Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ With that his courser turned he about,

With face pale, and unto Dyomede
No worde he spak, ne non of al his route;
Of whiche the sone of Tideus tooke hede,
As he that konthe moore than the crede
In swiche a craft, and by the reyne hire hente,
And Troylus to Troye homwarde wente.”

(3) SCENE V.-Hector and AJAX fight.] In Chapman's Homer, the combat is described with uncommon pomp and spirit :

This said, in bright armes shone
The good strong Ajax : who, when all his warre attire was on,
Marcht like the hugely figurd Mars, when angry Jupiter,
With strength, on people proud of strength, sends him forth to inferre
Wreakfull contention, and comes on, with presence full of feare;
So th' Achive rampire, Telamon, did twixt the hoasts appeare:
Smild; yet of terrible aspect; on earth with ample pace,
He boldly stalkt, and shooke aloft his dart with deadly grace.
It did the Grecians good to see; but heartquakes shooke the joynts
Of all the Troians; Hectors selfe felt thoughts, with horrid points,
Tempt his bold bosome; but he now, must make no counterflight;
Nor (with his honour) now refuse, that had provokt the fight
Ajax came neare; and like a towre his shield his bosome bard;
The right side brasse, and seven oxe hides within it quilted hard.
Old Tychius the best currier, that did in Hyla dwell,
Did frame it for exceeding proofe, and wrought it wondrous well.
With this stood he to Hector close, and with this Bráve began.
Now Hector thou shalt clearly know, thus meeting man to man,
What other leaders arme our hoast, besides great Thetis sonne:
Who, with his hardie Lions heart, hath armies overunne.
But he lies at our crookt-sternd fleet a Rivall with our king
In height of spirit: yet to Troy, he many knights did bring,
Coequall with Eacides; all able to sustaine
All thy bold challenge can import: begin then, words are vaine.
The Helme-grac't Hector answerd him : Renowned Telamon,
Prince of the souldiers came from Greece; assay not me like one,
Yong and immartiall, with great words, as to an Amazon dame;
I have the habit of all fights; and know the bloudie frame
Of every slaughter: I well know the ready right hand charge;
I know the left, and every sway, of my securefull targe;
I triumph in the crueltie of fixed combat fight,
And manage horse to all designes; I think then with good right,
I may be confident as farre as this thy challenge goes,
Without being taxed with a vaunt, borne out with emptie showes
But (being a souldier so renownd) I will not worke on thee,
With least advantage of that skill, I know doth strengthen me;
And so with privitie of sleight, winne that for which I strive:
But at thy best (even open strength) if my endevours thrive.
Thus sent he his long Javelin forth; it strooke his foes huge shield,
Neere to the upper skirt of brasse, which was the eighth it held.
Sixe folds th' untamed dart strooke through, and in the seventh tough hide
The point was checkt; then Ajax threw: his angry lance did glide
Quite through his bright orbicular targe, his curace, shirt of maile;
And did his manly stomachs mouth with dangerous taint assaile :
But in the bowing of himselfe, black death too short did strike.
Then both to pluck their Javelins forth, encountred Lion-like;
Whose bloudie violence is increast, by that raw food they eate:
Or Bores, whose strength, wilde nourishment, doth make so wondrous great.
Againe Priamides did wound, in midst, his shield of brasse,
Yet pierc't not through the upper plate, the head reflected was :
But Ajax (following his Lance) smote through his target quite,
And stayd bold Hector rushing in; the Lance held way outright,
And hurt his necke; out gusht the bloud; yet Hector ceast not so,
But in his strong hand tooke a Flint (as he did backwards go)
Blacke, sharpe and big, layd in the field: the sevenfold targe it smit,
Full on the bosse; and round about the brasse did ring with it.
But Ajax a farre greater stone lift up, and (wreathing round

With all his bodie layd to it) he sent it forth to wound,
VOL. V.

And gave unmeasur'd force to it; the round stone broke within
His rundled target: his lov'd knees to languish did begin ;
And he leand, stretcht out on his shield; but Phæbus raisd him streight.
Then had they layd on wounds with swords, in use of closer fight;
Unless the Heralds (messengers of Gods and godlike men)
The one
of Troy, the other of Greece; had held betwixt

them then
Imperiall scepters: when the one (Idæus, grave and wise)
Said to them; Now no more my sonnes: the Soveraigne of the skies
Doth love you both ; both souldiers

are, all witnesse with good right:
But now night lays her mace on earth; tis good tobey the night.”

ACT V.

(1) SCENE II.-Here, Diomed, keep this sleeve.] Steevens cites several passages froin our old writers to show that it was customary for warriors to wear a lady's sleeve for a favour; the sleeve which Cressida bestows on Diomed, however, was that she had received from Troilus at their parting. Malone supposes it to have been such a one as was formerly used at tournaments : -“Also the deepe smocke sleive, which the Irish women use, they say, was old Spanish, and is used yet in Barbary; and yet that should seeme rather to be an old English fashion, for in armory the fashion of the manche, which is given in armes by many, being indeed nothing else but a sleive, is fashioned much like to that sleive." --SPENSER's View of Ireland, p. 43, edit. 1633.

(2) SCENE II.-- Rather think this not Cressid.] The grief of Troylus for his " light o love" is beautifully told by the elder poet :

Than spak he thus:- 0, lady myn Cryseyde,

Wher is youre feith, and wher is youre behesto?
Wher is youre love, wher is youre trouth ?'' he seyde,

Of Diomede have ye now al this feste !
Allas ! I wold han trowed at the leste,
That, syn ye hold in trouthe to me stonde,

That ye thus holde han holden me in honde,
" • Who shal nowe trowe on any other mo?

Allas! I nevere wolde han wende, or this,
That ye, Cryseide, koude han chaunged so,
Ne but I hadde agilt, and don amys;
So cruel wende I nought youre herte, ywis,
To sle me thus ! allas! youre name of trouthe

Is now fordon, and that is al my routhe.
"Was there non other broche yow liste lete
To feffe with youre newe love,' quod he,

• But thilke broche that I, with teris wete,
You yaf, as for a remembraunce of me?
None other cause, allas! ne hadde ye,
But for despit ; and ek for that ye mente

Al outrely to shewen youre entente.
“ Thorwgh which I se, that clene out of youre minde

Ye han me caste, and ne kan nor may
For al this world withinne myn herte fynde,
To unloven yow a quarter of a day:
In cursed tyme I borne was, walawey!.
That yow, that dothe me al'this wo endure,
Yet love I best of any creature.''

(3) SCENE IX.- And hangs his shield behind him.] The circumstance of Hector being overpowered by Achilles and his followers when unarmed, the author is believed to have taken from Lydgate's poem :

“And in this while a grekishe kinge he mette,
Were it of hap or of adventure,
The which in sothe on his cote armure

Embrouded had full many ryche stone,
That gave a lyght, when the sonne shone,
Full bryght and cleare, that joye was to sene,
For Perles white and Emerawdes grene
Full many one were therin sette.
Of whose arraye when Hector taketh hede,
Towardes him fast gan him drawe.
And fyrst I fynde how he hath hym slawe,
And after that by force of his manheade,
He hente him up afore him on his stede,
And fast gan wyth him for to ryde
From the wardes a lytell out of syde,
At good leyser playnly, if he maye,
To Spoyle him of his ryche arraye.
On horsebacke out whăn he him ladde,
Reklesly the storye maketh mynde,
He caste his shelde at his backe behynde,
To welde him selfe at more lyderte, -
So that hys brest disarmed was and bare."

CRITICAL OPINIONS.

"THE "Troilus and Cressida' of Shakspeare can scarcely be classed with his dramas of Greek and Roman history ; but it forms an intermediate link between the fictitious Greek and Roman histories, which we may call legendary dramas, and the proper ancient histories. There is no one of 'Shakspeare's plays harder to characterise. The name and the remembrances connected with it prepare us for the representation of attachment no less faithful than fervent on the side of the youth, and of sudden and shameless inconstancy on the part of the lady. And this is, indeed, as the gold thread on which the scenes are strung, though often kept out of sight and out of mind by gems of greater value than itself. But as Shakspeare calls forth nothing from the mausoleum of history, or the catacombs of tradition, without giving or eliciting some permanent and general interest, and brings forward no subject which he does not moralize or intellectualize,

,-so here he has drawn in Cressida the portrait of a vehement passion, that, having its true origin and proper cause in warmth of temperament, fastens on, rather than fixes to, some one object by liking and temporary preference.

