11 SCENE III.-“ Lord marshal.Mowbray was himself earl marshal of England; but the Duke of Surrey officiated as marshal on this occasion.

12 SCENE III.--- Aumerle." The eldest son of the Duke of York was created Duke of Aumerle, or Albemarle, -a town in Normandy. He officiated as high constable at the lists of Coventry.

13 SCENE III.—Our part therein we buish.The King here alludes to a disputed question amongst writers on public law :Is a banished man tied in his allegiance to the state which exiled him? Richard requires them to swear by their duty to heaven; for “our part” in your duty “we banish with yourselves.” Hobbes and Puffendorf hold this opinion ;--Cicero thought differently.

14 SCENE III.—The frosty Caucasus." “ In the language of the Calmuc Tartars, C'hasu signifies snow,” according to Mr. Wilford, in the sixth volume of “Asiatic Researches. There are two papers in the “ Censura Literaria’ of Sir E. Brydges which refute this notion of the origin of the name of Caucasus.-Vol. iv. p. 412 ; vol. v. p. 87.


SHAKSPERE'S “ History” of “Richard II.' presents, in one particular, a most remarkable contrast to that of“ King John. In the “ King John,' for the purpose of securing a dramatic unity of action, the chronological succession of events, as they occurred in the real history of the times, is coustantly disregarded. In the • Richard II.' that chronological succession is as strictly adhered to, The judgment of the poet is remarkably exhibited in these opposite modes of working. He had to mould a drama out of the disjointed materials of the real history of John, in which events, remote in the order of time, and apparently separated as to cause and consequence, should all conduce to the development of one great action—the persecution of Arthur by his uncle, and the retribution to which the fate of Arthur led. In the life of Richard II. there were two great dramatic events, far separated in the order of time, and having no connexion in their origin or consequences. The rebellion of Wat Tyler, in 1381, might, in itself, have formed the subject of a drama not unworthy of the hand of Shakspere. It might have stood as the “ First Part” of the Life of Richard II. Indeed, it is probable, as we have shown in the Introductory Notice, that a play in which this event formed a remarkable feature did exist. But the greater event of Richard's life was the banishment and the revolt of Bolingbroke, which led to his own deposition and his death. This is the one event which Shakspere has made the subject of the great drama before us. With a few very minute deviations from history-deviations which are as nothing compared with the errors of the contemporary historian, Froissart—the scenes which this play presents, and the characters which it develops, are historically true to the letter. But what a wonderful vitality does the truth acquire in our poet's hands! The hard and formal abstractions of the old chroniclers—the figures that move about in robes and armour, without presenting to us any distinct notions of their common human qualities~ here show themselves to us as men like ourselves, partaking of like passions and


like weaknesses; and, whilst they exhibit to us the natural triumph of intellectual vigour and decision over frailty and irresolution, they claim our pity for the unfortunate, and our respect for the “faithful amongst the faithless.” But in the

Chronicles 'Shakspere found the rude outline ready to his hand, which he was to fill up with his surpassing colouring. There was nothing in the course of the real events to alter for the purposes of dramatic propriety. The history was full of the most stirring and picturesque circumstances; and the incidents came so thick and fast upon one another, that it was unnecessary for the poet to leap over any long intervals of time. Bolingbroke first appealed Norfolk of treason in January, 1398. Richard was deposed in September, 1399.

The first scene of this act exhibits the course of the quarrel between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, as it proceeded, after Harry Hereford's “ boisterous late appeal.” We must observe that the Bolingbroke of Shakspere is called Duke of Hereford (or Earl of Derby, his former title) by all the old historians; it being pretty clear that he was not distinguished by the name of Bolingbroke till after he had assumed the

Drayton states this without any qualification. We must, however, follow the poet in calling him Bolingbroke. It is somewhat difficult to understand the original cause of the quarrel between Bolingbroke and Norfolk. They were each elevated in rank at the Christmas of 1398, probably with the view, on the part of Richard, to propitiate men of such power and energy. They were the only two who remained of the great lords who, twelve years before, had driven Richard's favourites from his court and kingdom, and had triumphantly asserted their resistance to his measures at the battle of Radcot Bridge. The Duke of Gloster, the uncle of the king, with whose party Bolingbroke and Norfolk had always been confederated, was murdered at Calais in 1398. Bolingbroke, in the same year, had received a full pardon in parliament for his proceedings in 1386.

“ In this parliament, holden at Shrewsbury,” says Holinshed, “ Heury Duke of Hereford accused Thomas Mowbray of certain words, which he should utter in talk had betwixt them as they rode together lately before, betwixt London and Brainford, sounding highly to the king's dishonour.” Froissart (we quote from Lord Berners' translation) gives a different version of the affair, and says “ On a day the Earl of Derby and the Earl Marshal communed together of divers matters; at last, among other, they spake of the state of the king and of his council, such as he had about him, and believed them; so that, at the last, the Earl of Derby spake certain words which he thought for the best, wenynge that they should never have been called to rehearsal, which words were neither villainous nor outrageous.” Froissart then goes on to make the Earl Marshal repeat these words to the king, and Derby to challenge him as a false traitor, after the breach of confidence. Shakspere has followed Holinshed. The accusation of Bolingbroke against Norfolk was first made, according to this chronicler, at Shrewsbury; and “there was a day appointed, about six weeks after, for the king to come unto Windsor, to hear and to take some order betwixt the two dukes which had thus appealed each other."' The scene then proceeds in the essential matters very much as is exhibited by Shakspere, except that the appellant and defendant each speak by the mouth of a knight that had “licence to speak.” Norfolk is accused of being a false and disloyal traitor--of appropriating eight thousand nobles, which he had received to pay the king's soldiers at Calais—of being the occasion of all the treason contrived in the realm for eighteen years—and, by his false suggestions and malicious counsels, having caused the Duke of Gloster to be murdered. Norfolk, in the answer by his ht, declares that Henry of Lancaster hath “ falsely and wickedly lied as a false and disloyal knight;" and he then, in his own person, adds the explanation which Shakspere gives about the use of the money for Calais. The chronicler, however, makes him say not a word about

[ocr errors]

Gloster's death; but he confesses that he once “ laid an ambush to have slain the Duke of Lancaster that there sitteth.” The king once again requires them to be asked if they would agree and make peace together; “but they both flatly answered that they would not; and withal the Duke of Hereford cast down his gage, and the Duke of Norfolk took it up. The king, perceiving this demeanour betwixt them, sware by St. John Baptist he would never seek to make peace betwixt them again.” The combat was then appointed to be done at Coventry,

some say upon a Monday in August; other, upon St. Lambert's day, being the 17th September; other, on the 11th September.”

The narrative of Holinshed upon which Shakspere has founded the third scene of this act is most picturesque. We see all the gorgeous array of chivalry, as it existed in an age of pageants, called forth with unusual maguificence upon an occasion of the gravest import. The old stage of Shakspere's time could exhibit none of this magnificence. The great company of men apparelled in silk sendall—the splendid coursers of the combatants, with their velvet housings—the king on his throne, surrounded by his peers and his ten thousand men in armour-all these were to be wholly imagined upon the ancient stage. Our poet, in his Chorus to 'Henry V.,' thus addresses his audience:

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

To assist our readers in seeing the “ imaginary puissance“ of the lists of Coventry, we subjoin Holinshed's description

6- The Duke of Aumerle, that day being high constable of England, and the Duke of Surrey, marshal, placed themselves between them, well armed and appointed; and when they saw their time, they first entered into the lists with a great company of men apparelled in silk sendall, embroidered with silver, both richly and curiously, every man having a tipped staff to keep the field in order. About the hour of prime came to the barriers of the lists the Duke of Hereford, mounted on a white courser barded with green and blue velvet, embroidered sumptuously with swans and antelopes of goldsmith's work, armed at all points. The constable and marshal came to the barriers, demanding of him what he was: he answered—“I am Henry of Lancaster Duke of Hereford, which am come hither to do mine endeavour against Thomas Mowbray Duke of Norfolk, as a traitor untrue to God, the king, his realm, and me.' Then, incontinently, he sware upon the holy evangelists that his quarrel was true and just, and upon that point he required to enter the lists. by his sword, which before he held naked in his hand, and, putting down his visor, made a cross on his horse, and with spear in hand entered into the lists, and descended from his horse, and set him down in a chair of green velvet, at the one end of the lists, and there reposed himself, abiding the coming of his adversary.

