Abbildungen der Seite


(1) SCENE I.-From Scotland am I stol'n, even of pure love, &c.] “And on that parte that marched upon Scotlande, he laied watches and espialles, that no persone should go out of the realme to kyng Henry and his company, which then laye soiornyng in Scotlande; but whatsoever ieoperdy or peryll might bee construed or demed to have insued by the meanes of kyng Henry, all suche doubtes were now shortly resolved and determined, and all feare of his doynges were clerely put under and extinct; for he hymselfe, whether he were past all feare, or was not well stablished in his perfite mynde, or could not long kepe hymselfe secrete, in a disguysed apparell boldely entered into Englande. He was no soner entered, but he was knowen and taken of one Cantlowe, and brought towarde the kyng, whom the erle of Warwicke met on the waie, by the kynges commaundement, and brought hym through London to the towre, and there he was laied in sure holde."-Hall.

(2) SCENE II.-

Because in quarrel of the house of York

The worthy gentleman du lose his life.] This is an error. Sir John Grey fell at the second battle of St. Alban's, while fighting, not on the side of York, but Lancaster; a fact of which Shakespeare was subsequently aware, since, in “ Richard III.” Act I, Sc. 3, Richard, addressing Queen Elizabeth, remarks,

"In all which time, you, and your husband Grey,
Were factious for the house of Lancaster ;-
And, Rivers, so were you:-was not your husband

In Margaret's battle at Saint Alban's slain?" It may not be out of place to introduce here a portion of Hall's description of King Edward's first interview with the lady Grey, upon which the present scene was founded :

“The king being on huntyng in the forest of Wychwod besyde Stonnystratforde, came for his recreacion to the mannor of Grafton, where the duches of Bedford sojorned, then wyfe to sir Richard Wodvile, lord Ryvers, on whom then was attendyng a doughter of hers, called dame Elizabeth Greye, wydow of sir Ihon Grey knight, slayn at the last batteil of saincte Albons, by the power of kyng Edward. This wydow havyng a suyt to the king, either to be restored by hym to some thyng taken from her, or requyring hym of pitie, to have some augmentacion to her livyng, founde such grace in the kynges eyes, that he not onely favored her suyte, but much more phantasied her person, for she was a woman more of formal countenaunce, then of excellent beautie, but yet of such beautie and favor, that with her sober demeanure, lovely lokyng, and femynyne smylyng, (neither to wanton nor to humble) besyde her toungue so eloquent, and her wit so pregnant, she was able to ravishe the mynde of a meane person, when she allured, and made subject to her, the hart of so great a king. After that kyng Edward had well considered all the linyamentes of her body, and the wise and womanly demeanure that he saw in her, he determined first to attempt, if he might provoke her to be his sovereigne lady, promisyng her many giftes and fayre rewardes, affirmynge farther, that if she woulde therunto condiscend, she myght so fortune of his peramour and concubyne, to be chaunged to his wyfe and lawfull bedfelow : whiche demaunde she so wisely and with so covert speache aunswered and wopugned, affirmynge that as she was for his honor farre unable to be hys spouse and bedfelow : So for her awne poore honestie, she was to good to be either hys concubyne, or sovereigne lady : that where he was a littel before heated with the dart of Cupid, he was nowe set all on a hote burnyng fyre, what for the con

fidence that he had in ver perfyte constancy, and tho trust that he had in her constant chastitie, and without any farther deliberacion, he determined with him selfe clerely to marye with her, after that askyng counsaill or them, whiche he knewe neither woulde nor once durst impugne his concluded purpose. But the duches of Yorke hys mother letted it as much as in her lay alledgyng a precontract made by hym with the lady Lucye, and divers other lettes: al which doubtes were resolved, and all thinges made clere and all cavillacions avoyded. And so, privilie in a mornyng he maried her at Grafton, where he first phantasied her visage.”



I came from Edward as ambassador,

But I return his sworn and mortal foe.] Shakespeare s relation of Warwick's embassy and commission, and the rupture between king Edward and him in consequence of the former's marriage with lady Grey, are strictly accordant with the statements of Hall and Holinshed; but, as Ritson observes, " later as well as earlyer writers, of better authority, incline us to discredit the whole ; and to refer the rupture between the king and his political creator to causes which have not reached posterity, or to that jealousy and ingratitude so natural, perhaps, to those who are under great obligations, too great to be discharged. ' Beneficia (says Tacitus) eð usque læta sunt, dum videntur exsolvi posse : ubi multum ant venere, pro gratia odium redditur.'

Hall's narration of the circumstances, which appears to have been that adopted by the poet, is as follows :

“ The same yere he [Warwick) cam to kyng Lewes the .xi. then beyng Frenche kyng, liying at Tours, and with greate honor was there received, and honorably interteined: of whom, for kyng Edward his master, he demaunded to have in mariage the lady Bona, doughter to Lewes duke of Savoy, and suster to the lady Carlot, then French Quene, beyng then in the Frenche court. This mariage semeth pollitiquely devised, and of an high imaginacion to be invented, if you will well consider, the state and condicion of king Edwardes affaires, which at this time, had kyng Henry the vi, in sase custody, in the strong toure of London, and the moste parte of his adherentes, ho had as he thought, either profligated or extinct, Quene Margaret onely except, and Prince Edward her sonne, which wer then sojornyng at Angiers, with old Duke Reiner of Anjow her father, writyng hymself kyng of Naples, Scicile, and Jerusalem, having as much profites of the letters of his glorious stile, as rentes and revenues out of the said large and riche realmes and dominions, (because the kyng of Arragon toke the profites of the same, and would make no accompt therof to duke Reiner). Kyng Edward therfore thought it necessary, to have affinitie in Fraunce, and especially by the Quenes suster : which Quene although she ruled not the kyng her husband, (as many women do) yet he of a certain especiall humilitie, was more content to have her favor and folowe her desire, (for wedded men oftentymes doubt stormes) rather then to have a lowryng countenaunce, and a ringing peale, when he should go to his rest and quietnes : trusting that by this mariage, quene Margarete (whom the same Quene Carlot litle or nothyng regarded, although her father was called a kyng and she a quene, and none of both having subjectes, profites, nor dominions) should have no aide, succor, nor any comfort of the French king, nor of ncro of his frendes nor alies, wherforo quene Carlot much desirous to advance her blod and progenie, and especially to so great a prince as kyng Edward was, obteyned both the good will of the kyng her husband, and also of her syster, so that the matrimony on that syde was clerely assented to.

But when the erle of Warwycke had perfit knowledge by the letters of his trusty frendes, that kyng Edward had gotten him a new wyfe, and that all that he had done with kyng Lewes in his ambassade for the conjoynyng of this new affinitie, was both frustrate and vayn, he was earnestly moved and sore chafed with the chaunce, and thought it necessarye that king Edward should bé de

(1) SCENE VI.- My liege, it is young lienry, earl of Richmond.] “Henry, Earl of Richmond, was the son of Edmond and Margaret, daughter to John the first Duke of Somerset.' Edmond, Earl of Richmond, was half-brother to King Henry the Sixth, being the son of that king's mother, Queen Catharine, by her second husband, Owen Teuther, or Tudor, who was taken prisoner at the battle of Mortimer's Cross, and soon afterwards beheaded at Hereford.

“Henry the Seventh, to show his gratitude to Henry the Sixth for this early presage in his favour, solicited Pope Julius to canonize him as a saint; but, either Henry would not pay the money demanded, or, as Bacon supposes, the Pope refused, lest, “as Henry was reputed in the world abroad but for a simple man, the estimation of that kind of honour might be diminished, if there were not a distance kept between innocents and saints.”” MALONE


(1) SCENE VI.-0, God forgive my sins, and pardon theed] The circumstances attending the death of Henry VI. are involved in deep obscurity. The balance of testimony supports the popular tradition that he was murdered on the night of Edward's entry into London, 21st May, 1471 :—“And the same nyghte that Kynge Edwarde came to Londone, Kynge Herry, beynge inwarde in presone in the Toure of Londone, was putt to dethe, the xxj. day of Maij, on a tywesday nyght, betwyx xj. and xij. of the cloke, beynge thenne at the Toure the Duke of Gloucetre, brothere to Kynge Edwardo, and many other; and one the morwe he was chestyde and brought to Paulys, and his face was opyne that every manne myghte see hyme; and in hys lyinge he bledde one tho pament ther; and afterward at the Blake Fryres was broughte, and ther he blede new and fresche ; and from thens he was caryed to Chyrchsey abbey in a bote, and buryed there in oure Lady chapelle."

Dr. Warkworth, whose chronicle furnishes the above extract, was a contemporary writer, Master of St. Peter's College, Cambridge, from 1473 to 1498, and a man of learning and ability. Fabyan, a citizen of London in the

posed from his croune and royal dignitie, as an inconstant prince, not worthy of such a kyngly office. All men for the most parte agre, that this mariage was the only cause, why the erle of Warwycke bare grudge, and made warré on kynge Edwarde. Other affirme that ther wer other causes, which added to this, made the fyre to flame, which before was but a litell smoke."


I have not been desirous of their wealth,

Nor much oppress'd them with great subsidies.] In speaking of the impost called a fifteen, or fifteenth (see note (a), p. 380), we described it as a tax of the fifteenth part of all the personal property of each subject; but we should have added that, subsequently to the 8th of Edward III., when a taxation was made upon all the cities, towns, boroughs, &c., by compositions, the fifteenth became a sum certain, namely, the fifteenth part of their then existing value. The distinction between the taxes called fifteenths and tenths (quindismes and dismes), and the subsidy, in later times, Camden expresses thus :A fifteen and a tenth (that I may note it for forrainers' sakes) is a certain taxation upon every city, borough, and town; not every particular man, but in general in respect of the fifteenth part of the wealth of the place. A subsidy we call that which is imposed upon every man, being cessed by the powle, man by man, according to the valuation of their goods and lands."

time of Henry the Seventh, is more explicit :-"Of the death of this Prynce dyverse tales were tolde: but the most common fame wente, that he was stykked with a dagger by the handes of the Duke of Gloucester."

On the other hand, the Yorkist party contended that the deposed monarch died of grief and melancholy :-“In every party of England, where any commotion was begonne for Kynge Henry's party, anono they were rebuked, so that it appered to every mann at eye the sayde partie was extincte and repressed for evar, without any mannar hope of agayne quikkening: utterly despaired of any maner of hoope or releve. The certaintie of all whiche came to the knowledge of the sayd Henry, late called Kyng, being in the Tower of London ; not havynge, afore that, knowledge of the saide matars, he toke it to so great dispite, ire, and indingnation, that, of pure displeasure, and melencoly, he dyed the xxiij day of the monithe of May. Whom the kynge dyd to be browght to the friers prechars at London, and there, his funerall service donne, to be caried, by watar, to an Abbey upon Thamys syd, xvj myles from London, called Chartsey, and there honorably enteryd." --Arrivall of Edward IV.




“SHAKSPEARE's choice fell first on this period of English history, so full of misery and horrors of every kind, because the pathetic is naturally more suitable than the characteristic to a young poet's mind. We do not yet find here the whole maturity of his genius, yet certainly its whole strength. Careless as to the apparent unconnectedness of contemporary events, he bestows little attention on preparation and development : all the figures follow in rapid succession, and announce themselves emphatically for what we ought to take them ; from scenes where the effect is sufficiently agitating to form the catastrophe of a less extensive plan, the poet perpetually hurries us on to catastrophes still more dreadful.

