SCENE VIII.-A High Road.

Enter Husband. He falls.
Hus. O stumbling jade! The spavin overtake thee!
The fifty diseases stop thee!
Oh, I am sorely bruis'd! Plague founder thee !
Thou runn'st at ease and pleasure. Heart of chance!
To throw me now, within a flight o' the town,
In such plain even ground too! 'Sfoot, a man
May dice upon it, and throw away the meadows.
Filthy beast !

[Cry within.] Follow, follow, follow.

Hus. Ha! I hear sounds of men, like hue and cry. Up, up, and struggle to thy horse ; make on; Despatch that little beggar, and all's done.

[Cry within.] Here, here; this way, this way.

Hus. At my back? Oh,
What fate have I ! my limbs deny me go.
My will is ’bated; beggary claims a part.
O could I here reach to the infant's heart!

Enter the MASTER of the College, three Gentlemen, and Attendants with

Al. Here, here; yonder, yonder!

Mast. Unnatural, flinty, more than barbarous !
The Scythians, even the marble-hearted Fates,
Could not have acted more remorseless deeds,
In their relentless natures, than these of thine.
Was this the answer I long waited on?
The satisfaction for thy prison'd brother?

Hus. Why, he can have no more of us than our skins,
And some of them want but feaing.

1 Gent. Great sins have made him impudent.
Mast. He has shed so much blood, that he cannot blush.

2 Gent. Away with him; bear him to the justice's.
A gentleman of worship dwells at hand:
There shall his deeds be blaz d.

Why, all the better.
My glory 't is to have my action known;
I grieve for nothing, but I miss'd of one.

Mast. There's little of a father in that grief:
Bear him away.


SCENE IX.--A Room in the House of a Magistrate.

Enter a Knight, and three Gentlemen. Knight. Endanger'd so his wife? murther'd his children ? 1 Gent. So the cry goes.


I am sorry I e'er knew him ;
That ever he took life and natural being
From such an honour'd stock, and fair descent,
Till this black minute without stain or blemish.

1 Gent. Here come the men.

Enter MASTER of the College, 8c., with the Prisoner.
Knight. The serpent of his house! I am sorry,
For this time, that I am in place of justice.

Mast. Please you, sir

Knight. Do not repeat it twice; I know too much : Would it had ne'er been thought on! Sir, I bleed for you.

1 Gent. Your father's sorrows are alive in me. What made you show such monstrous cruelty ?

Hus. In a word, sir, I have consumed all, played away long-acre; and I thought it the charitablest deed I could do, to cozen beggary, and knock my house o' the head.

Knight. O, in a cooler blood you will repent it.

Hus. I repent now that one is left unkill'd:
My brat at nurse. I would full fain have wean'd him.

Knight. Well, I do not think, but in to-morrow's judgment,
The terror will sit closer to your soul,
When the dread thought of death remembers you:
To further which, take this sad voice from me,
Never was act play'd more unnaturally.

Hus. I thank you, sir.

Go lead him to the gaol :
Where justice claims all, there must pity fail.
Hus. Come, come; away with me.

[Exeunt HUSBAND, &c. Mast. Sir, you deserve the worship of your place: Would all did so! In you the law is grace.

Knight. It is my wish it should be so. -Ruinous man !
The desolation of his house, the blot
Upon his predecessor's honour'd name!
That man is nearest shame, that is past shame.


SCENE X.-Before Calverly Hall.
Enter HUSBAND guarded, MASTER of the College, Gentlemen, and

Hus. I am right against my house,-seat of my ancestors :
I hear my wife’s alive, but much endanger'd.
Let me entreat to speak with her, before
The prison gripe me.

His Wife is brought in.
Gent. See, here she comes of herself.
Wife. O my sweet husband, my dear distress'd husband,

Now in the hands of unrelenting laws,
My greatest sorrow, my extremest bleeding;
Now my soul bleeds.

Hus. How now? Kind to me? Did I not wound thee ?
Left thee for dead ?

Wife. Tut, far, far greater wounds did my breast feel;
Unkindness strikes a deeper wound than steel.
You have been still unkind to me.

