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If any other recollection were wanting, these | It is this instinctive justice in Faulconbridge,
simple words would make us feel that John
was as surely the murderer of Arthur, when
the terrors of the boy drove him to an incon-
siderate attempt to escape from his prison,
as if the assassin, as some have represented,
rode with him in the dim twilight by the
side of a cliff that overhung the sea, and
suddenly hurled the victim from his horse
into the engulfing wave; or as if the king
tempted him to descend from his prison at
Rouen at the midnight hour, and, instead of
giving him freedom, stifled his prayers for
pity in the waters of the Seine. It is thus
that we know the anger of “the distemper'd
lords" is a just anger, when, finding Arthur's
body, they kneel before that "ruin of sweet
life," and vow to it the "worship of revenge."
The short scene between Salisbury, Pem-
broke, the Bastard, and Hubert, which im-
mediately succeeds, is as spirited and
characteristic as anything in the play.
Here we see "the invincible knights of
old" in their most elevated character-
fiery, implacable, arrogant, but still drawing
their swords in the cause of right, when that
cause was intelligible and undoubted. The
character of Faulconbridge here rises far
above what we might have expected from
the animal courage and the exuberant spirits
of the Faulconbridge of the former acts.
The courage is indeed here beyond all

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this readiness to uplift the strong hand in what he thinks a just quarrel,—this abandonment of consequences in the expression of his opinions,—that commands our sympathies for him whenever he appears upon the The motives upon which he acts are entirely the antagonist motives by which John is moved. We have, indeed, in Shakspere none of the essay-writing contrasts of smaller authors. We have no asserters of adverse principles made to play at see-saw, with reverence be it spoken, like the Moloch and Belial of Milton. But, after some reflection upon what we have read, we feel that he who leapt into Coeur-de-lion's throne, and he who hath "a trick of Coeur-de-lion's face," are as opposite as if they were the formal personifications of subtlety and candour, cowardice and courage, cruelty and kindliness. The fox and the lion are not more strongly contrasted than John and Faulconbridge; and the poet did not make the contrast by accident. And yet with what incomparable management are John and the Bastard held together as allies throughout these scenes. In the onset the Bastard receives honour from the hands of John,and he is grateful. In the conclusion he sees his old patron, weak indeed and guilty, but surrounded with enemies, and he will not be faithless. When John quails before the power of a spiritual tyrant, the Bastard stands by him in the place of a higher and a better nature. He knows the dangers that surround his king :

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"All Kent hath yielded; nothing there holds


But Dover castle: London hath received,
Like a kind host, the dauphin and his powers:
Your nobles will not hear you, but are gone
To offer service to your enemy."

But no dangers can daunt his resolution :-
"Let not the world see fear, and sad distrust,
Govern the motion of a kingly eye:
Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire;
Threaten the threat'ner, and outface the brow
Of bragging horror: so shall inferior eyes,
That borrow their behaviours from the great,
Grow great by your example, and put on
The dauntless spirit of resolution."

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The very necessity for these stirring words | annihilated.
would show us that from henceforth John is
but a puppet without a will. The blight of
Arthur's death is upon him; and he moves
on to his own destiny, whilst Faulconbridge
defies or fights with his enemies; and his
revolted lords, even while they swear

"A voluntary zeal, and unurged faith,"

to the invader, bewail their revolt, and

"That, for the health and physic of our right,
We cannot deal but with the very hand
Of stern injustice and confused wrong."
But the great retribution still moves on-
ward. The cause of England is triumphant;
"the lords are all come back :"-but the
king is "poisoned by a monk :"

"Poison'd,-ill fare;-dead, forsook, cast off:
And none of you will bid the winter come,
To thrust his icy fingers in my maw;
Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course
Through my burn'd bosom; nor entreat the

To make his bleak winds kiss my parched

And comfort me with cold:-I do not ask you

I beg cold comfort; and you are so strait,
And so ingrateful, you deny me that."
The interval of fourteen years between the
death of Arthur and the death of John is

