Cromwell has nothing to do with this “just requital of false treachery,”—which requital consists in the usurer being arrested for purchasing the king's stolen jewels. Cromwell gets as tired of keeping accounts as he previously was of the din of his father's smithy ; so all in a moment he throws up his commission and sets off upon his travels to Italy, having very opportunely met in Antwerp with Hodge, his father's man. And so we get through the second act.

In the third act the capricious lad and his servant are standing penniless upon the bridge at Florence, and their immediate necessities are relieved by the generous Italian merchant who was succouring the distress of the Englishman in the first act. Cromwell is always moving; and he sets off for Bononia, where he rescues, by a stratagem, Russell the Earl of Bedford from the agents of the French king. We have the chorus again in the middle of the act:

“ Thus far you see how Cromwell's fortune pass d.
The earl of Bedford, being safe iu Mantua,
Desires Cromwell's company into France,
To make requital for his courtesy ;
But Cromwell doth deny the earl his suit,
And tells him that those parts he meant to see,
He had not yet set footing on the land ;
And so directly takes his way to Spain ;
The earl to France ; and so they both do part.
Now let your thoughts, as swift as is the wind,
Skip some few years that Cromwell spent in travel ;
And now imagine him to be in England,
Servant unto the master of the rolls;
Where in short time he there began to flourish :
An hour shall show you what few years did cherish.”

The scene shifts to London, where Sir Christopher Hales is giving an entertainment to Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More, with Cromwell waiting on the guests. The sudden preferment of Cromwell to the highest confidence of Wolsey is accomplished with a celerity which was perfectly necessary when the poet had so many events to tell us :


Wol. Sir Christopher, is that your man?

An't like

he is a scholar, and a linguist;
One that hath travelled through many parts
Of Christendom, my lord.

Wol. My friend, come nearer : bave you been a traveller ?

Crom. My lord,
I have added to my knowledge the Low Countries,
With France, Spain, Germany, and Italy ;
And though small gain of profit I did find,
Yet it did please my eye, content my mind.

Wol. What do you think then of the several states
And princes' courts as you have travelled ?

Crom. My lord, no court with England may compare,
Neither for state, nor civil government.
Lust dwells in France, in Italy, and Spain,
From the poor peasant to the prince's train.
In Germany and Holland, riot serves ;
And he that most can driuk, most he deserves.
England I praise not for I here was born,
But that she laughs the others unto scorn.

Wol. My lord, there dwells within that spirit more
Than can be discern’d by the outward eye:
Sir Christopher, will you part with your man?

Hales. I have sought to proffer him unto your lordship;
And now I see he hath preferr'd himself.

Wol. What is thy name ?
Crom. Cromwell, my lord.

Wol. Then, Cromwell, here we make thee solicitor
Of our causes, and nearest, next ourself:
Gardiner, give you kind welcome to the man."

The fourth act opens again with a chorus :

“ Now Cromwell's highest fortunes do begin.
Wolsey, that lov'd him as he did his life,
Committed all his treasure to his hands.
Wolsey is dead; and Gardiner, his man,
Is now created bishop of Winchester.
Pardon, if we omit all Wolsey's life,
Because our play depends on Cromwell's death.
Now sit, and see his highest state of all,
His height of rising, and his sudden fall.
Pardon the errors are already past,
And live in hope the best doth come at last.
My hope upon your favour doth depend,
And looks to have your liking ere the end."

It was certainly needless for the author to apologize for omitting all Wolsey's life;" but the apology is curious as exhibiting his rude notions of what was properly within the province of the drama. We have now Cromwell, after the death of Wolsey, become Sir Thomas Cromwell; and Gardiner makes a sudden resolution that he will have his head. The Florence merchant comes to London in want; and we presently find him at the hospitable board of Cromwell, with money-bags showered upon him, and his debts paid. We have in this act a scene between Gardiner and Cromwell which, feeble as it is, is amongst the best passages of the play :

Crom, Good morrow to my lord of Winchester : I know You bear me hard about the abbey lands.

Gard. Have I not reason, when religion 's wrong'd?
You had no colour for what you have done.

Crom. Yes, the abolishing of antichrist,
And of his popish order from our realm.
I am no enemy to religion;
But what is done, it is for England's good.
What did they serve for, but to feed a sort
Of lazy abbots and of full-fed friars ?
They neither plough nor sow, and yet they reap
The fat of all the land, and suck the poor.
Look, what was theirs is in king Henry's bands;
His wealth before lay in the abbey lands.

Gard. Indeed these things you have allegd, my lord;
When, God doth know, the infant yet unborn
Will curse the time the abbeys were pullid down,
I pray now where is hospitality ?
Where now may poor distressed people go,
For to relieve their need, or rest their bones,
When weary travel doth oppress their limbs ?
And where religious men should take them in,
Shall now be kept back with a mastiff dog ;
And thousand thousand-

Gardiner suborns witnesses to impute treasonable words to Cromwell, and absolves them by crucifix and holy water.

The real action of the play commences at the fourth act; all which precedes might have been told by a skilful poet in a dozen lines. The fifth act presents us the arrest of Cromwell; and after a soliloquy in the Tower, and a very feeble scene between the unhappy man, Gardiner, and the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, his son is introduced, of whom we have before heard nothing :

Lieu. Here is your son, sir, come to take his leave.

Crom. To take his leave? Come hither, Harry Cromwell.
Mark, boy, the last words that I speak to thee :
Flatter not Fortune, neither fawn upon her ;
Gape not for state, yet lose no spark of honour:
Ambition, like the plague, see thou eschew it;
I die for treason, boy, and never knew it.
Yet let thy faith as spotless be as mine,
And Cromwell's virtues in thy face shall shine :
Come, go along, and see me leave my breath,
And I 'll leave thee upon the floor of death."

Cromwell leaves the stage for his execution with this speech :

Erec. I am your deathsman ; pray, my lord, forgive me.

Crom. Even with my soul. Why, man, thou art my doctor,
And bring'st me precious physic for my soul.
My lord of Bedford, I desire of yon

Before my death a corporal embrace.
Farewell, great lord; my love I do commend,
My heart to you; my soul to heaven I send.
This is my joy, that ere my body fleet,
Your honour'd arms are my true winding-sheet.
Farewell, dear Bedford; my peace is made in heaven.
Thus falls great Cromwell, a poor ell in length,
To rise to unmeasur'd height, wing'd with new strength,
The land of worms, which dying men discover :
My soul is shrin'd with heaven's celestial cover."

It would be a waste of time to attempt to show that “Thomas Lord Cromwell’ could not have been written by Shakspere. Its entire management is most unskilful; there is no art whatever in the dramatic conception of plot or character; from first to last there is scarcely a passage that can be called poetry; there is nothing in it that gives us a notion of a writer capable of better things; it has none of the faults of the founders of the stage,-false taste, extravagance, riches needlessly paraded. We are acquainted with no dramatic writer of mark or likelihood who was a contemporary of Shakspere to whom it may be assigned. If W. S. were Wentworth Smith, it must have been unlucky for him in his own time that his initials might excite a comparison with the great master of the stage; however fortunate he may have been in having descended to after-times in the same volume with ten historical plays that probably first stimulated his weak ambition.



Hazlitt says,

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Tuis comedy was first published in 1605, with the following title:* The London Prodigall. As it was plaide by the Kings Maiesties seruants. By William Shakespeare, London. Printed by T. C. for Nathaniel Butter.' It was probably written after the death of Elizabeth; for in the second act we have, “ I am a commander, sir, under the king.” There is no entry of the play in the Stationers' registers. Schlegel says, “If we are not mistaken, Lessing pronounced this piece to be Shakspere's, and wished to bring it on the German stage.” Tieck also assigns this comedy to Shakspere.

“ • Locrine' and • The London Prodigal,' if they were Shakspeare's at all, must have been amongst the sins of his youth.” This is at best a hasty opinion; for there can be no doubt whatever that these two plays belong to different periods, and that each is characteristic of its period. They must have been separated by at least twenty years. If in Locrine' we could find any natural power, any of that instinctive knowledge of art that constitutes genius, we might inquire whether it was possible that the youthful Shakspere could have produced the work. We find in it, not the faults of a very young man, but the habits which belong to a vicious system, in which the writer has had a complete training. We therefore reject it. Putting the date of its publication out of the question, we are satisfied from the general tone of The London Prodigal' that it represents the manners of the last years of Elizabeth, or the first of James. If Shakspere wrote it, therefore, he must have written it after his comic powers were fully matured; after he had produced “Much Ado about Nothing,' "Twelfth Night,' As You Like It,' · The Merry Wives of Windsor.' The belief is almost too extravagant to be gravely controverted.

The comedy opens with the arrival from Venice of the merchant Flowerdale senior, who had left his son Matthew under the guardianship of his brother, Flowerdale junior, a London merchant. The uncle tells the father of the reckless course of the young man. The father takes this view of the matter: “ Believe me, brother,

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