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*KING HENRY VI. PART I. ] The hiftorical tranfa&ions contained in this play, take in the compafs of above thirty years. I muft obferve, however, that our author, in the three parts of Henry VI. has not been very precife to the date and difpofition of his facts; but fhuffled them, backwards and forwards, out of time. For inftance; the lord Talbot is kill'd at the end of the fourth act of this play, who in reality did not fall till the 13th of July, 1453: and The Second Part of Henry VI. opens with the marriage of the king, which was folemnized eight years before Talbot's death, in the year 1445: Again, in the second part, dame Eleanor Cobham is introduced to infult Queen Margaret; though her penance and banishment for forcery happened three years before that princefs came over to England. I could point out many other tranfgreffions against hiftory, as far as the order of time is concerned. Indeed, though there are feveral mafter-ftrokes in these three plays, which inconteftibly betray the workmanship of Shakspeare ; yet I am almoft doubtful, whether they were entirely of his writing. And unless they were wrote by him very early, I fhould rather imagine them to have been brought to him as a director of the ftage; and fo have received some finishing beauties at his hand. An accurate observer will easily fee, the diction of them is more obfolete, and the numbers more mean and profaical, than in the generality of his genuine compofitions.
Having given my opinion very fully relative to thefe plays at the end of the third part of King Henry VI. it is here only neceffary to apprize the reader what my hypothefis is, that he may be the better enabled, as he proceeds, to judge concerning its probability. Like many others, I was long ftruck with the many evident ShakSpearianifms in thefe plays, which appeared to me to carry fuch decifive weight, that I could fcarcely bring myfelf to examine with attention any of the arguments that have been urged against his being the author of them. I am now furprifed, (and my readers perhaps may say the same thing of themselves,) that I fhould never have adverted to a very ftriking circumftance which diftinguishes this first part from the other parts of King Henry VI. This circumftance is, that none of thefe Shakfperian paffages are to be found here, though feveral are fcattered through the two other parts. I am therefore decifively of opinion that this play was not written by Shakspeare. The reasons on which that opinion is founded, are ftated at large in the Differtation above referred to. But I would here requeft the reader to attend particularly to the verfification of this piece, of which almoft every line has a pause at the end,) which is fo different from that of Shakspeare's undoubted plays, and of the greater part of the two fucceeding pieces as altered by him, and fo exa&ly correfponds with that of
the tragedies written by others before and about the time of his first commencing author, that this alone might decide the queftion, without taking into the account the numerous claffical allufions which are found in this first part. The reader will be enabled to judge how far this argument deserves attention, from the feveral extracts from thofe ancient pieces which he will find in the Ellay on this fubje&.
With refped to the fecond and third parts of King Henry VI. or, as they were originally called, The Contention of the two famous Houfes of Yorke and Lancaster, they ftand, in my apprehenfion, on a very different ground from that of this firft part, or, as I believe it was anciently called, The Play of King Henry VI.—The Contention, &c. printed in two parts, in quarto, 1600, was, I conceive, the production of fome playwright who preceded, or was contem pórary with, Shakspeare; and out of that piece he formed the two plays which are now denominated the Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.; as, out of the old plays of King John and The Taming of a Shrew, he formed two other plays with the fame titles. For the reasons on which this opinion is formed, I muft again refer to my Effay on this fubject.
This old play of King Henry VI. now before us, or as our author's editors have called it, the first part of King Henry VI. I suppose, to have been written in 1589, or before. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. II. The difpofition of facts in these three plays, not always correfponding with the dates, which Mr. Theobald mentions, and the want of uniformity and confiftencyTM in the series of events exhibited, may perhaps be in fome measure accounted for by the hypothefis now ftated. As to our author's having accepted thefe pieces as a Director of the flage, he had, I fear, no pretenfion to fuch a fituation at fo early a period.
The chief argument on which the first paragraph of the foregoing note depends, is not, in my opinion, conclufive. This hiftorical play might have been one of our author's earliest dramatic efforts; and almost every young poet begins his career by imitation. Shakspeare, therefore, till he felt his own ftrength, perhaps fervilely conformed to the ftyle and manner of his predeceflors. Thus, the captive eaglet described by Rowe, a while endures his cage and chains.
"And like a prifoner with the clown remains:
"But when his plumes fhoot forth, his pinions swell,
"He quits the ruftic and his homely cell,
"Breaks from his bonds, and in the face of day
"Full in the fun's bright beams he foars away."
What further remarks I may offer on this fubje&t, will appear in the form of notes to Mr. Malone's Effay, from which I do not wan tonly differ, though hardily, I confefs, as far as my fentiments may feem to militate againft thofe of Dr. Farmer. STEEVENS.
King Henry the Sixth.
Duke of Glofter, uncle to the king, and Protector. Duke of Bedford, uncle to the king, and Regent of France. Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, great uncle to theking. Henry Beaufort, great uncle to the king, Bishop of Winchester, and afterwards Cardinal.
John Beaufort, Earl of Somerfet; afterwards Duke. Richard Plantagenet, eldeft fon of Richard late Earl of Cambridge; afterwards Duke of York.
Earl of Warwick. Earl of Salisbury. Earl of Suffolk.
Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March.
Mortimer's Keeper, and a Lawyer.
Sir John Faftolfe. Sir William Lucy.
Sir William Glanfdale. Sir Thomas Gargrave.
Baffet of the Red Rofe, or Lancaster faction.
An old Shepherd, father to Joan la Pucelle.
Countess of Auvergne.
Joan la Pucelle, commonly called, Joan of Arc. Fiends appearing to La Pucelle, Lords, Warders of the Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Meffengers, and feveral Attendants both on the English and French. SCENE, partly in England, and partly in France.
FIRST PART OF
ACT I. SCENE I.
Dead march. Corpfe of King Henry the Fifth dif covered, lying in ftate; attended on by the Dukes of BEDFORD, GLOSTER, and EXETER; the earl of WARWICK; the Bishop of Winchester, Heralds, &c.
BED. Hung be the heavens with black,3 yield day to night!
Comets, importing change of times and flates,
earl of Warwick; ] The Earl of Warwick who makes his appearance in the firft scene of this play is Richard Beauchamp, who is a character in King Henry V. The Earl who appears in the fubfequent part of it, is Richard Nevil, fon to the Earl of Salisbury, who became poffeffed of the title in right of his wife, Anne, fifter of Henry Beauchamp Duke of Warwick, on the death of Anne his only child in 1449. Richard, the father of this Henry, was appointed governor to the king, on the demife of Tomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, and died in 1439. There is no reason to think that the author meant to confound the two characters. RITSON.
3 Hung be the heavens with black,] Alluding to our ancient ftage-practice when a tragedy was to be expected. So, in Sidney's Arcadia, Book II: " There arofe, even with the funne, a vaile of darke cloudes before his face, which shortly had blacked over all the face of heaven, preparing (as it were) a mournfull ftage for a tragedie to be played on.' See alfo Mr. Malone's Hiftorical Account of the English Stage. STEEVENS.
4 Brandifh your cryftal treffes-] Crystal is an epithet repeatedly bestowed on comets by our ancient writers. So, in a Sonnet by Lord Sterline, 1604:
"When as thofe chryftal comets whiles appear."
And with them fcourge the bad revolting stars,
Spenfer, in his Faery Queen, Book I. c. x. applies it to a lady's face: "Like funny beams threw from her chryftal face,"
Again, in an ancient fong entitled The falling out of Lovers is the renewing of Love:
"You chryftal planets fhine all clear
"And light a lover's way."
"There is also a white comet with filver haires," fays Pliny,' as tranflated by P. Holland, 1601.
15 That have confented-] If this expreffion means no more than that the stars gave a bare confent, or agreed to let King Henry die, it does no great honour to its author. I believe to confent; in this inftance, means to act in concert. Concentus, Lat. Thus Erato the muse applauding the fong of Apollo. in Lyly's Midas, 1592, cries out: "O sweet confent!" i. e. sweet union of sounds, Again, in Spenfer's Faery Queen, B. IV. c. ii:
"Such mufick his wife words with time confented." Again, in his translation of Virgil's Culex:
"Chanted their fundry notes with fweet concent."
and in many other places. Confented, or as it fhould be fpelt, concented, means, have thrown themselves into a malignant configuration, to promote the death of Henry. Spenfer, in more than one inftance, fpells this word as it appears in the text of Shakspeare; as does Ben Jonfon, in his Epithalamion on Mr. Wefton. The following lines.
fhall we curfe the planets of mishap, "That plotted thus," &c.
feem to countenance my explanation; and Falftaff fays of Shallow's fervants, that " they flock together in confent, like fo many wild geefe." See alfo Tully de Natura Deorum, Lib. II. ch. xlvi: Nolo in fellarum ratione multus vobis videri, maximéque earum que errare dicuntur. Quarum tantus eft concentus ex diffimilibus motibus, &c.
Milton uses the word, and with the fame meaning, in his Penferofo:
"Whofe power hath a true confent
"With planet, or with element." STEEVENS.
Steevens is right in his explanation of the word confented. So, in The Knight of The Burning Peftle, the Merchant fays to Merry thought:
too late, I well perceive,
Thou art confenting to my daughter's lofs."