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haue prosequuted both them, and their Author liuing, vvith jo 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, jou haue done unto their parent. There is a great difference, vvhether any Booke choose his Patrones, or finde them; This hath done both. For, so much were your L L. likings of the seuerall parts, vvhen they were acted, as before they vvere 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 ; vvithout ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame : onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, G Fellow aliue, as was our SHAKE S P E AR E, 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 vvith a kind of religious addresse; it hath bin the height of our care, vvho 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 confiderd, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach foorth milke, creame, fruites, or what they haue : and
Nations (we haue heard) that had not gummes & incense, obtained their requests with a leauened Cake. It vvas 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 Mew their gratitude both to the liuing, and the dead, as is
Your Lordshippes most bounden,
To the great Variety of Readers.
Rom 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 firit. 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 fixe-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 Iacke 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 haue 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 thinge, we confesse, worthie to haue bene wished, that the Author himselfe had liu'd to haue set forth, and ouerseen his owne writings; But since it hath bin ordaind 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 haue publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus’d with diurte 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 them. 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 vttered with that easinesse, that wee haue (carce
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, 10 to your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw,
, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it couid be loft. 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, the AVTHOR MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE:
pany o draw no enuy .(Shakespeare) on thy name ,
Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame :
While I confese thy writings to be such, As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too mu 'Tis true, and all mens suffrage.
But these wayes
Which, when it sounds at best, but eccho's right;
The truth, but gropes, and vrgeth all by chance ; Or crafty Malice, might pretend this praise,
And thinke to ruine, where it seemed to raise. These are, as some infamous Baud, or Whore,
Should praise a Matron. What could hurt her more ?
Aboue th’ill fortune of them, or the need
The applause! delight! the wonder of our Stage !
Chaucer, or Spenter, or bid Beaumont lye A little further, to make thee a roome :
Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe, And art aliue ftill, 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 :
I should commit thee surely with thy peeres,
And though thou hadft small Latine, and lesse Greeke,
From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke For names; but call forth thund'ring Æschilus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
To life againe, to beare thy Buskin tread,
Leaue thee alone, for the comparison
sent forth, or fince did from their ashes come. Triumph, my Britaine. thou hast one to Mowe,
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 ber felfe was proud of bis defignes,
And ioy'd to weare the dressing of his lines ! Which were so richly spun, and wouen fo fit,
As, fince, Me will vouchsafe no other Wit . The
merry Greeke, tart Aristophanes, Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please ; But antiquated, and deferted 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 isue , 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,