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IN a note prefixed to the preceding play, I have briefly stated my opinion concerning the drama now before us, and that which follows it; to which the original editors of Shakspeare's works in folio have given the titles of The Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.
The Contention of the two famous houses of Yorke and Lancaster in two parts, was published in quarto, in 1600; and the first part was entered on the Stationers' books, (as Mr. Steevens has observed,) March 12, 2593-4. On these two plays, which I believe to have been written by some preceding author, before the year 1590, Slakspeare formed, as I conceive, this and the following drama; altering, retrenching, or amplifying, as he thought proper. The method observed in the printing of these plays is as follows. All tlie lines printed in the usual manner, are found in the original quarto plays (or at least with such minute variations as are not worth noticing); and those , I conceive, Shakspeare adopted as he found them. The lines to which inverted commas are prefixed, were, if my hypothesis be well founded, retouched, and greatly improved by him; and those with astericks were his own original production; the embroidery with which he ornamented the coarse stuff that had been awk. wardly made up for the stage by some of his contemporaries. The speeches which he new-modelled, he improved, sometimes by amplification, and sometimes .by retrenchment.
These two pieces, I imagine, were produced in their present form in' 1591. Dr. Johnson observes very justly, that these two parts were not written without a dependance on the first. Undoubtedly not; the old play of King Henry VI. (or, as it is now called, The first part,) certainly had been exhibited before these were written in any form. But it does not follow from this concession, either that The Contention of the two houses, etc. in two parts, was written by the author of the former play, or that Shakspeare was the author of these two pieces as they originally appeared. MALONE.
This and The third part of King Henry VI. contain that troublesome period of this prince's reign, which took in the whole contention betwixt the houses of York and Lancaster. The present scene opens with king Henry's marriage, which was in the twentythird year of his reign [A. D. 1445); and closes with the first battle fought at St. Alban's, and won by the York faction, in the thirty-third year of his reign [1455): so that it comprizes the history and transactions of ten years. THEOBALD.