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Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
dren Shall see this, and bless heaven. K. Hen.
Thou speakest wonders.]
? [Nor shall this peace sleep with her : &c.] These lines, to the interruption by the king, seem to have been inserted at some revisal of the play, after the accession of King James. If the passage, included in crotchets, be left out, the speech of Cranmer proceeds in a regular tenour of prediction, and continuity of sentiments; but, by the interposition of the new lines, he first celebrates Elizabeth's successor, and then wishes he did not know that she was to die; first rejoices at the consequence, and then laments the cause. Our author was at once politick and idle ; he resolved to flatter James, but neglected to reduce the whole speech to propriety; or perhaps intended that the lines inserted should be spoken in the action, and omitted in the publication, if any publication was ever in his thoughts. Mr. Theobald has made the same observation. Johnson.
Cran. She shall be, to the happiness of England, An aged princess; many days shall see her, And yet no day without a deed to crown it. 'Would I had known no more! but she must die, She must, the saints must have her; yet a virgin, A most unspotted lily shall she pass To the ground, and all the world shall mourn her.
K. Hen. O lord archbishop, Thou hast made me now a man; never, before This happy child, did I get any thing : This oracle of comfort has so pleas'd me, That, when I am in heaven, I shall desire To see what this child does, and praise my Maker. I thank ye all,—To you, my good lord mayor, And your good brethren, I am much beholden; I have receiv'd much honour by your presence, And ye shall find me thankful. Lead the way,
lords;—. Ye must all see the queen, and she must thank ye, She will be sick else. This day, no man think He has business at his house; for all shall stay, This little one shall make it holiday. Exeunt. 3
3 The play of Henry the Eighth is one of those which still keeps possession of the stage by the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation, about forty years ago, drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter.* Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every other part may be easily conceived and easily written. Johnson.
* Chet wood says that, during one season, it was exhibited 75 times.
'Tis ten to one this play can never please All that are here: Some come to take their ease, And sleep an act or two; but those, we fear, We have frighted with our trumpets; so, 'tis clear, They'll say, 'tis naught: others, to hear the city Abus'd extremely, and to cry,—that's witty! Which we have not done neither: that, I fear, All the expected good we are like to hear For this play at this time, is only in The merciful construction of good women; For such a one we show'd them;* If they smile, And say, 'twill do, I know, within a while
_ such a one we show'd them ;] In the character of Katharine. Johnson.
5 If they smile, &c.] Though it is very difficult to decide whether short pieces be genuine or spurious, yet I cannot restrain myself from expressing my suspicion that neither the Prologue nor Epilogue to this play is the work of Shakspeare; non vultus, non color. It appears to me very likely that they were supplied by the friendship or officiousness of Jonson, whose manner they will be perhaps found exactly to resemble. There is yet another supposition possible: the Prologue and Epilogue may have been written after Shakspeare's departure from the stage, upon some accidental revival of the play, and there will then be reason for imagining that the writer, whoever he was, intended no great kindness to him, this play being recommended by a subtle and covert censure of his other works. There is, in Shakspeare, so much of fool and fight;
the fellow, “ In a long motley coat, guarded with yellow," appears so often in his drama, that I think it not very likely that he would have animadverted so severely on himself. All this, however, must be received as very dubious, since we know not the exact date of thisor the other plays, and cannot tell how our author might have changed bis practice or opinions.
All the best men are ours; for 'tis ill hap,
The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two Parts of Henry the Fourth, and Henry the Fifth, are among the happiest of our author's compositions; and King John, Richard the Third, and Henry the Eighth, deservedly stand in the second class. Those whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes to their original, may consult Holinshed, and sometimes Hall: from Holinshed Shakspeare has often inserted whole speeches, with no more alteration than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecessary, because the original is easily examined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian.
To play histories, or to exhibit a succession of events by action or dialogue, was a common entertainment among our rude ancestors upon great festivities. The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell a play which lasted three days, containing The History of the World. "Johnson.