Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

My lord, the enemy is passed the marsh,
After the ballle let George Stanlry die."

Act V., Scene 3.

"Let me sit heary on thy soul 10-morrow."

Act V., Scene 3. This admirable scene was probably founded on the following hint from Holinshed :-" It seemed to him (Richard), being asleep, that he saw divers images, like terrible devils, which pulled and haled him, not suffering him to take any quiet or rest. The which strange vision not so suddenly struck his heart with a sudden fear, but it stuffed his head with many busy and dreadful imaginations. And lest that it might be suspected that he was abashed for fear of his enemies, and for that cause looked so piteously, he recited and declared to his familiar friends of the morning his wonderful vision and fearful dream."

There was a large marsh in Bosworth-plain, between the two armies. Henry passed it, and made such a disposition of his forces that it served to protect his right wing. By this movement he gained also another point, that his men should engage with the sun behind them and in the faces of his enemies: a matter of great consequence when bows and arrows were in use.

God and Saint George! Richmond and rictory!"

Act V., Scene 3. "Saint George!" was the cry of the English soldiers when they charged. The author of the “ ARTE OF WARRE," printed in Elizabeth's reign, formally enjoins its use :“ Item, that all soldiers entering into battle assault, skirm. ish, or other faction of arms, shall have for their common cry and word, 'Saint George, forward !' or · Upon them, Saint George!' whereby the soldier is much comforted, and the enemy dismayed, by calling to mind the ancient valour of England, which with that name has so often been victorious."

I think there be sir Richmonds in the field:
Five have I slain to-day instead of him."

Act V., Scene 4. It is stated by the Chroniclers that Richard was determined to engage with Richmond, if possible, in single combat. For this purpose he rode furiously to that quarter of the field where the earl was; attacked his standardbearer (Sir William Brandon), and killed him; then assaulted Sir John Cheny, whom he overthrew. Having thus cleared his way to his antagonist, he engaged in single combat with him, and probably would have been victorious; but at that instant Sir William Stanley joined Richmond's army, and the royal forces fed with great precipitation. Richard was soon afterwards overpowered by numbers, and fell fighting bravely to the last moment.

[blocks in formation]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]

HAT reception this play met on its first performance it is W

impossible to ascertain ; but we have internal testimony, in the minute and elaborate directions for the coronation pro

cession, to shew that it was "put upon the stage," as the modern phrase is, with unusual care and at an extraordinary

expense. It is reasonable to infer, therefore, that the play was highly popular. In later times, these accessaries of splendour made it wonderfully attractive; and within the last forty years a Siddons and a Kemble imparted an apparent greatness to it for which the

mere reader will, perhaps, look in vain. Dr. Johnson has said, “The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katherine have furnished some scenes which may be justly numbered amongst the highest efforts of tragedy.” We cannot think so. The character of Katherine, indeed, was such as no genius could raise, nor has it suffered in the hands of the author of this play; but in what scenes here furnished do we discover that vivid principle at work which moulded Queen Margaret and the Lady Constance, and which, in the hideous wife of the guilty Thane, changes awe and horror into sheer involuntary admiration? In Katherine we see a high-minded woman; but where is the being whom the pen of Shakspere only could portray; where is that infusion of intellect, of passion, and of poetry, which his marvellous genius could alone supply?

After a careful perusal of the following play, the reader will decide that it is no crude work; that it is the production of a skilful and a practised hand; that it has no weak or lame parts; and that it contains strong rhetoric, great eloquence, and true pathos. Its chief merits are the perspicuity of its diction, and the propriety and decorum of its characters. The double character of Wolsey, drawn by Queen Katherine and her attendant, is a piece of vigorous writing of which any other author but Shakspere might have been proud; and the celebrated farewell of the Cardinal, with his exhortation to Cromwell, only wants that quickening, that vital something which the poet could have breathed into it, to be truly and almost incomparably great.

Our own conviction is that Shakspere wrote a portion only of this play. Dr. Johnson thinks that Ben Jonson might have written the prologue and epilogue, and the panegyric upon King James the First Malone is of opinion that the lines of panegyric were written by another author, and goes on to use these remarkable words :-“I suspect they were added in 1613, after Shakspere had quitted the stage, by the hand which tampered with the other parts of the play so much, as to have rendered the versification of it of a different colour from all the other plays of Shakspere.” Tamper with a play of Shakspere! What man, whilst Shakspere was yet living, would dare to tamper with his text—the man who during his lifetime was acknowledged, on all hands, and by none more readily than by the brightest wits, to be the prevailing poet, the “delight and wonder” of the stage? Strange, ere Malone talked of tampering with the other parts of the play, that he had not discovered that the earlier portion bears undeniable marks of his sole hand! It cannot for a moment be supposed that any alteration of Shakspere's text could be necessary, or would be allowed : as little is it to be supposed that Shakspere would commence a play in his old-accustomed, various, and unequalled verse, and finish it in the easy, but somewhat lax and familiar, although not inharmonious numbers, of a reverent disciple.

Shakspere's play of “HENRY The Eighth" was first published in the original folio. It is supposed to have been the same which, under its original or additional title of “ALL IS TRUE," occasioned the burning of the Globe Theatre, in June 1613. In a letter from Sir Henry Wotton to his nephew, the accident is thus detailed :—“Now, to let matters of state sleep, I will entertain you at the present with what has happened this week at the Bankside. The King's Players had a new play, called 'ALL IS TRUE,' representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry the Eighth; which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage ; the Knights of the order with their Georges and Garter ; the guards with their embroidered coats, and the like :-sufficient, in truth, within a while, to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now, King Henry making a mask at the Cardinal's house, and certain cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the paper or other stuff wherewith one of them was stopped did light on the thatch ; where, being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes being more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly and ran round like a train, consuming, within less than an hour, the whole house to the very ground.”—This account, besides being otherwise interesting, will serve to shew that scenic decoration, in Shakspere's day, was by no means so entirely neglected as is commonly supposed. In another mention of the burning of the theatre, the play performed is expressly stated to have been called “ HENRY THE Eighth.”

[merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
« EdellinenJatka »