صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

are no less at his command! that he is not pected, and consequently most unnatural, events more a master of the great than of the ridiculous and incidents; the most exaggerated thoughts ; in human nature; of our poblest tendernesses, the most verbose and bombast expression; the than of our vainest foibles ; of our strongest most pompous rhymes, and thundering versifiemotions, than of our idlest sensations !

cation. In comedy, nothing was so sure to Nor does he only excel in the passions : in please, as mean buffoonery, vile ribaldry, and the coolness of reflection and reasoning he is unmannerly jests of fools and clowns. Yet even full as admirable. His sentiments are not only in these our author's wits are buoyed up, and in general the most pertinent and judicious upon borne above his subject : his genius in those every subject; but by a talent very peculiar, low parts is like some prince of a romance in something between penetration and selicity, he the disguise of a shepherd or peasant; a cerhils upon that particular point on which the tain greatness and spirit now and then break bent of each argument turns, or the force of out, which manifest bis bigher extraction and each motive depends. This is perfectly amaz- qualities. ing, from a man of no education or expe- It may be added, that not only the common rience in those great and public scenes of life audience had no notion of the rules of writing, which are usually the subject of his thoughts : but few even of the better sort piqued themselves so that he seems to have known the world by upon any great degree of knowledge or nicely intuilion, to have looked through human nature that way: till Ben Jonson getting possession of at one glance, and to be the only author that the stage, brought critical learning into vogue; gives ground for a very new opinion, that the and that this was not done without difficulty, philosopher, and even the man of the world, may appear from those frequent lessons (and may be born, as well as the poet.

indeed almost declamations) wbich he was It must be owned, that with all these great forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into excellencies, he has almost as great defects; and the mouth of his actors, the grex, chorus, fre. that as he has certainly written better, so he has to remove the prejudices, and inform the judgperhaps written worse, than any other. But Iment of his hearers. Till then, our authors think I can in some measure account for these had no thoughts of writing on the model of the defects, from several causes and accidents ; ancients : their tragedies were only histories in without which it is hard to imagine that so large dialogue ; and their comedies followed the and so enlightened a mind could ever have been thread of any novel as they found it, no less susceptible of them. That all these contingen- implicitly than if it had been true history. cies should unite to his disadvantage seems to To judge therefore of Shakspeare by Aristome almost as singularly unlucky, as that so many tle's rules, is like trying a man by the laws of various (nay contrary) talents should meet in one country who acted under those of another. one man, was happy and extraordinary. He writ to the people ; and writ at first without

It must be allowed that slage-poetry, of all patronage from the better sort, and therefore olher, is more particularly levelled to please the without aims of pleasing them : without assispopulace, and its success more immediately de- tance or advice from the learned, as without the pending upon the common suffrage. One can- advantage of education or acquaintance among not therefore wonder, if Shakspeare, having at them ; without that knowledge of the best of his first appearance no other aim in bis writings, models, the ancients, to inspire him with an than to procure a subsistence, directed his en- emulation of them ; in a word, without any deavours solely to hit the taste and humour that views of reputation, and of what poets are then prevailed. The audience was generally pleased to call: immortality: some or all of composed of the meaner sort of people; and which have encouraged the vanity, or animated therefore the images of life were to be drawn the ambition of other writers. from those of their own rank : accordingly we Yet it must be observed, that when his perfind, that not our author's only, but almost all forinances had merited the protection of his the old comedies have their scene among trades- prince, and when the encouragement of the men and mechanics : and even their historical court had succeeded to tbat of the town; the plays strictly follow the common old stories or works of his riper years are manifestly raised vulgar traditions of that kind of people. In above those of his former. The dates of his tragedy, nothing was so sure to surprize and plays sufficiently evidence that his productions cause admiration, as the most strange, unese improved, in proportion to the respect be had for his auditors. And I make no doubt this foresaid accidental reasons, they must be charged observation will be found true in every instance, upon the poet himself, and there is no help were but editions extant from wbich we might for it. But I think the two disadvantages, learn the exact time when every piece was com- which I have mentioned (to be obliged to please posed, and whether writ for the lown, or the the lowest of the people, and to keep the worst court.

of company), if the consideration be extended Another cause (and no less strong than the as far as it reasonably may, will appear sufficient former) may be deduced from our poet's being to mislead and depress the greatest genius upon a player, and forming bimself first upon the earth. Nay, the more modesly with which judgments of that body of men whereof he was such a one is endured, the more he is in danger a member. They have ever had a standard to of submitting and conforming to others, against themselves, upon other principles than those his own belter judgment. of Aristotle. As they live by the majority, But as to his want of learning, it may be they know no rule but that of pleasing the pre- necessary to say something more : there is sent humour, and complying with the wit in certainly a vast difference belween learning fashion; a consideration which brings all their and languages. How far he was ignorant of jadgment to a short point. Players are just the latter, I cannot determine; but it is plain soch judges of what is right as tailors are of he had much reading at least, if they will not what is yraceful. And in this view it will be call it learning. Nor is it any great matter, if bat fair to allow, that most of our author's faults a man has knowledge, whether he has it from are less to be ascribed to his wrong judgment one language or from another. Nothing is is a poet, than to his right judgment as a player. more evident than that he had a taste of natu

By these men it would be thought* a praise ral philosophy, mechanics, ancient and modern to Sbakspeare, that he scarce ever blotted a line. history, poetical learning, and mythology : we This they industriously propagated, as appears find him very knowing in the customs, riles, from what we are told by Ben Jonson in his and manners of antiquity. In Coriolanus and Discoreries, and from the preface of Heminge Julius Cæsar, not only the spirit, but manners and Condell to the first folio edition. But in of the Roman are exactly drawn; and still a reality (however it has prevailed) there never nicer distinction is shown between the manners was a more groundless report, or to the con- of Romans in the time of the former, and of trary of which there are more undeniable the latter. His reading in the ancient historians evidences. As, the comedy of The Merry Wives is no less conspicuous, in many references to of Windsor, which he entirely new writ; The particular passages : and the speeches copied History of Henry the Sixth, which was first from Plutarch in Coriolanus* may, I think, as published under the title of The Contention of well be made an instance of his learning, as York and Lancaster; and that of Henry the those copied from Cicero in Catiline, of Ben Pijk extremely improved; that of Hamlet Jonson's. The manners of other nations in enlarged to almost as much again as at first, general, the Egyptians, Venetians, French, etc. and many others. I believe the common are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever opinion of his want of learning proceeded from object of nature, or branch of science, he either so better ground. This too might be thought speaks of or describes, it is always with coma praise by some, and to this his errors have as petent, if not extensive knowledge : bis deinjudiciously been ascribed by others. For ’lis scriptions are still exact ; all his metaphors certain, were it true, it would concern but a appropriated, and remarkably drawn from the small

part of them; the most are such as are true nature and inherent qualities of each subest properly defects, but superfætations ; and ject. When he treats of ethic or politic, we arise not from want of learning or reading, may constantly observe a wonderful justness of but from want of thinking or judging : or distinction, as well as extent of comprehension. raller (to be more just to our author) from No one is more a master of the poetical story, a compliance to those wants in others. As to or has more frequent allusions to the various a wrong choice of the subject, a wrong conduct parts of it : Mr. Waller (who has been celeof the incidents, false thought, forced expressions, eic. if these are not to be ascribed to the

* These, as the reader will find in the notes on

that play, Shakspeare drew from Sir Thomas * *was thought”-Orig. Edit.

North's translation, 1579. MALONE.

brated for this last particular ) bas not shown But however this contention might be carried more learning this way than Shakspeare. We on by the partizans on either side, I cannot help have translations from Ovid published in his thinking these two great poets were good friends, name,* among those poems which pass for and lived on amicable terms, and in offices of his, and for some of which we have undoubted society with each other. It is an acknowledged authority (being published by himself, and fact, that Ben Jonson was introduced upon the dedicated to his noble patron the earl of South- stage, and his first works encouraged, by ampton), he appears also to have been con- Shakspeare. And after his death, that author versant in Plautus, from whom he has taken writes, To the memory of his beloved William the plot of one of his plays : he follows the Shakspeare, which shows as if the friendship Greek authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius, had continued through life. I cannot for my in another (although I will not pretend to say own part find any thing invidious, or sparing in what language he read them). The modern in those verses, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of Italian writers of novels he was manifestly that opinion. He exalts him not only above acquainted with; and we may conclude him all his contemporaries, but above Chaucer to be no less conversant with the ancients of and Spenser, whom he will not allow to be his own country, from the use be has made of great enough to be ranked with him; and chalChaucer in Troilus and Cressida, and in The lenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Two Noble Kinsmen, if that play be his, as Æschylus, nay, all Greece and Rome at once there goes a tradition it was and indeed it has to equal him : and (which is very particular) little resemblance of Fletcher, and more of our expressly vindicates him from the imputation author than some of those which have been of wanting art, not enduring that all his excelreceived as genuine).

