« PreviousContinue »
Orleans, on this occasion, acted in concert.* The apprehension of this was one of Gloucester's objections.
And, in the imaginary action before Rouen, Sir John Fastolfe, of whose dastardly conduct we had heard so long ago as the funeral of Henry the Fifth, disgraces himself by flight. Neither in the first mention nor in this, is the date correctly given.
We have now the young King Henry at Paris. Talbot is presented ; Henry calls to mind the commendations of him which he had heard from Henry the Fifth; and, for his valiant deeds, creates him Earl of Shrewsbury.
The fourth act commences with the coronation of Henry, at Paris, as King of France. Fastolfe enters yith a letter from the Duke of Burgundy. Talbot reproaches him with his cowardly flight, which is now correctly assigned to the battle of Patay, and tears the garter from his knee. Henry banishes him, in the choice terms of this play,
Be packing, therefore, thou that wast a knight;" and charges the new earl to march against Burgundy, whose letter announces his reconciliation with Charles the Seventh.
Henry the Sixth really went into France in 1431, and was crowned on the 17th of December in that year, long before the death of Bedford, or the defection of Burgundy, who was present and assisting at the ceremony. But Talbot did not obtain his well-earned promotion in the peerage till the year 1442, + nor was he present at this coronation, which occurred while he remained a prisoner. The play is also wrong in the enumeration of English lords present. Gloucester staid in England, administering the government. Exeter had died in 1426. York, Suffolk, Warwick, and Cardinal Beaufort are named in the chronicle. Somerset is not mentioned there, but the then duke of that title may, possibly, have been present.
The scene is now transferred to Talbot's camp before Bourdeaux ; passing over a period of more than twenty years, during which the Enga lish lost nearly the whole of their possessions in France; and, carrying the narrative nearly to the point at which the fifth act of the second part of the play commences. Talbot's expedition to Bourdeaux occurred in the year 1453; and he went in consequence of an invitation from the citizens, and an intimation that Guienne and Gascony might be recovered. He was admitted without resistance: the stout defiance of the " General," who appeared on the walls of Bourdeaux, being an imagination of the poet. He is, however, correct in bringing Charles the Seventh with a strong force, by which he was defeated near Chatillon, and slain, together with his son, John Talbot. The scene in which
* Vol. jii. 305. He says that Burgundy was surety for his ransom; but Rapin, from Rymer, denies this. v. 347.
† John Talbot, Lord Talbot, sixth baron (or twelfth, reckoning the barons by tenure) of that ancient family. The present Earl of Shrewsbury is his lineal descendant and male heir.
1 John Beaufort, third Earl of Somerset, second of John, eldest natural son of John of Gaunt. Collins, i. 222. į Sc. 2. 5, 6, 7. Hol., 233; Monst. 553; Hall, 229. This son was his eldest son by his second wife Margaret, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and, by her mother, co-leiress of Lisle. He was created Viscount Lisle.
old Talbot endeavours to persuade his son to fly, and the young hero insists upon sharing the danger, is suggested by Holinshed.
“ It is said that, after he perceived there was no remedly but present loss of the battle, he counselled his son, the Lord Lisle, to save himself by flight, since the same could not redound to any great reproach in him, this being the first journey in which he had been present. Many words he used to persuade him to have saved his life; but, nature so wrought in the son, that neither desire of life nor fear of death could either cause him to shrink or convey himself out of the danger, and so there manfully ended his life with his said father.''*
The incident is dramatic, but the author of this play has not dramatised it well; a part of the scene is in a jingling rhyme, which, I believe, with Johnson,t to have been taken from another work: nor do I believe it to be Shakspeare's.
The Duke of York is introduced, I on the plains of Gascony, complaining that, owing to the failure of Somerset, $ in sending him a reinforcement, he is unable to succour Talbot. Somerset is introduced with his force, in another part of Gascony, complaining, in his turn, of the rashness of the expedition planned by York and Talbot, and his inability to spare any part of his force, which, however, he at last promises to do, when it is too late, being pressed by Sir William Lucy,|| who goes backwards and forwards between the three commanders with ineffectual messages.
All that I can find respecting this quarrel between York and Somerset, as affecting this campaign, is a short passage in Holinshed.
" When the Duke of York had fastened his chain between these two strong pillars (the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick), he, with his friends, wrought so effectuously, and handled his business so politicly, that the Duke of Somerset was arrested in the Queen's great chamber, and sent to the Tower of London, where he kept his Christmas without great solemnity: against whom, soon after, in open parliament, were laid divers and heinous articles of high treason, as well for the loss of Normandy, as for the late mischunce which happened in Guienne.”
Of this arrest we shall hear in the next play, but I find, in parliamentary records, no accusation of Somerset by York subsequent to the year 1451, when he was charged with the loss of Normandy: the Guienne affair had not then occurred. Nor do I find that Somerset was in France at the time of Talbot's death.
After the battle, Sir William Lucy demands the dead bodies of the slain, and especially of Talbot, whom he thus describes :
“ The great Alcides of the field, Valiant Lord Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury; Created, for his rare success in arms,
+ Bosw., 122. Sc. 3. Richard Plantagenet, of whom more presently, § Sc. 4. The Duke of Somerset was now Edmund, brother to the John before mentioned, who had died in 1443. Nicolas, 592.
|| There was at this time a William Lucy of Charleate, ancestor to the Sir Thomas Lucy whom Shakspeare is supposed to have ridiculed as Justice Shallow, Burke, iii. 98.
Hol., 238; year 1454-5.
Great Earl of Washford,* Waterford, and Valence;
Of all his wars within the realm of France."
It is as difficult to imagine how Shakspeare got that part of this
stately style” which is correct, as to account for its errors; I have made out the baronies, by the help of Sir Harris Nicolas, but there was no such aid in Shakspeare's time, and I cannot find the enumeration in any printed book.
In the next act the chronology makes an attempt to right itself, by carrying us back to the year 1436, when, soon after the death of the Duke of Bedford, the Parisians returned under the allegiance of their native king. **
“ Charles. 'Tis said the stout Parisians do revolt,
And turn again unto the warlike French." But then comes an event which happened in the year 1430. A messenger announces
“The English army, that divided was
Into two parts, is now conjoin’d in one,
And means to give you battle presently." Though I cannot identify the operation here referred to, the poet intended it for one that immediately preceded the capture of Joan, which occurs in the next scene, after a fight “ hand to hand” with York. According to Holinshed, this important event occurred in a slight affair ; and, certainly, York had no part in it; and the Duke of
* Talbot was created Earl of Wexford and Waterford in 1446. Wexford was sometimes written Washford, even so late as the time of Sir William Temple ; see my Memoirs of him, i. 384.
+ Richard Lord Talbot, father of the Earl, had been summoned to parliament as Lord Talbot de Godriche Castle (Goderich), in 1837. I find nothing of Urchinfield.
Shrewsbury derived this barony from his mother, heiress of John Lord Strange.
$ The earl married Maud de Nevill, heiress of Thomas, fifth Lord Furnival, and was summoned by that barony in right of his wife. That Thomas, or a former Baron Furnival, had married the heiress of Verdun, whence that title may be supposed to have descended through the Furnivals to the Talbots.
|| Malone says he has found it in a tract printed after this play, and that it was taken from a monumental plate at Rouen, but no such plate can be heard of, and Talbot was buried at Whitchurch in Shropshire. Act V., Sc. 2.
** Hol., 186 ; Sismondi, xiii., 273.
Burgundy, whom the Joan of the play converts to the French side, commanded the force by a party of which she was made prisoner.*
There is, I fear, good historical authority for the condemnation of this singular woman to be burned as a witch.t But this barbarous sentence was passed and executed under the regency of the Duke of Bedford.
I now return to the domestic affairs related in this play. We have already heard of Gloucester's intention to look to the condition of the Tower of London. He now comes; to execute this intention ; but, though he is announced as Lord Protector, Woodville, the governor, refuses him admittance, in consequence of orders from the Cardinal of Winchester. Winchester himself comes in, with a following of men in tawny coats; a most undignified colloquy is held between the two magnates; Gloucester, with his men in blue coats, attacks the prelate and his party, till the Mayor of London comes and charges both to keep
There is a foundation in the Chronicles for this story; for Gloucester, on a subsequent occasion, made this one of his charges against the Cardinal :
" Whereas he (Gloucester), being protector and defender of this land, desired the Tower to be opened to him, and to lodge him therein, Richard W codville, Esquire, having at that time the charge of the keeping of the Tower, refused his desire, and kept the same Tower against him unduly and without reason, by the commandment of my said Lord of Winchester, and afterwards, in approving of the said refusal, he received the said Woodville, and cherished him, against the state and worship of the King, and of my said Lord of Gloucester.”
The answer of the Bishop was“ That it seemeth lawful that the Tower should have been notably stored and kept with victuals; howbeit it was not forthwith executed, and that in likewise after that my said Lord of Gloucester was gone into his country of Hainault, for seditious and odious bills and languages cast and used in the city of London, sounding of insurrection and rebellion against the King's peace, and destruction as well of divers estates of this land, as strangers being under the defence, inasmuch that, in doubt thercof, strangers in great numbers tied the land. And for the more sure keeping of the said Tower, Richard Woodville, Esquire, so trusted with our sovereign lord the king that dead is, (as well ye know,) as also chamberlain and counsellor to my Lord of Bedford, with a certain number of defensible persons assigned unto him, was made deputy there by the assent of the King's council, being at that time in London, for to abide therein, for the safeguard thereof, and strictly charged by the said council that, during the time of his said charge, he should not suffer any man to be in the Tower stronger than himself, without especial charge or commandment of the King by the advice of his council.''
The recent publication of Sir Harris Nicolas | furnishes us with an order of council committing the custody of the Tower to Woodville with a competent force, but I find no trace of the singular clause to which Beaufort refers.
* Hol., 169, 170; Monst., ii., 542. † Sc. 4. ; Hol., 171 ; Monst., iii., 8. | Act i., Sc. 3.
Hol., 147, 148. Holinshed takes the charges from Hall, but I do not find them in the Rolls. They have the appearance of authenticity.
|| Privy Council, 26 Feb., 1425, ii., 167. Nov.--Vol. IIV. NO. CCXV.
I know not what authority there is for the conflict in the streets of London, but Winchester was certainly charged by Gloucester with arming men against him. The commentators say that a tawny coat was the livery of an apparitor, or officer of the bishop's court.
The origin of the quarrel between Gloucester and the Cardinal cannot be discussed without a minuter investigation than belongs to us here. Ambition, probably, and love of power, furnish the best solution; but, whether these passions were equally divided, or, as the author of this play would apparently have us believe, were more eminent and mischievous in the churchman, I am not prepared to decide. I have mentioned the limitations of the Protector's power, imposed by the council.* In these the Cardinal had probably a part; and it is probable that he concurred with ecclesiastics in general in condemning the marriage of the Duke with the self-divorced Jacqueline.f
We have now the King in the parliament-house surrounded by his nobles, among whom are named Exeter, Gloucester, Warwick, Somerset, and Suffolk; the Bishop of Winchester, and also Richard Plantagenet, of whom presently. And then this singular stage direction“ Gloucester offers to put up a bill, Winchester snatches it and tears it."
This is the parliament held at Leicester in the year 1425, the fourth of Ilenry's reign, when he was about four years old; for by the bill is intended Gloucester's charge against Beaufort, of which I have already spoken. The accused makes a rather remarkable objection to the form of the accusation, which I quote because it is conveyed in lines somewhat more Shakspearean than most of those which we find in this play :
“ Winch. Com'st thou with deep premeditated lines,
“Glo. Presumptuous priest! this place commands my patience,
As very infants prattle of thy pride."
" And for thy treachery, what's more manifest?
In that thou laid'st a trap to take my life,
As well at London bridge as at the Tower ?"
* P. 376. See Rolls, iv., 326. See Lingard (new edition), v., 56.
+ See Lingard, v., 66, as to opposition made to the match : the evidence is very scanty:
| Parl. Hist., i., 354. Roils, iv., 295, 18 Feb., 1425.