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And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman,
The character of Hotspur too is admirably kept up in the violent speeches about Mortimer, and the ridicule of the flatteries of Bolingbroke:—
“Why, what a candy deal of courtesy This fawning greyhound then did proffer me! Look, when his infant fortune came to age, And,-gentle Harry Percy, —and, kind cousin.” Music was classed among effeminate employments, and Hotspur is judiciously made a despiser of that fascinating art,t in which he differs both from the Prince of Wales and from Owen Glendower. Whenever he appears, his character of this northern hero is sustained with consummate
skill as an impetuous, hot, and haughty, but generous, as well as brave and skilful, Warrior... Tout all this is Shakspeare's own; the Hotspur of history is a gallant soldier and able commander, but we do not even know that he was “irascible;” and he might have been, for anything to be found in the Chronicles, a director, as other warriors are, of a public concert, and have possessed all the virtues and accomplishments of gentle life. The surname of Hotspur had no reference to his disposition or temper: “this Henry,” says a Chronicler,” speaking of the early part of Richard the Second, “was called by the French and Scots Harre Hatesporre, because, in the silence of the night, and while others reposed in sleep, he would labour indefatigably against his enemy, as if heating his spurs, which we call Hatesporre.” Another writer says, that “the hopes of the whole nation were reposed in him;”t and in all the Chronicles, including those of later date from which Shakspeare wrote, all terms of praise are bestowed upon the martial spirit and great power of this famous Percy, but there is no trace of the peculiar character so skilfully and agreeably delineated by the poet. It would perhaps be more easy, and doubtless more gratifying, to justify from history such
passages as the following, than those which display testiness or rudeness:—
“By Heav'n, methinks, it were an easy leap,
Mr. Tyler agrees with Sir Harris Nicolas, in tracing in certain letters from Hotspur, recently published,” “a strict accordance with the supposed haughty, captious, and uncompromising character of that excellent soldier.” I doubt whether this remark would have been made, if Shakspeare had not taught us to believe that Hotspur deserved the epithets: the letters, in truth, contain firm but temperate remonstrances at the unprovided state in which he was left as commander of the King's army ; and a protest, that the responsibility of failure rested not upon him, but upon those who withheld the necessary payments. Of haughtiness or captiousness I find no more than the occasion might well require.
In one of these letters Hotspur uses an expression which I quote, because there is a remarkable, though, I am satisfied an accidental, coincidence
* Tyler, i. 99. Nicolas, i. p. xxxviii. and 148.
with a line in the play.—“Do not be displeased,” he says to the council, “that I write—nounsachantment en ma royde et feble manier.”
If it had been possible for Shakspeare to have read this passage, I should suppose that the word nounsachantment was amplified in the description of the interview with the finicking courtier, to whom Hotspur “answered neglectingly I know not what.”
The poet is borne out not only by the Chronicle, but by more authentic history, in classing among the grievances of Percy the King's rejection of his request—
“That we, at our own charge, shall ransom straight | His brother-in-law, the foolish Mortimer, Who, on my soul, hath wilfully betray'd The lives of those that he did lead to fight Against the great magician, damn'd Glendower.” This insinuation on the part of the King, that Mortimer suffered himself to be captured, is ascribed to him in a manifesto of dubious authenticity, (to be noticed presently,) and is mentioned by - Hardyng;+ “He said him nay, for he was taken prisoner
By his consent and treason to his foe.”
\ I do not agree with Mr. Tyler, that the King's \
letter,” lamenting the capture of his cousin, proves that he entertained no such suspicion. That letter was written some months before Mortimer married the daughter of the Welsh chieftain, and wrote thus to his tenants:— “Owen Glendower has raised a quarrel of which the object is, if King Richard be alive, to restore him to his crown, and if not, that my honoured nephew (Earl of March), who is the right heir to the said crown, shall be King of England, and that the said Owen will assert his right in Wales.”t
When such events followed a capture, it was not unreasonable to suspect that the surrender was voluntary. Shakspeare did not seek for romantic incidents, still less imagine them ; many a dramatist, still more a novelist, would have imagined Mortimer captivated in the first instance by the charms of the mountain nymph, accidentally discovered playing upon her harp, and for her sake abandoning King Henry.
Skakspeare also owes to Holinshed his mistake,S in supposing that the Edmund Mortimer, who was prisoner and afterwards son-in-law to Glendower,
* June 25, 1402. Nicolas, i. 185. Tyler, i. 162. And Walsingham speaks (p. 365) of Mortimer's capture proditione mediante.
+ Stow, 328. Otterb. 238. t Tyler, 135.
§ Malone and others have fallen into the same error.