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During the tempest of Edward's passion, the Prince of Wales arrives at the Castle of Roxburgh, and the conflict in the mind of the king is well imagined :
“ Edw. I see the boy. O, how his mother's face,
Pri. I have assembled, my dear lord and father,
Edw. Still do I see in him delineate
Lod. My liege, the countess, with a smiling cheer,
[ Advancing from the door, and whispering him.
The countess enters, and with the following scene suddenly terminates the ill-starred passion of the king :
“ Ellw. Now, my soul's playfellow! art thou come,
Cou. My father on his blessing bath commanded-
Cou. Than wrong for wrong, and endless hate for late.-
That my unwillingness, my husband's love,
Edw. Name them, fair countess, and, by heaven, I will.
Cou. It is their lives, that stand between our love,
Edw. Whose lives, my lady?
My thrice loving liege,
Edw. Thy opposition is beyond our law.
Cou. So is your desire: If the law
Edw. No more; thy husband and the queen shall die.
Cou. Nay, you 'll do more; you 'll make the river too,
Edw. Thy beauty makes them guilty of their death,
Cou. O perjur'd beauty! more corrupted judge!
Edw. What says my fair love? is she resolute ?
Cou. Resolute to be dissolv’d; and, therefore, this,-
[Turning suddenly upon him, and showing two daggers.
Than thy prevention can be in my rescue,
Edw. Even by that Power I swear, that gives me now
The remarks of Ulrici upon this portion of the play are conceived upon his usual principle of connecting the action and characterization of Shakspere's dramas with the development of a high moral, or rather Christian, principle. He is sometimes carried too far by his theory, but there is something far more satisfying in the criticism of his school than in the husks of antiquarianism with which we have been too long familiar:—" We see, in the first two acts, how the powerful king (who in his rude greatness, in his reckless iron energy,
reminds us of the delineations of character in the elder · King John,'· Henry VI.,' and · Richard III.') sinks down into the slough of common life before the virtue and faithfulness of a powerless woman ; how he, suddenly enchained by an unworthy passion, abandons his great plans in order to write verses and spin intrigues. All human greatness, power, and splendour, fall of themselves, if not planted upon the soil of genuine morality; the highest energies of mankind are not proof against the attacks of sin, when they are directed against the weak unguarded side- this is the substance of the view of life here taken, and it forms the basis of the first Part. But true energy is enabled again to elevate itself; it strengthens itself from the virtues of others, which by God's appointment are placed in opposition to it. With this faith, and with the highest, most masterly, deeply-penetrating, and even sublime picture of the far greater energy of a woman, who, in order to save her own honour and that of her royal master, is ready to commit self-murder, the second act closes. This forms the tran
sition to the following second Part, which shows us the true heroic greatness, acquired through self-conquest, not only in the king, but also in his justly celebrated son. For even the prince has also gone through the same school : he proves this, towards the end of the second act, by his quick silent obedience to the order of his father, although directly opposed to his wishes."
In the third act we are at once in the heart of war; we have the French camp, where John with his court hears of the arrival of Edward's fleet, and the discomfiture of his own. The descriptions of these events are, as we think, tedious and overstrained ; at any rate they are undramatic. The writer is endeavouring to put out his power, where the highest power would be wasted. There is less ambition, but much more force, in the following speech of a poor Frenchman who is flying before the invaders :
“Fly, countrymen, and citizens of France !
To leave a desolation where they come." Before the battle of Cressy we have an interview between the rival kings. The debate is not managed with any very great dignity on either side. Upon the retiring of John and his followers, the Prince of Wales is solemnly armed upon the field :
“ And, Ned, because this battle is the first
The famous incident of the battle of Cressy, that of the king refusing to send succour to his gallant son, is thus told by Froissart:
" They with the prince sent a messenger to the king, who was on a little wind. mill hill; then the knight said to the king, “Sir, the Earl of Warwick, and the Earl of Oxford, Sir Reynold Cobham, and other, such as be about the prince your son, are fiercely fought withial, and are sore handled, wherefore they desire you, that you and your battle will come and aid them, for if the Frenchmen increase, as they doubt they will, your son and they sball have much ado.' Then the king said, ' Is my son dead or hurt, or on the earth felled?' No, sir,' quoth the knight, ' but he is hardly matched, wherefore be hath need of your aid.' “Well,' said the king, return to him and to them that sent you hither, and say to them, that they send no more to me for any adventure that falleth, as long as my son is alive; and also say to them, that they suffer him this day to win his spurs, for, if God be pleased, I will this journey be his, and the honour thereof, and to them that be about him.' Then the knight returned again to them, and showed the king's words, the which greatly encouraged them, and repined in that they had sent to the king as they did.” The dramatist has worked out this circumstance with remarkable spirit; it is, we think, the best business scene in the play-not overwrought, but simple, and therefore most effective :
“ Drums. Enter King EDWARD and Audley.
Aud. I will, my lord. [Exit Audley. Retreat,
Edw. Just-dooming heaven, whose secret providence
Enter Artois hastily.
Edw. Rescue, Artois ? what, is he prisoner ?
Art. Neither, my lord; but narrowly beset
Edw. Tut! let him fight; we gave him arms to-day,
Enter Derby hastily.
Edw. Then will he win a world of honour too,