Abbildungen der Seite



All the unsigned footnotes in this volume are by the writer of the article to which they are appended. The interpretation of the initials signed to the others is: I. G. = Israel Gollancz, M.A.; H. N. H.= Henry Norman Hudson, A.M.; C. H. H. C. H. Herford, Litt.D.




The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth resumes the course of history just where it paused at the close of the preceding play, and carries it on from the first battle of St. Albans, May, 1455, till the death of King Henry, which took place in May, 1471. And the connection of this play with the foregoing is much the same as that between the First Part and the Second, there being no apparent reason why the Third should begin where it does, but that the Second ended there. The parliamentary doings, which resulted in a compromise of the two factions, are here set in immediate juxtaposition with the first battle of St. Albans, whereas in fact they were separated by an interval of more than five years. Nevertheless, the arrangement is a very judicious one; for that interval was marked by little else than similar scenes of slaughter, which had no decisive effect on the relative condition of parties; so that the representing of them would but have encumbered the drama with details without helping on the purpose of the work. Not so, however, with the battle of Wakefield, which followed hard upon those doings in parliament; for this battle, besides that it yielded matter of peculiar dramatic interest in itself, had the effect of kindling that inexpressible rage and fury of madness, which it took such rivers of blood to slake. For historians note that from this time forward the war was conducted with the fiercest rancor and exasperation, each faction seeming more intent to butcher than to subdue the other. The cause of this demoniacal enthusiasm could not well be better presented than it is in the wanton and remorseless savagery displayed

at the battle in question. And the effect is answerably told in the next battle represented, where the varying fortune and long-doubtful issue served but to multiply and deepen the horrors of the tragedy. Even the pauses of the fight are but occupied in blowing hotter the passion and bracing firmer the purpose of the combatants; while the reflection of the King, whose gentle nature suffers alike in the success and the defeat of his party, solemnly moralize the scene, and render it the more awfully impressive by drawing in a remembrance of the homely rural contentment which has been scared away. His plaintive and pathetic musing is aptly followed by a strain of wailing, wafted, as it were, from the grand chorus of woe and anguish which the nation strikes up, on finding that in the blind tearing rage of faction the father has unwittingly been slaughtering his son, and the son his father. And such an elegiac tone as here swells upon the hearing is in truth the most natural and fit expression of a meditative patriotism, grieving over wounds which it is powerless to redress.

Thus in these two points of the drama the spirit and temper of the whole war is concentrated. Nor is it easy to see how the materials could have been better selected and disposed, so as to give out their proper significance, without bruising the feelings or distracting the thoughts of the spectator. By the final overthrow of the Lancastrians at Towton, the Yorkists were left to the divulsive energy of their own passions and vices; for in their previous contests had been generated a virulence of self-will that would needs set them at strife with one another when they had no common antagonist to strive against. The overbearing pride and arrogance of Warwick would not brook to be crossed, and the pampered caprice of Edward would not scruple to cross it: the latter would not have fought as he did, but to the end that he might be king; nor would the former have done so much for him, but that he might have a king subject to his control. It is remarkable that the causes of the deadly feud between the kingmaker and his royal creature have never been fully explained. His

tory having assigned several, the Poet, even if he had known better, was amply warranted in taking the one that could be made to tell most on the score of dramatic interest. And the scene at the court of Lewis justifies his choice, being, in point of sound stage-effect, probably the best in the play; while the representation, however untrue to fact, is true to the temper, the motives, and character of the parties concerned; so that the Poet may here be said in a justifiable sense to have invented history, gathering up and bodying forth the spirit and life of several years in the form of one brief transaction. With such an occasion and such an assemblage of character, what a piece of work the Poet would have made in the maturity of his powers, when experience had armed his genius with a proportionable degree of technical skill!

The marriage of King Edward with the lady Elizabeth took place in May, 1464, something more than three years after the battle of Towton. The queen's influence over her husband, resulting in the preferment of her family, gave apt occasion for those discontents and schisms in the faction, which, in whatever line of conduct he had followed, could not have been long without pretexts. Of course the effect of such schisms was to rally and strengthen the opposite faction into a renewal of the conflict. The capture of Edward by Warwick occurred in the summer of 1469, and was followed by the restoration of Henry, who had been over five years a prisoner in the Tower. The domineering and dictatorial habit of Warwick was not less manifest in his alliance with Henry than it had been with Edward. The earl had given his oldest daughter to Clarence; and as she was to inherit her father's immense estates, he thus seemed to have a sure hold on her husband. But the duke appears to have regarded the marriage as offering him a prospect of the throne; so that the main cord between them was broken when Warwick gave his second daughter to the son of Henry. In October, 1470, Edward made his escape to the continent. The following March he returned, and in about a month was fought the battle of

« ZurückWeiter »