Imágenes de páginas

an unjust sentence--as unjust as that pro- | time familiar, and presented Sir John Oldnounced by the worthy writer of the letter castle upon the stage, in a manner that would in the Bodleian Library, that the wittiest of be agreeable to “personages descended from all Shakspere's creations was “a buffoon,” his title,” and to the great body of the and that he might be confounded with the people who ought to have him in honourfighting knight whose chief distinction was able memory." Whether the reputation of the garter on his leg. Fastolf was a respect-Oldcastle derived much benefit from their able personage no doubt in his day, but not labours remains to be seen. “sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, The play opens with a quarrel in the true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and street of Hereford between Lord Herbert, therefore more valiant, being, as he is, old Lord Powis, and their followers; which is Jack Falstaff.” It appears to us, therefore, put down by the judges, who are holding the that, in the same manner as the "young assize in the town. The commencement of gentle lady” and Dr. Richard James, some the conflict, in which blood was shed, is thus what ignorantly as we think, confounded described :Fastolf and Falstaff, so they erred in a simi “Lord Powis detracted from the power of lar way by believing that “in Shakspere's Rome, first show of Harry the Fifth the person with Affirming Wickliff's doctrine to be true, which he undertook to play a buffoon was And Rome's erroneous : hot reply was made not Falstaff, but Sir John Oldcastle.” Fuller, By the Lord Herbert ; they were traitors all in his “Worthies,' speaking of Sir John Fal That would maintain it. Powis answered, staff, has the same complaint, as we have They were as true, as noble, and as wise seen, against "stage-poets.” Now, admitting As ye; they would defend it with their lives ; what appears possible, that Shakspere in his He nam'd for instance, sir John Oldcastle, 'Henry IV.' originally had the name of Old

The Lord Cobham : Herbert replied again, castle where we now find that of Falstaff, is

He, thou, and all are traitors that so hold. it likely that he could have meant the cham

The lie was given, the several factions drawn, pion of the Reformation of Wickliff, who was

And so enrag'd that we could not appease it.” cruelly put to death for heresy in the fourth The second scene introduces us to the Bishop year of Henry V., to have been the boon of Rochester, denouncing Lord Cobham companion of the youthful prince; and who, (Oldcastle), as an heretic, to the Duke of before the king went to the French wars, Suffolk. The bishop is supported by Sir John died quietly in his bed, “ e’en at the turn- of Wrotham, whose zeal is so boisterous as ing of the tide ?” And yet there is little

to receive the following rebuke from the doubt that, when Shakspere adopted a name familiar to the stage, he naturally raised up this species of absurd misconception, which

Oh, but you must not swear; it ill becomes had the remarkable fate of being succeeded

One of your coat to rap out bloody oaths.” by a mistake still more absurd, that Falstaff The king appears, to hear the complaint of and Fastolf were one and the same. It is, the churchman; and he promises to send for however, extremely probable that there were Oldcastle "and school him privately." In other plays in which the character of Sir the third scene we have Lord Cobham and John Oldcastle was presented historically, an aged servant, and Lord Powis arrives in and falsely presented ; that from this cir- | disguise, and is concealed by Cobham. In the cumstance Shakspere saw the necessity of second act we have a comic scene, amusing substituting another name for Oldcastle, and enough, but anything but original ; a sumner of making the declaration " Oldcastle died a arrives to cite Lord Cobham before the Ecclemartyr, and this is not the man ;” and that siastical Court, and the old servant of the the authors of the play before us, “The First noble reformer makes the officer eat the citaPart of Sir John Oldcastle,' adopted a sub- tion. Nashe tells us in his 'Pierce Pennyject with which the public mind was at that lesse' that he once saw Robert Greene “make

Duke :

an appåritor eat his citation, wax and all, | play of high poetical power. The interview very handsomely served 'twixt two dishes.” between Henry and his faithful friend and We have something like the same incident adherent; the anxiety of the reformer to in the play of the 'Pinner of Wakefield.' vindicate himself from disloyalty, whilst he The scene changes to London, where we have honestly supported his own opinions; the an assembly of rebels, who give out that natural desire of the king to resist innovaOldcastle will be their general. In the next tion, whilst he respected the virtues of the scene, which is probably the best sustained innovator,-points like these would have of the play, we have Henry and Lord Cobham been handled by Shakspere, or one imbued in conference:

with his spirit, in a manner that would have K. Henry. 'T is not enough, Lord Cobham, lived and abided in our memories. The to submit;

lines that we have quoted, which are the You must forsake your gross opinion. best in the scene, furnish a sufficient proof The bishops find themselves much injured ; that the subject was in feeble hands. And though, for some good service you have The third act opens to us the conspiracy done,

of Cambridge, Scroop, and Grey. The conWe for our part are pleased to pardon you,

spirators meet Lord Cobham. The mode in Yet they will not so soon be satisfied.

