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Progress of the Race.


sentation, in the chronicles of their country. Some slight accidental preference is given to a few characters, such as Talbot and La Pucelle, but not with any design to render them centrally attractive. Neither art nor artifice is employed in the development of the story, nor is any relief proposed by the invention of an underplot or of a comic character; but the writer depends entirely on his materials, and his fidelity to his authorities. Nor has Shakspere interfered at all with this simple purpose. He has only thrown in here and there a strong line or two for the occasional elevation of the style. I think I perceive his hand in the italicised lines in the following ex


"In thirteen battles Salisbury o'ercame;

Henry the Fifth he first trained to the wars;

Whilst any trump did sound, or drum struck up,

His sword did ne'er leave striking in the field.

Yet livest thou, Salisbury? though thy speech doth fail,
One eye thou hast to look to heaven for grace:
The sun with one eye vieweth all the world."

There we find the poet striking in with a grand image. I suspect too that, in the touching interviews between Talbot and his son, in the fourth act, there is some enlargement by Shakspere; perhaps the two scenes were altogether introduced by him. They are eminently pathetic, though couched in rhyme.

We may also trace in the drama certain tendencies of the age. It had already begun to estimate the historical progress of the race, and to account for the present by reference to its antecedents in the


With inquiry also came scepticism; and we find old beliefs already fading. An extreme Protestantism is even patronised; as in the passage (in the 5th act, sc. 4) concerning the birth and conduct of La Pucelle. But the contempt for Mariolatry, thus shadowed forth in the pretensions and condemnation of poor Joan, is nevertheless exhibited as consistent with a miserable credulity in witchcraft, of which the poor victim of superstition is not only accused, but the dramatist shows her in the full practice of her damned trade, as having conference with the fiends, by whom she is prompted and betrayed. All this is presented in the clumsiest manner; and Shakspere does not appear to have meddled with the original draught at all, regarding the exhibition, such as it was, probably as a popular point, expected by the audience, and not at all to be modified without peril to the success of the performance. With our present notions of the Maid of Orleans, as interpreted for us by Southey and Schiller, these prejudices of our forefathers clash sadly. Shakspere, by disdaining to touch the matter, demonstrated that he cherished no participation in these popular delusions.

From the level, indicated by this first part of the trilogy of Henry VI., our poet had to raise the drama of his country. His next venture was not of an historical character, but of a fantastic kind. The Taming of the Shrew was written probably in 1592, and was acted in 1593. As in other instances, the stage was already in possession of a play on the subject; and such play had, like his, an Induction, in which

The Taming of the Shrew.


Sly the Tinker is ejected from an alehouse; but Shakspere substitutes a Hostess for the Tapster of the original playwright. In other respects, there is much similarity both in dialogue and incident. At the conclusion of the first act, Sly is made again to interfere; but then Shakspere drops him entirely, whereas in the old play he is present throughout, and at the close has a scene in which he is returned to his former position, and regards all that had passed as a dream. In his Induction, Shakspere has greatly improved on his original. The plot of the drama is the same, with slight variations both in the old and new plays. For the most part, Shakspere contented himself with altering the similes and language, exerting himself rather as a poet than a dramatist. Nor was this an easy task; since the old play abounded in imagery, and was rich in poetic diction. For the underplot he went to another drama, called The Supposes, translated from Ariosto by George Gascoigne, and published in 1566. The same underplot is, indeed, found in the old play with variations, but Shakspere preferred the original draught. His merit entirely consists in the life and motive which he has thrown into his adaptation, so that the latter is distinguished from the productions on which it was founded as a masterpiece contrasted with previous crude essays. It is also probable that the authors of these were indebted to still elder and cruder writers; for both the story and the induction are traceable to Eastern origins, and belong to that old stock of fiction which has come down to us from prehistoric ages. Shakspere simply seized on this

world-property, and placed his own mark upon it; so strongly that, by common consent, he is now accepted as the owner of it.

And now again we find Shakspere returning to the subject of Henry VI., and occupying the years 1593 and 1594 with adapting the second and third parts of the dramatic history to his stage. He was indebted to two anonymous plays which were separately printed in 1594 and 1595, and which, according to a collected edition of them published in 1600, had been "sundry times acted by the Earl of Pembroke his servants." In a subsequent edition (1619), their correction and enlargement are attributed to Shakspere; nevertheless, they are but reprints of the copies of 1600. These plays had probably been seen by Shakspere in manuscript, or they had been contributed to his theatre, as well as to the Earl of Pembroke's, and he had corrected them as he thought fit for his own stage. No wonder then that similarities exist between these plays, and those printed as Shakspere's in the first folio edition of his works; that the persons and course of action in them are the same; and that many speeches and lines are distinguished only by trifling verbal differences. But Shakspere omitted many things which the previous poet had inserted. Of what he entirely adopted, as many as 1771 lines appear in the folio, of lines that he had altered there are 2373, and of lines written exclusively by himself there are 1899. To such an extent, then, Shakspere had collected and enlarged the original draught; and it is in fraudulent allusion to this fact that the quarto edition of 1619

Henry VI., Parts II. and III.


pretends to contain the alterations which it does not. Besides, no play of Shakspere's was ever acted by the Earl of Pembroke's servants. His genuine works were represented either by the Lord Chamberlain's, or the Queen's, or the King's servants; and the dramas on the subject of Henry VI., as adopted by him, were never published until they appeared in the first folio edition of his collected plays.

The most noteworthy point in these plays occurs in the third part, where we find a sketch of Richard Duke of Gloster, afterwards Richard the Third. The Duke of the anonymous author is substantially the same as the wily and ambitious usurper of Shakspere. The greater poet borrowed the idea of the character from the less. But he everywhere strengthened the expression of it, by adding, for instance, such lines as the following to the original draught:

'Why, then, I do but dream on sovereignty;
Like one that stands upon a promontory,

And spies a far-off shore where he would tread,
Wishing his foot were equal with his eye;

And chides the sea that sunders him from thence,
Saying-he'll lade it dry to have his way;

So do I wish the crown, being so far off;

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And so I chide the means that keep me from it;
And so I say I'll cut the causes off,

Flattering me with impossibilities.

My eye's too quick, my heart o'erweens too much,
Unless my hand and strength could equal them.
Well, say there is no kingdom then for Richard:
What other pleasure can the world afford?"

Such lines stand out from the ordinary level of the . dialogue; yet, to do the anonymous poet justice, there are some very vigorous verses of his own: in all

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