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PRELIMINARY REMARKS. This
H18 Tragedy, though called in the original edition «The Life and Death of King Richard the Third, comprises only fourteen years. The second scene commences with the funeral of King Henry VI. who is said to have been murdered on the 21st of May, 1471.
The imprisonnent of Clarenoe, which is represented previously in first scene, did not in fact take place till 1477-8.
Several dramas on the present story had been written before Shakspeare attempted it. There was a Latin play on the subject, by Dr. Legge, which had been acted at St. John's College, Oxford, some time before the year 1588. And a childish imitation of it, by one Henry Lacey, exists in MS. in the British Museum (MSS. Harl. No. 6926 ); it is dated 1586. In the books of the Stationers' Company are the following entries : - .Aug. 15, 1586, A Tragical Report of King Richard the Third: a ballad: June 19, 1594, Thomas Creede made the following entry: An enterlade, intitled the Tragedie of Richard the Third, wherein is shown the Deathe of Edward the Fourthe, with the Smotheringe of the Two Princes in the Tower, with the lamentable Ende of Shore's Wife, and the Coutention of the Two Houses of Laucaster and Yorke. A single copy of this ancient Interlude, which Mr. Boswell thinks was written: by the author of Locrine, unfortunately
wanting the title paremind a few lines 'at the beginning, was in the collection of Mr. Rhodes of Lyon's Inn, who liberally allowed Mr. Boswell to print it in the last Variorum edition of Shakspeare *. It appears evideptly to have been read and used by Shakepeare. In this, as in other instances, the bookseller was probably induced to publish the old play in copa, sequence of the success of the new one in performauce, and before it had yet got into print.
Shakspeare's play was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Oct. 20, 1597, by Andrew Wise; and was then published with the following
*A complete copy of Creed's edition of this curious Interlude (which upon comparison proved to be a different impression: from that in Mr.: Rhodes's collection), was sold by auction by Mr. Evans very lately. The tille was as follows:- The true 'Tragedie of Richard the Third, wherein is showne the death of Edward the Fourth, with the smothering of the two yoong Princes in the Tower : With a lamentable end of Shore's wife, an example for all wicked womer; and lastly, the conjunction of the two noble Houses Lancaster and Yorko, as it was playd by the Queenes Maiesties players, London, printed by Thomas Creedo; and are to be sold by William Barley at his shop in Newgate Market, neare Christ Church door, 1594 ; 4to.' It is a circumstance sufficiently remarkable that but a single copy of each of the two editions of this piece should be known to exist.
title : The Tragedy of King Richard the Third: Containing his treacherous Plots against his Brother Clarence ; the pitiful Murther of his innocent Nephewes; his tyrannical Usurpation: with the whole course of his detested Life, and most deserved Death. As it hath been lately acted by the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine bis servants. Printed by Valentine Sims, for William Wise, 1597. It was again reprinted, in 4to, iu 1598, 1602, 1612 or 1613, 1622, and twice in 1629.
This play was probably written in the year 1593 or 1594. One of Shakspeare's Richards, and most probably this, is alluded to in the Epigrams of John Weever*, published in 1599; but which must have been written in 1595.
AD GULIELMUM SHAKESPEARE.
27th Epig. 4th Weeke.
The character of Richard had been in part developed in the last parts of King Henry VI. where, Schlegel observes, his first speeches lead us already to form the most unfavourable prognosti. cations respecting him : he lowers obliquely like a thundercloud on the horizon, which gradually approaches nearer and nearer, and first pours out the elements of devastation with which it is charged when it hangs over the heads of mortals. • The other characters of the drama are of too secondary a nature to excite a powerful sympathy; but in the back ground the widowed Queen Margaret appears as the fury of the past, who calls forth the curse on the future : every calamity which her enemies draw down on each other is a cordial to her revengeful heart. Other female voices join from
to time in the lamentations and imprecations. But Richard
** This very curious 'little volume, which is supposed to be unique, is in the possession of Mr. Comb, of Henley. The title is as follows :-Epigrammes in the oldest Cut and newest Fashion. A twise seven Houres (in so many Weekes) Studie. No longer (like the Fashion) not unlike to continue. The first seven, John Weever. Sit voluisse sit valuisse. At London : printed by V. S. for Thomas Bushele; and are to be sold at his shop, at the great north doore of Paules. 1599. 19o.! There is a portrait of the author, engraved by Cecill, prefixed. According to the date upon this print Weever was then twenty-three years old; but he tells us in some introductory stavzas that when he wrote the Epigrams, which compose the volume, he was not twenty years old; that he was one
"That twenty twelvemonths yet did never know.'
Consequently those Epigrams must have been written in 2595.
is the soul, or rather the demon, of the whole tragedy, and fulfils the promise which he formerly made to
-- set the murderons Machiavel to school." Besides the uniform aversion with which he inspires as, he occupies us in the greatest variety of ways by his profound skill in dissimulation, his wit, his prudence, his presence of mind, his quick activity, and his valoar. He fights at last against Richmond like a desperado, and dies the honourable death of the hero on the field of battle.'— But Shakspeare bas satisfied our moral feelings • He shows os Richard in his last moments already branded with the stamp of reprobation. We see Richard and Richmond on the night before battle sleeping in their tents; the spirits of those murdered by the tyrant ascend in succession and pour out their curses against him, and their blessings on bis adversary. These apparitions are properly merely the dreams of the two generals made visible. It is no doubt contrary to sensible probability that their tents should only be separated by 80 small a space; but Sbakspeare could reckon on poelical spectators, who were ready to take the breadth of the stage for the distance between the two camps, if by such a favour they were to be recompensed by beauties of so sublime a nature as this series of spectres, and the soliloquy of Richard on his awaking*.?
Steevens in part of a note, which I have thought best to omit, observed that the favour with which the tragedy has been received on the stage in modern times 'must in some measure be imputed
of ' long for representation, and there were parts which might with advantage have been omitted in representation as dramatic encumbrances ; ' bat such a piece of clumsy patchwork as the performance of Cibber was surely any thing but judicious ;' and it is only surprising that the taste which has led to other reformations in the performance of our great dramatic poet's works, has not given to the stage a jndicious abridgment of this tragedy in his own words, unencumbered with the superfluous transpositions and gratuitous additions which have been so long inflicted upon us.
* Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Literature,', vol. ii. p. 246.
KING EDWARD THE FOURTH.
Sons to the King.
LOVEL. SiR THOMAS VAUGHAN. SIR RICHARD RATCLIFF. SIR WILLIAM CATESBY. SIR JAMES TYRREL. SIR JAMES BLOUNT. SIB WALTER HERBERT. Sir ROBERT BRAKENBURY, Lieutenant of the Tower. CHRISTOPHER URSWICK, a Priest. Another Priest. Lord Mayor of London. Sheriff of Wiltshire. ELIZABETH, Queen of King Edward IV. MARGARET, Widow of King Henry VI. Duchess of YORK, Mother to King Edward IV., Clarence,
and Gloster. LADY ANNE, Widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, Son to
King Henry VI.; afterwards married to the Duke of
Gloster. A young Daughter of Clarence. Lords, and other Attendants, two Gentlemen, a Pursui
vant, Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Ghosts, Soldiers, &c.