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Holinshed. The withering of the bay-trees is in
Mr. Canning quoted, in the House of Commons,” the first of these lines, but he gave it thus—
“Good men look pale, while ruffians dance and leap ;”
and, comparing the state of the country at two different periods, he asked,—“ was not the ruffian now abashed, and did not the good man feel confident in his security ?” Mr. Canning made his quotation, as he often did, without recollecting where the passage was to be found ; and employed me, the next morning, to search it out for him; a frequent and most agreeable diversion from my usual employment, which I remember with great delight. When he found that it was property, and not virtue, which had been put in jeopardy, he rejoiced that no Radical had taken advantage of his misquotation: but Radicals, perhaps, are not readers of Shakspeare.
* July 11, 1817. Canning's Speeches, iv. 24.
In the condemnation of the king's two favourites, Bushy and Green, the Chronicle" is followed; for if Shakspeare exercises upon them a summary jurisdiction, Holinshed reports that they were arraigned before the constable and marshal; a proceeding, I apprehend, which (even if it implied the exercise of martial law) was equally inconsistent with the ordinary forms of legal judgment.f.
Shakspeare now introduces Richard at Barkloughly Castle in Wales, accompanied by the Bishop of Carlisle and the Duke of Aumerle: here he is joined by Salisbury, who brings the mournful intelligence that the army which, on landing from Ireland, he had collected in Wales, had dispersed themselves, and some had even joined Bolingbroke, upon a false report of Richard's death.
This is all according to Holinshed, and it is
* Hol., 853.
t Walsingham says they were “statim ad clamorem communium decapitati,” p. 38. Scroop, Earl of Wiltshire, is mentioned as beheaded with the other two; and Shakspeare afterwards alludes to him, as in the same predicament, though he has omitted him in this place.
t Eldest son of the Duke of York, Earl of Rutland and Duke of Albemarle.
§ And see in Arch. xx., 70, the French metrical history of the deposition of Ric. II., written by a contemporary, with the valuable notes of the Rev. John Webb; this may probably be deemed the best authority for the events of this time.
curious in this, as in other instances, to see how Shakspeare improves a hint, furnished by his prosaic predecessor. “The King knew,” says Holinshed, “his title, true, just, and infallible; and his conscience clear, pure, and without spot of envy or malice.” In a passage of much poetical merit our poet has these lines, which Dr. Johnson points out as expressing the doctrine of indefeasible right:—
“Discomfortable cousin! know'st thou not,
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
But when informed of the death of his favourites at Bristol, Richard lost all confidence, and gave the word in the play, as in the Chronicles,t to discharge his followers.
If we may rely upon the contemporary narrative, which is always favourable to Richard, the language of the King savoured much more of reliance upon the justice and mercy of God, than upon his own divine right as a king.
“Glorious and merciful God, who didst endure to be crucified for us, if by sin I have greatly transgressed
O God of glory ! I humbly beseech Thee, that, as I have never consented, according to my ability, to bring evil upon any one who had not deserved it, be pleased to have mercy upon me, alas! a poor king; for I know right well that, unless Thou shouldst speedily deign to regard me, I am lost.”f
Bolingbroke is now placed before Flint Castle, accompanied by “York, Northumberland, and others.” I cannot trace the Duke of York to Flint, but Northumberland was certainly with Bolingbroke.
Aumerle is assigned by Shakspeare (probably on
# Act iii. Sc. 2. f Hol., 855. t Arch., 97, and Turner, ii. 325.
Holinshed's authority) to the side of Richard,” by whom he had been greatly favoured; but I am afraid that, whatever may have been the conduct of his father, the Duke of York, Aumerle had now joined Bolingbroke, with whom, according to our narrative, he had been, from the beginning, in treacherous communication.*
“The Earl of Rutland (Aumerle) at that time said nothing to the King, but kept at as great a distance as he could from him, just as though he had been ashamed to see himself in his presence.”:
As Holinshed also places Aumerle with Bolingbroke, I am at a loss to guess why Shakspeare makes him faithful to Richard. The King's rebuke of Northumberland for not kneeling to him is also unaccountable, seeing that it is mentioned in the Chronicle that he and his colleagues “did their due reverence to the King on their knees.” $ This occurred at Flint. Of the mission of the Dukes of Exeter|| and Surry's from Richard to Henry, and of the treacherous means by which Northumberland brought Richard to Flint, matched, as historians tell us, by intentions equally trea* He says that he joined him at Conway. + Arch., 55, 64. Arch., 158. § Hol., 857.