صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

to compare the original and the revised dramas.* The text of the First Part of Henry VI., as it stands in our own edition, and the text of the two Parts of the Contention' as modernized in their orthography, &c., by us, are thus equally fitted for a comparison addressed to the general reader. But they are still each in that state in which, according to the prevailing opinion, Shakspere has not written one line of either of them. That, however, we beg to repeat, is not the point to which we first address ourselves; it is simply whether they were written by one and the same man.

The theory that the First Part of Henry VI. was not written by the author of the Second and Third Parts, in their unrevised state, must assume one of two things;-either, that it was intended as a whole, as a single and complete play looking to no continuation,—or that the continuation has been lost. Into this mode of viewing the subject Malone does not at all enter. Drake, however, departing from his usual safe course of submission to the authority of others, says," It would be but doing justice to the original design of Shakspeare to insert for the future in his works only the two pieces which he remodelled. This may the more readily be done, as there appears no necessary connexion between the elder drama and those of Shakspeare (those remodelled by him) on the same reign." Upon this theory, then, that the Second and Third Parts have no connexion with the First Part of Henry the Sixth, we turn to the First Part of the Contention,' and we find that the scene opens with the following lines :-

"Suf. As by your high imperial majesty's command,

I had in charge at my depart for France,

As procurator for your excellence,

To marry princess Margaret for your grace;

So in the ancient famous city Tours,

In presence of the kings of France and Sicil,

The dukes of Orleans, Calaber, Bretaigne, and Alençon,

Seven earls, twelve barons, and twenty reverend bishops,

I did perform my task, and was espous'd:

And now, most humbly on my bended knees,

In sight of England and her royal peers,

Deliver up my title in the queen

Unto your gracious excellence, that are the substance
Of that great shadow I did represent:

The happiest gift that ever marquess gave,

The fairest queen that ever king possess'd."

[ocr errors]

with a

This is a singular commencement of a drama which has no necessary connexion previous drama. There is an abruptness in it which can scarcely be accounted for upon any other principle than that of " necessary connexion." The same abruptness prevails in the other two plays, of which the " necessary connexion" is admitted by all men. The 'Second Part of the Contention' opens with

"I wonder how the king escap'd our hands."

[ocr errors]

It is the first exclamation of Warwick after the results of the battle of St. Alban's are detailed to him; and the scene continues the detail. The link is manifest; for the First Part of the Contention' concluded with the battle of St. Alban's. In the same way, the address of Suffolk to the King, which we have quoted, is the connecting link between the First Part of the Contention' and the First Part of Henry VI. "The command," to which Suffolk refers, is thus given in Henry's speech in the concluding scene of that play :

"Take, therefore, shipping; post, my lord, to France;

Agree to any covenants; and procure

That lady Margaret do vouchsafe to come
To cross the seas to England, and be crown'd

King Henry's faithful and anointed queen."

* See
p. 67.

This appears to us to offer quite sufficient ground to justify a more prolonged inquiry, whether that unity of action which would render the one drama an integral portion of its successors prevails in the First Part of Henry VI. and the two Parts of the Contention ;'— whether, in fact, with reference to this unity of action, they are not essentially one and the same drama, divided into parts only for the convenience of representation. This inquiry may be more conveniently conducted by inquiring, at the same time, whether there is a similar. unity of characterization. If the action in these plays were the same, but with a different development of character, there would be reasonable grounds for believing that the author of the Second and Third Parts had, with little difficulty, continued the action of the First Part, without attempting, or attempting in vain, to identify the characters of each. Involved in these two inquiries, though of less importance, is the further question of identity of manner. We shall pursue each of these questions, separately or in connexion, as, in our judgment, may best illustrate the entire subject.

The action of the First Part of Henry VI., which is spread over the period from the accession of the infant king to his marriage, is twofold. Its chief action is the war in France; its secondary action is the progress of party-discord in England. The scenes in which Talbot and Salisbury and Bedford are "raised from the grave of oblivion, and brought to plead their aged honours in open presence,' ,"* possessed, as we know, a wondrous charm for the audiences of the early drama. The brave Talbot had "his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators." This we can readily understand; for the scene between John Talbot and his father, and the death scene of Talbot, in this play possess a power unto which, we may venture to say, the audiences in 1592 had never before yielded up their tears. But it was not by poetical fervour alone that they were subdued. The exhibition of their "forefathers' valiant acts," in the rudest fashion, was to them, according to Nashe, a new source of the highest pleasure. In another passage Nashe says, "What a glorious thing it is to have King Henry V. represented on the stage, leading the French king prisoner, and forcing both him and the dolphin to swear fealty." This is the concluding scene of the coarse and unpoetical Famous Victories.' The stage had thus early possession of the subject of Henry V. The continuation of that story, with reference only to the wars of France under the regent Bedford, had enough in it to furnish materials for a spirit-stirring drama of equal popularity. But the author of Henry VI. carried his views beyond this point; and it is for this cause that he gives us a two-fold action. The principle upon which he worked rendered

[ocr errors]

it essentially a drama to be continued. Taken in itself it is a drama without a catastrophe. So, it may be said, is Shakspere's Henry V.; and we add, that it is intentionally so. The catastrophe is to be found in the plays which preceded it in the order of composition, but followed it in the order of their events.

