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Printed for T. Longman, B. Law and Son, C. Dilly, J. Robfon, J. Johnson,
M. DCC. XCIII.
KING JOHN.] The Troublefome Reign of King John was written in two parts, by W. Shakspeare and W. Rowley, and printed 1611. But the prefent play is entirely different, and infinitely fuperior to it. POPE,
The edition of 1611 has no mention of Rowley, nor in the account of Rowley's works is any mention made of his conjunction with Shakspeare in any play. King John was reprinted in two parts in 1622. The first edition that I have found of this play in its prefent form, is that of 1623, in folio. The edition of 1591 I have not feen. JOHNSON.
Dr. Johnson miftakes when he fays there is no mention in Rowley's works of any conjunction with Shakspeare. The Birth of Merlin is afcribed to them jointly; though I cannot believe Shakfpeare had any thing to do with it. Mr. Capell is equally mif taken when he fays (Pref. p. 15.) that Rowley is called his partner in the title-page of The Merry Devil of Edmonton.
There must have been fome tradition, however erroneous, upon which Mr. Pope's account was founded. I make no doubt that Rowley wrote the first King John; and when Shak fpeare's play was called for, and could not be procured from the players, a piratical bookfeller reprinted the old one, with W. Sh. in the titlepage. FARMER.
The elder play of King John was firft published in 1591. Shakfpeare has preferved the greateft part of the conduct of it, as well as fome of the lines. A few of thefe I have pointed out, and others I have omitted as undeferving notice. The number of quotations from Horace, and fimilar fcraps of learning scattered over this motley piece, afcertain it to have been the work of a scholar. It contains likewife a quantity of rhyming Latin, and ballad-metre; and in a scene where the Baftard is reprefented as plundering a monaftery, there are ftrokes of humour, which feem, from their particular turn, to have been moft evidently produced by another hand than that of our author.
Of this hiftorical drama there is a fubfequent edition in 1611, printed for John Helme, whofe name appears before none of the genuine pieces of Shakspeare. I admitted this play fome years ago as our author's own, among the twenty which I published from the old editions; but a more careful perufal of it, and a further con viction of his cuftom of borrrowing plots, fentiments, &c. difpofes me to recede from that opinion. STEEVENS.
A play entitled The troublefome raigne of John King of England, in two parts, was printed in 1591, without the writer's name. It was written, I believe, either by Robert Greene, or George Peele; and certainly preceded this of our author. Mr. Pope, who is very inaccurate in matters of this kind, fays that the former was printed in 1611, as written by W. Shakfpeare and W. Rowley,
But this is not true. In the fecond edition of this old play in 1611, the letters W. Sh. were put into the title-page, to deceive the purchafer, and to lead him to fuppofe the piece was Shakspeare's play, which at that time was not published. See a more minute account of this fraud in An Attempt to afcertain the order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. I. Our author's King John was written, I imagine, in 1596. The reasons on which this opinion is founded, may be found in that Effay. MALONE.
Though this play have the title of The Life and Death of King John, yet the action of it begins at the thirty-fourth year of his life; and takes in only fome tranfactions of his reign to the time of his demife, being an interval of about seventeen years.
Hall, Holinfhed, Stowe, &c. are clofely followed not only in the conduct, but fometimes in the very expreffions throughout the following hiftorical dramas; viz. Macbeth, this play, Richard II. Henry IV. two parts, Henry V. Henry VI. three parts, Richard III. and Henry VIII.
"A booke called The Hiftorie of Lord Faulconbridge, baftard Son to Richard Cordelion," was entered at Stationers' Hall, Nov. 29, 1614; but I have never met with it, and therefore know not whether it was the old black letter hiftory, or a play on the fame fubject. For the original K. John, fee Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. published by S. Leacroft, Charing-Cross.
The byftorie of Lord Faulconbridge, &c. is a profe narrative, in bl. 1. The earliest edition that I have feen of it, was printed in 1616.
A book entitled "Richard Cur de Lion," was entered on the Stationers' Books in 1558.
A play called The Funeral of Richard Cordelion, was written by Robert Wilfon, Henry Chettle, Anthony Mundy, and Michael Drayton, and firft exhibited in the year 1598. See The Hiftorical Account of the English Stage, Vol. II. MALONE.