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common policy" he means- -for maxims of prudence. His first entry is entitled "in Richard II., at the Globe, 1611, the 30 of April, Thursday." From the extract which we shall take the liberty of giving from Mr. Collier's book, it will be seen that at Shakspere's own theatre, the Globe, a 'Richard II.' was performed, which was, unquestionably, not his' Richard II.'
"Remember therein how Jack Straw, by his overmuch boldness, not being politic nor suspecting anything, was suddenly, at Smithfield Bars, stabbed by Walworth, the Mayor of London, and so he and his whole army was overthrown. Therefore, in such case, or the like, never admit any party without a bar between, for a man cannot be too wise, nor keep himself
"Also remember how the Duke of Glocester, the Earl of Arundel, Oxford, and others, crossing the King in his humour about the Duke of Erland (Ireland) and Bushy, were glad to fly and raise a host of men; and, being in his castle, how the Duke of Erland came by night to betray him, with three hundred men; but, having privy warning thereof, kept his gates fast, and would not suffer the enemy to enter, which went back again with a fly in his ear, and after was slain by the Earl of Arundel in the battle.
'Remember, also, when the Duke (i. e. of Glocester) and Arundel came to London with their army, King Richard came forth to them, and met them, and gave them fair words, and promised them pardon, and that all should be well, if they would discharge their army: upon whose promises and fair speeches they did it; and after, the King bid them all to a banquet, and so betrayed them and cut off their heads, &c., because they had not his pardon under his hand and seal before, but his word.
"Remember therein, also, how the Duke of Lancaster privily contrived all villainy to set them all together by the ears, and to make the nobility to envy the King, and mislike him and his government; by which means he made his own son king, which was Henry Bolingbroke.
"Remember, also, how the Duke of Lancaster asked a wise man whether himself should ever be king, and he told him no, but his son should be a king and when he had told him, he hanged him up for his labour, because he should not bruit abroad, or speak thereof to others.
From Forman's account of this play it will be seen that it embraces the earlier period of Richard II., containing the insurrection of Jack Straw. It seems very doubtful whether it includes the close of the reign. We have a talk for "policy" about the Duke of Lancaster's (Gaunt's) machinations; but nothing about Henry Bolingbroke. Were there two plays of 'Richard II.' of which we know nothing-the obsolete play of the deposition, which Merrick caused to be acted in 1601, and the play containing Jack Straw, which Forman noted in 1611?
We scarcely know how to approach this drama, even for the purpose of a simple analysis. We are almost afraid to trust our
own admiration when we turn to the cold
criticism by which opinion in this country has been wont to be governed. We have been told that it cannot "be said much to affect the passions or enlarge the understanding." It may be so. And yet, we think, it might somewhat "affect the passions," for " gorgeous tragedy" hath here put on her "scepter'd pall," and if she bring not Terror in her train, Pity, at least, claims the sad story for her own. And yet it may somewhat 66 enlarge the understanding," for, though it abound not in those sententious moralities which may fitly adorn " theme at school," it lays bare more than one human bosom with a most searching anatomy; and, in the moral and intellectual strength and weakness of humanity, which it discloses with as much precision as the scalpel reveals to the student of our physical nature the symptoms of health or disease, may we read the proximate and final causes of this world's success or loss, safety or danger, honour or disgrace, elevation or ruin. And then, moreover, the profound truths *New Particulars regarding the Works of Shakespeare:' 1836.
