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O war, thou son of hell,
King Henry VI., Part II., v. 2.
King Richard III., v. 3. Both in Scripture, and in Shakspere, the sword is supposed to be, in the time of peace, as it were sleeping in its scabbard, and to awake at the noisy din of war. In the Bible, we read of the sword that devoureth : 4 and the same forcible metaphor is used by our Poet when he says that
Hungry war opens his vasty jaws.—King Henry V., ii. 4. But it is needless to multiply examples to show the correspondence of Shakspere's language with that of the Inspired Writings, on every circumstance connected with War and Peace. The self-same images are constantly employed, and they are employed because no others could be used with equal force and appropriateness.
It is gratifying to observe that not only on the subjects already mentioned, but also on the profoundest mysteries of our Holy Religion, a like correspondence between Holy Scripture and Shakspere is clearly discernible. Our Poet tells us of
That dread King, that took our state upon Him
King Henry VI., Part II., iij. 2.
1 1 Kings, xx. 11. ? 1 Chronicles, xxix. 11. 3 Zechariah, xiii. 7. 4 2 Samuel, xi. 25.
5 Romans, v. 9.
King Richard III., i. 4. Allusions are found in his writings to the “ sepulchre of Christ;" to the “holy fields of Palestine over whose acres walked those blessed feet which were nail'd for our redemption to the bitter cross” 2_Henry IV., Part I., i. 1; of “ the death of Him that died for all.”—King Henry VI., Part II., i. 1.
We find there also such passages as the following, whose resemblance to Holy Scripture we need scarcely more than mention:
If ever I were traitor, My name be blotted from the book of life.—King Richard II., i. 3. Cf. Philippians, iv. 3; Revelation, xxii. 19. With Cain go wander through the shade of night.3
King Richard II., v. 6. We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there's no labouring in the winter. King Lear, ii. 4.
We read there of “ blood,” which,
Like sacrificing Abel's, cries, Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth.5—Richard II., i. 1.
Ignorance is the curse of God,
King Henry VI., Part II., iv. 7. Again :
God shall be my hope, 8
1 Mark, xiv. 24. 2 Mark, vi. 6. 3 Genesis, iv. 12, 16.
4 Proverbs, xxx. 25. 5 Genesis, iv.; Hebrews, xii. 24. 6 Proverbs, xix. 2. 7 Genesis, iii. 5. 8 Psalm lxxi. 5. 9 Psalm xviii. 18. 10 Psalm xlviii. 14. 11 Psalm cxix. 105.
Now God be praised! that to believing souls
We are there told, of “ Wisdom crying out in the streets and no man regarding it,”3_Henry IV., Part I., i. 2; of “ Heaven the widow's champion and defence,” — King Richard II., i. 1; “A widow cries Be husband to me Heavens,”—King John, iii. 1, in exact accordance with God's consoling assurance, by the mouth of Isaiah, “ Thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name;"4 but on this subject I shall say no more in this place.
The will of Heaven
O God, thy arm was here,
The duty which is so often imposed upon us in the Bible, of “examining our own selves,” is echoed in the words of Shakspere.-As You Like It, iii. 2:
I will chide no breather in the world, but myself against whom I know most faults.
Though some of you, like Pilate, wash your hands
1 2 Samuel, xxii. 29; 2 Corinthians, vii. 6.
2 1 Corinthians, x. 13.
Confess yourselves to heaven,
In dreadful trial of our kingdom's king.–King John, ii. 1.
Again ; as a sort of commentary on the mote and the beam, mentioned by our Blessed Lord, 4 Shakspere says:
Go to your bosom;
King Henry VI., Part II., iv. 4.
Again : “in the managing of quarrels you may see he is wise ; for either he avoids them with great discretion, or undertakes them with a Christian-like fear. 6—Much Ado about Nothing, ii. 3.
In Shakspere we read of “Slander's venom spear,"7– King Richard II., i. 1; and of one of whom it is said, “ Is he a lamb? his skin is surely lent him, For he's inclined as is the ravenous wolf," —King Henry VI., Part II., iii. 1; and of a “ tongue more poisonous than an adder's tooth,"9
-King Henry VI., Part III., i. 4 ; of one who “could smile and murder while he smiled,"10_iii. 2; “the words
2 Isaiah, i. 16, 17. 3 Matthew, xxiii. 37.
1 Matthew, xix. 24.
4 Matthew, vii. 3. 5 Proverbs, xxviii. 1; Nehemiah, vi. 11; Proverbs, xxviii. 1. 6 Proverbs, xvii. 14. 7 Proverbs, x. 18; Ecclus., xxviii. 18, 19. 8 Matthew, vii. 15. 9 Psalm cxi. 3. 10 Matthew, xxvi. 49.
of whose mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart : his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.”?
In another place we discover a manifest allusion to the Parable of the Tares of the Field : 2
His foes are so enrooted with his friends,
Henry IV., Part II., q. 1.
Again; the scriptural allusions in the following passages are evident:
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose ;4
Merchant of Venice, i. 3.
Our thoughts here turn instinctively to the whited sepulchres, (mentioned by our Lord,) fair to look upon, but full of rottenness and corruption. What again can be more scriptural than this?
You have too much respect upon the world;
Merchant of Venice, i. 1.
Truth will come to light.7—Merchant of Venice, ii. 2.
To do a great right do a little wrong,
How strictly in accordance with Scripture is the expression in Shakspere, “the muddy vesture of decay,'8 as
i Psalm lv. 21. 2 Matthew, xiii, 25. 3 Matthew, xiii. 29. 4 Matthew, iv. 6. 5 Deuteronomy, xxxii. 32. 6 Matthew, xxüi, 27. 7 Numbers, xxxii. 23.
82 Corinthians, v. 1, &c.