« ZurückWeiter »
ascribed in the title-page to "William Shakspeare," and printed in the year 1600, when his fame was in its meridian, was the joint-production of four other poets; Michael Drayton, Anthony Mundy, Richard Hathwaye, and Robert Wilson*.
In the Dissertation annexed to the three parts of King Henry the Sixth, I have discussed at large the question concerning their authenticity; and have assigned my reasons for thinking that the second and third of those plays were formed by Shakspeare, on two elder dramas now extant. Any disquisition therefore concerning these controverted pieces is here unnecessary.
. Some years ago I published a short Essay on the economy and usages of our old theatres. The Historical Account of the English Stage, which has been formed on that essay, has swelled to such a size, in consequence of various researches since made, and a great accession of very valuable materials, that it is become almost a new work. Of these, the most important are the curious papers which have been discovered at Dulwich, and the very valuable Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels to King James and King Charles the First, which have contributed to throw much light on our dramatick history, and furnished some singular anecdotes of the poets of those times.
Twelve years have elapsed since the Essay on the order of time in which the plays of Shakspeare were written, first appeared. A re-examination of these plays since that time has furnished me with several particulars in confirmation of what I had formerly suggested on this subject. On a careful revisal of that Essay, which, I hope, is improved as well as considerably enlarged, I had the satisfaction of observing that I had found reason to attribute but two plays to an era widely distant from that to which they had been originally ascribed; and to make only a minute change in the arrangement of a few others. Some information, however, which has been obtained since that Essay was printed in its present form, inclines me to think, that one of the two plays which I allude to, The Winter's Tale, was a still later production than I have supposed; for I have now good reason to believe, that it was first
* Vol. iii. p. 329.
exhibited in the year 1613*; and that consequently it must have been one of our poet's latest works.
Though above a century and a half has elapsed since the death of Shakspeare, it is somewhat extraordinary, (as I observed on a former occasion,) that none of his various editors should have attempted to separate his genuine poetical compositions from the spurious performances with which they have been long intermixed; or have taken the trouble to compare them with the earliest and most authentick copies. Shortly after his death, a very incòrrect impression of his poems was issued out, which in every subsequent edition, previous to the year 1780, was implicitly followed. They have been carefully revised, and with many additional illustrations are now a second time faithfully printed from the original copies, excepting only Venus and Adonis, of which I have not been able to procure the first impressiont. The second edition, printed in 1596, was obligingly transmitted to me by the late Reverend Thomas Warton, of whose friendly and valuable correspondence I was deprived by death, when these volumes were almost ready to be issued from the press. It is painful to recollect how many of (I had almost said) my coadjutors have died since the present work was begun: -the elegant scholar, and ingenious writer, whom I have just mentioned; Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Tyrwhitt: men, from whose approbation of my labours I had promised. myself much pleasure, and whose stamp could give a value and currency to any work.
With the materials which I have been so fortunate as to obtain, relative to our poet, his kindred, and friends, it would not have been difficult to have formed a new Life of Shakspeare, less meagre and imperfect than that left us by Mr. Rowe: but the information which I have procured having been obtained at very different times, it is necessarily dispersed, partly in the copious notes subjoined to Rowe's Life, and partly in the Historical Account of our old Actors. At some future time I hope to weave the whole into one uniform and connected narrative.
See the Essay on the Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ii. BOSWELL.
He afterwards procured the first edition, from which that poem is now printed. BoswELL.
My inquiries having been carried on almost to the very moment of publication, some circumstances relative to our poet were obtained too late to be introduced into
any part of the present work. Of these due use will be made hereafter.
The prefaces of Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton, 1 have not retained, because they appeared to me to throw no light on our author or his works: the room which they would have taken up, will, I trust, be found occupied by more valuable matter.
As some of the preceding editors have justly been condemned for innovation, so perhaps (for of objections there is no end,) I may be censured for too strict an adherence to the ancient copies. I have constantly had in view the Roman sentiment adopted by Dr. Johnson, that "it is more honourable to save a citizen than to destroy an enemy," and, like him, "have been more careful to protect than to attack."-"I do not wish the reader to forget, (says the same writer,) that the most commodious (and he might have added, the most forcible and elegant,) is not always the true reading.*" On this principle 1 have uniformly proceeded, having resolved never to deviate from the authentick copies, merely because the phraseology was harsh or uncommon. Many passages, which have heretofore been considered as corrupt, and are now supported by the usage of contemporary writers, fully prove the propriety of this caution.
*King Henry IV. Part II.
