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From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths of wrong persons, where the author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character or sometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an underling.
Prose from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.
Having been forced to say so much of the players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the judgment, as well as condition of that class of people, was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best playhouses were inns and taverns, (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) so the top of the profession were then mere players, not gentlemen of the stage: they were led into the buttery by the steward*; not placed at the lord's table, or lady's toilette: and consequently were entirely deprived of those advantages they now enjoy in the familiar conversation of our nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness) with people of the first condition.
From what has been said, there can be no question but had Shakspeare published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage,) we should not only be certain which are genuine, but should find in those that are, the errors lessened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing 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, London Prodigal, and a thing called The Double Falshood †, connot be admitted
* Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, spoken by a Lord, who is giving directions to his servant concerning some players :
Go, sirrah, take them to the buttery,
"And give them friendly welcome, every one."
But he seems not to have observed that the players here introduced were strollers; and there is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge, Burbage, Lowin, &c. who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner. MALONE.
†The Double Falshood, or The Distressed Lovers, a play, acted at Drury Lane, Svo. 1727. This piece was produced by
as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus,) that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasioned some plays to be supposed Shakspeare's, was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre while it was under his administration; and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give strays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the house to remove. Yet the players themselves, Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakspeare the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition; though they were then printed in his name *, in every body's hands, and acted with some applause (as we learn from what Ben Jonson says of Pericles in his ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same author openly express his contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakspeare was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, 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 passages might no longer reflect upon this great genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary additions, expunctions, transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of characters and persons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages by the ignorance, and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence of his first editors? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest and the grossest part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.
This is the state in which Shakspeare's writings lie at
Mr. Theobald as a performance of Shakspeare's. See Dr. Farmer's Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare. REED.
* His name was affixed only to four of them.. MAlone.
present; for since the above-mentioned folio edition, all the rest have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the injuries already done him; too much time has elapsed, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharged the dull 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 sense or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will show itself. The various readings are fairly put in the margin, so that every one may compare them; and those I have preferred into the text are constantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions, which Shakspeare himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. suspected passages, which are excessively bad (and which seem interpolations by being so inserted that one can entirely omit them without any chasm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an asterisk referring to the places of their insertion. The scenes are marked so distinctly, that every removal of place is specified; which is more necessary in this author than any other, since he shifts them more frequently; and sometimes without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are distinguished by commas in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a star is prefixed to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less ostentatious method of performing the better half of criticism (namely, the pointing out an au thor's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine passages, with general applauses or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorized; most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them. These editions now hold the place of originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or restore the corrupted sense of the author: I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search
more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakspeare, 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 finished and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more solemn. It must be allowed 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; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, illplaced, and unequal to its grandeur *.
The following passage by Mr. Pope stands as a preface to the various readings at the end of the 8th volume of his edition of Shakspeare, 1728. For the notice of it I am indebted to Mr. Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 261. REED.
"Since the publication of our first edition, there having been some attempts upon Shakspeare published by Lewis Theobald, (which he would not communicate during the time wherein that edition was preparing for the press, when we, by publick advertisements, did request the assistance of all lovers of this author,) we have inserted, in this impression, as many of 'em as are judg'd of any the least advantage to the poet; the whole amounting to about twenty-five words.
"But to the end every reader may judge for himself, we have annexed a compleat list of the rest; which if he shall think trivial, or erroneous, either in part, or in whole; at worst it can spoil but a half sheet of paper, that chances to be left vacant here. And we purpose for the future, to do the same with respect to any other persons, who either thro' candor or vanity, shall communicate or publish, the least things tending to the illustration of our author. We have here omitted nothing but pointings and mere errors of the press, which I hope the corrector of it has rectify'd; if not, I cou'd wish as accurate an one as Mr. Th. [if he] had been at that trouble, which I desired Mr. Tonson to solicit him to undertake. A. P."
THE attempt to write upon Shakspeare is like going into a large, a spacious, and a splendid dome, through the conveyance of a narrow and obscure entry. A glare of light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at first promised; and a thousand beauties of genius and character, like so many gaudy apartments pouring at once diffuse and throw themselves out to the upon the eye, mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a single view: it is a gay confusion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration; and they must be separated and eyed distinctly, in order to give the proper entertainment.
And as, in great piles of building, some parts are often finished up to hit the taste of the connoisseur; others more negligently put together, to strike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder; some parts are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprise with the vast design and execution of the architect: others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little: so, in Shakspeare, we may find traits that will stand the test of the severest judgment; and strokes as carelessly hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capacities; some descriptions raised to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish you with the compass and elevation of his thought; and others copying nature within so narrow, SO confined a circle, as if the author's talent lay only at drawing in miniature.
In how many points of light must we be obliged to gaze
*This is Mr. Theobald's preface to his second edition in 1740, and was much curtailed by himself after it had been prefixed to the impression in 1733. STEEVENS.