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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 “that my 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 bim, 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.
us, has left the question pretty much where and Richard II.'). It is only an historical he found it. He has, however, taken a right picture, the various circumstances of which view of what our poet did for the character have no relation amongst themselves. There of Henry : “ Shakspere seemed to struggle is no personage who predominates over the against believing the current stories of mis- others, so as to fix the attention of the audiconduct as much as he could, that he might ence. It is the anarchy of the Scene. What, not let the prince down to their level.” however, renders it worthy an attentive ex
amination is its division into a tragic and “In the Shaksperean drama there is a vi
a comic portion. The two species are here tality which grows and evolves itself from
The tragic portion is cold, within—a key-note which guides and con-disjointed, undecided; but the comic, altrols the harmonies throughout.”* It is though absolutely foreign to the shadow of under the direction of a deep and absolute the action which makes the subject of the conviction of the truth of this principle-piece, merits sometimes to be placed by the not only as applied to the masterpieces of side of the better passages of the Regnards, Shakspere, the ‘Lear,' the Macbeth,' the
and even of the Molières." This is pretty Othello,' but to all his works without ex
decided for a blockhead; and, indeed, the ception—that we can alone presume to under- | decision with which he speaks could only prostand any single drama of this poet-much
ceed from a blockhead par excellence. Had less to attempt to lead the judgment of others.
this Frenchman not been supremely dull and Until by long and patient thought we believe
conceited, he would have had some glimmerthat we have traced the roots, and seen the ings of the truth, though he might not have branches and buddings, of that “ vitality"- seen the whole truth. Our own Johnson had until by frequent listening to those “har
too strong a sympathy with the marvellous monies” we hear, or fancy we hear, that talent which runs through the scenes of the “key-note”—we hold ourselves to be utterly “Henry IV.' not to speak of these plays with unfitted even to call attention to a solitary more than common enthusiasm. The great poetical beauty, or to develope the peculiari- events, he says, are interesting; the slighter ties of a single character. Shakspere is not
occurrences diverting; the characters diverto be taken up like an ordinary writer of sified with the profoundest skill; Falstaff is fiction, whose excellence may be tested by a the unimitated, unimitable. But now comes brilliant dialogue here, or a striking situation the qualification-the
result of Johnson lookthere. The proper object of criticism upon
ing at the parts instead of the whole:-“I Shakspere is to show the dependence of the
fancy every reader, when he ends this play, parts upon the whole; for by that principle cries out with Desdemona, “O most lame and alone can we come to a due appreciation even impotent conclusion!' As this play was not, of the separate parts. Dull critics, and bril
to our knowledge, divided into acts by the liant critics, equally blunder about Shak- author, I could be content to conclude it spere, when they reject this safe guide to the
with the death of Henry the Fourth.” Let comprehension of his works. We have a
us endeavour, in going through the scenes Frenchman before us--M. Paul Duport—who
of these plays, with the help of the great gives us an 'Analyse Raisonnée' of our
guiding principle that Shakspere “worked poet, which is perfectly guiltless of any im
in the spirit of nature by evolving the germ aginative power to hide or adorn the dry
from within, by the imaginative power acbones of the Analysist. Mark the confidence
cording to an idea ;'I-let us endeavour to with which this gentleman speaks of the two prove-not, indeed, that these plays do not plays before us! Of the first part he says, want action and interest, and that the tragic “This piece has still less of action and in parts are not cold, disjointed, and undecided terest than those which preceded it—(“John,' ----but that all the circumstances have rela* Coleridge's Literary Remains,' vol. i. p. 104.
tion amongst themselves, and that the comic Essais Littéraires sur Shakspeare,' 2 tom. Paris, 1828. # Coleridge's Literary Remains,' vol. I. p. 104.
parts, so far from being absolutely foreign to Who is sweet Fortune's minion, and her pride:
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay, “Can no man tell of my unthrifty son?”—
And callid mine Percy, his Plantagenet ! to "the most lame and impotent conclusion" Then would I have his Harry, and he mine. which Johnson would suppress, nothing can
But let him from my thoughts." be spared—nothing can be altered;—that The King forces his "young Harry” from Dame Quickly and Justice Silence are as his thoughts, and talks of "young Percy's essential to the progress of the action as pride.” But the real action of the drama Hotspur and ihe King ;—that the Prince has commenced, in this irrepressible disclosure could not advance without Falstaff, nor Fal- of the King's habitual feelings. It is for the staff witho the Prince;—that the poetry poet to carry on the exhibition of the “riot and the wit are co-dependent and insepa. and dishonour,”—their course, their ebbings rable ;-and, above all, that the minute shades and flowings,—the circumstances which conof character generally, and especially the ex- trol, and modify, and subdue them. The traordinary fusion of many contrary quali- events which determine the career of the ties in the character of Falstaff, are to be Prince finally conquer the habits by which completely explained and reconciled only by
he was originally surrounded ; and it is in reference to their connexion with the dra- the entire disclosure of these habits—as not matic action—“the key-note which guides incompatible with their growing modification and controls the harmonies throughout." and ultimate overthrow by those events
Some seventy lines from the commence- which constitute what is called the tragic ment of this play (we shall find it convenient action of the drama—that every incident to speak of the two parts as forming one
character becomes an integral part drama), the “key-note” is struck. The King of the whole-a branch, or a leaf, or a bud, communicates to his friends “the smooth and
or a flower, of the one " vitality.” welcome news" of the battle of Holmedon.
We have seen in what spirit the Prince of His exultation is unbounded:
the old play which preceded Shakspere was “And is not this an honourable prize?
conceived. We have seen, also, the character A gallant prize? ha, cousin, is it not?" of the associates by whom he was surrounded.
We feel that the whole of such a representaBut when the King is told
tion must be untrue. The depraved and un" It is a conquest for a prince to boast of," feeling blackguard of that play could never the one circumstance—the
have become the hero of Agincourt. There
was no unity of character between the Prince “ One fatal remembrance, one
of the beginning and of the end of that throws
play; and therefore there could have been Its deep shade alike o'er his joys and his
no unity of action. Perhaps no mind but woes,"
Shakspere's could have reconciled the appathe shame that extinguishes the right to rent contradiction which appears to lie upon boast,-comes across his mind :
the surface both of the events by which the “Yea, there thou mak'st me sad, and mak’st Prince was moulded, and the characters by
which he was surrounded. It was for him me sin In envy that my lord Northumberland
alone to exhibit a species of profligacy not Should be the father of so bless'd a son:
only capable of being conquered by the A son, who is the theme of honour's tongue;
higher energy which made the Prince chivalAmongst a grove, the very straightest plant; rously brave and daring, but absolutely akin
to that higher energy.
This was to be that ever was written, except, perhaps, a paseffected, not only by the peculiar qualities of sage or two in Cervantes, can at all approach. the Prince's own mind, but by the still more The players, however, are consistent. Their peculiar qualities of his associates. As the intolerance of poetry and of wit are equal. Prince of Shakspere, while he
Not a line do they keep of the matchless
first scene of the third act, than which Shak-
anything more spirited,
prote never ceased to feel, in the depths of his more individualised, more harmonious. But nobler nature, “ thus we play the fools with we are digressing/ Falstaff, then, we see, in the time; and the spirits of the wise sit in the rude general conception of his character, the clouds and mock us,"—so he never could is fat, cowardly, and somewhat witty. The have been surrounded by the “Ned” and players always double and quadruple the au“Tom” of the old play, who must have ex- thor's notion of his fat and his cowardice; tinguished all thoughts of “the wise,” and and they, kindly allow us a modicum of his have produced irredeemable “dishouour.” wit. To be fat and to be cowardly, and even Falstaff, the “unimitated, unimitable Fal to have some wit, would go far to make an staff," was the poetical creation that was excellent butt for a wild young prince; but absolutely necessary to the conduct of the they would not make a Falstaff. These quali great dramatic action,—the natural trans- ties would be, to such a prince as Shakspere formation of “the madcap Prince of Wales” has conceived, little better than Bardolph's into King Henry V. So, indeed, were all the nose, or the Drawer's “ Anon, anon, sir.” To satellites which revolve round Falstaff, understand Falstaff, however, we must take sharing and reflecting his light. It is the him scene by scene, and incident by incident; perfect characterization of this drama we must study his character in its developwhich makes the incidents consistent: the cha- ment by the incidents, “ Thou art so fatracters cannot live apart from the incident; witted, with drinking of old sack, and unbutthe incidents cannot move on without the toning thee after supper, and sleeping upon characters. If we attempt to unravel the benches after noon.” Here is the sensualist characters, and the complicated character of introduced to us. We have here a vista of Falstaff especially, without reference to the “the halfpennyworth of bread to the intoleincidents, we are speedily in a labyrinth.rable deal of sack.” But, if we look closely, The vulgar notion of Falstaff, for example, we shall see that the Prince is exaggerating ; is the stage notion. Mrs. Inchbald truly and that Falstaff humours the exaggeration. remarks, “ To many spectators, all Falstaff's It is Falstaff's cue to heighten all his own humour is comprised in his unwieldy per- infirmities and frailties. “ Men of all sorts," son." But the same lady adopts an equally he says, “take a pride to gird at me.” But vulgar stage generalization, and calls him he has himself a pride in the pride which the “cowardly Falstaff.” The “wit” of Fal- they take:—“The brain of this foolish-comstaff, though slightly received into the stage pounded clay, man, is not able to invent conception of the character, is a very vague anything that tends to laughter, more than notion compared with the bulk and the I invent, or is invented on me: I am not cowardice of Falstaff. Mrs. Inchbald (we are only witty in myself, but the cause that wit quoting from her prefaces to the acted plays) is in other men.” How immediately Falstaff says, “The reader who is too refined to laugh turns the prince from bantering to a position at the wit of Sir John must yet enjoy Hot-in which he has to deal with an antagonist. spur's picture of a coxcomb.” The refine- The thrusts of wit are exchanged like the ment of the players is even more sensitive; bouts of a fencing-match. The sensualist, for they altogether leave out in the repre- we see, has a prodigious activity of intellect ; sentation the scene where Falstaff and the and he at once passes out of the slough of Prince alternately stand for the King and vulgar sensuality. But the man of wit is Ilarry-a scene to which nothing of comic | also a man of action. He is ready for “purse
taking;”—'t is his “ vocation.” Is not this without refinement,—the force of will rising again meant to be an exaggeration? The into poetry even by its own chafings,—are “ night's exploit on Gadshill” was the single fully brought out in the rapid movement of violence, as far as we know, of Falstaff as this scene. Never was the sublimity of an well as of the Prince. His “vocation" was over-mastering passion more consummately that of a soldier. It is as a soldier that we displayed. No disjointed ravings, no callings for the most part see him throughout this upon the gods, no clenchings of the fist or drama—a soldier having charge and au- tearings of the hair, no threats without a thority. But in the days of Henry IV., and purpose, --none of the comm
monplaces which long after, the “vocation” of a soldier was make
up the staple of ordinary tragedy; but that of a plunderer, and “purse-taking” was the uncontrollable rush of an energetic an object not altogether unfamiliar to Fal- mind, abandoning itself from a sense of instaff's professional vision. That Shakspere jury to impulses impossible to be guided by ever meant to paint him as an habitual thief, will or circumstance, and which finally or a companion of thieves, is, in our view, sweeps into its own torrent all the feeble one of those absurditi which has grown up barriers of prudence which ferior natures out of stage exaggeration. The Prince and would oppose to it. It runs its course like Poins are equally obnoxious to the charge. a mad blood horse ; and every attempt to And yet, although Poins, the intimate of the put on the bridle produces a new impatience. Prince, proposes to them, “My lads, my lads, Exhaustion at last comes, and then how to-morrow morning, by four o'clock early at complete is the exhaustion !—“I have done Gadshill,” the Prince refuses to go till Poins in sooth ;”—a word or two of question, a shows him that he hath "a jest to execute.” | word or two of assent, to the calm proposals The Prince, in the soliloquy which is in- of Worcester ;-and the passion of talk is tended to keep him right with those who ready to become the passion of action. We look forward to the future king, does not may now understand what Shakspere meant talk of Falstaff and Poins as of utterly base by approximating the ages of Hotspur and companions
Henry of Monmouth. Let us make Hotspur
forty-five years of age, and Henry sixteen, “I know you all, and will awhile uphold
as the literalists would have it, and the The unyoked humour of youndleness.”
whole dramatic structure crumbles into dust. He saw, in Falstaff and Poins, the same Under the poet's hand we see that Hotspur
‘idleness” which was in himself-the idle- is the good desting of the young Henry;
this drama are wonderfully wrought up. The Prince is looking forward to the The inn-yard at Rochester is one of those “ virtue of the jest” that will follow the little pictures which live for ever in the adventure on Gadshill. The once proud memory, because they are thoroughly true allies, but now haughty rivals, of his father, to nature. Who that has read this scene, are, at the same time, bearding that father and has looked out upon the darkness of a in his palace. Worcester is dismissed, for winter morning, has not thought of “Charles' his “ presence is too bold and peremptory.” wain over the new chimney ?” Who has Hotspur defends the denial of his prisoners, not speculated upon the grief of the man in that
most characteristic speech which re- with one idea, of Robin ostler, who “ veals his rough and passionate spirit. All joyed since the price of oats rose ?" We the strength of his nature,—the elevation see not the "franklin from the wild of Kent,