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As they were living; think, you see them great,
The Field of the Cloth of Gold is
does all this close? In
"my life is spann'd already :
If the arrest of Buckingham had been
"I stood i' the level
Of a full-charged confederacy."
comes, in the spirit of honesty and justice, to represent to the king that his subjects are in great grievance." Upon his minister does the king lay the blame, and desires the grievance to be redressed. This looks like equity and moderation :—
"We must not rend our subjects from our laws, And stick them in our will."
The queen, who has obtained the redress of
Call him to present trial: if he may
It is evident that the hatred of Wolsey
But an interruption takes place. The queen him and Wolsey: it is his "misery" alone
that makes us "let fall a tear." Amongst a stranger."
"When I came hither I was lord high constable,
But there is a deeper pathos that will "draw the eye to flow." It is foreshadowed to us even while the eye is still wet for Buckingham:
"Did you not of late days hear A buzzing, of a separation Between the King and Katharine?"
The courtiers speak of this freely :—
She has been 66 a true and
I am about to weep; but, thinking that
The daughter of a king, my drops of tears
The eloquence of that "simple woman
"Cham. It seems the marriage with his intellect of Wolsey quails, and the self-will
Has crept too near his conscience.
No, his conscience Has crept too near another lady." And shall we "let fall a tear" because a just and spotless wife is about to be parted from a self-willed, capricious, tyrannical husband? If we read her character aright, we shall understand where lies the depth of her 'misery." It is not in Anne Bullen's description alone that we can estimate "the pang that pinches." It is not alone that she has "lived long" with "his highness""Still growing in a majesty and pomp, the which To leave a thousand-fold more bitter than "T is sweet at first to acquire." This is the interpretation of a young woman, to whom "majesty and pomp" look dazzling. In her notion the "divorce" from "temporal" glory is
"a sufferance, panging
As soul and body severing."
of Henry resorts to a justification of his
It is held that this pity of Anne for her dependants happy :
mistress is a stroke of dramatic art to render her amiable under her equivocal situation. Is it not rather the poet's profound display of the weakness of Anne's own character? The sufferings of Katharine lie deeper than this. She is one who feels that she is about to be surrounded with the snares of injustice. She is defenceless-"a most poor woman, and
"Alas! poor wenches, where are now your for
and then comes, out of this tenderness, the
"Do what ye will, my lords: And, pray, for-
If I have used myself unmannerly."
What appetite you we rejoice at "the instant cloud." But by the exercise of his marvellous art the poet throws the fallen man upon our pity. He restores him to his fellowship with humanity by his temporal abasement. The trappings of his ambition are stripped off, and we see him in his natural dignity. He puts on the armour of fortitude, and we reverence him.
The scene is changed. The stage is crowded with processional displays. There has been a coronation. We see it not; but its description is worth more than the sight:
"The rich stream
Of lords, and ladies, having brought the queen To a prepared place in the choir, fell off A distance from her: while her grace sat down To rest a while, some half an hour, or so, In a rich chair of state, opposing freely The beauty of her person to the people." Anne passes from the stage;-Katharine is led in sick. Her great enemy is dead. She cannot but number up his faults; but she listens to "his good." They have a fellowship in misfortune; and she honours his ashes. She is passing from the world. The grave hides that pure, and gentle, and noble sufferer. Anne is crowned. Her example of
"How soon this mightiness meets misery"
was not to be shown. But who can forget it? Then comes the shadowing out of new intrigues and new hatreds; and the despot puts on an attitude of justice. Elizabeth is born. The link is completed between the generation which is past and the generation which looks upon
"The very persons of our noble story, As they were living."
Shakspere has closed his great series of 'Chronicle Histories.' This last of them was to be "sad, high, and working." It has laid bare the hollowness of worldly glory; it has shown the heavy "load" of “too much honour." It has given us a picture of the times which succeeded the feudal strifes of the other 'Histories.' Were they better times? To the mind of the poet the age of corruption was as "sad" as the age of force. The one tyrant rides over the obligations of justice, wielding a power more terrible than that of the sword. The poet's consolation is to be found in the prophetic views of the future. The prophecy of Cranmer upon the reigns of Elizabeth and James is the eulogy of just government-partially realized in the age of Shakspere, but not the less a high conception, (however beyond the reality,) of
"What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so."
