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In the play, the words which misled the insurgents are put into the mouth of Prince John.
“ Westm. Pleaseth your grace to answer them directly,
“ P. John. I like them all, and do allow them well;
Of our restored love and amity.” Probably, no man ever read the remainder of this scene without disgust at the perfidy and equivocation of the prince, who, having kept up his own force while the other was dispersed, arrested the rebel leaders, alleging that he had engaged to redress their grievances, but not to respect their persons.
Shakspeare has been blamed by“ the great moralist " for not expressing his " indignation at this horrid violation of faith.". Malone observes truly that he merely followed the historians, and surely this is a justification, though the commentator thinks it not so, because “ it is the duty of a poet always to take the side of virtue." It was not Shakspeare's business to make moral reflections, nor was there a person in the drama to whom he could have assigned them, but he might have put a more energetic and indignant remonstrance in the mouth of the injured prelate.
In another version of the story,t the king's generals persuade the rebel leaders to surrender unconditionally, thereupon their troops disperse themselves.
Nothing seems clear but that the archbishop, Mowbray, and the others, fell into the hands of the king without any action fought, and that they were put to death ; not, however, as Shakspeare says, by the authority of Prince John, but by that of one of the king's judges. The Chief Justice Gascoyne, it is said, § refused to condemn a bishop; but one Fulthorpe, or Fulford, was made a judge for the occasion, and condemned Scrope, who was beheaded without a trial, 1 protesting loudly * Johnson, in Bosw., 164.
f Otterb., 255. Hol, refers also to this. Act iv. Sc. 4. June 8, 1405. Clement, at Maidstone, in Anglia Sacra, i. 369 ; Tyler, i. 209.
Clement calls him Fulthorpe ; but Godwin (p. 690), though he writes on Clement's authority, gives the name Fulford ; and I know the amiable family of Great Fulford, in Devonhsire, considers the questionable honour as belonging to that ancient house (Burke's Commoners, iii. 158). But I believe, with Lysons (Devon. p. 171.), that they are mistaken. It is said that, when the Pope took up the cause of Scrope, as a son of the church, Henry sent the prelate's armour to Rome, asking " whether that was his son's coat ?"
There was a sort of trial after his death. When the king, in parliament, desired the temporal peers to declare the archbishop and the earl traitors, they replied that, according to the representation given by Prince John, their offence seemed to be treason; but, in order that there might be no error, they desired that the case should be submitted to another parliament, to which all peers should be summoned. See Lingard, iv. 404; and Rolls, iii, 606.
that he had intended no evil against the king. His admirers have not failed to describe the miracles which followed his death.
Shakspeare makes a scene* of the surrender of Coleville of the Dale, one of the rebel leaders, to Sir John Falstaff. Holinshed says that Coleville, with Lord Hastings, was convicted and beheaded ; I know not how Shakspeare got hold of the fact, which is recorded, of his being made prisoner after the dispersion of the rebel force.
At the same time with the report of the Archbishop's execution, the Henry of the play receives information that
“The earl Northumberland and the lord Bardolph,
Are by the sheriff of Yorkshire overthrown.” But, in fact, these two northern peers, as Shakspeare might have known from Holinshed,t did not come into actual contact with the king's forces until three years afterwards. In the interval, they were in Wales, France, and Flanders, and latterly in Scotland, from whence they invaded England, and were defeated at Bramham Moor, in March 1408, by the Rukeby of whom we have heard. Northumberland was slain in the fight, and Bardolph died of his wounds. Shakspeare commits a double anachronism in assigning the discomfiture and death of Scrope and of Northumberland to the same year, and in placing both events at the close of Henry's life, which, in fact, the latter of them preceded by five years. I
Though his dates are wrong, and, consequently, Henry's reflections in the following lines are misplaced
“ Will Fortune never come with both hands full,
That have abundance and enjoy it not:"such enjoyment as his throne, now unassailed by rebels, could give to Henry, he continued to possess for five years, before he was seized with the " apoplex ” which terminated his life. The prodigies which preceded the king's death
“ Clarence. The river hath thrice flow'd, no ebb between," are not imagined by Shakspeare; for Holinshed writes
“ In this year (1412), and upon the 12th day of October, were three floods in the Thames, the one following upon the other, and no ebbing between, which thing no man living could remember the like to be seen.''s
This is probable, but Shakspeare adds, I know not upon what authorityll
* Act iv. Sc. 3.
1 I do not know why the dramatist selected Harcourt as the bearer of the news of Rokeby's success. The Harcourts were considerable persons in this reign, and I apprehend that Shakspeare took the name at random. I cannot identify any particular member of the family as the person intended.-See Collins, iv. 435. The Harcourts are now represented in the female line by the Vernons.
§ Hol., 55.
“And the old folk, time's doting chronicles,
Say it did so a little time before
That our great grandsire Edward sick’d and died." I now return to the Prince of Wales. In a former scene, * Falstaff's page, on the appearance of the chief justice, observes
"Sir, here comes the nobleman that committed the prince for striking him about Bardolph.” And in one, to which we shall come presently, the prince alludes to the same popular story :
“What! rate, rebuke, and roughly send to prison,
The immediate heir of England! Was this easy ?
May this be wash'd in Lethe and forgotten?" The chief justice, in his answer, says to the prince-
“You struck me in my very seat of judgment.” And young Henry then repeats the speech of Henry the Fourth when informed of the occurrence :
“Happy am I that have a man so bold,
That dares do justice on my proper son ;
Into the hands of justice.” Shakspeare's authorities were Stow, Holinshed, and probably the old play.
