ePub 版

Compare this exquisite simplicity, this tender | Petrucio's character is assumed. Whatever and unpretending harmony, with the bom- he may say, whatever he may do, we are bastic images, and the formal rhythm, of satisfied that he has a real fund of good the other play; the following passage, for humour at the bottom of all the outbreaks example :

of his inordinate self-will. We know that, Come, fair Emelia, my lovely love, if he succeeds in subduing the violence of Brighter than the burnish'd palace of the sun, his wife by a much higher extravagance of The eyesight of the glorious firmament, violence, he will be prepared not only to reIn whose bright looks sparkles the radiant turn her affection, but to evoke it, in all the fire

strength and purity of woman's love, out of Wily Prometheus slily stole from Jove."

the pride and obstinacy in which it has been And who but Shakspere could have created buried. His concluding line, Grumio out of the materials which supplied the stupid Sander of The Taming of a

Why, there's a wench !--Come on, and kiss Shrew?' That

me, Kate," Ancient, trusty, pleasant, servant Grumio,” is an earnest of his happiness. is one of those incomparable characters who

Of the 'Induction' we scarcely know how drove the old clowns and fools off the stage, to speak without appearing hyperbolical in and trampled their wooden daggers and cox

our praise. It is to us one of the most precombs for ever under foot. He is one of that cious gems in Shakspere’s casket. The elenumerous train that Shakspere called up, of gance, the truth, the high poetry, the conwhom Shadwell said that “they had more

summate humour, of this fragment are so wit than any of the wits and critics of his remarkable, that, if we apply ourselves to time.” When Grumio comes with Petrucio compare it carefully with the Induction of to wed, he says not a word; but who has not

the other play, and with the best of the drapictured him “with a linen stock on one leg, in some degree obtain a conception, not only

matic poetry of his contemporaries, we shall and a kersey boot-hose on the other-a very monster in apparel; and not like a Christian

of the qualities in which he equalled and foot boy, or a gentleman's lackey ?” We excelled the highest things of other men, imagine him, like Sancho or Ralpho, some

and in which he could be measured with what under-sized. His profound remark,

them, but of those wonderful endowments in “considering the weather, a taller man than

which he differed from all other men, and to I would take cold,” is indicative equally which no standard of comparison can be of his stature and his wit.

In the scene

applied. Schlegel says, “ The last half of with Curtis, in the fourth act, he is almost this prelude, that in which the tinker in his as good as Launce and Touchstone.

new state again drinks himself out of his But we are digressing from Petrucio, the senses, and is transformed in his sleep into soul of this drama. Hazlitt's character of his former condition, from some accident or him is very just :-"Petrucio is a madman

other is lost.” We doubt whether it was in his senses ; a very honest fellow, who

ever produced ; and whether Shakspere did hardly speaks a word of truth, and succeeds

not exhibit his usual judgment in letting in all his tricks and impostures. He acts

the curtain drop upon honest Christopher, his assumed character to the life, with the when his wish was accomplished at the close most fantastical extravagance, with com

of the comedy which he had expressed very plete presence of mind, with untired animal early in its progress :spirits, and without a particle of ill-humour

“'T is a very excellent piece of work, madam from beginning to end.” The great skill lady; 'Would 't were done !" which Shakspere has shown in the management of this comedy is established in the Had Shakspere brought him again upon the conviction which he produces all along that scene, in all the richness of his first exhibi



tion, perhaps the impatience of the audience ventured to continue him. Neither this would never have allowed them to sit through fragment, nor that of “Cambuscan bold,” the lessons of “the taming-school.” We could be made perfect, unless we could have had farces enough founded upon the

“ Call up him that left half told legend of Christopher Sly, but no one has

The story.”




THE Dramas of Shakspere are in no particu- Henry the sixth, in infant bands crown'd king lar more remarkable than in the almost com- Of France and England, did this king sucplete absence of any allusion to their author -any reference to his merely personal

Whose state so many had the managing, thoughts and circumstances—any intimation,

That they lost France, and made his Eng

land bleed : that might naturally enough have been conveyed in Prologue or Epilogue, of the rela

Which oft our stage hath shown; and for

their sake, tions in which the Poet stood with regard to his audience.

In your fair minds let this acceptance take." There are only ten of his plays in which any one of the characters, at “The story” which the author “ hath purthe conclusion, comes forward as an actor to sued thus far" is the story which began with deprecate censure or solicit applause. There the deposition of Richard II. The story of are only two out of these ten plays in which the triumphant progress of the house of Lanthe Author, through the actor, directly ad- caster, up to the period when the son of dresses the spectators. In the Epilogue to Bolingbroke had “achieved the world's best * The Second Part of Henry IV.' the Dancer garden,” had been told by the poet in four says, in a light manner, “ Our humble Author dramas, of which ‘Henry V.' was the concludwill continue the story.” In the concluding ing one. These dramas had been linked toChorus to · Henry V.,' the Poet, then in the 1 gether with the most scrupulous care, so very zenith of his popularity, addresses him that, although for the purposes of represenself to the audience, of course through the tation there were necessarily distinct pauses actor, more seriously and emphatically :- in the action, they were essentially one great

drama. They were written, it is highly pro“ Thus far, with rough and all unable pen,

bable, almost consecutively; for not only Our bending author hath pursued the story;

does the external evidence show that they In little room confining mighty men, Mangling by starts the full course of their

were given to the world during the last

three glory.

years of the sixteenth century, but their Small time, but in that small most greatly whole dramatic construction, as well as their lived

peculiarities of style, determine them to beThis star of England : fortune made his long to one and same period of the poet's sword

life, when his genius grasped a subject with By which the world's best garden he achieved, the full consciousness of power, and revelled

And of it left his son imperial lord. in its own luxuriance, whether of wit or

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


fancy, without timidity. But there was

“ With three rusty swords, another great division of the story, which had And help of some few foot and half-foot been previously told. As the glories of the words, house of Lancaster, consummated in the Fight over York and Lancaster's long jars, victory of Agincourt, had been traced through

And in the tiring-house bring wounds to

scars." these four great dramas, so the ruin of the house of Lancaster, and all the terrible con- That the play in which the brave Talbot sequences of the struggles between that triumphed “again on the stage” was what house and the other branch of the Planta- we call · The First Part of Henry VI.,' there genets, even up to the final termination of can be no reasonable doubt; that what we the struggle at the field of Bosworth, had call the Second and Third Parts of 'Henry been developed in four other dramas of an VI.,' and perhaps · Richard III.,' were those earlier date :

in which were fought over “ York and Lan

caster's long jars," is equally clear. Shak“Henry the sixth, in infant bands crown'd king Of France and England, did this king suc

spere, as it appears to us, does not liesitate ceed;

to adopt this series of plays as his own. The Whose state so many had the managing,

author of 'Henry V.' asks that the success That they lost France, and made his Eng- of these earlier dramas should commend his land bleed :

later play to a favourable reception Which oft our stage hath shown.

For their sake, Of this other series of dramas thus described In your fair minds let this acceptance take.” -the second in the order of events, the first For a critical study of the plays of Shakin the order of their composition and per- spere there is an important advantage in formance—“the bending author” in his tracing the growth of his powers through the Chorus to · Henry V.' makes no equivocal probable order in which his dramas were mention. The events which "lost France produced. Following out this principle and made "England bleed” had the “stage” strictly, we should treat of 'Henry VI.' and of Shakspere often “shown,” in dramas Richard III. before 'Richard II.,''Henry which had long been familiar to his audience, IV.,' and `Henry V. But, on the other hand, and were unquestionably in the highest de- we may consider this series of eight plays as gree popular. As early as 1592 Thomas the development of a great idea of dramatic Nashe thus writes :-“How would it have unity, conceived, it may be, by the poet in joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, his earliest period, although produced in deto think that after he had lain two hundred tached portions, and not grouped into one years in his tomb he should triumph again on “story" till 'Henry V.' completed the series. the stage ; and have his bones new embalmed The circumstances which suggested the

the tears of ten thousand spectators at story” would naturally arise out of his youthleast (at several times), who, in the trage- ful position. The “story” of the Wars of the dian that represents his person, behold him Roses was presented to him with ancestral fresh bleeding !"* In 1596, when Ben Jon- and local associations. When Shakspere was son produced his “Every Man in his Hu- about five years of age, a grant mour,' he accompanied it with a Prologuet, made by the College of Heralds to his father. levelled against what appeared to him the The father was unquestionably engaged in absurdities of the romantic drama, in which business of some sort in Stratford-upon-Avon; is this passage :

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he was an agriculturist, in all likelihood ;

but he lived in an age when the pride of an* Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Devil.' † Gifford has clearly demonstrated that the Prologue

cestry was not lightly regarded, and when a appeared originally with Jonson's first comedy, and was distinction such as this was of real and pernot appended long afterwards, as the commentators have supposed, for the sake of sneering at Shakspere's later † Jonson, in another place, has translated the " sesquipe

dalia verba,” by this phrase.

arms was


manent importance. The grant was con- found a thick squat folio volume, then some firmed in 1599 ; and the reason for the con- thirty years printed, in which might be read, firmation of arms stated with minute“ what misery, what murder, and what exeparticularity in the “exemplification” then crable plagues this famous region hath sufgranted by Sir William Dethick and the fered by the division and dissention of the great Camden :—“Know ye that in all na- renowned houses of Lancaster and York.” tions and kingdoms the record and remem- This, to the generation of Shakspere's boybrance of the valiant facts and virtuous dis- hood, was not a tale buried in the dust of positions of worthy men have been known ages ; it was one whose traditions were and divulged by certain shields of arms and familiar to the humblest of the land, whilst tokens of chivalry ; the grant and testimony the memory of its bitter hatreds still ruffled whereof appertaineth unto us, by virtue of the spirits of the highest. “For what nobleour offices from the queen's most excellent man liveth at this day, or what gentleman of majesty and her highness' most noble and any ancient stock or progeny is clear, whose victorious progenitors ; wherefore, being so- lineage hath not been infested and plagued licited, and by credible report informed that with this unnatural division ?" In that old John Shakspeare, now of Stratford-upon- volume from which we quote, “ the names of Avon, in the county of Warwick, gent., the histories contained” are thus set forth : whose parent and great-grandfather, late an- _“I. “The Unquiet Time of King Henry the tecessor, for his faithful and approved service Fourth. II. 'The Victorious Acts of King to the late most prudent prince King Henry Henry the Fifth.' III. “The Troublous SeaVII. of famous memory, was advanced and son of King Henry the Sixth.' IV. “The rewarded with lands and tenements, given to Prosperous Reign of King Edward the him in these parts of Warwickshire, where Fourth. V. “The Pitiful Life of King Edthey have continued by some descents in ward the Fifth. VI. «The Tragical Doings good reputation and credit,” &c., &c. It is of King Richard the Third.' VII. The Ponot difficult to imagine the youthful Shak- litic Governance of King Henry the Seventh.' spere sitting at his mother's feet, to listen to VIII. The Triumphant Reign of King the tale of his “antecessor's " prowess ; or to Henry the Eighth.'” This book was Hall's picture the boy led by his father over the ‘Chronicle.' field of Bosworth-to be shown the great The subject, then, of this division of our morass which lay between both armies—and Studies ’ will be Shakspere's Dramatic ChroRadmoor Plain, where the battle began- nicle “ of the two noble and illustrious famiand Dickon's Nook, where the tyrant ha- lies of Lancaster and York, being long in rangued his army—and the village of Dad- continual dissention for the Crown of this lington, where the graves of the slain still realm,”—the ‘Chronicle, which commences indented the ground. Here was the scene of with the banishment of Boling broke by his antecessor's “faithful and approved ser- Richard II., and ends with the overthrow of vice.” In the humble house of Shakspere's the descendant of “the first author of the boyhood there was, in all probability, to be division on the field of Bosworth.

[ocr errors]




The Richard II. of Shakspere is the Richard conspiracy. Bacon hints at a systematic II. of real history.

purpose of bringing Richard II.“ upon the But there is a question whether, as the stage and into print in Queen Elizabeth's foundation of this drama, Shakspere worked time.” Elizabeth herself, in a conversation upon any previous play. No copy of any with Lambarde, the historian of Kent, and such play exists. The character of Richard keeper of the Records in the Tower, going is so entire—so thoroughly a whole—that we over a pandect of the Rolls which Lambarde can have little doubt in believing it to be a had prepared, coming to the reign of Richard creation, and not a character adapted to the II., said, “I am Richard II., know ye not received dramatic notions of the poet's au- that ?" Any allusion to Richard II. at that dience. But still there is every reason to time was the cause of great jealousy. Haysuppose that there was another play of warde, in 1599, very narrowly escaped a state Richard II.'—perhaps two others; and that prosecution for his ‘First Part of the Life one held possession of the stage long after and Reign of King Henry IV. This book Shakspere's exquisite production had been was the deposition of Richard II. put “into acted and published. There is a curious print,” to which Bacon alludes. It appears matter connected with the state history of to us that, without further evidence, there Shakspere's own times that has regard to the can be no doubt that the play acted before performance of some play of' Richard II.' On the partisans of the Earl of Essex was not the afternoon previous to the insurrection of the play of Shakspere. The deposition scene, the Earl of Essex, in February, 1601, Sir as we know by the title-page, professed to Gilly Merrick, one of his partisans, procured be added to the edition of 1608. The play to be acted before a great company of those which Merrick ordered was, in 1601, called who were engaged in the conspiracy," the an obsolete play. Further, would Shakspere play of deposing Richard II.” The official have continued in favour with Elizabeth, pamphlet of the declarations of the treasons bad he been the author of a play whose perof the Earl of Essex states that, when it formance gave such deep offence ? was told Merrick, “ by one of the players, But we have now further evidence that that the play was old, and they should have there was an old play of ‘Richard II.,' which loss in playing it, because few would come to essentially differed from Shakspere's play. it, there was forty shillings extraordinary Mr. Collier, whose researches have thrown so given to play it; and so, thereupon, played much light upon the stage in general, and it was.” In the printed account of the ar- upon Shakspere's life in particular, has pubraignment of Merrick, it is said that he lished some very curious extracts from a ordered this play“ to satisfy his eyes with a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, which sight of that tragedy which he thought soon describe, from the observations of a playafter his lord should bring from the stage to goer in the time of James I., a play of the state.” There is a passage in Camden's Richard II.,' essentially different in its * Annals' which would appear to place it be- scenes from the play of Shakspere. Dr. yond a doubt that the play so acted was an Symon Forman, who was a sort of quack and older play than that of Shakspere. It is astrologer, and who, being implicated in the there charged against Essex that he procured, conspiracy to murder Sir Thomas Overbury, by money, the obsolete tragedy (exoletam had escaped public accusation by suddenly tragoediam) of the abdication of Richard II. dying in 1611, kept “ a book of plays and to be acted in a public theatre before the notes thereof, for common policy ;" by which

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »