When You See Me, You Know Me: A Chronicle-History

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  • ASIN: 1530605865

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      When You See Me, You Know Me, or The Famous Chronicle Historie of King Henrie the Eight, with the Birth and Vertuous Life of Edward Prince of Wales, derives its claim to attention from its general identity in subject and partial coincidence in details with Shakespeare's Henry VIII. As the date of the latter is keenly disputed, it is difficult if not impossible to arrive at any conclusion as to the relative priority of Shakespeare's and Rowleyu2019s plays. If Shakespeare's was produced in an earlier form so soon as 1603, it may have been written as well as brought on the stage before Rowleyu2019s, which is known to have been printed in 1605. (The entry of an Enterlude on King Henry VIII in the Stationersu2019 Registers very probably refers to it.) But if Shakespeare's play was not written till a later date, it must be concluded that Shakespeare was influenced by Rowleyu2019s play in the selection of some incidents which both have in common, though nearly all of these incidents are to be found in Holinshed. On the other hand, Elze is of opinion that Rowley probably derived two passages from The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice, which beyond all reasonable doubt were of earlier dates than his Chronicle-Historyu201C. I may as well confess that I do not attach much importance to such questions as to priority, feeling convinced that neither Rowley nor Shakespeare would have hesitated for a moment to appropriate such materials in the way of incidents as commended themselves to their use.
Any further comparison between Shakespeare's Henry VIII and Rowleyu2019s play is out of the question; for the two productions stand on an utterly different level. That with which Rowleyu2019s contents itself is, considering the period in which his work was produced, a remarkably low one. The play was performed by the Prince of Walesu2019 company, and was probably meant to secure the favorable attention of their youthful patron by the glory which it seeks to shed on the person of another Prince of Wales of similar promise, whose birth, education, and abilities (particularly in the matter of religious controversy) form a prominent part of the action. For the rest, the play is a bewildering jumble of transposed history and rollicking inventions.
u2013The Later Elizabethans [1875]

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