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chroniclers his contemporaries, or that a little ceded him; many original poets of that age, and many tranflators; with effayifts, novellifts, and ftory-mongers in great abundance: every book, in fhort, has been confulted that it was poffible to procure, with which it could be thought he was acquainted, or that feem'd likely to contribute any thing towards his illustration. To what degree they illuftrate him, and in how new a light they fet the character of this great poet himself can never be conceiv'd as it fhould be, 'till these extracts come forth to the publick view, in their just magnitude, and properly digefted: for befides the various paffages that he has either made ufe of or alluded to, many other matters have been selected and will be found in this work, tending all to the same end,—our better knowledge of him and his writings; and one class of them there is, for which we shall perhaps be cenfur'd as being too profufe in them, namely the almoft innumerable examples, drawn from these ancient writers, of words and modes of expreffion which many have thought
he is not always without excufe; and it frequently happens that a weak scene serves to very good purpose, as will be made appear at one time or other. It may be thought that there is one argument ftill unanfwer'd, which has been brought against his acquaintance with the Latin and other languages; and that is,that, had he been fo acquainted, it could not have happen'd but that fome imitations would have crept into his writings, of which certainly there are none: but this argument has been anfwer'd in effect; when it was faid-that his knowledge in these languages was but flender, and his conversation with the writers in them flender too of course: but had it been otherwise, and he as deeply read in them as fome people have thought him, his works (it is probable) had been as little deform'd with imitations as we now fee them: Shakspeare was far above fuch a practice; he had the ftores in himself, and wanted not the affiftance of a foreign hand to dress him up in things of their lending.
peculiar to Shakspeare, and have been too apt to impute to him as a blemish; but the quotations of this clafs do effectually purge him from fuch a charge, which is one reafon of their profufion; though another main inducement to it has been, a defire of fhewing the true force and meaning of the aforefaid unusual words and expreffions; which can no way be better afcertain'd, than by a proper variety of well-chofen examples. Now, to bring this matter home to the fubject for which it has been alledg'd, and upon whofe account this affair is now lay'd before the publick fomewhat before it's time, who is fo fhort-fighted as not to perceive, upon firft reflection, that, without manifeft injuftice, the notes upon this author could not precede the publication of the work we have been defcribing; whofe choiceft materials would unavoidably and certainly have found a place in those notes, and fo been twice retail'd upon the world; a practice which the editor has often condemn'd in others, and could therefore not refolve to be guilty of in himself? By poftponing these notes a while, things will be as they ought: they will then be confin'd to that which is their proper fubject, explanation alone, intermix'd with fome little criticifm; and inftead of long quotations, which would otherwife have appear'd in them, the School of Shakspeare will be referr❜d to occafionally; and one of the many indexes with which this fame School will be provided, will afford an ampler and truer Gloffary than can be made out of any other matter. In the mean while, and 'till fuch time as the whole can be got ready, and their way clear'd for them by publication of the book above-mention'd, the reader will please to take in good part fome few of thefe notes with which he will be pre
fented by and by: they were written at least four years ago, with intention of placing them at the head of the feveral notes that are defign'd for each play; but are now detach'd from their fellows, and made parcel of the Introduction, in compliance with fome friends' opinion; who having given them a perufal, will needs have it, that 'tis expedient the world fhould be made acquainted forthwith-in what fort of reading the poor poet himfelf, and his editor after him, have been unfortunately immers'd.
This difcourfe is run out, we know not how, into greater heap of leaves than was any ways thought of, and has perhaps fatigu'd the reader equally with the penner of it: yet can we not difmifs him, nor lay down our pen, 'till one article more has been enquir'd into, which feems no lefs proper for the difcuffion of this place, than one which we have inferted before, beginning at p. 333; as we there ventur'd to ftand up in the behalf of fome of the quarto's and maintain their authenticity, fo mean we to have the hardinefs here to defend fome certain plays in this collection from the attacks of a number of writers who have thought fit to call in question their genuinenefs: the plays contested are-The Three Parts of Henry VI.; Love's Labour's Loft; The Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus; and the fum of what is brought against them, fo far at least as is hitherto come to knowledge, may be all ultimately refolv'd into the fole opinion of their unworthinefs, exclufive of fome weak furmifes which do not deserve a notice: it is therefore fair and allowable, by all laws of duelling, to oppofe opinion to opinion; which if we can ftrengthen with reasons, and fomething
like proofs, which are totally wanting on the other fide, the laft opinion may chance to carry the day.
To begin then with the first of them, the Henry VI. in three parts. We are quite in the dark as to when the first part was written; but fhould be apt to conjecture, that it was fome confiderable time after the other two; and, perhaps, when those two were re-touch'd, and made a little fitter than they are in their firft draught to rank with the author's other plays which he has fetch'd from our English history: and those two parts, even with all their re-touchings, being ftill much inferior to the other plays of that clafs, he may reasonably be fuppos'd to have underwrit himself on purpose in the firft, that it might the better match with thofe it belong'd to: now that these two plays (the firft draughts of them, at leaft,) are among his early performances, we know certainly from their date; which is further confirm'd by the two concluding lines of his Henry V. fpoken by the Chorus; and (poffibly) it were not going too far, to imagine that they are his fecond attempt in history, and near in time to his original King John, which is also in two parts: and, if this be fo, we may fafely pronounce them his, and even highly worthy of him; it being certain, that there was no English play upon the stage, at that time, which can come at all in competition with them; and this probably it was, which procur'd them the good reception that is mention'd too in the Chorus. The plays we are now speaking of have been inconceiveably mangl'd either in the copy or the prefs, or perhaps both: yet this may be discover'd in them, that the alterations made afterwards
the author are nothing near fo confiderable as those in some other plays; the incidents, the characters, every principal outline in fhort being the fame in both draughts; so that what we shall have occafion to say of the fecond, may, in fome degree, and without much violence, be apply'd alfo to the first and this we presume to say of it;-that, low as it must be fet in comparison with his other plays, it has beauties in it, and grandeurs, of which no other author was capable but Shakspeare only: that extreamly-affecting fcene of the death of young Rutland, that of his father which comes next it, and of Clifford the murtherer of them both; Beaufort's dreadful exit, the exit of King Henry, and a scene of wondrous fimplicity and wondrous tenderness united, in which that Henry is made a speaker, while his last decifive battle is fighting, are as fo many ftamps upon thefe plays; by which his property is mark'd, and himself declar'd the owner of them, beyond controverfy as we think and though we have selected these paffages only, and recommended them to observation, it had been easy to name abundance of others which bear his mark as ftrongly and one circumstance there is that runs through all the three plays, by which he is as furely to be known as by any other that can be thought of; and that is, the prefervation of character: all the perfonages in them are distinctly and truly delineated, and the character given them fuftain'd uniformly throughout; the enormous Richard's particularly, which in the third of these plays is feen rifing towards it's zenith and who fees not the future monster, and acknowledges at the fame time the pen that drew it, in these two lines only, fpoken over a king who lies ftab'd before him,—