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The famous ‘History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth' was first published in the folio collection of Shakspere's works in 1623. The text, taken as a whole, is singularly correct: it contains, no doubt, some few typographical errors, but certainly not so many as thouse which deform the ordinary reprints.
The date of the original production of this drama has been a subject of much discussion. The opinions in favour of its having been produced in the reign of Elizabeth are far more numerous than those which hold it to be a later production. But the accomplished Sir Henry Wotton, writing to his nephew on the 6th of July, 1613, gives a minute and graphic account of the fire at the Globe in that year :-"Now to let matters of state sleep, I will entertain you at the present with what happened this week at the Bankside.
The king's players had a new play, called All is True, representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry the Eighth, which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage; the knights of the order, with their Georges and Garter, the guards with their embroidered coats and the like; sufficient, in truth, within a while to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous.
Now King Henry, making a mask at the Cardinal Wolsey's house, and certain cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the paper, or other stuff wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where, being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes being more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming, within less than an hour, the whole house to the very ground. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks : only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not, by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with bottle ale.” Here, then, is a new play described, “representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII. ;” and further, the passage of Shakspere's play in which the “chambers” are discharged, being the “entry " of the king to the “mask at the cardinal's house," is the same to the letter. But the title which Sir Henry Wotton gives the new play is · All is True.' Other persons call the play so represented “Henry VIII.' Howes, in his continuation of Stow's Chronicle, so calls it. He writes some time after the destruction of the Globe, for he adds to his account of the fire, " and the next spring it was new builded in far fairer manner than before.” He speaks of the title of the play as a familiar thing :"the house being filled with people to behold the play, viz. of Henry the Eighth,” When Howes wrote, was the title “ All is True' merged in the more obvious title derived from the subject of the play, and following the character of the titles of Shakspere's other historical plays ?