consenting to spy on Falstaff in the tavern, the Prince tells Poins that“ from a Prince to a prentice is “a low transformation," and scarcely has the fun commenced when he is called to the wars and takes his leave in these terms:


"P. Hen. By Heaven, Poins, I feel me much to

So idly to profane the precious time
When tempest of commotion, like the south
Borne with black vapour, doth begin to melt

And drop upon our bare, unarmed heads.The first two lines are priggish, and the last three mere poetic balderdash. But it is in the fourth act, when Prince Henry is watching by the bedside of his dying father, that Shakespeare speaks through him without disguise: " Why doth the crown lie there upon his pillow Being so troublesome a bedfellow? O polished perturbation! golden care! That keep'st the ports of slumber open wide To many a watchful night !-Sleep with it now, Yet not so sound and half so deeply sweet As he whose brow with homely biggin bound

Snores out the watch of night." In the third act we have King Henry talking in precisely the same way:

"O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee?

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Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains

In cradle of the rude imperious surge.
The truth is that in both these passages, as in a

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hundred similar ones, we find Shakespeare himself
praising sleep as only those tormented by insomnia
can praise it.

When his father reproaches him with “hunger
for his empty chair,” this is how Prince Henry an-

swers :

“O pardon me, my liege, but for my tears,
The moist impediments unto my speech,
I had forestalled this dear and deep rebuke.
Ere you with grief had spoke and I had heard
The course of it so far.

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It might be Alfred Austin writing to Lord Salis-
bury—“ the moist impediments," forsooth-and

the daredevil young soldier goes on like this for
forty lines.

The only memorable thing in the fifth act is the
new king's contemptuous dismissal of Falstaff: I
think it appalling at least in matter:

I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
I have long dreamed of such a kind of man,
So surfeit-swelled, so old and so profane;
But being awake I do despise my dream.

Reply not to me with a fool-born jest,
Presume not that I am the thing I was;

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Till then, I banish thee on pain of death,
As I have done the rest of

my misleaders,
Not to come near our person by ten mile.”
In the old play, “ The Famous Victories," the sent-
ence of banishment is pronounced; but this bitter
contempt for the surfeit-swelled, profane old man is
Shakespeare's. It is true that he mitigates the se-

verity of the sentence in characteristic generous fashion: the King says:

For competence of life I will allow you
That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
And as we hear you do reform yourselves,
We will, according to your strength and qualities,
Give you advancement.”

There is no mention in the old play of this “ competence of life.” But in spite of this generous forethought the sentence is painfully severe, and Shakespeare meant every word of it, for immediately afterwards the Chief Justice orders Falstaff and his company to the Fleet prison; and in “ King Henry V.” we are told that the King's condemnation broke Falstaff's heart and made the old jester's banishment eternal. To find Shakespeare more severe in judgement than the majority of spectators and readers is so astonishing, so singular a fact, that it cries for explanation. I think there can be no doubt that the tradition which tells us that Shakespeare in his youth played pranks in low company finds further corroboration here. He seems to have resented his own ignominy and the contemptuous estimate put upon him by others somewhat extravagantly.

Presume not that I am the thing I was; ”

-is a sentiment put again and again in Prince Henry's mouth; he is perpetually assuring us of the change in himself, and the great results which must ensue from it. It is this distaste for his own loose past and “his misleaders,” which makes Shakespeare so singularly severe toward Falstaff. As we have seen, he was the reverse of severe with Angelo

in “Measure for Measure,” though in that case there was better ground for harshness.

“ Measure for Measure," it is true, was written six or seven years later than “Henry IV.," and the tragedy of Shakespeare's life separates the two plays. Shakespeare's ethical judgement was more inclined to severity in youth and early manhood than it was later when his own sufferings had deepened his sympathies, and he had been made “pregnant to good

, pity,” to use his own words, “ by the art of knowing and feeling sorrows." But he would never have treated old Jack Falstaff as harshly as he did had he not regretted the results, at least, of his own youthful errors. It looks as if Shakespeare, like other weak men, was filled with a desire to throw the blame on his " misleaders.” He certainly exulted in their punishment.

It is difficult for me to write at length about the character of the King in “ Henry V.," and fortunately it is not necessary. I have already pointed out the faults in the painting of Prince Henry with such fullness that I may be absolved from again dwelling on similar weakness where it is even more obvious than it was in the two parts of “Henry IV." But something I must say, for the critics in both Germany and England are agreed that “Henry V.' must certainly be regarded as Shakespeare's ideal of manhood in the sphere of practical achievement.” Without an exception they have all buttered this drama with extravagant praise as one of Shakespeare's masterpieces, though in reality it is one of the worst pieces of work he ever did, almost as bad as Titus Andronicus Timon or “The Taming of the Shrew." Unfortunately for the would-be judges, Coleridge did not guide their opinions of “ Henry V.”; he hardly mentioned

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the play, and so they all write the absurdest nonsense about it, praising because praise of Shakespeare has come to be the fashion, and also no doubt because his bad work is more on the level of their intelligence than his good work.

It can hardly be denied that Shakespeare identified himself as far as he could with Henry V. Before the King appears he is praised extravagantly, as Posthumus was praised, but the eulogy befits the poet better than the soldier. The Archbishop of Canterbury says:

“When he speaks,
The air, a charter'd libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears
To steal his sweet and honey'd sentences."

the Bishop of Ely goes even further in excuse:

“The prince obscured his contemplation Under the veil of wildness.”

And this is how the soldier-king himself talks :

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“My learned lord, we pray you to proceed And justly and religiously unfold Why the law Salique that they have in France Or should, or should not bar us in our claim; And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord, That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading


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All this is plainly Shakespeare and Shakespeare at his very worst; and there are hundreds of lines like these, jewelled here and there by an unforgettable phrase, as when the Archbishop calls the bees:

The singing masons building roofs of gold.” The reply made by the King when the Dauphin sends

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