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written at a later period than the rest of the play. All which being considered, it does not well appear but that Shakespeare's Richard II. may have been the play referred to in the state paper quoted above. To this the chief, if not the only objection is, that the one there spoken of is called an old play; whereby, however, we need understand no more than that the play had lost the charm of nov. elty; a thing which, considering the marvellous fertility of the time in dramatic productions, might well enough come about in the course of four or five years. And it is worth remarking withal, that the players could afford to call the play an old one, since this gave them the chance of an extra forty shillings. So that, upon the whole, the objection in hand cannot pass for much. Our own judgment therefore is, though we claim nothing better than fragile probabilities for its basis, that Shakespeare's Richard II. was written before 1595; that it was the play referred to in the trial of Essex and his accomplices; and that for reasons of state the deposition-scene was withheld from the press till some time after the accession of James I., when all apprehensions on that score were
The leading events, the manners, and all the persons of this drama, except the queen, its whole substance, movement, and interest, are purely historical, with only such heightening of effect, such vividness of colouring, and such vital invigoration as poetry can add without anywise marring or displacing the truth of history; the Poet having entirely forborne that noble freedom of art in representative character, which elsewhere issued in such everlasting delectations as Faulconbridge and Falstaff. For the materials of Richard II. Shakespeare need not have gone beyond the pages of Holinshed, and it is clear that he drew directly from this source. In the current of that writer's narrative, the quarrel of Bolingbroke and Mowbray strikes in so abruptly and unexpectedly, is so inexplicable in its origin and so teeming with great results, as to form naturally and of itself the beginning of the manifold national tragedy which ends only with the catastrophe of Richard III. The cause of that quarrel is hardly less obscure in the history than in the drama : it stands out almost as something uncaused, so that there was no need of going behind it; while at the same time it proves the germ of such a vast and varied procession of historical events and heroic passages, as to give it the highest importance. The following abstract of Holinshed's narrative will explain both the nature of the Poet's studies, and the use he made of them. His general obligations to the chronicler may be seen here : some of the particular ones will come along better in the form of notes.
For some years the violence and weakness of Richard s government had been filling the state more and more with strifes and factions. Of late these contests had mostly resulted in the king's setting himself above the law, his ear being engrossed by upstarts and parasites, who still encouraged him in all sorts of outrages on the rights and liberties of the nation. At length his misgovernment grew to the point that all parties seemed likely to unite against him. In 1398, being the twenty-first year of his reign, the king held a Parliament at Shrewsbury, where sundry of the nobles showed their griefs to those by whom the king was misled, hoping that either they might thereby be induced to counsel him better, or else that he, knowing what evil report went of him, would mend his ways. But this likelihood of amendment was thwarted by a new quarrel that broke out between the dukes of Hereford and Norfolk, who had generally acted together in the preceding troubles. The issue proved that their confidence in each other had been but the seed-time of a most deadly enmity. During the Parliament at Shrewsbury Hereford accused Norfolk of certain disloyal words uttered in a talk lately had by them as they were riding together between London and Brainford ; and, in further proof thereof, he challenged him to the field as a traitor to the king and the realm. The king, having heard the challenge and the reply, had both parties arrested in his name; whereupon the dukes of Lancaster; York, and Surrey undertook as pledges for Hereford ; but Norfolk was not suffered to put in pledges, but order was given to have him safely kept at Windsor castle till such time as should be fixed upon for the trial.
