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Macbeth. I have lived long enough; my way of life Is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf.
As there is no relation between the way of life, and fallen into the sear, I am inclined to think, that the W is only an M inverted, and that it was originally written, My May of life.
He who can discover what is meant by him that earnestly exhorts him to bestride his down- I am now passed from the spring to the autumn fal birthdoom, is at liberty to adhere to the pre- of my days, but I am without those comforts that sent text; but those who are willing to confess should succeed the sprightliness of bloom, and supthat such counsel would to them be unintelligi-port me in this melancholy season. ble, must endeavour to discover some reading less obscure. It is probable that Shakspeare wrote,
Like good men
Bestride our downfaln birthdom.
The allusion is to a man from whom something valuable is about to be taken by violence, and who, that he may defend it without encumbrance, lays it on the ground and stands over it with his weapon in his hand. Our birthdom, or birthright, says he, lies on the ground, let us, like men who are to fight for what is dearest to them, not abandon it, but stand over it and defend it. This is a strong picture of obstinate resolution.
Birthdom for birthright, is formed by the same analogy with masterdom in this play, signifying the privileges or rights of a master.
Perhaps it might be birth-dame for mother; let us stand over our mother that lies bleeding on the ground.
NOTE XLIII. SCENE IV.
Malcolm. 'Tis his main hope:
For where there is advantage to be given,
The impropriety of the expression advantage to be given, instead of advantage given, and the disagreeable repetition of the word given in the next line incline me to read,
Where there is a vantage to be gone, Both more and less have given him the revolt.
Advantage or vantage in the time of Shakspeare, signified opportunity.
More and less is the same with greater and less. So in the interpolated Mandeville, a book of that age, there is a chapter of India the more and the less.
NOTE XLIV.-SCENE V.
Macbeth. Wherefore was that cry?
Macbeth. She should (1) have died hereafter;
(1) She should have died hereafter,
This passage has very justly been suspected of being corrupt. It is not apparent for what word there would have been a time; and that there would or would not be a time for any word, seems not a consideration of importance sufficient to transport Macbeth into the following exclamation. I read therefore,
She should have died hereafter,
It is a broken speech, in which only part of the thought is expressed, and may be para
phrased thus: The queen is dead. Macbeth. Her intelligible, and has therefore passed smoothly death should have been deferred to some more peace-over them, without any attempt to alter or exful hour; had she lived longer, there would at plain them. Some of the lines with which I had been perlength have been a time for the honours due to ner as a queen, and that respect which I owe her for her plexed, have been indeed so fortunate as to atfidelity and love. Such is the world-such is the tract his regard; and it is not without all the condition of human life, that we always think to- satisfaction which it is usual to express on such morrow will be happier than to-day; but to-morrow occasions, that I find an entire agreement beand to-morrow steals over us unenjoyed and unre-tween us in substituting [see Note II.] quarrel garded, and we still linger in the same expectation to the moment appointed for our end. All these days, which have thus passed away, have sent multitudes of fools to the grave who were engrossed by the same dream of future felicity, and, when life was departing from them, were like me reckoning
(2) To the last syllable of recorded time.
for quarry, and in explaining the adage of the cat, [Note XVII.] But this pleasure is, like most others, known only to be regretted; for I have the unhappiness to find no such conformity with regard to any other passage.
The line which I have endeavoured to amend, Note XI. is likewise attempted by the new editor, and is perhaps the only passage in the play in which he has not submissively admitted the common reading, the emendations of foregoing critics. Instead o
Recorded time seems to signify the time fixed in the decrees of heaven for the period of life. The records of futurity is indeed no accurate expression, but as we only know transactions past or present, the language of men affords no term for the volumes of prescience, in which future he has published, events may be supposed to be written.
Macbeth. It thou speak'st false,
Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
Till famine cling thee: if thy speech be sooth,
I care not if thou dost for me as much
I pull in resolution, and begin
To doubt th' equivocation of the fiend,
That lies like truth. "Fear not till Birnam wood
I pull in resolution
Though this is the reading of all the editions, yet as it is a phrase without either example, elegance, or propriety, it is surely better to read,
I pall in resolution
I languish in my constancy, my confidence begins to forsake me. It is scarcely necessary to observe how easily pall might be changed into pull by a negligent writer, or mistaken for it by an unskilful printer.
NOTE XLVI.-SCENE VIII.
Seyward. Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
This incident is thus related from Henry of Huntingdon by Camden in his "Remains," from which our author probably copied it.
When Seyward, the martial Earl of Northumberland, understood that his son, whom he had sent in service against the Scotchmen, was slain, he demanded whether his wound were in the fore part or hinder part of his body. When it was answered in the fore part, he replied, "I am right glad; neither wish I any other death to me or mine."
AFTER the foregoing pages were printed, the late edition of Shakspeare, ascribed to Sir Thomas Hanmer, fell into my hands; and it was therefore convenient for me to delay the publication of my remarks till I had examined whether they were not anticipated by similar observations, or precluded by better. I therefore read over this tragedy, but found that the editor's apprehension is of a cast so different from mine, that he appears to find no difficulty in most of those passages which I have represented as un
Doing every thing
Safe towards your love and honour,
Doing every thing
Shap'd towards your love and honour
This alteration, which like all the rest attempted by him, the reader is expected to admit, without any reason alleged in its defence, is, in my opinion, more plausible than that of Mr. Theobald: whether it is right, I am not to determine.
In the passage which I have altered in Note XL. an emendation is likewise attempted in the late edition, where, for
-And the chance of goodness
is substituted-And the chance in goodness-
Most of the other emendations which he has endeavoured, whether with good or bad fortune, are too trivial to deserve mention. For surely the weapons of criticism ought not to be blunted against an editor, who can imagine that he is restoring poetry, while he is amusing himself with alterations like these :
For This is the serjeant
Who like a good and hardy soldier fought,
Like a right good and hardy soldier fought.
Dismay'd not this
Our captains Macbeth and Banquo?—Yes.
-Dismay'd not this
Our captains brave Macbeth and Banquo?-Yes. Such harmless industry may, surely, be forgiven, if it cannot be praised: may he therefore never want a monosyllable, who can use it with such wonderful dexterity.
Rumpatur quisquis rumpitur invidia!
The rest of this edition I have not read, but, from the little that I have seen, think it not dangerous to declare that, in my opinion, its pomp recommends it more than its accuracy There is no distinction made between the ancient reading, and the innovations of the editor; there is no reason given for any of the alterations which are made; the emendations of former
critics are adopted without any acknowledg. I may without indecency observe, that no man ment, and few of the difficulties are removed which have hitherto embarrassed the readers of Shakspeare.
I would not however be thought to insult the editor, nor to censure him with too much petulance, for having failed in little things, of whom I have been told, that he excels in greater. But
should attempt to teach others what he has never learned himself; and that those who, like Themistocles, have studied the arts of policy, and can teach a small state how to grow great, should, like him, disdain to labour in trifles, and consider petty accomplishments as below their ambition.
PRINTING THE DRAMATIC WORKS OF
PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1756.
WHEN the works of Shakspeare are, after so many editions, again offered to the public, it will doubtless be inquired, why Shakspeare stands in more need of critical assistance than any other of the English writers, and what are the deficiencies of the late attempts, which another editor may hope to supply.
The business of him that republishes an ancient book is to correct what is corrupt, and to explain what is obscure. To have a text corrupt in many places, and in many doubtful, is, among the authors that have written since the use of types, almost peculiar to Shakspeare. Most writers, by publishing their own works, prevent all various readings, and preclude all conjectural criticism. Books indeed are sometimes published after the death of him who produced them; but they are better secured from corruption than these unfortunate compositions. They subsist in a single copy written or revised by the author; and the faults of the printed volume can be only faults of one descent.
But of the works of Shakspeare the condition has been far different: he sold them, not to be printed, but to be played. They were immediately copied for the actors, and multiplied by transcript after transcript, vitiated by the blunders of the penman, or changed by the affectation of the player; perhaps enlarged to introduce a jest, or mutilated to shorten the representation; and printed at last without the concurrence of the author, without the consent of the proprietor, from compilations made by chance or by stealth out of the separate parts written for the theatre; and thus thrust into the world surreptitiously and hastily, they suffered another deprivation from the ignorance and negligence of the printers, as every man who knows the state of the press in that age will readily conceive.
It is not easy for invention to bring together so many causes concurring to vitiate the text. No other author ever gave up his works to fortune and time with so little care; no books
could be left in hands so likely to injure them, as plays frequently acted, yet continued in manuscript: no other transcribers were likely to be so little qualified for their task as those who copied for the stage, at a time when the lower ranks of the people were universally illiterate: no other editions were made from fragments so minutely broken, and so fortuitously re-united; and in no other age was the art of printing in such unskilful hands.
