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of King Henry the Eighth, affords a strong proof of their identity, as appears by the following passages :
Such, as give
Gentle readers know
. To make that only true we now intend.'
And though Sir Henry Wotton mentions it as a new play, we have Stowe and Lorkin who call it · The play of Henry the Eighth.'
• That the Prologue and Epilogue were not written by Shakspeare is, I think, clear from internal evidence,' says Mr. Boswell; to whose opinion I have no hesitation in subscribing : but it does not follow that they were the production of Ben Jonson's pen. That gentleman has clearly shown that there was no intention of covertly sneering at Shakspeare's other works in this prologue; but that this play is opposed to a rude kind of farcical representation on the same subject by Samuel Rowley (see the first note on the Prologue). This play, or interlude, which was printed in 1605, is probably referred to in the following entry on the books of the Stationers' Company :• Nathaniel Butter, Feb. 12, 1604, That he get good allowance for the Enterlude of King Henry VIII. before he begin to print it; and with the warden's hand to yt, he is to have the same for his copy.' Stowe has observed that ‘Robert Greene had written somewhat on the same story;' but there is no evidence that it was in a dramatic form: it may have been something historical, and not by the dramatic poet of that name; as Stowe
cites the authority of Robert Greene, with Robert Brun, Fabian, &c. in other places of his Chronicle.
This historical drama comprises a period of twelve years, commencing in the twelfth year of King Henry VIII. (1521), and ending with the christening of Elizabeth in 1533. The poet has deviated from history in placing the death of Queen Katharine before the birth of Elizabeth, for in fact Katharine did not die till 1536. In constructing his scenes he has availed himself largely of the eloquent narrative of Wolsey's faithful servant and biographer, George Cavendish, as copied by the Chronicles ; and indeed the pathos of the Cardinal's dying scene is almost as effective in the simple narrative of Cavendish as in the play. The fine picture which the poet has drawn of the suffering and defenceless virtue of Queen Katharine, and the just and spirited, though softened, portrait he has exhibited of the impetuous and sensual character of Henry, are above all praise. It has been justly said that this play contains little action or violence of passion, yet it has considerable interest of a more mild and thoágbtful cast, and some of the most striking passages that are to be found in the poet's works.'
KING HENRY THE EIGHTH.
QUEEN KATHARINE, Wife to King Henry, afterwards divorced.
Several Lords and Ladies in the Dumb Shows; Women at
tending upon the Queen; Spirits, which appear to her; Scribes, Officers, Guards, and other Attendants.
SCENE-chiefly in London and Westminster : once, at
I COME no more to make you laugh; things now,
to flow, We now present. Those that can pity, here May, if they think it well, let fall a tear; The subject will deserve it. Such, as give Their money out of hope they may believe, May here find truth too. Those, that come to see Only a show or two, and so agree, The play may pass; if they be still, and willing, I'll undertake, may see away their shilling Richly in two short hours. Only they That come to hear a merry, bawdy play, A noise of targets; or to see a fellow In a long motley coat, guarded 1 with yellow, Will be deceiv'd: for, gentle hearers, know, To rank our chosen truth with such a show
' i. e. faced or trimmed. This long motley coat was the usual dress of a fool. See Mr. Douce's dissertation on the Fools of Shakspeare.
The Prologue and Epilogue to this play are apparently not by the band of Shakspeare. They have been attributed to Ben Jonson; but this opinion is controverted by Mr. Gifford. The intention of the writer (says Mr. Boswell) was to contrast the historical truth and taste displayed in the present play with the performance of a contemporary dramatist, · When you see me you know me, or the famous Chronicle of King Henry the Eighth, &c. by Samuel Rowley,' in which Will Summers, the jester, is a principal character. There are other incidents in this · merry bawdy play,' besides the perversion of historical facts, which make it more than probable that it is here alluded to,
As fool and fight is, beside forfeiting
? Opinion seems here to mean character; as in King Henry IV. Part 1. Act v. Sc. 4:- Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion.' To realize that opinion of character is our present object, not to forfeit it by introducing absurdities.
3 Happiest being here used in a Latin sense for propitious or favourable. “Sis bonus o foelixque tuis !' has been thought a reason for attributing this Prologue to Jonson ; but we have shown that Shakspeare often uses words in a Latin sense.