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Re-enter Audley hastily.
Edw. Audley, content; I will not have a man,
Der. Ah! but he shall not live to see those days.
Aud. Yet, good my lord, 't is too much wilfulness
Edw. Exclaim no more; for none of you can tell
Aud. O, cruel father !-Farewell, Edward, then!
Edw. But, soft; methinks I hear [Retreat sounded.
hand his shivered lance; his sword and battered armour borne
Welcome, Plantagenet !" There is a fine scene where the Prince of Wales is surrounded by the French army before the battle of Poitiers; but it is something too prolonged and rhetorical; it has not the Shaksperian rush which belongs to such a situation. One specimen will suffice, where the prince exhorts his companion in arms, old Audley, to fly from the danger :Vol. XII.
“Now, Audley, sound those silver wings of thine,
Aud. To die is all as common as to live;
Pri. Ah, good old man, a thousand thousand armours
To live, or die, I hold indifferent." The victory of Poitiers ensues; but previous to the knowledge of this triumph the celebrated scene of the surrender of Calais is thus dramatised :
“ Enter, from the town, six Citizens in their shirts, and bare
footed, with halters about their necks.
Edw. Contemptuous villains! call ye now for truce ?
Ah, noble prince,
And we are come, with willingness, to bear
Edw. My promise? well, I do confess as much:
2 C. The sun, dread lord, that in the western fall
Edw. If it be so, then let our covenant stand;
Que. Ah, be more mild unto these yielding men!
Edw. Although experience teach us this is true,
This assuredly we think is not what Shakspere would have made of such a situation. How altogether inferior is it in the higher requisites of poetry to the exquisite narrative of Froissart !
“ Then the barriers were opened, the burgesses went towards the king, and the captain entered again into the town. When Sir Walter presented these burgesses to the king, they kneeled down, and held up their hands and said, “Gentle king, behold here we six, who were burgesses Calais and great merchants; we have brought the keys of the town and of the castle, and we submit ourselves clearly into your will and pleasure, to save the residue of the people of Calais, who have suffered great pain. Sir, we beseech your grace to have mercy and pity on us through
your high noblesse.' Then all the earls and barons and other that were there wept for pity. The king looked felly on them, for greatly he hated the people of Calais for the great damage and displeasures they had done him on the sea before. Then he commanded their heads to be stricken off. Then every man required the king for mercy, but he would hear no man in that behalf. Then Sir Walter of Manny said, “Ah, noble king, for God's sake refrain your courage; ye have the name of sovereign noblesse; therefore, now do not a thing that should blemish your renown, nor to give cause to some to speak of you villainously; every man will say it is a great cruelty to put to death such honest persons, who by their own wills put themselves into your grace to save their company.' Then the king wryed away from him and commanded to send for the hangman, and said, “They of Calais had caused many of my men to be slain, wherefore these shall die in like wise.' Then the queen, being great with child, kneeled down, and, sore weeping, said, " Ah, gentle sir, sith I passed the sea in great peril I have desired nothing of you; therefore, now I humbly require you, in the honour of the son of the Virgin Mary, and for the love of me, that ye will take mercy of these six burgesses.' The king beheld the queen, and stood still in a study a space, and then said, “Ah, dame, I would
ye had been as now in some other place; ye make such request to me that I cannot deny you, wherefore I give them to you to do your pleasure with them.' Then the queen caused them to be brought into her chamber, and made the halters to be taken from their necks, and caused them to be new clothed, and gave them their dinner at their leisure, and then she gave each of them six nobles, and made them to be brought out of the host in safeguard, and set at their liberty.”
The concluding scene, in which the Prince of Wales offers up to the Most High a prayer and thanksgiving, is imbued with a patriotic spirit, but it has not the depth and discrimination of Shakspere's patriotism :
“Now, father, this petition Edward makes :
Might, at their presence, tremble, and retire !" We have thus presented to our readers some of the most striking passages of this play. It does not, in our opinion, bear the marks of
being a very youthful performance of any man. Its great fault is tameness; the author does not rise with the elevation of his subject. To judge of its inferiority to the matured power of Shakspere, dealing with a somewhat similar theme, it should be compared with the • Henry V.' The question then should be asked, Will the possible difference of age account for this difference of power? We say possible, for we have no evidence that the “Edward III.' was produced earlier than 1595, nor have we evidence that the · Henry V.,' in some shape, was produced later. Ulrici considers that this play forms an essential introduction to that series of plays commencing with Richard II.' If Shakspere wrote that wonderful series upon a plan which necessarily included Henry V.,' we think he would advisedly have omitted . Edward III. ;' for the main subject of the conquest of France would be included in each play. The conclud ing observation of Ulrici is—“ Truly, if this piece, as the English critics assert, is not Shakspere's own, it is a shame for them that they have done nothing to recover from forgetfulness the name of this second Shakspere, this twin-brother of their great poet.” Resting this opinion upon one play only, the expression “twin-brother” has somewhat an unnecessary strength. Admitting, which we do not, that the best scenes of this play display the same poetical power, though somewhat immature, which is found in Shakspere's historical plays, there is one thing wanting to make the writer a “twinbrother,” which is found in all those productions. Where is the comedy of · Edward III.'? The heroic of Shakspere's histories might be capable of imitation; but the genius which created Faulconbridge, and Cade, and Pistol, and Fluellen (Falstaff is out of the question), could not be approached.