« EdellinenJatka »
ERE we not restricted by the plan of the present edition of Shakspere from offering more
than a summary of the merits of each play, with such observations as its history may
render necessary, we should yet refrain from entering at much length into the controversy to which this and the two following plays have given rise.
Still, Malone's dissertation, in which he endeavours to convince his reader and himself, that the First Part of “Henry VI.” owes not a word to Shakspere, and that the Second and Third Parts are merely mended by his hand, must not be passed over in entire silence. He grounds his belief, that the First Part was entirely the work of an earlier dramatist, mainly on the circumstance, that there is an unusual amount of mythological allusion in it; more, as he conjectures, than Shakspere had, at the time, to bestow; and that the metre is differently constructed from his later plays. No conclusion, however, against the genuineness of the present play can fairly be drawn from the affluence of mythological or classical allusion contained in it, or from the construction of its metre. Whoever the author, this play was undoubtedly written when Shakspere was a very young man. Supposing it to be his, what more likely than that a youthful poet should be anxious to shew his acquirements (witness the pedantry of his early comedy “Love's LABOUR'S LOST”), or that he should have adopted a structure of verse which Marlow had made so smooth and musical, that his must be a practised ear which can at last detect its monotony and be weary of its sweetness ?
Upon the whole, we incline to think that the three plays of “King Henry VI.” were constructed by one man, and that that man was Shakspere; but that, if he were not the author, he put his mending hand to all three. In the present play, Joan of Arc, speaking of her sword, says
“ The which, at Touraine, in St. Katharine's churchyard,
Out of a great deal of old iron, I chose forth."
“ Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceases to enlarge itself,
Till, by broad spreading, it disperse to nought :"
An old writer, denouncing ambition, compares it to the crocodile, which, he says, continues to grow during its whole existence. This will apply as closely to genius, and eminently so to the genius of Shakspere. How much greater are his mature than his early productions! Let us grant that the present and the two succeeding plays are from his hand. This is to be borne in mind—a young author, diffident, perhaps, of his abilities (certainly unacquainted with their extent), anxious to please, observant of the success of others; he could scarce do aught else than cast an historical play in the mould that was familiar to his audience. Marlow, Peele, and Greene had preceded him ; men not lightly esteemed : let us add, not undeservedly famous : held, we doubt not (the first especially), in veneration by the young Shakspere. What was he to do ?—the not unknowing but the unlearned youth; he, who came out of no university, as the rest had done—what could he do, but follow in their steps ? Time, which brought experience; experience which ripened judgment;—these were present, and lent their aid at the composition of the master's plays.
After enjoying the great historical productions of Shakspere, printed, as they are, in chronological order, we can conceive and sympathise with the disappointment of the reader, when he lights, for the first time, upon the following play. He will see that it is full of action, but deficient in character; that, with the exception of the Bishop of Winchester and the young King, it scarcely aims at individual portraiture. The rest of the personages are alike prominent; distinguished by their names, but not otherwise discriminated. The whole reminds us of an ancient print, without light or shade or perspective, in which the figures are all more or less alike, yet not one like the person designed to be represented, save that, in common with its original, it possesses all the members of a human body.
No edition of this play is known prior to that of the first folio.
KING HENRY THE SIXTE.
chester and afterwards Cardinal. JOHN BEAUFORT, Earl of Somerset, afterwards Duke. RICHARD PLANTAGENET, eldest son of Richard late Earl of
Cambridge, afterwards Duke of York,
His sparkling eyes, replete with wrathful fire,
in blood ?
kings. Unto the French the dreadful judgment day So dreadful will not be, as was his sight. The battles of the Lord of hosts he fought: The church's prayers made him so prosperous. Glo. The church! where is it? Had not church
men prayed, His thread of life had not so soon decayed. None do you like but an effeminate prince, Whom, like a schoolboy, you may overawe. Win. Gloster, whate'er we like, thou art pro
tector, And lookest to command the prince and realm. Thy wife is proud: she holdeth thee in awe More than God or religious churchmen may. Glo. Name not religion, for thou lov'st the
flesh; And ne'er throughout the year to church thou
go'st, Except it be to pray against thy foes. Bed. Cease, cease these jars, and rest your
minds in peace! Let's to the altar :-Heralds, wait on us : Instead of gold, we'll offer up our arms; Since arms avail not, now that Henry's dead.Posterity, await for wretched years, When at their mothers' moist eyes babes shall
Of loss, of slaughter, and discomfiture :
Henry's corse ?
death. Glo. Is Paris lost? is Rouen yielded up? If Henry were recalled to life again, These news would cause him once more yield
the ghost. Exe. How were they lost; what treachery
was used ? Mess. No treachery ; but want of men and
money. Among the soldiers this is muttered :That here you maintain several factions, And, whilst a field should be despatched and
fought, You are disputing of your generals. One would have lingering wars, with little cost; Another would fly swift, but wanteth wings; A third man thinks, without expense at all, By guileful fair words peace may be obtained. Awake, awake, English nobility! Let not sloth dim your honours new begot. Cropped are the flower-de-luces in your arms : Of England's coat one half is cut away.
Exe. Were our tears wanting to this funeral, These tidings would call forth her flowing tides.
Bed. Me they concern: regent I am of France: Give me my steeléd coat, I 'll fight for France. Away with these disgraceful wailing robes ! Wounds I will lend the French, instead of eyes, To weep their intermissive miseries.
Enter another Messenger. 2nd Mess. Lords, view these letters, full of bad
mischance : France is revolted from the English quite, Except some petty towns of no import. The Dauphin Charles is crowned King in
Rheims; The Bastard of Orleans with him is joined ; Reignier, Duke of Anjou, doth take his part ; The Duke of Alençon flieth to his side. Exe. The Dauphin crowned king! all fly to
him! O whither shall we fly from this reproach? Glo. We will not fly but to our enemies'
throats.Bedford, if thou be slack, I'll fight it out. Bed. Gloster, why doubt'st thou of my
forwardness? An army have I mustered in my thoughts, Wherewith already France is overrun.
Our isle be made a nourish of salt tears,
Enter a Messenger. Mess. My honourable lords, health to you all! Sad tidings bring I to you out of France,