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KING HENRY V.
The earliest edition of this play was published in 1600, under the title of "The Chronicle History of Henry the fift, With his battell fought at Agin Court in France. Togither with Auntient Pistoll. As it hath bene sundry times playd by the Right honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants. London,—Printed by Thomas Creede, for Tho. Millington and Iohn Busby.” This was followed by another edition in 1602, and a third, in 1608.
The question whether the copy from which these quartos were printed was a maimed and surreptitious version of the perfect play, made up from what could be collected by short-hand, or remembered from the stage representation, as Mr. Collier believes, or whether it was an authentic transcript of the poet's first draft of the piece, but corrupted by the ordinary printing-house blunders, involves so much that is important in connexion with Shakespeare's method of production, that it will be best considered when we come to his Life.
Upon the evidence of a passage in the Chorus to the Fifth Act,
“Were now the general of our gracious empress
(As, in good time, he may,) from Ireland coming,
which bears an unmistakeable reference to the Irish expedition of the Earl of Essex, begun and terminated in 1599, this play is supposed to have been written in that year. Long before this date, however, Henry's exploits in France had been commemorated upon the stage. Nash, in his “Pierce Pennilesse,” 1592, says, “What a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fifth represented on the stage, leading the French King prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dolphin sweare fealtie;" and “ The famous Victories of Henry the Fift,” already spoken of in “Henry IV.," was no doubt both acted and printed prior to Shakespeare's “Henry V.”
Malone assumes the old historical drama alluded to by Nash, and “The famous Victories, &c.” to be the same piece, which he says was exhibited before the year 1588, as Tarlton, who performed in it both the Chief Justice and the Clown, died in that year. Steevens speaks of them as distinct plays.
The events comprehended in " Henry V.” begin in the first year of the king's reign, and terminate with his marriage of Katharine, the French princess, about eight years afterwards.
King HENRY THE FIFTH.
Conspirators against the King.
King HENRY'S Army.
CHARLES THE Sixth, King of France.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, English and French Soldiers, Messcngers, and Attendants.
The Action at the beginning takes place in ENGLAND, but afterwards, wholly in FRANCE.