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"THE First Part of Henry VI.' was originally printed, under that title, in the folio collection of 1623. Upon the authority, then, of the editors of that edition of Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, published according to the true original Copies,' this drama properly finds a place in every modern edition of our poet's works.
But since the time of Malone most English critics have agreed that this play is spurious; and Drake, without hesitation, refers to what Shakspere's friends and editors denominated the Second and Third Parts of 'Henry VI.' as the First and Second Parts; and recommends all future editors, if they print this first play at all, to give it only in an Appendix. If we were in the habit, then, of taking upon trust what the previous editors of Shakspere have authoritatively held, we should either reject this play altogether, or, if we printed it, we should inform our readers that "the hand of Shakspere is nowhere visible throughout." We cannot consent to follow either of these courses. We print the play, and we do not tell the reader that Shakspere never touched it. The question of the authenticity of the three parts of 'Henry VI.' is a very large one, em
bracing many details. That portion of the question which is founded upon an expression of Robert Greene, that Shakspere pilfered these plays from some unknown author, is fully discussed in the 'Biography,' book iii., c. 3. We there state that a full Illustration' of the unity of the three Parts of 'Henry VI.,' and of 'Richard III.' will be found in a subsequent Volume. It will be more convenient to give that Illustration' with the play of Richard III.,' when the entire text will be before the reader.
In the humble house of Shakspere's boyhood, there was, in all probability, to be found a thick squat folio volume, then some thirty years printed, in which might be read, "what misery, what murder, and what execrable plagues this famous region hath suffered by the division and dissension of the renowned houses of Lancaster and York." This book was 'Hall's Chronicle.' With the local and family associations that must have belonged to his early years, the subject of the four dramas that relate to the dissension of the houses of Lancaster and York, or rather the subject of this one great drama in four parts, must have irresistibly presented itself to the mind of Shakspere, as one
SCENE III.-London. Hill before the Tower.
Enter, at the gates, the DUKE OF GLOSTER, with his Serving-men in blue coats.
GLO. I am come to survey the Tower this day:
Since Henry's death, I fear there is conveyance a.
1 WARD. [Within.] Who's there that knocks so imperiously?
1 SERV. It is the noble duke of Gloster.
2 WARD. [Within.] Whoe'er he be, you may not be let in.
1 SERV. Villains, answer you so the lord protector?
1 WARD. [Within.] The Lord protect him! so we answer him: We do no otherwise than we are will'd.
GLO. Who willed you? or whose will stands but mine?
There's none protector of the realm but I.
Break up the gates, I'll be your warrantize :
Shall I be flouted thus by dunghill grooms?
Servants rush at the Tower gates. Enter to the gates, WOODVILLE, the
WOOD. [Within.] What noise is this? what traitors have we here?
Open the gates; here 's Gloster that would enter.
WOOD. [Within.] Have patience, noble duke; I may not open;
From him I have express commandment,
GLO. Faint-hearted Woodville, prizest him 'fore me?
1 SERV. Open the gates unto the lord protector;
Or we 'll burst them open, if that you come not quickly.
Enter WINCHESTER, attended by a train of Servants in tawny coats.
WIN. How now, ambitious Humphrey? what means this?
GLO. Peel'd priest, dost thou command me to be shut out?
WIN. I do, thou most usurping proditor,
Break up. So in Hall's Chronicle:-" The lusty Kentish-men, hoping on more friends, brake up the gates of the King's Bench and Marshalsea."
• Peel'd-an allusion to the shaven crown of the priest.
And not protector of the king or realm.
WIN. Nay, stand thou back, I will not budge a foot;
To slay thy brother Abel, if thou wilta.
GLO. I will not slay thee, but I'll drive thee back:
WIN. Do what thou dar'st; I beard thee to thy face.
Blue-coats to tawny-coats. Priest, beware your beard;
[GLOSTER and his men attack the Bishop.
I mean to tug it, and to cuff you soundly:
Here by the cheeks I'll drag thee up and down.
Now beat them hence: Why do you let them stay?—
Out, tawny-coats!-out, scarlet hypocrite!
Here a great tumult. In the midst of it, enter the Mayor of London, and
MAY. Fie, lords! that you, being supreme magistrates,
Because he is protector of the realm;
And would have armour here out of the Tower,
To crown himself king, and suppress the prince.
a The old travellers believed that Damascus was the scene of the first murder. Maundevile
says, "And in that place where Damascus was founded Kaym slew Abel his brother."
So the second folio; the first omits too.