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A glorious angel; then if angels fight,
Weak men must fall; for Heaven still guards the right.”
Yet, notwithstanding this royal confession of faith, on the very first news of actual disaster, all his conceit of himself as the peculiar favourite of Providence vanishes into air.
“ But now the blood of twenty thousand men
Did triumph in my face, and they are fled.
All souls that will be safe fly from my side;
For time hath set a blot upon my pride."
Immediately after, however, recollecting that cheap defence” of the divinity of kings which is to be found in opinion, he is for arming his name against his enemies.
“Awake, thou coward Majesty, thou sleep'st';
Is not the King's name forty thousand names ?
Arm, arm, my name: a puny subject strikes
At thy great glory."
King Henry does not make any such vapouring resistance to the loss of his crown, but lets it slip from off his head as a weight which he is neither able nor willing to bear; stands quietly by to see the issue of the contest for his kingdom, as if it were a game at push-pin, and is pleased when the odds prove against him.
When Richard first hears of the death of his favourites, Bushy, Bagot, and the rest, he indignantly rejects all idea of any further efforts, and only indulges in the extravagant impatience of his grief and his despair, in that fine speech which has been so often quoted :
“ Aumerle. Where is the duke, my father, with his power?
K. Richard. No matter where : of comfort po man speak :
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow in the bosom of the earth!
Let's chuse executors, and talk of wills :
And yet not 80—for what can we bequeath,
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's,
And nothing can we call our own, but death,
And that small model of the barren earth,
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For heaven's sake let us sit upon the ground,
And tell sad stories of the death of Kings :
How some have been depos’d, some slain in war ;
Some haunted by the ghosts they dispossess'd ;
Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd : +for within the hollow crown,
That rounds the mortal temples of a king, :
Keeps death his court : and there the antick sits,
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp!
Allowing him a breath, a little scene
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks
Infusing him with self and vain conceit-
As if this flesh, which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable ; and, humour'd thus,
Comes at the last, and, with a little pin,
Bores through his castle wall, and - farewell king!
your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence; throw away respect,
'Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while :
I live on bread like you, feel want, taste grief,
Need friends, like you ;-subjected thus,
How can you say to me--I am a king ?"
There is as little sincerity afterwards in his affected resignation to his fate, as there is fortitude in this exaggerated picture of his misfortunes before they have happened.
When Northumberland comes back with the message from Bolingbroke, he exclaims, anticipating the result,
“What must the king do now ? Must he submit?
The king shall do it: must he be depos’d?
The king shall be contented: must he lose
The name of king? O'God's name let it go.
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads;
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage;
My gay apparel for an almos-man's gown;
My figur'd goblets for a dish of wood;
My sceptre for a palmer's walking staff;
My subjects for a pair of carved saints,
And my large kingdom for a little grave-
A little, little grave, an obscure grave.”
How differently is all this expressed in King Henry's soliloquy during the battle with Edward's party :
“ This battle fares like to the morning's war,
When dying clouds contend with growing light,
What time the shepherd blowing of his pails,
Can neither call it perfect day or night.
Here on this mole-hill will I sit me down;
To whom God will, there be the victory !
For Margaret my Queen and Clifford too
Have chid me from the battle, swearing both
They prosper best of all whence I am thence.
Would I were dead, if God's good will were so.
For what is in this world but grief and wo ??
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 hour full complete,
How many hours bring about the day,
How many days will finish up the year,
How many years a mortal man way live.
When this is known, then to divide the times :
So many hours must I tend my flock,
So many hours must I take my rest,
So many hours must I contemplate,
So many hours must I sport myself;
So many days my ewes have been with young,
So many weeks ere the poor fools will yean,
So many months ere I shall shear the feece:
So many minutes, hours, weeks, months, and years
Past over, to the end they were created,
Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.
Ab! what a life were this! how sweet, how lovely!
Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade
To shepherds looking on their silly sheep,
Than doth a rich embroidered canopy
To kings that fear their subjects' treachery?
O yes it doth, a thousand fold it doth.
And to conclude, the shepherd's homely curds,
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle,
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade,
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys,
Is far beyond a prince's delicates,
His viands sparkling in a golden cup,
His body couched in a curious bed,
When care, mistrust, and treasons wait on him."
This is a true and beautiful description of a naturally quiet and contented disposition, and not, like the former, the splenetick effusion of disappointed ambition.
In the last scene of Richard II. his despair lends him courage : he beats the keeper, slays two of his assassins, and dies with imprecations in his mouth against Sir Pierce Exton, who “ had staggered his royal person.” Henry, when he is seized by the , deer-stealers, only reads them a moral lecture on the duty of allegiance and the sanctity of an oath; and when stabbed by Gloucester in the Tower, reproaches him with his crimes, but pardons him his own death.
RICHARD III. may be considered as properly a stage play; it belongs to the theatre, rather than to the closet. We shall therefore criticise it chiefly with a reference to the manner in which we have seen it performed. It is the character in which Garrick came out: it was the second character in which Mr. Kean appeared, and in which he acquired his fame. Shakspeare we have always with us : actors we have only for a few seasons; and therefore some account of them may be acceptable, if not to our contemporaries, to those who come after us, if “ that rich and idle personage, Posterity," should deign to look into our writings.
It is possible to form a higher conception of the character of Richard than that given by Mr. Kean : but we cannot imagine any character represented with greater distinctness and precision, more perfectly articulated in every part. Perhaps indeed there is too much of what is teebnically called execution. When we first saw this celebrated actor in the part, we thought he sometimes failed from an