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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010
  • First published in: 1888

KING HENRY VI.—PART I

Summary

INTRODUCTION

LITERARY HISTORY

As far as we know this play was not printed before it appeared, among the “Histories,” in the Folio, 1623 (F. 1). It will be more convenient to treat this play separate from the other two parts of Henry VI. as it was derived from a totally different source. What that source was we do not know; but there can be little doubt, as far as the internal evidence goes, that he founded it on some old play, written perhaps by more than one author. There are traces of Shakespeare's hand in the language of some of the scenes, as well as in part of the dramatic construction; but what work he did on this play, we can have little doubt, was done at the very earliest period of his career as a writer or adapter of plays. I shall not attempt to follow many recent editors and commentators in assigning, exactly and confidently, to Shakespeare, and to the other supposed author or authors, their different shares in this play. Suffice it to say that the ear of one familiar with Shakespeare's versification will at once protest against many of the passages in this play being assigned to his pen; even allowing for the fact that they were part of his earliest work. Who the authors were of the play which Shakespeare retouched we do not know. Robert Greene, Peele, and Marlowe, may all have had some share in it; so, at least, it has been confidently stated by some editors.

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