Imatges de pÓgina
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Reignier. And I again, -ín Henry's royal name,
As deputy unto that gracious king,
Give thee her hand, for sign of plighted faith.

ACT. v. Sc.

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HE historical transactions in this play, which was first printed in the folio of 1623, 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 insult 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.

Malone wrote a long dissertation to prove that the First Part of King Henry VI. was not written by Shakespeare; 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 is as follows:

1. The diction, versification, and allusions in it are all different from the diction, versification, and allusions of Shakespeare, 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 Shakespeare'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

Snakespeare.—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 Shakespeare's genuine dramas; wbile at the same time it resembles that of many of the plays produced before his time. The sense concluding or pausing almost uniformly at the end of every line; and the verse having scarcely ever a redundant syllable.

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 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 ve 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 Shakespeare's guide, omits the passage in Hall, in which Talbot is thus described; and this Malone considers an additional proof that this play was not the production of our great poet.

The internal proofs of this he thinks to be:

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),
I do remember how my father said,

A stouter champion never handled sword.” But Shakespeare knew that Henry VI. could not possibly remember any thing of his father :

“No sooner was I crept out of my cradle,
But I was made a king at nine months old.

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 Shakespeare to the old play, according to 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

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