The Luminary Postgraduate Magazine Lancaster University

‘Then draw the Curtaines againe’: The Strange Case of Good Duke Humphrey (of William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part Two)

Dr. Filip Krajnik


When, at the beginning of the last scene of Othello, the eponymous protagonist, with a lamp in his hand, approaches the bed in his own bedroom and draws back its curtain, he stays petrified for a moment and the dramatic action of the play temporarily ceases. He had expected – even desired – to find what he has just found, yet the view fills him with almost sacred awe and makes him once more question the intention with which he came. The flow of dramatic time has, as it were, stopped, and the audience is left to observe how Othello, having exchanged rage for scopophilic lust, observes his wife (and victim-to-be), Desdemona. The inner dilemma which Othello has to resolve within the limited space of twenty-two lines of his soliloquy (and Desdemona’s sleep) is no less grave than the dilemma pervading the entire plot of the play: the way from ‘Yet I’ll not shed her blood’ (V.2.3) to ‘Yet she must die’ (V.2.6) is just as arduous as the way from the affectionate ‘Excellent wretch’ (III.3.91) to the hateful ‘lewd minx’ (III.3.478), as he calls Desdemona at various stages of the ‘temptation scene’, the longest scene of the piece.1 The beginning of the bedroom scene, therefore, becomes a means of re-enacting the whole conflict of the play before it can finally be resolved. When Othello finally announces that ‘She wakes’ (v.3.22) and is forced to make the decision, the almost unbearable suspense is relieved by a long-protracted crime, followed by an immediate punishment. The scene of Othello standing, as if forever, over the bed with his sleeping potential victim is arguably one of the most delicately powerful dramatic situations in Shakespeare’s entire canon.

The power of the image of a sleeping character on stage has been repeatedly acknowledged.2 David Bevington has traced the origins of the effective use of the topos in Western dramatic genres to mediaeval religious plays, with the twelfth-century dramatizations of the dream of the Three Magi (based on Matthew 2. 12) being one of the earliest instances (see Bevington, pp. 54–56).3 Shakespeare favoured this device, having deployed it numerous times throughout his dramatic career. Othello’s observing the beauty of his sleeping wife, whom he is about to strangle to death (Othello, V.2); Giacomo’s nocturnal venture in the bedroom of Imogen, whom the former seeks to incriminate in the eyes of her husband, Posthumus (Cymbeline, II.2); the murder of Old Hamlet in his sleep, re-enacted before King Claudius as an accusation of his crime (Hamlet, III.2); the represented angelic dream of the wronged Queen Katherine (or rather the Princess Dowager at that point) on her deathbed (Henry VIII, IV.2); the final misunderstanding between King Henry IV and Prince Henry, caused by the Prince’s wrong evaluation of the nature of his father’s sleep (2 Henry IV, IV.3); and the procession of eleven ghosts, who pass their judgements upon the sleeping King Richard III and the Earl of Richmond before the decisive Battle of Bosworth Field (Richard III, V.5), are just a few examples. Moreover, in the early 1600s, there was a wave of Jacobean plays containing dramaturgically important scenes with a sleeper at their centre, including Barnabe Barnes’s The Devil’s Charter (1607), Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s The Maid’s Tragedy (1608–11), The Valiant Welshman (before 1615) of dubious authorship, and the Beaumont and Fletcher apocrypha The Faithful Friends (between 1604 and 1626). Interestingly enough, all these plays are, in one way or another, connected with the King’s Men, Shakespeare’s theatrical company.4

Perhaps the most intriguing example of a Shakespearian sleeper is, however, the original. It is to be found in what is most probably Shakespeare’s earliest history (if not his earliest play at all), Henry VI, Part Two, and its merit lies not only in its capacity to foreshadow the employment of one of the playwright’s favourite tropes in his later works, but also (as shall become obvious from the following discussion) to give us a valuable insight into the development of early Elizabethan staging practices and the manner in which this development was reflected by the dramatic texts of the period.

