1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Niccols

Thomas Warton, in History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:222-23.



In the Legend of King Richard the Third [in Mirrour for Magistrates], Niccols appears to have copied some passages from Shakspeare's tragedy on that history. In the opening of the play, Richard says, "Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths | Our bruised arms hung up for monuments [....]" These lines evidently gave rise to part of Richard's soliloquy in Niccols's Legend.... Part of the tent-scene is also imitated by Niccols.... But some of the stanzas immediately following, which are formed on Shakspeare's ideas, yet with some original imagination, will give the reader the most favourable idea of Niccols as a contributor to this work.... If internal evidence was not a proof, we are sure from other evidence that Shakspeare's tragedy preceded Niccols's legend. The tragedy was written about 1597. Niccols, at eighteen years of age, was admitted into Magdalene college in Oxford, in the year 1602. It is easy to point out the marks of imitation. Shakspeare has taken nothing from Seagars's Richard the Third, printed in Baldwine's collection, or first edition, in the year 1559. Shakspeare, however, probably catched the idea of the royal shades, in the same scene of the tragedy before us, from the general plan of the MIRROUR FOR MAGISTRATES: more especially, as many of Shakspeare's ghosts there introduced, for instance, King Henry the Sixth, Clarence, Rivers, Hastings, and Buckingham, are the personages of five of the legends belonging to this poem.