« PreviousContinue »
lain ever fince the author's days in the play-house, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the quartos, was printed (at leaft partly) from no better copies than the prompter's book, or piece-meal parts written out for the ufe of the actors: for in fome places their very 5 names are through carelessnefs fet down inftead of the Perfonæ Dramatis ; and in others the notes of direction to the propertymen for their moveables, and to the players for their entries, are inferted into the text through the ignorance of the tranfcribers.
The plays not having been before fo much as diftinguished by Acts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they played them; often when there is no pause in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the fake of mufick, mafques, or monfters.
Sometimes the scenes are tranfposed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwife happen, but by their being taken from separate and piece-meal written parts.
Many verfes are omitted entirely, and others tranfpofed; from whence invincible obfcurities have arifen, past the guess of any commentator to clear up, but juft where the accidental glimpse of an old edition enlightens us.
5 Much Ado about Nothing, A&t II: "Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilfon," inftead of Balthafar. And in A& IV. Cowley and Kemp conftantly through a whole scene. Edit. fol. of 1623, and 1632. POPE.
• Such as
My queen is murder'd! Ring the little bell."
His nofe grew as fharp as a pen, and a table of green fields;" which laft words are not in the quarto. POPE.
There is no fuch line in any play of Shakspeare, as that quoted above by Mr. Pope. MALONE.
Some characters were confounded and mixed, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the quarto edition of Midfummer-Night's Dream, Act V. Shakspeare introduces a kind of master of the revels called Philofirate; all whofe part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the fubfequent editions: fo alfo in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the prompter's books were what they called the original copies.
From liberties of this kind, many fpeeches alfo were put into the mouths of wrong perfons, where the author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character: or fometimes perhaps for no better reason, 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 justice to remark, that the judgment, as well as condition of that clafs of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best play-houses were inns and taverns, (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) fo the top of the profeffion were then mere players, not gentlemen of the stage: they were led into the buttery by the steward ;7 not placed at the lord's
7 Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, fpoken by a Lord, who is giving directions to his fervant concerning fome players:
"Go, firrah, take them to the buttery,
"And give them friendly welcome, every one." But he seems not to have obferved that the players here introduced were ftrollers; and there is no reafon to fuppofe that
table, or lady's toilette: and confequently were entirely deprived of those advantages they now enjoy in the familiar conversation of our nobility, and an intimacy (not to fay dearnefs) with people of the firft condition.
From what has been faid, there can be no queftion but had Shakspeare published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we fhould not only be certain which are genuine, but fhould find in those that are, the errors leffened by fome thoufands. If I may judge from all the diftinguifhing marks of his ftyle, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that thofe wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, London Prodigal, and a thing called The Double Falfhood," cannot be admitted as his. And I fhould conjecture of some of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, Comedy of Errors, 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 Shakspeare's, was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre while it was under his adminiftration; and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give ftrays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may alfo obferve) it was not for the intereft
the house to remove. Yet the players them
our author, Heminge, Burbage, Lowin, &c. who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner. MALONE.
7 The Double Falfhood, or The Diftreffed Lovers, a play, acted at Drury Lane, 8vo. 1727. This piece was produced by Mr. Theobald as a performance of Shakspeare's. See Dr. Farmer's Efay on the Learning of Shakspeare, Vol. II. REED.
felves, Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakspeare the juftice to reject thofe eight plays in their edition; though they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with fome applause (as we learned from what Ben Jonfon 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 exprefs 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 thefe latter fort, than for the former, which were equally published in his lifetime.
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 those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary additions, expunctions, tranfpofitions of fcenes and lines, confufion of characters and perfons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable paffages by the ignorance, and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence of his first 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 vanish, 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 Shakspeare's writings lie at present; for fince the above-mentioned folio edition, all the reft have implicitly followed it,
8 His name was affixed only to four of them. MALONE.
without having recourfe to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impoffible to repair the injuries already done him; too much time has elapfed, 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 discharged the dull duty of an editor, to my beft 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 those I have preferred into the text are conftantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions, which Shakspeare himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some fufpected paffages, which are exceffively bad (and which feem interpolations by being fo inferted that one can entirely omit them without any chaẩm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an afterifk referring to the places of their infertion. The scenes are marked fo diftinctly, that every removal of place is fpecified; 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 unusual words are explained. Some of the moft fhining paffages are diftinguifhed by commas in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a ftar is prefixed to the fcene. This feems to me a fhorter and lefs oftentatious method of performing the better half of criticism (namely, the pointing out