« VorigeDoorgaan »
appointment. His master, then being in bed, asked him if he had shut fast the doors, and he said Yea; but yet afterwards, fearing lest Black Will would kill him as well as his master, after he was in bed himself he rose again, and shut the doors, bolting them fast."
In the drama the ruffians arrive, and are of course disappointed of their purpose by the closing of the doors. They swear revenge against Michael, but he subsequently makes his peace by informing them that his master is departing from London, and that their purpose may be accomplished on Rainhamdown.
The scene now changes, with a skilful dramatic management, to exhibit to us the guilty pair at Feversham. Mosbie is alone, and he shows us the depth of his depravity in the following soliloquy:-
“ Mosbie. Disturbed thoughts drive me from company,
* Stary-stirring. Our word star is supposed to be derived from the AngloSaxon stir-an, to move.
To make these curs pluck out each other's throat,
[Here enters ALICE."
The unhappy woman has already begun to pay the penalty of her sin ; she has moments of agonizing remorse, not enduring, however, but to be swept away again by that tempest of passion which first hurried her into guilt. The following scene is, we think, unmatched by any other writer than Shakspere in a play published as early as 1592, perhaps written several years earlier. It might have been written by Webster or Ford, but they belong to a considerably later period. It possesses in a most remarkable degree that quiet strength which is the best evidence of real power. Except in Shakspere, it is a strength for which we shall vainly seek in the accredited writings of any dramatic poet who, as far as we know, had written for the stage some ten years before the close of the sixteenth century :
“ Mosbie. Ungentle Alice, thy sorrow is my sore ;
Alice. It is not love that loves to murder love.
Alice. And then conceal the rest, for 't is too bad,
Mosbie. What, are you chang'd ?
Alice. Ay! to my former happy life again ;
I was bewitch'd—wo-worth the hapless hour
Mosbie. Nay, if thou ban, let me breathe curses forth ;
Alice. Ay, now I see, and too soon find it true, Which often hath been told me by my friends, That Mosbie loves me not but for my wealth, Which, too incredulous, I ne'er believ'd. Nay, hear me speak, Mosbie, a word or two: I'll bite my tongue if it speak bitterly. Look on me, Mosbie, or else I'll kill myself; Nothing shall hide me from thy stormy look. If thou cry war, there is no peace for me; I will do penance for offending thee, And burn this prayer-book, where I here use The holy word that hath converted me. See, Mosbie, I will tear away the leaves, And all the leaves, and in this golden cover Shall thy sweet phrases and thy letters dwell, And thereon will I chiefly meditate, And hold no other sect but such devotion. Wilt thou not look? Is all thy love o'erwhelm d ? Wilt thou not hear? What malice stops thine ears? Why speak'st thou not? What silence ties thy tongue? Thou hast been sighted as the eagle is, And heard as quickly as the fearful hare, And spoke as smoothly as an orator, When I have bid thee hear, or see, or speak. And art thou sensible in none of these?
Weigh all my good turns with this little fault,
Mosbie. O fie, no; I am a base artificer;
Alice. Sweet Mosbie is as gentle as a king,
Mosbie. Ah! how you women can insinuate
The man who wrote that scene was no ordinary judge of the waywardness and wickedness of the human heart. It would be difficult to say that Shakspere at any time could have more naturally painted the fearful contest of a lingering virtue with an overwhelming passion.
We have seen the conspiracy to murder Arden on Rainhamdown. The devoted man again escapes by accident, and the “Chronicle' thus briefly records the circumstance:
“ When Master Arden came to Rochester, bis man, still fearing that Black Will would kill him with his master, pricked his horse of purpose and made him to balt, to the end he might protract the time, and tarry behind. His master asked him why his horse halted. He said, I know not. Well, quoth his master, when ye come at the smith here before (between Rochester and the hill-foot over against Chatham) remove his shoe, and search him, and then come after me. So Master Arden rode on: and ere he came at the place where Black Will lay in wait for him, there overtook him divers gentlemen of his acquaintance, who kept him company; so that Black Will missed here also of his purpose."
The dramatist shows us Greene and the two ruffians waiting for their prey, and the excuse of Michael to desert his master. Arden and Franklin are now upon the stage; and the dialogue which passes between them is a very remarkable example of the dramatic skill with which the principal characters are made to sustain an indifferent conversation, but which is still in harmony with the tone of thought that pervades the whole drama. Arden is unhappy in his domestic circumstances, and he eagerly listens to the tale of another's unhappiness. The perfect ease with which this conver
sation is managed appears to us a singular excellence, when we regard the early date of this tragedy :
“ Frank. Do you remember where my tale did cease ?
Arden. Ay, where the gentleman did check his wife.
Frank. She being reprehended for the fact,
Arden. Her answer then? I wonder how she look'd,
Frank. First did she cast her eyes down to the earth,
Arden. Come, we are almost now at Rainhamdown :
This “fighting at the heart," of which Franklin complains, is an augury of ill. Black Will and Shakebag are lurking around them; but the “divers gentlemen ” of Arden's acquaintance arrive. Lord Cheinie and his men interrupt the murderers' purpose. Arden and his friend agree to dine with the nobleman the next day. They reach Feversham in safety. The occurrences of the next day are thus told in the Chronicle:'
“ After that Master Arden was come home, he sent (as he usually did) his man to Sheppy, to Sir Thomas Cheinie's, then lord warden of the Cinque Ports, about certain business, and at bis coming away he had a letter delivered, sent by Sir Thomas Cheinie to his master. When he came home, his mistress took the letter and kept it, willing her man to tell his master that he had a letter delivered him by Sir Thomas Cheinie, and that he had lost it: adding, that he thought it best that his master should go the next morning to Sir Thomas, because he knew not the matter : he said he would, and therefore he willed his man to be stirring betimes. In this mean while, Black Will, and one George Shakebag, his companion, were kept in a storehouse of Sir Anthony Ager's, at Preston, by Greene's appointment; and thither came Mistress Arden to see him, bringing and sending him meat and drink many times. He, therefore, lurking there, and watching some opportunity for his purpose, was willed in any wise to be up early in the morning, to lie in wait for Master Arden in a certain brouinclose betwixt Feversham and the ferry (which close he must needs pass), there to do his feat. Now Black Will stirred in the morning betimes, but missed the way, and tarried in a wrong place.