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described to us by its most zealous votaries) was sufficient to justify and promote it. The keenest and most successful sportsman cannot (we believe) form a conception of the exquisite pleasure attendant on a chase, no less healthful to the body, no less abundant in incident and variety, even of a mere physical character, but a thousand times more recreative to the mind and imagination than that to which he devotes himself. The distant spire of some yet unexplored parish church invites his inquiry; and the antiquary sets off on his steeple hunt, regardless of road or weather, eager for the attainment of his end, but not so as to neglect the thousand objects of interest and reflection which occur to him in his progress. He arrives at the village ; and here, perhaps, a minor and digressive hunt commences, in pursuit of a stray sexton or parish-clerk, the janitor of the sacred edifice. The delay or disappointment only whets his thirst, and disposes him to the keener relish of the anticipated possession. But our powers fail us in the attempt to paint the enjoyment which crowns his labours, the full revelry of the imagination amidst altar-tombs and mural tablets, the recumbent effigies of the Anglo-Norman periodthe rich brasses, conteniporary with our Henries and Edwards —and the kneeling forms of alabaster, coloured to the life, which distinguish the worthies of the age of Elizabeth. Nor are the humbler records of the church-yard forgotten, and many a rude rhyme-many a sentence expressive of kind love and of pious animation and confidence, repays the pain of decyphering, and completes the triumph of the new discovery.
ART. II.-The Yorkshire Tragedy.--Not so New, as Lamentable
and True. Written by W.Shakspeare. Printed for T. P. 1619.
In order to render more complete and satisfactory our account of the early English Drama, as comprised in the series of notices we have already given on that subject, we shall occasionally supply the reader with short papers on single plays, chiefly anonymous ones, and such as may, for various reasons, be deemed worthy of a detailed examination.
In chusing the subjects of these papers, we shall chiefly have regard to the intrinsic merit of the piece to be examined; but there may be other circumstances connected with certain plays, which may render them fit subjects of remark, even where the mere merit they possess might not demand it: such as their having been plausibly attributed to any distinguished writer of the period to which they may belong—their being peculiarly calculated to illustrate the manners and customs of that period-their manifest relation to any distinguished persons or remarkable events-or for other reasons of a similar kind. But when we meet with any one that seems to include most, if not all of these claims upon our notice, it seems peculiarly desirable to lay it before the reader of the Retrospective Review. And such is, in a great degree, the case with the play which we have chosen for the subject of the present paper. It has considerable intrinsic merit; it has been confidently attributed to Shakspeare, by those who, according to their pretensions at least, ought to be competent judges on such points; and finally, it is little more than a dramatic representation of an actual event which took place just before it was written.
With respect to the question, of whether or not this play be the production of Shakspeare? we shall leave the decision of this point entirely to our readers; if, indeed, they will choose to decide without any satisfactory evidence either one way or the other. Setting aside the internal evidence contained in the work itself, there are many plausible arguments to be urged on both sides of the question ; but none that are in the least degree decisive. With respect to the proofs to be derived from the work itself, we shall only say, that there are passages in it which might have been written by Shakspeare, and which are, in fact, not unworthy of him: and that, even as a whole, it would not detract from his fame to have written it. But we must be understood to say this with reference to the manifest object of the work. If it made any pretensions to rank as a regular tragedy, divided into acts, and constructed on strict dramatic principles, it would then be ridiculous to think of it for a moment as the production of the author of Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. But it pretends to no such thing. It is nothing more than a dramatic representation of a real event, which was agitating the minds of the spectators at the very time it was represented ; and it pretends to be nothing more than this. It merely seeks, by means of the usual dramatic illusion, to place before the senses of the people what was already present to their imaginations ; just as our modern melo-dramas seek to embody any of the striking events or popular stories of the day by actual representation. It pretends to nothing more than this, and it effects nothing less; and there is no reason why Shakspeare should not have written it, any more than why he should. If he had written it, on the principle of merely dramatising the known fact, he would not have done it much better than it is here done; and there were many of his cotemporaries who could have done it quite as well.
The story dramatised in this play is simply that of a gentleVOL. IX. PART II.
for these fadaof his wife. Athe life of the murdered im
man of family and fortune in Yorkshire, named Calverly, who in a paroxysm of passion in which there appears to have been some mixture of unfounded jealousy) murdered two of his children, and attempted the life of the third (a babe in the cradle), and of his wife. As it is probable that the real grounds for these fatal acts were but little known to the public at the time, the dramatiser has, judiciously enough, chosen to attribute them to other motives than the mere phrensy of the moment; or at least he has supposed other and more conceivable causes for that phrensy. He represents the murderer as plunged into all sorts of riotous excesses, and, just before the commencement of the piece, driven to the last pitch of despair by losses at play, which have reduced him to total beggary. The drama (which is very short) commences with one of those purely expletive scenes, between the serving men of the principal persons, which are so common in the old plays, and which seem introduced for no end but that of occupying so much time. We are then, in the second scene, introduced to the husband and wife.
It may be worth while here to point out what strikes us as being a proof of considerable judgment in the dramatiser of this story, whoever he may have been. He gives no names to any of the dramatis personæ, except the servants. To have given them different names from those of the persons connected with the story would have been an impertinence, as those were well known to every one ; and to have given them the real names would have destroyed the dramatic effect, by cutting off all aid from the imagination of the spectator, and thus making the scene too real for representation—to say nothing of his perhaps not considering himself entitled to do this, in regard to the friends and connections of the parties. In the second scene we are introduced to the husband and wife, in a very spirited and dramatic manner; and the characters of both are drawn with a masterly hand, not only in this first scene, but throughout the piece. That of the wife, though a mere sketch, is one of those sweet personifications of female gentleness and forbearance which we meet with only in this age of our dramatic literature; and that of the husband, though a sketch also, is as natural a one as ever was delineated : absorbed in his own selfish passions, and heeding nothing but what gratifies or molests them, his wife's gentleness, instead of allaying, does but add to his phrensy, when he comes home to her, raving for the loss of his last stake at play, and demanding her dowry that he may return to lose that too-as he feels he shall, and. indeed wilfully determines that he will, rather than appear to want wherewithal to lose; as if losing his last farthing would prove him not to be poor,—which is what he above all things
dreads to be thought. We cannot help thinking, too, that the perfectly gratuitous manner in which he abuses his wife-applying the foulest of epithets to her and her children-is finely
characteristic of such a mind in the state in which it is then • represented to be; madly attributing to her vices of which he knows that she is not guilty even in thought, as a sort of imaginary justification of himself to himself for the treatment that he has predetermined to inflict on her; as if merely calling her a strumpet, and his children bastards, would make them such, and excuse him for treating them as such ! Such, at least, is the interpretation we are disposed to put on parts of this scene ; which we will now no longer detain the reader from the perusal of: premising, however, that it is possible that portion of the scene we now allude to may have been suggested, indirectly, and perhaps unconsciously, by a circumstance connected with the real story: it is said, that the perpetrator of the deed, being of a violent and passionate temper, struck one of his children, and that his wife, who was present, angrily desired him to “ correct his own children, when he was able to get any;" and that thereupon he immediately committed the acts on which the tragedy is founded. Those who are accustomed to watch curiously the minute operations of the human mind, will not think that we are idly or heedlessly binding together, as cause and effect, what never could have been such.
We proceed to extract what may be considered as the opening scene of the drama :
• Wife. What will become of us ? All will away.
But vext his money cannot make them last :
Wife. Dear husband !
Wife. I do entreat you, as you love your soul,
Hus. A vengeance strip thee naked! thou art cause,
Wife. Bad turn’d to worse-both beggary of the soul
Re-enter Husband. Hus. If marriage be honorable, then cuckolds be honorable, for they cannot be made without marriage. Fool! what meant I to marry, to get beggars ? Now must my eldest son be a knave, or nothing; he cannot live upon the fool, for he will have no land to maintain him. That mortgage sits like a snaffle upon my inheritance, and makes me chew upon iron. My second son must be a promoter, and my third a thief or an under-putter—a slave pandar. O, beggary! beggary! to what base uses dost thou put a man! I think the devil scorns to be a bawd; he bears himself more proudly—has more of his credit. Base, slavish, abject, filthy poverty !
Wife. Good sir, by all our vows, I do beseech you, Shew me the true cause of your discontent.
Hus. Money, money, money; and thou must supply me.
Wife. Alas, I am the least cause of your discontent.