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the editor of the first folio, to obtain something like sense, reads
"But like a mishap'd and sullen wench-."
and instead of this, the editor of the second folio, for the sake of metre, gives us
"But like a mishap'd and a sullen wench-."
Again, in the first scene of King Richard III. quarto, 1597, we find this line:
"That tempers him to this extremity."
In the next quarto, and all subsequent, tempts is corruptly printed instead of tempers. The line then wanting a syllable, the editor of the folio printed it thus:
"That tempts him to this harsh extremity."
Not to weary my reader, I shall add but two more instances, from Romeo and Juliet:
"Away to heaven, respective lenity,
says Romeo, when provoked by the appearance of his rival. Instead of this, which is the reading of the quarto 1597, the line, in the quarto, 1599, is thus corruptly exhibited:
"And fire end fury be my conduct now!"
In the subsequent quarto copy and was substituted for end; and accordingly in the folio the poet's fine imagery is entirely lost, and Romeo exclaims,
"And fire and fury be my conduct now!"
The other instance in the same play is not less remarkable. In the quarto, 1599, the Friar, addressing Romeo, is made to say,
"Thou puts up thy fortune, and thy love."
The editor of the folio perceiving here a gross corruption, substituted these words:
"Thou puttest up thy fortune, and thy love;"
not perceiving that up was a misprint for upon, and puts for pouts, (which according to the ancient mode was written instead of powt'st,) as he would have found by looking into another copy without a date, and as he might have conjectured from the corresponding line in the original play printed in 1597, had he ever examined it:
"Thou frown'st upon thy fate, that smiles on thee."
So little known indeed was the value of the early impressions of books, (not revised or corrected by their authors,) that King Charles the First, though a great admirer of our poet, was contented with the second folio edition of his plays, unconscious of the numerous misrepresentations and interpolations by which every page of that copy is disfigured; and in a volume of the quarto plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, which formerly belonged to that king, and is now in my collection, I did not find a single first impression. In like manner, Sir William D'Avenant, when he made his alteration of the play of Macbeth, appears to have used the third folio printed in 1664.
In that copy anoint being corruptly printed instead of aroint, "Anoint thee, witch, the rump-fed ronyon cries." the error was implicitly adopted by D'Avenant.
The various readings found in the different impressions of the quarto copies are frequently mentioned by the late editors: it is obvious from what has been already stated, that the first edition of each play is alone of any authority," and accordingly to no other have I paid any attention. All the variations in the subsequent quartos were made by accident or caprice. Where, however, there are two editions printed in the same year, or an undated copy, it is necessary to examine each of them, because which of them was first, can not be ascertained; and being each printed from a manuscript, they carry with them a degree of authority to which a re-impression cannot be entitled. Of the tragedy of King Lear there are no less than three copies, varying from each other, printed for the same bookseller, and in the same year.
Of all the plays of which there are no quarto copies extant, the first folio, printed in 1623, is the only authentick edition.
An opinion has been entertained by some that the second impression of that book, published in 1632, has a similar claim to authenticity. " Whoever has any of the folios, (says Dr. Johnson,) has all, excepting those diversities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first, from which (he afterwards adds,) the subsequent folios never differ but by accident or negligence." Mr. Steevens, however, does not subscribe to this opinion. The edition of 1632,
'Except only in the instance of Romeo and Juliet, where the first copy, printed in 1597, appears to be an imperfect sketch, and therefore cannot be entirely relied on. Yet even this furnishes many valuable corrections of the more perfect copy of that tragedy in its present state, printed in 1599.
(says that gentleman,) is not without value; for though it be in some places more incorrectly printed than the preceding one, it has likewise the advantage of various readings, which are not merely such as re-iteration of copies will naturally produce."
What Dr. Johnson has stated, is not quite accurate. The second folio does indeed very frequently differ from the first by negligence or chance; but much more frequently by the editor's profound ignorance of our poet's phraseology and metre, in consequence of which there is scarce a page of the book which is not disfigured by the capricious alterations introduced by the person to whom the care of that impression was entrusted. This person in fact, whoever he was, and Mr. Pope, were the two great corrupters of our poet's text; and I have no doubt that if the arbitrary alterations introduced by these two editors were numbered, in the plays of which no quarto copies are extant, they would greatly exceed all the corruptions and errors of the press in the original and only authentick copy of those plays. Though my judgment on this subject has been formed after a very careful examination, I cannot expect that it should be received on my mere assertion: and therefore it is necessary to substantiate it by proof. This cannot be effected but by a long, minute, and what I am afraid will appear to many, an uninteresting disquisition but let it still be remembered that to ascertain the genuine text of these plays is an object of great importance.
On a revision of the second folio printed in 1632, it will be found, that the editor of that book was entirely ignorant of our poet's phraseology and metre, and that various alterations were made by
him, in consequence of that ignorance, which render his edition of no value whatsoever.
I. His ignorance of Shakspeare's phraseology is proved by the following among many other in
He did not know that the double negative was the customary and authorized language of the age of Queen Elizabeth, and therefore, instead of—
"Nor to her bed no homage do I owe."
Comedy of Errors, Act III. sc. ii.
"Nor to her bed a homage do I owe."
So, in As you like it, Act II. sc. iv. instead of"I can not go no further," he printed—“ I can go no further."
In Much Ado about Nothing, Act III. sc. i. Hero, speaking of Beatrice, says,
there will she hide her,
"To listen to our purpose."
Again, in The Winter's Tale, Act I. sc. ii:
The plain meaning is, thou dost make those things possible, which are held to be impossible. But the editor of the second folio, not understanding the line, reads
"Thou dost make possible things not to be so held;"