Abbildungen der Seite

witness,* bound over to give testimony, for or against us, at some judgment after this life to pass upon us.

And he refers to S. Paul, Rom. ii. 14-16.

But even if this were not so, we are assured that 'we must all appear,' or rather be made manifest (cavepwoĥvai) 'before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body,' 2 Cor. v. IO. Accordingly, when Hubert shows to King John the warrant which the latter had given him for the murder of Prince Arthur, the King exclaims:

Oh, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth
Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
Witness against us to damnation.

King John, Act iv. Sc. 2.

It was to be expected that the circumstances of the Judgment day, as they are revealed to us in Scripture, would make a deep and lasting impression upon a mind like Shakspeare's. Accordingly, when he desires to give more than ordinary effect to deep passion, to indignation and abhorrence at crime committed, or to affliction and distress at calamity incurred, he has recourse to images which are associated with the final doom-the sounding of the last trump, the discomfiture of creation, the dissolution of the heavens and the earth. Thus, first, in the con

* Juvenal, though a heathen, expresses the same truth (and so con⚫ firms S. Paul), where he says that wicked men

'Nocte dieque suum gestare in pectore testem.'-Sat. xiii. 198.


cluding scene of King Lear, where the fact that the personages of the play are all Pagans would not allow of more than a general and indistinct allusion to 'the promised end,' we read as follows:

Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms.

Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:

Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so

That heaven's vault should crack.


Is this the promis'd end?

Edgar. Or image of that horror?

Act v. Sc. 3.

See Matt. xxiv. 6, 'The end is not yet;' and 1 Pet. iv. 7,' The end of all things is at hand.'

There is the same kind of indistinct reference to the gospel record of our Lord's combined prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the end of the world, in a speech of Gloster's, towards the beginning of the same play :

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: . . . love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide : in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked between father and son. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father: the king falls from bias of nature; there's father against child. Act i. Sc. 2.*

In answer to the objection that such references are out of place in the mouth of Pagans, it is to be remembered that the heathen had their Sibylline verses and prophetical books, and that both Lucan and Ovid foretell of prodigies, and of the conflagration of the world, at the last day.

* See S. Luke xii. 52, 53.

In Macbeth we advance a step further towards a fuller exhibition of the same comparison, when Macduff enters, and discovers the dead bodies of King Duncan and his attendants, all murdered :

Macduff. O horror! horror! horror!

Tongue, nor heart, cannot conceive, nor name thee!

Murder! and treason!

Banquo, and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!
Shake off this drowsy sleep, death's counterfeit,
And look on death itself! Up, up, and see
The great doom's image !—Malcolm! Banquo!
As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
To countenance this horror!


Lady M. What's the business,

That such a hideous trumpet calls to parley

The sleepers of the house?

Act ii. Sc. 3.

Again the same image is invoked to give expression to other but no less violent and absorbing emotions, in Romeo and Juliet :

Juliet. Is Romeo slaughtered, and is Tybalt dead;
My dear-loved cousin, and my dearer lord?
Then, dreadful trumpet, sound the general doom!

Act iii. Sc. 2.

When the young Lord Clifford, in the Second Part of King Henry VI., sees, after the battle of St. Albans, the hopes of his party blasted, and his father killed, he exclaims:

O! let the vile world end!

And the premised * flames of the last day

* i.e., Sent before their time.

Knit earth and heaven together!

Now let the general trumpet blow his blast,
Particularities and petty sounds

To cease!*

Act v. Sc. 2.

The incestuous marriage of the queen, in Hamlet, with the murderer of her husband and his own brother, might well seem to call forth from the young prince the utmost abhorrence which words

can express:


Heaven's face doth glow:

Yea, this solidity and compound mass
With tristful visage, as against † the doom,

Is thought-sick at the act. Hamlet, Act iii. Sc. 4.

I see nothing in this last passage to justify the doubts and objections which Warburton and other critics have raised. I imagine that the glowing of Heaven's face is to be understood to imply shame at the Queen's act. Mr. Malone timidly asks-'Had not our poet S. Luke's description of the last day in his thoughts?' No doubt he had; but why not also the parallel descriptions of S. Matthew and S. Mark? Yes, and still more, of 2 S. Peter, iii. 7-11; and S. John, Rev. xx. II. The truth is, I fear, that whatever else our poet's critics have been strong in, they have, for the most part, not ‡ been strong in knowledge of the Scriptures; and

* To stop.

+ See above, p. 23.

I speak of the critics in the Variorum edition. Among these Mr. Henley is, I think, the only one who deserves to be exempted from the above censure.

that the book which they should have looked to first and most for help in the illustration of his works, is the book which has been generally looked to last and least.

That the passage of S. Peter just referred to had attracted his attention is evident from a speech of Prospero in the Tempest:—

Our revels now are ended: these our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air :

And like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack


Act iv. Sc. I.

Compare also Isaiah li. 6, 'The heavens shall vanish away like smoke,' &c.

And now the curtain of our great teacher drops, as it ought, before the Judgment of the Last Day.† We know, though imperfectly, what we now are; we know not, even with the help of Revelation, what we shall be hereafter :

Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. 1 John iii. 2.

Ophelia has caught this up in her touching way, where she says to the King, in Hamlet:

* i.e., a vapour. But, notwithstanding the elaborate argument of Horne Tooke, I should prefer to read track, supported as it is by the parallel in Timon of Athens, Act i. Sc. 1. † See above p. 163.

« ZurückWeiter »