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SHAKSPEARE'S HISTORICAL PLAYS CONSIDERED
BY THE RIGHT HON. T. P. COURTENAY.
The Second Part of“ Henry the Fourth" commences with a scene which was in my time familiar to play-goers, though not as part of this play; Colley Cibber thought fit to adopt parts of it into his irreverent alteration of Shakspeare's “ Richard the Third,” where the doubts and lamentations of Northumberland, on hearing the various accounts of the battle of Shrewsbury, are transferred to Henry the Sixth, and the battle of Tewksbury.
One passage is given to Gloucester himself; and it must be owned that the following lines are more appropriate to the dying Richard than to the irresolute Earl of the north.
“Let heaven kiss earth! Now let not nature's hand
And darkness be the burier of the dead !" According to Shakspeare, Northumberland, who had been craftysick,+ while his heroic son was fighting, is now persuaded by his friendst to renew the rebellious war, and he is encouraged by the information, that
“The gentle Archbishop of York is up
With well-appointed powers.” The epithet here applied to the warlike prelate might perhaps remind one of the way in which the “ Gradus ad Parnassum was sometimes used at school, when a boy, finding magnanimus among the epithets of dux, or timida among those of puella, would think himself justified in thus illustrating the names of his hero and heroine, though the one might be a coward and the other an Amazon.
“The archbishop, coming forth among them clad in armour, encouraged, exhorted, and, by all means he could, pricked them forth to undertake the enterprize in hand, and manfully to continue in their begun purpose, promising forgiveness of sins to all them whose hap it was to die in the quarrel."
But Shakspeare had nevertheless better grounds for his epithet, in the passage which Holinshed adds :
“Indeed the respect that men had to the archbishop caused them to like the better of the cause, since the gravity of his age, his integrity of life, and incomparable learning, with the reverend aspect of his amiable personage, moved all men to have him in no small estimation."
This prelate was Richard Scrope,
| Principally Lord Bardolph. William Phelip, who married the heiress of the ancient Bardolphs, and got the title. Banks, ii. 29. He was Lieutenant of Calais.
& Hol., iii. 36, from Wals., 373.
“ who bore hard His brother's death at Bristol, the Lord Scroop,” who had been put to death by King Henry.*
But Northumberland did not at this time rise against the king. Shakspeare might have learned from his usual authorities that the earl, whether summoned or " of his own free will,” came to the king; some say
that Henry“ gave him fair words,” others that he committed him to safe custody; but all agree that Northumberland was quiet for a time; and in the parliament of 1404 he was restored to most of his dignities. No one of the chroniclers describes what took place in parliament.
“On the 18th of February the Earl of Northumberland came before the king and lords, and there, by his petition to the king, acknowledged to have acted against his allegiance, namely, for gathering of forces and giving liberties, for which he craved pardon; and the rather, for that on the king's letters he yielded himself, and came to the king at York, whereas he might have kept himself away. The king delivered this petition to the judges, to be by them considered; but the lords made protestation against it, and that the ordering thereof belonged to themselves. Accordingly they as peers of parliament, to whom only such judgment belonged, in considering well the statute of the 25 Edw. iii., touching treasons, and the statute of liveries made in this king's time, I adjudged the earl's crime to be no treason nor felony, but only a trespass finable to the king. For which judgment the said earl gave great thanks to the king and lords, and at his own request he was sworn to be a true liegeman to the king, to the prince, and to the heirs of his body begotten, and to every of the king's sons and to their issue succeeding to the crown of England according to law: that done, the king pardoned the said earl his fine and ransom. $
This is not the place for legal discussions; but surely this judgment of the lords, that Northumberland's offence did not amount to “ levying war against the king,” must have been obtained by his influence among his peers, many of whom were probably as ill affected as he was to the king. Probably the judges were superseded, that the law might be strained.]
The conspirators are now introduced in deliberation at the palace of the archbishop. Northumberland was still absent, and Bardolph, who appears to have been closely connected with him, and who, in fact, was not concerned in the present outbreak, is properly made doubtful of the prudence of rising without him ; but the warlike counsels of the prelate prevailed. I give a part of what Pope calls his “ excellent speech," the former part being unfit for insertion.*
See No. ccxi., p. 368, 371; and Bosw., xvi. 229, xvii. 149. Sir H. Nicholas (Scrope and Grosvenor Roll ii. 59, 121, 135) says that the Archbishop was not the brother of Wiltshire, but was a Scrope of Marham. Shakspeare copies Hall; neither Walsingham, nor Hardyng, nor Holinshed, nor Stow, agrees with Hall.
| Hol., 26, 27. It is not stated how he was deprived of them. See also Hall, 32 ; and Stow, 329 ; Tyler, i. 181; Wals., 369; Hard., 362.
There were two, 1 Hen. iv. c.17; and 2 Hen. iv. c. 21; which, for the maintenance of peace, restrained noblemen from giving liveries or badges to knights, esquires, or others.
§ Parl. Hist., i. 290 ; which is warranted by the Rolls, iii. 524; in 5 Hen. iv.
|| I was not aware of this case when I wrote a note on the statute of treasons, in Lardner's British Statesmen, v. 203.
Hastings and Mowbray are mentioned by Holinshed. Edward Hastings, of the family of Hastings, Lords Hastings and Earls of Pembroke ; but never, as it is said, summoned as peer. Banks, i. 338. Thomas Mowbray was son and heir of the banished Norfolk. In 1405 he had been accused of a concern in taking away the son of the Earl of March from Windsor. Hol., 33.
“ What trust is in these times ?
Past, and to come, seemn best; things present, worst.
“ Are in three heads ; one power against the French,
And one against Glendower.” This is correct; the contest with Wales still went on, and a force was about this time sent to Calais, under Prince Thomas ;t Henry was still at war with the French, who had assisted Owen Glendower.
