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than lavishly. I fay, I would fain believe they were Friends, tho' the violence and ill-breeding of their Followers and Flatterers were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I would hope that it may be with Parties, both in Wit and State, as with those Monsters defcribed by the Poets; and that their Heads at least may have fomething human, tho' their Bodies and Tails are wild beasts and ferpents.
As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rife to the opinion of Shakespear's want of learning; fo what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the firft Publifhers of his works. In these Editions their ignorance fhines almost in every page; nothing is more common than Altus tertia. Exit omnes, Enter three Witches folus. Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in construction and fpelling: Their very Welsh is falfe. Nothing is more likely than that thofe palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Ariftotle, with others of that grofs kind, fprung from the fame root: it not being at all credible that thefe could be the errors of any man who had the leaft tincture of a school, or the least converfation with fuch as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had fome Latin; which is utterly inconfiftent with mistakes like these. Nay the conftant blunders in proper names of perfons and places, are fuch as muft have proceeded from a man, who had not fo much as read any history, in any language: fo could not be Shakespear's.
I fhall now lay before the reader fome of those almost innumerable Errors, which have rifen from one source, the ignorance of the players, both as his actors, and as his Edi tors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and confidered, I dare to fay that not Shakespear only, but Ariftotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the fame fate, might have appear'd to want sense as well as learning.
It is not certain that any one of his Plays was published by himself. During the time of his Employment in the Theatre, feveral of his pieces were printed feparately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not publish'd by him, is the exceffive carelefness of the
prefs: every page is fo fcandaloufly falfe fpelled, and almoft all the learned or unusual words fo intolerably mangled, that it's plain there either was no Corrector to the prefs at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were fupervised by himfelf, I fhould fancy the two parts of Henry the Fourth, and Midfummer-Night's Dream might have been fo: because I find no other printed with any exactnefs; and (contrary to the reft) there is very little variation in all the fubfequent editions of them. There are extant two Prefaces, to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Creffida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the firft was publish'd without his knowledge or confent, and even before it was acted, fo late as feven or eight years before he died: and that the latter was not printed 'till after his death. The whole number of genuine plays which we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven. And of fome of thefe, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash different from the other: which I fhould fancy was occafion'd by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different Play-houses.
The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his, were first collected) was published by two Players, Heminges and Condell, in 1623, seven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were ftolen and furreptitious, and affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other; for in all refpects else it is far worse than the' Quarto's.
First, because the additions of trifling and bombast pasfages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, fince thofe Quarto's, by the actors, or had ftolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all fland charged upon the Author. He himself complained of this ufage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the Clowns wou'd speak no more than is fet down for them. (A& 3. Sc. 4.) But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet there is no hint of a great number of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found
there. In others, the low fcenes of Mobs, Plebeians and Clowns, are vaftly fhorter than at prefent: And I have seen one in particular (which seems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the Actors names in the margin) where several of those very paffages were added in a written hand, which are fince to be found in the folio,
In the next place, a number of beautiful paffages which are extant in the firft fingle editions, are omitted in this: as it feems, without any other reafon, than their willingness to shorten fome feenes: Thefe men (as it was faid of Proeruftes) either lopping, or stretching an Author, to make him juft fit for their Stage.
This edition is faid to be printed from the Original Copies; I believe they meant those which had lain ever fince the Author's days in the playhouse, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the Quarto's, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the Prompter's Book, or Piecemeal Parts written out for the ufe of the Actors: For in fome places their very * names are thro' carelesness fet down inftead of the Perfonæ Dramatis: And in others the notes of direction to the Property-men for their Moveables, and to the Players for their Entries, are inferted into the Text, thro' the ignorance of the Tranfcribers.
The Plays not having been before fo much as diftinguifl'd by Acts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they play'd them; often where there is no paufe in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the fake of Mufick, Mafques, or Monsters.
Sometimes the scenes are tranfpofed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwife happen, but by their being taken from feparate and piece-meal written parts.
Many verses are omitted entirely, and others tranfpofed; from whence invincible obfcurities have arifen, past the guess
Much Ado about Nothing. A.2. Enter Prince Leonato, Clau dio, and Jack Willon, instead of Balthafar. And in A&t 4. Cowley, and Kemp, confiantly thro” a whole Seine.
Edit. Fol. of 1623, and 1632.
of any commentator to clear up, but just where the acldental glympfe of an old edition enlightens us.
Some Characters were confounded and mix'd, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the Quarto edition of Midfummer-Night's Dream, A&t 5. Shakespear introduces a kind of Mafter of the Revels called Pbilofirate: all whofe part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the fubfequent editions: So alfo in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the Prompter's Books were what they call'd the Original Copies.
From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths of wrong perfons, where the Author now feems chargeable with making them speak out of character: Or fometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing Player, to have the mouthing of fome favourite fpeech himself, would fnatch it from the unworthy lips of an Underling.
Profe from verfe they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.
Having been forced to fay fo much of the Players, I think I ought in juftice to remark, that the Judgment, as well as Condition, of that class of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days, As then the beft Playhouses were Inns and Taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) fo the top of the profeffion were then meer Players, not Gentlemen of the ftage: They were led into the Buttery by the Steward, not plac'd at the Lord's table, or Lady's toilette: and confequently were intirely depriv'd of thofe advantages they now enjoy, in the familiar converfation of our Nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness) with people of the first condition.
From what has been faid, there can be no queftion bụt had Shakespear published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we should not only be certain which are genuine; but thould find in thofe that are, the errors leffened by fome thoufands. If I may judge from all the diftinguishing marks of his ftyle, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched Plays, Perioles, Locrine, Six John
Oldcastle, Yorkfoire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, and London Prodigal, cannot be admitted as his. And Í fhould conjecture of fome of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus) that only fome characters, fingle fcenes, or perhaps a few particular paffages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafion'd fome Plays to be fuppofed Shakespear's was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the Theatre while it was under his administration: and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give Strays to the Lord of the Manor: A mistake, which (one may also observe) it was not for the intereft of the House to remove. Yet the Players themfelves, Heminges and Condell, afterwards did Shakefpear the juftice to reject those eight plays in their edition; tho' they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with fome applaufe; (as we lear from what Ben Johnson fays of Pericles in his Ode on the New Inn.) That Titus Andronicus is one of this clafs I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the fame Author openly express his contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew-Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakespear was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter fort, than for the former, which were equally published in his life-time.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and paffages might no longer reflect upon this great Genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary Additions, Expunctions, Tranfpofitions of scenes and lines, confufion of Characters and Perfons, wrong application of Speeches, corruptions of innumerable Paffages by the Ignorance, and wrong Corrections of 'em again by the Impertinence, of his firft Editors? From one or other of these confiderations, I am verily perfwaded, that the greatest and the groffeft part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to