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-Here the word "on" serves for "justice on," and "hand on." The third is :—
"This most constant wife; who, even now,
-In the last passage "were" is governed by "who," the relative to "wife;" but "who" serves a double purpose in the sentence, representing the person addressed (Posthumus), and the person referred to (Imogen). This mode of making one word do double service (in sense, if not in strict grammar) is among the poetical licences used with his own felicitous daring by Shakespeare. Such construction-conveying condensedly the spirit and sense of a meaning, rather than expressing it according to correct rule, we feel to be preferable to mere grammatical nicety and accuracy; although only in such a master-hand as Shakespeare's is it safe. The way in which that passage has passed unchallenged by the critics aptest to stickle for constructional precision, attests its right to stand on its own ground of superior law in diction.
A kind of era in Shakespearian literature occurred in the year 1852, from the publication of a volume by Mr J. Payne Collier, containing an account of a copy of the 1632 Folio of Shakespeare, which exhibited numerous manuscript emendations and corrections. The majority of these were then given to the world; thus affording an opportunity for passing judgment on their merit, and accepting or rejecting them accordingly. It were reasonable to expect that this Manuscript Corrector's suggestions might have been received with at least the sufferance and quiet examination that other conjectural emendations have met with from time to time; but the appearance of this volume was a signal for scorn and virulence the most disgraceful, not merely heaped upon the nameless Corrector himself, but upon his introducer. Surely, even had the proposed readings been pronounced erroneous, they were entitled to that amount of respect which any attempt to ascertain the exact text of the poet may claim; and which he himself set the example of according to the most wrong-headed absurdities belonging to mankind, purely on that simple ground of brotherhood and human fallibility. No
mortal folly that Shakespeare has playfully dealt with, contains more ludicrous points than the exhibitions of rancour and intolerance among his various partizans; their dogmatical decisions and venomous attacks, their violent assertions of "undoubted,” “unquestionable," "irrefragable,” and "indisputable" upon questions, touching which they themselves are perpetually disputing with the most unseemly heat, or even retracting with the most amusing coolness, would have drawn a smile from none more surely than the great object himself of all their hubbub. Had the unfortunate MS. Corrector robbed an orchard or an orphan he could scarcely have been more contemptuously or more roughly treated than he was by the Shakespearian beadles. Nevertheless, they adopted some of his proposed emendations; and a more temperate consideration of his claims to attention has succeeded to the first opposition. One or two of his corrections find place in the present edition. These, and some from other sources, the scope of our appointed course affords no opportunity to particularize; but we are bound to name those emendations which originate with ourselves; and as the absence of notes precludes our giving reasons at length for inserting them, we must entreat our readers' belief that we have done so only upon carefullest and faithfullest consideration. These are the instances alluded to, wherein we have ventured to print what appeared to us needful corrections:Dromio, thou Dronio;" for "Dromio, thou Dromio," (altered in some editions, to "thou drone,") Com. of E. ii. 2.— "Make friends invited;" for "Make friends invite," Tam. of Sh. iii. 2.—The speech in Act iv. Sc. 2 of "Love's L. L.," hitherto given in all editions to Jaquenetta, and which (in her mouth) has puzzled the commentators from its presenting a direct contradiction to her previous one, (stating that the letter is from Don Armado,) has now been assigned to Sir Nathaniel; who,-having just read the letter, and seen the signature it contains, takes the answer out of her mouth, saying "Ay, Sir, from one Monsieur Biron, one of the strange queen's lords." Holofernes corrects him for this mistake in the next speech:-" Sir Nathaniel, this Biron is one of the votaries with the king;"-thereby showing who it is that has made the wrong assertion.-In the opening scene of
"Romeo and Juliet," Citizens has been placed as a prefix, instead of First Cit., to the speech commencing "Clubs, bills, and partizans!" which seems to be a collection of exclamations uttered by several persons, rather than the words of one person. In the same play (Act i. Sc. 5) the entrances and several prefixes of the various servants have been somewhat differently arranged from the ordinary method, which has been confessed to be unsatisfactory.-In the last scene of "Antony and Cleopatra" the stage directions have been remodelled with an attempt at supplying a clearer idea of the disposal, situation, and procedure in the monument, than has till now been given; and there is the less scruple in making this alteration, since the stage directions are modern additions founded upon Plutarch's account of the incidents which take place in that scene.
