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SECOND PART OF KING HENRY VI.] 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: and under that title were these two plays first acted and published. The present scene opens with King Henry's marriage, which was in the twenty-third year of his reign [A. D. 1445] and closes with the first battle fought at St. Albans, and won by the York faction, in the thirty-third year of his reign [A. D. 1455]: so that it comprizes the history and transactions of ten years. THEOBALD.
This play was altered by Crowne, and acted in the year 1681. STEEVENS.
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, 1593-4. On these two plays, which I believe to have been written by some preceding author, before the year 1590, Shakspeare formed, as I conceive, this and the following drama; altering, retrenching, or amplifying, as he thought proper. The reasons on which this hypothesis is founded, I shall subjoin at large at the end of The Third Part of King Henry VI. At present it is only necessary to apprize the reader of the method observed in the printing of these plays. All the 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 asterisks were his own original production; the embroidery with which he ornamented the coarse stuff that had been aukwardly 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, &c. 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.
King Henry the Sixth:
Humphrey, Duke of Gloster, his Uncle.
Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, great
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York:
Duke of Somerset,
Duke of Suffolk,
Duke of Buckingham, of the King's Party.
Young Clifford, his Son,.
Earl of Salisbury,
Earl of Warwick,
}of the York Faction.
Lord Scales, Governor of the Tower. Lord Say. Sir Humphrey Stafford, and his Brother. Sir John Stanley.
A Sea-captain, Master, and Master's Mate, and Walter Whitmore.
Two Gentlemen, Prisoners with Suffolk.
Hume and Southwell, Two Priests.
Bolingbroke, a Conjurer. A Spirit raised by him.
George, John, Dick, Smith, the Weaver, Michael, &c. his followers.
Alexander Iden, a Kentish Gentleman.
Margaret, Queen to King Henry.
SECOND PART OF
KING HENRY VI.
SCENE I. London. A Room of State in the Palace.
Flourish of Trumpets: then Hautboys. Enter, on one side, King HENRY, Duke of GLOSTER, SALISBURY, WARWICK, and Cardinal BEAUFORT; on the other, Queen MARGARET, led in by SUFFOLK; YORK, SOMERSET, BUCKINGHAM, and Others folowing.
Suff. As by your high' imperial majesty
To marry princess Margaret for your grace;
Seven earls, twelve barons, twenty reverend bishops,
As by your high, &c.] It is apparent that this play begins where the former ends, and continues the series of transactions of which it presupposes the first part already known. This is a sufficient proof that the second and third parts were not written without dependance on the first, though they were printed as containing a complete period of history. JOHNSON.