The play which modern audiences know simply as Henry VI, Part Two (or 2 Henry VI for short) was first published anonymously by the London stationer Thomas Millington in 1594 as The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinall of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Iacke Cade: And the Duke of Yorkes first claime vnto the Crowne. The opulent title, which foregrounded the most popular events of the plot and served mainly as an advertisement for the potential buyers of the printed book, remained unchanged for the second edition of the piece, published by Millington in 1600. In 1619, the play was printed once again (by Thomas Pavier), this time in a volume together with Henry VI, Part Three (the First Octavo published by Millington in 1595), under the general title, The Whole Contention betweene the two Famous Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. With the Tragicall ends of the good Duke Humfrey, Richard Duke of Yorke, and King Henrie the sixt. In this third edition, which for the first time bore Shakespeare’s name as the author, the text also had its own separate title The first part of the Contention of the two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humfrey. Finally, in 1623, the play was printed in the so-called First Folio of Shakespeare as The second Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Good Duke Hvmfrey.

Of all the plot details mentioned in the sometimes more, sometimes less descriptive titles, only one survived the play’s almost thirty-year-long publication history: the death of Humphrey of Lancaster, the first Duke of Gloucester. Since the story of Humphrey’s downfall and its consequences transcends the space of just one play, marking a turning point of the entire historical tetralogy, it is only logical that this episode is especially foregrounded on the work’s title-pages as the principal attraction. How the event itself was staged, and whether the play’s original audiences were given an opportunity to witness it at all (like in the cases of Othello and others), however, remains uncertain.

The Quarto5 gives us a broad image of what the death scene was perhaps originally supposed to look like by means of a short stage direction at the beginning of Scene 10: ‘Then the Curtaines being drawne, Duke Humphrey is discouered in his bed, and two men lying on his brest and smothering him in his bed. And then enter the Duke of Suffolke to them.’ The situation then continues in a short dialogue between the Duke of Suffolk and the murderers:

Suffolk. How now sirs, what haue you dispatch him?

One. I my lord, hees dead I warrant you.

Suffolke. Then see the cloathes laid smooth about him still,

That when the King comes, he may perceiue

No other, but that he dide of his owne accord.

2. All things is handsome now my Lord.

Suffolke.Then draw the Curtaines againe and get you gone,

And you shall haue your firme reward anon.

Exet murtherers.6

The parallel scene in F1 (traditionally numbered as iii.2) gives a somewhat different account of the same event. The Duke’s death takes place off stage and the audience only learns about the crime from the subsequent dialogue:

Enter two or three running ouer the Stage, from the Murther of Duke Humfrey.

1. Runne to my Lord of Suffolke: let him know

We haue dispatcht the Duke, as he commanded.

2. Oh, that it were to doe: what haue we done?

Didst euer heare a man so penitent?

Enter Suffolke.

1. Here comes my Lord.

Suff. Now Sirs, haue you dispatcht this thing?

1. I, my good Lord, hee’s dead.

Suff. Why that’s well said. Goe, get you to my House,

I will reward you for this venturous deed:

The King and all the Peeres are here at hand.

Haue you layd faire the Bed? Is all things well,

According as I gaue direction?

1. ’Tis, my good Lord.

Suff. Away, be gone.


Although both versions agree in the main point – that is, that the Duke was smothered in his sleep in his own bed, in a manner not so dissimilar from Desdemona’s fate – the difference between both the spoken and unspoken material of the two readings is simply too big to be overlooked or explained away as a corruption in the transmission of the text, especially if it points at a different scenic solution in each case. The question of the relationship between the two variants of this early sleeping scene in Shakespeare’s dramatic canon and their (in)authenticity is therefore crucial not only for our understanding of the function of the motif in this specific play, but also in the context of its employment in Shakespeare’s later dramatic works. For this reason, before passing any judgement upon the scene and its connection with similar dramatic situations in other plays, we should first attempt to reconstruct its original form.

At first, the problem does not seem to have a clear solution. In spite of the fact that the permissive stage direction of the Folio ‘Enter two or three’ could indicate an authorial concept, while the Quarto’s unambiguous ‘two men lying on his brest’ might represent a stage text, it would be too bold to draw from this any conclusions concerning the genesis and stage history of both variants. Arthur Freeman expressed the opinion that the Folio text is a later revision written for a theatre which lacked a discovery-space, since the stage during Scenes 10 and 11 of the Quarto is horizontally divided by a curtain, whereas the parallel III.2 and III.3 of F1 are clearly intended for a homogenous playing space.8 This would mean that Shakespeare might have been the author of both versions, or, at least, the Quarto one, which would then have a primacy in terms of composition over the Folio text. Claire Saunders, on the other hand, suggests that the Quarto version of the scene is only a popular adaptation of the originally intended staging (which is preserved by the Folio text), drawing upon successful murder scenes in such plays as Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (c. 1592) and the anonymous Thomas of Woodstock (early-1590s) to increase the appeal of the production with the audience.9 This assertion suggests that the Quarto goes against the original authorial plan and raises the question of its authorship, whereas the authenticity of the Folio text is corroborated.

The lack of a critical consensus concerning the character and origin of the two variants can be seen in the execution of the situation (that is, whether Duke Humphrey is present in his bed on the stage or not) in modern editions, which is not standardised and varies according to the choice of each individual editor. There had long been a tendency to consider the Folio version as the sole reading for modern editions. H. C. Hart’s first Arden edition of 2 Henry VI (1909), for instance, lets the murder happen off stage and only contains the Folio variant of the dialogue, introduced by the stage direction ‘A room of state. Enter certain Murderers, hastily’. John Dover Wilson was the first to take the Quarto text into consideration for his Cambridge Shakespeare edition (1952). His reading preserves the Folio scenography and dialogue between the murderers and Suffolk, but at the same time makes use of the Quarto’s curtains, creating an unseen bedroom, possibly with the mimorum aedes at the back of the stage in mind: ‘A room of state, with curtains at the back concealing a room beyond. Enter certain Murderers, hastily, from behind the curtains’. Although Michael Hattaway’s New Cambridge Shakespeare edition of the play (1991) does not adopt this solution and reprints the original Folio stage direction, Dover Wilson’s decision opened a question as to whether the Quarto and Folio texts do not in fact represent – in an incomplete or corrupted form – one common version of the scene which would contain material from both readings. This possibility is further explored in the influential second edition of the Oxford Shakespeare (1986),10 which uses the textual portion of the First Folio, to which it prefixes the murder of Duke Humphrey in the audience’s view as suggested by the Quarto.

Probably the most coherent theory explaining the discrepancy between the two ways of staging the scene is offered by the theatre historian Milan Lukeš in his study of Shakespeare’s ‘bad quartos’. Similarly to Freeman, Lukeš notes that the Quarto version of the play calls for a horizontal division of the playing space in Scenes 10 (the death of the Duke of Gloucester) and 11 (the death of Cardinal Beaufort), but also for a vertical division in Scene 4, showing Duchess Eleanor conjuring spirits in order to learn about the future of the King and lords from his circle. Whereas, in the Folio text, Eleanor in this scene enters in the course of the action ‘aloft’ (Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, sig. M5r), in the Quarto version, she enters the main stage with the rest of the characters at the beginning of the scene, only to climb a moment later on ‘the Tower’ from where she will watch the ceremony (The First Part of the Contention, sig. B4v). According to Lukeš, ‘the Tower’ in the Quarto refers to the name of the stage property, a scenic structure (a mansion) with a small interior inside, separated from the main stage by a curtain. When ‘active’, the mansion typically served as a prison cell (i.e., the Tower of London – hence the name) or a bedroom and thus allowed heterogeneous, simultaneous action on the stage, whereas, when ‘inactive’ (with the curtain drawn), it was used as the upper staging plane.11 This supposition is indirectly supported by Alan C. Dessen and Leslie Thomson, in A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580–1642, which explains that the term ‘Tower’ was, apart from its fictional meaning, ‘used occasionally to designate the platform above the main level of the stage’.12 Lukeš argues that similar discovery-spaces were a usual staging practice in earlier phases of early-modern English drama (as another example, he mentions Henslowe’s ‘the sittie of Rome’ from the March 1598 inventory of the properties of the Admiral’s Men; see Lukeš, p. 65)13 and that the technical designation of the property penetrated the theatrical text in a similar manner to the way in which real names of minor actors used to find their way into lists of fictitious dramatis personae.14