“ Soon after him, entered into the field with great triumph King Richard, accompanied with all the peers of the realm, and in his company was the Earl of St. Paul, which was come out of France in post to see this challenge performed. The king had there above ten thousand men in armour, lest some fray or tumult might rise amongst his nobles by quarrelling or partaking. When the king was set in his seat, which was richly hanged and adorned, a king-at-arms made open proclamation, prohibiting all men, in the name of the king, and of the high constable and marshal, to enterprise or attempt to approach or touch any part of the lists upon pain of death, except such as were appointed to order or marshal the field. The proclamation ended, another herald cried, “ Behold here Henry of Lancaster Duke of Here

Thien he put

ford appellant, which is entered into the lists royal to do his devoir against Thomas Mowbray Duke of Norfolk defendant, upon pain to be found false and recreant.'

“ The Duke of Norfolk hovered on horseback at the entrance of the lists, his horse being barded with crimson velvet, embroidered richly with lions of silver and mulberry-trees; and when he had made his oath before the constable and marshal that his quarrel was just and true, he entered the field manfully, saying aloud, «God aid him that hath the right,' and then he departed from his horse, and sate him down in his chair, which was of crimson velvet, curtained about with white and red damask. The lord marshal viewed their spears to see that they were of equal length, and delivered the one spear himself to the Duke of Hereford, and sent the other unto the Duke of Norfolk by a knight. Then the herald proclaimed that the traverses and chairs of the champions should be removed, commanding them on the king's behalf to mount on horseback, and address themselves to the battle and combat.

The Duke of Hereford was quickly horsed, and closed his beaver, and cast his spear into the rest, and, when the trumpet sounded, set forward courageously towards his enemy six or seven paces. The Duke of Norfolk was not fully set forward, when the king cast down his warder, and the heralds cried, “Ho, ho!' Then the king caused their spears to be taken from them, and commanded them to repair again to their chairs, where they remained two long hours, while the king and his council deliberately consulted what order was best to be had in so weighty a cause."

The sentence of Richard upon Bolingbroke and Norfolk was, in effect, the same as Shakspere has described it; but the remission of a portion of the term of Bolingbroke's banishment did not take place at the lists of Coventry. Froissart says that, when Boling broke's day of departure approached, he came to Eltham, to the king, who thus addressed him :-“ As God help me, it right greatly displeaseth me the words that hath been between you and the earl marshal; but the sentence that I have given is for the best, and for to appease thereby the people, who greatly murmured on this matter ; wherefore, cousin, yet to ease you somewhat of your pain, I release my judgment from ten year to six year. Cousin, take this aworth, and ordain you thereafter.” The earl answered and said, “ Sir, I thank your grace; and when it shall please you, ye shall do me more grace.”


SCENE I.-London. A Room in Ely House.

GAUNT on a couch ; the Duke of York, and others standing

by him.

Gaunt. Will the king come? that I may breathe my last In wholesome counsel to his unstaid youth.

York. Vex not yourself, nor strive not with your breath; For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.

Gaunt. O, but they say, the tongues of dying men Enforce attention, like deep harmony; Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain ; For they breathe truth, that breathe their words in pain. He, that no more must say, is listen’d more

Than they whom youth and ease have taught to glose ; More are men's ends mark'd, than their lives before ;

The setting sun, and music at the close,
(As the last taste of sweets is sweetest,) last,
Writ in remembrance, more than things long past;"
Though Richard my life's counsel would not hear,
My death's sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.

York. No; it is stopp'd with other flattering sounds,
As praises of his state: then, there are found
Lascivious metres ; to whose venom sound
The open ear of youth doth always listen :
Report of fashions in proud Italy ;

a The ordinary reading of this passage is as follows :- The setting sun,

and music at the close, As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last;

Writ in remembrance more than things long past."' We have adopted the change in the punctuation which was suggested by Monck Mason ; by which slight alteration the word last, the end of the second line, is read as a verb, of which the sun and music form the nominative case. This ingenious suggestion has not been adopted in the text, or alluded to in the notes, of the variorum editions.

« VorigeDoorgaan »