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"In perusing these lines," says the solemn commentator, "one cannot help recollecting the trade which his father has by some been supposed to have followed." We proceed to exhibit, not the one passage of the First Part of Henry VI. in which there is "coincidency” of thought and expression with Shakspere's other plays, nor the three other passages of the two Parts of the Contention;' but we put some thirty or forty passages of this character before our readers; and we leave to others to assign its true name to the assertion of Malone, that these resemblances can be found only in what he held Shakspere to have written of these dramas,—that is, in one passage of the First Part of Henry VI., and in three of the unmarked lines of the Second and Third Parts.
FROM THE SECONd Part of the Contention.
"The sight of any of the house of York
Is as a fury to torment my soul."
"With purple faulchion painted to the hilts In blood of those whom he had slaughtered."
"A dog of the house of Montague moves me."
Romeo and Juliet. "With pennons painted in the blood of Harfleur."
"Wouldst have me weep? why, so thou hast thy "This windy tempest, till it blow up rain,
For raging winds blow up a storm of tears,
"And if thou tell the story well,
Upon my soul, the hearers will shed tears."
"Bring forth that fatal screech-owl to our house,
"What valiant foemen, like to autumn's corn,
"And now what rests, but that we spend the time With stately triumphs and mirthful comic shows?"
If Malone, then, as we have seen, suppresses the resemblances between passages which he holds were not written by Shakspere and passages in his undoubted works, it is not unreasonable to expect that in the same disingenuous spirit he should have concealed the resemblances which also exist between the new and the old portions of the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI. and the new portions as compared with the entire First Part. It is important to note these particulars.
There is no opinion more commonly received, and justly, than that of Shakspere's dramas being remarkably free from classical and mythological allusions as compared with the works of his contemporaries; and it has long been the fashion to ascribe this absence of the peculiarity which distinguished all other productions of his day to his want of the necessary learning. Mr. Collier says, "His (Greene's) usual fault, more discoverable in his plays than in his poems, is an absence of simplicity; but his pedantic classical references, frequently without either taste or discretion, he had in common with the other scribbling scholars of the time. It was Shakespeare's good fortune to be in a great degree without the knowledge, and therefore, if on no other account, without the defect."* Malone proves that the First Part of Henry VI. could not have been written by Shakspere, because it abounds with such references:
"It is very observable that in the First Part of King Henry VI. there are more allusions to mythology, to classical authors, and to ancient and modern history, than, I believe, can be found in any one piece of our author's written on an English story; and that these allusions are introduced very much in the same manner as they are introduced in the plays of Greene, Peele, Lodge, and other dramatists who preceded Shakspeare; that is, they do not naturally arise out of the subject, but seem to be inserted merely to show the writer's learning."
Malone then proceeds to select twenty-two of the "most remarkable" of such passages from the First Part of Henry VI., taking Dr. Johnson's conjectural "Berenice" as one of them. It is our intention to print these twenty-two passages as Malone gives them, placing, however, by their side nearly as many passages from other plays, in which there are
* Annals of the Stage, vol. iii., p. 154.
not only classical allusions, but Latin quotations.
This will at least show the fashion of the
times. The first column contains the passages from Henry VI., Part I. :—
1. Mars his true moving, even as in the heavens, So in the earth, to this day is not known.
2. A far more glorious star thy soul will make Than Julius Cæsar, or bright [Berenice].
1. Methinks the realms of England, France, and Ireland,
Bear that proportion to my flesh and blood,
Than the rich-jewell'd coffer of Darius. 13. I shall as famous be by this exploit,
As Scythian Thomyris by Cyrus' death. 14. I thought I should have seen some Hercules, A second Hector, for his grim aspéct.
15. Nestor-like aged, in an age of care.
16. Then follow thou thy desperate sire of Crete, Thou Icarus.
17. Where is the great Alcides of the field? 18. Now am I like that proud insulting ship,
That Cæsar and his fortune bare at once.
19. Is Talbot slain; the Frenchman's only scourge, Your kingdom's terror, and black Nemesis? 20. Thou may'st not wander in that labyrinth; There Minotaurs and ugly treasons lurk. 21. See how the ugly witch doth bend her brows, As if, with Circe, she would change my shape.
Unto the prince's heart of Calydon.
Dii faciant, laudis summa sit ista tuæ. Helen of Greece was fairer far than thou, Although thy husband may be Menelaus; And ne'er was Agamemnon's brother wrong'd By that false woman, as this king by thee. 11. And, if we thrive, promise them such rewards As victors wear at the Olympian games. 12. And so obsequious will thy father be,
Sad for the loss of thee, having no more, As Priam was for all his valiant sons. 13. The tiger will be mild, while she doth mourn; And Nero will be tainted with remorse, To hear, and see, her plaints, her brinish tears. 14. I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
15. That as Ulysses, and stout Diomede,
With slight and manhood stole to Rhesus' tents, And brought from thence the Thracian fatal steeds.
16. Like to his island, girt in with the ocean, Or modest Dian circled with her nymphs.
17. To keep that oath were more impiety
Than Jephtha's, when he sacrificed his daughter. 18. And now like Ajax Telamonius.
