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serves attention, from the several extracts from those ancient pieces which he will find in the Essay on this subject.
With respect to the second and third parts of King Henry VI, or, as they were originally called, The Contention of the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, they stand, in my apprehension, on a very different ground from that of this first 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 some playwright who preceded, or was contemporary 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 the Shrew, he formed two other plays with the same titles. For the reasons on which this opinion is formed, I must again refer to my Essay on this subject.
This old play of King Henry 14, 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 1539, or before. The disposition of facts in these three plays, not always corresponding with the dates, which Mr. Theobald mentions, and the want of uniformity and consistency in the series of events exhibited, may perhaps be in some measure accounted for by the hypothesis now stated. As to our author's having accepted these pieces as a Director of the stage, he had, I fear, no pretension to such a situation at so early a period. Malone.
The chief argument on which the first paragraph of the foregoing note depends, is not, in my opinion, conclusive. This his torical 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 strength, perhaps servilely conformed to the style and manner of his predecessors. Thus, the captive eaglet described by Rowe:
❝ a while endures his cage and chains,
King Henry the Sixth.
Duke of Gloster, 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 the king. Henry Beaufort, great uncle to the king, bishop of Winchester, and afterwards cardinal.
John Beaufort, earl of Somerset; afterwards duke. Richard Plantagenet, eldest son of Richard late earl of Cambridge; afterwards duke of York.
Earl of Warwick. Earl of Salisbury. Earl of Suffolk. Lord Talbot, afterwards earl of Shrewsbury:
John Talbot, his son.
Edmund Mortimer, earl of March.
Mortimer's keeper, and a lawyer.
Sir John Fastolfe. Sir William Lucy.
Sir William Glansdale.
Sir Thomas Gargrave.
Mayor of London. Woodville, lieutenant of the Tower. Vernon, of the white rose, or York faction.
Basset, of the red rose, or Lancaster faction.
Charles, dauphin, and afterwards king of France.
Reignier, duke of Anjou, and titular king of Naples.
Governor of Paris. Bastard of Orleans.
An old shepherd, father to Joan la Pucelle.
Margaret, daughter to Reignier; afterwards married to King Henry.
Countess of Auvergne.
Joan la Pucelle, commonly called Joan of Arc.
Fiends appearing to La Pucelle, lords, warders of the Tower, heralds, officers, soldiers, messengers, and several attendants both on the English and French.
SCENE, partly in England, and partly in France.
KING HENRY VI.
ACT I.....SCENE I.
Dead march. Corpse of King Henry the Fifth discovered, lying in state; attended on by the Dukes of BEDFORD, GLOSTER, and EXETER; the Earl of WARWICK,1 the Bishop of Winchester, Heralds, &c.
Bed. Hung be the heavens with black,2 yield day to night!
Comets, importing change of times and states,
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars,
Earl of Warwick,] The Earl of Warwick who makes his appearance in the first scene of this play is Richard Beauchamp, who is a character in King Henry V. The Earl who appears in the subsequent part of it, is Richard Nevil, son to the Earl of Salisbury, who became possessed of the title in right of his wife, Anne, sister 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 demise of Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, and died in 1439. There is no reason to think that the author meant to confound the two characters. Ritson.
2 Hung be the heavens with black,] Alluding to our ancient stagepractice when a tragedy was to be expected. So, in Sidney's Arcadia, Book II: "There arose, even with the sunne, a vaile of darke cloudes before his face, which shortly had blacked over all the face of heaven, preparing (as it were) a mournfull stage for a tragedie to be played on." See also Mr. Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage. Steevens.
3 Brandish your crystal tresses -] Crystal is an epithet repeatedly bestowed on comets by our ancient writers. So, in a Sonnet, by Lord Sterline, 1604:
"When as those chrystal comets whiles appear." Spenser, in his Fairy Queen, Book I, c. x, applies it to a lady's face. Steevens.
That have consented unto Henry's death!
Glo. England ne'er had a king, until his time.
His brandish'd sword did blind men with his beams;
Exe. We mourn in black; Why mourn we not in
Henry is dead, and never shall revive:
4 That have consented] If this expression means no more than that the stars gave a bare consent, or agreed to let King Henry die, it does no great honour to its author. I believe to consent, in this instance, means to act in concert. Concentus, Lat. Thus Erato the muse, applauding the song of Apollo, in Lyly's Midas, 1592, cries out: "O sweet consent!" i. e. sweet union of sounds. M. Mason.
Consent, in all the books of the age of Elizabeth, and long afterwards, is the usual spelling of the word concent. See Vol. IX, p. 35, n. 4; and p. 159, n. 6. In other places I have adopted the modern and more proper spelling; but, in the present instance, I apprehend, the word was used in its ordinary sense. In the second Act, Talbot, reproaching the soldiery, uses the same expression, certainly without any idea of a malignant configuration:
"You all consented unto Salisbury's death." Malone.
5 Henry the fifth,] Old copy, redundantly,—King Henry &c. Steevens.
too famous to live long!] So, in King Richard III: "So wise so young, they say, do ne'er live long." Steevens. 7 His arms spread wider than a dragon's wings;] So, in Troilus and Cressida:
"The dragon wing of night o'erspreads the earth.” Steevens.
Conjurers and sorcerers, that, afraid of him,
Win He was a king bless'd of the King of kings.
The battles of the Lord of hosts he fought:
The church's prayers made him so prosperous.
Glo. The church! where is it? had not churchmen pray'd,
His thread of life had not so soon decay'd:
Win. Gloster, whate'er we like, thou art protector;
Glo. Name not religion, for thou lov'st the flesh; And ne'er throughout the year to church thou go'st, Except it be to pray against thy foes.
Bed. Cease, cease these jars, and rest your minds in peace!
Let's to the altar:-Heralds, wait on us:
Instead of gold, we 'll offer up our arms;
Since arms avail not, now that Henry 's dead.
Posterity, await for wretched years,
When at their mothers' moist eyes9 babes shall suck; Our isle be made a nourish of salt tears,1
8 – the subtle-witted French &c.] There was a notion preva lent a long time, that life might be taken away by metrical charms. As superstition grew weaker, these charms were imagined only to have power on irrational animals. In our author's time it was supposed that the Irish could kill rats by a song.
So, in Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584: "The Irishmen addict themselves, &c. yea they will not sticke to affirme that they can rime either man or beast to death." Steevens.. 91 moist eyes] Thus the second folio. The first, redundantly, moisten'd. Steevens.
1 Our isle be made a nourish of salt tears,] Mr. Pope-marish.. All the old copies read, a nourish: and considering it is said in the line immediately preceding, that babes shall suck at their mother's moist eyes, it seems very probable that our author wrote, a nourice, i. e. that the whole isle should be one common nurse, or nourisher, of tears: and those be the nourishment of its miserable issue. Theobald.