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litter, than 1591. Contention : 2 and Peele, and
improver of Marlowe, and Greene, and Peele, and Kyd.” * The two Parts of The Contention' were produced as early, if not earlier, than 1591, by universal admission. Mr. Collier thinks (a little, we apprehend, with the partiality of an advocate) that even Shakspere's • Richard II.' “ presents no variety of rhythm that may not be found” in Marlowe's · Edward II. If we can show that in the · Edward II.' there is no variety of rhythm that may not be found in the two Parts of · The Contention,'-if we have shown that Marlowe could not have been the author of those two dramas,—and if we establish that Shakspere must have been their author,—there is an end of Mr. Collier's theory, with regard to the versification of Shakspere, that “ the varieties of pause, inflection, and modulation” in Marlowe “ left our greatest dramatist little more to do than to follow his example.”
Mr. Collier admits that the monotony of the elder blank-verse, the monosyllabic endings of the lines, the construction of blankverse couplets as it were,—is a defect to “ be found in Marlowe's first experiment;” and “ when he produced his · Faustus' he had not yet learnt to avoid it.” In · The Jew of Malta' he finds an improvement in the versification ; but in the Edward II.' it “ is exhibited in its greatest excellence.” He then proceeds to analyse this excellence, which consists in the judicious employment of Alexandrines, the use of a redundant syllable, whether at the close of a line or before the close, and the varied pause. Mr. Collier gives examples of passages that combine these merits. We propose to offer some similar examples from the two Parts of “The Contention ;' and, believing these dramas to have preceded · Edward II.,' we shall, in placing Mr. Collier's selections from Marlowe in apposition with those from • The Contention,' give Shakspere the first column, and Marlowe the second :From THE CONTENTION.
From MARLowe's EDWARD II. 1. “ As by your high imperial majesty's 1. “But, for we know thou art a noble command.”
gentleman." “ Unto your gracious excellence, that are the | “ Thou com'st from Mortimer and his accom
plices.” “Pardon, my lord, a sudden qualm came o'er “ To make me miserable! here receive my
my heart.” “ And bashful Henry be depos’d, whose cow “ Further, ere this letter was seal'd lord ardice."
Berkley came.” “ Broke in, and were by th' hands of com. “ Oh, level all your looks upon these daring mon soldiers slain.”
men." 2. “ Methought I was in the cathedral
friend but me; At Westminster, and seated in the chair Do what they can, we'll live in Tynmouth Where kings and queens are crown d, and at here; my feet
| And so I walk with him about the walls, * Introductory Notice to · The Merchant of Venice.'
2. “ Away! poor Gaveston, that has no
Henry and Margaret with a crown of gold Stood ready to set it on my princely head.” “And you, my gracious lady and sovereign
mistress, Causeless have laid complaints upon my
head. I shall not want false witnesses enough, That so amongst you you may have my life.”
| What ca re 1, though the earls begirt us round ?"
“Now, get thee to thy lords, And tell them I will come to chastise them For murdering Gaveston. Hie thee, get thee
gone! Edward, with fire and sword, follows at thy
heels." “ These hands were never stain'd with inno
cent blood, Nor shall they now be tainted with a king's.”
3. “ War. Trust me, my lords, all hitherto
Cla. Fear not that, my lord.
brother, Were but a feigned friend to our proceedings : But welcome, sweet Clarence, my daughter
shall be thine. And now what rests, but, in night's coverture, Thy brother being carelessly encamp'd, His soldiers lurking in the town about, And but attended by a simple guard, We may surprise and take him at our plea
sure? Our scouts have found the adventure very
easy. Then cry king Henry, with resolved minds, And break we presently into his tent. Cla. Why, then let's on our way in silent
sort: For Warwick and his friends, God, and St.
George! War. This is his tent, and see where his
guard doth stand: Courage, my soldiers, now or never; But follow me now, and Edward shall be ours.
All. A Warwick, a Warwick."
3. “ Gaveston. Oh, treacherous Warwick,
thus to wrong thy friend ! James. I see it is your life these arms pur
Warwick. My lord of Pembroke's men, Strive you no more I will have that Gave.
