ePub 版

scene of Shakspere's Henry IV. Part II., | Now trust me, my lords, I fear not but my son beginning

"I never thought to hear you speak again."

"The Famous Victories' was printed in 1594. In that copy much of the prose is chopped up into lines of various lengths, in order to look like some kind of measure :

Hen. V. Most sovereign lord, and well-beloved father,

I came into your chamber to comfort the melancholy

Soul of your body, and finding you at that time
Past all recovery, and dead to my thinking,
God is my witness, and what should I do,
But with weeping tears lament the death of you,
my father;

And after that, seeing the crown, I took it.
And tell me, my father, who might better take
it than I,

After your death? but, seeing you live,

I most humbly render it into your majesty's


And the happiest man alive that my father lives; And live my lord and father for ever!

Hen. IV. Stand up, my son;

Thine answer hath sounded well in mine ears, For I must needs confess that I was in a very sound sleep,

And altogether unmindful of thy coming:
But come near, my son,

And let me put thee in possession whilst I live,
That none deprive thee of it after my death.
Hen. V. Well may I take it at your majesty's

But it shall never touch my head so long as my
father lives.
[He taketh the crown.
Hen. IV. God give thee joy, my son;
God bless thee and make thee his servant,
And send thee a prosperous reign;
For God knows, my son, how hardly I came by it,
And how hardly I have maintained it.

Hen. V. Howsoever you came by it I know not;

And now I have it from you, and from you I will keep it:

And he that seeks to take the crown from my head,

Let him look that his armour be thicker than mine,

Or I will pierce him to the heart,
Were it harder than brass or bullion.

Hen. IV. Nobly spoken, and like a king.

Will be as warlike and victorious a prince
As ever reigned in England."

Henry IV. dies; Henry V. is crowned; the evil companions are cast off; the Chief Justice is forgiven; and the expedition to France is resolved upon. To trace the course of the war would be too much for the patience of our readers. The clashing of the four swords and bucklers might have rendered its stage representation endurable.

'The True Tragedy of Richard III.' is the only other History, of which we possess a printed copy, that we can assign to the period before the first real dramatists. This old play is a work of higher pretension than 'The Famous Victories.' Like that play, it contains many prose speeches which are printed to have some resemblance to measured lines; but, on the other hand, there are many passages of legitimate verse which are run together as prose. The most ambitious part of the whole performance is a speech of Richard before the battle: and this we transcribe :

"King. The hell of life that hangs upon the


The daily cares, the nightly dreams,
The wretched crews, the treason of the foe,
And horror of my bloody practice past,
Strikes such a terror to my wounded conscience,
That, sleep I, wake I, or whatsoever I do,
Methinks their ghosts come gaping for revenge
Whom I have slain in reaching for a crown.
Clarence complains and crieth for revenge;
My nephews' bloods, Revenge! revenge! doth

The headless peers come pressing for revenge;
And every one cries, Let the tyrant die.
The sun by day shines hotly for revenge;
The moon by night eclipseth for revenge;
The stars are turn'd to comets for revenge;
The planets change their courses for revenge;
The birds sing not, but sorrow for revenge;
The silly lambs sit bleating for revenge;
The screeching raven sits croaking for revenge;
Whole heads of beasts come bellowing for re-

And all, yea, all the world, I think,

Cries for revenge, and nothing but revenge:
But to conclude, I have deserv'd revenge.
In company I dare not trust my friend;
Being alone, I dread the secret foe;

"Such as give

Their money out of hope they may believe, May here find truth too."

I doubt my food, lest poison lurk therein; My bed is uncoth, rest refrains my head. Then such a life I count far worse to be Than thousand deaths unto a damned death! How! was 't death, I said? who dare attempt Heywood, in his 'Apology for Actors,' thus my death? writes in 1612:"Plays have made the

Nay, who dare so much as once to think my ignorant more apprehensive, taught the death?

unlearned the knowledge of many famous

Though enemies there be that would my body histories, instructed such as cannot read kill,

Yet shall they leave a never-dying mind.

But you, villains, rebels, traitors as you are,
How came the foe in, pressing so near?
Where, where slept the garrison that should a
beat them back?

