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out almost into detestation. “ Master Robert Shallow, “ chuse what office thou wilt in the land,—'tis thine.—1 am “ fortune's steward.—Let us take any man's horses.—The laws “ of England are at my commandment.-Happy are they who “ have been my friends ;—and woe to my Lord Chief “ Justice.” --After this we ought not to complain if we see Poetic justice duly executed upon him, and that he is finally given up to shame and dishonour.
But it is remarkable that, during this process, we are not acquainted with the success of Falstaff's designs upon Shallow 'till the moment of his disgrace. “If had had “ time,” says he to Shallow, as the King is approaching, “ to have made new liveries, I would have bestowed the “ thousand pounds I borrowed of you” ;—and the first word he utters after this period is, “ Master Shallow, I owe you a “ thousand pounds”: We may from hence very reasonably presume, that Shakespeare meant to connect this fraud with the punishment of Falstaff, as a more avowed ground of censure and dishonour : Nor ought the consideration that this passage contains the most exquisite comic humour and propriety in another view, to diminish the truth of this observation.
But however just 'it might be to demolish Falstaff in this way, by opening to us his bad principles, it was by no means convenient. If we had been to have seen a single representation of him only, it might have been proper enough; but as he was to be shewn from night to night, and from age to age, the disgust arising from the close would by degrees have spread itself over the whole character; reference would be had throughout to his bad principles, and he would have become less acceptable as he was more known : And yet it was necessary to bring him, like all other stage characters, to some conclusion. Every play must be wound up by some event, which may shut in the characters and the action. If some hero obtains a crown, or a mistress, involving therein the fortune of others, we are satisfied ;-we do not desire to be afterwards admitted of his council, or his bed-chamber : Or if through jealousy, causeless or well founded, another kills a beloved wife, and himself after,—there is no more to be said ;—they are dead, and there an end ; Or if in the scenes of Comedy, parties are engaged, and plots formed, for the furthering or preventing the completion of that great article Cuckoldom, we expect to be satisfied in the point as far as the nature of so nice a case will permit, or at least to see such a manifest disposition as will leave us in no doubt of the event. By the bye, I cannot but think that the Comic writers of the last age treated this matter as of more importance, and made more bustle about it, than the temper of the present times will well bear; and it is therefore to be hoped that the Dramatic authors of the present day, some of whom, to the best of my judgment, are deserving of great praise, will consider and treat this business, rather as a common and natural incident arising out of modern manners, than as worthy to be held forth as the great object and sole end of the Play
But whatever be the question, or whatever the character, the curtain must not only be dropt before the eyes, but over the minds of the spectators, and nothing left for further examination and curiosity.—But how was this to be done in regard to Falstaff? He was not involved in the fortune of the Play ; he was engaged in no action which, as to him, was to be compleated; he had reference to no system, he was attracted to no center; he passes thro' the Play as a lawless meteor, and we wish to know what course he is afterwards likely to take : He is detected and disgraced, it is true ; but he lives by detection, and thrives on disgrace; and we are desirous to see him detected and disgraced again. The Fleet might be no bad scene of further amusement ;-he carries all within him, and what matter where, if he be still the same, possessing the same force of mind, the same wit, and the same incongruity. This, Shakespeare was fully sensible of, and knew that this character could not be compleatly dismissed but by death.-“ Our author,” says the Epilogue to the Second Part of Henry IV., “ will continue the
Anti? “ story with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair “ Catherine of France; where, for any thing I know, “ Falstaff shall dye of a sweat, unless already he be killed “ with your hard opinions.” If it had been prudent in Shakespeare to have killed Falstaff with hard opinion, he had the means in his hand to effect it ;-but dye, it seems, he must, in one form or another, and a sweat would have been no unsuitable catastrophe. However we have reason to be satisfied as it is ;-his death was worthy of his birth and of his life: “ He was born,” he says, “ about three o'clock in the “afternoon, with a white head, and something a round belly.” But if he came into the world in the evening with these marks of age, he departs out of it in the morning in all the follies and vanities of youth ;—“He was shaked” (we are told) “ of a burning quotidian tertian ;--the young King had “run bad humours on the knight;—his heart was fracted and “ corroborate ; and a' parted just between twelve and one, even “at the turning of the tide, yielding the crow a pudding, and “ passing directly into Arthur's bosom, if ever man went into “ the 'osom of Arthur.”_So ended this singular buffoon ; and with him ends an Essay, on which the reader is left to bestow what character he pleases : An Essay professing to treat of the Courage of Falstaff, but extending itself to his Whole character ; to the arts and genius of his PoeticMaker, SHAKESPEARE ; and thro' him sometimes, with ambitious aim, even to the principles of human nature itself.
2. Some Latin without question, etc. This passage, down to the reference to the scene in Henry V., is omitted by Pope. Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 2, 95; Titus Andronicus, iv, 2, 20; Henry V., iii. 4.
3. Deer-stealing. This tradition—which was first recorded in print by Rowe—has often been doubted. See, however, Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, 1886, ii., p. 71, and Mr. Sidney Lee's Life of Shakespeare, pp. 27, etc.
4. the first Play he wrote. Pope inserted here the following note : “The highest date of any I can yet find is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author was 33 years old, and Richard the 2d and 3d in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age.” The two last had been printed in 1597.
Mr. Dryden seems to think that Pericles, etc. This sentence was omitted by Pope.
5. the best conversations, etc. Rowe here controverts the opinion expressed by Dryden in his Essay on the Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age: “I cannot find that any of them had been conversant in courts, except Ben Johnson ; and his genius lay not so much that way as to make an improvement by it. Greatness was not then so easy of access, nor conversation so free, as now it is ” (Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, i., p. 175).
A fair Vestal. Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. 1, 158. In the original Rowe adds to his quotations from Shakespeare the page references to his own edition.
The Merry Wives. The tradition that the Merry Wives was written at the command of Elizabeth had been recorded already by Dennis in the preface to his version of the play,—The Comical Gallani, or the Amours of Sir John Falstaffe (1702): “ This Comedy was written at her command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards, as Tradition tells us, very well pleas’d at the Representation." Cf. Dennis's Defence of a Regulated Stage : “she not only commanded
Shakespear to write the comedy of the Merry Wives, and to write it in ten day's time," etc. (Original Letters, 1721, i., p. 232).
this part of Falstaff. Rowe is here indebted apparently to the account of John Fastolfe in Fuller's Worthies of England (1662). But neither in it, nor in the similar passage on Oldcastle in the Church History of Britain (1655, Bk. iv., Cent. xv., p. 168), does Fuller say that the name was altered at the command of the queen, on objection being made by Oldcastle's descendants. This may have been a tradition at Rowe's time, as there was then apparently no printed authority for it, but, as Halliwell-Phillips showed in his Character of Sir John Falstaff, 1841, it is confirmed by a manuscript of about 1625, preserved in the Bodleian. Cf. also Halliwell-Phillips's Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, 1886, ii., pp. 351, etc. ; Richard James's Iter Lancastrense (Chetham Society, 1845, p. Ixv.); and Ingleby's Shakespeare's Centurie of Prayse, 1879, pp. 164-5.
name of Oldcastle. Pope added in a footnote, “ See the Epilogue to Henry 4th.”
6. Venus and Adonis. The portion of the sentence following this title was omitted by Pope because it is inaccurate. The Rape of Lucrece also was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. The error is alluded to in Sewell's preface to the seventh volume of Pope's Shakespeare, 1725.
Eunuchs. Pope reads “ Singers.”
The passage dealing with Spenser (p. 6, 1. 34, to p. 7, 1. 36) was omitted by Pope. But it is interesting to know Dryden's opinion, even though it is probably erroneous. Willy has not yet been identified.
8. After this they were professed friends, etc. This description of Ben Jonson, down to the words “with infinite labour and study could but hardly attain to,” was omitted by Pope, for reasons which appear in his Preface. See pp. 54, 55.
Ben was naturally proud and insolent, etc. Rowe here paraphrases and expands Dryden's description in his Discourse concerning Satire of Jonson's verses to the memory of Shakespeare,—“an insolent, sparing, and invidious panegyric” (ed. W. P. Ker, ii., p. 18).
In a conversation, etc. The authority for this conversation is Dryden, who had recorded it as early as 1668 in his Essay of Dramatic Poesy, at the conclusion of the magnificent eulogy of Shakespeare. He had also spoken of it to Charles Gildon, who, in his Reflections on Mr. Rymer's Short View of Tragedy (1694), had given it with greater fulness of detail. Each of the three accounts contains certain particulars lacking in the other two, but they have unmistakably a common source. Dryden probably told the story to Rowe, as he had already told it to Gildon. The chief difficulty is the source, not of Rowe's information, but of Dryden's. As Jonson was present at the discussion, it must have taken place by 1637. It is such a discussion as prompted Suckling's Session of the Poets (1637), wherein Hales and Falkland figure. It cannot