ston, James. Your lor iship doth dishonour to
yourself, Anil wrong our lord, rour honourable friend. War. No, James; it is my country's cause
I follow. Go, take the villain. Soldiers, come, away. We'll make quick work. Commend me to
your master, My friend, and tell him that I watch'd it well. Come, let thy shadow parley with king Ed
ward. Gav. Treacherous earl, shall not I see the
king ? War. The King of heaven, perhaps; no
4. “ War. Ah, who is nigh? Come to me,
friend or foe, And tell me who is victor, York or Warwick ? Why ask I that ? my mangled body shows That I must yield my body to the earth, And by my fall the conquest to my foes. Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge, Whose arms gave shelter to the princely
eagle, Under whose shade the rampant lion slept, Whose top-branch overpeer'd Jove's spread
ing tree. The wrinkles in my brows, now fill'd with
blood, Were liken'd oft to kingly sepulchres;
4. “ Leicester. Be patient, good my lord :
cease to lament. Imagine Killingworth-castle were your court, And that you lay for pleasure here a space, Not of compulsion or necessity. Edw. Leicester, if gentle words might
comfort me, Thy speeches long ago had eas'd my sorrows, For kind and loving hast thou always been, The griefs of private men are soon allay'd, But not of kings. The forest deer, being
struck, Runs to an herb that closeth up the wounds; But when the imperial lion's flesh is gor'd, He rends and tear it with his wrathful paw,
For who liv'd king, but I could dig his grave ? [And], highly scorning that the lowly earth And who durst smile, when Warwick bent his Should drink his blood, mounts up to the brow?
It would be tedious were we to carry this comparison much beyond the limits of Mr. Collier's extracts from the · Edward II.'; but we cannot resist the temptation of putting the celebrated scene of the murder of Henry VI. side by side with the no less celebrated scene of the murder of Edward II. :
FROM THE CONTENTION.
FROM EDWARD II.
“ Glo. Good day, my lord! What, at your “ Edward. Who's there? what light is that? book so hard ?
wherefore com'st thou ? King. Ay, my good lord. Lord, I should Lightborn. To comfort you, and bring you say rather;
joyful news. 'Tis sin to flatter, good was little better;
Edw. Small comfort finds poor Edward in Good Gloster, and good devil, were all alike.
thy looks. What scene of death hath Roscius now to act ? Villain, I know thou com'st to murther me. Glo. Suspicion always haunts a guilty Light. To murther you, my gracious lord ! mind.
Far is it from my heart to do you harm. King. The bird once lim'd doth fear the The queen sent me to see how you were used, fatal bush ;
For she relents at this your misery : And I, the hapless male to one poor bird, And what eyes can refrain from shedding Have now the fatal object in mine eye,
tears, Where my poor young was lim'd, was | To see a king in this most piteous state ? caught, and kill'd.
Edw. Weep'st thou already ? list awhile to Glo. Why, what a fool was that of Crete,
me, That taught his son the office of a bird ! And then thy heart, were it as Gurney's is, And yet, for all that, the poor fowl was Or as Matrevis, hewn from the Caucasus, drown'd.
Yet will it melt, ere I have done my tale. King. I, Dædalus; my poor son, Icarus; The dungeons where they keep me is the Thy father, Minos, that denied our course;
sink Thy brother Edward the sun that sear'd his Wherein the filth of all the castle falls. wings;
Light. O villains ! And thou the enviest gulf that swallow'd Edw. And there, in mire and puddle, have him.
I stood Oh, better can my breast abide thy dagger's This ten days' space; and lest that I should point,
sleep, Than can mine ears that tragic history. One plays continually upon a drum. Glo. Why, dost thou think I am an execu. They give me bread and water, being a king; tioner?
So that, for want of sleep and sustenance, King. A persecutor, I am sure thou art; My mind 's distemper'd, and my body 's And if murthering innocents be executions,
numb'd, Then I know thou art an executioner.
And whether I have limbs or no, I know not. Glo. Thy son I kill'd for his presumption. 0, would my blood drop out from every King. Hadst thou been kill'd when first vein, thou didst presume,
As doth this water from my tatter'd robes! Thou hadst not liv'd to kill a son of mine. Tell Isabel, the queen, I look'd not thus, And thus I prophesy of thee :
When for her sake I ran at tilt in France, That many a widow for her husband's death, And there unhors d the duke of Cleremont. And many an infant's water-standing eve,
Light. O, speak no more, my lord ! this Widows for their husbands, children for their
breaks my heart. fathers,
Lie on this bed, and rest yourself a while. Shall curse the time that ever thou wert born. Edw. These looks of thine can harbour The owl shriek’d at thy birth, an evil sign ;
nought but death : The night-crow cried, a boding luckless tune; I see my tragedy written in thy brows. Dogs howl'd, and hideous tempests shook Yet stay a while, forbear thy bloody hand, down trees;
And let me see the stroke before it comes,
The raven rook'd her on the chimney's top, And chattering pies in dismal discord sung ; Thy mother felt more than a mother's pain, And yet brought forth less than a mother's
hope; To wit, an undigest created lump, Not like the fruit of such a goodly tree. Teeth hadst thou in thy head when thou
wast born, To signify thou cam'st to bite the world : And if the rest be true that I have heard, Thou cam’st into the worldGlo. Die, prophet, in thy speech, I 'll hear no more :
(Stabs him. For this amongst the rest was I ordain’d. King. Ay, and for much more slaughter
after this. 0, God ! forgive my sins, and pardon thee.
