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Shakespeare Papers.


“For those who read aright are well aware

That Jaques, sighing in the forest green,
Oft on his heart felt less the load of care
Than Falstaff, revelling his rough mates between."

MS. penes me.

“ JACK FALSTAFF to my familiars !”—By that name, therefore, must he be known by all persons, for all are now the familiars of Falstaff. The title of “ Sir John Falstaff to all Europe" is but secondary and parochial. He has long since far exceeded the limit by which he bounded the knowledge of his knighthood; and in wide-spreading territories, which in the day of his creation were untrodden by human foot, and in teeming realms where the very name of England was then unheard of, Jack Falstaff is known as familiarly as lie was to the wonderful court of princes, beggars, judges, swindlers, heroes, bullies, gentlemen, scoundrels, justices, thieves, knights, tapsters, and the rest whom he drew about him.

It is indeed his court. He is lord paramount, the suzerain to whom all pay homage. Prince Hal may delude himself into the notion that he, the heir of England, with all the swelling emotions of soul that rendered him afterward the conqueror of France, makes a butt of the ton of man that is his companion. The parts are exactly reversed. In the peculiar circle in which they live, the prince is the butt of the knight. He knows it not- he would repel it with scorn if it were asserted; but it is nevertheless the fact that he is subdued. He calls the course of life which he leads, the unyoked humor of his idleness; but he mistakes. In all the paths where his journey lies with Falstaff, it is the hard-yoked servitude of his obedience. In the soliloquies put into his mouth he continually pleads that his present conduct is but that of the moment, that he is ashamed of his daily career, and that the time is ere long to come which will show him different from what he seems. As the dramatic character of Henry V. was conceived and executed by a man who knew how genius in any department of human intellect would work- -to say nothing of the fact that Shakespeare wrote with the whole of the prince's career before him - we may consider this subjugation to Falstaff as intended to represent the transition state from spoiled youth to energetic manhood. It is useless to look for minute traces of the historical Henry in these dramas.* Tradition and the chronicles had handed him down to Shakespeare's time as a prince dissipated

* Mr. Verplanck (editor of the Illustrated Shakespeare, published by Harper and Brothers, New York) declares that “Shakespeare has brought out the prince's heroic character, by a bold and free paraphrase of his actual history." He says, “So striking and impressive are the individuality and life of the character, that it has been suggested that the Poet had the aid of traditionary knowledge to fill up the meagre outline of the chroniclers.” Mr. Verplanck adds that, “Of all the strictly historical personages, Henry IV. himself, alone, seems drawn entirely and scrupulously from historical authority; and his is a portrait rivalling, in truth and discrimination, the happiest delineations of Plutarch or of Tacitus.”—M.

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