« ZurückWeiter »
-out for the use of the actors: For in fome places their very names are thro' careleffnefs fet down instead of the Perfona Dramatis: And in others the notes of direction to the Property-men for their Moveables, and to the Players for their Entries, are inferted into the Text, thro' the ignorance of the Tranfcribers.
The Plays not having been before fo much as diftinguished by Alts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they play'd them; often where there is no paufe in the action, or where they thought fir to make a breach in it, for the fake of Mufick, Masques, or Monsters.
Sometimes the fcenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwife happen, but by their being taken from feparate and piece-meal written parts.
Many verses are omitted entirely, and others tranfposed; from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, paft the guess of any Commentator to clear up, but just where the accidental glimpse of an old edition enlightens us:
Some Characters were confounded and mix'd, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the Quarto edition of MidfummerNight's Dream, A&t 5. Shakespear introduces a kind of Master of the Revels called Philoftrate: all whofe part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the fubfequent editions: So alfo in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the Prompter's Books were what they call'd the Original Copies.
From liberties of this kind, many fpeeches alfo were put into the mouths of wrong perfons, where the Author now feems chargeable with making them fpeak out of character: Or fometimes perhaps for no better
I Much ado about nothing. Aa 2. Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilfon, instead of Balthafar, And in A&
4. Cowley, and Kemp, conftantly thro' a whole Scene.
Edit. Fol, of 1623, and 1632.
reafon, than that a governing Player, to have the mouthing of fome favourite fpeech himfelf, would fnatch it from the unworthy lips of an Underling.
Profe from Verfe they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.
Having been forced to fay fo much of the Players, I think I ought in juftice to remark, that the Judg. ment, as well as Condition, of that clafs of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best Playhoufes were Inns and Taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) fo the top of the profeffion were then meer Players, not Gentlemen of the ftage: They were led into the But, tery by the Steward, not plac'd at the Lord's table, or Lady's toilette and confequently were entirely depriv'd of those advantages they now enjoy, in the 'familiar converfation of our Nobility, and an intimacy (not to fay dearnefs) with people of the first condition.
From what has been said, there can be no queftion but had Shakespear publifhed his works himself (efpecially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the ftage) we fhould not only be certain which are genuine; but should find in thofe that are, the errors leffened by fome thousands. If I may judge from all the diftinguishing marks of his style, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, and London Prodigal, cannot be admitted as his. And I fhould conjecture of fome of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus) that only fome characters, fingle fcenes, or perhaps a few particular paffages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafioned fome Plays to be fuppofed Shakespear's was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or
htted up for the Theatre while it was under his adminiftration and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give Strays to the Lord of the Manor: A miftake which (one may also obferve) it was not for the intereft of the Houfe to remove. Yet the Players themselves, Heminges and Condell, afterwards did Shakespear the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition; tho' they were then printed in his Name, in every body's hands, and acted with fome applaufe; (as we learn from what Ben Johnson fays of Pericles in his Ode on the New Inn.) That Titus Andronicus is one of this clafs I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the fame Author openly express his contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew-Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakespear was yet living. And there is no better authority for thefe latter fort, than for the former, which were equally published in his life-time.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and paffages might no longer reflect upon this great Genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in thofe which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary Additions, Expunctions, Tranfpofitions of scenes and lines, confufion of Characters and Perfons, wrong application of Speeches, corruptions of innumerable Paffages by the Ignorance, and wrong Corrections of 'em again by the Impertinence, of his firft Editors? From one or other of these confiderations, I am verily perfuaded, that the greatest and the groffeft part of what are thought his errors would vanifh, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.
This is the ftate in which Shakespear's writings lye at prefent; for fince the abovementioned Folio Edition, all the reft have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the
the comparison between them. It is impoffible to repair the Injuries already done him; too much time has elaps'd, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and defire, than of my ability, to do him juftice. I have difcharg'd the dúll duty of an Editor, to my best judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all innovation, and without any indulgence to my private fenfe or conjecture. The method taken in this Edition will fhow itself. The various Readings are fairly put in the margin, fo that every one may compare them; and thofe I have preferr'd into the Text are conftantly ex fide Codicum, upon authority. The Alterations or Additions which Shakespear himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some fufpected paffages which are exceffively bad, (and which feems Interpolations by being fo inferted that one can entirely omit them without any chafm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an Afterisk referring to the places of their infertion. The Scenes are mark'd fo diftinctly that every removal of place is specify'd; which is more neceffary in this Author than any other, fince he fhifts them more frequently and fometimes without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obfcurities. The more obfolete or unufual words are explained. Some of the most fhining paffages are. diftinguish'd by comma's in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars but in the whole, a ftar is prefix'd to the fcene. This feems to me a fhorter and lefs oftentatious method of performing the better half of Criticifm (namely the pointing out an Author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with. citations of fine paffages, with general Applauses, or empty Exclamations at the tail of them. There is alfo fubjoined a Catalogue of thofe firft Editions by which the greater part of the various readings and of the
corrected paffages are authorised, (moft of which are fuch as carry their own evidence along with them.) Thefe Editions now hold the place of Originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or restore the corrupted fenfe of the Author, I can only with that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more fuccessful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by faying of Shakespear, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his Drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finish'd and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick Architecture, compar'd with a neat Modern Building: The latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allow'd, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; tho' we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncooth Paffages. Nor does the Whole fail to ftrike us with greater reverence, tho' many of the parts are childish, ill-plac'd, and unequal to its grandeur.