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been for his funeral. It was also bruited that his body was buried in the monastery of St. Andrews of the Cisteaux order. But when the Bretons were nothing pacified, but rather kindled more vehemently to work all the mischief they could devise, in revenge of their sovereign's death, there was no remedy but to signify abroad again that Arthur was as yet living and in health.”
Upon a few expressions of this Chronicle Shakspeare has built the first scene of his fourth act, in which Arthur dissuades Hubert from putting out his eyes. The prince was now about fifteen years old—an age at which we generally cease to speak of a “pretty child” and his “innocent prate.” Shakspeare has done quite right, for dramatic interest, in giving this character to the prince and his talk; but it is not quite consistent with that in which he appears in the late revolt.
The fine scene” between John and Hubert, in which Hubert undertakes that Arthur shall be put to death, is a creation of the poet, and one for which we are infinitely indebted to him. But surely there is an inconsistency between this scene and that (which is taken from the Chronicles) in which Hubert, without any indication of an intention to murder the prince, proceeds to put out his eyes. For this he had, according to Shakspeare, a written authority, (which the old play gives at length,) yet, in the subsequent interview with the King, he is made to produce a warrant for the murder. The scene” in which the King reproaches his minister for complying too readily with his commands, was apparently suggested by the passage which I have quoted from Holinshed; and this is perhaps the only passage which leads me to believe that Shakspeare did not entirely rely upon the old play. That piece describes John as repenting vehemently; but there is nothing upon which these fine touches of Shakspeare can have been founded, “King John. It is the curse of kings to be attended By slaves that take their humours for a warrant To break within the bloody house of life; And, on the winking of authority, To understand a law; to know the meaning Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns More upon humour than advised respect.”
* Act iii. Sc. 3.
What follows is full of poetry and dramatic art; where John imputes his own crime to the suggestion of Hubert’s “abhorred aspect,” and his too ready acquiescence in what was only darkly hinted.
“King John. Hadst thou but shook thy head, or made
When I spake darkly what I purposed,
* Act iv. Sc. 2.
And bid me tell my tale in express words,
Warburton and Malone” consider Shakspeare as paying his court to Elizabeth by a covert attempt to throw upon poor Secretary Davison the death of Mary Queen of Scots.
As Holinshed affords a sufficient foundation for both these fine passages, it is doubtless unnecessary to have recourse to any courtier-like or political motive in the poet. But from the unbounded love of flattery and personal attention which characterized our celebrated Queen, I attribute much probability to this opinion of the critics.
The circulation of the report of Arthur's death, and the contradiction of it, are taken from the Chronicle; as is also the Prince's loss of life in an attempt to escape, though this is only stated doubtfully as one of many rumours. Other reports made John the murderer of his nephew with his own hand. Considering how essential to the plot is John's cruel treatment of Arthur, I am surprised
* Bosw. 327. t Hol. 286. See Lingard, iii. 8.
that Shakspeare did not rather adopt one of these. He has, however, followed the old play. I do not offer any decided opinion upon the manner of Arthur's death.*
I do not find that about the time of the battle of Mirabeau (August 1202), the French fleet suffered
any damage to justify the commencement of the fourth scene of this act—
“King Phil. So by a roaring tempest on the flood, A whole armada of convicted sail Is scatter'd and disjoined from fellowship.”
The remainder of this scene is occupied with the grief of Constance for the capture of her son. The
* I know not what to infer from the following, which I take from Mr. T. Hardy's Patent Rolls, p. 36:—“The King to Alan Fitz Court and others, and to all those whom they wish to bring with them. Know ye that Furmie, servant of Arthur our nephew, came to us and told us on your part, that you were desirous of speaking with us, provided ye could easily obtain secure and safe conduct to come to us. We therefore inform you that we have granted unto you, and unto all those who may accompany you, safe and secure conduct, in coming to us and in returning, for eight days from Sunday next after the feast of St. Bartholomew; and in testimony hereof, &c. Inform us, however, of the day and place when and where you wish to come, and we will send letters of safe conduct to you thither. We command you, however, that you do naught whereby evil may befal our nephew Arthur. Witness ourself at Chinon, this 24th day of August [1202.”]—Mackintosh apparently believed John to be the murderer.—See his Hist. i. 200,
hint upon which Shakspeare has wrought one of the finest scenes in the acted play was afforded by some very bad lines in the old play. I should be well contented to believe that the Princess answered to the Pope's legate, when attempting to console her—
“He talks to me who never had a son 1"
But I am afraid that the balance of testimony goes to show that Constance, whom the play keeps alive until the year in which John submitted to the Pope,” did in fact die before the battle of Mirabeau: all French historians! place her death in 1201; whereas this battle was not fought till the summer of 1202; and I can find no authority for Holinshed's statement, that Philip cited John to answer such charges as CoNSTANCE should bring against him. Maloneş corrects Shakspeare, who lets Constance style herself a widow, and says that she was, at this time, married to her third husband. There certainly was a period in which she was husbandless, but the dates are far beyond correc
# Act iv. Sc. 2.
f L’Art de vérifier les Dates, i. 900 (fol.) Daru, Hist. de Bretagne, i. 407.—Sismondi, vi. 211. Elinor died in 1203.
f P. 287.-See Sismondi, vi. 209-219. The only well supported summons was for robbing Hugh le Brun of his wife.
§ Bosw. 260.