« AnteriorContinuar »
pression of some of these which we are now speaking of.
This folio impression was sent into the world seven years after the author's death, by two of his fellow-players; and contains, besides the last mention'd fourteen, the true and genuine copies of the other six plays, and sixteen that were never publish'd before: the editors make great professions of fidelity, and some complaint of injury done to them and the author by stolen and maim'd copies; giving withal an advantageous, if just, idea of the copies which they have follow'd: but see the terms they make use of. "It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to have bene wished, that the author himselfe had liv'd to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envie his friends, the office of their care, and paine, to have collected & publish'd them; and so to have publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors, that expos'd them: even those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect
There is yet extant in the books of the Stationers' Company, an entry bearing date-Feb. 12, 1624, to Messrs. Jaggard and Blount, the proprietors of this first folio, which is thus worded: "Mr. Wm. Shakespear's Comedy's History's & Tragedy's so many of the said Copy's as bee not enter'd to other men: and this entry is follow'd by the titles of all those sixteen plays that were first printed in the folio: The other twenty plays (Othello, and King John, excepted; which the person who furnished this transcript, thinks he may have overlook'd,) are enter'd too in these books, under their respective years; but to whom the transcript says not.
of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His minde and hand went together: and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in his papers." Who now does not feel himself inclin❜d to expect an accurate and good performance in the edition of these prefacers? But alas, it is nothing less: for (if we except the six spurious ones, whose places were then supply'd by true and genuine copies) the editions of plays preceding the folio, are the very basis of those we have there; which are either printed from those editions, or from the copies which they made use of; and this is principally evident in-" First and Second Henry IV. Love's Labour's Lost, Merchant of Venice, Midsummer-Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Richard II. Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Cressida;" for in the others we see somewhat a greater latitude, as was observ'd a little above: but in these plays, there is an almost strict conformity between the two impressions: some additions are in the second, and some omissions; but the faults and errors of the quarto's are all preserv'd in the folio, and others added to them; and what difference there is, is generally for the worse on the side of the folio editors; which should give us but faint hopes of meeting with greater accuracy in the plays which they first publish'd; and, accordingly, we find them subject to all the imperfections that have been noted in the former: nor is their edition in general distinguish'd by any mark of preference above the earliest quarto's, but that some of their plays are divided into acts, and some others into acts and scenes; and that with due precision,
and agreeable to the author's idea of the nature of such divisions. The order of printing these plays, the way in which they are class'd, and the titles given them, being matters of some curiosity, the Table that is before the first folio is here reprinted: and to it are added marks, put between crotchets, shewing the plays that are divided; a signifying— acts, a & s-acts and scenes.
TABLE of Plays in the folio."
The Tempest. [a & s.]
Measure for Measure. [a & s.]
The Comedy of Errors.*
Much adoo about Nothing. [a.]
Loves Labour lost.*
9 The plays, mark'd with asterisks, are spoken of by name, in a book, call'd-Wit's Treasury, being the Second Part of Wit's Commonwealth, written by Francis Meres, at p. 282: who, in the same paragraph, mentions another play as being Shakspeare's, under the title of Loves Labours Wonne; a title that seems well adapted to All's well that ends well, and under which it might be first acted. In the paragraph immediately preceding, he speaks of his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, and his Sonnets : this book was printed in 1598, by P. Short, for Cuthbert Burbie ; octavo, small. The same author, at p. 283, mentions too a Richard the Third, written by Doctor Leg, author of another play, called The Destruction of Jerusalem. And there is in the Musæum, a manuscript Latin play upon the same subject, written by one Henry Lacy in 1586: which Latin play is but a weak performance; and yet seemeth to be the play spoken of by Sir John Harrington, (for the author was a Cambridge man, and of St. John's,) in this passage of his Apologie of Poetrie, prefix'd to his translation of Ariosto's Orlando, edit. 1591, fol: and for tragedies, to omit other famous tragedies; that, that was played at S. Johns in Cambridge of Richard the 3.
would move (I thinke) Phalaris the tyraunt, and terrifie all tyrānous minded men, fro following their foolish ambitious humors, seeing how his ambition made him kill his brother, his nephews, his wife, beside infinit others; and last of all after a short and troublesome raigne, to end his miserable life, and to have his body harried after his death."
Othello, the Moore of Ve-
Cymbeline King of Britaine. [a & s.
Having premis'd thus much about the state and condition of these first copies, it may not be improper, nor will it be absolutely a digression, to add something concerning their authenticity: in doing which, it will be greatly for the reader's ease, and our own, to confine ourselves to the quarto's: which, it is hop'd, he will allow of; especially, as our intended vindication of them will also include in it (to the eye of a good observer) that of the plays that appear'd first in the folio: which therefore omitting, we now turn ourselves to the quarto's.
We have seen the slur that is endeavour'd to be thrown upon them indiscriminately by the player editors, and we see it too wip'd off by their having themselves follow'd the copies that they condemn. A modern editor, who is not without his followers, is pleas'd to assert confidently in his preface, that they are printed from "piece-meal parts, and copies of prompters:" but his arguments for it are some of them without foundation, and the others not conclusive; and it is to be doubted, that the opinion is only thrown out to countenance an abuse that has been carry'd to much too great lengths by himself and another editor,-that of putting out of the text passages that they did not like. These censures then, and this opinion being set aside, is it criminal to try another conjecture, and see what can be made of it? It is known, that Shakspeare liv'd to no great age, being taken off in his fifty-third year; and yet his works are