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this alone might decide the question, without taking into the account the numerous classical allusions which are found in this first part. The reader will be enabled to judge how far this argument deserves attention, from the several extracts from those ancient pieces which he will find in the Essay on this subject.
With respect to the second and third parts of King Henry VI, or, as they were originally called, The Contention of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, they stand, in my apprehension, on a very different ground from that of this first part, or, as I believe it was anciently called, The Play of King Henry VI. The Contention, &c. printed in two parts, in quarto, 1600, was, I conceive, the production of some playwright who preceded, or was contemporary with Shakspeare; and out of that piece he formed the two plays which are now denominated the Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.; as, out of the old plays of King John and The Taming of the Shrew, he formed two other plays with the same titles. For the reasons on which this opinion is formed, I must again refer to my Essay on this subject.
This old play of King Henry VI. now before us, or as our author's editors have called it, the first part of King Henry VI. suppose, to have been written in 1589, or before. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. II. The disposition of facts in these three plays, not always corresponding with the dates, which Mr. Theobald mentions, and the want of uniformity and consistency in the series of events exhibited, may perhaps be in some measure accounted for by the hypothesis now stated. As to our author's having accepted these pieces as a Director of the stage, he had, I fear, no pretension to such a situation at so early a period. MALONE.
The chief argument on which the first paragraph of the foregoing note depends, is not, in my opinion, conclusive. This historical play might have been one of our author's earliest dramatick efforts: and almost every young poet begins his career by imitation. Shakspeare, therefore, till he felt his own strength, perhaps servilely conformed to the style and manner of his predecessors. Thus, the captive eaglet described by Rowe:
a while endures his cage and chains,
"And like a prisoner with the clown remains :
"But when his plumes shoot forth, his pinions swell, "He quits the rustick and his homely cell,
"Breaks from his bonds, and in the face of day
"Full in the sun's bright beams he soars away."
What further remarks I may offer on this subject, will appear in the form of notes to Mr. Malone's Essay, from which I do not wantonly differ,—though hardily, I confess, as far as my sentiments may seem to militate against those of Dr. Farmer.
King Henry the Sixth.
Duke of Gloster, Uncle to the King, and Protector. Duke of Bedford, uncle to the King, and Regent of
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, great Uncle to
Henry Beaufort, great Uncle to the King, Bishop of
Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March.
Sir John Fastolfe. Sir William Lucy.
Sir William Glansdale. Sir Thomas Gargrave.
An old Shepherd, Father to Joan la Pucelle. Margaret, Daughter to Reignier; afterwards married to King Henry.
Countess of Auvergne.
Joan la Pucelle, commonly called Joan of Arc. Fiends appearing to La Pucelle, Lords, Warders of the Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and several Attendants both on the English and French. SCENE, partly in England, and partly in France.
FIRST PART OF
KING HENRY VI.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Dead march. Corpse of King Henry the Fifth discovered, lying in state; attended on by the Dukes of BEDFORD, GLOSTER, and EXETER; the Earl of WARWICK,' the Bishop of Winchester, Heralds, &c.
BED. Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Earl of Warwick,] The Earl of Warwick who makes his appearance in the first scene of this play is Richard Beauchamp, who is a character in King Henry V. The Earl who appears in the subsequent part of it, is Richard Nevil, son to the Earl of Salisbury, who became possessed of the title in right of his wife, Anne, sister of Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick, on the death of Anne his only child in 1449. Richard, the father of this Henry, was appointed governor to the king, on the demise of Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, and died in 1439. There is no reason to think that the author meant to confound the two characters. RITSON.
Hung be the heavens with black,] Alluding to our ancient stage-practice when a tragedy was to be expected. So, in Sid
Brandish your crystal tresses3 in the sky;
ney's Arcadia, Book II: "There arose, even with the sunne, a vaile of darke cloudes before his face, which shortly had blacked over all the face of heaven, preparing (as it were) a mournfull stage for a tragedie to be played on." See also Mr. Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage. STEEVENS.
3 Brandish your crystal tresses-] Crystal is an epithet repeatedly bestowed on comets by our ancient writers. So, in a Sonnet, by Lord Sterline, 1604:
"When as those chrystal comets whiles appear." Spenser, in his Fairy Queen, Book I. c. x. applies it to a lady's face:
"Like sunny beams threw from her chrystal face." Again, in an ancient song entitled The falling out of Lovers is the renewing of Love:
"You chrystal planets shine all clear
"And light a lover's way."
"There is also a white comet with silver haires," says Pliny, as translated by P. Holland, 1601. STEEVENS.
That have consented-] If this expression means no more than that the stars gave a bare consent, or agreed to let King Henry die, it does no great honour to its author. I believe to consent, in this instance, means to act in concert. Concentus, Lat. Thus Erato the muse, applauding the song of Apollo, in Lyly's Midas, 1592, cries out: "O sweet consent !” i. e. sweet union of sounds. Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. IV. c. ii: "Such musick his wise words with time consented." Again, in his translation of Virgil's Culex :
"Chaunted their sundry notes with sweet concent." Again, in Chapman's version of the 24th Book of Homer's Odyssey:
all the sacred nine
"Of deathless muses, paid thee dues divine:
"By varied turns their heavenly voices venting; "All in deep passion for thy death consenting." Consented, or, as it should be spelt, concented, means, have thrown themselves into a malignant configuration, to promote the death of Henry. Spenser, in more than one instance, spells this word as it appears in the text of Shakspeare, as does Ben Jonson, in his Epithalamion on Mr. Weston. The following lines,
Henry the fifth, too famous to live long !6
shall we curse the planets of mishap, "That plotted thus," &c.
seem to countenance my explanation; and Falstaff says of Shallow's servants, that ". they flock together in consent, like so many wild geese." See also Tully de Natura Deorum, Lib. II. ch. xlvi: "Nolo in stellarum ratione multus vobis videri, maximéque earum quæ errare dicuntur. Quarum tantus est concentus ex dissimilibus motibus," &c.
Milton uses the word, and with the same meaning, in his Penseroso:
"Whose power hath a true consent
Steevens is right in his explanation of the word consented. So, in The Knight of the burning Pestle, the Merchant says to Merrythought:
too late, I well perceive,
"Thou art consenting to my daughter's loss."
and in The Chances, Antonio, speaking of the wench who robbed him, says:
"And also the fiddler who was consenting with her.” meaning the fiddler that was her accomplice.
The word appears to be used in the same sense in the fifth scene of this Act, where Talbot says to his troops:
"You all consented unto Salisbury's death,
"For none would strike a stroke in his revenge.'
Consent, in all the books of the age of Elizabeth, and long afterwards, is the usual spelling of the word concent. See Vol. X. p. 96, n. 3; and K. Henry IV. P. II. Act V. SC. i. In other places I have adopted the modern and more proper spelling; but, in the present instance, I apprehend, the word was used in its ordinary sense. In the second Act, Talbot, reproaching the soldiery, uses the same expression, certainly without any idea of a malignant configuration:
"You all consented unto Salisbury's death." MALONE. Henry the fifth,] Old copy, redundantly,-King Henry &c.
6 too famous to live long!] So, in King Richard III: "So wise so young, they say, do ne'er live long."