With the causes of corruption that make the revisal of Shakspeare's dramatic pieces necessary, may be enumerated the causes of obscurity, which may be partly imputed to his age, and partly to himself.
When a writer outlives his contemporaries, and remains almost the only unforgotten name of a distant time, he is necessarily obscure. Every age has its modes of speech, and its cast of thought; which, though easily explained when there are many books to be compared with each other, becomes sometimes unintelligible, and always difficult, when there are no parallel passages that may conduce to their illustration. Shakspeare is the first considerable author of sublime or familiar dialogue in our language. Of the books which he read, and from which he formed his style, some perhaps have perished, and the rest are neglected. His imitations are therefore unnoted, his allusions are undiscovered, and many beauties, both of pleasantry and greatness, are lost with the objects to which they were united, as the figures vanish when the canvass has decayed.
It is the great excellence of Shakspeare, that he drew his scenes from nature, and from life. He copied the manners of the world then passing before him, and has more allusions than other poets to the traditions and superstition of the vulgar; which must therefore be traced before he can be understood.
He wrote at a time when our poetical language was yet unformed, when the meaning of
our phrases was yet in fluctuation, when words | done, is to be done again; and no single edition were adopted at pleasure from the neighbouring will supply the reader with a text on which he languages, and while the Saxon was still visi- can rely as the best copy of the works of Shakbly mingled in our diction. The reader is speare. therefore embarrassed at once with dead and with foreign languages, with obsoleteness and innovation. In that age, as in all others, fashion produced phraseology, which succeeding fashion swept away before its meaning was generally known, or sufficiently authorized and in that age, above all others, experiments were made upon our language, which distorted its combinations, and disturbed its uniformity.
If Shakspeare has difficulties above other writers, it is to be imputed to the nature of his work, which required the use of the common colloquial language, and consequently admitted many phrases allusive, elliptical, and proverbial, such as we speak and hear every hour without observing them: and of which, being now fami liar, we do not suspect that they can ever grow uncouth, or that, being now obvious, they can
ever seem remote.
These are the principal causes of the obscurity of Shakspeare; to which might be added the fulness of idea, which might sometimes load his words with more sentiment than they could conveniently convey, and that rapidity of imagination which might hurry him to a second thought before he had fully explained the first. But my opinion is, that very few of his lines were difficult to his audience, and that he used such expressions as were then common, though the paucity of contemporary writers makes them now seem peculiar.
Authors are often praised for improvement, or blamed for innovation, with very little justice, by those who read few other books of the same age. Addison himself has been so unsuccessful in enumerating the words with which Milton has enriched our language, as perhaps not to have named one of which Milton was the author; and Bentley has yet more unhappily praised him as the introducer of those elisions into English poetry, which had been used from the first essays of versification among us, and which Milton was indeed the last that practised.
Another impediment, not the least vexatious to the commentator, is the exactness with which Shakspeare followed his authors. Instead of dilating his thoughts into generalities, and expressing incidents with poetical latitude, he often combines circumstances unnecessary to his main design, only because he happened to find them together. Such passages can be illustrated only by him who has read the same story in the very book which Shakspeare consulted.
He that undertakes an edition of Shakspeare, has all these difficulties to encounter, and all these obstructions to remove.
The corruptions of the text will be corrected by a careful collation of the oldest copies, by which it is hoped that many restorations may yet be made: at least it will be necessary to collect and note the variation as materials for future critics; for it very often happens that a wrong reading has affinity to the right.
In this part all the present editions are apparently and intentionally defective. The critics did not so much as wish to facilitate the labour of those that followed them. The same books are still to be compared; the work that has been
The edition now proposed will at least have this advantage over others. It will exhibit all the observable varieties of all the copies that can be found; that if the reader is not satisfied with the editor's determination, he may have the means of choosing better for himself.
Where all the books are evidently vitiated, and collation can give no assistance, then begins the task of critical sagacity: and some changes may well be admitted in a text never settled by the author, and so long exposed to caprice and ignorance. But nothing shall be imposed, as in the Oxford edition, without notice of the alte ration; nor shall conjecture be wantonly or unnecessarily indulged.
