Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition
It is at least possible, then, that Shakespeare wrote the epilogue … for a Shrove-tide performance at court on February 20, 1599; that the Lord Chamberlain, Sir George Carey, Baron Hunsdon, received a copy of the poem from his own company of players; and that it eventually reached the hands of his household retainer, Henry Stanford, who entered it in his personal manuscript anthology of contemporary poetry.
William A. Ringler, Jr, and Steven W. May, 1972
Stanford's interest in political issues of Elizabeth's reign … influenced his selection, though the variety of his inclusions does not point to a single vision of Elizabeth.
Marcy North, 1998
The new RSC edition leaves out 'A Lover's Complaint' but includes a gorgeous little epilogue … Though only 18 lines long, it's a precious addition to the canon, a tiny taste of what poetic glories would await us if only Love's Labour's Won ever turned up.
Jonathan Bate, 2007
A dial was a rare and coveted possession and complicated to use. Two prominent courtiers—the earl of Essex and the queen's godson Sir John Harington—were the possessors of well-publicized pocket dials … there was an enormous circular timepiece in the outer court at Richmond … the 'dyall' was a vast structure, elaborately ornamented.
Juliet Dusinberre, 2003
Until the 1650s, when Christian Huygens brought a new accuracy to timekeeping by constructing the first pendulum clock, clocks and watches generally had no minute hands, only hour hands … The standard type of clock, then, was one-handed, and the dial hand would rotate slowly, moving round only one-twelfth or one-twenty-fourth of the circumference of the dial in each hour. The motion of the dial hand is therefore not, as modern readers might assume, an image of time racing on, but an image of steady slowness, of progress which is inexorable yet barely perceptible … The number of references to dials in other works by Shakespeare suggests that the motif resonated in his imagination.
Helen Hackett, 2011
Although too short to permit any quantitative study, the epilogue is witty, gracious, and has an easy verse movement that recalls several of Shakespeare's authentic lyrics.
Brian Vickers, 2002
Anonymous lyric poems are legion. But poets writing tetrameters for a professional acting company performing at court in a specific year are rare, quantifiable, and identifiable.
Gary Taylor, 2016
It is obviously not primarily an epilogue. What is distinctive about this poem is that it compliments the queen, but it does not invite her or the audience to think favorably of a play, in the manner of most epilogues. Most probably, it was a prayer of the sort that was offered up at court or in private performances by the players.
Michael Hattaway, 2009
[The] terminal prayer can have had little organic relationship to the play they flanked, and will, somewhat incongruously, have ensured an upbeat patriotic conclusion to a variety of disparate dramas. A play with a prayer, no matter how wayward its content hitherto, will end on a round statement of establishment values. … the prayer moment in Shakespeare's 2 Henry IV suggests that on some occasions at least Shakespeare's play ended its exploration of troubled kingship, its questioning of everything the monarch stood for, with a rousing, monarchical prayer.
Tiffany Stern, 2010
['To the Queen'] and Sonnet 2 both use the topic of passing time to ground declarations of desired immortality for their respective objects of affection, attention, and patronage. The verses remind us of Shakespeare's idiosyncratic preoccupation with vividly imagined pictures of time personified that link the movement of a 'dial hand' to circularity, regality, and human mortality … As in Richard II 5.5.41–60, the 1599 verses use this imagery to communicate a specific impression of sovereignty by transforming a regent into a time-keeping device.
John V. Nance, 2016