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and, overlooking his crimes, glory in our courageous king: Richmond is one of those civil, conscientious gentlemen, who are not vęy apt to captivate a spectator, and Richard, loaded as he is with enormities, rises in the comparison, and I suspect carries the good wishes of many of his audience into action, and dies with their regret.
As soon as he retires to his tent the poet begins to put in motion his great moral machinery of the ghosts. Trifles are not made for Shakespear; difficulties, that would have plunged the spirit of any other poet, and turned his scenery into inevitable ridicule, are nothing in his way; he brings forward a long string of ghosts, and puts a speech into each of their mouths without any fear of consequences. Richard starts from his couch, and before he has shaken off the terrors of his dream, cries out
Give me another horse!
-Bind up iny wounds!
O coward conscience-&C. But I may conclude my subject ; every reader can go on with the foliloquy, and no words of mine can be wanted to excite their admiration.
When it had entered into the mind
of Shakespear, to form an historical play upon certain events in the reign of Henry the fourth of England, the character of the Prince of Wales recommended itself to his fancy, as likely to supply him with a fund of dramatic incidents; for what could invention have more happily suggested than this character, which history presented ready to his hands ? a riotous disorderly young libertine, in whose nature lay hidden those seeds of heroism and ambition, which were to burst forth at once to the astonishment of the world, and to atchieve the conquest of France. This prince, whose character was destined to exhibit a revolution of so brilliant a sort, was not only in himself a very tempting hero for the dramatic poet, who delights in incidents of novelty and surprize, but also offered to his imagination a train of attendant characters, in the persons of his wild comrades and associates, which would be of themselves a drama. Here was a field
for invention wide enough even for the genius of Shakespear to range in. All the humours, passions and extravagancies of human life might be brought into the composition, and when he had grouped and personified them to his taste and liking, he had. a leader ready to place at the head of the train, and the truth of history to give life and interest to his drama.
With these materials ready for creation the great artist fate down to his work; the canvass was spread before him, ample and capacious as the expanse of his own fancy; nature put her pencil into his hand, and he began to sketch. His first concern was to give a chief or captain to this gang of rioters ; this would naturally be the first outline he drew. To fill up the drawing of this personage he conceived a voluptuary, in whose figure and character there should be an assemblage of comic qualities ; in his person he should be bloated and blown up to the size of a Silenus, lazy, luxurious, in sensuality'a fatyr, in intemperance a bacchanalian: As he was to stand in the post of a ringleader amongst thieves and cutpurses, lie made him a notorious liar, a swaggerVOL. III. H
ing coward, vain-glorious, arbitrary, knavith, crafty, voracious of plunder, lavish of his gains, without credit, honour or honesty, and in debt to every body about him: As he was to be the chief seducer and misleader of the heir apparent of the crown, it was incumbent on the poet to qualify him for that part in such a manner as should give probability and even a plea to the temptation; this was only to be done by the strongest touches and the highest colourings of a master ; by hitting off a humour of so happy, fo facetious and so alluring a cast, as should tempt even royalty to forget itfelf, and virtue to turn reveller in his company. His lies, his vanity and his cowardice, too gross to deceive, were to be so ingenious as to give delight; his cunning evasions, his witty resources, his mock folemnity, his vapouring felf-consequence, were to furnish a continual feast of laughter to his royal companion ; he was not only to be witty himself, but the cause of wit in other people; a whetstone for raillery; a buffoon, whofe very person was a jest: Com-pounded of these humours, Shakespear produced the character of Sir John Falstaff ; a
character, character, which neither ancient nor modern comedy has ever equalled, which was so much the favourite of its author as to be introduced in three several plays, and which is likely to be the idol of the English stage, as long as it shall speak the language of Shakespear.
This character almost fingly supports the whole comic plot of the first part of Henry the fourth ; the poet has indeed thrown in some auxiliary humours in the persons of Gadshill, Peto, Bardolph, and Hostess Quickly; the two first serve for little else except to fill up the action, but Bardolph as a butt to Falstaff's raillery, and the hoftess in her wrangling scene with him, when his pockets had been emptied as he was asleep in the tavern, give occasion to scenes of infinite pleafantry : Poins is contrasted from the rest of the gang, and as he is made the companion of the prince, is very properly represented as a man of better qualities and morals than Falstaff's more immediate hangers-on and dependants.
The humour of Falstaff opens into full display upon
first introduction with the prince; the incident of the robbery on