and then Bassanio said to Portia: "Most worthy gentleman, I and my friend Antonio have by your wisdom been this day acquitted of grievous penalties, and I beg you will accept of the three thousand ducats due unto the Jew.""And we shall stand indebted to you over and above," said Antonio, "in love and service evermore." Portia could not be prevailed upon to accept the money. But upon Bassanio still pressing her to accept of some reward, she said:
"Give me your gloves. I will wear them for your sake." And then Bassanio taking off his gloves, she espied the ring which she had given him upon his finger. Now it was the ring the wily lady wanted to get from him to make a merry jest when she saw her Bassanio again, that made her ask him for his gloves; and she said, when she saw the ring, "And for your love, I will take this ring from you."
Bassanio was sadly distressed that the counselor should ask him for the only thing he could not part with, and he replied, in great confusion, that be could not give him that ring, because it was his wife's gift and he had vowed never to part with it; but that he would give him the most valuable ring in Venice, and find it out by proclamation.On this Portia affected to be affronted, and left the court, saying, "You teach me, sir, how a beggar should be answered." "Dear Bassanio," said Antonio, "let him have the ring. Let My love and the great service he has done for me be valued against your wife's displeasure."
Bassanio, ashamed to appear so ungrateful, yielded, and sent Gratiano after Portia with the ring; and then the "clerk" Nerissa, who had also given Gratiano a ring, begged his ring, and Gratiano (not choosing to be outdone in generosity by his lord) gave it to her. And there was laughing among these ladies to think, when they got home, how they would tax their husbands with giving away their rings and swear that they had given them as a present to some woman.
Portia, when she returned, was in that happy temper of mind which never fails to attend the consciousness of having performed a good action. Her cheerful spirits enjoyed everything she saw: the moon never seemed to shine so bright before; and when that pleasant moon was hid behind a cloud, then a light which she saw from her house at Belmont as well pleased her charmed fancy, and she said to Nerissa:
"That light we see is burning in my hall. How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world." And hearing the sound of music from her house, she said, "Methinks that music sounds much sweeter than by day."
And now Portia and Nerissa entered the house, and, dressing themselves in their own apparel, they awaited the arrival of their husbands, who soon followed them with Antonio; and Bassanio presenting his dear friend to the Lady Portia, the congratulations and welcomings of that lady were hardly over when they perceived Nerissa and her husband quarreling in a corner of the room."A quarrel already?" said Portia. "What is the matter?" Gratiano replied, "Lady, it is about a paltry gilt ring that Nerissa gave me, with words upon it like the poetry on a cutler's knife: 'Love me, and leave me not.'"
"What does the poetry or the value of the ring signify?" said Nerissa. "You swore to me, when I gave it to you, that you would keep it till the hour of death; and now you say you gave it to the lawyer's clerk. I know you gave it to a woman."
"By this hand," replied Gratiano, "I gave it to a youth, a kind Of boy, a little scrubbed boy, no higher than yourself; be was clerk to the young counselor that by his wise pleading saved Antonio's life. This prating boy begged it for a fee, and I could not for my life deny him."
Gratiano, in excuse for his fault, now said, "My Lord Bassanio gave his ring away to the counselor, and then the boy, his clerk, that took some pains in writing, he begged my ring."
Portia, hearing this, seemed very angry and reproached Bassanio for giving away her ring; and she said Nerissa had taught her what to believe, and that she knew some woman had the ring. Bassanio was very unhappy to have so offended his dear lady, and he said with great earnestness:
"No, by my honor, no woman had it, but a civil doctor who refused three thousand ducats of me and begged the ring, which when I denied him he went displeased away. What could I do, sweet Portia? I was so beset with shame for my seeming ingratitude that I was forced to send the ring after him. Pardon me, good lady. Had you been there, I think you would have begged the ring of me to give the worthy doctor.""Ah!" said Antonio, "I am the unhappy cause of these quarrels." Portia bid Antonio not to grieve at that, for that be was welcome notwithstanding; and then Antonio said:
"I once did lend my body for Bassanio's sake; and but for him to whom your husband gave the ring I should have now been dead. I dare be bound again, my soul upon the forfeit, your lord will never more break his faith with you.""Then you shall be his surety," said Portia. "Give him this ring and bid him keep it better than the other."
When Bassanio looked at this ring be was strangely surprised to find it was the same he gave away; and then Portia told him how she was the young counselor, and Nerissa was her clerk; and Bassanio found, to his unspeakable wonder and delight, that it was by the noble courage and wisdom of his wife that Antonio's life was saved.
And Portia again welcomed Antonio, and gave him letters which by some chance had fallen into her hands, which contained an account of Antonio's ships, that were supposed lost, being safely arrived in the harbor. So these tragical beginnings of this rich merchant's story were all forgotten in the unexpected good fortune which ensued; and there was leisure to laugh at the comical adventure of the rings and the husbands that did not know their own wives, Gratiano merrily swearing, in a sort of rhyming speech, that-- While he lived, he'd fear no other thing So sore, as keeping safe Nerissa's ring.
Cymbeline's first wife died when his three children (two sons and a daughter) were very young. Imogen, the eldest of these children, was brought up in her father's court; but by a strange chance the two sons of Cymbeline were stolen out of their nursery when the eldest was but three years of age and the youngest quite an infant; and Cymbeline could never discover what was become of them or by whom they were conveyed away.Cymbeline was twice married. His second wife was a wicked, plotting woman, and a cruel stepmother to Imogen, Cymbeline's daughter by his first wife.
The queen, though she hated Imogen, yet wished her to marry a son of her own by a former husband (she also having been twice married), for by this means she hoped upon the death of Cymbeline to place the crown of Britain upon the head of her son Cloten; for she knew that, if the king's sons were not found, the Princess Imogen must be the king's heir. But this design was prevented by Imogen herself, who married without the consent or even knowledge of her father or the queen.
Posthumus (for that was the name of Imogen's husband) was the best scholar and most accomplished gentleman of that age. His father died fighting in the wars for Cymbeline, and soon after his birth his mother died also for grief at the loss of her husband.
Cymbeline, pitying the helpless state of this orphan, took Posthumus (Cymbeline having given him that name because he was born after his father's death), and educated him in his own court.
Imogen and Posthumus were both taught by the same masters, and were playfellows from their infancy; they loved each other tenderly when they were children, and, their affection continuing to increase with their years, when they grew up they privately married.
The disappointed queen soon learned this secret, for she kept spies constantly in watch upon the actions of her stepdaughter, and she immediately told the king of the marriage of Imogen with Posthumus.
Nothing could exceed the wrath of Cymbeline when he heard that his daughter had been so forgetful of her high dignity as to marry a subject. He commanded Posthumus to leave Britain and banished him from his native country forever.
The queen, who pretended to pity Imogen for the grief she suffered at losing her husband, offered to procure them a private meeting before Posthumus set out on his journey to Rome, which place he had chosen for his residence in his banishment. This seeming kindness she showed the better to succeed in her future designs in regard to her son Cloten, for she meant to persuade Imogen, when her husband was gone, that her marriage was not lawful, being contracted without the consent of the king.
Imogen and Posthumus took a most affectionate leave of each other. Imogen gave her husband a diamond ring which had been her mother's, and Posthumus promised never to part with the ring; and he fastened a bracelet on the arm of his wife, which he begged she would preserve with great care, as a token of his love; they then bade each other farewell, with many vows of everlasting love and fidelity.Imogen remained a solitary and dejected lady in her father's court, and Posthumus arrived at Rome, the place he had chosen for his banishment.
Posthumus fell into company at Rome with some gay young men of different nations, who were talking freely of ladies, each one praising the ladies of his own country and his own mistress. Posthumus, who had ever his own dear lady in his mind, affirmed that his wife, the fair Imogen, was the most virtuous, wise, and constant lady in the world.
One of those gentlemen, whose name was Iachimo, being offended that a lady of Britain should be so praised above the Roman ladies, his country-women, provoked Posthumus by seeming to doubt the constancy of his so highly praised wife; and at length, after much altercation, Posthumus consented to a proposal of Iachimo's that he (Iachimo) should go to Britain and endeavor to gain the love of the married Imogen. They then laid a wager that if Iachimo did not succeed in this wicked design he was to forfeit a large sum of money; but if he could win Imogen's favor, and prevail upon her to give him the bracelet which Posthumus had so earnestly desired she would keep as a token of his love, then the wager was to terminate with Posthumus giving to Iachimo the ring which was Imogen's love present when she parted with her husband. Such firm faith had Posthumus in the fidelity of Imogen that he thought he ran no hazard in this trial of her honor.
Iachimo, on his arrival in Britain, gained admittance and a courteous welcome from Imogen, as a friend of her husband; but when he began to make professions of love to her she repulsed him with disdain, and he soon found that he could have no hope of succeeding in his dishonorable design.
The desire Iachimo had to win the wager made him now have recourse to a stratagem to impose upon Posthumus, and for this purpose he bribed some of Imogen's attendants and was by them conveyed into her bedchamber, concealed in a large trunk, where he remained shut up till Imogen.was retired to rest and had fallen asleep; and then, getting out of the trunk, he examined the chamber with great attention, and wrote down everything he saw there, and particularly noticed a mole which he observed upon Imogen's neck, and then softly unloosing the bracelet from her arm, which Posthumus had given to her, he retired into the chest again; and the next day he set off for Rome with great expedition, and boasted to Posthumus that Imogen had given him the bracelet, and likewise permitted him to pass a night in her chamber. And in this manner Iachimo told his false tale: "Her bedchamber," said he, "was hung with tapestry of silk and silver, the story was the proud Cleopatra when she met her Anthony, a piece of work most bravely wrought.""This is true," said Posthumus; "but this you might have heard spoken of without seeing."
"Then the chimney," said Iachimo, "is south of the chamber, and the chimneypiece is Diana bathing; never saw I figures livelier expressed." "This is a thing you might have likewise heard," said Posthumus; "for it is much talked of."
Iachimo as accurately described the roof of the chamber; and added, "I had almost forgot her andirons; they were two winking Cupids made of silver, each on one foot standing.'" He then took out the bracelet, and said: "Know you this jewel, sir? She gave me this. She took it from her arm. I see her yet; her pretty action did outsell her gift, and yet enriched it, too. She gave it me, and said, SHE PRIZED IT ONCE." He last of all described the mole he had observed upon her neck.
Posthumus, who had heard the whole of this artful recital in an agony of doubt, now broke out into the most passionate exclamations against Imogen. He delivered up the diamond ring to Iachimo which he had agreed to forfeit to him if he obtained the bracelet from Imogen.
Posthumus then in a jealous rage wrote to Pisanio, a gentleman of Britain, who was one of Imogen's attendants, and had long been a faithful friend to Posthumus; and after telling him what proof he had of his wife's disloyalty, he desired Pisanio would take Imogen to Milford Haven, a seaport of Wales, and there kill her. And at the same time he wrote a deceitful letter to Imogen, desiring her to go with Pisanio, for that, finding he could live no longer without seeing her, though he was forbidden upon pain of death to return to Britain, he would come to Milford Haven, at which place he begged she would meet him. She, good, unsuspecting lady, who loved her husband above all things, and desired more than her life to see him, hastened her departure with Pisanio, and the same night she received the letter she set out.
When their journey was nearly at an end, Pisanio, who, though faithful to Posthumus, was not faithful to serve him in an evil deed, disclosed to Imogen the cruel order he had received.Imogen, who, instead of meeting a loving and beloved husband, found herself doomed by that husband to suffer death, was afflicted beyond measure.
Pisanio persuaded her to take comfort and wait with patient fortitude for the time when Posthumus should see and repent his injustice. In the mean time, as she refused in her distress to return to her father's court, he advised her to dress herself in boy's clothes for more security in traveling; to which advice she agreed, and thought in that disguise she would go over to Rome and see her husband, whom, though he had used her so barbarously, she could no-t forget to love.
When Pisanio had provided her with her new apparel he left her to her uncertain fortune, being obliged to return to court; but before he departed he gave her a vial of cordial, which he said the queen had given him as a sovereign remedy in all disorders.
The queen, who hated Pisanio because he was a friend to Imogen and Posthumus, gave him this vial, which she supposed contained poison, she having ordered her physician to give her some poison, to try its effects (as she said) upon animals; but the physician, knowing her malicious disposition, would not trust her with real poison, but gave her a drug which would do no other mischief than causing a person to sleep with every appearance of death for a few hours. This mixture, which Pisanio thought a choice cordial, he gave to Imogen, desiring her, if she found herself ill upon the road, to take it; and so, with blessings and prayers for her safety and happy deliverance from her undeserved troubles, he left her.
