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The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phenix,
-Our children's children Shall see this, and bless heaven. K. Hen.
Thou speakest wonders.] Cran. She shall be, to the happiness of England, An aged princess; many days shall see her,
the following passage in the 9th book of Lucan (a poet from whose itores old Ben has often enriched himself):
quanta sub nocte jaceret Noftra dies.
STEEVENS. 9 His honour and the greatness of his name
Shall be, and make new nations :) On a picture of this contemptible king, which formerly belonged to the great Bacon, and is now in the possession of Lord Grimston, he is styled imperii Atlantici conditor. The year before the revival of this play (1612) there was a lottery for the plantation of Virginia. These lines probably allude to the settlement of that colony. Malone. 2 She shall be, to the happiness of England,
An aged princess ;] The transition here from the complimentary address to King James the first is so abrupt, that it seems obvious to me, that compliment was inserted after the accession of that prince. If this play was wrote, as in my opinion it was, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, we may easily determine where
And yet no day without a deed to crown it.
K. Hen. O lord archbishop,
lords ;Ye must all see the queen, and she must thank
Cranmer's eulogium of that princess concluded. I make no ques. tion but the poet rested here :
And by those claim their greatness, not by blood. All that the bishop says after this, was an occasional homage paid to her successor, and evidently inserted after her demise. How naturally, without this insertion, does the king's joy and satisfactory reflection upon the bishop's prophecy, come in!
King. Thou speakest wonders. O lord archbishop,
This happy child, did I get any thing : &c. Whether the king would so properly have made this inference, upon hearing that a child of so great hopes should die without issue, is submitted to judgment. THEOBALD.
3 And your good brethren,] Old copy-you. But the aldermen were never called brethren to the king. The top of the nobility are but coufins and counsellors. Dr. Thirlby, therefore, rightly advised:
And your good brethren,i. e. the lord mayor's brethren, which is properly their style.
THEOBALD. So, in King Henry V : “ The mayor and all his brethren in best fort.”
She will be fick else. This day, no man think
- The play of Henry the Eighth is one of those, which still keeps possession of the stage, by the splendour of its pageantry. The Coronation, about forty years ago, drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter. Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every oth part may be easily conceived and easily written. Johnson.
'Tis ten to one, this play can never please
- such a one we show'd them;] In the character of Katharine. JOHNSON.
6- If they smile, &c.] This thought is too much hackney'd. It had been used already in the Epilogues to As you like it, and the second part of King Henry IV. STEEVENS.
Though it is very difficult to decide whether short pieces be genuine or spurious, yet I cannot restrain myself from expressing my fufpicion that neither the Prologue nor Epilogue to this play is the work of Shakspeare ; non vultus, non color. It appears to me very likely that they were fupplied by the friendship or officious. ness of Jonson, whose manner they will be perhaps found exactly to resemble. There is yet another supposition poffible: the Prologue and Epilogue may have been written after Shakspeare's departure from the Itage, upon some accidental revival of the play, and there will then be reason for imagining that the writer, whoever he was, intended no great kindness to him, this play being recommended by a subtle and covert censure of his other works. There is in Shakspeare so much of fool and fight;
the fellow, “ In a long motley coat, guarded with yellow,” appears so often in his drama, that I think it not very likely that he would have animadverted so severely on himself. All this, however, must be received as very dubious, since we know not the exact date of this or the other plays, and cannot tell how our author might have changed his practice or opinions. JOHNSON.
All the best men are ours; for 'tis ill hap,
Dr. Johnson's conjecture, thus cautiously stated, has been since strongly confirmed by Mr. Tyrwhitt's note, P: 5, by which it appears that this play was revived in 1613, at which time without doubt the Prologue and Epilogue were added by Ben Jonson, or some other person. On the subject of every one of our author's historical pieces, except this, I believe a play had been written, before he commenced a dramatick poet. See the Essay at the end of the third part of King Henry VI. Malone.
I entirely agree in opinion with Dr. Johnson, that Ben Jonson wrote the Prologue and Epilogue to this play. Shakspeare had a little before affifted him in his Sejanus ; and Ben was too proud to receive affiftance without returning it. It is probable, that he drew
up the directions for the parade at the christening, &c. which his employment at court would teach him, and Shakspeare must be ignorant of. I think, I now and then perceive his hand in the dialogue.
It appears from Stowe, that Robert Green wrote somewhat on this subject. FARMER.
See the first scene of this play, p. 3. MALONE.
In support of Dr. Johnson's opinion, it may not be amiss to quote the following lines from old Ben's prologue to his Every Man in his Humour :
“ To make a child new swaddled, to proceed
Fight over York and Lancaster's long wars,
“ And in the tyring-house," &c. Steevens. The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two parts of Henry the Fourth, and Henry the Fifth, are among the happiest of our author's compositions ; and King Fohn, Richard the Third, and Henry the Eighth, deservedly stand in the second class. Those whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes to their original, may consult Holin shed, and sometimes Hall: from Holinshed, Shakspeare has often inserted whole speeches, with no more alteration than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecessary, because the original is easily examined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian.