Page images


The thunders of Pandulph on either side do not affect the issue. The earlier dramatist treats the crafty legate with malignant hatred, as a 'curse' happily evaded; the later manages him with fine irony, as the wielder of an imposing but not really formidable authority, easily rendered innocuous, incapable of injuring a people true to themselves. And though John still meets his death at the hands of a monk, the act is dismissed with a studiously casual allusion, so that the 'resolved villain' seems merely the executant of Nemesis. Whereas in the Troublesome Reign he dies to satisfy the vengeance of an incensed ecclesiastic, who has vowed never to let escape the king that never loved a friar, the man that did contemn the pope.' Naturally, Shakespeare ignores the 'moral' which this suggests to the Bastard :

This is the fruit of Poperie, when true kings

Are slain and shouldered out by Monks and friars.

Nor does his John indulge any vision of a more fortunate Protestant successor.

The Shakespearean Pandulph, finally, would suffice to show that Shakespeare was no longer under the spell of the fiery but nowise subtle intellect of Marlowe. If Marlowe was the first English dramatist who commanded the language of impetuous passion, Shakespeare was the first master of the language of polished and astute debate, of high-bred conversation, of courtly ceremony. The earlier John retains not a little of the lofty insolence of Tamburlaine: how kingly on the other hand is the later John's dismissal of Chatillon;-dignified defiance, injunction, valiant forecast, courteous attention and farewell, all concentrated in eight lines (i. 1). The two great creations Constance and Arthur, also, are touched with an

intensity of pathos still strange to the Shakespeare of Henry VI. and of Richard III. The situation of Margaret after Tewkesbury, of Elizabeth after the murders in the Tower, resemble that of Constance; but Margaret utters her passion for vengeance more poignantly than the agony of her loss, and Elizabeth's outraged motherhood finds expression merely in sullen resentment. Constance is the Juliet of maternal love. Love for Arthur dominates her whole being, and the agony of bereavement finds utterance through phrases that burn in the fire of an imagination. familiar with wild grief. Arthur's situation similarly recalls that of the young princes. The Arthur of the Troublesome Reign does, in fact, bear himself like the young Duke of York in Richard III., boldly bearding his dangerous uncle, and incurring reproof from Elinor for his vehemence ('Peace, Arthur, peace,' etc., Troublesome Reign, p. 240). Shakespeare has endowed his Arthur not with the charm of precocious talent, but with the pathos and shrinking tenderness of childhood: 'I am not worth this coil that's made for me'; and, instead of incurring reproof, it is he who, almost in Elinor's words, appeals to his own fiery advocate to cease pleading: 'Good my mother, peace!' Of the death of the princes we have in the earlier play no more than a brief though exquisite picture; but Arthur's perilous captivity is displayed in the most tender and sympathetic dramatic detail; and the pathos of the scene is derived, not from an accumulation of harrowing details, as to some extent it is in the grim finale of Edward II., but from the ideal loveliness of childlike character which unfolds itself under the stress of Hubert's threat.





KING JOHN's palace.


K. John. Now, say, Chatillon, what would
France with us?

Chat. Thus, after greeting, speaks the King
of France

In my behaviour to the majesty,

The borrow'd majesty, of England here.

Eli. A strange beginning: 'borrow'd majesty!' K. John. Silence, good mother; hear the embassy.

Chat. Philip of France, in right and true behalf

Of thy deceased brother Geffrey's son,

1. Chatillon. In Ff he is called 'the Chattylion of France.' Like English words in -ion, the name could be either of three or of four syllables.

3. my behaviour, the tone and character which I here assume.'

7. in right and true behalf, on behalf of the just claims.

Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim
To this fair island and the territories,

To Ireland, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
Desiring thee to lay aside the sword

Which sways usurpingly these several titles,
And put the same into young Arthur's hand,
Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.

K. John. What follows if we disallow of this? Chat. The proud control of fierce and bloody


To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld.

K. John. Here have we war for war, and blood for blood,

Controlment for controlment: so answer France. Chat. Then take my king's defiance from my mouth,

The farthest limit of my embassy.

K. John. Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace:

Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
For ere thou canst report I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be heard:
So hence ! Be thou the trumpet of our wrath
And sullen presage of your own decay.
An honourable conduct let him have:
Pembroke, look to 't. Farewell, Chatillon.

[Exeunt Chatillon and Pembroke.
Eli. What now, my son! have I not ever said
How that ambitious Constance would not cease
Till she had kindled France and all the world,
Upon the right and party of her son?

This might have been prevented and made whole


territories, feudal de


17. control, constraint.

22. my embassy, my com

mission as envoy.




29. conduct, escort.

30. Chatillon (four syllables).

With very easy arguments of love,

Which now the manage of two kingdoms must
With fearful bloody issue arbitrate.

K. John. Our strong possession and our right
for us.

Eli. Your strong possession much more than your right,

Or else it must go wrong with you and me :

So much my conscience whispers in your ear,
Which none but heaven and you and I shall hear.

Enter a Sheriff.

Essex. My liege, here is the strangest con-

Come from the country to be judged by you
That e'er I heard: shall I produce the men?
K. John. Let them approach.

Our abbeys and our priories shall pay

This expedition's charge.

Enter ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE, and PHILIP his bastard brother.

What men are you?

Bast. Your faithful subject I, a gentleman

Born in Northamptonshire and eldest son,
As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
A soldier, by the honour-giving hand
Of Cordelion knighted in the field.
K. John. What art thou?

Rob. The son and heir to that same Faulcon-

K. John. Is that the elder, and art thou the

heir ?

37. manage, procedure, administration.

54. Cordelion. The Ff have,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

here and throughout, this, the common Elizabethan form of Coeur-de-lion.

« PreviousContinue »