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TO THE QUARTO EDITION OF THIS PLAY, 1609.
A never Writer to an ever Reader. Newes.
Eternall reader, you have heere a new play, never stal'd with the stage, never clapper-claw'd with the palmes of the vulger, and yet passing full of the palme comicall; for it is a birth of your [r. that] braine, that never under-tooke any thing commi call, vainely and were but the vaine names of commedies changde for the titles of commodities, or of playes for pleas; you should see all those grand censors, that now stile them such vanities, flock to them for the maine grace of their gravities: especially this authors commedies, that are so fram'd to the life, that they serve for the most common commentaries of all the actions of our lives, shewing such a dexteritie and power of witte, that she most displeased with playes, are pleasd with his commedies. And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings, as were never capable of the witte of a commedie, comming by report of them to his representations, have found that witte there, that they never found in them-selves, and have parted better-wittied then they came: feeling an edge of witte set upon them, more then ever they dreamd they had braine to grind it on. So much and such savoured salt of witte is in his commedies, that they seeme (for their height of pleasure) to be borne in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this: and had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you thinke your testerne well bestowd) but for so much worth, as even poore I know to be stuft in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best commedy in Terence or Plautus. And beleeve this, that when hee is gone, and his commedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English inquisition. Take this for a warning, and and at the perill of your pleasures losse, and judgements, refuse not, nor like this the lesse, for not being sullied with the smoaky breath of the multitude; but thanke fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you: since by the grand possessors wills I believe you should have prayd for them [r. it] rather then beene prayd. And so I leave all such to bee prayd for (for the states of their wits healths) that will not praise it. Vale.
In Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of Greece
With wanton Paris sleeps; And that's the quarrel.
And the deep-drawing barks do there disgorge
1 I cannot regard this Prologue (which indeed is wanting in the quarto editions) as the work of Shakspeare; and perhaps the drama before us was not entirely of his construction. It appears to have been unknown to his associates, Hemings and Condell, till after the first folio was almost printed off. On this subject, indeed, (as I learn from Mr. Malone's Emendations and Additions) there seems to have been a play anterior to the present
"Aprel 7, 1599. Lent unto Thomas Downton to lende unto Mr. Deckers, & harey cheattel, in earnest of ther boocke called Troyeles and Creassedaye, the some of iii lb."
"Lent unto harey cheattell, & Mr. Dickers, [Henry Chettle and master Deckar] in pte of payment of their booke called Troyelles&Cresseda, the 16 of Aprell, 1599, xxs."
"Lent unto Mr. Deckers and Mr. Chettel the 26 of maye, 1599, in earnest of a booke called Troylles and Creseda, the some of xxs." Steevens.
2 The princes orgulous,] Orgulous, i. e. proud, disdainful. Orgueilleux, Fr. This word is used in the ancient romance of Richard Cueur de Lyon:
"His atyre was orgulous." Steevens.
Priam's six-gated city, &c.] The names of the gates are here exhibited as in the old copy, for the reason assigned by Dr. Farmer; except in the instance of Antenorides, instead of which the old copy has Antenonydus. The quotation from Lydgate shows that was an error of the printer. Malone.
4 -fulfilling bolts,] To fulfill, in this place, means to fill till there be no room for more. In this sense it is now obsolete. So, in Gower, De Confessione Amantis, Lib. V, fol. 114:
"A lustie maide, a sobre, a meke,
Fulfilled of all unkindship." Steevens.
To be "fulfilled with grace and benediction" is still the language of our liturgy. Blackstone.
5 Sperr up the sons of Troy.] [Old copy-Stirre.] This has been a most miserably mangled passage throughout all the editions; corrupted at once into false concord and false reasoning. Priam's six-gated city stirre up the sons of Troy?—Here's a verb plural governed of a nominative singular. But that is easily remedied. The next question to be asked is, In what sense a city, having six strong gates, and those well barred and boited, can be said to stir up its inhabitants? unless they may be supposed to derive some spirit from the strength of their fortifications. But this could not be the poet's thought He must mean, I take it, that the Greeks had pitched their tents upon the plains before Troy: and that the Trojans were securely barricaded within the walls and gates of their city. This sense my correction restores. sperre, or spar, from the old Teutonic word Speren, signifies to shut up, defend by bars, &c. Theobald.
So, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, Book V, c. 10:
Again, in the romance of The Squhr of Low Degre:
Sperde with manie a dyvers pynne."
And in The Vision of P Plowman, it is said that a blind man "unsparryd his eine." Steevens.
Mr. Theobald informs us that the very names of the gates of Troy have been barbarously demolished by the editors; and a deal of learned dust he makes in setting them right again; much however to Mr. Heath's satisfaction. Indeed the learning is modestly withdrawn from the later editions, and we are quietly instructed to read
"Dardan, and Thymbria, Ilia Scea, Trojan,
But had he looked into the Troy Boke of Lydgate, instead of
"Thereto his cyte | compassed enuyrowne
Now expectation, tickling skittish spirits,
Like, or find fault; do as your pleasures are;
"And in storye | lyke as it is founde,
Lond. Empr. by R. Pinson, 1513, fol. B. II, ch. 11. The Troye Boke was somewhat modernized, and reduced into regular stanzas, about the beginning of the last century, under the name of, The Life and Death of Hector-who fought a Hundred mayne Battailes in opea Field against the Grecians; wherein there were slaine on both Sides Fourteene Hundred and Sixe Thousand, Fourscore and Sixe Men.-Fol. no date. This work Dr. Fuller, and several other criticks, have erroneously quoted as the original; and observe, in consequence, that "if Chaucer's coin were of greater weight for deeper learning, Lydgate's were of a more refined standard for purer language: so that one might mistake him for a modern writer." Farmer.
6 A prologue arm'd,] I come here to speak the prologue, and come in armour; not defying the audience, in confidence of either the author's or actor's abilities, but merely in a character suited to the subject, in a dress of war, before a warlike play.
Johnson. Motteux seems to have borrowed this idea in his Prologue to Farquhar's Twin Rivals:
“With drums and trumpets in this warring age,
"Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts." Steevens. The vaunt is the vanguard, called, in our author's, time the vaunt-guard. Percy.
firstlings-] A scriptural phrase, signifying the first produce or offspring. So, in Genesis, iv, 4: And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock." Steevens.
Priam, king of Troy:
Eneas, } Trojan commanders.
Calchas, a Trojan priest, taking part with the Greeks. Pandarus, uncle to Cressida.
Margarelon, a bastard son of Priam.
Agamemnon, the Grecian general:
Thersites, a deformed and scurrilous Grecian.
Alexander, servant to Cressida.
Servant to Troilus; servant to Paris; servant to Diomedes.
Helen, wife to Menelaus.
Andromache, wife to Hector.
Cassandra, daughter to Priam; a prophetess.
Trojan and Greek soldiers, and attendants.
Troy, and the Grecian camp before it.