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of Shakespeare's plays, printed after the death of the author, and edited by men who probably had never before in their lives corrected proof-sheets !* In fact, it is almost wonderful, all things considered, that we should have these divine dramas in so perfect a state as they are, and infinite is our obligation to Hemming and Condell ; but still we must acknowledge that, as compared with the works of Spenser, Ben Jonson, and some others, they contain numerous errors, caused most probably by the ill-written manuscript that was placed in the printer's hands, † and the absence of the author's own supervision.
A compositor in a printing-office is to be regarded as a copyist. Speaking then from our own experience, in copying passages for this work, we would say that the errors he would be likely to commit, and which nothing but the eye of the author might be able to detect,—and that not always--are omission, addition, transposition, substitution. Of each of these we will give a few, out of many, examples from Shakespeare; not however with the remotest expectation of seeing any of our suggestions adopted.
We may notwithstanding venture to observe that, in our opinion, it would be more judicious in editors to insert in italics, or between brackets, the single words which have been suggested, with some probability of correctness, to supply omissions, rather than give lines so inharmonious, that it is quite impossible the poet could have left them in that state. We would say the same with respect to transpositions; while additions and substitutions might be indicated in notes.
* From the preface to Ferrall and Repp's Danish Dictionary, we learn that there are no Readers in the Royal Printing-office at Copenhagen. It was probably the same in London in the seventeenth century. In
the proof-sheets as sent to the author, from a respectable office, would be a favourable representation of the printed sheets of the folio of 1623.
+ Compositors have to work against time: it is therefore little less than positive dishonesty to send illegible manuscript to the printer's.
Omissions are sometimes of entire lines, or parts of lines, or of single words.* We will only give instances of the last.
Norway himself with terrible numbers there,
Ib. i. 7.1
Ib. iv. 3.
Jul. Cæs. iv. 3.
This but done,
Coriol. iii. 2.
* The last, as in the following example, frequently takes place at the end of lines. Pope supplied an entire line in Coriolanus, and Mr. Collier's corrector several, some not unhappily.
+ There is no interruption : Macbeth pauses and muses for a moment before his lady enters.
Mr. Collier thinks the imperfect line more expressive! “ We have no right,” he says, " to attempt to improve Shakespeare's versification; if he thought fit to leave the line here with nine syllables, as he has done in other instances, some people may consider him wrong, but nobody ought to venture to correct him.” But we say it was the printer, or copyist, not Shakespeare, that made the lines imperfect.
But that the dread of something after death,
Rightly to be great
The following seem to be additions :-
Coriol. iii. 1.
All's Well, ii. 1. Transpositions will restore the verse in the following instances :
Well-fitted in arts, glorious in arms.-Love's Lab. Lost, ii. 1.
* By the omission, as we may say, of a single letter here, a country is made a thing, or rather an event. Can any one produce a parallel ? We cannot. We are required to believe the printers and editors of the folio Shakespeare to have been nearly impeccable, while in the accurately printed first edition of Paradise Lost we find the very word in question omitted :
Is heard no more [in] heaven, he of the first.-v. 656 ; and in a single page (180) of the third edition we meet heav’n for heav’d, and
Satiate with [genial] moisture, when God said: --vii. 202.
Wave rolling after wave, where [way] they found.-16. 298. + We wonder how this could have escaped any critic. It did not escape Mr. Collier's corrector. Some of this person's emendations are very good, as “ Aristotle's ethics,” for “ Aristotle's checks." -- Tam. of Shrew, i. 1; others are very poor and prosaic. For" and a table of green
And the true blood, which peeps fairly through it.
Winter's Tale, iv. 3.
Hen. VIII. i. 2.
Of substitution, the cases are numerous, and this is in effect the great cause of the difficulties in Shakespeare. Indeed, we think it might be almost laid down as a rule, that a passage, to give a meaning to which astuteness is requisite in the critic, cannot be as it came from the pen of the poet. His text, if we had it pure, would, we are convinced, present no critical difficulties whatever.
The substituted word resembles the true one, sometimes in form, sometimes in meaning. +
fields,” (Hen. V. iii. 3,) he reads, “on a table of green frieze:” Theobald, “and a' babbled of green fields,” and it is difficult to decide between them. Would not talk'd have given table more readily than babbled ?
* This was first proposed by Coleridge, and is confirmed by Mr. Collier's corrector, and by common sense.
+ Of this last case, the following are indubitable examples.
A yearly solemn feast she wont to make, to which the rimes are bold, told. Now it is quite plain that the poet wrote, and the compositor read, hold, but that the word changed in his
Brach Merriman, the poor cur is embossed.
Taming of Shrew, Induct. Here the true word is bathe, as many have seen, bathing, or fomenting, being the exact cure for an embossing, or swelling. Would any sportsman say Hound Merriman of one of the dogs ?
I will depart in quiet,
Com. of Errors, iii. I. For mirth read my wife.
I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,
As to give words or talk with the lord Hamlet.-Ham. i. 3. Read squander any moment's leisure. *
I write good creature: wheresoe'er she is,
Her heart weighs heavy.--All's Well, iii. 5. As no critic has made, or can make, any sense of write in this place, should we not substitute wote, or rather, warrant, and read
I wote (or warrant], good creature, wheresoe'er she is,
Twelfth Night, i. 3.
mind as he was at work. The proof-sheet also was probably read by Spenser himself. We also meet (ii. 2,7) chace as the rime to day, dismay and (v. 4, 7) near, to few.
Rossetti, in his Amor Platonico (p. 912), when transcribing a canzone from Petrarca, wrote,
Mi si scoperse, onde mi nacque un gelo. The word before his eyes was ghiaccio, and the rime braccio, and yet he did not discern the error, even in the proof-sheet.
Nothing could be more satisfactory than the manner in which the proofs of the present work have come to the author; they have been exact copies of the MS. Among the very few variations was the for some. Now, as the word was very legibly written, the very same thing must have occurred as in the printing of the Faery Queen : as the made very good sense, perhaps no one but the author himself would have sus. pected it, and even he had to refer to the MS.
* The very same correction was made by Mr. Colliers corrector.