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And clear a trespass with your sweetest
I will forget this quarrel, gentle Alice,
The man who wrote that scene was no or-
We have seen the conspiracy to murder Arden on Rainhamdown. The devoted man again escapes by accident, and the ‘Chronicle' thus briefly records the circumstance :—
Frank. She being reprehended for the fact,
And many other assured arguments,
Having forsworn it with such vehement oaths,
Frank. First did she cast her eyes down to
Watching the drops that fell amain from
Then softly draws she forth her handkercher,
And with a majesty address'd herself
"When Master Arden came to Rochester, his man, still fearing that Black Will would kill him with his master, pricked his horse of purpose and made him to halt, to the end he might protract the time, and tarry behind. His master asked him why his horse halted. He said, I know not. Well, quoth his master, when ye come at the smith here before (between Rochester and the hill-foot over against Chatham) remove his shoe, and search him, and then come after me. So Master Arden rode on: and ere he came at the place where Black Will lay in wait for him, there overtook him divers gentle- lin complains, is an augury of ill. Black This "fighting at the heart," of which Frank
men of his acquaintance, who kept him company; so that Black Will missed here also of his purpose."
The dramatist shows us Greene and the two ruffians waiting for their prey, and the excuse of Michael to desert his master. Arden and Franklin are now upon the stage; and the dialogue which passes between them is a very remarkable example of the dramatic skill with which the principal characters are made to sustain an indifferent conversation, but which is still in harmony with the tone of thought that pervades the whole drama. Arden is unhappy in his domestic circumstances, and he eagerly listens to the tale of another's unhappiness. The perfect ease with which this conversation is managed appears to us a singular excellence, when we regard the early date of this tragedy:
"Frank. Do you remember where my tale did cease?
Arden. Ay, where the gentleman did check his wife.
Arden. Come, we are almost now at Rainhamdown:
Your pretty tale beguiles the weary way;
I would you were in case to tell it out."
Will and Shakebag are lurking around them; but the "divers gentlemen" of Arden's acquaintance arrive. Lord Cheinie and his men interrupt the murderers' purpose. Arden and his friend agree to dine with the nobleman the next day. They reach Feversham in safety. The occurrences of the next day are thus told in the 'Chronicle :'
"After that Master Arden was come home, he sent (as he usually did) his man to Sheppy, to Sir Thomas Cheinie's, then lord warden of the Cinque Ports, about certain business, and at his coming away he had a letter delivered, sent by
Sir Thomas Cheinie to his master. When he came home, his mistress took the letter and kept it, willing her man to tell his master that he had a letter delivered him by Sir Thomas Cheinie, and that he had lost it: adding, that he thought it best that his master should go the next morning to Sir Thomas, because he knew not the matter: he said he would, and therefore he willed his man to be stirring betimes. In this mean while, Black Will, and one George
Shakebag, his companion, were kept in a store- | tercepted by Read, a sailor, who accuses Ar
house of Sir Anthony Ager's, at Preston, by Greene's appointment; and thither came Mrs. Arden to see him, bringing and sending him meat and drink many times. He, therefore, lurking there, and watching some opportunity for his purpose, was willed in any wise to be up early in the morning, to lie in wait for Master Arden in a certain broomclose betwixt Feversham and the ferry (which close he must needs pass), there to do his feat. Now Black Will stirred in the morning betimes, but missed the way, and tarried in a wrong place.
"Master Arden and his man coming on their way early in the morning towards Shornelan, where Sir Thomas Cheinie lay, as they were almost come to the broomclose, his man, always fearing that Black Will would kill him with his master, feigned that he had lost his purse. Why, said his master, thou foolish knave, couldst thou not look to thy purse, but lose it? What was in it? Three pounds, said he. Why, then, go thy ways back again, like a knave (said his master), and seek it, for being so early as it is there is no man stirring, and therefore thou mayst be sure to find it; and then come and overtake me at the ferry. But nevertheless, by reason that Black Will lost his way, Master Arden escaped yet once again. At that time Black Will yet thought that he should have been sure to have met him homewards; but whether that some of the lord warden's men accompanied him back to Feversham, or that being in doubt, for that it was late, to go through the broomclose, and therefore took another way, Black Will was disappointed then also."
The incident of the visit to Lord Cheinie is, as we have seen, differently managed by the dramatist. The escape of Arden on this occasion is very ingeniously contrived. A sudden mist renders it impossible for the ruffians to find their way. Black Will thus describes his misadventure:-
"Mosbie. Black Will and Shakebag, what make you here?
What is the deed done? is Arden dead?
