Imatges de pÓgina

ment, and a hare happening to pass between the two hosts, some merriment was produced, and the knights were called the knights of the hare. This is an example of the custom of knighting before a battle. At a later period we have an instance of knighting after a fight. Henry VIII., after the battle of Spurs, in 1514, made Sir John Pechye Banneret and John Carré Knight, both of them having done great service in the encounter. When the "honourgiving hand" of the first Richard created Robert Faulconbridge a knight" in the field," we are not told by the poet whether it was for the encouragement of valour or for the reward of service. But in Cymbeline' we have an example of the bestowing of the honour as the guerdon of bravery. The king, after the

battle with the Romans, commands Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus, thus:

"Bow your knees:

Arise my knights of the battle; I create you Companions to our person."

3 SCENE I." A half-fac'd groat."

The half-face is the profile ;-and the allusion had probably become proverbial, for it occurs also in a play, The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington,' 1601,

"You half-fac'd groat, you thick-cheek'd chitty-face."

The profile of the sovereign is given in one or two of our early coins; but Henry VII. was the first king who made an extensive issue of coins with the half-face. The following is a copy of the "half-faced groat" of Henry VII.

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SCENE I.-"Look, where three-farthings goes." The three-farthing silver-piece of Elizabeth was, as the value may import, extremely thin; -and thus the allusion of Faulconbridge, "my face so thin." "It was once the fashion," says Burton (Anatomy of Melancholy'), "to stick real flowers in the ear;" and thus the thin face and the rose in the ear, taken together, were to be avoided

"Lest men should say, Look, where three-farthings goes;"

for the three-farthing piece was not only thin, and therefore might be associated with the "thin face," but it bore a rose which assimilated with the rose in the ear. This coin was called the "three-farthing rose," and the following is a copy of it :

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we have a long and sonorous description of the great battle between Colbrand the Danish giant and Guy of Warwick, which the general reader will find in Southey's 'Specimens.' The legends of Sir Guy were well known in Shakspere's time; and the fierce encounter between this redoubted champion and "Colbrande," who fought

"On foote, for horse might heave him none," had been recited round many a hearth, from the old "histories." A curious specimen of the legends of Sir Guy and Sir Bevis, from a black-letter quarto of the middle of the sixteenth century, is given in Capell's School of Shakespeare.'


"The awless lion could not wage the fight, Nor keep his princely heart from Richard's hand."

The reputation for indomitable courage, and prodigious physical strength, of Richard I., transferred this story from romance to history. Rastall gives it in his Chronicle; "It is sayd that a lyon was put to Kynge Richarde, beynge in prison, to have devoured him, and when the lyon was gapynge, he put his arme in his mouthe, and pulled the lyon by the harte so

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"The poet tells us, that Richard, in his return from the Holy Land, having been discovered in the habit of a palmer in Almayne,' and ap prehended as a spy, was by the king thrown into prison. Wardrewe, the king's son, hearing of Richard's great strength, desires the jailor to let him have a sight of his prisoners. Richard being the foremost, Wardrewe asks him, if he dare stand a buffet from his hand?' and that on the morrow he shall return him another. Richard consents, and receives a blow that staggers him. On the morrow, having previously waxed his hands, he waits his antagonist's arrival. Wardrewe accordingly, proceeds the story, held forth as a trewe man,' and Richard gave him such a blow on the cheek, as broke his jaw-bone, and killed him on the spot. The king, to revenge the death of his son, orders, by the advice of one Eldrede, that a lion, kept purposely from food, shall be turned loose upon Richard. But the king's daughter

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And the lyon them amonge;
His pawes were stiffe and stronge.
The chambre dore they undone,
And the lyon to them is gone.
Rycharde sayd, Helpe, Lorde Jesu!
The lyon made to him venu,
And wolde hym have all to rente:
Kynge Rycharde besyde hym glente.
The lyon on the breste hym spurned,
That aboute he tourned.
The lyon was hongry and megre,
And bette his tayle to be egre;



It would appear scarcely necessary to entreat the reader to bear in mind, before we place in apposition the events which these scenes bring before us, and the facts of history, properly so called, that the Histories' of Shakspere are Dramatic Poems. And yet, unless this circum-, stance be watchfully regarded, we shall fall into the error of setting up one form of truth in contradiction to, and not in illustration of, another form of truth. It appears to us a worse than useless employment to be running parallels between the poet and the chronicler, for the purpose of showing that for the literal facts of history the poet is not so safe a teacher as the chronicler; and yet, we have had offered to us a series of laborious essays, that undertakes to solve these two problems,-" What were Shakspere's authorities for his history, and how far has he departed from them? And whether the plays may be given to our youth as properly historical." The writer of these essays decides the latter question in the negative, and maintains that these pieces are quite unsuitable as a medium of instruction to the English youth;" -and his great object is, therefore, to contradict, by a body of minute proofs, the assertion of A. W. Schlegel, with regard to these plays, that "the principal traits in every event are given with so much correctness, their apparent causes and their secret motives are given with so much penetration, that we may therein study history, so to speak, after nature, without fearing that such lively images should ever be effaced from our minds." Schlegel appears to us to have hit the true cause why the youth of England have been said to take their history from Shakspere. The "lively images" of the poet present a general truth much more completely than the tedious narratives of the annalist. The ten English histories' of ShakspereShakspere's Historical Plays considered historically. By the Right Hon. T. P. Courtenay.

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He loked aboute as he were madde;
Abrode he all his pawes spradde.
He cryed lowde, and yaned wyde.

Kynge Rycharde bethought hym that tyde
What hym was beste, and to hym sterte,

In at the throte his honde he gerte,
And hente out the herte with his honde,
Lounge, and all that he there fonde.
The lyon fell deed to the grounde:
Rycharde felt no wem ne wounde.
He fell on his knees on that place,
And thanked Jesu of his grace.'"

the magnificent dramatic Epopée, of which the separate pieces are different cantos "-stand in the same relation to the contemporary historians of the events they deal with, as a landscape does to a map. Mr. Courtenay says, "Let it be well understood that if in any case I derogate from Shakspere as an historian, it is as an historian only." Now, in the sense in which Mr. Courtenay uses the word "historian,'


by which he means one who describes past events with the most accurate observances of time and place, and with the most diligent balancing of conflicting testimony-Shakspere has no pretensions to be regarded. The principle, therefore, of viewing Shakspere's history through another medium than that of his art, and pronouncing, upon this view, that his historical plays cannot be given to our youth as "properly historical," is nearly as absurd as it would be to derogate from the merits of Mr. Turner's beautiful drawings of coast scenery, by maintaining and proving that the draughtsman had not accurately laid down the relative positions of each bay and promontory. would not be, to our minds, a greater mistake to confound the respective labours of the landscape painter and the hydrographer, than to subject the poet to the same laws which should govern the chronicler. There may be, in the poet, a higher truth than the literal, evolved in spite of, or rather in combination with, his minute violations of accuracy; we may in the poet better study history, "so to speak, after nature," than in the annalist,-because the poet masses and generalizes his facts, subjecting them, in the order in which he presents them to the mind, as well as in the elaboration which he bestows upon them, to the laws of his art, which has a clearer sense of fitness and proportion than the laws of a dry chronology. But, at any rate, the structure of an historical drama and of an historical narrative are so essentially

different, that the offices of the poet and the historian must never be confounded. It is not to derogate from the poet to say that he is not an historian; it will be to elevate Shakspere when we compare his poetical truth with the truth of history. We have no wish that he had been more exact and literal.

The moving cause of the main action in the play of King John' is put before us in the very first lines. Chatillon, the ambassador of France, thus demands of John the resignation of his

crown :

"Philip of France, in right and true behalf
Of thy deceased brother Geffrey's son,
Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim
To this fair island, and the territories;

To Ireland, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine."


In the year 1190, when Arthur was only two years old, his uncle, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, contracted him in marriage with the daughter of Tancred, king of Sicily. The good will of Richard towards Arthur, on this occasion, might be in part secured by a dowry of twenty thousand golden oncie which the Sicilian king paid in advance to him; but, at any rate, the infant duke of Brittany was recognised in this deed, by Richard, as our most dear nephew, and heir, if by chance we should die without issue." When Richard did die, without issue, in 1199, Arthur and his mother Constance, who was really the duchess regnant of Brittany, were on friendly terms with him, although in 1197 Richard had wasted Brittany with fire and sword; but John produced a testament by which Richard gave him the crown. The adherents of John, however, did not rely upon this instrument; and, if we may credit Matthew Paris, John took the brightest gem of the house of Anjou, the crown of England, upon the principle of election. His claim was recognised also in Normandy. Maine, Touraine, and Anjou, on the other hand, declared for Arthur; and at Angiers the young prince was proclaimed king of England. As Duke of Brittany Arthur held his dominion as a vassal of France;-but Constance, who knew the value of a powerful protector for her son, offered to Philip Augustus of France, that Arthur should do homage not only for Brittany, but also for Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, and Poitou. Philip encouraged the pretensions of Arthur to the provinces for which he had offered homage, and he met his young vassal at Mans, where he received his

See Daru, 'Histoire de Bretagne,' tome i. p. 381.

oath, bestowed on him knighthood, and took him with him to Paris.

We may assume this point of the history of Arthur as determining the period when Shakspere's play of King John' commences.

The hostility of Elinor to Constance is manifested in the first Scene :

"What now, my son ! have I not ever said,

How that ambitious Constance would not cease,
Till she had kindled France, and all the world,
Upon the right and party of her son?"

Holinshed assigns the reason for this enmity: -"Surely Queen Elinor, the king's mother, was sore against her nephew Arthur, rather moved thereto by envy conceived against his mother, than upon any just occasion given in the behalf of the child; for that she saw if he were king how his mother Constance would look to bear most rule within the realm of England, till her son should come to lawful age to govern of himself."

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"A braver choice of dauntless spirits, Than now the English bottoms have waft o'er, Did never float upon the swelling tide."

THE troops of William the Conqueror are said to have been borne to the invasion of England upon several thousand barks. Henry II. embarked his forces for the conquest of Ireland in four hundred vessels. In both these periods the craft must have been mere boats. But when Richard carried his soldiers to the Holy Land, his armament consisted of many large ships. This brilliant navy for the most part

consisted of merchant vessels, collected from all the ports of the kingdom, each of which was bound, when required by the king, to furnish him with a certain number. John had a few galleys of his own. The first great naval victory of England, that of the Damme, or of the Sluys, was won in the reign of John, in 1213. The following representation of "English bottoms" is composed from several authorities, viz. :Cotton MS. Claudius D. 2, temp. Henry I.; MS. at Bennet Coll. Cambridge, (engraved in Strutt's 'Manners') temp. Henry III.; and Royal MS. 2 B. vii. temp. Edward I.

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