It will be obvious to the careful reader that we have taken these eighteen passages, in which there are such "allusions to mythology, to classical authors," &c., as are rarely found in Shakspere, from the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI. But it may not be equally apparent that we have selected such passages only as are additions to the Contention'—passages all marked with Malone's asterisk-all, without an exception, held to be contributed by Shakspere. It is scarcely necessary to point out that the exhibition of such passages at once destroys Malone's argument, that the First Part of Henry VI. could not
have been written by Shakspere because it abounds with similar allusions; and further shows that there are peculiarities in Shakspere's undoubted portion of these dramas which are totally different from the ordinary characteristics of his manner. We dwell little upon the fact that these eighteen passages which we have given are conclusive against the theory of Shakspere's want of knowledge. They prove, incontestably, that as a young writer he had the knowledge, and was not unwilling to display it; but that, with that wonderful judgment which was as remarkable as the prodigious range of his imaginative powers, he soon learnt to avoid the pedantry to which inferior men so pertinaciously clung in the pride of their scholarship. Malone, we have seen, states distinctly that the versification of the new portions of Henry VI. is of a different colour from the old portions of the Contention.' He holds, farther, that the versification of the First Part of Henry VI. is precisely of the same character as the two Parts of the Contention;' and upon this ground, combined with that of the display of learning which we have already noticed, he rejects the First Part of Henry VI. altogether from being Shakspere's, and adopts as Shakspere's only the new passages in the Second and Third Parts :
“The versification of this play (Henry VI. Part I.) appears to me clearly of a different colour from that of all our author's genuine dramas, while, at the same time, it resembles that of many of the plays produced before the time of Shakspere.
"In all the tragedies written before his time, or just when he commenced author, a certain stately march of versification is very observable. The sense concludes or pauses almost uniformly at the end of every line; and the verse has scarcely a redundant syllable. As the reader may not have any of these pieces at hand, (by the possession of which, however, his library would not be much enriched,) I shall add a few instances,—the first that occur."*
The quotations which Malone has subjoined are very numerous, occupying four closely printed pages. They all go to show, what we shall subsequently endeavour to establish, that the blank verse which, in the hands of the matured Shakspere, became the most exquisitely modulated instrument of harmonious utterance, was, before he fully tried its power and its compass, a rude, and at the best a monotonous, instrument,-a vehicle of verse that was little better than measured prose. Mr. Collier exhibits the character of our early blankverse with a knowledge and exactness very superior to Malone :-" It will be evident that the long use of rhyme, in which the ear waited for the recurrence of the corresponding sound, led at first to the formation and employment of what may be termed couplets in blank-verse; in which the pauses occurred at the end of the lines, and the sense was only completed with the completion of the couplet.t
The four pages of quotations which Malone exhibits show most decisively that, about the time when the First Part of Henry VI. and the Contention' may be held to have been written, our dramatic poetry, without a single exception, was formed upon one model of versification. The prevailing theory therefore is, that Shakspere could not have written those plays, because, in his undoubted works, a different character of versification prevails. Our belief, on the contrary, being that Shakspere did write these dramas at a very early age, we have no difficulty in believing also that his first efforts were formed upon existing models of versification. The discovery of the powers of his instrument could only come from its habitual use. Versification is as much perfected by practice in the poet as colouring in the painter; but when did a poet or a painter, in his first attempts, produce a new system of versification, or a new system of colouring, till he had learnt by practice the imperfection of existing models? Holding the two Parts of the Contention' to be Shakspere's originally, but written by him about, if not before, 1590, we are prepared, without any abatement of our admiration of his early genius, to find him employing, though not exclusively, the versification of his time, in Annals of the Stage, vol. iii., p. 129.
* Dissertation, p. 560.
which "the sense concludes or pauses almost uniformly at the end of every line, and the verse has scarcely ever a redundant syllable." But in these plays we also occasionally find a freedom and rapidity which we in vain seek for in other historical plays of the period. Upon this point we shall not at present dwell. We are about to make a selection from some of the passages quoted by Malone from the early plays, exhibiting them with some parallel passages from the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI.:
1. "My lord of Gloucester, and lord Mortimer, To do you honour in your sovereign's eyes,
That, as we hear, is newly come aland
Go mount your coursers, meet him on the way:
Edward I., by George Peele.
2. "The work that Ninus rear'd at Babylon,
England's rich monarch, brave Plantagenet,
Friar Bacon, by ROBERT GREENE.
3. "King. Thus far, ye English peers, have we display'd
Our waving ensigns with a happy war;
James IV., by Robert Greene.
4. "Barons of England, and my noble lords,
The Troublesome Reign of King John.
1. "Glo. Now, lords, my choler being over-blown, With walking once about the quadrangle,
I come to talk of commonwealth affairs.
2. "K. Hen. Ay, Margaret; my heart is drown'd with grief,
Whose flood begins to flow within mine eyes;
Henry VI., Part II.
3. "Q. Mar. Who can be patient in such extremes?
Ah, wretched man! 'would I had died a maid,
Henry VI., Part III.
4. "York. The army of the queen hath got the field: My uncles both are slain in rescuing me; And all my followers to the eager foe Turn back, and fly, like ships before the wind, Or lambs pursued by hungry starved wolves. My sons-God knows what hath bechanced them." Henry VI., Part III.