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prove this play to have been written in her lifetime; on the contrary, th-at the concluding lines of her charafiler seem to imply that the was dead when it was composed. .The objcflion certainly has weight; but, I apprehend, the following observations afford a sufhcicnt answer to it. '
1. It is more likely that Shakspeare should have written a play, the chief subjefi of which is, the disgrace of Queen Catharine, the aggrandizcmeiix of- Anne Boleyn, and the birth ofher daughter, in the life-time of that daughter, than after her death : at a time when the subjedl mull have been highly pleasmg at court, rather than at a period when it must have been less interesling.
Queen Catharine, it is true, is represented as an amiable charailer, but slill she is ccliksed; and the greater her merit, the higher was the compliment to the mother ofElizabeth, to whose superior beauty she was obliged to give way.
2. lf King Henry VI]I.qhad been written in the' time of King jamcs I. the author, instead of expa. tiating so largely in the last scene, in praise of the' queen, which he could not think would be acceptable to her succelsor, who hated her memory, would probably have made him the principal figure in the prophecy, and thrown her into the background as much as poliiblc. N
3. Werejames I; Sha-kspeare's chief objecft in the original conslruftion of the lull. aPt of this play,
OF SHAKSPEARES PLAYS. 147 throne, she appears to have been proud of her maiden charafler; declaring that she was wedded to her people, and that sheidesired no other inscription on her tomb, than-Here lyezh Elizabetlz, who reigned and died a Virgin. 3 Besides, if Shakspeare knew, as probably mosl people at that time did, that she became very solicitous about the reputation of virginity , when her title to it was at lcasl equivocal, this would be an additional inducea mcnt to him to compliment her on that head.
5. Granting that the latter szart of the panegyrick on Elizabeth implies that she was dead when it was composed, it would not prove that this play was written in the time of King James; for these latter lines in praise of the queen, as well as the whole of Ehe compliment to the king, might have
" -- I have 'perus'd her well;
" Beauty and honour are in her so mingled,
" That they have caught the king: and who knows yet, " Butfrom this lady may proceed a gem,
" To lighten all this iflc."
Our author had produced so many plays in the preceding years, thatrit is not likely that King Henry VIII. was written before 1601. It might perhaps with equal propriety be ascribed to 16o2, and it is not easy to determine' in which of those years it was composed; but it is extremely probable that it was written in one of them. It was not printed till 1623.
A poem , called' the Life and Death of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal, which was entered on the bobks of the Stationers' company, and published, in the year 1599', perhaps fuggelted this subject to Shak-, speare.
He had also certainly read Churcl1yard's Legend