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K. Richard. Up, cousin, up; your heart is up, I know, Thus high at least (touching his own head), although your
knee be low.
Act iii. Sc. 3.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF
King Richard the Second.
In the construction of this play Shakspeare has followed Hollinshed, his usual historical authority, some passages of the Chronicle he has transplanted into the drama with very little alteration.
It has been suspected that there was an old play on the subject of King Richard II. which the poet might have seen. Sir Gillie Merrick, who was concerned in the harebrained business of the Earl of Essex, is accused of having procured to be played before the conspirators' the play of the deposing of Richard the Second;
when it was told him by one of the players that the play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there was forty shillings extraordinary given to play, and so thereupon played it was!' It seems probable, from a passage in the State Trials, quoted by Mr. Tyrwhitt, that this old play bore the title of King Henry IV, and not King Richard II, and it could not be Shakspeare's King Henry IV, as that commences a year after the death of King Richard. 'It may seem strange (says Malone) that this old play should have been represented after Shakspeare's drama on the same subject had been printed: the reason undoubtedly was, that in the old play the deposing of King Richard II. made a part of the exhibition : but in the first edition of Shakspeare's play, one hundred and fifty-four lines, describing a kind of trial of the king, and his actual deposition in parliament, were omitted : nor was it probably represented on the stage. Merrick, Cuffe, and the rest
of Essex's train, naturally preferred the play in which his deposition was represented, their plot not aiming at the life of the queen. It is, I know, commonly thought that the parliament scene, as it is called, which was first printed in the 4to of 1608, was an addition made by Shakspeare to this play after its first representation : but it seems to me more probable that it was written with the rest, and suppressed in the printed copy of 1597, from the fear of offending Elizabeth ; against whom the Pope had published a bull in the preceding year, exhorting her subjects to take up arms against her. In 1599 Hayward published his History of the first year of King Henry IV. which is in fact nothing more than an history of the deposing King Richard II. The displeasure which that book excited at court sufficiently accounts for the omitted lines not being inserted in the copy of this play, which was published in 1602*. Hayward was heavily censured in the Star Chamber, and committed to prison. In 1608, when James was quietly and firmly settled on the throne, and the fear of internal commotion, or foreign invasion, no longer subsisted, neither the author, the managers of the theatre, nor the bookseller, could entertain any apprehension of giving offence to the sovereign; the rejected scene was therefore restored without scruple, and from some playhouse copy probably found its way to the press t.'
Malone places the date of its composition in 1593; Mr. Chalmers in 1596. The play was first entered on the stationers' books by Andrew Wise, August 29, 1597 ; and there were four quarto editions published during the life of Shakspeare, viz. in 1597, 1598, 1608, and 1615.
This play may be considered the first link in the chain of Shakspeare's historical dramas, which Schlegel thinks the poet designed to form one great whole, “as it were an historical heroic poem, of which the separate plays constitute the rhapsodies.'
* This is a mistake of Mr. Malone's, there is no quarto copy of the date of 1602, he probably meant the edition of 1598.
+ Malone's Chronology of Shakspeare's plays.