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DEDICATION OF THE PLAYERS.
MOST NOBLE AND. INCOMPARABLE PAIRE OF
WILLIAM, Earle of PEMBROKE, &c. Lord Chamberlaine to the
Kings moft Excellent Majestie;
PHILIP, Earle of MONTGOMERY, &c. Gentleman of his
Majesties Bed-chamber. Both Knights of the Most Noble Order of the
Garter, and our fingular good LORDS.
ticular, for the many favors we have received from your L. L. we are falne upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the moft diverse things that can be, feare, and rashnesse; rashneffe in the enterprize, and feare of the successe. For, when we value the places your H. H. sustaine, wee cannot. but know the dignity greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles : and, while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the de.
fence of our dedication. But since your L. L. have been pleased to thinke these trifles something, heretofore ; and have prosequuted both them, and their authour living, with so much favour ; we hope that (they out-living him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will use the same indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any booke choose his patrones, or find them : this hath done both. For fo much were your L. L. likings of the several parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the volume asked to be yours. We have 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, and fellow alive, as was our SHAKSPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed 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 crave our abilities to be considered, my lords. We cannot goe beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach forth milke, creame, fruits, or what they have : and many nations (we have heard) that had not gummes and incense, obtained their requests with a leavened cake. It was no fault to approach 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 servant SHAKSPEARE ; that what delight is in them may be ever your L. L. the reputation his, and the faults ours, if
* Country hands reach forth milk, &c. and many nationsthat had not gummes and incense, obtained their requests with a leavened cake.] This seems to have been one of the commonplaces of dedication in Shakspeare's age. We find it in Morley's Dedication of a Book of Songs to Sir Robert Cecil, 1595 : “I have presumed (says he) to make offer of these fimple con pofi
be committed, by a paire so carefull to shew their gratitude both to the living, and the dead, as is
Your Lordshippes most bounden,
tions of mine, imitating (right honourable) in this the customs of the old world, who wanting incense to offer up to their gods, made shift insteade thereof to honour them with milk.” The fame thought (if I recollect right) is again employed by the players in their dedication of Fletcher's plays, folio 1647.
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS,
there are you numbered, we had rather you were weighed. Especially, when the fate of all bookes depends upon your capacities : and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well ! it is now publique, and you will stand for your priviledges, wee know: to read, and censure. Doe so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a booke, the stationer faies. Then, how odde soever your braines be, or your wisdomes, make your
licence the same, and spare not. Judge your fixe-pen’orth,
? Judge your hxe-pen'orth, &c.] So, in the Induction to Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair : -it shall be lawful for any man to judge his fir-pen'worth, his twelve-pen'worth, fo to his eighteen pence, two shillings, half a crown, to the value of his place; provided always his place get not above his wit. And if he pay for half a dozen, he may censure for all them too, so that he will undertake that they shall be filent. He shall put in for censurers here, as they do for lots at the lottery : marry, if he drop but six-pence at the door, and will censure a crownsworth, it is thought there is no conscience or justice in that.”
Perhaps Old Ben was author of the Players’ Preface, and, in the instance before us, has borrowed from himself. STEEVENS.
your shillings worth, your five shillings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, whatever you doe, buy. Censure will not drive a trade, or make the jacke goe. And though you be a magistrate of wit, and fit on the stage at Black-friars, or the Cockpit, to arraigne plays dailie, know, these playes have had their triall already, and stood out all appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confeffe, worthie to have been wished, that the author himselfe had lived to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not enyie his friends the office of their care and paine, to have collected and published them; and so to have published them, as where 8 (before) you were abused with divers stolne and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious imposters, that exposed them, even those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them: who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, thạt wee have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.9 But it is not our province, who onely gather his workes, and give them you, to praise him. yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, ,
as where] i. e. whereas. MALONE. 9 Probably they had few of his MSS. STEEVENS.