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intent that his words should be better beleeved, or whether Then do thy charge, and charged be thy soule
upon too much trust of his owne cunning) he offered himWith wrongfull persecution done this day.
selfо to suffer death for it, if his prophesie prooved not You rowling eyes, whose superficies yet
true. Hereupon being committed to prison within the I do behold with eies that nature lent:
castell of Corf, when the day by him prefixed came withSend foorth the terror of your moovers frowne,
out any other notable damage unto King John, he was by To wreake my wrong upon the murtherers That rob me of your faire reflecting view:
the kings commandement drawne from the said castell Let hell to them (as earth they wish to me)
into the towne of Warham, and there hanged, togither Be darke and direfull guerdon for their guilt,
with his sonne. And let the black tormenters of deepe Tartary
“The people much blamed King John for this extreame Upbraide them with this damned enterprise,
dealing, bicause that the heremit was supposed to be a Inflicting change of tortures on their soules. Delay not Hubert, my orisons are ended,
man of great vertue, and his sonne nothing guiltie of the Begin I pray thee, reave me of my sight:
offence committed by his father (if any were) against the But to performe a tragedie indeede,
king. Moreover some thought that he had much wrong to Conclude the period with a mortall stab.
die, bicause the matter fell out even as he had prophesied ; Constance farewell, tormenter come away,
for the day before the Ascension day, King Joho had reMake my dispatch the tyrants feasting day.
signed the superioritie of his kingdome (as they tooke the Hubert.
matter) unto the pope."-HOLINSHED, under the year 1213. I faint, I feare, my conscience bids desist:
(3) SCENE III.--Heaven take my soul, and England keep Faint did I say? feare was it that I named :
my bones!] Shakespeare, in his incidents, adheres closely My king commaunds, that warrant sets me free:
to the old play:
"Enter young Arthur on the walls. Goe cursed tooles, your office is exempt,
Now help good hap to farther mine entent, Cheere thee yong lord, thou shalt not loose an eie,
Crosse not my youth with any more extremes : Though I should purchase it with losse of life.
I venter life to gaine my libertie, Ile to the king, and say his will is done,
And if I die, world's troubles have an end. And of the lauyor tell him thou art dead,
Feare gins disswade the strength of my resolve, Goe in with me, for Hubert was not borne
My holde will faile, and then alas I fall,
And if I fall, no question death is next:
Better desist, and live in prison still.
Prison said It Nay, rather death than so: Looke for amends of this received gift,
Comfort and courage come again to me,
Ile venter sure : tis but a leape for life."
How the ill-fated Arthur really lost his life we have no The issue that thy kindnessé undertakes:
authentic evidence. Holinshed only says,—"Touching Depart we, Hubert, to prevent the worst.
[Exeunt." the maner in verie deed of the end of this Arthur, writers
make sundrie reports. Neverthelesse certeine it is, that in (2) SCENE II. —
the yeare next insuing, he was remooved from Falais And here's a prophet, that I brought with me
unto the castell or tower of Rouen, out of the which From forth the streets of Pomfret.]
there was not any that would confesse that over he saw “There was in this season an heremit, whose name was him go alive. Some have written that as he assaied to Peter, dwelling about Yorke, a man in great reputation have escaped out of prison, and prooving to clime over the with the common people, bicause that either inspired with wals of the castell, he fell into the river of Saine, and so some spirit of prophesie as the people beleeved, or else was drowned. Other write, that through verie greefe and having some notable skill in art magiks, he was accustomed languor he pined awaie and died of natural sicknesse. to tell what should follow after. And for so much as But some affirme, that King John secretelio caused him to oftentimes his saiengs prooved true, great credit was given be murthered and made awaie, so as it is not throughly to him as a verie prophet,” &c. "This Peter about the agreed upon, in what sort he finished his daies : but verelie firsto of January last past, had tolde the king, that at the King John was had in great suspicion, whether worthilie feast of the Ascension it should come to passe, that he or not, the Lord knoweth."-Chronicles, under the year should be cast out of his kingdome; and (whether, to the 1202.
(1) SCENE II.
the gallant monarch is in arms, And, like an eagle o'er his aiery, towers
To souse annoyance that comes near his nest.] The only explanation of this passage usually given is that "aiery signifies a nest;" but, regarded as the purely technical phraseology of Falconry, the lines will be found susceptible of much more meaning than this interpretation attributes to them. By the ordinary punctuation of the second line,
“And like an eagle o'er his aiery towers," — it would seem, too, as if the words were supposed to refer to the elevation of the nest, and were equivalent only to "ary towers;” while it is clear that Shakespeare uses tower here as he does in another part of the present play,“ Ha, majesty! how high thy glory towers,"
Act II. Sc. 2,
in the sense of a hawking-technical, descriptive of the
One river, plash, or mere, where store of fowl doth lie,-
But when the Falconers take their hawking-poles in hand, And crossing of the brook, do put it over land : The Hawk gives it a Souce, that makes it to rebound Well near the height of man, sometimes, above the ground Oft takes a leg or wing, oft takes away the head, And oft from neck to tail the back in two doth shred." With respect to the verb towers, as expressive of the flight of an eagle, a falcon, &c., it would appear then to have formerly denoted, not merely a soaring to a great height, but to fly spirally. When the latter only is implied, it should be spelt tour, which Cotgrave, 1660, explains as "a turn, round, circle, compasse, wheeling, revolution."
After the preceding extract from Drayton, a short note only will be required to illustrate the original sense of the word Souce. Beaumont and Fletcher employ it as a hawking-phrase in “The Chances," Act IV. Sc. 1,
“Her conscience and her fears creeping upon her,
Dead as a fowle at souce she'll sink. Spenser uses it to describe the heavy and irresistible blows of the hammer in the House of Care :
"In which his worke he had six servants prest,
About the and vile standing evermore
Faëry Queene, B. IV. Ch. V. St. XXX. To souce is also still well known in the doinestic meaning of plunging, and throwing provisions into salt and water, from the Latin Salsum ; which sense agrees with the precipitate plunge of a bird of prey on a water-fowl. The Gorman Sausen, however, may rather be considered as the real etymon of the word. It signifies to rush with whistling sound like the blustering of the wind : which is remarkably expressive of the whirr made by the wings of a falcon when swooping on his quarry.
(2) SCENE IV.-With contemplation and devout desires. ] This circumstance is historical "About the same time, or rather in the yeare last past as some hold, it fortuned that the vicount of Melune, a French man, fell sicke at London, and perceiving that death was at hand, he called unto him certeine of the English Barons, which remained in the citie, upon safegard thereof, and to them made this protestation : I lament (saith he) your destruction and desolation at hand, bicause ye are ignorant of the perils hanging over your heads. For this understand, that Lewes, and with him 16 earles and barons of France, have secretlie sworne (if it shall fortune him to conquere this realme of England and to be crowned king) that he will kill, banish and confine all those of the English nobilitie (which now doe serve under him, and persecute their owne king) as traitours and rebels, and furthermore will dispossesse all their linage of such inheritances as they now hold in England. And bicause (saith he) you shall not have doubt hereof, I which lie here at the point of death, doo now affirm unto you, and take it on the perill of my soule that I am one of those sixteen that have sworne to performe this thing: wherefore I advise you to provide for your owne safeties, and your realmes which you now destroie, and keepe this thing secret which I have uttered unto you. After this speech was uttered he streightwaies died."-HOLINSHED, under the year 1216.
In the old play, the dying nobleman declares his motives for this confession to be,
“The greatest for the freedome of my soule,
That longs to leave this mansion free from guilt:
For that my grandsire was an Englishman."
"Commend me to one Hubert, with your king :
Awakes my conscience to confess all this.' (3) SCENE VII.—The King dies.] The chroniclers, who wrote within sixty years after his death, make no mention of John having died by poison. Shakespeare found the incident in “The Troublesome Raigne,” &c., and it is interesting to contrast his treatment of the king's dying scene with that of the older workman :
(4) SCENE VII.
At Worcester must his body be interred;
For so he will'd it.] According to Holinshed, King John was buried at Croxton Abbey, in Staffordshire ; but a stone coffin, containing his body, was discovered in the Cathedral Church of Worcester, July 17, 1797. (5) SCENE VII.
Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.] This conclusion is borrowed from the old play :
" Let England live but true within it selfe,
And all the world can never wrong her state.
CRITICAL OPINIONS ON KING JOHN
“ IF “King John,' as a whole, be not entitled to class among the very first-rate compositions of our author, it can yet exhibit some scenes of superlative beauty and effect, and two characters supported with unfailing energy and consistency.
“The bastard Faulconbridge, though not, perhaps, a very amiable personage, being somewhat too interested and worldly-minded in his conduct to excite much of our esteem, has, notwithstanding, so large a portion of the very spirit of Plantagenet in him ; so much heroism, gaiety, and fire, in his constitution ; and, in spite of his avowed accommodation to the times,
* For he is but a bastard to the time,
That doth not smack of observation,' &c. such an open and undaunted turn of mind, that we cannot refuse him our admiration ; nor, on account of his fidelity to John, however ill-deserved, our occasional sympathy and attachment. The alacrity and intrepidity of his daring spirit are nobly supported to the very last ; where we find him exerting every nerye to rouse and animate the conscience-stricken soul of the tyrant.
“ In the person of Lady Constance Maternal Grief, the most interesting passion of the play, is developed in all its strength ; the picture penetrates to the inmost heart ; and seared must those feelings be, which can withstand so powerful an appeal; for all the emotions of the fondest affection and the wildest despair, all the rapid transitions of anguish, and approximating frenzy, are wrought up into the scene with a truth of conception which rivals that of nature herself.
“The innocent and beauteous Arthur, rendered doubly attractive by the sweetness of his disposition and the severity of his fate, is thus described by his doting mother :
. But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy!
And with the half-blown rose.' When he is captured, therefore, and imprisoned by John, and consequently sealed for destruction, who but Shakspeare could have done justice to the agonizing sorrows of the parent? Her invocation to Death, and her address to Pandulph, paint maternal despair with a force which no imagination can augment, and of which the tenderness and pathos have never been exceeded.
“Independent of the scenes which unfold the striking characters of Constance and Faulconbridge there are two others in the play which may vie with anything that Shakspeare has produced ; namely the scene between John and Hubert, and that between Hubert and Arthur. The former, where tho usurper obscurely intimates to Hubert his bloody wishes, is conducted in a manner so masterly that we behold the dark and turbulent soul of John lying naked before us in all its deformity, and shrinking with fear even from the enunciation of its own vile purposes. It is one of the scenes,' as Mr. Steevens has well observed, to which may be promised a lasting commendation. Art could add little to its perfection; and time itself can take nothing from its beauties.'
“The scene with Hubert and the executioners, where the hapless Arthur supplicates for mercy, almost lacerates the heart itself ; and is only rendered supportable by the tender and alleviating impression which the sweet innocence and artless eloquence of the poor child fix with indelible influence on the mind. Well may it be said, in the language of our poet, that he who can behold this scene without the gushing tribute of a tear
"Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils ;
Let no such man be trusted.'
“ As for the character of John, which, from its meanness and imbecility, seems not well calculated for dramatic representation, Shakspeare has contrived, towards the close of the drama, to excite in his behalf some degree of interest and commiseration ; especially in the dying scene, where the fallen monarch, in answer to the inquiry of his son as to the state of his feelings, mournfully exclaims,
“ The dramas derived from the English history, ten in number, form one of the most valuable of Shakspeare's works, and partly the fruit of his maturest age. I say advisedly one of his works, for the poet evidently intended them to form one great whole. It is, as it were, an historical heroic poem in the dramatic form, of which the separate plays constitute the rhapsodies. The principal features of the events are exhibited with such fidelity; their causes, and even their secret springs, are placed in such a clear light, that we may attain from them a knowledge of history in all its truth, while the living picture makes an impression on the imagination which can never be effaced.
“ In King John the political and warlike events are dressed out with solemn pomp, for the very reason that they possess but little of true grandeur. The falsehood and selfishness of the monarch speak in the style of a manifesto. Conventional dignity is most indispensable where personal dignity is wanting. The bastard Faulconbridge is the witty interpreter of this language ; he ridicules the secret springs of politics without disapproving of them; for he owns that he is endeavouring to make his fortune by similar means, and wishes rather to belong to the deceivers than the deceived, for in his view of the world there is no other choice. His litigation with his brother respecting the succession of his pro tended father, by which he effects his acknowledgment at court as natural son of the most chivalrous king of England, Richard Cæur-de-Lion, forms a very entertaining and original prelude in the play itself. When, amidst so many disguises of real sentiments, and so much insincerity of expression, the poet shows us human nature without a veil, and allows us to take deep views of the inmost recesses of the mind, the impression produced is only the more deep and powerful. The short scene in which John urges Hubert to put out of the way Arthur, his young rival for the possession of the throne, is superlatively masterly; the cautious criminal hardly ventures to say to himself what he wishes the other to do. The young and amiable prince becomes a sacrifice of unprincipled ambition ; his fate excites the warmest sympathy. When Hubert, about to put out his eyes with the hot iron, is softened by his prayers, our compassion would be almost overwhelming, were it not sweetened by the winning innocence of Arthur's childish speeches. Constance's maternal despair on her son's imprisonment is also of the highest beauty ; and even the last moments of John,-an unjust and feeble prince, whom we can neither respect nor admire,--are yet so portrayed as to extinguish our displeasure with him, and fill us with serious considerations on the arbitrary deeds and the inevitable fate of mortals.”SCHLEGEL