« AnteriorContinuar »
*KING HENRY VI. PART I. } The hiftorical tranfa&ions contained in this play, take in the compafs of above thirty years. I muft obferve, however, that our author, in the three parts of Henry VI. has not been very precife to the date and difpofition of his facts; but fhuffled them, backwards and forwards, time. For inftance; 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 folemnize eight years before Talbot's death, in the year 1445. Again, in the fecond part, dame Eleanor Cobham is introduced to infult Queen Margaret; though her penance and banishment for forcery happened three years before that princefs came over to England. I could point out many other tranfgreffions against hiftory, as far as the order of time is concerned. Indeed, though there are feveral mafter-ftrokes in these three plays, which inconteftibly betray the workmanship of Shakspeare; yet I am almoft 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 dire&or of the ftage; and fo have received fome finishing beauties at his hand. An accurate observer will easily fee, the diction of them is more obsolete, and the numbers more mean and profaical, than in the generality of his genuine compofitions.
Having given my opinion very fully relative to these plays at the end of the third part of King Henry VI. it is here only neceffary to apprize the reader what my hypothefis is, that he may be the better enabled, as he proceeds, to judge concerning its probability. Like many others, I was long ftruck with the many evident ShakSpearianifms in these plays, which appeared to me to carry fuch decifive weight, that I could fcarcely bring myself to examine with attention any of the arguments that have been urged against his being the author of them. I am now furprised, (and my readers perhaps may fay the fame thing of themfelves,) that I fhould never have adverted to a very ftriking circumftance which diftinguishes this first part from the other parts of King Henry VI. cumftance is, that none of thefe Shakfperian paffages are to be found here, though several are scattered through the two other parts. I am therefore decifively of opinion that this play was not written by Shakspeare. The reasons on which that opinion is founded, are ftated at large in the Differtatión above referred to. But I would here requeft the reader to attend particularly to the versification of this piece, ( of which almost every line has a pause at the end,) which is fo different from that of Shakspeare's undoubted plays, and of the greater part of the two fucceeding pieces as altered by him, and fo exactly correfponds with that of
the tragedies written by others before and about the time of his firft commencing author, that this alone might decide the queftion, without taking into the account the numerous claffical allufions which are found in this firft part. The reader will be enabled to judge bow far this argument deferves attention, from the feveral extracts from thofe ancient pieces which he will find in the Effay on this fubje&.
With refped to the fecond and third parts of King Henry VI, or, as they were originally called, The Contention of the two famous Houfes of Yorke and Lancaster, they ftand, in my apprehenfion, on a very different ground from that of this first part, or, as I believe it was anciently called, The Play of King Henry VI.-The Contention, &c. printed in two parts, in quarto, 1600, was, I conceive, the production of fome playwright who preceded, or was contemporary with, Shakspeare; and out of that piece he formed the two plays which are now denominated the Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.; as, out of the old plays of King John and The Taming of a Shrew, he formed two other plays with the fame titles. For the reasons on which this opinion is formed, I muft again refer to my Effay on this subject.
This old play of King Henry VỊ. now before us, or as our author's editors have called it, the firft part of King Henry VI. suppose, to have been written in 1589, or before. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. II. The difpofition of facts in these three plays, not always corresponding with the dates, which Mr. Theobald mentions, and the want of uniformity and confiftency in the series of events exhibited, may perhaps be in fome meafure accounted for by the hypothesis now flated. As to our author's having accepted thefe pieces as a Director of the flage, he had, I fear, no pretenfion to fuch à fituation at fo early a period.
The chief argument on which the first paragraph of the foregoing note depends, is not, in my opinion, conclufive. This hiftorical play might have been one of our author's earlieft dramatic efforts; and almoft every young poet begins his career by imitation. Shakspeare, therefore, till he felt his own ftrength, perhaps fervilely conformed to the ftyle and manner of his predeceffors. Thus, the captive eaglet defcribed by Rowe,
a while endures his cage and chains.
"Breaks from his bonds, and in the face of day
Full in the fun's bright beams he foars away
What further remarks 1 may offer on this fubje&, will appear in the form of notes to Mr. Malone's Effay, from which I do not wan tonly differ,-though hardily, I confefs, as far as my fentiments may feem to militate against those of Dr. Farmer. STEEVENS.
King Henry the Sixth.
Duke of Glofter, uncle to the king, and Protector. Duke of Bedford, uncle to the king, and Regent of France. Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter,great uncle to theking. Henry Beaufort, great uncle to the king, Bishop of Winchester, and afterwards Cardinal.
John Beaufort, Earl of Somerfet; afterwards Duke. Richard Plantagenet, eldeft fon of Richard late Earl of Cambridge; afterwards Duke of York.
Earl of Warwick. Earl of Salisbury. Earl of Suffolk,
Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March.
Mortimer's Keeper, and a Lawyer.
Sir John Faftolfe. Sir William Lucy.
Sir William Glanfdale. Sir Thomas Gargrave.
Baffet of the Red Rofe, or Lancaster faction.
An old Shepherd, father to Joan la Pucelle.
Countess of Auvergne.
Joan la Pucelle, commonly called, Joan of Arc. Fiends appearing to La Pucelle, Lords, Warders of the Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Meffengers, and feveral Attendants both on the English and French. SCENE, partly in England, and partly in France.