« ZurückWeiter »
rhyme! To consider gravely such mangling of the text, is to waste words and patience. And, as before, what applies to one instance, applies to all others of the same nature. We cannot permit any man to mutilate Shakespeare's text, even to better it,-in the estimation of himself or a thousand like him.
With two exceptions, then, all these lines and rhyming terminations of lines must be regarded as unwarrantable interpolations. These two exceptions occur in All's Weil that Ends Well, Act I, Sc. 3, and in King Henry V., Act. III. Sc. 2. In the first instance the Clown sings a fragment of an old ballad which is thus mutilated in the original text :-the extract will give the reader an idea of the careless and make-shift manner in which the first folio was printed :
“Was this faire face the cause, quoth she,
With that she sighed as she stood, bis And gave this sentence then, among nine bad if one be good, among nine bad if one be good, there's yet one good in ten.”
This Mr. Collier's folio corrects, by making a transposition in the first line and an addition to the second, so that the first stanza, when properly divided into lines, reads as follows :
“Was this fair face,quoth she, the cause
This emendation is to be received solely because of the fact that the text is evidently but a quotation of a popular jingling song which had survived to the time of the MS. corrector. The corrector's authority for it was the same as Shakespeare's,—that is, its existence in the mouths of the people. Thus, if the following version of some well-known historical lines were found in Shakespeare, it would evidently need emendation :
“Old King Cole
In such a case there could not be the slightest hesitation in printing the third line,
“And a merry old soul was he,”
or in inserting,
“And he call'd for his bowl,”
as the fifth line ; because the rhyme is one of indefinable origin and antiquity, which has not yet died out of the popular ear; and our authority for it would be the same that Shakespeare's would, in that case, have been. The other instance is in the restoration of “To all and some” and "feel the same” to an old song which Pistol spouts, in King Henry V. These are to be received for the reasons which we have just alleged. Nevertheless, in both instances, the restored line and words should be printed within brackets, to show that they are restorations : so zealously should the text of Shakespeare be guarded even in its least important parts.
The publication of Mr. Collier's “Notes and Emendations," and especially of his recently issued “Plays of Shakespeare,” so called, gave rise to serious apprehension for the present integrity, at least, of the text of those works which are the pride of our race, and our tongue. But the common sense of the world bids fair to disappoint such fears. The very few admissible readings in these volumes will be received, and the mass of them will be,-are, already rejected. In Shakespeare's own words, “ out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.” If, out of the whole thirteen hundred proposed changes, but thirteen prove to be admissible corrections of passages in the original text, which need correction, the discovery and the discussion consequent upon it will not have been in vain. To restore a single passage in Shakespeare's text rewards much critical toil. He who discovers the needful word for the misprint "runawayes eyes,” in the second scene of the third act of Romeo and Juliet, will secure the honorable mention of his name as long as the English language is read and spoken.
The most important lesson to be derived from our previous glance at the history of Shakespeare's text and the examination of Mr. Collier's folio which we have just finished, is not confined to the merits of the latter. Does it not teach us, conclusively, that the only source of any authority for the text of Shakespeare is in the original folio, which was published in 1623 by his friends, fellow-actors, and business partners : that when that text is utterly incomprehensible from the typographical errors which deform it, and then only, we should seek emendations : that those emendations should be first looked for in the quartos, because they were contemporaneous with Shakespeare, although surreptitiously published, or, at least entirely neglected by him : that only such corrupted passages as the quartos do not make clear are proper subjects for the exercise of conjecture ; and that such of these as conjecture does not amend, in a manner at once consistent with the context, with common sense, and with the language and customs of Shakespeare's day, should be allowed to stand untouched ; because the experience of a century and a half has taught us that when the original text seems incomprehensible, the difficulty may possibly be with ourselves ; but, chiefly, because it is better to have in the works of Shakespeare an obscure text which may be Shakespeare's, than one which is clear, but with the light of another mind than his ?