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THIS history comprises little more than the two last years of this prince. The action of the drama begins with Bolingbroke's appealing the Duke of Norfolk, on an accusation of high treason, which fell out in the year 1398; and it closes with the murder of King Richard at Pomfret-castle, towards the end of the year 1400, or the beginning of the ensuing year. Theobald.
It is evident from a passage in Camden's Annals, that there was an old play on the subject of Richard the Second; but I know not in what language. Sir Gillie Merick, who was concerned in the hare-brained business of the Earl of Essex, and was hanged for it, with the ingenious Cuffe, in 1601, is accused, amongst other things, “quod exoletam tragædiam de tragicâ abdicatione regis Ricardi Secundi in publico theatro coram conjuratis datâ pecuniâ agi curâsset.”
I have since met with a passage in my Lord Bacon, which proves this play to have been in English. It is in the arraignments of Cuffe and Merick, Vol. IV, p. 412, of Mallet's edition : * The afternoon before the rebellion, Merick, with a great company of others, that afterwards were all in the action, had procured to be played before them the play of deposing King Richard the Second ;- -when it was told him by one of the players, that the play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there was forty shillings extraordinary given to play, and so thereupon played it was."
It'may be worth inquiry whether some of the rhyming parts of the present play, which Mr. Pope thought of a different hand, might not be borrowed from the old one. Certainly, however, the general tendency of it must have been very different; since, as Dr. Johnson observes, there are some expressions in this of Shakspeare, which strongly inculcate the doctrine of indefeasible right. Farmer.
Bacon elsewhere glances at the same transaction : “ And for your comparison with Richard II, I see you follow the example of them that brought him upon the stage, and into print in Queen Elizabeth's time.” Works, Vol. IV, p. 278. The partizans of Essex had, therefore, procured the publication as well as the acting of this play. H. White.
It is probable, I think, that the play which Sir Gilly Merick procured to be represented, bore the title of HENRY IV, and not of RICHARD II.
Camden calls it "exoletam tragædiam de tragicâ abdicatione regis Ricardi Secundi ;” and (Lord Bacon in his account of The Effect of that which passed at the arraignment of Merick and others) says: “That the afternoon before the rebellion, Merick had procured to be played before them, the play of deposing King Richard the Second.". But in a more particular account of the proceeding against Merick, which is printed in the State Trials, Vol. VII, p. 60, the matter is stated thus: “ The story of Henry
IV, being set forth in a play, and in that play there being set forth the killing of the king upon a stage; the Friday before, Sir Gilly Merick and some others of the earl's train having an humour to see a play, they must needs have The Play of Henry IV. The players told them that was stale; they should get nothing by playing that; but no play else would serve: and Sir Gilly Merick gives forty shillings to Philips the player to play this, besides whatsoever he could get.”
Augustine Philippes was one of the patentees of the Globe playhouse with Shakspeare, in 1603; but the play here described was certainly not Shakspeare's HENRY IV, as that commences above a year after the death of Richard. Tyrwhitt.
This play of Shakspeare was first entered at Stationers' Hall by Andrew Wise, Aug. 29, 1597. Steevens.
It was written, I imagine, in the same year. Malone.
King Richard the Second.
John of Gaunt; afterwards king Henry IV.
Queen to king Richard.
Lords, heralds, officers, soldiers, two gardeners, keeper,
messenger, groom, and other attendants.
1 Duke of Aumerle,] Aumerle, or Aumale, is the French for what we now call Albemarle, which is a town in Normandy. The old historians generally use the French title. Steevens.
2 Earl Berkley.] It ought to be Lord Berkley. There was no Earl Berkley till some ages after. Steevens.
3 Lord Ross.] Now spelt Roos, one of the Duke of Rutland's titles, Steevens.