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lific hint that is given is what she says to the disguised Duke, when he is urging her to fasten her ear on his advisings touching the part of Mariana : “I have spirit to do any thing that appears not foul in the truth of my spirit.” *That is, she cares not what face her action may wear to the

world, nor how much reproach it may bring on her from others, if it will only leave her the society, which she has never parted from, of a clean breast and a pure conscience.

Called from the cloister, where she is on the point of taking the veil of earthly renouncement, to plead for her brother's life, she comes forth a saintly anchoress, clad in the austerest sweetness of womanhood, to throw the light of her virgin soul upon the dark, loathsome scenes and characters around her. With great strength of intellect and depth of feeling she unites an equal power of imagination, the whole being pervaded, quickened, and guided by a still, intense religious enthusiasm. And because her virtue is securely rooted and grounded in religion, therefore she never thinks of it as her own, but only as a gift from the Being whom she adores, and who is her only hope for the keeping of what she has. Which suggests the fundamental point of contrast between her and Angelo, whose virtue, if such it may be called, is nothing, nay, worse than nothing, because it is a virtue of his own making, is without any inspiration from the one Source of all true good, and so has no basis but pride, which is itself a bubble. Accordingly her character appears to me among the finest, in some respects the very finest, in Shakespeare's matchless cabinet of female excellence.

The power and pathos with which she pleads for her *brother are well known. At first she is timid, distrustful

of her powers, shrinking with modest awe of the law's appointed organ; and she seems drawn unawares into the heights of moral argument and the most sweetly-breathing strains of Gospel wisdom. Much of what she says has become domesticated wherever the English language is spoken, and would long since have grown stale, if it were

possible to crush the freshness of immortal youth out of it. The dialogues between her and Angelo are extremely subtile and suggestive on both sides, fraught with meanings to reward the most searching ethical study, but which I cannot stay to trace out, and which the closest criticism would fail to exhaust. At the opening of their interview, she is in a struggle between wishing and not wishing, and therefore not in a mood to “play with reason and discourse." With her settled awe of purity, she cannot but admit the ** law to be right, yet she sees not how, in the circumstances mercy can be wrong. At this thought her heart presently kindles, her eloquence springs to work, and its tones grow deeper, clearer, more penetrating, as point after point catches her mental eye. Thenceforth it is a keen encounter of mind with mind; but on his side it is the conscious logic of an adroit and practised lawyer, who has full mastery of his case, and is prompt in all the turns of legal ingenuity; while on her side it is the logic of nature's finest moral instincts spontaneously using the forces of a quick, powerful, and well-balanced intellect as their organ of expression. She perceives at once how subtile and acute of apprehension he is; so, lest her speech should have too much edge, she veils the matter in figures of a somewhat enigmatical cast, because she knows that he will instantly take the sense. Her instinctive knowledge of the human heart guides her directly to his secret springs of action. With a tact that seems like inspiration, she feels out his assailable points, and still surprises and holds him with new and startling appeals to his innermost feelings. At length, when, his wicked purpose being formed, he goes to talking to her in riddles, she quickly understands him, but thinks he is only testing her: her replies leave him in doubt whether craft or innocence speaks in her : so she draws him on to speaking plainer and plainer, till at last he makes a full and explicit avowal of his inhuman baseness. He is especially caught, be it observed, “ in the strong toil": of her moral grace; at least he is pleased to think so: and as


he has been wont to pride himself on being a saint, so he now takes refuge in the thought, “O cunning enemy, that to catch a saint, with saints dost bait thy hook !" * It is not to be denied, indeed, that Isabella's chastity is rather too demonstrative and self-pronounced ; but this is because of the unblushing and emphatic licentiousness of her social environment. Goodness camot remain undemonstrative amidst such a rank demonstrativeness of its opposite: the necessity it is under of fighting against so much and such aggressive evil forces it into stress, and so into taking a full measure of itself. Isabella, accordingly, is deeply conscious and mindful of her virtue, which somewhat mars the beauty of it, I admit; but in the circumstances it could not be otherwise: with such a strong stew of corruption boiling and bubbling all about her, it was not possible that purity in her case should retain that

bland, unconscious repose which is indeed its greatest charm. *From the prevailing rampancy of vice, a certain air of over

sternness and rigidity has wrought itself into her character, displacing somewhat of its proper sweetness and amiability: but, in the right view of things, this loss is well made up in that she is the more an object of reverence; albeit I have to confess that she would touch me rather more pa tently, if she had a little more of loveliness and a little less of awfulness. And it is remarkable that even Lucio, lightminded libertine as he is, whose familiar sin it is to jest with maids, “ tongue far from heart," cannot approach her, but that his levity is at once awed into soberness, and he regards her as one “to be talk'd with in sincerity, as with a saint."

The Duke has been rather hardly dealt with by critics. Shakespeare — than whom it would not be easy to find a better judge of what belongs to wisdom and goodness seems to have meant him for a wise and good man: yet he represents him as having rather more skill and pleasure in strategical arts and roundabout ways than is altogether in keeping with such a character. Some of his alleged reasons for the action he goes about reflect no honour on him; but it is observable that the sequel does not approve them to have been his real ones : his conduct, as the action proceeds, infers better motives than his speech offered at the beginning; which naturally suggests that there may have been more of purpose than of truth in his speaking. His first dialogue with Angelo is, no doubt, partly ironical. A liberal, thoughtful, and merciful prince, but with more of whim and caprice than exactly suits the dignity of his place, humanity speaks richly from his lips; yet in his actions the philosopher and the divine are better shown than the statesman and ruler. Therewithal he seems to take a very questionable delight in moving about as an unseen providence, by secret counsels leading the wicked designs of others to safe and just results. It is indeed true, as Heraud observes regarding him, that so “Divine Provi- . dence, while it deputes its authority to the office-bearers of the world, is still present both with them and it, and ever ready to punish the evil-doer”: still I doubt of its being just the thing for the world's office-bearers to undertake the functions of Providence in that particular. Probably the Duke should not be charged with a fanaticism of intrigue; but he comes something nearer to it than befits a mind of the first order. Schlegel thinks" he has more pleasure in overhearing his subjects than in governing them in the usual way of princes"; and sets him down as an exception to the proverb, “A cowl does not make a monk”: and perhaps his princely virtues are somewhat obscured by the disguise which so completely transforms him into a monk. Whether he acts upon the wicked principle with which that fraternity is so often reproached, or not, it is pretty certain that some of his means can be justified by nothing but the end. But perhaps, in the vast complexity of human motives and affairs, a due exercise of fairness and candour will find cause enough for ascribing to him the merit of honestly pursuing the good and true ao

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cording to the best lights he has. Hereabouts Schlegel makes the following just remark: “Shakespeare, amidst the rancour of religious parties, delights in painting monks, and always represents their influence as beneficial; there being in his plays none of the black and knavish specimens which an enthusiasm for Protestantism, rather than poetical inspiration, has put some modern poets upon delineating. He merely gives his monks an inclination to be busy in the affairs of others, after renouncing the world for themselves; though in respect of pious frauds he does not make them very scrupulous.”

As to the Duke's pardoning of Angelo, though Justice seems to cry out against the act, yet in the premises it were still more unjust in him to do otherwise ; the deception he has practised on Angelo in substituting Mariana having plainly bound him to the course he finally takes in that matter. For the same power whereby he works through this deception might easily have prevented Angelo's crime; and to punish the offence after thus withholding the means of prevention were clearly wrong: not to mention how his proceedings here involve an innocent person; so that he ought to spare Angelo for her sake, if not for his own. Coleridge indeed strongly reprehends this act, on the ground that “cruelty, with lust and damnable baseness, cannot be forgiven, because we cannot conceive them as being morally repented of.” But it seems to me hardly prudent or becoming thus to set bounds to the grace of repentance, or to say what amount of sin must necessarily render a man incapable of being reformed. All which may in some measure explain the Duke's severity to the smaller crime of Lucio, after his clemency to the greater one of Angelo.

I must not leave the gentle Duke without remarking how, especially in the earlier portions of the play, his tongue drops the very manna of moral and meditative wisdom. His discourse in reconciling Claudio to the quick approach of death condenses the marrow of all that philosophy

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