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as a maiden to a wedding. He delights in dogs and horses and, when on the back of a horse, feels that he is on his throne. When war is afoot, nothing can stay him-not even the dalliance of his lady wife :
We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns And pass
them current too. He abhors a dandy, cannot be civil to a bore, and has no patience with poetry. He is irascible and downright, calling a spade a spade. When he is angry, nothing can stop the torrent of his words.
his words. He is generous and would give anything to a friend;
But in the way of bargain, mark ye me,
I'll cavil on the ninth part of a hair. It is a thoroughly English and a thoroughly lovable type; and we grieve as we see him falling beneath the stroke of a cooler hand.
CHARACTER.–Already it has been indicated with what variety of character these Histories are crowded ; but it still remains to note the chief efforts at character-painting
The portraits of women in the Histories exhibit a singular monotony; and the leading feature is a remarkable one. How far it may have been due to the impressions made on him by the study of the history out of which he obtained his materials, or how far it may have been due to memories and experiences of
his own in early life, we cannot tell ; but the conception of woman in the Histories is one of infinite sadness. The creed of the young author obviously was, that woman was made to mourn. In the three parts of Henry the Sixth and in Richard the Third there is a picture, drawn with great fulness of detail, of Queen Margaret ; and a terrible one it is. She begins life in the pride of beauty, high spirits and a great position. But her husband, the King, is a weakling, who can neither satisfy her heart nor fill his royal station; and she becomes a guilty wife and a bold intriguer, scheming to maintain the position which is slipping from her. But disaster follows disaster: she loses her crown, her husband, her children, and her grandchildren, and sees her enemies exalted to the position which she has lost. As this goes on, she is transmuted into a fateful image of woe, not broken-down and penitent, but hardened, shrill and violent; and at the last she moves through the scenes as a terrific shape-a prophetic hag, living wholly in the element of sorrow, but unsubdued by it and glorying in the misfortunes of others. The Lady Constance, in King John, is the same type on a somewhat smaller scale and with the colours more subdued. But still there is unearthly grief; and her words are the outcome of a heart which is all one lake of tears. We gladly call to mind that at this period Shakspeare was able to create, side by side with these appalling figures, two such images of
female grace and loveliness as Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Portia in The Merchant of Venice.
While, however, drawing these somewhat weird pictures of women, Shakspeare, in the English Histories, has painted his completest portrait of a man. This is the Prince Hal of the two parts of Henry the Fourth and the King Henry the Fifth of the drama which follows. In some respects this is the most perfect creation of Shakspeare's genius. Having three plays through which to develop the character, he builds it up slowly, exhibiting it fully in every phase; and he is obviously working with pleasure from beginning to end. In completing his portrait of Brutus in Julius Cæsar he says, through the mouth of one of the interlocutors:
His life was gentle, and the elements
And say to all the world, This was a man; but, fine as the figure of Brutus is, this characterization is far truer of Prince Henry. If anyone wishes to know Shakspeare's conception of a man, here it is.
Tradition said that Henry the Fifth, after a wild and reckless youth, was sobered by having to assume the responsibility of the crown and thereafter ruled as an able and virtuous king. Following this suggestion, Shakspeare brings the Prince of Wales into contact
with loose and wild companions and, side by side with the dazzling world of the court and the camp, unveils a world of rascaldom, whose population consists of the dregs of the army floated home from the French wars, with women to match. These gentlemen are soldiers by profession, but, being out of employment, they are really adventurers of the lowest type, lodging in taverns and picking up a living in any way they can, not even disdaining purse-snatching or highway-robbery at a pinch.
Those who wish Shakspeare always to write as a philosopher have been exercised about the meaning of these scenes of low life, introduced in such violent contrast with the dignity of history; and they say that the intention is to caricature the real history. Up above, there is the world of royalty and chivalry, with its pomp and ceremony, where everyone is clothed in the glittering robes of dignity and everything is expressed in lofty language; but the dramatist, drawing a broad line beneath this picture, then, below this level of respectability, paints the picture of another world, where the clothing is, so to speak, taken off, men are seen as they really are, and everything is called by its plain name. The highway-robbery of these cutpurses, he means to say, is just the soldiering of the warriors of the great world with the gilt taken off; their coarse carnivals are the counterpart of the banquets and pageants of the upper world, only with
the ceremony laid aside and the human passions acknowledged. Their bullying and rhodomontade, though they disgust with their coarseness, contain in reality the same sentiments as the speeches of the champions of the tournay and the battlefield, whose words charm us with their eloquence. In this view there may be some truth, because many of the things done in these Histories in the name of chivalry and statesmanship are at heart grossly immoral; and, while lending to royalty and war the disguise of a splendid language, Shakspeare betrays here and there his sense that a great deal of the dignity is bunkum. No doubt he means also that the charm to Prince Hal, when he escaped from the court and the camp and joined his low associates, was to see human nature and human life as they really are, divested of the masks and cloaks of ceremony. But the poet's chief motive probably was the mere fun of the thing: he knew that his auditors wished to be amused; and, having struck upon this world of low life and found it entertaining, he pursued his discovery, and in one or two plays made it rather the picture, to which the real history serves as a frame, than the frame to the picture. Some of the scenes descend very low indeed; and young readers need to be warned not to linger on them, lest they be defiled.
Of this subterranean world of rascaldom the king is Sir John Falstaff, and he holds his court at the