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actions ; and yet, through his wonderful, development of character, in which a real power of characterization, and his skill in poet would have luxuriated, is made suborgrouping a series of events round one leading dinate to the hurry of the perplexed though event, we have a principle upon which the monotonous movement of the story. Thomind can determinately rest, and rightly roughly to understand the surpassing power comprehend the whole diamatic movement. of Shakspere in the management of the hisIn the play before us there is no distinct re- torical drama, it might be desirable to comlation between one scene and another. We pare 'King John,' or 'Richard II.,' or forget the connection between Oldcastle and Richard III.,' or · Henry VIII.,' with this the events in which he is implicated ; and, play; but, after all, the things do not admit when he himself appears on the scene, the of comparison.
THOMAS LORD CROMWELL.
The first edition of this play was published title; and that parallel holds good only with in 1602, under the title of The Chronicle regard to one play, “Lear,' according to its History of Thomas Lord Cromwell. No name original title, the "True Chronicle Historie or initials of an author appear in the title of the Life and Death of King Lear and his page. In 1613 appeared "The true Chronicle three Daughters. In the folio collection of Historie of the whole life and death of Thomas 1623 we have indeed 'The Life and Death of Lord Cromwell. As it hath beene sundry King John,' 'The Life and Death of Richard times publikely Acted by the Kings Majesties II.,' The Life of King Henry V.,' The Life Seruants. Written by W. S.' In 1602 the and Death of Richard III.,' and 'The Life of registers of the Stationers' Company had the King Henry VIII.' So in the same edition entry of A Booke called the Lyfe and Deathe we have "The Life and Death of Julius Cæsar.' of the Lord Cromwell, as yt was lately acted But our readers are perfectly aware that in by the Lord Chamberleyn his servants.' It all these dramas a very small portion of the appears, therefore, that the play was originally life of the hero of each is included in the performed, and continued to be performed, action. Shakspere knew his art too well to by the company in which Shakspere was a attempt to teach history dramatically by chief proprieter. Beyond the initials W. S. connecting a series of isolated events solely there is no external evidence whatever to by their relation to a principal agent, without attribute the play to the great dramatizer of any other dependence. Nothing, for example, English history.
can be more complete in itself than the action Schlegel, as we have seen, calls ‘Sir John of 'Richard II.,' or that of ‘Henry V.,' of Oldcastle,' and Thomas Lord Cromwell,' Richard III.,' and of Henry VIII. We “ biographical dramas and models in this have in these pieces nearly all the condensaspecies." We have no hesitation in affirming tion which pure tragedy requires. But in that a biographical drama, especially such Thomas Lord Cromwell,' on the contrary, a drama as "Thomas Lord Cromwell,' is what Shakspere would have told in a few essentially undramatic. Oldcastle' takes a words, reserving himself for an exhibition of portion only of the life of its hero; but character in the more striking situations, is Cromwell' gives us the story of the man actually presented to us in a succession of from his boyhood to his execution.
scenes that have no relation to any action of resemblance which it bears to any play of deepening interest—chapter upon chapter Shakspere's is solely in the structure of the which might have been very well spared, if
one chapter, that of the elevation and fall of usurer is hanged and the merchant is restored Cromwell, had occupied a space proportioned to competence. to its importance.
It would have been difficult, with all the We begin the drama in the shop of old author's contempt for unity of action, to have Cromwell, the blacksmith, at Putney, where contrived to have told the whole story of young Cromwell, with a want of sense that Cromwell dramatically; and so he occasionally ill accords with his future advancement, gives us a chorus. The second act thus insists that his father's men shall leave off opens :work because their noise disturbs his study.
“Now, gentlemen, imagine that young His father comes, and like a sensible and
Cromwell's honest man reproves his son for his vagaries;
In Antwerp, leiger for the English merchants; and then the ambitious youth, who proclaims And Banister, to shun this Bagot's hate, the purpose of his presaging soul, that he Hearing that he hath got some of his debts, will build a palace
Is fled to Antwerp, with his wife and children;
Which Bagot hearing is gone after them, “ As fine as is King Henry's house at Sheen," And thither sends his bills of debt before, thus soliloquizes :
To be revenged on wretched Banister.
What doth fall ont, with patience sit and see, “ Crom. Why should my birth keep down A just requital of false treachery." my mounting spirit?
Cromwell has nothing to do with this “just Are not all creatures subject unto time
requital of false treachery,"—which requital To time, who doth abuse the cheated world, And fills it full of hodge-podge bastardy?
consists in the usurer being arrested for There's legions now of beggars on the earth
purchasing the king's stolen jewels. CromThat their original did spring from kings;
well gets as tired of keeping accounts as he And many monarchs now, whose fathers were previously was of the din of his father's The riff-raff of their age: for time and fortune smithy; so all in a moment he throws up his Wears out a noble train to beggary;
commission and sets off upon his travels to And from the dunghill millions do advance Italy, having very opportunely met in To state and mark in this admiring world. Antwerp with Hodge, his father's man. And This is but course, which in the name of fate so we get through the second act. Is seen as often as it whirls about.
In the third act the capricious lad and his The river Thames, that by our door doth pass, servant are standing penniless upon the His first beginning is but small and shallow; bridge at Florence, and their immediate Yet keeping on his course grows to a sea. necessities are relieved by the generous And likewise Wolsey, the wonder of our age, Italian merchant who was succouring the His birth as mean as mine, a butcher's son;
distress of the Englishman in the first act. Now who within this land a greater man? Then, Cromwell, cheer thee up, and tell thy for Bononia, where he rescues, by a stratagem,
Cromwell is always moving; and he sets off soul, That thou mayst live to flourish and control."
Russell the Earl of Bedford from the agents
of the French king. We have the chorus The young man, who despises work, imme- again in the middle of the act:diately gets employment without seeking it,
“Thus far you see how Cromwell's fortune to be secretary to the English merchants at
pass'd. Antwerp. Then commences the secondary
The Earl of Bedford, being safe in Mantua, action of the drama, which consists of the
Desires Cromwell's company into France, adventures of one Banister, an English
To make requital for his courtesy; merchant, who is persecuted by Bagot, a But Cromwell doth deny the earl his suit, usurer, and relieved by a foreign merchant. And tells him that those parts he meant to see, It is by no means clear what this has to do
He had not yet set footing on the land; with Thomas Lord Cromwell; but it may be And so directly takes his way to Spain; satisfactory to know that eventually the The earl to France; and so they both do part. Now let your thoughts, as swift as is the wind, Of our causes, and nearest, next ourself; Skip some few years that Cromwell spent in Gardiner, give you kind welcome to the man." travel;
The fourth act opens again with a chorus :And now imagine him to be in England,
“Now Cromwell's highest fortunes do begin. Servant unto the master of the rolls;
Wolsey, that loved him as he did his life, Where in short time he there began to flourish:
Committed all his treasure to his hands. An hour shall show you what few years did
Wolsey is dead; and Gardiner, his man, cherish."
Is now created bishop of Winchester,
Pardon, if we omit all Wolsey's life, The scene shifts to London, where Sir
Because our play depends on Cromwell's Christopher Hales is giving an entertainment
death. to Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More,
Now sit and see his highest state of all, with Cromwell waiting on the guests. The
His height of rising, and his sudden fall. sudden preferment of Cromwell to the highest Pardon the errors are already past, confidence of Wolsey is accomplished with a And live in hope the best doth come at laste celerity which was perfectly necessary when My hope upon your favour doth depend, the poet had so many events to tell us : And looks to have your liking ere the end."
“ Wol. Sir Christopher, is that your man? It was certainly needless for the author to Hales.
An 't like apologize for omitting “all Wolsey's life;" Your grace, he is a scholar, and a linguist; but the apology is curious as exhibiting his One that hath travelled through many parts rude notions of what was properly within Of Christendom, my lord.
the province of the drama. We have now Wol. My friend, come nearer: have you Cromwell, after the death of Wolsey, become been a traveller?
Sir Thomas Cromwell; and Gardiner makes Crom. My lord,
a sudden resolution that he will have his I have added to my knowledge the Low
head. The Florence merchant comes to Countries,
London in want; and we presently find him With France, Spain, Germany, and Italy;
at the hospitable board of Cromwell, with And though small gain of profit I did find, Yet it did please my eye, content my mind.
money-bags showered upon him, and his debts Wol. What do you think then of the several paid. We have in this act a scene between
Gardiner and Cromwell which, feeble as it states And princes' courts as you have travelled? is, is amongst the best passages of the play:Crom. My lord, no court with England “ Crom. Good morrow to my lord of Win. may compare,
chester: I know Neither for state nor civil government.
You bear me hard about the abbey lands. Lust dwells in France, in Italy, and Spain,
“ Gard. Have I not reason, when religion's From the poor peasant to the prince's train.
wrong'd? In Germany and Holland, riot serves;
You had no colour for what you have done. And he that most can drink, most he deserves. Crom. Yes, the abolishing of antichrist, England I praise not for I here was born, And of his popish order from our realm. But that she laughs the others unto scorn. I am no enemy to religion; Wol. My lord, there dwells within that But what is done, it is for England's good. spirit more
What did they serve for, but to feed a sort Than can be discern'd by the outward eye:- Of lazy abbots and of full-fed friars? Sir Christopher, will you part with your man? They neither plough nor sow, and yet they Hales. I have sought to proffer him unto
reap your lordship;
The fat of all the land, and suck the poor. And now I see he hath preferr'd himself. Look, what was theirs is in King Henry's Wol. What is thy name?
hands; Crom. Cromwell, my lord.
His wealth before lay in the abbey lands. Wol. Then, Cromwell, here we make thee Gard. Indeed these things you have alleged, solicitor
When, God doth know, the infant yet unborn Crom. Even with my soul. Why, man, Will curse the time the abbeys were pull’d thou art my doctor, down.
And bring'st me precious physic for my soul. I pray now where is hospitality?
My lord of Bedford, I desire of you Where now may poor distressed people go, Before my death a corporal embrace. For to relieve their need, or rest their bones, Farewell, great lord; my love I do commend, When weary travel doth oppress their limbs? My heart to you; my soul to heaven I send. And where religious men should take them in, This is my joy, that, ere my body fleet, Shall now be kept back with a mastiff dog; Your honour'd arms are my true windingAnd thousand thousand
Farewell, dear Bedford; my peace is made in Gardiner suborns witnesses to impute treason
heaven. able words to Cromwell, and absolves them Thus falls great Cromwell, a poor ell in length, by crucifix and holy water.
To rise to unmeasured height, wing'd with new The real action of the play commences at strength, the fourth act; all which precedes might have The land of worms, which dying men discover: been told by a skilful poet in a dozen lines.
My soul is shrined with heaven's celestial The fifth act presents us the arrest of
cover." Cromwell; and after a soliloquy in the Tower, It would be a waste of time to attempt to and a very feeble scene between the unhappy show that Thomas Lord Cromwell' could man, Gardiner, and the Dukes of Suffolk and not have been written by Shakspere. Its Norfolk, his son is introduced, of whom we entire management is most unskilful; there have before heard nothing :
is no art whatever in the dramatic conception “ Lieu. Here is your son, sir, come to take of plot or character; from first to last there his leave.
is scarcely a passage that can be called Crom. To take his leave? Come hither, poetry; there is nothing in it that gives us a Harry Cromwell.
