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Shakspeare has included the most important part of nine reigns in his historical dramas - namely — King John, Richard II.—Henry IV.(two)— Henry V.-Henry VI. (three) including Edward V. and Henry VIII., in all ten plays. There remain, there

fore, to be done, with the exception of a single scene Yor_tw or two that should be adopted from Marloweleven reigns - of which the first two appear the only unpromising subjects ;-and those two dramas must be formed wholly or mainly of invented private stories, which, however, could not have happened except in consequence of the events and measures of these reigns, and which should furnish opportunity both of exhibiting the manners and oppressions of the times, and of narrating dramatically the great events ;-if possible, the death of the two sovereigns, at least of the latter, should be made to have some influence on the finale of the story. All the rest are glorious subjects; especially Henry 1st. (being the struggle between the men of arms and of letters, in the persons of Henry and Becket,) Stephen, Richard I., Edward II., and Henry VII.

KING JOHN.

Act. I. sc. 1.

To spare me

Bast. James Gurney, wilt thou give us leare awhile ?
Gur. Good leave, gond Philip.
Bust. Philip? spurrow! James, &c.
IIEOBALD adopts Warburton's conjecture

.' O true Warburton! and the sancta simplicitas. of honest lull Theobald's faith in him! Nothing can be more lively or characteristic than

Philip? Sparrow! Tad Warburton read old Skelton's

Ilad • Philip Sparrow,' an exquisite and original poem. and, no doubt, popular in Shakspeare's time, even Warburton would scarcely have made so deep a plunge into the bathrtic as to have deathificd 'sparrow into “spare me!' Act iii. sc. 2. Speech of Faulconbridge :

Now, by my life, this dar grows wondrous hot;

Some airy devil horers in the sky, sc. Theobald adopts Warburton's conjecture of fiery.'

I prefer the old text: the word devil' implies ' fiery. You need only read the line, laying a full

;' and strong emphasis on devil,' to perceive the uselessness and tastelessness of Warburton's altera. tion.

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6

RICHARD II.

I

HAVE stated that the transitional link between

the epic poem and the drama is the historic drama; that in the epic poem a pre-announced fitc gradually adjusts and employs the will and the events as its instruments, whilst the virama, on the other hand, places fate and will in opposition 10 each other, and is then most perfect, when the victory of fate is obtained in consequence of imperfections in the opposing will, so as to leave a tinal inpression that the fate itself is but a higher and a more intelli

gent will.

-7

From the length of the speeches, and the circunstance that, with our escortion, the events are all suis historical, and presented in their results, not produced by acts seen by, or taking place before, the

die vo audience, this tragedy is ill suited to our present large theatres. But in itself, and for the closet, I feel no hesitation in placing it as the first and most: admirable of all Shakspeare's purely historical plays. For the two parts of Henry IV. form a species of themselves, which may be named the mixed drama. The distinction does not depend on the mere quantity of historical events in the play compared with the fictions; for there is as much history in Macbeth as in Richard, but in the relation of the history to the plot. In the purely historical plays, the history forms the plot; in the mixed, it directs it;

in the rest, as Macbeth, Hamlet, Cymbeline, Lear, it subserves it. But, however unsuited to the stage this drama may be, God forbid that even there it should fall dead on the hearts of jacobinized Englishmen! Then, indeed, we might say-præteriit gloria mundi! For the spirit of patriotic reminiscence is the all-permeating soul of this noble work. It is, perhaps, the most purely historical of Shakspeare's dramas. There are not in it, as in the others, characters introduced merely for the purpose of giving a greater individuality and realness, as in the comic parts of Henry IV., by presenting, as it were, our very selves. Shakspeare avails himself of every opportunity to etfect the great object of the historic drama, that, namely, of familiarizing the people to the great names of their country, and thereby of exciting a steady patriotism, a love of just liberty, and a respect for all those fundamental institutions of social life, which bind men together :

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise ;
This fortress, built by nature for herself,
Against infection, and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a home,
Against the envy of less bappier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teemiug womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed, and famous by their birth, Sec.

Add the famous passage in King John

This England never did, nor ever sball,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them: nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.

And it certainly seems that Shakspeare's historic dramas produced a very deep effect on the minds of the English people, and in earlier times they were familiar even to the least informed of all ranks, according to the relation of Bishop Corbett. Marlborough, we know, was not ashamed to confess that his principal acquaintance with English history was derived from thenı; and I believe that a large part of the information as to our old names and achievements even now abroad is due, directly or indirectly, to Shakspeare.

Admirable is the judgment with which Shakspeare always in the first scenes prepares, yet how naturally, and with what concealment of art, for the catastrophe. Observe how he here presents the germ

of all the after events in Richard's insincerity, partiality, arbitrariness, and favoritism, and in the proud, tempestuous, temperament of his barons. In the very beginning, also, is displayed that feature in Richard's character, which is never forgotten throughout the play -- his attention to decorum, and high feeling of the kingly dignity. These anticipations show with what judgment Shak.

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