“Nay, more; the King's Council are no good work


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

is only to be found in the revised version. The heightened humour of that “Oh, miserable age! virtue is not regarded in handicraftsmen," assures us that the reviser was Shakespeare.

What is true of the “ Second Part” is true in the main of the “ Third Part of King Henry VI.” Shakespeare's revisions are chiefly the revisions of a lyric poet, and he scatters his emendations about without much regard for character. In the Third Part, as in the Second, however, he transposes scenes, gives deeper life to the marionettes, and in various

ways quickens the dramatic interest. This Third - Part resembles “King John” in some respects and a similar inference can be drawn from it. As in *

King John ” we have the sharply contrasted figures of the Bastard and Arthur, so in this “ Third Part” there are two contrasted characters, Richard Duke of Gloster and King Henry VI., the one a wild beast whose life is action, and who knows neither fear, love, pity, nor touch of any scruple; the other, a saint-like King, whose worst fault is gentle weakness. In “ The True Tragedie of Richard,” the old play on which this “ Third Part » was founded, the character of Richard is powerfully sketched, even though the human outlines are sometimes confused by his devilish malignity. Shakespeare takes this character from the old play, and alters it but very slightly. Indeed, the most splendid piece of character-revealing in his Richard is to be found in the old play:

'I had no father, I am like no father,
I have no brother, I am like no brother;

And this word Love, which greybeards call divine,
Be resident in men like one another,
And not in me:-I am myself alone.

The Satanic energy of this outburst declares its author, Marlowe. Shakespeare copies it word for word, only omitting with admirable art the first line. Indeed, though he alters the speeches of Richard and improves them, he does nothing more; he adds no new quality; his Richard is the Richard of “ The True Tragedie.” But King Henry may be regarded as Shakespeare's creation. In the old play the outlines of Henry's character are so feebly, faintly sketched that he is scarcely recognizable, but with two or three touches Shakespeare makes the saint a living man. This King is happier in prison than in his palace; this is how he speaks to his keeper, the Lieutenant of the Tower:

Nay, be thou sure, I'll well requite thy kindness,
For that it made my imprisonment a pleasure;
Ay, such a pleasure as encaged birds
Conceive, when, after many moody thoughts,
At last by notes of household harmony
They quite forget their loss of liberty,'

Just as the bird runs a little before he springs from the earth and takes flight, so Shakespeare often writes, as in this instance, an awkward weak line or two before his song-wings move with freedom. But the last four lines are peculiarly his; his the thought; his, too, the sweetness of the words “encagèd birds” and “ household harmony."

1 Mr. Swinburne was the first, I believe, to attribute this passage to Marlowe; he praises the verses, too, as they deserve; but as I had written the above before reading his work, I let it stand.

Finally, Henry is not only shown to us as gentle and loving, but as a man who prefers quiet and the country to a King's Court and state. Even in eager, mounting youth this was Shakespeare's own choice: Prince Arthur in “King John” longs to be a shepherd: and this crowned saint has the same desire. From boyhood to old age Shakespeare preferred the “life removed."

“O God, methinks it were a happy life

To be no better than a homely swain;
To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly point by point,
Thereby to see the minutes how they run;
How many make the ho full complete;

hour 'ng about the day;
How many day.


How many years a

-al man may live.

So minutes, hours, days, months, and years, ,
Passed over to the end they were created,
Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.”

All this it seems to me is as finely characteristic of the gentle melancholy of Shakespeare's youth as Jaques' bitter words are of the deeper melancholy of his manhood:

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot
And thereby hangs a tale.”

The “ Third Part of Henry VI.” leads one directly to “ Richard III.” It was Coleridge's opinion that Shakespeare “wrote hardly anything of this play except the character of Richard. He found the piece a stock play and re-wrote the parts which developed the hero's character; he certainly did not

[ocr errors]

write the scenes in which Lady Anne yielded to the usurper's solicitations.” In this instance Coleridge's positive opinion deserves to be weighed respectfully. At the time when “ Richard III.” was written Shakespeare was still rather a lyric than a dramatic poet, and Coleridge was a good judge of the peculiarities of his lyric style. Of course, Professor Dowden, too, is in doubt whether “ Richard III.” should be ascribed to Shakespeare. He says: “Its manner of conceiving and presenting character has a certain resemblance, not elsewhere to be found in Shakespeare's writings, to the ideal manner of Marlowe. As in the plays of Marlowe, there is here one domaint fi' e distinguished by a few strongly marked anrir yrsinately developed qualities.”

This faulty reasoning ::'' shows how dangerous it is for a professor to by his teacher slavishly: in “Coriolanus,” too, we have the “one dominant

, figure," and all the rest of it. The truth seems to be that in the “ Third Part of Henry VI."

Shakespeare had been working with Marlowe, or, at least, revising Marlowe's work; in either case he was so steeped in Marlowe's spirit that he took, as we have seen, the most splendid piece of Richard's selfrevealing directly from the older poet. Moreover, the words of deepest characterization in Shakespeare's “Richard III.,"

[ocr errors]

Richard loves Richard—that is, I am I,"

are manifestly a weak echo of the tremendous

“I am myself alone”

of Marlowe's Richard. At least to this extent, then, Shakespeare used Marlowe in depicting Richard's character. But this trait, important as it was, did not carry him far, and he was soon forced to draw on his own experience of life. Already he seems to have noticed that one characteristic of men of action is a blunt plainness of speech; their courage is shown in their frankness, and, besides, words stand for realities with them, and are, therefore, used with sincerity. Shakespeare's Richard III. uses plain speaking as a hypocritical mask, but already Shakespeare is a dramatist and in his clever hands Richard's plain speaking is so allied with his incisive intelligence that it appears to be now a mask, now native shamelessness, and thus the characterization wins in depth and mystery. Every now and then, too, this Richard sees things which no Englishman has been capable of seeing, except Shakespeare himself. The whole of Plato's “Gorgias” is comprised in the two lines:

“ Conscience is but a word that cowards use, Devised at first to keep the strong in awe."

[ocr errors]

The declaration of the second murderer that conscience makes a man a coward . it beggars any man that keeps it; it is turned out of all towns and cities for a dangerous thing; and every man that means to live well endeavours to trust to himself and to live without it,” should be regarded as the complement of what Falstaff says of honour; in both the humour of Shakespeare's characteristic irony is not to be mistaken.

The whole play, I think, must be ascribed to Shakespeare; all the memorable words in it are indubitably his, and I cannot believe that any other hand drew for us that marvellous, masterful courtship of Anne which Coleridge, naturally enough,

« VorigeDoorgaan »