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ON THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION OF THE
FIRST PART OF
H EN Rr VI.
The historical transactions contained in this play, take in the compass of above thirty years. I must observe, however, that our author, in the three parts of Henry VI. has not been very precise to the date and disposition of his facts; but shuffled them, backwards and forwards, out of time. For instance; the lord Talbot is killed at the end of the fourth act of this play, who in reality did not fall till the 13th of July, 1453 : and The Second Part of Henry VI. opens with the marriage of the king, which was folemnized eight years before Talbot's death, in the year 1445.. Again, in the second part, dame Eleanor Cobham is introduced to insult queen Margaret ; though her penance and banishment for sorcery happened three years before that princess came over to England. I could point out many other transgressions against history, as far as the order of time is concerned. Indeed, though there are several matter-strokes in these three plays, which inconteftably betray the workmanship of Shakespeare ; yet I am almost doubtful, whether they were entirely of his writing. And unless tney were wrote by him very early, I should rather imagine them to have been brought to him as a director of the stage ; and so have received some finishing beauties at his hand. An accurate observer will easily fee, the diction of them is more obsolete, and the numbers more mean and prosaical, than in the generality of his genuine compositions.
Of this play there is no copy earlier than that of the folio, in 1623, though the two fucceeding parts are extant in two editions in quarto. That the second and third parts were published without the first, may be admitted as no weak proof that the copies were furreptitiously obtained, and that the printers at that time gave the public those plays, not such as the author defigned, but such as they could get them. That this play was written before the two others is indubitably collected from the series of events; that it was written. and played before Henry the Fifth is apparent, becaule in the epilogue there is mention made of this play, and not of the other parts :
Henry the fixth in swaddling bands crown'd king,
Which oft our stage hath shewn.
The second and third parts of Henry VI, were printed in 1600. When Henry V. was written we know not, but it was printed likewise in 1600, and therefore before the publication of the first part : the first part of Henry VI. had been often shewn on the stage, and would certainly have appeared in its place had the author been the publisher. JOHNSON.
MEN. King HENRY the Sixth. Duke of GLOSTER, Uncle to the King, and Protector. Duke of BEDFORD, Uncle to the King, and Regent of France. Cardinal BEAUFORT, Bishop of Winchester, and great UnDuke of EXETER.
[cle to the King Duke of SOMERSET. Earl of WARWICK. Earl of SALISBURY. Earl of SUFFOLK. Lord TALBOT. Young TALBOT, his Son. RICHARD PLANTAGENET, afterwards Duke of York. MORTIMER, Earl of March. Sir John FASTOLFE. Woodvile, Lieutenant of the Tower. Lord Mayor of
London. Sir THOMAS GARGRAVE. Sir WILLIAM
GLANSDALE. Sir WILLIAM Lucy. VERNON, of the White Rose, or York Faction. Basset, of the Red Rose, or Lancaster Fa&tion. CHARLES, Dauphin, and afterwards King of France. REIGNIER, Duke of Anjou, and titular King of Naples. Duke of BURGUNDY. Duke of ALENÇON. Bastard of Orleans. Governor of Paris. Master Gunner of Orleans. Boy, his Son. An old Shepherd, Father to Joan la Pucelle.
WOMEN. MARGARET, Daughter to Reignier, and afterwards
Queen to King Henry. Countess of AUVERGNE. JOAN LA PUCELLE, commonly called JOAN OF ARC; a
Maid pretending to be inspir'd from Heaven, and setting
up for the Championefs of France. Fiends, attending her. Lords, Captains, Soldiers, Messengers, and several Attena
dants both on the English and French. The Scene is partly in England, and partly in France.
SCENE I. Westminster-Abbey. Dead March. Enter the Funeral of King Henry the
Fifth, attended on by the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France; the Duke of GLOSTER, Protector; the Duke of Exeter, and the Earl of WARWICK; the Bishop of WINCHESTER, and the Duke of SOMERSET, So.
HƯNG lg the heavens with black, yield day to
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Glo. England ne'er had a king, until his time.