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Sorrow softens the mind while it is yet warmed by hope, but hardens it when it is congealed by despair. Distress, while there remains any prospect of relief, is weak and flexible, but when no succour remains, is fearless and stubborn ; angry alike at those that injure, and at those that do not help; careless to please where nothing can be gained, and fearless to offend when there is nothing further to be dreaded. Such was this writer's knowledge of the passions. ACT III. SCENE Ü. (m. i. 75-134.)
What was the ground of this quarrel of the Bastard to Austria is no where specify'd in the present play; nor is there in this place, or the scene where it is first hinted at (namely the second of Act 2.) the least mention of any reason for it. But the story is, that Austria, who kill'd King Richard Caur-de-lion, wore as the spoil of that Prince, a lion's hide which had belong'd to him This circumstance renders the anger of the Bastard very natural, and ought not to have been omitted. In the first sketch of this play (which Shakespeare is said to have had a hand in, jointly with William Rowley) we accordingly find this insisted upon, and I have ventured to place a few of those verses here.--POPE.
To the insertion of these lines I have nothing to object. There are many other passages in the old play, of great value. The omission of this incident, in the second draught, was natural. Shakespeare, having familiarised the story of his own imagination, forgot that it was obscure to his audience ; or, what is equally probable, the story was then so popular that a hint was sufficient at that time to bring it to mind, and these plays were written with very
little care for the approbation of posterity. Act III. SCENE iï. (111. i. 149-51.) KING JOHN. Tbou canst noi, Cardinal, devise a name
So slighi, unwortby, and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the Pope. This must have been at the time when it was written, in our struggles with popery, a very captivating scene. So many passages remain in which Shakespeare evidently takes his advantage of the facts then recent, and of the passions then in motion, that I cannot but suspect that time has obscured much of his art, and that many allusions yet remain undiscovered which perhaps may be gradually retrieved by succeeding commentators. Act III. SCENE Üï. (11. i. 204-6.) LEWIS. Berbink you, fatber; for the difference
Is purchase of a beavy curse from Rome.
Or the light loss of England for a friend It is a political maxim, that kingdoms are never married. Lewis upon the wedding is for making war upon
his new relations. Act III. SCENE iii. (11. i. 280 foll.)
PANDULPH. But thou hast sworn against religion, &c.
In this long speech, the Legate is made to shew his skill in casuistry; and the strange heap of quibble and nonsense of which it consists, was intended to ridicule that of the schools. War
I am not able to discover here any thing inconsequent or ridiculously subtle. The propositions, that the voice of the church is the voice of heaven, and that the Pope utters the voice of the church, neither of which Pandulph's auditors would deny, being once granted, the argument here used is irresistible; nor is it easy, notwithstanding the gingle, to enforce it with greater brevity or propriety:
In swearing by religion against religion, to which thou hast already sworn, thou makest an oath the security for thy faith against an oath already taken. I will give, says he, a rule for conscience in these cases. Thou mayst be in doubt about the matter of an oath ; when thou swearest thou mayst not be always sure to swear rightly, but let this be thy settled principle, swear . only not to be forsworn ; let not thy latter oaths be at variance with thy former.
Truth, through this whole speech, means rectitude of conduct.
Act III. SCENE iv. (mn. č. 1-3.)
Now, by my life, this day grows wond'rous bot ;
And pours down mischief. We must read, Some fiery devil, if we will have the cause equal to the effect.-WARBURTON.
There is no end of such alterations ; every page of a vehement and negligent writer will afford opportunities for changes of terms, if mere propriety will justify them. Not that of this change the propriety is out of controversy. Dr. Warburton will have the devil fiery, because he makes the day hot; the authour makes him airy, because he bovers in the sky, and the heat and mischief are natural consequences of his malignity.
Act III. SCENE vi. (iii. iv. 61.)
KING PHILIP. Bind up those tresses. It was necessary that Constance should be interrupted, because a passion so violent cannot be born long. I wish the following speeches had been equally happy; but they only serve to shew, how difficult it is to maintain the pathetick long. Act III. SCENE vi. (11. iv. 99-100.)
CONSTANCE. Had you such a loss as 1,
I could give better comfort. This is a sentiment which great sorrow always dictates. Whoever cannot help himself casts his eyes on others for assistance, and often mistakes their inability for coldness.
Act III. SCENE vii. (11. iv. 107.)
Lewis. There's nothing in this world can make me joy. The young Prince feels his defeat with more sensibility than his father, Shame operates most strongly in the earlier years, and when can disgrace be less welcome than when a man is going to his bride? Act III. SCENE vii (1. iv. 176–7.)
As a little snow, tumbled about,
Anon becomes a mountain. Bacon, in his history of Henry VII. speaking of Perkin's march, observes, that their snow-ball did not gather as it rolled. Act IV. SCENE i. (iv. i. 101–2.) ARTHUR. Or, Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,
So I may keep mine eyes. This is according to nature. We imagine no evil so great as that which is near us. Act IV. SCENE iv. (ıv. ii. 197–8.)
Slippers, which bis nimble baste
Had falsely tbrust upon contrary feet. I know not how the commentators understand this important passage, which, in Dr. Warburton's edition, is marked as eminently beautiful, and, in the whole, not without justice. But Shakespeare seems to have confounded a man's shoes with his gloves. He that is frighted or hurried may put his hand into the wrong glove, but either shoe will equally admit either foot. The authour seems to be disturbed by the disorder which he describes. ACT IV. SCENE iv. (ıv. č. 231-5.) KING JOHN. Hadst thou but shook tby bead, or made a pause, ..
Deep shame bad struck me dumb. There are many touches of nature in this conference of John with Hubert. A man engaged in wickedness would keep the profit to himself
, and transfer the guilt to his accomplice. These reproaches vented against Hubert are not the words of art or policy, but the eruptions of a mind swelling with consciousness of a crime, and desirous of discharging its misery on another.
This account of the timidity of guilt is drawn ab ipsis reresibus mentis, from an intimate knowledge of mankind, particularly that line in which he says, that to have bid him tell his tale in express words, would have struck bim dumb; nothing is more certain, than that bad men use all the arts of fallacy upon themselves, palliate their actions to their own minds by gentle terms, and hide themselves from their own detection in ambiguities and subterfuges.
The tragedy of King John, though not written with the utmost power of Shakespeare, is varied with a very pleasing interchange of incidents and characters. The Lady's grief is very affecting, and the character of the Bastard contains that mixture of greatness and levity which this authour delighted to exhibit.
There is extant another play of King John, published with Shakespeare's name, so different from this, and I think from all his other works, that there is reason to think his name was prefixed only to recommend it to sale. No man writes upon the same subject twice, without concurring in many places with himself.