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THE FIRST PART OF
KING HENRY THE SIXTH.
The first edition of this play known, is that of the folio 1623. It is generally supposed to be the same “ Henery the vj.," somewhat modified and improved by Shakespeare, which is entered in Henslowe's diary as first acted on the 3rd of March, 1591-2, and to which Nash alludes in his “ Pierce Pennilesse, his Supplication to the Devil,” 1592:—“How would it have joy'd brave Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyne two hundred yeare in his tombe, he should triumph againe on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least, (at severall times,) who, in the tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.” This opinion has, however, been strenuously impugned by Mr. Knight, in his able “Essay on the Three Parts of King Henry VI. and King Richard III.," wherein he attempts to show, that the present drama, as well as the two parts of the “Contention betwixt the two famous houses of Yorke and Lancaster," which Malone has been at such infinite pains to prove the works of earlier writers, are wholly the productions of Shakespeare.
The subject is of extreme difficulty, and one upon which there will always be a conflict of opinion. For our own part, we can no more agree with Mr. Knight in ascribing the piece before us solely to Shakespeare, than with Malone in the attempt to despoil him of the two parts of the “Contention.” To us, in the present play, the hand of the great Master is only occasionally perceptible; while in the “Contention,” it is unmistakeably visible in nearly every scene.
The former was probably an early play of some inferior author, which he partly re-modelled; the latter appears to have been his first alteration of a more important production, perhaps by Marlowe, Greene, and Peele, which he subsequently re-wrote, rechristened, and divided, as it now appears, into what are called the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI.
King HENRY VI.
Duke of York.
CHARLES, Dauphin, afterwards King of France.
MARGARET, Daughter to Reignier ; afterwards married to King Henry.
Lords, Warders of the Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and rdrious
Attendants both on the English and French, Fiends appearing to La Pucelle.
SCENE, -Partly in England, and partly in France.
Dead March. The corpse of King HENRY the Than mid-day sun, fierce bent against their faces.
Fifth discovered, lying in State ; attended What should I say? his deeds exceed all speech : on by the Dukes of BEDFORD, GLOUCESTER, He ne'er lift up his hand but conquered. and EXETER ; the EARL of WARWICK; the Exe. We mourn in black, why mourn we not BISHOP of WINCHESTER, Heralds, &c.
in blood ?
Henry is dead, and never shall revive : Bed. Hung be the heavens with black,(1) yield | Upon a wooden coffin we attend ; day to night!
And death's dishonourable victory Comets, importing change of times and states, We with our stately presence glorify, Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
Like captives bound to a triumphant car. And with them scourge the bad revolting stars, What ! shall we curse the planets of mishap, That have consented unto Henry's death! That plotted thus our glory's overthrow ? King Henry the fifth, too famous to live long ! Or shall we think the subtle-witted French England ne'er lost a king of so much worth. Conjurers and sorcerers, that, afraid of him,
Glo. England ne'er had a king until his time. By magic verses have contriv'd his end ? (2) Virtue he had, deserving to command :
Win. He was a king bless'd of the King of His brandish'd sword did blind men with his
Unto the French the dreadful judgment-day His arms spread wider than a dragon's wings; So dreadful will not be, as was his sight. His sparkling eyes, replete with wrathful fire, The battles of the Lord of hosts he fought : More dazzled and drove back his enemies, The church's prayers made bim so prosperous.
Glo. The church! where is it? Had not a Consented-] Steevens proposed to read concented, believing
churchmen pray’d, the word was not employed here in its ordinary sense, but as
Hi, thread of life had not so soon decay'd : concentus.