Saw you not how till now the sky was dark,
As Arden and Franklin return they are in
den of a gross injustice in depriving him of a piece of land. This incident is founded upon a statement of the chronicler, in accordance with the superstition of the times, that where the murdered body of Arden was first laid the grass did not grow for two years, and that of this very field he had wrongfully possessed himself:
"Many strangers came in that mean time, beside the townsmen, to see the print of his body there on the ground in that field; which field he had, as some have reported, most cruelly taken from a woman that had been a widow to one Cooke, and after married to one Richard Read, a mariner, to the great hindrance of her and her husband, the said Read; for they had long enjoyed it by a lease, which they had of it for many years, not then expired; nevertheless he got it from them. For the which the said Read's wife not only exclaimed against him in shedding many a salt tear, but also cursed him most bitterly even to his face, wishing many a vengeance to light upon him, and that all the world might wonder on him."
There is surely great power in the following passage; and the denunciation of the sailor comes with a terrible solemnity after the manifold escapes to which we have been witness :
"Read. What! wilt thou do me wrong and threaten me too?
Nay, then, I'll tempt thee, Arden; do thy
God! I beseech thee show some miracle
I speak it in an agony of spirit,—
Or else be brought for men to wonder at,
For curses are like arrows shot upright,
As oft I have in many a bitter storm,
And saw a dreadful southern flaw at hand,
This charge I'll leave with my distressful wife; My children shall be taught such prayers as these;
And thus I go, but leave my curse with thee."
We have next a scene in which, by the device of Alice, Mosbie and Black Will fasten a pretended quarrel upon Arden and his friend; but Mosbie is wounded, and Black Will runs away. A reconcilement takes place through the subtilty of the wife. Arden invites Mosbie with other friends to supper, and the conspirators agree that their deed of wickedness shall be done that night. The Chronicler briefly tells the story :
They conveyed Black Will into Master Arden's house, putting him into a closet at the end of his parlour. Before this they had sent out of the house all the servants, those excepted which were privy to the devised murder. Then went Mosbie to the door, and there stood in a nightgown of silk girded about him, and this was betwixt six and seven of the clock at night Master Arden, having been at a neighbour's house of his, named Dumpkin, and having cleared certain reckonings betwixt them, came home, and, finding Mosbie standing at the door, asked him if it were supper-time? I think not (quoth Mosbie); it is not yet ready. Then let us go and play a game at the tables in the mean season, said Master Arden. And so they went straight into the parlour; and as they came by through the hall, his wife was walking there, and Master Arden said, How now, Mistress Alice? But she made small answer to him. In the mean time one chained the wicket-door of the entry. When they came into the parlour, Mosbie sat down on the bench, having his face toward the place where Black Will stood. Then Michael, Master Arden's man, stood at his master's back, holding a candle in his hand, to shadow Black Will, that Arden might by no means perceive him coming forth. In their play Mosbie said thus (which seemed to be the watchword for Black Will's coming forth), Now
may I take you, sir, if I will. Master Arden; which way?
Take me? quoth
With that Black
Will stepped forth, and cast a towel about his neck, so to stop his breath and strangle him. Then Mosbie, having at his girdle a pressingiron of fourteen pounds weight, struck him on the head with the same, so that he fell down and gave a great groan, insomuch that they thought he had been killed."
The tragedy follows, with very slight variation, the circumstances here detailed. The guests arrive; but Alice betrays the greatest inquietude: she gets rid of them one by one, imploring them to seek her husband, and in the mean while the body is removed. The dramatist appears here to have depended upon the terrible interest of the circumstances more than upon any force of expression in the characters. The discovery of the murder follows pretty closely the narrative of the Chronicler
"Here enter the Mayor and the Watch. Alice. How now, master Mayor? have you brought my husband home?
Mayor. I saw him come into your house an hour ago.
Alice. You are deceived; it was a Londoner.
Mayor. Mistress Arden, know you not one that is call'd Black Will?
Alice. I know none such; what mean these questions?
Mayor. I have the council's warrant to apprehend him.
Alice. I am glad it is no worse. [Aside. Why, master Mayor, think you I harbour any such?
Mayor. We are informed that here he is; And therefore pardon us, for we must search. Alice. Ay, search and spare you not, through
Were my husband at home you would not offer this.
Here enter FRANKLIN. Master Franklin, what mean you come so sad?
Frank. Arden thy husband, and my friend,
Alice. Ah! by whom? master Franklin,
can you tell?
Frank. I know not, but behind the abbey There he lies murder'd, in most piteous case.
Mayor. But, master Franklin, are you sure 't is he?
Frank. I am too sure; would God I were deceiv'd!
Alice. Find out the murderers; let them be known.
Frank. Ay, so they shall come you along with us.
Frank. Know you this hand-towel and this knife?
