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play of Richard the Second, where he is the controlling spirit. For, though Richard is the more prominent character in that play, this is not as the mover of things, but as the receiver of movements caused by another; the effects lighting on him, while the worker of them is comparatively
For one of Bolingbroke's main peculiarities is, that he looks solely to results; and, like a true artist, the better to secure these he keeps his designs and processes in the dark; his power thus operating so secretly, that in whatever he does the thing seems to have done itself to his hand. How intense his enthusiasm, yet how perfect his coolness and composure ! Then too how pregnant and forcible, always, yet how calm and gentle, and at times how terrible, his speech! how easily and unconcernedly the words drop from him, yet how pat and home they are to the persons for whom and the occasions whereon they are spoken ! To all which add a flaming thirst of power, a most aspiring and mounting ambition, with an equal mixture of humility, boldness, and craft, and the result explains much of the fortune that attends him through all the plays in which he figures. For the Poet keeps him the same man throughout.
So that, taking the whole delineation together, we have, at full length and done to the life, the portrait of a man in act prompt, bold, decisive, in thought sly, subtle, far-reaching; a character hard and cold indeed to the feelings, but written all over with success; which has no impulsive gushes or starts, but all is study, forecast, and calm suiting of means to preappointed ends. And this perfect self-command is in great part the secret of his strange power over others, making them almost as pliant to his purposes as are the cords and muscles of his own body; so that, as the event proves, he grows great by their feeding, till he can compass food enough without their help, and, if they go to hindering him, can eat them up. For so it turned out with the Percys ; strong sinews indeed with him for a head; while, against him, their very strength served but to work their own overthrow.
Some points of this description are well illustrated in what Hotspur says of him just before the battle of Shrewsbury, in the speech beginning,
The King is kind; and well we know the King
Hotspur, to be sure, exaggerates a good deal there, as he does everywhere, still his charges have a considerable basis of truth. As further matter to the point, observe the account which the King gives of himself when remonstrating with the Prince against his idle courses; which is not less admirable for truth of history than for skill of pencil. Equally fine, also, is the account of his predecessor immediately following that of himself ; where we see that he has the same sharp insight of men as of means, and has made Richard's follies and vices his tutors; from his miscarriages learning how to supplant him, and perhaps encouraging his errors, that he might make a ladder of them, to mount up and overtop him. The whole scene indeed is pregnantly characteristic both of the King and the Prince. And how the King's penetrating and remorseless sagacity is flashed forth in Hotspur's outbursts of rage at his demanding all the prisoners taken at Homildon ! wherein that roll of living fire is indeed snappish enough, but then he snaps out much truth.
But, though policy was the leading trait in this able man, nevertheless it was not so prominent but that other and better traits were strongly visible. And even in his policy there was much of the breadth and largeness which distinguish the statesman from the politician. Besides, he was a man of prodigious spirit and courage, had a real eye to the interests of his country as well as of his family, and in his wars he was humane much beyond the custom of his time. And in the last scene of the Poet's delineation of him, where he says to the Prince,
Come hither, Harry; sit thou by my bed,
though we have indeed his subtle policy working out like a ruling passion strong in death, still its workings are suffused with gushes of right feeling, enough to show that he was not all politician ; that beneath his close-knit prudence there was a soul of moral sense, a kernel of religion. Nor must I omit how the Poet, following the leadings both of nature and history, makes him to be plagued by foes springing up in his own bosom in proportion as he ceases to be worried by external enemies; the crown beginning to scald his brows as soon as he has crushed those who would pluck it from him.
The Hotspur of the North. How different is the atmosphere which waits upon the group of rebel war-chiefs, whereof Hotspur is the soul, and where chivalry reigns as supremely as wit and humour do in the haunts of Falstaff! It is difficult to speak of Hotspur satisfactorily; not indeed but that the lines of his character are bold and emphatic enough, but rather because they are so much so. For his frame is greatly disproportioned, which causes him to seem larger than he is; and one of his excesses manifests itself in a wiry, red-hot speech, which burns such an impression of him into the mind as to make any commentary seem prosaic and dull. There is no mistaking him : no character in Shakespeare stands more apart in plenitude of peculiarity; and stupidity itself cannot so disfeature him with criticism, but that he will be recognized by any one who has ever been with him. He is as much a monarch in his sphere as the King and Falstaff are in theirs ; only they rule more by power, he by stress: there is something in them that takes away the will and spirit of resistance; he makes every thing bend to his arrogant, domineering, capricious temper. Who that has been with him in the scenes at the Palace and at Bangor can ever forget his bounding, sarcastic, overbearing spirit? How he hits all about him, and makes the feathers fly wherever he hits ! It seems as if his tongue could go through the world, and strew the road behind it with splinters. And how steeped his speech everywhere is in the poetry of the sword! In what compact and sinewy platoons and squadrons the words march out of his mouth in bristling rank and file ! as if from his birth he had been cradled on the iron breast of war.
How doubly-charged he is, in short, with the electricity of chivalry ! insomuch that you can touch him nowhere but he gives you a shock.
In those two scenes, what with Hotspur, and what with Glendower, the poetry is as unrivalled in its kind as the wit and humour in the best scenes at Eastcheap. What a dressing Hotspur gives the silken courtier who came to demand the prisoners! Still better, however, is the dialogue that presently follows in the same scene; where Hotspur seems to be under a spell, a fascination of rage and scorn : nothing can check him, he cannot check himself; because, besides
the boundings of a most turbulent and impetuous nature, he has always had his own way, having from his boyhood held the post of a feudal war-chief. Irascible, headstrong, impatient, every effort to arrest or divert him only produces a new impatience. Whatever thought strikes him, it forthwith kindles into an overmastering passion that bears down all before it. We see that he has a rough and passionate soul, great strength and elevation of mind, with little gentleness and less delicacy, and a “force of will that rises into poetry by its own chafings.” While “the passion of talk is
upon him, he fairly drifts and surges before it till exhausted, and then there supervenes an equal "passion of action." "Speaking thick” is noted as one of his peculiarities; and it is not clear whether the Poet took this from some tradition respecting him, or considered it a natural result of his prodigious rush and press of thought.
Another striking trait in Hotspur, resulting perhaps, in part, from his having so much passion in his head, is the singular absence of mind so well described by Prince Henry : "I am not of Percy's mind, the Hotspur of the North ; he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, Fie upon this quiet life! I want work. O, my sweet Harry! says she, how many hast thou killed to-day ? Give my roan horse a drench, says he; and answers, an hour after, Some fourteen; a trifle, a trifle ! ” So again in the scene of Hotspur and his wife at Warkworth. She winds up her strain of tender womanly remonstrance by saying,
Some heavy business hath my lord in hand,
Before answering her, he calls in a servant, makes several