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“ Julia. Counsel, Lucetta ; gentle girl, assist me!
Tell me some good mean,
Luc. Alas! the way is wearisome and long.
Jul. A true-devoted pilgrim is not weary
Luc. Better forbear, till Proteus make return. —
Jul. The current, that with gentle murmur glides,
10. KING RICHARD THE THIRD: 1595. It is the conjecture of Mr. Malone, and by which he has been guided in his chronological arrangement, that this play, and King Richard the Second, were written, acted, registered, and printed in the year 1597. That they were registered and published during this year, we have indisputable authority t; but that they were written and acted within the same period, is a supposition without any proof, and, to say the least of it, highly improbable.
Mr. Chalmers, struck by this incautious assertion, of two such plays being written, acted, and published in a few months †; reflecting that Shakspeare, impressed by the character of Glocester, in his play of Henry the Sixth, might be induced to resume his national dramas by continuing the Historie of Richard, to which he might be more immediately stimulated by his knowledge that an enterlude entitled the Tragedie of Richard the Third, had been exhibited in 1593, or 1594 ; and ingeniously surmising that Richard the Second was a subsequent production, because it ushered in a distinct and concatenated series of history, has, under this view of the subject, given precedence to Richard the Third in the order of composition, and assigned its origin to the year
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 234. Act ii. sc. 7.
+ Richard the Second was entered on the Stationers' books, on August 29. 1597 ; and Richard the Third on October 20. 1597; and both printed the same year.
# It must be recollected that Mr. Malone's “ Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays,” is founded, not on the period of their publication, but on that of their composition; it is " an attempt to ascertain the order in which the Plays of Shakspeare were written.”
1595. The description of a small volume of Epigrams by John Weever, in Mr. Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, has since confirmed the chronology of Mr. Chalmers, so far as it proves that one of Shakspeare's Richards had certainly been acted in 1595.
The book in question, in the collection of Mr. Comb, of Henley, and supposed to be a unique, was published in 1599, at which period, according to the date of the print of him prefixed by Cecill, the author was twenty-three years old; but Weever tells us, in some introductory stanzas, that when he wrote the
which volume, he was not twenty years old ; that he was one
“That twenty twelve months yet did never know,"
consequently, these Epigrams must have been written in 1595, though not printed before 1599. They exhibit the following title : “ Epigrammes in the oldest Cut and newest Fashion. A twise seven Houres (in so many Weekes) Studie. No longer (like the Fashion) not unlike to continue. The first seven, John Weever.
Sit voluisse sit valuisse.
At London: printed by V. S. for Thomas Bushell, and are to be sold at his shop, at the great North doore of Paules. 1599. 12mo."
Of this collection the twenty-second Epigram of the fourth Weeke, which we have formerly had occasion to notice, and which we shall now give at length, is addressed
“ AD GULIELMUM SHAKESPEARE.
We have no doubt that by the Richard of this epigram the author meant to imply the play of Richard the Third, which, according to our arrangement, was the immediately succeeding tragedy to Romeo, and may be said to have been almost promised by the poet in the two concluding scenes of the Last Part of King Henry the Sixth, a promise which, as we believe, was carried into execution after an interval of three years. +
* Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce books, vol. vi. pp. 156. 158, 159.
“ Glo. Clarence, beware: thou keep'st me from the light;
Henry VI. Pt. III. act v. sc. 6.
Ibid. act v. sc. 7.
The character of Richard the Third, which had been opened in so masterly a manner in the Concluding Part of Henry the Sixth, is, in this play, developed in all its horrible grandeur.
It is, in fact, the picture of a demoniacal incarnation, moulding the passions and foibles of mankind, with super-human precision, to its own iniquitous purposes. Of this isolated and peculiar state of being Richard himself seems sensible, when he declares
“ I have no brother, I am like no brother :
And this word love, which grey-beards call divine,
From a delineation like this Milton must have caught many of the most striking features of his Satanic portrait. The same union of unmitigated depravity, and consummate intellectual energy, characterises both, and renders what would otherwise be loathsome and disgusting, an object of sublimity and shuddering admiration.
Richard, stript as he is of all the softer feelings, and all the common charities, of humanity, possessed of
“ neither pity, love, nor fear,” +
and loaded with every dangerous and dreadful vice, would, were it not for his unconquerable powers of mind, be insufferably revolting. But, though insatiate in his ambition, envious, and hyprocritical in his disposition, cruel, bloody, and remorseless in all his deeds, he displays such an extraordinary share of cool and determined courage, such alacrity and buoyancy of spirit, such constant self-possession, such an intuitive intimacy with the workings of the human heart, and such matchless skill in rendering them subservient to his views, as so far to subdue our detestation and abhorrence of his villany, that we, at length, contemplate this fiend in human shape with a mingled sensation of intense curiosity and grateful terror.
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiv. p. 206. Henry VI. Pt. III. act v. sc. 6. + Ibid. vol. xiv. p. 205.
The task, however, which Shakspeare undertook was, in one instance, more arduous than that which Milton subsequently attempted; for, in addition to the hateful constitution of Richard's moral character, he had to contend also against the prejudices arising from personal deformity, from a figure
“ curtail'd of it's fair proportion,
and yet, in spite of these striking personal defects, which were considered, also, as indicatory of the depravity and wickedness of his nature, the poet has contrived, through the medium of the high mental endowments just enumerated, not only to obviate disgust, but to excite extraordinary admiration.
One of the most prominent and detestable vices indeed, in Richard's character, his hypocrisy, connected, as it always is, in his the most profound skill and dissimulation, has, owing to the various parts which it induces him to assume, most materially contributed to the popularity of this play, both on the stage, and in the closet. He is one who can
" frame his face to all occasions," +
and accordingly appears, during the course of his career, under the contrasted forms of a subject and a monarch, a politician and a wit, a soldier and a suitor, a sinner and a saint; and in all with such apparent case and fidelity to nature, that while to the explorer of the human mind he affords, by his penetration and address, a subject of peculiar interest and delight, he offers to the practised performer a study well calculated to call forth his fullest and finest exertions. He, therefore, whose histrionic powers are adequate to the just exhi
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiv. p. 272. Act i. sc. I. + Ibid. vol. xiv. p. 116.