which they introduce their purpose is spirited Cob. My gracious lord, unto your majesty,

and dramatic. Cobham has invited them to Next unto my God, I do owe my life; And what is mine, either by nature's gift,

his house, and promises them hunters' fare Or fortune's bounty, all is at your service.

and a hunt. Cambridge thus replies, before But for obedience to the pope of Rome,

he presents the paper which discloses the I owe him none; nor shall his shaveling plot :priests,

Cam. Nay, but the stag which we desire to That are in England, alter my belief.

strike, If out of Holy Scripture they can prove

Lives not in Cowling : if you will consent, That I am in an error, I will yield,

And go with us, we 'll bring you to a forest And gladly take instruction at their hands :

Where runs a lusty herd; among the which But otherwise I do beseech your grace

There is a stag superior to the rest, My conscience may not be encroach'd upon.

A stately beast, that, when his fellows run, K. Henry. We would be loth to press our

He leads the race, and beats the sullen earth, subjects' bodies,

As though he scorn'd it with his trampling Much less their souls, the dear redeemed

hoofs; part

Aloft he bears his head, and with his breast, Of Him that is the ruler of us all :

Like a huge bulwark, counterchecks the Yet let me counsel you, that might command.

wind : Do not presume to tempt them with ill words,

And, when he standeth still, he stretcheth Nor suffer any meetings to be had

forth Within your house ; but to the uttermost

His proud ambitious neck, as if he meant Disperse the flocks of this new gathering sect.

To wound the firmament with forked horns. Cob. My liege, if any breathe, that dares

Cob. 'Tis pity such a goodly beast should come forth,

die. And say, my life in any of these points

Cam. Not so, sir John; for he is tyrannous, Deserves the attainder of ignoble thoughts,

And gores the other deer, and will not keep Here stand I, craving no remorse at all,

Within the limits are appointed him. But even the utmost rigour may be shown.”

Of late he's broke into a several, The Bishop of Rochester appears, and de Which doth belong to me, and there he spoils nounces Cobham for the contempt shown to

Both corn and pasture. Two of his wild race, his citation ; the king reproves the bishop, Alike for stealth and covetous encroaching, and dismisses Oldcastle in safety. It is Already are removed; if he were dead, evident that the dramatic capabilities of I should not only be secure from hurt, such a scene furnish an occasion for the dis But with his body make a royal feast.”



Cobham then dissembles, and asks—

Extremities admit no better choice, “ Is not this a train laid to entrap my life?" And, were it not for thee, say froward time They offer to swear fidelity ; but he requires

Imposed a greater task, I would esteem it them only to subscribe the writing. The

As lightly as the wind that blows upon us : time and place of mecting are appointed,

But in thy sufferance I am doubly task'd; and they part. Cobham puts the paper in

Thou wast not wont to have the earth thy

stool, his pocket, and goes off to betray them to

Nor the moist dewy grass thy pillow, nor the king. The state-morality of the age of

Thy chamber to be the wide horizon. Elizabeth might perhaps have made this

L. Cob. How can it seem a trouble, having incident more palatable to an audience of

you that day than to ourselves ; but we doubt

A partner with me in the worst I feel ? whether Shakspere would have put this

No, gentle lord, your presence would give burthen upon the soul of one whom he wished to represent as a hero and a martyr. To death itself, should he now seize upon me. We have more scenes of the rebels ; followed

[She produces some bread and cheese, by the scene which we have already noticed

and a bottle. of the parson robbing the king. The same Behold, what my foresight hath underta'en, worthy divine is afterwards found in the For fear we faint; they are but homely cates ; king's camp, dicing with his majesty; and Yet, sauced with hunger, they may seem as then the robbery is discovered, and the

sweet robber pardoned. The rebels who were in

As greater dainties we were wont to taste. the field, headed by Sir Roger Acton, are

Cob. Praise be to Him whose plenty sends

both this routed. The Bishop of Rochester affirms

And all things else our mortal bodies need ! that they were incited by Cobham,, who

Nor scorn we this poor feeding, nor the state arrives at the moment of the accusation to

We now are in; for what is it on earth, prove his loyalty by denouncing Scroop,

Nay, under heaven, continues at a stay? Grey, and Cambridge. The king is satisfied ;

Ebbs not the sea, when it hath overflow'd ? but subsequently the Bishop of Rochester

Follows not darkness when the day is gone? seizes Cobham, and confines him in the

And see we not sometimes the eye of heaven Tower, from which he very soon escapes. Dimm’d with o'er-flying clouds? There's not With the exception of a scene in which Cam that work bridge and the other conspirators are seized Of careful nature or of cunning art, by the king, the whole of the fifth act is How strong, how beauteous, or how rich it be, occupied by the wanderings of Cobham and But falls in time to ruin. Here, gentle his wife, their disguises and their escapes.

madam, The following scene is prettily imagined,

In this one draught I wash my sorrow down. and gracefully expressed :


The persecuted pair fall asleep; and, a murCob. Come, madam, happily escaped. Here dered body being found near them, they are let us sit;

apprehended as the murdererš, and conducted This place is far remote from any path;

to trial. They are discharged through the And here awhile our weary limbs may rest

discovery of the real murderer, and fly with To take refreshing, free from the pursuit

Lord Powis into Wales. Of envious Rochester.

It will be evident from this analysis that L. Cob.

But where, my lord, Shall we find rest for our disquiet minds?

"The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle' is There dwell untamed thoughts, that hardly entirely deficient in dramatic unity. Shakstoop

spere in representing a series of historical To such abasement of disdained rags;

events did not of course attempt to sustain We were not wont to travel thus by night,

that unity of idea which we see so strikingly Especially on foot.

in his best tragedies and comedies. We have Cob. No matter, love;

not one great action, but a succession of

actions; and yet, through his wonderful development of character, in which a real power of characterization, and his skill in poet would have luxuriated, is made suborgrouping a series of events round one leading dinate to the hurry of the perplexed though event, we have a principle upon which the monotonous movement of the story. Thomind can determinately rest, and rightly roughly to understand the surpassing power comprehend the whole dramatic movement. of Shakspere in the management of the hisIn the play before us there is no distinct re torical drama, it might be desirable to comlation between one scene and another. We pare ‘King John,' or “Richard II.,' or forget the connection between Oldcastle and Richard III.,' or 'Henry VIII.,' with this the events in which he is implicated ; and, play ; but, after all, the things do not admit when he himself appears on the scene, the of comparison.



The first edition of this play was published | title; and that parallel holds good only with in 1602, under the title of "The Chronicle regard to one play, “Lear,' according to its History of Thomas Lord Cromwell. No name original title, the “True Chronicle Historie or initials of an author appear in the title of the Life and Death of King Lear and his page. In 1613 appeared “The true Chronicle three Daughters.' In the folio collection of Historie of the whole life and death of Thomas 1623 we have indeed 'The Life and Death of Lord Cromwell. As it hath beene sundry King John,” “The Life and Death of Richard times publikely Acted by the Kings Majesties II.,' The Life of King Henry V.,' "The Life Seruants. Written by W. S. In 1602 the and Death of Richard III.,' and 'The Life of registers of the Stationers' Company had the King Henry VIII.' So in the same edition entry of ' A Booke called the Lyfe and Deathe we have "The Life and Death of Julius Cæsar.' of the Lord Cromwell, as yt was lately acted But our readers are perfectly aware that in by the Lord Chamberleyn his servants.' It all these dramas a very small portion of the appears, therefore, that the play was originally life of the hero of each is included in the performed, and continued to be performed, action. Shakspere knew his art too well to by the company in which Shakspere was a attempt to teach history dramatically by chief proprieter. Beyond the initials W. S. connecting a series of isolated events solely there is no external evidence whatever to by their relation to a principal agent, without attribute the play to the great dramatizer of any other dependence. Nothing, for example, English history.

