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THOUGH on account of its length Henry the Fourth is divided into two parts, it is in reality one play; and it will be convenient to treat it as such. The following Introduction will, therefore, preface both Parts, they being published separately to suit the requirements of students.
For both Parts the authority is Holinshed's Chronicle, but there also existed when they were written a worthless anonymous play called The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, containing the honourable battell of Agincourt, in which occur the leading incidents of Shakespeare's play. The first Part was written either in 1596 or 1597, and the second part at all events before the 25th of February, 1598. The first Part was entered in the Stationers' Registers by Andrew Wise, Feb, 25th, 1597-8, as "A booke intitled the Historye of Henry jiith, with his battaile at Shrewsburye against Henry Hottspurre of the Northe, with the conceipted Mirth of Sir John Falstaffe.” Now it is certain that Sir John Falstaff was originally called Sir John Oldcastle. Thus in Field's Amends for Ladies, 1618, we have
"Did you never see
a passage first cited by Farmer, evidently referring to Falstaff's soliloquy on honour, Pt. I. v. 2. 130-144, and probably showing, as Halliwell observes, that “some of the theatres, in acting Henry IV., retained the name of Oldcastle after the author had altered it to Falstaff.” In the same Part, i. 2. 47, 8, the Prince calls Falstaff "my old lad of the castle," on which Warburton points out that when the poet changed the name he forgot this allusion to it: in Pt. II. iii. 2. 27-9, Shallow says, “Then was Jack Falstaff, now Sir John, a boy, and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk ”-a post which Reed has shown was really held by Oldcastle : in i. 2. 137, of the same Part, Falstaff's speech in the quarto of 1600 has the prefix “ Old,” which, Theobald remarks, proves " that, the play being printed from the stage manuscript, Oldcastle had been all along altered into Falstaff
, except in this single place by an oversight; of which the printers not being aware continued these initial traces of the original name." Lastly, in the Epilogue to Pt. II., we have, “If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, ...where, for anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless a' be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr and this is not the man." The entry in the Stationers' Registers, quoted above, shows that the name had been changed before the first Part was printed in 1597-8; and the alteration being made in the second Part also, except in the single place already mentioned, it follows that that Part also must have been written before Feb. 25th, 1597-8. Rowe mentions as a tradition of the cause of the change that some of the Oldcastle family
being the remaining, the Queen was pleas'd to ommand him [the poet] to alter it (the name]; upon hich he made use of Falstaff"; and, says Dyce, ferring to Halliwell, “the statement is supported by r. James's Epistle Dedicatory to his unpublished work, he Legend and Defence of the Noble Knight and Martyr, here we are told that Shakespeare changed the name dcastle to Falstaff, offence being worthily taken by rsonages descended from his [Oldcastle's] title, as radventure by manie others also whoe ought to have m in honourable memorie.'' The period embraced by the first part is about ten onths, from September 14th, 1402, to July 21st, 1403; - the second part, ten years, from 1403 to 1413. As Shakespeare, except in a few minor particulars, llows actual history, it will not be necessary to go in y minute detail into the course of the play. But the nnection between Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth, d Henry the Fifth is so close, that in order to under and the poet's treatment of Henry's usurpation, and
consequences to which it gave birth, it is important look backward and forward to those three plays. ne usurpation takes place in Richard the Second, and nile it is yet imminent, not completed, the Bishop of rlisle foreshadows the tronbles destined to convulse e realm. In iv. 1. 132-149, he says, “I speak to subjects, and a subject speaks,
Stirr'd up by God, thus boldly for his king.
Peace shall go sleep with Turks and infidels,
In the two Parts of Henry IV. we see the immediate fulfilment of this prophecy. Though the king's intro ductory words, Pt. I. i. 1. 1-33, speak of intestine war as having come to an end, and of his armies as about to be employed in the recovery of the Holy Land, he ha hardly finished when Westmoreland comes in to an nounce the capture of “the noble Mortimer” in hi endeavour to subdue the “irregular and wild Glen dower.” He goes on to recount the fight between “young Harry Percy and brave Archibald, That ever valiant and approved Scot." This is again followed b; the conspiracy of Hotspur, Worcester, Mortimer, Glen dower, and Douglas, which is crushed at the battle o Shrewsbury. In the second Part we have the Earl Northumberland concerting measures of insurrection the Archbishop of York, Mowbray, and Hastings i open defiance of the king, their capture by a stratagen and the death of Henry the Fourth shortly after. I both Parts the king is haunted with the dread of retr bution hanging over him on account of his forcib] seizure of the crown. In Pt. I. iii. 2. 4-11, addressin Prince Henry, he says,