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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 the Fourth, and Henry the Fifth, 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,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe,
The subject will deserve it.
let fall a tear ;
Such, as give
Their money out of hope they may believe,
The play may pass; if they be still, and willing,
I'll undertake, may see away their shilling
Richly in two short hours. Only they,
To rank our chosen truth with such a show
Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring
Be sad, as we would make ye: Think, ye see
As they were living; think, you see them great,
Of thousand friends; then, in a moment, see
King HENRY the Eighth.
Cardinal WOLSEY. Cardinal CAMPEIUS.
Duke of NORFOLK. Duke of BUCKINGHAM.
Lord Chamberlain, Sir THOMAS AUDLEY, Lord-Keeper. GARDINER, Bishop of Winchester.
Bishop of LINCOLN. Lord ABERGAVENNY. Lord SANDS.
Sir HENRY GUILDFORD. Sir THOMAS LOVEL.
Sir ANTHONY DENNY. Sir NICHOLAS VAUX.
Sir WILLIAM SANDS.
CROMWELL, Servant to Wolsey.
GRIFFITH, Gentleman-Usher to Queen Katharine.
Doctor BUTTS, Physician to the King.
GARTER, King at Arms.
Surveyor to the Duke of Buckingham.
BRANDON, and a Serjeant at Arms.
Door-Keeper of the Council-Chamber. Porter, and bis Man.
An old Lady, Friend to Anne Bullen.
PATIENCE, Woman to Queen Katharine.
Several Lords and Ladies in the dumb Shows.
tending upon the Queen; Spirits, which appear to her. Scribes, Officers. Guards, and other Attendants.
The SCENE lies mostly in London and Westminster; once at Kimbolton.