notion of a writer capable of better things; Mark, boy, the last words that I speak to thee: it has none of the faults of the founders of Flatter not Fortune, neither fawn upon her; the stage,-false taste, extravagance, riches Gape not for state, yet lose no spark of honour: needlessly paraded. We are acquainted with Ambition, like the plague, see thou eschew it; no dramatic writer of mark or likelihood who I die for treason, boy, and never knew it. was a contemporary of Shakspere to whom Yet let thy faith as spotless be as mine, it may be assigned. If W. S. were Wentworth And Cromwell's virtues in thy face shall shine: Smith, it must have been unlucky for him in Come, go along, and see me leave my breath, his own time that his initials might excite a And I'll leave thee upon the floor of death."
comparison with the great master of the drama; however fortunate he
may have been Cromwell leaves the stage for his execution in having descended to after-times in the with this speech :
same volume (the third folio edition of " Exec. I am your deathsman; pray, my Shakspere) with ten historical plays that lord, forgive me.
probably first stimulated his weak ambition.
KING EDWARD III.
The Raigne of King Edward the third : As the hands of the mere antiquarians*. An it hath bin sundrie times plaied about the acute critic says, “ Capell was the first who Citie of London,' was first published in 1596. directed attention to this play, as perhaps It was entered on the registers of the Sta- Shakspeare's; and it is in every respect one tioners' Company, December 1, 1595. The of the best dramas of its time. It is very play was reprinted in 1599, and, judging unequal, and its plot is unskilfully divided from other entries in the Stationers' regis- into two parts; but through most scenes ters, also in 1609, 1617, and 1625. From there reign a pointed strength of thought that time the work was known only to the and expression, a clear richness of imagery, collectors of single plays, till, in 1760, Capell and an apt though rough delineation of reprinted it in a volume entitled "Prolu- character, which entitle it to rank higher sions, or Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry,' as than any historical play of the sixteenth
A play thought to be writ by Shakespeare.” century, excepting Shakspere's admitted The editor of that volume thus speaks of works of this class, and Marlowe's 'Edward the play in his preface –“But what shall | II.'”+ The opinion of Ulrici is very full be said of the poem that constitutes the and decided upon the authorship of 'Edward second part ? or how shall the curiosity be III.,' and we may as well present it at once satisfied which it is probable may have been to the reader in its general bearings. raised by the great name inserted in the “ The play of 'Edward III. and the Black title-page? That it was indeed written by Prince,' &c., is entered not less than four Shakespeare, it cannot be said with candour times in the registers of the Stationers' that there is any external evidence at all : Company; first, on December 1, 1595; and something of proof arises from resemblance lastly, on February 23, 1625. It was first between the style of his earlier performances printed in 1596, and reprinted in 1599, both and the work in question ; and a more con- editions being without the name of the clusive one yet from consideration of the author. Of any later edition I have no time it appeared in, in which there was no knowledge. Both these early editions, being known writer equal to such a play: the anonymous, can, however, prove nothing. fable of it too is taken from the same books But, even if the later editions were equally which that author is known to have followed without the announcement of the author, in some other plays, to wit, Holinshed's this certainly rather striking fact may be • Chronicle,' and a book of novels called satisfactorily explained by the nature of the “The Palace of Pleasure.' But, after all, it piece itself. In the first two acts we find must be confessed that its being his work is many bitter attacks upon the Scots, inspired conjecture only, and matter of opinion ; and by English patriotism: these were thoroughly the reader must form one of his own, guided in place during Elizabeth's lifetime, who, it by what is now before him, and by what he is well known, loved her successor not much shall meet with in perusal of the piece better than she did his mother, and ever itself.” Capell was not a person to offer stood in a guarded attitude against Scotany critical reasons for his own belief; but
* Steevens, in a note upon the entry in the Stationers' the opinions of several able critics in our
registers, says—"This is ascribed to Shakspeare by the own time would show that he was not to be compilers of ancient catalogues.” This was one of the laughed at, as Steevens was inclined to
modes in which Steevens thought it clever to insult Capell
by a contemptuous neglect. laugh at him, for rescuing this play from t'Edinburgh Review,' vol. Ixxi. p. 471.