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'Henry V' unchanged. All this being the belief in the progression of that extraaccomplished, he would naturally have ordinary intellect, which acquired greater remodelled the first sketch of The Merry vigour the more its power was exercised. Wives,'-making the relations between the Rightly to appreciate this comedy, it is, characters of the comedy and of the histories we conceive, absolutely necessary to dissociate closer, but still of purpose keeping the it from the historical plays of 'Henry IV.' situations sufficiently distinct. He thus for and'Henry V.' Whether Shakspere produced ever connected “The Merry Wives' with the the original sketch of 'The Merry Wives of historical plays. The Falstaff of the comedy Windsor' before those plays, and remodelled must now belong to the age of Henry IV.; | it after their appearance,-or whether he but to be understood he must, we venture to produced both the original sketch and the think, be regarded as the embryo Falstaff. finished performance when his audiences were
We request that it may be borne in mind perfectly familiar with the Falstaff, Shallow, that the entire argument which we have Pistol, Nym, Bardolph, and Mistress Quickly thus advanced is founded upon a conviction of 'Henry IV.' and 'Henry V.'—it is perfectly that the original sketch, as published in the certain that he did not intend "The Merry quarto of 1602, is an authentic production of Wives' as a continuation. is impossible, our poet. Had no such sketch existed, we however, not to associate the period of the must have reconciled the difficulties of comedy with the period of the histories. For believing «The Merry Wives of Windsor' to although the characters which are common have been produced after “Henry IV.' and to all the dramas act in the comedy under 'Henry V. as we best might have done. very different circumstances, and are, to our Then we must have acknowledged that the minds, not only different in their moods but characters of Falstaff and Shallow and Quickly in some of their distinctive features, they were the same in the comedy and the 'Henry must each be received as identical-alter et IV.,' though represented under different idem. Still the connexion must be as far circumstances. Then we must have believed as possible removed from our view, that we that the contradictory situations were to be may avoid comparisons which the author explained by the determination of Shakspere certainly was desirous to avoid, when in boldly to disregard the circumstances which remodelling the comedy he introduced no resulted from his compliance with the circumstances which could connect it with commands of Elizabeth—“to show Falstaff the histories; and when he not only did not in love." But that sketch being preserved reject what would be called the anachronisms to us, it is much easier, we think, to believe of the first sketch, but in the perfect play that it was produced before the histories; heaped on such anachronisms with a profuseand that the characters were subsequently ness that not exhibited in any other of his heightened, and more strikingly delineated, dramas. We must, therefore, not only to assimilate them to the characters of the dissociate the characters of The Merry Wives' histories. After all, we have endeavoured, from the similar characters of the histories, whilst we have expressed our own belief, but suffer our minds to slide into the belief fairly to present both sides of the question. that the manners of the times of Henry IV. The point, we think, is of interest to the had sufficient points in common with those lovers of Shakspere; for, inferring that the of the times of Elizabeth to justify the poet comedy is a continuation of the history, the in taking no great pains to distinguish inferiority of the Falstaff of "The Merry between them. We must suffer ourselves to Wives' to the Falstaff of Henry IV.' implies be carried away with the nature and fun of a considerable abatement of the poet's skill. this comedy, without encumbering our minds On the other hand, the conviction that the with any precise idea of the social circumsketch of the comedy preceded the history, stances under which the characters lived. that it was an early play, and that it was We must not startle, therefore, at the mention subsequently remodelled, is consistent with of Star-chambers, and Edward shovel-boards,
and Sackerson, and Guiana, and rapiers, and with those that have the fear of God, and Flemish drunkards, and coaches, and pen- not with drunken knaves,”—which resolve, sioners. The characters speak in the language as Evans says, shows his “ virtuous mind.” of truth and nature, which belongs to all In the remodelled play, too, we find the most time; and we must forget that they sometimes peculiar traces of the master-hand in Quickly, use the expressions of a particular time to —such as, “ His worst fault is that he is which they do not in strict propriety belong. given to prayer; he is something peevish
The critics have been singularly laudatory that way;” and “The boy never need to of this comedy. Warton calls it “the most understand anything, for 't is not good that complete specimen of Shakspere's comic children should know any wickedness. Old powers.” Johnson says, “This comedy is folks, you know, have discretion, as they say, remarkable for the variety and number of and know the world;" and again, “Good the personages, who exhibit more characters hearts, what ado here is to bring you appropriated and discriminated than perhaps together! Sure, one of you does not serve can be found in any other play. Its heaven well that you are so crossed.” Johnson general power,
that power by which all works objects to this latter passage as profane; but of genius shall finally be tried, is such, that he overlooks the extraordinary depth of the perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator satire. Shakspere's profound knowledge of who did not think it too soon at the end." | the human heart is as much displayed in We agree with much of this; but we certainly these three little sentences as in his Hamlet cannot agree with Warton that it is “the and his Iago. most complete specimen of Shakspere's comic The principal action of this comedy—the powers." We cannot forget As You Like It,' adventures of Falstaff with the Merry Wives and “Twelfth Night,' and 'Much Ado about -sweeps on with a rapidity of movement Nothing.' We cannot forget those exquisite which hurries us-forward to the dénouement combinations of the highest wit with the as irresistibly as if the actors were under the purest poetry, in which the wit flows from influence of that destiny which belongs to the same everlasting fountain as the poetry, the empire of tragedy. No reverses, no -both revealing all that is most intense and disgraces, can save Falstaff from his final profound and beautiful and graceful in humiliation. The net is around him, but he humanity. Of those qualities which put does not see the meshes ;-he fancies himself Shakspere above all other men that ever the deceiver, but he is the deceived. He will existed, “The Merry Wives of Windsor' stare Ford “out of his wits,” he will “awe him exhibits few traces. Some of the touches, with his cudgel,” yet he lives“ to be carried however, which no other hand could give, in a basket, like a barrow of butcher's offal; are to be found in Slender, and we think in and to be thrown in the Thames.” But his Quickly. Slender, little as he has to do, is confidence is undaunted: “I will be thrown the character that most frequently floats into Etna, as I have been thrown into before our fancy when we think of “The Thames, ere I will leave her;" yet, “since I Merry Wives of Windsor.' Slender and plucked geese, played truant, and whipped Anne Page are the favourites of our modern top, I knew not what it was to be beaten, till school of English painting, which has lately.” Lastly, he will rush upon a third attempted, and successfully, to carry the adventure: “This is the third time; I. hope truth of the Dutch school into a more refined good luck lies in odd numbers;" yet his good region of domestic art. We do not wish luck ends in “I do begin to perceive that I Anne Page to have been married to Slender, am made an ass. The real jealousy of but in their poetical alliance they are Ford most skilfully helps on the merry inseparable. It is in the remodelled play devices of his wife ; and with equal skill does that we find, for the most part, such the poet make him throw away his jealousy, Shaksperean passages in the character of and assist in the last plot against the “unclean Slender as, “If I be drunk, I'll be drunk knight.” The misadventures of Falstaff are
most agreeably varied. The disguise of the make them pay, I'll sauce them.” When old woman of Brentford puts him altogether he loses his horses, and his “mind is heavy," in a different situation to his suffocation in we rejoice that Fenton will give him “a the buck-basket; and the fairy machinery hundred pound in gold” more than his loss. of Herne's Oak carries the catastrophe out of His contrivances to manage the fray between the region of comedy into that of romance. the furious French doctor and the honest
The movement of the principal action is Welsh parson are productive of the happiest beautifully contrasted with the occasional situations. Caius waiting for his adversary repose of the other scenes. The Windsor of _“De herring is no dead so as I vill kill the time of Elizabeth is presented to us, as him”-is capital. But Sir Hugh, with histhe quiet country town, sleeping under the
“ There will we make our peds of roses, shadow of its neighbour the castle. Amidst
And a thousand fragrant posies, its gabled houses, separated by pretty gar
To shallowdens, from which the elm and the chestnut and the lime throw their branches across Mercy on me! I have a great dispositions the unpaved road, we find a goodly company, to cry,"—is inimitable. with little to do but gossip and laugh, and With regard to the underplot of Fenton make sport out of each other's cholers and and Anne Page—the scheme of Page to weaknesses. We see Master Page training marry her to Slender—the counterplot of his “fallow greyhound :” and we go with her mother, “firm for Dr. Caius”—and the Master Ford“ a-birding.” We listen to the management of the lovers to obtain a triumph “pribbles and prabbles” of Sir Hugh Evans out of the devices against them—it may be and Justice Shallow, with a quiet satisfac- sufficient to point out how skilfully it is tion : for they talk as unartificial men ordi- interwoven with the Herne’s Oak adventure narily talk, without much wisdom, but with of Falstaff. Though Slender“ went to her good temper and sincerity. We find our in white, and cried 'mum,' and she cried selves in the days of ancient hospitality, budget,'... yet it was not Anne, but a when men could make their fellows welcome postmaster's boy;"—though Caius did “take without ostentatious display, and half a her in green,” he “ha' married un garçon, a dozen neighbours" could drink down all boy, un paisan ;”—but Anne and Fenton,unkindness over “a hot venison pasty.” The more busy inhabitants of the town have
“ long since contracted, time to tattle, and to laugh, and be laughed
Are now so sure, that nothing can dissolve
Mine Host of the Garter is the prince of hosts; he is the very soul of fun and good Over all the misadventures of that night, temper :-he is not solicitous whether Fal- when all sorts of deer were chas’d,” Shakstaff sit “at ten pounds a week” or at two ; spere throws his own tolerant spirit of for-he readily takes the withered servingman
giveness and content:for a fresh tapster ;"—his confidence in his own cleverness is delicious:—“Am I politic? “Good husband, let us every one go home, am I subtle ? am I a Machiavel ?"_the
And laugh this sport o'er by a country fire; Germans “shall have my horses, but I'll Sir John and all.”
THE DRAMATISTS OF SHAKSPERE'S SECOND PERIOD.
“ Many were the wit-combats betwixt him, having turned it carelessly and superciliously and BEN JONSON ; which two I behold like a over, were just upon returning it to him Spanish great galleon and an English man with an ill-natured answer, that it would be of-war : Master Jonson (like the former) of no service to their company, when Shakwas built far higher in learning ; solid, but spere luckily cast his eye upon it, and found slow, in his performances. Shakespeare, something so well in it as to engage him with the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, first to read it through, and afterwards to but lighter in sailing, could turn with all recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings to tides, tack about, and take advantage of all the public.”* The tradition which Rowe winds, by the quickness of his wit and in- thus records is not supported by minute vention.” Such is Thomas Fuller's well- facts which have since become known. In known description of the convivial inter- Henslowe's Diary of plays performed at his course of Shakspere and Jonson, first pub- theatre, we have an entry under the date of lished in 1662. A biographer of Shakspere the 11th of May, 1597, of “The Comedy of says, “The memory of Fuller perhaps teemed Humours. This was no doubt a new play, with their sallies.” That memory, then, for it was acted eleven times : and there can must have been furnished at secondhand; be little question that it was Jonson's cofor Fuller was not born till 1608. He be- medy of 'Every Man in his Humour.' A held them in his mind's eye only. Imper- few months after we have the following enfect, and in many respects worthless, as the try in the same document :-“ Lent unto few traditions of these wit-combats are, Benjamin Jonson, player, the 22nd of July, there can be no doubt of the companionship 1597, in ready money, the sum of four and ardent friendship of these two monarchs pounds, to be paid it again whensoever either of the stage. Fuller's fanciful comparison I or my son shall demand it.” Again: “Lent of their respective conversational powers is unto Benjamin Jonson, the 3rd of December, probably to some extent a just one. The 1597, upon a book which he was to write for difference in the constitution of their minds, us before Christmas next after the date and the diversity of their respective ac- hereof, which he showed the plot unto the quirements, would more endear each to the company : I say, lent in ready money unto other's society.
