« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE Fable AND Composition oF THE
FIRST PART OF
T HE historical transactions contained in this play, take in the compass of above thirty years. I must observe, however, that our author, in the three parts of Henry VI. has not been but very precise to the date and disposition of his facts shuffled them, backwards and forwards, out of time. For instance; the lord Talbot is kill'd 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 Henry VI. opens with the marriage of the king, which was solemniz'd eight years be fore 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 that princess came over to England. I could point out many other transgressions against history, as far as the order of time is concerned. Indeed, though there are feveral master-strokes in these three plays, which incontestably Aij
betray the workmanship of Shakspere; yet I am almost doubtful, whether they were entirely of his writing. And unless they were wrote by him very early, I should rather imagine them to have been brought to him as a director of the stage; and so have received some finishing beauties at his hand. An accurate observer will easily fee, the diction of them is more obsolete, and the numbers more mean and prosaical, than in the generality of his genuine compositions.
Of this play there is no copy earlier than that of the folio in 1623, though the two succeeding parts are extant in two editions in quarto. That the second and third parts were published without the first, may be admitted as no weak proof that the copies were surreptitiously obtained, and that the printers at that time gave the publick those plays, not such as the author designed, but such as they could get them. That this play was written before the two others is indubitably collected from the series of events; that it was written and played before Henry the Fifth is apparent, because in the epilogue there is mention made of this play, and not of the other parts:
Henry the sixth in swaddling bands crown'd king,
Whose state so many had the managing
That they lost France, and made his England bleed
France is lost in this play. The two following contain, as the old title imports, the contention of the houses of York and Lancaster.
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 part: the first part of Henry VI. had been often shewn on the stage, and would certainly have appeared in its place had the author been the publisher.
King HENRY the Sixth.
Duke of GLOSTER, Uncle to the King, and Protector.
Young TALBOT, bis Son.
RICHARD PLANTAGENET, afterwards Duke of Yark.
Sir JOHN FASTOLFE. WOODVILE, Lieutenant of the Tower.
CHARLES, Dauphin, and afterwards King of France.
Master Gunner of Orleans, Boy, his Son.
MARGARET, Daughter to Reignier, and afterwards Queen to King Henry.
Countess of AUVERGNE.
JOAN LA PUCELLE, commonly called, JOAN OF ARC; a Maid pretending to be inspir'd from Heaven, and setting up for the Championess of France.
Fiends, attending ber.
Lords, Captains, Soldiers, Messengers, and several Atten dants both on the English and French.
The SCENE is partly in England, and partly in France.
Westminster-Abbey. Dead March. Enter the Funeral of King Henry the Fifth, attended on by the Duke of BEDFORD, Regent of France; the Duke of GLOSTER, Protector; the Duke of EXETER, and the Earl of WARWICK; the Bishop of WINCHESTER, and the Duke of SOMERSET, &C.
HUNG be the heavens with black, yield day to night!