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a pean of victory. The gallant feats of our forefathers are brought vividly before our eyes, inspiring sentiments not to be excited by the mere perusal of books, reminding us of the prowess of Englishmen in earlier days, and conveying an assurance of what they will ever be in the hour of peril.
The descriptive poetry assigned to the “Chorus” between the acts is retained as a peculiar feature, connecting and explaining the action as it proceeds. This singular personage, so different from the Chorus of antiquity, I have endeavoured to render instrumental to the general effect of the play; the whole being planned with a view to realise, as far as the appliances of a theatre can be exercised, the events of the extraordinary campaign so decisively closed by the great conflict of Agincourt, which ultimately placed two crowns on the brow of the conqueror, and resulted in his marriage with Katharine, the daughter of Charles the Sixth, King of France. Shakespeare does not in this instance, as in Pericles and the Winter's Tale, assign a distinct individuality to the Chorus. For the figure of Time, under the semblance of an aged man, which has been heretofore presented, will now be substituted Clio, the muse of History. Thus, without violating consistency, an opportunity is afforded to Mrs. Charles Kean, which the play does not otherwise supply, of participating in this, the concluding revival of her husband's management.
Between the fourth and fifth acts I have ventured to introduce, as in the case of Richard the Second, a historical episode of action, exhibiting the reception of King Henry on returning to his capital, after the French expedition.
It would be impossible to include the manifold incidents of the royal progress in one scene : neither could all the sites on which they actually took place be successively exhibited. The most prominent are, therefore, selected, and thrown into one locality--the approach to old London bridge. Our audiences have previously witnessed the procession of Bolingbroke, followed in silence by his deposed and captive predecessor. An endeavor will now be made to exhibit the heroic son of that very Bolingbroke, in his own hour of more lawful triumph, returning to the same city; while thousands gazed upon him with mingled devotion and delight, many of whom, perhaps, participated in the earlier reception of his father, sixteen years before, under such different and painful circumstances. The victor of Agincourt is hailed, not as a successful usurper, but as a conqueror; the adored sovereign of his people; the pride
of the nation; and apparently the chosen instrument of heaven, crowned with imperishable glory. The portrait of this great man is drawn throughout the play with the pencil of a masterhand. The pleasantry of the prince occasionally peeps through the dignified reserve of the monarch, as instanced in his conversations with Fluellen, and in the exchange of gloves with the soldier Williams. His bearing is invariably gallant, chivalrous, and truly devout; surmounting every obstacle by his indomit. able courage; and ever in the true feeling of a christian warrior, placing his trust in the one Supreme Power, the only Giver of victory! The introductions made throughout the play are presented less with a view to spectacular effect, than from a desire to render the stage a medium of historical knowledge, as well as an illustration of dramatic poetry. Aecuracy, not show, has been my object; and where the two coalesce, it is because the one is inseparable from the other. The entire scene of the episode has been modelled upon the facts related by the late Sir Harris Nicholas, in his translated copy of a highly interesting Latin MS., accidentally discovered in the British Museum, written by a Priest, who accompanied the English army; and giving a detailed account of every incident, from the embarka tion at Southampton to the return to London. The author tells us himself, that he was present at Agincourt, and “ sat on horseback with the other priests, among the baggage, in the rear of the battle.” We have, therefore, the evidence of an eye. witness; and by that testimony I have regulated the general representation of this noble play, but more especially the in. troductory episode.
The music, under the direction of Mr. Isaacson, has been, in part, selected from such ancient airs as remain to us of, or anterior to, the date of Henry the Fifth, and, in part, composed to accord with the same period. The “ Song on the Victory of Agincourt,” published at the end of Sir Harris Nicholas's
interesting narrative, and introduced in the admirable work entitled “ Popular Music of the Olden Time," by W. Chappell, F.S.A., is_sung by the boy choristers in the Episode. The “Chanson Roland,” to be found in the above-named work, is also given by the entire chorus in the same scene. The Hymn of Thanksgiving, at the end of the fourth act, is supposed to be as old as A.D. 1310. To give effect to the music, fifty singers have been engaged.
As the term of my management is now drawing to a close, I may, perhaps, be permitted, in a few words, to express
my thanks for the support and encouragement I have received. While endeavouring, to the best of my ability and judgment, to uphold the interests of the drama in its most exalted form, I may conscientiously assert, that I have been animated by no selfish or commercial spirit. An enthusiast in the art to which my life has been devoted, I have always entertained a deeply-rooted conviction that the plan I have pursued for many seasons, might, in due time, under fostering care, render the Stage productive of much benefit to society at large. Impressed with a belief that the genius of Shakespeare soars above all rivalry, that he is the most marvellous writer the world has ever known, and that his works contain stores of wisdom, intellectual and moral, I cannot but hope that one who has toiled for so many years, in admiring sincerity, to spread abroad amongst the multitude these invaluable gems, may, at least, be considered as an honest labourer, adding his mite to the great cause of civilisation and educational
progress. After nine years of unremitting exertion as actor and director, the constant strain of mind and body warns me to retreat from a combined duty which I find beyond my strength, and in the exercise of which, neither zeal, nor devotion, nor consequent success, can continue to beguile me into a belief that the end will compensate for the many attendant troubles and anxieties. It would have been impossible, on my part, to gratify my enthusiastic wishes, in the illustration of Shakespeare, had not my previous career as an actor placed me in a position of comparative independence with regard to speculative disappointment. Wonderful as have been the yearly receipts, yet the vast sums expended-sums, reason to believe, not to be paralleled in any theatre of the same capability throughout the world—make it advisable that I should now retire from the self-imposed responsibility of management, involving such a perilous outlay; and the more especially, as a building so restricted in size as the Princess's, renders any adequate return utterly hopeless.
My earnest aim has been to promote the well-being of my Profession; and if, in any degree, I have attained so desirable an object, I trust I may not be deemed presumptuous in cherishing the belief, that my arduous struggle has won for me the honourable reward of-Public Approval.
I have every
KING HENRY THE FIFTH.
O for a muse of fire, that would ascend
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.
2 Assume the port of Mars ;] i.e., the demeanour, the carriage, air of Mars. From portée, French.
3 Can this cockpit hold] Shakespeare probably calls the stage a cockpit, as the most diminutive enclosure present to his mind.
Upon this little stage] The original text is “ within this wooden, 0," in allusion, probably, to the theatre where this history was exhibited, being, from its circular form, called The Globe.
the very casques] Even the helinets, much less the men by whom they were worn.
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
imaginary forces] Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy. Active and passive words are by Shakespeare frequently confounded.
7 The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.] Perilous narrow means no more than very narrow. In old books this mode of expression frequently occurs.
8 Into a thousand parts divide one man,] i.e., suppose every man to epresent a thousand.
make imaginary puissance :] i.e., imagine you see an enemy.