Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

widow, recorded by Holinshed without remark, becomes in Shakespeare's version a master-stroke of cynical effrontery, carried out in circumstances studiously calculated to exhibit at their utmost height, not his statecraft, for his hinted politic reasons for the marriage remain wholly obscure, but his prodigious energy of will and intellect, his Macchiavellian virtù.1 The scene does not advance the action, i.e. the career of Richard, in the least; its only outcome is to provide him with another obstacle to be removed; but it contributes wonderful touches to Richard's portrait, and the weak hapless Anne, wedded only to be 'found worthy of death' is not the least pathetic of his victims.

The death of Clarence, again, was, according to Holinshed's cautious narrative, 'by some wise men' attributed to Gloster's covert influence over the king. Popular rumour attributed it to a foolish prophesie which was that, after King Edward, one should reigne, whose first letter of his name should be a G.' Shakespeare makes Gloster himself invent and publish the prophecy, and give practical effect to his own covert counsel by quietly procuring the murder. Holinshed's Richard is as malignant and as resolute, but he is more cautious, and he has reason to be so. For he has to deceive or to master the trained political intelligence of England. For Shakespeare's Richard this obstacle is insignificant, for of that political intelligence there is very little to be seen. The 'Citizens' who in ii. 3. timidly shake their heads as they 'see the waters swell before a boisterous storm,' but 'leave it all to God' are not men before whom very great circumspection was needed. Gloster might publish his prophecy among

1 It may well have been suggested by Tamburlane's masterful wooing of Zenocrate.

them without great risk of their applying it to his own name, as we know that the people actually did. And they are fitly represented by the credulous Mayor of iii. 5. In Holinshed this farcical scene is a farce on both sides. Richard, immediately after the dinner which he would not eat till Hastings was dead, 'sent in all hast for manie substantiall men out of the citie unto the Towre' and tells his story of treason suddenly discovered and promptly suppressed. 'And this he required them to report.' Whereupon 'everie man answered him faire, as though no man mistrusted the matter, which in truth no man beleeved' (Hol. iii. 723; Stone, p. 374). Even Buckingham was not, in the opinion of the wisest contemporary judges, as reported by Holinshed, taken fully into Richard's counsel until the princes were safely in the Tower; whereas the Shakespearean Richard has frankly confided his purpose while still on their way to London, and is aided by his cunning connivance (Stone, p. 361).

Shakespeare's Richard is certainly Marlowesque in conception and execution. Marlowe's influence is visible in his colossal singleness of make, his transparent hypocrisy. His motives are as unmixed as Tamburlane's, and as frankly disclosed. But the moral atmosphere in which he is set is not altogether of Marlowe. Shakespeare's profounder ethical instinct, his more imaginative discernment of the issues of good and evil, is already apparent in the blending of the classical conception of Nemesis with the Marlowesque idealisation of Force. Innocent and guilty go down with no whisper of resistance before Richard; but his strokes are the instrument of the Nemesis invoked by Margaret's curse. Over against Richard the Titan stands Margaret the Fate; in her presence alone his genius is cowed, his 'angel

[graphic]
[graphic]

becomes a fear, as being overpower'd.' The fear, silent by day, grows lurid nightly in evil dreams, which culminate in the spectral horrors of the eve of Bosworth. His victims themselves grow clear-sighted in their last moments and recognise the web of guilt and retribution in which they are involved.

Now Margaret's curse is fall'n upon our heads,
For standing by when Richard stabb'd her son.
Then cursed she Hastings, then cursed she Buckingham,
Then cursed she Richard. O, remember, God,

To hear her prayers for them, as now for us!

(iii. 3. 15).

The significance of Margaret is heightened by the bold disregard for history and probability with which she is introduced. The real Margaret had been (after Tewkesbury, 1471) first imprisoned in the Tower, then ransomed by her father (1475), and had died in 1482.1 Shakespeare makes her defy a decree of banishment and beard Richard with impunity before his own palace. More nearly than any other figure in the Histories, she moves with supernatural exemption from the bonds of space and time, 'seems not like the inhabitants of earth, and yet is on 't.'

Richard III. and Romeo and Juliet were probably in 1594-5 Shakespeare's most famous plays. Richard III. among the purely historical plays has never lost this rank, for the unrivalled glory of Falstaff belongs to comedy. Already in 1595 John Weever addressed one of his Epigrammes (printed 1599) to 'Gulielmus Shakespeare,' in which he refers to 'Romeo, Richard, more whose names I know not' as famous characters.2 'A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse' seems to have at once caught the 2 In the original RomeoRichard.

1 Halle, 301 (Stone's Holinshed, p. 342).

[graphic]

popular ear and passed into a proverb; it is repeatedly quoted and parodied by Marston.1 The opening lines were parodied in The Returne from Parnassus (1601-2). The ghostly visitations of the eve of Bosworth were adapted to the history of an earlier tyrant in the Latin play Fatum Vortigerni.2 In 1614 one Christopher Brooke published a curious poetic rhapsody, The Ghost of Richard III., Expressing himselfe in these three parts, 1. His Character, 2. His Legend, 3. His Tragedie, and eking out his stiff verses with a Shakespearean phrase or two. The rival

company attempted to profit by the attractions of the subject; and Henslowe records two plays on the subject, one (unfortunately lost) by Ben JonsonRichard Crookback (June 1602). It would have been highly interesting to see what the author of Sejanus and of Volpone made of Richard. Early in the eighteenth century Richard underwent an adaptation at the hands of Colley Cibber, which fatally curtailed its splendid exuberance, but remains the stage version to this day.

[graphic]
[blocks in formation]

THE TRAGEDY OF

KING RICHARD THE THIRD

ACT I.

SCENE I. London. A street.

Enter RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, solus.
Glou. Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber

2. this sun of York. A punning allusion to the 'blazing sun,' the badge adopted by Edward IV. in commemoration of the three suns witnessed on the eve of the battle of Morti

ΤΟ

mer's Cross, February 3, 1461 (3 Hen. VI. ii. 1. 25 f.).

8. measures, stately dances.

IO. barbed, furnished with warlike trappings.

« AnteriorContinuar »