The Parliament being dissolved, about six weeks after, on the day appointed, the king came to Windsor with the nobles and prelates, to hear and determine the cause between the two dukes. The appellant and defendant being sent for to come before him, he required them to grow to some agreement, assuring them of his readiness to pardon all that had been said or done amiss on either side ; but they answered that it was not possible to have any peace or agreement betwixt them. The king then asked Hereford what it was that he demanded of Norfolk, and why they could not make peace together and become friends. Thereupon a knight stood forth and answered thus in Hereford's name: “Right dear and sovereign lord, here is Henry of Lancaster, duke of Hereford and earl of Derby, who saith, and I say for him, that Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, is a traitor to your royal majesty and your whole realm : likewise, that he hath received eight thousand nobles to pay the soldiers that keep your town of Calais, which he hath not done : furthermore, that he hath been the cause of all the treason contrived in your realm for the space of these eighteen years, and by his false suggestions and malicious counsels hath caused your uncle, the duke of Gloucester, to be murdered : moreover, that he will prove this with his body against the body of Norfolk within the lists." The king then waxing angry, and asking Hereford if these were his words, he replied, — “Right dear lord, they are my words, and hereof I require right, and the battle against him.” Then stood forth another knight, and made answer for the defendant thus : “ Right dear and sovereign lord, here is Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, who saith, and I say for him, that all which Henry of Lancaster hath said is a lie, and that he both has been and is a traitor against you, your crown, majesty, and realm. This will I prove, as becometh a loyal knight, with my body against his.” The king then asked Norfolk if these were his words, and whether he had any more to say; and he answered for himself : “ Right dear sir, true it is, that I received so much gold to pay your people of Calais, which I have done ; and I avouch that the town is as well kept now as it ever was before, and that no complaint of me has ever been brought to you by any of that town. For the voyage that I made to France about your marriage, I never received any money of you, nor for the voyage that the duke of Aumerle and I made to Almaine, where we spent great treasure. Marry, true it is, that I once laid an ambush to slay the duke of Lancaster, who sitteth there ; but he hath pardoned me for that, and there was good peace made betwixt us, for which I yield him hearty thanks. This is my answer; and I am ready to defend myself against my adversary : I beseech you therefore to have the battle against him in upright judgment." Then the king, after taking the advice of his council, caused the parties to be asked again if they would agree and make peace together, but they both fatly refused, Hereford throwing down his gage, and Norfolk taking it up; whereupon the king swore by St. John the Baptist that he would never seek to make peace betwixt them again. The battle was ordered to take place at Coventry, upon St. Lambert's day, being the seventeenth of September, as some say, though writers differ much as to the time.
At the time appointed all the parties, in fine array and numerously attended, were at Coventry, where a sumptuous scaffold and royal lists were erected for the trial. The day before they should fight, Hereford came to the king to take leave of him; and early the next morning Norfolk did likewise. Hereford then armed himself in his tent, which was set up near the lists; but Norfolk put on his armour in a house between the gate and the barrier of the
About the hour of prime Hereford made his appearance, mounted on a white courser, his trappings of green and blue velvet, richly embroidered with swans and antelopes of goldsmith's work. The constable and marshal demanding of him who he was, he answered, “ I am Henry of Lancaster, duke of Hereford, and have come to do my endeavour against Thomas Mowbray, dnke of Norfolk, as a traitor to God, the king, his realm, and me.' Then, having sworn upon the Evangelists that his quarrel was just, he put up his sword, drew down his visor, made a cross on his horse, and with spear in hand entered the lists, dismounted, and sat down in a chair of green velvet, to wait the coming of his adversary. Soon after, the king entered the field in great triumph, accompanied by all the peers of the realm, and having above ten thousand armed men on the ground, lest some fray or tumult should arise among the nobles. When the king was seated, he had proclamation made, forbidding any one to approach or touch the lists upon pain of death, except such as were appointed to order the field. Then another herald cried, - - Behold here the duke of Hereford appellant, who has entered the lists to do his endeav. our against the duke of Norfolk defendant, on pain to be found false and recreant.” Meanwhile, Norfolk was hovering on horseback at the entrance of the lists, his caparisons being of crimson velvet, embroidered richly with lions of silver and mulberry trees, Having made oath that his quarrel was just, he entered the lists manfully, saying aloud, “ God aid him that hath the right :" then, dismounting, he sat down in his chair, which was of crimson velvet, curtained with white and red damask. The marshal, having viewed their spears to see that they were of equal length, handed one to Hereford, and sent the other to Norfolk by a knight ; and thereupon a herald commanded them in the king's behalf to mount, and address themselves to the battle. A trumpet being sounded, Hereford set forward bravely towards his enemy six or seven paces ; but Norfolk had not fully started when the king threw down his warder to stop the combat. Their spears were then taken away from them, and they were remanded to their chairs, where they sat two hours, while the king and his counsel deliberated what order was best to be taken concerning them. The order finally hit upon was, that Hereford should within fifteen days go into exile, not to return upon pain of death till the end of ten years, unless he were repealed home by the king; and that Nor. folk should likewise avoid the realm, and never return to England, por approach the borders thereof on pain of death. This sentence being announced, the king called both parties before him, and made them swear they would never willingly meet nor keep company together in any foreign region ; which oath they gave, and forthwith went into banishment.
These proceedings were soon followed by a further invasion of the rights and liberties of the people; the king growing more and more reckless in his misgovernment, and in giving effect to the counsels of his creatures and favourites. Meanwhile the duke of Lancaster having died, Richard forthwith seized into his own bands all his estates and revenues, which should have devolved to Hereford ; and at the same time revoked the letters-patent before granted, whereby his attorneys might sue for the delivery of whatever possessions might fall to him, thus showing plainly that he meant no less than his utter undoing. Against this hard dealing all ranks of men cried out, and grew to a thorough hatred of the king. Hitherto the duke of York had borne things as patiently as he could, though some of them touched him very near, especially the death of his brother Gloucester, and the banishment of his nephew : but now, seeing that neither law nor equity could stand where the king's will was bent on any wrong purpose, he considered that the glory of his country must needs decay through the king's lack of wisdom, and his want of such as would faithfully admonish him of his duty. Divers other tyrannical outrages followed in quick succession, such as the forcing of some to lend large sums of money, with no securities but what were revocable at the king's pleasure; the compelling of others to put their hands and seals to blanks, wherein the king's officers might write what. soever they listed : finally, many old, infirm, and sickly persons were apprehended and put in prison, and might not be discharged, unless they would justify themselves in single combat with their accusers,
who for the most part were lusty, young, and valiant. While such was the state of things in England, the king was certified that a flaming rebellion had broken out in Ireland. Having drawn together with all convenient haste a great power of armed men and archers, in the spring of 1399 he set sail from Milford for that country with two hundred ships, leaving his uncle the duke of York to act as regent in his absence. The duke of Aumerle was to have followed him forthwith with another fleet of an bundred sail; but he did not arrive till about two months after : whether this delay were through his own fault or not, he was greatly suspected of some evil purpose in being so much behind his time. However, what with the valour and the policy of Richard and his men, the wild Irish were soon tamed and reduced to obedience. Meantime divers of the nobility and local magistrates in England, seeing how the realm drew to utter ruin, and was not likely to recover while Richard reigned, devised with great care to send letters to Hereford, promising him all their aid and power, if he would expel Richard, as a man unfit for the office he bore, and take upon himself the government of his native land; all which he was not slow in consenting to. As soon as York was apprised of these designs, he called a council to advise what were best to be done; and their advice was to gather an army at St. Alban's, to resist the duke in his landing; but how vain was this their counsel appeared in that the most of those who came boldly protested that they would not fight against the duke, whom they knew to be evilly dealt withal. Thereupon the earl of Wiltshire, who was lord treasurer, Bushy, Bagot, and Green, perceiving that the commons would take part with Hereford, slipped away, leaving the regent and the chancellor to make what shift they could : Bagot fled to Chester, and thence into Ireland; the others to Bristol, hoping to be safe there. After hovering some time near the coast, and finding how the people were affected towards him, the duke landed about the first of July in Yorkshire, at a place called Ravenspurg, and with him not more than threescore persons ; but he was so well received by the lords, knights, and gentlemen of those parts, that a great number of people were quickly assembled VOL. V.