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men have, behind their fine clothes and official actions and utterances, a life and feelings which are very like those of other men. But he does not do this nearly so successfully in the Histories as he does in the pure dramas. His kings and nobles remain too much in the position which they occupy for the mass of men in the real world. We see what they look like and what they do, as we see a Prime Minister or a Field-marshal to-day : what most of them are we do not know and scarcely think about. They are like the actors who present them on the stage, whom we think of as Falstaff or Hamlet, not as what they are directly they have taken their false clothes off; husbands or fathers, sinners or saints. And the play is still full of small technical flaws which Shakespeare would hardly have let pass a few years later when he had given up History. Both in the First Part and in the Second there is a scene in which the King, after reproaching the Prince with his faults, learns his true character ; but he begins the second as blind as he began the first. So Vernon's enthusiastic praises of Prince Hal and his soldiers seem scarcely dramatically probable in his mouth ; and, in the Second Part, Warwick in one place recognizes and in another is blind to the true nature of the Prince. A more serious and more often discussed matter is the occasional praises of Falstaff as a soldier.1 Good judges have used them to build up a defence of his character ; but no ingenuities of pleading will avail against the impression made by the play both in the closet and on the stage on almost every reader and spectator from Shakespeare's day to our own. Shakespeare knew what he was doing ; and if he had not meant Falstaff to be coward and liar, assuredly he would not have allowed us to take him for both, as we always have ever since. The inconsistency, then, remains ; and the explanation probably is that the
1 See The Rejection of Falstaff in Mr. A. C. Bradley's 'Oxford Lectures on Poetry', to which I ventured to make some reply in A Note on Falstaff, printed in ‘A Book of Homage to Shakespeare ', edited by I. Gollancz, 1916.
influence of the character of the actual historical Sir John Fastolf (as well perhaps as of Sir John Oldcastle, the original name given to the character) acted on the mind of the dramatist, never the most careful of writers, and caused the introduction of touches that were true enough to history but untrue to what was so much greater than history, the Falstaff who was born of Shakespeare's imagination.
In all these ways the play has obvious defects. It lives, first, by a few splendid outbursts of poetry, such as some of Hotspur's speeches and the king's great apostrophe to sleep which contains the line Matthew Arnold liked to quote as a touchstone of poetic style :
In cradle of the rude imperious surge. Then, by the Shakespearean laugh, 'broad as ten thousand beeves at pasture', which here first obtains its full royalty of freedom, never to recapture quite the same abundance, certainty, and felicity. Then, by the quantity of prose in it, another new feature : all the earlier Histories are almost entirely in verse. And it is prose in two senses : the prose of life as well as the prose of literature. The single scene of Jack Cade's men, the single character of the Bastard, here become a world of ordinary, or lower and less than ordinary, men and women, more conscious of their five senses than of the ten commandments. The prose scenes provide relief to the poetic, after the fashion Shakespeare was to use so much in future ; a fashion in which, according to our mood, we may hear discords jarring upon each other, or the different notes whose alternations and combinations make up the full harmony of human life. There is no doubt that there are readers to whom at certain moments Sir Toby and Dogberry and the rest seem blots of earth upon a vision of heaven. But the true Shakespearean mood is the other : that which asks for the whole, and, not content with the beauty, intensity, and mystery of human life which only seers and thinkers perceive and only poetry can render, demands also its dullness and grossness, flesh scarcely
touched at all by spirit, the visible life, plain to all men and concealing the reality of the other, the tale which only prose can tell. For them, Hamlet and Brutus may be the essential and eternal ; but man is not yet all eternal ; and to complete the picture of him, as they know him, they call for the Grave-digger and Falstaff as well. Homo is a common name to all men’; so this play tells us ; so it for the first time paints the picture of our life; so indeed Shakespeare saw it.
