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these sentences as the act of the council of which Gaunt himself was a member.
“K. Rich. Thy son is banish’d upon good advice, Whereto thy tongue a party verdict gave, Why at our justice seems'st thou, then, to lower?
Gaunt. Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour. You urg'd me as a judge; but I had rather You would have bid me argue like a father — O ! had it been a stranger, not my child, To smooth his fault I should have been more mild : A partial slander sought I to avoid, And in the sentence my own life destroy'd. Alas! I look’d when some of you should say, I was too strict, to make mine own away; But you gave leave to my unwilling tongue, Against my will to do myself this wrong.”
“The whole,” says Coleridge,” “of this scene of the quarrel between Mowbray and Bolingbroke seems introduced for the purpose of showing by anticipation the characters of Richard and Bolingbroke.” I venture to say, that it was introduced because the dramatist found it in the Chronicle, and that it does not illustrate the characters of king or peer. The difference between Mowbray's and Bolingbroke's reception of the sentence is natural, considering the difference of the punishment.
Shakspeare has Holinshed's authority for the popularity of Bolingbroke, and the concourse of people by which he was accompanied to the coast:
* Lit. Remains, ii. 269.
“A wonder it was to see what number of people ran after him in every town and street where he came, before he took the sea, lamenting and bewailing his departure, as who would say that when he departed, the only shield, defence, and comfort of the commonwealth was ended and gone.”
He never loses an opportunity of displaying his contempt of the exhibition of popular favour, or the reception of it by its object.
“Ourself, and Bushy, Bagot here, and Green,
I know not of any authority for the scene between John of Gaunt, on his death-bed, ; and his nephew ; a scene into which, as is observed by the writer whom I have lately quoted,” the poet has introduced passages inculcating the love of our country:
* Hol. 848. t Act i. Sc. 4. t Act ii. Sc. l.
“This royal throne of kings, this scept’red isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise; This fortress built by Nature for herself, Against infection and the hand of war; This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”
But the scene assuredly falsifies a remark of the same critic, which is, in truth, quite gratuitous, that “Richard's attention to decorum, and high feeling of the kingly dignity, are never forgotten throughout the play!”
It is recorded (and this passage may justify the expressions we have quoted from the Gaunt and York of the play) that the Dukes of Lancaster and York—
“When they heard that their brother (Gloucester) was so suddenly made away, wist not what to say to the matter, and began both to be sorrowful for his death, and
* Coleridge, p. 165.
doubtful of their own states: for sith they saw how the king (abused by the counsel of evil men) abstained not from such an heinous act, they thought he would afterwards attempt greater misorders from time to time.” They assembled their servants and retainers, and repaired to London; but “these dukes (after their displeasure was somewhat assuaged) determined to cover the stings of their griefs for a time; and, if the King would amend his manners, to forget also the injuries past. At length, by the intercession and means of those noblemen that went to and fro between them, they were accorded, and the king promised from henceforth to do nothing but by the assent of the dukes; but he kept small promise in this behalf, as after will appear.”
Shakspeare, therefore, is not justified in making Richard the open reviler of his uncle,t and in denying him even the pretence of an intention to amend.
In the line put into the mouth of Gaunt—
“Landlord of England art thou now, not King”—
* Hol. 838.
t In the account of this time, in Arch. xx. 43, it is said that the king's face, on one occasion, “grew pale with anger;” and Mr. Webb observes, that Shakspeare “has taken advantage of this peculiarity,” where he makes Richard reproach Gaunt for “making pale his cheek.” But I know not how Shakspeare became acquainted with the peculiarity, if it existed. Malone observes that “Old John of Gaunt, time-honour’d Lancaster,” died at the age of 59. Bosw. 7.
the allusion is to “a common bruit, that the king had set to farm the realm of England unto Sir William Scroop, Earl of Wiltshire,” and then treasurer of England, Sir John Bushy, t Sir John Bagot, and Sir Henry Green, knights.” Whatever may have occured between the Duke of Lancaster and the king before the duke's death, Richard certainly seized his property, as Shakspeare relates, and the Duke of York retired to Langley, “rejoicing that nothing amiss happened in the commonwealth, through his device or consent.”
“I’ll not be by the while : my liege, farewell.”
It is true, nevertheless, that Richard appointed York to be Regent during his absence in Ireland.
* So created in this reign. He was a younger son of the noble house of Scrope. See Arch. xx. 46.
+ Speaker of the House of Commons.
f Hol. 849. This Bagot, I have no doubt, was one of the Bagots then and now of Blithfield, in Staffordshire. Collins (vii. 523) mentions a Ralph Bagot, who flourished in the time of Edward the Third, and Sir John Bagot, who was a Privy Counsellor to Henry the Fourth, and died in 1437. But the name of Richard's Bagot (though Holinshed sometimes calls him John) was certainly William, as a writ was directed to him, with Bushy and Green, by the Duke of York, as Regent, for the custody of Wallingford Castle, in which Queen Isabella then lay. July 12, 1399. Rymer, viii. 83. This William died about 1406. Arch. xx. 278.