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King Henry the Fifth.
, } uncles to the king.
conspirators against the king. Sir Thomas Grey, Sir Thomas Erpingham, Gower, Fluellen, Mack
morris, Jamy, officers in king Henry's army. Nym, Bardolph, Piftol, Boy, formerly servants to
Falstaff, now soldiers in the king's army,
Isabel, queen of France.
Lords, Messengers, French and English Soldiers, with
other Attendants. The SCENE, at the beginning of the play, lies in Enge
land; but afterwards, wholly in France.
'O, for a muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention ! A kingdom for a stage, ’ princes to act, And monarchs to behold the swelling scene ! Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, Assume the port of Mars; and, at his heels, Leash'din like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire, Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all, The flat unraised spirit, that hath dar'd, On this unworthy scaffold, to bring forth So great an object : Can this cock-pit hold
"O for a muse of fire, &c.] This goes upon the notion of the Peripatetic system, which imagines several heavens one above another ; 'the last and highest of which was one of fire.
WARBURTON It alludes likewise to the afpiring nature of fire, which, by its levity, at the separation of the chaos, took the higheit feat of all the elements. Johnson.
-princes to act, And monarchs to beholden ] Shakespeare does not seem to set distance enough between the performers and spectators. JOHNSON.
3 Leasht in like bounds, Thould famine, sword, and fire,
Crouch for employment. In K. Henry VI. " Lean famine, quartering steel, and climbă ing fire,” are called the three attendants on the English general, lord Talbot ; and, as I suppose, are the dogs of war mentioned in Julius Cæfar.
This image of the warlike Henry very much resembles Monte . faucon's description of the Mars discovered at Brelle, who leads a Iyon and a lyoness in couples, and crouching as for employ ment. TOLLET.
Warner, in his Albion's England, 1602, speaking of King Henry V. says:
“He led good fortune in a line, and did but war and win." Holinshed, (p. 567.) when the people of Roan petitioned king Henry V. has put this sentiment into his mouth : + He declared :that the goddesse 'of battell, called Bellona, had three handmaidens, ever of necessitie attending upon her, as blood, fire, and famine." STEEVENS.
The vasty field of France ? or may we crani,
4 Within this wooden 0, -] Nothing shews more evidently the power of custom over language, than that the frequent use of calling a circle an ( could so much hide the meanness of the metaphor from Shakespeare, that he has used it many times where he makes his moft eager attempts at dignity of stile.
JOHNSON. $ The very casques] The helmets. JOHNSON.
Imaginary forces.am] Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy. Active and paffive words are by this author frequently confounded. Johnson.
Whose high-upreared, and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow occan parts afunder.] Without doubt the author wrote:
Whose high-upreared and abutting fronts,
Perilous, the narrow ocean parts asunder.} For his purpose is to thew, that the highest danger arises from the shock of their meeting, and that it is bụt a little thing which keeps them asunder. This sense my emendation gives us, as the common reading gives us a contrary; for those whom a perilous ocean parts afinder, are in no danger of meeting. WARBURTON.
Perilous narrow, in burlesque and common language meant no more than very narrow. In old books this mode of expression occurs perpetually. A perilous broad brim to a hat, a perilous long jivord, &c. So, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Humourous Liena
“ She is perilous crafty." Thus, villainous is only used to exaggerate, in the Tempeft:
be turn'd to barnacles or apes. “ With foreheads villanous low.” Again, in John Florio's Preface to his Translation of Montaigne : in this perilous crook'd passage
Into a thousand parts divide one man, s And make imaginary puiffance : Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth ; 9 For’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
ay them here and there ; jumping o'er times; surning the accomplishment of many years Into an hour-glass; For the which supply, Admit me chorus to this history ; Who, prologue-like, your humble patience pray, Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.
• And make imaginary puisance:] This shews that Shakespeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of shewing battles on the theatre, which indeed is never done but tragedy becomes farce. Nothing can be represented to the eye but by something like it, and evithin a wooden O nothing very like a battle can be exhibited.
Johnson. Other authors of that age seem to have been sensible of the fame absurdities. In Heywood's Fair Alaid of the Weft, 1631; a Chorus enters and says:
af Our stage so lamely can express a sea,
" What should have been in action, &c." STEEVENS. 9 For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our king: ;
Carry them here and there; -] We may read king for kings. The prologue relates only to this single play. The mistake was made by referring them to king's which belongs to thoughts. The sense is, your thoughts must give the king his proper greatness ; carry therefore your thoughts here and there, jumping over time, and crowding years into an hour.
Johnson. I am not sure that Dr. Johnson's observation is juft. In this play, the king of France as well as England, makes his appearance ; and the sense may be this; -it must be to your imaginations that our kings are indebted for their royalty. Let the fancy of the spectator furnish out those appendages to greatness which the poverty of our stage is unable to supply. The poet is still apologizing for the defects of theatrical representation. STEEVENS