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'Textual Contentions': A Letter to the Editor.

Sir, --

Andrew Hadfield's review of the Oxford Shakespeare Henry VI plays (13 August) contains errors worth correcting. As Harold Love mentions in the same issue, the 1623 Folio of Shakespeare did not include the play Pericles, so Hadfield is wrong to characterize it as one of the "cases in point" of Heminges and Condell throwing into their complete works edition "as many plays as they possibly could in which Shakespeare had a hand". Indeed, quite the reverse is the case: Pericles's omission wants explanation.

The printing of 1595 called The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York was what we now call Part Three of the Henry VI series, rather than Part One as Hadfield has it. (The validity of the nomenclature and of associating pre-1623 printings with the titles given in the 1623 Folio are moot points--some would hold that these different versions are effectively different plays--and I mean only to correct the literal error of "One" for "Three".) It is true that the 1594 printing of Part Two and the 1595 printing of Part Three do not mention Shakespeare on their title-pages, but Hadfield is wrong to understand this as "meaning that their first identification with Shakespeare dates only from 1623". In 1619 appeared a printing of both plays in one volume called The Whole Contention between the Two Famous Houses Lancaster and York, and its title-page named "William Shake-speare, Gent" as the dramatist.

This 1619 printing seems to come from an abortive collected works project. That project, and the evidence that the full sequence of history plays was linked in performance--"oft our stage hath shown" the Henry VI story, the epilogue to Henry V says--should temper our view of Heminges and Condell's construction of the Shakespearian continuum of English history via their monumental edition of 1623.

Gabriel Egan, Dept of English and Drama, Loughborough University