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The lining of his coffers shall make coats To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars."
contempt towards Richard ;-to make us hate him was no part of his purpose. We know that the charges of the discontented nobles against him are just; we almost wish success to their enterprise; but we are most skilfully held back from discovering so much of Richard's character as would have dis
This prepares us for the just reproaches of his dying uncle in the next act ;-when the dissembling king is moved from his craft to an exhibition of childish passion toward the stern but now powerless Gaunt, before whom he had trembled till he saw him on a death-qualified us from sympathising in his fall. bed. The
"make pale our check"
was not a random expression. The king again speaks in this way when he hears of the defection of the Welsh under Salisbury :
Have I not reason to look pale and dead?" Richard, who was of a ruddy complexion, exhibited in his cheeks the internal workings of fear or rage. This was a part of his weakness of character. The writer of the 'Metrical History'* twice notices the peculiarity. When the king received a defying message from the Irish chieftain, the French knight, who was present, says, “This speech was not agreeable to the king; it appeared to me that his face grew pale with anger." When he heard of the landing of Bolingbroke, the writer again says, “It seemed to me that the king's face at this turned pale with anger." Richard's indignation at the reproaches of Gaunt is, at once, brutal and childish :
"And let them die, that age and sullens have."
Then comes the final act of despotism, which
was to be his ruin :
"We do seize to us The plate, coin, revenues, and moveables, Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possess'd." He is amazed that York is indignant at this outrage. He is deaf to the prophetic denunciation,
"You pluck a thousand dangers on your head." Still, Shakspere keeps us from the point to which he might have led us, of unmitigated
*Histoire du Roy d'Angleterre Richard,' &c. Of this most curious Poem, written by a French gentleman who was with Richard in Ireland, and bearing the date of 1399, there is an admirable translation in the 20th Volume of the 'Archæologia.'
It is highly probable, too, that Shakspere abstained from painting the actual king as an object to be despised, while he stood as "the symbolic, or representative, on which all genial law no less than patriotism, depends." The poet does not hesitate, when the time is past for reverencing the king or compassionating the man, to speak of Richard, by the mouth of Henry IV., with that contempt which his weakness and his frivolities would naturally excite :
"The skipping king, he ambled up and down With shallow jesters and rash bavin wits, Soon kindled and soon burn'd: carded his state;
Mingled his royalty with carping fools; Had his great name profaned with their scorns;
And gave his countenance, against his name, To laugh at gibing boys," &c.
(Henry IV.,' Part I.)
There is nothing of this bitter satire put in the mouths of any of the speakers in Richard II. ;' and the poetical reason for this appears obvious. Yet it is perfectly true, historically, that Richard "carded his state" by indiscriminately mixing with all sorts of favourites, who used the most degrading freedoms towards him.
Bolingbroke (then Henry IV.) thus describes himself to his son :
"And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
retrospectively painted, is the Bolingbroke
When he returns from banishment, in arms against his unjust lord, he wins Northumberland by his powers of pleasing
“And yet our fair discourse hath been as sugar." Mark, too, his professions to the "gentle Percy:"
"I count myself in nothing else so happy, As in a soul remembering my good friends." When York accuses him of
"Gross rebellion and detested treason," how temperate, and yet how convincing, is his defence. York remains with him-he "cannot mend it." But Bolingbroke, with all his humility to his uncle, and all his courtesy to his friends, abates not a jot of his determination to be supreme. He announces this in no under-tones-he has no confidences about his ultimate intentions; —but we feel that he has determined to sit on the throne, even while he says, "I am a subject,
And challenge law."
He is, in fact, the king, when he consigns Bushy and Green to the scaffold. He speaks not as one of a council-he neither vindicates nor alludes to his authority. He addresses the victims as the one interpreter of the law; and he especially dwells upon his own personal wrongs :
"See them deliver'd over To execution and the hand of death."
Most skilfully does this violent and uncompromising exertion of authority prepare us for what is to come.
We are arrived at those wonderful scenes which, to our minds, may be classed amongst the very highest creations of art-even of the art of Shakspere. “Barkloughly Castle" is "at hand." Richard stands upon his "kingdom once again." Around him are armed bands ready to strip him of his crown and life. Does he step upon his "earth" with the self-confiding port of one who will hold it against all foes? The conventional dignity of the king cannot conceal the intellectual weakness of the man: and we see that he must lose his "gentle earth" for
ever. His sensibility-his plastic imagination-his effeminacy, even when strongly moved to love or to hatred-his reliance upon his office more than his own head and heart-doom him to an overthrow. How surpassingly characteristic are the lines in which he addresses his "earth" as if it were a thing of life-a favourite that he could honour and cherish-a friend that would adopt and cling to his cause-a partisan that could throw a shield over him, and defend him from his enemies :
"So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth, And do thee favour with my royal hands.— Feed not thy sovereign's foe, my gentle earth," &c.
