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The second and third parts of Henry VI. were printed in 1600. When Henry V. was written, we know not, but it was printed likewise in 1600, and therefore before the publication of the first and second parts.
The first part of Henry VI. had been often shown on the stage. and would certainly have appeared in its place, had the author been the publisher.
This and The Third Part of King Henry VI. contain that trou. blesome period of this prince's reign which took in the whole contention betwixt the houses of York and Lancaster : and under that title were these two plays first acted and published. The present scene opens with king Henry's marriage, which was in the twenty-third year of his reign ; and closes with the first battle fought at St. Alban’s, and won by the York faction, in the thirtythird year of his reign : so that it comprises the history and transactions of ten years.
THEOBALD. In a note prefixed to the preceding play, I have briefly stated my opinion concerning the drama now before us, and that which follows it; to which the original editors of Shakspeare's works in folio have given the titles of The Second and Third Purts of King Henry VI.
The Contention of the two famous houses of York and Lancaster in two parts, was published in quarto, in 1600; and the first part was entered on the Stationers' books, (as Mr. Steevens has observe ed,) March 12, 1593-4. On these two plays, which I believe to have been written by some preceding author, before the year 1590, Shakspeare formed, as I conceive, this and the following drama; altering, retrenching, or amplifying, as he thought proper. It is VOL.V.
only necessary to apprize the reader of the method observed in the printing of these plays. All the lines printed in the usual manner, are found in the original quarto plays (or at least with such minute variations as are not worth noticing); and those, I conceive, Shakspeare adopted as he found them. The lines to which single inverted commas are prefixed, were, if my hypothesis be well founded, retouched, and greatly improved by him; and those with two were his own original production; the embroidery with which he ornamented the coarse stuff that had been awkwardly made up for the stage by some of his contemporaries. The speeches which he new-modelled, he improved, sometimes by amplification, and sometimes by retrenchment.
These two pieces, I imagine, were produced in their present form in 1591. Dr. Johnson observes very justly, that these two parts were not written without a dependance on the first. Undoubtedly not; the old play of K. Henry VI. (or, as it is now called, The first part,) certainly had been exhibited before these were written in any form. But it does not follow from this concession, either that The Contention of the two houses, 8c. in two parts, was written by the author of the former play, or that Shakspeare was the author of these two pieces as they originally appeared.
THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
THE THIRD PART OF
KING HENRY VI.
The action of this play (which was at first printed under this title, The true Trugedy of Richard Duke of York, and the good King Henry the Sixth; or, The Second Part of the Contention of York and Lancaster) opens just after the first battle at Saint Albans, [May 23, 1455,] wherein the York faction carried the day; and closes with the murder of king Henry VI. and the birth of prince Edward, afterwards king Edward V.[Nov. 4, 1471,] so that this history takes in the space of full sixteen years.
THEOB. I have never seen the quarto copy of the Second part of The WHOLE CONTENTION, &c. printed by Valentine Simmes for Thomas Millington, 1600; but the copy printed by W. W. for Thomas Millington, 1600, is now before me; and it is not precisely the same with that described by Mr. Pope and Mr. Theobald, nor does the undated edition (printed in fact, in 1019) correspond with their description. The title of the piece printed in 1600, by W. W. is as follows: The true Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt: With the whole contention between the two houses Lancaster and Yorke : as it was sundry times acted by the Right Honourable the Earle of Pembrooke his Servants. Printed at London by W. W. for ThoVOL. V.