[ocr errors]


warhers te best seen, if the a certaines o irmation about it le simily enumerated, in terrier orace

I. Ir. TET 1597. Rzegh writes to Cecil that the [:: 0 Ever as "wonderful nery Cecis Oscii of firie S 2:1," ]

II. I. 1597. Andrew Wye en:er sationers' Hall his copyright in Shakespeare's “ Ini setet Archritte Scane;" and presently afterwars published (without the author's name) an edition of it. printed ly Valentine Sunmes.

III. Early in 1598, Andrew Wyse entered and rullished a new edition, with the author's nama, ar from the press of the same printer. Veither of these printed editions contains what is called the --Deposi tion Scene." But there is ample reason to believe that the omitt«d scene was performed, though not printe!

Il. Between July 1597 and February 1601, several rew plays by Shakespeare,—and many other res plays, of course, by other authors, --were produce i and repeatedly performed in London.!

P. On the 7th February, 1601, Sir Gilly Meyrickone of the most conspicuous partisans and personal followers of the Earl of Essex, as well as an officer of his household-desired the players of Shakespeare's company to perform “the Play of the Depositiene King Richard the Second." Augustyne Phillips, one of that company, objected to the choice, “holding," as he afterwards told the Lords of the Council, on his oath, " that play to be so old and so long out o: yous, that they should have small or no cumpany at yt." S Whereupon, to remove the objection, Meyrick

[ocr errors][merged small]

1 Letter LXXI. hereafter. 2 Register of Stationers Company, under A.D. 1597. 3 Ibid., under A.D. 1598. 4 Annals of the English Stage, 1597.1601. 0 Domestic Corresp. : Eliz. 1601. (Unnumbered Papers. Rolls Houses


gave the players forty shillings; and the play was performed. There is no evidence that Essex saw it; NOTE TO although he was charged by the Crown lawyers-after LETTER

LXXI. their manner--with having feasted his eyes, by way of

1597. foretaste, on the show of that which he hoped afterwards to execute-the deposition of his sovereign.?

Can the merry “conceit of Richard the Second," of this letter written by Sir W. Ralegh in July 1597, refer to the tragedy known to have been about that very time in course of performance at the Globe Theatre in London? If it probably does so refer, What passage or incident in the Play can, at that date, have turned Cecil's thoughts towards the Earl of Essex ? As we all know, 'King Richard the Second' abounds in passages which glorify the “anointing balm," and denounce the hands that impiously dare to "gripe the sacred handle of the sceptre." Yet Shakespeare's deposition scene' was never printed, so long as Queen Elizabeth lived. It appeared first, in print, in the Edition of 1608. And finally, To what performance was it that the Queen herself alluded, when, in her curious conversation about the Pandects of the Records, with William Lambarde, on the 4th of August, 1601, she suddenly startled him, by exclaiming-" I am Richard the Second, know you not that?" and was answered : “Such a wicked imagination was, indeed, attempted by a most unkind gentleman, the most adorned creature that ever your Majesty made;"—the Queen herself presently adding :-" That tragedy was played forty times in open streets and houses.” 3

These questions are more easily asked than satisfactorily answered. But it becomes obvious that the supposition of the performance-in 1601—of "an old play" called 'Richard the Second,' now totally unknown, leaves at least as many difficulties


Domestic Corresp. : Eliz. 1601. (Unnumbered Papers. Rolls House.) : Ibid. ; and Trial of the Earl of Essex, Appendix, 3 MS. Addit. 15664, fol. 226. (British Museum.)



as it removes. There are in Shakespeare's play incidental passages--as, for example, that famous passage in which the Duke of Hereford is depicted as “wooing poor craftsmen with the craft of smiles "—which bring Essex to the reader's mind irresistibly, without any reference whatever to the Veyrick incident of 1601. Shakespeare might well have painted that whole passage from the life, and have had the Earl of Essex as his sitter. That Cecil's application of some passage or other-either in a play or in a book, entitled 'Richard the Second,' and recently seen or read, -to the Earl can (in 1597) have conveyed no serious imputation of disloralty, is just as certain as it is that Ralegh's anticipation, in our present letter, of “the better progression ” of the Queen's affairs was pointed at the recent union-or apparent union-of Essex and Cecil, which had been brought about by his own efforts and agency. The same post that on the 6th of July carried this letter from Weymouth to Sir Robert Cecil at Court, carried one from the Earl to the Queen (written at the same place, on the same day), in which he expresses his loyal devotion to her service, in terms that seem to bear the stamp of sincerity.

