who hold that Marlowe wrote the two Parts of the "Contention between the Houses of
York and Lancaster" the two old plays upon which they say Shakspere founded the
Second and Third Parts of "Henry VI." also hold that they were written before
Marlowe's " Edward II." Chalmers was the first to broach the theory of Marlowe's
authorship of these plays. Malone, as we have seen, propounded, with minute
circumstantiality, in his " Dissertation," how Greene " could not conceal his morti-
fication" that he and Peele had been robbed of their property by a "new upstart
writer." But Malone, in his " Chronological Order," arraigns the thief under an
entirely new indictment. Some circumstances, he says, which have lately struck
him, confirm an opinion that Marlowe was the author. And he then goes on to
produce " confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ." " A passage in his (Mar-
lowe's) historical drama of ' King Edward II.,' which Dr. Farmer has pointed out
to me since the ' Dissertation ' was printed, also inclines me to believe, with him,
that Marlowe was the author of one, if not both, of the old dramas on which Shak-
speare formed the two plays which in the first folio edition of his works are distin-
guished by "the titles of 'The Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.' " The
passage which produced this recantation of Malone's former opinion is that of the
two celebrated lines in the Second Part of the " Contention : "
" What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster
Sink in the ground ] I thought it would have mounted."
Mark the proof. "Marlowe, as Dr. Farmer observes to me, has the very same
phraseology in ' King Edward II. :'
" ' Scorning that the lowly earth
Should drink his blood, mounts up to the air.'
" And in the same play I have lately noticed another line in which we find the very
epithet here applied to the pious Lancastrian king :
" ' Frown'st thou thereat, aspiring Lancaster 9 ' "
The Rev. A. Dyce has adopted the same opinion. " To the first Part of the
* Contention ' and to ' The True Tragedy ' (second part), Greene may have contri-
buted his share ; so also may Lodge, and so may Peele have done ; but in both
pieces there are scenes characterised by a vigour of conception and expression, to
which, as their undisputed works demonstratively prove, neither Greene, nor Lodge,
nor Peele could possibly have risen. Surely, therefore, we have full warrant for
supposing that Marlowe was largely concerned in the composition of the first Part
of the ' Contention,' and the ' True Tragedy.' " *
The theory that Marlowe wrote one or both Parts of the " Contention " must
begin by assuming that his mind was so thoroughly disciplined at the period when
he produced " Tamburlaine," and " Faustus," and the " Jew of Malta," that he was
able to lay aside every element, whether of thought or expression, by which those
* " Some Account of Marlowe and his Writings."
CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 197
plays are characterised ; adopt essentially different principles for the dramatic
conduct of a story ; copy his characters from living and breathing models of actual
man ; come down from his pomp and extravagance of language, not to reject poetry,
but to ally poetry with familiar and natural thoughts ; and delineate crime, not with
the glaring and fantastic pencil that makes demons spout forth fire and blood in the
midst of thick darkness, but with a severe portraiture of men who walk in broad
daylight upon the common earth, rendering the ordinary passions of their fellows
pride, and envy, and ambition, and revenge most fearful, from their alliance with
stupendous intellect and unconquerable energy. This was what Marlowe must have
done before he could have conducted a single sustained scene of either Part of the
" Contention ; " before he could have depicted the fierce hatreds of Beaufort and
Gloster, the never-subdued ambition of Margaret and York, the patient suffering
amidst taunting friends and reviling enemies of Henry, and, above all, the courage,
the activity, the tenacity, the self-possession, the intellectual supremacy, and the
passionless ferocity, of Richard. In the " Tamburlaine," and " Jew," and " Faustus,"
events move on with no natural progression. In every scene there must be some-
thing to excite. We have no repose ; for, if striking situations are not presented,
we have the same exaggerations of thought, and the same extravagance of language.
What is intended to be familiar at once plunges into the opposite extravagance of
ribaldry ; and even the messengers and servants are made out of something different
from life. We have looked through Marlowe's plays those which are unquestionably
of an earlier date than his " Edward II." for a plain piece of narrative, such as might
contrast with the easy method with which Shakspere in general tells a story, and of
which the " Contention " furnishes abundant examples : but we have looked in vain.
