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and made an offer of rich contributions to prevent the passing of a law which would have deprived them of the half of their revenues. His learned bishops are consequently as ready to prove to him his indisputable right to the crown of France, as he is to allow his conscience to be tranquillized by them. They prove that the Salic law is not, and never was applicable to France; and the matter is treated in a more succinct and convincing manner than such subjects usually are in manifestoes. After his renowned battles, Henry wished to secure his conquests by marriage with a French princess ; all that has reference to this is intended for irony in the play. The fruit of this union, from which the two nations promised themselves such happiness in future, was the weak and feeble Henry VI., under whom everything was so miserably lost. It must not, therefore, be imagined that it was without the knowledge and will of the poet that a beroic drama turns out a comedy in his hands, and ends, in the manner of comedy, with a marriage of convenience."
O FOR a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention !
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,'
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire,
Crouch for employment. But, pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirit, that hath dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object : Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O1 the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest, in little place, a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work:
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
(1) Within this wooden 0. Allusion is here made to the circular shape of the theatre or of the stage; some critics have ingeniously supposed that the Globe playhouse, which was circular, and of which Shakspeare was one of the proprietors, is here hinted at. Dr. Johnson remarks that Shakspeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of showing battles on the theatre, " which," says he, “is never done but tragedy becomes a farce." It was therefore as an apology for this, that this chorus is here introduced. The very inartificial management of time and place in the theatres of this period is thus humorously described by Sir Philip Sidney: “Here,” he says, “you shall have Asia of the one side, and Affricke of the other, and so many other under-kingdoms, that the player when he comes in must ever begin with telling where hee is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now shall you have three ladies walke to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to bee a garden. By and by we heare newes of ship wracke in the same place, then we are to blame if we accept it not for a rocke. Upon the back of that comes out a hidious monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave, while in the meantime two armies flie in, represented with foure swordes and bucklers, and then what hard hart will not receive it for a pitched field ?”
The perilous, narrow ocean parts asunder.
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance :
Think, when we talk of horses, that you
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth :
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times ;
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass; For the which supply,
Admit me chorus to this history;
Who, prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge our play.
SCENE I.--London. An Ante-chamber in the King's Palace.
Enter the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY and BISHOP OF ELY.
Cant. My lord, I'll tell you,—that self bill is urg'd,
Which in the eleventh year of the last king's reign,
Was like, and had indeed against us pass'd,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of further question.
Ely. But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?
Cant. It must be thought on. If it pass against us,
We lose the better half of our possession:
For all the temporal lands, which men devout
By testament have given to the church,
Would they strip from us; being valued thus,-
As much as would maintain, to the king's honour,
Full fifteen earls, and fifteen hundred knights;
Six thousand and two hundred good esquires ;
And to relief of lazars, and weak age,
Of indigent faint souls, past corporal toil,
A hundred almshouses, right well supplied;
And to the coffers of the king beside
A thousand pounds by the year: Thus runs the bill.
Ely. This would drink deep.
'Twould drink the cup and all.
Ely. But what prevention?
Cant. The king is full of grace and fair regard.
Ely. And a true lover of the holy church.
Cant. The courses of his youth promis'd it not.
The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seem'd to die too: yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came
And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him;
Leaving his body as a paradise,
To envelop and contain celestial spirits..
Never was such a sudden scholar made:
Never came reformation in a flood,
With such a heady currance, scouring faults;
Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
As in this king.
We are blessed in the change.
Cant. Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire the king were made a prelate:
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say,-It hath been all-in-all his study:
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle render'd you in music :
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter; that, when he speaks,
The air, a charter'd libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honied sentences;
So that the art and practic part of life?
Must be the mistress to this theoric;
Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain :
His companies unletter’d, rude, and shallow;
His hours fill'd up with riots, banquets, sports;
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.
Ely. The strawberry grows underneath the nettle;
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality:
And so the prince obscur'd his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt,
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
(1) The air, &c. Dr. Johnson, who is not very lavish of his praises, remarks that “this line is exquisitely beautiful.”
(2) So that the art and practic part of life, &c. The meaning of this and the next line is not very plain; but it seems to be this; He discourses with such skill that his theory must surely have been taught by art and practice.