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eventful reign which modern researches have palus becomes a hero when the king is in discovered. If we compare every account, danger ;-Richard, when the sceptre is struck we must say that the Richard II. of Shak- out of his hands, forgets that his ancestors spere is rigidly the true Richard.
won the sceptre by the sword.
The one is is the truest historian in all that belongs to
the sensualist of misdirected native energy, the higher attributes of history.
who casts off his sensuality when the passion But with this surpassing dramatic truth for enjoyment is swallowed up in the higher in the 'Richard II.,' perhaps, after all, the excitement of rash and sudden daring ;-the most wonderful thing in the whole playother is the sensualist of artificial power, that which makes it so exclusively and en- whose luxury consists in pomp without entirely Shaksperean—is the evolvement of the joyment, and who loses the sense of gratifitruth under the poetical form. The character cation when the factitious supports of his of Richard, especially, is entirely subordi- pride are cut away from him. Richard, who nated to the poetical conception of it—to should have been a troubadour, has become something higher than the historical pro- a weak and irresolute voluptuary through priety, yet including all that historical pro- the corruptions of a throne ;-Sardanapalus, priety, and calling it forth under the most who might have been a conqueror, retains a striking aspects. All the vacillations and natural heroism that a throne cannot wholly weaknesses of the king, in the hands of an corrupt. But here we stop. 'Sardanapalus' artist like Shakspere, are reproduced with is a beautiful poem, but the characters, and the most natural and vivid colours, so as to especially the chief character, come before display their own characteristic effects, in us as something shadowy, and not of earth. combination with the principle of poetical Richard II' possesses all the higher attribeauty, which carries them into a higher re- butes of poetry,but the characters, and gion than the perfect command over the ele- especially the leading character, are of flesh ments of strong individualization could alone and blood like ourselves. produce. For example, when Richard says- And why is it, when we have looked be“Oh, that I were a mockery king of snow,
neath the surface at this matchless poetical Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke!”–
delineation of Richard, and find the absolute
king capricious, rapacious, cunning,-and we see in a moment how this speech belongs the fallen king irresolute, effeminate, intelto the shrinking and overpowered mind of lectually prostrate,—why is it, when we see the timid voluptuary, who could form no no- that our Shakespere herein never intended tion of power apart from its external sup- to present to us the image of “a good man ports. But then, separated from the cha- struggling with adversity," and conceived a racter, how exquisitely beautiful is it in being the farthest removed from the ideal itself! Byron, in his finest drama of 'Sar- that another mighty poet proposed to himdanapalus, has given us an entirely different self as an example of heroism when he deconception of a voluptuary overpowered by scribed his own fortitudemisfortune ; and though he has said, speak
I ing of his ideal of his own dramatic poem,
Against heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot You will find all this very unlike Shak
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer spere, and so much the better in one sense,
Right onward,”for I look upon him to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary of writers”. why is it that Richard II. still commands it is to us very doubtful if ‘Sardanapalus' our tears—even our sympathies ? It is this : would have been written, had not the -His very infirmities make him creep into
Richard II.' of Shakspere offered the tempt- our affections; for they are so nearly allied ation to pull the bow of Ulysses in the di- to the beautiful parts of his character, that, rection of another mark. The characters ex- if the little leaven had been absent, he might hibit very remarkable contrasts. Sardana- | have been a ruler to kneel before, and a man
to love. We see, then, how thin is the par- | he might have made the usurper one who tition between the highest and the lowliest had cast aside all selfish and unpatriotic parts of our nature—and we love Richard principles, and the legitimate king an uneven for his faults, for they are those of our mitigated oppressor, whose fall would have common humanity. Inferior poets might been hailed as the triumph of injured huhave given us Bolingbroke the lordly tyrant, manity. Impartial Shakspere! How many and Richard the fallen hero. We might of the deepest lessons of toleration and jushave had the struggle for the kingdom tice have we not learned from thy wisdom, painted with all the glowing colours with in combination with thy power ! If the which, according to the authorities which power of thy poetry could have been sepaonce governed opinion, a poet was bound to rated from the truth of thy philosophy, how represent the crimes of an usurper and the much would the world have still wanted to virtues of a legitimate king; or, if the poet help it forward in the course of gentleness had despised the usual current of authority, and peace !
