« PreviousContinue »
FIRST PART OF
K I N G H E N R Y V I.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS. The historical transactions in this play take in the compass of above thirty years. In the three parts of King Henry VI. there is no very precise attention to the date and disposition of_facts; they are shuffled backwards and forwards out of time. For instance, the Lord Talbot is killed at the end of the fourth act of this play, who in reality did not fall till the 13th of July, 1453 : and ihe Second Part of King Henry VI. opens with the marriage of the king, which was solemnized eight years before Talbot's death, in the year 1445. Again, in the second part, dame Eleanor Cobham is introduced to insult Queen Margaret; though her penance and banishment for_sorcery happened three years before ihat princess came over to England. There are other transgressions against history, as far as the order of time is concerned.
Mr. Malone has written a dissertation to prove that the First Part of King Henry VI. was not written by Shakspeare; and that the Second and Third Parts were only altered by him from the old play, entitled "The Contention of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster,' printed in two parts, in quarto, in 1591 and 1595. The substance of his argument, as far as regards this play, is as follows:
1. The diction, versification, and allusions in it are all different from the 'diction, versification, and allusions of Shakspeare, and corresponding with those of Greene, Peele, Lodge, Marlowe, and others who preceded him: there are more allusions to mythology, to classical authors, and to ancient and modern history, than are found in any one piece of Shakspeare's written on an English story: they are such as do not naturally rise out of the subject, but seem to be inserted merely to show the writer's learning. These allusions, and many particular expressions, seem more likely to have been used by the authors already named than by Shakspeare.--He points out many of the allusions, and instances the words proditor and immanity, which are not to be found in any of ihe poet's undisputed works. The versification he thinks clearly of a different colour from that of Shakspeare's genuine dramas; while at the same time it resembles that of many of the plays produced before his time. The sense concludes or pauses almost uniformly at the end of every line ; and the verse has scarcely ever a redundant syllable. He produces numerous instances from the works of Lodge, Peele, Greene, and others of similar versification.
A passage in a pamphlet written by Thomas Nashe, an intimate friend of Greene, Peele, Marlowe, &c. shows that the First Part of King Henry Ví. had been on the stage before 1592 ; and his favourable mention of the piece may induce a belief that it was written by a friend of his. 'How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to thinke that, after he had lyen two hundred yeare in his tombe, he should triumph again on the stage ; and have his bones new embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times), who in the tragedian that represents his person behold him fresh bleeding.'Pierce Penniless his Supplication to the Devil, 1592.
That this passage related to the old play of King Henry VI. or, as it is now called, the First Part of King Henry VI. can hardly be doubted. Talbot appears in the First Part, and not in the Second or Third Part, and is expressly spoken of in the play, as well as in Hall's Chronicle, as the terror of the French.' Holinshed, who was Shakspeare's guide, omits the passage in Hall, in which Talbot is thus described; and this is an additional proof that this play was not the production of our great poet.
There are other internal proofs of this :
1. The author does not seem to have known precisely how old Henry VI. was at the time of his father's death. He supposed him to have passed the state of infancy before he lost his father, and even to have remembered some of his sayings. In the Fourth Act, Sc. 4, speaking of the famous Talbot, he says :
"When I was young (as yet I am not old),
A stouter champion never handled sword.' But Shakspeare knew that Henry VI. could not possibly remember any thing of his father :
"No sooner was I crept out of my cradle,
King Henry VI. Part 11. Act iv. Sc. 9. "When I was crown'd I was but nine months old.'
King Henry VI. Part 111. Act i. Sc. 1. The first of these passages is among the additions made by Shakspeare to the old play, according to Mr. Malone's hypothesis. The other passage does occur in the True Tragedie of Richard Duke of York; and therefore it is natural to conclude that neither Shakspeare nor the author of that piece could have written the First Part of King Henry VI.
2. In Act ii. Sc. v. of this play, it is said that the earl of Cambridge raised an army against his sovereign. But Shakspeare, in his play of King Henry V. has represented the matter truly as it was: the earl being in that piece, Act ii., condemned at Southampton for conspiring to assassinate Henry.
