« ПредишнаНапред »
Many verses are omitted entirely, and others transposed; from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, past the guess of any Commentator to clear up, but just where the accidental gl impse 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 MidsummerNight's Dream, Act 5. Shakespear introduces a kind of Master of the Revels called Philostrate : all whose part is given to another character (that of Egeus ) in the subsequent editions : So also 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 persons, where the Author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character : Or sometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing Player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an Underling.
Prose from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.
Having been forced to say so much of the Players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the Judg. ment, as well as Condition, of that class of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best Playhouses were Inns and Taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) so the top of the profeffion were then meer Players, not Gentlemen of the stage : They were led into the Buttery by the Steward, not plac'd at the Lord's table, or Lady's toilette: and consequently wereintirely depriv'd of those advantages they now enjoy, in the familiar conversation of our Nobility, and an intimacy (not to fay dearness) with people of the first condition.
From what has been said, there can be no question but 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 should find in those that are, the errors lessened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his style, 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, and London Prodigal, cannot be admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus) that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasion'd some Plays to be supposed Shakespear's was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted 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 interest of the House to remove. Yet the Players themselves, Heminges and Condell, afterwards did Shakespear the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition; tho they were then printed in his Name, in every body's hands, and acted with some applause ; (as we learn from what Ben Johnson says of Pericles in his Ode on the New Inn.) That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the fame Author openly express his contempt of it in the Industion 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 passages 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, Transpofitions of scenes and lines, confusion of Characters and Persons, wrong application of Speeches, corruptions of innumerable Passages by the Ignorance, and wrong Corrections of 'em again by the Impertinence, of his first Editors ? From one or other of thefe considerations, I am verily perfuaded, that the greatest and the groffest 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 us.
This is the state in which Shakespear's writings lye at present; for since the abovementioned Folio Edition, all the rest have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the Injuries already done him; too much time has elaps'd, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharg’d the dull duty of an Editor, to my best judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all innovation, and without any indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this Edition will show itself. The various Readings are fairly put in the margin, fo that every one may compare 'em; and those I have prefer'd into the Text are constantly ex fide Codicum, upon authority. The Alterations or Additions which Shakespear himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some suspected passages which are excessively bad, (and which seem Interpolations by being so inferted that one can intirely omit them without any chasm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an Asterisk referring to the places of their insertion. The Scenes are mark'd so distinctly that every removal of place is specify'd; which is more necessary in this Author than any other, since he shifts them more frequently : and sometimes without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obIcurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are distinguish'd by comma's in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars but in the whole, a ftar is prefix'd to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less ostentatious method of performing the better half of Criticism (namely the pointing out an Author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine passages, with general Applauses, or empty Exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoin'd a Catalogue of those first Editions by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorised, (most of which are such 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 deficiences or restore the corrupted sense of the Author: I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakespear, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his Drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finish'd and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick Architecture, compar'd with a neat Modern building: The latter is more
elegant elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allow'd, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; tho' we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth Paffages. Nor does the Whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, tho' many of the Parts are childish, ill-plac'd, and unequal to its grandeur.