Page images
PDF
EPUB

careless to please where nothing can be gained, and fearless to offend when there is nothing further to be dreaded. Such was this writer's knowledge of the passions.

JOHNSON 25 bid kings come bow to it.] I must here account for the liberty I have taken to make a change in the division of the 2d and 3d acts. In the old editions, the 2d act was made to end here; though it is evident, lady Constance here, in her despair, seats herself on the floor: and she must be supposed, as I formerly observed, immediately to rise again, only to go off and end the act decently; or the flat scene must shut her in from the sight of the audience, an absurdity I cannot accuse Shakspeare of. Mr. Gildon, and some other criticks, fancied, that a considerable part of the 2d act was lost; and that the chasm began here. I had joined in this suspicion of a scene or two being lost; and unwittingly drew Mr. Pope into this error. It seems to be so," says he, and it were to be wish'd the restorer (meaning me) could supply it.To deserve this great man's thanks, I'll venture at the task; and hope to convince my readers, that nothing is lost; but that I have supplied the suspected chasm, only by rectifying the division of the acts. Upon looking a little more narrowly into the constitution of the play, I am satisfied that the 3d act ought to begin with that scene, which has hitherto been accounted the last of the 2d act; and my reasons for it are these : the match being concluded, in the scene before that, betwixt the Dauphin and Blanch, a messenger is sent for lady Constance to king Philip's tent, for her to come to Saint Mary's church to the solemnity. The princes all go out, as to the marriage; and the Bastard staying a little behind, to descant on interest and commodity, very properly ends the act. The next scene then, in the French king's tent, brings us Salisbury delivering his message to Constance, who, refusing to go to the solemnity, sets herself down on the floor. The whole train returning from the church to the French king's pavilion, Philip expresses such satisfaction on occasion of the happy solemnity of that day, that Constance rises from the floor, and joins in the scene. by entering her protest against their joy, and cursing the business of the day. Thus, I conceive, the scenes are fairly continued ; and there is no chasm in the action, but a proper interval made both for Salisbury's coming to lady Constance, and for the solemnization of the marriage. Besides, as Faulconbridge is evidently the poet's favourite character, it was very well judged to close the act with his soliloquy.

THEOBALD. This whole note seems judicious enough ; but Mr. Theobald forgets that there were, in Shakspeare's time, no moveable scenes in common playhouses.

JOHNSON. -plays the alchemist;] Milton has borrowed this thought, Par. Lost, B.3.

-when with one virtuous touch " Th' arch-chemic sun," &c.

26

47 Set armed discord, &c.] Shakspeare makes this bitter curse effectual.

28 O Lymoges ! 0 Austria !] The propriety or impropriety of these titles, which every editor has suffered to pass unnoted, deserves a little consideration. Shakspeare has, on this occasion, followed the old play, which at once furnished him with the character of Faulconbridge, and ascribed the death of Richard I. to the duke of Austria. In the person of Austria, he has conjoined the two well-known enemies of Cæurde-liun. Leopold, duke of Austria, threw him into prison in a former expedition ; but the castle of Chalus, before which he fell, belonged to Vidomar, viscount of Limoges; and the archer, who pierced his shoulder with an arrow (of which wound he died), was Bertrand de Gourdon. The editors seem hitherto to have understood Lymoges as being an appendage to the title of Austria, and therefore enquired no further about it.

With this note I was favoured by a gentleman to whom I have yet more considerable obligations in regard to Shakspeare. His extensive knowledge of history and manners has frequently supplied me with apt and necessary illustrations, at the same time as his judgment has corrected my errors ; yet such has been his constant solicitude to remain concealed, that I know not but I may give offence while I indulge my own vanity in affixing to this note the name of my friend Henry BLAKE, esq.

STERVEYS.

29 And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.] When fools were kept for diversion in great families, they were distinguished by a calf-skin coat, which had the buttons down the back; and this they wore that they might be known for fools, and escape the resentment of those whom they provoked with their waggeries.

In a little penny book, intitled, The Birth, Life, and Death of John Franks, with the Pranks he played though a meer Fool, mention is made in several places of a calf's-skin. In chap. x. of this book, Jack is said to have made his appearance at his lord's table, having then a new calf-skin suit, red and white spotted. This fact will explain the sarcasm of Faulconbridge, who means to call Austria a fool. HAWKINS.

What was the ground of this quarrel of the Bastard to Austria is no where specified in the present play: nor is there in this place, or the scene where it is first hinted at (namely the second of act. 2.), the least mention of any reason for it. But the story is, that Austria, who killed king Richard Caur-de-lion, wore, as the spoil of that prince, a lion's hide which had belonged to him. This circumstance renders the anger of the Bastard very natural, and ought not to have been omitted. In the first sketch of this play (which Shakspeare is said to have had a hand in, jointly with William Rowley), we accordingly find this insisted upon, and I have ventured to place a few of those verses here.

Aust. Methinks, that Richard's pride and Richard's

fall Should be a precedent to fright you all. Faulc. What words are these? how do my sinews

shake! My father's foe clad in my father's spoil ! How doth Alecto whisper in my ears,

Delay not, Richard, kill the villain strait; “ Disrobe him of the matchless monument, Thy father's triumph o'er the savages." But arm thee, traitor, wronger of renown, For by his soul I swear, my father's soul, Twice will I not review the morning's rise, Till I have torn that trophy from thy back ; And split thy heart, for wearing it so long. POPE.

To the insertion of these lines I have nothing to object. There are many other passages in the old play of great value. The omission of this incident, in the second draught, was natural. Shakspeare, having familiarized the story to his own imagination, forgot that it was obscure to his audience; or, what is equally probable, the story was then so popular, that a hint was sufficient at that time to bring it to mind, and these plays were written with very little care for the approbation of posterity.

30 What earthly name to interrogatories, 8c.] This must have been at the time when it was written, in our struggles with popery, a very captivating scene.

So many passages remain in which Shakspeare evidently takes his advantage of the facts then recent,

JOHNSON.

« PreviousContinue »