Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATION.

We have hitherto traced the course of events in Shakspere's History of · Richard II.' by the aid of the Chronicles. Froissart was a contemporary of Richard ; and in the days of the king's prosperity had presented him with a book “ fair enlumined and written,” of which when the king demanded whereof it treated, the maker of histories “ showed him how it treated matters of love, whereof the king was glad, and looked in it, and read it in many places, for he could speak and read French very well.” Holinshed was, in another sense, a “ maker of histories.” He compiled, and that admirably well, from those who had written before him; and he was properly Shakspere's great authority for the incidents which he dramatised. But we have now to turn to one of the most remarkable documents that afford materials for the history of any period—the narrative of an eye-witness of what took place from the period when Richard, being in Ireland, received the news of Bolingbroke's landing, to the time when the king was utterly prostrate at the feet of the man whom he had banished and plundered. All the historians have been greatly indebted to this narrative. It is entitled · Histoire du Roy d'Angleterre Richard, Traictant particulierement la Rebellion de ses subiectz et prinse de sa personne. Composee par un gentlehom’e Francois de marque, qui fut a la suite du dict Roy, avecq permission du Roy de France, 1399.' The most beautiful, and, apparently, the earliest copy of this manuscript is in the British Museum. It contains sixteen illuminations, in which the identity of the portraits and of the costume is preserved throughout. It appears to have been the property of Charles of Anjou, Count of Maine, and formed part of the Harleian collection. Another manuscript of the same history, which is in the library at Lambeth, was that consulted and quoted by the early historians, and it is called, by Holinshed, “ A French Pamphlet that belongeth to Master John Dee:” the name of John Dee, with the date 1575, appears in the last leaf. The author of the • Metrical History' informs in his title, that he was “ Un gentilhom’e Francois de marque;" and, when brought before Bolingbroke, the writer says of himself and his companion, “ The herald told him, in the English language, that we were of France, and that the king had sent us with King Richard into Ireland for recreation, and to see the country.” This manuscript has been re-published in the twentieth volume of the ' Archæologia,' with a most admirable translation, and notes alike distinguished for their learning and good sense, by the Rev. John Webb.

The author of the Metrical History,' with his companion, “ in the year thousand and four hundred save one, quitted Paris, full of joy;" and, travelling late and early, reached London. He found that Richard had set out, anxious to journey day and night. He followed him to Milford Haven, where “ he waited ten days for the north wind, and passed his time pleasantly amidst trumpets and the sounds of minstrelsy.” The king had proceeded to Waterford, whither the French knight at length followed him. Six days afterwards the king took the field, with the English, for Kilkenny, whence after a fortnight's delay, he marched directly towards Macmore (the Irish chieftain) into the depths of the deserts, who, with his wild men—Shakspere's “rough, rug-headed kerns”--defied England and

The usual accompaniment of war was not wanting on this occasion :“ Orders were given by the king that everything should be set fire to.” Neither were the pageantries of chivalry,--the gilding of the horrors, -absent from this expedition. Henry of Monmouth, the son of Bolingbroke, being then eleven years old, was with the king; and Richard knighted him making, at the same time,

us,

its power.

eight or ten other knights. The English army appears to have suffered greatly from the want of provisions. A negotiation took place with Macmore, which ended in nothing. The king's face grew pale with anger, and he sware, in great wrath, by St. Edward, that no, never, would he depart from Ireland till, alive or dead, he had Macmore in his power. The want of provisions dislodged the army and drove them to Dublin, where, for six weeks, they lived “easy of body as fish in Seine.” No news came from England. The winds were contrary. At last, “ a barge arrived which was the occasion of much sorrow.” Those who came in her related to the king how Scrope was beheaded by Bolingbroke—how the people had been stirred to insurrection-how the invader had taken towns and castles for his own.

“It seemed to me,” says the French knight, “ that the king's face at this turned pale with anger, while he said, “Come hither, friends. Good Lord, this man designs to deprive me of my country.' ” Richard consulted his council on a Saturday, and they agreed to put to sea on the next Monday. The king, however, according to this writer, was deceived and betrayed by Aumerle, who persuaded him to remain himself, and send Salisbury to raise the Welsh against Bolingbroke. The French knight and his companion departed with Salisbury, and landed at Conway. Salisbury raised, it seems, forty thousand men within four days. The earl kept them in the field a fortnight; but they then deserted him, as Shakspere has represented, because they heard “no tidings from the king." He “ tarried eighteen days," says the French knight, “after our departure from Ireland. It was very great folly.”