Causes and consequences, separated in the proper history by long digressions and tedious episodes, are brought together. The attributed murder of Arthur lost John all the inheritances of the house of Anjou, and allowed the house of Capet to triumph in his overthrow. Out of this grew a larger ambition, and England was invaded. The death of Arthur and the events which marked the last days of John were separated in their cause and effect by time only, over which the poet leaps. It is said that a man who was on the point of drowning saw, in an instant, all the events of his life in connection with his approaching end. So sees the poet. It is his to bring the beginnings and the ends of events into that real union and dependence which even the philosophical historian may overlook in tracing their course. It is the poet's office to preserve a unity of action; it is the historian's to show a consistency of progress. In the chroniclers we have manifold changes of fortune in the life of John after Arthur of Brittany has fallen. In Shakspere Arthur of Brittany is at once revenged. The heartbroken mother and her boy are not the only sufferers from double courses. The spirit of Constance is appeased by the fall of John. The Niobe of a Gothic age, who vainly sought to shield her child from as stern a destiny as that with which Apollo and Artemis pursued the daughter of Tantalus, may rest in peace.



'A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM' was first | Fisher. It is difficult to say whether both of printed in 1600. In that year there appeared two editions of the play :-the one published by Thomas Fisher, a bookseller; the other by James Roberts, a printer. The differences between these two editions are very slight. Steevens, in his collection of twenty plays, has reprinted that by Roberts, giving the variations of the edition by

these were printed with the consent of the author, or whether one was genuine and the other pirated. If the entries at Stationers' Hall may be taken as evidence of a proprietary right, the edition by Fisher is the genuine one, 'A booke called A Mydsomer Nyghte Dreame' having been entered by him Oct. 8, 1600. One thing is perfectly

clear to us that the original of these editions, whichever it might be, was printed from a genuine copy, and carefully superintended through the press. The text appears to us as perfect as it is possible to be, considering the state of typography in that day. There is one remarkable evidence of this. The prologue to the interlude of the Clowns, in the fifth act, is purposely made inaccurate in its punctuation throughout. The speaker" does not stand upon points." It was impossible to have effected the object better than by the punctuation of Roberts's edition; and this is precisely one of those matters of nicety in which a printer would have failed, unless he had followed an extremely clear copy, or his proofs had been corrected by an author or an editor. The play was not reprinted after 1600, till it was collected into the folio of 1623; and the text in that edition differs in few instances, and those very slight ones, from that of the preceding quartos.

Malone has assigned the composition of 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' to the year 1594. We are not disposed to object to this, -indeed we are inclined to believe that he has pretty exactly indicated the precise year, as far as it can be proved by one or two allusions which the play contains. But we entirely object to the reasons upon which Malone attempts to show that it was one of our author's "earliest attempts in comedy." He derives the proof of this from "the poetry of this piece, glowing with all the warmth of a youthful and lively imagination, the many scenes which it contains of almost continual rhyme, the poverty of the fable, and want of discrimination among the higher personages." Malone would place 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' in the same rank as 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'Love's Labour's Lost,' and 'The Comedy of Errors;' and he supposes all of them written within a year or two of each other. We have no objection to believe that our poet wrote 'A MidsummerNight's Dream' when he was thirty years of age, that is in 1594. But it so far exceeds the three other comedies in all the higher attributes of poetry, that we cannot avoid repeating here the opinion which we have


before expressed, that he had written these for the stage before his twenty-fifth year, when he was a considerable shareholder in the Blackfriars company, some of them, perhaps, as early as 1585, at which period the vulgar tradition assigns to Shakspere—a husband, a father, and a man conscious of the possession of the very highest order of talent-the dignified office of holding horses at the theatre door. The year 1594 is, as nearly as possible, the period where we would place A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' with reference to our strong belief that Shakspere's earliest plays must be assigned to the commencement of his dramatic career; and that two or three even of his great works had then been given to the world in an unformed shape, subsequently worked up to completeness and perfection. But it appears to us a misapplication of the received meaning of words to talk of "the warmth of a youthful and lively imagination" with reference to 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' and the Shakspere of thirty. We can understand these terms to apply to the unpruned luxuriance of the 'Venus and Adonis;' but the poetry of this piece, the almost continual rhyme, and even the poverty of the fable, are to us evidences of the very highest art having obtained a perfect mastery of its materials after years of patient study. Of all the dramas of Shakspere there is none more entirely harmonious than 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream.' All the incidents, all the characters, are in perfect subordinaation to the will of the poet. "Throughout the whole piece," says Malone, "the more exalted characters are subservient to the interests of those beneath them." Precisely so. An unpractised author-one who had not "a youthful and lively imagination" under perfect control,—when he had got hold of the Theseus and Hippolyta of the heroic ages, would have made them ultraheroical. They would have commanded events, instead of moving with the supernatural influence around them in harmony and proportion. "Theseus, the associate of Hercules, is not engaged in any adventure worthy of his rank or reputation, nor is he in reality an agent throughout the play."

Precisely so. An immature poet, again, if
the marvellous creation of Oberon and Ti-
tania, and Puck, could have entered into such
a mind, would have laboured to make the
power of the fairies produce some strange
and striking events. But the exquisite
beauty of Shakspere's conception is, that,
under the supernatural influence, "the
human mortals" move precisely according
to their respective natures and habits. De-
metrius and Lysander are impatient and
revengeful ;-Helena is dignified and affec-
tionate, with a spice of female error;
Hermia is somewhat vain and shrewish.
And then Bottom! Who but the most skilful
artist could have given us such a character?
Of him Malone says, Shakspeare would
naturally copy those manners first with
which he was first acquainted. The am-
bition of a theatrical candidate for applause
he has happily ridiculed in Bottom the
weaver." A theatrical candidate for ap-
plause! Why, Bottom the weaver is the
representative of the whole human race.
His confidence in his own power is equally
profound, whether he exclaims, "Let me
play the lion too;" or whether he sings
alone, "that they shall hear I am not
afraid;" or whether, conscious that he is
surrounded with spirits, he cries out, with
his voice of authority, "Where's Peas-blos-
som?" In every situation Bottom is the
same, the same personification of that self-
love which the simple cannot conceal, and
the wise can with difficulty suppress. Ma-
lone thus concludes his analysis of the
internal evidence of the chronology of 'A
Midsummer-Night's Dream:'
"That a
drama, of which the principal personages
are thus insignificant, and the fable thus
meagre and uninteresting, was one of our
author's earliest compositions, does not, there-
fore seem a very improbable conjecture; nor
are the beauties with which it is em-
bellished inconsistent with this supposition."
The beauties with which it is embellished
include, of course, the whole rhythmical
structure of the versification. The poet has
here put forth all his strength. We ven-
ture to offer an opinion that, if any single
composition were required to exhibit the

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| power of the English language for purposes of poetry, that composition would be the 'Midsummer-Night's Dream.' This wonderful model, which, at the time it appeared, must have been the commencement of a great poetical revolution, and which has never ceased to influence our higher poetry, from Fletcher to Shelley,—was, according to Malone, the work of "the genius of Shakspeare, even in its minority."

Mr. Hallam has, as might be expected, taken a much more correct view of this question than Malone. He places 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' among the early plays; but, having mentioned 'The Comedy of Errors,' 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'Love's Labour's Lost,' and 'The Taming of the Shrew,' he adds, " Its superiority to those we have already mentioned affords some presumption that it was written after them."*

'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' is mentioned by Francis Meres in 1598. The date of the first publication of the play, therefore, in 1600, does not tend to fix its chronology. Nor is it very material to ascertain whether it preceded 1598 by three, or four, or five years. The state of the weather in 1593 and 1594, when England was visited with peculiarly ungenial seasons, may have suggested Titania's beautiful description in Act II., Scene 2. The allusion of two lines in Act V. is by no means so clear :"The thrice three Muses mourning for the death

Of learning, late deceased in beggary."

