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Reignier. And I again,-in Henry's royal name, As deputy unto that gracious king, Give thee her hand, for sign of plighted faith.
Act v. Sc. 3.
FIRST PART OF
King Henry the Sixth.
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 the 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 insalt Queen Margaret; though her penance and banishment for sorcery happened three years before that 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 disse
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 1594 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 Shak
speare, 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 the 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 prod
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 VI. 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 bad 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