The main action of the First Part of Henry VI. terminates with the inglorious condemnation of Joan of Arc. The peace that immediately follows that event is essentially linked with the continuation of this play. To York this peace is a cause of unmingled apprehension :— "Oh Warwick, Warwick! I foresee with grief

The utter loss of all the realm of France."

To the followers of the French king it is but a hollow paction :

"And therefore take this compact of a truce,

Although you break it when your pleasure serves."

Preceding the conclusion of that ominous peace, we have the scenes between Suffolk and Margaret; and the play concludes with the ratification of the promises which Suffolk has made to Regnier :

"Thus Suffolk hath prevail'd."

That these scenes had most distinct regard to a continuation there can, we think, be no doubt. + See Introduction to Henry IV.

*Thomas Nashe, 1592.

Suffolk has no sooner, in the subsequent play, communicated the result of his mission, than the forebodings of York are realized by the denunciations of Humphrey of Gloster :"Hum. Brave peers of England, pillars of the state,

To you duke Humphrey must unfold his grief;
What, did my brother Henry toil himself,
And waste his subjects for to conquer France?
And did my brother Bedford spend his time,
To keep in awe that stout unruly realm?
And have not I and mine uncle Beaufort here
Done all we could to keep that land in peace?

And are all our labours then spent quite in vain?"

But in truth the entire conduct of the play of Henry VI., with reference to the issue of the war in France, is of a gloomy and foreboding tendency. The author gave the tone to the whole progress of the action in the opening scene. He goes out of his way, in this scene, to anticipate the disasters which, after a long interval, followed the death of Henry V. Would he have done this had he intended the play to have stood by itself? There were enough materials in the career of Bedford for a song of triumph; but he has chosen to exhibit to us the most desperate valour fruitlessly exerted,―success and misfortune going hand in hand,— treachery and supineness losing what honour and courage had won,-and murderous victories terminating in a base revenge and an inglorious peace. This is certainly not the course that would have been pursued by the author of the First Part of Henry VI., had he regarded that part as a whole. It is not the course, even, that would have been pursued by an author careless altogether of dramatic effect, beyond the rude art of embodying in successive scenes the events of the Chroniclers; for the events so dramatized are not, in the material parts of their relations to each other, the events told by the Chroniclers. But it is the course that would have been pursued by a poet who had also conceived the plan of the subsequent dramas, in which the consequences of the reverses in France, and the abandonment of the conquests of Henry V., are never lost sight of as long as they influence in the remotest degree the conduct of the story. We will trace a few of the allusions to this portion of the action of the First Part of Henry VI. which occur in the old copies of the succeeding plays.

In the first scene of the First Part of the Contention' York thus exclaims :"York. Anjou and Maine both given unto the French!

In the third act of the

the same words :

Cold news for me, for I had hope of France,

Even as I have of fertile England."

'First Part of the Contention'* York repeats the same sentiment in

"King. Welcome, lord Somerset ; what news from France?

Som. Cold news, my lord, and this it is.

That all your holds and towns within those territories

Is overcome, my lord; all is lost.

King. Cold news indeed, lord Somerset ;

But God's will be done.

York. Cold news for me, for I had hope of France,

Even as I have of fertile England."

In the first act of the 'Second Part of the Contention,' Henry denies that the loss of France is to be imputed to himself:

"I am the son of Henry the fifth, who tam'd the French,

And made the dauphin stoop, and seiz'd upon

Their towns and provinces.

War. Talk not of France, since thou hast lost it all.

King. The lord protector lost it, and not I;

When I was crown'd I was but nine months old."

* There are no divisions into acts and scenes in the original copies; but for the convenience of reference and comparison we have made these divisions in our editions.

In the third act of the same Part Warwick twits the followers of Henry with his abandonment of the conquests of his father :

"Orf. Then Warwick disannuls great John of Gaunt,

That did subdue the greatest part of Spain;

And after John of Gaunt, wise Henry the fourth,
Whose wisdom was a mirror to the world;
And after this wise prince, Henry fifth,

Who with his prowess conquered all France ;-

From these our Henry is lineally descent.

War. Oxford, how haps that in this smooth discourse,

You told not how Henry the sixth had lost

All that Henry the fifth had gotten?

Methinks these peers of France should smile at that!"

The audience is constantly kept in mind of the connexion of the events by which Henry VI. both "lost France, and made his England bleed."

The unhappy marriage with Margaret of Anjou is as constantly exhibited as the main cause of these misfortunes. In the scene of the second act of the First Part of the Contention' where the protector detects the impostor at Saint Alban's, the calamitous treaty between Suffolk and Regnier is thus sarcastically alluded to:

"Suf. My lord protector hath done wonders to-day;
He hath made the blind to see, and halt to go.

Hum. Ay, but you did greater wonders when you made
whole dukedoms fly in a day.

