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ON THE Fable AND Composition of
We are unacquainted with any dramatic piece on the subject of Henry VIII, that preceded this of Shakspere ; and yet on the books of the Stationers' Company appears the following entry.
“ Nathaniel Butter] (who was one of our author's printers) Feb. 12, 1604. That he get good allowance for the enterlude of K. Henry VIII, before he begin to print it; and with the wardens hand to yt, he is to have the same for his copy.” Dr. Farmer in a note on the epilogue to this play, observes from Stow, that Robert Greene had written somewhat on the same story. STEEVENS.
The play of Henry the Eighth is one of those which still keeps possession of the stage, by the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation, about forty years ago drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter. Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspere comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every other part may be easily conceived and easily written. JOHNSON.
The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two parts of Henry obe Fourth, and Henry the Fifih, are among the happiest of our author's compositions; and King John, Richard the Third, and Henry the Eighth, deservedly stand in the second class. Those whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes to their original, may consult Holinshed, and sometimes Hall: from Holinshed Shakspere has often inserted whole speeches with no more alteration than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecessary, because the original is easily examined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian. Johnson.
I Come no more to make you laugh; things now,
Of thousand friends; then, in a moment, see
and a Şerjeant at Arms.
tending upon the Queen ; Spirits, which appear to her.
Scribes, Officers. Guards, and other Altendants.