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first draught or hasty sketch." Malone and
QUARTO OF 1608.
"Bishop. God and his angels guard your sacred throne,
And make you long become it!
King. Sure, we thank you: and, good my
Why the law Salique which they have in
Or should or should not stop in us our claim:
For God doth know how many now in health
How you awake the sleeping sword of war:
Sure, we thank you.
Why the law Salique, that they have in
Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim.
Or nicely charge your understanding soul
Of what your reverence shall incite us to:
Can any one doubt that this careful elabora-
Our belief, then, is, that the original quarto of 1600 was printed after the play had appeared in its amended and corrected form, such as we have received it from the folio of 1623; but that this quarto, and the subsequent quartos, were copies of a much
Canterbury. God and his angels guard shorter play, which had been previously pro
FOLIO OF 1623.
your sacred throne,
And make you long become it!
duced, and, perhaps, hastily written for some temporary occasion. We further believe
that the text of these quartos was surrep-| shrunk from a subject which appeared to
The allusion cannot be mistaken. "About the end of March" (1599), says Camden, "the Earl of Essex set forward for Ireland, and was accompanied out of London with a fine appearance of nobility and gentry, and the most cheerful huzzas of the common
people." Essex returned to London on the 28th of September of the same year. This play, then, with the choruses, must have been performed in the summer of 1599. Without the choruses there is nothing to show that it might not have been performed earlier.
“Shakspere,” says Frederick Schlegel, “regarded the drama as entirely a thing for the people, and, at first, treated it throughout as such. He took the popular comedy as he found it, and whatever enlargements and improvements he introduced into the stage were all calculated and conceived according to the peculiar spirit of his predecessors, and of the audience in London."* This is especially true with regard to Shakspere's Histories. In the case of the 'Henry V.' it appears to us that our great dramatic poet would never have touched the subject, had not the stage previously possessed it in the old play of 'The Famous Victories.' 'Henry IV.' would have been perfect as a dramatic whole, without the addition of 'Henry V.' The somewhat doubtful mode in which he speaks of continuing the story appears to us a pretty certain indication that he rather *Lectures on the History of Literature,' vol. ii.
him essentially undramatic. It is, however, highly probable that, having brought the history of Henry of Monmouth up to the period of his father's death, the demands of an audience, who had been accustomed to hail "the madcap Prince of Wales" as the conqueror of Agincourt, compelled him to "continue the story." That he originally contemplated lending to it the interest of his creation of Falstaff is also sufficiently clear. It would be vain to speculate why he abandoned this intention; but it is evident that, without the interest which Falstaff would have imparted to the story, the dramatic materials presented by the old play, or by the circumstances that the poet could discover in the real course of events, is our belief, therefore, that, having hastily were extremely meagre and unsatisfying. It met the demands of his audience by the first sketch of 'Henry V.,' as it appears in the quarto editions, he subsequently saw the capacity which the subject presented for being treated in a grand lyrical spirit. Instead of interpolating an under-plot of petty passions and intrigues,—such, for the most part, as we find in the dramatic treatment of an heroic subject by the French poets,he preserved the great object of his drama entire by the intervention of the chorus. Skilfully as he has managed this, and magnificent as the whole drama is as a great national song of triumph, there can be no doubt that Shakspere felt that in this play he was dealing with a theme too narrow for his peculiar powers. His drama, generally, was cast in an entirely different mould from that of the Greek tragedy. The Greek stage was, in reality, more lyrical than dramatic:
"Thence what the lofty grave tragedians taught In Chorus or Iambic, teachers best
Of moral prudence, with delight received
High actions and high passions best describing."
The didactic lessons of moral prudence,—the
brief sententious precepts, the descriptions | ing now upon the vantage-ground of four of high actions and high passions,-are alien centuries of experience, in which civilization from the whole spirit of Shakspere's drama. has marched onwards at a pace which could The Henry V.' constitutes an exception to only be the result of great intellectual imthe general rules upon which he worked. pulses, we may, indeed, say that, if Henry V. 'High actions" are here described as well was justly fitted to be a leader of chivalry, as exhibited; and "high passions," in the fearless, enterprising, persevering, geneShaksperean sense of the term, scarcely make rous, pious,—he was, at the same time, rash, their appearance upon the scene. Here are Here are obstinate, proud, superstitious, seeking after no struggles between will and fate; no vain renown and empty conquests, instead frailties of humanity dragging down its vir- of making his people happy by wise laws tues into an abyss of guilt and sorrow,-no and the cultivation of sound knowledge. crimes,- -no obduracy,-no penitence. We But Henry's character, like that of all other have the lofty and unconquerable spirit of men, must be estimated by the circumstances national and individual heroism riding tri- amidst which he moved. After four centuumphantly over every danger; but the spirit ries of illumination, if we find the world still is so lofty that we feel no uncertainty for suffering under the dominion of unjust gothe issue. We should know, even if we had vernors and ambitious conquerors, we may no foreknowledge of the event, that it must pardon one who acted according to his lights, conquer. We can scarcely weep over those believing that his cause justified his attempt who fall in that "glorious and well-foughten to seize upon another crown, instead of field," for "they kept together in their wearing his own wisely and peacefully. At chivalry," and their last words sound as a any rate, it was not for the poet to regard glorious hymn of exultation. The subject is the most popular king of the feudal times altogether one of lyric grandeur; but it is with the cold and severe scrutiny of the not one, we think, which Shakspere would philosophical historian. It was for him to have chosen for a drama. embody in the person of Henry V. the principle of national heroism; it was for him to call forth “the spirit of patriotic reminiscence." There are periods in the history of every people when their nationality, lifting them up almost into a frenzy of enthusiasm, is one of the sublimest exhibitions of the practical poetry of social life. In the times of Shakspere such an aspect of the English mind was not unfrequently presented. Neither in our own times have such manifestations of the mighty heart been wanting. But there have been, and there may again be, periods of real danger when the national spirit shows itself drooping and languishing. It is under such circumstances that the heart-stirring power of such a play as 'Henry V.' is to be tested. Frederick Schlegel says, "The feeling by which Shakspere seems to have been most connected with ordinary men is that of nationality." But how different is his nationality from that of ordinary men. It is reflective, tolerant, generous. It lives not in an atmosphere of falsehood and prejudice. Its theatre is war and con
And yet how exquisitely has Shakspere thrown his dramatic power into this undramatic subject! The character of the King is altogether one of the most finished portraits that has proceeded from this masterhand. It could, perhaps, only have been thoroughly conceived by the poet who had delineated the Henry of the Boar's Head, and of the Field of Shrewsbury. The surpassing union, in this character, of spirit and calmness, of dignity and playfulness, of an ever-present energy, and an almost melancholy abstraction, the conventional authority of the king, and the deep sympathy, with the meanest about him, of the man,was the result of the most philosophical and consistent appreciation by the poet of the moral and intellectual progress of his own Prince of Wales. And let it not be said that the picture which he has painted of his favourite hero is an exaggerated and flattering representation. The extraordinary merits of Henry V. were those of the individual; his demerits were those of his times. Stand
quest; but it does not hold up war and conquest as fitting objects for nationality to dedicate itself to, except under the pressure of the most urgent necessity. Neither does it attempt to conceal the fearful responsibilities of those who carry the principle of nationality to the last arbitrement of arms, nor the enormous amount of evil which always attends the rupture of that peace, in the cultivation of which nationality is best displayed. Shakspere, indeed, speaks proudly as a member of that English family
"Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof;" but he never forgets that he belongs to the larger family of the human race. When Henry tells the people of Harfleur,
"The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,” and draws that most fearful picture of the horrors of a sacked city, the poet tells us, though not in sententious precepts, that nationality, when it takes the road of violence, may be driven to put off all the gentle attributes of social life, and, assuming the "action of the tiger," have the tiger's undiscriminating bloodthirstiness. When Henry, on the eve of the battle, walks secretly amidst his soldiers, the poet makes him hear that truth which kings seldom hear, and which, however the hero, in this instance, may contend with it, cannot be disguised or controverted:-"If the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make; when all those legs, and arms, and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry all-we died at such a place; some, swearing; some, crying for a surgeon; some, upon their wives left poor behind them; some, upon the debts they owe; some, upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument?" Again, when Henry has won France, what a France does the poet present to the winner!
