Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

It is worth observing that in all these plays, which give an admirable picture of the spirit of the good old times, the moral inference does not at all depend upon the nature of the actions, but on the dignity or meanness of the persons committing them. “The eagle England” has a right to be in prey," but "the weazel Scot" has none“ to come sneaking to her nest," which she has left to pounce upon others. Might was right, without equivocation or disguise, in that heroic and chivalrous age. The substitution of right for might, even in theory, is among the refinements and abuses of modern philosophy.

A more beautiful rhetorical delineation of the effects of subordination in a commonwealth can hardly be conceived than the following

" For government, though high and low and lower,
Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,
Congrung in a full and natural close,
Like music,

---Therefore heaven doth divide
The state of man in divers functions,
Setting endeavor in continual motion ;
To which is fixed, as an aim or butt.
Obedience : for so work the honey bees;
Creatures that by a rule in nature, teach
The art of order to a peopled kingdom,
They have a king, and officers of sorts
Where some, like magistrales, correct at home;
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad;
Others, like soldiers, artned in their stings,
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds;
Which pillage they wath merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor ;
Who, busied in bus majesty, surveys
The singing mason building routs of guld,
The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burthens at his narrow gate ;
The mad-eyed justice, with has surly hum,
Delivering o'er to executors pale
The laxy yawning drone. I thus infer,
That many things, having full reference
To one consent, may work contranously;
As many arrowe, loosed several ways,

Come to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;
As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea ;
As many lines close in the dial's centre;
So may a thousand actions, once a-foot,
End in one purpose, and be all well borne
Without defeat.”

HENRY V. is but one of Shakspeare's second-rate plays. Yet by quoting passages, like this, from his second-rate plays alone, we might make a volume“ rich with his praise,"

“ As is the oozy bottom of the sea
With sunken wrack and sumless treasuries.”

Of this sort are the king's remonstrance to Scroop, Grey, and Cambridge, on the detection of their treason, his address to the soldiers at the siege of Harfleur, and the still finer one before the battle of Agincourt, the description of the night before the battle, and the reflections on ceremony put into the mouth of the king.

“O hard condition ; twin-born with greatness,
Subjected to the breath of every fool,
Whose sense no more can feel but his own wringing !
What infinite heart's ease must kings neglect,
That private men enjoy! and what have kings,
That privates have not too, save ceremony?
Save general ceremony?
And what art thou, thou idol ceremony ?
What kind of god art thou, that suffer’st more
of mortal griefs, than do thy worshippers ?
What are thy rents? what are thy comings-in?
O ceremony, show me but thy worth !
What is thy soul, 0 adoration ?
Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form,
Creating awe and fear in other men ?
Wherein thou art less happy, being feared,
Than they in fearing.
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure !
Thiak'st thou, the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation ?

Will it give place to flexure and low bending !
Can'st thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,
That play'st so subtly with a king's repose,
I am a king, that find thee : and I know,
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The inter-tissu'd robe of gold and pearl,
The farsed title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the shore of the world :
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony:
Not all these, laid in bed majestical.
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave;
Who with a body fill'd, and vacant mind,
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread,
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell :
But, like a lacquey, from the rise to set,
Sweats in the eye of Phabus, and all night
Sleeps in Elysium; next day, after dawn,
Doth rise, and help llyperion to his horse;
And follows sn the ever-running year
With profitable labor, to his grave:
And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,
Winding up days with toil, and nights with sleep,
Has the forehand and vantage of a king.
The slave, a member of the country's peace,
Enjoys it; but in grous brain little wots
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,

Whose hours the peasant best advantager." Most of these passages are well known: there is one, which we do not remember to have seen noticed, and yet it is no whit inferior to the rest in heroic beauty. It is the account of the deaths of York and Suffolk.

* EXETER, The Duke of York commends him to your majesty,

K. Henar. Lives he, good uncle' Thrice within this hour
I aw him down : thrice up again, and fighting i
From helmet to the spur all blood he was.

Exten. In which array (brave soldier) doth he lie,
Larding the plans : and by his bloody side
(Yorke-fellow to bu tor nonpowing woande)
The noble Fan of Suffolk alonline
Suffolk first died: and York, all haggled d'er.

Comes to him, where in gore he lay insteep'd,
And takes him by the beard; kisses the gashes,
That bloodily did yawn upon his face;
And cries aloud-Tarry, dear cousin Suffolk !
My soul shall thine keep company to heaven :
Tarry, sweet soul, for mine, then fly a-breast;
As in this glorious and well-foughten field,
We kept together in our chivalry!
Upon these words I came, and cheer'd him up :
He smil'd me in the face, caught me by th’ hand,
And, with a feeble gripe, saysDear my lord,
Commend my service to my sovereign.
So did he turn, and over Suffolk's neck
He threw his wounded arm, and kiss'd his lips;
And so, espous'd to death, with blood he seal'd
A testament of noble-ending love."

But we must have done with splendid quotations. The behavior of the king, in the difficult and doubtful circumstances in which he is placed, is as patient and modest as it is spirited and lofty in his prosperous fortune. The character of the French nobles is also very admirably depicted ; and the Dauphin's praise of his horse shows the vanity of that class of persons in a very striking point of view. Shakspeare always accompanies a foolish prince with a satirical courtier, as we see in this instance. The comic parts of HENRY V. are very inferior to those of Henry IV. Falstaff is dead, and without him, Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph, are satellites without a sun. Fluellen the Welshman is the most entertaining character in the piece. He is good-natured, brave, choleric, and pedantic. His parallel between Alexander and Harry of Monmouth, and his desire to have “some disputations” with Captain Macmorris on the disci. pline of the Roman wars, in the heat of the battle, are never to be forgotten. His treatment of Pistol is as good as Pistols treatment of his French prisoner. There are two other remarkable prose passages in this play: the conversation of Henry in disguise with the three sentinels on the duties of a soldier, and his courtship of Katherine in broken French. We like them both exceedingly, though the first savors perhaps too much of the king, and the last too little of the lover.

HENRY VI.

IN THREE PARTS.

During the time of the civil wars of York and Lancaster,
England was a perfect bear-garden, and Shakspeare has given
us a very lively picture of the scene. The three parts of
Henry VI. convey a picture of very little else ; and are inferior
to the other historical plays. They have brilliant passages;
the general ground work is comparatively poor and meagre, the
style “ flat and unraised." There are few lines like the follow.
ing:

"Glory is like a circle in the water ;
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperse to naught."
than a Mto!

ofronit MUST The first part relates to the wars in France after the death of Henry V., and the story of the Maid of Orleans. She is here almost as sourvily treated, as in Voltaire's Pucelle. Talbot is a very magnificent sketch : there is something as formidable in this portrait of him, as there would be in a monumental figure of him or in the sight of the armor which he wore. The scene in which he visits the Countess of Auvergne, who seeks to catrap him, is a very spirited one ; and his description of his own tra! ment, while a prisoner to the French, not less remarkable to

Saunatny. Yet tell'st thou not, how thou wert entertained
Talkor. With role and earns, and columelous taunts,

In open market place produced they mne,
To be a public spectacle to all.

« AnteriorContinuar »