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wheel. Those who are at the top to-day may be at the bottom to


369. convents. It is quite possible that 'convents' here means 'suits', which would accord with its derivation and with the use of

the cognate word 'convenient'. In all other passages where it occurs, however, it means 'summon', being equivalent to 'convene'.

376. It is quite uncertain how much, if any, of this song is Shakespeare's. The refrain was probably common, and we have it again in Lear, iii. 2. 75. Cf. note on the Clown's songs at ii. 3. 48. Of course it is possible to maintain, with Knight, that the song is profoundly philosophical but most of the philosophy has to be imported into it.




The play of Twelfth Night contains some direct references to the Puritans, and to particular sections of the more extreme religious reformers while the character of Malvolio is frequently supposed to have been drawn as a deliberate attack upon the Puritans. party had learnt their rigid tenets in the stern school of persecution; from an attitude of dogged endurance they were rapidly advancing to one of direct aggression; and long before Twelfth Night was written they had begun to make active war upon sports and pastimes generally, and upon the stage in particular.

As a natural consequence, the works of the Elizabethan playwrights are full of allusions to and attacks upon them; the asceticism and rigour of the new religion being essentially opposed to the imaginative freedom and the pagan latitude which marked the intellectual movement of the day.

Nevertheless, it is remarkable that except in this play there are very few references to the Puritans discoverable in Shakespeare; and it appears to me that what we find in Twelfth Night fully bears out the view that the poet regarded these bitter enemies of his craft with a large good-humoured tolerance; and if he mocks them in the person of Malvolio, it is to smile at their extravagances, not to lash their supposed vices.

We must always be on our guard against fancying that when the dramatist puts a phrase into the mouth of one of his characters, he is giving utterance to a serious opinion of his own. I have commented on this point in the notes, with reference to certain speeches of Orsino. But if Orsino must not be regarded as Shakespeare's mouthpiece, still less are Sir Andrew and Maria to be regarded as serious exponents of his views. It is Sir Andrew who "had as lief be a Brownist as a politician"; and who desires to "beat Malvolio like a dog" for being a Puritan—a reason which even Sir Toby and Maria appear to regard as inadequate. In fact, the passages where Puritanism is directly referred to seem to satirize its detractors quite as much as its professors.

Moreover, if we study Malvolio himself, we find that he is by no means an example of that malignant type which might have been drawn by an angry opponent. He is not held up to fierce contempt, as in a later day Burns held up the 'unco guid' of his own society. He is not an unctuous knave with scripture on his lips and lies in his heart. On the contrary, he is an extremely worthy but misguided

person, whose supreme vanity topples him headlong into the snare which his enemies have laid for him; an eminently suitable subject for a practical joke, but assuredly not a villain. At all times and in all ages, the vice of Puritanism is hypocrisy; but the weakness which lures Malvolio to his downfall is vanity.

That Shakespeare himself was no Puritan is sufficiently obvious. The zest with which he depicts a Falstaff or a Sir Toby would be impossible to a man who held ascetic doctrines—indeed it might be said that no man could be at once a genuine Puritan and a genuine humorist. His own powers of enjoyment were far too keen to allow him to sympathize with those who held that because they were virtuous there should be no more cakes and ale. But he was far too large-minded to be beguiled by professional feeling into an attitude of angry animosity to a movement which, despite its exaggerations and excesses, embodied a sincere and genuine effort to realize a lofty though circumscribed ideal. Of Puritanism as a religious movement he has nothing to say: he is content to make us smile at its absurdities as a scheme of human conduct. In the one accepted Puritan of his creation, he has drawn not a dangerous fanatic, not a self-seeking hypocrite, but a formalist, whose vanity is nearly as pathetic as it is absurd.



§ I. Metre as an indication of Date.

English blank verse did not come into use till the sixteenth century: and at the commencement of its career, the rules which regulated its employment were strict. It was only when the instrument was becoming familiar that experiments could be ventured upon, and variations and modifications freely introduced. The changes in the structure of blank verse between the time when Shakespeare commenced writing and the time of his retirement are great; and the variations in this respect are among the most important indications of the date of any given play. That is to say, broadly speaking, the less strictly regular the metre, the later the play.


