that the play was written to please Elizabeth. The memory of Henry VIII., perhaps, was not cherished by her with any deep affection; but would she, who in her dying hour is reported to have said, “ My seat has been the seat of kings," allow the frailties, and even the peculiarities, of her father to be made a public spectacle? Would she have borne that his passion for her mother should have been put forward in the strongest way by the poet--that is, in the sequence of the dramatic action—as the impelling motive for his divorce from Katharine? Would she have tolerated the masquescene immediately succeeding that in which Katharine is told by her husband, “ You have half our power”? Would she have endured that her father, upon his next appearance after the meeting with Anne Bullen, when he exclaims,

“ The fairest hand I ever touch'd! O beauty,

Till now I never knew thee!”— and

By Heaven she is a dainty one! Sweetheart,
I were unmannerly to take you out,

And not to kiss you "that he should be represented in the depth of his hypocrisy gloating over his projected divorce, with—

“ But conscience, conscience, O! 'tis a tender place, and I must leave her"? Would she have been pleased with the jests of the old lady to Anne upon her approaching elevation—her title-her “thousand pound a-year”—and all to be instantly followed by the trial-scene,—that magnificent exhibition of the purity, the constancy, the fortitude, the grandeur of soul, the self-possession, of the “most poor woman and a stranger” that her mother had supplanted; contrasted with the heartless coldness, salved over with a more heartless commendation of his injured wife, from the hypocritical tyrant, who ends the defence of his conduct, expressed in

“ the sharp thorny points
Of my alleged reasons drive this forward,”
with the real truth, spoken aside,

I may perceive
These cardinals trifle with me * * *

Prithee return! with thy approach I know

My comfort comes" ? Finally, would she bave licensed the stage exhibition of her father's traditionary peculiarities, in addition to the portraiture, which can

Vol. VII.


not be mistaken, of his sensual, arrogant, impatient, and crafty character? Would she have laughed at his perpetual “ha!”; or taken away Burbage's licence? Would she have wept over the most touching sorrow of the dying Katharine; or sent Shakspere to join the company of his friend Southampton in the Tower ? Those who have written on the subject say she would have borne all this; and that the pageant of her mother's coronation, with the succeeding representation of her own christening, capped with the prophecy of her future greatness, were to ensure the harmlessness of all these somewhat explosive materials, and to carry forward the five acts to a most felicitous conclusion

“ This little one shall make it holiday." Malone, as it appears to us, says all that can be said, in the literal way, to prove that such a drama as this would be acceptable to Elizabeth : “ It is more likely that Shakspeare should have written a play the chief subject of which is the disgraces of Queen Katharine, the aggrandizement of Anne Boleyn, and the birth of her daughter, in the lifetime of Elizabeth, than after her death ; at a time when the subject must have been highly pleasing at court, rather than at a period when it must have been less interesting. Queen Katharine, it is true, is represented as an amiable character, but still she is eclipsed ; and the greater her merit, the higher was the compliment to the mother of Elizabeth, to whose superior beauty she was obliged to give way.* This is the prosaic, we may say the essentially grovelling, mode of viewing the object of Shakspere,-an object pre-supposing equal vulgarity of mind in the dramatist and his court audience. Our readers will be sure that we appreciate far more highly Mr. Campbell's poetical creed in this matter:

“Shakspeare contrives, though at the sacrifice of some historical truth, to raise the matron Katharine to our highest admiration, whilst at the same time he keeps us in love with Anne Boleyn, and on tolerable terms with Henry VIII. But who does not see, under all this wise management, the drift of his design, namely, to compliment Elizabeth as a virgin queen; to interest us in the memory of her mother Anne Boleyn; and to impress us with a belief of her innocence, though she suffered as an alleged traitress to the bed of Henry? The private death of Katharine of Arragon might have been still remembered by many living persons, but the death of Anne Boleyn was still more fresh in public recollection; and a wiser expedient could not have been devised for asserting the innocence of Elizabeth's mother than by portraying Henry's injustice towards Queen Katharine. For we are obliged to infer that, if the tyrant could thus misuse the noble Katharine, the purest innocence in her lovely successor could be no shield against his cruelty.”*

* Chronological Order, p. 390.

There is one slight objection to this theory. Shakspere wrote for an audience; and an audience is a thing of impulses; it sympathizes with the oppressed, and hates the oppressor. An audience does not “infer.The poet who trusts to an audience perceiving “ the drift of his design,” through the veil of a dramatic action which moves their feelings entirely in an opposite direction to that in which he intends them to be moved, has, to our minds at least, a different theory of his art from that of Shakspere.

