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to be a despot. This trait in his poetical character was necessary, since it is inconsistent with the Christian view to represent an individual as re machine in the hands of a superior and constraining power. This truth is at once the reason and the justification of the reflections which Richard makes upon himself and his own circumstances, in the many osliloquies which have been so frequently censured as unnatural. They are a necessary part of the character of a tyrant in Christian times; they are but the utterance of his clear internal convictions, and Richard must speak with himself, since in his terrible isolation he has none else with whom he can hold communion.
But tyranny never exists but in the midst and as the result of a civil war. And this exists, implicitly at least, in every general state of moral corruption, even though it may not always manifest itself in an external and palpable form. Tyranny itself is but the highest grade of wide moral disorganisation, and naturally springs up whenever the universal sinfulness has spent itself in its own excesses, when the fearful energy of wild desires and passions has so tamed the general mind, that it can no longer make its own will felt,—when the whole state and people have become so listless and powerless, that they can no longer rule themselves, and actually require some stronger mind to lead them. In such cases a tyranny springs up rather to effect the utter annihilation of political independence, as the imperial power did at Rome, or else, as in Richard's case, to form an intermediate stage for the removal of all the original disturbing causes, and for the punishment of the authors of them, and thereby to prepare for a new æra of political existence. In its historical and poetical import tyranny forms the tribunal of divine providence: in an historical sense it is so, because it is the expression of the conjoint operation of moral necessity (the divine guidance of affairs) and of human free-will, and poetically because it elucidates the truth of history. In consistency with this view the several characters are all drawn : Margaret, the fury of the dreadful past on which the present rests—the fearfully frantic prophetess, whose predictions are so many imprecations for former guilt, hangs like a curse on the heads of all: the Duchess of York—the mother of the royal brothers—more closely connected
indeed than Margaret with the present time, but like her to witness the ruin of all her guilty house: Edward the Fourth, Clarence, the Lady Anne, as representatives of the troublous present, who, while they are not over higlily eminent for virtue, are yet too good for the existing corruption, and who because they arrogate to themselves a position for which in truth they possessed no vocation, are drawn into the vortex of general retribution; lastly, the children of Edward and of Clarence, the promises of a better future, but impossible to be extricated from the working of a former curse which sits heavily on their whole race. They too must perish by the hands of the executioner of heaven's judgments. For the fathers' sins bring destruction upon the children; the former must perish because of the past, while the future, in which the past still survives, cannot suffer the latter to live. The subordinate characters, Rivers, Gray, Vaughan, Hastings, and Buckingham, pay the penalty of the rashness with which they interfered in the great catastrophe; Buckingham, besides, had his own crimes to atone for.
The family of Henry the Sixth is utterly extinct; of the House of York none survive but the childless Richard, and a daughter of Edward the Fourth, who is to form the link of union between the old and the new times. Thus must it ever be. The avenger -the founder of a new æra—must come of a different blood; but at the same time he must form a true intermedium between the past and the future, and must furnish a real appeasing of history. Such was the Earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry the Seventh, and the husband of Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward, of the house of Lancaster (Gaunt), but not by descent from Henry the Fourth. He appears a pious harmless youth, and by no means a highly-gifted or eminent character. For an age so morally corrupt was unable to offer any opposition to the tyranny of Richard, much less to provide a deliverer from within itself. The true deliverer was God. It is as His captain that Richmond accounts himself,—it is not in himself, in his forces, or in circumstances that he places his hope; the conviction that he is but working the will of God, alone gives him energy for his enterprise. He is the man whom God has sent, and of whom the age stands in
need; who alone is justified in acting as he does : it is God's arm that strengthens and protects him. With wonderful judgment has the poet indicated all this by the unequalled scene of the fifth act, where the ghosts of the members of the royal family whom Richard had murdered rise one by one. As already observed, such ghostly apparitions belong not properly to the historic drama; history itself knows nothing of such things. The poet, it is true, represents them but as the vivid visionary shapes which issue from the troubled conscience in one case, and of the pure consciousness on the other, but still in both cases he regards them as voices from God to encourage the innocent and to shake the resolution of the guilty. They therefore possess a perfect poetic reality, and it is no excuse for the poet to urge that it is but as a dream that he has introduced them. However, the true poet has always a good reason for his irregularities, and in the present case his excuse is obvious. The poet does not paint history with the accuracy of a portrait—he also invents it; his invention, however, is but the very kernel and essence of history, which never attains to actual and immediate manifestation, even because its inmost heart is wrapped in the infinity of the divine ruler of the world. It is therefore necessary to shew forth explicitly in the drama, what in history appears mediately and implicitly, being concealed beneath the very results to which it gives rise. This apparent offence, therefore, against history—by its application it ccases to be such-is made use of by the poet for the clear realization of his leading idea, which has nothing less for its subject-matter than the elucidation of the true relation of history to God; or, in other words, the truths that God alone can restore sinful man, and that the penalty which his strict unyielding justice inflicts, is at the same time the proof of his protecting love. The history of the world, in short, is the gracious dispensation of this love and mercy, or, as the same idea is expressed by Henry, a little before lie sees the spirits —
“ O Thou ! whose captain I account myself,
Look on my forces with a gracious eye ;
Th' usurping helmets of our adversaries.