Providence strangely directed Imogen's steps to the dwelling of her two brothers who had been stolen away in their infancy. Bellarius, who stole them away, was a lord in the court of Cymbeline, and, having been falsely accused to the king of treason and banished from the court, in revenge he stole away the two sons of Cymbeline and brought them up in a forest, where he lived concealed in a cave. He stole them through revenge, but he soon loved them as tenderly as if they had been his own children, educated them carefully, and they grew up fine youths, their princely spirits leading them to bold and daring actions; and as they subsisted by hunting, they were active and hardy, and were always pressing their supposed father to let them seek their fortune in the wars.
At the cave where these youths dwelt it was Imogen's fortune to arrive. She had lost her way in a large forest through which .her road lay to Milford Haven (from which she meant to embark for Rome); and being unable to find any place where she could purchase food, she was, with weariness and hunger, almost dying; for it is not merely putting on a man's apparel that will enable a young lady, tenderly brought up, to bear the fatigue of wandering about lonely forests like a man.. Seeing this cave, she entered, hoping to find some one within of whom she could procure food. She found the cave empty, but, looking about, she discovered some cold meat, and her hunger was so pressing that she could not wait for an invitation, but sat down and began to eat.
"Ah," said she, talking to herself, "I see a man's life is a tedious one. How tired am I! For two nights together I have made the ground my bed. My resolution helps me, or I should be sick. When Pisanio showed me Milford Haven from the mountain-top, how near it seemed!" Then the thoughts of her husband and his cruel mandate came across her, and she said, "My dear Posthumus, thou art a false one!"
The two brothers of Imogen, who had been hunting with their reputed father, Bellarius, were by this time returned home. Bellarius had given them the names of Polydore and Cadwal, and they knew no better, but supposed that Bellarius was their father; but the real names of these princes were Guiderius and Arviragus.
Bellarius entered the cave first, and, seeing Imogen, stopped them, saying: " Come not in yet. It eats our victuals, or I should think it was a fairy."
She, hearing the sound of voices, came forth from the cave and addressed them in these words: "Good masters, do not harm me. Before I entered your cave I had thought to have begged or bought what I have eaten. Indeed, I have stolen nothing, nor would I, though I had found gold strewed on the floor. Here is money for my meat, which I would have left on the board when I had made my meal, and parted with prayers for the provider."They refused her money with great earnestness. "I see you are angry with me," said the timid Imogen; "but, sirs, if you kill me for my fault, know that I should have died if I had not made it." "Whither are you bound," asked Bellarius, "and what is your name?"
"Fidele is my name," answered Imogen. "I have a kinsman who is bound for Italy; he embarked at Milford Haven, to whom being going, almost spent with hunger, I am fallen into this offense."
"Prithee, fair youth," said old Bellarius, "do not think us churls, nor measure our good minds by this rude place we live in. 'You are well encountered; it is almost night. You shall have better cheer before you depart, and thanks to stay and eat it. Boys, bid him welcome."
The gentle youths, her brothers, then welcomed Imogen to their cave with many kind expressions, saying they would love her (or, as they said, HIM) as a brother; and they entered the cave, where (they having killed venison when they were hunting) Imogen delighted them with her neat housewifery, assisting them in preparing their supper; for, though it is not the custom now for young women of high birth to understand cookery, it was then, and Imogen excelled in this useful art; and, as her brothers prettily expressed it, Fidele cut their roots in characters, and sauced their broth, as if Juno had been sick and Fidele were her dieter."And then," said Polydore to his brother, "how angel-like he sings!"
They also remarked to each other that though Fidele smiled so sweetly, yet so sad a melancholy did overcloud his lovely face, as if grief and patience had together taken possession of him.
For these her gentle qualities (or perhaps it was their near relationship, though they knew it not) Imogen (or, as the boys called her, Fidele) became the doting-piece of her brothers, and she scarcely less loved them, thinking that but for the memory of her dear Posthumus she could live and die in the cave with these wild forest youths; and she gladly consented to stay with them till she was enough rested from the fatigue of traveling to pursue her way to Milford Haven.
When the venison they had taken was all eaten and they were going out to hunt for more, Fidele could not accompany them because she was unwell. Sorrow, no doubt, for her husband'scruel usage, as well as the fatigue of wandering in the forest, was the cause of her illness. They then bid her farewell, and went to their hunt, praising all the way the noble parts and graceful demeanor of the youth Fidele. Imogen was no sooner left alone than she recollected the cordial Pisanio had given her, and drank it off, and presently fell into a sound and deathlike sleep.
When Bellarius and her brothers returned from hunting, Polydore went first into the cave, and, supposing her asleep, pulled off his heavy shoes, that he might tread softly and not awake her (so did true gentleness spring up in the minds of these princely foresters); but he soon discovered that she could not be awakened by any noise, and concluded her to be dead, and Polydore lamented over her with dear and brotherly regret, as if they had never from their infancy been parted.Bellarius also proposed to carry her out into the forest, and there celebrate her funeral with songs and solemn dirges, as was then the custom.
Imogen's two brothers then carried her to a shady covert, and there, laying her gently on the grass, they sang repose to her departed spirit, and, covering her over with leaves and flowers, Polydore said:
"While summer lasts and I live here, Fidele, I will daily strew thy grave. The pale primrose, that flower most like thy face; the bluebell, like thy clear veins; and the leaf of eglantine, which is not sweeter than was thy breath-all these will I strew over thee. Yea, and the furred moss in winter, when there are no flowers to cover thy sweet corse."When they had finished her funeral obsequies they departed, very sorrowful.
Imogen had not been long left alone when, the effect of the sleepy drug going off, she awaked, and easily shaking off the slight covering of leaves and flowers they had thrown over her, she arose, and, imagining she had been dreaming, she said:
"I thought I was a cave-keeper and cook to honest creatures. How came I here covered with flowers?"