In the same way, a gradually increasing disregard of other kindred conventions marks the later plays as compared with the earlier. good deal of rhyme survives in the dialogue in the earlier plays; later it is only to be found occasionally at the close of a scene or a speech, to round it off-probably a concession to stage tradition analogous to the similar use of 'gnomae' in Greek plays, and of a 'sentiment' in modern melodrama. The first use of prose is only for purposes of comedy; later, it is used with comparative freedom (as in Hamlet) in

passages of a very different type, though the introduction of verse in a prose scene always marks a rise to a higher emotional plane.

In the present play, which belongs to the middle period, all these characteristics are in the stage of development which betokens the middle period.

§ 2. Form of Blank Verse.

Our study of versification is commonly restricted to that of Latin and Greek. When we examine English verse-structure, a distinction at once appears. In the classical verse the governing element is quantity; in English it is stress. And inasmuch as stress is much less definite than quantity, the rules of English verse cannot be given with the same precision as those of Latin and Greek. But we may begin with certain explanations as to what stress is not. A 'stressed' syllable is not the same as a long syllable; nor is stress the same as sense-emphasis. Any strong or prolonged dwelling of the voice on a syllable, for whatever reason, is stress. So, while a syllable must be either long or short, there are many shades of gradation between the unstressed and the strongly stressed. And as in Greek tragic verse a long syllable may, in certain positions, take the place of a short one, so a moderately stressed syllable may often in English take the place of an unstressed one.

To start with, then, -to get at the basis of our metre--we will take no account of weak stress, but treat of all syllables as if they must either have no stress or a strong stress; and throughout, the word stress, when used without a qualifying adjective, will mean strong stress. The acute accent (') will be used to mark a stress, the grave (') to mark a weak stress, the ǎ to mark a syllable sounded but not stressed.

The primary form of the Shakespearian line is-five feet, each of two syllables; each foot carrying one stress, on the second syllable; with a sense pause at the end of the line.

Hath kill'd' the flock' | of all' affec' | tion else' (i. 1. 36).

§ 3. Normal Variations.

But if there were no variations on this, the effect would be monotonous and mechanical after a very few lines.

(i) The first variation therefore is brought about by the stress in one or two of the feet being thrown on the first instead of the second syllable, which is known as an 'inverted' stress.

O', it came o'er′ | my ear' | like' the | sweet sound' (i. 1. 5).

The like of him; | know'st' thou | this count' | ry' (i. 2. 21).

Observe that the stress is thus thrown back much more commonly in the first foot of the line than elsewhere: and that in the other cases the stressed syllable usually follows a pause.

(ii) Secondly, variety is introduced by the insertion of an extra unstressed syllable which is not extra-metrical, analogous to the use of an anapaest instead of an iambus.

Lět mě speak' | a lit' | tlě. This youth' that you see here (iii. 4. 333).

As a general rule, however, such extra syllables are very slightly pronounced; not altogether omitted but slurred, as very often happens when two vowels come next each other, or are separated only by a liquid (see § 6, v, vii).

(iii) The converse of this is the (very rare) omission of an unstressed syllable. This is only found where the stress is very strong, and the omission is really made up for by a pause. This play contains no distinct example.

(iv) Extra-metrical unstressed syllables are added before a pause, sometimes in the middle of a line.

E'er since pursue! (me). How now! | what news | from her? (i. 1. 23).

In this play, examples are extremely numerous, chiefly when a speech begins in the middle of a line.

Very frequently an extra-metrical syllable comes at the end of a line, and this is fairly common in this play. It is only in quite early plays that it is at all unusual, only in the later ones that it is actually habitual.

For I can sing,

And speak to him in many sorts of mu(sic),

That will allow | me very worth | his ser(vice) (i. 2. 58).

By an extension of this practice we sometimes have two such extrametrical syllables:

That do renown | this city. Would you'd par(don me) (iii, 3. 24).

The increasing frequency of extra-metrical syllables is a useful approximate guide to the date of a play. But they are never so frequent in Shakespeare as in some of the younger dramatists.

(v) The variation which perhaps most of all characterizes the later plays is the disappearance of the sense-pause at the end of the line. At first, a clause running over from one line to the next is very rare: in the last plays it is extremely common. (The presence of a sensepause is not necessarily marked by a stop; it is sufficient for the purpose that the last word should be dwelt on; the pause may be merely rhetorical, not grammatical.) In this play, the sense-pause is a good deal the commoner, but over-running is far from rare.

§ 4. Weak Stresses.

The basis of scansion being thus settled, we may observe how the rules are modified by weak or intermediate stresses, which are in fact the chief protection against monotony.

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