Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Shal. I cannot perceive how ; unless you give me your doublet, and stuff me out with straw. I beseech you, good sir John, let me have five hundred of my thousand.

Fal. Sir, I will be as good as my word : this that you heard, was but a colour.

Shal. A colour, I fear, that you will die in, sir John.

Fal. Fear no colours ; go with me to dinner. Come, lieutenant Pistol ;-come, Bardolph :-I shall be sent for soon at night. Re-enter Prince John, the Chief Justice, Officers,

&c. Ch. Just. Go, carry sir John Falstaff to the Fleet ; * Take all his company along with him.

Fal. My lord, my lord,

Ch. Just. I cannot now speak : I will hear you Take them away. Pist. Si fortuna me tormenta, spero me contenta.

[Excunt Fal. SHAL. Pist. BARD. Page,

and Officers.
P. John. I like this fair proceeding of the king's :
He hath intent, his wonted followers
Shall all be very well provided for ;
But all are banish'd, till their conversations
Appear more wise and modest to the world.

Ch. Just. And so they are.
P. John. The king hath call’d his parliament, my

soon.

lord.

to the Fleet;] I do not see why Falstaff is carried to the Fleet. We have never lost sight of him since his dismission from the King; he has committed no new fault, and therefore incurred no punishment; but the different agitations of fear, anger, and surprize in him and his company, made a good scene to the eye ; and our author, who wanted them no longer on the stage, was glad to find this method of sweeping them away. JOHNSON.

Ch. Just. He hath.
P. John. I will lay odds,-that, ere this year

expire,
We bear our civil swords, and native fire,
As far as France: I heard a bird so sing,
Whose musick, to my thinking, pleas'd the king.
Come, will

you
hence !

[Exeunt.'

9 I fancy every reader, when he ends this play, cries out with Desdemona, O most lame and impotent conclusion !” As this play was not, to our knowledge, divided into Acts by the author, I could be content to conclude it with the death of Henry the Fourth:

“ In that Jerusalem shall Harry die." These scenes, which now make the fifth_Act of Henry the Fourth, might then be the first of Henry the Fifth; but the truth is, that they do not unite very commodiously to either play. When these plays were represented, I believe they ended as they are now ended in the books; but Shakspeare seems to have designed that the whole series of action, from the beginning of Richard the Second, to the end of Henry the Fifth, should be considered by the reader as one work, upon one plan, only broken into parts by the necessity of exhibition.

None of Shakspeare's plays are more read than the First and Second Parts of Henry the Fourth. Perhaps no author has ever, in two plays, afforded so much delight. The great events are interesting, for the fate of kingdoms depends upon them; the slighter occurrences are diverting, and, except one or two, sufficiently probable; the incidents are multiplied with wonderful fertility of invention, and the characters diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment, and the profoundest skill in the nature of man.

The Prince, who is the hero both of the comick and tragick part, is a young man of great abilities and violent passions, whose sentiments are right, though his actions are wrong; whose virtues are obscured by negligence, and whose understanding is dissipated by levity. In his idle hours he is rather loose than wicked; and when the occasion forces out his latent qualities, he is great without effort, and brave without tumult. The trifler is roused into a hero, and the hero again reposes in the trifler. The character is great, original, and just.

Percy is a rugged soldier, cholerick and quarrelsome, and has only the soldier's virtues, generosity and courage.

But Falstaff unimitated, unimitable Falstaff, how shall I de'scribe thee? thou compound of sense and vice; of sense which may be admired, but not esteemed; of vice which may be de

spised, but hardly detested. Falstaff is a character loaded with faults, and with those faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief and a glutton, a coward and a boaster, always ready to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor; to terrify the timorous, and insult the defenceless. At once obsequious and malignant, he satirizes in their absence those whom he lives by flattering. He is familiar with the prince only as an agent of vice, but of this familiarity he is so proud, as not only to be supercilious and haughty with common men, but to think his interest of importance to the Duke of Lancaster. Yet the man thus corrupt, thus despicable, makes himself necessary to the prince that despises him, by the most pleasing of all qualities, perpetual gaiety; by an unfailing power of exciting laughter, which is the more freely indulged, as his wit is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but consists in easy scapes and sallies of levity, which make sport, but raise no envy. It must be observed, that he is stained with no enormous or sanguinary crimes, so that his licentiousness is not so offensive but that it may be borne for his mirth.

The moral to be drawn from this representation is, that no man is more dangerous than he that, with a will to corrupt, hath the power to please ; and that neither wit nor honesty ought to think themselves safe with such a companion, when they see Henry seduced by Falstaff. Johnson.

Almost all the ancient interludes I have met with conclude with some solemn prayer for the king or queen, house of commons, &c. Hence, perhaps, the Vivant Rex & Regina, at the bottom of our modern play-bills. STEEVENS. .

inst 3015

70 pa Jembe 8.1993

END OF VOLUME FIFTH.

Cas

le

?
..
:13

stenos C. and K. Baldwin, Printers, New Bridge-street, London,

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »