Page images
[ocr errors]

(the former of which is entitled, The First Part of the Contentio, of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the Death of the good Duke Humphrey, &c. and the latter, The true Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke, and the Death of good King Henrie the Sixt,) our poet formed the two plays, entitled, The Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI, as they appear in the first folio edition of his works.

Mr. Upton has asked, “How does the painter distinguish copies from originals but by manner and style ? And have not authors their peculiar style and manner, from which a true critick can form as unerring a judgment as a painter?” Dr. Johnson, though he has shown, with his usual acuteness, that, “this illustration of the critick's science will not prove what is desired," acknowledges in a preceding note, that dissimilitude of style and heterogeneousness of sentiment may sufficiently show that a work does not really belong to the reputed author. But in these plays (he adds) no such marks of spuriousness are found. The diction, versification, and the figures, are Shakspeare's." —By these criterions then let us examine The First Part of King Henry VI, (for I choose to consider that piece separately) and if the diction, the figures or rather the allusions, and the versification of that play', (for these are our surest guides) shall appear to be different from the other two parts, as they are exhibited in the folio, and from our author's other plays, we may fairly conclude that he was not the writer of it.

I. With respect to the diction and the allusions, which I shall consider under the same head, it is very observable that in The First Part of King Henry VI, there are more allusions to mythology, to classical authors, and to ancient and modern history, than, I believe, can be found in any one piece of our author's, written on an English story; and that these allusions are introduced very much in the same manner as they are introduced in the plays of Greene, Peele, Lodge, and other dramatists who preceded Shakspeare; that is, they do not naturally arise out of the subject, but seem to be inserted merely to show the writer's learning. * Of these the following are the most remarkable:

1. Mars his true moving, even as in the heavens,

So in the earth, to this day is not known.
2. A far more glorious star thy soul will make

Than Julius Cæsar, or bright –
This blank, Dr. Johnson with the highest probability conjec-

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to shew the criter's learning ] This appearance of pedantry, if not assumed in imitation of Greene, &c. (See p. 7,) would only induce me to think that the piece now under consideration might be the work of a juvenile writer; and why not one of Shak. speare's earliest dramatick effusions ? The first themes composed byschoolboys are always stuffed with a tritical parade of literature, such as is found in antiquated plays, some of which, our author, bile yet immature, might have taken for his model. Steevens:


[ocr errors]

tures, should be filled up with “Berenice;" a word that the transcriber or compositor probably could not make out. in the same manner he left a blank in a subsequent passage for the name of “Nero,” as is indubitably proved by the following line, which ascertains the omitted word. See No. 6.

3. Was Mahomet inspired with a dove?
4. Helen, the mother of great Constantine,

Nor yet Saint Philip's daugbters, were like thee.
5. Froisard a countryman of ours, records, &c.

and, like thee, (Nero,} Play on the lute, beholding the towns burning. [In the original copy there is a blank where the word Nero is now placed.)

7. The spirit of deep prophecy she hath,

Exceeding the nine Sybils of old Rome.
8. A witch, by fear, not force, like Hannibal,

Drives back our troops -
9. Divinest creature, Astræa's daughter –

Adonis' gardens,
That one day bloom'd, and fruitful were the next.
11. A statelier pyramis to her I 'll rear,

Than Rhodope's, or Memphis', ever was.

an urn more precious
Than the rich-jewel'd coffer of Darius.
13. I shall as famous be by this exploit,

As Scythian Thomyris, by Cyrus' death.
14. I thought I should have seen some Hercules,

A second Hector, for his grim aspéct.
15 Nestor-like aged, in an age of care.
16. Then follow thou thy desperate sire of Crete,

Thou Icarus.
17. Where is the great Alcides of the field ?
18. Now am I like that proud insulting ship,

That Cæsar and his fortune bare at once.
19. Is Talbot slain; the Frenchman's only scourge,

Your kingdom's terror, and black Nemesis ?
20. Thou may’st not wander in that labyrinth;

There Minotaurs, and ysly treasons lurk.
21. See, how the ugly witch doth bend her brow's,

As if, with Circe, she would change my shape.

As did the youthful Paris once to Greece;

With hope to find the like event in love. Of particular expressions there are many in this play, that seem to me more likely to have been used by the authors already named, than by Shakspeare; but I confess, with Dr Johnson, that single words can conclude litule. However, I will just mention that the words proditor and immanity, which occur in this piece, are not, I believe, found in any of Shakspeare's undisputed performances: not to insist on a direct Latinism, pile-esteemned, which I am confident was the word intended by the author,

thus he goes,

though, being a word of his own formation, the compositor has printed-pild-esteem'd, instead of it.*

The versification of this play appears to me clearly of a diffe. rent colour from that of all our author's genuine dramas, while at the same time it resembles that of many of the plays produced before the time of Shakspeare.

