- 1 Historical Records
- 2 Theatrical Provenance
- 3 Probable Genre(s)
- 4 Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
- 5 References to the Play
- 6 Critical Commentary
- 7 For What It's Worth
- 8 Works Cited
Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert
- 1624, April 10. "For the king's company. The Historye of Henry the First, written by Damport [Davenport]; this 10 April, 1624,---1l. 0. 0."
- (Adams 27-28)
09 September 1653 (S.R.II, 1.429 CLIO)
- Master Mosely Entred also . . . the severall playes following . . xxs vjd
- Henry the first, & Hen: the 2d, by Shakespeare & Davenport.
"Henry ye 1st. by Will. Shakespeare & Rob. Davenport" appears as the 2nd play noted by John Warburton (1682-1759) in his list of the unprinted MS plays allegedly in his collection until destroyed by Warburton’s cook:
- (British Library, Lansdowne MS 807, fo.1r. Reproduced by permission of the British Library. Click image to view full page; click here for more information on Warburton's list)
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
Henry I, King of England
Henry I (AD 1068/9–1135) was the youngest son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. His epithet, "Beauclerc", which stems from his supposed mastery of science and the liberal arts, seems to have originated in the 14th century, though reports of Henry's learning appear to have been greatly exaggerated (Hollister).
Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1583)
Foxe provides a succinct description of Henry I:
HEnry first of that name, the third sonne of W. Conquerour, succeeding his brother Rufus: began his raigne in England, the yere of our Lord 1100. who for his knowledge & science in the 7. liberal arts, was surnamed Clerke or bewclerke. In whome may wel appeare, howe knowledge and learning doth greatly conduce, to the gouernement and administration of any realme or country. At the beginning, he reformed the state and condition of the clergie: released the grieuous paiments: reduced againe king Edwards laws, with emendation therof: he reformed the old and vntrue measures, & made a measure after þe length of his arme: he greatly abhorred excesse of meats & drinks: many things misused before his time he reformed: and vsed to vanquish more by counsaile then by sworde. Suche persons as were nice and wanton, he secluded from hys court. This man as appeareth, litle fauoured the vsurped power of the Bishop of Rome. Soone after he was King, he maried Matilde or Maude: daughter of Malcolin king of Scots, and of Margaret his wife: daughter of Edward the Outlaw, as is before specified: being a professed Nunne in Winchester, whom notwithstanding (wtout the popes dispensation) he maried by the consent of Anselme. By the which Maude he receaued 2. sonnes, William, and Richard: & 2. daughters, Maude & Mary, which Maude afterward was maried to Henry the v. Emperour. &c. (Book 4, Appendix, p214)
Other notable features of Henry's narrative observed by Foxe include:
• The attempt by Henry's elder brother, Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, to make an attempt at seizing the English crown but was ultimately appeased with the promise of a sizeable yearly income;
• Years later, Robert was taken prisoner in war and imprisoned in the Castle of Cardiff, Wales;
• During Henry I's reign, the hospital of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield was founded (to be finished by Richard Whittington [c.1350–1423], mayor of London);
• Henry was responsible for the introduction of strict new laws against thieves and felons resulting in hanging (cf. the story of Bellendon, the first thief hanged in England, which occurred during Henry's reign);
• He also pursued ecclesiastical reform with mixed results, leading to an extended altercation with Anselme, Archbishop of Canterbury.
References to the Play
Malone thought this might simply be a remodelling of Chettle, Dekker and Drayton's "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" (1598). He mistakenly recorded its entry in the Stationers' Register "by some knavish bookseller" as taking place in 1660 (the date that "King Stephen", "Duke Humphrey", and "Iphis and Ianthe, or Marriage without a Man" were entered) (Malone, "Additions" 319). He elsewhere repeated his criticism of the "tricking bookseller" who entered these plays in the Stationers' Register ("the device is somewhat of the stalest"), inferring from Herbert's attribution to Davenport alone that the SR entry's attribution to Shakespeare and Davenant was not made "honestly" (Inquiry 299).
Fleay (BCED 1.104) arrived at the same conclusion as Malone vis-a-vis the older "Famous Wars" play, in what Bentley describes as one of Fleay's "cherished associations of titles" (3.231).
Bentley was sceptical about the reliability of Warburton's list as evidence, but confident that Moseley "certainly had a manuscript, and he must have had some reason for assigning it as he did." He casts doubts over the attribution however, noting that "[t]here is no evidence that Davenport began to write early enough to have collaborated with Shakespeare, and if he had, it is difficult to imagine a reason why the company should have waited eight years after Shakespeare's death to get a licence" (3.230). Nor, he adds, is it likely that the play was originally by Shakespeare and later revised by Davenport --- Herbert's licensing fee is on par with his usual fee for an entirely new play (3.231). Bentley also pours cold water over Malone and Fleay's lumping of titles by querying why "the King's men in 1624 would have needed to make use of such an old and obscure piece" and asking why "they would have had one of Henslowe's manuscripts" at all (3.231).
In the context of Moseley's entries, Gary Taylor refers to "Henry I" and "Henry II" as if a single play: "The 1653 entry also attributes to Shakespeare The Merry Devil of Edmonton (as did Charles I), and to Shakespeare and Davenport the lost Henry the First and Henry the Second, which Davenport wrote or adapted in the 1620s..." (20, n43).
Harbage ("Palimpsest") points out that "[s]ince the long reign of King Stephen intervened between those of the two Henrys, Henry the First and Henry the Second seems an extremely unlikely title for a play; and as Moseley in 1653 was saving fees by entering two plays as one, it is fairly obvious that he was doing so in the present instance". Harbage is less sceptical than Bentley about the authenticity of Warburton's list of play manuscripts, deducing from Warburton's reference only to "Henry ye 1st" that "the Henry the Second manuscript had evidently become separated from its fellow" (310). He thinks that "Shakespeare's name could have become attached to the manuscript of Henry the First merely because it was evident that it was an adaptation of a play dating from Shakespeare's time" (311). He also keeps open the possibility that Davenport was reworking an old Admiral's play somehow in his possession, by observing that "[i]t was an old Admiral's play, The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington, 1598, by Chettle and Munday, that Davenport used so freely in his writing his King John and Matilda at about the same time as Henry the First was licensed" (311). However, in an apparent contradiction, Harbage subsequently suggests that Davenport drew on Drayton's Heroical Epistles (republished 1619) as a source for the King John and Matilda material, which, if correct, may invalidate the supposition about the Admiral's play (317).
For What It's Worth
Harbage, Alfred. "Elizabethan-Restoration Palimpsest". Modern Language Review 35 (1940): 287-319.</div>
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