KING HENRY IV.
SHAKSPERE found the stage in possession | throats,—when we see him, not seduced from of a rude drama, The Famous Victories the gravity of his station by an irrepressible of Henry V.,' upon the foundation of which love of fun, kept alive by the wit of his prinhe constructed not only his two parts of cipal associate, but given up only to drink" Henry IV.,' but his 'Henry V'* That old ing and debauchery, to throwing of pots, and play was acted prior to 1588; Tarleton, a ce- brawls in the streets,—when we see not a lebrated comic actor, who played the clown single gleam of that “sun," in it, having died in that year. It is, in
“Who doth permit the base contagious clouds many respects, satisfactory that this very
To smother up his beauty from the world;"– extraordinary performance has been preserved. None of the old dramas exhibit in and when we know that nearly all the hisa more striking light the marvellous re- torians up to the time of Shakspere took formation which Shakspere, more than all pretty much the same view of Henry's chahis contemporaries, produced in the dramatic racter,—we may, perhaps, be astonished to amusements of the age of Elizabeth.
be told that Shakspere's fascinating repreIt is to this rude drama (of which we have sentation of Henry of Monmouth, previously given a slight analysis) that historical portrait, is not only unlike the the student of Shakspere must refer, to learn original, but misleading and unjust in essenwhat the popular notion of the conqueror of tial points of character.”+ Misleading and Agincourt was at the period when Shakspere unjust! We admire, and even honour, Mr. began to write, and, perhaps, indeed, up to Tyler's enthusiasm in the vindication of his the time when he gave us his own idea of favourite hero from every charge of early Henry of Monmouth. When we have seen impurity. In the nature of things it was that, for some ten years at least, the Henry impossible that Henry of Monmouth,-in of the stage was an ill-bred unredeemed many particulars so far above his age, in blackguard, without a single sparkle of a literature, in accomplishments, in real magna * better hope," surrounded by companions nimity of character,—should have been the of the very lowest habits, thieves and cut
†Henry of Monmouth,' by J. Endell Tyler, B.D., * See Book I. chap. v. page 19.
vol. i. p. 356.
low profligate which nearly all the ancient is not incompatible with the higher poetical historians represent him to have been. But truth of his own conceptions. Now, what Mr. Tyler, instead of blaming Shakspere for' says Holinshed about Henry V. ?—“ After the view which he took of Henry's character that he was invested king, and had received -instead of calling upon us “ to allow it no the crown, he determined with himself to weight in the scale of evidence;"_instead put upon him the shape of a new man, turnof informing us that the poet's descriptions ing insolency and wildness into gravity and are “wholly untenable when tested by facts, soberness. And whereas he had passed his and irreconcileable with what history places youth in wanton pastime and riotous misbeyond doubt;"—instead of attempting to order, with a sort of misgoverned mates and shake our belief in Shakspere's general truth, unthrifty playfeers, he now banished them by minute comparisons of particular passages from his presence.” Holinshed wrote this with real dates, trying the poet by a test al- in 1557; but did he invent this character ? together out of the province of poetry;-in- Thomas Elmham, a contemporary of Henry stead of telling us that the great dramatist's | V., who wrote his Life, distinctly tells us imagination worked“ only on the vague tra- of his passing the bounds of modesty, and, ditions of a sudden change for the better in when not engaged in military exercises, the prince, immediately on his accession;"- he also indulged in other excesses which instead of all this, Mr. Tyler ought to have unrestrained youth is apt to fall into.” Of called our attention to the fact that Shakspere Henry's sudden conversion this author also was the only man of his age who rejected the tells the story; and he dates it from his imperfect evidence of all the historians as father's deathbed. Otterburn, another conto the character of Henry of Monmouth, and temporary of Henry, gives us also the story nobly vindicated him even from his own bio- of his sudden conversion :-“repentè mutatus graphers, and, what was of more importance, est in virum alterum.” Hardyng, another from the coarser traditions embodied in a contemporary, and an adherent of the house popular drama of Shakspere's own day. It of Lancaster, says is not our business to enter into a discussion
