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*KING HENRY VIII.] We are unacquainted with any dra matick piece on the subject of Henry VIII. that preceded this of Shakspeare; and yet on the books of the Stationers' Company appears the following entry: "Nathaniel Butter] (who was one of our author's printers) Feb. 12, 1604. That he get good allowance for the enterlude of King Henry VIII. before he begin to print it; and with the wardens hand to yt, he is to have the fame for his copy." Dr. Farmer, in a note on the epilogue to this play, obferves, from Stowe, that Robert Greene had written somewhat on the fame ftory. STEEVENS.
This hiftorical drama comprizes a period of twelve years, commencing in the twelfth year of King Henry's reign, (1521) and ending with the chriftening of Elizabeth in 1533. Shakspeare has deviated from hiftory in placing the death of Queen Katharine before the birth of Elizabeth, for in fact Katharine did not die till 1536.
King Henry VIII. was written, I believe, in 1601. See An Attempt to afcertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. II.
Dr. Farmer, in a note on the epilogue, obferves, from Stowe, that "Robert Greene had written fomething on this story;" but this, I apprehend, was not a play, but fome hiftorical account of Henry's reign, written not by Robert Greene, the dramatick poet, but by fome other perfon. In the lift of "authors out of whom Stowe's Annals were compiled," prefixed to the last edition printed in his life time, quarto, 1605, Robert Greene is enumerated with Robert de Brun, Robert Fabian, &c. and he is often quoted as an authority for facts in the margin of the hiftory of that reign. MALONE.
I come no more to make you laugh; things now, That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of ftate and woe,
The play may pass; if they be ftill, and willing,
or to see a fellow
In a long motley coat,] Alluding to the fools and buffoons, introduced in the plays a little before our author's time: and of whom he has left us a small tafte in his own. THEOBALD.
In Marfton's 10th Satire there is an allufion to this kind of drefs:
"The long foole's coat, the huge flop, the lugg'd boot, "From mimick Pifo all doe claime their roote.' Thus alfo Nafhe, in his Epiftle Dedicatory to Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is up, 1596: "-fooles, ye know, alwaies for the moft part (especiallie if they bee naturall fooles) are futed in long coats." STEEVENS.
As fool and fight is," befide forfeiting
Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring,
2 -fuch a show
As fool and fight is,] This is not the only paffage in which Shakspeare has difcovered his conviction of the impropriety of battles reprefented on the stage. He knew that five or fix men with fwords, gave a very unfatisfactory idea of an army, and therefore, without much care to excufe his former practice, he allows that a theatrical fight would destroy all opinion of truth, and leave him never an understanding friend. Magnis ingeniis et multa nihilominus habituris fimplex convenit erroris confeffio. Yet I know not whether the coronation fhown in this play may not be liable to all that can be objected against a battle.
the opinion that we bring,
(To make that only true we now intend,)] These lines I do not understand, and fufpect them of corruption. I believe we may better read thus :
the opinion, that we bring
Or make; that only truth we now intend. JOHNSON.
To intend, in our author, has fometimes the fame meaning as to pretend. So, in King Richard III:
"The mayor is here at hand: Intend fome fear
"Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
If any alteration were neceffary, I should be for only changing the order of the words, and reading:
That only true to make we now intend:
i. e. that now we intend to exhibit only what is true.
This paffage, and others of this Prologue, in which great stress is laid upon the truth of the enfuing reprefentation, would lead one to fufpect, that this play of Henry the VIIIth. is the very play mentioned by Sir H. Wotton, [in his Letter of 2 July, 1613, Reliq. Wotton, p. 425,] under the defcription of " a new play, [acted by the king's players at the Bank's Side] called, All is True, reprefenting fome principal pieces of the reign of Henry the VIIIth." The extraordinary circumftances of pomp and majesty, with which, Sir Henry fays, that play was fet forth, and the particular incident of certain cannons hot off at the King's entry to a mafque at the Cardinal Wolfey's house, (by
Therefore, for goodness' fake, and as you are known The firft and happiest hearers of the town,4
which the theatre was fet on fire and burnt to the ground,) are ftrictly applicable to the play before us. Mr. Chamberlaine, in Winwood's Memorials, Vol. III. p. 469, mentions "the burning of the Globe, or playhouse, on the Bankfide, on St. Peter's-day [1613,] which (fays he) fell out by a peale of chambers, that I know not on what occafion were to be used in the play.". Ben Jonfon, in his Execration upon Vulcan, fays, they were two poor chambers. [See the stage-direction in this play, a little before the King's entrance: "Drum and trumpet, chambers difcharged."] The Continuator of Stowe's Chronicle, relating the fame accident, p. 1003, fays exprefsly, that it happened at the play of Henry the VIIIth.
In a MS. Letter of Tho. Lorkin to Sir Tho. Puckering, dated London, this laft of June, 1613, the fame fact is thus related : "No longer fince than yesterday, while Bourbage his companie were acting at the Globe the play of Hen. VIII. and there fhooting of certayne chambers in way of triumph, the fire catch'd," &c. MS. Harl. 7002. TYRWHITT.
I have followed a regulation recommended by an anonymous correfpondent, and only included the contested line in a parenthefis, which in fome editions was placed before the word befide. Opinion, I believe, means here, as in one of the parts of King Henry IV. character. ["Thou haft redeem'd thy loft opinion." King Henry IV. Part I. Vol. XI. p. 422.] To realize and fulfil the expectations formed of our play, is now our object. This fentiment (to fay nothing of the general ftyle of this prologue) could never have fallen from the modeft Shakspeare. I have no doubt that the whole prologue was written by Ben Jonfon, at the revival of the play, in 1613. MALONE.
4 The first and happiest hearers of the town,] Were it neceffary to ftrengthen Dr. Johnson's and Dr. Farmer's fuppofition, (fee notes on the epilogue,) that old Ben, not Shakspeare, was author of the prologue before us, we might observe, that happy appears, in the present inftance, to have been used with one of its Roman fignifications, i. e. propitious or favourable: "Sis bonus O, felixque tuis!" Virg. Ecl. 5. a fenfe of the word which muft have been unknown to Shakspeare, but was familiar to Jonfon. STEEVENS.