Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Itage) we should not only be certain which are genuinc, but should find in those that are, the errors Jeffened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his style, and his man: ner of thinking and writing, I inake no doubt to de clare that those wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcaftle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, London Prodigal, and a thing called The Double Falshood, cannot be admitted as his. And I Mould conjecture of some of the others, (par: ticularly Love's Labour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, Cor medy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus,) that only some characters single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafioned some plays to be supposed 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 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, Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakspeare the justice to reject those eight plays in their edițion; though they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with some applause fas we lcarned from what Ben Jonson says of Pericles in his ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to be lieve, by finding the same 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 anly to four of them. Malone,

ing. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, 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, transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of characters and persons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages by the ignorance and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence of his first editors ? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest and the grosselt 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 Shakspeare's writings lie at present; for since the above-mentioned 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 elapsed, 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 discharged 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 shew itself. The various

cur,

readings are fairly put in the margin, fo that every one may compare them; and those I have preferred into the text are constantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions, which Shakfpeare himself made, are taken notice of as they oc

Some suspected pallages, which are excessively bad (and which seem interpolations by being so inferted that one can entirely omit thein without any chasın, 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 marked so distinctly, that every removal of place is specified; 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 obscu. rities. The more obfolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are diftinguished by commas in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a star is prefixed to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less oftentatious 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 allo subjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorized; most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them. These edi. tions now hold the place of originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or reNore the corrupted sense of the author: I can only

1

wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) inay yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.

I will conclude by saying of Shakspeare, 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 finished and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allowed 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; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. 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,

MR. THEO BALD'S

P R E FACE.”
PRE А

E."
THE

HE attempt to write upon SHAKSPEARE is like going into a large, a spacious, and a splendid dome, through the conveyance of a narrow and obscure

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 imprefsion in 1733. STEEVENS.

[ocr errors]

entry, A glare of light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at first promised; and a thousand beauties of genius and character, like so many gaudy apartments pouring at once upon the eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a single view: it is a gay confusion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration; and they must be separated and eyed distinály, in order to give the proper entertainment.

And as, in great piles of building, some parts are often finished up to hit the taste of the connois, seur; others more negligently put together, to strike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder; some parts are made ftupendously magnificent and grand, to surprise with the vast design and execution of the architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little: so, in Shakspeare, we may find traits that will stand the test of the feverest judgment; and strokes as careless, ly hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capa. cities; fome descriptions raised to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish 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 consider and adrnire him! Whether we view him on the side of art or nature, he ought equally to engage our attention: whether we respect 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

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »