Imatges de pÓgina

more learning to have had the character of Achilles in his eye, and also the advice of Horace as to the manner of representing him on the stage.

Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer.

Jura neget fibi nata, nihil non arroget armis.

His misdemeanors rife fo 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' excufe of youth and heat of blood,

And an adopted name of privilege,

A hare-brain'd Hotfpur govern'd by a spleen. The great afpiring foul of Hotfpur 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 scene he appears with the fame animation; he is always that Percy

Whose spirit lent a fire

Even to the dullest peasant in the camp,
Led ancient lords and rev'rend bishops on,
To bloody battles, and to bruifing arms.
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He has alfo the franknefs of Achilles, and the fame abhorrence of falfhood; he is as impatient of Glendower's pretenfions to fupernatural powers, as to the king's affuming a right over his prifoners. 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 Shrewsbury, 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 spirit came with a higher commiffion from the fame fiery sphere.

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

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Tacitus, obferves the jealoufies which muft naturally arise between a family, who have conferred a crown, and the king who has received it, who will always think the prefence of fuch benefactors too bold and peremptory.

The character of Henry IV. is perfectly agreeable to that given him by historians. The play opens by his declaring his intention to war against the infidels, which he does not undertake, as was ufual in those times, from a religious enthusiasm, 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 give 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 specious talents, which affist a man under certain circumstances to ufurp a kingdom: but either from the want of those great and folid qualities, which are necessary to maintain opinion loyal to the throne to which it had raised him, or from the impoffibility


poffibility of fatisfying the expectations of those who had affifted his ufurpation, as fome of the best historians with great appearance of reafon have fuggefted*, it is certain his reign was full of difcontents and troubles.

The popular arts by which he captivated the multitude are finely described in the fpeech he makes to his fon, 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 temper and circumftances of the perfon, and the exigency of the time, influence the fpeaker, as in real life. It is not only the king and parent, but Henry Plantagenet, that chides the Prince of Wales. How natural it is for him, on Percy's revolt, to recur to his own rebellion against Richard, and to apprehend, that the fame levities which loft that king, firft the opinion, then

*Hume's Hift. of H. IV.


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the allegiance of his subjects, should deprive the Prince of his fucceffion! Nothing can be better imagined than the parallel he draws between himself and Percy, Richard and Henry of Monmouth. The affectionate Father, the offended King, the provident Politician, and the confcious ufurper, are all united in the following speeches :


I know not, whether God will have it fo,
For fome displeasing service I have done;
That, in his fecret doom, out of my blood
He'll breed revengement, and a scourge for me.
But thou do'ft in thy paffages of life

Make me believe that thou art only mark'd
For the hot vengeance and the rod of heav'n,

To punish my mif-treadings. Tell me, elfe
Could fuch inordinate and low defires,

Such poor, fuch base, fuch lewd, fuch mean attempts,

Such barren pleasures, rude fociety

As thou art match'd withal, and grafted to,
Accompany the greatness of thy blood,
And hold their level with thy princely heart?

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