We had intended to have said something on “ The Prologue," which the commentators hold was written by Ben Jonson, to allow him an occasion of sneering at Shakspere’s fools and battle-scenes. But as we hold that the Prologue is a complete exposition of the idea of this drama, we shall return to it in our Supplementary Notice. The Prologue is fastened upon Jonson, upon the theory that he wrote it after Shakspere's retirement from the stage, when the old play was revived in his absence. We believe in the one piece of external evidence,—that a ‘Henry VIII.' was produced in 1613, when the Globe was burned; that it was a new play; that it was then called All is True;' and that this title agrees with the idea upon which Shakspere wrote the ‘Henry VIII.' Those who believe that it was written in the time of Elizabeth have to reject this one piece of external evidence. We further believe, from the internal evidence, that the play, as it stands, was written in the time of James I., and that we have received it in its original form. Those who assert the contrary have to resort to the hypothesis of interpolation; and, further, have to explain how many things which are, to a plain understanding, inconsistent with their theory, may be interpreted, by great ingenuity, to be consistent. We believe that Shakspere, amongst his latest dramas, constructed an historical drama to complete his great series-one that was agreeable to the one of his mind after his fiftieth year :

“Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe.' Those who take the opposite view hold that the chief object of the poet was to produce something which might be acceptable to Queen Elizabeth. Our belief is the obvious one; the contrary belief may be the more ingenious. * Life. Moxon's edition of Shakspeare.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

The male costume of the reign of Henry VIII, has been rendered familiar to our very chíldren by the innumerable portraits of “ Bluff King Hal," principally copied from the paintings by Holbein, and the female costume scarcely less so by those of his six wives. Henry VIII. was born in 1491, and was therefore just thirty years of age at the period at which the play opens (the arrest and impeachment of Buckingham having taken place in 1521), and forty-two at the time it is supposed to close, as above mentioned. The best authorities, therefore, for the dress of the monarch and his nobles at the commencement of this play would be the curious old painting of the meeting of Henry and Francis, preserved at Windsor Castle, and the bas-reliefs representing the same occurrence, at Rouen. The profusion of feathers in the latter-a fashion of the previous reign, and still raging in 1520—adds greatly to the picturesque effect of the general costume. For the later period, the full-length by Holbein engraved in Lodge's Portraits,' or the print by Vertue, in which Henry is seen granting a charter to the barber-surgeons, would be preferable. Of Cardinal Wolsey there is a fine painting by Holbein at Christ Church, Oxford, engraved in Lodge's work. Cavendish, in his “Life of Wolsey,' describes him as issuing out in his cardinal’s habit of fine scarlet or crimson satin, his cap being of black velvet: and in a MS. copy of that interesting work, formerly in the possession of the late Francis Douce, Esq., F.S.A., are three very curious drawings, representing

- 1st, The cardinal's progress on his way to France, with his archers, spearmen, cross, pillar, and purse bearers, &c.; 2ndly, The cardinal surrendering the great seal to the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk; and, 3rdly, Dr. Butts sent by the king and Anne Bullen to the sick cardinal with tokens of favour. The gentlemen in the cardinal's train wore, we are told, black velvet livery-coats, the most part with great chains of gold about their necks; and all his yeomen following were clad in French tawny livery-coats, having embroidered


the backs and breasts of the said coats the letters T and C under the cardinal's hat.

In the same beautiful work by Lodge, before mentioned, the portraits will be found of the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, Cromwell, Sir Thomas More, and Sir Anthony Denny, by Holbein; and Cranmer by Flick, the original painting being in the British Mu

Also a most interesting one of the gallant and accomplished Henry Earl of Surrey, by Titian, who has represented him in a magnificent suit of armour, and thereby given us a splendid specimen of the military costume of the period. In addition to the information conveyed to the eye by this collection of authentic portraits, it will be sufficient to quote, from the sumptuary law passed in the 24th year of Henry's reign, such passages as will describe the materials of which the dresses were made, and which were, indeed, at this time of the most costly kind. The royal family alone were permitted to use the fur of the black jennet; and sables could only be worn by noblemen above the rank of a viscount. Crimson or blue velvet, embroidered apparel, or garments bordered “ with gold sunken work,” were forbidden to any person beneath the quality of a baron or knight's son or heir; and velvet dresses of any colour, furs of martens, chains, bracelets, and collars of gold, were prohibited to all persons possessing less than two hundred marks per annum.

The sons and heirs of such persons were, however, permitted the use of black velvet or damask, and tawny-coloured russet or camlet. Satin and damask gowns were confined to the use of persons possessing at least one hundred marks


« VorigeDoorgaan »