Not being able to find her way back to the cave, and seeing nothing of her new companions, she concluded it was certainly all a dream; and once more Imogen set out on her weary pilgrimage, hoping at last she should find her way to Milford Haven, and thence get a passage in some ship bound for Italy; for all her thoughts were still with her husband, Posthumus, whom she intended to seek in the disguise of a page.
But great events were happening at this time, of which Imogen knew nothing; for a war had suddenly broken out between the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar and Cymbeline, the King of Britain; and a Roman army had landed to invade Britain, and was advanced into the very forest over which Imogen was journeying. With this army came Posthumus.
Though Posthumus came over to Britain with the Roman army, he did not mean to fight on their side against his own countrymen, but intended to join the army of Britain and fight in the cause of his king who had banished him.
He still believed Imogen false to him; yet the death of her he had so fondly loved, and by his own orders, too (Pisanio having written him a letter to say he had obeyed his command, and that Imogen was dead), sat heavy on his heart, and therefore he returned to Britain, desiring either to be slain in battle or to be put to death by Cymbeline for returning home from banishment.
Imogen, before she reached Milford Haven, fell into the hands of the Roman army, and, her presence and deportment recommending her, she was made a page to Lucius, the Roman general.
Cymbeline's army now advanced to meet the enemy, and when they entered this forest Polydore and Cadwal joined the king's army. The young men were eager to engage in acts of valor, though they little thought they were going to fight for their own royal father; and old Bellarius went with them to the battle.
He had long since repented of the injury he had done to Cymbeline in carrying away his sons; and, having been a warrior in his youth, he gladly joined the army to fight for the king he had so injured.
And now a great battle commenced between the two armies, and the Britons would have been defeated, and Cymbeline himself killed, but for the extraordinary valor of Posthumus and Bellarius and the two sons of Cymbeline. They rescued the king and saved his life, and so entirely turned the fortune of the day that the Britons gained the victory.
When the battle was over, Posthumus, who had not found the death he sought for, surrendered himself up to one of the officers of Cymbeline, willing to suffer the death which was to be his punishment if he returned from banishment.
Imogen and the master she served were taken prisoners and brought before Cymbeline, as was also her old enemy, Iachimo, who was an officer in the Roman army. And when these prisoners were before the king, Posthumus was brought in to receive his sentence of death; and at this strange juncture of time Bellarius with Polydore and Cadwal were also brought before Cymbeline, to receive the rewards due to the great services they had by their valor done for the king. Pisanio, being one of the king's attendants, was likewise present.
Therefore there were now standing in the king's presence (but with very different hopes and fears) Posthumus and Imogen, with her new master the Roman general; the faithful servant Pisanio and the false friend Iachimo; and likewise the two lost sons of Cymbeline, with Bellarius, who had stolen them away.The Roman general was the first who spoke; the rest stood silent before the king, though there was many a beating heart among them.
Imogen saw Posthumus, and knew him, though he was in the disguise of a peasant; but he did not know her in her male attire. And she knew Iachimo, and she saw a ring on his finger which she perceived to be her own., but she did not know him as yet to have been the author of all her troubles; and she stood before her own father a prisoner of war.
Pisanio knew Imogen, for it was he who had dressed her in the garb of a boy. "It is my mistress," thought he. "Since she is living, let the time run on to good or bad." Bellarius knew her, too, and softly said to Cadwal, "Is not this boy revived from death?""One sand," replied Cadwal, "does not more resemble another than that sweet, rosy lad is like the dead Fidele." "The same dead thing alive," said Polydore. "Peace, peace," said Bellarius. "If it were he, I am sure be would have spoken to us." "But we saw him dead,", again whispered Polydore. "Be silent," replied Bellarius.
Posthumus waited in silence to hear the welcome sentence of his own death; and he resolved not to disclose to the king that he had saved his life in the battle, lest that should move Cymbeline to pardon him.
Lucius, the Roman general, who had taken Imogen under his protection as his page, was the first (as has been before said) who spoke to the king. He was a man of high courage and noble and this was his speech to the king:
"I hear you take no ransom for your prisoners, but doom them all to death. I am a Roman, and with a Roman heart will suffer, death. But there is one thing for which I would entreat." Then bringing Imogen before the king, he said: "This boy is a Briton born. Let him be ransomed. He is my page. Never master had a page so kind, so duteous, so diligent on all occasions, so true, so nurselike. He hath done no Briton wrong, though he hath served a Roman. Save him, if you spare no one beside."
Cymbeline looked earnestly on his daughter Imogen. He knew her not in that disguise; but it seemed that all-powerful Nature spake in his heart, for he said: "I have surely seen him; his face appears familiar to me. I know not why or wherefore I say, live, boy, but I give you your life; and ask of me what boon you will and I will grant it you. Yea, even though it be the life of the noblest prisoner I have.""I humbly thank your Highness," said Imogen. What was then called granting a boon was the same as a promise to give any one thing, whatever it might be,. that the person on whom that favor was conferred chose to ask for. They all were attentive to hear what thing the page would ask for; and Lucius, her master, said to her: "I do not beg my life, good lad, but I know that is what you will ask for." "No, no, alas!" said Imogen. "I have other work in hand, good master. Your life I cannot ask for." This seeming want of gratitude in the boy astonished the Roman general. Imogen then, fixing her eye on Iachimo, demanded no other boon than this: that Iachimo should be made to confess whence he had the ring he wore on his finger. Cymbeline granted her this boon, and threatened Iachimo with the torture if he did not confess how he came by the diamond ring on his finger.
Iachimo then made a full acknowledgment of all his villainy, in telling, as has been before related, the whole story of his wager with Posthumus and how he had succeeded in imposing upon is credulity.
What Posthumus felt at hearing this proof of the innocence of his lady cannot be expressed. He instantly came forward and confessed to Cymbeline the cruel sentence which he had enjoined Pisanio to execute upon the princess, exclaiming, wildly:"O Imogen, my queen, my life, my wife! O Imogen, Imogen, Imogen!"
Imogen could not see her beloved husband in this distress without discovering herself, to the unutterable joy of Posthumus, who was thus relieved from a weight of guilt and woe, and restored to the good graces of the dear lady he had so cruelly treated.
Cymbeline, almost as much overwhelmed as he with joy, at finding his lost daughter so strangely recovered, received her to her former place in his fatherly affection, and not only gave her husband Posthumus his life, but consented to acknowledge him for his sonin-law.
