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HE reader is acquainted with our opinion touching the authorship of the three plays of King Henry VI.,
and will remember that the inclination of our belief lighted upon Shakspere as the person by whom they were composed. Genius, where it exists at all, cannot long exist without judgment. It is a subtle essence which flies off and is dispersed to nought, unless restrained by that which strengthens while it distributes it. Shakspere, any more than men of lesser pretensions, was not in his youth exempt from that crude and vicious ambition which incited him to make an exhibition of his natural powers while yet judgment had scarce power to germinate within him. Perhaps, likewise, he undervalued that cool, deliberate, and, to the young, unpoetical quality, as a medium through which the creations of the imagination were to be made manifest; and forgot, or rather, did not then know that rhapsodies, however splendid, hold no sure footing in this unstedfast world of ours- —that they carry no feature whereby futurity shall recognise them—that they have no hands wherewith to grasp imınortality. At all events, it must be said that he adopted the dramatic forms as he found them, paying little heed to their imperfections, and, consequently, evincing as little anxiety to amend them ; careful chiefly to shew the “ prodigality of nature.” Ebullitions of genius they were, but not works of art ;-art, which is the decus et tutamen, at once the grace and security of genius.
This froward delusion was not destined to find a lengthened entertainment in the mind of so mighty a genius and so subtle a philosopher as Shakspere. Vain glory was not for him, and true glory is the child of labour. Before, like his older rivals, he had presented pieces ; performances, indeed, which made these rivals wonder whence this youth had come; now he began to revolve works which, when produced, constrained them to marvel whither he was going, and at what distance they were to be left behind. The envious and splenetic Greene waxed wrath, and poured his rancorous em into the kindred breast of Peele; whilst the greater Marlowe held his peace—it is to be hoped, for it may be believed, in wonderstricken admiration of the new-comer, who was never to depart.
Behold the first result of awakened and diligent judgment in the following play. Never was old Hesiod's saying, that “the half is more than the whole," more happily verified than in the drama of Richard III., as compared with the three preceding plays. Here there is no crowd; no pressure of incidents or of persons. The former have room to move in, the latter have space to breathe. There is air about them and between them; and it gives them life and spirit and vigour.
The character of Richard, in all its phases of wickedness (a most arduous one to depict), is very finely sustained. The grave and trifling dissembler, the saintly hypocrite, the mocking fiend, the inexorable tyrant, and the renowned soldier ;-valour, decision, shrewdness, wit, refined dissimulation, and the grossest cunning—the difficult conjunction of these qualities in one man is effected with a master's skill. There is no character in Shakspere (Hamlet excepted) that required more exquisite labour at the hands of its author, or that has received it. Again, how wonderfully great is Queen Margaret! We have seen her in the former plays : look upon her now. No longer immediately interested in the events that take place before her she moves upon the scene, overshadowing it like a portentous destiny. “She rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm.” Her curses, words before, now are works. They have become omens. Nor is our reason shocked when, as the play advances, we see her direful predictions verified. She has watched with fiend-like sagacity and untiring patience, the sequence of events, the effects of causes, the operations of character,
“Till old experience did attain
To something like prophetic strain." Nothing is left for chance to divert or to accomplish. She “sees as in a map, the end of all;" and when she departs for France, we scarcely require to be told the issue of Bosworth field.
“ Richard (II." is constructed with remarkable skill, and the language is eminently dramatic. several times published in quarto, previous to the first folio edition.
KING EDWARD TEE FOURTE.
Sons to th. KING
KING RICHARD III,
Sops to ELIZABETH
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings; Our dreadful marches to delightful measures. Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled
time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up, And that so lamely and unfashionable That dogs bark at me as I halt by them ;Why I, in this weak piping time of peace, Have no delight to pass away the time, Unless to spy my shadow in the sun, And descant on mine own deformity. And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determinéd to prove a villain, And hate the idle pleasures of these days. Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams, To set my brother Clarence and the King In deadly hate the one against the other : And if King Edward be as true and just As I am subtle, false, and treacherous, This day should Clarence closely be mewed up, About a prophecy, which says that “G Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be."Dive, thoughts, down to my soul! here Clarence
And says, a wizard told him that “ by G
Clar. By Heaven, I think there is no man secure But the Queen's kindred, and night-walking
heralds That trudge betwixt the King and Mistress Shore: Heard you not what an humble suppliant Lord Hastings was to her, for his delivery ?
Glo. Humbly complaining to her deity Got my lord chamberlain his liberty. I 'll tell you what, I think it is our way, If we will keep in favour with the King, To be her men and wear her livery. The jealous o'er worn widow and herself, Since that our brother dubbed them gentlewomen, Are mighty gossips in this monarchy.
Brak. I beseech your graces both to pardon me: His majesty hath straitly given in charge That no man shall have private conference, Of what degree soever, with his brother. Glo. Even so? An please your worship, Braken
bury, You may partake of anything we say. We speak no treason, man: we say the King Is wise and virtuous, and his noble Queen Well struck in years, fair, and not jealous : We say that Shore's wife hath a pretty foot, A cherry lip, a bonny eye, a passing-pleasing
tongue; And the Queen's kindred are made gentlefolks: How say you, sir; can you deny all this? Brak. With this, my lord, myself have nought
to do. Glo. Naught to do with Mistress Shore? I tell
Brak. What one, my lord ?
and withal Forbear your conference with the noble duke.
Enter CLARENCE, guarded, and BRAKENBURY. Brother good day. What means this arméd
Clur. His majesty,
Glo. Upon what cause ?
Glo. Alack, my lord, that fault is none of yours:
Clar. Yea, Richard, when I know; for I protest As yet I do not. But, as I can learn, He hearkens after prophecies and dreams; And from the cross-row plucks the letter G,
Clarence hath not another day to live:
reigns : When they are gone then must I count my gains.
Clar. We know thy charge, Brakenbury, and
will obey Glo. We are the Queen's abjects, and must
Clar. I know it pleaseth neither of us well.
Glo. Well, your imprisonment shall not belong: I will deliver you or else lie for you. Meantime, have patience.
Clar. I must perforce : farewell. (Exeunt Clarence, BRAKENBURY, and Guard. Glo. Go tread the path that thou shalt ne'er
return, Simple, plain Clarence! I do love thee so That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven, If heaven will take the present at our hands. But who comes here: the new-delivered Hastings?
Enter Hastings. Hast. Good time of day unto my gracious lord.
Glo. As much unto my good lord chamberlain : Well are you welcome to this open air. How hath your lordship brooked imprisonment? Hast. With patience, noble lord, as prisoners
must : But I shall live, my lord, to give them thanks That were the cause of my imprisonment. Glo. No doubt, no doubt; and so shall Clarence
too: For they that were your enemies are his, And have prevailed as much on him as you. Hast. More pity, that the eagle should be
mewed, While kites and buzzards prey at liberty.
Glo. What news abroad?
Hast. No news so bad abroad as this at home: The King is sickly, weak, and melancholy, And his physicians fear him mightily. Glo. Now by Saint Paul this news is bad
Anne. Set down, set down your honourable load (If honour may be shrouded in a hearse), Whilst I awhile obsequiously lament The untimely fall of virtuous Lancaster. Poor key-cold figure of a holy king, Pale ashes of the house of Lancaster, Thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood, Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost To hear the lamentations of poor Anne, Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughtered son, Stabbed by the self-same hand that made these
wounds! Lo, in these windows that let forth thy life I
pour the helpless balm of my poor eyes.O curséd be the hand that made these holes : Curséd the heart that had the heart to do it: Cursed the blood that let this blood from hence! More direful hap betide that hated wretch That makes us wretched by the death of thee, Than I can wish to adders, spiders, toads, Or any creeping venomed thing that lives ! If ever he have child, abortive be it, Prodigious, and untimely brought to light; Whose ugly and unnatural aspéct May fright the hopeful mother at the view : And that be heir to his unhappiness! If ever he have wife, let her be made More miserable by the death of him Than I am made by my young lord and thee !-Come, now toward Chertsey with your holy load, Taken from Paul's to be interréd there : And still, as you are weary of the weight, Rest you whiles I lament King Henry's corse.
[ The bearers take up the corpse, and advance.