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in Tarlton's Jests is to be trusted, it must have been acted before 1588, the year in which Tarlton died, for upon one occasion he played the part of the Judge at the Bull in Bishopsgate. It was entered at Stationers' Hall in 1994, but the earliest edition known is that of 1598. But the date of this play has very little bearing upon the time at which The First Part of Henry the Fourth was written, and Shakespeare's indebtedness to it is of the slightest possible description.
It is probable that the idea of the robbery at Gadshill, which is directly taken from The Famous Victories, is itself derived from the account of the prince's irregularities as reported in Stow's Chronicles (ed. 1580, pp. 582-3):
“Whilst his father liued, beyng accopanyed wt some of his yong Lords & gentlemen, he wold waite in disguised araye for his owne receyuers, and distresse them of theyr money: and sometimes at suche enterprices both he and his companions wer surely beaten : and when his receiuers made to him their complaints, how they were robbed in their comming vnto him, he wold giue them discharge of so much mony as they had lost, and besides that, they should not depart from him without great rewards for their trouble and vexation, especially they should be rewarded that best hadde resisted hym and his company, and of whom he hadde receyued the greatest & most strokes.'
Even with the materials taken from Holinshed Shakespeare dealt very freely, and used them as best suited his own purposes.
The play opens with the speech of the King, in which he announces his intention of setting out on a crusade to recover Jerusalem from the infidels, an intention which the Chronicler assigns to the last year of his reign.
Act I, Scene 1. “In this fourteenth and last yeare of King Henries reigne, a councell was holden in the white friers in London, at the which, among other things, order was taken for ships and gallies to be builded and made readie, and all other things necessarie to be prouided for a voiage which he
meant to make into the holie land, there to recouer the citie of Jerusalem from the Infidels. (Holinshed, vol. iii. p. 540.)
The following passages supplied the material for the rest of the scene :
Owen Glendouer, according to his accustomed manner, robbing and spoiling within the English borders, caused all the forces of the shire of Hereford to assemble togither against them, vnder the conduct of Edmund Mortimer earle of March. But coming to trie the matter by battell, whether by treason or otherwise, so it fortuned, that the English power was discomfited, the earle taken prisoner, and aboue a thousand of his people slaine in the place. The shamefull villanie vsed by the Welshwomen towards the dead carcasses, was such, as honest eares would be ashamed to heare, and continent toongs to speake thereof.' (p. 520.)
After the defeat of the Scotch at Nesbit on the 22nd of June 1402,
Archembald earle Dowglas sore displeased in his mind for this ouerthrow, procured a commission to inuade England, and that to his cost, as ye may likewise read in the Scotish histories. For at a place called Homildon, they were so fiercelie assailed by the Englishmen, vnder the leading of the lord Persie, surnamed Henrie Hotspur, and George earle of March, that with violence of the English shot they were quite vanquished and put to flight, on the Rood daie in haruest, with a great slaughter made by the Englishmen. ... There were slaine of men of estimation, sir John Swinton, sir Adam Gordon, sir John Leuiston, sir Alexander Ramsie of Dalehousie, and three and twentie knights, besides ten thousand of the commons : and of prisoners among other were these, Mordacke earle of Fife, son to the gouernour Archembald earle Dowglas, which in the fight lost one of his eies, Thomas erle of Murrey, Robert earle of Angus, and (as some writers haue) the earles of Atholl & Menteith, with fiue hundred other of meaner degrees.' (p. 520.)
'Henrie earle of Northumberland, with his brother Thomas
earle of Worcester, and his sonne the lord Henrie Persie, surnamed Hotspur, which were to king Henrie in the beginning of his reigne, both faithfull freends, and earnest aiders, began now to enuie his wealth and felicitie ; and especiallie they were greeued, bicause the king demanded of the earle and his sonne such Scotish prisoners as were taken at Homeldon and Nesbit : for of all the captiues which were taken in the conflicts foughten in those two places, there was deliuered to the kings possession onelie Mordake earle of Fife, the duke of Albanies sonne, though the king did diuers and sundrie times require deliuerance of the residue, and that with great threatnings: wherewith the Persies being sore offended, for that they claimed them as their owne proper prisoners, and their peculiar preies, by the counsell of the lord Thomas Persie earle of Worcester, whose studie was euer (as some write) to procure malice, and set things in a broile, came to the king vnto Windsore (vpon a purpose to prooue him) and there required of him, that either by ransome or otherwise, he would cause to be deliuered out of prison Edmund Mortimer earle of March, their cousine germane, whom (as they reported) Owen Glendouer kept in filthie prison, shakled with irons, onelie for that he tooke his part, and was to him faithfull and true.' (p. 521.)
Act I, Scene 3. “The king began not a little to muse at this request, and not without cause : for in deed it touched him somewhat neere, sith this Edmund was sonne to Roger earle of March, sonne to the ladie Philip, daughter of Lionell duke of Clarence, the third sonne of king Edward the third : which Edmund at king Richards going into Ireland, was proclamed heire apparant to the crowne and realme, whose aunt called Elianor, the lord Henrie Persie had married : and therefore king Henrie could not well heare, that anie man should be earnest about the aduancement of that linage. The king when he had studied on the matter, made answer, that the earle of March was not taken oner for his cause, nor in his seruice, but willinglie suffered himselfe to be
taken, bicause he would not withstand the attempts of Owen Glendouer, and his complices, & therefore he would neither ransome him, nor releeue hiin.
'The Persies with this answer and fraudulent excuse were not a little fumed, insomuch that Henrie Hotspur said openlie: Behold, the heire of the relme is robbed of his right, and yet the robber with his owne will not redeeme him. So in this furie the Persies departed, minding nothing more than to depose king Henrie from the high type of his roialtie, and to place in his seat their cousine Edmund earle of March, whom they did not onlie deliuer out of captiuitie, but also (to the high displeasure of king Henrie) entered in league with the foresaid Owen Glendouer.' (p. 521.)
Act II, Scene 3. Hotspur's soliloquy was probably suggested by the following passage of Holinshed:
“The Persies to make their part seeme good, deuised certeine articles, by the aduise of Richard Scroope, archbishop of Yorke, brother to the lord Scroope, whome king Henrie had caused to be beheaded at Bristów. These articles being shewed to diuerse noblemen, and other states of the realme, mooued them to fauour their purpose, in so much that manie of them did not onelie promise to the Persies aid and succour by words, but also by their writings and seales confirmed the same. Howbeit when the matter came to triall, the most part of the confederates abandoned them, and at the daie of the conflict left them alone.” (p. 522.)
That Shakespeare intended to indicate any particular person as the writer of the letter which Hotspur is supposed to be reading is extremely improbable. The letter might have been written by any one of those who promised and failed. Many such letters were afterwards seen by John Hardyng the chronicler when he was constable of Warkworth Castle. It is inost unlikely, though it is affirmed by Edwards, that the letter in question was from George Dunbar, Earl of March, in Scotland; for he appears to have taken part with the king from the first, and advised him to act
with promptitude and crush the rebellion before it gathered strength. Nor probably is there any great weight to be attached to the tradition that the writer was Sir Thomas Rokeby (or Rokesby), Sheriff of Yorkshire.
Act II, Scene 4. The rumour which reached Prince Henry at the tavern, that Worcester had joined the insurrection, was suggested by the words of Holinshed which follow immediately after the passage last quoted :' Thus after that the conspirators had discouered themselues, the lord Henrie Persie desirous to proceed in the enterprise, vpon trust to be assisted by Owen Glendouer, the earle of March, & other, assembled an armie of men of armes and archers foorth of Cheshire and Wales. Incontinentlie his vncle Thomas Persie earle of Worcester, that had the gouernement of the prince of Wales, who as then laie at London, in secret manner conueied himselfe out of the princes house, and coming to Stafford (where he met his nephue) they increased their power by all waies and meanes they could deuise.' (p. 522.)
Act III, Scene 1. The scene in the Archdeacon of Bangor's house is also from Holinshed: ‘Heerewith, they [i.e. the conspirators] by their deputies in the house of the archdeacon of Bangor, diuided the realme amongst them, causing a tripartite indenture to be made and sealed with their seales, by the couenants whereof, all England from Seuerne and Trent, south and eastward, was assigned to the earl of March : all Wales, & the, lands beyond Seuerne westward, were appointed to Owen Glendouer: and all the remnant from Trent northward, to the lord Persie.
• This was doone (as some haue said) through a foolish credit giuen to a vaine prophesie, as though king Henrie was
? Holinshed in his two editions punctuates these words, 'at London in secret manner, conueied &c.' The transposition of the comma which is necessary to the sense is due to Mr. Boswell-Stone in his “Shakspere's Holinshed,' and Shakespeare must have read the sentence as it is now punctuated.