Bellarius chose this time of joy and reconciliation to make his confession. He presented Polydore and Cadwal to the king, telling him they were his two lost sons, Guiderius and Arviragus.
Cymbeline forgave old Bellarius; for who could think of punishments at a season of such universal happiness? To find his daughter living, and his lost sons in the persons of his young deliverers, that he had seen so bravely fight in his defense, was unlooked-for joy indeed!
Imogen was now at leisure to perform good services for her late master, the Roman general, Lucius, whose life the king, her father, readily granted at her request; and by the mediation of the same Lucius a peace was concluded between the Romans and the Britons which was kept inviolate many years.
How Cymbeline's wicked queen, through despair of bringing her projects to pass, and touched with remorse of conscience, sickened and died, having first lived to see her foolish son Cloten slain in a quarrel which he had provoked, are events too tragical to interrupt this happy conclusion by more than merely touching upon. It is sufficient that all were made happy who were deserving; and even the treacherous Iachimo, in consideration of his villainy having missed its final aim, was dismissed without punishment.
Lear, King of Britain, had three daughters: Goneril, wife to the Duke of Albany; Regan, wife to the Duke of Cornwall; and Cordelia, a young maid, for whose love the King of France and Duke of Burgundy were joint suitors, and were at this time making stay for that purpose in the court of Lear.
The old king, worn out with age and the fatigues of government, he being more than fourscore years old, determined to take no further part in state affairs, but to leave the management to younger strengths, that he might have time to prepare for death, which must at no long period ensue. With this intent he called his three daughters to him, to know from their own lips which of them loved him best, that he might part his kingdom among them in such proportions as their affection for him should seem to deserve.
Goneril, the eldest, declared that she loved her father more than words could give out, that he was dearer to her than the light of her own eyes, dearer than life and liberty, with a deal of such professing stuff, which is easy to counterfeit where there is no real love, only a few fine words delivered with confidence being wanted in that case. The king, delighted to hear from her own mouth this assurance of her love, and thinking truly that her heart went with it, in a fit of fatherly fondness bestowed upon her and her husband one-third of his ample kingdom.
Then calling to him his second daughter he demanded what she had to say. Regan, who was made of the same hollow metal as her sister, was not a whit behind in her professions, but rather declared that what her sister had spoken came short of the love which she professed to bear for his Highness; in so much that she found all other joys dead in comparison with the pleasure which she took in the love of her dear king and father.
Lear blessed himself in having such loving children, as he thought; and could do no less, after the handsome assurances which Regan had made, than bestow a third of his kingdom upon her and her husband, equal in size to that which he had already given away to Goneril.
Then turning to his youngest daughter, Cordelia, whom he called his joy, he asked what she had to say,thinking no doubt that she would glad his ears with the same loving speeches which her sisters had uttered, or rather that her expressions would be so much stronger than theirs, as she had always been his darling, and favored by him above either of them. But Cordelia, disgusted with the flattery of her sisters, whose hearts she knew were far from their lips, and seeing that all their coaxing speeches were only intended to wheedle the old king out of his dominions, that they and their husbands might reign in his lifetime, made no other reply but this--that she loved his Majesty according to her duty, neither more nor less.
The king, shocked with this appearance of ingratitude in his favorite child, desired her to consider her words and to mend her speech, lest it should mar her fortunes.
Cordelia then told her father that he was her father, that he had given her breeding, and loved her; that she returned those duties back as was most fit, and did obey him, love him, and most honor him. But that she could not frame her mouth to such large speeches as her sisters had done, or promise to love nothing else in the world. Why had her sisters husbands if (as they said) they had no love for anything but their father? If she should ever wed, she was sure the lord to whom she gave her husband would want half her love, half of her care and duty; she should never marry like her sisters, to love her father all.
Cordelia, who in earnest loved her old father even almost extravagantly as her sisters pretended to do, would have plainly told him so at any other time, in more daughter-like and loving terms, and without these qualifications, which did indeed sound a little ungracious; but after the crafty, flattering speeches of her sisters, which she had seen draw such extravagant rewards, she thought the handsomest thing she could do was to love and be silent. This put her affection out of suspicion of mercenary ends, and showed that she loved, but not for gain; and that her professions, the less ostentatious they were, had so much the more of truth and sincerity than her sisters'.
This plainness of speech, which Lear called pride, so enraged the old monarch--who in his best of times always showed much of spleen and rashness, and in whom the dotage incident to old age had so clouded over his reason that he could not discern truth from flattery, nor a gaypainted speech from words that came from the heart--that in a fury of resentment he retracted the third part of his kingdom which yet remained, and which he had reserved for Cordelia, and gave it away from her, sharing it equally between her two sisters and their husbands, the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall, whom he now called to him and in presence of all his courtiers, bestowing a coronet between them, invested them jointly with all the power, revenue, and execution of government, only retaining to himself the name of king; all the rest of royalty he resigned, with this reservation, that himself, with a hundred knights for his attendants, was to be maintained by monthly course in each of his daughters' palaces in turn.
So preposterous a disposal of his kingdom, so little guided by reason, and so much by passion, filled all his courtiers with astonishment and sorrow; but none of them had the courage to interpose between this incensed king and his wrath, except the Earl of Kent, who was beginning to speak a good word for Cordelia, when the passionate Lear on pain of death commanded him to desist; but the good Kent was not so to be repelled. He had been ever loyal to Lear, whom he had honored as a king, loved as a father, followed as a master; and he had never esteemed his life further than as a pawn to wage against his royal master's enemies, nor feared to lose it when Lear's safety was the motive; nor, now that Lear was most his own enemy, did this faithful servant of the king forget his old principles, but manfully opposed Lear to do Lear good; and was unmannerly only because Lear was mad. He had been a most faithful counselor in times past to the king, and he besought him now that he would see with his eyes (as he had done in many weighty matters) and go by his advice still, and in his best consideration recall this hideous rashness; for he would answer with his life his judgment that Lear's youngest daughter did not love him least, nor were those empty-hearted whose low sound gave no token of hollowness. When power bowed to flattery, honor was bound to plainness. For Lear's threats, what could he do to him whose life was already at his service? That should not hinder duty from speaking.
