excepting his miraculous achievement in the case of Alcestis, fits perfectly together and exhibits the man. The virtues of his breeding, or at least some, of them, he has and retains; he is brave, warm-hearted, sensitive in that sort of honour or pride which dislikes to have made a blunder, to lie under an obligation, or in any way to cut a poor figure. When master of himself, and so long as he is under the eye of those whom he respects, he can behave like the 'gentilhomme' that he is. He is shrewd, but not quick-witted. In the pursuit of his calling he is as free from scruple as from fear, perfectly ready to rob and to murder without any other reason than the interest of his master for the time being; and if occasion offered, he would rob for his own appetite (we have his own word for it) with as little remorse. Living irregularly and by shifts, he is greedy of gain, though not poor, and ready to stoop for it. In his personal tastes he is jovial, sensual, and coarse; and when he feels himself at liberty, he is liable to degrade himself by rudeness and even gross indecency. He will be sorry for it afterwards. Such in brief is the semi-divine deliverer.
To palliate the ruin which this bull-headed apostle makes among the Delphian porcelain of the legend, by clapping on him the mask of an angel, and then crying to us, whenever he plunges into the pots, 'But look at his face!', is an expedient practicable only for an expositor like Browning, who incorporates the work of his author in original poetry of his own. What Browning really shows us, with regard to Heracles, is not that the Euripidean personage is fit for the story, but that we ought to be more moved, than some would seem to be, by his extreme and incredible unfitness. 'He cannot', says Browning virtually, 'be such as you suppose!' He is nevertheless just that; but to say so is to give Browning only half an answer. 'I meant of course', he might rejoin, 'that if he is such, you, before you pretend to understand Euripides, are bound to say why'. And to that no answer is at present offered. It does not help to call him a 'comic element'; let him be comic or tragic; that does not matter; the question is, 'Is he relevant?'
So far as I am aware, no one has yet essayed in this case the suggestion of a difference between ancient and modern sentiment. It has not been contended that though, from the modern