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THE PLOT, THE FABLE, AND CONSTRUCTION
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF
KING RICHARD III.
This tragedy, though it is called the life and death of this prince, comprises, at most, but the last eight years of his time; for it opens with George duke of Clarence being clapped up in the Tower, which happened in the beginning of the year 1477 ; and closes with the death of Richard at Bosworth-field, which battle was fought on the 22d of August, in the year 1485.
THEOBALD. The oldest known edition of this tragedy is printed for Andrew Wise, 1597 ; but Harrington, in his Apologie of Poetrie, written 1590, and prefixed to the translation of Ariosto, says, that a tragedy of Richard the Third, had been acted at Cambridge. His words are, “ For tragedies, to omit other famous tragedies, “ that which was played at St. John's in Cambridge, of « Richard the Third, would move, I think, Phalaris " the tyrant, and terrifie all tyrannous minded men, " &c.”
He most probably means Shakspeare's ; and if so, we may argue, that there is some more ancient edition of this play than what I have mentioned : at least this shews how early Shakspeare's play appeared; or if some other Richard the Third is here alluded to by Harrington, that a play on this subject preceded our author's.
WARTON. It appears from the following passage in the preface to Nash's Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is up, 1596, that a Latin tragedy of K, Rich. III, had been acted at Trinity-college, Cambridge: “ or his fellow codshead, that in the Latine tragedie of King Richard, cried- Ad urbs, ad urbs, ad urbs, when his whole part was no more than~Urbs, Urbs, ad arma, ad arma." STEEVENS.
The play on this subject mentioned by Sir John Harrington in his Apologie for Poetrie, 1591, and sometimes mistaken for Shakspeare's, was a Latin one, written by Dr. Legge; and acted at St. John's in our university, some years before 1588, the date of the copy in the Museum. This appears from a better MS. in our library at Emmanuel, with the names of the original performers.
FARMER. This is one of the most celebrated of our authour's performances; yet I know not whether it has not happened to him as to others, to be praised most, when praise is not most deserved. That this play has scenes noble in themselves, and very well contrived to strike in the exhibition, can not be denied. But some parts are trifling, others shocking, and some improbable.