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in the time of action; and though after the bustle is over he is again a favourite, at last vanishes without notice. Shakspeare certainly lost him by heedlessness, in the multiplicity of his characters, the variety of his action, and his eagerness to end the play. JOHNSON.

Line 541. -to the Fleet;] I do not see why Falstaff is carried to the Fleet. We have never lost sight of him since his dismission from the king; he has committed no new fault, and therefore incurred no punishment; but the different agitations of fear, anger, and surprize in him and his company, made a good scene to the eye; and our author, who wanted them no longer on the stage, was glad to find this method of sweeping them away.


I fancy every reader, when he ends this play, cries out with Desdemona, “O most lame and impotent conclusion!" As this play was not, to our knowledge, divided into acts by the author, I could be content to conclude it with the death of Henry the Fourth:

"In that Jerusalem shall Harry die.”

These scenes, which now make the fifth act of Henry the Fourth, might then be the first of Henry the Fifth; but the truth is, that they do not unite very commodiously to either play. When these plays were represented, I believe they ended as they are now ended in the books; but Shakspeare seems to have designed that the whole series of action, from the beginning of Richard the Second, to the end of Henry the Fifth, should be considered by the reader as one work, upon one plan, only broken into parts by the necessity of exhibition. JOHNSON.







LINE 1. 0, for a muse of fire, &c.] This goes upon the notion of the Peripatetic system, which imagines several heavens one above another; the last and highest of which was one of fire.


It alludes likewise to the aspiring nature of fire, which, by its levity, at the separation of the chaos, took the highest seat of all the elements.


Line 3. princes to act, &c.] Shakspeare does not seem to set distance enough between the performers and spectators.


Line 14. Within this wooden O,] Nothing shows more evidently the power of custom over language, than that the frequent use of calling a circle an O could so much hide the meanness of the metaphor from Shakspeare, that he has used it many times where he makes his most eager attempts at dignity of style.


Mr. Henley very judiciously observes, that this is an allusion to the Globe playhouse, which was circular.

Line 14.



-the very casques,] The helmets. imaginary forces-] Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy. Active and passive words are by this author frequently confounded. JOHNSON.

Line 26. And make imaginary puissance:] This shows that Shakspeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of showing battles on the theatre, which, indeed, is never done, but tragedy becomes farce. Nothing can be represented to the eye, but by something like it, and within a wooden O nothing very like a battle can be exhibited. JOHNSON. Line 29. For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, &c.] We may read king for kings. The prologue relates only to this single play. The mistake was made by referring them to kings, which belongs to thoughts. The sense is, your thoughts must give the king his proper greatness; carry therefore your thoughts here and there, jumping over time, and crouding years into an hour. JOHNSON.


London.] It appears from Hall's and Holinshed's Chronicles, that the business of this scene was transacted at Leicester, where king Henry V. held a parliament in the second year of his reign. But the chorus at the beginning of the second act shows that the author intended to make London the place of his first scene.


Line 5. the scambling and unquiet time-] To scamble, means to make shift.

Line 31. Consideration like an angel &c.] As paradise, when 'sin and Adam were driven out by the angel, became the habitation of celestial spirits, so the king's heart, since consideration has driven out his follies, is now the receptacle of wisdom and of virtue. JOHNSON.

Line 36. Never came reformation in a flood,] Alluding to the method by which Hercules cleansed the famous stables, when he turned a river through them. Hercules still is in our author's head when he mentions the Hydra. JOHNSON.

Line 52. The air, &c.] This line is exquisitely beautiful, JOHNS.

55. So that the art and practick part of life-] He dis

courses with so much skill on all subjects, that the art and practice of life must be the mistress or teacher of his theorick; that is, that his theory must have been taught by art and practice; which, says he, is strange, since he could see little of the true art or practice among his loose companions, nor ever retired to digest his practice into theory. Art is used by the author for practice, as distinguished from science or theory. JOHNSON. to this theorick:] In our author's time this word was always used where we now use theory.

Line 56.

Line 70. power.


crescive in his faculty.] Increasing in its proper JOHNSON.

Line 92. The severals, and unhidden passages,] This line I suspect of corruption, though it may be fairly enough explained: the passages of his titles are the lines of succession, by which his claims descend. Unhidden is open, clear. JOHNSON.


Line 109. Send for him, good uncle.] The person here addressed was Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset, who was half-brother to king Henry IV. being one of the sons of John of Gaunt, by Katharine Swynford. MALONE. Line 113. task-] Keep busied with scruples and laborious disquisitions. JOHNSON. Line 124. Or nicely charge your understanding soul—] Take heed, lest by nice and subtle sophistry you burthen your knowing soul, or knowingly burthen your soul, with the guilt of advancing a false title, or of maintaining, by specious fallacies, a claim which, if shown in its native and true colours, would appear to be false. JOHNSON.

Line 125. miscreate,] Ill-begotten, illegitimate, spurious. JOHNSON.


take heed how you impawn our person,] The whole drift of the king is to impress upon the archbishop a due sense of the caution with which he is to speak. He tells him that the crime of unjust war, if the war be unjust, shall rest upon him: Therefore take heed how you impawn your person.

So, I think, it should be read, Take heed how you pledge yourself, your honour, your happiness, in support of bad advice.

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