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“My brother general, the commonweallh,
To brother born an household cruelly,
I make my quarrel in particular."—Act IV., Scene 1. There is an obscurity (probably, a corruption) in this passage, which no efforts of the commentators have been able to remove. Dr. Johnson proposes to read “quarrel" for “brother," in the first line; and thinks the meaning may be, “My general cause of discontent is public mismanagement: my particular cause, a domestic injury done to my natural brother." The archbishop's resentment on the last account is adverted to in Act I.
"For competence of life I will allow you,
Act V., Scene 5. The dismission of Henry's former associates is founded on historical fact, Stowe says, that “King Henry, after his coronation, called unto him all those young lords and gentlemen that were the followers of his young acts; 10 every one of whom he gave rich gifts: and then commanded that as many as would change their manners (as he intended to do), should abide with him in his court; and to all that would persevere in their former like conversation, he gave express commandment, upon pain of their heads, never after that day to come in his presence."
"Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me, nor a man cannot make him laugh."-Act IV., Scene 3.
Falstaff speaks here like a veteran in life. The young prince did not love him; and he des paired to gain his affection, for he could not make him laugh. Men only become friends by community of pleasures. He who cannot be softened into gaiety, cannot easily be melted into kindness.- Joxxsox.
"My tongue is weary: when my legs are too, I will bid you good night; and so kneel down before you :-But, indeed, lo pray for the Queen."--Epilogue.
It was customary for the players, at the conclusion of the performance, to pray for their patrons or for the head of the state. Hence, perhaps, the "Vivant Rez el Regina" at the bottom of our modern playbills.
"Learning, a mere hoard of gold kept by a deril, lill sack commences it, and sets it in act and use."--Act IV., Scene 3.
It was anciently supposed that all mines of gold, &c., were guarded by evil spirits.
"T is seldom when the bee doth leave her comb
In the dead carrion."-Act IV., Scene 4. As the bee, having once placed her comb in a carcass, stays by her honey; so he that has once taken pleasure in bad company, will continue to associate with those that have the art of pleasing him.-Jouxson.
“The river hath Ihrice flowed, no ebb belween."
Act IV., Scene 4. This phenomenon is said to have occurred October 12, 1411,
"Nol Amuralh an Amuralh succeeds,
Bul Harry, Harry."- Act V., Scene 2. Amurath, Emperor of the Turks, died in 1596: his semond son, Amurath, who succeeded him, had all his brothers strangled at a feast, to which he invited them while yet ignorant of their father's death. The allusion in the text is probably to this transaction.
None of Sliakspere's plays are more read than the First and Second Parts of "HENRY IV." Perhaps no author has ever, in two plays, afforded so much delight. The great events are interesting, for the late of kingdoms depends upon them: the slighter occurrences are diverting, and (except one or two) sufficiently probable: the incidents are multiplied with wonderful fertility of invention ; and the characters diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment, and the profoundest skill in the nature of man.
The prince (who is the hero both of the comic and tragic part) is a young man of great abilities and violent passions; whose sentiments are right, though his actions are wroug; whose virtues are obscured by negligence, and whose understanding is dissipated by levity. In his idle hours he is rather loose than wicked: and when the occasion forces out his latent qualities, he is great without effort, and brave without tumult. The trifler is roused into a hero, and the hero again reposes in the trifler. The character is great, original, and just.
Percy is a rugged soldier, choleric and quarrelsome; and has only the soldier's virtues, generosity and courage
But Palstaff-unimitated, unimitable Falstaff-how shall I describe thee ?—thou compound of sense and vice !-of sense which may be admired, but not esteemed; of vice which may be despised, but hardly detested. Falstaff is a character loaded with faults, and with those faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief and a glutton, a coward and a boaster; always ready to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor; to terrify the timorous, and insult the desenceless. At once obsequious and malignant, he satirizes in their absence those whom he lives by flattering. He is familiar with the prince only as an agent of vice; but of this familiarity he is so proud, as not only to be supercilious and haughty with common men, but to think his interest of importance to the Duke of Lancaster. Yet, the man thus corrupt, thus despicable, makes himself necessary to the prince that despises him, by the most pleasing of all quali. ties, perpetual gaiety; by an unfailing power of exciting laughter; which is the more freely indulged, as his wit is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but consists in easy scapes and sallies of levity, which make sport, but raise no enry. It must be observed, that he is stained with no enormous or sanguinary crimes; so that his licentiousness is not so offensive but that it may be borne for his mirth.
The moral to be drawn from this representation is, that no man is more dangerous than he that, with a will to corrupt, hath the power to please; and that neither wit nor honesty ought to think themselves safe with such a companion, when they see Henry seduced by Falstaff. - JOHNSON
“Do me right,
Samingo."-Act V., Scene 3. To "do a man right," and to “ do him reason," were formerly the usual expressions in pledging healths: he who drank a bumper, expected a bumper should be drunk to his toast. It was also customary to drink a large draught on their knees, to the health of their mistresses. He who per. formed this exploit was dubbed a knight for the rest of the evening. "Samingo" is probably a corruption of “Domingo," which appears to have been a burden to various drinking songs and catches of the period.
"I'll tell thee whal, thou chin man in a censor."
Act V., Scene 4. The old censers of inin metal had generally at the bottom the ngure of some saint raised up with a hammer, in a barbarous kind of embossed or chased work. The hunger-starved beadle is compared in substance to one of these thin raised figures.-WARBURTOX.
} Brothers to the King.
Conspirators against the King. SIR THOMAS GREY, SIR THOMAS ERPINGHAM, GOWER, FLUELLEN,
Officers in King Henry's Army
Soldiers in the same.
Formerly Servants to FALSTAPP,
now Soldiers in the same. PISTOL, Boy, Servant to them A Herald. Chorus. CHARLES THE SIXTH, KING OP France. LEWIS, the Dauphin. DUKES OP BURGUNDY, ORLEANS, and BOURBOX. CONSTABLE OF FRANCE. RAMBURES and GRANDPRE, French Lords. GOVERNOR OF HARFLEUR. MONTJOY, a French Herald. Ambassadors to the KING OF ENGLAND. ISABEL, QUBBN OP FRANCE. KATHARINE, Daughter of CHARLES and ISABEL. ALICE, a lady attending on the PRINCESS KATHARINE, QUICKLY, PISTOL's Wife; a Hostess. Lords, Ladies, Officers, French and English Soldiers, Messengers,
The Scexe, at the beginning of the Play, lies in ENGLAND; but
afterwards wholly in PRANCR.
HISTORVERRURI NYHETER FATTO
WHEN this piay was written, Shakspere had been for some few months
acquainted with Ben Jonson, then newly entered into the dramatic world, having given rare promise of his coming greatness in the admirable comedy of “Every MAN IN HIS Humour." We can imagine rothing more likely than that Shakspere, who had bought from Alleyn, of the "Fortune" playhouse, the right of performing that comedy, was greatly struck with the ingenious scholar who, at so early an age, had constructed a play with such masterly skill. It is as probable that our great poet, sensible of his deficiency in scholastic learning, was solicitous to hear from his friend the principles of art on which the ancient dramatists proceeded ; and that Jonson (almost an idolater of those great men), while he explained to him the severe rules of the classical stage, as laid down by Aristotle, found frequent occasions of exhorting Shakspere to write after such glorious models.
Impressed, but not convinced, by the reasonings of the sturdy scholar
aware that no historical play, comprehending a series of events frequently bocupying a space of years, and sometimes transacted in different countries, could possibly approximate to the rigid exactions of the ancient drama-yet, at the same time, persuaded that, in his former historical plays he had been rather too latitudinarian in his dramatic principles, he sat down and composed the following play by way of compromise. Hence the Chorus we find pervading “ HENRY V.," which is nominally, and only so, an imitation of the Greek drama.
Everybody knows that a drama is a representation of circumstances that have really happened, or of events that might by possibility occur. We are invited to it on the tacit understanding that what we are about to see and hear shall, for the time being, be supposed to be real. It is the object of the dramatist to make it appear so.
But the frequent appeal on the part of the Chorus to the imagination, in aid of the senses, positively defeats its own end. The importunate request that we should believe things to have happened which we do not see, joined with the intimation that what we do see is merely a mockery, confounds our apprehension of both.
The objection thus taken to a portion of the framework of this admirable play by no means attaches to its general effect. The language of the Chorus is in the highest degree noble and elevated; nor is that of the two Bishops, of the King in his heroic character, and of Exeter, less grandly sustained. The reader will not fail to admire the exquisite speech of Burgundy, towards the close of the play; and he who has yet to make an intimate acquaintance with our divine poet, will, in the perusal of this drama, come upon many lines and passages which, doubtless, are already familiar to him as extracted beauties. That kings, nobles, prelates, never did speak such language as is here set down for them, who is there but will readily believe? but that they would so have spoken is certain, had they transcended ordinary men as greatly in the dignity of their faculties as of their station.
This greatness of language and magnificence of sentiment it was that (without other attributes, of which he had more than any other poet) so admirably qualified Shakspere for the composition of heroic plays. Henry V., whose chivalrous bearing is confirmed and strengthened by his reliance upon Heaven, is, perhaps, as striking a personage as history could furnish as to the qualities of a hero, or as genius could adopt for the poetical exhibition of them.
There are few dramatic characters in “HENRY V." The heroic portion admits not of them ; and for the remainder, we believe the reader will agree with us that Fluellen, Gower, Macmorris, and Jamy, are poor substitutes for Falstaff. Nym, Bardolph, the Hostess, and Pistol, however, appear upon the scene ; but they lose their colour, now that they have lost their sun. The character of Pistol has been some. what mistaken. He is not a common boaster like the Bessus of Beaumont and Fletcher, or the Bobadil of Jonson. He does not brag of what he has done:-he would terrify by portentous implication of his valour, conveyed in tearing and termagant words. After the memorable siege of Cadiz, London was full of these furious wights, who swore Spanish oaths, and were paramount over "ale-washed wits."
This play was several times published separately, previous to its appearance in the first folio collection.
Chor. O for a muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention : A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, And monarchs to behold the swelling scene ! Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, Leashed in like hounds, should famine, sword,
and fire, Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles ail, The flat unraiséd spirit that hath dared, On this unworthy scaffold, to bring forth So great an object. Can this cockpit hold The vasty fields of France: or may we cram Within this wooden O the very casques That did affright the air at Agincourt? O pardon! since a crooked figure may Attest, in little place, a million : And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Enter the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY and
Bishop of Ely.
Which, in the eleventh year o' the last King's