Susan. Ah, Michael! through this thy negligence,
Thou hast betrayed and undone us all. [Aside. Mich. I was so afraid, I knew not what I did;
I thought I had thrown them both into the well. [Aside.
Alice. It is the pig's blood we had to supper.
But wherefore stay you? find out the murderers.
Mayor. I fear me you'll prove one of them yourself.
Alice. I one of them? what mean such questions?
Frank. I fear me he was murder'd in this house,
And carried to the fields; for from that place,
Mayor. Look in the place where he was wont to sit :
See, see, his blood; it is too manifest.
Alice. It is a cup of wine which Michael shed.
The more I sound his name the more he bleeds.
This blood condemns me, and in gushing forth Speaks as it falls, and asks me why I did it. Forgive me, Arden! I repent me now;
And would my death save thine, thou shouldst not die.
Rise up, sweet Arden, and enjoy thy love, And frown not on me when we meet in heaven: In heaven I love thee, though on earth I did not."
The concluding scene shows us the principal culprits condemned to die :
"Mayor. Leave to accuse each other now, And listen to the sentence I shall give: Bear Mosbie and his sister to London straight, Where they in Smithfield must be executed: Bear Mistress Arden unto Canterbury, Where her sentence is, she must be burnt: Michael and Bradshaw in Feversham Must suffer death.
Alice. Let my death make amends for all my sin.
Mosbie. Fie upon women, this shall be my song."
After the play, Franklin, in a sort of epilogue, somewhat inartificially tells us that Shakebag was murdered in Southwark, and Black Will burnt at Flushing; that Greene was hanged at Osbridge, and the painter fled. Bradshaw, according to the 'Chronicle' and the dramatic representation, was an innocent person. The drama concludes with the following apologetical lines :—
"Gentlemen, we hope you 'll pardon this naked tragedy,
Wherein no filed points are foisted in
And needs no other points of glozing stuff.”
These lines appear to us as an indication that the author of 'Arden of Feversham,' whoever he might be, was aware that such a story did not call for the highest efforts of dramatic art. It was a 66 naked tragedy," -"simple truth,”-requiring no filed points" or "glozing stuff." To a very young man, whose principles of art were not
Confess this foul fault, and be penitent. Alice. Arden, sweet husband, what shall I formed, and who had scarcely any models before him, this tragic story might have ap
peared not only easy to be dramatized, but a worthy subject for his first efforts. We have to consider, too, how familiar the fearful narrative must have been to the young Shakspere. The name of his own mother was Arden; perhaps the Kentish Arden had some slight relationship with her family; but it is evident that the play originally bore the name of Arden of Feversham, as if it were to mark the distinction between that family and the Ardens of Wilmecote. The tale, too, was narrated at uncommon length in the Chronicle' with which Shakspere was very early familiar. There is considerable inequality in the style of this play, but that inequality is not sufficient to lead us to believe that more than one hand was engaged in it. The dramatic management is always skilful; the interest never flags; the action steadily goes forward; there are no secondary plots; and the little comedy that we find is not thrust in to produce a laugh from a few barren spectators. The writer, we think, was familiar with London, which is not at all inconsistent with the belief that it belongs to the youth of Shakspere. Still, the utter absence of external evidence must have left the matter exceedingly doubtful, even if the tragedy had possessed higher excellences than belong to it. It was never attributed
to Shakspere by any of his contemporaries; and yet it must have been a popular play, for it was reprinted forty years after its publication. Without doubt there may have been some writer, of whose name and works we know nothing, to whom this play may have been assigned; but if it be improbable that Shakspere had written it, it is equally improbable that any of the known dramatists who had attained a celebrity in 1592 should have written it. It has none of the characteristics of any one of them--their extravagance of language; their forced passion; their overloading of classical allusions; their monotonous versification. Its power mainly lies in its simplicity. The unhappy woman is the chief character in the drama; and it appears to us that the author especially exhibits in "Mistress Arden" that knowledge of the hidden springs of human guilt and weakness which is not to be found in the generalities of any of the early contemporaries of Shakspere. Still we must be understood as not attempting to pronounce any decided opinion upon the question of authorship. We neither hold with the German critics, whose belief approaches credulity in this and other cases, nor with the English, who appear to consider, in most things, that scepticism and sound judgment are identical.
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
A CHARGE which has been urged against Shakspere, with singular complacency on the part of the accusers, is, that he did not invent his plots. A writer, who in these later days has thought that to disparage Shakspere would be a commendable task, says, "If Shakspere had little of what the world
calls learning, he had less of invention, so far as regards the fable of his plays. For every one of them he was, in some degree, indebted to a preceding piece.' The assertion that the most inventive of poets was without invention, as far as regards the fable of his
*Life of Shakspeare,' in Lardner's Cyclopædia.