+ See particularly The Merchant of Venice, vol. v. p. 68. That many may be meant
"By the fool multitude."
with the note there.
We undoubtedly should not now write
"But, lest myself be guilty to self-wrong,-"
yet we find this phrase in The Comedy of Errors, vol. iv. p. 214, See also The Winter's Tale, vol. xiv. p. 428, n. 5. This your son-in-law,
"And son unto the king, (whom heavens directing,)
Measure for Measure, vol. ix. p. 156, n. 1; "to be so bared,-."
"Which often, thus, correcting thy stout heart," &c. Hamlet, vol. vii. p. 203, n. 2:
"That he might not beteem the winds of heaven," &c. VOL. I.
The rage for innovation till within these last thirty years was so great, that many words were dismissed from our poet's text, which in bis time were current in every mouth. In all the editions since that of Mr. Rowe, in the Second Part of King Henry IV. the word channel has been rejected, and kennel substituted in its room, though the former term was commonly employed in the same sense in the time of our author; and the learned Bishop of Worcester has strenuously endeavoured to prove that in Cymbeline the poet wrote-not shakes but shuts or checks, "all our buds from growing+;" though the authenticity of the original reading is established beyond all controversy by two other passages of Shakspeare. Very soon, indeed, after his death, this rage for innovation seems to have seized his editors; for in the year 1616 an edition of his Rape of Lucrece was published, which was said to be newly revised and corrected; but in which, in fact, several arbitrary changes were made, and the ancient diction rejected for one somewhat more modern. Even in the first complete collection of his plays published in 1623, some changes were undoubtedly made from ignorance of his meaning and phraseology. They had, I suppose, been made in the playhouse copies after his retirement from the theatre. Thus in Othello, Brabantio is made to call to his domesticks to raise "some special officers of might," instead of "officers of night;" and the phrase "of all loves," in the same play, not being understood, "for love's sake" was substituted in its room. So, in Hamlet, we have ere ever for or ever, and rites instead of the more ancient word, crants. In King Lear, Act I. Sc. I. the substitution of-" Goes thy heart with this?" instead of
As You Like It, vol. vi. p. 396, n.
My voice is ragged,"
Cymbeline, vol. xiii. p. 228, n. 2:
"Whom heavens, in justice, (both on her and hers,)
Act II. Sc. I: " throw the quean in the channel." In that passage, as in many others, I have silently restored the original reading, without any observation; but the word in this sense, being now obsolete, should have been illustrated by a note. This defect, however, will be found remedied in K. Henry VI. P. II. Act II. Sc. II:
"As if a channel should be call'd a sea." Hurd's Hor. 4th edit. vol. i. p. 55.
"Goes this with thy heart?" without doubt arose from the same cause. In the plays of which we have no quarto copies, we may be sure that similar innovations were made, though we have now no certain means of detecting them.
After what has been proved concerning the sophistications and corruptions of the Second Folio, we cannot be surprised that when these plays were republished by Mr. Rowe in the beginning of this century from a later folio, in which the interpolations of the former were all preserved, and many new errors added, almost every page of his work was disfigured by accumulated corruptions. In Mr. Pope's edition our author was not less misrepresented; for though by examining the oldest copies he detected some errors, by his numerous fanciful alterations the poet was so completely modernized, that I am confident, had he "re-visited the glimpses of the moon," he would not have understood his own works. From the quartos indeed a few valuable restorations were made; but all the advantage that was thus obtained, was outweighed by arbitrary changes, transpositions, and interpolations.
The readers of Shakspeare being disgusted with the liberties taken by Mr. Pope, the subsequent edition of Theobald was justly preferred; because he professed to adhere to the ancient copies more strictly than his competitor, and illustrated a few passages by extracts from the writers of our poet's age. That his work should at this day be considered of any value, only shows how long impressions will remain, when they are once made; for Theobald, though not so great an innovator as Pope, was yet a considerable innovator; and his edition being printed from that of his immediate predecessor, while a few arbitrary changes made by Pope were detected, innumerable sophistications were silently adopted. His knowledge of the contemporary authors was so scanty, that all the illustration of that kind dispersed throughout his volumes, has been exceeded by the researches which have since been made for the purpose of elucidating a single play.
Of Sir Thomas Hanmer it is only necessary to say, that he adopted almost all the innovations of Pope, adding to them whatever caprice dictated.
To him succeeded Dr. Warburton, a critick, who (as hath been said of Salmasius) seems to have erected his throne on a heap of stones, that he might have them at