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EXPLANATION OF REFERENCES.
1. Omissions and Alterations in the Text marked by an asterisk (*),
unless indicated in the Notes, or in the lists of “Emendations, &c.,” given in the Prefaces to each Volume. See Preface to vol. i. p. xxxii, and to vol. ii. p.
xviii. 2. Marginal Notes indicated by numerals. 3. Notes, Critical and Historical, placed at the end of each play,
indicated by letters within brackets (a). 4. The Editor's work on 'Shakspeare's Knowledge and Use of the
Bible' is referred to as “B. and Sh.' 5. Dr Abbott's 'Shakspearian Grammar' is indicated by “Abb.,'
and the numerals that follow, mark, not its pages, but the
sections. 6. 'Edd.' indicates a reading generally received in previous edi
In Dyce's edition there is no numeration of the lines. That which I have given differs somewhat both from the Globe and Leopold. Indeed, no two editions precisely correspond in this respect, which causes some difficulty and confusion in regard to references.
INTRODUCTION TO KING HENRY VI.
PARTS II. AND III.
THESE two parts, like the two parts of King Henry IV., are to be regarded and read as one play ; or, as Gervinus calls it, “a dramatic chronicle, in ten acts :” and he adds, “neither in outer form, nor in inner idea, are the two pieces otherwise than mechanically divided. The events in France, which formed the principal subject in the First Part, are here removed to the farthest background : the reader scarcely observes the short passages in which we learn that Somerset is sent to France, and that this valuable possession is completely lost to England. The subject of the Second and Third Parts is, the contest of the Houses of York and Lancaster; the decline of England's power under the weak and saintly Henry VI. ; and the rise of York, the father of the terrible Richard III.”-P. 117.
1. SOURCES AND AUTHORSHIP OF THE PLAY.—There is reason, not absolutely conclusive, but highly probable, to induce us to believe that the first draft of both parts of this play, printed anonymously —the former part, in quarto, 1594; and the latter, in 8vo, 1595,under the titles respectively Of the Contention betwixt the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster, &c., and True Tragedy of the Duke of York, &c., was the production of Robert Greene, who had died in 1592; but there is also proof certain that, in their present form, both parts contain a large proportion of Shakspeare's workmanship, and that each of them, in its entirety, has come to us with his “imprimatur," or, at least, his “doceatur.” This subject has been fully discussed, first, by Malone-see his Dissertation, in Var. edit., vol. xviii. pp. 555-597—and subsequently by Mr Grant
White ; see the Essay in his edition, vol. vii. pp. 403-468. The latter comes to the conclusion that “more than three-fourths of the Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI. may be regarded, with slight allowance for unobliterated traces of his co-labourers [Greene, Marlowe, and Peele), as Shakspeare's own in every sense of the word; and to the remainder he probably has as good a claim as to many passages which he found in prose in various authors, and which were transmuted into poetry in their passage through the magical alembic of his brain.”—P. 462. Both The Contention, &c., and The True Tragedy, &c., are to be found reprinted in 'The Shakspeare Library, Part ii. vol. i. pp. 414-520, and vol. ii. pp. 3-105, with an interesting Introduction by Mr Halliwell-Phillipps. Whether Shakspeare had any share in them has been much disputed. Professor Dowden, following Mr Grant White, is inclined to the affirmative side-p. 97. On the other hand, Mr Furnivall favours "the conclusion of Miss Jane Lee and other critics, that Shakspeare took no part in The Contention and True Tragedy.”
“Whoever reads the narratives of Hall and Holinshed by the side of Henry VI., whether Greene's version or Shakspeare's, will perceive the most accurate transcript of the text of the narrative, even in passages where he would have least supposed it. ... The whole insurrection of Cade, in the Second Part, full as it is of popular humour, proceeds so entirely from the historical sources, that even the speeches of the rough rebels, which appeared more than any. thing to be the property of the poet, are found, partly verbatim, in ‘The Chronicle of St Albans,' from which Stowe quotes them in his account of the insurrection of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw. Single highly poetical passages, such as the prophecy of Henry VI., the bold answer of the captive Prince of Wales, the assassination of the young Rutland, and others, are not only borrowed from the Chronicle, but the last scene makes in Holinshed also an affecting and poetical impression.”—GERVINUS, p. 119, sq.
2. GENERAL MERITS OF THE PLAY.—“These plays, considered without regard to characters and incidents, merely as narratives in verse, are more happily conceived, and more accurately finished, than those of King John, Richard II., or the tragic scenes of King Henry IV. and V. ... The second of the three plays (Johnson, who is here quoted, accepted them all as genuine) is, I think, the best. The truth is, that they have not sufficient variety of action, for the incidents are too often of the same kind ; yet many of the characters are well discriminated: King Henry and his queen, King Edward, the Duke of Gloucester, and the Earl of Warwick, are very strongly and distinctly painted."-JOHNSON. In reference to this criticism, Courtenay remarks: “I do not agree with Johnson in ascribing to these pieces any one point of superiority over the former historical plays. On the contrary, the second, though, as he says, the best of the three, is inferior, in my opinion, in good scenes and speeches, to the Second Part of Henry IV., which is the least admirable of those other plays.”_Vol. ii. p. 55. Between the two foregoing judgments, the observations of Mrs Jameson may find a place, and are, in my opinion, perfectly sound and just : “ To me it appears that the three parts of King Henry VI. have less of poetry and passion, and more of unnecessary verbosity, than the rest of Shakspeare's works ; that the continual exhibition of treachery, bloodshed, and violence is revolting; and the want of unity of action, and of a pervading interest, oppressive and fatiguing ; but also that there are splendid passages in the Second and Third Parts, such as Shakspeare alone could have written.”—P. 366.
3. CHARACTERS TO BE CHIEFLY STUDIED :(a) King HENRY VI. (in all three Parts).—" It may be truly said of this king, that, having begun his reign in the months of infancy, he carried forward into the years of manhood a most childlike spirit: the very innocence and simplicity of childhood seem never to have deserted him.”—Professor REED, p. 162. “ Kind, gentle, amiable, pious, and a lover of peace, Henry was always weak and easily swayed. The cares of State were an oppression to him ; and feeling his incapacity to govern, he accepted the counsellors thrown in his way; and supposing every one as true-hearted as himself, he gave them his entire confidence... I think there can be no doubt whatever that, towards the close of his reign, he suffered from what we now call a softening of the brain. The first appearance and early progress of this complaint is not easily observed, even at the present time. At a period when the existence of the malady was not recognised, men scarcely marked the increasing weakness of the king's character, until at length he became imbecile. His oddities and eccentricities perplexed his friends; and when the disease was confirmed, a cruel use of it was made by the Yorkists.”— Dean Hook's Lives, vol. v. p. 152. “His mind suffered with his body, and he was certainly deficient in the energy that was required in the holder of a disputed throne, and was more calculated for a private life or for a cloister than for a palace. Such is he described by contemporaries; and such has Shakspeare well painted him.”— COURTENAY, vol. ii. p. 55, sq. “Weak in health,
.. and precocious rather than strong in mind, he was overworked from his