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THE transactions comprised in this play commence about the latter end of the first, and terminate in the eighth year of this king's reign; when he married Katharine, princess of France, and closed up the differences betwixt England and that crown.

This play, in the quarto edition of 1608, is styled The Chronicle History of Henry, &c., which seems to have been the title appropriated to all Shakspeare's historical dramas. Thus in The Antipodes, a comedy by R. Brome :

"These lads can act the emperor's lives all over,
And Shakspeare's Chronicled Histories to boot."

The players, likewise, in the folio of 1623, rank these pieces under the title of Histories.

It is evident that a play on this subject had been performed before the year 1592. Nash, in his Pierce Penniless, dated in that year, says, "What a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fift represented on the stage, leading the French king prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dolphin to sweare fealtie!" Perhaps this same play was thus entered on the books of the Stationers' Company:-"Thomas Strode] May 2, 1594. A booke entituled The famous Victories of Henry the Fift, containing the honourable Battle of Agincourt." There are two more entries of a play of King Henry V., viz. between 1596 and 1615, and one August 14, 1600. Malone had an edition printed in 1598; and Steevens had two copies of this play, one without date, and the other dated 1617, both printed by Bernard Alsop: from one of these it was reprinted, in 1778, among "Six Old Plays on which Shakspeare founded," &c., published by Mr. Nichols. It is thought that this piece is prior to Shakspeare's King Henry V., and that it is the very "displeasing play" alluded to in the epilogue to the Second Part of King Henry IV., "for Oldcastle died a martyr," &c. Oldcastle is the Falstaff of the piece, which is despicable, and full of ribaldry and impiety. Shakspeare seems to have taken not a few hints from it; for it comprehends, in some measure, the story of the two parts of King Henry IV. as well as of King Henry V.; and no ignorance could debase the gold of Shakspeare into such dross, though no chemistry, but that of Shakspeare, could exalt such base metal into gold. This piece must have been performed before the year 1588, Tarlton, the comedian, who played both the parts of the chief justice and the clown in it, having died in that year.

This anonymous play of King Henry V. is neither divided into acts or scenes, is uncommonly short, and has all the appearance of having been imperfectly taken down during the representation.

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There is a play called Sir John Oldcastle, published in 1600, with the name of William Shakspeare prefixed to it. The prologue serves to show that a former piece, in which the character of Oldcastle was introduced, had given great offence:

"The doubtful title (gentlemen) prefixt
Upon the argument we have in hand,

May breed suspense, and wrongfully disturbe
The peaceful quiet of your settled thoughts.
To stop which scruple, let this breefe suffice:
It is no pampered glutton we present,
Nor aged councellour to youthful sinne;
But one whose vertue shone above the rest,
A valiant martyr and a vertuous peere;
In whose true faith and loyalty exprest
Unto his soveraigne, and his countries weale,
We strive to pay that tribute of our love

Your favours merit: let faire truth be graced,
Since forged invention former time defaced."

Shakspeare's play, according to Malone, seems to have been written in the middle of the year 1599. There were three quarto editions in the Poet's lifetime-1600, 1602, and 1608. In all of them the choruses are omitted, and the play commences with the fourth speech of the second


"King Henry the Fifth is visibly the favorite hero of Shakspeare in English history. He portrays him endowed with every chivalrous and kingly virtue; open, sincere, affable, yet still disposed to innocent raillery, as a sort of reminiscence of his youth, in the intervals between his dangerous and renowned achievements. To bring his life, after his ascent to the crown, on the stage was, however, attended with great difficulty. The conquests in France were the only distinguished events of his reign; and war is much more an epic than a dramatic object. If we would have dramatic interest, war must only be the means by which something else is accomplished, and not the last aim and substance of the whole." In King Henry the Fifth, no opportunity was afforded Shakspeare of rendering the issue of the war dramatic; but he has availed himself of other circumstances attending it, with peculiar care. "Before the battle of Agincourt, he paints in the most lively colors the light-minded impatience of the French leaders for the moment of battle, which to them seemed infallibly the moment of victory; on the other hand, he paints the uneasiness of the English king and his army, from their desperate situation, coupled with the firm determination, if they are to fall, at least to fall with honor. He applies this as a general contrast between the French and English national characters; a contrast which betrays a partiality for his own nation, certainly excusable in a poet, especially when he is backed with such a glorious document as that of the memorable battle in question. He has surrounded the general events of the war with a fulness of individual characteristic, and even sometimes comic features. A heavy Scotchman, a hot Irishman, a well-meaning, honorable, pedantic Welshman, all speaking in their peculiar dialects. But all this variety still seemed to the Poet insufficient to animate a play of which the object was a conquest, and nothing but a conquest. He has, therefore, tacked a prologue (in the technical language of that day, a chorus) to the beginning of each act. These prologues, which unite epic pomp and solemnity with lyrical sublimity, and among which the description of the two camps before the battle of Agincourt forms a most admirable night-piece, are intended to

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