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It is a character which most husbands ought to study, unless perhaps the very audacity of Petruchio's attempt might alarm them more than his success would encourage them. What a sound must the following speech carry to some married ears!
"Think you a little dio can daunt my ears?
Loud larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?
That gives not half so great a blow to hear
As will a chesnut in a farmer's fire ?"
Not all Petruchio's rhetorick would persuade more than some dozen followers" to be of this beretical way of thinking. He unfolds his scheme for the Taming of the Shrew, on a principle of contradiction, thus:
"I'll woo her with some spirit when she comes.
Say that she frown, I'll say she looks as clear
And say she uttereth piercing eloquence :
If she do hid me pack, I'll give ber thanks,
As tho' she bid me stay by her a week;
If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day,
When I shall ask the banns, and when be married ?"
He accordingly gains her consent to the match, by telling her father that he has got it; disappoints
her by not returning at the time he has promis ed to wed her, and when he returns, creates no small consternation by the oddity of his dress and equipage. This however is nothing to the astonishment excited by his mad-brained behaviour at the marriage. Here is the account of it by an eye wit
"Gremio. Tut, she's a lamb, a dove, a fool to him:
I'll tell you, Sir Lucentio; when the priest
Ay, by gogs woons, quoth he; and swore so loud,
This mad-brain'd bridegroom took him such a cuff,
Now take them up, quoth he, if any list.
Tranio. What said the wench when he rose up again?
As if the vicar meant to cozen him.
But after many ceremonies done,
He calls for wine; a health, quoth he; as if
With such a clamorous smack, that at their parting
Came thence for very shame; and after me,
I know, the rout is coming;
Such a mad marriage never was before."
The most striking and at the same time laughable feature in the character of Petruchio throughout is
the studied approximation to the intractable character of real madness, his apparent insensibility to all external considerations, and utter indifference to every thing but the wild and extravagant freaks of his own self will. There is no contending with a person on whom nothing makes any impression but his own purposes, and who is bent on his own whims just in proportion as they seem to want common With him a thing's being plain and reasonable is a reason against it. The airs he gives himself are infinite, and his caprices are sudden as they are groundless. The whole of his treatment of his wife at home is in the same spirit of ironical attention and inverted gallantry. Every thing flies before his will, like a conjuror's wand, and he only metamorphoses his wife's temper by metamorphosing her senses and all the objects she sees, at a word's speaking. Such are his insisting that it is the moon and not the sun which they see, &c. This extravagance reaches its most pleasant and poetical height in the scene where, on their return to her father's they meet old Vincentio, whom Petruchio immediately addresses as a young lady:
"Petruchio. Good morrow, gentle mistress, where away? Tell me, sweet Kate, and tell me truly too, Hast thou beheld a fresher gentlewoman? Such war of white and red within her cheeks; What stars do spangle heaven with such beauty, As those two eyes become that heav'nly face? Fair lovely maid, once more good day to thee: Sweet Kate, embrace her for her beauty's sake. Hortensio. him. Katherine. Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet, Whither away, or where is thy abode ?
He'll make the man mad to make a woman of
Happy the parents of so fair a child :
Happier the man whom favourable stars
Allot thee for his lovely bed-fellow.
Petruchio. Why, how now, Kate, I hope thou art not mad This is a man, old, wrinkled, faded, wither'd,
And not a maiden, as thou say'st he is.
Katherine. Pardon, old father, my mistaken eyes
That have been so bedazed with the sun
That every thing I look on seemeth green.
Now I perceive thou art a reverend father."
The whole is carried off with equal spirit, as if the poet's comick Muse had wings of fire. It is strange how one man could be so many things; but so it is.
The concluding scene, in which trial is made of the obedience of the new-married wives (so triumphantly for Petruchio) is a very happy one.-In some parts of this play there is a little too much about musick masters and masters of philosophy. They were things of greater rarity in those days than they are now. Nothing however can be better than the advice which Tranio gives his master for the prosecution of his studies :—
"The mathematicks, and the metaphysicks,
We have heard the Honey Moon called " an elegant Katherine and Petruchio." We suspect we do not understand this word elegant in the sense that many people do. But in our sense of the word, we should call Lucentio's description of his mistress elegant.
"Tranio, 1 saw her coral lips to move,
And with her breath she did perfume the air?
When Biondello tells the same Lucentio for his encouragement, "I knew a wench married in an afternoon as she went to the garden for parsley to stuff a rabbit, and so may you, sir”—there is nothing elegant in this, and yet we hardly know which of the two passages is the best.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is a play within a a play. It is supposed to be a play acted for the benefit of Sly the tinker, who is made to believe himself a lord, when he wakes after a drunken brawl. The character of Sly and the remarks with which he accompanies the play are as good as the play itself. His answer when he is asked how he likes it, "Indifferent well; 'tis a good piece of work, would 'twere done," is in good keeping, as if he were thinking of his Saturday night's job. Sly does not change his tastes with his new situation, but in the midst of splendour and luxury still calls out lustily and repeatedly "for a pot o' the smallest ale." He is very slow in giving up his personal identity in his sudden advancement.-"I am Christophero Sly, call not me honour nor lordship. I ne'er drank sack in my life and if you give me any conserves, give me conserves of beef: ne'er ask me what raiment I'll wear, for I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet, nay, sometimes more feet than shoes, or such shoes as my toes look through the over-leather.-What, would you make me mad? Am not I Christophero Sly, old Sly's son of Burtonheath, by birth a pedlar, by education a cardmaker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present profession a tinker? Ask Marian Hacket, the fat