which, half hidden to the careless reader, are to be drawn out from this drama, are contained in such a splendid framework of the picturesque and the poetical, that the setting of the jewel almost distracts our attention from the jewel itself. We are here plunged into the midst of the fierce passions and the gorgeous pageantries of the antique time. We not only enter the halls and galleries, where is hung
"Armoury of the invincible knights of old," but we see the beaver closed, and the spear in rest-under those cuirasses are hearts knocking against the steel with almost more than mortal rage;—the banners wave, the trumpet sounds-heralds and marshals are ready to salute the victor-but the absolute king casts down his warder, and the anticipated triumph of one proud champion must end in the unmerited disgrace of both. The transition is easy from the tourney to the battle-field. A nation must bleed that a subject may be avenged. A crown is to be played for, though
and barbarous writer, is, above all, remarkable for a judgment so high, so firm, so uncompromising, that one is almost tempted to impeach his coldness, and to find in this impassible observer something that may be almost called cruel towards the human race. In the historical pieces of Shakspere, the picturesque, rapid, and vehement genius which has produced them seems to bow before the superior law of a judgment almost ironical in its clear-sightedness. Sensibility to impressions, the ardent force of imagination, the eloquence of passion-these brilliant gifts of nature, which would seem destined to draw a poet beyond all limits, are subordinated in this extraordinary intelligence to a calm and almost deriding sagacity, which pardons nothing and forgets nothing. Thus, the dramas of which we speak are painful as real history. Eschylus exhibits to us Fate hovering over the world; Calderon opens to us heaven and hell as the last words of the
enigma of life; Voltaire renders his drama an instrument for asserting his own peculiar doctrines; but Shakspere seeks his Fate in the hearts of men, and when he makes us see them so capricious, so bewildered, so irresolute, he teaches us to contemplate, without surprise the untoward events and sudden changes of fortune. In the purely poetical dramas to which this great poet has given so much verisimilitude, we console ourselves in believing that the evils which he paints are imaginary, and that their truth is but general. But the dramatic chronicles which Shakspere has sketched are altogether real. There we behold irrevocable evils-we see the scenes that the world has seen, and the horrors that it has suffered. The more the details that accompany these events are irresistible in their truth, the more they grieve us. The more the author is impartial, the more he wounds and overpowers us. This employment of his marvellous talent is in reality a profound satire upon what we are, upon what we shall be, upon what we were.'
It is a sincere pleasure to us to introduce our remarks upon the 'Richard II.' by some acute and just observations upon Shakspere's historical plays in general from a French source. The following passage is from the forty-ninth volume of the 'Dictionnaire de la Conversation et de la Lecture.' (Paris, It is this wonderful subjection of the 1838.) The article bears the signature of poetical power to the higher law of truthPhilarète Chasles :to the poetical truth, which is the highest "This poet, so often sneered at as a frantic | truth, comprehending and expounding the
historical truth-which must furnish the | George II. were thus equally in fear of the clue to the proper understanding of the drama of Richard II.' It appears to us that, when the poet first undertook
The purple testament of bleeding war,”to unfold the roll of the causes and consequences of that usurpation of the house of Lancaster which plunged three or four generations of Englishmen in bloodshed and misery-he approached the subject with an inflexibility of purpose as totally removed as it was possible to be from the levity of a partisan. There were to be weighed in one scale the follies, the weaknesses, the crimes of Richard—the injuries of Bolingbroke the insults which the capricious despotism of the king had heaped upon his noblesthe exactions under which the people groaned -the real merits and the popular attributes of him who came to redress and to repair. In the other scale were to be placed the afflictions of fallen greatness-the revenge and treachery by which the fall was produced the heartburnings and suspicions which accompany every great revolutionthe struggles for power which ensue when
the established and legitimate authority is thrust from its seat. All these phases, personal and political, of a deposition and an usurpation, Shakspere has exhibited with that marvellous impartiality which the French writer whom we have quoted has
well described. The political impartiality is so remarkable, that, during the time of Elizabeth, the deposition scene was neither acted nor printed, lest it should give occasion to the enemies of legitimate succession to find examples for the deposing of a monarch. Going forward into the spirit of another age, during the administration of Walpole, the play, in 1738, had an unusual success, principally because it contained many passages which seemed to point to the then supposed corruption of the court; and, on this occasion, a letter published in 'The Craftsman,' in which many lines of the play were thus applied to the political topics of the times, was the subject of state prosecution. The statesmen of Elizabeth and of
popular tendencies of this history. On the other hand, when Richard, speaking dramatically in his own person, says,—
"Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the balm from an anointed king: The breath of worldly men cannot depose The deputy elected by the Lord;"— Dr. Johnson rejoicingly says,—" Here is the doctrine of indefeasible right expressed in the strongest terms; but our poet did not learn it in the reign of James, to which it is now the practice of all writers whose opinions are regulated by fashion or interest to impute the original of every tenet which they have been taught to think false or foolish." Again, when the Bishop of Carlisle, in the deposition scene, exclaims, "And shall the figure of God's majesty, His captain, steward, deputy elect, Anointed, crowned, planted many years, Be judged by subject and inferior breath, And he himself not present?"