"All her husbandry doth lie on heaps, Corrupting in its own fertility.
Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,
Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair
The even mead, that erst brought sweetly
The freckled cowslip, burnet, and green clover,
Losing both beauty and utility:
And as our vineyards, fallows, meads, and hedges,
Defective in their natures, grow to wildness; Even so our houses, and ourselves, and children,
Have lost, or do not learn, for want of time, The sciences that should become our country; But grow, like savages,-as soldiers will, That nothing do but meditate on blood,— To swearing, and stern looks, diffused attire, And everything that seems unnatural." Thoughts such as these, coming from the great poet of humanity and wisdom, are the correctives of a false nationality.
It is scarcely necessary for us to trace the conduct of the dramatic action of ' Henry V.' in connexion with its characters. In the inferior persons of the play-the comic characters the poet has displayed that power which he, above all men, possesses, of combining the highest poetical conceptions with the most truthful delineations of real life. In the amusing pedantry of Fluellen, and the vapourings of Pistol, there is nothing in the slightest degree incongruous with the main action of the scene. The homely bluntness of the common soldiers of the army brings us still closer to a knowledge of the great mass of which a camp is composed. Perhaps one of the most delicate but yet most appreciable instances of Shakspere's nationality, in all its power and justice, is the mode in which he has exhibited the characters of these common soldiers. They are rough, somewhat quarrelsome, brave as lions, but without the slightest particle of anything low or grovelling in their composition. They are fit representatives of the "good yeomen, whose limbs were made in England." We
almost as anxiously desire that these men should triumphantly show the "mettle of their pastures," as that the heroic Harry and his "band of brothers" should
"Be copy now to men of grosser blood, And teach them how to war."
On the other hand, the discriminating truth of the poet is equally shown in exhibiting to us three arrant cowards in Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph. His impartiality could afford to paint the bullies and blackguards that even our nationality must be content to reckon as component parts of every army.
detached passages: for example, the reflections of the King upon ceremony,—the description of the deaths of York and Suffolk, -the glorious speech of the King before the battle, the chorus of the fourth act,―are remarkable illustrations of Shakspere's power as a descriptive poet. Nothing can be finer, also, than the commonwealth of bees in the first act. It is full of the most exquisite imagery and music. The art employed in transforming the whole scene of the hive into a resemblance of humanity is a perfect study-every successive object, as it is brought forward, being invested with its
This drama is full of singularly beautiful characteristic attribute.
KING HENRY VI. AND KING RICHARD III.
WITH the local and family associations that
spirit, we think, that Shakspere approached the execution of 'The First Part of Henry VI.' It appears to us, also, that in that very early performance he in some degree held his genius in subordination to the necessity of executing his task, rather with reference to the character of his audience and the general nature of his subject than for the fulfilment of his own aspirations as a poet. There was before him one of two courses. He might have chosen, as the greater number of his contemporaries chose, to consider the dominions of poetry and of common sense to be far sundered; and, unconscious or doubtful of the force of simplicity, he might have resolved, with them, to substitute what would more unquestionably gratify a rude popular taste the force of extravagance. On the other hand, it was open to him to transfer to the dramatic shape the spirit-stirring recitals of the old chroniclewriters, in whose narratives, and especially in that portion of them in which they make their characters speak, there is a manly and straightforward earnestness which in itself not seldom becomes poetical. Shakspere chose this latter course. When we begin to