new character. We have indicated these alterations in our footnotes. The text is, upon the whole, remarkably pure, and presents few difficulties.

Whether this play were written just anterior to the period of its publication, or some three or four years before, we have no distinct evidence. In the last edition of Malone's Shakspere, in his essay on the chronological order of Shakspere's plays, he gives it the date of 1593. In former editions of the same essay he considered it to be written in 1597. For neither of these conjectural dates does he offer any argument or authority. George Chalmers would fix it in 1596, because the play itself has some dozen lines upon Irish affairs; and Irish affairs much occupied the nation in 1596. This appears to us a somewhat absurd refinement upon the intention of the author; for as the fall of Richard was, in some measure, occasioned by his absence in Ireland—as Daniel has it, because he

“Neglects those parts from whence worse dangers grow,"— it certainly does appear to us that some mention of Ireland was called for in this play, without any allusion being intended to the period of 1595, “ when Tir Owen took the Queen's fort at Blackwater.'

There is, however, a circumstance connected with the chronology of this play which has been entirely overlooked by Malone and the other commentators; and which we approach with some hesitation when we consider what labour they have bestowed in bringing to light parallel passages of the text of Shakspere from the most obscure authors. The first four books of Daniel's · Civil Warres, three of which are almost wholly occupied with the story of Richard II., were first published in 1595. We have looked at this poem with some care, and we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that, with reference to parts of the conduct of the story, and in a few modes of expression, each of which differ from the general narrative and the particular language of the chroniclers, there are similarities betwixt Shakspere and Daniel, which would lead to the conclusion, either that the poem of Daniel was known to Shakspere, or the play of Shakspere was known to Daniel. We will slightly run over these similarities, and then, with much diffidence, offer a conclusion.

* In the first scene of · Richard II.' the king says, in regard to the appeal of Bolingbroke against Norfolk,

* See Chalmers's ‘Supplemental Apology,' p. 309.


“ Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him,

If he appeal the duke on ancient malice.' Daniel adopts Froissart's version of the story, that Norfolk first accused Bolingbroke; but Froissart has not a word of “ ancient malice”—he simply makes the king exclaim, “Why say you these words ?-we will know it." Holinshed, when he makes Hereford first appeal Norfolk of treason, shows the king as hearing them both, and dismissing them with, “ No more, we have heard enough.” Daniel thus gives the scene :

“ Hereof doth Norfolk presently take hold,

And to the king the whole discourse relate:
Who, not conceiting it, as it was told,

But judging it proceeded out of hate," &c. In the fourth scene of the second act the Welsh Captain thus describes the portents which showed that “ the king is dead :":

“ The bay-trees in our country are all wither d,

And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;

The pale-fac’d moon looks bloody on the earth.”' Shakspere found the “bay-trees” in Holinshed :-“In this year, in a manner throughout all the realm of England, old bay-trees withered, and afterwards, contrary to all men's thinking, grew green again,-a strange sight, and supposed to import some unknown event.” The other prodigies are in Daniel :

“ Red fiery dragons in the air ilo lly,

And burning meteors, pointed streaming lights,

Bright stars in midst of day appear in sky." In the third scene of the third act we have a particular expression, unnoticed by the commentators, which finds a parallel in Daniel :

“ Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers' sons

Shall ill become the flower of England's face ; " in Daniel we haver

“ Th' ungodly bloodshed that did so defile

The beauty of the fields, and even did mar

The flower of thy chief pride, thou fuirest isle." Daniel had read Stow, although he might not have seen the “Metrical History ;' and he gives a minute description of the ambush of Northumberland between Conway and Flint. This poet has been called, and properly, by Drayton,

6. Too much historian in verse.

Shakspere drew the distinction between poetry and history, and he,

therefore, gives us not this melo-dramatic episode.

But the entry of Bolingbroke and Richard into London equally came within the province of history and poetry. Matchless and original as this description is in Shakspere, there is something very similar in Daniel, which is not in the chroniclers :-

“ He that in glory of his fortune sate,

Admiring what he thought could never be,
Did feel his blood within salute his state,

And lift up his rejoicing soul, to see
So many hands and hearts congratulate

Th’advancement of his long-desir'd degree;
When, prodigal of thanks, in passing by,
He re-salutes them all with cheerful eye.
Behind him, all aloof, came pensive on

The unregarded king; that drooping went
Alone, and (but for spite) scarce look d upon :

Judge, if he did more envy, or lament.
See what a wondrous work this day is done;

Which th’image of both fortunes doth present :
In th' one, to show the best of glories' face;

In th’ other, worse than worst of all disgrace.”
We have mentioned, in our Historical Illustration to Act V., that
Daniel, as well as Shakspere, makes the queen use the language of

There was poetical truth in this, with some foundation in historical exactness. Isabel, according to Froissart, had at eight years old the port of a queen. But it is remarkable that two poets should have agreed in a circumstance which forms no part of the ordinary historical narration. Daniel makes the resignation of the crown by Richard take place in the Tower; but he gives the scene the same pomp and ceremony with which Shakspere has invested it at Westminster. In the speech of the Bishop of Carlisle we have these words in Shakspere :

What subject can give sentence on his king ?

And who sits here that is not Richard's subject ?'' The words in Holinshed, from which the speech is said to be copied, are these :—“ There was none amongst them worthy or meet to give judgment upon so noble a prince as King Richard was, whom they had taken for their sovereign and liege lord by the space of two-and-twenty years and more.” In Daniel we have these words of the Bishop :--

“ Never shall this poor breath of mine consent

That he that two-and-twenty years have reign’d
As lawful lord and king by just descent,

Should here be judg’d, unheard and unarraign’d:
By subjects 100 (juulges incompetent)."

a woman.


Lastly, in the death of Richard, Daniel, as well as Shakspere, follows the story that he was barbarously murdered by Sir Pierce of Exton. Shakspere puts these words into the mouth of the assassin :

“ Didst thou not mark the king, what words he spake?

Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?" Holinshed has, “ King Henry, sitting on a day at his table, sore sighing, said, “ Have I no faithful friend which will deliver me of him whose life will be my death, and whose death will be the preservation of my life ? » Daniel shows Henry perturbed while Richard lived,

“ And wish'd that some would so his life esteem,

As rid him of these fears wherein he stood.” Are these resemblances accidental ? We think not. Neither do we think that the parallel passages are derived from common

Did Daniel copy Shakspere? We think not. He was of a modest and retiring nature, and would purposely have avoided provoking a comparison, especially in the scene describing the entrance of Richard and Boling broke into London, in which he has put out his own strength, in his own quiet manner. Shakspere, on the contrary, as it appears to us, took up Daniel's “Civil Warres, as he took up Hall's, or Holinshed's, or Froissart's Chronicles,' and transfused into his play, perhaps unconsciously, a few of the circumstances and images that belonged to Daniel in his character of poet.

Daniel's Civil Warres' was, in truth, founded upon a false principle. It attempts an impossible mixture of the Poem and the Chronicle,—wanting the fire of the one and the accuracy of the other,—and this from the one cause, that Daniel's mind wanted the true poetical elevation. Believing, therefore, that Shakspere's Richard II.' contains passages that might have been suggested by Daniel's Civil Warres,' we consider that the play was written at a very short period before its publication in 1597. The exact date is really of very little importance; and we should not have dwelt upon it, had it not been pleasant to trace resemblances between contemporary poets who were themselves personal friends.


THE Richard II. of Shakspere is the Richard II. of real history. The events as they are detailed by the historians, in connexion with

the use which Shakspere has made of those events, are pointed out in the Historical Illustrations to each act.

But there is a question whether, as the foundation of this drama, Shakspere worked upon any previous play. No copy of any such play exists. The character of Richard is so entire,—so thoroughly a whole,—that we can have little doubt in believing it to be a creation, and not a character adapted to the received dramatic notions of the poet's audience. But still there is every reason to suppose that there was another play of “ Richard II.'—perhaps two others; and that one held possession of the stage long after Shakspere's exquisite production had been acted and published. There is a curious matter connected with the state history of Shakspere's own times that has regard to the performance of some play of • Richard II.' On the afternoon previous to the insurrection of the Earl of Essex, in February, 1601, Sir Gilly Merrick, one of his partisans, procured to be acted before a great company of those who were engaged in the conspiracy, “ the play of deposing Richard II." The official pamphlet of the declarations of the treasons of the Earl of Essex states that, when it was told Merrick, " by one of the players, that the play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there was forty shillings extraordinary given to play it; and so, thereupon, played it was." In the printed account of the arraignment of Merrick, it is said that he ordered this play “ to satisfy his eyes with a sight of that tragedy which he thought soon after his lord should bring from the stage to the state.” There is a passage in Camden's · Annals' which would appear to place it beyond a doubt that the play so acted was an older play than that of Shakspere. It is there charged against Essex that he procured, by money, the obsolete tragedy (exoletam tragadiam) of the abdication of Richard II. to be acted in a public theatre before the conspiracy. Bacon hints at a systematic purpose of bringing Richard II. “ upon the stage and into print in Queen Elizabeth's time.” Elizabeth herself, in a conversation with Lambarde, the historian of Kent, and keeper of the Records in the Tower, going over a pandect of the Rolls which Lambarde had prepared, coming to the reign of Richard II., said, “I am Richard II., know ye not that?” Any allusion to Richard II. at that time was the cause of great jealousy. Haywarde, in 1599, very narrowly escaped a state prosecution for his · First Part of the Life and Reign of King Henry IV.' This book was the deposition of Richard II. put“ into print,” to which Bacon alludes. It ap

« VorigeDoorgaan »