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JOHNSON AND STEEVENS.
VOL. XI. ·
KING RICHARD III,
KING HENRY VIII.
PUBLISHED BY J. MORGAN AND T. S. MANNING.
LIFE AND DEATH OF KING RICHARD III.
THIS tragedy, though it is called the Life and Death of this Prince, comprizes, at most, but the last eight years of his time; for it opens with George Duke of Clarence being clapped up in the Tower, which happened in the beginning of the year 1477; and closes with the death of Richard at Bosworth field, which battle was fought on the 22d of August, in the year 1485. Theobald.
It appears that several dramas on the present subject had been written before Shakspeare attempted it. See the notes at the conclusion of this play, which was first entered at Stationer's Hall by Andrew Wise, Oct. 20, 1597, under the title of The Tragedie of King Richard the Third, with the Death of the Duke of Clarence. Before this, viz. Aug. 15th, 1586, was entered, A tragical Report of King Richard the Third, a Ballad. It may be necessary to remark that the words, song, ballad, book, enterlude and play, were often synonymously used. Steevens.
This play was written, I imagine, in the same year in which it was first printed,-1597. The Legend of King Richard III, by Francis Seagars, was printed in the first edition of The Mirror for Magistrates, 1559, and in that of 1575, and 1587, but Shakspeare does not appear to be indebted to it. In a subsequent edition of that book printed in 1610, the old legend was omitted, and a new one inserted, by Richard Nichols, who has very freely copied the play before us. In 1597, when this tragedy was published, Nichols, as Mr. Warton has observed, was but thirteen years old. Hist. of Poetry, Vol. III, p. 267.
The real length of time in this piece is fourteen years; (not eight years, as Mr. Theobald supposed;) for the second scene commences with the funeral of King Henry VI, who, according to the received account, was murdered on the 21st of May, 1471. The imprisonment of Clarence, which is represented previously in the first scene, did not in fact take place till 1477-8.
It has been since observed to me by Mr. Elderton, (who is of opinion that Richard was charged with this murder by the Lancastrian historians without any foundation) that "it appears on the face of the publick accounts allowed in the exchequer for the maintenance of King Henry and his numerous attendants in the Tower, that he lived to the 12th of June, which was twenty-two days after the time assigned for his pretended assassination; was exposed to the publick view in St. Paul's for some days, and interred at Chertsey with much solemnity, and at no inconsiderable expence." Malone.