Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the Epigrams of John Weever*, published in 1599; but which must have been written in 1595.

AD GULIELMUM SHAKESPEARE.
Honie-tong'd Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue,
I swore Apollo got them, and none other;
Their rosie-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddesse said to be their mother.
Rose cheeckt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Faire fire-bot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia, virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her,
Romeo, RICHARD, more whose names I know not,
Their sugred tongues and power attractive beauty,
Say they are saints, althogh that saints they shew not,
For thousand vowes to them subjective dutie,
They burn in love thy children Shakspeare let them,
Go wo thy musę more nymphish brood beget them.

27th Epig. 4th Weeke. The character of Richard had been in part developed in the last parts of King Henry VI. where, Schlegel observes, ‘his first

* This very curious little volume, which is supposed to be unique, is in the possession of Mr. Comb, of Henley. ' The title is as follows:- Epigrammes in the oldest Cut and newest Fashion. A twise seven Houres (in so many Weekes) Studie. No longer (like the Fashion) not unlike to continue. The first seven, John Weever. Sit voluisse sit valuisse. At London: printed by V. S. for Thomas Bushele; and are to be sold at his shop, at the great north doore of Paules. 1599. 12°. There is a portrait of the author, engraved by Cecill, prefixed. According to the date upon this print Weever was then twenty-three years old; but he tells us in some introductory stanzas that when he wrote the Epigrams, which compose the volume, he was not twenty years old ; that he was one

• That twenty twelvemonths yet did never know.' Consequently these Epigrams must have been written in 1595.

speeches lead us already to form the most unfavourable prognostications respecting bim: he lowers obliquely like a thundercloud on the horizon, which gradually approaches nearer and nearer, and first pours out the elements of devastation with which it is charged when it hangs over the heads of mortals.' • The other characters of the drama are of too secondary a nature to excite a powerful sympathy; but in the back ground the widowed Queen Margaret appears as the fury of the past, who calls forth the curse on the future: every calamity which her enemies draw down on each other is a cordial to her revengeful heart. Other female voices join from time to time in the lamentations and imprecations. But Richard is the soul, or rather the demon, of the whole tragedy, and fulfils the promise which he formerly made to

set the murderous Machiavel to school.”

• Besides the uniform aversion with which he inspires us, he occupies us in the greatest variety of ways by his profound skill in dissimulation, his wit, his prudence, his presence of mind, his quick activity, and his valour. He fights at last against Richmond like a desperado, and dies the honourable death of the hero on the field of battle.'—But Shakspeare has satisfied our moral feelings:-He shows us Richard in his last moments already branded with the stamp of reprobation. We see Richard and Richmond on the night before battle sleeping in their tents; the spirits of those murdered by the tyrant ascend in succession and pour out their curses against him, and their blessings on his adversary. These apparitions are properly merely the dreams of the two generals made visible. It is no doubt contrary to sensible probability that their tents should only be separated by so small a space; but Shakspeare could reckon on poetical spectators, who were ready to take the breadth of the stage for the distance between the two camps, if by such a favour they were to be recompensed by beauties of so sublime a nature as this series of spectres, and the soliloquy of Richard on his awaking *'

[ocr errors]

Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Literature,' vol. ii. p. 246.

Steevens in part of a note, which I have thought it best to omit, observed that the favour with which the tragedy has been received on the stage in modern times' must in some measure be imputed to Cibber's reformation of it.' The original play was certainly too long for representation, and there were parts which might with advantage have been omitted in representation as • dramatic encumbrances ;' but such a piece of clumsy patchwork as the performance of Cibber was surely any thing but * judicious ;' and it is only surprising that the taste which has led to other reformations in the performance of our great dramatic poet's works, has not given to the stage a judicious abridgment of this tragedy in his own words, unencumbered with the superfluous transpositions and gratuitous additions which have been so long inflicted upon us.

KING EDWARD THE FOURTH.
EDWARD, Prince of Wales, afterwards
King Edward V.

Sons to the King.
RICHARD, Duke of York,
GEORGE, Duke of Clarence,
RICHARD, Duke of Gloster, afterwards Brothers to the King.

King Richard III.
A young Son of Clarence.
HENRY, Earl of Richmond, afterwards King Henry VII.
CARDINAL BOUCHIER, Archbishop of Canterbury.
THOMAS ROTHERAM, Archbishop of York.
John MORTON, Bishop of Ely.
DUKE of BUCKINGHAM.
Duke of NORFOLK : EARL of SURREY, his Son.
EARL RIVERS, Brother to King Edward's Queen.
MARQUIS of DORSET, and LORD GREY, her Sons.
EARL of OXFORD. LORD HASTINGS. LORD STANLEY.

LORD LOVEL.
SIR THOMAS VAUGHAN. SIR RICHARD RATCLIFF.
SIR WILLIAM CATESBY. SIR JAMES TYRREL.
SIR JAMES BLOUNT. SIR WALTER HERBERT.
SIR ROBERT BRAKENBURY, Lieutenant of the Tower.
CHRISTOPHER URSWICK, a Priest. Another Priest.
Lord Mayor of London. Sheriff of Wiltshire.
ELIZABETH, Queen of King Edward IV.
MARGARET, Widow of King Henry VI.
DUCHESS of YORK, Mother to King Edward IV. Clarence,

and Gloster. LADY ANNE, Widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, Son to

King Henry VI.; afterwards married to the Duke of Glos

ter. A young Daughter of Clarence. Lords, and other Attendants, two Gentlemen, a Pursuivant,

Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Ghosts, Soldiers, 8c.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Gloster. Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun? of York; And all the clouds, that lour'd upon our house, In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths; Our bruised arms hung up

for monuments”; Our stern alarums chang’d to merry meetings, Our dreadful marches to delightful measures 3. Grim-visag'd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front; And now,- instead of mounting barbed 4 steeds, To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,

1 The cognizance of Edward IV. was a sun, in memory of the three suns which are said to have appeared at the battle which he gained over the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross. Vide the Third Part of King Henry VI. Act ii. Sc. 1.

• Made glorious by his manly chivalry,
With bruised arms and wreaths of victory.!

Rape of Lucrece. 3 Dances. 4 i.e. steeds caparisoned or clothed in the trappings of war. The word is properly barded, from equus bardatus, Latin of the middle

ages.

2

« PreviousContinue »