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The heroic days of the fifth Henry, when the play opens, belong to the past; but their memory survives in the hearts and in the vigorous muscles of the great lords and earls who surround the king. He only, who most should have treasured and augmented his inheritance of glory and of power, is insensible to the large responsibilities and privileges of his place. He is cold in great affairs; his supreme concern is to remain blameless. Free from all greeds and ambitions, he yet is possessed by egoism, the egoism of timid saintliness. His virtue is negative, because there is no vigorous basis of manhood within him out of which heroic saintliness might develop itself. For fear of what is wrong, he shrinks from what is right. This is not the virtue ascribed to the nearest followers of "the Faithful and True" who in his righteousness doth judge and make war. Henry is passive in the presence of evil, and weeps. He would keep his garments clean; but the garments of God's soldier-saints, who do not fear the soils of struggle, gleam with a higher, intenser purity. "His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." These soldiers in heaven have their representatives in earth; and Henry was not one of these. Zeal must come before charity, and then when charity comes it will appear as a self-denial. But Henry knows nothing of zeal; and he is amiable, not charitable.-DOWDEN, Shakspere-His Mind and Art.


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Only in one case does Shakespeare-according to our modern ideas seem to have gone too far and to have been unjust, viz., in his delineation of Joan of Arc's character; but in this he has closely followed his authority, whether we assume it to have been Hall or Holinshed. La Pucelle's character was, up to the seventeenth century, a closed book even to her own countrymen, and has only in recent days by documentary evidence been revealed to us in its full purity and beauty. But even though this want of a correct knowledge of the case were not an unquestionable excuse for the poet, still his error vanishes, and appears as nothing, when compared with the filth which Voltaire her own countryman-has cast upon the character of La Pucelle. And even though Voltaire's wit were а hundred times more poignant, it would never clear him of this wrong.-ELZE, William Shakespeare.

Taking the character [of Joan la Pucelle] as it stands, -the embodiment of motives, and disposition in harmony with deeds that the chroniclers assert as facts, it is hard to say that it is other than consistent and natural. The world is now in possession of numerous detailed examples of religious enthusiasm and self-deception combining with ambitious or political purpose in all their strange and mingling manifestations both of the mind and body, and if we scrutinize the most fortunate of them the result is much the same as the catastrophe of Joan even as represented in the play. The false impressions and assumptions that inflame the enthusiast work wonders in their strength, but their weakness tells at last. The self-conviction of the special choice and guidance and inspiration of heaven suffers rude shocks in an extended course, as rude as the blindest fatalism that hardens its purposes by repetition of the phrase of a destiny, a mission or a star. Rarely indeed does the vainly exalted thought of special heavenly protection es

cape reversal by as depressing a belief of desertion and forsakenness, and a life of heroism may easily close in vacillation, or despair, or degrading attempt to keep up by foul means, or trickery, the influence that only worked wonders, and was victorious when it sprung spontaneously.* Still the dramatist has been more tender to Joan in one respect than the historians, and he rejects the fact they charge her with, of shamefully slaughtering, out of spite and in cold blood, her surrendered prisoner.-LLOYD, "Critical Essays on the Plays of Shakespeare."

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We have yet to consider the Joan of Arc scenes, especially V. iv.; here we are prejudiced not so much against the verse, as against the treatment of the fair maid of France, as we now know her; we hope the writer is not Shakespeare; we might hope it could be no writer at all. I will state some considerations for and against: Shakespeare, at any rate, has sanctioned the presence of this scene; that goes for a good deal; next, (1) many English characters meet with harsh treatment in these early chronicles and plays, and Joan was not English, but French; (2) more important still, she was regarded as a witch; (3) the sketch of Joan in this play, if not less repulsive than that of the chronicles, makes some attempt at justice (lines 36-53); (4) we may fairly say that the writer of the drama would be compelled either to omit the character altogether (which was impossible), or to bow before (a) the Chronicles, (b) popular belief and prejudice, (c) what was probably, at least in part, his own mistaken conviction. However, for the relief of any who may think Shakespeare's honor is threatened by this scene, I may add that if we place it under the microscope we find that only the lines above mentioned, 36-53, bear any distinct marks of Shakespeare's handling; again I will support my general statement: lines 52, 53,

Whose maiden blood, thus rigorously effused,
Will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven,

may be compared with "Richard II," I. i. 116-118:

Whose blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries

Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth

To me for justice and rough chastisement;

and in the same play "Heaven" will "rain hot vengeance" on offenders' heads.-LUCE, Handbook to Shakespeare's Works.


Joan's death appears the organic contrast to that of the Earl of Salisbury, of Lord Talbot, and his son. Lord Talbot is obviously the noblest character in the whole play, a rough and vigorous knight; battle and war, self-devoted patriotism, knightly honor and bravery, these have constituted his entire life; all higher ideas seem beyond him; he knows how to win a battle, but not how to carry on a war; he is an excellent military captain, but no general, no chief, because, although valiant and even discreet and prudent (as is proved by his interview with the Countess of Auvergne), he does not possess either presence of mind, creative power, or a clear insight into matters. This, together with the harshness and roughness of his virtue, which has in it something of the rage of the lion, is his weak point, and proves the cause of his death. His power was not equal to the complicated circumstances and the depravity of the age; under the iron rod of chastisement, he became equally unbending and iron; he is the representative of the rage and ferocity of the war, to which he falls a victim because he is wholly absorbed in it and therefore unable to become the master in directing it. In such days, however, the honorable death of a noble character proves a blessing; victory and pleasure are found in death when life succumbs to the superior power of evil, to the weight and misery of a decline which affects both the nation and the state.ULRICI, Shakspeare's Dramatic Art.


If we take the piece purely in a dramatic point of view, and consider it as a work for the stage, it affords, as we be10 fore said, an excellent lesson in its contrast to Shakespeare's general mode of proceeding. There is here no unity of action, indeed not even, as in Pericles, a unity of person. If we look strictly into the single scenes, they are so loosely united, that whole series may be expunged without injuring the piece, indeed perhaps not without improving itan attempt which even in Pericles could not be carried far. We need only superficially perceive this, in order to feel how far removed the dramatic works of art previous to Shakespeare were from that strong and systematic inner structure, which admits of no dismemberment without distortion.

If we separate all the scenes between York and Somerset, Mortimer and York, Margaret and Suffolk, and read them by themselves, we feel that we are looking upon a series of scenes which exhibit Shakespeare's style in his historical plays just in the manner in which we should have expected him to have written at the commencement of his career. We see the skilful and witty turn of speech and the germ of his figurative language; we perceive already the fine clever repartees and the more choice form of expression; in Mortimer's death-scene and in the lessons of his deeply-dissembled silent policy, which while dying he transmits to York, we see, with Hallam, all the genuine feeling and knowledge of human nature which belongs to Shakespeare in similar pathetic or political scenes in his other dramas; all, not in that abundance and masterly power which he subsequently manifested, but certainly in the germ which prefigures future perfection. These scenes contrast decidedly with the trivial, tedious war scenes and the alternate bombastic and dull disputes between Gloster and Winchester; they adhere to the common highway of historical poetry, though they have sufficient of the freshness of

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