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HENRY THE EIGHTH.
“ The Famous History of The Life of King Henry the Eight” was first printed, it is believed, in the folio of 1623. The date of its production is uncertain. Some editors, including Theobald and Malone, contend that it was written before the death of Elizabeth, and that the complimentary address to her successor
“ Nor shall this peace sleep with her ; but as when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,
And so stand fix'd”was interpolated on the play being revived for presentation before King James. Messrs. Dyce, Collier, and others, on the contrary, conjecture it was produced after the accession of James, and in confirmation of this opinion adduce the following Memorandum from the Registers of the Stationers' Company :
“ 12 Feb 1604 .
“ Nath. Butter] Yf he get good allowance for the Enterlude of K. Henry 8th before he begyn to print it, and then procure the wardens hands to yt for the entrance of yt, he is to have the same for his copy." This insertion, supposed by many to refer to Rowley's piece, “When you see
me you know me,” which was published in the same year, and is founded on events and characters in the reign of Henry the Eighth, they think pertains to the present play. Although both parties maintain their theory with confidence, the evidence, external or intrinsic, in favour of either appears too slight and speculative to warrant a decision. One fact seems established, namely, that there was a play upon the same subject at least as early as Shakespeare's “ Henry the Eighth,” presumably before; for in Henslowe's Diary, pp. 189, 198, 221, &c., are notices regarding two pieces, consisting of a first and second part, written in 1601, the one entitled “The Rising of Cardinal Wolsey," and the other, “ Cardinal Wolsey,” on which an exceptional amount of money was expended for costume and decoration. There is a probability, too, that at one period “ Henry the Eighth” bore a double title, and was known as “ Henry the Eighth, or All is True.” The grounds for supposing so are these. On the 29th of June, 1613, the Globe theatre on Bankside was totally destroyed, owing to the thatch of the roof being fired by the wadding of some “ chambers,” or small cannon, discharged during a performance. According to Howes, the continuator of Stow's Chronicle, this catastrophe occurred at the representation of “ Henry the Eighth.” The same fact is recorded in a MS. letter from Thomas Lorkin to Sir Thomas Puckering, dated the very day after the fire :
**“No longer since than yesterday, while Bourbege his companie were acting at ye Globe the play of Hen = 8. and there shooting of certayne chambers in way of triumph, the fire catch'd, and fastened upon the thatch of the house and there burned so furiously, as it consumed the whole house and all in lesse then two houres ;" &c.—MSS. Harl. 7002. But Sir Henry Wotton, writing on the 2d of July in the same year, and describing this calamity, says it took place during the acting of “a new play, called, All is true, representing some principal pieces of the Reign of Henry the 8th. 1.- Reliquic (edit. 1672, p. 425). There appears to be no doubt that the play in question, which Sir Henry terms neu), probably because it was revived with new dresses, new prologue, epilogue, &c. &c., was our author's “ Henry the Eighth,” and the discrepancy as to the title might have arisen from the circumstance, just hinted at, of its having originally borne a double one.
King HENRY THE EIGHTH.
QUEEN KATHARINE, Wife to King Henry; afterwards divorced.
Several Lords and Ladies in the dumb shows ; Women attending upon the Queen ;
Spirits, which appear to her ; Scribes, Officers, Guards, and other Attendants.
SCENE,-Chiefly in London and WESTMINSTER ; once at KIMBOLTON.
I come no more to make you laugh; things now,
Those that can pity, here
* Sad, and high-working,-) The old, and every modern copy, read
“Sad, high, and working;” but see,
" Then let not this Divinitie in earth
(Deare Prince) be sleighted, as she were the birth
b Upon his wedding-day.) The conjecture of Johnson and Farmer, that Ben Jonson furnished the prologue and epilogue to this play, is strongly borne out, not only by their general style and structure, but by particular expressions in them also. As Johnson observes, there is in Shakespeare's dramas so much of “ fool and fight," that it is not probable he would animadvert so severely on the introduction of such characters and incidents.