Besides this purely technical rôle of the mansion, the structure also used to have a highly symbolical value, to which early-modern audiences were sensitive: since the King’s throne traditionally used to be situated above the main level of the stage, it is, Lukeš argues, possible that it was placed on the top of the Tower, meaning the mansion. The ending of the Henry vi trilogy would therefore show the coronation of Edward iv immediately above the place where King Henry vi was murdered in the previous scene (3 Henry vi v.6 and v.7).15 Although Lukeš admits that this possibility is only hypothetical, he maintains that this scenographic practice would have been in accordance with the fundamentals of Elizabethan staging.16

If The First Part of the Contention really makes systematic use of a mansion, as Lukeš argues, the realisation of Scene 10 of the play would be as follows: 1) the curtains are closed and the playing space is homogenous; 2) the curtains are drawn apart, the function of the mansion is activated and the stage is horizontally divided into Duke Humphrey’s bedroom and an undefined adjoining room (possibly a common room or a hallway); 3) the murder takes place in the bedroom, followed by a conversation between the murderers and Suffolk; 4) the curtains are closed again, the bedroom is deactivated, the murderers exit and Suffolk remains on the again undivided platform, waiting for the arrival of the King and others.

A significant aspect of this form of staging is the direct visual connection of the Duke of Gloucester’s murder and the death of Cardinal Beaufort in the following scene, which is clearly presented as a punishment for (among other sins) Humphrey’s assassination. The Cardinal’s agony would have been shown in the same ‘bedroom’ with the same bed – the stage direction reads: ‘Enter King and Salsbury, and then the Curtaines be drawne, and the Cardinall is discouered in his bed, rauing and staring as if he were madde’ (The First part of the Contention, sig. F1v [original italics]). This strengthens the link between two events of the plot: the cause and the consequence, or, in other words, the crime and the punishment. We can therefore observe a form of dramatic irony similar to the kind mentioned by Lukeš when he talks about changing places above and below, realised by means of similar scenographic devices.

Probably in the mid- or late-1590s, however, the use of mansions on the stage was abandoned and, with their disappearance, plays used horizontal and vertical divisions of the playing space less often. According to Richard Hosley’s statistics, all of Shakespeare’s plays that require the upper plane more than once were written by 1595 (perhaps with the exception of King John, which might have been composed slightly later) and, interestingly enough, all that require it more than twice are somehow historically connected with Pembroke’s or Strange’s Men17 While staging on the upper playing space was still possible (simply making use of either one of the galleries or the balcony over the main platform), the inner playing space posed a problem which had to be solved by more radical retouches if the theatrical text was to be produced under new staging conditions.18  This explains why, in the conjuring scene of the Folio version of 2 Henry vi,Duchess Eleanor enters the stage later and directly above, since climbing on the gallery would require too much playing time. It is also the reason why the iconic representation of Duke Humphrey’s bedroom in iii.2, present on the stage simultaneously with another room of the same house, was in F1 replaced by an indexical representation of the chamber by a bed which, when the fictional place changed, had to be put forth and back.19

Whereas we might, at the moment, tentatively conclude that the Quarto staging looks distinctively older than the Folio version and that there is no reason to doubt Shakespeare’s authorship (or, to be safe, the authorship of the author, or one of the authors, of the whole of the original text), the case of the authorial origins of the revised version is slightly more complicated.

The opening stage direction of Scene 25 of the Octavo of 3 Henry vi (showing the murder of King Henry vi by Richard of Gloucester) – a text staged around the same time as the Quarto of 2 Henry vi – reads: ‘Enter Gloster to king Henry in the Tower.’20 From the content of the scene, it is clear that Henry is in his prison cell, where he is approached by Richard, so we might expect staging similar in form to Duke Humphrey’s bedroom in the previous play (with the bed, of course, replaced in this case). When discharging the discontinued scenography, the Folio version of the play, however, replaced the stage direction with the rather bizarre ‘Enter Henry the sixt, and Richard, with the Lieutenant on the Walles’ (Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, sig. Q4r [original italics]). The correct meaning of ‘the Tower’ (the prison cell in the Tower or some other small interior) was obviously, in the revision process, replaced by the wrong of the two possibilities in this context – that is, the upper plane of the stage, whatever it might now be with the absence of the mansion. Since it is hardly conceivable that the original author would make such an obvious mistake, the question arises as to whether the dramatist had any word in the final shape of the play and to what extent we can, having previously established the authenticity of the Quarto reading, rely upon the Folio variant of the murder scene in 2 Henry vi at all. In order to try and answer this question, we therefore have to examine both versions of the dialogue between the murderers and the Duke of Suffolk as well.

Moving from the unspoken portion of the situation to the spoken one, we immediately note several interesting differences between the two versions of Duke Humphrey’s murder. In the Quarto reading, the conversation following the murder is shorter than the Folio equivalent by almost a half (the textual ratio Q:F is 8:14 lines). The murderers’ share in the exchange is, in Q, limited to a frugal announcement of Duke Humphrey’s death, which, after Suffolk’s instruction to tidy the bed with the corpse, is followed by an equally brief answer that the command has been executed. Although the scenic direction is missing, we might assume from the context and from the fact that the conversation is taking place over the Duke of Gloucester’s dead body that the tidying of the bed by one of the murderers happens in the audience’s view as well. The rôle of the assassins is therefore purely instrumental, adding little to the atmosphere of the scene.

In the Folio text, although the murderers’ rôle still remains a minor one, several notable details are added. First of all, the second murderer shows regret – a topos to which Shakespeare returned several times in his later works: when Othello realises that he was tricked by Iago into killing an innocent, he desperately cries out, ‘O cursèd, cursèd slave! / Whip me, ye devils, / From the possession of this heavenly sight’ (v.2.283–85); when, in Richard iii, the hired murderers assassinate the Duke of Clarence, sleeping in the Tower, one of the cut-throats immediately starts regretting what has just been done: ‘A bloody deed, and desperately dispatched! / How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands / Of this most grievous, guilty murder done’ (i.4.266–68); when, in the same play, Tyrrell gives the audience a detailed account of the murder of the little princes in their beds, he says about the murderers that, ‘Albeit they were fleshed villains, bloody dogs’, they ‘Melted with tenderness and mild compassion, / Wept like two children in their [i.e., the princes’] deaths’ sad story’ (iv.3.6–8); when, in Macbeth, the play’s eponymous protagonist murders the sleeping King Duncan, he is so shattered by the deed that he refuses to return to the place to kill the King’s companions as well, claiming that ‘I am afraid to think what I have done, / Look on’t again I dare not’ (ii.2.49f). The Folio’s emotional response of one of Suffolk’s murderers to the crime thus, on the one hand, gives some insight into the man’s mind and moves him slightly from a mere structural device to a real character, but, more importantly, also informs the audience how terrible the sight must have been to disturb a professional killer. From the Duke of Suffolk’s question ‘Haue you layd faire the Bed? Is all things well, / According as I gaue direction?’ and the first murderer’s prompt answer ‘’Tis, my good Lord’ it is obvious that the murder took place off stage and what the audience is getting is a verbal tableau of the situation which the spectators have not had the opportunity to see for themselves.21 In this respect, the additional information about the emotional impact, which the scene is supposed to evoke, becomes highly significant.

