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Night's Dream, Act v. Shakspere introduces a kind of
From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were
snatch it from the unworthy lips of an underling. :.
Having been forced to say so much of the players, I
mano not fo plaies
name apple Peric
but had Shakspere published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage), we should not only be certain which are genu-; ine, but should find, in those that are, the errors les sened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguisliing marks of his style, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare, that those wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, and London Prodigal, cannot be adnitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus) that only some characters, single scenes,' or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasioned some plays to be supposed Shakspere's was only this; that they were' pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre while it was under his administration; 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. Ye, the players themselves, Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakspere 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 applause (as we learn from what Ben Jonson says of Pericles in his ode on the New-Inn. That Titus Andromicus 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 Shakspere was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, than for the forıner, which were equally published in his life-time.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vi. cious 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 additions, expunctions, transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of characters and persons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages by the ignorance and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence of his first editors ? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest and the grossest 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 Shakspere's writings lie at present; for, since the above-mentioned folio edition, all the rest 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 have 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 indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will shew 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 Shakspere himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some suspected passages, which are excessively bad (and which seem interpolations, by being so inserted, that one can entirely omit them without any chasm 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 so distinctly, that every removal of place is specified; which is more necessary in this author than any other, since he shifts them more frequently; and sometimes, without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are distinguished by commas in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a stár is prefixed to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less ostentatious 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 passages, with general applauses, or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by which
the the greater part of the various readings, and of the cor.! rected passages 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 wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever pub. lished) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakspere, 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, as upon an ancient majestick 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 solemn. It must be allowed, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur.