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Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,
Even in the presence of the crowned king." The Bolingbroke who, in “Henry IV.,' is thus retrospectively painted, is the Bolingbroke in action in “ Richard II.' The king
“ Observ'd his courtship to the common people.” When he returns from banishment, in arms against his unjust lord, he wins Northumberland by his powers of pleasing :
• And yet our fair discourse hath been as sugar.” Mark, too, his professions to the “ gentle Percy :"
“ I count myself in nothing else so happy,
As in a soul remembering my good friends." When York accuses him of
“ Gross rebellion and detested treason,'' how temperate, and yet how convincing, is his defence. York remains with him—he “ cannot mend it.” But Bolingbroke, with all his humility to his uncle, and all his courtesy to his friends, abates not a jot of his determination to be supreme.
He announces this in no under-tones—he has no confidences about his ultimate intentions ;--but we feel that he has determined to sit on the throne, even while he says,
“ I am a subject, And challenge law.” He is, in fact, the king, when he consigns Bushy and Green to the scaffold. He speaks not as one of a council--he neither vindicates nor alludes to his authority.
He addresses the victims as the one interpreter of the law; and he especially dwells upon his own personal wrongs :
66 See them deliver'd over To execution and the hand of death." Most skilfully does this violent and uncompromising exertion of authority prepare us for what is to come.
We are arrived at those wonderful scenes which, to our minds, may be classed amongst the very highest creations of art t-even of the art of Shakspere. " Barkloughly Castle” is “at hand.” — Richard stands upon his “ kingdom once again.” Around him are armed bands ready to strip him of his crown and life. Does he step upon his “ earth” with the self-confiding port of one who will hold it against all foes? The conventional dignity of the king cannot conceal the intellectual weakness of the man; and we see that he must lose his “ gentle earth” for ever. His sensibility-his plastic imagination_his effeminacy, even when strongly moved to love
or to hatred—his reliance upon his office more than his own head and heart—doom him to an overthrow. How surpassingly characteristic are the lines in which he addresses his “ earth” as if it were a thing of life-a favourite that he could honour and cherish—a friend that would adopt and cling to his cause—a partisan that could throw a shield over him, and defend him from his enemies ::
So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth,
Feed not thy sovereign's foe, my gentle earth," &c. He feels that this is senseless conjuration;" but when Aumerle ventures to say, we are too remiss,” he reproaches his “ discomfortable cousin,” by pointing out to him the heavenly aid that a king might expect. His is not the holy confidence of a highminded chieftain, nor the pious submission of a humble believer. He, indeed, says,
“ For every man that Bolingbroke hath press'd
To list shrewd steel against our golden crown,
A glorious angel.” But when Salisbury announces that the “ Welshmen are dispersed, Richard, in a moment, forgets the "angels" who will guard the right. His cheek pales at the evil tidings. After a pause, and upon the exhortation of his friends, his “sluggard majesty” awakes; the man still sleeps. How artificial and externally-sustained is his confidence:
“ Arm, arm, my name.! a puny subject strikes
At thy great glory. Look not to the ground,
Ye favourites of a king." Scroop arrives; and Richard avows that he is prepared for the worst. His fortitude is but a passing support. He dissimulates with himself; for, in an instant, he flies off into a burst of terrific passion at the supposed treachery of his minions. Aumerle, when their unhappy end is explained, like a man of sense casts about for other
66 Where is the duke my father with his power ?" But Richard abandons himself to his despair, in that most solemn speech, which is at once so touching with reference to the speaker, and so profoundly true in its general application :
“No matter where; of comfort no man speak.“ His grief has now evaporated in words :
“ This ague-fit of fear is over-blown;
task it is to win our own.
Scroop's reply is decisive :
“ Your uncle York hath join’d with Bolingbroke." Richard is positively relieved by knowing the climax of his misfortunes. The alternations of hope and fear were too much for his indecision. He is forced upon a course, and he is almost happy in his weakness :
“ Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth
Or that sweet way I was in to despair !
What comfort have we now ?
That bids me be of comfort any more.” Shaksperc has painted indecision of character in Hamlet-but what a difference is there between the indecision of Hamlet and of Richard! The depth of Ilamlet's philosophy engulls his powers of action; the reflective strength of his intellect destroys the energy of his will :—Richard is irresolute and inert, abandoning himself to every new impression, because his faculties, though beautiful in parts, have no principle of cohesion ;-judgment, the key-stone of the arch, is wanting.
