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These Three Historical Plays are here condensed into One Reading : chiefly because their original authorship is doubtful, and because Shakespeare's share was only that of adapter or reviser : they having, however, been used by him as introductory to his own Series. It will be observed that, in Meres' list of 1598,* no mention is made of these plays : although, at that date, they were very popular performances. Probably it was then known that, with Shakespeare, they wanted originality-being, in fact, merely transcripts, (though with valuable additions and emendations,) of some previous anonymous compositions.

PART 1. Of the First Part, nothing has been clearly ascertained; and it seems hopeless now to learn when or by whom it was originally composed. It may, however, have been used as a kind of dramatic patchwork for the “prentice hand” of our yet unknown author. Shakespeare's first poem (“ Venus and Adonis,") was not printed till 1593 : and this, (the earliest play with which his name is associated,) bears little internal evidence of his genius, either in sentiment or style : being a confused series of English and French military incidents ; balancing, almost alternately, success and defeat; containing little discrimination of character ; and aiming at no well-defined catastrophe.

The dramatic portraiture of Joan of Arc is as unworthy of the Maid of Orleans, as it is of the Bard of Avon : the dramatist does not indeed vituperate so coarsely as some of the old historians; but he has largely adopted their views, by depreciating the fame, and sullying the good name, of this high-minded and patriotic peasant girl. For these reasons, the character of “ La Pucelle " has been wholly eliminated from this Condensation.

The First Part of King Henry the Sixth, though ascertained to have been performed in 1589, was not printed till in the folio of 1623 ; where it was admitted by the Editors,-probably because it had been recognized as a necessary introduction to the Second and Third Parts ; and perhaps, because a few alterations, amendments, or additions may have been made in it by Shakespeare himself.

PART 11. The Second Part,-known to have been performed in 1591—was first printed in 1594, with the following title : “ The First Part of the Contention of the Twoo famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the Deathe of the good Duke Humphrie, and the Banishment and Deathe of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragical ende of the proude Cardinall of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Jacke Cade, and the Duke of Yorke's first Claime unto the Crowne."

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PART 111. The Second Part of the “ Contention,” now printed as the Third Part of Henry the Sixth, appeared in 1595 (but, like the preceding play, without the author's name)—entitled “ The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the Death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the whole Contention betweene the two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke, as it was sundrie times acted by the Right Honourable the Earl of Pembrooke his servants:"

It appears probable that these Two Parts of the “ Contention " were originally written, either separately or conjointly, by two subordinate authors, Robert Greene and George Peele. They were subsequently revised and rewritten by Shakespeare, and therefore admitted by the Editors of the folio (1623) into their collection. The First Part was retained, apparently because Shakespeare had used it as introductory to his version of the two later plays ; while these, being a continuation of the story,—and known to have been rewritten, augmented and improved by him,—followed as the Second and Third Parts.

As copies of these Two “ Contentions are in existence, we can compare these original forms-often feeble, injudicious, and unrhythmical—with the vigorous, poetical, and polished improvements of Shakespeare.—Briefly, the account stands thus :—In the Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI, there are, altogether, 6043 lines : of these, about 1770 lines are found in the“ Contentions ” unchanged, and are therefore the composition of the earlier dramatist : 2373 old lines are retained, but with variations, corrections, and improvements; and 1899 new lines are added :—these improved and new lines are therefore Shakespeare's.*

The Principal Characters retained in this Triad of Condensations are : KING HENRY THE SIXTH.


EDWARD, Earl of March, )


ward IV. Uncle to the King and Lord

GEORGE, afterwards Protector.

DUKE OF CLARENCE. his DUKE OF BEDFORD, Uncle to the RICHARD, afterwards | Sons. King, and Regent of France.



EDMUND, Earl of RutTER, Great-uncle to the King. land.

J HENRY BEAUFORT, Great-uncle to the King, Bishop of Winchester,

EARL OF SUFFOLK, afterwards HENRY EARL OF RICHMOND, a MARGARET, daughter to Reignier, youth, afterwards King Henry King of Sicily, afterwards VII.

DUKE. and afterwards Cardinal.

DUKE OF NORFOLK. John BEAUFORT, Earl, afterwards



wards known as King-maker. YOUNG CLIFFORD, his Son.


* At the end of the Third Part of this Condensation a Scene is reprinted, from the First Part of the “ Contention," (1594,) which will give the Reader some idea of the original composition, as well as of the improvements introduced by Shakespeare.

QUEEN of Henry the Sixth.


wife of the Lord Protector. party. Town CLERK of Chatham.

JACK CADE, an Irish demagogue. .wards QUEEN of Edward IV.


Lords, Ladies, Attendants, Herfollowers.

alds, Citizens, Soldiers, Messen. MICHAEL,

The Time of the Action of these Three Plays extends from the Death of King Henry V in 1422, to the Death of King Henry VI in 1471 ; thus developing the progress of the Wars with France, and of the Great Civil War in England.

The Scene is in various parts of England and of France.

gers, &c.

The Scene opens on the funeral ceremonies of the late King, Henry V --who,- leaving the throne to his infant son, now only nine months old,- is about to be interred in Westminster Abbey. The royal corpse has been lying in state, attended by the Dukes of Gloster, Bedford, and Exeter, the Earl of Warwick, the Bishop of Winchester, and others. As soon as the solemn dirges of earth to earth and dust to dust” have ceased rolling through “the longdrawn aisles and fretted vaults' of the splendid Cathedral, the Duke of Bedford, - uncle to the baby King, and now regent of France,-thus speaks : Bed. Hung be the 'heavens with black ! yield day to night!

'Comets,-importing 'change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky;
And, with them, scourge the bad revolting stars
That have consented unto Henry's death!
Henry the Fifth, too famous to live long !
England ne'er lost a King of so much worth.

Gloster, the Lord Protector, adds:
Glo. England ne'er 'had a King until his time.

Virtue he had, deserving to command:
What should I say? his deeds exceed 'all speech ;
He ne'er lift up his hand but conqueror.

The Duke of Exeter, grand-uncle to the new King, says: Exe. 'We mourn in 'black: why mourn we not in 'blood ?

Henry is dead, and never shall revive:
Upon a wooden coffin we attend;


And Death's dishonourable victory

We with our stately presence glorify. The crafty Henry Beaufort, another great-uncle, Bishop of Winchester (who is afterwards appointed Cardinal,) is desirous to express his sentiments : Win. He was a king blessed of the 'King of kings.

Unto the French, the dreadful Judgment-day
'So dreadful will not be as was his sight.
The Church's


made him so prosperous. The Duke of Gloster irreverently interposes : Glo. The Church! where is it?

None do you like but an 'effeminate prince,

Whom, like a school-boy, you may overawe.
Win. Gloster, whate'er we 'like, thou art Protector,

And 'lookest to command the Prince and realm.
Thy 'wife is proud; she holdeth thee in awe,

More than Heaven, or religious churchmen, may.
Glo. Name not 'religion ; for thou lov'st the 'flesh,

And ne'er throughout the year to church 'thou go'st,

Except it be—to pray 'against thy foes.
Bed. Cease, cease these jars and rest your minds in peace!

Let 's to the altar.—Heralds, wait on us.-
Instead of gold, we 'll offer up our 'arms.
Henry the Fifth, thy ghost I invocate !
Prosper this realm, keep it from civil broils !

Combat with adverse planets in the heavens ! In the midst of these unseemly jars during the funeral solemnities, unhappy intelligence arrives from France: where Lord Talbot, loved by his own soldiers and feared by the French, is in chief command.-A State Messenger hastily enters : Mess. My honourable lords, health to you

all! 'Sad tidings bring I to you out of France, Of loss, of slaughter, and discomfiture;

Guienne, Rheims, Orleans, Paris, are all lost ! Bed. What say'st thou, man, before dead Henry's corse ?

Speak softly, or the loss of those great towns

Will make him 'burst his lead, and rise from death.
Exe. 'How were they lost? what 'treachery was used ?
Mess. 'No treachery; but want of men and money.
Exe. Were our tears wanting to this funeral,
These tidings would call forth their flowing tides.

Bedford impatiently interrupts :
Bed. 'Me they concern; Regent I am of France.—

Give me my 'steeléd coat. I 'll 'fight for France.—

Away with these disgraceful 'wailing robes !
'Wounds will I lend the French, instead of eyes,
To weep their intermissive miseries.

Another Messenger, with despatches, enters :
Mess. Lords, view these letters full of bad mischance.

France is revolted from the English quite;
The Dauphin Charles is now crowned king in Rheims:

Orleans, Reignier, Alençon, take his part.
Glos. The Dauphin now crowned king ? all fly to him ?

Bedford, if 'thou be slack, 'I 'll fight it out.
Bed. Gloster, why 'doubt'st thou of my forwardness ?

An army have I mustered in my 'thoughts,
Wherewith already France is overrun.

Another Messenger enters :
Mess. My gracious lords, to add to your laments,

I must inform you of a dismal fight,

Wherein Lord Talbot was ta'en prisoner.
Bed. His ransom there is none 'but 'I shall pay.

I'll hale the Dauphin headlong from his throne;
His 'crown shall be the ransom of friend;
Farewell, my masters ! To


task will I;
Bonfires in France forthwith I am to make,
To keep our great Saint George's feast withal.
Ten thousand soldiers with me I will take,
Whose bloody deeds shall make all Europe quake. (Exit.

The Protector Gloster says:
Glo. I 'll to the Tower, with all the haste I can,
And then I will proclaim young Henry king.

Exeter adds :
Exe. To 'Eltham will I, where the young king is,

Being ordained his special governor ;

And, for his safety, 'There I 'll best devise.
Who is this in priestly apparel, sardonically smiling as he slowly
follows ? It is Henry Beaufort, the wily Bishop of Winchester.
Win. 'Each hath his place and function to attend:

'I am left out; for me nothing remains.
But long I will not be Jack-out-of-office:
The King from Eltham I intend to steal,
And sit at chiefest stern of public weal.





For the purpose of connecting after-events with the early days of King Henry's long reign, we now proceed to the precincts of

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