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eventful reign which modern researches have | palus becomes a hero when the king is in discovered. If we compare every account, danger;-Richard, when the sceptre is struck we must say that the Richard II. of Shak- out of his hands, forgets that his ancestors spere is rigidly the true Richard. The poet won the sceptre by the sword. The one is is the truest historian in all that belongs to the sensualist of misdirected native energy, the higher attributes of history. who casts off his sensuality when the passion for enjoyment is swallowed up in the higher excitement of rash and sudden daring;—the other is the sensualist of artificial power, whose luxury consists in pomp without enjoyment, and who loses the sense of gratification when the factitious supports of his pride are cut away from him. Richard, who should have been a troubadour, has become a weak and irresolute voluptuary through the corruptions of a throne ;-Sardanapalus, who might have been a conqueror, retains a natural heroism that a throne cannot wholly corrupt. But here we stop. 'Sardanapalus' is a beautiful poem, but the characters, and especially the chief character, come before us as something shadowy, and not of earth. Richard II.' possesses all the higher attributes of poetry,-but the characters, and especially the leading character, are of flesh and blood like ourselves.
But with this surpassing dramatic truth in the 'Richard II.,' perhaps, after all, the most wonderful thing in the whole playthat which makes it so exclusively and entirely Shaksperean-is the evolvement of the truth under the poetical form. The character of Richard, especially, is entirely subordinated to the poetical conception of it-to something higher than the historical propriety, yet including all that historical propriety, and calling it forth under the most striking aspects. All the vacillations and weaknesses of the king, in the hands of an artist like Shakspere, are reproduced with the most natural and vivid colours, so as to display their own characteristic effects, in combination with the principle of poetical beauty, which carries them into a higher region than the perfect command over the elements of strong individualization could alone produce. For example, when Richard says
"Oh, that I were a mockery king of snow, Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke!"— we see in a moment how this speech belongs to the shrinking and overpowered mind of the timid voluptuary, who could form no notion of power apart from its external supports. But then, separated from the cha racter, how exquisitely beautiful is it in itself! Byron, in his finest drama of 'Sardanapalus,' has given us an entirely different conception of a voluptuary overpowered by misfortune; and though he has said, speaking of his ideal of his own dramatic poem,
You will find all this very unlike Shakspere, and so much the better in one sense, for I look upon him to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary of writers"it is to us very doubtful if 'Sardanapalus ' would have been written, had not the 'Richard II.' of Shakspere offered the temptation to pull the bow of Ulysses in the direction of another mark. The characters exhibit very remarkable contrasts. Sardana
And why is it, when we have looked beneath the surface at this matchless poetical delineation of Richard, and find the absolute king capricious, rapacious, cunning, and the fallen king irresolute, effeminate, intellectually prostrate,-why is it, when we see that our Shakespere herein never intended to present to us the image of "a good man struggling with adversity," and conceived a being the farthest removed from the ideal that another mighty poet proposed to himself as an example of heroism when he described his own fortitude—
"I argue not
Against heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
why is it that Richard II. still commands
His very infirmities make him creep into our affections; for they are so nearly allied to the beautiful parts of his character, that, if the little leaven had been absent, he might have been a ruler to kneel before, and a man
to love. We see, then, how thin is the partition between the highest and the lowliest parts of our nature-and we love Richard even for his faults, for they are those of our common humanity. Inferior poets might have given us Bolingbroke the lordly tyrant, and Richard the fallen hero. We might have had the struggle for the kingdom painted with all the glowing colours with which, according to the authorities which once governed opinion, a poet was bound to represent the crimes of an usurper and the virtues of a legitimate king; or, if the poet had despised the usual current of authority,
he might have made the usurper one who had cast aside all selfish and unpatriotic principles, and the legitimate king an unmitigated oppressor, whose fall would have been hailed as the triumph of injured humanity. Impartial Shakspere! How many of the deepest lessons of toleration and justice have we not learned from thy wisdom, in combination with thy power! If the power of thy poetry could have been separated from the truth of thy philosophy, how much would the world have still wanted to help it forward in the course of gentleness and peace!