Bolingbroke is arrived before Flint Castle. Mr. Courtenay says, “ By placing the negotiation with Northumberland at Flint, Shakspere loses the opportunity of describing the disappointment of the king, when he found himself, on his progress to join Henry at Flint, a prisoner to Northumberland, who had concealed the force by which he was accompanied."* A Mr. Goodhall, of Manchester, in 1772, gave us a new • Richard II.,' “ altered from Shakspeare, and the style imitated.” We are constrained to say that such criticism as we have extracted, and such imitations of style as that of Mr. Goodhall, are entirely on a par. Shakspere wanted not the additional scene of Northumberland's treachery to eke out the story of Richard's fall. He was too sagacious to make an audience think that Richard might have surmounted his difficulties but for an accident. It was his business to show what was essentially true (though one episode of the truth might be wanting), that Bolingbroke was coming upon him with steps as certain as that of a rising tide towards the shivering tenant of a naked sea-rock. What was still more important, it was his aim to exhibit the overthrow of Richard, and the upraising of Bolingbroke, as the natural result of the collision of two such minds meeting in mortal conflict. The mighty physical force which Bolingbroke subdued to his purpose was called
Shakspeare's Historical Plays considered Historically.
forth by his astute and foreseeing intellect: every movement of this wary chief-perhaps even from the hour when he resolved to appeal Norfolk—was a consequence from a calculated cause. On the other hand, Richard threw away every instrument of defence;
one day too late," with which Salisbury reproaches himwhich delay was the fruit of his personal weakness and vacillationshows that it was impossible to save him. Had he escaped from Conway, after being reduced to the extremities of poverty and suffering, in company with a few wretched followers, he must have rushed, from his utter want of the ability to carry through a consistent plan, into the toils of Bolingbroke. Shakspere, as we must repeat, painted events whilst he painted characters. Look at Boling broke's bearing when York reproaches Northumberland for not saying, “ King Richard ;"_look at his decision when he learns the king is at Flint ;-look at his subtlety in the message to the king:
On both his knees doth kiss king Richard's hand.” Compare the affected humility of his professions with the real, though subdued, haughtiness of his threats
“ If not, I 'll use the advantage of my power.“ He marches “ without the noise of threatning drum ;” but he marches as a conqueror upon an undefended citadel. On the one hand, we have power without menaces; on the other, menaces without power.
How loftily Richard asserts to Northumberland the terrors which are in store—the “ armies of pestilence” which are to defend his 66
precious crown !" But how submissively he replies to the message of Boling broke !
“ Thus the king returns :His noble cousin is right welcome hither.
Speak to his gentle hearing kind commends." Marvellously is the picture of the struggles of irresolution still coloured :
“ Shall we call back Northumberland, and send
Defiance to the traitor, and so die ?”? Beautiful is the transition to his habitual weakness—to his extreme sensibility to evils, and the shadows of evils—to the consolation which finds relief in the exaggeration of its own sufferings, and in the bewilderments of imagination which carry even the sense of suffering into the regions of fancy. We have already seen that this has been thought “ deviating from the pathetic to the ridiculous.” Be
We are content to accept this and similar passages in the character of Richard as exponents of that feeling which made him lie at the feet of Bolingbroke, fascinated as the bird at the eye of the serpent :
" For do we must what force will have us do." This is the destiny of tragedy ;--but it is a destiny with foregoing causes—its seeds are sown in the varying constitution of the human mind : and thus it may be said, even without a contradiction, that a Bolingbroke governs destiny, a Richard yields to it.
We pass over the charming repose-scene of the garden-in which the poet, who in this drama has avoided all dialogues of manners, brings in “ old Adam's likeness,” to show us how the vicissitudes of state are felt and understood by the practical philosophy of the humblest of the people. We pass over, too, the details of the quarrel scene in Westminster Hall, merely remarking that those who say, as Johnson has said, “ This play is extracted from the - Chronicle' of Holinshed, in which many passages may be found which Shakspere has, with very little alteration, transplanted into his scenes,'—that they would have done well to have printed the passages of the “ Chronicle' and of the parallel scenes side by side. This scene is one to which the remark refers. Will our readers excuse us giving them half-a-dozen lines, as a specimen of this 66
very little alteration?"
HOLINSHED. “ The Lord Fitzwater herewith rose up, and said to the king, that, where the Duke of Aumerle excuseth himself of the Duke of Gloucester's death, I say (quoth he) that he was the very cause of his death; and so he appealed him of treason, offeriny, by throwing down his hood as a gage, to prove it with his body.”
We have long borne with these misrepresentations of what Shakspere took from the “ Chronicles, and what Shakspere took from Plutarch. The sculptor who gives us the highest conception of an individual, idealized into something higher than the actual man -(Roubiliac, for example, when he figured that sublime image of Newton, in which the upward eye, and the finger upon the prism, tell us of the great discoverer of the laws of gravity and of light)the sculptor has to collect something from authentic records of the features and of the character of the subject he has to represent. The Chronicles' might, in the same way, give Shakspere the