Hus. 'Faith, and so I think I have;
I did my murthers roughly out of hand,
Desperate and sudden; but thou hast devis'd
A fine way now to kill me: thou hast given mine eyes
Seven wounds apiece. Now glides the devil from me,
Departs at every joint; heaves up my nails.
O catch him, torments that were ne'er invented !
Bind him one thousand more, you blessed angels,
In that pit bottomless ! Let him not rise
To make men act unnatural tragedies ;
To spread into a father, and in fury
Make him his children's executioner;
Murther his wife, his servants, and who not?-
For that man 's dark, where heaven is quite forgot.

Wife. O my repentant husband !

Hus. O my dear soul, whom I too much have wrong'd; For death I die, and for this have I long'd.

Wife. Thou shouldst not, be assur’d, for these faults die
If the law could forgive as soon as I. [The two children laid out.

Hus. What sight is yonder ?

0, our two bleeding boys, Laid forth upon the threshold.

Hus. Here's weight enough to make a heart-string crack.
0, were it lawful that your pretty souls
Might look from heaven into your father's eyes,
Then should you see the penitent glasses melt,
And both your murthers shoot upon my cheeks!
But you are playing in the angels' laps,
And will not look on me, who, void of grace,
Kill'd you in beggary.
O that I might my wishes now attain,
I should then wish you living were again,
Though I did beg with you, which thing I fear’d:
0, 't was the enemy my eyes so blear’d !
0, would you could pray heaven me to forgive,
That will unto my end repentant live!

Wife. It makes me even forget all other sorrows,
And live apart with this.

Come, will you go?
Hus. I'll kiss the blood I spilt, and then I'll go :
My soul is bloodied, well may my lips be so.

Farewell, dear wife; now thou and I must part;
I of thy wrongs repent me with my heart.

Wife. O stay; thou shalt not go.
Hus. That 's but in vain; you see it must be so.
Farewell, ye bloody ashes of my boys !
My punishments are their eternal joys.
Let every father look into my deeds,
And then their heirs may prosper, while mine bleeds.

[Exeunt HUSBAND and Officers.
Wife. More wretched am I now in this distress,
Than former sorrows made me.

O kind wife,
Be comforted; one joy is yet unmurther d ;
You have a boy at nurse ; your joy 's in him.

Wife. Dearer than all is my poor husband's life.
Heaven give my body strength, which is yet faint
With much expense of blood, and I will kneel,
Sue for his life, number up all my friends
To plead for pardon for my dear husband's life.

Mast. Was it in man to wound so kind a creature ?
I 'll ever praise a woman for thy sake.
I must return with grief; my answer 's set;
I shall bring news weighs heavier than the debt.
Two brothers, one in bond lies overthrown,
This on a deadlier execution.

[Exeunt omnes.




The event upon which this little drama is founded happened in 1604; the play was published in 1608. If it were written by Shakspere then, as his name on the title-page would lead us to believe, it must have been written when he was at the height of his power and of his fame. The question therefore as to his authorship of this play lies within very narrow limits. On the one hand we have the assertion of the publisher, in his entry upon the Stationers' registers, and in the title-page of the book, that Shakspere was the author: on the other hand, we have to consider the manifest improbability that one who essentially viewed human events and passions through the highest medium of poetry should have taken up a subject of temporary interest to dramatize upon a prosaic principle. The English stage is familiar with works of extensive and permanent popularity which present to the senses the literal movement of some domestic tragedy, in which, from the necessary absence of the poetical spirit, the feelings of the audience are harassed and tortured without any compensation from that highest power of art which subdues the painful in and through the beautiful. George Barnwell' and The Gamester' are ready examples of tragedies of this class; and without going into any minute comparisons, it is easy to understand that the principle upon which such works are composed is essentially different from that which presides over · Hamlet” and • Lear' and “Othello.' There was a most voluminous dramatic writer in Shakspere's time, Thomas Heywood, whose pen was ready to seize upon a subject of passing interest, such as the frantic violence of the unhappy Mr. Calverly. Charles Lamb, after quoting

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »