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The great events are interesting, for the fate of king in the first part of it; but, in the after part, when the doms depends upon them: the slighter occurrences are charming old rogue descends from the part of Henry diverting, and, except one or two, sufficiently probable. IV., and, assuming that of the Prince, beats him, even The incidents are multiplied with wonderful fertility there he raises our wonder to astonishment. The man of invention, and the characters diversified with the ut who can read that scene without 'measureless content,' most nicety of discernment, and the profoundest skill in ought to lie down and die of a lethargy. the nature of man.
“ No words can do justice to the discriminated traits “ The Prince, who is the hero both of the comic and of valorous character in Prince Henry, in Hotspur, in tragic parts, is a young man of great abilities and violent Douglas, and in Glendower. The first arises to glory out passions, whose sentiments are right, though his actions of previous habits and pursuits that would have extinare wrong; whose virtues are obscured by negligence, | guished any character unpossessed of the unquenchable and whose understanding is dissipated by levity. In Greek fire that glowed in Henry of Agincourt, and he his idle hours, he is rather loose than wicked; and when shines, as Homer says of Diomede, ‘like a star that had the occasion forces out his latent qualities, he is great been bathed in the ocean.' He is comparatively wiser without effort, and brave without tumult. The trifler is than the irascible Hotspur, and, therefore, more justly roused into a hero, and the hero again reposes in the successful. The Scottish Douglas retreats at last, but it trifler. The character is great, original, and just. is only when the field is lost, and after he had slain
“Percy is a rugged soldier, choleric and quarrelsome, three warriors, who were the semblances of the King. and has only the soldier's virtues, generosity and courage. He was personally little interested in the fray-his
* But Falstaff-unimitated, unimitable Falstaff, -how | reputation could afford him to retreat without expense shall I describe thee ? thon compound of sense and vice : to his honour; and therefore he shows, after prodigal of sense which may be admired, but not esteemed; of valour, a discretion which is quite as nationally characvice which may be despised, but hardly detested. Fal teristic as his courage. Owen Glendower is a noble, staff is a character loaded with faults, and with those wild picture of the heroic Welsh character; brave, faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief vain, imaginative, and superstitious—he was the William and a glutton, a coward and a boaster; always ready Wallace of Wales, and his vanity and superstition may be to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor-io terrify forgiven; for he troubled the English till they believed the timorous, and insult the defenceless. At once obse him, and taught him to believe himself, a conjuror.” quious and malignant, he satirizes in their absence those whom he lives by flattering. He is familiar with the “The deeply wrought Falstaff employs us at drawing Prince only as an agent of vice; but of this familiarity conclusions with him, as soon as he is out of our comhe is so proud, as not only to be supercilious and haughty pany. He has puzzled those most whom he has most with common men, but to think his interest of impor- delighted, and may boast of having made our rigid mortance to the Duke of Lancaster. Yet the man thus cor alist, Dr. Johnson, regret, while he condemned the reript, thus despicable. makes himself necessary to the formed Bertram, that Falstafl''s career should end in Prince that despises him, by the most pleasing of all disgrace. Hazlitt joins in this regret; and of both him qualities, perpetual gayety-by an unfailing power of and the moralist we may say, with Richardson—But exciting laughter, which is the more freely indulged, as if they will allow themselves to examine the character, his wit is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but in all its parts, they will perhaps agree with me, that consists in easy scapes and sallies of levity which make such feeling is delusive, and arises from partial views. sport, but raise no envy. It must be observed, that he They will not take it amiss, if I say they are deluded is stained with no enormous or sanguinary crimes, so in the same manner with Prince Henry. They are that his licentiousness is not so offensive but that it may amused, and conceive an improper attachment to the be borne for his mirth.
means of their pleasure and amusement.' Richardson, “The moral to be drawn from this representation is, though, professor-like, somewhat heavy with aphorisms, that no man is more dangerous than he that, with a will has afforded us good materials for thinking and argụing un corrupt, hath the power to please; and that neither on this delightful compound of various and harmonized wit nor honesty ought to think themselves safe with such qualities; but we are chiefly indebted to Morgann's a companion, when they see Henry seduced by Fal Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff.' staff." -Johnsox.
We have no single disquisition so good and complete
as this: and as many may not possess it, who regard Thos. CAMPBELL thus comments on the character of Falstaff's disgrace as unmerited, I will transcribe a pasthese dramas:
sage near the end :
:— But whatever we may be told "HENRY IV. may challenge the world to produce an concerning the intention of Shakespeare to extend this other more original and rich in characters: the whole character further, there is a manifest preparation, near zodiac of theatrical genius has no constellation with so the end of the second part of Henry IV., for his dismany bright and fixed stars of the first magnitude as grace: the disguise is taken off, and he begins openly are here grouped together-a Prince destined to the to pander to the excesses of the Prince, entitling him. glory of Agincourt, a Falstaff, a Hotspur, a Douglas, and self to the character afterwards given him, of being the an Owen Glendower. The interest of the first and tutor and the feeder of his riots. I will fetch off (says better part of HENRY IV. is no doubt derived from its he) these justices. I will devise matter enough out of characters more than fryn its incidents-not that the this Shallow to keep the Prince in continual laughter latter are either thin or confused: they, on the contrary, the wearing out of six fashions. If the young dace be are clear, rapid, and full; but the action is more indebted a bait for the old pike,' speaking with reference to his to its agents than to its own movement, for, as to the own designs upon Shallow, “I see no reason in the law mere issue of events, I think we cannot be said to feel of nature but I moy snap at him.' This is showing hima palpitating anxiety for success on either side. Henry self abominably dissolute: the laborious arts of fraud, IV. is a cool, politic prince; and his adversary, North which he practices on Shallow to induce the loan of umberland, is even less interesting—so cowardly, though a thousand pounds, create disgust; and the more, as rash for a time, and so weak, that we should not care a we are sensible this money was never likely to be paid straw for his cause, if it were not for his son, Harry back, as we are told that was, of which the travellers Hotspur.
had been robbed. It is true, we feel no pain for Shal“But the more original characters of Henry IV. give | low, he being a very bad character, as would fully aplife and interest to all that happens. First of all comes pear, if he were unfolded; but Falstaff's deliberation forth Sir John Falstaff. Antiquity has nothing like in fraud is not, on that account, more excusable. The him, and the world will never look upon his like again. event of the old king's death draws him out almost into That scene in which young Hal and he enact a sup detestation :- Master Robert Shallow, choose what posed explanation between the Prince and his father, office thou wilt in the land,-'tis thine. I am Fortune's is sufficiently wonderful for its effects on our risibility, steward ; let us take any man's horses. The laws of
England are at my commandment. Happy are they contrast to which philosophy has traced the pleasure who have been my friends; and woe to my Lord Chief: we derive from all art, and here carried throughout, in Justice.' After this, we ought not to complain it we see “ that singular combination and contrast, which the poetic justice duly executed upon him, and that he is gross, the sensual, and the brutish mind of Falstaff ex. fiually given up to shame and dishonour.'”—CHARLES hibits, when joined with admirable power of invention, A. Brown.
of wit, and of humour.” He closes with a very acute
and striking parallel, suggesting deep moral truth, as The Essay on the Character of Falstaff,” above showing how slight a partition divides wickedness in quoted, was written by Maurice Morgann, whose life high places from humble roguery: Shakespeare, Maewas spent chiefly in diplomatic and political pursuits, kenzie suggests, has, in Richard III., drawn a tragie and whose name is connected with America, by having character much resembling the comic one of Falstaff. been the secretary of the embassy for the treaty of “ Both are men of the world ; both possess that sagacity peace of 1783, acknowledging the independence of the and understanding which is fitted for its purposes ; both United States, and by his being afterwards employed despise those refined feelings, those motives of delicacy, in forming the colonial governments of Canada. The those restraints of virtue, which might obstruct the “Essay" was first printed in 1777, and at the time course they have marked out for themselves. Both use attracted universal attention. The author found the the weaknesses of others as skilful players at a game do popular opinion of Falstaff formed upon the exaggera the ignorance of their opponents; they enjoy the advantions of the stage of that day, consisting chiefly in fur tages not only without self-reproach, but with the pride nishing food for merriment, by his cowardice, his lies, of superiority. Richard aspires to the crown of England. and his disasters, without much notion of his wit and because Richard is wicked and ambitious: Falstaff is talent. In refuting this injustice to the author, Morgann contented with a thousand pounds of Justice Shallow's. was carried to an opposite extreme, or perhaps inten- | because he is only luxurious and dissipated. Richard tionally indulged in an amusing extravagance. He courts Lady Anne and the Princess Elizabeth, for his considers Shakespeare as having found the fools and purposes: Falstaff makes love to Mrs. Ford, and Mrs. butts of the stage formed from the coarse and cheap | Page, for his. Richard is witty like Falstaff, and talks materials of mere tolly, with a dash of knavery; and of his own figure with the same sarcastic indifference. resolving “ to furnish a richer repast, and to give (in Indeed, so much does Richard, in the higher walk of Falstaff) to one eminent buffoon the high relish of wit, villainy, resemble Falstaff in the lower region of roguery humour, birth, dignity, and courage.” On this last and dissipation, that it were not difficult to show in the point he has laboured with great ingenuity, but cer dialogue of the two characters, however dissimilar in tainly quite ineffectually, as to establishing, the fat situation, many passages and expressions in a style of knight's military reputation; while he as certainly pre remarkable resemblance.”—(Lounger, No. 68.) serves him from being confounded with those " tame Ulrici (“Shakespeare's Dramatic Art") finds, after his cheaters,” Pistol and Parolles. His cowardice will be | peculiar mode, in Falstaff, a sense and intention, much found to be more nearly allied to selfish “discretion," more remote from common apprehension than any and the absence of, or rather contempt for, the higher || English commentator has suspected. He regards the feelings and motives that prompt men to brave danger, comic scenes of these plays as a deep satire and parody than to common nervous timidity. Mackenzie, in the on the historical scenes-Falstaff being the living parody “ Lounger," has well remarked—“Though I will not on the chivalry of the age, his expedition to the Gads go so far as a paradoxical critic has done, and ascribe hill robbery a parody on the civil wars, his braggart valour to Falstaff; yet, if his cowardice is fairly exam swaggering a parody on the fiery Hotspur, his talent ined, it will be found to be not so much a weakness as of misrepresentation a satire on the King, and his whole a principle. In his very cowardice there is much of the deportment in the second part “a happy parody upon sagacity I have remarked in him; he has the sense of the common cunning and low intrigue of so-called po danger, but not the discomposure of fear." No critic litical wisdom, which forins the chief motive of the luis has better pointed out than Mackenzie, in two adınirable torical action of the second part; while his employment papers on Falstaff, in the “ Lounger," the source of the as a military officer is a satire upon the fast-sinking inenjoyment afforded by this character, as founded in that l portance of the profession of war."