[He dies. Glo. What! will the aspiring blood of Lan
easter Sink into the ground ? I had thought it
would have mounted. See how my sword weeps for the poor king's
death, Now may such purple tears always be shed, For such as seek the downfall of our house. If any spark of life remain in thee,
[Stabs him again. Down, down to hell, and say I sent thee
thither; 1, that have neither pity, love, nor fear. Indeed, 't was true that Henry told me of, For I have often heard my mother say, I came into the world with my legs forward : And had I not reason, think you, to make
haste, And seek their ruins that usurp'd our rights ? The women weeping, and the midwife crying, • 0, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth: And so I was, indeed; which plainly signi
fied That I should snarl, and bite, and play the
dog. Then, since Heaven hath made my body so, Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it. I had no father, I am like no father : I have no brothers, I am like no brothers; And this word love, which greybeards term
divine, Be resident in men like one another, And not in me; I am myself alone.”
And even then, when I shall lose my life, My mind may be more steadfast on my God. Light. What means your highness to mis
trust me thus? Edw. What mean'st thou to dissemble with
me thus ? Light. These hands were never stain'd
with innocent blood, Nor shall they now be tainted with a king's. Edw. Forgive my thought, for having
such a thought. One jewel have I left, receive thou this. Still fear I, and I know not what's the cause, But every joint shakes as I give it thee. O, if thou harbour'st murther in thy heart, Let this gift change thy mind, and save thy
soul! Know, that I am a king: Oh, at that name I feel a hell of grief; where is my crown? Gone, gone; and do I remain ? Light. You ’re overwatch'd, my lord; lie
down and rest. Edw. But that grief keeps me waking, I
should sleep; For not these ten days have these eyelids
clos'd. Now as I speak they fall, and yet with fear Open again. O wherefore sitt'st thou here? Light. If you mistrust me, I'll be gone,
my lord. Edw. No, no; for if thou mean'st to mur
ther me, Thou wilt return again; and therefore stay.
Light. He sleeps.
Edw. Something still buzzeth in mine ears,
thus, And therefore tell me, wherefore art thou
here? Light. To rid thee of thy life; Matrevis,
come. Edw. I am too weak and feeble to resist : Assist me, sweet God, and receive my soul.”
These are two specimens of power unequalled by any poet except the author of one of the passages. The power of both: passages is in their reality. But where did Marlowe attain that power so essentially different from his wonted characteristics? We forbear to press this point. We only ask an impartial examination of the rhythm of the passage from the “old play” to determine in what school Marlowe learnt his later and most perfect versification.
Before we conclude these observations on the versification of the old plays which it is held Shakspere did not write, we may properly notice a very remarkable peculiarity in the first of the series, which we think bears the evidence of being composed as early as any portion of the play. The First Part of Henry VI.' contains about a hundred and fifty consecutive lines which are essentially different in their poetical construction from the other portions of the play, or the series of plays; and, taken as a mass, entirely of another character from any connected passage of his dramas generally. We refer to the couplets of the fifth, sixth, and seventh scenes of the fourth act. Dr. Johnson says of the sixth scene, “For what reason this scene is written in rhyme, I cannot guess. If Shakspeare had not in other plays mingled his rhymes and blankverse in the same manner, I should have suspected that this dialogue had been a part of some other poem which was never finished, and that, being loth to throw his labour away, he inserted it here.” Johnson's theory is highly plausible. At any rate we may believe that Shakspere adopted rhyme-the “heroic verse” of Dryden-in this isolated and extensive manner, to render the concluding scenes of Talbot more emphatic. He was the hero of the play; he carried with him the highest sympathy of the audience. The principle upon which Dryden defended “heroic verse” in tragedy must have been the governing principle of its use in the passage in question :“If you once admit of a latitude, that thoughts may be exalted, and that images and actions may be raised above the life, and described in measure without rhyme, that leads you insensibly from your own principles to mine : you are already so far onward of your way that you have forsaken the imitation of ordinary converse.”* That Shakspere thoroughly understood the far higher dramatic powers of the other instrument, “measure without rhyme," requires no proof. But in the introduction of the scene before usthe longest-sustained scene in heroic verse which his plays exhibit, or, as far as we know, which any contemporary drama exhibits—it is manifest to us that he made an experiment such as a very young poet would alone venture to make. But in this experiment we believe that he carried the powers of the inferior instrument farther, for dramatic purposes, than any poet who preceded or came after him. The extraordinary freedom of the versification, which, however, does not possess the slightest ruggedness, has not been approached even by Dryden himself; and of all Shakspere's contemporaries in the use of the couplet, there is not one who has attempted
* Essay prefixed to “ The Conquest of Grenada.'