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FAULCONBRIDGE AND HENRY V.
Faulconbridge is an admirable embodiment of the patriotic sentiment in its most attractive guise. He is a manly soldier, blunt in speech, contemning subterfuge, chafing against the dictates of political expediency, and believing that quarrels between nations which cannot be accommodated without loss of selfrespect on the one side or the other, had better be fought out in resolute and honourable war. He is the sworn foe of the bully or the braggart. Cruelty is hateful to him. The patriotic instinct nurtures in him a warm and generous humanity. His faith in the future of his nation depends on the confident hope that she will be true to herself, to her traditions, to her responsibilities, to the great virtues; that she will be at once courageous and magnanimous:—
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
Faulconbridge's patriotism is a vivacious spur to good endeavour in every relation of life.
Henry V. is drawn by Shakespeare at fuller length than Faulconbridge. His character is cast in a larger mould. But his patriotism is of the same spirited, wholesome type. Though Henry is a born soldier, he discourages insolent aggression or reckless displays of prowess in fight. With greater emphasis than his archbishops and bishops he insists that his country's sword should not be unsheathed except at the bidding of right and conscience. At the same time, he is terrible in resolution when the time comes for striking blows. War, when it is once invoked, must be pursued with all possible force and fury:
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
But when the blast of war blows in his ears,
But although Henry's patriotic instinct can drive him into battle, it keeps him faithful there to the paths of humanity. Always alive to the horrors of war, he sternly forbids looting or even the use of insulting language to the enemy. It is only when a defeated enemy declines to acknowledge the obvious ruin of his fortunes that a sane and practical patriotism defends resort on the part of the conqueror to the grimmest measure of severity. The healthy instinct stiffens the grip on the justly won fruits of victory. As soon as Henry V. sees that the French wilfully deny the plain fact of their overthrow, he is moved, quite consistently, to exclaim:
What is it then to me if impious war,
Arrayed in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do with his smirched complexion all fell feats,
The context makes it clear that there is no confusion here between the patriotic instinct and mere bellicose ecstasy.
The confusion of patriotism with militant aggressiveness is as familiar to the Shakespearean drama as to the external world; but it is always exhibited by Shakespeare in its proper colours. The Shakespearean "mob," unwashed in mind and body, 1 On this point the Shakespearean oracle always speaks with a decisive and practical note:
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
—Hamlet, I., iii., 65–7.
BELLICOSE ECSTASY OF
habitually yields to it, and justifies itself by a speciousness of argument against which a clean vision rebels. The so-called patriotism which seeks expression in war for its own sake is alone intelligible to Shakespeare's pavement orators. "Let me have war, say I," exclaims the professedly patriotic spokesman of the ill-conditioned proletariat in Coriolanus; "it exceeds peace as far as day does night; it's spritely, waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible. Ay, and it makes men hate one another." For this distressing result of peace, the reason is given that in times of peace men have less need of one another than in seasons of war, and the crude argument closes with the cry: "The wars for my money.' There is irony in this suggestion of the mercantile value of war on the lips of a spokesman of paupers. It is solely the impulsive mindless patriot who strains ( after mere military glory.
Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.
-1 Henry VI., I., ii., 133–5.
No wise man vaunts in the name of patriotism his own nation's superiority over another. The typical patriot, Henry V., once makes the common boast that one Englishman is equal to three Frenchmen, but he apologises for the brag as soon as it is out of his mouth. (He fears the air of France has demoralised him.)
Elsewhere Shakespeare utters a vivacious warning against the patriot's exclusive claim for his country of natural advantages, which all the world shares substantially alike.
Hath Britain all the sun that shines? Day, night,
In a great pool, a swan's nest: pr'ythee, think
It is not the wild hunger for war, but the stable interests of peace that are finally subserved in the Shakespearean world by true and well-regulated patriotism. Henry V., the play of Shakespeare which shows the genuine patriotic instinct in its most energetic guise, ends with a powerful appeal to France and England, traditional foes, to cherish "neighbourhood and Christianlike accord," so that never again should "war advance his bleeding sword 'twixt England and fair France."
However whole-heartedly Shakespeare rebukes the excesses and illogical pretensions to which the lack of moral or intellectual discipline exposes patriotism, he reserves his austerest censure for the disavowal of the patriotic instinct altogether. One of the greatest of his plays is practically a diagnosis of the perils which follow in the train of a wilful abnegation of the normal instinct. In Coriolanus Shakespeare depicts the career of a man who thinks that he can, by virtue of inordinate self-confidence and belief in his personal superiority over the rest of his countrymen, safely abjure and defy the common patriotic instinct, which, after all, keeps the State in being. "I'll never," says Coriolanus,
Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand
And knew no other kin.2
Coriolanus deliberately suppresses the patriotic instinct, and, with greater consistency than others who 1 Cymbeline, III., iv., 139–43. 2 Coriolanus, V., iii., 34–7.
have at times followed his example, joins the fighting ranks of his country's enemies by way of illustrating his sincerity. His action proves to be in conflict with the elementary condition of social equilibrium. The subversion of the natural instinct is brought to the logical issues of sin and death. Domestic ties are rudely severed. The crime of treason is risked with an insolence that is fatal to the transgressor. With relentless logic does the Shakespearean drama condemn defiance of the natural instinct of patriotism.
It does not, however, follow that the patriotic instinct of the Shakespearean gospel encourages blind adoration of state or country. Intelligent citizens of the Shakespearean world are never prohibited from honestly criticising the acts or aspirations of their fellows, and from seeking to change them when they honestly think they can be changed for the better. It is not the business of a discerning patriot to sing pæans in his nation's honour. His final aim is to help his country to realise the highest ideals of social and political conduct which are known to him, and to ensure for her the best possible "reputation through the world." Criticism conceived in a patriotic spirit should be constant and unflagging. The true patriot speaks out as boldly when he thinks the nation errs as when, in his opinion, she adds new laurels to her crown. The Shakespearean patriot' applies a rigorous judgment to all conditions of his environment-both social and political.
Throughout the English history plays, Shakespeare bears convincing testimony to the right, and