This play is only divided from the former for the convenience of exhibition ; for the series of action is continued without interruption, nor are any two scenes of any play more closely connected than the first scene of this play with the last of the former. Act I. SCENE üi. (1. i. 236.)

What is it but to make tby Sepulcbre. The Queen's reproach is founded on a position long received among politicians, that the loss of a King's power is soon followed by loss of life. Act I. SCENE iv. (1. ii. 22-3.)

An oath is of no moment, being not took

Before a true and lawful magistrate. The obligation of an oath is here eluded by very despicable sophistry. A lawful magistrate alone has the power to exact an oath, but the oath derives no part of its force from the magistrate. The plea against the obligation of an oath obliging to maintain an usurper, taken from the unlawfulness of the oath itself in the foregoing play, was rational and just. Act I. SCENE iv. (1. ü. 49-50.)

The Queen, with all the Nortbern Earls and Lords,

Intend bere to besiege you in your castle.
I know not whether the authour intended


moral instruction, but he that reads this has a striking admonition against that precipitancy by which men often use unlawful means to do that which a little delay would put honestly in their power. Had York staid but a few moments he had saved his cause from the stain of perjury.



Act I. SCENE vi. (1. iv. 132.)

'Tis government that makes ibem [i.e.women) seem divine.

Government, in the language of that time, signified evenness of temper, and decency of manners. ACT II. SCENE I. (11. i. 48.)

EDWARD. Ob, speak no more!
The generous tenderness of Edward, and savage
fortitude of Richard, are well distinguished by their
different reception of their father's death.
Act II. SCENE Ü. (11. i. 130–2.)

Our soldiers, like the night-owl's lazy flight,
Or like a lazy thrasher with a flail,

Fell gently down.
This image [of the night-owl] is not very congruous
to the subject, nor was it necessary to the comparison,
which is happily enough completed by the thresher.
Act II. SCENE Vi. (11. v. 21 foll.)

O God! methinks it were a happy life

To be no better than a homely swain. This speech is mournful and soft, exquisitely suited to the character of the king, and makes a pleasing interchange, by affording, amidst the tumult and horrour of the battle, an unexpected glimpse of rural innocence and pastoral tranquillity. Act III. SCENE I. (II. i. 17.) Tby balm wasbt off.

It is common in these plays to find the same images, whether jocular or serious, frequently recurring. Act III. SCENE Ü. (111. ü. 16 foll.)

This is a very lively and spritely dialogue [between King Edward and Lady Gray]; the reciprocation is quicker than is common in Shakespeare.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Act III. SCENE Ü. (mu. . 161.) Unlick'd bear-whelp.

It was an opinion which, in spite of its absurdity, prevailed long, that the bear brings forth only shapeless lumps of animated flesh, which she licks into the form of bears. It is now well known that the whelps of a bear are produced in the same state with those of other creatures. Act III. SCENE üi. (ur. ii. 166–7.)

To o'erbear such As are of better person than myself. Richard speaks here the language of nature. Whoever is stigmatised with deformity has a constant source of envy in his mind, and would counterballance by some other superiority these advantages which they feel themselves to want. Bacon remarks that the deformed are commonly daring, and it is almost proverbially observed that they are ill-natured. The truth is, that the deformed, like all other men, are displeased with inferiority, and endeavour to gain ground by good or bad means, as they are virtuous or corrupt. Act III. SCENE V. (11r. iii. 127.) Exempt from envy.

Envy is always supposed to have some fascinating or blasting power, and to be out of the reach of envy is therefore a privilege belonging only to great excellence. Act IV. SCENE i. (ıv. i. 42–3.) HASTINGS. 'I is better using France, than trusting France.

Let us be back'd with God, and with ibe seas.
This has been the advice of every man who in any
age understood and favoured the interest of England.
Act IV. SCENE i. (iv, i. 56.)

You would not bave bestow'd the beir.
It must be remembered, that till the restoration the

[ocr errors]

heiresses of great estates were in the wardship of the
king, who in their minority gave them up to plunder,
and afterwards matched them to his favourites.
I know not when liberty gained more than by the
abolition of the court of wards.
Act IV. SCENE vii. (iv. vi. 29.)

Few men rightly temper with the stars.
I suppose the meaning is, that few men conform their
temper to their destiny, which King Henry did, when
finding himself unfortunate he gave the management
of publick affairs to more prosperous hands.
Act IV. SCENE vü. (iv. vi. 70.)

This pretty lad will prove our country's bliss. He was afterwards Henry VII. A man who put an end to the civil war of the two houses, but not otherwise remarkable for virtue. Shakespeare knew his trade. Henry VII. was Grandfather to Queen Elizabeth, and the King from whom James inherited. Acr V. SCENE ü. (v. ii. 24-5.)

My parks, my walks, my manors that I bad,

Eon now forsake me.
Cedes cæmptis saltibus, et domo, Villaque. Hor.
This mention of his parks and manours diminishes
the pathetick effect of the foregoing lines.
Act V. SCENE vi. (v. iv. 67 foll.)

This scene is ill-contrived, in which the king and
queen appear at once on the stage at the head of
opposite armies. It had been easy to make one retire
before the other entered.
Act V. SCENE Vi. (v. v. 51.)

QUEEN. Ob Ned, sweet Ned !
The condition of this warlike queen would move


compassion could it be forgotten that she gave rork, to wipe his eyes in his captivity, a handkerchief stained with his young child's blood.

The three parts of Henry VI. are suspected, by Mr. Theobald, of being supposititious, and are declared, by Dr. Warburton, to be certainly not Shakespeare's. Mr. Theobald's suspicion arises from some obsolete words ; but the phraseology is like the rest of our authour's stile, and single words, of which however I do not observe more than two, can conclude little.

Dr. Warburton gives no reason, but I suppose him to judge upon deeper principles and more comprehensive views, and to draw his opinion from the general effect and spirit of the composition, which he thinks inferior to the other historical plays.

From mere inferiority nothing can be inferred; in the productions of wit there will be inequality. Sometimes judgment will err, and sometimes the matter itself will defeat the artist. Of every authour's works one will be the best, and one will be the worst. The colours are not equally pleasing, nor the attitudes equally graceful, in all the pictures of Titian or Reynolds.

Dissimilitude of stile and heterogeneousness of sentiment, may sufficiently show that a work does not really belong to the reputed authour. But in these plays no such marks of spuriousness are found. The diction, the versification, and the figures, are Shakespeare's. These plays, considered, without regard to characters and incidents, merely as narratives in verse, are more happily conceived and more accurately finished than those of king John, Richard II., or the tragick scenes of Henry IV. and V. If we take these plays from Shakespeare, to whom shall they be given What authour of that age had the same easiness of expression and fluency of numbers ?

« 前へ次へ »