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CONTENTS OF VOL IV.
THE PEOPLE'S EDITION.
THE TEXT CAREFULLY RESTORED ACCORDING TO
THE FIRST EDITIONS ; WITH INTRODUCTIONS,
A LIFE OF THE POET;
REVISED EDITION, WITH ADDITIONAL NOTES.
IN SIX VOLUMES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by
NOYES, HOLMES, AND COMPANY,
THE FIRST PART OF HENRY VI.
IN 1592 Thomas Nash put forth a pamphlet, entitled Pierce Penniless luis Supplication to the Devil, in which occurs the following: “Nay, what if I prove plays to be no extreme, but a rare exercise of virtue? First, for the subject of them : for the most part it is borrowed out of our English Chronicles, wherein our forefathers' valiant acts, that have been long buried in rusty brass and worm-eaten books, are revived, and they themselves raised from the grave of oblivion, and brought to plead their aged honours in open presence; than which what can be a sharper reproof to these degenerate days of ours? ..... In plays, all cosenages, all cunning drifts, over-gilded with outward holiness, all stratagems of war, all the canker-worms that breed in the rust of peace, are most lively anatomised. They show the ill success of treason, the fall of hasty climbers, the wretched end of usurpers, the misery of civil dissentions, and how just God is evermore in punishing murder. And to prove every one of these allegations could I propound the circumstances of this play and that, if I meant to handle this theme otherwise than obiter."
This passage yields a clear inference that dramas founded on English history were a favourite species of entertainment on the London stage in 1592; and in the same connection Nash speaks of them as being resorted to in the afternoon by “men that are their own masters, as gentlemen of the court, the inns of court, and the number of captains and soldiers about London." Historical plays, being in such special request, would naturally lead off in whatsoever of dramatic improvement was then forthcoming; and in fact the earliest growth of excellence appears to have been in this department. For in this, as in other things, the demand would needs in a great measure regulate the supply, and thus cause the first advances to be made in the line where, to the common interest of dramatic representation was added the further