This passage was once thought to allude to the death of Spenser. But the misfortunes and the death of Spenser did not take place till 1599. Even if the allusion were inserted between the first production of the piece and its publication in 1600, it is difficult to understand how an elegy on the great poet could have been called

"Some satire, keen and critical."

T. Warton suggested "that Shakspeare here,
The Tears of the Muses, on the Neglect and
perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem entitled
Contempt of Learning.' This piece first

*Literature of Europe,' vol. ii. p. 387.


appeared in quarto, with others, 1591." We | little weight, and the point is certainly of greatly doubt the propriety of this conjec- very small consequence. ture, which Malone has adopted. Spenser's poem is certainly a satire in one sense of the word; for it makes the Muses lament that all the glorious productions of men that proceeded from their influence had vanished from the earth. All that


was wont to work delight Through the divine infusion of their skill, And all that else seemed fair and fresh in sight, So made by nature for to serve their will, Was turned now to dismal heaviness, Was turned now to dreadful ugliness."

Clio complains that mighty peers "only boast of arms and ancestry;" Melpomene, that "all man's life meseems a tragedy;' Thalia is "made the servant of the many;' Euterpe weeps that "now no pastoral is to be heard ;" and so on. These laments do not seem to be identical with the

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- mourning for the death Of learning, late deceased in beggary." These expressions are too precise and limited to refer to the tears of the Muses for the decay of knowledge and art. We cannot divest ourselves of the belief that some real person, and some real death, were alluded to. May we hazard a conjecture?-Greene, a man of learning, and one whom Shakspere in the generosity of his nature might wish to point at kindly, died in 1592, in a condition that might truly be called beggary. But how was his death, any more than that of Spenser, to be the occasion of some satire, keen and critical?" Every student of our literary history will remember the famous controversy of Nash and Gabriel Harvey, which was begun by Harvey's publication, in 1592, of 'Four Letters, and certain Sonnets, especially touching Robert Greene, and other parties by him abused.' Robert Greene was dead; but Harvey came forward, in revenge of an incautious attack of the unhappy poet, to satirize him in his graveto hold up his vices and his misfortunes to the public scorn-to be "keen and critical" upon "learning, late deceased in beggary." The conjecture which we offer may have

"This is the silliest stuff that e'er I heard," says Hippolyta, when Wall has "discharged" his part. The answer of Theseus is full of instruction :-"The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them." It was in this humble spirit that the great poet judged of his own matchless performances. He felt the utter inadequacy of his art, and indeed of any art, to produce its due effect upon the mind, unless the imagination, to which it addressed itself, was ready to convert the shadows which it presented into living forms of truth and beauty. "I am convinced," says Coleridge, "that Shakspeare availed himself of the title of this play in his own mind, and worked upon it as a dream throughout." The poet says so, in express words:"If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, (and all is mended),
That you have but slumber'd here,
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend."

But to understand this dream-to have all its gay, and soft, and harmonious colours impressed upon the vision-to hear all the golden cadences of its poesy-to feel the perfect congruity of all its parts, and thus to receive it as a truth-we must not suppose that it will enter the mind amidst the lethargic slumbers of the imagination. We

must receive it

"As youthful poets dream On summer eves by haunted stream." Let no one expect that the beautiful influences of this drama can be truly felt when he is under the subjection of the literal and prosaic parts of our nature: or, if he habitually refuses to believe that there are higher and purer regions of thought than are supplied by the physical realities of the world. In these cases he will have a false standard by which to judge of this, and of all other high poetry-such a standard as that possessed by a critic-acute, learned, in

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