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Published according to the True Originall Copies.
(DROESHOUT ENGRAVING HERE.)
LONDON Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed. Blount. 162 3.
and our singular good LORDS. Right Honourable, Whilst we studie to be thankful in our particular, for the many fauors we haue receiued from your L. L. we are falne vpon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can bee, feare, and rashnesse; rashnesse in the enterprize, and feare of the successe. For, when we valew the places your H. H. sustaine, we cannot but know their dignity greater, then to descend to the reading of these trifles: and, while we name them trifles, we haue depriu'd our selues of the defence of our Dedication. But since your L. L. haue beene pleas'd to thinke these trifles some-thing, heeretofore; and haue prosequuted both them, and their Authour liuing, with so much fauour: we hope, that they out-liuing him, and he not hauing the fate, common with some, to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will vse the like indulgence toward them, you haue done vnto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Booke choose his Patrones, or finde them: This bath done both. For, so much were your L L. likings of the seuerall parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the Volume ask'd to be yours. We haue but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow aliue, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we haue iustly obserued, no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addresse; it hath bin the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the present worthy of your H. H. by the perfection. But, there we must also craue our abilities to be considerd, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach foorth milke, creame, fruites, or what they haue: and many Nations (we haue heard) that had not gummes & incense, obtained their requests with a leauened Cake. It was no fault to approch their Gods, by what meanes they could: And the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples. In that name therefore, we most humbly consecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your seruant SHAKESPEARE; that what delight is in them, may be euer your L. L. the reputation his, & the faults ours, if any be committed, by a payre so carefull to show their gratitude both to the liuing, and the dead, as is
Your Lordshippes most bounden,
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS
From the most able, to him that can but spell: There you are number'd. We had rather you were weighd. Especially, when the fate of all Bookes depends vpon your capacities: and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well ! it is now publique, & you wil stand for your priuiledges wee know: to read, and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a Booke, the Stationer saies. Then, how odde soeuer your braines be, or your wisedomes, make your licence the same, and spare not. Iudge your sixe-pen’orth, your shillings worth, your fiue shillings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the iust rates, and welcome. But, what euer you do, Buy. Censure will not driue a Trade, or make the lacke go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and sit on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie, know, these Playes hane had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, then any purchas'd Letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to haue bene wished, that the Author himselfe had liu'd to baue set forth, and ouerseen his owne writings; But since it hath bin ordain’d otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envie his Friends, the office of their care, and paine, to haue collected & publish'd them; and so to have publish d them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diuerse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious impostors, that expos'd them: euen those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued thể. Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser.of it. His mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he yttered with that easinesse, that wee haue scarse receiued from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and giue them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe : And if then you doe not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to vnderstand him. And so we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your selues, and others. And such Readers we wish him.
TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOUED,
MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE :
what he hath left vs.
To draw no enuy (Shakespeare) on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame: While I confesse thy writings to be such,
As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much. 'T is true, and all mens suffrage. But these wayes
Were not the paths I meant vnto thy praise: For seeliest Ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but eccho's right; Or blinde Affection, which doth ne're aduance
The truth, but gropes, and vrgeth all by chance; Or crafty Malice, might pretend this praise,
And thinke to ruine, where it seem'd to raise. These are, as some infamous Baud, or Whore,
Should praise a Matron. What could hurt her more ? But thou art proofe against them, and indeed
Aboue th' ill fortune of them, or the need. I, therefore will begin. Soule of the Age !
The applause ! delight ! the wonder of our Stage ! My Shakespeare, rise; I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lye A little further, to make thee a roome:
Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe, And art aliue still, while thy Booke doth liue,
And we haue wits to read, and praise to giue. That I not mixe thee so, my braine excuses;
I meane with great, but disproportion’d Muses : For, if I thought my iudgement were of yeeres,
I should commit thee surely with thy peeres,
Or sporting Kid, or Marlowes mighty line.
From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke
Euripides, and Sophocles to vs, Paccuuius, Accius, him of Cordoua dead,
To life againe, to heare thy Buskin tread,
Leaue thee alone, for the comparison
sent forth, or since did from their ashes come. Triúmph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe. He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime, When like Apollo he came forth to warme
Our eares, or like a Mercury to charme ! Nature her selfe was proud of his designes,
And ioy'd to weare the dressing of his lines ! Which were so richly spun, and wouen so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other Wit. The merry Greeke, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please; But antiquated, and deserted lye
As they were not of Natures family. Yet must I not giue Nature all: Thy Art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enioy a part. For though the Poets matter, Nature be,
His Art doth giue the fashion. And, that he, Who casts to write a liuing line, must sweat,
(such as thine are) and strike the second heat V pon the Muses anuile: turne the same,
(And himselfe with it) that he thinkes to frame; Or for the lawrell, he may gaine a scorne,
For a good Poet's made, as well as borne.
Liues in his issue, euen so, the race
In his well torned, and true-filed lines:
As brandish't at the eyes of Ignorance.
To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
That so did take Eliza, and our Iames !
Aduanc'd, and made a Constellation there! Shine forth, thou Starre of Poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheere the drooping Stage; Which, since thy flight frõ hence, hath mourn'd like night, And despaires day, but for thy Volumes light.