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FIRST PART OF SIR JOHN OLDCASTLE.
THE history of Sir John Oldcastle (who having married the heiress of Lord Cobham, was summoned to Parliament by that title on the 18th of December, 1409) may be found in Holinshed's Chronicle, vol. ii. p. 544 et seq., and in many other books. In order to heighten his character, the author of this drama has departed from historical truth; for the conspiracy of the earl of Cambridge, Lord Scroope, &c. against King Henry V. was discovered by Edmund, earl of March, and not by Sir John Oldcastle, who was himself engaged in a traitorous design against Henry, and hanged about four years after the execution of these conspirators. The present play was entered on the Stationers' books on the 4th of August, 1600, by Thomas Pavier, under the title of "The First Part of the History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham." At the same time was entered "The Second Part of the History of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, with his Martyrdom;" but this was never published.
In the title-page of the original edition, in 1600, the naue of William Shakspeare is printed at length.
"I do not perceive," says Mr. Malone, "the least trace of our great poet in any part of this play. It is observable that in the entry on the Stationers' books the author's name is not mentioned. The printer, Pavier (whose name is not prefixed to any of Shakspeare's undisputed performances, except 'King Henry V.' and two parts of 'King Henry VI., of which plays he issued out copies manifestly spurious and imperfect), when he published it, was induced, I imagine, to ascribe it to Shakspeare by the success of the 'First Part of King Henry IV.' The character of Falstaff having been formed, as I conceive, on the Sir John · Oldcastle of an elder drama, a hope was probably entertained that the public might be deceived, and suppose this piece also to be Shakspeare's performance." On the other hand, Schlegel classes "Sir John Oldcastle" among Shakspeare's "best and maturest works." Dr. Farmer assigns the production to Heywood.
The doubtful title, gentlemen, prefix'd
But one, whose virtue shone above the rest,
SCENE I-Hereford. A street.
Enter LORD HERBERT, LORD Powis, OWEN, GOUGH, DAvy, and several other followers of the Lords HERBERT and Powis. They fight. Then enter the SHERIFF of Herefordshire and a BAILIFF.
Sher. My lords, I charge ye, in his highness' name, to keep the peace; you and your followers.
Her. Good master sheriff, look unto yourself.
[They attempt to fight again.
Sher. Will ye disturb the judges, and the assize?
Hear the king's proclamation, ye were best.
Pow. Hold then; let's hear it.
Her. But be brief, ye were best.
Bail. O- -yes.
Davy. Cossone,* make shorter O, or shall mar your yes.
Owen. What, has hur nothing to say, but O yes?
Bail. O -yes.
Davy. O nay; py coss plut, down with hur, down with hur.
A Powis, a Powis.
Gough, A Herbert, a Herbert, and down with Powis.
Sher. Hold, in the king's name, hold.
Owen. Down with a' knave's name, down.
[They fight again.
[The Bailiff is knock'd down, and the Sheriff runs away.
Her. Powis, I think thy Welsh and thou do smart.
Pow. Herbert, I think my sword came near thy heart.
Davy. A Powis, a Powis.
As they are fighting, Enter the MAYOR of Hereford, his Officers
and Townsmen, with clubs.
May. My lords, as you are liegemen to the crown,
True noblemen, and subjects to the king,
Attend his highness' proclamation,
Commanded by the judges of assize,
For keeping peace at this assembly.
Her. Good master mayor of Hereford, be brief. May. Serjeant, without the ceremonies of O yes, Pronounce aloud the proclamation.
Ser. The king's justices, perceiving what public mischief may ensue this private quarrel, in his majesty's name do straitly charge and command all persons, of what degree soever, to depart this city of Hereford, except such as are bound to give attendance at this assize, and that no man presume to wear any weapon, especially Welsh-hooks and forest bills;
Owen. Haw! No pill, nor Wells hoog? ha?
Ser. And that the Lord Powis do presently disperse and discharge his retinue, and depart the city in the king's peace, he and his followers, on pain of imprisonment.
Davy. Haw? pud her Lord Powis in prison! A Powis, a Powis. Cossoon, hur will live and tye with hur lord. Gough. A Herbert, a Herbert.
[They fight. LORD HERBERT is wounded, and falls to the ground. The Mayor and his Attendants
interpose. LORD POWIS runs away.
Enter two JUDGES, the SHERIFF and his BAILIFFS before them.
1 Judge. Where's the Lord Herbert? Is he hurt or slain ? Sher. He's here, my lord.
2 Judge. How fares his lordship, friends?
Gough. Mortally wounded, speechless; he cannot live.
1 Judge. Convey him hence, let not his wounds take air; And get him dress'd with expedition.
[Exeunt LORD HERBERT and GOUGH.
Master mayor of Hereford, master sheriff o' the shire,
Commit Lord Powis to safe custody,
To answer the disturbance of the peace,
Lord Herbert's peril, and his high contempt
Of us, and you the king's commissioners:
See it be done with care and diligence.
Sher. Please it your lordship, my Lord Powis is gone past
2 Judge. Yet let search be made,
To apprehend his followers that are left.
Sher. There are some of them: Sirs, lay hold of them.
Owen. Of us? and why? what has hur done, I pray you?
Sher. Disarm them, bailiffs.
May. Officers, assist.
Davy. Hear you, lord shudge, what resson is for this?
Owen. Cossoon, pe 'puse for fighting for our lord?
1 Judge. Away with them.
Davy. Harg you, my lord.
Owen. Gough, my Lord Herbert's man, is a shotten knave.
Davy. Ice live and tye in good quarrel.
Owen. Pray you do shustice, let awl be prison.
Davy. Prison! no; lord shudge, I wool give you pail, good surety.
2 Judge. What bail? what sureties ?
Davy. Hur cozen ap Rice-ap Evan-ap Morice-ap Morgan-ap Lluellyn-ap Madoc-ap Meredith-ap Griffin-ap Davy-ap Owen-ap Skinken-ap Shones.
2 Judge. Two of the most sufficient are enough.
1 Judge. To gaol with them, and the Lord Herbert's men : We'll talk with them, when the assize is done.
[Exeunt Bailiffs, OWEN, DAVY, &c.,
Riotous, audacious, and unruly grooms,
Must we be forced to come from the bench,
2 Judge. What was the quarrel that caused all this stir ?
Lord Powis detracted from the power of Rome,
1 Judge. This case concerns the king's prerogative,
In general and particular, to have care
There be no meetings: when the vulgar sort