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under the king," that disposition to unmeaning tautology which is the regal infirmity of later times, and which, it may be supposed, he acquired from talking to his cousin Silence, and receiving no an
Falstaff. You have here a goodly dwelling, and a rich.
Shallon. Barren, barren, barren ; beggars all, beggars all, Sir John :
: marry, good air. Spread Davy, spread Davy. Well said, Davy.
Fulstaff. This Davy serves you for good uses.
Shallon. A good varlet, a good varlet, a very good varlet. By the mass, I have drank too much sack at supper. A good varlet. Now sit down, now sit down. Come, cousin."
The true spirit of humanity, the thorough knowledge of the stuff we are made of, the practical wisdom with the seeming fooleries in the whole of the garden scene at Shallow's country seat, and just before in the exquisite dialogue between him and Silence on the death of old Double, have no parallel any where else. In one point of view, they are laughable in the extreme; in another they are equally affecting, if it is affecting to shew what a little thing is human life, what a poor forked creature man is !
The heroick and serious part of these two plays, founded on the story of Henry IV., is not inferiour to the comick and farcical. The characters of Hotspur and Prince Henry are two of the most beautiful and dramatick, both in themselves and from contrast, that ever were drawn. They are the essence of chivalry. We like Hotspur the best upon the whole, perhaps because he was unfortunate.-The characters of their fathers, Henry IV., and old Northumberland, are kept up equally well.
Henry paturally succeeds by his prudence and caution in keeping what he bas got; Northumberland fails in his enterprise from an excess of the same quality, and is caught in the web of his own cold, dilatory policy. Owen Glendower is a masterly character. It is as bold and original as it is intelligible and thoroughly natural. The disputes between him and Hotspur are managed with infinite address and insight into nature. We cannot help pointing out here some very beautiful lines, where Hotspur describes the fight between Glendower and MIprtimer.
“ When, on the gentle Severn's sedgy bank,
The peculiarity and the excellence of Shakspeare's poetry is, that it seems as if he made his imagination the handmaid of nature, and nature the plaything of his imagination. He appears to have been all the characters, and in all the situations be describes. It is as if either he had had all their feelings, or had lent them all his genius to express themselves.There cannot be stronger instances of this than Hot. spur's rage when Henry IV. forbids him to speak of Mortimer, his insensibility to all that his father and uncle urge to calm him, and his fine abstracted apostrophe to honour, “By heaven methinks it were an
easy leap to pluck bright honour from the moon," &c. After all, notwithstanding the gallantry, generosity, good temper, and idle freaks of the mad-cap Prince of Wales, we should not have been sorry, if Northumberland's force had come up in tine to decide the fate of the battle at Shrewsbury; at least, we always heartily sympathize with Lady Percy's grief, when she exclaims,
“ Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers,
The truth is, that we never could forgive the Prince's treatment of Falstaff; though perhaps Shakspeare knew what was best, according to the history, the nature of the times, and of the man. We speak only as dramatick criticks. Whatever terrour the French in those days might have of Henry V., yet to the readers of poetry at present, Falstaff is the better man of the two. We think of him and quote him oftener.
HENRY V. is a very favourite monarch with the English nation, and he appears to have been also a favourite with Shakspeare, who labours hard to apologize for the actions of the king, by shewing us the character of the man, as “ the king of good fellows." He scarcely deserves this honour. He was fond of war and low company :-- We know little else of him. He was careless, dissolute, and ambitious ;-idle, or doing mischief. In private, he seemed to have no idea of the common decencies of life, which he subjected to a kind of regal license; in publick affairs, he seemed to have no idea of any rule of right or wrong, but brute force, glossed over with a little religious hypocrisy and archi-episcopal advice. His principles did not change with his situation and professions. His adventure on Gadsbill was a prelude to the affair of Agincourt, only a bloodless one; Falstaff was a puny prompter of violence and outrage, compared with the pious and politiek Archbishop of Canterbury, who gave the king carte blanche, in a genealogical tree of his family, to rob and murder in circles of latitude and longitude abroad-to save the possessions of the church at home. This appears in
the speeches in Shakspeare, where the hidden motives that actuate princes and their advisers in war and policy are better laid open than in speeches from the throne or woolsack. Henry, because he did not know how to govern his own kingdom, determined to make war upon his peighbours. Because his own title to the crown was doubtful, he laid claim to that of France. Because he did not kpow how to exercise the enormous power, which had just dropped into his hands, to any one good purpose, he immediately undertook (a cheap and obvious resource of sovereignty) to do all the mischief he could. Even if absolute monarchs had the wit to find out objects of laudable ambition, they could only "plume up their wills" in adhering to the more sacred formula of the royal prerogative, “ the right divine of kings to govern wrong," because will is only then triumphant when it is opposed to the will of others, because the pride of power is only then shewn, not when it consulte the rights and interests of others, but when it insults and tramples on all justice and all humanity. Henry declares his resolution “when France is his, to bend it to his awe, or break it all to pieces”-a resolution worthy of a conqueror, to destroy all that he cannot enslave; and what adds to the joke, he lays all the blame of the consequences of his ambition on those who will not submit tamely to his tyranny. Such is the history of kingly power, from the beginning to the end of the world ;-with this difference, that the object of war formerly, when the people adhered to their allegiance, was to depose kings; the object lat. terly, since the people swerved from their allegiance, has been to restore kings, and to make common cause