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THE text of 2 Henry VI. as here presented, is that of the first Folio (1623); with a few very slight, but not unimportant emendations due to the play on which it is founded: The | First Part of The Con | tention betwixt the Two Famous Houses of Yorke | and Lancaster, with the death of the good | Duke Humphrey | And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the tragicall end of the proud Cardinall of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion | of Iacke Cade: | And the Duke of Yorkes first claime unto the Crowne. [T. C.'s device and motto] LONDON. Printed by Thomas Creed, for Thomas Millington, | and are to be sold at his shop under Saint Peters | church in Cornwall | 1594. |
As I have collated the Contention (Q 1) into the Folio text, collation with the late Folios became impossible. It is, however, needless, and in the very few instances where an interesting reading arises from the later Folios it is noticed in the notes, or intended to be so.
A second edition of the Quarto appeared in 1600, “Printed by Valentine Simms for Thomas Millington." Otherwise the titles are the same. This is a careless reprint of the first edition with unimportant variations.
A third edition (Q 3) appeared, undated, in 1619. It was printed by Isaac Jeffard, and included The True Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York. It was titled: The | Whole Contention betweene the two Famous | Houses, Lancaster and | Yorke. With the tragicall ends of the good Duke | Humfrey, Richard Duke of Yorke, and King Henrie the | Sixt. | Divided into two parts: And newly corrected and enlarged. Written by William Shakespeare, Gent. | Printed at London for T. P. |
The words at the end of this title are catchpenny insertions
of T. P.'s (Thomas Pavier), who has been called the pirate publisher. They are said to be no proof of Shakespeare's hand in this Quarto. But this third edition contains four main changes and a considerable number of smaller changes from Q1. They all tend to be real corrections or improvements, and their tendency leads to the belief that the publisher had access to some material, whether manuscripts or player's copies, which was that from which the Folio text was printed. They are preliminary indications of the forthcoming authorised versions of Henry VI. Parts II. and III. Furnivall, who summarised and examined these changes carefully in the facsimile reprint of 1619, Q 1, thinks that none of them are due at first hand to Shakespeare. And Miss Jane Lee coincides. Furnivall's words on the title-page of the facsimile reprint “ (Q I having been revised by Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Greene into 'The second part of Henry the Sixt')" are, in my humble opinion, very regrettable in such a position. It is obvious that a number of them are merely common-sense corrections of misprints, but their consideration has no place here. However, they emphasise one all-important fact, and that is the badness of the state of the text of Q 1, the text collated into this edition. It abounds in three sorts of mistakes-mistakes in spelling, errors against simplest grammar and misdivision of lines to the destruction of poetic reading.
I think it is well to ponder on this for a second. It implies that when Shakespeare worked out, with or without help, the final state of 2 Henry VI. from The Contention, he had a better state of that latter text to work on than any we now possess. Probably it was his own manuscript copy. Surely this is more than admissible-it is most probable. It enables one to explain away some anomalous discrepancies between the two printed states if we keep before the memory the phantom of this better text of Q I in the worker's hands.
The consideration of the texts is a comparatively simple matter, and in view of the amount of work called for in some shape or other in this Introduction no more need be said about them, but more will appear from time to time in matters of detail. I will give you a sketch-plan here of the matters I propose to deal with, which are by no means of equal importance.
I. ROBERT GREENE'S ATTACK ON SHAKESPEARE (AND OTHERS) IN 1592.
"Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, bought with a Million of Repentaunce. Describing the follie of Youth, the falsehoode of makeshift flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiving Courtesans. Written before his death, and published at his dying request."-was written in 1592 and published immediately afterwards by his friend Henry Chettle, in the same year, the year of Greene's death. It is practically an autobiography of Roberto, i.e., Robert Greene. I am using here Grosart's edition of Greene's works which prints the tract from the 1596 edition, in vol. xii. The edition of 1596 is the earliest now known: but as Chettle's Kind Harts Dream alludes to the book, and was registered in December 1592, Greene's tract must have been printed before that date. Attention was first directed to this important passage by Tyrwhitt in 1766 according to Grant White. At 137 he says: "Heere (gentlemen) breake I off Robertos speech whose life in most parts agreeing with mine, found one selfe punishment as I haue doone. Heereafter suppose me the said Roberto, and I will go on with that hee promised: Greene will send you now his groatsworth of wit, that neuer shewed a mitesworth in his life... (p. 139): Learne wit by my repentance (gentlemen) and . . . (p. 141): to my fellow Schollers about this Cittie, will I direct these few ensuing lines. To those Gentlemen his quondam acquaintance, that spend their wits in making Plaies, R. G. wisheth a better exercise, and wisdome to preuent his extremities. If woefull experience may mooue you (Gentlemen) to beware, or vnheard of wretchednes intreate you to take heed: I doubt not but you will looke backe with sorrow on your time past, and endeuour with repentance to spend that which is to come. Wonder not (for with thee wil I first (p. 142) begin), thou famous gracer of Tragedians, that Greene, who hath said with thee like the foole in his heart, There is no God, should now giue glorie vnto his greatnesse: for penitrating is his power, his hand lies heauie vpon me, he hath spoken vnto me with a voice of thunder, and I haue felt he is a God that can punish enemies. Why should thy excellent wit, his gift, be so blinded, that thou shouldst give no glory to the giuer? Is it
pestilent Machiuilian follie that thou hast studied? O punish follie! What are his rules but meere confused mockeries, able to extirpate in small time, the generation of mankinde. For if Sic volo, sic jubeo, hold in those that are able to command; and if it be lawfull, Fas & nefas to doe any thing that is beneficiall, onely Tyrants should possesse the earth and they striuing to exceede in tyranny, should each to other bee a slaughter man: till the mightiest outliuing all, one stroke were left for Death, that in one age man's life should ende. The brother of this Diabolicall Atheisme is dead, and in his life had neuer the felicitie he aimed at . . . (6 lines) and wilt thou my friend (143) be his Disciple? Looke vnto me, by him perswaded to that libertie and thou shalt finde it an infernal bondage. . . (6 lines).
"With thee I ioyne young Iuvenall, that byting Satyrist, that lastlie with mee together writ a comedie. Sweete boy, might I aduise thee, be aduised, and get not many enemies by bitter words .. (5 lines) treade on a worme and it will turne: then blame not schollers vexed with sharpe lines if they reproue thy too much libertie of reproofe.
"And thou no lesse deseruing then the other two, in some things rarer, in nothing inferiour; driuen (as my selfe) to extreame shifts, a little have I to say to thee; and were it not an idolatrous oth, I would sweare by sweet S. George, thou art unworthie better hap, sith thou dependest on so meane a stay. Base minded men al three of you, if by my miserie ye be not warned: for vnto none of you (like me) (144) sought those burres to cleaue: those Puppits (I meane) that speake from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whome they all haue beene beholding: is it not like that you, to whom they al haue beene beholding, shall (were ye in that case that I am now) be both at once of them forsaken? Yes trust them not: for there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes factotum, is in his owne conceit the only Shake-scene in a countrie. O that I might intreate your rare wits to be imployed in more profitable courses: & let those Apes imitate your past excellence, and neuer more acquaint them with your admired in