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THE FIRST EDITION.
Ir a a presumptuous artist should undertake to remove a supposed defect in the Transfiguration of Raphael, or in the Belvidere Apollo, and in making the attempt should injure one of those invaluable productions of art and genius, I should consider his name as deserving never to be mentioned, or mentioned only with him who set fire to the Temple of Diana. But the works of the poet may be considered in a very different light from those of the painter and the statuary. Shakspeare, inimitable Shakspeare, will remain the subject of admiration as long as taste and literature shall exist, and his writings will be handed down to posterity in their native beauty, although the present attempt to add to his fame should prove entirely abortive. Here, then, is the great difference. If the endeavour to improve the picture or the statue should be unsuccessful, the beauty of the original would be destroyed, and the injury be irreparable. In such a case, let the artist refrain from using the chisel or the pencil: but with the works of the poet no such danger occurs, and the critic need not be afraid of employing his pen; for the original will continue unimpaired, although his own labours should immediately be consigned to oblivion. That Shakspeare is the first of dramatic writers will be denied by few, and I doubt whether it will be denied by any who have really studied his works, and compared the beauties which they contain with the very finest productions either of our own or of former ages. It must, however, be acknowledged, by his warmest admirers, that some defects are to be found in the writings of our immortal bard. The language is not always faultless. Many words and expressions occur which are of so indecent a nature as to render it highly desirable that they should be erased. Of these, the greater part are evidently introduced to gratify the bad taste of the age in which he lived, and the rest may perhaps be ascribed to his own unbridled fancy. But neither the vicious taste of the age, nor the most brilliant effusions of wit, can afford an excuse for profaneness or obscenity; and if these could be obliterated, the transcendent genius of the poet would undoubtedly shine with more unclouded lustre. To banish every thing of this nature from the writings of Shakspeare is the object of the present undertaking. My earnest wish is to render his plays unsullied by any scene, by any speech, or, if possible, by any word that can give pain to the most chaste, or offence to the most religious of his readers. Of the latter kind, the examples are by no means numerous, for the writings of our author are, for the most part, favourable to religion and morality. There are, however, in some of his plays, allusions to Scripture, which are introduced so unnecessarily, and on such trifling occasions, and are expressed with so much levity, as to call imperiously for their erasement. As an example of this kind I may quote a scene in the fifth act of Love's Labour's Lost, in which an allusion is made (very improperly) to one of the most serious and awful passages in the New Testament. I flatter myself that every reader of the FAMILY SHAKSPEARE will be pleased at perceiving that what is so manifestly improper, is not permitted to be seen in it. The most Sacred Word in our language is omitted in several instances, in which it appeared as a mere expletive; and it is changed into the word Heaven, in a still greater number, where the occasion of using it did not appear sufficiently serious to justify its employment.
Nec Deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus,
In the original folio of 1623, the same alteration from the old quartos is made in a great variety of places, and I have followed the folio.
I wish it were in my power to say of indecency as I have said of profaneness, that the examples of it are not very numerous. Unfortunately the reverse is the case. Those persons whose acquaintance with Shakspeare depends on theatrical representations, in which great alterations are made in the plays, can have little idea of the frequent recurrence in the original text, of expressions, which, however they might be tolerated in the sixteenth century, are by no means admissible in the nineteenth. Of these expressions no example can in this place be given, for an obvious reason. I feel it, however, incumbent on me to observe, in behalf of my favourite author, that, in comparison with most of the contemporary poets, and with the dramatists of the seventeenth century, the plays
of Shakspeare are remarkably decent; but it is not sufficient that his defects are trifling in comparison with writers who are highly defective. It certainly is my wish, and it has Deen my study, to exclude from this publication whatever is unfit to be read aloud by a gentleman to a company of ladies. I can hardly imagine a more pleasing occupation for a winter's evening in the country, than for a father to read one of Shakspeare's plays to his family circle. My object is to enable him to do so without incurring the danger of falling unawares among words and expressions which are of such a nature as to raise a blush on the cheek of modesty, or render it necessary for the reader to pause, and examine the sequel, before he proceeds further in the entertainment of the evening.
But though many erasures have for this purpose been made in the writings of Shakspeare in the present edition, the reader may be assured that not a single line, nor even the half of a line, has, in any one instance, been added to the original text. I know the force of Shakspeare, and the weakness of my own pen, too well, to think of attempting the smallest interpolation. In a few, but in very few instances, one or two words (at the most three) have been inserted to connect the sense of what follows the passage that is expunged with that which precedes it. The few words which are thus added, are connecting particles, words of little moment, and in no degree affecting the meaning of the author, or the story of the play. A word that is less objectionable is sometimes substituted for a synonymous word that is improper.
In the following work I have copied the text of the last Edition of the late Mr. Steevens. This I have done so scrupulously, as seldom to have allowed myself to alter either the words or the punctuation. Othello's speech, for example, in the second scene of the fifth act, will be found as it is in Mr. Steevens, and in the old editions of Shakspeare, not as it is usually spoken on the stage. In a few instances I have deviated from Mr. Steevens, in compliance with the original folio of 1623. I do not presume to enter into any critical disputes as to certain readings of " Judean or Indian," "Sables or Sable," or any thing of that nature, respecting which many persons of superior abilities have entertained contrary opinions. The glossary (but nothing except the glossary) is borrowed from the edition of 1803. It was compiled by Mr. Harris, under the direction of Mr. Steevens. My great objects in this undertaking are to remove from the writings of Shakspeare some defects which diminish their value, and at the same time to present to the Public an edition of his plays, which the parent, the guardian, and the instructor of youth may place, without fear, in the hands of the pupil; and from which the pupil may derive instruction as well as pleasure; may improve his moral principles while he refines his taste; and, without incurring the danger of being hurt with any indelicacy of expression, may learn in the fate of Macbeth, that even a kingdom is dearly purchased, if virtue be the price of the acquisition.
My first idea of the FAMILY SHAKSPEARE arose from the recollection of my father's custom of reading In this manner to his family. Shakspeare (with whom no person was better acquainted) was a frequent subject of the evening's entertainment. In the perfection of reading few men were equal to my father; and such was his good taste, his delicacy, and his prompt discretion, that his family listened with delight to Lear, Hamlet, and Othello, without knowing that those matchless tragedies contained words and expressions improper to be pronounced; and without having reason to suspect that any parts of the plays had been omitted by the circumspect and judicious reader.
It afterwards occurred to me, that what my father did so readily and successfully for his family, my inferior abilities might, with the assistance of time and mature consideration, be able to accomplish for the benefit of the public. I say, therefore, that if "The Family Shakspeare" is entitled to any merit, it originates with my father.
Other Spirits attending on Prospero.
GONZALO, an honest old Counsellor of Naples.
CALIBAN, a savage and deformed Slave.
STEPHANO, a drunken Butler.
Master of a Ship, Boatswain, and Mariners.
SCENE, the Sea, with a Ship; afterwards an uninhabited Island.
SCENE I.-On a Ship at Sea.
A storm with thunder and lightning.
Enter a Ship-master and a Boatswain. Master. Boatswain,
Boats. Here, master: what cheer? Master. Good: Speak to the mariners: fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir. [Exit.
Gon. Good; yet remember whom thou hast aboard.
Boats. None that I more love than myself. You are a counsellor; if you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present2, we will not hand a rope more; use your authority. If you cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap. - Cheerly, good hearts. - Out of our way, I say. [Erit.
Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow; his complexion is perfect gallows. methinks, he hath no drowning mark upon him! Stand fast, good fate, to his hanging; make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage! If he be not born to be hanged, our case is miserable. [Exeunt.
Boats. Down with the topmast; yare; lower, lower; bring her to try with main course. A cry within.] A plague upon this howling! they are louder than the weather, or our office
Re-enter SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, and GONZALO. and drown? Have you a mind to sink? Yet again? what do you here? Shall we give o'er
Seb. A plague o' your throat! you bawling, blasphemous, uncharitable dog!
2 Present instant.