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the manner in which he has executed his praiseworthy undertaking in many respects, I very much regret the undue sensitiveness which has led him sometimes to alter, and sometimes to omit, passages perfectly inoffensive, for no other reason that I can discover, except the allusion they contain to the language or characters of Scripture.
The following example may suffice in proof of what has now been said. In the Second Part of King Henry VI. Queen Margaret says to the king:What, dost thou turn away, and hide thy face?
I am no loathsome leper, look on me.
Be poisonous too, and kill thy forlorn queen.
Act iii. Sc. 2.
These three last lines are omitted by Mr. Bowdler. And why? Because we read about 'lepers,' and still more, because we read about 'deaf adders' in the Bible. See Psalm lviii. 4, 5: 'Their poison is like the poison of a serpent; they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.' This beautiful image appears to have struck the imagination of our poet, and not without reason. He therefore makes use of it again, and with singular propriety, in Troilus and Cressida; where Hector says to Paris and Troilus:
Pleasure and revenge
Have ears more deaf than adders, to the voice
Act ii. Sc. 2.
This Mr. Bowdler has altered into
Have ears for ever deaf unto the voice, &c.,
whereby the notion of truth charming wisely, but in vain, is altogether lost, and a most flat line substituted for a most vigorous one. And why? Because Mr. B. appears to have been haunted by an exaggerated and mistaken fancy, that whatever is calculated to remind the reader of a Scriptural image, however beautiful and however appropriate, must necessarily be profane! What, I wonder, would Mr. B. have done if he had undertaken to edit, not only the plays, but also the sonnets of Shakspeare; in the cxii. of which we read as follows:
In so profound abysm I throw all care
where,* by a curious instance of the figure, called in Greek σχῆμα πρὸς τὸ σημαινόμενον, ' are seems as if put to agree with ears, hard of hearing, implied in 'adder's sense.'
I now pass on to the evidence of which I proposed to treat in the first instance.
* But in Macbeth, Act v. Sc. 1., the folios read 'their sense are shut.'See Wright's note on Jul. Cæs. ii. 2, and Abbot's Gram., § 471. And so Dowden, Sonnets, p. 273; and Dyce's note on that Sonnet (112).
Of the Allusions in Shakspeare to the Historical Facts and Characters of the Bible.
N this chapter I have to show the extent of Shakspeare's knowledge of the contents of the Bible in its historical aspect; how fully and how accurately the general tenor of the facts recorded in the sacred narrative was present to his mind.
We may begin then from the very first chapter of the Book of Genesis. There can be no doubt that the Mosaic record of the creation of the sun and moon, on the fourth day, when God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night,' gave occasion to those words of Caliban in the Tempest, where he describes how Prospero, on his first coming to the island, had been wont to treat him kindly; and as trying to educate him, would often teach him.
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
Act i. Sc. 2.
And again, when our poet in King Henry VIII. (see below, ch. ii. sect. 2) speaks of man' as 'the image of his Maker,' we may be sure he was thinking of the same record which testifies that 'God created man in His own image.'
We know what followed only too soon after the Creation. Our first parent had been 'put into the garden of Eden to dress it, and to keep it,' Gen. ii. 15; but we have only to look on to the next chapter, and we read the sad tidings of his fall, and consequent expulsion from that happy place, under the curse of God. It is not without some awkwardness and confusion of ideas that these circumstances are supposed to be present to the mind of the Queen of Richard II., when she overhears in a garden the king's deposition spoken of, and coming forth from her concealment, thus addresses the gardener :
Thou, old Adam's likeness, set to dress this garden,
To make a second fall of cursed man?
Why dost thou say King Richard is deposed?
King Richard II., Act iii. Sc. 4.
Again, we read of 'Adam that kept the Paradise' in the Comedy of Errors, Act iv. Sc. 3; and in the same scene he is spoken of as 'old Adam new apparelled,' with reference to the statement in Gen.
That the woman, being deceived, was in the
transgression' (1 Tim. ii. 14) first, and not the man, is alluded to in Love's Labour's Lost, where Biron says of Boyet,
Had he been Adam, he had tempted Eve.
Act v. Sc. 2.
And the evil quality which led her into temptation was the desire, through pride, of knowing and enjoying more than was permitted her, Gen. iii. 6. Consequently that a woman should be proud' is designated by our poet as 'Eve's legacy,' in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act iii. Sc. I.
Whatever comes from the mouth of Falstaff may provoke a smile, yet we must all feel that there is the greatest occasion in reality for deep seriousness, when we hear him say to Prince Henry:
Dost thou hear, Hal? Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell, and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villany? King Henry IV. 1st Part, Act iii. Sc. 3.
It is the same Prince Henry, of whom afterwards, when he became king, the Archbishop of Canterbury thus testified:
The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
And whipp'd the offending* Adam out of him;
To envelope and contain celestial spirits.
King Henry V., Act i. Sc. 1.
*See Rom. vi. 6; Eph. iv. 22; Col. iii. 9.