The prosperity of a jest is said to lie in the receptive ear. It is quite as true that the perception, or apprehension, of public harm in a play has many times lain entirely in the sudden application, by an eager audience, of some striking phrase or passage to some passing incident which had recently excited public feeling. And it has sometimes happened that the author has been not the least surprised observer of the uproar. If evidence should hereafter be discovered that a Play, the performance of which was thought entirely harmless in 1597, awakened royal anger in 1601; the inconsistency will be a fact much less surprising than would be the proof,-if it be ever adduced, that the friends of the Earl of Southampton, as well as of the Earl of Essex, applied to Shakespeare's company to perform, at the Globe Theatre, a Play of King Richard the Second,' which was not his ;—which was able to


keep the stage against his ;—and of which every line has now disappeared. Thus far, however, such a belief has been an act of faith with Shakespeare's editors—from the days of LETTER Theobald down to our own.





From the Original. Domestic Correspondence: Elizabeth. (Unarranged

Papers.) Holograph. Without date of year. (Rolls House.)


July 6.

In this hast and confusion of bussneses amonge so many wantes and so great hast, I hope you will pardon mee if I write litell, and that confusedly. Wee have all

1597. written for supply. I beseich yow to further it, or to

To Sir R. looke for nothing att our hands; for the tyme, together Cecil. with the multitude of mens boddes [?], hath such an Wey

mouth. advantage over us, as wee shall not be abell to retch the place of our greatest hope.


tions for I acquaynted the Lord Generall ? with your letter to Island

Voyage. mee, and your kynd acceptance of your enterteyne- Richard mente; hee was also wonderfull merry, att your consait

Second." of Richard the Second.' 3 I hope it shall never alter, and whereof I shall be most gladd of, as the trew way to all our good, quiett, and advancement, and most of all for Her sake whose affaires shall thereby fynd better


1 The Earl of Essex.

• Essex and Ralegh had recently visited London, in company, and had been "entertained" by Cecil. Had they also diverted their minds by a visit, in company, to the Globe Theatre ?

a See, in addition to the Prefatory Note on this Letter, a passage in

Vol. I. p. 293.

[ocr errors][merged small]

progression. Sir, I will ever be yours; it is all I can saye, and I will performe it with my life, and with niy fortune.

11. RALFGH. Teymouth, the 6 of July (1597).

Adriressed :
T th: right kinevahe: Sir ROBERT CECILL, A-ht, Prink..?!

Serritory to Hir Vajista'.



From the Original. Domestic Correspondine: Elizabeth. (trarranger!

Papers.) Without date of year. Rolls House.)

*** It appears by passages in a letter from the Earl of Essex to Sir Robert Cecil, of the 23rd July, 1397, and in Cecil's reply to that letter, dated 26th July; that a third letter was written by Sir Walter Raleyh, intermediately beiween these despatches of the 18th and 20th July ; which third letter is not now known to exist.

The Earl says : “Me wonder We have not a word from you. Sir Walter Ralegh wrote on Monday and Tuesdır!', and I sent Sir Thomas Gates on Wednesday," ? &c. Cecil answers : " For good Mr. Rakgh, I who wonders at his own diligence (because diligence and he are not familiars”), it is true that on Wednesday night, I being

Domestic Correspondence: Elizabeth, as above. (Rolls House.) 9 This expression has been elaborately commented upon, as if written by Cécil in the way of grave censure.

The context shows that it is said ironically. Readers of this volume will not lack proof that Ralegh's diligence” in writing was not less conspicuous than his energy in action ; and must, occasionally, have been a little embarrassing to a much-womed Secretary of State. In the course- -for example--of one May day, in the year inmediately preceding, Sir Robert Cecil had been favoured with four letters from Rulegh.

« ForrigeFortsett »