· It happened," we are told by Stow, “that one of his servants, whom he favoured, was for felony by him committed, arraigned at the King's Bench, whereof the prince being advertised, and incensed by light persons about him, in furious rage came hastily to the bar where his servant stood as prisoner, and commanded him to be ungived and set at liberty; whereat all men were abashed, reserved † the chief justice, who humbly exhorted the prince to be ordered according to the ancient laws of the realm, or, if he would have him saved from the rigour of the laws, that he should obtain if he might of the king his father his gracious pardon, whereby no law or justice should be derogated. With which answer the prince, nothing appeased, but rather more inflamed, endeavoured himself to take away his servant. The judge, considering the perilous example and great inconreniency that might thereby ensue, with a valiant spirit and courage commanded the prince upon his allegiance to leave the prisoner, and to depart his way ; with which commandment, the prince being set all in a fury, all chafed, and in a terrible manner came up to the place of judgment, men thinking that he would have slain the judge or have done to him some damage ; but the judge, sitting still without moving, declaring the majesty of the king's place of judgment, and, with an assured bold countenance, said to the prince these words following :—Sir, remember yourself; I keep here the place of the king your sovereign lord and father, to whom you owe double obeisance, wherefore eftsoones in his name I charge you desist off your wilfulness and unlawful enterprise, and from henceforth give good example to those who shall be your proper subjects; and now, for your contempt and disobedience, go you to the prison of the King's Bench, whereunto I commit you, and remain you there prisoner until the pleasure of the
* Act i. Sc. 2.
Sir William Gascoigne. Tyler, i. 371.
king your father be further known. With which words, being abashed, and also wondering at the marvellous gravity of that worshipful justice, the prince, laying his weapon apart, doing reverence, went to the King's Bench as he was commanded. Whereat his servants disclaiming came and showed to the king all the whole affair ; whereat he, after a while studying, after as a man all ravished with gladness, holding his hands and eyes towards heaven, abraid,* with a loud voice, O merciful God! how much am I bounden to thy infinite goodness, especially for that thou hast given me a judge who feareth not to minister justice, and also a son who can suffer semblably and obey justice.'”+
From this passage, which is copied with great exactness from Sir Thomas Elyot's “ Governor," Shakspeare takes the speech of Henry the Fourth; in that which is, in fact, the oldest, and apparently the only, authority for the tale, there is no mention of a blow; but the dramatist has supplied this important incident from Holinshed, 1 or very likely from “ The famous Victories of Henry the Fifth,”g in which the box on the ear is enacted on the stage.
Luders and Tyler both throw great doubts upon the whole story, and certainly a book written after the lapse of more than a century, for Elyot's work was published in 1531, and dedicated to Henry the Eighth, is quite insufficient to establish such a fact. Yet I suspect that there was a tradition, probably not altogether unfounded, for some attempted interference with the course of justice, and the consequent committal of the prince. But the blow may assuredly be discarded; had Elyot, the original relator, believed in this degree of outrage, he would not have characterized the story as one of “a good judge, a good prince, and a good king.”
Shakspeare also takes from Stow the injunctions of the king that the two princes, Henry and Thomas of Clarence, should live well together. But the annalist and the poet do not agree. In Stow the king says to his eldest son
“I fear me sore, after my departure from this life, some discord shall grow and arise between thee and thy brother Thomas Duke of Clarence, whereby the realm may be brought to destruction and misery, for I know you both to be of great stomach and courage. Wherefore I fear that he through his high mind will make some enterprise against thee, intending to usurp upon thee, which I know thy stomach may not abide easily."
In the play,ll the injunction is given to Thomas of Clarence, and the apprehension expressed is of differences between Prince Henry and his “ other brethren,” between whom and the Prince of Wales Clarence was to mediate.
“How chance thou art not with the prince thy brother ?
He loves thee, and thou dost neglect him, Thomas;
* Cried out.
† Stow, 342. I P. 6); and Hall, 46. See Malone in Bosw. 245.
§ P. 333. Sir Edward Cuke, in his third institute, refers to the blow as an acknowledged fact. Lud., p. 67-75.
|| Act iv. Sc. 4.
Nor lose the good advantage of his grace,
By seeming cold, or careless of his will." And then follows a passage which must satisfy us that Shakspeare intended to represent "Madcap Harry” as adorned with many good qualities :
" For he is gracious, if he be observed :
He hath a tear for pity, and a hand
Confound themselves with working."
"With Poins and other his continual followers," the king breaks out again
“The blood weeps from my heart when I do shape,
In forms imaginary, the unguided days,
Toward fronting peril and opposed decay !" But Shakspeare takes care to remind us that Henry is not radically bad, by a speech which he puts in the mouth of a courtier.
“ Warwick. My gracious lord, you look beyond him quite :
Turning past evils to advantages.'' The illustration is not more apt than it is delicate; but it is in keeping with the manifest intention of the poet.
I must now call in question the incident in which originated the Crown Scene.
Shakspeare found the incident in Holinshed, who avowedly took it from Hall.
“ During his last sickness the king caused his crown (as some write) to be set on a pillow at his bed's head, and suddenly his pangs so soré troubled him that he lay as though all his vital spirits had been from him departed. Such as were about him, thinking verily that he had departed, covered his face with a linen cloth. The prince his son, being hereof advertised, en