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"Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crowned King
Of France and England, did this King succeed;
Whose state so many had the managing,

That they lost France and made his England bleed:
Which oft our stage hath shown: and, for their sake,
In your fair minds let this acceptance take."

From these words we may infer (i.) that 1 Henry VI preceded Henry V; (ii.) that probably the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI are also referred to; (iii.) that Shakespeare claimed in some degree these plays as his own.

(IV.) Finally, the intimate connection of 2, 3 Henry VI (and The Contention and The True Tragedie) with the play of Richard III, throws valuable light on the date of composition, and confirms the external and internal evidence for assigning Shakespeare's main contributions to these plays to the year 1591-2, or thereabouts (Cp. Preface to "Richard the Third").


The materials for 1, 2, 3 Henry VI were mainly derived from (i) Holinshed's Chronicles, and (ii.) Hall's Chronicle; the account of the civil wars in the former work is merely an abridgment of the latter; the author's attention would therefore, naturally, be directed to the chief history of the period covered by the plays [cp. titlepage of the first edition, 1548:-"The Union of the two noble and illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, being long in continual discension for the croune of this noble realme, with all the actes done in bothe the tymes of the princes, bothe of the one linage and of the other, beginnyng at the tyme of Kyng Henry the fowerth, the first Author of this division, and so successively proceadyng to the reigne of the high and prudent Kyng Henry the eighth, the vndubitate flower and very heire of both the sayd linages"]. Although in no part of Henry

1 Knight points out an excellent instance of Hall's influence, as compared with Holinshed's; in the latter's narrative of the interview between Talbot and his son, before they both fell at the battle of

VI is Holinshed's Chronicles followed "with that particularity which we have in Shakespeare's later historical plays," it is noteworthy that it is the primary source of Part I., the secondary of Parts II. and III. (On the historical aspect of the plays, cp. Commentaries on the Historical Plays of Shakespeare, Courtenay; Warner's English History in Shakespeare.)


The time of the First Part is eight days, with intervals; the Second Part covers fourteen days, represented on the stage, with intervals suggesting a period in all of, at the outside, a couple of years; in the Third Part twenty days are represented; the whole period is about twelve months.


Part I. deals with the period from "the death of Henry V, August 31, 1422, to the treaty of marriage between Henry VI and Margaret, end of 1444." Part II. covers about ten years, from April 22, 1445, to May 23, 1455. Part III. commences "on the day of the battle of St. Albans, May 23, 1455, and ends on the day on which Henry VI's body was exposed in St. Paul's, May 22, 1471. Queen Margaret, however, was not ransomed and sent to France till 1475." (Cp. Daniel's "Time Analysis," New Shak. Soc., 1877-79.)

Chatillon, we have no dialogue, but simply, "Many words he used to persuade him to have saved his life." In Hall we have the very words which the poet has paraphrased.







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.


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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 perere son, 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

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