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Fit for bloody villainy,
mother of John is dead ;—“ Constance in a Apt, liable, to be employed in danger.” frenzy died ;" the “powers of France” have It would be worse than idle to attempt any is brought in to terrify still more the weak
arrived“ under the Dauphin.” Superstition lengthened comment on that most beautiful scene between Arthur and Hubert, which king, who is already terrified with “subject carries on the main action of this play. enemies” and “adverse foreigners.” The Hazlitt has truly said, “If anything ever was
“prophet of Pomfret " and the “five moons"
consequences of penned, heart-piercing, mixing the extremes affright him as much as the of terror and pity, of that which shocks and “young Arthur's death.” He turns upon that which soothes the mind, it is this Hubert in the extremity of his fears, and scene.” When Hubert gives up his purpose, attempts to put upon his instrument all the we do not the less feel that
guilt of that deed. Never was a more striking
display of the equivocations of conscience “ The bloody fingers' ends of John"
in a weak and guilty mind. Shakspere is have not been washed of their taint :- here the true interpreter of the secret excuses " Your uncle must not know but you are dead," of many a criminal, who would shift upon tells us, at once, that no relenting of John's accessories the responsibility of the deviser purpose had prompted the compassion of of a wicked act, and make the attendant Hubert. Pleased, therefore, are we to see
circumstances more powerful for evil than the retribution beginning. The murmurs of the internal suggestions. When the truth
is avowed by Hubert, John does not rejoice the peers at the
once again crown'd,”—the lectures which Pembroke and Salisbury read
that he has been spared the perpetration of to their sovereign,—are but the preludes to
a crime, but he is prompt enough to avail the demand for the enfranchisement of himself of his altered position :Arthur.” Then come the dissembling of
“O haste thee to the peers." John,
Again he crawls before Hubert. But the “We cannot hold mortality's strong hand,”—
storm rolls on.
The catastrophe of Arthur's death follows and the bitter sarcasms of Salisbury and instantly upon the rejoicing of him who Pembroke :
exclaimed, “ Doth Arthur live ?” in the hope “ Indeed we fear'd his sickness was past cure.
to find a safety in his preservation upon the Indeed we heard how near his death he was,
same selfish principle upon which he had Before the child himself felt he was sick."
formerly sought a security in his destruction.
In a few simple lines we have the sad dra“ This must be answer’d” is as a knell in matic story of Arthur's end :John's ears. Throughout this scene the king « The wall is high; and yet will I leap down:is prostrate before his nobles ;-it is the
Good ground, be pitiful, and hurt me not !prostration of guilt without the energy
There's few, or none, do know me; if they did, which too often accompanies it. Contrast
This ship-boy's semblance hath disguised me the scene with the unconquerable intellectual
quite. activity of Richard III., who never winces at I am afraid; and yet I 'll venture it.” reproach, seeing only the success of his crimes and not the crimes themselves,—as,
How marvellously does Shakspere subject all for example, his answer in the scene where his characters and situations to the empire his mother and the widow of Edward up- play, after receiving his mortal hurt, makes
of common sense! The Arthur of the old braid him with his murders,
a long oration about his mother. The great "A flourish, trumpets ! strike alarums, drums! | dramatist carries on the now prevailing Let not the heavens hear these tell-tale women
feeling of the audience by one pointed Rail on the Lord's anointed.”
line : The messenger appears from France :-the
“O me! my uncle's spirit is in these stones."
If any other recollection were wanting, these | It is this instinctive justice in Faulconbridge, simple words would make us feel that John —this readiness to uplift the strong hand in was as surely the murderer of Arthur, when what he thinks a just quarrel,—this abanthe terrors of the boy drove him to an incon- donment of consequences in the expression siderate attempt to escape from his prison, of his opinions,—that commands our sympaas if the assassin, as some have represented, thies for him whenever he appears upon the rode with him in the dim twilight by the
The motives upon which he acts are side of a cliff that overhung the sea, and entirely the antagonist motives by which suddenly hurled the victim from his horse John is moved. We have, indeed, in Shakinto the engulfing wave; or as if the king spere none of the essay-writing contrasts of tempted him to descend from his prison at smaller authors. We have no asserters of Rouen at the midnight hour, and, instead of adverse principles made to play at see-saw, giving him freedom, stifled his prayers for with reverence be it spoken, like the Moloch pity in the waters of the Seine. It is thus and Belial of Milton. But, after some rethat we know the anger of "the distemper'd flection upon what we have read, we feel lords " is a just anger, when, finding Arthur's that he who leapt into Caur-de-lion's throne, body, they kneel before that “ruin of sweet and he who hath “a trick of Cæur-de-lion's life,” and vow to it the “worship of revenge." face,” are as opposite as if they were the The short scene between Salisbury, Pem- formal personifications of subtlety and canbroke, the Bastard, and Hubert, which im- dour, cowardice and courage, cruelty and mediately succeeds, is as spirited and kindliness. The fox and the lion are not characteristic as anything in the play. more strongly contrasted than John and Here we see “ the invincible knights of Faulconbridge ; and the poet did not make old” in their most elevated character, the contrast by accident. And yet with what fiery, implacable, arrogant, but still drawing incomparable management are John and the their swords in the cause of right, when that Bastard held together as allies throughout cause was intelligible and undoubted. The these scenes. In the onset the Bastard character of Faulconbridge here rises far receives honour from the hands of John,above what we might have expected from and he is grateful. In the conclusion he the animal courage and the exuberant spirits sees his old patron, weak indeed and guilty, of the Faulconbridge of the former acts. but surrounded with enemies,--and he will The courage is indeed here beyond all not be faithless. When John quails before doubt :
power of a spiritual tyrant, the Bastard “Thou wert better gall the devil, Salisbury:
stands by him in the place of a higher and a If thou but frown on me, or stir thy foot, better nature. He knows the dangers that Or teach thy hasty spleen to do me shame, surround his king : I'll strike thee dead.”
“All Kent hath yielded; nothing there holds
out But we were scarcely prepared for the rush of tenderness and humanity that accompany
But Dover castle: London hath received, the courage, as in the speech to Hubert :
Like a kind host, the dauphin and his powers:
Your nobles will not hear you, but are gone “ If thou didst but consent To offer service to your enemy.” To this most cruel act, do but despair,
But no dangers can daunt his resolution :And, if thou want'st a cord, the smallest thread
“Let not the world see fear, and sad distrust, That ever spider twisted from her womb Govern the motion of a kingly eye: Will serve to strangle thee; a rush will be Be stirring as the time ; be fire with fire; A beam to hang thee on; or, wouldst thou Threaten the threat'ner, and outface the brow drown thyself,
Of bragging horror: so shall inferior eyes, Put but a little water in a spoon,
That borrow their behaviours from the great, And it shall be as all the ocean,
Grow great by your example, and put on Enough to stifle such a villain up."
The dauntless spirit of resolution."
The very necessity for these stirring words / annihilated. Causes and
consequences, would show us that from henceforth John is separated in the proper history by long but a puppet without a will. The blight of digressions and tedious episodes, are brought Arthur's death is upon him; and he moves together. The attributed murder of Arthur on to his own destiny, whilst Faulconbridge lost John all the inheritances of the house defies or fights with his enemies; and his of Anjou, and allowed the house of Capet to revolted lords, even while they swear triumph in his overthrow. Out of this grew “A voluntary zeal, and unurged faith,"
a larger ambition, and England was invaded.
The death of Arthur and the events which to the invader, bewail their revolt, and marked the last days of John were separated lament
in their cause and effect by time only, over “ That, for the health and physic of our right, which the poet leaps. It is said that a man
We cannot deal but with the very hand who was on the point of drowning saw, in an Of stern injustice and confused wrong." instant, all the events of his life in connection
with his approaching end. So sees the poet. But the great retribution still moves on
It is his to bring the beginnings and the ward. The cause of England is triumphant; ends of events into that real union and de“the lords are all come back :”—but the
the philosophical king is “poisoned by a monk :"—
historian may overlook in tracing their “ Poison'd,-ill fare;-dead, forsook, cast off:
It is the poet's office to preserve a And none of you will bid the winter come, unity of action ; it is the historian's to show To thrust his icy fingers in my maw; a consistency of progress. In the chroniclers Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course we have manifold changes of fortune in the Through my burn'd bosom; nor entreat the life of John after Arthur of Brittany has north
fallen. In Shakspere Arthur of Brittany is To make his bleak winds kiss my parched at once revenged. The heartbroken mother
lips, And comfort me with cold :—I do not ask you double courses.
and her boy are not the only sufferers from
The spirit of Constance is much, I beg cold comfort; and you are so strait,
appeased by the fall of John. The Niobe of And so ingrateful, you deny me that.”
a Gothic age, who vainly sought to shield
her child from as stern a destiny as that The interval of fourteen years between the with which Apollo and Artemis pursued the death of Arthur and the death of John is daughter of Tantalus, may rest in peace.
A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM. A MIDSUMMER-Night's DREAM' was first | Fisher. It is difficult to say whether both of printed in 1600. In that year there ap- these were printed with the consent of the peared two editions of the play the one author, or whether one was genuine and the published by Thomas Fisher, a bookseller ; other pirated. If the entries at Stationers' the other by James Roberts, a printer. The Hall may be taken as evidence of a prodifferences between these two editions are prietary right, the edition by Fisher is the very slight. Steevens, in his collection of genuine one, “A booke called A Mydsomer twenty plays, has reprinted that by Roberts, Nyghte Dreame' having been entered by giving the variations of the edition by him Oct. 8, 1600. One thing is perfectly clear to us — - that the original of these before expressed, that he had written these editions, whichever it might be, was printed for the stage before his twenty-fifth year, from a genuine copy, and carefully super- when he was a considerable shareholder in intended through the press. The text ap- the Blackfriars company, some of them, perpears to us as perfect as it is possible to be, haps, as early as 1585, at which period the considering the state of typography in that vulgar tradition assigns to Shakspere--a day. There is one remarkable evidence of husband, a father, and a man conscious of this. The prologue to the interlude of the the possession of the very highest order of Clowns, in the fifth act, is purposely made talent—the dignified office of holding horses inaccurate in its punctuation throughout. at the theatre door. The year 1594 is, as The speaker“ does not stand upon points.” | nearly as possible, the period where we would It was impossible to have effected the object place ‘A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' with better than by the punctuation of Roberts’s reference to our strong belief that Shakspere's edition; and this is precisely one of those earliest plays must be assigned to the commatters of nicety in which a printer would mencement of his dramatic career; and that have failed, unless he had followed an ex- two or three even of his great works had tremely clear copy, or his proofs had been then been given to the world in an unformed corrected by an author or an editor. The shape, subsequently worked up to completeplay was not reprinted after 1600, till it was ness and perfection. But it appears to us a collected into the folio of 1623; and the misapplication of the received meaning of text in that edition differs in few instances, words to talk of “ the warmth of a youthful and those very slight ones, from that of the and lively imagination” with reference to preceding quartos.
'A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' and the Malone has assigned the composition of Shakspere of thirty. We can understand 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' to the year these terms to apply to the unpruned luxu1594. We are not disposed to object to this, riance of the 'Venus and Adonis ;' but the -indeed we are inclined to believe that he poetry of this piece, the almost continual has pretty exactly indicated the precise year, rhyme, and even the poverty of the fable, as far as it can be proved by one or two are to us evidences of the very highest art allusions which the play contains. But we having obtained a perfect mastery of its entirely object to the reasons upon which materials after years of patient study. Of Malone attempts to show that it was one of all the dramas of Shakspere there is none our author's "earliest attempts in comedy." more entirely harmonious than 'A MidHe derives the proof of this from “ the poetry summer-Night's Dream.' All the incidents, of this piece, glowing with all the warmth of all the characters, are in perfect subordinaa youthful and lively imagination, the many ation to the will of the poet. “ Throughout scenes which it contains of almost continual the whole piece," says Malone, “the more rhyme, the poverty of the fable, and want of exalted characters are subservient to the discrimination among the higher personages.” interests of those beneath them.” PreciselyMalone would place 'A Midsummer-Night's An unpractised author-one who had Dream' in the same rank as "The Two Gen- not “a youthful and lively imagination” tlemen of Verona,''Love's Labour's Lost,' under perfect control,—when he had got and “The Comedy of Errors;' and he sup- hold of the Theseus and Hippolyta of the poses all of them written within a year or heroic ages, would have made them ultratwo of each other. We have no objection to heroical. They would have commanded believe that our poet wrote • A Midsummer- events, instead of moving with the superNight's Dream' when he was thirty years of natural influence around them in harmony age, that is in 1594. But it so far exceeds and proportion. “Theseus, the associate of the three other comedies in all the higher Hercules, is not engaged in any adventure attributes of poetry, that we cannot avoid worthy of his rank or reputation, nor is he repeating here the opinion which we have in reality an agent throughout the play."
Precisely so. An immature poet, again, if power of the English language for purposes the marvellous creation of Oberon and Ti- of poetry, that composition would be the tania, and Puck, could have entered into such Midsummer-Night's Dream.' This wona mind, would have laboured to make the derful model, which, at the time it appeared, power of the fairies produce some strange must have been the commencement of a and striking events. But the exquisite great poetical revolution,—and which has beauty of Shakspere's conception is, that, never ceased to influence our higher poetry, under the supernatural influence, “the from Fletcher to Shelley,—was, according to human mortals” move precisely according Malone, the work of “the genius of Shakto their respective natures and habits. De- speare, even in its minority.” metrius and Lysander are impatient and Mr. Hallam has, as might be expected, revengeful ;-Helena is dignified and affec- taken a much more correct view of this tionate, with a spice of female error ;- question than Malone. He places 'A MidHermia is somewhat vain and shrewish. summer-Night's Dream' among the early And then Bottom! Who but the most skilful plays; but, having mentioned 'The Comedy artist could have given us such a character ? of Errors,' 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' Of him Malone says, “Shakspeare would 'Love's Labour's Lost,' and 'The Taming of naturally copy those manners first with the Shrew,' he adds, “ Its superiority to those which he was first acquainted. The am- we have already mentioned affords some bition of a theatrical candidate for applause presumption that it was written after them.”* he has happily ridiculed in Bottom the "A Midsummer-Night's Dream' is menweaver." A theatrical candidate for ap- tioned by Francis Meres in 1598. The date plause ! Why, Bottom the weaver is the of the first publication of the play, therefore, representative of the whole human race. in 1600, does not tend to fix its chronology. His confidence in his own power is equally Nor is it very material to ascertain whether profound, whether he exclaims, “Let me it preceded 1598 by three, or four, or five play the lion too;" or whether he sings years. The state of the weather in 1593 alone, “ that they shall hear. I am not and 1594, when England was visited with afraid ;" or whether, conscious that he is peculiarly ungenial seasons, may have sugsurrounded with spirits, he cries out, with gested Titania’s beautiful description in Act his voice of authority,“ Where's Peas-blog- II., Scene 2. The allusion of two lines in som ?” In every situation Bottom is the Act V. is by no means so clear:same,—the same personification of that self
“The thrice three Muses mourning for the love which the simple cannot conceal, and death the wise can with difficulty suppress. Ma- Of learning, late deceased in beggary." lone thus concludes his analysis of the internal evidence of the chronology of 'A
This passage was once thought to allude Midsummer-Night's Dream :'.
“ That a
to the death of Spenser. But the misfortunes drama, of which the principal personages till 1599. Even if the allusion were inserted
and the death of Spenser did not take place are thus insignificant, and the fable thus
between the first production of the piece and meagre and uninteresting, was one of our author's earliest compositions, does not, there- its publication in 1600, it is difficult to
understand how an elegy on the great poet fore seem a very improbable conjecture ; nor
could have been called are the beauties with which it is embellished inconsistent with this supposition." Some satire, keen and critical." The beauties with which it is embellished T. Warton suggested “ that Shakspeare here, include, of course, the whole rhythmical structure of the versification. The poet has The Tears of the Muses, on the Neglect and
perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem entitled here put forth all his strength. We ven
Contempt of Learning.' This piece first ture to offer an opinion that, if any single composition were required to exhibit the
**Literature of Europe,' vol. li. p. 387.