On the other hand, innumerable passages may be found in Marlowe's "Edward II."
in which his peculiar characteristics continue to prevail, but associated with many
evidences of a really higher style of dramatic poetry. This is decisive, we think,
against Marlowe being the author of the "Contention." But it proves something
more ; it is evidence that he had become acquainted with another model, and that
model we hold to be the " Contention " itself. Here it stands, with a fixed date ;
in itself a model, we believe, if no other works of Shakspere can be proved to have
existed in, or close upon, the first half of the decad commencing in 1585. To show
the contrary it would be necessary to maintain that Marlowe's " Edward II." preceded
the " Contention ; " but upon this point no one has ever raised a doubt. All the
English authorities have left the " Contention " amidst the dust and rubbish of that
drama, which Marlowe first, and Shakspere afterwards, according to their theory, came
to inform with life and poetry. They have always proclaimed these dramas as old
plays rude plays things which Shakspere remodelled. We hold that they were
the things upon which Marlowe built his later style, whether as regards the dramatic
conduct of an action, the development of character, or the structure of the verse ;
and we hold that they were Shakspere's.
But there is one point which those who deny Shakspere the authorship of the
:wo Parts of the " Contention " altogether pass over. They know that the wonderful
comedy of the Jack Cade scenes of the second Part of " Henry VI." is, with scarcely
any change, to be found in the play which they say Shakspere did not write. But
according to the theory of Malone, and Collier, and Dyce, and Hunter, there was
' some author who preceded Shakspeare " who may justly claim the merit of having
riven birth in England to the very highest comedy not the mere comedy of
manners, not the comedy of imitation, but that comedy which, having its roots
mbedded in the most profound philosophy, is still as fresh as at the hour when it
was first written, and will endure through every change in the outward forms of
social life. For what is the comedy which is here before us, written, as it would
98 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III.
eem, by " some author who preceded Shakspeare 1 " Is it the comedy of Marlowe ?
r of Greene ? or of Peele ? or of the latter two 1 or of Lodge, who wrote in con-
unction with Greene ? or of Lyly ? or Kyd 1 or Nashe ? or is it to be traced
,o some anonymous author, such as he who produced " The Famous Victories 1 "
We are utterly at a loss where to assign the authorship of such comedy upon this
heory. We turn to the works of the authors who preceded Shakspere, and we find
abundance indeed of low buffoonery, but scarcely a spark of that universal wit and
mmour which, all things considered, is the very rarest amongst the gifts of genius.
Those who are familiar with the works of the earliest English dramatists will know
that our assertion is not made at random. We believe that the man, to use the
words of our valued friend, Mr. Craik, " who first informed our drama with true wit
and humour " was the only man of whose existence we have any record who could
lave written the Jack Cade scenes of the " Contention."
If Shakspere had done to these remarkable dramas what it is the fashion to assert
that he did, new-versify, new-model, transpose, amplify, improve, and polish, he
would still have been essentially a dishonest plagiarist. We have no hesitation in
stating our belief that the two Parts of the " Contention " are immeasurably supe-
rior, in the dramatic conduct of the story, the force and consistency of character,
the energy of language, yea, and even harmony of versification, to any dramatic pro-
duction whatever which existed in the year 1591. We hold that whoever obtained
possession, legally or otherwise, of the property of these productions (meaning by
property the purchased right of exhibiting them on the stage), and applied himself
to their amplification and improvement to the extent, and with the success, which is
represented, was, to say the best of him, a presumptuous and self-sufficient meddler.
We hold that it was utterly impossible that Shakspere should have set about such a
work at all, having any consciousness of his own original power. We further hold,
that the only consistent theory that can be maintained with regard to the amplifi-
cations and improvements upon the original work must be founded upon the belief
that the work in its first form was Shakspere's own. " He new-modelled," says
Malone. This is a phrase of large acceptation. We can understand how Shakspere
new-modelled the old " Taming of a Shrew," and the old " King John," by com-
pletely re- writing all the parts, adding some characters, rejecting others, rendering
the action at his pleasure more simple or more complex, expanding a short exclama-
tion into a long and brilliant dialogue, or condensing a whole scene into some expres-
sive speech or two. This, to our minds, is a sort of remodelling which Shakspere
did not disdain to try his hand upon. But the remodelling which consists in the
addition of lines here and there, -in the expansion of a sentiment already expressed,
in the substitution of a forcible line for a weak one, or a rhythmical line for one
less harmonious, in the change of an epithet or the inversion of two epithets,
and this without the slightest change in the dramatic conception of the original,
whether as to the action as a whole, or the progress of the action, or the charac-
terization as a whole, or the small details of character ; remodelling such as this,
to be called the work of Shakspere, and the only work upon which he exercised his
hand in these dramas, appears to us to assume that he stood in the same relation to
the original author of these pieces as the mechanic who chisels a statue does to the
artist who conceives and perfects -its design.
THE MIGHTY HEART.
[Funeral of Sydney.]
THE MIGHTY HEART
IN the spring of 1588, and through the summer also, we may well believe that
Shakspere abided in London. The course of public events was such that he would
scarcely have left the capital, even for a few weeks. For the hearts of all men in
the vast city were mightily stirred ; and whilst in that *' shop of war" might be
heard on every side the din of " anvils and hammers waking to fashion out the
plates and instruments of armed justice,"* the poet had his own work to do, in
urging forward the noble impulse through which the people, of whatever sect, or
whatever party, willed that they would be free. It was the year of the Armada.
* Milton : " Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing."
200 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY, [BOOK III.
When Shakspere first exchanged the quiet intercourse of his native town for the
fierce contests of opinion amongst the partisans of London he must have had fears
for his country. A conspiracy, the most daring and extensive, had burst out against
the life of the Queen ; and it was the more dangerous that the leaders of the plot
were high-minded enthusiasts, who mingled with their traitorous designs the most
chivalrous devotion to another Queen, a long-suffering prisoner. The horrible
cruelties that attended the execution of Babington and his accomplices aggravated
the pity which men felt that so much enthusiasm should have been lost to their
country. More astounding events were to follow. In a year of dearth the citizens
had banqueted, amidst bells and bonfires, in honour of the detection of Babington
and his followers ; and now, within three weeks of the feast of Christmas, the Lord
Mayor and Aldermen, assisted with divers earls, barons, and gentlemen of account,
and worshipful citizens " in coats of velvet and chains of gold, all on horseback, in
most solemn and stately manner, by sound of four trumpets, about ten of the clock
in the forenoon, made open and public proclamation and declaration of the sentence
lately given by the nobility against the Queen of Scots under the great seal of
England."* At the Cross in Cheap, or at the end of Chancery Lane, or at St.
