“ Master Arden and his man coming on their way early in the morning towards Shornelan, where Sir Thomas Cheinie lay, as they were almost come to the broomclose, his man, always fearing that Black Will would kill him with his master, feigned that he had lost his purse. Why, said his master, thou foolish knave, couldst thou not look to thy purse, but lose it? What was in it? Three pounds, said he. Why, then, go thy ways back again, like a knave (said his master), and seek it, for being so early as it is there is no man stirring, and therefore thou mayst be sure to find it; and then come and overtake me at the ferry. But nevertheless, by reason that Black Will lost his way, Master Arden escaped yet once again. At that time Black Will yet thought he should have been sure to have met him homewards ; but whether that some of the lord warden's men accompanied him back to Feversham, or that being in doubt, for that it was late, to go through the broomclose, and therefore took another way, Black Will was disappointed then also."

The incident of the visit to Lord Cheinie is, as we have seen, differently managed by the dramatist. The escape of Arden on this occasion is very ingeniously contrived. A sudden mist renders it impossible for the ruffians to find their way. Black Will thus describes his misadventure:

Mosbie. Black Will and Shakebag, what make you here?
What! is the deed done? is Arden dead?

Will. What could a blinded man perform in arms?
Saw you not how till now the sky was dark,
That neither horse nor man could be discern d ?
Yet did we hear their horses as they pass'd."

As Arden and Franklin return they are intercepted by Read, a sailor, who accuses Arden of a gross injustice in depriving him of a piece of land. This incident is founded upon a statement of the chronicler, in accordance with the superstition of the times, that where the murdered body of Arden was first laid the grass did not grow for two years, and that of this very field he had wrongfully possessed himself:


Many strangers came in that mean time, beside the townsmen, to see the print of his body there on the ground in that field; which field he had, as some have reported, most cruelly taken from a woman that had been a widow to one Cooke, and after married to one Richard Read, a mariner, to the great hindrance of her and her husband, the said Read; for they had long enjoyed it by a lease, which they had of it for many years, not then expired; nevertheless he got it from them. For the which the said Read's wife not only exclaimed against him iu shedding many a salt tear, but also cursed him most bitterly even to his face, wishing many a vengeance to light upon him, and that all the world might wonder on him.”

There is surely great power in the following passage; and the denunciation of the sailor comes with a terrible solemnity after the manifold escapes to which we have been witness :

Read. What! wilt thou do me wrong and threaten me too!
Nay, then, I 'll tempt thee, Arden; do thy worst.
God! I beseech thee show some miracle
On thee or thine, in plaguing thee for this :
That plot of ground which thou detainest from me,--
I speak it in an agony of spirit,-
Be ruinous and fatal unto thee!
Either there be butcher'd by thy dearest friends,
Or else be brought for men to wonder at,
Or thou or thine miscarry in that place,
Or there run mad and end thy cursed days.

Frank. Fie, bitter knave! bridle thine envious tongue ;
For curses are like arrows shot upright,
Which falling down light on the shooter's head.

Read. Light where they will, were I upon the sea,
As oft I have in many a bitter storm,
And saw a dreadful southern flaw at hand,
The pilot quaking at the doubtful storm,
And all the sailors praying on their knees,
Even in that fearful time would I fall down,
And ask of God, whate'er betide of me,
Vengeance on Arden, or some misevent,
To show the world what wrong the carle hath done.
This charge I 'll leave with my distressful wife;
My children shall be taught such prayers as these ;
And thus I go, but leave my curse with thee."

We have next a scene in which, by the device of Alice, Mosbie and Black Will fasten a pretended quarrel upon Arden and his friend; but Mosbie is wounded, and Black Will runs away. A reconcilement takes place through the subtilty of the wife. Arden invites Mosbie with other friends to supper, and the conspirators agree that their deed of wickedness shall be done that night. The Chronicler briefly tells the story :

“ They conveyed Black Will into Master Arden's house, putting him into a closet at the end of his parlour. Before this they had sent out of the house all the servants, those excepted which were privy to the devised murder. Then went Mosbie to the door, and there stood in a nightgown of silk girded about him, and this was betwixt six and seven of the clock at night. Master Arden, having been at a neighbour's house of his, named Dumpkin, and having cleared certain reckonings betwixt them, came home, and, finding Mosbie standing at the door, asked him if it were supper-time? I think not (quoth Mosbie); it is not yet ready. Then let us go and play a game at the tables in the mean season, said Master Arden. And so they went straight into the parlour; and as they came by through the hall, his wife was walking there, and Master Arden said, How now, Mistress Alice ? But she made small answer to him. In the mean time one chained the wicket-door of the entry. When they came into the parlour, Mosbie sat down on the bench, baving his face toward the place where Black Will stood. Then Michael, Master Arden's man, stood at his master's back, holding a candle in his hand, to shadow Black Will, that Arden might by no means perceive him coming forth. In their play Mosbie said thus (which seemed to be the watchword for Black Will's coming forth), Now may I take you, sir, if I will. Take me? quoth Master Arden; which way? With that Black Will stepped forth, and cast a towel about his neck, so to stop his breath and strangle him. Then Mosbie, having at his girdle a pressingiron of fourteen pounds weight, struck him on the head with the same, so that he fell down and gave a great groan, insomuch that they thought he had been killed."

The tragedy follows, with very slight variation, the circumstances here detailed. The guests arrive; but Alice betrays the greatest inquietude : she gets rid of them one by one, imploring them to seek her husband, and in the mean while the body is removed. The dramatist appears here to have depended upon the terrible interest of the circumstances more than upon any force of expression in the characters. The discovery of the murder follows pretty closely the narrative of the Chronicler :

Here enter the Mayor and the Watcb.
Alice. How now, master Mayor ? have you brought my

husband home ?
Mayor. I saw him come into your house an hour ago.
Alice. You are deceived; it was a Londoner.
Mayor. Mistress Arden, know you not one that is callid

Black Will?
Alice. I know none such ; what mean these questions ?
Mayor. I have the council's warrant to apprehend him.
Alice. I am glad it is no worse.

Why, master Mayor, think you I barbour any such ?

Mayor. We are informed that here he is ;
And therefore pardon us, for we must search.

Alice. Ay, search and spare you not, through every room:
Were my husband at home you would not offer this.

Here enter FRANKLIN.
Master Franklin, what mean you come so sad ?

Frank. Arden thy husband, and my friend, is slain.
Alice, Ah! by whom? master Franklin, can you tell ?

Frank. I know not, but behind the abbey
There he lies murder'd, in most piteous case.

Mayor. But, master Franklin, are you sure 't is he?
Frank. I am too sure; would God I were deceiv'd!
Alice. Find out the murderers ; let them be known.
Frank. Ay, so they shall : come you along with us.
Alice. Wherefore !
Frank. Know you this hand-towel and this knife?

Susun. Ah, Michael! through this thy negligence,
Thou hast betrayed and undone us all.

Mich. I was so afraid, I knew not what I did;
I thought I had thrown them both into the well. [Aside.

Alice. It is the pig's blood we had to supper.
But wherefore stay you? find out the murderers.

Mayor. I fear me you 'll prove one of them yourself.
Alice. I one of them ? what mean such questions?

Frank. I fear me he was murder'd in this house,
And carried to the fields ; for from that place,
Backwards and forwards, may you see
The print of many feet within the snow;
And look about this chamber where we are,
And you shall find part of his guiltless blood,
For in his slip-shoe did I find some rushes,
Which argue he was murder'd in this room.
Mayor. Look in the place where he was wont to sito

his blood ; it is too manifest.
Alice. It is a cup of wine that Michael shed.
Mich. Ay, truly.

Frank. It is his blood, which, strumpet, thou hast shed ;
But, if I live, thou and thy complices,
Which have conspired and wrought his death,
Shall rue it."

See, see,

In a subsequent scene the unhappy woman makes confession :

Mayor. See, mistress Arden, where your husland lies.
Confess this foul fault, and be penitent.

Alice. Arden, sweet husband, wbat shall I say?
The more I sound his name the more he bleeds.
This blood condemns me, and in gushing forth
Speaks as falls, and asks me why I did it.
Forgive me, Arden! I repent me now ;
And would my death save thine, thou shouldst not die.
Rise up, sweet Arden, and enjoy thy love,
And frown not on me when we meet in heaven :
In heaven I love thee, though on earth I did not."

The concluding scene shows us the principal culprits condemned to die :

Mayor. Leave to accuse each other now,
And listen to the sentence I shall give:
Bear Mosbie and his sister to London straight,
Where they in Smithfield must be executed :
Bear mistress Arden unto Canterbury,
Where her sentence is, she must be burnt:
Michael and Bradshaw in Feversham
Must suffer death.

Alice. Let my death make amends for all my sin.
Mosbie. Fie upon women, this shall be my song."

After the play, Franklin, in a sort of epilogue, somewhat inartificially tells us that Shakebag was murdered in Southwark, and Black Will burnt at Flushing; that Greene was hanged at Osbridge, and the painter fled. Bradshaw, according to the Chronicle' and the

The drama con

dramatic representation, was an innocent person. cludes with the following apologetical lines :

“ Gentlemen, we hope you 'll pardon this naked tragedy,

Wherein no filed points are foisted in
To make it gracious to the ear or eye ;
For simple truth is gracious enough,
And needs no other points of glozing stuff."

These lines appear to us as an indication that the author of · Arden of Feversham,' whoever he might be, was aware that such a story did not call for the highest efforts of dramatic art. It was a “naked tragedy,” — “simple truth,” — requiring “no filed points” or “glozing stuff.” It appears to us, however, to stand upon very different grounds from the “Yorkshire Tragedy.' It is a higher attempt in art than that little play. It involves more conflicting passion. It is not such a mere endeavour to present a series of exciting facts to the senses of an audience. It was in all probability written twenty years before the Yorkshire Tragedy;' and this is a most important circumstance in considering whether Shakspere was at all concerned in it. To a very young man, whose principles of art were not formed, and who had scarcely any models before him, this tragic story might have appeared not only easy to be dramatized, but a worthy subject for his first efforts. We have to consider, too, how familiar the fearful narrative must have been to the young Shakspere. The name of his own mother was Arden; perhaps the Kentish Arden had some slight relationship with her family; but it is evident that the play originally bore the name of Arden of Feversham, as if it were to mark the distinction between that family and the Ardens of Wilmecote. The tale, too, was narrated at uncommon length in the Chronicle' with which Shakspere was very early familiar. There is considerable inequality in the style of this play, but that inequality is not sufficient to lead us to believe that more than one hand was engaged in it. The dramatic management is always skilful; the interest never flags; the action steadily goes forward; there are no secondary plots; and the little comedy that we find is not thrust in to produce a laugh from a few barren spectators. The writer, we think, was familiar with London, which is not at all inconsistent with the belief that it belongs to the youth of Shakspere. Still, the utter absence of external evidence must have left the matter exceedingly doubtful, even if the tragedy had possessed higher excellences than belong to it. It was never attributed to Shakspere by any of his contemVOL. XII.

2 D

« VorigeDoorgaan »