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The piece to which Nash alludes is the old anonymous play of King Henry V. which had been exhibited before the year 1589. Tarlton, the comedian, who performed in it both the parts of the Chief Justice and the Clown, having died in that year. It was entered on the Stationers' books in 1594, and, I believe, printed in that year, though I have not met with a copy of that date. An edition of it, printed in 1598, was in the valuable collection of Dr. Wright.
The play before us appears to have been written in the middle of the year 1599.
The old King Henry V. may be found among Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. printed by S. Leacroft, 1778.
King Henry the Fifth.
Conspirators against the King.
morris, Jamy, Officers in King Henry's Army. Bates, Court, Williams, Soldiers in the same. Nym, Bardolph, Pistol, formerly Servants to Falstaff,
now Soldiers in the same. Boy, Servant to them. A Herald. Chorus.
Charles the Sixth, King of France.
Isabel, Queen of France.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, French and English Soldiers,
Messengers, and Attendants.
The SCENE, at the Beginning of the Play, lies in
England; but afterwards wholly in France.
O, for a muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention!' A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, And monarchs to behold’ the swelling scene! Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, Assume the port of Mars; and, at his heels, Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and
fire, Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all, The flat unraised spirit, that hath dar'd, On this unworthy scaffold, to bring forth So great an object: Can this cockpit hold The vasty fields of France? or may we cram Within this wooden 0, the very casques, That did affright the air at Agincourt? 0, pardon! since a crooked figure may Attest, in little place, a million; And let us, ciphers to this great accompt, On your imaginary forces' work: Suppose, within the girdle of these walls
'0, for a muse of fire, &c.] This goes, says Warburton, upon the notion of the Peripatetic system, which imagines several heavens one above another ; the last and highest of which was one of fire. It alludes likewise to the aspiring nature of fire, which, by its levity, at the separation of the chaos, took the highest seat of all the elements. JOHNSON.
- princes to act,
And monarchs to behold -] Shakspeare does not seem to set distance enough between the performers and spectators.
3 Within this wooden 0,] An allusion to the theatre where this history was exhibited, being, from its circular form, called The Globe.
the very casques,] The helmets.
- imaginary forces —] Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy. Active and passive words are by this author frequently confounded. Johnson.
Are now confin'd two mighty monarchies,
• And make imaginary puissance :) This shows that Shakspeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of showing battles on the theatre, which, indeed, is never done, but tragedy becomes farce. Nothing can be represented to the eye, but by something like it, and within a wooden 0 nothing very like a battle can be exhibited.
KING HENRY V.
SCENE J. London. An Ante-chamber in the
Enter the Archbishop of Canterbury,' and Bishop of
Ely. Cant. My lord, I'll tell you,—that self bill is
urg'd, Which, in the eleventh year o'the last king's reign Was like, and had indeed against us pass’d, But that the scambling and unquiet time Did push it out of further question.
Ely. But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?
Cant. It must be thought on. If it pass against us, We lose the better half of our possession: For all the temporal lands, which men devout By testament have given to the church, Would they strip from us; being valued thus,As much as would maintain, to the king's honour, Full fifteen earls, and fifteen hundred knights; Six thousand and two hundred good esquires; And, to relief of lazars, and weak age, Of indigent faint souls, past corporal toil,
of Canterbury,] Henry Chicheley, a Carthusian monk, recently promoted to the see of Canterbury.
Ely.) John Fordham, consecrated 1388; died 1426.