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3. The First Part of King Henry VI. 1591. The regular First Part of K. Henry V I. was not published till 1623, at which time it was entered at Stationers' half by the printers of the earliest folio, under the name of the Third Part of K. Henry VI. In one sense it might be called so; for two parts had appeared before. But considering the history of that reign, and the period of time it comprehends, it ought to have been called, what in fact it is, the First Part of K. Henry VI. Why this Firf Part was not entered on the Stationers' books with the other two, it is impossible now to determine. That it was written before the Second and Third Paris, Dr. Johnson thinks, appears indubitably from the series of events. “ It is apparent,” he says, “ that the Second Part begins where the former ends, and continues the series of transactions of which it pre-supposes the first part already known. This is a sufficient proof that the Second and Third Parts were not written without dependence on the Firs, though they were printed as containing a complete period of history."
I once thought differently from the learned commentator; imagining that the Firs Part of King Henry VI. was not written till after the two other parts. But on an attentive examination of these three plays, I have found sufficient reason to subscribe to Dr. Johnfon's opinion.
This piece is supposed to have been produced in the year 1591, on the authority of Thomas Nashe, who in a tract entitled Pierce Pennylejs his Supplication to the Devil, which was published in 1592', expresly mentions one of the characters in it, who does not appear in the second or third Part of K. Henry VI. nor, I believe, in any other play of that time. “ How (says he) would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French', to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the
This was the first edition, for it was not entered on the Sta. tioners' books before that year.
s Thus Talbot is described in the first part of K. Henry VI, Aą I. fo. iii.
" Here, said they, is the terror of the French." Again in Act V. se. i.
" Is Talbot flain, the Frenchmens' only scourge,
stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times), who, in the tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding."
4. SECOND AND THIRD PARTS OF KING HENRY VI. 5.
1592. In a tract already mentioned, entitled Greene's Groatfworth of Witte, &c. which was written before the end of the year 1592, there is, as Mr. Tyrwhitt has observed, a parody on a line in the Third Part of K. Henry VI. and an allufion to the name of Shakspeare.
These two historical dramas were entered on the books of the Stationers' company, March 12, 1593—4, but were not printed till the year 1600. In their second titles they are called – The First AND SECOND PARTs of the Contention of the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster; but in reality they are THE SECOND and Third PARTS of King Henry VI.
In the last chorus of King Henry V. Shakspeare alludes to the Second Part, perhaps to all the parts of K. Henry VI. as popular performances, that had frequently been exhibited on the stage; and expresses a hope, that K. Henry V. may, for their sake, meet with a favourable reception: a plea, which he scarcely would have urged, if he had not been their author.
6. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1592. There is reason to believe that Pericles, whoever was the writer of it, was composed about this time. The poet introduces John Gower by way of chorus to it, as Middleton introduces Rainulph, the monk of Chester, in his Mayor of Quinborough, and as Thomas Heywood does Skelton and Fryar Tuck, in his Robert of Huntingdon: performances nearly of this date. Ben Johnson, in his ode on the ill reception of his New Inn, speaks of Pericles as a play of great antiquity, calling it a mouldy tale. It was not entered on the books of the Stationers' company till May 2, 1608, nor printed till 1609; but the following stanza, in a metrical
pamphlet, entitled Pymlico or Run away Redcap, published in 1596, ascertains it to have been written and exhibited on the stage, prior to that year:
« Amaz'd I stood, to see a crowd
« Came to fee Shore", or Pericles." In this piece are introduced many dumb shews, which were much admired at this time; and they afford one argument against its being the production of Shakspeare; he having never admitted a serious dumb shew in any play unquestionably his: and having in Hamlet, four years after the date here assigned to Pericles, expressly marked his disapprobation of them, by calling them inexplicable. Dryden, however, seems to have thought Pericles genuine, and our author's first compofition:
“ Shakespeare's own muse his Pericles first bore,
7. Locrine, 1593. Entered on the Stationers' books July 20, 1594. Printcd in 1595, without any author's name. In the title-page this piece is said to be newly set forth, over seene and corrected by W. s.
NOTES. w See the entry on the books of the Stationers' company, June 19, 1594, where the lamentable End of Shore's Wife is mentioned as a part of Richard III. This piece in which Shore's wife was introduced was, probably, in poffeffion of the stage a year or two before this entry; and from the manner in which thele plays are mentioned in the verses above quoted, we may conclude that Pen ricles was equally ancient, and equally well known.
* Prologue to the tragedy of Circe, by Charles Davenant, 1677. -Mr. Rowe, in his Life of Shakespeare, (first edition) says, “ There is good reason to believe that the greatest part of Pericles was not written by him, though it is ocuned, fome part of it certainly was, particularly the last aci.” I have not been able to learn on what authority this latter affertion was grounded.- Rowe, in his second edition, omitted the paffuge.
8. The Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, 1593. This comedy was not entered on the books of the Staa tioners' company till 1623, at which time it was first printed; but is mentioned by Meres in 1598, and bears Itrong internal marks of an early composition.
9. THE WINTER'S TALE, 1594. The Winter's Tale was, perhaps, entered on the Stationers' books, May 22, 1594, under the name of A W'ynter Nyght's Pajtime; which might have been the same play. It is oba servable that Shakipeare has two other similar titles;Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night's Dream: and it appears that the titles of his plays were sometimes changed; thus, All's Well that Ends Well, we have reason to think, was called Love's Labour Won; and Hamlet was sometimes called Hamlet's Revenge, sometimes The HISTORY of Hamlet. However, it must not be concealed, that The Winter's Tale is not enumerated among our author's plays, by Meres, in 1598: a circumstance which, yet, is not decisive to thew that it was not then written; for neither is Hamlet nor King Henry VI. mentioned by him.
Greene's Dorafius and Fawnio, from which the plot of this play is borrowed, was published in 1588.
The iVinter's Tale was acted at court in the beginning of the year 1613'. It was not printed till 1623.
Mr. Walpole thinks, that this play was intended by Shakspeare as an indirect apology for Anne Boleyn; and considers it as a Second Part to K. Henry VIII. My ref. pect for that very judicicus and ingenious writer, the filence of Meres, and the circumstance of there not being one rhyming couplet throughout this piece, except in the chorus, make me doubt whether it ought not to be ascribed to the year 1601, or 1602, rather than that in which it is here placed.
10. A MIDSUMMER NICHT'S DREAM, 1595.
The poetry of this piece, glowing with all the warmth
of a youthful and lively imagination, the many scenes that it contains of almost continual rhyme', the poverty of the fable, and want of discrimination among the higher personages, dispose me to believe that it was one of our author's earliest attempts in comedy.
It seems to have been written, while the ridiculous compé. titions, prevalent among the histrionick tribe, were strongly impressed by novelty on his mind. He would naturally copy those manners firit, with which he was first acquainted. The ambition of a theatrical candidate for applause he has happily ridiculed in Bottom the weaver. But
among the more dignified persons of the drama we look in vain for any traits of character. The manners of Hippolita, the Amazon, are undistinguished from those of other females. Theseus, the associate of Hercules, is not engaged in any adventure, worthy of his rank or reputation, nor is he in reality an agent throughout the play. Like K. Henry VIII. he goes out a Maying. He meets the lovers in perplexity, and makes no effort to promote their happiness; but when supernatural accidents have reconciled them, he joins their company, and concludes his day's entertainment by uttering some miserable puns at an interlude represented by a troop of clowns. Over the fairy part of the drama he cannot be supposed to have any influence. This part of the fable, indeed, (at least as much of it as relates to the quarrels of Oberon and Titania) was not of our author's invention :- Through the
whole NOTES. a Ante p. 282.
• The learned editor of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, printed in 1775, observes in his introductory discourse (vol. IV. p. 161.) that Pluto and Proserpine in the Marchant's Tale, appear to have been the true progenitors of Shakspeare's Oberon and Titania." In a tract already quoted, Greene's Groatsworth of Witte, 1592, a. player is introduced, who boasts of having performed the part of ihe King of Fairies with applause. Greene hiinself wrote play, entitled The Scottishe Story of James the Four: be, Naine at Floddon, intermixed with a pleasang Comedie presented by Oberon King of the Fairies; which was entered at Stationers' hallin 1594, and printed in 1599. Shakspeare, however, does not appear to have been indebted to this piece. The plan of it is shortly this. Bohan, a Scot, in consequence of being disgusted with the world, having retired to a tomb where he has fixed his dwelling, is met by Alter Oberon, king of the fairies, who entertains him with an antick or dance by his fubjects. These two personages, after fome