lencies should be attributed to nature. It is I am inclined to think this opinion proceeded remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in originally from the zeal of the partizans of our his Discoveries seems to proceed from a perauthor and Ben Jonson ; as they endeavoured sonal kindness; he tells us, that he loved the to exalt the one at the expense of the other. man, as well as honoured his memory; celeIt is ever the nature of parties to be in extremes ; brates the honesty, openness, and frankness of and nothing is so probable, as that because his temper; and only distinguishes, as he reaBen Jonson had much the more learning, it sonably ought, between the real merit of the was said on the one hand that Shakspeare had autbor, and the silly and derogatory applauses none at all; and because Shakspeare had much of the players. Ben Jonson might indeed be the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the sparing in his commendations (though certainly other, that Jonson wanted both. Because he is not so in this instance) partly from his Shakspeare borrowed notbing, it was said that own nature, and partly from judgment. For Ben Jonson borrowed every thing. Because men of judgment think they do any man more Jonson did not write extempore, he was re- service in praising him justly, than lavishly. proached with being a year about every piece; I say, I would fain believe they were friends, and because Shakspeare wrote with ease and though the violence and ill-breeding of their rapidity, they cried, he never once made a followers and Natterers were enough to give rise blot. Nay, the spirit of opposition ran so high, to the contrary report. I would hope that it that whatever those of the one side objected to may be with parties, both in wit and state, as the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned with those monsters described by the poets; into praises; as injudiciously, as their anta- and that their heads at least may have some gonist before had made them objections. thing human, though their bodies and tails are

Poets are always afraid of envy; but sure they wild beasts and serpents. have as much reason to be afraid of admiration. As I believe that what I have mentioned gave They are the Scylla and Charybdis of authors ; rise to the opinion of Shakspeare's want of those who escape one, often fall by the other. learning; so what has continued it down to us Pessimum genus inimicorum laudantes, says Ta. may have been the many blunders and illiteracies citus ; and Virgil desires to wear a charm against of the first publishers of his works. In these those who praise, a poel without rule or reason : editions their ignorance shines in almost every --si ultra placitam laudarit, baccare frontem

page; nothing is more common than Actus Cingite, ne vati noceat->

tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches solus. • They were written by Thomas Heywood. Enter three Wilches solus.) This blunder

numerous.

Their French Is as bad as their Latin, both in | The whole number of genuine plays, which we construction and spelling : their very Welsh is have been able to find printed in his life-time, false. Nothing is more likely than that those amounts but to eleven. And of some of these, palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, we meet with two or more editions by different with others of that gross kind, sprung from the printers, each of which has whole heaps of same root : it not being at all credible that these trash different from the other : which I should could be the errors of any man who had the fancy was occasioned by their being taken from least tincture of a school, or the least conver- different copies belonging to different playsation with such as had. Ben Jonson (whom houses. they will not think partial to him) allows him The folio edition (in which all the plays we at least to have had some Latin; which is now receive as his were first collected) was nilerly inconsistent with mistakes like these. published by two players, Heminge and ConNay, the constant blunders in proper names of dell, in 1623, seven years after his decease. persons and places, are such as must have pro- They declare, that all the other editions were ceeded from a man, who had not so much as stolen and surreptitious, and affirm theirs to be read any history in any language ; so could not purged from the errors of the former. This be Sbakspeare's.

is true as to the literal errors, and no other; I shall now lay before the reader some of those for in all respects else it is far worse than the almost innumerable errors, wbich have risen quartos. from one source, the ignorance of the players, First, because the additions of trifling and both as his actors and as his editors. When the bombast passages are in this edition far more Dature and kinds of these are enumerated and

For whatever had been added, considered, I dare to say that not Shakspeare since those quartos, by the actors, or had stolen only, but Aristotle or Cicero, bad their works from their mouths into the written parts, were undergone the same fate, might have appeared from thence conveyed into the printed text, and to want sense as well as learning.

all stand charged upon the author. He himself It is not certain that any one of his plays was complained of this usage in Hamlet, where he published by himself. During the time of his wishes that those who play the clowns would employment in the theatre, several of his pieces speak no more than is set down for them. (Act were printed separately in quarto. What makes III. sc. ii). But as a proof that he could not me think that most of these were not published escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and by bim, is the excessive carelessness of the Juliet there is no hint of a great number of the press: every page is so scandalously false spelled, mean conceils and ribaldries now to be found and almost all the learned and unusual words there. In others, the low scenes of mobs, so intolerably mangled, that it is plain there plebeians, and clowns, are vastly shorter than either was no corrector to the press at all, or at present : and I have seen one in particular one totally illiterale. If any were supervised (which seems to have belonged to the playby himself, I should fancy The Two Parts of house, by having the parts divided with lines, Herry the Fourth, and Midsummer-Nights and the actors' names in the margin), where Dream might bave been so : because I find no several of those very passages were added in a other printed with any exactness; and (contrary written hand, which are since to be found in to the rest) there is very little variation in all the folio. the subsequent editions of them. There are In the next place a number of beautiful pasestant two prefaces to the first quarto edition sages, which are extant in the first single ediof Troilus and Cressida in 1609, and to that lions, are omitted in this ; as it seems, without of Othello ; by which it appears, that the first any other reason, than their willingness to was published without his knowledge or con- shorten some scenes : these men ( as it was said sent, and even before it was acted, so late as of Procrustes) either lopping, or stretching an Seven or eight years before he died : and that author, to make him just fit for their stage. the latter was not printed till after his death. 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 appears to be of Mr. Pope's own invention. It is the playhouse, and bad from time to time been not to be found in any one of the four folio copies of Macbeth, and there is no quarto edition of it cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that extant. STEKVENS.

this edition, as well as the quartos, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the governing player, to have the mouthing of prompter's book, or piece meal parls written some favourite speech himself, would snatch it out for the use of the actors : for in some places from the unworthy lips of an underling. their very* names are through carelessness set Prose from verse they did not know, and down instead of the Persone Dramatis ; and they accordingly printed one for the other in others the notes of direction to the property- throughout the volume. men for their moveables; and to the players Having been forced to say so much of the for their entries, are inserted into the textt players, I think I ought in justice to remark, through the ignorance of the transcribers. that the judgment, as well as condition of that

The plays not having been before so much class of people was then far inferior 10 what it as distinguished by Acts and Scenes, they are is in our days. As then the best play-bouses in this edition divided according as they played were ions and taverns (the Globe, the Hope, them ; often where there is no pause in the the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) so the top of action, or where they thought fit to make a the profession were then mere players, not breach in it for the sake of music, masques, or gentlemen of the stage : they were led into the monsters.

buttery by the steward;* not placed at the Sometimes the scenes are transposed and lord's table, or lady's toilette : and consequently shuffled backward and forward ; a thing which were entirely deprived of those advantages they could no otherwise bappen, but by their being ta- now enjoy in the familiar conversation of our ken from separate and piece-meal written parts. nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness)

Many verses are omitted entirely, and others with people of the first condition. transposed; from whence invincible obscurities From what has been said, there can be no have arisen, past the guess of any commentator question but had Shakspeare published his to clear up, but just where the accidental glimpse works himself (especially in his latter time, of an old edition enlightens us.

and after his retreat from the stage) we should Some characters were confounded and mixed, not only be certain which are genuine, but or two put into one, for want of a competent should find in those that are, the errors lessnumber of actors. Thus in the quarto edition ened by some thousands. If I may judge from of Midsummer Night's Dream (Act V.) Shak- all the distinguishing marks of his style, and his speare introduces a kind of master of the revels manner of thinking and writing, I make no called Philostrate; all whose part is given to doubt to declare that those wretched plays, another character (that of Egeus) in the sub- Pericles, Lucrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorksequent editions : so also in Hamlet and King shire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Purilan, Lear. This too makes it probable that the London Prodigal, and a thing called The prompter's books were what they called the Double Falshood, * cannot be admitted as his. original copies.

And I should conjecture of some of the others From liberties of this kind, many speeches (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's also were put into the mouths of wrong persons, Tale, Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus), where the author now seems chargeable with that only some characters, single scenes, or making them speak out of character ; or sometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a

* Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, spoken by a

lord, who is giving directions to his servant con* Much Ado about Nothing, Act II: “Enter cerning some players : Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilson,” in- * Go, sirrah, take them to the buttery, stead of Balthasar. And in Act IV. Cowley and And give them friendly welcome, every one." Kemp constantly through a whole scene.

But he seems not to have observed that the Edit. fol. of 1623, and 1632. Pope. players here introduced were strollers; and there + Such as

is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge, *My queen is murder'd! Ring the little bell." Burbage, Lowin, &c. who were licensed by king "_His nose grew as sharp as a pen, and a table James, were treated in this manner. MALONE of green fields ;” which last words are not in the The Double Falshood, or The Distressed Loquarto. Pope.

vers, a play acted at Drury Lane, 8vo. 1727. This There is no such line in any play of Shakspeare, piece was produced by Mr. Theobald as a peras that quoted above by Mr. Pope. MALONE, formance of Shakspeare's. But it is not mentioned Nor are these two lines quoted by Pope in any in any of the old editions of Mr. Pope's Preface. edition of his preface which has fallen in our It is not in Warburton's edition, and when it erept

in, I have not been able to discover. C.

way. c.

« السابقةمتابعة »