« PreviousContinue »
“ Fitzwater. If that thy valour stand on sympathies,
Aumerle. Thou dar'st not, coward, live to see the day.
Percy, Aumerle, thou liest ; his honour is as true,
Aumerle. And if I do not, may my hands rot off,
Surry. My lord Fitzwater, I remember well
Fitzwater. My lord, 'tis true: you were in presence then :
Surry. As false, by heav'n, as heav'n itself is true.
Surry. Dishonourable boy,
Fitzwater. How fondly dost thou spur a forvard horse :
To tie thee to thy strong correction.
The truth is, that there is neither truth nor honour in all these noble persons : they answer words with words, as they do blows with blows, in mere selfdefence: nor have they any principle whatever but that of courage in maintaining any wrong they dare commit, or any falsehood which they find it useful to assert. How different were these noble knights and “barons bold” from their more refined descendants in the present day, who, instead of deciding questions of right by brute force, refer every thing to convenience, fashion, and good breeding ! In point of any abstract love of truth or justice, they are just the same now that they were then.
The characters of old John of Gauut and of his brother York, uncles to the King, the one stern and foreboding, the other honest, good-natured, doing all for the best, and therefore doing nothing, are well kept up. The speech of the former, in praise of England, is one of the most eloquent that ever was penned. We should perhaps hardly be disposed to feed the pampered egotism of our countrymen by quoting this description, were it not that the conclusion of it (which looks prophetick) may qualify any improper degree of exultation.
“ This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
this teeming womb of royal kings,
The character of Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV., is drawn with a masterly hand :-patient for occasion, and then steadily availing himself of it, seeing his advantage afar off, but only seizing on it when he has it within his reach, humble, crafty, bold and aspiring, encroaching by regular but slow degrees, building power on opinion, and cementing opinion by power. His disposition is first unfolded by Richard himself, who however is too self-willed and secure to make a proper use of his knowledge.
“Ourself and Bushy, Bagot here and Green,
As 'twere to banish their affections with him.
Afterwards, he gives his own character to Percy, in these words :
“ I thank thee, gentle Percy, and be sure
We know how he afterwards kept his promise. His bold assertion of his own rights, his pretended submission to the king, and the ascendancy which he tacitly assumes over him without openly claiming it, as soon as he has him in his power, are characteristick traits of this ambitious and politick usurper. But the part of Richard himself gives the chief interest to the play. His folly, his vices, his missortunes, his' reluctance to part with the crown, his fear to keep it, his weak and womanish regrets, his starting tears, his fits of hectick passion, his smothered majesty, pass in succession before us, and make a picture as natural as it is affecting. Among the most striking touches of pathos are his wish “ that I were a mockery king of snow, to melt away before the sun of Bolingbroke,” and the incident of the poor groom who comes to visit him in prison, and tells him how" it yearned his heart, that Bolingbroke, upon his coronation day, rode
on Roan Barbary." We shall have occasion to return hereafter to the character of Richard II., speaking of Henry VI. There is only one passage more, the description of his entrance into London with Bolingbroke, which we should like to quote here, if it had not been so used and worn out, so thumbed and got by rote, so praised and painted ; but its beauty surmounts all these considerations.
“ Duchess. My lord, you told me you would tell the rest, When weeping made you break the story off Of our two cousins coming into London.
York. Where did I leave ?
Duchess. At that sad stop, my lord,
York. Then, as I said, the duke, great Bolingbroke,
York. As in a theatre, the eyes of men,