« ZurückWeiter »
And hang their heads with sorrow: Good grows with her:
peace to all his neighbours : God shall be truly known; and those about her From her shall read the perfect ways of honour, And by those claim their greatness, not by blood. [Nor shall this peace sleep with her? : But as when The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phønix, Her ashes new create another heir, As great in admiration as herself; So shall she leave her blessedness to one, (When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,) Who, from the sacred ashes of her honour, Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was, And so stand fix'd: Peace, plenty, love, truth, terror, That were the servants to this chosen infant, Shall then be his, and like a vine grow to him; Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine, His honour, and the greatness of his name Shall be, and make new nations: He shall flourish, And, like a mountain cedar, reach his branches To all the plains about him:
-Our children's children Shall see this, and bless heaven. K. Hen.
Thou speakest wonders.] Cran. She shall be, to the happiness of England,
2 [Nor shall this peace sleep with her : &c.] These lines, to the interruption by the king, seem to have been inserted at some revisal of the play, after the accession of king James. If the passage, included in crotchets, be left out, the speech of Cranmer proceeds in a regular tenour of prediction, and continuity of sentiments : but, by the interposition of the new lines, he first celebrates Elizabeth's successor, and then wishes he did not know that she was to die; first rejoices at the consequence, and then laments the cause. Our author was at once politick and idle; he resolved to flatter James, but neglected to reduce the whole speech to propriety; or perhaps intended that the lines inserted should be spoken in the action, and omitted in the publication, if any publication was ever in his thoughts. Mr. Theobald has made the same observation. JOHNSON.
An aged princess; many days shall see her,
K. Hen. O lord archbishop,
3 The play of Henry the Eighth is one of those which still keeps possession of the stage by the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation, about forty years ago, drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter. Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every other part may be easily conceived and easily written. Johnson.
* Chetwood says that, during one season, it was exhibited seventy five times.
'Tis ten to one, this play can never please
such a one we show'd them;] In the character of Katharine.
Johnson. If they smile, &c.] Though it is very difficult to decide whether short pieces be genuine or spurious, yet I cannot restrain myself from expressing my suspicion that neither the Prologue nor Epilogue to this play is the work of Shakspeare; non vultus, non color. It appears to me very likely that they were supplied by the friendship or officiousness of Jonson, whose manner they will be perhaps found exactly to resemble. There is yet another supposition possible : the Prologue and Epilogue may have been written after Shakspeare's departure from the stage, upon some accidental revival of the play, and there will then be reason for imagining that the writer, whoever he was, intended no great kindness to him, this play being recommended by a subtle and covert censure of his other works. There is, in Shakspeare, so much of fool and fight;
the fellow, “ In a long motley coat, guarded with yellow,” appears so often in his drama, that I think it not very likely that he would have animadverted so severely on himself. All this, however, must be received as very dubious, since we know not the exact date of this or the other plays, and cannot tell how our author might have changed his practice or opinions.
All the best men are ours; for 'tis ill hap,
The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two Parts of Henry the Fourth, and Henry the Fifth, are among the happiest of our author's compositions; and King John, Richard the Third, and Henry the Eighth, deservedly stand in the second class. Those whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes to their original, may consult Holinshed, and sometimes Hall: from Holinshed Shakspeare has often inserted whole speeches, with no more alteration than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecessary, because the original is easily examined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian.
To play histories, or to exhibit a succession of events by action or dialogue, was a common entertainment among our rude ancestors upon great festivities. The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell a play which lasted three days, containing The History of the World." JOHNSON.