KING HENRY IV.
SHAKSPERE found the stage in possession | throats,—when we see him, not seduced from
of a rude drama, 'The Famous Victories of Henry V.,' upon the foundation of which he constructed not only his two Parts of 'Henry IV.,' but his 'Henry V.'* That old play was acted prior to 1588; Tarleton, a celebrated comic actor, who played the clown in it, having died in that year. It is, in many respects, satisfactory that this very extraordinary performance has been preserved. None of the old dramas exhibit in a more striking light the marvellous reformation which Shakspere, more than all his contemporaries, produced in the dramatic amusements of the age of Elizabeth.
It is to this rude drama (of which we have previously given a slight analysis) that the student of Shakspere must refer, to learn what the popular notion of the conqueror of Agincourt was at the period when Shakspere began to write, and, perhaps, indeed, up to the time when he gave us his own idea of Henry of Monmouth. When we have seen that, for some ten years at least, the Henry of the stage was an ill-bred unredeemed blackguard, without a single sparkle of a "better hope," surrounded by companions of the very lowest habits, thieves and cut* See Book I. chap. v. page 19.
the gravity of his station by an irrepressible love of fun, kept alive by the wit of his principal associate, but given up only to drinking and debauchery, to throwing of pots, and brawls in the streets,-when we see not a single gleam of that “sun,”
"Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world;"— and when we know that nearly all the historians up to the time of Shakspere took pretty much the same view of Henry's character, we may, perhaps, be astonished to be told that Shakspere's fascinating representation of Henry of Monmouth, as an historical portrait, is not only unlike the original, but misleading and unjust in essential points of character."+ Misleading and unjust! We admire, and even honour, Mr. Tyler's enthusiasm in the vindication of his favourite hero from every charge of early impurity. In the nature of things it was impossible that Henry of Monmouth,—in many particulars so far above his age, in literature, in accomplishments, in real magna nimity of character,—should have been the
Henry of Monmouth,' by J. Endell Tyler, B.D., vol. i. p. 356.
low profligate which nearly all the ancient historians represent him to have been. But Mr. Tyler, instead of blaming Shakspere for the view which he took of Henry's character -instead of calling upon us "to allow it no weight in the scale of evidence;"-instead of informing us that the poet's descriptions are "wholly untenable when tested by facts, and irreconcileable with what history places beyond doubt;"—instead of attempting to shake our belief in Shakspere's general truth, by minute comparisons of particular passages with real dates, trying the poet by a test altogether out of the province of poetry;-instead of telling us that the great dramatist's imagination worked "only on the vague traditions of a sudden change for the better in the prince, immediately on his accession ;"instead of all this, Mr. Tyler ought to have called our attention to the fact that Shakspere was the only man of his age who rejected the imperfect evidence of all the historians as to the character of Henry of Monmouth, and nobly vindicated him even from his own biographers, and, what was of more importance, from the coarser traditions embodied in a popular drama of Shakspere's own day. It is not our business to enter into a discussion whether the early life of Henry was entirely blameless, as Mr. Tyler would prove. This is a question which, as far as an editor of Shakspere is concerned, may be classed with a somewhat similar question of the character of Richard III., as argued in Walpole's 'His- | toric Doubts.' But the real question for us to consider is this, what were the opinions of all the historians up to Shakspere's own time? Mr. Tyler himself says, "Before Shakspere's day, the reports adopted by our historiographers had fully justified him in his representations of Henry's early courses." But we contend that Shakspere did not rest upon the historiographers;—he did not give credence to the vulgar traditions; he did not believe in the story of Henry's sudden conversion; he did not make him the low profligate of the old play, or of the older Chronicles. We are very much accustomed to say, speaking of Shakspere's historical plays, that he follows Holinshed. He does so, indeed, when the truth of the historian
is not incompatible with the higher poetical truth of his own conceptions. Now, what says Holinshed about Henry V.?—" After that he was invested king, and had received the crown, he determined with himself to put upon him the shape of a new man, turning insolency and wildness into gravity and soberness. And whereas he had passed his youth in wanton pastime and riotous misorder, with a sort of misgoverned mates and unthrifty playfeers, he now banished them from his presence." Holinshed wrote this in 1557; but did he invent this character? Thomas Elmham, a contemporary of Henry V., who wrote his Life, distinctly tells us of his passing the bounds of modesty, and, "when not engaged in military exercises, he also indulged in other excesses which unrestrained youth is apt to fall into." Of Henry's sudden conversion this author also tells the story; and he dates it from his father's deathbed. Otterburn, another contemporary of Henry, gives us also the story of his sudden conversion :-"repentè mutatus est in virum alterum." Hardyng, another contemporary, and an adherent of the house of Lancaster, says―
"The hour he was crowned and anoint
He changed was of all his old condition;"
or, as he says in the argument to this chapter of his Chronicle, "he was changed from all vices unto virtuous life." Walsingham, a fourth contemporary, speaking of a heavy fall of snow on the 9th of April, the day of his coronation, says, "that some interpreted this unseasonable weather to be a happy omen; as if he would cause the snow and frost of vices to fall away in his reign, and the serene fruit of virtues to spring up; that it might be truly said by his subjects, Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.' Who, indeed, as soon as he was invested with the ensigns of royalty, was suddenly changed into a new man, behaving with propriety, modesty, and gravity, and showing a desire to practise every kind of virtue." There is a ballad of Henry IV.'s time addressed to Prince Henry and his brothers, to dissuade them from spending time in "youthed folily." Caxton,
who wrote in the time of Edward IV., says, | has been to make the common tradition of "Here is to be noted that the King Henry Henry's almost miraculous conversion rest V. was a noble prince after he was king and only upon the opinion of others. The archcrowned; how beit before in his youth he had bishop indeed says,— been wild, reckless, and spared nothing of his lusts nor desires, but accomplished them after his liking." Fabyan is even more severe :-"This man before the death of his father
applied himself to all vice and insolency." The story of Henry insulting the Lord Chief Justice, and being by him committed to prison, was first told by Sir Thomas Elyot, in 1534, in his book entitled 'The Governor:' and he sets out by saying, "The most renowned prince King Henry V., late King of England, during the life of his father was noted to be fierce and of wanton courage."
His servant, according to this story, was ar
raigned for felony, and the prince, "incensed by light persons about him, in furious rage came hastily to the bar." According to Sir Thomas Elyot, the prince did not strike the judge; but, being "set all in a fury, all chafed, in a terrible manner came up to the place of judgment, men thinking that he would have slain the judge." Holinshed makes the blow to have been inflicted. Stow, whose Chronicle was published in 1580, gives us a much more natural version of the prince's robberies than that of the old play :—he makes them to have been wanton frolics, followed by restitution. Lastly, Hall collects and repeats all the charges against Henry of the earlier historians. In a word, there is not one solitary writer up to the time of Shakspere that entertained any doubt that
"His addiction was to courses vain; His companies unletter'd, rude, and shallow; His hours fill'd up with riots, banquets, sports."
This passage in 'Henry V.,' which is introduced by the archbishop to heighten his praises of the king by contrast with his former state, is the severest passage which Shakspere has against the early character of the prince. It is stronger than his father's reproof, in the third act of the First Part. But where is the "insolency" of Holinshed —the “all vices” of Hardyng—the "spared nothing of his lusts and desires" of Caxton? Let it be observed, too, how careful Shakspere
never Hydra-headed wilfulness
But the prince, in the very first scene in which he appears, thus apostrophizes his companions,
"I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness." Even in the 'Richard II.,' when Henry IV.
speaks of his "unthrifty son," we are prepared, not for the coarse profligate of the old play, but for a high-couraged and reckless boy, offending in the very wantonness of his hot blood, which despises conventional forms and opinions:
"As dissolute as desperate; yet, through both, I see some sparkles of a better hope." But it is not from the representations of others that we must form our opinion of the character of the Prince of Shakspere. He is, indeed, the "madcap prince of Wales,"
"that daff'd the world aside,"
but he is not the "sword and buckler prince of Wales," that Hotspur would have "poisoned with a pot of ale." He is a gentleman; a companion, indeed, of loose revellers, but one who infinitely prefers the excitement of their wit to their dissipation. How graceful too, and how utterly devoid of meanness and hypocrisy, is his apology to his father for his faults! How gallantly he passes from the revels at the Boar's Head to the preparations for the battle-field! How just are his praises of Hotspur! How modest his challenge!—
"I have a truant been to chivalry." What a key to his real kindness of heart and good nature is his apostrophe to Falstaff:—
"Poor Jack, farewell!
I could have better spared a better man!" How magnanimous is his pleading for the life of the Douglas! Never throughout the two plays is there a single expression of un
filial feeling towards his father. "My heart | Tyler has printed a letter of Prince Henry bleeds inwardly," says the Prince of Shakspere, to the council, written in 1401, and describing "that my father is so sick." The low profli- his proceedings in Wales against Owen Glengate of the old play says, "I stand upon thorns dower. It contains the following passages : till the crown be on my head." The king's -"So we caused the whole place to be set description of his son in Shakspere is truly on fire, and many other houses around it, bein accordance with the poet's delineation of longing to his tenants. And then we went his character:straight to his other place * * * * * there we burnt a fine lodge in his park, and the whole country around.
"He hath a tear for pity, and a hand
And yet, according to Mr. Tyler, Shakspere has done injustice to Henry of Monmouth. When in Richard II.' Bolingbroke speaks of his "unthrifty son,” Mr. Tyler informs us that the boy was only twelve years and a half old. "At the very time," says Mr. Tyler, "when, according to the poet's representation, Henry IV. uttered this lamentation (Part I., Act I. Scene 1), expressive of deep present sorrow at the reckless misdoings of his son, and of anticipations of worse, that very son was doing his duty valiantly and mercifully in Wales." Again, according to Mr. Tyler, the noble scene between Henry and his father in the third act of the First Part was not the real truth-Henry was not then in London; and from a letter of Henry to his council we find that the king had received "most satisfactory accounts of his very dear and wellbeloved son the prince, which gave him very great pleasure." Mr. Tyler remarks upon this letter, "It is as though history were designed on set purpose, and by especial commission, to counteract the bewitching fictions of the poet." For our own parts, we have a love of Henry as Shakspere evidently himself had; but we have derived that love more from "the bewitching fictions" of the poet, than from what we learn from history apart from the poet. With every respect for Mr. Tyler's excellent intentions, we are inclined to think that Shakspere has elevated the character of Henry, not only far above the calumnies of the old Chroniclers, which, we believe, were gross exaggerations, but has painted him much more amiable, and just, and merciful than we find him in the original documents which Mr. Tyler has rendered popular. Mr.
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And certain of our people sallied forth, and took a gentleman of high degree * he was put to death; and several of his companions, who were taken the same day, met with the same fate. We then proceeded to the commote of Edionyon, in Merionethshire, and there laid waste a fine and populous country." Our tastes may be wrong; but we would rather hold in our affections "the madcap prince of Wales" at the Boar's Head, "of all humours, that have showed themselves humours, since the old days of goodman Adam," than adulterate the poetical idea with the documentary history of a precocious boy, burning, wasting, and slaying; or, as Mr. Tyler says, "doing his duty valiantly." There is sometimes a higher truth even than documentary truth. The burnings and slayings of Henry of Monmouth must be judged of according to the spirit of his age. Had the great dramatist represented these things, he would, indeed, have done injustice to Henry in his individual character. We believe that he most wisely vindicated his hero from the written and traditionary calumnies that had gathered round his name, not by showing him, as he did Prince John of Lancaster, a "sober-blooded boy," but by divesting his dissipation of the grossness which up to his time had surrounded it; and by exhibiting the misdirected energy of an acute and active mind, instead of the violent excesses and the fierce passions that had anciently been attributed to him. The praiseworthy attempt of Mr. Tyler to prove that there was no solid historical ground for Henry's early profligacy is founded upon a very ingenious treatise, full of antiquarian research, by Mr. Alexander Luders*. That gentleman, as it appears to
* An Essay on the Character of Henry V. when Prince of Wales.' 1813.