The honest freedom of this good Earl of Kent only stirred up the king's wrath the more, and, like a frantic patient who kills his physician and loves his mortal disease, he banished this true servant, and allotted him but five days to make his preparations for departure; but if on the sixth his hated person was found within the realm of Britain, that moment was to be his death. And Kent bade farewell to the king, and said that, since he chose to show himself in such fashion, it was but banishment to stay there; and before he went he recommended Cordelia to the protection of the gods, the maid who had so rightly thought and so discreetly spoken; and only wished that her sisters' large speeches might be answered with deeds of love; and then he went, as he said, to shape his old course to a new country.
The King of France and Duke of Burgundy were now called in to hear the determination of Lear about his youngest daughter, and to know whether they would persist in their courtship to Cordelia, now that she was under her father's displeasure and had no fortune but her own person to recommend her. And the Duke of Burgundy declined the match, and would not take her to wife upon such conditions. But the King of France, understanding what the nature of the fault had been which had lost her the love of her father--that it was only a tardiness of speech and the not being able to frame her tongue to flattery like her sisters--took this young maid by the hand and, saying that her virtues were a dowry above a kingdom, bade Cordelia to take farewell of her sisters and of her father, though he had been unkind, and she should go with him and be Queen of him and of fair France, and reign over fairer possessions than her sisters. And he called the Duke of Burgundy, in contempt, a waterish duke, because his love for this young maid had in a moment run all away like water.
Then Cordelia with weeping eyes took leave of her sisters, and besought them to love their father well and make good their professions; and they sullenly told her not to prescribe to them, for they knew their duty, but to strive to content her husband, who had taken her (as they tauntingly expressed it) as Fortune's alms. And Cordelia with a heavy heart departed, for she knew the cunning of her sisters and she wished her father in better hands than she was about to leave him in.
Cordelia was no sooner gone than the devilish dispositions of her sisters began to show themselves 'in their true colors. Even before the expiration of the first month, which Lear was to spend by agreement ,with his , daughter, Goneril, the old king began to find out the difference between promises and performances. This wretch, having got from her father all that he had to bestow, even to the giving away of the crown from off his head, began to grudge even those small remnants of royalty which the old man had reserved to himself, to please his fancy with the idea of being still a king. She could not bear to see him and his knights. Every time she met her father she put on a frowning countenance; and when the old man wanted to speak with her she would feign sickness or anything to get rid of the sight of him, for it was plain that she esteemed his old age a useless burden and his attendants an unnecessary expense; not only she herself slackened in her expressions of duty to the king, but by her example, and (it is to be feared) not without her private instructions, her very servants affected to treat him with neglect, and would either refuse to obey his orders or still more contemptuously pretend not to hear them. Lear could not but perceive this alteration in the behavior of his daughter, but he shut his eyes against it as long as he could, as people commonly are unwilling to believe the unpleasant consequences which their own mistakes and obstinacy have brought upon them.
True love and fidelity are no more to be estranged by ILL, than falsehood and hollowheartedness can be conciliated by GOOD, USAGE. This eminently appears in the instance of the good Earl of Kent, who, though banished by Lear, and his life made forfeit if he were found in Britain, chose to stay and abide all consequences as long as there was a chance of his being useful to the king his master. See to what mean shifts and disguises poor loyalty is forced to submit sometimes; yet it counts nothing base or unworthy so as it can but do service where it owes an obligation! In the disguise of a serving-man, all his greatness and pomp laid aside, this good earl proffered his services to the king, who, not knowing him to be Kent in that disguise, but pleased with a certain plainness, or rather bluntness, in his answers, which the earl put on (so different from that smooth, oily flattery which he had so much reason to be sick of, having found the effects not answerable in his daughter), a bargain was quickly struck, and Lear took Kent into his service by the name of Caius, as he called himself, never suspecting him to be his once great favorite, the high and mighty Earl of Kent.
This Caius quickly found means to show his fidelity and love to his royal master, for, Goneril's steward that same day behaving in a disrespectful manner to Lear, and giving him saucy looks and language, as no doubt he was secretly encouraged to do by his mistress, Caius, not enduring to hear so open an affront put upon his Majesty, made no more ado, but presently tripped up his heels and laid the unmannerly slave in the kennel; for which friendly service Lear became more and more attached to him.
Nor was Kent the only friend Lear had. In his degree, and as far as so insignificant a personage could show his love, the poor fool, or jester, that had been of his palace while Lear had a palace, as it was the custom of kings and great personages at that time to keep a fool (as he was called) to make them sport after serious business--this poor fool clung to Lear after he had given away his crown, and by his witty sayings would keep up his good-humor, though he could not refrain sometimes from jeering at his master for his imprudence in uncrowning himself and giving all away to his daughters; at which time, as he rhymingly expressed it, these daughters--
"For sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep And go the fools among."
And in such wild sayings, and scraps of songs, of which he had plenty, this pleasant, honest fool poured out his heart even in the presence of Goneril herself, in many a bitter taunt and jest which cut to the quick, such as comparing the king to the hedgesparrow, who feeds the young of the cuckoo till they grow old enough, and then has its head bit off for its pains; and saying that an ass may know when the cart draws the horse (meaning that Lear's daughters, that ought to go behind, now ranked before their father); and that Lear was no longer Lear, but the shadow of Lear. For which free speeches he was once or twice threatened to be whipped.
The coolness and falling off of respect which Lear had begun to perceive were not all which this foolish fond father was to suffer from his unworthy daughter. She now plainly told him that his staying in her palace was inconvenient so long as he insisted upon keeping up an establishment of a hundred knights; that this establishment was useless and expensive and only served to fill her court with riot and feasting; and she prayed him that he would lessen their number and keep none but old men about him, such as himself, and fitting his age.
Lear at first could not believe his eyes or ears, nor that it was his daughter who spoke so unkindly. He could not believe that she who had received a crown from him could seek to cut off his train and grudge him the respect due to his old age. But she persisting in her undutiful demand, the old man's rage was so excited that he called her a detested kite and said that she spoke an untruth; and so indeed she did, for the hundred knights were all men of choice behavior and sobriety of manners, skilled in all particulars of duty, and not given to rioting or feasting, as she said. And he bid his horses to be prepared, for he would go to his other daughter, Regan, he and his hundred knights; and he spoke of ingratitude, and said it was a marble-hearted devil, and showed more hideous in a child than the sea-monster. And he cursed his eldest daughter, Goneril, so as was terrible to hear, praying that she might never have a child, or, if she had, that it might live to return that scorn and contempt upon her which she had shown to him; that she might feel how sharper than a serpent's tooth it was to have a thankless child. And Goneril's husband, the Duke of Albany, beginning to excuse himself for any share which Lear might suppose he had in the unkindness, Lear would not hear him out, but in a rage ordered his horses to be saddled and set out with his followers for the abode of Regan, his other daughter. And Lear thought to himself how small the fault of Cordelia (if it was a fault) now appeared in comparison with her sister's, and he wept; and then he was ashamed that such a creature as Goneril should have so much power over his manhood as to make him weep.
Regan and her husband were keeping their court in great pomp and state at their palace; and Lear despatched his servant Caius with letters to his daughter, that she might be prepared for his reception, while he and his train followed after. But it seems that Goneril had been beforehand with him, sending letters also to Regan, accusing her father of waywardness and ill-humors, and advising her not to receive so great a train as he was bringing with him. This messenger arrived at the same time with Caius, and Caius and he met, and who should it be but Caius's old enemy the steward, whom he had formerly tripped up by the heels for his saucy behavior to Lear. Caius not liking the fellow's look, and, suspecting what he came for, began to revile him and challenged him to fight, which the fellow refusing, Caius, in a fit of honest passion, beat him soundly, as such a mischief-maker and carrier of wicked messages deserved; which coming to the ears of Regan and her husband, they ordered Caius to be put in the stocks, though he was a messenger from the king her father and in that character demanded the highest respect. So that the first thing the king saw when he entered the castle was his faithful servant Caius sitting in that disgraceful situation.
This was but a bad omen of the reception which he was to expect; but a worse followed when, upon inquiry for his daughter and her husband, he was told they were weary with traveling all night and could not see him; and when, lastly, upon his insisting in a positive and angry manner to see them, they came to greet him, whom should he see in their company but the hated Goneril, who had come to tell her own story and set her sister against the king her father!
This sight much moved the old man, and still more to see Regan take her by the hand; and he asked Goneril if she was not ashamed to look upon his old white beard. And Regan advised him to go home again with Goneril, and live with her peaceably, dismissing half of his attendants, and to ask her forgiveness; for he was old and wanted discretion, and must be ruled and led by persons that had more discretion than himself. And Lear showed how preposterous that would sound, if he were to go down on his knees and beg of his own daughter for food and raiment; and he argued against such an unnatural dependence, declaring his resolution never to return with her, but to stay where he was with Regan, he and his hundred knights; for he said that she had not forgot the half of the kingdom which he had endowed her with, and that her eyes were not fierce like Goneril's, but mild and kind. And he said that rather than return to Goneril, with half his train cut off, he would go over to France and beg a wretched pension of the king there, who had married his youngest daughter without a portion.
But he was mistaken in expecting kinder treatment of Regan than he had experienced from her sister Goneril. As if willing to outdo her sister in unfilial behavior, she declared that she thought fifty knights too many to wait upon him; that five-and-twenty were enough. Then Lear, nigh heartbroken, turned to Goneril and said that he would go back with her, for her fifty doubled five-and-twenty, and so her love was twice as much as Regan's. But Goneril excused herself, and said, what need of so many as five-and twenty? or even ten? or five? when he might be waited upon by her servants or her sister's servants? So these two wicked daughters, as if they strove to exceed each other in cruelty to their old father, who had been so good to them, by little and little would have abated him of all his train, all respect (little enough for him that once commanded a kingdom) which was left him to show that he had once been a king! Not that a splendid train is essential to happiness, but from a king to a beggar is a hard change, from commanding millions to be without one attendant; and it was the ingratitude in his daughters' denying more than what he would suffer by the want of it, which pierced this poor king to the heart; in so much that, with this double ill-usage, and vexation for having so foolishly given away a kingdom, his wits began to be unsettled, and while he said he knew not what, he vowed revenge against those unnatural hags and to make examples of them that should be a terror to the earth!
While he was thus idly threatening what his weak arm could never execute, night came on, and a loud storm of thunder and lightning with rain; and his daughters still persisting in their resolution not to admit his followers, he called for his horses, and chose rather to encounter the utmost fury of the storm abroad than stay under the same roof with these ungrateful daughters; and they, saying that the injuries which wilful men procure to themselves are their just punishment, suffered him to go in that condition and shut their doors upon him.
The winds were high, and the rain and storm increased, when the old man sallied forth to combat with the elements, less sharp than his daughters' unkindness. For many miles about there was scarce a bush; and there upon a heath, exposed to the fury of the storm in a dark night, did King Lear wander out, and defy the winds and the thunder; and he bid the winds to blow the earth into the sea, or swell the waves of the sea till they drowned the earth, that no token might remain of any such ungrateful animal as man. The old king was now left with no other companion than the poor fool, who still abided with him, with his merry conceits striving to outjest misfortune, saying it was but a naughty night to swim in, and truly the king had better go in and ask his daughter's blessing:
But he that has a little tiny wit--
With heigh ho, the wind and the rain,--
Must make content with his fortunes fit Though the rain it raineth every day,
Thus poorly accompanied, this once great monarch was found by his ever-faithful servant the good Earl of Kent, now transformed to Caius, who ever followed close at his side, though the king did not know him to be the earl; and be said:
"Alas, sir, are you here? Creatures that love night love not such nights as these. This dreadful storm has driven the beasts to their hiding-places. Man's nature cannot endure the affliction or the fear."
And Lear rebuked him and said these lesser evils were not felt where a greater malady was fixed. When the mind is at ease the body has leisure to be delicate, but the tempest in his mind did take all feeling else from his senses but of that which beat at his heart. And he spoke of filial ingratitude, and said it was all one as if the mouth should tear the hand for lifting food to it; for parents were hands and food and everything to children.
But the good Caius still persisting in his entreaties that the king would not stay out in the open air, at last persuaded him to enter a little wretched hovel which stood upon the heath, where the fool first entering, suddenly ran back terrified, saying that he had seen a spirit. But upon examination this spirit proved to be nothing more than a poor Bedlam beggar who had crept into this deserted hovel for shelter, and with his talk about devils frighted the fool, one of those poor lunatics who are either mad, or feign to be so, the better to extort charity from the compassionate country people, who go about the country calling themselves poor Tom and poor Turlygood, saying, "Who gives anything to poor Tom?" sticking pins and nails and sprigs of rosemary into their arms to make them bleed; and with horrible actions, partly by prayers, and partly with lunatic curses, they move or terrify the ignorant country folk into giving them alms. This poor fellow was such a one; and the king, seeing him in so wretched a plight, with nothing but a blanket about his loins to cover his nakedness, could not be persuaded but that the fellow was some father who had given all away to his daughters and brought himself to that pass; for nothing, he thought, could bring a man to such wretchedness but the having unkind daughters.
And from this and many such wild speeches which he uttered the good Caius plainly perceived that he was not in his perfect mind, but that his daughters' ill-usage had really made him go mad. And now the loyalty of this worthy Earl of Kent showed itself in more essential services than he had hitherto found opportunity to perform. For with the assistance of some of the king's attendants who remained loyal he had the person of his royal master removed at daybreak to the castle of Dover, where his own friends and influence, as Earl of Kent, chiefly lay; and himself, embarking for France, hastened to the court of Cordelia, and did there in such moving terms represent the pitiful condition of her royal father, and set out in such lively colors the inhumanity of her sisters, that this good and loving child with many tears besought the king, her husband, that he would give her leave to embark for England, with a sufficient power to subdue these cruel daughters and their husbands and restore the old king, her father, to his throne; which being granted, she set forth, and with a royal army landed at Dover.
Lear, having by some chance escaped from the guardians which' the good Earl of Kent had put over him to take care of him in his lunacy, was found by some of Cordelia's train, wandering about the fields near Dover, in a pitiable condition, stark mad, and singing aloud to himself, with a crown upon his head which he had made of straw and nettles and other wild weeds that he had picked up in the corn-fields. By the advice of the physicians, Cordelia, though earnestly desirous of seeing her father, was prevailed upon to put off the meeting till, by sleep and the operation of herbs which they gave him, he should be restored to greater composure. By the aid of these skilful physicians, to whom Cordelia promised all her gold and jewels for the recovery of the old king, Lear was soon in a condition to see his daughter.
A tender sight it was to see the meeting between this father and daughter; to see the struggles between the joy of this poor old king at beholding again his once darling child, and the shame at receiving such filial kindness from her whom he had cast off for so small a fault in his displeasure; both these passions struggling with the remains of his malady, which in his half-crazed brain sometimes made him that he scarce remembered where he was or who it was tb at so kindly kissed him and spoke to him. And then he would beg the standers-by not to laugh at him if he were mistaken in thinking this lady to be his daughter Cordelia! And then to see him fall on his knees to beg pardon of his child; and she, good lady, kneeling all the while to ask a blessing of him, and telling him that it did not become him to kneel, but it was her duty, for she was his child, his true and very child Cordelia! And she kissed him (as she said) to kiss away all her sisters' unkindness, and said that they might be ashamed of themselves, to turn their old kind father with his white beard out into the cold air, when her enemy's dog, though it had bit her (as she prettily expressed it), should have stayed by her fire such a night as that, and warmed himself. And she told her father how she had come from France with purpose to bring him assistance; and he said that she must forget and forgive, for he was old and foolish and did not know what he did; but that to be sure she had great cause not to love him, but her sisters had none. And Cordelia said that she had no cause, no more than they had.
So we will leave this old king in the protection of his dutiful and loving child, where, by the help of sleep and medicine, she and her physicians at length succeeded in winding up the untuned and jarring senses which the cruelty of his other daughters had so violently shaken. Let us return to say a word or two about those cruel daughters.
These monsters of ingratitude, who had been so false to their old father, could not be expected to prove more faithful to their own husbands. They soon grew tired of paying even the appearance of duty and affection, and in an open way showed they had fixed their loves upon another. It happened that the object of their guilty loves was the same. It was Edmund, a natural son of the late Earl of Gloucester, who by his treacheries had succeeded in disinheriting his brother Edgar, the lawful heir, from his earldom, and by his wicked practices was now earl himself; a wicked man, and a fit object for the love of such wicked creatures as Goneril and Regan. It falling out about this time that the Duke of Cornwall, Regan's husband, died, Regan immediately declared her intention of wedding this Earl of Gloucester, which rousing the jealousy of her sister, to whom as well as to Regan this wicked earl had at sundry times professed love, Goneril found means to make away with her sister by poison; but being detected in her practices, and imprisoned by her husband, the Duke of Albany, for this deed, and for her guilty passion for the earl which had come to his ears, she, in a fit of disappointed love and rage, shortly put an end to her own life. Thus the justice of Heaven at last overtook these wicked daughters.
While the eyes of all men were upon this event, admiring the justice displayed in their deserved deaths, the same eyes were suddenly taken off from this sight to admire at the mysterious ways of the same power in the melancholy fate of the young and virtuous daughter, the Lady Cordelia, whose good deeds did seem to deserve a more fortunate conclusion. But it is an awful truth that innocence and piety are not always successful in this world. The forces which Goneril and Regan had sent out under the command of the bad Earl of Gloucester were victorious, and Cordelia, by the practices of this wicked earl, who did not like that any should stand between him and the throne, ended her life in prison. Thus heaven took this innocent lady to itself in her young years, after showing her to the world an illustrious example of filial duty. Lear did not long survive this kind child.
Before he died, the good Earl of Kent, who had still attended his old master's steps from the first of his daughters' ill-usage to this sad period of his decay, tried to make him understand that it was he who had followed him under the name of Caius; but Lear's carecrazed brain at that time could not comprehend how that could be, or how Kent and Caius could be the same person, so Kent thought it needless to trouble him with explanations at such a time; and, Lear soon after expiring, this faithful servant to the king, between age and grief for his old master's vexations, soon followed him to the grave.
How the judgment of Heaven overtook the bad Earl of Gloucester, whose treasons were discovered, and himself slain in single combat with his brother, the lawful earl, and how Goneril's husband, the Duke of Albany, who was innocent of the death of Cordelia, and had never encouraged his lady in her wicked proceedings against her father, ascended the throne of Britain after the death of Lear, it is needless here to narrate, Lear and his three daughters being dead, whose adventures alone concern our story.