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“ To stop which scruple, let this breefe suffice:
Steevens, The piece to which Nash alludes is the old anonymous play of King Henry V. which had been exhibited before the year 1588. Tarlton, the comedian, who performed in it both the parts of the Chief Justice and the Clown, having died in that year. It was entered on the Stationers' books in 1594, and, I believe, printed in that year, though I have not met with a copy of that date. An edition of it, printed in 1598, is in my collection. See also the notes at the end of Henry IV. Part I. vol. xvi. p. 410.
The play before us appears to have been written in the middle of the year 1599. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ii.
The old King Henry V. may be found among Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. printed by S. Leacroft, 1778.
MALONE. Of this play there were three quarto editions in our author's lifetime, 1600, 1602, and 1608. In all of them the choruses are omitted, and the play commences with the fourth speech of the second scene.
KING HENRY the Fifth.
Brothers to the King.
Conspirators against the
King. SIR THOMAS GREY, SIR THOMAS ERPINGHAM, GOWER, FLUELLEN,
MACMORRIS, JAMY, Officers in King Henry's
Army. BATES, COURT, WILLIAMS, Soldiers in the same. NYM, BARDOLPH, PISTOL, formerly Servants to
FALSTAFF, now Soldiers in the same. Boy, Servant to them. A Herald. Chorus.
CHARLES the Sixth, King of France.
Messengers, and Attendants.
England ; but afterwards, wholly in France.
Enter CHORUS. 0, 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'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and
fire, Crouch for employment'. But pardon, gentles all,
0, 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 aspiring nature of fire, which, by its levity, at the separation of the chaos, took the highest seat of all the elements. Johnson.
“ This," says Dr. Warburton, “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.” We have here one of the very best specimens of the doctor's flights of fancy. Shakspeare, in all probability, knew nothing of the Peripatetic philosophy; he simply wishes for poetic fire, and a due portion of inventive genius. The other explanation by Dr. Johnson seems likewise too refined. Douce.
princes to act, And monarchs to behold —] Shakspeare does not seem to set distance enough between the performers and spectators.
Johnson. 3 Leash'd in like hounds, should FAMINE, SWORD, and FIRE,
Crouch for employment.] In King Henry VI. “ Lean famine, quartering steel, and climbing fire," are called the three attendants on the English General, Lord Talbot ; and, as I suppose, are the dogs of war mentioned in Julius Cæsar.
This image of the warlike Henry very much resembles Montfaucon's description of the Mars discovered at Bresse, who leads a lion and a lioness in couples, and crouching as for employment.
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.”
The flat unraised spirit * that hath dar'd,
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." STEVENS. * -spirit,] Old copy-spirits. Corrected by Mr. Rowe.
MALONE. 3 Within this wooden 0,] Nothing shows more evidently the power of custom over language, than that the frequent use of calling a circle an O could so much hide the meanness of the metaphor from Shakspeare, that he has used it many times where he makes his most eager attempts at dignity of style. JOHNSON.
Johnson's criticism on Shakspeare's calling a circle an 0, is rather injudiciously introduced in this place, where it was evidently the poet's intention to represent the circle in which they acted in as contemptible a light as he could. M. Mason.
“ Within this wooden 0.” An allusion to the theatre where this history was exhibited, being, from its circular form, called The Globe. The same expression is applied, for the like reason, to the world, in Antony and Cleopatra :
“ A sun and moon which kept their course, and lighted
“ The little o, the earth.” I know not whether Shakspeare calls the Globe playhouse a cock-pit, from its being a round building, or else from its serving that purpose also: the latter appears probable, from his styling the floor an unworthy scaffold, which suggests the idea of its being temporary, and that the edifice answered both turns, by means of a slight alteration. Henley.
This theatre, like all our ancient ones, was denominated from its sign, viz. The Globe, and not from its shape. Had playhouses been named with reference to their form of construction, what sort of building could have corresponded with the title of a Red Bull, a Curtain, a Fortune, Cross Keys, a Phoenix, &c. ?”
Shakspeare, meaning to degrade the stage he was describing, may call it a cock-pit, because a cock-pit was the most diminutive enclosure present to his mind; or, perhaps, because there was a playhouse called The Cock-pit, at which King Henry V. might first have been acted. N. B. From Mr. Henley's own drawing of The Globe, the outside of it, at least, appears to have been octagonal, STEEVENS.
That did affright the air at Agincourt??
Mr. Steevens's first explanation was the right one.
The playhouse called the Cock-pit was not built till several years aft the appearance of Henry V. See the History of the English Stage, vol. iii. MALONE.
the very CASQUES,] The helmets. Johnson. “ The very casques," does not mean the identical casques, but the casques only, the casques alone. So, in The Taming of the Shrew, Katharine says to Grumio :
Thou false deluding slave,
very casques,” are-even the casques or helmets ; much less the men by whom they were worn. So, in Macbeth:
for fear Thy very stones prate of my whereabout.” Malone.
casques, That did AFFRIGHT THE AIR -] Thus Prudentius, in Psychomachia, 297 :
clypeo dum territat auras. STEEVENS.
IMAGINARY forces—] Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy. Active and passive words are by this author frequently confounded. Johnson. 9 Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The PERILOUS, NARROW ocean parts asunder.] 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 sword, &c. So, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Humourous Lieutenant :
“ She is perilous crafty.” Thus, villainous is only used to exaggerate, in The Tempest :
be turn'd to barnacles or apes ". With foreheads villainous low." Again, in John Florio's Preface to his translation of Montaigne :
in this perilous crook'd passage —."