« ПредишнаНапред »
ftage) we fhould not only be certain which are genuine, but fhould find in thofe that are, the errors leffened by fome thousands. If I may judge from all the diftinguifhing marks of his ftyle, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, London Prodigal, and a thing called The Double Falfhood, cannot be admitted as his. And I fhould conjecture of fome of the others, (par ticularly Love's Labour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus,) that only fome characters fingle fcenes, or perhaps a few particular paffages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafioned fome plays to be fuppofed Shakspeare'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 ftrays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may alfo obferve) it was not for the intereft of the house to remove. Yet the players themselves, Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakfpeare the juftice to reject thofe eight plays in their edition; though they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with fome applaufe (as we learned from what Ben Jonfon 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 Shakspeare was yet liv
6 His name was affixed only to four of them. MALONE,
ing. And there is no better authority for thefe 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 thofe which are really his, how many faults may have been unjuftly laid to his account from arbitrary additions, expunctions, tranfpofitions of fcenes and lines, confufion of characters and perfons, wrong application of fpeeches, corruptions of innumerable paffages by the ignorance and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence of his firft editors? From one or other of thefe confiderations, I am verily perfuaded, that the greateft and the groffeft part of what are thought his errors would vanifh, and leave his character in a light very different from that difadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.
This is the ftate in which Shakspeare's writings lie at prefent; for fince the above-mentioned folio edition, all the reft have implicitly followed it, with out having recourfe to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impoffible to repair the injuries already done him; too much time has elapfed, and the materials are toa few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and defire, than of my ability, to do him juftice. I have discharged the dull duty of an editor, to my beft judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all innovation, and without any indulgence to my private fenfe or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will fhew itself.
readings are fairly put in the margin, fo that every one may compare them; and thofe I have preferred into the text are conftantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions, which Shakfpeare himself made, are taken notice of as they ocSome fufpected paffages, which are exceffively bad (and which feem interpolations by being fo inferted that one can entirely omit them without any chaft, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an afterisk referring to the places of their infertion. The fcenes are marked fo diftinctly, that every removal of place is fpecified; which is more neceflary in this author than any other, fince he fhifts them more frequently; and fometimes without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obfcu rities. The more obfolete or unufual words are explained. Some of the moft fhining paffages are diftinguifhed by commas in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a ftar is prefixed to the fcene. This feems to me a fhorter and lefs oftentatious method of performing the better half of criticifm (namely, the pointing out an author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine paffages, with general applaufes, or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is alfo fubjoined a catalogue of thofe first editions, by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected paffages are authorized; moft of which are fuch as carry their own evidence along with them. These editions now hold the place of originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or reflore the corrupted fenfe of the author: I can only
wifh that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever publifhed) may yet be found, by a fearch more fuccefsful than mine, for the better accomplifhment of this end.
I will conclude by faying of Shakspeare, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of thofe that are more finifhed and regular, as upon an ancient majeftick piece of Gothick architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more ftrong and more folemn. It must be allowed that in one of thefe there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much. the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth paffages. Nor does the whole fail to ftrike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur,
HE attempt to write upon SHAKSPEARE is like going into a large, a fpacious, and a splendid dome, through the conveyance of a narrow and obfcure
7 This is Mr. Theobald's preface to his fecond edition in 1740, and was much curtailed by himself after it had been prefixed to the impreffion in 1733. STEEVENS.
entry, A glare of light fuddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at first promised; and a thousand beauties of genius and character, like fo many gaudy apartments pouring at once upon the eye, diffufe and throw themfelves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a fingle view: it is a gay confusion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration; and they must be feparated and eyed diftinâly, in order to give the proper entertainment.
And as, in great piles of building, fome parts are often finished up to hit the taste of the connoiffeur; others more negligently put together, to ftrike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder; fome parts are made ftupendously magnificent and grand, to furprise with the vaft defign and execution of the architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little: fo, in Shakspeare, we may find traits that will ftand the test of the fevereft judgment; and strokes as carelessly hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capa cities; fome descriptions raised to that pitch of grandeur, as to aftonish you with the compass and elevation of his thought; and others copying nature within fo narrow, fo confined a circle, as if the author's talent lay only at drawing in miniature.
In how many points of light must we be obliged to gaze at this great poet! In how many branches -of excellence to confider and admire him! Whether we view him on the fide of art or nature, he ought equally to engage our attention: whether we refpect the force and greatness of his genius, the extent of his knowledge and reading, the power and address with which he throws out and applies either nature