« 上一頁繼續 »
this prince; for an excellent critic has lately told us, that when a king is named, a hero is supposed;* it is a reverence due to majesty, to make the virtues as conspicuous, and the vices as obscure, as we can possibly; and this, we own, we have either performed, or at least endeavoured. But if we were more favourable to that character than the exactness of history would allow, we have been far from diminishing a greater, by drawing it into comparison. You may see, through the whole conduct of the play, a king naturally severe, and a resolution carried on to revenge himself to the uttermost on the rebellious conspirators. That this was sometimes shaken by reasons of policy and pity, is confessed; but it always returned with greater force, and ended at last in the ruin of his enemies. In the mean time we cannot but observe the wonderful loyalty on the other side; that the play was to be stopped, because the king was represented. May we have many such proofs of their duty and respect! but there was no occasion for them here. It is to be supposed, that his majesty himself was made acquainted with this objection; if he were so, he was the supfeme and only judge of it; and then the event justifies us. If it were inspected only by those whom he commanded, it is hard if his own officers and servants should not see as much ill in it as other men, and be as willing to prevent it; especially when there was no solicitation used to have
* " All crowned heads by poetical right are heroes. This character is a flower, a prerogative so certain, so inseparably annexed to thecrown, as by no poet, no parliamciHof poets, ever to beinvaded." Rymer's Remarks on the Tragedies of the last age, p. 6l. This critical dogma, although heie and elsc-whcrc honoured by our author's sanction, fell into disuse with the doctrines of passive obedience, and indefeasible right.
it acted. It is known that noble person,* to whom it was referred, is a severe critic on good sense, decency, and morality; and I can assure the world, that the rules of Horace are more familiar to him, than they are to me. He remembers too well that the vetus comtedia was banished from the Athenian theatre for its too much licence in representing persons, and would never have pardoned it in this or any play.
What opinion Henry III. had of his successor, is evident from the words he spoke upon his deathbed: "he exhorted the nobility," says Davila, "to acknowledge the king of Navarre, to whom the kingdom of right belonged; and that they should not stick at the difference of religion; for both the king of Navarre, a man of a sincere noble nature; would in the end return into the bosom of the church, and the pope, being better informed, would receive him into his favour, to prevent the ruin of the whole kingdom." I hope I shall not need irt this quotation to defend myself, as if it were my opinion, that the pope has any right to dispose of kingdoms; my meaning is evident, that the king's judgment of his brother-in-law, was the same which I have copied; and I must farther add from Davila, that the arguments I have used in defence of that succession were chiefly drawn from the king's answer to the deputies, as they may be seen more at large in pages 730, and 731, of the first edition of that history in English. There the three estates, to the wonder of all men, jointly concurred in cutting off the succession; the clergy, who were managed by the archbishop of Lyons and cardinal
• The Earl of Arlington, Lord Chamberlain.
of Guise, were the first who promoted it; and the commons and nobility afterwards consented, as referring themselves, says our author, to the clergy; so that there was only the king to stand in the gap; and he by artifice diverted that storm which was breaking upon posterity.
The crown was then reduced to the lowest ebb of its authority; and the king, in a manner, stood single, and yet preserved his negative entire; but if the clergy and nobility had been on his part of the balance, it might reasonably be supposed, that the meeting of those estates at Blois had healed the breaches of the nation, and not forced him to the ratio ultima regum, which is never to be praised, nor is it here, but only excused as the last result of his necessity. As for the parallel betwixt the king of Navarre, and any other prince now living, what likeness the God of Nature, and the descent of virtues in the same channel have produced, is evident; I have only to say, that the nation certainly is happy, where the royal virtues of the progenitors are derived on their descendants.* In that scene, it is true, there is but one of the three estates mentioned; but the other two are virtually included; for the archbishop and cardinal are at the head of the deputies: And that the rest are mute persons every critic understands the reason, tie quarto log id persona laboret. I am never willing to cumber the stage with many speakers, when I can reasonably avoid it, as here I might. And what if I had a mind to pass over the clergy and nobility of France in silence, and to excuse them from joining in so illegal, and so ungodly a decree?
• Charles II. and his brother the Duke of York, were grandchildren of Henry IV. of France, by their mother Henrietta Maria. Am I tied in poetry to the strict rules of history? I have followed it in this play more closely than suited with the laws of the drama, and a great victory they will have, who shall discover to the world this wonderful secret, that I have not observed the unities of place and time; but are they better kept in the farce of the "Libertine destroyed r" * It was our common business here to draw the parallel of the times, and not to make an exact tragedy. For this once we were resolved to err with honest Shakespeare; neither can " Catiline" or " Sejanus," (written by the great master of our art,) stand excused, any more than we, from this exception; but if we must be criticised, some plays of our adversaries may be exposed, and let them reckon their gains when the dispute is ended. I am accused of ignorance, for speaking of the third estate, as not sitting in the same house with the other two. Let not those gentlemen mistake themselves; there are many things in plays to be accommodated to the country in which we live; I spoke to the understanding of an English audience. Our three estates now sit, and have long done so, in two houses; but our records bear witness, that they, according to the French custom, have sate in one; that is, the lords spiritual and temporal within the bar, and the commons without it. If that custom had been still continu
• A very poor imitation of Moliere's " Festin de Pierre;" with the story of which the admirers of mute-shew have since been entertained, under the title of Don Juan. In the preface, Shadwell, after railing abundantly at Settle, is at the pains to assure us, there is no act in the piece which cost him above four days writing, and the last two (the play-house having great occasion for a play) were both written in four days. The Libertine, and his companions, travel by sea and land over the whole kingdom of Spain.
ed here, it should have been so represented; but being otherwise, I was forced to write so as to be understood by our own countrymen. If these be errors, a bigger poet than either of us two has fallen into greater, and the proofs are ready, whenever the suit shall be recommenced.
Mr Hunt, the Jehu of the party, begins very furiously with me, and says, "I have already condemned the charter and city, and have executed the magistrates in effigy upon the stage, in a play called the Duke of Guise, frequently acted and applauded," &c #.
Compare the latter end of this sentence with what the two authors of the Reflections, or perhaps the Associating Club of the Devil-tavern f write in the
* See the full passage prefixed to the Vindication.
+ The club alluded to seems to be the same which originally met at the King's-Head tavern, of which North gives the following lively account. "The gentlemen of that worthy society held their evening session continually at the King's-Head tavern, over against the Inner Temple gate. But upon occasion of the signal of a green ribbon, agreed to be worn in their hats in the days of secret engagements, like the coats of arms of valiant knights of old, whereby all the warriors of the society might be distinguished, and not mistake friends for enemies, they were called also the Green Ribbon Club. Their seat was in a sort of carrefour, at ChanceryLane end, a centre of business and company, most proper for such anglers of fools. The house was double-balconied in front, as may be yet seen, for the clubsters to issue forth, in fresco, with hats and no peruques, pipes in their mouths, merry faces, and diluted throats, for vocal encouragement of the canaglia below, at bonfires, on usual and unusual occasions. They admitted all strangers that were confidingly introduced ; for, it was a main end of their institution to make proselytes, especially of the raw estated youths newly come to town. This copious society were, to the faction in and about London, a sort of executive power, and by correspondence all over England. The resolves of the more retired councils and ministry of the faction, were brought in here, and orally insinuated to the company, whether it were lies, defamations, commendations, projects, &c. and so, like water