« PreviousContinue »
JOHNSON AND STEEVENS.
KING HENRY VI, PART I,
KING HENRY VI, PART II,
KING HENRY VI, PART III.
PUBLISHED BY J. MORGAN AND T. S. MANNING.
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 solemnized 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 master-strokes in these three plays, which incontestibly betray the workmanship of Shakspeare; yet I am almost doubtful, whether they were entirely of his writing. And unless they 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 see, the diction of them is more obsolete, and the numbers more mean and prosaical, than in the generality of his genuine compositions. Theobald.
Having given my opinion very fully relative to these plays at the end of The Third Part of King Henry VI, it is here only necessary to apprize the reader what my hypothesis is, that he may be the better enabled, as he proceeds, to judge concerning its probability. Like many others, I was long struck with the many evident Shaksperianisms in these plays, which appeared to me to carry such decisive weight, that I could scarcely bring myself to examine with attention any of the arguments that have been urged against his being the author of them. I am now surprised, (and my readers perhaps may say the same thing of themselves) that I should never have adverted to a very striking circumstance which distinguishes this first part from the other parts of King Henry VI. This circumstance is, that none of these Shaksperian passages are to be found here, though several are scattered through the two other parts. I am therefore decisively of opinion that this play was not written by Shakspeare. The reasons on which that opinion is founded, are stated at large in the Dissertation above referred to. But I would here request the reader to attend particularly to the versification of this piece, (of which almost every line has a pause at the end,) which is so different from that of Shakspeare's undoubted plays, and of the greater part of the two succeeding pieces as altered by him, and so exactly corresponds with that of the tragedies written by others before and about the time of his first commencing author, that 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 de