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In 1592 Thomas Nash put forth a pamphlet, entitled Pierce Penniless his Supplication to the Devil, in which occurs the following: "Nay, what if I prove plays to be no extreme, but a rare exercise of virtue? First, for the subject of them: for the most part it is borrowed out of our English Chronicles, wherein our forefathers' valiant acts, that have been long buried in rusty brass and wormeaten books, are revived, and they themselves raised from the grave of oblivion, and brought to plead their aged honors in open presence; than which what can be a sharper reproof to these degenerate days of ours? plays, all cosenages, all cunning drifts, over-gilded with outward holiness, all stratagems of war, all the cankerworms that breed in the rust of peace, are most lively anatomized. They show the ill success of treason, the fall of hasty climbers, the wretched end of usurpers, the misery of civil dissensions, and how just God is evermore in punishing murder. And to prove every one of these allegations could I propound the circumstances of this play and that, if I meant to handle this theme otherwise than obiter."

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This passage yields a clear inference that dramas founded on English history were a favorite species of entertainment on the London stage in 1592; and in the same connection Nash speaks of them as being resorted to in the afternoon by "men that are their own masters, as gentlemen of the court, the inns of court, and the number of captains and soldiers about London." Historical plays, being in such special request, would naturally lead

off in whatsoever of dramatic improvement was then forthcoming; and in fact the earliest growth of excellence appears to have been in this department. For in this, as in other things, the demand would needs in a great measure regulate the supply, and thus cause the first advances to be made in the line where, to the common interest of dramatic representation was added the further charm of national feeling and recollection, and where a large patriotism, looking before and after, would find itself at home. Hence, no doubt, the early and rapid growth in England of the historical drama, as a species quite distinct from the old forms of tragedy and comedy. Nor, in this view of the matter, is there anything incredible in the tradition reported by Gildon, that Shakespeare, in a conversation with Ben Jonson, said that, “finding the nation generally very ignorant of history, he wrote his historical plays in order to instruct the people in that particular." That he cared to make the stage a place of instruction as well as of pastime, appears in his Prologue to Henry VIII, where he says, "Such as give their money out of hope they may believe, may here find truth too." And something of this substantial benefit, it seems, was soon realized; for in Heywood's Apology for Actors, 1612, we are told,-"Plays have made the ignorant more apprehensive, taught the unlearned the knowledge of many famous histories, instructed such as cannot read in the discovery of our English Chronicles."

Of the historical plays referred to by Nash in the quotation with which we began, very few specimens have come down to us. In our Introduction to the First Part of Henry IV is a passage quoted from the same pamphlet, showing that one of the plays he had in mind was The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, which is known to have been on the stage as early as 1588, because the leading comic part was sustained by Tarleton, who died that year. In our Introduction to King John, also, we see that that play was founded on an older one entitled The Troublesome Reign of King John, which was printed in 1591.

In further illustration of this point, we have another passage in Nash's pamphlet: "How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after he had lien two hundred year in his tomb he should triumph again on the stage; and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least, (at several times,) who, in the tragedian that represents his person, behold him fresh bleeding." Which evidently refers to The First Part of Henry the Sixth, wherein the last scenes of Talbot and his son are by far the most impressive and memorable passages, and are fraught with a pathos, which, in that day of unjaded and fresh sensibility, could scarce fail to produce such an effect as is here ascribed to them. Inferior as that play is to many that followed it in the same line and from the same pen, no English historical drama of so early a date has survived, that approaches it, either as a work of art, or in the elements of dramatic effect. To audiences that were wont to be entertained by such frigid and artificial, or such coarse and vapid performances as then occupied the boards, The First Part of Henry VI must have been irresistibly attractive; a play which, perhaps for the first time, gave the English people "a stage ample and true with life," where, instead of learned echoes from classical antiquity, their ears took in the clear free tones of nature, and where swollen verbiage and strutting extravagance were replaced with the quiet power of simplicity, and with thoughts springing up fresh, home-born, and beautiful from the soil of common sense. That such was indeed the case, may be inferred from the words of Nash, and is confirmed by Henslowe's Diary, which ascertains that a play called Henry the Sixth was acted by "Lord Strange's men," March 3, 1592, and was repeated twelve times in the course of that season. As this was not the company to which Shakespeare belonged, and in which he held a respectable place as joint proprietor in 1589, it seems but reasonable to presume that the play had gone through a course of representation by his own company before it was permitted to the use of another; un

less we suppose, what is indeed possible, that Henslowe's notes refer to another play on the same subject, gotten up perhaps in consequence of the success of the former at a rival theater. At all events, the words of Nash, which could scarce point to any other than Shakespeare's Henry VI, and which clearly regard it as being already well known, fully warrant the conclusion that the play was written as early as 1589 or 1590.

The First Part of Henry VI is not known to have been printed in any shape, till it appeared in the folio of 1623, where the first four acts are regularly marked, as are also the scenes in the third act, but at the beginning of the fifth act we have merely Scena Secunda, and at the beginning of the last scene Actus Quintus. A question has been raised, whether the play was originally written as it is there printed. On this point we have no means of forming even an opinion, other than such probability as may accrue from the fact that several of the Poet's earlier efforts afterwards underwent revisal, the effects of which are in some cases quite apparent in certain inequalities of style and execution, some parts evincing a riper faculty and a more practiced hand, and being especially charged with those peculiarities which all men have agreed to call Shakespearian, as if they were written when by repeated trial he had learned to trust his powers, and dared to be more truly himself. The play in hand, however, yields little if any argument that way, there being no such inequalities but what might well enough result from the ordinary differences of matter and of mental state; unless, perhaps, something may be gathered from such incoherences of representation as we discover in Joan of Arc, the latter end of whose character does not very well remember the beginning. The play, in short, though not wanting in what distinguishes Shakespeare from all other known writers of that time, has little of that which sometimes distinguishes Shakespeare from himself.

The authorship of King Henry VI was for a long time unquestioned, till at last Theobald started a doubt thereof,

which, mainly through the dogged industry of Malone, has since grown into a general disbelief. This conclusion, and the arguments whereby it is reached, are built altogether on internal evidence, and proceed for the most part upon a strange oversight of what seems plain enough, namely, that Shakespeare's genius, great as it confessedly was, must needs have had to pass a time in youth and pupilage. The main points in Malone's argument, the only ones indeed of any real weight, are the following: That the diction and versification are of another color than we find in Shakespeare's genuine dramas, the sense almost uniformly pausing or concluding at the end of every line, and the verse scarce ever having a redundant syllable; and that the classical allusions are more frequent than in any one of his plays on English history, and do not rise naturally out of the subject, but seem inserted to show the writer's learning; the play thus being in all these respects more like those preceding Shakespeare, than like those which he is known to have written: That there are several expressions which prove the author to have been familiar with Hall's Chronicles, whereas Holinshed was Shakespeare's historian: That in Act iii. sc. 4, the king is made to say,—“When I was young, (as yet I am not old,) I do remember how my father said; " but Shakespeare knew that Henry could not remember any thing of his father, for in the Second Part, Act iv. sc. 9, he makes him say,-"But I was made a king at nine months old:" again, in Act ii. sc. 5, of the play in hand, the earl of Cambridge is said to have "levied an army" against his sovereign; whereas Shakespeare in King Henry V represents the matter as it really was.

We have endeavored to give Malone's reasons with all the strength of statement they will bear, for, in truth, they are at best so unequal to the service put upon them, that one may well be loth to state them at all, lest he should seem wanting in candor; at all events, to understate them would be more apt to provoke a charge of unfairness, than any possible overstatement to make them bear out the conclusion. Nevertheless, for these reasons, or, if there were


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