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THE transactions contained in this historical drama are comprised within the period of about ten months ; for the action commences with the news brought of Hotspur having defeated the Scots under Archibald earl of Douglas at Holmedon, (or Halidown-hill,) which battle was fought on Holy-rood day, (the 14th of September,) 1402; and it closes with the defeat and
on Saturday the 21st of July, (the eve of Saint Mary Magdalen,) in the year 1403. THEOBALD.
This play was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Feb. 25, 1597, by Andrew Wise. Again, by M. Woolff, Jan. 9, 1598. For the piece supposed to have been its original, see Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. published for S. Leacroft, Charing-Cross. Steevens.
Shakspeare has apparently designed a regular connection of these dramatick histories from Ricliard the Second to Henry the Fifth. King Henry, at the end of Richard the Second, declares his purpose to visit the Holy Land, which he resumes in the first speech of this play. The complaint made by King Henry in the last Act of Richard the Second, of the wildness of his son, prepares the reader for the frolicks which are here to be recounted, and the characters which are now to be exhibited. Johnson.
This comedy was written, I believe, in the year 1597. See the Essay on the Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ii. MALONE.
No less than five quarto editions of this play were published during the author's life, 1598, 1599, 1604, 1608, 1613.
KING HENRY the Fourth.
timer. LADY MORTIMER, Daughter to Glendower, and
Wife to Mortimer. MRS. QUICKLY, Hostess of a Tavern in Eastcheap. Lords, Officers, Sheriff, Vintner, Chamberlain, Drawers, Two Carriers, Travellers, and Attendants.
SCENE, England. Prince John of LANCASTER.] The persons of the drama were originally collected by Mr. Rowe, who has given the title of Duke of Lancaster, to Prince John, a mistake which Shakspeare has been no where guilty of in the first part of this play, though in the second he has fallen into the same error. King Henry IV. was himself the last person that ever bore the title of Duke of Lancaster. But all his sons (till they had peerages, as Clarence, Bedford, Gloucester,) were distinguished by the name of the royal house, as John of Lancaster, Humphrey of Lancaster, &c. and in that proper style, the present John (who became afterwards so illustrious by the title of Duke of Bedford,) is always mentioned in the play before us. Steevens.
KING HENRY IV.
ACT I. SCENE I.
London. A Room in the Palace.
Enter King Henry, WESTMORELAND, Sir WALTER
Blunt, and Others. K. Hen. So shaken as we are, so wan with care, Find we a time for frighted peace to pant, And breathe short-winded accents of new broils? To be commenc'd in stronds afar remote. No more the thirsty entrance of this soil Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood”;
2 Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils ~] That is, let us soften peace to rest a while without disturbance, that she may recover breath to propose new wars. JOHNSON. 3 No more the thirsty ENTRANCE of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood ;] Perhaps the following conjecture may be thought very far fetched, and yet I am willing to venture it, because it often happens that a wrong reading has affinity to the right. We might read :
" -- the thirsty entrants of this soil ; " i. e. those who set foot on this kingdom through the thirst of power or conquest, as the speaker himself had done, on his return to England after banishment.
Whoever is accustomed to the old copies of this author, will generally find the words consequents, occurrents, ingredients, spelt consequence, occurrence, ingredience; and thus, perhaps, the French word entrants, anglicized by Shakspeare, might have been corrupted into entrance, which affords no very apparent meaning.
By her lips Shakspeare may mean the lips of peace, who is mentioned in the second line; or may use the thirsty entrance of the soil, for the porous surface of the earth, through which all moisture enters, and is thirstily drank, or soaked up.
No more shall trenching war channel her fields, Nor bruise her flowrets with the armed hoofs
So, in an Ode inserted by Gascoigne in his Francis and Kinwelmersh's translation of the Phænissæ of Euripides :
“ And make the greedy ground a drinking cup,
“ To sup the blood of murder'd bodies up." Steevens. If there be no corruption in the text, I believe Shakspeare meant, however licentiously, to say, “ No more shall this soil have the lips of her thirsty entrance, or mouth, daubed with the blood of her own children.”
“ Her lips," in my apprehension, refers to soil in the preceding line, and not to peace, as has been suggested. Shakspeare seldom attends to the integrity of his metaphors. In the second of these lines he considers the soil or earth of England as a person; (So, in King Richard II. :
“ Tells them, he does bestride a bleeding land,
“ Gasping for life under great Bolingbroke.") and yet in the first line the soil must be understood in its ordinary material sense, as also in a subsequent line in which its fields are said to be channelled with war. Of this kind of incongruity our author's plays furnish innumerable instances.
Daub, the reading of the earliest copy, is confirmed by a passage in King Richard II. where we again meet with the image presented here:
“ For that our kingdom's earth shall not be soild
“ With that dear blood which it hath fostered." The same kind of imagery is found in King Henry VI. Part III. :
“ Thy brother's blood the thirsty earth hath drunk :”. In which passage, as well as in that before us, the poet had perhaps the sacred writings in his thoughts : “ And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand." Gen. iv. 2. This last observation has been made by an anonymous writer. Again, in King Richard II. :
“ Rest thy unrest on England's lawful earth,
“ Unlawfully made drunk with innocent blood.” The earth may with equal propriety be said to “ daub her lips with blood," as to be made drunk with blood.
A passage in the old play of King John, 1591, may throw some light on that before us :
“ Is all the blood y-spilt on either part,
“ Grown to a love-game, and a bridal feast?" Malone. The thirsty entrance of the soil is nothing more or less, than