Secondly, the same murderer feels the need to mention that, when dying, Duke Humphrey was more penitent than any man he had ever seen. Again, we might find numerous explicit affirmations of the sleeping victims’ piousness and innocence in later Shakespeare plays; here, however, the remark is primarily important in the context of the later death of the Cardinal. At the end of the scene with Humphrey’s murder (staged or reported), a messenger enters to inform the Queen that ‘Cardinal Beaufort is at point of death. / For suddenly a grievous sickness took him’ (iii.2.373f), adding that he is in agony, ‘Blaspheming God and cursing men on earth. / Sometime he talks as if Duke Humphrey’s ghost / Were by his side’ (ll. 376–78). When, in the following scene, the King attends his deathbed, he comments upon the Cardinal’s state: ‘what a sign it is of evil life / Where death’s approach is seen so terrible’ (iii.3.5f). Then the Cardinal has another fit, thinking that he is speaking to Death about the Duke:

Cardinal Beaufort. Bring me unto my trial when you will.
Died he not in his bed? Where should he die?
Can I make men live, whe’er they will or no?
O, torture me no more – I will confess.
Alive again? Then show me where he is.
I’ll give a thousand pound to look upon him.
He hath no eyes! The dust hath blinded them.
Comb down his hair – look, look: it stands upright,
Like lime twigs set to catch my wingèd soul.
Give me some drink, and bid the apothecary
Bring the strong poison that I bought of him.

Having heard this, the King addresses the Cardinal, asking him ‘Lord Cardinal, if thou think’st of heavenly bliss, / Hold up thy hand, make signal of thy hope’ (ll. 27f). Beaufort, however, dies without making a sign. Herbert Geisen stresses that the Cardinal’s mode of dying and his failure to ask God for forgiveness underline the work of conscience, which in his case, however, does not awake repentance but rather the desperation of the guilty person and serves the purposes of divine retribution.22 Beaufort’s last moments summarise his past evil deeds and confirm his severance from God, upon which the Earl of Warwick’s judgment follows: ‘So bad a death argues a monstrous life’ (l. 30).

Instead of the rather crude visual attempt to connect the two events by staging them in the same bed, as seen in the Quarto, the Folio text uses a different dramaturgical strategy. Partly by means of a verbal description, partly by means of actual scenic presentation, the Folio juxtaposes two very different deaths of characters who are presented, not only as arch-enemies from the very first scene of the first part of the trilogy,23 but also representatives of two opposite political camps. Duke Humphrey had always been loyal to the King and had several times proved his virtuousness, whereas Cardinal Beaufort, one of the chief machinators against the King’s authority, had betrayed the fundamentals of his post. Although the first of the deaths is not directly staged in F1, its circumstances and the impression conveyed by one of the murderers’ words are powerful enough to prompt the theatre attendees to create a mental image of a peacefully sleeping figure, oblivious to any danger, being approached by a pair of cut-throats and, despite the reluctance of at least one of them, subsequently smothered. Moreover, unlike the Quarto version, F1 offers a posthumous image of the Duke of Gloucester as a pure character, making the commons’ riot at the end of the scene – provoked by the good duke’s death – more understandable. In contrast, the Cardinal’s waking nightmares – at first only reported, but shortly after shown on the stage – clearly bear witness to his crimes and are presented as a rightful punishment. Since both events are introduced within a short period of playing time, it seems dramatically more sensitive to stage only the second one, especially when the Cardinal’s death marks the climactic scene at the end of the third act, dividing the play into two distinct movements.24

From the present analysis, we might draw several conclusions. First, both versions of Duke Humphrey’s murder can be considered as authentic, in the sense that neither of them contradicts the author’s dramaturgical plan, being a hasty, occasional or popular revision. The Quarto represents an older form of the scene, making use of a scenographic device which became obsolete in the mid-1590s and abandoned by Elizabethan playwrights. When adapting the play for new staging conditions, the dramatist, however, decided not only to discard the old scenography, but also add an emotional element to the dramatic situation, which provokes a strong response on the part of the audience and which became the focus of Shakespeare’s later works. In this respect, we might consider the Folio reading as dramatically superior, written by a more mature hand, with a clear dramaturgical plan in mind. In the light of the revised version’s use of motifs and techniques which are consistent with later plays by Shakespeare, we might also be reasonably sure that, unlike the revision of the staging of King Henry VI’s death in the third part of the trilogy, the later version of Duke Humphrey’s murder was most probably begotten by the original play’s author himself.