“The First Part contains only the first forming of the parties of the White and Red Rose, under which blooming ensigns such bloody deeds were afterwards perpetrated; the varying results of the war in France principally fill the stage. The wonderful saviour of her country, Joan of Arc, is pourtrayed by Shakspeare with an Englishman's prejudices : yet he at first leaves it doubtful whether she has not in reality a heavenly mission; she appears in the pure glory of virgin heroism ; by her supernatural eloquence (and this circumstance is of the poet's invention) she wins over the Duke of Burgundy to the French cause ; afterwards, corrupted by vanity and luxury, she has recourse to hellish fiends, and comes to a miserable end. To her is opposed Talbot, a rough iron warrior, who moves us the more powerfully, as, in the moment when he is threatened with inevitable death, all his care is tenderly directed to save his son, who performs his first deeds of arms under his eye. After Talbot has in vain sacrificed himself, and the Maid of Orleans has fallen into the hands of the English, the French provinces are completely lost by an impolitic marriage ; and with this the piece ends. The conversation between the aged Mortimer in prison, and Richard Plantagenet, afterwards Duke of York, contains an exposition of the claims of the latter to the throne: considered by itself, it is a beautiful tragic elegy.

“In the Second Part, the events more particularly prominent are the murder of the honest Protector, Gloucester, and its consequences ; the death of Cardinal Beaufort ; the parting of the Queen from her favourite Suffolk, and his death by the hands of savage pirates ; then the insurrection of Jack Cade under an assumed name, and at the instigation of the Duke of York. The short scene where Cardinal Beaufort, who is tormented by his conscience on account of the murder of Gloucester, is visited on his death-bed by Henry VI., is sublime beyond all praise. Can any other poet be named who has drawn aside the curtain of eternity at the close of this life with such overpowering and awful effect ? And yet it is not mere horror with which the mind is filled, but solemn emotion ; a blessing and a curse stand side by side ; the pious King is an image of the heavenly mercy which, even in the sinner's last moments, labours to enter into his soul. The adulterous passion of Queen Margaret and Suffolk is invested with tragical dignity, and all low and ignoble ideas carefully kept out of sight. Without

[ocr errors]


attempting to gloss over the crime of which both are guilty, without seeking to remove our disapprobation of this criminal love, he still, by the magic force of expression, contrives to excite in us a sympathy with their sorrow. In the insurrection of Cade he has delineated the conduct of a popular demagogue, the fearful ludicrousness of the anarchical tumult of the people, with such convincing truth, that one would believe he was an eye-witness of many of the events of our age, which, from ignorance of history, have been considered as without example.

“ The civil war only begins in the Second Part; in the Third it is unfolded in its full destructive fury. The picture becomes gloomier and gloomier ; and seems at last to be painted rather with blood than with colours. With horror we behold fury giving birth to fury, vengeance to vengeance, and see that when all the bonds of human society are violently torn asunder, even noble matrons became hardened to cruelty. The most bitter contempt is the portion of the unfortunate ; no one affords to his enemy that pity which he will himself shortly stand in need of. With all, party is family, country, and religion, the only spring of action. As York, whose ambition is coupled with noble qualities, prematurely perishes, the object of the whole contest is now either to support an imbecile king, or to place on the throne a luxurious monarch, who shortens the dear-bought possession by the gratification of an insatiable voluptuousness. For this the celebrated and magnanimous Warwick spends his chivalrous life ; Clifford revenges the death of his father with blood-thirsty filial love; and Richard, for the elevation of his brother, practises those dark deeds by which he is soon after to pave the way to his own greatness. In the midst of the general misery, of which he has been the innocent cause, King Henry appears like the powerless image of a saint, in whose wonder-working influence no man any longer believes : he can but sigh and weep over the enormities which he witnesses. In his simplicity, however, the gift of prophecy is lent to this pious king : in the moment of his death, at the close of this great tragedy, he prophesies & still more dreadful tragedy with which futurity is pregnant, as much distinguished for the poisonous wiles of cold-blooded wickedness as the former for deeds of savage fury.”—SCHLEGEL,


[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »