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ROMEO and Juliet was first printed in the year 1597, under the following titlo :-"An excellent conceited Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants." This edition, a copy of which is of great rarity and value, was reprinted by Steevens, in his collection of twenty of the plays of Shakspere.
The second edition of Romeo and Juliet was printed in 1599, under the following title :-"The most excellent and lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Juliet. Newly corrected, augmented, and amended: As it hath bene sundry times publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants." This edition is also rare; but we have had the advantage of using a copy in the British Museum.
The subsequent original editions are,- an undated quarto; a quarto in 1607; a quarto in 1609, which has also been reprinted by Steevens; and the folio of 1623. All these editions are founded upon the quarto of 1599, from which they differ very slightly.
We have taken the folio of 1623 as the basis of our text, indicating the differences between that text and the quartos subsequent to that of 1597, whenever any occur. But we have not attempted to make up a text, as was done by Pope, and subsequently by Steevens, out of the amended quarto of 1599 and the original of 1597. In some instances, indeed, the quarto of 1597 is of importance in the formation of a text, for the correction of typographical errors, which have run through the subsequent editions. Wherever our text differs from that commonly received, we state the difference and the reasons for that difference. Our general reasons for founding the text upon the folio of 1623 which is, in truth, to found it upon the quarto of 1599, are as follows::
The quarto of 1599 was declared to be "Newly corrected, augmented, and amended." There can be no doubt whatever that the corrections, augmentations, and emendations were those of the author. There are typographical errors in this edition, and in all the editions, and occasional confusions of the metrical arrangement, which render it more than probable that Shakspere did not see the proofs of his printed works. But that the copy, both of the first edition and of the second, was derived from him, is, to our minds, perfectly certain. We know of nothing in literary history more curious or more instructive than the example of minute attention, as well as consummate skill, ushibited by Shakspere in correcting, augmenting, and amending the first copy of this play. We would ask, then, upon what canon of criticism can an editor be justified in foisting into a copy PASEDIES. VOL. I. B 2
so corrected, passages of the original copy, which the matured judgment of the author had rejected? Essentially the question ought not to be determined by any arbitrement whatever other than the judgment of the author. Even if his corrections did not appear, in every case, to be improvements, we should be still bound to receive them with respect and deference. We would not, indeed, attempt to establish it as a rule implicitly to be followed, that an author's last corrections are to be invariably adopted; for, as in the case of Cowper's Homer, and Tasso's Jerusalem, the corrections which these poets made in their first productions, when their faculties were in a great degree clouded and worn out, are properly considered as not entitled to supersede what they produced in brighter and happier hours. Mr. Southey has admirably stated the reason for this in the advertisement to his edition of Cowper's Homer. But in the case of Shakspere's Romeo and Juliet, the corrections and augmentations were made by him at that epoch of his life when he exhibited "all the graces and facilities of a genius in full possession and habitual exercise of power.' The augmentations, with one or two very trifling exceptions, are amongst the most masterly passages in the whole play, and include many of the lines that are invariably turned to, as some of the highest examples of poetical beauty. These augmentations, further, are so large in their amount, that, in Steevens' reprint, the first edition occupies only seventy-three pages; while the edition of 1609, in the same volume, printed in the same type as the first edition, occupies ninety-nine pages. The corrections are made with such exceeding judgment, such marvellous tact, that of themselves they completely overthrow the theory, so long submitted to, that Shakspere wna a careless writer. Such being the case, we consider ourselves justified in treating the labour of Steevens and other editors, in making a patchwork text out of the author's first and second copies, as utterly worthless. We most readily acknowledge our own particular obligations to them; for, unless they had collected a great mass of materials, no modern edition could have been properly undertaken. In attempting to settle the CHRONOLOGY of Shakspore's plays, there are, as in every other case of iterary history, two species of evidence to be regarded the extrinsic and the intrinsic. Of the former pecies of evidence we have the one important fact that a Romeo and Juliet by Shakspere, however wanting in the completeness of the Romeo and Juliet which we now possess, was published in 1597. The enumeration of this play, therefore, in the list by Francis Meres, in 1598, adds nothing to our previous information. In the same manner, the mention of this play by Marston, in his tenth satire, first published in 1599, only shows us how popular it was :
Luscus, what's play'd to-day? i'faith, now I know;
I see thy lips abroach, from whence doth flow
The "corrected, amended, and augmented" copy of Romeo and Juliet was printed in 1599; and as Marston's tenth satire did not appear in his "Three Books of Satires," first printed in 1598, it is by no means improbable that his mention of the play referred to the improved copy which was in that year being acted by "The Lord Chamberlain his servants." We might here dismiss the extrinsic evidence; but Malone thinks, contrary to his original opinion of the date of the play, that the statement in the title-page of the original quarto, "that it had been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely by the right honourable Lord Hunsdon his servants," decides that it was first played in 1596. His reasons are these:-Henry Lord Hunsdon, and George Lord Hunsdon, his son, each filled the office of Lord Chamberlain under Elizabeth. Henry, the father, died on the 22nd July, 1596. Shakspere's company, during the life of this lord, were called the "Lord Chamberlain's men;" but, according to Malone, they bore this designation, not as being attached to the Lord Chamberlain officially, but as the servants of Lord Huusdon, whose title, as a nobleman, was merged in that of his office. Hunsdon was not appointed Lord Chamberlain till April, 1597; and in the interval after the death of his father his company of comedians were not the Lord Chamberlain's servants, but Lord Hunsdon's servants. This, no doubt, is decisive as to the play being performed before George Lord Hunsdon; but it is not in any degree decisive as to the play not having been performed without the advantage of this nobleman's patronage. The first date of the printing of any play of Shakspere goes a very short way to determine the date of its theatrical production. We are very much in the dark as to the mode in which a play passed from one form of publication.
⚫ Coleridge's Literary Romains.
that of the theatre, into another form of publication, that of the press. It is no evidence, therefore, to our minds, that, because the Romeo and Juliet first printed in 1597 is stated to have been publicly acted by the Lord Hunsdon his servants, it was not publicly acted long before, under circumstances that would appear less attractive in the bookseller's title-page.
Of the positive intrinsic evidence of the date of Romeo and Juliet, the play, as it appears to us, only furnishes one passage. The Nurse, describing the time when Juliet was weaned, says,
was for the audience. The poet had to exhibit the minuteness with which unlettered people, and old people in particular, establish a date, by reference to some circumstance which has made a particular impression upon their imagination; but in this case he chose a circumstance which would be familiar to his audience, and would have produced a corresponding impression upon themselves. Tyrwhitt was the first to point out that this passage had, in all probability, a reference to the great earthquake which happened in England in 1580. Stow has described this earthquake minutely in his Chronicle, and so has Holinshed. "On the 6th of April, 1580, being Wednesday in Easter week, about six o'clock toward evening, a sudden earthquake happening in London, and almost generally throughout all England, caused such an amazedness among the people as was wonderful for the time, and caused them to make their earnest prayers to Almighty God!" The circumstances attendant upon this earthquake show that the remembrance of it would not have easily passed away from the minds of the people. The great clock in the palace at Westminster, and divers other clocks and bells, struck of themselves against the hammers with the shaking of the earth. The lawyers supping in the Temple " ran from the tables, and out of their halls, with their knives in their hands." The people assembled at the theatres rushed forth into the fields lest the galleries should fall. The roof of Christ Church near to Newgate-market was so shaken, that a large stone dropped out of it, killing one person, and mortally wounding another, it being sermon-time. Chimneys toppled down, houses were shattered. Shakspere, therefore, could not have mentioned an earthquake with the minuteness of the passage in the Nurse's speech without immediately calling up some associations in the minds of his audience. He knew the double world in which an excited audience lives,--the half belief in the world of poetry amongst which they are placed during a theatrical representation, and the half consciousness of the external world of their ordinary life. The ready disposition of every audience to make a transition from the scene before them to the scene in which they ordinarily move, to assimilate what is shadowy and distant with what is distinct and at hand, is perfectly well known to all who are acquainted with the machinery of the drama. Actors seize upon the principle to perpetrate the grossest violations of good taste; and authors who write for present applause invariably do the same when they offer us, in their dialogue, a passing allusion, which is technically called a clap-trap. In the case before us, even if Shakspere had not this principle in view, the association of the English earthquake must have been strongly in his mind when he made the Nurse date from an earthquake. Without reference to the circumstance of Juliet's age,
"Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas-eve at night, shall she be fourteen; '
he would naturally, dating from the earthquake, have made the date refer to the period of his
writing the passage instead of the period of Juliet's being weaned :-" Then she could stand alone." But, according to the Nurse's chronology, Juliet had not arrived at that epoch in the lives of children till she was three years old. The very contradiction shows that Shakspere had another object in view than that of making the Nurse's chronology tally with the age of her nursling. Had he
"Tis since the earthquake now just thirteen years,"
we should not have been so ready to believe that Romeo and Juliet was written in 1593; but as he has written
"'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years,"
in defiance of a very obvious calculation on the part of the Nurse, we have no doubt that he wrote the passage eleven years after the earthquake of 1580, and that the passage being also meant to fix the attention of an audience, the play was produced, as well as written, in 1591.
Reasoning such as this would, we acknowledge, be very weak if it were unsupported by evidence deduced from the general character of the performance, with reference to the maturity of the author's powers. But, taken in connexion with that evidence, it becomes important. Now, we have no hesitation in believing, although it would be exceedingly difficult to communicate the grounds of our belief fully to our readers, that the alterations made by Shakspere upon his first copy of Romeo and Juliet, as printed in 1597 (which alterations are shown in his second copy as printed in 1599), exhibit differences as to the quality of his mind-differences in judgment-differences in the cast of thought -differences in poetical power-which cannot be accounted for by the growth of his mind during two years only. If the first Romeo and Juliet were produced in 1591, and the second in 1599, we have an interval of eight years, in which some of his most finished works had been given to the world. During this period his richness, as well as his sweetness, had been developed; and it is this development which is so remarkable in the superadded passages in Romeo and Juliet. We almost fancy that the Queen Mab" speech will of itself furnish an example of what we mean.
"Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,
Made by the joiner Squirrel, or old Grub,
These lines are not in the first copy; but how beautifully they fit in after the description of the spokes the cover-the traces-the collars-the whip-and the waggoner; while, in their peculiarly rich and picturesque effect, they stand out before all the rest of the passage. Then, the "I have seen the day-* * 't is gone, 't is gone, 't is gone," of old Capulet, seems to speak more of the middleaged than of the youthful poet, of whom all the passages by which it is surrounded are characteristic. Again, the lines in the friar's soliloquy, beginning
"The earth, that 's nature's mother, is her tomb,"
look like the work of one who had been reading and thinking more deeply of nature's mysteries than in his first delineation of the benevolent philosophy of this good old man. But, as we advance in the play, the development of the writer's powers is more and more displayed in his additions. The examples are far too numerous for us to particularize many of them. The critical reader may trace what has been added by our foot-notes. We would especially direct attention to the soliloquy of Juliet in the fifth Scene of Act II.;-to her soliloquy, also, in the second Scene of Act III.;-and to her great soliloquy, before taking the draught, in the fourth Act. We have given this last passage as it stood in the original copy; and we confidently believe that whoever peruses it with attention will entertain little doubt that the original sketch was the work of a much younger man than the perfect composition which we now possess. The whole of the magnificent speech of Romeo in the tomb may be said to be re-written and it produces in us precisely the same impression, that it was the work of a genius much more mature than that which is exhibited in the original copy.
Tieck, who, as a translator of Shakspera, and as a profound and beautiful critic, has done very much for cultivating the knowledge, built upon love, which the Germans possess of our poet, has not