“There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out

At every joint and motive of her body.' “ This Shakspeare has contrasted with the profound affection represented in Troilus, and alone worthy the name of love ;-affection, passionate indeed, swoln with the confluence of youthful instincts and youthful fancy, and growing in the radiance of hope newly risen, in short enlarged by the collective sympathies of nature ;-but still having a depth of calmer element in a will stronger than desire, more entire than choice, and which gives permanence to its own act by converting it into faith and duty. Hence, with excellent judgment, and with an excellence higher than mere judgment can give, at the close of the play, when Cressida has sunk into infamy below retrieval and beneath hope, the same will, which had been the substance and the basis of his love, while the restless pleasures and passionate longings, like sea-waves, had tossed but on its surface,—this same moral energy is represented as snatching him aloof from all neighbourhood with her dishonour, from all lingering fondness and languishing regrets, whilst it rushes with him into other and nobler duties, and deepens the channel which his heroic brother's death had left empty for its collected flood. Yet another secondary and subordinate purpose Shakspeare has inwoven with his delineation of these two characters,—that of opposing the inferior civilization, but purer, morals, of the Trojans, to the refinements, deep policy, but duplicity and sensual corruptions, of the Greeks.

"To all this, however, so little comparative projection is given,—nay, the masterly group of Agamemnon, Nestor, and Ulysses, and, still more in advance, that of Achilles, Ajax, and Thersites, so manifestly occupy the foreground, that the subservience and vassalage of strength and animal courage to intellect and policy seems to be the lesson most often in our poet's view, and which he ha taken little pains to connect with the former more interesting moral impersonated in the titular hero and heroine of the drama. But I am half inclined to believe, that Shakspeare's main object, or shall I rather say, his rung impulse, was to translate the poetic heroes of paganism into the not less rude, but more intellectually vigorous, and more featurely, warriors of Christiani chivalry,—and to substantiate the distinct and graceful profiles or outlines of the Homeric epic into the flesh and blood of the romantic drama,-in short, tad give a grand history-piece in the robust style of Albert Durer.

"The character of Thersites, in particular, well deserves a more carefu examination, as the Caliban of demagogic life ;-the admirable portrait of intellectual power deserted by all grace, all moral principle, all not momentary impulse ;-just wise enough to detect the weak head, and fool enough to prá voke the armed fist of his betters ;-one whom malcontent Achilles can inveigle from malcontent Ajax, under the one condition, that he shall be called on to do nothing but abuse and slander, and that he shall be allowed to abuse as much and as purulently as he likes, that is, as he can ;-in short, a mule,-quarrelsome by the original discord of his nature, -a slave by tenure of his own baseness,-made to bray and be brayed at, to despise and be despicable."-COLERIDGE,

HAMLET.

PRELIMINARY NOTICE.

On the 26th of July, 1602, a memorandum was entered on the registers of the Stationers' Company,

“ James Roberts.) A booke, The Revenge of Hamlett prince of Denmarke, as ye was latelie acted by the Lord Chamberlayn his servantes." This entry unquestionably refers to our author's “Hamlet,” the publication of which Roberts desired to secure. As, however, an edition of the play appeared in the following year, “printed for N. L. and John Trundell,” Mr. Collier conjectures that Roberts was unable to obtain such a copy of the piece as he could creditably associate his name with, but that some inferior and nameless printer, not so scrupulous, contrived to possess himself of an imperfect manuscript of it, and brought out the edition of 1603. Of this impression, one copy of which is in the library of the Duke of Devonshire, and another recently discovered has been purchased for the British Museum, the title is, “ The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke. By William Shake-speare. As it hath beene diverse times acted by his Highnesse servants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and .else-where. At London printed for N. L. and John Trundell, 1603."

But, as Mr. Dyce observes, we have no proof that Roberts was not the “nameless printer” of the quarto of 1603 : on the contrary, there is reason to suspect that he was, since we find that he printed the quarto of 1604 for the same Nicholas Ling who was one of the publishers of the quarto of 1603. It is of no material consequence, however, who printed that maimed and surreptitious version. What really concerns us is to know whether, making large allowance for omissions and corruptions due to the negligence of those through whose hands the manuscript passed, the edition of 1603 exhibits the play as Shakespeare first wrote it and as it was "i diverse times acted.” We believe it does. The internal evidence is to our judgment convincing that in this wretchedly printed copy we have the poet's first conception (written probably at an early stage of his dramatic career) of that magnificent tragedy which, remodelled and augmented, was published in 1604, under the title of, “The Tragicall Historie of Hamle, Prince of Denmarke. By William Shakespeare. Newly

« PreviousContinue »