In all the tragedies written before his time, or just, when he commenced author, a certain stately march of versification is very observable. The sense concludes or pauses almost uniformly at the end of every line; and the verse has scarcely ever a re. dundant syllable. As the reader may not have any of these pieces at hand, (by the possession of which, however, bis library would not be much enriched,) I shall add a few instances,-the first that occur :

“ Most loyal lords, and faithful followers,
“ That have with me, unworthy general,
“ Passed the greedy gulph of Ocean,
“Leaving the confines of fair Italy,
“Behold, your Brutus draweth nigh his end,
“ And I must leave you, though against my will.
My sinews shrink, my numbed senses fail,

A chilling cold possesseth all my bones;
“Black ugly death, with visage pale and wan,
“ Presents himself before my dazzled eyes,
“ And with bis dart prepared is to strike.” Locrine, 1595.
“My lord of Gloucester, and lord Mortimer,
“ To do you honour in your sovereign's eyes,
“ That, as we hear, is newly come aland,
“ From Palestine, with all his men of war,
(The poor remainder of the royal fleet,
“ Preserv'd by miracle in Sicil road,)
“Go mount your coursers, meet him on the way;
“ Prav him to spur his steed, minutes and hours,
“Untill his mother see her princely son,
“Shining in glory of his safe return."

Edward 1, by George Peele, 1593. “ Then go thy ways, and clime up to the clouds, “ And tell Apollo that Orlando sits “Making of verses for Angelica. “ And if he do deny to send me down “ The shirt which Deianira sent to Hercules, “ To make me brave upon my wedding day, “ Tell him I'll pass the Alps, and up to Meroe, “(I know he knows that watry lakish hill) “ And pull the harp out of the minstrels hands, “ And pawne it unto lovely Proserpine, “ That she may fetch the faire Angelica."

Orlando Furiosa, by Robert Greene, printed in

1599 ; written before 1592.

* See p. 31, n. 2.

66 The work that Ninus rear'd at Babylon,
“ The brazen walls fram'd by Semiramis,
“ Carv'd out like to the portal of the sunne,
“Shall not be such as rings the English strand
“ From Dover to the market-place of Rye.”

[ocr errors]


[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


“ Facile and debonaire in all his deeds, “ Proportion'd as was Paris, when in gray, “He courted Oenon in the vale by Troy." “Who dar'd for Edward's sake cut through the seas, “ And venture as Agenor's damsel through the deepe." “England's rich monarch, brave Plantagenet, The Pyren mountains swelling above the clouds, " That ward this wealthy Castile in with walls, ~ Could not detain the beauteous Eleanor; “But hearing of the fame of Edward's youth. “She dar'd to brave Neptunus' baughty pride, " And brave the brunt of froward Eolus."

[ocr errors]

" Daphne, the damsel that caught Phæbus fast,
" And lock'd him in the brightness of her looks,
" Was not so beauteous in Apollo's eyes,
“ As is fair Margaret, to the Lincoln earl.”



“We must lay plots for stately tragedies,
“ Strange comick shews, such as proud Roscius
“ Vaunted before the Roman emperours."

“Lacy, thou can'st not shrowd thy traiterous thoughts, Nor cover, as did Cassius, all his wiles; “ For Edward hath an eye that looks as far “ As Lynceus from the shores of Greecia.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


“ Pardon, my lord: If Jove's great royalty
“ Sent me such presents as to Danae ;
“ If Phæbus tied to Latona's webs,
“Came courting from the beauty of his lodge;
“ The dulcet tunes of frolick Mercurie,
“Nor all the wealth heaven's treasury affords
“ Should make me leave lord Lacy or his love."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

" What will thou do?
“Shew thee the tree leav'd with refined gold,
“Whereon the fearful dragon held his seate,
“ That watch'd the garden callid Hesperides,
“Subdued and wonne by conquering Hercules."


King. But was my mother sister unto these?

Art. She was, my lord; and only Isabel
“ Was all the daughters that this Philip had.”

The Raigne of King Edward III, 1596. The tragedies of Marius and Sylla, by T. Lodge, 1594, A Looking Glass for London an England, by T Lodge and R. Greene, 1598, Sol, mun and Perseda, written before 1592, Selimus, Emperour of the Turks, 1594, The Spanish Tragedy, 1592, and Titus Andronicus, will all furnish examples of a similar versification; a versification so exactly corresponding with that of The First Part of King Henry VI, and The Whole Contention of the Two Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, &c. as it originally appeared, that I have no doubt these plays were the production of some one or other of the authors of the pieces above quoted or enumerated

A passage in a pamphlet written by Thomas Nashe, an intimate friend of Greene, Peele, &c. shows that The First Part of King Henry VI had been on the stage before 1592; and his favourable mention of this piece inclines me to believe that it was written by a friend of his. “ How would it have joyed brave Talbot, (says Nashe in Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Devil, 1592,) 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 thou. sand spectators at least, (at several times) who in the tragedian that represents his person behold him fresh bleeding."

This passage was several years ago pointed out by my friend Dr. Farmer, as a proof of the hypothesis which I am now endea. vouring to establish That it related to the old play of King Henry VI, or, as it is now called, The First Part of K. Henry VI, cannot I think 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.” Ho. linshed, 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 our author's. But of this more hereafter.

The First Part of King Henry VI, (as it is now called) furnishes us with other internal proofs also of its not being the work of Shakspeare

1. The author of that play, whoever he was, does not seem to have known precisely how old Henry the Sixth was at the time of his father's death. He opens his play indeed with the funeral of Henry the Fifth, but no where mentions expressly the young king's age. It is clear, however, from one passage, that 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. iv, speaking of the famous Talbot, he says:

“ When I was young. (as yet I am not old).
I do remember hou my father said,

“ A stouter champion never handled sword.” But Shakspeare, as appears from two passages, one in the second, and the other in the Third part of King Henry VI, knew that that king could not possibly remember any thing his father had said;

« PreviousContinue »