Johnson remarks, "Here is another proof that our author did not learn in King James's court HIS elevated notions of the right of kings. I know not any flatterer of the
Stuarts who has expressed this doctrine in much stronger terms." Steevens adds that Shakspere found the speech in Holinshed, and that "the politics of the historian were the politics of the poet." The contrary aspects which this play has thus presented to those who were political partisans is a most remarkable testimony to Shakspere's political impartiality. He appears to us as if he, "apart, sat on a hill retired," elevated far above the temporary opinions of his own age, or of succeeding ages. His business is with universal humanity, and not with a fragment of it. He is, indeed, the poet of a nation in his glowing and genial patriotism, but never the poet of a party. Perhaps, the most eloquent speech in this play is that of Gaunt, beginning
"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle." It is full of such praise of our country as, taken apart from the conclusion, might too much foster the pride of a proud nation.
But the profound impartiality of the mastermind comes in at the close of this splendid description, to show us that all these glories must be founded upon just government.
It is in the same lofty spirit of impartiality which governs the general sentiments of this drama that Shakspere has conceived the mixed character of Richard. Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his admirable Discourses' (a series of compositions which present the example of high criticism upon the art of painting, when the true principles of criticism upon poetry were neglected or misunderstood), has properly reprobated “the difficulty as well as danger in an endeavour to concentrate in a single subject those various powers, which, rising from different points, naturally move in different directions." He says, with reference to this subject," Art has its boundaries, though imagination has none." Here is the great line of distinction between poetry and painting. Painting must concentrate all its power upon the representation of one action, one expression, in the same person. The range of poetry is as boundless as the diversities of character in the same individual. Sir Joshua Reynolds has, however, properly laughed at those principles of criticism which would even limit the narrow range of pictorial expression to conventional, and therefore hackneyed, forms. He quotes a passage from Du Piles, as an example of the attempt of a false school of criticism to substitute the pompous and laboured insolence of grandeur" for that dignity which, "seeming to be natural and inherent, draws spontaneous reverence." "If you draw persons of high character and dignity" (says Du Piles), they ought to be drawn in such an attitude that the portraits must seem to speak to us of themselves, and as it were to say to us, 'Stop, take notice of me; I am that invincible king, surrounded by majesty:' 'I am that valiant commander who struck terror everywhere:' 'I am that great minister who knew all the springs of politics:' 'I am that magistrate of consummate wisdom and probity.'" Now, this is absurd enough as regards the painter; but, absurd as it is, in its limited application, it is precisely the same
sort of reasoning that the French critics in the time of Voltaire, and the English who caught the infection of their school, applied to the higher range of the art of Shakspere. The criticism of Dr. Johnson, for example, upon the character of Richard II. is, for the most part, a series of such mistakes. He misinterprets Shakspere's delineation of Richard, upon a preconceived theory of his Thus he says, in a note to the second scene in the third act, where Richard for a moment appears resigned
"To bear the tidings of calamity,"
"It seems to be the design of the poet to raise Richard to esteem in his fall, and, consequently, to interest the reader in his favour. He gives him only passive fortitude, the virtue of a confessor rather than of a king. In his prosperity we saw him imperious and oppressive; but in his distress he is wise, patient, and pious." Now this is precisely the reverse of Shakspere's representation of Richard. Instead of passive fortitude, we have passionate weakness; and it is that very weakness upon which our pity is founded. Having mistaken Shakspere's purpose in the delineation of Richard in his fall, this able but sometimes prejudiced writer flounders on in a series of carping objections to the language which Richard After Richard has said,
