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cious sentence of banishment passed by Richard upon Bolingbroke, the suppliant offers and modest pretensions of the latter on his return, to the high and haughty tone with which he accepts Richard's resignation of the crown after the loss of all his power, the use which he makes of the deposed king to grace his triumphal progress through the streets of London, and the final intimation of his wish for his death, which immediately finds a servile executioner, is marked throughout with complete effect, and without the slightest appearance of effort. The steps by which Bolingbroke mounts the throne are those by which Richard sinks into the grave. We feel neither respect nor love for the deposed monarch; for he is as wanting in energy as in principle: but we pity him, for he pities himself. His heart is by no means hardened against himself, but bleeds afresh at every new stroke of mischance, and his sensibility, absorbed in his own person, and unused to misfortune, is not only tenderly alive to its own sufferings, but without the fortitude to bear them. He is, however, human in his distresses; for to feel pain and sorrow, weakness, disappointment, remorse and anguish, is the lot of humanity, and we sympathize with him accordingly. The sufferings of the man make us forget that he ever was a king.
The right assumed by sovereign power to trifle at its will with the happiness of others as a matter of course, or to remit its exercise as a matter of favour, is strikingly shewn in the sentence of banishment so unjustly pronounced on Bolingbroke and Mowbray, and in what Bolingbroke says when four years of his banishment are taken off, with as little reason.
"How long a time lies in one little word! Four lagging winters and four wanton springs End in a word: such is the breath of kings."
A more affecting image of the loneliness of a state of exile can hardly be given, than by what Bolingbroke afterwards observes of his having "sighed his English breath in foreign clouds;" or than that conveyed in Mowbray's complaint at being banished for life.
"The language I have learned these forty years, My native English, now I must forego;
And now my tongue's use is to me no more
Than an unstringed viol or a harp,
Or like a cunning instrument cas'd up,
Or being open, put into his hands
That knows no touch to tune the harmony.
I am too old to fawn upon a nurse,
Too far in years to be a pupil now.”
How very beautiful is all this, and at the same time how very English too!
RICHARD II. may be considered as the first of that series of English historical plays, in which "is hung armour of the invincible knights of old," in which their hearts seem to strike against their coats of mail, where their blood tingles for the fight, and words are but the harbingers of blows. Of this state of accomplished barbarism the appeal of Bolingbroke and Mowbray is an admirable specimen. Another of these "keen encounters of their wits," which serve to whet the talkers' swords, is where Aumerle answers in the presence of Bolingbroke to the charge, which Bagot brings against him, of being an accessary in Gloster's death.
“Fitzwater. If that thy valour stand on sympathies,
Aumerle. Thou dar'st not, coward, live to see the day.
Aumerle. And if I do not, may my hands rot off,
Over the glittering helmet of my foe.
Who sets me else? By heav'n, I'll throw at all.
To answer twenty thousand such as you.
Surry. My lord Fitzwater, I remember well
The very time Aumerle and you did talk.
Fitzwater. My lord, 'tis true: you were in presence then :
And you can witness with me, this is true.
Surry. As false, by heav'n, as heav'n itself is true.
Fitzwater. Surry, thou liest.
Surry. Dishonourable boy,
That lie shall lye so heavy on my sword,
Till thou the lie-giver and that lie rest
In earth as quiet as thy father's skull.
In proof whereof, there is mine honour's pawn:
Fitzwater. How fondly dost thou spur a forward horse:
If I dare eat, or drink, or breathe, or live,
I dare meet Surry in a wilderness,
And spit upon him, whilst I say he lies,
To tie thee to thy strong correction.
As I do hope to thrive in this new world,
The truth is, that there is neither truth nor honour in all these noble persons: they answer words with words, as they do blows with blows, in mere selfdefence: nor have they any principle whatever but that of courage in maintaining any wrong they dare commit, or any falsehood which they find it useful to assert. How different were these noble knights and "barons bold" from their more refined descendants in the present day, who, instead of deciding questions of right by brute force, refer every thing to convenience, fashion, and good breeding! In point of any abstract love of truth or justice, they are just the same now that they were then.
The characters of old John of Gauut and of his brother York, uncles to the King, the one stern and foreboding, the other honest, good-natured, doing all for the best, and therefore doing nothing, are well kept up. The speech of the former, in praise of England, is one of the most eloquent that ever was penned. We should perhaps hardly be disposed to feed the pampered egotism of our countrymen by quoting this description, were it not that the conclusion of it (which looks prophetick) may qualify any improper degree of exultation.
"This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This fortress built by nature for herself
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's son';
Is now leas'd out (I die pronouncing it)
Like to a tenement or pelting farm.
The character of Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV., is drawn with a masterly hand-patient for occasion, and then steadily availing himself of it, seeing his advantage afar off, but only seizing on it when he has it within his reach, humble, crafty, bold and aspiring, encroaching by regular but slow degrees, building power on opinion, and cementing opinion by power. His disposition is first unfolded by Richard himself, who however is too self-willed and secure to make a proper use of his knowledge.
"Ourself and Bushy, Bagot here and Green,