« ZurückWeiter »
We shall hardly find any man to-day; more like to what he was yesterday, than the persons here are like to what they were in the first part of Henry IV. This is the more astonishing as the author has not confined himself, as all other dramatic writers have done, to a certain theatrical character ; which, formed entirely of one passion, presents to us always the patriot, the lover, or the conqueror. These, still turning on the same hinge, describe like a piece of clock-work a regular circle of movements. In human nature, of which Shakespear's characters are a just imitation, every passion is controlled and forced into many deviations by various incidental dispositions and humours. The operations of this complicated. machine are far more difficult to trace, than the steady undeviating line of the artificial character formed on one simple principle. Our poet seems to have as great an advantage over ordinary dramatic poets, as Dædalus had above his predecessors in sculpture. They could make a representation of the
limbs and features which compose the human form, he first had the skill to give it gesture; attitude, the easy graces of real life, and exhibit its powers in a variety of exer* tions.
We shall again see Northumberland timid and wavering, forward in conspiracy, yet hesitating to join in an action of doubtful iflue.
King Henry is as prudent a politician on his death-bed as at council ; his eye, just before it closed for ever, stretching itself beyond the hour of death, to the view of those dangers, which from the temper of the Prince of Wales, and the condition of the times, threatened his throne and family. I cannot help taking notice of the remarkable attention of the poet to the cautious and politic temper of Henry, when he makes him, even in speaking to his friends and par-tisans, diffemble so far, in relating Richard's prophecy that Northumberland who helped
him to the throne would one day revolt from him, as to add,
Though then, heaven knows, I had no such
But that neceffity fo bow'd the state,
To his successor he expresses himself very differently when he says,
Heaven knows, my son,
These delicacies of conduct lie hardly within the poet's province, but have their source in that great and universal capacity which the attentive reader will find to be Jong to our author beyond any other writer. He alone, perhaps, would have perceived the decorum and fitness of making fo.wise a man reserved even with his friends, and trust a confefsion of the iniquities by which he obtained the crown only to his succeffor, whose interest it was not to disgrace what
ever could authorize his attainment of it. Let tragedy-writers who make princes prate with pages and waiting-women of their murders and treasons, learn for once, from rude and illiterate Shakespear, how averse pride is coolly to confess, and prudence to betray, what the fever and deliriums of ambition had prompted to do.
Falstaffe appears with his former dispositions, but in new situations; and entertains us in a variety of fcenes.
Hotspur is as it were revived to the fpectator in the following character given of him by his lady, when the diffuades Northumberland from joining the forces of the archbishop.
Lady Percy. Oh, yet for heav'n's fake, go not to these wars. The time was, father, that you broke When you were more endear'd to it than now; When your own Percy, when my heart-dear Harry, Threw many a northward Icok, to fee his father Bring up his pow'rs; but he did long in vain ! H 2
Who then persuaded you to stay at home?
yours, may heav'nly glory brighten it ! For his, it struck upon him as the fun In the grey vault of heav'n; and by his light. Did all the chivalry of England move To do brave acts. He was indeed the glass Wherein the noble youth did drefs themselves. He had no legs, that practis'd not his gait ; And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish, Became the accents of the valiant; For those, that could speak low and tardily, Would turn their own perfection to abuse, To seem like him : So that in speech, in gait, In diet, in affections of delight, In military rules, humours of blood, He was the mark and glass, copy and book, That fashion'd others. And him, wond'rous him!
O miracle of men ! him did
leave To look
the hideous god of war In disadvantage; to abide a field Where nothing but the sound of Hotspur's name Did seem defensible. So you left him. . Never, O, never do his ghost the wrong, To hold your honour more precise and nice