“ The hour he was crowned and anoint whether the early life of Henry was entirely
He changed was of all his old condition;" blameless, as Mr. Tyler would prove. This is a question which, as far as an editor of or, as he says in the argument to this chapter Shakspere is concerned, may be classed with of his Chronicle, “ he was changed from all a somewhat similar question of the character vices unto virtuous life.” Walsingham, a of Richard III., as argued in Walpole’s ‘His- fourth contemporary, speaking of a heavy toric Doubts. But the real question for us to fall of snow on the 9th of April, the day of consider is this,—what were the opinions of his coronation, says, “ that some interpreted all the historians up to Shakspere's own time? this unseasonable weather to be a happy Mr. Tyler himself says, “Before Shakspere's omen; as if he would cause the snow and day, the reports adopted by our historio- frost of vices to fall away in his reign, and graphers had fully justified him in his the serene fruit of virtues to spring up; representations of Henry's early courses." that it might be truly said by his subBut we contend that Shakspere did not rest jects, 'Lo, the winter is past, the rain upon the historiographers ;-he did not give is over and gone.' Who, indeed, as soon credence to the vulgar traditions ;-he did as he was invested with the ensigns of not believe in the story of Henry's sudden royalty, was suddenly changed into a new conversion ;—he did not make him the low man, behaving with propriety, modesty, and profligate of the old play, or of the older gravity, and showing a desire to practise Chronicles. We are very much accustomed every kind of virtue.” There is a ballad of to say, speaking of Shakspere's historical Henry IV.'s time addressed to Prince Henry plays, that he follows Holinshed. He does and his brothers, to dissuade them from so, indeed, when the truth of the historian spending time in “youthed folily.” Caxton,
who wrote in the time of Edward IV., says, has been to make the common tradition of “Here is to be noted that the King Henry Henry's almost miraculous conversion rest V. was a noble prince after he was king and only upon the opinion of others. The archcrowned; howbeit before in his youth he had bishop indeed says,been wild, reckless, and spared nothing of his
never Hydra-headed wilfulness lusts nor desires, but accomplished them after
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once, his liking." Fabyan is even more severe:- As in this king." 6. This man before the death of his father
But the prince, in the very first scene in applied himself to all vice and insolency.”
which he appears, thus apostrophizes his The story of Henry insulting the Lord Chief Justice, and being by him committed to pri
companions,son, was first told by Sir Thomas Elyot, in "I know you all, and will awhile uphold 1534, in his book entitled 'The Governor :' The unyoked humour of your idleness.” and he sets out by saying, “The most re
Even in the 'Richard II.,' when Henry IV. nowned prince King Henry V., late King of
speaks of his “
unthrifty son,” we are preEngland, during the life of his father was
pared, not for the coarse profligate of the old noted to be fierce and of wanton courage.”
play, but for a high-couraged and reckless His servant, according to this story, was arraigned for felony, and the prince, “incensed boy, offending in the very wantonness of his by light persons about him, in furious rage and opinions:
hot blood, which despises conventional forms came hastily to the bar.” According to Sir Thomas Elyot, the prince did not strike the “ As dissolute as desperate; yet, through both, judge; but, being “set all in a fury, all chafed, I see some sparkles of a better hope.” in a terrible manner came up to the place of But it is not from the representations of judgment, men thinking that he would have others that we must form our opinion of slain the judge.” Holinshed makes the blow
the character of the Prince of Shakspere. to have been inflicted. Stow, whose Chronicle
He is, indeed, the “madcap prince of Wales,” was published in 1580, gives us a much more natural version of the prince's robberies than
“ that daff’d the world aside," that of the old play:—he makes them to have but he is not the “sword and buckler prince been wanton frolics, followed by restitution.
of Wales,” that Hotspur would have “poisoned Lastly, Hall collects and repeats all the
with a pot of ale.” He is a gentleman ; a charges against Henry of the earlier his companion, indeed, of loose revellers
, but one torians. In a word, there is not one solitary who infinitely prefers the excitement of their writer up to the time of Shakspere that en
wit to their dissipation. How graceful too, tertained any doubt that
and how utterly devoid of meanness and “ His addiction was to courses vain;
hypocrisy, is his apology to his father for his His companies unletter'd, rude, and shallow;
faults! How gallantly he passes from the His hours fill’d up with riots, banquets, revels at the Boar's Head to the
for the battle-field! How just are his praises This passage in ‘Henry V.,' which is intro
of Hotspur! How modest his challenge! duced by the archbishop to heighten his praises of the king by contrast with his
“I have a truant been to chivalry.” former state, is the severest passage which what a key to his real kindness of heart and Shakspere has against the early character of good nature is his apostrophe to Falstaff:the prince. It is stronger than his father's
“Poor Jack, farewell ! reproof, in the third act of the First Part. But where is the “insolency” of Holinshed
I could have better spared a better man!" -the “all vices” of Hardyng—the “spared How magnanimous is his pleading for the nothing of his lusts and desires ” of Caxton ? life of the Douglas! Never throughout the Let it be observed, too, how careful Shakspere | two plays is there a single expression of un
filial feeling towards his father. “My heart | Tyler has printed a letter of Prince Henry bleeds inwardly,” says the Prince of Shakspere, to the council, written in 1401, and describing
father is so sick.” The low profli- his proceedings in Wales against Owen Glengate of the old play says, “I stand upon thorns dower. It contains the following passages : till the crown be on my head.” The king's —“So we caused the whole place to be set description of his son in Shakspere is truly on fire, and many other houses around it, bein accordance with the poet's delineation of longing to his tenants. And then we went his character:
straight to his other place
there we burnt a fine lodge in his park, and “He hath a tear for pity, and a hand Open as day for melting charity;
the whole country around. Yet notwithstanding, being incensed, he's flint; | And certain of our people sallied forth, and took As humorous as winter."
a gentleman of high degree
he was put to death; and several of his comAnd yet, according to Mr. Tyler, Shakspere panions, who were taken the same day, met has done injustice to Henry of Monmouth. with the same fate. We then proceeded to When in Richard II.' Bolingbroke speaks the commote of Edionyon, in Merionethshire, of his “unthrifty son,” Mr. Tyler informs us and there laid waste a fine and populous that the boy was only twelve years and a country.” Our tastes may be wrong ; but half old. “At the very time,” says Mr. Tyler, we would rather hold in our affections "the “when, according to the poet's representation, madcap prince of Wales” at the Boar’s Head, Henry IV. uttered this lamentation (Part I., “ of all humours, that have showed themAct I, Scene 1), expressive of deep present selves humours, since the old days of goodman sorrow at the reckless misdoings of his son, Adam," than adulterate the poetical idea and of anticipations of worse, that very son with the documentary history of a precocious was doing his duty valiantly and mercifully boy, burning, wasting, and slaying ; or, as in Wales.” Again, according to Mr. Tyler, Mr. Tyler says, “ doing his duty valiantly." the noble scene between Henry and his father There is sometimes a higher truth even than in the third act of the First Part was not the documentary truth. The burnings and slayreal truth-Henry was not then in London ;- ings of Henry of Monmouth must be judged and from a letter of Henry to his council we of according to the spirit of his age. Had the find that the king had received “most satis- great dramatist represented these things, he factory accounts of his very dear and well-would, indeed, have done injustice to Henry beloved son the prince, which gave him very in his individual character. We believe that great pleasure.” Mr. Tyler remarks upon he most wisely vindicated his hero from the this letter, “It is as though history were de- written and traditionary calumnies that had signed on set purpose, and by especial com- gathered round his name, not by showing mission, to counteract the bewitching fictions him, as he did Prince John of Lancaster, a of the poet." For our own parts, we have a “sober-blooded boy,” but by divesting his love of Henry as Shakspere evidently himself dissipation of the grossness which up to his had'; but we have derived that love more from time had surrounded it; and by exhibiting “the bewitching fictions” of the poet, than the misdirected energy of an acute and acfrom what we learn from history apart from tive mind, instead of the violent excesses and the poet. With every respect for Mr. Tyler's the fierce passions that had anciently been atexcellent intentions, we are inclined to think tributed to him. The praiseworthy attempt that Shakspere has elevated the character of of Mr. Tyler to prove that there was no solid Henry, not only far above the calumnies of historical ground for Henry's early profligacy the old Chroniclers, which, we believe, were is founded upon a very ingenious treatise, full gross exaggerations, but has painted him of antiquarian research, by Mr. Alexander much more amiable, and just, and merciful Luders*. That gentleman, as it appears to than we find him in the original documents
"An Essay on the Character of Henry V. when Prince which Mr. Tyler has rendered popular. Mr.
of Wales.' 1813.