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ON THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION OF THX
FIRST PART OF
THE historical transactions contained in this play, tako in the compass of above thirty years. I must observe, however, that our author, in the three parts of Henry VI. has not been very precise to the date and difpofition of his facts; but shuffled them, 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 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 forcery 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 several matter-strokes in these three plays, which inconteftably betray the workmanship of Shakespeare; yet I am almost doubtful, whether they were entirely of his writing. And unlefs 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 profaical, 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 fucceeding parts are extant in two editions in quarto. That the second and third parts were publisied without the first, may be admitted as no weak proof that the copies were furreptitiously obtained, and that the printers at that time gave the public those plays, not such as the author deligned, but such as they could get them. That this play was written before the two others is indubitably collected from the series of everts; that it was written and played before lienry the Fifth is apparent, because in the epilogue there is mention made of this play, and not of the other parts :
Henry the fixth in swaddling bands crown'd king,
Which oft our page hath fewn. France is loft 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 print. ed in 1600. When Henry V. was written we know not, but it was printed likewise in 1600, and therefore bei fore the publication of the first part: the first part of Henry VI. had been often shewn on the fluge, and would certainly have appeared in its place had the author been the publisher. JOHNSON.
MEN. King HENRY the Sixth. Duke of GLOSTER, Uncle to the King, and Proteior. Duke of BEDFORD, Uncle to the King, and Regent of France. Cardinal BEAUFORT, Bishop of Winchester, and great UnDuke of EXETER.
[cle to the King, Duke of SOMERSET. Earl of WARWICK. Earl of SALISBURY. Earl of SUFFOLK. Lord TALBOT. Young TALBOT, his Son. RICHARD PLANTAGENET, afterwards Duke of York. MORTIMER, Earl of March. Sir JOHN FASTOLFE, WOODVILE, Lieutenant of the Tower. Lord Mayor of
London. Sir THOMAS GARGRAVE. Sir WILLIAM
GLANSDALE. Sir WILLIAM Lucy. VERNON, of the White Rose, or Tork Faction. BASSET, of the Red Rose, or Lancaster Faction. CHARLES, Dauphin, and afterwards King of France. REIGNIER, Duke of Anjou, and titular King of Naples. Duke of BURGUNDY. Duke of ALENÇON. Bastard of Orleans. Governor of Paris. Master-Gunner of Orleans. Boy, his Son. An old Shepherd, Father to Joan la Pucelle.
WOMEN. 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 her. Lords, Captains, Soldiers, Messengers, and several Atten
dants both on the English and French. The SCENE is partly in England, and partly in France.