Imatges de pàgina

fion to urge him on the subject. To this effeminate courtier (says he)

I then, all smarting with my wounds being cold,
Out of my grief and my impatience
To be so pefter'd with a popingjoy,
Answer'd neglectingly– I know not what.

Thus has the poet divested the rebel of the hateful crimes of premeditated revolt and deep-laid treachery. He is hurried by an impetuosity of soul out of the sphere of obedience, and, like a comet, though dangerous to the general system, he is still an object of admiration and wonder to every beholder. It is marvellous that Shakespear from bare chronicles, coarfe history, and traditional tales, could thus extract the wisdom and caution of the politician Henry, and catch the fire of the martial spirit of Hotspur. The wrath of Achilles in Homer is not sustained with more dignity. Each hero is offended that the prize of valour,

Due to many a well-fought day, is rudely snatched from him by the hand of power.One should suspect an author of more learning to have had the character of Achilles in his eye, and also the advice of Horace in the manner of representing him on the stage.


Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer.
Jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis.

His misdemeanors rife so naturally out of his temper, and that temper is fo noble, that we are almost as much interested for him as for a more virtuous character.

His trespass may be well forgot,
It hath th' excuse of youth and heat of blood,
And an adopted name of privilege,

A hare-brain'd Hotspur govern'd by a spleen. The great aspirirg foul of Hotspur bears out rebellion : it seems, in him, to flow from an uncontrollable energy of foul, born to give laws, too potent to receive them. In every scené he appears with the same animation ; he is always that Percy

Whose spirit lent a fire
Even to the dulleft peasant in the camp,
Led ancient lords and rey'rend bishops on,
To bloody battles and to bruising arms.


He has too the frankness of Achilles, and the same abhorrence of falfhood , he is as impatient of Glendower's pretensions to supernatural powers, as to the king's affuming a right over his prisoners. In dividing the kingdom he will not yield a foot of ground to those who dispute with him; but would give any thing to a well-deferving friend. It is a pardonable violation of historical truth, to give the Prince of Wales, who behaved very gallantly at the battle of Shrewbury, the honour of conquering him; and it is more agreeable to the spectator, as the event was, to beat down

The never-daunted Percy to the earth, to suppose it did not happen from the arrow of a peasant, but from the sword of Henry Monmouth, whose fpirit came with a higher commission from the same fiery sphere.

In Worcester the rebel appears in all his odious colours ; proud, envious, malignant, artful, he is finely contrasted by the noble Percy. Shakespear, with the fagacity of a



Tacitus, obferves the jealousies which must arife between a family, which has conferred a crown, and the king who has received it, who will always think the presence of such benefactors too bold and peremptory.

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The character of Henry IV. is perfectly agreeable to that given him by historians.

The' play opens by his declaring his intentions to war against the infidels, which he does not undertake, as was usual in those times, from a religious tenthusiasm, but is induced to it by political motives : that the martial spirit may 'not break out at home in civil wars; nor peace and idleness givé men opportunity to enquire into his title to the crown, and too much discuss a point which would not bear a cool and close examination. Henry had the spécidus talents, which affist a man under certain circumstances to usurp a kingdom, but either from the want of those great and solid qualities, which are necessary to maintain opinion loyal to the throne to which it had raised him, or from the impossibility of satisfying the expectations of 3


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those who had affisted his usurpation, as fome of the best historians with great appearance of reason have suggested *, it is cer'tain his reign was full of discontents and troubles.

The popular arts by which he captivated the multitude, are finely described in the speech he makes to his son, in the third act. Any other poet would have thought he had acquitted himself well enough in that dialogue, by a general fatherly admonition delivered with the dignity becoming a monarch: but Shakespear rarely deals in commonplace, and general morals. The peculiar tempet and circumstances of the person, and the exigency of the time, influence the speaker as in real life. It is not only the king and parent, but Henry Plantagenet, that chides the Prince of Wales. How natural is it for him, on Percy's revolt, to recur to his own rebellion against Richard, and to apprehend that the same levities which lost that king, first the opinion, then

* Hume's Hift. of H. IV,

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