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“ The History of Henrie the Fovrth; With the battell at Shrewsburie, betweene the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henrie Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstalffe. At London, Printed by P. S. for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of the Angell. 1598." 4to. 40 leaves.
“ The History of Henrie the Fovrth; With the battell at Shrewsburie, betweene the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henry Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceits of Sir Iohn Falstalffe. Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. At London, Printed by S. S. for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of the Angell. 1599.” 4to. 40 leaves.
“The History of Henrie the Fourth, With the battell at Shrewsburie, betweene the King, and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henry Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceits of Sir lohn Falstalffe. Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. London Printed by Valentine Simmes, for Mathew Law, and are to be solde at his shop in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of the Fox. 1604.” 4to. 40 leaves.
The History of Henry the fourth, With the battell of Shrewseburie, betweene the King, and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henry Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceites of Sir Iohn Falstalffe. Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. London, Printed for Mathew Law, and are to be sold at his shop in Paules Churchyard, neere unto S. Augustines gate, at the signe of the Foxe. 1608.” 4to. 40 leaves.
The 4to edition of 1613 also consists of 40 leaves; and the only differences between its title-page and that of 1608 are the date, and the statement that it was “Printed by W. W."
In the folio of 1623, “ The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry Sirnamed Hot-spyrre," occupies twentysix pages, viz. from p. 46 to p. 73 inclusive. In the later folios it is reprinted in the same form.
At the time when Shakespeare selected the portion of history included in the following play, as a fit subject for dramatic representation, the stage was in possession of an old play, entitled, " The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth,” of which three early impressions, one printed in 1598, and two others without date, have come down to us : a copy of one edition without date is in the Collection of the Duke of Devonshire ; and, judging from the type and other circumstances, we may conclude that it was anterior to the impression of 1598, and that it made its appearance shortly after 1594, on the 14th of May of which year it was entered on the Stationers' Registers. Richard Tarlton, who died in 1588, was an actor in that piece, but how long before 1588 it had been produced, we have no means of ascertaining. It is, in fact, in prose, although many portions of it are printed to look like verse, because, at the date when it first came from the press, blank-verse had become popular on the stage, and the bookseller probably was desirous of giving the old play a modern appearance. Our most ancient public dramas were composed in rhyme: to rhyme seems to have succeeded prose ; and prose, about the date when Shakespeare is believed to have originally come to London, was displaced by blank-verse, intermixed with couplets and stanzas. “The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth" seems to belong to the middle period; and as Stephen Gosson, in his “School of Abuse," 1579, leads us to suppose that at that time prose was not very usual in theatrical performances, it may be conjectured that “ The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth” was not written until after 1580.
That a play upon the events of the reign of Henry V. was upon the stage in 1592, we have the indisputable evidence of Thomas Nash, in his notorious work, “ Pierce Penniless, his Supplication,” which went through three editions in the same year : we quote from the first, (Sign. H 2.) where he says, " What a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fifth represented on the Stage, leading the French King prisoner, and forcing him and the Dolphin to sweare fealtie.” We know also that a drama, called "Harry the V.," was performed by Henslowe's Company on the 28th November, 1595, and it appears likely that it was a revival of “ The Famous Victories,” with some important additions, which gave it the attraction of a new play; for the receipts (as we find by Henslowe's Diary) were of such an amount as was generally only produced by a first representation. Out of this circumstance may have arisen the publication of the early undated edition in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. The reproduction of “The Famous Victories" by a rival company, and the appearance of it from the press, possibly led Shakespeare to consider in what way, and with what improvements, he could avail himself of some of the same incidents for the theatre to which he belonged. This event would at once make the subject popular, and hence, perhaps, the re-impression of “ The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth” in 1598'. The year 1596 may possibly have been the date when Shakespeare wrote his “Henry IV.” Part i.
It is to be observed, that the incidents which are summarily dismissed in one old play, are extended by our great dramatist over three—the two parts of “Henry IV.” and “ Henry V.” It is impossible to institute any parallel between “ The Famous Victories" and Shakespeare's dramas ; for, besides that the former has reached us evidently in an imperfect shape, the immeasurable superiority of the latter is such, as to render any attempt to trace resemblance rather a matter of contrast than comparison. Who might be the writer of “The Famous Victories,” it would be idle to speculate ; but it is decidedly inferior to most of the extant works of Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Kyd, Lodge, or any other of the more celebrated predecessors of Shakespeare.
Sir John Oldcastle is one of the persons in “The Famous Vic. tories ;” and no doubt can be entertained that the character of Sir John Falstaff, in the first part of Shakespeare's "Henry IV.," was originally called Sir John Oldcastle.
If any hesitation could formerly have been felt upon this point, it must have been recently entirely removed by Mr. Halliwell's very curious and interesting tract, “ On the character of Sir John Falstaff, as originally exhibited by Shakespeare," 12mo. 1841. How the identity of Oldcastle and Falstaff could ever have been questioned after the discovery of the following passage in a play by Nathaniel Field, called, “ Amends for Ladies,” 1618, it is difficult to comprehend: the lines seem to us decisive :
“Did you never see
The third edition of “The Famous Victories” was printed after James I. came to the throne : it has no date, but it states on the title-page that "it was acted by the King's Majesty's servants.” This assertion was probably untrue, the object of the stationer being to induce buyers to believe that it was the same play as Shakespeare's work, which was certainly performed by " the King's Majesty's servants.” From this impression Steevens reprinted it in the “Six Old Plays,” 8vo, 1779.
This can allude to nothing but to Falstaff's speech in Act v. sc. 2, of the ensuing play; and it would also show (as Mr. Halliwell points out) that Falstaff sometimes "retained the name of Oldcastle after the author had altered it to that of Falstaff?." This fact is remarkable, recollecting that " Amends for Ladies" could hardly have been written before 1611, that prior to that date no fewer than four editions of “Henry IV.” Part i., had been printed, on the title-pages of which Falstaff was prominently introduced, and that he was called by no other name from the beginning to the end of that drama. The case is somewhat different with respect to Shakespeare's "Henry IV." Part ii., which contains a singular confirmatory piece of evidence that Falstaff was still called Oldcastle after that continuation of the "history" had been written and performed. In Act i. sc. 2 of that drama, Old, is given as the prefix to one of Falstaff's speeches. The error is met with in no other part of the play, and when the MS. for the quarto, 1600, was corrected for the press, this single passage escaped observation, and the ancient reading was preserved until it was expunged in the folio of 1623. Malone and Steevens, in opposition to Theobald, argue that Old. was not meant for Oldcastle, but was the commencement of the name of some actor: none such belonged to Shakespeare's company, and the probability is all in favour of Theobald's supposition.
This change must have been made by Shakespeare anterior to the spring of 1598, because we then meet with the subsequent entry in the Stationers' Registers, relating to the earliest edition of “Henry IV.” Part i.
“ 25 Feb. 1597. Andrew Wisse) A booke intitled the Historye of Henry the
mich, with his battaile at Shrewsburye against Henry Hottspurre of the Northe with the conceipted Mirth of Sir John
Falstaffe." As the year did not then end until the 25th March, the 25th February, 1597, was of course the 25th February, 1598; and pursuant to the above entry, Andrew Wise published the first edition of “ The History of Henry IV.” with the date of 1598 : we may infer, therefore, that it was ready, or nearly ready, to be issued at the time the memorandum was made at Stationers' Hall : on the title-page, “the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstalffe" are made peculiarly obvious. It is certain, then, that before the play was printed, the name of Oldcastle had been altered to that of Falstaff. The reason for the change is asserted to have been, that some descendants of “ Sir John Oldcastle, the good Lord Cobham,” (as he is called upon the title-page of a play which relates to his history, printed in 1600',) remonstrated against the ridicule thrown upon the character of the protestant martyr, by the introduction into Shakespeare's drama of a person bearing the same name. Such, unquestionably, may have been the case ; but it is possible also that Shakespeare, finding that his play, and his Sir John Oldcastle were often confounded with “The Famous Victories" and with the Sir John Oldcastle of that drama, made the change with a view that they should be distinguished. That he did not quite succeed, is evident from the quotation we have made from Field's “ Amends for Ladies.”
· The same conclusion may perhaps be drawn from the mention of “fat Sir John Oldcastle,” in “ The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie," 1604, 4to, a tract recently reprinted, under the editorial care of Mr. Halliwell, for the Percy Society.
3 There is another entry, under date 27th June, 1603, by which “ Henry the 4 the first pte.” seems to have been transferred by Wise to Law, for whom the edition of 1604 was in fact printed.
Respecting the manner in which Falstaff was attired on the stage in the time of Shakespeare, we meet with a curious passage in a manuscript, the hand-writing of Inigo Jones, the property of the Duke of Devonshire. The Surveyor of the Works, describing the dress of a person who was to figure in one of the court masques, early in the reign of James I., says, that he is to be dressed “like a Sir John Falstaff, in a robe of russet, quite low, with a great belly, like a swollen man, long moustachios, the shoes short, and out of them great toes, like raked feet : buskins, to show a great swollen leg." We are, perhaps, only to understand from this description, that the appearance of the character was to bear a general resemblance to that of Sir John Falstaff, as exhibited on the stage at the Globe or Blackfriars' Theatres.
Although we are without any contemporaneous notices of the performance of Shakespeare's "Henry IV.” Part i., there cannot be a doubt that it was extraordinarily popular. It went through five distinct impressions in 4to, in 1598, 1599, 1604, 1608, and 1613, before it was printed in the first folio. There was also an edition in 1639, which deserves notice, because it was not a reprint of the play as it had appeared either in the first or second folios, but of the 4to. of 1613, that text being for some reason preferred. Meres introduces Henry the IVth” into his list in 1598, and we need feel little doubt that he alluded to Part i., because, on the pre
4 Mr. Halliwell does not seem to have been aware, when speaking of “The First part of the true and honorable History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, the good Lord Cobham," a play attributed to Shakespeare on the title-page of most of the copies printed in 1600, that two other copies of it have recently been discovered, which have no author's name. Hence it might be inferred, that the original title-page was cancelled at the instance of our great dramatist, and another substituted.
s See also another relic of the name of Oldcastle for Falstaff on p. 230, and the note upon it.