Magnus' Corner near London Bridge, would the young sqjourner in this seat of
policy hear the proclamation ; and he would hear also the " great and wonderful
rejoicing of the people of all sorts, as manifestly appeared by ringing of bells, making
of bonfires, and singing of psalms in every of the streets and lanes of the City."t
But amidst this show of somewhat ferocious joy would he encounter gloomy and
fear-stricken faces. Men would not dare even to whisper their opinions, but it
would be manifest that the public heart was not wholly at ease. On the eighth of
February the Queen of Scots is executed. Within a week after London pours forth
its multitudes to witness a magnificent and a mournful pageant. The Queen has
taken upon herself the cost of the public funeral of Sir Philip Sydney. She has done
wisely in this. In honouring the memory of the most gallant arid accomplished of
her subjects, she diverts the popular mind from unquiet reflections to feelings in
which all can sympathise. Even the humblest of the people, who know little of the
poetical genius, the taste, the courtesy, the chivalrous bearing of this star of the
Court of Elizabeth, know that a young and brave man has fallen in the service of
his country. Some of his companions in arms have perhaps told the story of his
giving the cup of water, about to be lifted to his own parched lips, to the dying
soldier whose necessities were greater than his. And that story indeed would move
their tears, far more than all the gallant recollections of the tilt-yard. From the
Minorites at the eastern extremity of the City, to St. Paul's, there is a vast proces-
sion of authorities in solemn purple ; bnt more impressive is the long column of
" certain young men of the City, marching by three and three in black cassokins, with
their short pikes, halberds, and ensign trailing on the ground." There are in that
procession many of the " officers of his foot in the Low Countries," his " gentlemen
and yeomen-servants," and twelve "knights of his kindred and friends." One there
is amongst them upon whom all eyes are gazing Drake, the bold seaman, who has
carried the terror of the English .flag through every sea, and in a few months will be
" singeing the King of Spain's beard." The corpse of Sydney is borne by fourteen of
his yeomen ; and amongst the pall-bearers is one weeping manly tears, Fulke Greville,
upon whose own tomb was written as the climax of his honour that he was " friend
to Sir Philip Sydney." The uncle of the dead hero is there also, the proud, ambi-
tious, weak, and incapable Leicester, who has been kinging it as Governor-General of
the Low Coutries, without the courage to fight a battle, except that in which Sydney
was sacrificed. He has been recalled ; and is in some disfavour in the courtly circle,
* Stow's " Annals." f Ibid.
THE MIGHTY HEART.
although he tried to redeem his disgraces in the Netherlands by boldly counselling
the poisoning of the Queen of Scots. Shakspere may have looked upon the haughty
peer, and shuddered when he thought of the murderer of Edward Arden.*
Within a year of the burial of Sydney the popular temper had greatly changed.
It had gone forth to all lands that England was to be invaded. Philip of Spain
was preparing the greatest armament that the combined navies of Spain and Por-
tugal, of Naples and Sicily, of Genoa and Venice, could bear across the seas, to
crush the arch-heretic of England. Rome had blessed the enterprise. Prophecies
had been heard in divers languages, that the year 1588 "should be most fatal and
ominous unto all estates," and it was " now plainly discovered that England was the
main subject of that time's operation."t Yet England did not quail. " The whole
commonalty," says the annalist, " became of one heart and mind." The Council of
War demanded five thousand men and fifteen ships of the City of London. Two
[Camp at Tilbury.]
days were craved for answer ; and the City replied that ten thousand men and
thirty ships were at the sendee of their country.! In every field around the
capital were the citizens who had taken arms practising the usual points of war.
The Camp at Tilbury was formed. " It was a pleasant sight to behold the soldiers,
_ * See page 5-5. f Stow's " Annals."
: It has been said, in contradiction to the good old historian of London, that the City only gave
what the Council demanded ; 10,000 men were certainly levied in the twenty-five wards.
202 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III.
as they marched towards Tilbury, their cheerful countenances, courageous words
and gestures, dancing and leaping wheresoevor they came ; and in the camp their
most felicity was hope of fight with the enemy : where ofttimes divers rumours ran
of their foes approach, and that present battle would be given them ; then were
they joyful at such news, as if lusty giants were to run a race." There is another
description of an eager and confident army that may parallel this :
" All furnish'd, all in arms :
All plum'd, like estridgcs that with the wind
Bated, like eagles having lately bath'd ;
Glittering in golden coats, like images j
As full of spirit as the month of May,
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer :
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls." *
He who wrote this description had, we think, looked upon the patriot trainbands of
London in 1588. But, if we mistake not, he had given an impulse to the spirit
which had called forth this " strong and mighty preparation," in a voice as trumpet-
tongued as the proclamations of Elizabeth. The chronology of Shakspere's King
John is amongst the many doubtful points of his literary career. The authorship
of the " King John " in two Parts is equally doubtful. But if that be an older play
than Shakspere's and be not, as the Germans believe with some reason, written by
Shakspere himself, the drama which we receive as his is a work peculiarly fitted for
the year of the great Armada. The other play is full of matter that would have
offended the votaries of the old religion. This, in a wise spirit of toleration, attacks
no large classes of men excites no prejudices against friars and nuns, but vindicates
the independence of England against the interference of the papal authority, and
earnestly exhorts her to be true to herself. This was the spirit in which even the
undoubted adherents of the ancient forms of religion acted while England lay under
the ban of Rome in 1588. The passages in Shakspere's " King John " appear to us
to have even a more pregnant meaning, when they are connected with that stirring
" K. John. What earthly name to interrogatories
Can task the free breath of a sacred king 1
Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the pope.
Tell him this tale ; and from the mouth of England
Add thus much more, that no Italian priest
Shall tithe or toll in our dominions ;
But as we under Heaven are supreme head,
So under Him, that great supremacy,
Where we do reign, we will alone uphold,
Without the assistance of a mortal hand :
So tell the pope ; all reverence set apart,
To him, and his usurp'd authority.
K. Phil. Brother of England, you blaspheme in this.
K. John. Though you, and all the kings of Christendom,
Are led so grossly by this meddling priest,
Dreading the curse that money may buy out ;
And, by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,
Purchase corrupted pardon of a man,
Who, in that sale, sells pardon from himself;
Though you, and all the rest, so grossly led,
This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish ;
* " Henry IV.," Part I., Act iv., Scene i.
CHAP. IV,] THE MIGHTY HEART. 203
Yet I, alone, alone do me oppose
Against the pope, and count his friends my foes.
K. John. The legate of the pope hath been with me,
And I have made a happy peace with him ;
And he hath promis'd to dismiss the powers
Led by the dauphin.
Bast. inglorious league !
Shall we, upon the footing of our land,
Send fair-play orders, and make compromise,
Insinuation, parley, and base truce,
To arms invasive ?
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them : Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true."
The patriotism of Shakspere is less displayed in set speeches than in the whole
life of historical plays incident and character. Out of inferior writers might be
collected more laudatory sentences flattering to national pride; but his words are
bright uiid momentary as the spark which fires the mine. The feeling is in the
audience, and he causes it to burst out in shouts or tears. He learnt the manage-
ment of this power, we think, during the excitement of the great year of 1588.
The Armada is scattered. England's gallant sons have done their work ; the winds,
which a greater Power than that of sovereigns and councils holds in His hand,
have been let loose. The praise is to Him. Again a mighty procession is on the
way to St. Paul's. The banners taken from the Spanish ships are hung out on the
battlements of the cathedral ; and now, surrounded by all the nobles and mighty
men who have fought her battles, the Queen descends from her "chariot throne" to
make her " hearty prayers on her bended knees." Leicester, the favourite to whose
weak hand was nominally intrusted the command of the troops, has not lived to
see this triumph. But Essex, the new favourite, would be there ; and Hunsdon,
the General for the Queen. There too would be Raleigh, and Hawkins, and
Frobisher, and Drake, and Howard of Emngham one who forgot all distinctions of
sect in the common danger of his country. Well might the young poet thus apos-
trophize this country !
" This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-parndise ;
This fortress, built by Nature for herself,
Against infestion and the hand of war ;
This happy breed of men, this little world ;
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands ;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
But, glorious as was the contemplation of the attitude of England during the
year of the Armada, the very energy that had called forth this noble display
of patriotic spirit exhibited itself in domestic controversy when the pressure
204 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III.
from without was removed. The poet might then, indeed, qualify his former
" England ! model to thy inward greatness,
Like little body with a mighty heart,
What mightst thou do that honour would thee do,
Were all thy children kind and natural ! "
The same season that witnessed the utter destruction of the armament of Spain
saw London excited to the pitch of fury by polemical disputes. It was not now the
quarrel between Protestant and Romanist, but between the National Church and
Puritanism. The theatres, those new and powerful teachers, lent themselves to the
controversy. In some of these their license to entertain the people was abused by
the introduction of matters connected with religion and politics ; so that in 1589
Lord Burghley not only directed the Lord Mayor to inquire what companies of
players had offended, but a commission was appointed for the same purpose. How