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The never-daunted Percy to the earth,
to suppose it did not happen from the arrow of a peasant, but from the sword of Henry Monmouth, whose spirit came with a higher commission from the same fiery sphere.
In Worcester, the rebel appears in all his odious colours ; proud, envious, malignant, artful, he is finely contrasted by the noble Percy. Shakspeare, with the sagacity of a Tacitus, observes the jealousies which must naturally arise between a family, who have conferred a crown, and the king who has received it, who will always think the presence of such benefactors too bold and peremptory.
The character of Henry IV. is perfectly agreeable to that given him by historians. The play opens by his declaring his intention to war against the infidels, which he does not undertake, as was usual in those times, from a religious enthusiasm, but is
induced to it by political motives : that the martial spirit may not break out at home in civil wars; nor peace and idleness give men opportunity to enquire into his title to the crown, and too much discuss a point which would not bear a cool and close examination. Henry had the specious talents, which assist a man under certain circumstances to usurp a kingdom : but either from the want of those great and solid qualities, which are necessary to maintain opinion loyal to the throne to which it had raised him, or from the imposs bility of satisfying the expectations of those who had assisted his usurpation, as some of the best historians with great appearance of reason have suggested*, it is certain his reign was full of discontents and troubles.
The popular arts by which he captivated the multitude, are finely described in the speech he makes to his son, in the third act, Any other poet would have thought he had
* Hume's Hist. of Hen. IV.
acquitted himself well enough in that dialogue, by a general fatherly admonition delivered with the dignity becoming a monarch ; but Shakspeare rarely deals in common-place, and general morals. The peculiar temper and circumstances of the person, and the exigency of the time, influence the speaker, as in real life.
It is not only the king and parent, but Henry Plantagenet, that chides the prince of Wales. How natural it is for him, on Percy's revolt, to recur to his own rebellion against Richard, and to apprehend, that the same levities which lost that king, first the opinion, then the allegiance of his subjects, should deprive the prince of his succession ! Nothing can be better imagined than the parallel he draws between himself and Percy, Richard and Henry of Monmouth. The affectionate father, the offended king, the provident politician, and the conscious usurper, are all united in the following: speeches :
I know not whether God will have it so,
Heav'n pardon thee. You let me wonder, Harry,
The hope and expectation of thy time