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ORIGINAL AND SELECTED, AND INTRODUCTORY REMARKS TO
A LIFE OF THE POET, BY CHARLES SYMMONS, D.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY SOLOMON KING.
FIRST PART OF
KING HENRY THE SIXTH.
THE historical transactions in this play take in the
'No sooner was I crept out of my cradle,
compass of above thirty years. In the three parts of King Henry VI. there is no very precise attention to King Henry VI. Part II. Act iv. Sc. 9. the date and disposition of facts; they are shuffled back- 'When I was crown'd I was but nine months old. wards and forwards out of time. For instance, the King Henry VI. Part III. Act i. Sc. 1. Lord Talbot is killed at the end of the fourth act of this The first of these passages is among the additions play, who in reality did not fall till the 13th of July, made by Shakspeare to the old play, according to Mr. 1453: and the Second Part of King Henry VI. opens Malone's hypothesis. The other passage does occur in with the marriage of the king, which was solemnized the True Tragedie of Richard Duke of York; and eight years before Talbot's death, in the year 1445. therefore it is natural to conclude that neither ShakAgain, in the second part, dame Eleanor Cobham is in-speare nor the author of that piece could have written troduced to insult Queen Margaret: though her penance the First Part of King Henry VI. 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.
Mr. Malone has written a dissertation to prove that the First Part of King Henry VI. was not written by Shakspeare 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, as far as regards this play, is as follows:
2. In Act ii, Sc. 5. of this play, it is said that the earl of Cambridge raised an army against his sovereign. But Shakspeare, in his play of King Henry V. has represented the matter truly as it was: the earl being in that piece, Act ii., condemned at Southampton for conspiring to assassinate Henry.
3. The author of this play knew the true pronunciation of the word Hecate, as it is used by the Roman writers:
'I speak not to that railing Hecate,' But Shakspeare, in Macbeth, always uses Hecate as a dissyllable.
The second speech in this play ascertains the author to have been very familiar with Hall's Chronicle:
What should I say? his deeds exceed all speech.' This phrase is introduced upon almost every occasion by Hall when he means to be eloquent. Holinshed, not Hall, was Shakspeare's historian. Here then is an additional minute proof that this play was not Shakspeare's.
1. The diction, versification, and allusions in it, are all different from the diction, versification, and allusions of Shakspeare, 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 Shakspeare'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 This is the sum of Malone's argument, which Steeshow the writer's learning. These allusions, and many vens has but feebly combated in notes appended to it; particular expressions, seem more likely to have been and I am disposed to think more out of a spirit of oppoused by the authors already named than by Shak-sition than from any other cause. Malone conjectured speare. He points out many of the allusions, and in- that this piece which we now call the First Part of stances the words proditor and immunity, which are King Henry VI. was, when first performed, called The not to be found in any of the poet's undisputed works. Play of King Henry VI.; and he afterwards found his -The versification he thinks clearly of a different co- conjecture confirmed by an entry in the accounts of lour from that of Shakspeare's genuine dramas; while Henslowe, the proprietor of the Rose Theatre on the at the same time it resembles that of many of the plays Bank Side. It must have been very popular, having produced before his time. The sense concludes or been played no less than thirteen times in one season: pauses almost uniformly at the end of every line; and the first entry of its performance by the Lord Strange's the verse has scarcely ever a redundant syllable. He company, at the Rose, is dated March 3, 1591. It is produces numerous instances from the works of Lodge, worthy of remark that Shakspeare does not appear at Peele, Greene, and others, of similar versification. any time to have had the smallest connexion with that theatre, or the companies playing there; which affords additional argument in favour of Malone's position, that the play could not be his. By whom it was writ ten (says Malone,) it is now, I fear, difficult to ascertain. It was not entered on the Stationers' books, nor printed till the year 1623; when it was reiterated with Shakspeare's undisputed plays by the editors of the first folio, and improperly entitled the Third Part of King Henry VI. In one sense it might be called so; for two plays on the subject of that reign had been printed before. But considering the history of that king, and the period of time which the piece comprehends, it ought to have been called, what in fact it is, The First Part of King Henry VI. At this distance of time it is impossible to ascertain on what principle it was that Heminge and Condell admitted it into their volume; but I suspect that they gave it a place as a necessary introduction to the two other parts; and because Shakspeare had made some slight alterations, and written a few lines in it.f
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.-Fierce 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 be 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 Shakspeare's guide, omits the passage in Hall, in which Talbot is thus described; and this is an additional proof that this play was not the production of our great poet.
There are other internal proofs of this:
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 Shakspeare knew that Henry VI. could not possibly remember any thing of his father:-
Mr. Malone's arguments have made many converts to his opinion; and perhaps Mr. Morgan, in his ele gant Essay on the Dramatic Character of Falstaff, led the way, when he pronounced it That-drum-andtrumpet thing,-written doubtless, or rather exhibited long before Shakspeare was born, though afterwards repaired and furbished up by him with here and there a little sentiment and diction.'
This applies only to the title in the Register of the
Malone's Life of Shakspeare, p. 310, ed. 1821.