"Or I'll be buried in the king's highway,
Some way of common trade, where subjects'
May hourly trample on their sovereign's head," he flies off into a series of pretty imaginings, and ends thus,—
"Well, well, I see
I talk but idly, and you mock at me." Now in nothing is the exquisite tact of the poet more shown than in these riots of the imagination in the unhappy king, whose mind was altogether prostrate before the cool and calculating intellect of Bolingbroke. But Johnson, quite in Du Piles' style, here says, "Shakspere is very apt to deviate from the pathetic to the ridiculous. Had the speech of Richard ended at this line (May hourly trample on their sovereign's head'),
it had exhibited the natural language of submissive misery, conforming its intention to the present fortune, and calmly ending its purposes in death." Now, it is most certain that Shakspere had no intention to exhibit "the natural language of submissive misery." Such a purpose would have been utterly foreign to the great ideal truth of his conception of Richard's character. Again, in the interview with the queen, when Richard says,
"Tell thou the lamentable fall of me,
And send the hearers weeping to their beds. For why, the senseless brands will sympathize," &c.,
Johnson observes, "The poet should have ended this speech with the foregoing line, and have spared his childish prattle about the fire." Mr. Monck Mason very innocently remarks upon this comment of Johnson, "This is certainly childish prattle, but it is of the same stamp with the other speeches of Richard after the landing of Bolingbroke, which are a strange medley of sense and puerility." Of course they are so. There are, probably, no passages of criticism upon Shakspere that more forcibly point out to us, than these of Johnson and his followers do, the absurdity of trying a poet by laws which he had of purpose cast off and spurned. Had Johnson been applying his test of excellence to the conventional kings and heroes of the French stage, and of the English stage of his own day, he might have been nearer the truth. But Shakspere undertook to show us, not only a fallen king, but a fallen man. Richard stands before us in the nakedness of humanity, stripped of the artificial power which made his strength. The props are cut away upon which he leaned. He is,
"in shape and mind,
Transform'd and weaken'd,"
the Richard of history? We must trespass upon the patience of the reader while we run through the play, that we may properly note the dependence of its events upon its characters.
Froissart has given us the key to two of the most remarkable and seemingly opposite traits of Richard's mind,-cunning and credulity. Speaking of his devising the death of his uncle of Gloster, Froissart says, "King Richard of England noted well these said words, the which was showed him in secretness; and, like an imaginative prince as he Lancaster and of York were departed out of was, within a season after that his uncles of the court, then the king took more hardiness on him." Lord Berners, the translator of Froissart, always uses “imaginative” in the sense of deviceful, crafty,-following his original. As to the king's credulity, the same accurate observer, who knew the characters of his own days well, thus speaks “King Richard of England had a condition that, if he loved a man, he would make him so great, and so near him, that it was marvel to consider, and no man durst speak to the contrary; and also he would lightly believe sooner than any other king of remembrance before him." Upon these historical truths is Skakspere's Richard, in the first scenes of this drama,-the absolute Richard,-founded. But with what skill has Shakspere indicated the evil parts of Richard's character—just as much as, and no more than, is sufficient to qualify our pity for his fall. We learn from Gaunt that Richard was the real cause of Gloster's death;—the matter is once mentioned, and there an end. We ourselves see his arbitrary bearing in the banishment of Bolingbroke and Norfolk; his moral cowardice in requiring an oath for his own safety from the two enemies that he was at that moment oppressing; his meanness in taunting Gaunt with his "party-verdict" as to his son's banishment; his levity in miti
humbled to the lot of the commonest slave, gating the sentence after it had been so
"feel want, taste grief,
This is the Richard of our poet. Is it not
lemnly delivered. After this scene we have an exhibition of his cold-hearted rapacity in wishing for the death of Gaunt :
"Now put it, Heaven, in his physician's mind To help him to his grave immediately!