It has been long found, that very specious emendations do not equally strike all minds with conviction, nor even the same mind at dif ferent times; and therefore, though perhaps many alterations may be proposed as eligible, very few will be obtruded as certain. In a lan. guage so ungrammatical as the English, and so licentious as that of Shakspeare, emendatory criticism is always hazardous; nor can it be al lowed to any man who is not particularly versed in the writings of that age, and particularly studious of his author's diction. There is dan ger lest peculiarities should be mistaken for corruptions, and passages rejected as unintelligible, which a narrow mind happens not to understand.
All the former critics have been so much em ployed on the correction of the text, that they have not sufficiently attended to the elucidation of passages obscured by accident or time. The editor will endeavour to read the books which the author read, to trace his knowledge to its source, and compare his copies with their origi nals. If in this part of his design he hopes to attain any degree of superiority to his predeces sors, it must be considered that he has the advantage of their labours; that part of the work being already done, more care is naturally be. stowed on the other part; and that to declare the truth, Mr. Rowe and Mr. Pope were very ignorant of the ancient English literature; Dr. Warburton was detained by more important studies; and Mr. Theobald, if fame be just to his memory, considered learning only as an instrunient of gain, and made no farther inquiry after his author's meaning, when once he had notes sufficient to embellish his page with the expected decorations.
With regard to obsolete or peculiar diction, the editor may perhaps claim some degree of confidence, having had more motives to consider the whole extent of our language than any other man from its first formation. He hopes that, by comparing the works of Shakspeare with those of writers who lived at the same time, im mediately preceded, or immediately followed him, he shall be able to ascertain his ambiguities, disentangle his intricacies, and recover the meaning of words now lost in the darkness of antiquity.
When therefore any obscurity arises from an allusion to some other book, the passage will be quoted. When the diction is entangled, it will
be cleared by a paraphrase or interpretation. I reflection or experience, a deduction of concluWhen the sense is broken by the suppression of sive arguments, a forcible eruption of effervespart of the sentiment in pleasantry or passion, cent passion, are to be considered as proportionthe connexion will be supplied. When any for- ate to common apprehension, unassisted by crigotten custom is hinted, care will be taken to tical officiousness; since to convince them, noretrieve and explain it. The meaning assigned thing more is requisite than acquaintance with to doubtful words will be supported by the au- the general state of the world, and those faculthorities of other writers, or by parrallel passages ties which he must almost bring with him who of Shakspeare himself. would read Shakspeare.
The observation of faults and beauties is one of the duties of an annotator, which some of Shakspeare's editors have attempted, and some have neglected. For this part of his task, and for this only, was Mr. Pope eminently and indisputably qualified; nor has Dr. Warburton followed him with less diligence or less success. But I have never observed that mankind was much delighted or improved by their asterisks, commas, or double commas; of which the only effect is, that they preclude the pleasure of judging for ourselves, teach the young and ignorant to decide without principles; defeat curiosity and discernment, by leaving them less to discover; and at last show the opinion of the critic, without the reasons on which it was founded, and without affording any light by which it may be examined.
The editor, though he may less delight his own vanity, will probably please his reader more, by supposing him equally able with himself to judge of beauties and faults, which require no previous acquisition of remote knowledge. A description of the obvious scenes of nature, a representation of general life, a sentiment of
But when the beauty arises from some adaptation of the sentiment to customs worn out of use, to opinions not universally prevalent, or to any accidental or minute particularity, which cannot be supplied by common understanding, or common observation, it is the duty of a commentator to lend his assistance.
The notice of beauties and faults thus limited, will make no distinct part of the design, being reducible to the explanation of obscure passages.
The editor does not however intend to preclude himself from the comparison of Shakspeare's sentiments or expression with those of ancient or modern authors, or from the display of any beauty not obvious to the students of poetry; for as he hopes to leave his author better understood, he wishes likewise to procure him more rational approbation.
The former editors have affected to slight their predecessors: but in this edition all that is valuable will be adopted from every commentator, that posterity may consider it as including all the rest, and exhibiting whatever is hitherto known of the great father of the English drama.
PREFACE TO SHAKSPEARE.
PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR 1768.
1 HAT praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard, which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time.
ticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living we estimate his powers by his worst performance, and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.
To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientific, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and Antiquity, like every other quality that at- continuance of esteem. What mankind have tracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly long possessed, they have often examined and votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but compared; and if they persist to value the posfrom prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscri- session, it is because frequent comparisons have minately, whatever has been long preserved, confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the without considering that time has sometimes co-works of nature no man can properly call a river operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of cri
deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains, and many rivers; so, in the productions of genius, nothing can be styled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the same kind. Demonstration