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' In King Richard the Second the poet exhibits to us a noble kingly nature, at first obscured by levity and the errors of unbridled youth, and afterwards purified by misfortune, and rendered more highly splendid and illustrious. When he has lost the love and reverence of his subjects, and is on the point of losing also his throne, he then feels with painful inspiration the elevated vocation of the kingly dignity, and its prerogatives over personal merit and changeable institutions. When the earthly crown has fallen from off his head, he first appears as a king whose innate nobility no humiliation can annihilate. This is felt by a poor groom : he is shocked that his master's favourite horse should have carried the proud Bolingbroke at his coronation; he visits the captive king in his prison, and shames the desertion of the great. The political history of the deposition is represented with extraordinary knowledge of the world ;-the ebb of fortune on the one hand, and the swelling tide on the other, which carries every thing along with it, while Bolingbroke acts as a king, and his adherents behave towards him as if he really were so, he still continues to give out that he comes with an armed band, merely for the sake of demanding his birthright and the removal of abuses. The usurpation has been long completed before the word is pronounced, and the thing publicly avowed. John of Gaunt is a model of chivalrous truth : he stands there like a pillar of the olden time which he had outlived *.'
This drama abounds in passages of eminent poetical beauty; among which every reader will recollect the pathetic description of Richard's entrance into London with Bolingbroke, of which Dryden said that he knew nothing comparable to it in any other language,' John of Gaunt's praise of England,
• Dear for her reputation through the world,'
and Mowbray's complaint at being banished for life.
Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. ii, p. 224.
KING RICHARD THE SECOND.
Uncles to the King. John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, HENRY, surnamed BOLINGBROKE, Duke of Hereford, Son
to John of Gaunt; afterwards King Henry IV. Duke of Aumerle, Son to the Duke of York. MOWBRAY, Duke of Norfolk. Duke of Surrey. Earl of Salisbury. Earl Berkley. Bushy, BAGOT, Creatures to King Richard. GREEN, Earl of Northumberland. HENRY PERCY, his Son. Lord Ross. Lord Willoughby. Lord Fitzwater. Bishop of Carlisle. Abbot of Westminster. Lord Marshal; and another Lord. SIR PIERCE of Exton. SIR STEPHEN SCROOP. Captain of a Band of Welshmen. Queen to King Richard. Duchess of Gloster. Duchess of York. Lady attending on the Queen. Lords, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, two Gardeners, Keeper, Messenger, Groom, and other Attendants.
SCENE, dispersedly in England and Wales.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF
KING RICHARD II.
SCENE I. London. A Room in the Palace.
Enter King RICHARD, attended: John of GAUNT,
and other Nobles, with him.
1. Old John of Gaunt, time-honour'd Lancaster,' Our ancestors, in their estimate of old age, appear to have reckoned somewhat differently from us, and to have considered men as old whom we should now esteem as middle aged. With them, every man that had passed fifty seems to have been accounted an old man. John of Gaunt, at the period when the commencement of this play is laid (1398), was only fifty-eight years old : he died in 1399, aged fifty-nine. This may bave arisen from its being customary in former times to enter life at an earlier period than we do now. Those who married at fifteen, had at fifty been masters of a house and family for thirty-five years.
2 When these public challenges were accepted, each combatant found a pledge for his appearance at the time and place appointed. Band and bond were formerly synonymous.
3 In the old play, and in Harding's Chronicle, Bolingbroke's title is written Herford and Harford. This was the pronunciation of our poet's time, and he therefore uses this word as a dissyllable.
Which then our leisure would not let us hear, Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray ? Gaunt. I have, my liege.
K. Rich. Tell me moreover, hast thou sounded him, If he appeal the duke on ancient malice; Or worthily as a good subject should, On some known ground of treachery in him? Gaunt. As near as I could sift him on that
argument,On some apparent danger seen in him, Aim'd at your highness; no inveterate malice. K, Rich. Then call them to our presence, face to
face, And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear The accuser, and the accused, freely speak :
[Exeunt some Attendants. High stomach'd are they both, and full of ire, In
rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire. Re-enter Attendants, with BOLINGBROKE and
NORFOLK. Boling. May many years of happy days befall My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege!
Nor. Each day still better other's happiness; Until the heavens, envying earth’s good hap, Add an immortal title to your crown!
K. Rich. We thank you both : yet one but flat
As well appeareth by the cause you come 5:
Drayton asserts that Henry Plantagenet, the eldest son of John of Gaunt, was not distinguished by the name of Bolingbroke till after he had assumed the crown. He is called earl of Hereford by the old historians, and was surnamed Bolingbroke from having been born at the town of that name in Lincolnshire, about 1366.
5 i. e. ' by the cause you come on. The suppression of the preposition has been shown to have been frequent with Shakspeare.
Namely, to appeal each other of high treason.-
Boling. First, (heaven be the record of my speech!)
divine soul answer it in heaven. Thou art a traitor, and a miscreant; Too good to be so, and too bad to live: Since, the more fair and crystal is the sky, The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly. Once more, the more to aggravate the note, With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat; And wish (so please my sovereign), ere I move, What my tongue speaks, my right-drawn sword 6
may prove. Nor. Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal : 'Tis not the trial of a woman's war, The bitter clamour of two eager tongues, Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain : The blood is hot that must be cool'd for this : Yet can I not of such tame patience boast, As to be hush’d, and nought at all to say: First, the fair reverence of your highness curbs me From giving reins and spurs to my free speech; Which else would post, until it had return’d These terms of treason doubled down his throat. Setting aside his high blood's royalty, And let him be no kinsman to my liege,
My right-drawn sword is my sword drawn in a right or just