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dence of a fact, but the evidence is very weak, and the fact affords no proof of the murder. I quite agree with Walpole as to the improbability of Richard's becoming the murderer of the captive and childless king. On the other hand, it is sufficiently clear, that, from the very first, it was suspected that Henry was murdered, and that the perpetrator was in station so high as to be called a tyrant, and that a rumour was prevalent at an early period, but perhaps not until after Richard's death, that Gloucester was the murderer.
The closing scene, in which the king, queen, and royal brothers, with the infant prince, appear in domestic harmony (simulated, of course, on the part of Richard), is necessarily the poet's. On this occasion, Edward recapitulates the foemen who have been destroyed in the war:—
"Three dukes of Somerset,* threefold renown'd
» Edmund, slain at St. Alban's; Henry, beheaded at Hexham; Edmund, beheaded at Tewksbury.
t Thomas, killed at St. Alban's; John, killed at Towton.
% Henry (son of Hotspur), slain at St, Alban's; another Henry, at Towton.
With them the two brave bears, Warwick and Montagu,
That in their chains fetter'd the kingly Hon,
Dr. Johnson, who ascribes all the three plays to Shakspeare, says of them—
"These plays, considered without regard to characters and incidents, merely as narrations in verse, are more happily conceived, and more accurately finished, than those of King John, Richard II., or the tragic scenes of King Henry IV. and V. . . Of these three plays, I think the second the best. The truth is, that they have not sufficient variety of action, for the incidents are too often of the same kind; yet many of the characters are well discriminated. King Henry and his Queen, King Edward, the Duke of Gloucester, and the Earl of Warwick, are very strongly and distinctly painted."
I do not agree with Johnson in ascribing to these pieces any one point of superiority over the former historical plays. On the contrary, the second, though, as he says, the best of the three, is inferior, in my opinion, in good scenes and speeches, to the second part of Henry IV., which is the least admirable of those other plays. Comparisons, however, of works, are as difficult as they are odious as to persons.
The character of Henry VI. is correctly and consistently drawn. Malcolm Laing wrongs this prince, when he says that it was " because he was a fool, that he was reputed a saint."* His mind suffered with his body, and he was certainly deficient in the energy that was required in the holder of a disputed throne, and was more calculated for a private life or for a cloister, than for a palace. Such is he described by contemporaries,+ and such has Shakspeare well painted him. Even the exception which I have noticed,| to his usual submissiveness, in his peremptory refusal to hear excuses for Suffolk, may be traced to the religious respect which he paid to an oath. The character of Edward is as clearly marked as history allows. In the period of the play, he could only be known as a brave soldier with the habits and notions of a libertine. War
« Henry's Great Brit., xii. 399.
t See particularly Blackma1l, in Otterbourne, 287. Holinshed says, " He was of a seemly stature, of body slender, to which proportion all other members were answerable; his face beautiful, wherein continually was resident the bounty of mind with the which he was inwardly endued. Of his own natural inclination, he abhorred all the vices as well of the body as of the soul. His patience was such, that of all the injuries to him done (which were innumerable), he never asked vengeance, thinking; that for such adversity as chanced to him his sins should be forgotten and forgiven. What losses so ever happened to him he never esteemed, nor made any account thereof; but, if anything were done that might sound as an offence towards God, he sore lamented, and, with great repentance, sorrowed for it."—iii. 324.
t Vol. i. p. 286.
wick appears, very properly, as a brave, able, proud, and ambitious nobleman, as he unquestionably was. As Richard has a play to himself, his much-disputed character will be considered hereafter; but, although Margaret also re-appears in that play, it is to these that she properly belongs; especially since Mrs. Jameson is of opinion that the character of this woman is of itself sufficient to prove that the play was not originally designed by Shakspeare. She is, however, of an equally decided opinion, that there are passages in the second and fifth parts which Shakspeare alone could have written. Though I agree with this lady, that Shakspeare did not write the original play, and that he did write or retouch many passages in it, so as to produce the play that we have, I cannot feel that there is anything in the character of Margaret that Shakspeare might not have conceived. "He excites," she says, "our respect and sympathy even for a Lady Macbeth, and would never have given us a heroine without a touch of heroism,"—or " left her without a single personal quality which would excite our interest in her bravely-endured misfortunes."
Now, Johnson says, that "Lady Macbeth is merely detested :"* and I suspect that, if she does
excite an admiration, which her crimes do not deserve, it is owing to the splendid acting which she has occasioned, especially with those of us who remember Siddons. But, surely, Lady Macbeth has less right than Margaret to be deemed heroic, who braved all dangers in defence of her crown, husband, and son. Nor is there any personal quality in which the Scottish exceeds the Frenchwoman. That the character of Lady Macbeth is the more poetical conception, I readily admit; and, perhaps, Mrs. Jameson has a fair right to say that it is so because it is Shakspeare's own; whereas, in the other case, he had no part but that of amplifying and improving the speeches which a former dramatist had assigned to her. Yet I confess, that if there -were not other grounds for ascribing the original play to another hand, I should not deem the character of Margaret impossible to be drawn by Shakspeare.
I am not of opinion that any convincing argument, on one side or the other, as to the authorship of these plays, is to be drawn from the comparison with history. Mrs. Jameson has noticed his deviations from history injurious to Margaret, her love for Suffolk, and her too ready reconciliation with Warwick. These Shakspeare found in the old play.
To decide the question which has arisen as to the authenticity of these plays, requires a minuter