Among the particular punctuations which we have adopted in variance with other Editors' views of certain passages, one may be cited, where Bellario says (Cymb. v. 5), “We will die all three but I will prove," &c. Most Editors print a colon after "three:" whereas we take the phrase to be an idiom, in which "but I will" is equivalent to "if I do not." The words, too, in Lear v. 3, "Nor no man else," which are usually somewhat linked to what follows by a shorter stop, we put a period to, by a full stop and dash; assuming them to be a following up of Kent's previous attempt to explain to his old master his identity. "I am the very man, that from your first of difference and decay, have followed your sad steps,nor no man else."-The irrelevant interruptions of the wandering-minded old king, the perseverance of his faithful follower, with at length his despairing ejaculation when he ceases" All's cheerless, dark, and deadly," strike us as the true version of the passage; and not that "Nor no man else" is a rejoinder to Lear's vacant "You are welcome hither," as some have explained it.
The orthography of certain proper names and foreign words occurring in the text has been retained in accordance with the mode of spelling them in the original editions. For instance "Petruchio" has been retained, instead of altering it to Petruccio; which would be the true Italian spelling, and not Petrucio, as those modern Editors print it, who wish to
correct the old form of the word. But Shakespeare Englished the hero's name for his own purpose, as he did that of the heroine, Katharina; which, in Italian spelling, would be Catarina. Consistently, therefore, "honorato," instead of "onorato," "coragio," instead of "coraggio," and other similar words, have been preserved in the form which Shakespeare used, possibly for the sake of rendering, them more intelligible to the actors who were to commit them to memory and pronounce them.
The First Folio has been of course adopted as the main guide in ascertaining the text for the present edition; but though used as a guide, it is not to be followed implicitly, still less exclusively. It contains so many instances of evident errors in transcription and printing, together with so many cases of curtailment for mere stage purposes, that the early Quarto copies are of almost incalculable advantage in verifying and fully establishing the text where they exist; of such plays, for example, as " Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” "Lear," and others. In the last-named tragedy, were it not for the Quarto copy, we should have lost a large portion of those vigorous things in the second scene of the fourth Act between the indignant Albany and his tiger-natured wife; also, the whole of that beautiful following scene, between Kent and a gentleman, descriptive of Cordelia's receiving the news of her father's ill-treatment by her sisters, is wanting in the Folio. The manager Shakespeare might have cut them out, (if his own doing at all,) not the author Shakespeare. For acting, they might be too long; but for reading, they are inestimable, as completing the dramatic (dramatic, not theatric) art and beauty of the production. The time may come, when every reader of Shakespeare will be, to a certain extent, his own editor; and the difficulties arising out of the early and original copies almost demand this: meantime, the best thing that an appointed Editor can do, is honestly and conscientiously to set forth the text according to his own belief of what it is, as gathered from such (in many respects imperfect) materials as exist to found it upon. To ascertain, is in some points impossible; the utmost that can be done, is earnestly to examine and weigh,-and then decide as nearly accurately as judgment will enable. The immense difficulty
of making up one's mind upon disputed passages,-where frequently so much is to be said on both sides of the question, and where such cogent arguments arise in favour of each different reading,-can only be estimated by those who undertake the task of decision. This difficulty amounts in some cases to the actual retaining of what has been formerly rejected, or rejecting what has been formerly retained; for frequently, that which has struck the mind as bearing an opposite sense, an incompatible sense, or even no sense at all, at one time of consideration, will, at another period, assume a consistent and perfectly distinct meaning, and will therefore be ultimately adopted in preference to the sentence previously taken. As a single instance of what we mean, we would refer to the word "love-feat" in Love's L. L., v. 2; for which we at one time substituted the suggested alteration of "lovesuit;" but now we perceive the congruity of the term "feat," with the preceding line:
"Their purpose is, to parle, to court, and dance;"
and, accordingly, we retain the original Folio expression, "love-feat."
These anxious deliberations, these conscientious cares on the part of Editors in selecting what they conceive to be the genuine Shakespearian reading in disputed passages,—leading to occasional variance even in their own individual opinions, and to differing actually with themselves,-ought surely to teach diffidence in maintaining their own decisions, and temperance in censuring those of others. Let ShakespeareEditors but take to heart what is taught in every page of the great master they serve, and they will become more and more worthy to be his ushers and exponents.
To read Shakespeare's works even superficially, is entertainment; to linger over them lovingly and admiringly, is enjoyment; to study them profoundly, is wisdom moral and intellectual.