The · Metrical History' now proceeds to the events which followed the landing of Richard upon the Welsh coast. “He did not stop there,” says the history, “considering the distress, complaints, and lamentations of the poor people, and the mortal alarm of all. Then he resolved that, without saying a word, he would set out at midnight from his host, attended by a few persons, for he would on no account be discovered. In that place he clad himself in another garb, like a poor priest of the Minors (Franciscans), for the fear that he had of being known of his foes. Thus the king set out that very night, with only thirteen others, and arrived, by break of day, at Conway.” He here met Salisbury. “At the meeting of the king and the earl, instead of joy there was very great sorrow. Tears, lamentations, sighs, groans, and mourning, quickly broke forth. Truly it was a piteous sight to behold their looks and countenances, and woeful meeting. The earl's face was pale with watching. He related to the king his hard fate.” Aumerle, the constable, according to this writer, basely went off with the king's men—his last hope.

“ The king continued all sorrowful at Conway, where he had no more with them than two or three of his intimate ends, sad and distressed. .... Reckoning nobles and other persons, we were but sixteen in all.” From Conway they went to Beaumaris, and thence to Carnarvon. “ In his castles, to which he retired, there was no furniture, nor had he anything to lie down upon but straw. Really, he lay in this manner for four or six nights; for, in truth, not a farthing's worth of victuals or anything else was to be found in them.” In consequence of this poverty the king returned to Conway. The “Metrical History' then details, at considerable length, and with great spirit and circumstantiality, the remarkable incident of Northumberland entrapping Richard to leave Conway, so that he might convey him as his prisoner to Flint Castle. “This is one of the instances,” says Mr. Courtenay (- Shakspeare's Historical Plays considered Historically'), “in which a more minute knowledge of history might have furnished Shakspere with some good scenes and further discriminations of character.” One would suppose, from this remark, that the account of the meeting between Northumberland and the king at Conway, and the king's agreement, upon Northumberland's assurances of safety, to go with him to Flint, was unre

The pass.

corded by the chronicler whom Shakspere is known to have consulted. Holinshed relates this affair with great distinctness; and he moreover gives an account of the ambush described by the French knight. We must, therefore, conclude that Shakspere knew his own business as a dramatist in the omission of the scene. age is also given very fully in Stow; and is versified by Daniel in his “Civil Warres.'

“ In the castle of Flint,” says the Metrical History,' “King Richard awaited the coming of the Duke of Lancaster, who set out from the city of Chester on Tuesday, the 22nd of August, with the whole of his force.” King Richard, “having heard mass, went up upon the walls of the castle, which are large and wide in the inside, beholding the Duke of Lancaster as he came along the sea-shore with all his host." Messengers came from Henry to Richard, and an interview took place between them. Shakspere has made Northumberland the negotiator on this occasion, as he really was at Conway. “ The king went up again upon the walls, and saw that the army was two bowshots from the castle; then he, together with those that were with him, began anew great lamentation.” At length Lancaster entered the castle. " Then they made the king, who had dined in the donjon, come down to meet Duke Henry, who, as soon as he perceived him at a distance, bowed very low to the ground; and as they approached each other, he bowed a second time, with his cap in his hand; and then the king took off his bonnet, and spake first in this manner: "Fair cousin of Lancaster, you be right welcome.' Then Duke Henry replied, bowing very low to the ground, "My lord, I am come sooner than you sent for me : the reason wherefore I will tell you. The common report of your people is such, that you have, for the space of twenty or two-and-twenty years, governed them very badly and very rigorously, and in so much that they are not well contented therewith. But if it please our Lord, I will help you to govern them better than they have been governed in time past.' King Richard then answered him, · Fair cousin, since it pleaseth you, it pleaseth us well.' And be assured that these are the very words that they two spake together, without taking away or adding anything: for I heard and understood them very well.” This version of the remarkable dialogue between Bolingbroke and Richard is not given by Holinshed, although he quotes all the substance of what had previously taken place between Northumberland and Richard “out of Master Dee's book.” Holinshed thus describes the interview :“ Forthwith, as the duke got sight of the king, he showed a reverend duty, as became him, in bowing his knee; and, coming forward, did so likewise the second and third time, till the king took him by the hand, and list him up, saying, “Dear cousin, ye are welcome. The duke, humbly thanking him, said, “My sovereign lord and king, the cause of my coming at this present is (your honour saved) to have again restitution of my person, ny lands, and heritage, through your favourable licence. The king hereunto answered, “ Dear cousin, I am ready to accomplish your will, so that ye may enjoy all that is yours, without exception.?” Shakspere's version of the scene appears to lie between the two extremes of Bolingbroke's defiance, as recorded by the French knight and copied by Stow, and of his assumed humility, as described by Holinshed.