him the sum of twenty shillings.” On the Rowe thus describes the commencement 5th of January, 1598, Henslowe records in of the intercourse between Shakspere and the same way the trifling loan of five shilJonson :-"His acquaintance with Ben Jon-lings. An advance is also made by Henson began with a remarkable piece of hu- slowe to his company on the 13th of August, manity and good nature. Mr. Jonson, who 1598, “to buy a book called 'Hot Anger was at that time altogether unknown to the soon cold, of Mr. Porter, Mr. Chettle, and world, had offered one of his plays to the Benjamin Jonson, in full payment, the sum players, in order to have it acted ; and the of six pounds.” We thus see, that in 1597 persons into whose hands it was put, after |
*Life of Shakspeare.'
and 1598 there was an intimate connection Curtain Playhouse.” We know where Marof Jonson with the stage, but not with Shak- lowe was killed, and when he was killed. spere's company. It can scarcely be sup- He was slain at Deptford in 1593. Gifford posed that Jonson was a writer for the stage supposes that this tragical event in Jonson's earlier than 1597, and that the “ remarkable life took place in 1595 ; but the conjecture piece of humanity and good nature” re set aside by an indisputable account of corded of Shakspere took place before the the fact. Philip Henslowe, writing to his connection of Jonson with Henslowe's the- son-in-law Alleyn on the 26th of September, atre. He was born, according to Gifford, in 1598, says, “Since you were with me I have 1574. In January, 1619, he sent a poetical lost one of my company, which hurteth me "picture of himself” to Drummond, in which greatly, that is Gabrell [Gabriel], for he is these lines occur :
slain in Hogsden Fields by the hands of “My hundred of grey hairs
Benjamin Jonson, bricklayer ; therefore I Told six and forty years."
would fain have a little of your counsel, if
I could.”* This event took place then, we This would place his birth in 1573*. Drum- see, exactly at the period when Jonson was mond, in narrating Jonson's account of “his in constant intercourse with Henslowe's comown life, education, birth, actions,” up to pany; and it probably arose out of some the period in which we have shown how quarrel at the theatre that he was “ appealed dependent he was upon the advances of a to the fields.” The expression of Henslowe, theatrical manager, thus writes : “Benjamin Jonson, bricklayer,” is a grandfather came from Carlisle, and, he markable one. It is inconsistent with Jonthought, from Annandale to it: he served son's own declaration that after his return King Henry VIII., and was a gentleman. from the Low Countries he“ betook himself His father lost all his estate under Queen to his wonted studies.” We believe that Mary, having been cast in prison and for- Henslowe, under the excitement of that feited ; at last turned minister : so he was a
loss for which he required the counsel of minister's son. He himself was posthumous Alleyn, used it as a term of opprobrium, that born, a month after his father's decease
; was familiar to his company. Dekker, who brought up poorly, put to school by a friend
was a writer for Henslowe's theatre, and who (his master Camden); after, taken from it, in 1599 was associated with Jonson in the and put to another craft (I think was to be composition of two plays, ridicules his former a wright or bricklayer), which he could not friend and colleague, in 1602, as a “poor endure; then went he to the Low Countries; lime and hair rascal’ !--as one who ambled but returning soon, he betook himself to his “in a leather pilch by a play-waggon in the wonted studies. In his service in the Low
highway” a foul-fisted mortar-treader”Countries, he had, in the face of both the
one famous for killing a player" -one camps, killed an enemy and taken opima whose face “looks for all the world like a spolia from him ; and since his coming to
rotten russet-apple when it is bruised”England, being appealed to the fields, he whose“ goodly and glorious nose was blunt, had killed his adversary which had hurt him blunt, blunt”—who is asked, “ how chance in the arm, and whose sword was ten inches it passeth that you bid good bye to an honest longer than his ; for the which he was im- trade of building chimneys and laying down prisoned, and almost at the gallows. Then bricks for a worse handicraftness ?”—who is took he his religion by trust, of a priest twitted with “dost stamp, mad Tamburlaine, who visited him in prison. Thereafter he dost stamp; thou think’st thou 'st mortar was twelve years a Papist.” Aubrey says in under thy feet, dost ?”—one whose face was his random way, “ He killed Mr. Marlowe “punched full of eyelet-holes like the cover the poet on Bunhill, coming from the Green of a warming-pan” — “a hollow-cheeked
* See Jonson's Conversations with Drummond,' pub * Letter in Dulwich College, quoted in Collier's 'Melished by the Shakespeare Society.
moirs of Alleyn.'