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It is not certain that any one of his plays was published by himself. During the time of his employment in the theatre, several of his pieces were printed separately in quarto. What makes me think that most of theic vere not published by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press : every page is so scandalously falfe spelled, and almost all the learned or unusual words fointolerably mangled, that it is plain there either was no corre&ior to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were fupervised by himself, I should fancy The Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, and Midsummer-Night's Dream might have been so: because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) there is very little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant tho prefr.ces to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Crcdida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the first was published without his knowledge or consent, or even before it was acted, so late as seven or eight years before he died; and that the latter was not printed till after his death. 'The whple number of genuine plays, which we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven. And of some of these, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of traih different from the other : which I should fancy was occasioned by their being taken from different copies belonging to different play-houses.
The folio edition (in which all the plays' we now receive as his were first collected) was published by two players, . Heminges and Condeil, in 1623, feven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were stolen and surreptitious, and affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other; for in all respects else it is far worse than the quarios.
First, because the additions of trifling and bombast pas, sages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, since those quartos, by the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the author, He himself complained of this usage in lianier, where he wishes that those who play the clowns won't speak no more than is set down for them. (Act, iii. Sc. 4.) Pata"; a proof that he could not escape it, in the old edii les O Romeo and Huliet there is no hint of a great number sition mu.. conceits and ribaldries now to be found there,
In others, the low scenes of mobs, plebeians, and clowns, are vastly shorter than at present: and I have seen one in particular (which seems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the actors names in the margin) where several of those very passages were added in a written hand, which are fince to be found in the folio.
In the next place, a number of beautiful passages, which are extant in the first single editions, are omitted in this: as it seems, without any other reason, than their willingness to shorten some scenes: these men (as it was said of Procruftes) either lopping, or stretching an author, to make him just fit for their stage. • This edition is said to be printed from the original copies; I believe they meant those which had lain ever since the author's days in the play-house, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the quartos, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the prompter's book, or piece-meal parts written out for the use of the actors: for in some places their very * names are through carelessness set down instead of the Perfona Dramatis; and in others the notes of direction to the property-men for their moveables, and to the players for their entries, are inserted into the text through the ignorance of the transcribers.
The plays not having been before so much as distinguished by Asts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they played them; often when there is no pause in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the sake of musick, masques, or monsters.
Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwise happen, but by their being taken from separate and piece-meal written parts.
Many verses are omitted entirely, and others transposed; from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, past the guess of any commentator to clear up, but just where the accidental glimpse of an old edition enlightens us.
Much Ado about Nothing, Actii. Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilson, inltead of Balthafar. And in Act iv. fowley and Kemp constantly through a whole scene.
Edit. fol, of 1623, and 1632 [H 41
Some characters were confounded and mixed, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the quarto edition of Midsummer-Night's Dream, Act ve Shakespeare introduces a kind of mafter of the revels called Philostrate; all whose part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the subsequent editions: so also in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the prompter's books were what they called the original copies. Alor
From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths of wrong persons, where the author now feems chargcable with making them speak out of character: or sometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an underling.
Prose from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume. 1,...
Having been forced to say so much of the players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the judgment, as well as condition of that class of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the beít play-houfes were inns and taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) so the top of the profession were then mere players, not genticmen of the stage: they were led into the buttery by the steward, not placed at the lord's table, or Jady's toilette: and consequently were entirely deprived of those advantages they now enjoy in the familiar conversation of our nobility, and an intiinacy (110t to fay dearners) with people of the first condition. . . <!?O: DD,
From what has been said, there can be no question but had Shakespeare published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we should. not only be certain which are genuine, but should find in those that are, the errors lesened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his stile, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcaftle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, and London Prodigal, cannot be admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others (particularly Love's Lavour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus) that only fome cha racters, single seenes, or perhaps a few particular pasages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafioned some
plays to be supposed Shakespeare's was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre while it was under his adminiftration; and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give strays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the house to remove. Yet the players themselves, Heminges and Cone dell, afterwards did Shakespeare the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition; though they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with some applaufe (as we learn from what Ben Jonson says of Pericles in his ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same author openly express his contempt of it in the induction to Bartholomew- Fair, in the year 1614, when Shake speare was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter fort, than for the former, which were equally published in his life-time. .
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages might no longer reflect upon this great, genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary addi. tions, expunctions, transpositions of scenes and lines, con, fufion of characters and persons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages by the ignorance, and wrong corrections of them again by the imper, tinence, of his first editors? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest and the grofrest part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.
This is the state in which Shakespeare's writings lie at present; for since the above-mentioned folio edition, all the sest have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the injuries already done him; too much time has elapsed, and the materials are too few. In what I have done i haye rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharged the dull duty of an editor, to my, best judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all innovation, and without
any : any indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will thew. itself. The various readings are fairly put in the margin, so that every one may compare them; and those I have preferred into the text are constantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions, which Shakespeare himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some suspected pasiages, which are excessively bad (and which seem interpolations by being so inserted, that one can entirely omit them without any chafm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an asterisk referring to the places of their insertion. The scenes are marked fo diftinctly, that every removal of place is specified; which is more necessary in this author than any other, since he shifts thein inore frequently; and sometimes, without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscusities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most ihining passages are distinguished by commas in the inargin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a star is prefixed to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less oftentatious method of performing the better half of criticism (namely, the pointing out an author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine pafiages, with general applaules, or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by which the greate er part of the various readings and of the corrected paffriges are authorized (most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them). These editions now hold the place of originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or restore the corrupted sense of the author: I can only with that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a fearch more succeísful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakespeare, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his drama, one may, look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finished and regular, az upon an ancient majesa tick piece of Gothick architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allowed that in one of these there are materials enough