« PreviousContinue »
1 in September 1598, has given a list of our author's plays, and among them is King Henry IV.; but as he does not describe it as a play in two parts, I doubt whether this second part had been exhibited, though it might have been then written. If it was not in his contemplation, it may be presumed to have appeared in the latter part of the year 1598. His words are these : “ As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy, among the Latines, so Shakspeare, among the English, is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage : for comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love's Labour's Loj, his Love's Labour's Wonne, his Midsummer Night's Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for tragedy, ' his Richard II. Richard III. Henry IV. King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet, " ;
The following allusion to one of the characters in this play, which is found in Every Man out of his Humour, Act V. sc. ii. first acted in 1599, is an additional authority for supposing The Second Part of King Henry IV. to have been written in 1598:
Savi. What's he, gentle Mons. Brisk ? Not that gentleman ?
Faft.No, lady;this is a kinsman toJustice Shallow.”
That this play was not written before the year 1596, is afccrtained by the following allusions. In the last act Clarence, speaking of his father, says,
- The inceflan't care and labour of his mind
" So thin, that life looks through, and will break out, % The circumstance of Hotspur's death in this play, and its being an historical draina, I fuppofe, induced Méres to denominate The Firsi Part of King Henry IV. a tragedy.
3 Wit's Treasury, p. 282.
These lines appear to have been formed on the following in Daniel's Civil Warres , 1595, B. III. ft. 116 :
Wearing the wall so thin, that now the mind
Might well look thorough, and his frailty find." Daniel's poem, though not published till 1595, was entered on the Stationers' books , in October 1594.
1 he distich, with which Pistol consoles himself Si fortuna me tormenta, &c. had, I believe, appeared in an old collection of tales, and apothegms, entitled Wits, Fits, and Fancies, which was entered at Stationers' hall in 1595, and probably printed in that year.
Sir Richard Hawkins , as Dr. Farmer has observed, " in his voyage to the South Sea in 1593, throws out the same jingling diftich on the loss of his pinnace.” But no account of that voyage was published before 1598.
In the last act of this play the young king thus addresses his brothers :
sadness with some fear.
“ But Harry Harry." It is highly probable, as is observed in a note on that passage, that Shakspeare had here in contemplation the cruelty practised by the Turkish emperor, Mahomet, who after the death of his father, Amurath the Third, in Feb. 1.546, 4 invited his unsuspecting brothers to a feast, and caused them all to be strangled.
4 The affairs of this court had previously attracted the publick attention; for in 1594 was published at London, A Letter sent by Amurath the great Turke to Christendom.
mix your o Brothers, you
16. The MERCHANT OF VENICE, 1598. Entered at the Stationers' hall, July 22, 1598; and mentioned by Meres in that in 1600.
17. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, 1598. All's well that ends well was not registered at Stationers' hall, por printed till 1623; but has been thought to be the play mentioned by Meres in 1598, under the title of Love's Labour's Won. No other of our author's plays could have borne that title with so much propriety as that before us; yet it must be acknowledged that the present title is inserted in the body of the play:
"5 All's well that ends well; still the fine's the crown; &c. This line, however, might certainly have suggested the alteration of what has been thought the first title, and affords no decisive proof that this piece was originally called Al's well that ends well. The words that compose the present title appear to have been proverbial.'
I formerly supposed that a comedy called A bad Beginning makes a good Ending, which was acted at court in 1613, by the Company of John Heminge, was the play now under consideration, with only a new title : but I was mistaken.
The play then exhibited was written by John Ford.
s See The Remidie of Love, translated from 'Ovid, 1600, Sign. E. 3. b : “ You take the old proverb with a right application for my juft excuse : All is well that ends well ; and fo end I. See also Camden's Proverbial Sentences Remains, 1614.
In All's well that ends well, “ The fhewing of a heavenly effect in an earthly actor” is mentioned. If this should prove to be the title of some tract, (which is not improbable,) and the piece should be hereafter discovered, it may serve in some measure to ascertain the date of the play.
This comedy also contains an allusion to the dispute between the Puritans and Proteflants concerning the use of the furplice. That dispute began in 1589; and was much agitated during all the remainder of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
" Plutus himself," (says one of the characters in this play,) " That knows the tinc and multiplying medicine, &c.
I know not whether the pursuit of the philofo. pher's stone particularly engaged the publick attention at the period to which this comedy has been ascribed ; and quote the passage only for the consideration of those who are more conversant with that subject.
18. KING HENRY V. 1599. Mr. Pope thought that this historical drama was one of our author's latest compositions; but he was evidently mistaken. King Henry V. was entered on the Stationers' books, Aug. 14, 1600, and printed in the same year.
It was written, after the Second Part of King Henry IV. being promised in the epilogue of that play; and while the Earl of Effex was in Ireland. 6 Lord Effex went to Ireland April 15, 1599, and returned to London on the 28th of September in the same year.
So that this • See the Chorus to the fifth act of King Henry V.
play (unless the passage relative to him was inserted after the piece was finished) must have been com-'. posed betwen April and September, 1599. Suppofing that passage a subsequent insertion, the play was probably not written long before; for it is not mentioned by Meres in 1598.
The prologue to Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour 7 seems clearly to allude to this play, and, if it had been written at the same time with the piece itself, might induce us, notwithstanding the filence of Meres, to place King Henry V. a year or two earlier; for Every Man in his Humour is faid to have been acted in 1598. But the prologue which now appears before it, was not written till after 1601, when the play was printed without a prologue. It appears to have been Jonson's first performance; and we may presume that it was the very play, which, we are told, was brought on the stage by the good offices of Shakspeare, who himself acted in it, Malignant and envious as Jonson appears to have been, he hardly would have ridiculed his benefactor at the very time he was so effentially obliged to him. afterwards his jealousy broke out, and vented itself in this prologue, which first appeared in the folio edition of Jonson's Works, published in 1616. It
" He rather prays, you will be pleased to see
Prologue to Every Man in his Humour. Tol. 1616. & Jonson himself tells us in his Induction to The Magnetick Lady, that this was his first dramatick performance The author beginning his studies of this kind with Every Man in his Humour." Vol. II.