« PreviousContinue »
CHORUS. — “ Leoshd in like hounds, should famine,
sword, and fire," &c. FAMINE, sword, and fire are " the dogs of war," in Julius Cæsar. In Shakspere's favourite Chronicler, Holinshed, they are “handmaidens.” Henry V. addressing himself to the people of Rouen, "declared that the goddess of battle, called Bellona, had three handmaidens ever of necessity attending tipon ber, as blood, fire, and famine.”
Again, in the chorus to the third Act :
" Still be kind, And eke out our performance with your mind." Those, in our own day, who have been accustomed to see such a play as Henry V. got up with battalions of combatants, may laugh at the necessity for apologizing for
“four or five most vile and ragged foils, Right ill dispos'd in brawl ridiculous."But, after all, the battles and processions of the modern theatre are still "mockeries;" and the spectator must be called upon to "make imaginary puissance." Those who attempt to dispense with the imagination of the audience, instead of merely assisting it, forget the higher objects of the poet.
3 SCENE I.-" Hear him but reason in divinity."
? CHORUS. –“ But pardon, gentles all." In Sir Philip Sidney's “ Defence of Poesie,” the attempts to introduce battles upon the stage are thus ridiculed : “Two armies flying, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field ?" Shakspere, in this chorus, does not defend this absurdity, although the remarks of the accomplished author of the Arcadia might have led him here to apologize for it. It is well remarked, however, by Schle -el, that our poet has not entertained such a scruple“ in the occasion of many other great battles, and among others of that of Philippi." The reason, we think, is obvious. In this play Shakspere put forth all the strergth of his nationality. The battle of Agincourt was the greatest event of all his chronicle-histories ;Henry V. was, unquestionably. his favourite hero. But the events depicted in this play were, to a certain extent, undramatic :—they belonged to the epic region of poetry. Hence the introduction of the chorus, which imparts a lyric character to the whole performance; and hence the apology for the “unworthy scaffold,"—the “cock-pit," — the “wooden 0,"_by which terms the poet designated his comparatively small and rude theatre. He meets the difficulty in the only way in which it could be
The commentators give us some long notes upon Warburton's theory, that this passage was a compliment to the theological acquirements of James I. It does not appear to us that such conjectures offer any proper illustration of Shakspere. This scene, we apprehend, was written at the same time with the choruses,—that is, four years before the accession of James. Johnson very justly observes, that “the poet, if he had James in his thoughts, was no skilful encomiast; for the mention of Harry's skill in war forced upon the remembrance of his audience the great deficiency of their present king." The praises of Henry, which Shakspere puts into the mouth of the Archbishop of Canterbury, bad no latent reference. They are strictly in accordance with the historical opinion of that prince; and they are even subdued when compared with the extravagant eulogies of the Chroniclers. Hall, for example, says, “this prince was almost the Arabical Phønix, and amongst his predecessors a very Paragon.
This Henry was a king whose life was immaculate, and his living without spot. This king was a prince whom all men loved, and of none disdained. This prince was a captain against whom fortune never frowned, nor mischance once spurned. This captain was a shepherd whom his flock loved, and lovingly obeyed. This shepherd was such a justiciary that no offence was unpunished, nor friendship unrewarded. This justiciary was so feared, that all rebellion was banished, and sedition suppressed." The education of Henry was, literally, in the “practick part of life. At eleven years of age he was a student at Oxford, under the care of his uncle Beaufort. In a small room over the ancient gateway of Queen's College was Henry loʻlged; and here, under the rude portraits in stained glass of his uncle and himself, was the following inscription, which Wood gives in his “ Athenæ Oxonienses : "
IN PERPETUAM REI MEMORIAM.
OLIM MAGNUS INCOLA. The “hostium victor et sui” is one of the many evidences of the universality, if not of the truth, of the tradition that,
“his addiction was to courses vain." His early removal from the discipline of the schools to the license of the camp, could not have been advantageous to the morals of the high-spirited boy. That he was a favourite of Richard II. we know by the fact of his knighting him during his Irish expedition.
His subsequent command of the Welsh army, when little more than fourteen, was a circumEtance still less favourable to his self-control. That the “insolency and wildness" of the boy should be the result of such uncurbed and irresponsible power, is quite as credible as that the man should have put on such “gravity and soberness,"_" the flower of kings past, and a glass to them that should succeed."
My great grandfather Nerer went with his forces into France,” &c. In Andrew of Wyntoun’s ‘Cronykil of Scotland, we have a curious picture of the supposed defenceless state of England when the king was absent upon foreign conquests :
S SCENE II.-—" For government,” &c. In a foot-note upon this passage, we have given a quotation of Cicero, for the purpose of suggesting a correction of the text. But this passage, which, taken altogether, is a very remarkable one, opens up the qucestio vexata of the learning of Shakspere, to an extent which it would be very difficult completely to follow. The considerations involved in this passage are briefly these : the words of Cicero, to which the lines of Shakspere have so close a resemblance, form part of a frag. ment of that portion of his lost treatise, “De Republicà,' which is presented to us only in the
4 SCENE II.
" Thai sayd, that thai mycht rycht welle fare
Til Lwndyn, for in Ingland than
writings of St. Augustin, The first question,
Put into parts, doth keep in one concent,
The state of man in divers functions," develop, unquestionably, the great Platonic doctrine of the tri-unity of the three principles in man, and the identity of the idea of man with the idea of a state. The particular passage of Plato's 'Republic,' to which we refer, is in the fourth hook, and may be thus rendered : “ It is not alone wisdona and strength which make a state simply wise and strong, but it (Order), like that harmony called the Diapason, is diffused throughout the whole state, making both the weakest, and the strongest, and the middling people concent the same melody.” Again, “ The harmonic power of political justice is the same as that inusical conceut which connects three chords, the octave, the bass, and the fifth." Platonism was studied in England at the time that Shakspere began to write. Coleridge tells us, “The accomplished author of Arcadia, – the star of serenest brilliance in the glorious constellation of Elizabeth's court, our England's Sir Philip Sidney --held high converse with Spenser on the idea of super-sensual beauty." We find in Theobald's edition a notice of the resemblance between the passages in Shakspere and Cicero We are indebted to a friend for the suggestion of the greater resemblance in the passages of Plato, from which source he thinks Shakspere derived the idea. This is one of the many evidences of our poet's acquaintance, directly or indirectly, with the classical writers, which Dr. Farmer passes over in his one-sided · Essay on the learning of Shakspeare.' There was no trans
lation of Plato in Shakspere's time, except a single dialogue by Spenser. From Spenser's "high converse" he, perhaps, received the thought, as beautiful as profound, which he has thus embodied ;but however he obtained it, he used it as one who was not meddling with learning in anignorant spirit. We find the same thought, though not so clearly expressed as by Shakspere, in the poems of Fulke Grevile, Lord Brooke, “Servant to Queen Elizabeth, Counsellor to King James, and friend to Sir Philip Sidney." The " Treatise on Monarchie,' in which it occurs, was not published till 1670. Lord Brooke belonged to the same school of philosophy as his friend Sidney
“For as the harmony which sense admires,
Of discords (yet according) is compounded,
So must the throne and people both affect
Discording tones united with respect.
And therein each estate to be no more,
Than instruments out of their makers' store." 6 SCENE II.-"So work the honey bees." Malone gives us a passage from Lyly's 'Euphues and his England, 1580, which, be has no doubt, suggested this fine description. This is probable; but, nevertheless, the lines before us are a remarkable instance of the power of Shakspere in the improvennent of everything he borrowed. It is not only in the poetical elevation of the description that the improvement consists, but in the rejection of whatever is false or redundant. Lyly says, “ They call a Parliament, wherein they consult for laws, statutes, penalties, choosing officers, and creating their king.” This is the reasoning faculty and not the instinctive ; and Shakspere shows the greater truth in his philosophy in referring "the act of order” in the bees to "a rule in nature." The description before us is found in the quarto edition, with no material difference, except the omission of the two following lines :
The opening scene of this play furnishes an apt example of the dramatic power of Shakspere. Dr. Johnson made speeches for Chatham and Grenville, upon knowing the subject of a parliamentary discussion; but bis speakers do not talk with anything like the reality of Canterbury and Ely in the dialogue before us. The bill for the appropriation of " the temporal lands devoutly given, and disordinately spent by religious and other spiritual persons” (as Hall has it) introduced in the second year of Henry V. was no doubt a cause of great alarm to the clergy. Hall, who
“ The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burthens at his narrow gate."
was as bitter a hater of priests as Hume, says, " this before-remembered bill was much noted and fear'd amongst the religious sorts whom in effect it much touched, insomuch that the fat abbots sweat, the proud friars frown'd, the poor friars curs'd, the sely nuns wept.” Shakspere has none of this somewhat gross hatred of the church; but he has followed the Chroniclers in attributing the war with France to the instigation of the bishops. Hall gives the speech of Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, thereto newly preferred, which before time had been a
monk of the Carthusians," at great length, and in the first person. Holinshed paraphrases it. We have no doubt, from the coincidence of particular expressions, that Shakspere had both Chroniclers before him ; although he follows Holinshed in a blunder which we have noticed. It would be tedious to give these passages from the Chroniclers ;—and the only use would be to show how Shakspere's art made the dullest things spirited, and the most prosaic poetical.
The incident of the tennis balls is found in Holinshed. There has been a good deal of reasonable doubt thrown upon this statement, -aud, indeed, it seems altogether opposed to the general temper of the French, who in their negotiations with Henry appear to have been moderate and conciliatory. The best evidence for its truth is the following passage from an inedited MS. in the British Museum, apparently written at the period, and first published by Sir Harris Nicolas in his admirable History of the Battle of Agincourt:'
“The Dolphine of Fraunce aunswered to our ambassatoure, and said in this manner, that the Kyng was over yong, and to tender of age, to make any warre ayens hym, and was not lyke yet to be noo
good werrioure to doo and make suche a conquest there npon hym; and somewhat in cornet and dispite he sente to hym a tonne full of tenys ballis, because he wolde have somewhat for to play withall for hym and for hys lordis, and that became bym better than to mayntain any were : and than anon our lordes that was embassadours token hir leve and comen into England ayenne, and told the Kyng and bis counceill of the ungoodly aunswer that they had of the Dolphyn, and of the present the which he had sent unto the Kyng: and whan the Kyng had hard her wordis, and the aunswere of the Dolpynne he was wondre sore agreved, and right evell apayd towarde the Frensshmen, and toward the King and the Dolphynne, and thought to avenge hym upon hem as sone as God wold send hym grace and myght, and anon lette make tenys ballis for the Dolphynne, in all the hast tbat they myght be made; and they were great gonne stones for the Dolpynne to play wyth all.”
There is some doubt whether the balls were “ tennis balls." This extract uses that word, although it might not apply to the game of Shakspere's time. Holinshed calls them “ Paris balls."
Now all the youth of England are on fire, Have, for the gilt of France, (O guilt, indeed!)
The sum is paid; the traitors are agreed ;
There is the playhouse now, there must you sit : The French, advis'd by good intelligence
And thence to France shall we convey you safe, Of this most dreadful preparation,
And bring you back, charming the narrow seas Shake in their fear; and with pale policy To give you gentle pass; for, if we may, Seek to divert the English purposes.
We'll not offend one stomach with our play. O England ! model to thy inward greatness, But, till the king come forth, and not till then, Like little body with a mighty heart,
Unto Southampton do we shift our scene." What might'st thou do, that honour would thee do,
a The ordinary reading is, Were all thy children kind and natural !
“Linger your patience on; and well digest Bat see thy fault! France hath in thee found out
The abuse of distance, while we force a play."
Pope changed the "wee'l" of the folio to well, and added A nest of hollow bosoms, which he fills
while we. The passage is evidently corrupt; and we believe With treacherous crowns; and three corrupted
thor's copy; for “the abuse of distance" is inapplicable as men, One, Richard earl of Cambridge; and the second,
b The Chorus plainly says, -after having described the
treason which is to take place " in Southampton,"—not till Henry lord Scroop of Masham; and the third, the king come forth do we shift our scene to that place.
The previous scene in Eastcheap occurs before the king Sir Thomas Grey, knight, of Northumberland, - does come forth.—This intimation of the Chorus was to
prevent the scene in Eastcheap coming abruptly upon the
audience. The first “ till," however, should be " when," * This chorus first appears in the folio of 1623.
that the two lines were intended to be erased from the au
the lines stand.
to make the sense clear.