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Enter Percy, with the Bishop of Carlisle.
Boling. Carlisle, this is your doom :-?
Enter Exton, with Attendants bearing a coffin. Exton. Great king, within this coffin I present Thy buried fear; herein all breathless lies The mightiest of thy greatest enemies, Richard of Bourdeaux, by me hither brought. Boling. Exton, I thank thee not; for thou hast
wrought A deed of slander, with thy fatal hand, Upon my head, and all this famous land. Exton. From your own mouth, my lord, did I this
deed. Boling. They love not poison that do poison need, Nor do I thee; though I did wish him dead, I hate the murderer, love him murdered. The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labor, But neither my good word nor princely favor.
1 This abbot of Westminster was William de Colchester. The relation, which is taken from Holinshed, is untrue, as he survived the king many years; and though called “the grand conspirator," it is very doubtful whether he had any concern in the conspiracy; at least, nothing was proved against him.
2 The bishop of Carlisle was committed to the tower, but, on the intercession of his friends, obtained leave to change his prison for Westminster abbey. In order to deprive him of his see, the pope, at the king's instance, translated him to a bishopric in partibus infidelium; and the only preferment he could ever after obtain was a rectory in Gloucestershire.
With Cain go wander through the shade of night,
This play is one of those which Shakspeare has, apparently, revised ; but as success in works of invention is not always proportionate to labor, it is not finished at last with the happy force of some other of his tragedies, nor can it be said much to affect the passions, or enlarge the understanding.
FIRST PART OF
KING HENRY THE FOURTH.
“SHAKSPEARE has, apparently, designed a regular connection of these dramatic histories, from Richard the Second to Henry the Fifth. King Henry, at the end of Richard the Second, declares his purpose to visit the Holy Land, which he resumes in the first speech of this play. The complaint made by king Henry, in the last act of King Richard the Second, of the wildness of his son, prepares the reader for the frolics which are here to be recounted, and the characters to be exhibited.”—Johnson.
The historical dramas of Shakspeare have, indeed, become the popular history. Vain attempts have been made by Walpole to vindicate the character of king Richard III., and in later times, by Mr. Luders, to prove that the youthful dissipation ascribed to king Henry V. is without foundation. The arguments are probable and ingeniously urged; but we still cling to our early notions of “that mad-cap—that same sword-and-buckler prince of Wales." No plays were ever more read, nor does the inimitable, all-powerful genius of the Poet ever shine out more than in the two parts of King Henry IV. which may be considered as one long drama divided.
The transactions contained in the First Part of King Henry IV. are comprised within the period of about ten months; for the action commences with the news brought of Hotspur having defeated the Scots under Archibald, earl of Douglas, at Holmedon (or Halidown Hill), which battle was fought on Holyrood-day (the 14th of September), 1402 ; and it closes with the battle of Shrewsbury, on Saturday, the 21st of July, 1403.
Malone places the date of the composition of this play in 1597 ; Dr. Drake in 1596. It was first entered at Stationers' Hall, February 25, 1597. There are no less than five quarto editions published during the author's life, viz. in 1598, 1599, 1604, 1608, 1613. For the piece which is supposed to have been its original, the reader is referred to the “Six Old Plays on which Shakspeare founded," &c., published by Steevens and Nichols.