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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF RICHARD II.
THE earliest notice that has been discovered of THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING RICHARD THE SECOND is an entry by Andrew Wise in the Stationers' Register, dated August 29, 1597. The same year was published a quarto pamphlet thirty-seven leaves, with a title-page reading as follows : “ The Tragedy of King Richard the Second : As it bath been publicly acted by the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlain his Servants. London: Printed by Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise, and are to be sold at his shop in Paul's Church-yard at the sign of the Angel. 1597.” It will be observed that in this edition the author's name was not given. In 1598 another edition was put forth haying the same title-page, save the announcement “ By William Shake speare." There was a third issue in 1608, the title-page varying thus: “With new additions of the Parliament Scene, and the deposing of King Richard. As it hath been lately acted by the King's Majesty's Servants, at the Globe. Printed by W. W. for Matthew Law, and are to be sold at his shop in Paul's Churchyard, at the sign of the Fox." In 1615 appeared a fourth edition with a title-page precisely the same as that of 1608, save that it lacks the printer's initials.
At the accession of James I. in the spring of 1603, “ The Lord Chamberlain's Servants” became “ His Majesty's Servants ;” so that the play was still in the hands of the same company. The
new additions” of 1608 are in Act iv. sc. 1, being a hundred and sixty-four lines, or about half the Act, and are duly remarked in our notes. In the folio of 1623 this play makes the second in the list of histories, has the acts and scenes regularly marked, wherein it differs from all the quartos, and appears in other respects to bave been printed from the issue of 1615, with an occasional reference to some other authority. In the folio, however, several passages, comprising in all just fifty lines, are unaccountably omitted. These omissions, also, are stated in our notes as they occur. Of these five editions, Mr. Collier, who has carefully collated them, pronounces the first, that of 1597, “ beyond all dispute the most valuable for its readings and general accuracy;" and it may easily be gathered from our notes that we concur with him therein. — The only other certain contemporary notice of this play is in Meres' Palladis Tamia, 1598, where he mentions it in witness of Shakespeare's excellence in Tragedy.
As to the date of the composition we have nothing firm to build upon other than what has been stated above. Malone assigned the writing to 1593, and Chalmers to 1596; though their reasons for doing so are either not given, or such that they had better been withheld. To our judgment, the internal evidence, the abundance of rhymes, the frequent passages of elaborate verbal trifling, the general smooth-flowing current of the verse, and the comparative uncompactness of logical texture, make strongly in favour of the earlier date. In all these respects a comparison of Richard II. with the First Part of Henry IV., which latter, even as it now stands, could not have been written later than 1597, will, we think, satisfy almost any one that the former must have preceded by several years. And an argument of considerable force to that effect might be made out from another sort of evidence. The first four Books of Daniel's History of the Civil Wars, three of which are wholly taken up with the closing passages of Richard's government and life, were originally published in 1595. Daniel was himself a star, not indeed of the first magnitude, nor, perhaps, of the second, but yet a star in that matchless constellation of wits contemporary with Elizabeth and James I. which has since made England the brightness of the whole earth. Shakespeare and Daniel are known to have been personally acquainted, and the latter was a man of too high and pure a taste not to have relished the offspring of his friend's unapproachable genius. Being, moreover, himself a writer of plays, and an aspirant for dramatic honours, it is scarce to be supposed that he would be
away from the theatre when the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage
was making the place glorious with his “ Delphic lines."
The poem and the play in question have several passages so similar in thought and language as to argue that one of the authors must have drawn from the other; though this of itself will by no means conclude which way the obligation ran.
But there is another sort of resemblance more pertinent to the matter in hand. Shakespeare, in strict keeping with the scope and purpose of his work, makes the queen in mind, character, and deportment a fullgrown woman, whereas in fact she was at the time only twelve years old, having been married when she was but eight; erty of art every way justifiable in an historical drama, and such as he never scruples to take when the proper ends of dramatic representation can be furthered thereby. With Daniel, however,
the plan of his work, no less than the bent of his mind, caused him to write for the most part with the historical accuracy of a chronicle, insomuch that the fine deep vein of poetry that was in him had not fair play, being overmuch hampered and clogged by the stiffness and rigidity of literal truth. Yet he makes a similar departure from fact in case of the queen, representing her very much as she is in the play ; - a thing for which the only hint of authority that has been discovered is a sentence in Froissart's description of the marriage : “ As I have been informed, it was a goodly sight to see her behaviour; for all that she was but young, right pleasantly she bare the port of a queen.” The point, then, is, that such a departure from historical truth, however justifiable in either case, seems more likely to have been original in the play than in the poem : in the one it grew naturally from the purpose of the work and the usual method of the workman; in the other its cause appears to be rather in the force of example: in short, Shakespeare was more apt to do it, because, artistically speaking, it ought so to be; Daniel, because it had been so done with success. And it is considerable that Daniel pushes this di. vergence even further than Shakespeare; in which excess we may easily detect the influence of a model : for what proceeds by the reason and laws of art naturally stops with them ; but in proceeding by the measure of examples and effects such is not the case; and hence it is that mere imitation is so apt to " overstep the modesty of nature.” To all which if we add, what may be safely added, that both this and the other resemblances are such withal as would naturally result from the impressions of the stage, the whole seems to make at least something of probability for the point in question.
There was certainly one and perhaps two other plays in Shakespeare's time on the subject of Richard II. This we learn unmistakeably from Dr. Simon Forman, whose Diary we have already had several occasions to quote. Under the date of April 30, 1611, he gives a particular account of a play called Richard II., which he had just seen at the Globe Theatre. The leading events of the play as there stated are as follows: “How Jack Straw was suddenly stabbed at Smithfield Bars by Walworth, the mayor of London, and he and his whole army overthrown : How the duke of Gloucester and others, crossing the king in his humours about the duke of Ireland and Bushy, were glad to fly, and raise a host of men; and when Ireland came by night with three hundred men to surprise them, they, being warned thereof, kept the gates fast, and would not suffer him to enter the castle; so he went back with a fly in his ear, and was afterwards slain in battle by the earl of Arundel : That when Gloucester and Arundel came to London with their army the king went forth to meet them, and gave them fair words, promising them pardon, and that all should be well, if they would discharge their army; and after they had done so, having bid them all to a banquet, he betrayed them, and cut off their heads, because they had not the pardon under his hand and seal: How the duke of Lancaster privily contrived to set them all by the ears, and to make the nobility envy the king, and mislike his government; whereby he made his own son king, which was Henry Bolingbroke: And how Lancaster asked a wise man whether himself should ever be king ; and being told that he should not, but his son should, he hanged the man for his labour, lest he should speak thereof to others."
From this account it is clear the play could not have been Shake. speare's, though performed at the theatre for which he had so long been used to write. It should be observed that Forman says nothing distinctly about the deposing of the king ; which event he would hardly have failed to make special mention of, had it been represented in the play. This brings us to a strange matter of state that took place in the year 1601. In Lord Bacon's papers concerning “the treason of Robert, earl of Essex,” we meet with the following statement, being a part of what was charged against Sir Gilly Merick: “ That the afternoon before the rebellion, Merick, with a great company of others that afterwards were all in the action, had procured to be played before them the play of deposing King Richard the Second. Neither was it casual, but a play bespoken by Merick. And not so only, but when it was told him by one of the players that the play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there were forty shillings extraordinary given to play it, and so thereupon played it was. So earnest he was to satisfy his eyes with the sight of that tragedy, which he thought soon after his lordship should bring from the stage to the state.'
That this may have been the same play witnessed by Forman ten years later is indeed possible, but appears, to say the least, rather improbable. Whether, granting it not to have been that, it was Shakespeare's Richard II., or a third play on the same subject, that has not elsewhere been heard of, is a question not very likely to be solved. Malone conjectured that the new additions" of 1608 formed a part of the play as originally written, but wero left out of the first two quartos from fear of offending the queen, to whose ears the deposing of monarchs was a very ungrateful theme, especially after the part she had in deposing from both crown and life her enchanting and ill-starred kinswoman, the witty and beautiful Mary of Scotland. Her sensitive jealousy on this score appears in that Hayward all but incurred a prosecution in 1599 for his First Part of the Life and Reign of King Henry IV., wherein the deposing of Richard II. was set forth. So that, allowing the deposition-scene to have been originally a part of Shakespeare's play, we have here sufficient reason for its being omitted in the printed copy of 1597. Nor do the new additions themselves. yield any argument or indication of having been