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utter incapacity; and that the thin partition between weakness and idiocy was sometimes wholly removed. But Shakspere has never painted Henry under this aspect: he has shown us a king with virtues unsuited to the age in which he lived; with talents unfitted for the station in which he moved; contemplative amidst friends and foes hurried along by a distempered energy; peaceful under circumstances that could have no issue but in appeals to arms; just in thought, but powerless to assert even his own sense of right amidst the contests of injustice which hemmed him in. The entire conception of the character of Henry, in connection with the circumstances to which it was subjected, is to be found in the Parliament-scene of the Third Part of Henry VI. This scene is copied from the Contention, with scarcely the addition or alteration of a word. We may boldly affirm that none but Shakspere could have depicted with such marvellous truth the weakness, based upon a hatred of strife the vacillation, not of imbecile cunning, but of clear-sighted candour-the assertion of power through the influence of habit, but of a power trembling even at its own authority-the glimmerings of courage utterly extinguished by the threats of "armed men," and proposing compromise even worse than war. We request our readers to peruse this scene in the Second Part of the Contention, and endeavour to recollect if any poet besides Shakspere ever presented such a reality in the exhibition of a mind whose principles have no coherency and no self-reliance; one moment threatening and exhorting his followers to revenge, the next imploring them to be patient; now urging his rival to peace, and now threatening war; turning from the assertion of his title. to acknowledge its weakness; and terminating his display of "words, frowns, and threats" with

"Let me but reign in quiet while I live."

KNIGHT: Pictorial Shakspere.


The Characters of Richard II. and Henry VI.

The characters and situations of both these persons are so nearly alike that they would have been completely confounded by a commonplace poet. Yet they are kept quite distinct in Shakespear. Both were kings, and both unfortunate. Both lost their crowns owing to their mismanagement and imbecility; the one from a thoughtless, wilful abuse of power, the other from an indifference to it. The manner in which they bear their misfortunes corresponds exactly to the causes which led to them. The one is always lamenting the loss of his power which he has not the spirit to regain; the other seems only to regret that he had ever been King, and is glad to be rid of the power, with the trouble; the effeminacy of the one is that of a voluptuary, proud, revengeful, impatient of contradiction, and inconsolable in his misfortunes; the effeminacy of the other is that of an indolent, good-natured mind, naturally averse to the turmoils of ambition and the cares of greatness, and who wishes to pass his time in monkish indolence and contemplation. Richard bewails the loss of the kingly power only as it was the means of gratifying his pride and luxury; Henry regards it only as a means of doing right, and is less desirous of the advantages to be derived from possessing it than afraid of exercising it wrong. In knighting a young soldier, he gives him ghostly advice:—

"Edward Plantagenet, arise a knight,

And learn this lesson,-draw thy sword in right."

HAZLITT: Characters of Shakespear's Plays.


Queen Margaret.

In the third part of Henry VI., Margaret, engaged in the terrible struggle for her husband's throne, appears

to rather more advantage. The indignation against Henry, who had pitifully yielded his son's birthright for the privilege of reigning unmolested during his own life, is worthy of her, and gives rise to a beautiful speech. We are here inclined to sympathize with her; but soon after follows the murder of the Duke of York; and the base, revengeful spirit and atrocious cruelty with which she insults over him, unarmed and a prisoner-the bitterness of her mockery, and the unwomanly malignity with which she presents him with the napkin stained with the blood of his youngest son, and "bids the father wipe his eyes withal," turn all our sympathy into aversion and horror. York replies in the celebrated speech beginning—

She-wolf of France, and worse than wolves of France,
Whose tongue more poisons than the adder's tooth-

and taunts her with the poverty of her father, the most irritating topic he could have chosen.

By such a woman as Margaret is here depicted such a speech could be answered only in one way—with her dagger's point-and thus she answers it.

It is some comfort to reflect that this trait of ferocity is not historical; the body of the Duke of York was found, after the battle, among the heaps of slain, and his head struck off; but even this was not done by the command of Margaret.

In another passage, the truth and consistency of the character of Margaret are sacrificed to the march of the dramatic action, with a very ill effect. When her fortunes were at the very lowest ebb, and she had sought refuge in the court of the French king, Warwick, her most formidable enemy, upon some disgust he had taken against Edward IV., offered to espouse her cause, and proposed a match between the prince her son and his daughter Anne of Warwick-the "gentle Lady Anne who figures in Richard III. In the play, Margaret embraces the offer without a moment's hesitation: we are disgusted by her versatile policy, and a meanness of spirit

in no way allied to the magnanimous forgiveness of her terrible adversary. The Margaret of history sternly resisted this degrading expedient. She should not, she said, pardon from her heart the man who had been the primary cause of all her misfortunes. She mistrusted Warwick, despised him for the motives of his revolt from Edward, and considered that to match her son into the family of her enemy from mere policy was a species of degradation. It took Louis XI., with all his art and eloquence, fifteen days to wring a reluctant consent, accompanied with tears, from this high-hearted woman.

The speech of Margaret to her council of generals before the battle of Tewksbury (V. iv. I et seq.) is as remarkable a specimen of false rhetoric as her address to the soldiers, on the eve of the fight, is of true and passionate eloquence.

She witnesses the final defeat of her army, the massacre of her adherents, and the murder of her son; and though the savage Richard would willingly have put an end to her misery, and exclaims very pertinently

Why should she live to fill the world with words?

she is dragged forth unharmed, a woful spectacle of extremest wretchedness, to which death would have been an undeserved relief.

MES. JAMESON: Characteristics of Women.


The dire and ominous shadow of the historic Richard is thrown nearly a generation backward. It is also deepened and darkened by the aid of the blacker interpretation of Richard left by Sir Thomas More. Holinshed's Richard is the ruthless champion of his House, who slays Henry only" to the intent that his brother Edward might reign with more surety "; the dramatic Richard is "himself" and for himself alone. But even the dramatic

Richard does nothing, in the present play, which the champion of his House might not do; and thus the two sublime monologues (III. ii., V. vi.) in which he lays bare, with the terrific candour of Tamburlane, the policy of his egoism, are only intelligible as preludes to the wonderful drama in which Shakespeare, now at length escaping from the traces of Greene and from the Marlowe alliance if not as yet altogether from his spell, worked out the destiny of the great avenger of the crimes of Lancaster.

HERFORD: The Eversley Shakespeare.


Warwick and Clifford.

Warwick and Clifford are appropriate specimens of the old English feudal baronage in the height of its power and splendour; a class of men brave, haughty, turbulent, and rough, accustomed to wield the most despotic authority on their estates, and therefore spurning at legal restraint in their public capacity; and individually able, sometimes, to overawe and browbeat both king and Parliament. In the play, however, we see little of their personal traits, these being, for the most part, lost in the common habits and sentiments of their order; not to mention that, in the collision of such steel-clad champions, individual features are apt to be kept out of sight, and all distinctive tones are naturally drowned in the clash of arms. It is mainly what they stand for in the public action, that the drama concerns itself about, not those characteristic issues which are the proper elements of a personal acquaintance. Yet they are somewhat discriminated: Clifford is more fierce and special in his revenge, because more tender and warm in his affections; while Warwick is more free from particular hate, because his mind is more at ease in the magnitude of his power, and the feeling of his consequence. It is said that not

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