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me gossip Quickly? coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar ; telling us she had a good dish of prawns; whereby thou didst desire to eat some; whereby I told thee, they were ill for a green wound? And didst thou not, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to be no more so familiarity with such poor people; saying, that ere long they should call me madam? And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy book-oath ; deny it if thou canst.”
This scene is to us the most convincing proof of Falstaff's power of gaining over the good will of those he was familiar with, except indeed Bardolph's somewhat profane exclamation on hearing the account of his death, “Would I were with him, wheresoe'er he is, whether in heaven or hell.”
One of the topics of exulting superiority over others most common in Sir John's mouth, is his corpulence, and the exterior marks of good living which he carries about him, thus “ turning his vices into commodity.” He accounts for the friendship between the Prince and Poins, from “their legs being both of a bigness ;” and compares Justice Shallow to “a man made after supper of a cheese-paring.” There cannot be a more striking gradation of character than that between Falstaff and Shallow, and Shallow and Silence. It seems difficult at first to fall lower than the squire ; but this fool, great as he is, finds an admirer and humble foil in his cousin Silence. Vain of his acquaintance with Sir John, who makes à butt of him, he exclaims, * Would, cousin Silence, that thou had’st seen that which this knight and I have seen !"_" Ay, Master Shallow, we have heard the chimes at midnight,” says Sir John. To Falstaff's observa. tion, " I did not think Master Silence had been a man of this mettle," Silence answers, “ Who, I ? I have been merry twice and once ere now.” What an idea is here conveyed of a prodigality of living? What good husbandry and economical selfdenial in his pleasures? What a stock of lively recollections ? It is curious that Shakspeare has ridiculed in Justice Shallow, who was “in some authority under the king,” that disposition to unmeaning tautology which is the regal infirmity of later times, and which, it may be supposed, he acquired from talking to his cousin Silence, and receiving no answers.
HENRY V. is a very favorite monarch with the English nation, and he appears to have been also a favorite with Shakspeare, who labors hard to apologise for the actions of the king, by showing us the character of the man, as “ the king of good fel. lows." He scarcely deserves this honor. He was fond of war and low company: we know little else of him. He was careless, dissolute, and ambitious; idle, or doing mischief. In private, he seemed to have no idea of the common decencies of life, which he subjected to a kind of regal license; in public affairs, he seemed to have no idea of any rule of right or wrong, but brute force, glossed over with a little religious hypocrisy and archi-episcopal advice. His principles did not change with his situation and professions. His adventure on Gadshill was a prelude to the affair of Agincourt, only a bloodless one ; Falstaff was a puny prompter of violence and outrage, compared with the pious and politic Archbishop of Canterbury, who gave the king carte blanche, in a genealogical tree of his family, to rob and murder in circles of latitude and longitude abroadto save the possessions of the church at home. This appears in the speeches in Shakspeare, where the hidden motives that actuate princes and their advisers in war and policy are better laid open than in speeches from the throne or woolsack. Henry, because he did not know how to govern his own kingdom, determined to make war upon his neighbors. Because his own utle to the crown was doubtful, he lad claim to that of France. Because he did not know how to exercise the enormous power which had just dropped into his hands, to any one good purpose, he mine diately undertook (a cheap and obvious resource of sovereignty) to do all the mischief he could. Even if absolute monarchs had the wit to find out objects of laudable ambition, they could only "plume up their wills” in adhering to the more sacred formula of the royal prerogative, “the right divine of kings to govern wrong," because will is only then triumphant when it is opposed to the will of others, because the pride of power is only then shown, not when it consults the rights and interests of others, but when it insults and tramples on all justice and all humanity. Henry declares his resolution “when France is his, to bend it to his awe, or break it all to pieces”-a resolution worthy of a conqueror, to destroy all that he cannot enslave; and what adds to the joke, he lays all the blame of the consequences of his ambition on those who will not submit tamely to his tyranny. Such is the history of kingly power, from the beginning to the end of the world ; with this difference, that the object of war formerly, when the people adhered to their allegiance, was to depose kings; the object latterly, since the people swerved from their allegiance, has been to restore kings, and to make common cause against mankind. The object of our late invasion and conquest of France was to restore the legitimate monarch, the descendant of Hugh Capet, to the throne : Henry V., in his time, made war on and deposed the descendant of this very Hugh Capet, on the plea that he was a usurper and illegitimate. What would the great modern catspaw of legitimacy, and restorer of divine right, have said to the claim of Henry, and the title of the descendants of Hugh Capet? Henry V., it is true, was a hero, a king of England, and the conqueror of the king of France. Yet, we feel little love or admiration for him. He was a hero; that is, he was ready to sacrifice his own life for the pleasure of destroying thousands of other lives : he was a king of England, but not a constitutional one, and we only like kings according to the law; lastly, he was a conqueror of the French king, and for this we dislike him less than if he had conquered the French people. How then do we like him? We like him in the play. There he is a very amiable monster, a very splendid pageant. As we like to gaze at a panther, or a young lion, in their cages in the Tower, and catch a pleasing horror from their glistening eyes, their velvet paws, and dreadful roar, so we take a very romantic, heroic, patriotic, and poetical delight in the boasts and feats of our younger Harry, as they appear on the stage, and are confined to lines of ten syllables; where no blood follows the stroke that wounds our ears, where no harvest bends beneath horses' hoofs, no city fiames, no little child is butchered, no dead men's bodies are found piled on heaps and festering the next morning-in the orchestra !
So much for the politics of this play; now for the poetry. Perhaps one of the most striking images in all Shakspeare is that given of war in the first lines of the Prologue.
"O for a muse of fire that would ascend
Rubens, if he had painted it, would not have improved upon this simile.
The conversation between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely, relating to the sudden change in the manners of Henry V., is among the well-known Beauties of Shakspeare. It is indeed admirable both for strength and grace. It has some. times occurred to us that Shakspeare, in describing “ the reforma. tion" of the prince, might have had an eye to himself
** Which » a wonder how his grace should glean it,
Eur. The strawberry ATI W* pils pareath the nuttle,
Grew like the summer-grass, fastest by night,
This at least is as probable an account of the progress of the poet's mind as we have met with in any of the Essays on the Learning of Shakspeare.
Nothing can be better managed than the caution which the king gives the meddling archbishop, not to advise him rashly to engage in the war with France, his scrupulous dread of the consequences of that advice, and his eager desire to hear and follow it.
“ And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
Another characteristic instance of the blindness of human sature to everything but its own interests is the complaint ma de w the king of “the ill-neighborhood ” of the Scot in attacking England when she was attacking France.
“For once the eagle England being in prey,