We have a few words to add on the style of this drama. It is remarkable for the
elliptical construction of many of the sentences and for an occasional peculiarity in the versification, which is not found in any other of Shakspere's works. The Roman plays, decidedly amongst the latest of his productions, possess a colloquial freedom of versification which in some cases approaches almost to ruggedness. But in the 'Henry VIII.' this freedom is carried much farther. We have repeated instances in which the lines are so constructed that it is impossible to read them with the slightest pause at the end of each line:—the sentence must be run together, so as to produce more the effect of measured prose than of blank-verse. As an example of what we mean, we will write a sentence of fourteen lines as if it had been printed as prose :
"Hence I took a thought this was a judgment on me; that my kingdom, well worthy the best heir of the world, should not be gladded in 't by me: Then follows, that I weigh'd the danger which my realms stood in by this my issue's fail: and that gave to me many a groaning throe. Thus hulling in the wild sea of my conscience, I did steer towards this remedy, whereupon we
are now present here together; that 's to say, I meant to rectify my conscience,—which I then did feel full sick, and yet not well,-by all the reverend fathers of the land, and doctors learn'd." If the reader will turn to the passage (Act II. Scene 4) he will see that many of the lines end with particles, and that scarcely one of the lines is marked by a pause at the termination. Many other passages could be pointed out with this peculiarity. A theory has been set up that Jonson "tampered" with the versification. We hold this notion to be utterly untenable; for there is no play of Shakspere's which has a more decided character of unity-no one from which any passage could be less easily struck out.
believe that Shakspere worked in this particular upon a principle of art which he had proposed to himself to adhere to wherever the nature of the scene would allow. The elliptical construction, and the licence of versification, brought the dialogue, whenever the speaker was not necessarily rhetorical, closer to the language of common life. Of all his historical plays, the 'Henry VIII.' is the nearest in its story to his own times. It professed to be a "truth." It belongs to his own country. It has no poetical indistinctness about it, either of time or place: all is defined. If the diction and the versification had been more artificial, it would have been less a reality.
THE ROMAN PLAYS.
THE three plays of 'Coriolanus,' 'Julius Cæsar,' and 'Antony and Cleopatra,' were first printed in the folio collection of 1623. The German critic, Horn, concludes some remarks upon Shakspere's 'King John' with a passage that may startle those who believe that the truth of history, and the truth of our great dramatic teacher of history, are altogether different things :
"The hero of this piece stands not in the list of personages, and could not stand with them; for the idea should be clear without personification. The hero is England.
"What the poet chose to express of his view of the dignity and worth of his native land he has confided to the Bastard to embody in words:
'This England never did, nor never shall, Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, But when it first did help to wound itself." But Shakspere is immeasurably more than Faulconbridge, and he would have the reader and the spectator more also. These lines are not intended to be fixed upon England at the beginning of the fourteenth century alone; they are not even confined to Eng
land generally. They are for the elevation of the views of a state-of a people. Happy for England that she possesses a poet who so many years since has spoken to her people as the highest and most splendid teacher! The full consequences of his teaching have not yet been sufficiently revealed; they may perhaps never wholly be exhibited. We, however, know that in England a praiseworthy zeal for their country's history prevails amongst the people. But who first gave true life to that history?"
In the three great Roman dramas, the idea, not personified, but full of a life that animates and informs every scene, is ROME. Some one said that Chantrey's bust of a great living poet was more like than the poet himself. Shakspere's Rome, we venture to think, is more like than the Rome of the Romans. It is the idealized Rome, true indeed to her every-day features, but embodying that expression of character which belongs to the universal rather than the accidental. And yet how varied is the idea of Rome which the poet presents to us in these three great mirrors of her history! In the young Rome of Coriolanus we see
the terrible energy of her rising ambition | history, without in any degree changing checked and overpowered by the factious them.” But he adopts the literal only when violence of her contending classes. We know that the prayer of Coriolanus is a vain prayer :
"The honour'd gods Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice Supplied with worthy men! plant love among
Throng our large temples with the shows of
And not our streets with war!"
In the matured Rome of Julius Cæsar we
"Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble
it enters into "the true poetical point of view," and is therefore in harmony with the general poetical truth, which in many subordinate particulars necessarily discards all pretension of "adhering closely to history." Jonson has left us two Roman plays produced essentially upon a different principle. In his 'Sejanus' there is scarcely a speech or an incident that is not derived from the ancient authorities; and Jonson's own edition of the play is crowded with references as minute as would have been Address to the Readers, he says-" Lest in required from any modern annalist. In his some nice nostril the quotations might savour affected, I do let you know that I abhor nothing more; and I have only done
When went there by an age, since the great it to show my integrity in the story." The
But it was famed with more than with one
When could they say, till now, that talk'd of
That her wide walks encompass'd but one
In the slightly older Rome of Antony, her power, her magnificence, are ready to perish
in the selfishness of individuals:
"Let Rome in Tiber melt! and the wide arch Of the ranged empire fall!"
Rome was saved from anarchy by the supremacy of one. Shakspere did not live to make the Cæsars more immortal.
Schlegel has observed that "these plays are the very thing itself; and, under the apparent artlessness of adhering closely to history as he [Shakspere] found it, an uncommon degree of art is concealed." The poet almost invariably follows Plutarch, as translated by North, sometimes even to the literal adoption of the biographer's words. This is the " apparent artlessness." But Schlegel has also shown us the principles of the uncommon art:"-" Of every historical transaction Shakspere knows how to seize the true poetical point of view, and to give unity and rounding to a series of events detached from the immeasurable extent of
character of the dramatist's mind, as well
"The angry spot doth glow on Cæsar's brow,
Gifford, speaking of Jonson's two Roman tragedies, says—“He has apparently suc