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KING RICHARD THE SECOND.
INTRODUCTION, AND NOTES EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL.
FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND CLASSES.
REV. HENRY N. HUDSON,
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE SCHOOL OF ORATORY
PUBLISHED BY GINN & COMPANY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1879, by
HENRY In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington,
TYPOGRAPHY BY J. S. CUSHING & Co., BOSTON, U.S.A.
History of the Play.
ING RICHARD THE SECOND is first heard of through an entry in the Stationers' register, dated. August 29, 1597. The play was published in the course of the same year, but without the author's name. The same text was issued again in 1598, with “ 'By William Shakespeare" in the title-page. There was a third issue in 1608, the title-page having the words, "With new additions of the Parliament - Scene, and the deposing of King Richard." These additions are in Act iv., Scene 1, comprising a hundred and sixty-four lines, or about half the Act. A fourth quarto edition appeared in 1615, the text being the same as in that of 1608. Of course the play reappeared along with the others in the folio of 1623. In the folio text, however, several passages, including in all just fifty lines, are unaccountably wanting; the omissions, in some cases, making a palpable break in the continuity of the sense. The text of 1597 is, I believe, generally allowed to be the best of the five, except as regards the additions of 1608; each later issue retaining the errors of the earlier, with new ones of its
As to the date of the composition, we have nothing decisive beyond the entry at the Stationers'. Malone assigns the writing to 1593; Chalmers to 1596; and others, to va
rious dates between those two. To the best of my judgment, the internal evidence of style, the abundance of rhymes, the frequent passages of elaborate verbal trifling, the smoothflowing current of the verse, and the comparative uncompactness of texture, make strongly in favour of as early a date as 1594, when the author was thirty years old. In all these respects, a comparison of the play with the First Part of King Henry the Fourth, which could not have been written later than 1597, will, I think, satisfy almost any one that there must have been an interval of several years between the two.
And we have another sort of argument which, it seems to me, carries no little force towards the same conclusion. The first four Books of Daniel's History of the Civil Wars, three of which are wholly occupied with the closing passages of
ichard's government and life, were originally published in 1595. Samuel Daniel was a star, not indeed of the first magnitude, nor perhaps of the second, but yet a star in that matchless constellation of genius contemporary with Elizabeth and James which has since made England the brightness of the whole Earth. As he was himself a writer of plays, and an aspirant for dramatic honours, it is hardly to be supposed that he would be away from the theatre when "th' applause, delight, the wonder of our stage" was making the place glorious with his "Delphic lines."
The poem and the play have several passages so similar in thought and language as to argue that one of the authors must have drawn from the other. This, to be sure, will of itself conclude nothing as to which way the obligation ran. But there is another sort of resemblance much more to the point. Shakespeare, in strict keeping with the nature and purpose of his work, makes the Queen, in mind, character,
and deportment, a full-grown woman; whereas, in fact, she was at the time only twelve years old, having been married when she was but eight: a liberty of art every way justifiable in an historical drama, and such as he never scruples to use when the proper ends of dramatic representation may be furthered thereby. On the other hand, the plan of Daniel's poem, and also the bent of his mind, caused him to write, for the most part, with the historical accuracy of a chronicle, insomuch that the fine vein of poetry which was in him hardly had fair play, being overmuch hampered by the rigidity of literal truth. Yet he makes a similar departure from fact in regard to the Queen, representing her very much as she is in the play.
The point, then, is, that such a departure, however justifiable in either case, seems more likely to have been original in the play than in the poem : in the former it grew naturally from the purpose of the work and the usual method of the workman; in the latter its cause appears to be rather in the force of example: in other words, Shakespeare was more likely to do it because, artistically, it ought so to be; Daniel, because it had been so done with success. And it is considerable that Daniel pushes the divergence from historic truth even further than Shakespeare; in which excess we may easily detect the influence of a model: for that which proceeds by the reason and law of Art naturally stops with them; but in proceeding by the measure of examples and effects such is not the case; and hence it is that imitation is so apt to exaggerate whatever traits it fastens on. To all which if we add, as we justly may, that both this and the other resemblances are such withal as would naturally result from the impressions of the stage, the whole makes at least something of probability for the point in question.