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guished those which approached the nearest to each other. For instance, the soul of Othello is hardly more distinct from that of Iago than that of Desdemona is shewn to be from semi- lia's; the ambition of Macbeth is as distinct from the ambition of Richard III. as it is from the meekness of Duncan; the real madness of Lear is as different from the feigned madness of Edgar* as from the babbling of the fool; the contrast between wit and folly in Falstaff and Shallow is not more characteristic though more obvious than the gradations of folly, loquacious or reserved, in Shallow and Silence; and again, the gallantry of Prince Henry is as little confounded with that of Hotspur as with the cowardice of Falstaff, or as the sensual and philosophic cowardice of the Knight is with the pitiful and cringing cowardice of Parolles. All these several personages were as different in Shakespear as they would have been in themselves: his imagination borrowed from the life, and every circumstance, object, motive, passion, operated there as it would in reality, and produced a world of men and women as distinct, as true and as various as those that exist in nature. The peculiar property of Shakespear's imagination
* There is another instance of the same distinction in Hamlet and Ophelia. Hamlet's pretended madness would make a very good real madness in any other author.
was this truth, accompanied with the unconsciousness of nature: indeed, imagination to be perfect must be unconscious, at least in production; for nature is so.—We shall attempt one example more in the characters of Richard II. and Henry VI.
The characters and situations of both these persons were so nearly alike, that they would have been completely confounded by a common-place poet. Yet they are kept quite distinct in Shakespear. Both were kings, and both unfortunate. Both lost their crowns owing to their mismanagement and imbecility; the one from a thoughtless, wilful abuse of power, the other from an indifference to it. The manner in which they bear their misfortunes corresponds exactly to the causes which led to them. The one is always lamenting the loss of his power which he has not the spirit to regain; the other seems only to regret that he had ever been king, and is glad to be rid of the power, with the trouble; the effeminacy of the one is that of a voluptuary, proud, revengeful, impatient of contradiction, and inconsolable in his misfortunes; the effeminacy of the other is that of an indolent, good-natured mind, naturally averse to the turmoils of ambition and the cares of greatness, and who wishes to pass his time in monkish indolence and contemplation.—Richard bewails the loss of the kingly power only as it was the means of gratifying his pride and luxury; Henry regards it only as a means of doing right, and is less desirous of the advantages to be derived from possessing it than afraid of exercising it wrong. In knighting a young soldier, he gives him ghostly advice—
"Edward Plantagenet, arise a knight,
And learn this lesson, draw thy sword in right."
Richard II. in the first speeches of the play betrays his real character. In the first alarm of his pride, on hearing of Bolingbroke's rebellion, before his presumption has met with any check, he exclaims—
"Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords: This earth shall have a feeling, and these stones Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king Shall faulter under proud rebellious arms. ******** *****
Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly man cannot depose
The Deputy elected by the Lord.
For every man that Bolingbroke hath prest,
To lift sharp steel against our golden crown,
Heaven for his Richard hath in heavenly pay
A glorious angel; then if angels fight,
Weak men must fall; for Heaven still guards the right."
Yet, notwithstanding this royal confession of faith, on the very first news of actual disaster, all his conceit of himself as the peculiar favourite of Providence vanishes into air.
"But now the blood of twenty thousand men
Immediately after, however, recollecting that "cheap defence" of the divinity of kings which is to be found in opinion, he is for arming his name against his enemies.
"Awake, thou coward Majesty, thou sleep'st;
King Henry does not make any such vapouring resistance to the loss of his crown, but lets it slip from off his head as a weight which he is neither able nor willing to bear; stands quietly by to see the issue of the contest for his kingdom, as if it were a game at push-pin, and is pleased when the odds prove against him.
When Richard first hears of the death of his favourites, Bushy, Bagot, and the rest, he indignantly rejects all idea of any further efforts, and only indulges in the extravagant impatience of his grief and his despair, in that fine speech which has been so often quoted :—
"Aumerle. Where is the duke my father, with his power?
K. Richard. No matter where: of comfort no man speak: Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs, Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes Write sorrow in the bosom of the earth! Let's chuse executors, and talk of wills: And yet not so—for what can we bequeath, Save our deposed bodies to the ground? Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's, And nothing can we call our own but death, And that small model of the barren earth, Which serves as paste and cover to our bones. For heaven's sake let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the death of Kings: How some have been depos'd, some slain in war; Some haunted by the ghosts they dispossess'd; Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd; All murder'd:—for within the hollow crown, That rounds the mortal temples of a king, Keeps death his court: and there the antic sits, Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp! Allowing him a breath, a little scene To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks; Infusing him with self and vain conceit— As if this flesh, which walls about our life, Were brass impregnable; and, humour'd thus, Comes at the last, and, with a little pin, Bores through his castle wall, and—farewell king! Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood With solemn reverence; throw away respect, Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty, For you have but mistook me all this while: I live on bread like you, feel want, taste grief, Need friends, like you;—subjected thus, How can you say to me—I am a king?"