can be more complete in itself than the action Schlegel, as we have seen, calls ‘Sir John of 'Richard II.,' or that of 'Henry V.,' of Oldcastle,' and Thomas Lord Cromwell,' \ ' Richard III.,' and of ‘Henry VIII. We “ biographical dramas and models in this have in these pieces nearly all the condensaspecies.” We have no hesitation in affirming tion which pure tragedy requires. But in that a biographical drama, especially such Thomas Lord Cromwell, on the contrary, a drama as Thomas Lord Cromwell, is what Shakspere would have told in a few essentially undramatic. “Oldcastle' takes a words, reserving himself for an exhibition of portion only of the life of its hero; but character in the more striking situations, is * Cromwell' gives us the story of the man actually presented to us in a succession of from his boyhood to his execution. The scenes that have no relation to any action of resemblance which it bears to any play of deepening interest-chapter upon chapter Shakspere's is solely in the structure of the which might have been very well spared, if

[ocr errors]

one chapter, that of the elevation and fall of usurer is hanged and the merchant is restored Cromwell, had occupied a space proportioned to competence. to its importance.

It would have been difficult, with all the We begin the drama in the shop of old author's contempt for unity of action, to have Cromwell, the blacksmith, at Putney, where contrived to have told the whole story of young Cromwell, with a want of sense that Cromwell dramatically; and so he occasionally ill accords with his future advancement, gives us a chorus. The second act thus insists that his father's men shall leave off opens :work because their noise disturbs his study.

“Now, gentlemen, imagine that young His father comes, and like a sensible and

Cromwell's honest man reproves his son for his vagaries; In Antwerp, leiger for the English merchants; and then the ambitious youth, who proclaims And Banister, to shun this Bagot's hate, the purpose of his presaging soul, that he Hearing that he hath got some of his debts, will build a palace

Is fled to Antwerp, with his wife and children;

Which Bagot hearing is gone after them, As fine as is King Henry's house at Sheen,"

And thither sends his bills of debt before, thus soliloquizes :

To be revenged on wretched Banister.

What doth fall ont, with patience sit and see, Crom. Why should my birth keep down A just requital of false treachery.” my mounting spirit?

Cromwell has nothing to do with this “just Are not all creatures subject unto time

requital of false treachery,”—which requital To time, who doth abuse the cheated world, And fills it full of hodge-podge bastardy?

consists in the usurer being arrested for There's legions now of beggars on the earth

purchasing the king's stolen jewels. CromThat their original did spring from kings;

well gets as tired of keeping accounts as he And many monarchs now, whose fathers were previously was of the din of his father's

his The riff-raff of their age: for time and fortune smithy; so all in a moment he throws up Wears out a noble train to beggary;

commission and sets off upon his travels to And from the dunghill millions do advance Italy, having very opportunely met in To state and mark in this admiring world. Antwerp with Hodge, his father's man. And This is but course, which in the name of fate so we get through the second act. Is seen as often as it whirls about.

In the third act the capricious lad and his The river Thames, that by our door doth pass, servant are standing penniless upon the His first beginning is but small and shallow; bridge at Florence, and their immediate Yet keeping on his course grows to a sea. necessities are relieved by the generous And likewise Wolsey, the wonder of our age, Italian merchant who was succouring the His birth as mean as mine, a butcher's son;

distress of the Englishman in the first act. Now who within this land a greater man?

Cromwell is always moving; and he sets off Then, Cromwell, cheer thee up, and tell thy for Bononia, where he rescues, by a stratagem, soul,

Russell the Earl of Bedford from the agents That thou mayst live to flourish and control.”

of the French king. We have the chorus The young man, who despises work, imme- again in the middle of the act :diately gets employment without seeking it,

“Thus far you see how Cromwell's fortune to be secretary to the English merchants at

pass’d. Antwerp. Then commences the secondary

The Earl of Bedford, being safe in Mantua, action of the drama, which consists of the

Desires Cromwell's company into France, adventures of one Banister, an English

To make requital for his courtesy; merchant, who is persecuted by Bagot, a But Cromwell doth deny the earl his suit, usurer, and relieved by a foreign merchant.

And tells him that those parts he meant to see, It is by no means clear what this has to do

He had not yet set footing on the land; with Thomas Lord Cromwell; but it may be And so directly takes his way to Spain; satisfactory to know that eventually the The earl to France; and so they both do part.

« AnteriorContinuar »