Page images
PDF
EPUB

Are now confin'd two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous, narrow ocean parts asunder.
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance:6
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth:
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our

kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times;
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass; For the which supply,
Admit ine chorus to this history;
Who, prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

And make imaginary puissance:] This shows that Shakspeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of showing battles on the theatre, which, indeed, is never done, but tragedy becomes farce. Nothing can be represented to the eye, but by something like it, and within a wooden 0 nothing very like a battle can be exhibited.

KING HENRY V.

ACT I.

SCENE I. London. An Ante-chamber in the

King's Palace.

Enter the Archbishop of Canterbury,” and Bishop of

Ely. Cant. My lord, I'll tell you,--that self bill is

urg'd, Which, in the eleventh year o' the last king's reign Was like, and had indeed against us pass’d, But that the scambling and unquiet time Did push it out of further question.

Ely. But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?

Cant. It must be thought on. If it pass against us, We lose the better half of our possession: For all the temporal lands, which men devout By testament have given to the church, Would they strip from us; being valued thus, As much as would maintain, to the king's honour, Full fifteen earls, and fifteen hundred knights ; Six thousand and two hundred good esquires; And, to relief of lazars, and weak age, Of indigent faint souls, past corporal toil,

'- of Canterbury,] Henry Chicheley, a Carthusian monk, recently promoted to the see of Canterbury

8 — Ely.] John Fordham, consecrated 1388; died 1426.

e king is full of the holy chunis'd it not.

A hundred alms-houses, right well supplied;
And to the coffers of the king beside,
A thousand pounds by the year: Thus runs the bill.

Ely. This would drink deep.
Cant.

'Twould drink the cup and all.

I WOU
Ely. But what prevention?
Cant. The king is full of grace, and fair regard.
Ely. And a true lover of the holy church.

Cant. The courses of his youth promis'd it not.
The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seem'd to die too: yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came,
And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him;
Leaving his body as a paradise,
To envelop and contain celestial spirits.
Never was such a sudden scholar made:
Never came reformation in a flood,
With such a heady current, scouring faults;
Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
As in this king.

Ely. We are blessed in the change.
. Cant. Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire, the king were made a prelate:
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say,—it hath been all-in-all his study :
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle render'd you in musick:
Turn him to any cause of policy,..
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter; that, when he speaks,

9 Never came reformation in a flood,] Alluding to the method by which Hercules cleansed the famous stables, when he turned a river through them. Hercules still is in our author's head, when he mentions the Hydra. Johnson.

The air, a charter'd libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences;
So that the art and practick part of life?
Must be the mistress to this theorick:
Which is a wonder, how his grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain:
His companies: unletter'd, rude, and shallow;
His hours fill'd up with riots, banquets, sports;
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration -
From open haunts and popularity.*

Ely. The strawberry grows underneath the nettle;
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best,
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality:
And so the prince obscur'd his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt,
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty.5

Cant. It must be so: for miracles are ceas'd ;
And therefore we must needs admit the means,
How things are perfected.

But, my good lord,
How now for mitigation of this bill
Urg'd by the commons? Doth his majesty

eso: for faculty s y night"

Ely.

"The air, &c.] This line is exquisitely beautiful.

2 So that the art and practick part of life ~] He discourses with so much skill on all subjects, that the art and practice of life must be the mistress or teacher of his theorick; that is, that his theory must have been taught by art and practice; which, says he, is strange, since he could see little of the true art or practice among his loose companions, nor ever retired to digest his practice into theory. Art is used by the author for practice, as distinguished from science or theory. JOHNSON.

i- companies —] is here used for companions. It is used by other authors of Shakspeare's age in the same sense.

- popularity.] i. e. plebeian intercourse; an unusual sense of the word.

— crescive in his faculty.) Increasing in its proper power. part w

ut. Wir did this

Incline to it, or no?
Cant.

He seems indifferent;
Or, rather, swaying more upon our part,
Than cherishing the exhibiters against us:
For I have made an offer to his majesty,
Upon our spiritual convocation;
And in regard of causes now in hand,
Which I have open'd to his grace at large,
As touching France,-to give a greater sum
Than ever at one time the clergy yet
Did to his predecessors part withal.

Ely. How did this offer seem receiv’d, my lord?

Cant. With good acceptance of his majesty; Save, that there was not time enough to hear (As, I perceiv'd, his grace would fain have done,) The severals, and unhidden passages, Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms; And, generally, to the crown and seat of France, Deriv'd from Edward, his great grandfather. Ely. What was the impediment that broke this

off ?
Cant. The French ambassador, upon that instant,
Cray'd audience: and the hour, I think, is come,
To give him hearing: Is it four o'clock?

It is.
Cant. Then go we in, to know his embassy;
Which I could, with a ready guess, declare,
Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.
Ely. I'll wait upon you; and I long to hear it.

[Exeunt.

Ely.

The severals, and unhidden passages,] This line I suspect of corruption, though it may be fairly enough explained: the passages of his titles are the lines of succession by which his claims descend. Unhidden is open, clear. JOHNSON.

« PreviousContinue »