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ability was made to him by Tennyson; confirmd by Browning, and supported by such able critics as Professor Ingram and Professor Dowden. On the general question, Mr. Spedding observes :- The effect of this play as a whole is weak and disappointing. The truth is that the interest, instead of rising towards the end, falls away utterly, and leaves us in the last act among persons whom we scarcely know, and events for which we do not care. The strongest sympathies which have been awakend in us run opposite to the course of the action. Our sympathy is for the grief and goodness of Queen Katharine, while the course of the action requires us to entertain as a theme of joy and compensatory satisfaction the coronation of Anne Bullen and the birth of her daughter; which are in fact a part of Katharine's injury, and amount to little less than the ultimate triumph of wrong. For throughout, the king's cause is not only felt by us, but represented to us, as a bad one. We hear, indeed, of conscientious scruples as to the legality of his first marriage ;? but we are not made, nor said the triple endings were double ones, I had to quote in The Academy of Jauuary 29, 1876, all the instances in Shakspere and Milton for the use of one he had brought forward, ignorance; and
course showd that Shakspere used word 24 times as a trisyllable to 4 times as a dissyllable, while Milton used it always as & trisyllable, and had himself by anticipation answerd Mr. Swin. burne's assertion, saying, by his last use of it, that it was not dissyllable, "Though so l esteemd | by shal | low ig | norance !. (Comus, 514.) I believe that the student will be able to match, out of the Fletcher part of Henry VIII., nearly every metrical characteristic of that author, of which examples are given by Darley in his Preface to Beaumont and Fletcher's Works. Instances of the heavy 11th syllable 1 pointed out in my first Academy letter. See also my later Academy letters, June 26, July 10, 1880, and New Shaks. Soc. Trans., 1881.
1 The length at which they are uttered, the scrupulous care taken in reiterating them and making them thoroughly understood, are enough to excite our suspicions regarding them.-M.
indeed askt, to believe that they are sincere, or to recognise in his new marriage either the hand of Providence, or the consummation of any worthy object, or the victory of any of those more common frailties of humanity with which we can sympathise. The mere caprice of passion drives the king into the commission of what seems a great iniquity ; our compassion for the victim of it is elaborately excited ; no attempt is made to awaken any counter-sympathy for him ; yet his passion has its way, and is crownd with all felicity, present and to come. The effect is much like that which would have been produced by The Winter's Tale if Hermione had died in the fourth Act in consequence of the jealous tyranny of Leontes, and the play had ended with the coronation of a new queen and the christening of a new heir, no period of remorse intervening. It is as if Nathan's rebuke to David had ended, not with the doom of death to the child just born, but with a prophetic promise of the felicities of Solomon.
This main defect is sufficient of itself to mar the effect of the play as a whole. But there is another, which though less vital is not less unaccountable. The greater part of the fifth Act, in which the interest ought to be gathering to a head, is occupied with matters in which we have not been prepared to take any interest by what went before, and on which no interest is reflected by what comes after. The scenes in the gallery and council-chamber, though full of life and vigour, and, in point of execution, not unworthy of Shakspere, are utterly irrelevant to the business of the play; for what have we to do with the quarrel between Gardiner and Cranmer? Nothing in the play is explaind by it, nothing depends upon it. It is used only (so far as the argument is concernd) as à preface for introducing Cranmer as godfather to Queen Elizabeth, which might have been done as a matter of course without any preface at all. The scenes themselves are indeed both picturesque and characteristic and historical, and might probably have been introduced with excellent effect into a dramatised life of Henry VIII. But historically they do not belong to the place where they are introduced here, and poetically they have in this place no value, but the reverse.
With the fate of Wolsey, again, in whom our second interest centres, the business of this last Act does not connect itself any more than with that of Queen Katharine. The fate of Wolsey would have made a noble subject for a tragedy in itself, and might very well have been combined with the tragedy of Katharine ; but, as an introduction to the festive solemnity with which the play concludes, the one seems to be as inappropriate as the other.
“I know no other play in Shakspere which is chargeable with a fault like this, none in which the moral sympathy of the spectator is not carried along with the main current of action to the end. In all the historical tragedies a Providence may be seen presiding over the development of events, as just and relentless as the fate in a Greek tragedy. Even in Henry IV., where the comic element predominates, we are never allowd to exult in the success of the wrong-doer, or to forget the penalties which are due
to guilt. And if it be true that in the romantic comedies our moral sense does sometimes suffer a passing shock, it is never owing to an error in the general design, but always to some incongruous circumstance in the original story which has lain in the way and not been entirely got rid of, and which after all offends us rather as an incident improbable in itself than as one for which our sympathy is unjustly demanded. The singularity of Henry VIII, is that, while fourfifths of the play are occupied in matters which are to make us incapable of mirth,–
• Be sad, as we would make ye: think ye see
A man may weep upon his wedding day the remaining fifth is devoted entirely to joy and triumph, and ends with a scene of universal festivity :
This day, no man think
This little one shall make it holiday.' “Of this strange inconsistency, or at least of a certain poorness in the general effect which is amply accounted for by such inconsistency, I had for some time been vaguely conscious ; and I had also heard it casually remarked by a man of first-rate judgment on such a point [Tennyson) that many passages in Henry VIII. were very much in the manner of Fletcher ;
when I happened to take up a book of extracts, and
“Was it possible to believe that these lines were written by Shaks pere? I had often amused myself with attempting to trace the gradual change of his versification from the simple monotonous cadence of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, to the careless felicities of The Winter's Tale and Cymbeline, of which it seemed as impossible to analyse the law, as not to feel the melody; but I could find no stage in that progress to which it seemed possible to refer these lines. I determined upon this to read the play through with an eye to this especial point, and see whether any solution of the mystery would present itself. The result of my examination was a clear conviction that at least two different hands had been employed in the composition of Henry VIII. ; if not three ; and that they had worked, not together, but alternately upon distinct portions of it.
" This is a conclusion which cannot of course be establisht by detacht extracts, which in questions of