restricted access The Winchester Crux in the First Folio's 1 Henry VI
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The Winchester Crux in the First Folio’s 1 Henry VI

In debates over the authenticity of the First Folio's 1 Henry VI, attention is often drawn to a discrepancy in the plot regarding the status of Henry Beauford, bishop of Winchester. The prelate, who is portrayed with historical accuracy as an ambitious politician, has been appointed by the dying Henry V as joint guardian of the boy-king, Winchester's grandnephew. The bishop soon finds himself at loggerheads with the duke of Gloucester, the boy's uncle and now protector of the realm.

In Act 1, during a public quarrel at the Tower of London between the two noblemen and their followers, Winchester denounces Gloucester as a usurping traitor, and Gloucester replies as follows:

Stand back, thou manifest conspirator, . . .I'll canvass thee in thy broad cardinal's hat,If thou proceed in this thy insolence. . . .Thy scarlet robes as a child's bearing-clothI'll use to carry thee out of this place. . . .Under my feet I stamp thy cardinal's hat;In spite of Pope or dignities of church,Here by the cheeks I'll drag thee up and down.

(1.3.33, 36–37, 42–43, 49–51) 1

By appearing at the Tower in a "broad cardinal's hat" and "scarlet robes," Winchester is clearly making a public statement about his lofty rank as a cardinal.

Much later in the play, when the young king decides to send a commission to end the war with France, and Winchester, dressed as a cardinal, enters as its leader, the duke of Exeter comments in an aside on Winchester's attire:

What, is my lord of Winchester install'd,And call'd unto a cardinal's degree?Then I perceive that will be verifiedHenry the Fift did sometime prophesy: [End Page 443]

"If once he come to be a cardinal,He'll make his cap co-equal with the crown."


Immediately after these remarks, when Winchester himself refers to his attire as "these grave ornaments" (l. 54), he is clearly at that moment wearing the ornate official vestments of a cardinal.

Exeter's surprise at Winchester's appearance in cardinal's robes has traditionally been held to imply that the bishop had only recently been appointed to that position. Since he has already been referred to repeatedly as a cardinal in 1.3, soon after Henry V's funeral in 1.1, scholars who believe 1 Henry VI to be a work of multiple authorship argue that the dramatist of 5.1 cannot be the same man who wrote 1.3. 2 Oddly, this criticism appears to take it for granted that discrepancies such as the one posited about Winchester's status either would have remained unnoticed by any of the actors performing in the play or would not have bothered them.

For the editors of the Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare, this seeming inconsistency was sufficiently disturbing to warrant several editorial changes in the sole authoritative text of the play as printed in the First Folio. In 1.3 (numbered 1.4 in the Oxford edition), the Folio's "Winchester and his men" and "Cardinalls men" in stage directions (TLN 391, 425) are changed to "Bishop of Winchester" and "Bishop's men," respectively. 3 The Tower Lieutenant's reference to "The Cardinall of Winchester" (TLN 381) is altered to "My lord of Winchester." 4 The line with Gloucester's threat, "Ile canuas thee in thy broad Cardinalls Hat" (TLN 402), is omitted altogether; "Scarlet robes" (TLN 408) becomes "Purple robes"; and in yet another of Gloucester's threats, "Cardinalls Hat" (TLN 416) is demoted to "bishop's mitre." 5 The duke's ultimate insult, "out Scarlet Hypocrite" (TLN 424), is modified to "Out, cloakèd hypocrite!" 6 Two later references to Winchester as "Cardinall" by Gloucester and the [End Page 444] Mayor (TLN 450, 455), are likewise changed to "Bishop." 7 In Oxford's Textual Companion to the Complete Works, Gary Taylor argues that the Folio text "is incoherent in its treatment of Winchester" and "can be made coherent by the omission of two lines and...