« PreviousContinue »
the Falstaff of the piece, which is despicable, and full of ribaldry and impiety from the first scene to the last.--Secondly, because Shakspeare seems to have taken not a few hints from it; for it comprehends, in some measure, the story of the two parts of Henry IV. as well as of Henry V. and no ignorance, I think, could debase the gold of Shakspeare into such dross; though no chemistry but that of Shakspeare could exalt such base metal into gold.-When the Prince of Wales, in Henry IV. calls Falstaff “my old lad of the Castle," it is probably but a sneering allusion to the deserved fate which this performance met with ; for there is no proof that our poet was ever obliged to change the name of Oldcastle into that of Falstaff, though there is an absolute certainty that this piece must have been condemned by any audience before whom it was ever represented. Lastly, because it appears (as Dr. Farmer has observed) from the Jests of the famous comedian, Tarlton, 4to. 1611, that he had been particularly celebrated in the part of the Clown *, in Henry V. and though this character does not exist in our play, we find it in the other, which, for the reasons already enumerated, I suppose to have been prior to this.
This anonymous play of Henry V. is neither divided into Acts or scenes, is uncommonly short, and has all the appearance of having been imperfectly taken down during the representation. As much of it appears to have been omitted, we may suppose that the author did not think it convenient for his reputation to publish a more ample copy.
There is, indeed, a play called Sir John Oldcastle, published in 1600, with the name of William Shakspeare prefixed to it. The prologue being very short, I shall quote it, as it serves to prove that a former piece, in which the character of Oldcastle was introduced, had given great offence :
“ The doubtful title (gentlemen) prefixt
* Mr. Oldys, in a manuscript note in his copy of Langbaine, says, that Tarleton appeared in the character of the Judge who receives the box on the ear. This Judge is likewise a character in the old play. I'may add, on the authority of the books at Stationers' Hall, that Tarleton published what he called his Farewell, a ballad, in Sept. 1588. In Oct. 1589, was entered, “ Tarleton's Repentance, and his Farewell to his Friends in his Sickness a little before his Death ;
“ Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie; ” and in the same year, A pleasaunt Ditty Dialogue-wise, between Tarlton's Ghost and Robyn Goodfellowe.” STEEVENS
“ 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.
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
kings, The narrow seas, however, were always reckoned dangerous, insomuch that Golding, in his version of the 14th book of Ovid's Metamorphosis, translates -Sævior illa freto surgente,
the lady crueller “ Than are the rising narrow seas." Again, in Burton's Anatomie of Melancholy, edit. 1632, p. 326:
“ How full of feare, how furious ?
“ The narrow seas are not so boisterous.” Steevens. The present reading is right, but there should be a comma between the words perilous and narrow, as it was by no means Shakspeare's intention to join them together, and to make a burlesque phrase of them, such as Steevens describes. The perilousness of the ocean to be passed by the army, before the meeting of the kings, adds to the grandeur and interest of the scene ; and it is well known that narrow seas are the most perilous. So, the Chorus in the next Act insinuates that it was necessary,
To charm the narrow seas
“ To give them gentle pass." And in The Merchant of Venice, the narrow seas are made the scene of shipwrecks, where Salarino says, “ Antonio hath a ship of rich lading wrecked on the narrow seas ; the Goodwins I think they call the place; a very dangerous flat, and fatal," &c.
M. Mason. 1 Into a thousand parts divide one man,] The meaning of this is, “Suppose every man to represent a thousand ;' but it is very ill expressed. M. Mason.
2 And make imaginary puissance :) This shows that Shakspeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of showing 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 within a wooden O nothing very like a battle can be exhibited. JOHNSON.
Other authors of that age seem to have been sensible of the same absurdities. In Heywood's Fair Maid of the West, 1631, a Chorus enters and says :
“ Our stage so lamely can express a sea,
Carry them here and there ' ; jumping o'er times * ;
3 For 'tis your THOUGHTS that now must deck our KINGS,
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 kings, 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 crouding years into an hour.' Johnson.
I am not sure that Dr. Johnson's observation is just. In this play the king of Frapce, 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. Johnson is, in my opinion, mistaken also in his explanation of the remainder of the sentence. Carry them here and there" does not mean, as he supposes, Carry your thoughts here and there;' for the Chorus not only calls upon the imagination of the audience to adorn his kings, but to carry them also from one place to another, though by a common poetical licence the copulative be omitted. M. Mason.
JUMPING O'er times;] So, in the prologue to Troilus and Cressida : “ Leaps o'er the vaunt and firstlings of those broils—."
KING HENRY V.
ACT I. SCENE IS.
Londono. An Ante-chamber in the King's Palace.
Enter the Archbishop of CANTERBURY', and Bishop
of Ely. Cant. My lord, I'll tell you,--that self bill is
urg'd, Which in the eleventh year o' the last king's reign Was like, and had indeed against us pass'd, But that the scambling and unquiet timeo
3 This first scene' was added since the edition of 1608, which is much short of the present editions, wherein the speeches are generally enlarged and raised : several whole scenes besides, and all the chórusses also, were since added by Shakspeare. POPE.
6 London.] It appears from Hall's and Holinshed's Chronicles, that the business of this scene was transacted at Leicester, where King Henry V. held a parliament in the second year of his reign. But the chorus at the beginning of the second Act shows that the author intended to make London the place of his first scene.
MALONE. 7 of CANTERBURY,] Henry Chicheley, a Carthusian monk, recently promoted to the see of Canterbury. MALONE 8 Ely.j John Fordham, consecrated 1388; died 1426.
REED. the SCAMBLING and unquiet time -] In the household book of the 5th Earl of Northumberland there is a particular section, appointing the order of service for the scambling days in Lent; that is, days on which no regular meals were provided, but every one scambled, i. e. scrambled and shifted for himself as well as he could. So, in the old noted book intitled Leicester's Commonwealth, one of the marginal heads is, “Scrambling between Leicester and Huntington at the upshot.” Where in the text, the author says, “ Hastings, for ought I see, when hee commeth to the scambling, iş like to have no better luck by the beare (Leices