He feels that this is a "senseless conjuration;" but when Aumerle ventures to say,
we are too remiss," he reproaches his "discomfortable cousin," by pointing out to him the heavenly aid that a king might expect. His is not the holy confidence of a highminded chieftain, nor the pious submission of a humble believer. He, indeed, says,— "For every man that Bolingbroke hath press'd To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown, God, for his Richard, hath in heavenly pay A glorious angel."
But when Salisbury announces that the "Welshmen" are dispersed, Richard, in a moment, forgets the "angels" who will guard the right. His cheek pales at the evil tidings. After a pause, and upon the exhortation of his friends, his "sluggard majesty" awakes; the man still sleeps. How artificial and externally sustained is his confidence :
"Arm, arm, my name! a puny subject strikes At thy great glory. Look not to the ground, Ye favourites of a king."
Scroop arrives; and Richard avows that he is prepared for the worst. His fortitude is but a passing support. He dissimulates with himself; for, in an instant, he flies off into a burst of terrific passion at the supposed treachery of his minions. Aumerle, when their unhappy end is explained, like a man of sense casts about for other resources :"Where is the duke my father with his power?"
But Richard abandons himself to his despair, in that most solemn speech, which is at once so touching with reference to the speaker, and so profoundly true in its general application :
"No matter where; of comfort no man speak."
His grief has now evaporated in words :"This ague-fit of fear is over-blown;
An easy task it is to win our own.
chester, in 1772, gave us a new 'Richard II.', "altered from Shakspere, and the style imitated." We are constrained to say that such criticism as we have extracted, and such imitations of style as that of Mr. Goodhall, are entirely on a par. Shakspere wanted
not the additional scene of Northumberland's treachery to eke out the story of Richard's fall. He was too sagacious to make an audience think that Richard might have sur
Say, Scroop, where lies our uncle with his mounted his difficulties but for an accident.
Richard is positively relieved by knowing
the climax of his misfortunes. The alterna
tions of hope and fear were too much for his indecision. He is forced upon a course, and he is almost happy in his weakness :—
"Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth
Of that sweet way I was in to despair!
By heaven, I'll hate him everlastingly That bids me be of comfort any more." Shakspere has painted indecision of character in Hamlet-but what a difference is there between the indecision of Hamlet and of Richard! The depth of Hamlet's philosophy engulfs his powers of action; the reflective strength of his intellect destroys the energy of his will:-Richard is irresolute and inert, abandoning himself to every new impression, because his faculties, though beautiful in parts, have no principle of cohesion;-judgment, the key-stone of the arch, is wanting.
Bolingbroke is arrived before Flint Castle. Mr. Courtenay says, "By placing the negociation with Northumberland at Flint, Shakspere loses the opportunity of describing the disappointment of the king, when he found himself, on his progress to join Henry at Flint, a prisoner to Northumberland, who had concealed the force by which he was accompanied."* A Mr. Goodhall, of Man
*Shakspeare's Historical Plays considered Historically.
It was his business to show what was essentially true (though one episode of the truth might be wanting), that Bolingbroke was coming upon him with steps as certain as tenant of a naked sea-rock. What was still that of a rising tide towards the shivering the overthrow of Richard, and the upraising more important, it was his aim to exhibit of Bolingbroke, as the natural result of the collision of two such minds meeting in mortal conflict. The mighty physical force which Bolingbroke subdued to his purpose was called forth by his astute and foreseeing intellect: every movement of this wary chief -perhaps even from the hour when he resolved to appeal Norfolk-was a consequence from a calculated cause. On the other hand, Richard threw away every instrument of defence; the "one day too late," with which Salisbury reproaches him-which delay was the fruit of his personal weakness and vacillation-shows that it was impossible to save him. Had he escaped from Conway, after being reduced to the extremities of poverty and suffering, in company with a few wretched followers, he must have rushed, from his utter want of the ability to carry through a consistent plan, into the toils of Bolingbroke. Shakspere, as we must repeat, painted events whilst he painted characters. Look at Bolingbroke's bearing when York reproaches Northumberland for not saying "King Richard ;"-look at his decision when he learns the king is at Flint ;-look at his subtlety in the message to the king :
On both his knees doth kiss King Richard's hand."
Compare the affected humility of his profes
sions with the real, though subdued, haugh- | the details of the quarrel scene in Westtiness of his threats
minster Hall, merely remarking that those "If not, I'll use the advantage of my power." who say, as Johnson has said, "This play is extracted from the 'Chronicle' of Holinshed, He marches "without the noise of threat'ning in which many passages may be found which drum;" but he marches as a conqueror upon Shakspere has, with very little alteration, an undefended citadel. On the one hand, transplanted into his scenes," would have we have power without menaces; on the done well to have printed the passages of the other, menaces without power. How loftily Chronicle' and the parallel scenes of RichRichard asserts to Northumberland the ter-ard II.' This scene is one to which the rerors which are in store-the "armies of pes- mark refers. Will our readers excuse us tilence" which are to defend his "precious giving them half-a-dozen lines as a specicrown!" But how submissively he replies men of this "very little alteration ?"to the message of Bolingbroke !—
"Thus the king returns:His noble cousin is right welcome hither.Speak to his gentle hearing kind commends." Marvellously is the picture of the struggles
of irresolution still coloured :—
"Shall we call back Northumberland, and send
We pass over the charming repose-scene of the garden-in which the poet, who in this drama has avoided all dialogues of manners, brings in "old Adam's likeness," to show us how the vicissitudes of state are felt and understood by the practical philosophy of the humblest of the people. We pass over, too,
"The Lord Fitzwater herewith rose up, and said to the king, that, where the Duke of Aumerle excuseth himself of the Duke of Glou
cester's death, I say (quoth he) that he was the very cause of his death; and so he appealed him of treason, offering, by throwing down his hood as a gage, to prove it with his body."
"If that thy valour stand on sympathies,
I heard thee say, and vauntingly thou spak'st
That thou wert cause of noble Gloster's death.
We have long borne with these misrepresentations of what Shakspere took from the 'Chronicles,' and what Shakspere took from Plutarch. The sculptor who gives us the highest conception of an individual, idealized into something higher than the actual man
(Roubiliac, for example, when he figured that sublime image of Newton, in which the upward eye, and the finger upon the prism, tell us of the great discoverer of the laws of gravity and of light)—the sculptor has to collect something from authentic records of the features and of the character of the subject he has to represent. The 'Chronicles' might, in the same way, give Shakspere the general idea of his historical Englishmen, as Plutarch of his Romans. But it was for
the poet to mould and fashion these outlines into the vital and imperishable shapes in which we find them. This is creation-not alteration.
Richard is again on the stage. Is there a jot in the deposition scene that is not perfectly true to his previous character? As to Bolingbroke's consistency, there cannot be a doubt, even with the most hasty reader. The king's dallying with the resignation of the crown-the prolonged talk, to parry, as it were, the inevitable act-the "ay, no! no, ay ;"-the natural indignation at Northumberland's unnecessary harshness;-the exquisite tenderness of self-shrinking abasement, running off into poetry, "too deep for tears"
"Oh, that I were a mockery king of snow, Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke, To melt myself away in water drops;"— and, lastly, the calling for the mirror, and the real explanation of all his apparent affectation of disquietude ;—
"These external manners of laments Are merely shadows to the unseen grief That swells with silence in the tortured soul:"
who but Shakspere could have given us these wonderful tints of one human mind-so varying and yet so harmonious-so forcible and yet so delicate—without being betrayed into something different from his own unity of conception? In the parting scene with the queen we have still the same unerring consistency. We are told that "the interview of separation between her and her
wretched husband is remarkable for its poverty and tameness." The poet who wrote the parting scene between Juliet and her Montague had, we presume, the command of his instruments; and though, taken separately from what is around them, there may be differences in the degree of beauty in these parting scenes, they are each dramatically beautiful, in the highest sense of the term. Shakspere never went from his proper path to produce a beauty that was out of place. And yet who can read these
*Skottowe's 'Life of Shakspeare,' vol. i. p. 441.
lines, and dare to talk of "poverty and tameness?"
"In winter's tedious nights sit by the fire With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
Of woeful ages, long ago betid;
And, ere thou bid good night, to quit their grief,
Tell thou the lamentable fall of me,
And send the hearers weeping to their beds." We are told, as we have already noticed, that this speech ends with "childish prattle." Remember, Richard II. is speaking.—Lastly, we come to the prison scene. The soliloquy is Richard all over. There is not a sentence in it that does not tell of a mind deeply reflective in its misfortunes, but wanting the guide to all sound reflection-the power of going out of himself, under the conduct of a loftier reason than could endure to dwell upon the merely personal. His self-consciousness (to use the word in a German sense) intensifies, but lowers, every thought. And then the beautiful little episode of "Roan Barbary," and Richard's all-absorbing application to himself of the story of the ". groom of the stable." Froissart tells a tale, how Richard was "forsaken by his favourite greyhound, which fawns on the earl." The quaint historian, as well as the great dramatist who transfused the incident, knew the avenues to the human heart. Steevens thinks the story of Roan Barbary might have been of Shakspere's own invention, but informs us that "Froissart relates a yet more silly tale!" Even to the death, Richard is historically as well as poetically true. His sudden valour is shown as the consequence of passionate excitement. A prose manuscript in the library of the King of France, exhibits a somewhat similar scene, when Lancaster, York, Aumerle, and others, went to him in the Tower, to confer upon his resignation:-"The king, in great wrath, walked about the room; and at length broke out into passionate exclamations and appeals to heaven; called them false traitors, and offered to fight any four of them." The Chronicles which Shakspere might consult were somewhat meagre, and might gain much by the addition of the records of this