That his prayer is heard he is assured by the spirits, whose speech concludes with the words :
“ God and good angels fight on Richmond's side,
And Richard fall in height of all his pride !"
These five historical dramas, which embrace the most important centuries of English history, form together so grand and magnificent a poetic picture, that I know nothing to be at all compared with it in the whole treasury of dramatic literature. I have already pointed out the intrinsic connexion of idea which, without depriving them of their independent beauty as single pieces, combines them together into one perfect whole. But Shakspeare, with wonderful tact, has not failed to furnish them with an external connexion also. Even in “Richard the Second,” he makes Henry inquire after his eldest son, and complain of his irregular habits. At the expense, no doubt, of chronological truth, and to the annoyance of his English critics; for at the time Henry was only twelve years old, and could hardly have been a frequenter of taverns. Again, at the close of Richard the Second, we have already a mention of conspiracies against Henry, who also, upon receiving the tidings of Richard's death, makes a vow of pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, for the purpose of quieting and clearing his conscience. To these three points the first part of “ Henry the Fourth” immediately attaches itself; indeed, the civil disturbances and the revolts against Henry's authority, his own state of mind, and the life and character of his son, form the subjectmatter externally of both parts. The close of the second finishes by the reconciliation of the Prince to his dying father, and his elevation to the throne forms the passage to the “Henry the Fifth,” which immediately treats of the reign of that valiant monarch. The years which elapsed from the seeming termination of the great war with France, and the death of Henry the Fifth, are omitted from the dramatic story, as devoid of action, and therefore not admitting of scenic representation. On this account the poet refers, in an epilogue to the three dramas, previonsly exhibited and taken from the history of Henry the Sixth. He says in these words expressly :
“ Henry the Sixth in infant bands crowned king
Of France and England, did this king succeed :
That they lost France, and made his England bleed."
While in the introductory scene of the following trilogy,—the coffin of Henry the Fifth, which adorns the back-ground of the stage, and the grief of the assembled dignitaries of his kingdom, their sorrow for the departed hero and the enumeration of his great achievements, and the unsuccessful embassy to France, vividly bring before the mind of the reader and spectator, both the subject-matter of the previous drama, and the altered state of affairs. It is scarcely necessary to remind the intelligent reader, of the close connection which subsists between the three parts of
Henry the Sixth;” yet, for the benefit of dull English critics, I must point to the fact, that as the first part closes with Suffolk's success in persuading the young king to a marriage with Margaret of Anjou, so the second opens with the arrival of that Princess, and ends with the battle of St. Albans, of which the first scene of the third part, whch is the deliberation of the victors immediately after the battle, forms an unbroken continuation. I have already called attention to the prominence which, in this third part, the poet gives to the afterwards Richard the Third, with a view manifestly of preparing for the following drama. This last part of the great dramatic whole takes up all the historical threads exactly where they were broken off in the preceding play. With striking resemblances to the opening of “Henry the Sixth” the past and present appear to to be fused together by the imprisonment of Clarence, and the funeral procession of Henry, attended by the Lady Anne as mourner. Each preceding drama runs as it were into the following, while the latter, in the same manner, is prepared for by the former. In fact, the poet could scarcely have manifested in a more marked and obvious manner than he has, his intention to exhibit history in one unbroken series from