Where was our friends to intercept the foe?
All gone, quite fled, his loyalty quite laid a-bed.
Then vengeance, mischief, horror, with mis-

Wild-fire, with whirlwinds, light upon your heads, That thus betray'd your prince by your untruth!" There is not a trace in the elder play of the character of Shakspere's Richard:-in that play he is a coarse ruffian only—an intellectual villain. The author has not even had the skill to copy the dramatic narrative of

Sir Thomas More in the scene of the arrest

of Hastings. It is sufficient for him to make Richard display the brute force of the tyrant. The affected complacency, the mock passion, the bitter sarcasm of the Richard of the historian, were left for Shakspere to imitate and improve.

Rude as is the dramatic construction, and coarse the execution, of these two relics of the period which preceded the transition state of the stage, there can be no doubt that these had their ruder predecessors,— dumb-shows, with here and there explanatory rhymes adapted to the same gross popular taste that had so long delighted in the Mysteries and Moralities which even still held a divided empire. The growing love of the people for "the storial shows," as Laneham calls the Coventry play of 'Hock Tuesday,' was the natural result of the energetic and inquiring spirit of the age. There were many who went to the theatre to be instructed. In the prologue to Henry VIII.' we find that this great source of the popularity of the early Histories was still active:


in the discovery of our English Chronicles: and what man have you now of that weak capacity that cannot discourse of any notable thing recorded even from William the Conqueror, nay, from the landing of Brute, until this day, being possessed of their true use?" There is a tradition reported by Gildon, (which Percy believes, though Malone pronounces it to be a fiction,) that Shakspere, in a conversation with Ben Jonson upon the subject of his historical plays, said that, "finding the nation generally very ignorant of history, he wrote them in order to instruct the people in that particular." It is not necessary that we should credit or discredit this anecdote, to come to the conclusion that, when Shakspere first became personally interested in providing entertainment and instruction for the people, there was a great demand already existing for that species of drama, which subsequently became important enough to constitute a class apart from Tragedy or Comedy.

The Legendary History of England was seized upon at an early period, as possessing dramatic capabilities; and in 'Ferrex and Porrex,' (sometimes called 'GORBODuc,') we have the work of two poetical minds, labouring, however, upon false principles. This drama was acted before Queen Elizabeth as early as 1562. Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, its joint author with Thomas Norton, was a man of real genius; yet the dramatic form overmastered his poetical capacity. Stately harangues stand in the place of earnest passion; rhetorical description thrusts out scenic action. Some of the lines, no doubt, are forcible and impressive,

such as those on the causes and miseries of | isle twenty-four years, died, and was buried civil war :

"And thou, O Britain! whilom in renown,

Whilom in wealth and fame, shalt thus be torn,
Dismember'd thus, and thus be rent in twain,
Thus wasted and defac'd, spoil'd and destroy'd:
These be the fruits your civil wars will bring.
Hereto it comes, when kings will not consent
To grave advice, but follow wilful will.
This is the end, when in fond princes' hearts
Flattery prevails, and sage rede hath no place.
These are the plagues, when murder is the


To make new heirs unto the royal crown. Thus wreak the gods, when that the mother's wrath

Nought but the blood of her own child may 'suage.

These mischiefs spring when rebels will arise,
To work revenge, and judge their prince's fact.
This, this ensues, when noble men do fail
In loyal truth, and subjects will be kings.
And this doth grow, when lo! unto the prince,
Whom death or sudden hap of life bereaves,
No certain heir remains; such certain heir
As not all only is the rightful heir,
But to the realm is so made known to be,
And truth thereby vested in subjects' hearts."

To the Legends of England belongs 'LoCRINE,' a play falsely ascribed to Shakspere himself, and Shakspere's own 'Lear.' The 'Lear' wholly belongs to the Tragic Drama, "the most perfect specimen of the dramatic art existing in the world." 'LOCRINE' may here claim a slight notice :—

The subject of this tragedy was a favourite with the early poets. We find it in 'The Mirror of Magistrates,' in Spenser, and in Drayton; occupying seven stanzas of 'The Faery Queen' (Book II., Canto 10), and fifty lines of the 'Poly-Olbion.' The legend of Brutus is circumstantially related in Milton's History of England,' where the story of Locrine is told with the power of a poet :

[ocr errors]

“After this, Brutus, in a chosen place, builds Troja Nova, changed in time to Trinovantum, now London, and began to enact laws, Heli being then high priest in Judæa; and, having governed the whole


in his new Troy. His three sons, Locrine, Albanact, and Camber, divide the land by consent. Locrine has the middle part, Loegria; Camber possessed Cambria, or Wales; Albanact, Albania, now Scotland. But he in the end, by Humber, king of the Hunns, who with a fleet invaded that land, was slain in fight, and his people drove back into Loegria. Locrine and his brother go out against Humber; who, now marching onwards, was by them defeated, and in a river drowned, which to this day retains his name. Among the spoils of his camp and navy were found certain young maids, and Estrildis above the rest, passing fair, the daughter of a king in Germany; from whence Humber, as he went wasting the sea coast, had led her captive; whom Locrine, though before contracted to the daughter of Corineus, resolves to marry. But being forced and threatened by Corineus, whose authority and power he feared, Guendolen the daughter he yields to marry, but in secret loves the other: and ofttimes retiring, as to some private sacrifice, through vaults and passages made under ground, and seven years thus enjoying her, had by her a daughter equally fair, whose name was Sabra. But when once his fear was off by the death of Corineus, not content with secret enjoyment, divorcing Guendolen, he made Estrildis now his queen. Guendolen, all in rage, departs into Cornwall, where Madan, the son she had by Locrine, was hitherto brought up by Corineus, his grandfather. And gathering an army of her father's friends and subjects, gives battle to her husband by the river Sture; wherein Locrine, shot with an arrow, ends his life. But not so ends the fury of Guendolen; for Estrildis, and her daughter Sabra, she throws into a river; and, to leave a monument of revenge, proclaims that the stream be thenceforth called after the damsel's name, which, by length of time, is changed now to Sabrina, or Severn."

[blocks in formation]

Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure;
Whilome she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father Brute.
She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
Of her enraged stepdame, Guendolen,
Commended her fair innocence to the flood,
That stay'd her flight with his cross-flowing


"So fares it with young Locrine"-" So Humber" "So martial Locrine" "So Guendolen." A writer in the 'Edinburgh Review' most justly calls Locrine "a characteristic work of its time." If we were to regard these dumb-shows as the most decisive marks of its chronology, we should carry the play back to the age when the form of the moralities was in some degree indispensable to a dramatic performance; when the action could not move and develop itself without the assistance of something ap

The dumb-show, as it is called, of 'Locrine' is tolerably decisive as to the date of the performance. It belongs essentially to that period when the respective powers of action and of words were imperfectly under-proaching to the character of a chorus. Thus stood; when what was exhibited to the eye required to be explained, and what was conveyed to the imagination of the audience by speech was to be made more intelligible by a sign-painting pantomime. Nothing could be more characteristic of a very rude state of art, almost the rudest, than the dumb-shows which introduce each act of 'Locrine.' Act I. is thus heralded :

"Thunder and lightning. Enter Ate in black, with a burning torch in one hand, and a bloody sword in the other. Presently let there come forth a lion running after a bear; then come forth an archer, who must kill the lion in a dumb show, and then depart. Ate remains." Ate then tells us, in good set verse, that a mighty lion was killed by a dreadful archer;

and the seventeen lines in which we are told

in 'Tancred and Gismunda,' originally acted before Queen Elizabeth in 1568, previous to the first act "Cupid cometh out of the heavens in a cradle of flowers, drawing forth upon the stage, in a blue twist of silk, from his left hand, Vain Hope, Brittle Joy; and with a carnation twist of silk from his right hand, Fair Resemblance, Late Repentance." We have their choruses at the conclusion of other acts; and, previous to the fourth act, not only "Megæra riseth out of hell, with the other furies," but she subsequently mixes in the main action, and throws her snake upon Tancred. Whatever period therefore we may assign to 'Locrine,' varying between the date of 'Tancred and Gismunda' and its

