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THIS tragedy, though it is called the Life and Death of this Prince, comprizes, at most, but the last eight years of his time; for it opens with George Duke of Clarence being clapped up in the Tower, which happened in the beginning of the year 1477; and closes with the death of Richard at Bosworth field, which battle was fought on the 22d of August, in the year 1485.
It appears that several dramas on the present subject had been written before Shakspeare attempted it. See the notes at the conclusion of this play, which was first entered at Stationers' Hall by Andrew Wise, Oct. 20, 1597, under the title of The Tragedie of King Richard the Third, with the Death of the Duke of Clarence. Before this, viz. Aug. 15th, 1586, was entered, A tragical Report of King Richard the Third, a Ballad. It may be necessary to remark that the words, song, ballad, enterlude, and play, were often synonymously used. STEEVENS.
The notes referred to by Mr. Steevens, and printed at the end of his edition of the play, I shall here subjoin, for the purpose of bringing what has been said on this subject into one point of view. MALONE.
The oldest known edition of this tragedy is printed for Andrew Wise, 1597 but Harrington, in his Apologie for Poetrie, written in 1590, and prefixed to the translation of Ariosto, says, that a tragedy of Richard the Third had been acted at Cambridge. His words are, "For tragedies, to omit other famous tragedies, that which was played at St. John's in Cambridge, of Richard the Third, would move, I think, Phalaris the tyrant, and terrifie all tyrannous minded men," &c. He most probably means Shakspeare's; and if so, we may argue, that there is some more ancient edition of this play than what I have mentioned; at least this shows how early Shakspeare's play appeared; or if some other Richard the Third is here alluded to by Harrington, that a play on this subject preceded our author's. T. WARTON.
It appears from the following passage in the preface to Nashe's Have With You to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is Up, 1596, that a Latin tragedy of King Richard III. had been acted at Trinity College, Cambridge: or his fellow codshead, that in the Latine tragedie of King Richard, cried-Ad urbs, ad urbs, ad urbs, when his whole part was no more than-Urbs, urbs, ad arma, ad arma." STEEVENS.
The play on this subject mentioned by Sir John Harrington in
his Apologie for Poetrie, 1591, and sometimes mistaken for Shakspeare's, was a Latin one, written by Dr. Legge and acted at St. John's in our university, some years before 1588, the date of the copy in the Museum. This appears from a better MS. in our library at Emmanuel, with the names of the original performers.
A childish imitation of Dr. Legge's play was written by one Lacy, 1583; which had not been worth mentioning, were they not confounded by Mr. Capell. FARMER.
The Latin play of King Richard III. (MSS. Harl. n. 6926,) has the author's name,-Hency Lacey, and is dated-1586.
Heywood, in his Actor's Vindication, mentions the play of King Richard III. " acted in St. John's Cambridge, so essentially, that had the tyrant Phalaris beheld his bloody proceedings, it had mollified his heart, and made him relent at sight of his inhuman massacres." And in the books of the Stationers' Company, June 19, 1594, Thomas Creede made the following entry : "An enterlude, intitled the tragedie of Richard the Third, wherein is shown the deathe of Edward the Fourthe, with the smotheringe of the two princes in the Tower, with the lamentable ende of Shore's wife, and the contention of the two houses of Lancaster and Yorke." This could not have been the work of Shakspeare, unless he afterwards dismissed the death of Jane Shore, as an unnecessary incident, when he revised the play. Perhaps, however, it might be some translation of Lacey's play, at the end of the first Act of which is, "The showe of the procession. 1. Tipstaffe. 2. Shore's wife in her petticote, having a taper burning in her hande. 3. The Verger. 4. Queristers. 5. Singing-men. 6. Prebendary. 7. Bishoppe of London. 8. Citizens." There is likewise a Latin song sung on this occasion, in MS. Hars. 2412. STEEvens.
At the end of an ancient and very rare poetical miscellany, without either the printer's name or date (in my collection), entitled Licia, or Poems of Love, &c. is subjoined a poem with this title "The Rising to the Crowne of Richard the Thirde, written by himselfe ;" but whether it preceded or followed our author's historical drama, I have not been able to ascertain. I conceive, however, that this poem, which consists of 300 verses in six-line stanzas, preceded Shakspeare's Richard III. He, however, took nothing from it.
But the true origin of this play was doubtless that piece which was entered in the Stationers' Register by Thomas Creede, on June 19, 1594, which I suspect was then printed, and may perhaps be hereafter discovered. In this, as in several other instances, the bookseller, I believe, was induced to publish the old play in consequence of the success of the new one, and before it had yet got into print. This piece was probably written by