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The mention of Hotspur's bravery introduces the name of the Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry the Fifth.
“No words,” says Campbell,” “can do justice to the discriminating traits of valorous character in Prince Henry, in Hotspur, in Douglas, in Owen Glendower. The first rises to glory out of previous habits and pursuits that would have extinguished any character unpossessed of the unquenchable Greek fire in Henry of Agincourt, and who shines, as Homer said of Diomed “like a star that had been bathed in the ocean.” He is comparatively wiser than the irascible Hotspur, and therefore more justly successful. The Scottish Douglas retreats at last, but it is only when the field is lost, and he had slain three warriors who were the semblance of the King. He was personally little interested in the fray, his oo:::::. Texpense-to-his-Honour, and therefore he shows after prodig.TWIGIF a discretion which is quite as nationally characteristic as his courage. Owen Glendower is a noble wild picture of the heroic Welsh character— brave, vain, imaginative, and superstitious. He was the William wallace of Wales, aand his vanity and superstition may be forgiven, for he troubled the English till
the King should, on great occasions, interfere to prohibit the setting free a prisoner who might be dangerous to the realm.
* In his preface to a new edition of Shakspeare, p. xxxix.
they believed him, and taught him to believe himself, a conjuror.” Much of this is just—as applicable to the heroes whom Shakspeare drew : I shall now inquire whether he drew from history. A passage at the end of the play of “Richard the Second,” prepares us for the unfavourable picture of the young Henry's behaviour, which fills so great a space in the two parts of “ Henry the Fourth.” “ Boling. Can no man tell of my unthrifty son 'Tis full three months since I did see him last :— If any plague hang over us, 'tis he. Inquire at London, 'mongst the taverns there, For there, they say, he daily doth frequent With unrestrained loose companions.” After some further detail of his extravagancies, Hotspur himself is made to relate that he saw the Prince two days before, who, on being invited to an exercise of arms at Oxford, gave an answer indicative both of profligacy and boldness; so as to induce his father to say— “As dissolute as desperate; yet through both I see some sparkles of a better hope, Which elder days may happily bring forth.” Malone noticed” the anachronism of ascribing these habits to the Prince, who, having been born in 1387, was now only thirteen years old: but no * “Richard the Second,” Act v. Sc. 3. + Bosw. 152. other doubt occurred to his mind of the accuracy of Shakspeare's description. Mr. Luders,” I believe, first called in question the received opinion of Henry's irregularities; and the recent publication of Mr. Tylert is an elaborate attempt to confute it. In the present play the King expresses a wish that it could be discovered that the two Henries had been changed in infancy.
“Oh, that it could be proved
And we are taught throughout the play to look upon the Prince and Hotspur as contemporaries and rivals. Now, Henry Percy was old enough to be the other Henry's father; being of the age of Henry the Fourth.Ş And Mr. Tyler has shown that nothing can be more inaccurate than to represent Percy as bearing testimony against the young Prince, whose exertions, on the contrary,
• Essay on the Character of Henry the Fifth, when Prince of Wales: by Alexander Luders. 1813.
t Henry of Monmouth, or Memoirs of the Life and Character of Henry the Fifth : by the Rev. John Endell Tyler. 1838.
: Act i. Sc. 1.
§ Henry the Fourth was born April 6, 1366.
towards the suppression of the rebellion of the Welshmen, he recognized in his letters to the Council.” But, was the Prince a young profligate, addicted to low company and of vicious habits, or are all Shakspeare's scenes in which Falstaff is introduced the mere creation of the poet? Mr. Tyler clearly shows that Henry was, from an unusually early age, and even while under tutelage, actively employed against the rebels; and we have his father's letters noticing his “bonne evploit en parties de Gales.” And he had recently been appointed lieutenant of Wales.t. Yet this may be
* Tyler, i. 102, 3. This author has printed a letter, purporting to come from Prince Henry to his father's council, of date May 15 (1401, as Tyler supposes), on his operations against Glendower. I entertain the doubt which Tyler anticipates, whether Henry (who had not only a council in attendance upon him, but a governor or tutor also) wrote this letter himself; but nothing of importance turns upon it. It is not probable, too, that the letters printed in Tyler's pages 104 and 137, both dated from Shrewsbury in May, were written in the same year?—See Nicolas's Privy Council, ii. 61,62.
+ Tyler, i. 100, 102, 135. Nicolas's Privy Council, i. 206. From the incompleteness of his references, it is very difficult to trace Mr. Tyler's authorities. I am sorry to observe that the letter of 15th May, 1401, cited by Tyler, as that of “a gallant young warrior, full of promptitude and intrepidity,” indicates rather too much of severity in the young Prince.
true, and still the story of his dissoluteness may be true also. How many guardsmen and dragoons have we all known, who have been notorious in their excesses, yet gallant and attentive officers Shakspeare drew the character of Henry from the Chronicles which existed in English in his time; partly, too, from the old play ;” and partly, perhaps, from tradition. In order to heighten the contrast, he has generally taken the most unfavourable version of the stories against the Prince. The second act exhibits the Prince in very low company, and concerned in the robbery at Gadshill, near Rochester, of some public officers who were conveying money to the King's Exchequer. There is nothing here that might not have been taken from the old play, and there are minute circumstancest which show that Shakspeare had that coarse and worthless drama in his hand. But he had also the accustomed authority of Holinshed for the general profligacy, and that of Stow for the particular enormities. “He made himself a companion to misruly mates of dissolute order and life.”: * “The famous victories of Henry the Fifth, containing the memorable battle of Agincourt,” in the six old plays. It takes in the King's youth, as represented in Shakspeare's “Henry the Fourth.”
t Especially the robbery of a carrier at Gadshill. t Hol. 61.