Page images
PDF
EPUB

KING HENRY IV.,

PART I.

1

5

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON

KING HENRY IV.,

PARTS I. AND II.

The first edition of Henry IV., Part I.,' appeared in 1598. Five other editions were printed before the folio of 1623. The first edition of Henry IV., Part II.,' appeared in 1600. Another edition was issued the same year. No subsequent edition appeared till the folio of 1623. The text of the folio, from which we print, does not materially differ from the original quartos, in the First Part. In the Second Part there are large additions, and those some very important passages, in the folio.

Shakspere found the stage in possession of a rude drama, " The Famous Victories of Henry V.,' upon

the foundation of which he constructed not only his two Parts of Henry IV.,' but his " Henry V.' That old play was acted prior to 1588; Tarleton, a celebrated comic actor, who played the clown in it, having died in that year. It is, in many respects, satisfactory that this very extraordinary performance has been preserved. None of the old dramas exhibit in a more striking light the marvellous reformation which Shakspere, more than all his contemporaries, produced in the dramatic amusements of the age of Elizabeth. Of The Famous Victories of Henry V.,' the comic parts are low buffoonery, without the slightest wit, and the tragic monotonous stupidity, without a particle of poetry.

And yet Shakspere

built
upon

this thing, and for a very satisfactory reason—the people were familiar with it.

In The Famous Victories' we are introduced to the young Prince" in the opening scene. His companions are “ Ned,"

,” « Tom," and “ Sir John Oldcastle," who bears the familiar name of " Jockey.” They have been committing a robbery upon the king's receivers ; and Jockey informs the prince that his (the prince's) man hạth robbed a poor carrier, The plunder of the receivers amounts to a thousand pounds; and the prince worthily says, “ As I am a true gentleman, I will have the half of this spent to-night.” He shows his gentility by calling the receivers villains and rascals. The prince is sent to the “ counter” by the Lord Mayor. " Gadshill,” the prince's man, who robbed the carrier, is taken before the Lord Chief Justice; and the young prince, who seems to have got out of the counter as suddenly as he got in, rescues the thief. The scene ends with the Chief Justice committing Henry to the Fleet. He is, of course, released. “ But whither are ye going now ?" quoth Ned.“ To the court," answers the true gentleman of a prince, “ for I hear say my father lies

The breath shall be no sooner out of his mouth but I will clap the crown on my head." To the court he goes, and there the bully becomes a hypocrite. The great scene in The Second part of Henry IV.,

“ I never thought to hear you speak again," is founded, probably, upon a passage in Wolinshed; but there is a similar scene in The Famous Victories.' It is, perhaps, the highest attempt in the whole play,.

And now that we have seen what the popular notion

Very sick.

.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »