« AnteriorContinuar »
Sal. You breathe these dead news in as dead an ear.My liege! my lord!—But now a king,—now thus. P. Hen. Even so must I run on, and even so stop. What surety of the world, what hope, what stay, When this was now a king, and now is clay!
Bast. Art thou gone so? I do but stay behind,
And then my soul shall wait on thee to heaven,
Now, now, you stars, that move in your right spheres,
To push destruction and perpetual shame
Sal. It seems you know not then so much as we. The cardinal Pandulph is within at rest,
Who half an hour since came from the dauphin;
Bast. He will the rather do it, when he sees
Sal. Nay, it is in a manner done already;
With whom yourself, myself, and other lords,
To consummate this business happily.
Bast. Let it be so ;-and you, my noble prince, With other princes that may best be spared,
Shall wait upon your father's funeral.
P. Hen. At Worcester must his body be interred;' For so he willed it.
1 In crastino S. Lucæ Johannes Rex Angliæ in castro de Newark obiit, et sepultus est in ecclesia Wigorniensi inter corpora S. Oswaldi et sancti [Wolstani] Chronic, sive Annal. Prioratus de Dunstable, edit. a T. Hearne, t. i. p. 173. A stone coffin, containing the body of king John, was discovered in the cathedral church of Worcester, July 17, 1797.
Thither shall it then.
And happily may your sweet self put on
And true subjection everlastingly.
Sal. And the like tender of our love we make, To rest without a spot for evermore.
P. Hen. I have a kind soul, that would give you thanks,
And knows not how to do it, but with tears.
Bast. O, let us pay the time but needful woe,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
1 "As previously we have found sufficient cause for lamentation, let us not waste the time in superfluous sorrow."
THE tragedy of King John, though not written with the utmost power of Shakspeare, is varied with a very pleasing interchange of incidents and characters. The lady's grief is very affecting; and the character of the Bastard contains that mixture of greatness and levity which this author delighted to exhibit.
To these remarks of Johnson, it may be added, that the grief of Constance for the loss of Arthur is probably indebted for much of its characteristic truth to the calamity which Shakspeare had himself sustained, by the death of his only son, who had attained the age of twelve, and died the year this play was produced.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF
KING RICHARD THE SECOND.
In the construction of this play, Shakspeare has followed Holinshed, fus usual historical authority. Some passages of the Chronicle are transplanted into the drama with very little alteration.
It has been suspected that there was an old play on the subject of King Richard II. which the Poet might have seen. Sir Gillie Merrick, who was concerned in the harebrained business of the earl of Essex, is accused of having procured to be played before the conspirators "the play of the deposing of Richard the Second: when it was told him by one of the players that the play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there was forty shillings extraordinary given to play, and so thereupon played it was!" It seems probable, from a passage in the State Trials, quoted by Mr. Tyrwhitt, that this old play bore the title of King Henry IV., and not King Richard II., and it could not be Shakspeare's King Henry IV., as that commences a year after the death of King Richard. "It may seem strange (says Malone) that this old play should have been represented after Shakspeare's drama on the same subject had been printed. The reason undoubtedly was, that, in the old play, the deposing of King Richard II. made a part of the exhibition; but in the first edition of Shakspeare's play, one hundred and fifty-four lines, describing a kind of trial of the king, and his actual deposition in parliament, were omitted; nor was it probably represented on the stage. Merrick, Cuffe, and the rest of Essex's train, naturally preferred the play in which his deposition was represented, their plot not aiming at the life of the queen. It is, I know, commonly thought that the parliament scene, as it is called, which was first printed in the 4to of 1608, was an addition made by Shakspeare to this play after its first representation; but it seems to me more probable that it was written with the rest, and suppressed in
the printed copy of 1597, from the fear of offending Elizabeth; against whom the pope had published a bull in the preceding year, exhorting her subjects to take up arms against her. In 1599, Hayward published his History of the first year of King Henry IV., which is in fact nothing more than a history of the deposing of King Richard II. The displeasure which that book excited at court sufficiently accounts for the omitted lines not being inserted in the copy of this play which was published in 1602.* Hayward was heavily censured in the Star Chamber, and committed to prison. In 1608, when James was quietly and firmly settled on the throne, and the fear of internal commotion, or foreign invasion, no longer subsisted, neither the author, the managers of the theatre, nor the bookseller, could entertain any apprehension of giving offence to the sovereign: the rejected scene was therefore restored without scruple, and from some playhouse copy probably found its way to the press."†
Malone places the date of its composition in 1593; Mr. Chalmers in 1596. The play was first entered on the Stationers' books by Andrew Wise, August 29, 1597; and there were four quarto editions published during the life of Shakspeare, viz. in 1597, 1598, 1608, and 1615.
This play may be considered the first link in the chain of Shakspeare's historical dramas, which Schlegel thinks the Poet designed to form one great whole, "as it were an historical, heroic poem, of which the separate plays constitute the rhapsodies."
"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 favorite 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 ad
This is a mistake of Mr. Malone's. There is no quarto copy of the date of 1602. He probably meant the edition of 1598.
† Malone's Chronology of Shakspeare's plays.
herents 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 a: being banished for life.
• Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. ii. p. 224.