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AIMS OF THE EDITION
THE first aim of this edition has been to give a sound text of the play. The text is conservative, being based upon that of the first Quarto.
Secondly, in the critical apparatus is given a selection of varia lectiones, sufficiently numerous to illustrate the relations of Quartos and Folios, and of the chief emendations of later editors. I have collated the Quartos and the first Folio, but for readings of the later Folios and of subsequent editors I have used the collation of the Cambridge edition. Reference is made to the various Quartos as Q 1, Q 2, etc., to the first Folio as F, and to the subsequent Folios as F 2, F 3, F 4. Qq means all Quartos, and Ff all Folios.
Thirdly, the foot-notes supply a commentary to the play and illustrations of the poet's thought and language.
By the end of the seventeenth century the play had been issued in eight Quarto editions and in the four Folios. The following are the titles of the first five Quartos.
Q1. The History of | Henrie the | Fovrth; | With the battell at Shrewsburie, | betweene the King and Lord | Henry Percy, surnamed | Henrie Hotspur of | the North. | With the humorous conceits of Sir | Iohn Falstalffe. | AT LONDON, | Printed by P.S. for Andrew Wise, dwelling | in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of the Angell. 1598. |
Q 2. The History of | Henrie the | Fovrth; | With the battell at Shrewsburie, | betweene the King and Lord Henry | Percy, surnamed Henry Hot-spur of the North. | VVith the
humorous conceits of Sir | Iohn Falstalffe. | Newly corrected by W. Shakespeare. | AT LONDON, | Printed by S.S. for Andrew VVise, dwelling | in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of the Angell. 1599. |
Q 3. The | History of | Henrie the fourth, | VVith the battell at Shrewsburie, | betweene the King, and Lord | Henry Percy, surnamed Henry Hot-spur of the North. | With the humorous conceits of Sir | Iohn Falstalffe. | Newly corrected by W. Shakespeare. | London | Printed by Valentine Simmes, for Mathew Law, and | are to be solde at his shop in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of the Fox. | 1604. |
Q4. The History of | Henry the fourth, | VVith the battell at Shrewseburie, | betweene the King, and Lord | Henry Percy, surnamed Henry | Hotspur of the North. | With the humorous conceites of Sir | Iohn Falstalffe. | Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. | LONDON, | Printed for Mathew Law, and are to be sold at | his shop in Paules Church-yard, neere vnto S. | Augustines gate, at the signe of | the Foxe. 1608. |
Q5. The History of | Henrie the fourth, | With the Battell at Shrewseburie, betweene | the King, and Lord Henrie Percy, sur-named Henrie Hotspur of the North. | VVith the humorous conceites of Sir | Iohn Falstaffe. | Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. | LONDON, | Printed by W. W. for Mathew Law, and are to be sold at his shop in Paules Church-yard, neere vnto S. | Augustines Gate, at the signe of the Foxe. 1613.
Q 6 was printed in 1622 by T. P. for Mathew Law; Q7 in 1632 by John Norton for William Sheares, and Q 8 by John Norton for Hugh Perry.
The title in the first Folio is, "The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry Sirnamed Hotspvrre".
The "Dering MS.," to which reference is made in the critical apparatus, was supposed by Mr. Halliwell to date from the early part of the seventeenth century. It contains a large portion of the First Part of Henry IV. and some scenes from the Second Part. It was found in the muniment room at Surrenden by the Rev. Lambert B. Larking in 1844, and was edited by Mr. Halliwell and published in the next year for
the Shakespeare Society. There are additions and corrections in the hand of Sir Edward Dering, the antiquary, who died in 1644.
The authoritative text of the play is Q 1. Every subsequent Quarto seems to have been printed from its immediate predecessor, errors accumulating with each new edition. F, in the case of this play, has no independent authority. Its editors apparently based their text on a copy of Q 5 partly corrected from earlier Quartos. Perhaps the copy from which they printed had been expurgated for performance at Court. Certainly the expurgation of the F text of this play has been exceptionally thorough, profane expressions being rigorously suppressed or altered, sometimes at the expense of sense or metre, in compliance with the provisions of the Act to Restrain the Abuses of Players, 3 Jacobi, cap. xxi. It seems unlikely that the editors of the Folio had access to copies of Qq 1-4. Had these been available the editors would presumably have consulted them; whereas F follows Q 5 in errors easy of correction by reference to the earlier Quartos.
DATE OF COMPOSITION
The consensus of critical opinion assigns the composition of the play to the year 1596-7.
(i) The entry in the Stationers' Register to Andrew Wyse on 25 February, 1598, of "a booke intituled The historye of HENRY the IIIJth with his battaile of Shrewsburye against HENRY HOTTSPURRE of the Northe with the conceipted mirthe of Sir JOHN FFALSTOFF," fixes the latest possible date of composition. The first publication of the play was, as we have seen, in the same year.
(ii) The earliest contemporary reference to the play by name is in the famous list of Shakespeare's plays given in Francis Meres's Palladis Tamia, 1598. In the same work, Meres refers to "these declining and corrupt times, when there is nothing but rogery in villanous man," an echo of Falstaff's misanthropic view, induced directly by the discovery of lime in his sack, that "there is nothing but roguery to be found in villanous man" (II. iv. 124, 125).
The final words of Jonson's Every Man out of His Humour (first performed 1599) contain an obvious reference: "you may in time make lean Macilente as fat as sir John Falstaff". And in the Pilgrimage to Parnassus acted in St. John's College, Cambridge, at Christmas, 1598, occur the words: "I shall no sooner open this pint pot but the word like a knave-tapster will cry Anon, Anon, Sir,'”—a reminiscence, it has been suggested, of II. iv. of this play, where Francis cries, in answer to Poins, "Anon, anon, sir."
(iii) Two passages in the play suggest reminiscence of speeches in Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, which was produced in 1598.1 The obligation, however, may have been Jonson's.
(iv) (a) The composition of the play has been assigned to 1596-7 on the evidence of supposed references in the play to contemporaneous events. The opening lines, in Chalmers's view, "plainly allude" to the Spanish expedition of 1596. (b) The Carrier's speech in II. i. 12, 13, " Poor fellow, never joyed since the price of oats rose," has been connected with the Proclamation for the Dearth of Corn, etc., which was published in 1596. (c) And, again, it has been suggested that the word "valiant" in
Of valiant Shirley, Stafford, Blunt, are in my arms:
may have been interpolated, at the expense of the metre, as a compliment to the Shirleys, one of whom is said to have been knighted in 1597. (See note on V. iv. 41.) If so, it would appear that the play had been written before Shirley was knighted, that is, not later than 1597. But evidence of this kind has little value.
(v) Perhaps the most decisive evidence that the play was not newly composed at the date of its entry in the Stationers' Register, February 25, 1598, is the fact that the name Sir John Falstaff ("Sir John ffalstoff," p. ix ante) appears in the entry. It seems certain that our Falstaff was originally designated Oldcastle. The real Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, the famous Lollard who suffered martyrdom in 1418, continued to be maligned after his death by the anti-Lollard party. A travesty of his character was placed upon the stage
1 See the notes on III. i. 177-179, and III. ii. 27.