[SHAKESPEARE, William]. Manuscript part for a contemporary analogue to Henry IV, part I, n.p. [perhaps Oxford or London], n.d. [c.1580s-before c.1620].
One leaf, c.185 x c.122mm, written on the recto and verso, 57 lines of blank verse, three boxed stage directions, 60 lines of text in total, ruled in red, ruled space: 155 x c.103mm. Mounted between two sheets of glass. [With, previously bound into:] Homer, Odyssea, in Latin and Greek, edited by C. Gessner (Geneva, 1586). Contemporary English smooth calf, displaying on the lower edges the hatch-marks in blind characteristic of Oxford bindings from 1590-1620, 125 x 75 x 55mm (top board detached). All together in a blue morocco-backed box (240 x 175 x 75mm).
Provenance: (1) Soon after it was written, the present manuscript was repurposed as endleaves for a binding added to a 1586 edition of the Odyssey; the binding is English, the style associable with Oxford between 1590 and 1620. (2) Subsequent contemporary marginal annotations read, partially: ‘fiddle &/ Italian Catlins/ mysteria verbi ad popul[um?]’; the manuscript remained as endleaves until the end of the 20th century and the copy of the Oydyssey into which it is bound bears further annotations. (3) Bloomsbury, London, 14 January 1988, lot 27. (4) Patrick King Rare Books, Stony Stratford, Bulletin 15 (1989), no 96. (4) Bernard Quaritch cat. 1120 (1989), no 89. (5) Pickering & Chatto, London, cat. 676, no 105 and cat.693, no 19. (6) Sotheby’s, 21 July 1992, lot 20. (7) Bernard Quaritch and Pickering & Chatto. (8) Schøyen Collection, MS 1627. Part of the virtual exhibition ‘Shakespeare Documented’ hosted by the Folger Shakespeare Library.
A rare contemporary manuscript analogue to Henry IV: an important witness to the transmission, adaptation and performance of theatrical works and their source material in Shakespearean England, and an early theatrical reference to smoking tobacco. The scene features the tapster of an inn – designated ‘Tapst’ beside the ruled text – and two thieves – marked ‘1’ and ‘2’, the second named ‘Master George’ in the text. The tapster tells the two thieves of a rich guest (‘a man that lodged in our house/ last night that hath 3 hundred markes/ he carries yt into the kings exchequer’) travelling alone, for which information they thank him and celebrate with a drink and tobacco. They insist the tapster, who ‘never tooke anye in all my life’, join them in their pipe: he chokes, comically. The thieves promise to pay for their beer ‘when we doe returne agayne’, which the tapster accepts, calling Mr George by his name: ‘Ile take yorword for more then that comes to’. His trust is misplaced; George does not intend to honour the debt. As to the tapster knowing his name: ‘[I] never sawe him in my life before/ but once at shorditch in a bawdye house’; the ‘damned whores’ have told his name and he threatens to slit their noses off.
The meeting between the inn tapster and two thieves mirrors an encounter in Henry IV, part I (act II, scene I), in which the chamberlain of an inn confides in the highwayman Gadshill that a wealthy traveller staying there ‘hath brought three hundred Markes with him ingolde’; later, the thief Bardolph adds that this ‘money of the kings’ is ‘going to the Kings Exchequer’ (II, iii). Yet, although establishing the correspondence of this analogue to Shakespeare’s much-loved history play – which he composed in 1596-7 and which was published as The History of Henrie the Fourth … with the humorous Conceits of Sir Iohn Falstaffe early in 1598 – is relatively simple, the nature of their relationship poses a much more interesting question: is our playscript a predecessor, a cousin – descended from the same ur-text – or a later adaptation of Shakespeare’s hugely-popular, widely-published play? For the plot and the characters of Henry IV and Henry V, Shakespeare is known to have drawn on the chronicles of Halle and Holinshed, The Mirror for Magistrates, and Samuel Daniel’s Civile Wars, as well as a pre-existing performance tradition – allowing for the possibility of the first two options. Equally, the scene might well be a contemporary adaptation of the Gadshill episode, taken from a printed quarto or performance. The introduction of tobacco into the scene, where no mention is made by Shakespeare, may be significant: the date generally given for the introduction of tobacco to England by Sir Walter Raleigh is 1586, the same date as our copy of the Odyssey, and it remained a relative novelty until the first years of the 17th century. Its novelty is underscored here for comic effect, making it perhaps among one of the earliest theatrical representations of smoking.