The scenet between Northumberland, his wife, and daughter-in-law, is Shakspeare's creature, and of fair proportions. But the earl did now determine, as Shakspeare relates, to return into Scotland; he gave way to the solicitations of the females of his family, and, instead of joining the rebel force, betook himself to Wales. The reasoning of Lady Percy,ll plausible though fallacious, might well have prevailed with one of stouter heart. I will give only her apostrophe to her dead husband.
“By his light
With others than with him.' • The commentators have noticed a mistake of the poet in styling Prince John Duke of Lancaster. He had not that title until after the accession of Henry the Fifth, Bosw., 44.
t I know not why Hastings says that he knew not who commanded this force. I Act ii. Sc. 3. Ś This was his second wife, Maude, sister and heir of Anthony Lord Lucy, and widow of Gilbert Umfraville, Earl of Angus. Hotspur's mother was Margaret, daughter of Ralph Lord Neville of Raby, Collins, ii. 265.
|| October 8th, 1403, after the battle of Shrewsbury, a warrant was issued for the apprehending this lady, on what ground I know not; see Tyler, i. 248.
Of the celebrated address to sleep, * Shakspeare has the whole merit. Surreyt and Warwickt are historical persons, likely to be with the king. The mention of Glendower's death is a mistake taken from Holinshed; he lived till 1415.9
A passage in this scene exhibits Shakspeare's carelessness as to facts and circumstances, even those which he had recorded or invented. In referring to Richard's prediction of Northumberland's defection from Henry, who ascended the throne with his help, the king now says
“Though then, Heaven knows, I had no such intent." Malone observes, correctly, that Richard's speech was made after Henry had already accepted the crown.
The scene in Gualtree forest,** where the archbishop pitched his rebellious camp, unaccompanied by the irresoluie or perfidious Northumberland, is taken from Holinshed.tt Here Westmoreland “subtilely devised how to quail their purpose.
His demand of the reason of the armament is put by the poet into appropriate language; for the answer of the archbishop, Shakspeare had not only to draw upon his imagination.
“The archbishop answered that he took nothing in hand against the king's peace, but that whatsoever he did tended rather to advance the peace and quiet of the commonwealth than otherwise; and where he and his company were in arms, it was for fear of the king, to whom he could have no free access, by reason of such a multitude of flatterers as were about him ; and, therefore, he maintained that his purpose to be good and profitable, as well for the king himself as for the realm, if men were willing to understand a truth; and, herewith, he showed forth a scroll in which the articles were written, of which you have heard." Thus paraphrased and enlarged :
• Nor do I, as an enemy to peace,
Troop in the throngs of military men;
We are denied access unto his person,
Richard de Beauchamp; Shakspeare invariably styles him Nevil. (Bosw. iii.) The title afterwards, as we shall see, came to that family by marriage. Banks, iij. 722.
& See Bosw., xvi. 310; and xvii. 113. U See No. ccxi. p. 376.
| See Bosw., iii. Johnson notices another piece of carelessness. Warwick was not present on the occasion; see Richard the Second, Act v. Sc. 2. ** Act iv. Sc. 1.
tt P. 37. See Hall, 34; Stow, 332; Otterb, 25-4.
Even by those men that most have done us wrong.
Concurring both in name and quality Shakspeare has made a better case for the insurgents than history warrants; for we are told that their complaints were communicated to the nobility, and even “ set up in the public streets of the city of York; but not that they were offered to the king, or that the insurrection was occasioned by the rejection or neglect of them.
The articles * themselves were not seen by Shakspeare, for they are not in any book to which he resorted; nor are they in the older chronicles upon
which those books were founded. It is, therefore, unnecessary to say more of them than that they set forth the deposition and murder of Richardt by Henry, and the new king's oppression of clergy and people. This document, in fact, raised a mortal quarrel, not susceptible of settlement at a peaceful audience.
Shakspeare, however, has still the authority of Holinshed for Westmoreland's mode of putting down the insurrection.
“ When he had read the articles, he showed in word and countenance outwardly that he liked of the archbishop's holy and virtuous intent and purpose, promising that he and his would prosecute the same in assisting the archbishop, I who, rejoicing thereat, gave credit to the earl, and persuaded the earl marshal (against his will, as it were) to go with him to a place appointed for them to commune together. Here, when they were met with a like number on either part, the articles were read over, and, without any more ado, the Earl of Westmoreland, and those that were with him, agreed to do their best to see that a reformation might be had according to the same. The Earl of Westmoreland, using more policy than the rest, 'Well,' said he, 'then our travail is come to the wished end, and where our people have been long in armour, let them depart home to their wonted trades and occupations; in the mean time, let us drink together in sign of agreement, that the people on both sides may see it, and know that it is true that we have light upon a point. They had no sooner shaken hands together, but that a knight was sent straightways from the archbishop, to bring word to the people that there was peace concluded, commanding each man to lay aside his arms, and to resort home to their houses. The people, beholding such tokens of peace as shaking of hands and drinking together of the lords in loving manner, they being already wearied with the unaccustomed travel of war, brake up their field, and returned homewards; but, in the mean time, whilst the people of the archbishop's side withdrew away, the number of the contrary part increased, according to order given by the Earl of Westmoreland, and yet the archbishop perceived not that he was deceived, until the Earl of Westmoreland arrested both him and the earl marshal, with divers others."
Lingard doubts whether the archbishop was a party to them, iv. 404. See them in Anglia Sacra, ii. 362.
+ Yet some time afterwards, it is said, the malcontents made use of a report that Richard still lived. Hol. 43. "But I do not find this in Walsingham or Otterbourne. | This is from Walsingham, 373.
$ Hol., as above.