« ZurückWeiter »
We shall hardly find any man to-day; more like to what he was yesterday, than the perfons here are like to what they were in the first part of Henry IV. This is the more astonishing as the author has not confined himself, as all other dramatic writers have done, to a certain theatrical character; which, formed entirely of one paffion, presents to us always the patriot, the lover, or the conqueror. Thefe, ftill turning on the fame hinge, describe like a piece of clock-work a regular circle of movements. In human nature, of which Shakespear's characters are a juft imitation, every paffion is controlled-and forced into many deviations by various incidental difpofitions and hu'mours. The operations of this complicated. machine are far more difficult to trace, than the steady undeviating line of the artificial character formed on one fimple principle. Our poet seems to have as great an advantage over ordinary dramatic poets, as Dædalus had above his predeceffors in fculpture. They could make a representation of the limbs
limbs and features which compose the human form, he first had the skill to give it gefture, attitude, the eafy graces of real life, and exhibit its powers in a variety of exer
We shall again fee Northumberland timid and wavering, forward in confpiracy, yet hefitating to join in an action of doubtful iffue.
King Henry is as prudent a politician on his death-bed as at council; his eye, juft before it closed for ever, ftretching itself beyond the hour of death, to the view of those dangers, which from the temper of the Prince of Wales, and the condition of the times, threatened his throne and family. I cannot help taking notice of the remarkable attention of the poet to the cautious and politic temper of Henry, when he makes him, even in fpeaking to his friends and par-tifans, diffemble fo far, in relating Richard's prophecy that Northumberland who helped
him to the throne would one day revolt from him, as to add,
Though then, heaven knows, I had no fuch
But that neceffity fo bow'd the state,
That I and greatnefs were compell'd to kiss.
To his fucceffor he expreffes himself very differently when he says,
Heaven knows, my fon,
By what by-paths and indirect crook'd ways
These delicacies of conduct lie hardly within the poet's province, but have their fource in that great and univerfal capacity which the attentive reader will find to beJong to our author beyond any other writer. He alone, perhaps, would have perceived the decorum and fitness of making fo wife a man referved even with his friends, and truft a confeffion of the iniquities by which he obtained the crown only to his fucceffor, whose interest it was not to difgrace what
ever could authorize his attainment of it. Let tragedy-writers who make princes prate with pages and waiting-women of their murders and treafons, learn for once, from rude and illiterate Shakespear, how averse pride is coolly to confefs, and prudence to betray, what the fever and deliriums of ambition had prompted to do.
Falstaffe appears with his former difpofitions, but in new fituations; and entertains us in a variety of fcenes.
Hotspur is as it were revived to the fpectator in the following character given of him by his lady, when the diffuades Northumberland from joining the forces of the archbishop.
Oh, yet for heav'n's fake, go not to these wars.
Who then perfuaded you to stay at home?
To do brave acts. He was indeed the glass
And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,
Became the accents of the valiant;
For those, that could speak low and tardily,
Would turn their own perfection to abuse,
In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion'd others. And him, wond'rous him!
O miracle of men! him did
In difadvantage; to abide a field
Where nothing but the found of Hotspur's name
Did feem defenfible. So you left him.
Never, O, never do his ghost the wrong,
To hold your honour more precife and nice