original publication in 1594, we may be sure that the author, whoever he was, had not this are filled with a very choice description power enough to break through the trammels of the early stage. He had not that of the lion before he was shot, and after he confidence in the force of natural action and was shot. And what has this to do with the just characterization which would allow a subject of the play? It is an acted simile:— drama to be wholly dramatic. He wanted "So valiant Brute, the terror of the world, that high gift of imagination which conceives Whose only looks did scare his enemies, and produces these qualities of a drama; The archer Death brought to his latest end. and he therefore dealt as with an unimagiO, what may long abide above this ground, native audience. The same want of the In state of bliss and healthful happiness?" dramatic power renders his play a succession In the second act we have a dumb-show of of harangues, in which the last thing thought Perseus and Andromeda; in the third " a of is the appropriateness of language to situacrocodile sitting on a river's bank, and a tion. The first English dramatists, and little snake stinging it;" in the fourth Om- those who worked upon their model, appear phale and Hercules; in the fifth Jason, to have gone upon the principle that they Medea, and Creon's daughter. Ate, who is produced the most perfect work of art when the great show-woman of these scenes, intro- they took their art entirely out of the produces her puppets on each occasion with a vince of nature. The highest art is a repreline or two of Latin, and always concludes sentation of Nature in her very highest forms; her address with "So"- "So valiant Brute" | something which is above common reality,

but at the same time real. The lowest art | embodies a principle opposite to nature; something purely conventional, and consequently always uninteresting, often grotesque and ridiculous. Locrine' furnishes abundant examples of the characteristics of a school of art which may be considered as the antithesis of the school of Shakspere.

We hopelessly look for any close parallel of the fustian of 'Locrine' in the accredited works of Greene, or Marlowe, or Kyd, who redeemed their pedantry and their extravagance by occasional grandeur and sweetness. The dialogue from first to last is inflated beyond all comparison with any contemporary performance with which we are acquainted. Most readers are familiar with a gentleman who, when he is entreated to go down, says, "to Pluto's damned lake, to the infernal deep, with Erebus and tortures vile also." The valiant Pistol had, no doubt, diligently studied 'Locrine;' but he was a faint copyist of such sublime as the following:

"You ugly spirits that in Cocytus mourn,
And gnash your teeth with dolorous laments;
You fearful dogs that in black Lethe howl,
And scare the ghosts with your wide-open

You ugly ghosts, that flying from these dogs
Do plunge yourselves in Puryflegethon ;
Come all of you, and with your shrieking notes
Accompany the Britons' conquering host.
Come, fierce Erinnys, horrible with snakes;
Come, ugly furies, armed with your whips;
You threefold judges of black Tartarus,
And all the army of your hellish fiends,
With new-found torments rack proud Locrine's


[blocks in formation]

Cease off your hasty chase of savage beasts!
Prepare to see a heart oppress'd with care;
Address your ears to hear a mournful style!
No human strength, no work can work my

Care in my heart so tyrant-like doth deal.
You Dryades and lightfoot Satyri,

You gracious fairies, which at even-tide
Your closets leave, with heavenly beauty stor❜d,
And on your shoulders spread your golden

You savage bears, in caves and darken'd dens, Come wail with me the martial Locrine's death;

Come mourn with me for beauteous Estrild's


Ah! loving parents, little do you know What sorrow Sabren suffers for your thrall."

[ocr errors]

According to Tieck, Locrine is the earliest of Shakspere's dramas. He has a theory that it has altogether a political tendency: "It seems to have reference to the times when England was suffering through the parties formed in favour of Mary Stuart, and to have been written before her execution, while attacks were feared at home, and invasions from abroad.” It was corrected by the author, and printed, he further says, in 1595, when another Spanish invasion was feared. We confess ourselves utterly at a loss to recognise in 'Locrine' the mode in which Shakspere usually awakens the love of country. The management in this particular is essentially different from that of King John' and 'Henry V.' 'Locrine' is one of the works which Tieck has translated, and his translation is no doubt a proof of the sincerity of his opinions; yet he says, frankly enough, "It bears the marks of a young poet unacquainted with the stage, who endeavours to sustain himself constantly in a posture of elevation, who purposely neglects the necessary rising and sinking of tone and effect, and who, with wonderful energy, endeavours from beginning to end to make his personages speak in the same highly-wrought and poetical language, while at the same time he shakes out all his school-learning on every possible occasion." To reduce this very just account of the play to elementary

« 上一頁繼續 »