Witness France.

King. Have done, I say, and let me hear no more of that."

In the great scene (Act I. Scene Iv.) of the Second Part of the Contention,' York thus upbraids the queen with the poverty of her father:

"She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France,

Whose tongue's more poison'd than the adder's tooth!
How ill beseeming is it in thy sex

To triumph like an Amazonian trull

Upon his woes whom fortune captivates!

But that thy face is, vizard-like, unchanging,

Made impudent by use of evil deeds,

I would assay, proud queen, to make thee blush:

To tell thee of whence thou art, from whom deriv'd,

"T were shame enough to shame thee, wert thou not shameless.

Thy father bears the type of king of Naples,

Of both the Sicils, and Jerusalem,

Yet not so wealthy as an English yeoman."

More emphatically than all, in the next act, the sons of York connect the marriage of Margaret not only with the loss of France, but with the whole course of the civil wars of England :

"Rich. Iron of Naples, hid with English gilt,

Thy father bears the title of a king,

As if a channel should be called the sea:

Sham'st thou not, knowing from whence thou art deriv'd,

To parley thus with England's lawful heirs?

Edw. A wisp of straw were worth a thousand crowns,

To make that shameless callet know herself.

Thy husband's father revell'd in the heart of France,

And tam'd the French, and made the dauphin stoop:

And had he match'd according to his state,

He might have kept that glory till this day.

But when he took a beggar to his bed,
And grac'd thy poor sire with his bridal day,
Then that sunshine bred a shower for him,


Which wash'd his father's fortunes out of France,
And heap'd seditions on his crown at home.

For what hath mov'd these tumults, but thy pride?
Hadst thou been meek, our title yet had slept:

And we, in pity of the gentle king,

Had slipp'd our claim until another age."

We have no hesitation in expressing our belief that, except for the purposes of continuation, the wooing of Margaret by Suffolk, and the intrigue by which he induces Henry to consent to the marriage, would have formed no portion of the First Part of Henry VI. These scenes come at the end of that drama, if it is to be regarded as a whole, as an episode entirely out of place. But the devotion of Suffolk to Margaret, as exhibited in the First Part of Henry VI., is essentially connected with their unholy love, as shown in the First Part of the Contention.' We will give a portion of each of these scenes, in apposition, not only as furnishing an example of the unity of action, but of the identity of characterisation and of manner :—

"Suf. Be what thou wilt, thou art my prisoner.
[Gazes on her.

O fairest beauty, do not fear, nor fly;
For I will touch thee but with reverent hands.

I kiss these fingers [kissing her hand] for eternal


And lay them gently on thy tender side.

Who art thou? say, that I may honour thee.

Mar. Margaret my name, and daughter to a king,

The king of Naples; whosoe'er thou art.

Suf. An earl I am, and Suffolk am I call'd.

Be not offended, nature's miracle,

Thou art allotted to be ta'en by me:
So doth the swan her downy cygnets save,
Keeping them prisoner underneath her wings.
Yet if this servile usage once offend,
Go, and be free again, as Suffolk's friend.

[She turns away as going.
O, stay!-I have no power to let her pass;
My hand would free her, but my heart says-no.
As plays the sun upon the glassy streams,
Twinkling another counterfeited beam,

So seems this gorgeous beauty to mine eyes."

FIRST PART OF THE CONTENTION, ACT III., Sc. II. "Queen. Sweet Suffolk, hie thee hence to France, For if the king do come, thou sure must die.

Suf. And if I go I cannot live: but here to die,
What were it else,

But like a pleasant slumber in thy lap?
Here could I breathe my soul into the air,
As mild and gentle as the new-born babe,
That dies with mother's dug between his lips.
Where from my (thy) sight I should be raging mad,
And call for thee to close mine eyes,

Or with thy lips to stop my dying soul,
That I might breathe it so into thy body,
And then it liv'd in sweet Elysium.

By thee to die, were but to die in jest;

From thee to die, were torment more than death:
Oh, let me stay, befal what may befal.

Queen. Oh might'st thou stay with safety of thy

Then should'st thou stay; but heavens deny it,
And therefore go, but hope ere long to be repeal'd.
Suf. I go.

Queen. And take my heart with thee.

[blocks in formation]

We now proceed to the secondary action of the First Part of Henry VI.,-the growth of civil discord in England. And here, as it appears to us, the unity of action and of characterisation in this play and the two Parts of the Contention' are so manifest, that we incur the risk of attempting to prove what is self-evident. It is still, however, necessary that we should conduct this inquiry, even with the danger of being tedious, by regular advances.

The quarrels of Gloster and Beaufort commence even over the bier of Henry V. Bedford here restrains the rivals:-" Cease, cease these jars." In the third scene their hatred breaks out into open violence. The forced reconciliation of these angry peers, in the third act, terminates the quarrel, as far as it proceeds in the First Part of Henry VI. Can we imagine. that, if this play had been written without regard to a continuation, this part of the action would have thus terminated? Exeter, in this scene, anticipates the consequences of these dis

« السابقةمتابعة »