ACT IV.

SCENE I.-London. Westminster Hall. The Lords spi

ritual on the right side of the throne; the Lords temporal

on the left; the Commons below. Enter BOLINGBROKE, AUMERLE, SURREY, NORTHUMBER

LAND, PERCY, FITZWATER, another Lord, BISHOP OF
CARLISLE, ABBOT OF WESTMINSTER, and Attendants.
Officers behind with BAGOT.

Boling. Call forth Bagot.
Now, Bagot, freely speak thy mind;
What thou dost know of noble Gloster's death ;
Who wrought it with the king, and who perform’d
The bloody office of his timelessa end.

Bagot. Then set before my face the lord Aumerle.
Boling. Cousin, stand forth, and look upon that man.

Bagot. My lord Aumerle, I know your daring tongue
Scorns to unsay what it hath once deliver'd.
In that dead time when Gloster's death was plotted,
I heard you say,—Is not my arm of length,
That reacheth from the restful English court
As far as Calais, to my uncle's head ?-
Amongst much other talk, that very time,
I heard you say, that you had rather refuse
The offer of an hundred thousand crowns,
Than Bolingbroke's return to England;
Adding withal, how bless'd this land would be
In this your cousin's death.
Aum.

Princes, and noble lords,
What answer shall I make to this base man?
Shall I so much dishonour my fair stars,
On equal terms to give him chastisement ?
Either I must, or have mine honour soil'd

a Timeless-untimely.

With the attainder of his sland'rous lips.
There is my gage, the manual seal of death,
That marks thee out for hell: I say, thou liest,
And will maintain what thou hast said is false,
In thy heart-blood, though being all too base
To stain the temper of my knightly sword.

Boling. Bagot, forbear, thou shalt not take it up.

Aum. Excepting one, I would he were the best
In all this presence, that hath mov'd me so.

Fitz. If that thy valour stand on sympathies, a
There is my gage, Aumerle, in gage to thine:
By that fair sun that shows me where thou stand’st,
I heard thee say, and vauntingly thou spak’st it,
That thou wert cause of noble Gloster’s death.
If thou deny’st it, twenty times thou liest;
And I will turn thy falsehood to thy heart,
Where it was forged, with my rapier's point."

Aum. Thou dar’st not, coward, live to see the day.
Fitz. Now, by my soul, I would it were this hour.
Aum. Fitzwater, thou art damn’d to hell for this.

Percy. Aumerle, thou liest; his honour is as true,
In this appeal, as thou art all unjust :
And, that thou art so, there I throw my gage,
To prove it on thee to the extremest point
Of mortal breathing; seize it, if thou dar’st.

Aum. And if I do not, may my hands rot ofl,
And never brandish more revengeful steel
Over the glittering helmet of my foe!

[Lord. I task the earth to the like, forsworn Aumerle ;

a

Sympathies. Sympathy is, passion with,-mutual passion. Aumerle thinks that to accept the challenge of Bagot would dishonour his “fair stars:” the stars that presided over his birth made him Bagot's superior. Fitzwater, who is his equal in blood, throws down bis gage with the retort,

“ If that thy valour stand on sympathies." b Rapier's point. The rapier was a weapon not known in the time of Richard. This is an anachronism which the commentators dwell on, but which is justified upon the principle of employing terms which were familiar to an audience.

© Task the earth. This is the reading of the first quarto. The subsequent editions read take. When the lord threw down his gage, he tasked the earth, in the same way that Percy had done by throwing down his gage. Johnson would read thy oath instead of the earth. Whiter, although he does not suppose that there was

« VorigeDoorgaan »