Hotspur is the heroic figure born to failure, as the Prince is the same figure born to victory and success. is married to reality, the other to unreality. Hotspur's speeches are splendid things, the swansong of dying chivalry. He is the very type which Scott loved to recreate in his poems and mediaeval novels, the best side of which he put in that finest of his quatrains, which, for some of us at any rate, is much too authentically his to be given to any one else on the strength of its being found in a book of verses by one of his contemporaries. Scott lent as royally as he borrowed ; this is the single gold coin in the borrower's collection : and it is easy to guess where he got it.
Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
To all the sensual world proclaim,
Is worth an age without a name.
O gentlemen, the time of life is short !
If die, brave death, when princes die with us ! But there is another side, too, seen in Scott's heroes and seen in Shakespeare ; and Shakespeare visits it, as Scott did not always, with its natural doom of failure. Hotspur is from the first one of those rash inconsiderate fiery
voluntaries' of whom Shakespeare speaks elsewhere. He begins by defying the king over rather a small matter, insulting the king's messenger about what knight errantry called a point of honour and other people a point of vanity; his whole tone and manner is one of boyish bravado : though a lovable boy he is a fool. He is so busy 'plucking bright honour from the pale-faced moon', and declaring that he will not yield an inch to the king, that he will not let his uncle get a word in to explain the scheme of their rebellion. As soon as he meets his confederates he takes pleasure in insulting them : he forgets the map which is the business of their meeting and proceeds to scoff at Glendower's supernatural pretensions, and then, a little later, at his poetic pretensions, ridiculing 'mincing poetry 'as a thing that sets his teeth on edge : not a very practical way of conducting negotiations with an important ally. But he hates prophets and poets and bores, and Glendower is a little of all three ; and he will tell truth and shame the devil' rather than say a few smooth words to one whom he finds long-winded and tedious, worse than a smoky house'. One is not surprised to find that as soon as he has gained his point he throws it away. Evidently he only quarrelled for the sake of quarrelling. But we should not like him as we all do if he were merely this. There is more. He is no mere dithyrambist, ranting to the moon : he is a real hero. And, more still, Shakespeare has taken care that he is also a man. We see him chaffing his wife and refusing to tell her his secrets : we see him playing the silly young aristocrat flown with insolence, pouring scorn upon respectable shopkeeping citizens, and bidding his noble wife leave her modest vows and swear the good round oaths which, to a boy's ears, sound well in the mouth of an earl's daughter. But it is his wife who is right, and he who is wrong, when they talk policy. Indeed he is always wrong. Even the two things he does so magnificently, he always does to his own
destruction ; he talks when he should be silent and fights when he should retreat. Everything about him has the hurry, prematureness, and extravagance which can only end as they do. He who cannot learn to live must die, both in fiction and in truth. And so, deceived by his uncle, the ‘harebrained Hotspur 'rushes gloriously unheeding on his fate, wishing his enemy were greater and finding him only too great. He dies with a burst of fine phrases ; and, though we love him, we find a kind of poetic justice in the fact that it is over his body that Falstaff utters his famous ‘the better part of valour is discretion', and that the last we see of him is as the hero of Falstaff's preposterous fiction, the creature of a lie, fighting ' his long hour by Shrewsbury clock', and as usual for some one else's glory and advantage. Peace be to him for a beautiful, eloquent, aristocratic, unteachable, lovable boy !
The Prince may conveniently wait till we come to the play named after him. He is Shakespeare's subtle contrast to Hotspur. The large and obvious contrast is provided by Falstaff who is anything but beautiful or picturesquely aristocratic. Eloquent indeed he is with an eloquence supreme in its own order ; the absolutely free and perfect expression of the senses, and of the intellect used solely as the servant of the senses. And lovable too : who will deny it for an instant ? But his lovableness is exactly the opposite of Hotspur's. It belongs, like his eloquence, to another side of our human nature altogether, and the fact that we love these two opposites is a pleasant proof of what varied creatures we are, what contraries we keep within us. Hotspur wants to 'pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon', and we like him for it ; for we, too, have a strain of fancy, romance, and adventure in us. Falstaff likes not such grinning honour as Sir Walter hath', and analyses it all away into nothing with his ' Can honour set to a leg?' and his 'who hath it ? He that died o' Wednesday'. And