References / Notes

1 If not indicated otherwise, references to Shakespeare’s plays are drawn from The Oxford Shakespeare, 2nd ed., gen. ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

2 David Bevington, ‘Asleep Onstage’, in From Page to Performance: Essays in Early English Drama, ed. by John A. Alford (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1995), pp. 51–83; and David Roberts, ‘Sleeping Beauties: Shakespeare, Sleep and the Stage’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 35 (2006), 231–54.

3 The literary tradition of the trope is, however, much older. Episodes similar to that in Othello can be found in the Old Testament (I Samuel 26), Ovid (Metamorphoses X, ‘Myrrha and Cinyras’), Apuleius (Asinus Aureus V, ‘Cupid and Psyche’) or, in English literature, Sir Philip Sidney (Arcadia IV, ‘Pyrocles and Philoclea’).

4 As the title-page of the 1607 Quarto (London: G. E. for John Wright) suggests, The Devil’s Charter was performed before King James by the King’s Men earlier that year; John Fletcher was one of the King’s Men’s principal playwrights, taking over Shakespeare’s position after the latter’s retirement around 1612; The Valiant Welshman has been attributed to the King’s Men’s actor Robert Armin (c. 1563–1615).

5 Since all three quartos depend upon each other, presenting more or less the same text, I will be referring to all of them collectively as “the Quarto”, using Q1 for quotations.

6 William Shakespeare, The First Part of the Contention Betwixt the Two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster (London: Thomas Creed for Thomas Millington, 1594), sig. E2r (original italics).

7 William Shakespeare, Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, ed. by John Heminge and Henry Condell (London: Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623), sig. N3r (original italics).

8 Arthur Freeman, ‘Notes on the Text of “2 Henry VI”, and the “Upstart Crow”’, Notes and Queries, 15 (1968), 128–30 (p. 129).

9 Claire Saunders, ‘“Dead in His Bed”: Shakespeare’s Staging of the Death of the Duke of Gloucester in 2 Henry VI’, The Review of English Studies (New Series), 36 (1985), 19–34 (p. 25).

10 The play was edited by William Montgomery.

11 Milan Lukeš, ‘První díl sporu dvou slavných rodů a Pravdivá tragédie Richarda, vévody z Yorku (1594 a 1595)’, in Základy shakespearovské dramaturgie (Prague: Charles University, 1985), pp. 57–74 (especially pp. 63–68).

12 ‘Tower’, in A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580–1642, by Alan C. Dessen and Leslie Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 235.

13 Philip Henslowe, Henslowe Papers, Being Documents Supplementary to Henslowe’s Diary, ed. by Walter W. Gregg (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), p. 116.

14 For example Sander, Bevis and Holland in The First Part of the Contention; see Lukeš, pp. 59–61. The mention of ‘the Tower’ in the dialogue of the play might, however, have been intentional as well. In his study of the authorship question of Mucedorus, Pavel Drábek refers to the mechanicals of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, who, upon entering the dark forest to rehearse their play for the Duke of Athens, remark that ‘This green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn brake our tiring-house’ (III.1.3f), ironically exploiting the symbolic character of the Elizabethan stage. Drábek comments that ‘Elizabethan anti-illusionist theatre – and especially Shakespeare’s – was capable of profiting from its seeming imperfections’ (Pavel Drábek, ‘Shakespeare’s Influence on Mucedorus’, in Shakespeare and His Collaborators over the Centuries, ed. by Pavel Drábek, Klára Kolinská and Matthew Nicholls [Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008], 45–53 [p. 49]).

15 An echo of this motif, which Lukeš does not mention, can be found in the sequel play, Richard III, in which King Richard would ascend the throne (‘Thus high by thy [i.e., Buckingham’s] advice / And thy assistance is King Richard seated’, IV.2.4f) located on the top of the prison cell where he had his brother previously murdered (in I.4).

16 Lukeš, pp. 68–69: ‘A part of this tragigrotesque royal game is the exchange of places above and below – quite literal in scenic terms – as a symbol of rise and fall, pride and ambition, and humility and humiliation, which Elizabethan theatre adopted and developed from the mediaeval contrast between platea and locus, having lent it new secular and historical contents, without, however, distracting from its universally understood language. Shakespeare, too, was an heir to this traditional, naïve and elementary symbolism – it was conveyed to him by his immediate predecessors who used to enjoy toying with it more than he did.’ (Translation from the Czech, mine.)

17 Richard Hosley, ‘Shakespeare’s Use of a Gallery Over the Stage’, Shakespeare Survey, 10 (1957), 77–89 (pp. 77–78). It should be noted here that Hosley only examines the Folio versions of the texts.

18 The epilogue of Henry V indicates that the Henry VI trilogy was a staple part of the Chamberlain’s Men’s repertoire after 1594.

19 I am using the terms ‘icon’ and ‘index’ here as two kinds of sign as defined by Charles S. Peirce in his late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century works, that is, the sign physically resembling the object for which it stands (in our case, a room is represented by a structure resembling one) and the sign having a factual connection to the represented object (in our case, a bed stands for an entire bedroom) respectively.

20 William Shakespeare, The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the Death of Good King Henrie the Sixt (London: P. S. for Thomas Millingson, 1595), sig. E5v (original italics).

21 This observation, of course, dismisses any attempt to combine the two staging forms and gives a negative answer to the question of whether the Quarto and the Folio represent one scenic execution of the situation. We might see that creating a small verbal image of a situation which originally used to be present on the stage, but was later eliminated in the revision, was a common practice. Whereas in Scene V.4 of the standard text of Richard III, Richmond directly addresses Sir William Brandon on the stage, informing him that ‘you shall bear my standard’ (l. 4), in Q1, which tries to reduce the number of extras in the scene, the direct order is replaced by the King’s question ‘Where is Sir William Brandon, he shall beare my standerd’ (William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Third [London: Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise, 1597], sig. L2v), making a verbal substitution for the now extrascenic reality.

22 Herbert Geisen, Die Dimension des Metaphysischen in Shakespeares Historien (Frankfurt am Main: Studienreihe Humanitas Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1974), pp. 36–37: ‘[B]esonders sein qualvoller Tod und seine Unfähigkeit, Gott um Gnade zu bitten, [unterstreichen] das unbeeinflußbare Wirken des Gewissens, das hier allerdings nich die Reue, sondern die Verzweiflung des Schuldigen weckt und im Dienste der divine retribution steht’ (original italics).

23 There is no critical consensus as to the order in which the Henry VI plays were actually written. The position of the present author is that 2 and 3 Henry VI preceded 1 Henry VI and the focus on the enmity between Humphrey and Beaufort in 1 Henry VI is there primarily to place the play’s events in the context of the then already existing duology 2 and 3 Henry VI and to contribute to the unity of the three stories.

24 Emrys Jones questions the traditional division between the third and fourth acts of 2 Henry VI, asserting that Suffolk’s death in IV.1 is one of the immediate consequences of Duke Humphrey’s murder (see Emrys Jones, Scenic Form in Shakespeare [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971], p. 75) and therefore should finish the third act. Although this argument is not without merit, it is obvious that, between III.3 and IV.1 of the play, a considerable dramatic time passes, which might serve as a good occasion for an interval. Moreover, the Duke of Somerset, whose head appears together with Suffolk’s in Duke Humphrey’s dream of I.2, is killed as late as V.2 and his head shown in I.1 of 3 Henry VI, although his death, too, could be regarded as a consequence of Humphrey’s political and physical liquidation.

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