Imatges de pàgina
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vain, is altogether lost, and a most flat line substituted for a most vigorous one. And why? Because Mr. B. appears to have been haunted by an exaggerated and mistaken fancy, that whatever is calculated to remind the reader of a Scriptural image, however beautiful and however appropriate, must necessarily be profane! What, I wonder, would Mr. B. have done if he had undertaken to edit, not only the plays, but also the sonnets of Shakspeare; in the cxii. of which we read as follows:

In so profound abysm I throw all care
Of others' voices, that my adder's sense

To critic and to flatterer stopped arewhere, by a curious instance of the figure, called in Greek σχήμα προς το σημαινόμενον, are' seems as if put to agree with ears, implied in adder's sense.'

I now pass on to the evidence of which I proposed to treat in the first instance.

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CHAPTER I.

Of the Allusions in Shakspeare to the Historical Facts

and Characters of the Bible.

N this chapter I have to show the extent of

Shakspeare's knowledge of the contents

of the Bible in its historical aspect ; how fully and how accurately the general tenor of the facts recorded in the sacred narrative was present to his mind.

We may begin then from the very first chapter of the Book of Genesis. There can be no doubt that the Mosaic record of the creation of the sun and moon, on the fourth day, when God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night,' gave occasion to those words of Caliban in the Tempest, where he describes how Prospero, on his first coming to the island, had been wont to treat him kindly; and as trying to educate him, would often teach him

How
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night.

Act i. Sc. 2.

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We know what followed only too soon after the Creation ;—and although whatever comes from the mouth of Falstaff may provoke a smile, yet we must all feel that there is the greatest occasion in reality for deep seriousness, when we hear him say to Prince Henry :

Dost thou hear, Hal ? Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell, and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villainy?

King Henry IV. Ist Part, Act iii. Sc. 3. It is the same Prince Henry, of whom afterwards, when he became king, the Archbishop of Canterbury thus testified :

The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seemed to die too : yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came

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And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him ;
Leaving his body as a paradise,
To envelop and contain celestial spirits.

King Henry V. Act i. Sc. I. And he himself, as king, spake thus of the vile conspirator Lord Scroop :

I will weep for thee;
For this revolt of thine methinks is like
Another fall of man.

Ibid. Act ii. Sc. I. Yet once again, in Much Ado about Nothing, we meet with a reference to the same chapters of Genesis, in a passage which the fastidiousness of Mr. Bowdler has not allowed him to retain, but which surely need not excite any feeling of irreve

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rence towards the sacred record. "I would not marry her,' says Benedick of the Lady Beatrice,

though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed.' (Act ii. Sc. 1.) Nor need we, I think, be offended at the dialogue between the two clowns in Hamlet, where allusion is made to the same primeval history :

1st Clown. Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers and grave-makers: they hold by Adam's profession.

2nd Clown. Was he a gentleman?
Ist Clown. He was the first that ever bore arms.
2nd Clown. Why, he had none.

Ist Clown. What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand scripture! The scripture says, Adam digged. Could he dig without arms?

Act v. Sc. I. And as Adam digged, so he would be exposed to the inclemency of the weather ; which has been also the lot of the greater portion of his posterity; thus alluded to in As you like it : Scene, Forest of Arden :

Duke Sen. Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court ?
Here feel we but * the penalty of Adam,

* The emendation of Theobald for not,' which Boswell objects to, and pronounces the old reading to be right. I wonder that neither of them has remarked how much the conjecture of the former is confirmed by the song which follows in Act ii. Sc. 5:

• Here shall we see

No enemy

But winter and rough weather.'

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The season's difference; as, the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind. Act ii. Sc. 1.

2. The history of Cain and Abel is of such a character that it would naturally suggest materials of thought to a tragic poet. Accordingly, the refer

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ences which Shakspeare has made to it are frequent
and striking. First, in King Richard II. :-

Bolingbroke. Further I say, and further will maintain,
That he * did plot the Duke of Gloster's death;
And, consequently, like a traitor coward,
Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of blood :
Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth
To me for justice, and rough chastisement. Act i. Sc. 1.
It is needless to observe how accurately, and at
the same time how reverently, this language repre-
sents both the letter and the spirit of the Bible
narrative. And so, too, where the King says in i
Hamlet :-

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder !

Act ïïi. Sc. 3. There is a still more recondite reference to the same tragical history in the First Part of King Henry VI., a passage which Bowdler has thought it necessary to expunge, where the poet with much propriety puts into the mouth of the Bishop of Winchester, in addressing Humphrey, Duke of Gloster, these bold and wrathful lines :

* Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk.

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