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Revels called Philostratus), all whose part is given to another character (that of Ægeus) in the subsequent editions :. So also in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the Prompter's Books were what they call'd the Original Copies.
From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths of wrong persons, where the Author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character, Ør 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.
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 best Playhouses were Inns and Taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &e.), so the top of the profession were then meer Players, not Gentlemen of the stage: They were led into the Buttery by the Steward, not plac d at the Lord's table, or Lady's toilette 1, and consequently were intirely depriv'd of those advantages they now enjoy, in the familiar conversation of our Nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness) with people of the first condition.
From what has been said, there can be no question but had Shakespear published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we a should not only be certain which are genuine , but should find, in those that are, the errors lessened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing 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 admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the
others (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's
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 1 A mistake which one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the House to remove. Yet the Players themselves, Hemings and Condell
, afterwards did Shakespear the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition ; tho they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with some applause (as we learn from what Ben Johnson 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 BartholomewoFair, in the year 1614, when Shakespear was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, than for the former, which were equally published in his lifetime.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages might no longer reflect
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 'em again by the Impertinence, of his first Editors ? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily perswaded, 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 Shakespear's writings lye 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 elapsa, 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 discharg'd 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 Édition will show it self. The various Readings are fairly put in the margin, so that every one may compare 'em ; and those I have prefer d into the Text are constantly ex fide. Codicum, upon authority. The Alterations or Additions which Shakespear 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 intirely 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 mark}d so distinctly that every removal of place is specify/d , 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 distinguish'd by comma's in the margin ; and * where the beauty lay not in particulars but in the whole, a star is prefix'd 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 subjoind a Catalogue of those first Editions by which the greater part of the
various readings and of the corrected passages are authorised (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 deficiences or restore the corrupted sense of the Author:. I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakespear, 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 finish d and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick, Architecture, compard with a neat Modern building | The latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more solemn. It must be allow'd 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 , tho' we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the Whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, tho many of the Parts are childish, ill-placd, and unequal to its grandeur.
Preface to Edition of Shakespeare
1739 1740 No!
The Attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is like going into a large, a spacious, and a splendid Dome thro' the Conveyance of a narrow and obscure Entry. A Glare of Light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the Avenue at first promis'd : and a thousand Beauties of Genius and Character, like so many gaudy Apartments pouring at once upon the Eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the Mind. The Prospect is too wide to come within the Compass of a single View : 'tis a gay Confusion of pleasing Objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general Admiration ; and they must be separated, and ey'd distinctly, in order to give the proper Entertainment.
And as in great Piles of Building, some Parts are often finish'd up to hit the Taste of the Connoisseur; others more negligently put together, to strike the Fancy of a common and unlearned Beholder : Some Parts are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast Design and Execution of the Architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his Neatness and Elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find Traits that will stand the Test of the severest Judgment; and Strokes as carelessly hit off, to the Level of the more ordinary Capacities : Some Descriptions rais’d to that Pitch of