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pieces which he remodelled. . . . . This may the more readily be done, as there appears no necessary connexion between the elder drama and those of Shakspeare (those remodelled by him) on the same reign." Upon this theory, then, that the Second and Third Parts have no connexion with · The First Part of Henry VI.' we turn to · The First Part of the Contention,' and we find that the scene opens with the following lines :
“ Suf. As by your high imperial majesty's command,
The fairest queen that ever king possess’d.” This is a singular commencement of a drama which has “no necessary connexion ” with a previous drama. There is an abruptness in it which can scarcely be accounted for upon any other principle than that of “ necessary connexion.” The same abruptness prevails in the other two plays, of which the “necessary connexion” is admitted by all men. "The Second Part of the Contention' opens with
"I wonder how the king escap'd our hands." It is the first exclamation of Warwick after the results of the battle of St. Alban's are detailed to him; and the scene continues the detail. The link is manifest ; for The First Part of the Contention' concluded with the battle of St. Alban’s. In the same way, the address of Suffolk to the King, which we have quoted, is the connecting link between The First Part of the Contention and The First Part of Henry VI.' “ The command,” to which Suffolk refers, is thus given in Henry's speech in the concluding scene of that play :
" Take, therefore, shipping; post, my lord, to France;
Agree to any covenants; and procure
This appears to us to offer quite sufficient ground to justify a more prolonged inquiry, whether that unity of action which would render the one drama an integral portion of its successors prevails in “The First Part of Henry VI.' and the two Parts of the “Contention ;whether, in fact, with reference to this unity of action, they are not essentially one and the same drama, divided into parts only for the convenience of representation. This inquiry may be more conveniently conducted by inquiring, at the same time, whether there is a similar unity of characterization. If the action in these plays were the same, but with a different development of character, there would be reasonable grounds for believing that the author of the Second and Third Parts had, with little difficulty, continued the action of the First Part, without attempting, or attempting in vain, to identify the characters of each. Involved in these two inquiries, though of less importance, is the further question of identity of manner. We shall pursue each of these questions, separately or in connexion, as, in our judgment, may best illustrate the entire subject.
The action of The First Part of Henry VI.,' which is spread over the period from the accession of the infant king to his marriage, is twofold. Its chief action is the war in France; its secondary action is the progress of party-discord in England. The scenes in which Talbot and Salisbury and Bedford are “ raised from the grave of oblivion, and brought to plead their aged honours in open presence,”* possessed, as we know, a wondrous charm for the audiences of the early drama. The brave Talbot had “his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators.” This we can readily understand; for the scene between John Talbot and his father, and the death scene of Talbot, in this play possess a power unto which, we may venture to say, the audiences in 1592 had never before yielded up their tears. But it was not by poetical fervour alone that they were subdued. The exhibition of their 6 forefathers' valiant acts,” in the rudest fashion, was to them, according to Nashe, a new source of the highest pleasure. In another passage Nashe says, “What a glorious thing it is to have King Henry V. represented on the stage, leading the French king prisoner, and forcing both him and the dolphin to swear fealty !” This is the concluding scene of the coarse and unpoetical · Famous Victories.'+ The stage had thus early possession of the subject of · Henry V. The continuation of that story, with reference only to the wars of France under the regent Bedford, had enough in it to furnish materials for a spirit-stirring drama of equal popularity. * Thomas Nashe, 1592.
+ See Introduction to · Henry IV.'
But the author of Henry VI.' carried his views beyond this point; and it is for this cause that he gives us a two-fold action. The principle upon which he worked rendered it essentially a drama to be continued. Taken in itself it is a drama without a catastrophe. So, it may be said, is Shakspere’s · Henry V.;' and we add that it is intentionally so. The catastrophe is to be found in the plays which preceded it in the order of composition, but followed it in the order of their events.
The main action of “The First Part of Henry VI.' terminates with the inglorious condemnation of Joan of Arc. The peace that immediately follows that event is essentially linked with the continuation of this play. To York this peace is a cause of unmingled apprehension :
“Oh, Warwick, Warwick! I foresee with grief
The utter loss of all the realm of France." To the followers of the French king it is but a hollow paction:
66 And therefore take this compact of a truce,
Although you break it when your pleasure serves." Preceding the conclusion of that ominous peace, we have the scenes between Suffolk and Margaret; and the play concludes with the ratification of the promises which Suffolk has made to Reignier:
“Thus Suffolk bath prevail’d.” That these scenes had most distinct regard to a continuation there can, we think, be no doubt. Suffolk has no sooner, in the subsequent play, communicated the result of his mission, than the forebodings of York are realized by the denunciations of Humphrey of Gloster :
“ Hum. Brave peers of England, pillars of the state,
And are all our labours then spent quite in vain ?!! But in truth the entire conduct of the play of “Henry VI.,' with reference to the issue of the war in France, is of a gloomy and foreboding tendency. The author gave the tone to the whole progress of the action in the opening scene. He goes out of his way, in this scene, to anticipate the disasters which, after a long interval, followed the death of Henry V. Would he have done this had he intended the play to have stood by itself? There were enough
murderous victorlosing what honouroing hand in hand,
materials in the career of Bedford for a song of triumph; but he has chosen to exhibit to us the most desperate valour fruitlessly exerted,--success and misfortune going hand in hand,—treachery and supineness losing what honour and courage had won,-and murderous victories terminating in a base revenge and an inglorious peace. This is certainly not the course that would have been pursued by the author of · The First Part of Henry VI.,'had he regarded that part as a whole. It is not the course, even, that would have been pursued by an author careless altogether of dramatic effect, beyond the rude art of embodying in successive scenes the events of the chroniclers; for the events so dramatized are not, in the material parts of their relations to each other, the events told by the chroniclers. But it is the course that would have been pursued by a poet who had also conceived the plan of the subsequent dramas, in which the consequences of the reverses in France, and the abandonment of the conquests of Henry V., are never lost sight of as long as they influence in the remotest degree the conduct of the story. We will trace a few of the allusions to this portion of the action of The First Part of Henry VI.' which occur in the old copies of the succeeding plays.
In the first scene of · The First Part of the Contention' York thus exclaims :
“ York. Anjou and Maine both given unto the French! Cold news for me, for I had hope of France,
Even as I have of fertile England.” In the third act of The First Part of the Contention' * York repeats the same sentiment in the same words :
“ King. Welcome, lord Somerset; what news from France ?
Som. Cold news, my lord, and this it is, —
King. Cold news, indeed, lord Somerset ;
York. Cold news for me, for I had hope of France,
Even as I have of fertile England.” In the first act of The Second Part of the Contention' Henry denies that the loss of France is to be imputed to himself:
“I am the son of Henry the fifth, who tam'd the French,
* There are no divisions into acts and scenes in the original copies; but for the convenience of reference and comparison we have made these divisions in our editions.
War. Talk not of France, since thou hast lost it all.
King. The lord protector lost it, and not I;
When I was crown'd I was but nine months old."
“ Oxf. Then Warwick disannuls great John of Gaunt,
War. Oxford, how haps that in this smooth discourse
Methinks these peers of France should smile at that!" The audience is constantly kept in mind of the connexion of the events by which Henry VI. both
“ lost France, and made his England bleed.” The unhappy marriage with Margaret of Anjou is as constantly exhibited as the main cause of these misfortunes. In the scene of the second act of The First Part of the Contention where the Protector detects the impostor at Saint Alban's, the calamitous treaty between Suffolk and Reignier is thus sarcastically alluded to :
6 Suf. My lord protector hath done wonders to-day;
whole dukedoms fly in a day.
King. Have done, I say, and let me hear no more of that.” In the great scene (Act I., Scene 4) of The Second Part of the Contention,' York thus upbraids the Queen with the poverty of her father :
“She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France,
Whose tongue's more poison'd than the adder's tooth !