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attributed to nature. It is remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in his Discoveries seems to proceed from a personal kindness; he tells us, that he loved the man, as well as honoured his memory ; celebrates the honesty, openness, and frankness of his teinper; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought; between the real merit of the author, and the silly and deros gatory applauses of the players. : Ben Jonson might indeed be sparing in his commendations (though cer: . tainly he is not so in this instance), partly from his owy nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man inore service in praising him justly, than lavishly. I say, I would fain believe they were friends, though the violence and ill-breeding of their followers and flatterers, were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I hope that it may be with parties, both in wit and state, as with those mone sters described by the poets; and that their heads at least may have something human,, though their bodies and tails are wild beasts and serpents,... . · As I believe that what I have inentioned gave rise to the opinion of Shakspere's want of learning; so what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first publishers of his works. : In these editions their ignorance shines in almost every page ; nothing is more common than Actus tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches solus*. *** Enter three witches solus. 7. This blunder appears to be of Mr. Pope's own invention. It is not to be found in any one of the four folio copies of Macbeth; and there is no quarto edition of it extant.
ST E EVENS, Biii
Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in con. struction and spelling : their very Welsh is false. Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that gross kind, sprung from the same root: it not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the least tincture of a school, or the least conversation with such as had. Ben Jonson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had some Latin; which is utterly inconsistent with mistakes like these. Nay, the constant blunders in proper names of persons and places are such as must have proceeded from a man, who had not so much as read any history in any language : so could not be Shakspere's.
I shall now lay before the reader some of those al. most innumerable errors, which have risen from one source, the ignorance of the players, both as his actors, and as his editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and considered, I dare to say that not Shakspere only, but Aristotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the same fate, might have ap. peared to want sense as well as learning.
It is not certain that any one of his plays was published by himself. During the time of his employ. . ment in the theatre, several of his pieces were printed separately in quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not published by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press : every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned or unusual
words so intolerably mangled, that it is plain there either was no corrector to the press at all, or one to. tally illiterate. If any were supervised 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 (con. trary to the rest) there is very little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two prefaces to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Cres. sida 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 whole 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 edi. tions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash 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, Heminge and Condell, in 1623, seven 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 quartos. First, because the additions of trifling and bombast
passages passages 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 writ. ten parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the author. He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the clowns would speak no more than is set down for them. (Act iii. Sc. 4.) But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet there is no hint of a great number of the mean 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-ho’se, by having the parts divided with lines, and the actors names in the margin), where seve, ral of those very passages were added in a written hand, which are since 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 inen (as it was said of Procrustes) either lopping, or stretching an author, to make him just fit for their stage. : ...
This edition is said to be printed from the original apiés; I believe they meant those which had lain ever since the author's days įn 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 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 Persona 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 Acts 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. · 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
* Much Ado about Nothing, Act ii. Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilson, instead of Balthasar. And in Act iv. Cowley and Kemp constantly through a whole scene.
Edit. fol. of 1623, and 1632.