Page images



“ 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,
Her ashes new create another heir,
As great in admiration as herself;
So shall she leave her blessedness to one
(When heaven shall call her from this cloud or darkness)
Who from the sacred ashes of her honour
Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was,

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 [1605].

“ 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.

CAPUCIUS, Ambassador from the Emperor Charles V.
CRANMER, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Duke of NorFOLK.
Earl of SURREY.
Lord Chamberlain.
Lord Chancellor.
GARDINER, King's Secretary, afterwards Bishop of Winchester.
Bishop of LIncoLN.
LORD Sands.
Sir Thomas LOVELL.
Sir Nicholas Vaux.
Secretaries to Wolsey.
CROMWELL, Serrant to Wolsey, afterwards King's Secretary.
GRIFFITH, Gentleman-Usher to Queen Katharine.
Gentleman of the King's.
Gentleman of the Queen's.
Three Gentlemen.
Doctor Butts, Physician to the King.
Garter King-at-Arms.
Surveyor to the Duke of Buckingham.
BRANDOx, and a Sergeant-at-Arms.
Door-keeper of the Council Chamber.
Porter, and his Man.
Page to Gardiner.
A Crier.

QUEEN KATHARINE, Wife to King Henry; afterwards divorced.
ANNE BULLEN, her Maid of Honour ; afterwards Queen.
An Old Lady, Friend to Anne Bullen.
PATIENCE, Woman to Queen Katharine.

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,
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, and high-working," full of state and woe,
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
We now present.

Those that can pity, here
May, if they think it well, let fall a tear ;
The subject will deserve it. Such as give
Their money out of hope they may believe,
May here find truth too. Those that come to see
Only a show or two, and so agree
The play may pass, if they be still and willing,
I'll undertake may see away their shilling
Richly in two short hours. Only they,
That come to hear a merry bawdy play,
A noise of targets, or to see a fellow
In a long motley coat, guarded with yellow,
Will be deceiv’d: for, gentle hearers, know,
To rank our chosen truth with such a show
As fool and fight is, beside forfeiting
Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring,
(To make that only true we now intend,)
Will leave us never an understanding friend.
Therefore, for goodness' sake, and as you are known
The first and happiest hearers of the town,
Be sad, as we would make
The very persons of our noble story,
As they were living ; think you see them great,
And follow'd with the general throng and sweat
Of thousand friends ; then, in a moment, see
How soon this mightiness meets misery !
And, if you can be merry then, I'll say
A man may weep upon his wedding-day.”

ye: think

ye see

* 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
of idle Fancie; since she workes so hie."
Epistle Dedicatorie to Chapman's Niads of Homer."

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.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »