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good play ; but it would have been still more difficult to make of the first of the Tudor kings a hero, who would realize the prophecy of Henry VI.* and the expectations of the conquerors of Bosworth field. In the play of Henry VIII. Shakspeare does not forget that the king was the father of Elizabeth.
Another peculiarity attached to this play is, · that Shakspeare's usual authority now becomes
a contemporary; at least, the narrative upon which he relies is derived immediately from contemporary writings. Holinshed did not live in the time of Henry VIII., but Hall was certainly of years of discretion-a barrister, and (like Fabyan) under-sheriff, if not a member of parliament during a part of that reign.t And the work of Polydore Vergil, whom Holinshed also quotes, was written and published within the same period. I
The point of time at which the play .commences is fixed by the opening scene, in which
* See p. 37.
† He was probably born at the close of the fifteenth century, in the reign of Henry VII., and was at least twenty years old at the period at which this play commences-1520. Holinshed's date is not known, but his work was published in 1577, the 19th of Elizabeth. Biog. Brit., xvii. 46.
In 1533. Biog. Brit., xiii. 309.
the Duke of Norfolk* gives to the Duke of Buckinghamt a description of the famous meeting between Henry VIII. and Francis I.; and it appears to me that we recognise again the admirable language of Shakspeare, of which in the three parts of Henry VI., and even in Richard III., we had nearly lost sight.
“Norf. 'Twixt Guynes and Arde: I was then present, saw 'em salute on horseback, Beheld 'em when they lighted, how they clung, In their embracement, as they grew together ; Which, had they, what four thron’d ones could have
Buck. All the whole time
Norf. Then you lost
* Thomas Howard, second duke, the Surry of the last play, son of Richard's duke, who was killed at Bosworth. This Thomas was created duke in 1514, and died in 1524. Collins, i.64.
+ Edward Stafford, third duke, son of the duke who appears in Richard III., Banks, ii. 525.
Shone down the English ; and to-morrow they
leng'd The noble spirits to arms, they did perform. Beyond thought's compass : that old fabulous story (Being now seen possible enough) got credit; That Bevis was believed.
Buck. Oh! you go far.
Norf. As I belong to worship, and affect
Hol., 646 ; Hal., 604.
this field of the cloth of gold. Various histories of this gay meeting were probably extant, and Shakspeare's forcible description cannot be traced to one Chronicler in particular. Our poet| appears to have invented Buckingham's sickness for the mere purpose of making him listen to Norfolk's story, for he is specially mentioned in the Chronicle as present. *
In this conversation, in which Lord Abergavennyt takes part, there is much complaint of the expense of this royal meeting; and the blame of devising it, as well as officious intermeddling in all the arrangements, for
“no man's pye is freed
From his ambitious finger,” is laid upon Wolsey. Buckingham is unmeasured in his censure and sarcasm ; Norfolk, professing friendly feelings, warns him that the cardinal is a dangerous enemy.
The complaints of the enormous expense which this expedition caused to those who were compelled to attend it, of whom
* Hol., 654; Hall, 616.
+ George Neville, third lord. He married Buckingham's daughter; he is said to have warned the king, while on his way to the meeting, that Francis was more numerously attended than he. The present earl is his lineal inale representative. Collins, v. 162.
“ many Have broke their backs with laying harness on them
For this great journey,” are taken from the Chronicle; which also represents Buckingham as incensing the displeasure of Wolsey by his complaints.*
The political bearings of the meeting are discussed in the play.
“ Buck. What did this great vanity But minister communication of A most poor issue ?
Norf. Grievingly, I think, The peace between the French and us not values
The cost that did conclude it.” And,
“France hath flaw'd the league, and hath attach'd Our merchants' goods at Bourdeaux.
Aberg. Is it therefore
Norf. Marry is't.” A new treaty between France and England was the result of the meeting of the kings, by which Francis stipulated to pay annually 100,000 crowns to Henry.t I know not whether Shakspeare meant this by the peace which was