3. The author of this play knew the true pronunciation of the word Hecate, as it is used by the Roman writers :
'I speak not to that railing Hecaté.' But Shakspeare, in Macbeth, always uses Hecate as a dissyllable.
The second speech in this play ascertains the author to have been very familiar with Hall's Chronicle :
“What should I say? his deeds exceed all speech.' This phrase is introduced upon almost every occasion by Hall when he means to be eloquent. Holinshed, not Hall, was Shakspeare's historian. Here then is an additional minuté proof that this play was not Shakspeare's.
This is the sum of Malone's argument, which Steevens has but feebly combated in notes appended to it; and I am disposed to
think more out of a spirit of opposition than from any other
Malone conjectured that this piece which we now call the First Part of King Henry VI. was, when first performed, called The Play of King Henry VI.; and he afterwards found his coujecture confirmed by an entry in the accounts of Henslowe, the proprietor of the Rose Theatre on the Bank Side. It must have been very popular, having been played no less than thirteen times in one season: the first entry of its performance hy the Lord Strange's company, at the Rose, is dated March 3, 1591. It is worthy of remark that Shakspeare does not appear at any time to have had the smallest connexion with that theatre, or the companies playing there; which affords additional argument in favour of Malone's position, that the play could not be his. "By whom it was written (says Malone), it is now, I fear, difficult to ascertain. It was not entered on the Stationers' books, nor printed till the year 1623; when it was registered with Shakspeare's undisputed plays by the editors of the first folio, and improperly entitled the Third* Part of King Henry VI. In one sense it might be called so; for two plays on the subject of that reign had been printed before. But considering the history of that king, and the period of time which the piece comprehends, it ought to have been called, what in fact it is, The First Part of King Henry VI. At this distance of time it is impossible to ascertain on what principle it was that Heminge and Condell admitted it into their volume; but I suspect that they gave it a place as a necessary introduction to the two other parts ; and because Shakspeare had made some slight alterations, and written a few lines in itt.
Mr. Malone's arguments have made many converts to his opinion; and perhaps Mr. Morgann, in his elegant Essay on the Dramatic Character of Falstafftt, led the way, when he pronounced it "That drum-and-trampet thing,—written doubtless, or rather exhibited long before Shakspeare was born, though afterwards repaired and furbished up by him with here and there a little gentiment and diction.'
* This applies only to the title in the Register of the Stationers' Company
: in the first folio it is called the First Part of King Henry VI. * Malone's Life of Shakspeare, f. 310, ed. 1821. ++ First published in 1777.
KING HENRY THE SIXTH.
Winchester, and afterwards Cardinal.
of Cambridge; afterwards Duke of York. Earl of WARWICK. EARL of SALISBURY. Earl of SUFFOLK. LORD Talbot, afterwards Earl of Shrewsbury. Join Talbot, his Son. EDMUND MORTIMER, Earl of March. Mortimer's Keeper, and a Lawyer. Sir John FASTOLFE. SIR WILLIAM LUCY. SIR WILLIAM GLANSDALE. SIR THOMAS GARGRAVE. Mayor of London. WOODVILLE, Lieutenant of the Tower. VERNON, of the White Rose, or York Faction. BASSET, of the Red Rose, or Lancaster Faction. CHARLES, Dauphin, and afterwards King of France. REIGNIER, Duke of Anjou, and titular King of Naples. Duke of BURGUNDY. Duke of ALENÇON. Governor of Paris. Bastard of Orleans. Master-Gunner of Orleans, and his Son. General of the French Forces in Bordeaux. A French Sergeant. A Porter. An old Shepherd, Father to Joan la Pucelle. MARGARET, Daughter to Reignier: afterwards married
to King Henry. COUNTESS of AUVERGNE. JOAN La PUCELLE, commonly called Joan of Arc. Fiends appearing to La Pucelle, Lords, Warders of the
Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and several Attendants both on the English and French. SCENE-partly in England, and partly in France.