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because in the epilogue there is mention made of this play, and not of the other parts :
“ Henry the sixth in swaddling bands crown'd king,
“ Which oft our stage hath shown.” France is lost in this play. The two following contain, as the old title imports, the contention of the houses of York and Lancaster.
The second and third parts of Henry VI. were printed in 1600. When Henry V. was written, we know not, but it was printed likewise in 1600, and therefore before the publication of the first and second parts. The first part of Henry VI. had been often shown on the stage, and would certainly have appeared in its place, had the author been the publisher. JOHNSON
That the second and third parts (as they are now called) were printed without the first, is a proof, in my apprehension, that they were not written by the author of the first : and the title of The Contention of the Houses of York and Lancaster, being affixed to the two pieces which were printed in quarto 1600, is a proof that they were a distinct work, commencing where the other ended, but not written at the same time; and that this play was never known by the name of The First Part of King Henry 11. till Heminge and Condell gave it this title in their volume, to distinguish it from the two subsequent plays; which being altered by Shakspeare, assumed the new titles of The Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI, that they might not be confounded with the original pieces on which they were formed. This first part was, I conceive, originally called The Historical Play of King Henry VI. MALONE.
• SECOND PART OF KING Henry VI.] This and The Third Part of King Henry VI, contain that troublesome period of this prince's reign which took in the whole contention betwixt the houses of York and Lancaster: and under that title were these two plays first acted and published. The present scene opens with King Henry's marriage, which was in the twenty-third year of his reign [A. D. 1445:] and closes with the first battle fought at St. Albans, and won by the York faction, in the thirty-third year of his reign [A. D. 1455]: so that it comprizes the history and transactions of ten years. THEOBALD. This play was altered by Crowne, and acted in the year 1681. '
STEEVENS. The Contention of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster in two parts, was published in quarto, in 1600; and the first part was entered on the Stationers' books, (as Mr. Steevens has observed,) March 12, 1593-4. On these two plays, which I believe to have been written by some preceding author, before the year 1590, Sbakspeare formed, as I conceive, this and the following drama; altering, retrenching, or amplifying, as he thought proper. The reasons on which this hypothesis is founded, I shall subjoin at large at the end of The Third Part of King Henry VI. At present it is only necessary to apprize the reader of the method observed in the printing of these plays. All the lines printed in the usual manner, are found in the original quarto plays (or at least with such minute variations as are not worth noticing): and those, I conceive, Shakspeare adopted as he found them. The lines to which inverted commas are prefixed, were, if my hypothesis be well founded, retouched, and greatly improved by him; and those with asterisks were his own original production; the embroidery with which he ornamented the coarse stuff that had been aukwardly made up for the stage by some of his contemporaries. The speeches which he new-modelled, he improved, sometimes by amplification, and sometimes by retrenchment.
These two pieces, I imagine, were produced in their present form in 1591. Dr. Johnson observes very justly, that these two parts were not written without a dcpendance on the first. Undoubtedly not; the old play of King Henry VI. (or, as it is now called, The First Part,) certainly had been exhibited before these were written in any form. But it does not follow from this concession, either that The Contention of the Two Houses, &c. in two parts, was written by the author of the former play, or that Shakspeare was the author of these two pieces as they originally appeared. MALONE.