Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

draughts, or mutilated and perhaps surreptitious impressions of those plays, but whether of the two is not easy to determine: King John is certainly a first draught, and in two parts; and so much another play, that only one line of it is retain'd in the second: there is also a first draught of the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI. published in his life-time under the following title, —." The whole Contention betweene the two famous Houses, Lancaster

. and York:” and to these plays, fix in pumber,

six may be added the first impression of Romeo and Juliet, being a play of the same stamp: The date of all these quarto's, and that of their several reimpressions, may be seen in a table that follows zhe Introduction. Othello came out only one year before the folio; and is, in the main, the same play that we have there: and this too is the case of the first-menționed thirteen; notwithstanding there are in

many of them great variations, and particularly, in Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III. and Romeo and Juliet.

As for the plays, which, we say, are either the poet's first draughts, or elfe imperfect and stolen copies, it will be thought, perhaps, they might as well have been left out of the account; but they

the play in this first edition appears certainly to have been a spurious one, from Mr. Pope's account of it, who seems to have been the only editor whom it was ever seen by: great pains has been taken to trace who he had it of, (for it was pog in his collection) but without success.

[ Mr. Capell afterwards procured a fight of this defideratum, a circumstance which he has quaintly recorded in a note anpexed to the MS. catalogue of his Shaksperiana: “ --lent by Mr. Malone, an Irish gentleman, living in Qucen Ann Street Eal." STEEVENS.

[ocr errors]

are not wholly useless : some lacuna, that are in all the other editions, have been judiciously fill'd up in modern impressions by the authority of these copies; and in some particular passages of them, where there happens to be a greater conformity than usual between them and the more perfect editions, there is here and there a various reading that does honour to the poet's judgment, and should upon that account be presum'd the true one; in other respects, they have neither use nor merit, but are meerly curiofities.

Proceed we then to a description of the other fourteen. . They all abound in faults, though not in equal degree; and those faults, are lo numerous, and of so many different natures, that nothing but a perusal of the pieces themselves can give an adequate conception of them; but amongst them are these that follow. Division of acts and scenes, they have none; Othello only excepted, which is divided into acts : entries of persons are extreamly imperfect in them, (sometimes more, sometimes fewer than the scene requires) and their Exits are very often omitted; or, when mark’d, not always in the right place; and few scenical directions are to be met with throughout the whole: speeches are frequently confounded, and given to wrong persons, either whole or in past; and sometimes, instead of the person fpeaking, you have the actof who presented him: and in two of the plays, (Love's Labour's Loft, and Troilus and Cressida) the fame matter, and in nearly the same words, is set down twice in some passages; which who sees not to be only a negligence of the poet, and that but one of them ought to have been printed? But the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

reigning fault of all is in the measure: prose is very

often printed as verse, and verse as prose; or, where rightly printed verse, that verse is not always right divided : and in all these pieces, the songs are in every particular ftill more corrupt than the other parts of them. These are the general and principal defects: to which if you add-transporttion of words, 'sentences, lines, and even speeches; words omitted, and others added without reason; and a punctuation so deficient, and so often wrong, that it hardly deserves regard; you have, upon the whole, a true but melancholy pi&ture of the condition of these first printed plays: which bad as it is, is yet better than that of those which came after; or than that of the subsequent folio impression of some of these which we are now speaking of.

This folio impression was sent into the world seven years after the author's death, by two of his fellow-players; and contains, besides the last-mention'd fourteen, the true and genuine copies of the other fix plays, and sixteen that were never publish'd before:? the editors make great professions of fidelity, and some complaints of injury done to

[ocr errors]

? These is yet extant in the books of the Stationers' Com. pany, an entry bearing date - Feb. 12, 1624, to Messrs. Jag, gard and Blount, the proprietors of this firit folio, which is thus worded : " Mr. Wm. Shakespear's Comedy's Hiftory's & Tra

gedy's so many of the said copy's as bee not enter'd to other men : · sand this entry is followed by the titles of all those fixteen plays that wețe first printed in the folio; The other tweniy plays (Othello, and King John, excepted; which the perfon who furnished this tranfcript, thinks he may have overlook'd, ) are enter'd too in these books, under their respe&tive years; bus to whom the transcript says not.

"them and the author by solen and maim'd copics ; giving withal an advantageous, if just, idea of the copies which they have follow'd; but see the terms they make use of.

«« It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to have bene wished, that the author himselfe had liv’d to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envie his friends, the office of their care, and paine, to have collected & publish'd them; and fo to have publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors, that expos'd them: even those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd and perfe& of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of nature, was a most gențle expreffer of it. His minde and hand went together; and what he thought he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in his papers." Who now does not feel himself inclin'd to expect an accurate and good performance in the edition of these prefacers ? But alas, it is nothing less: for (if we except the fix spurious ones, whose places were then supply'd by true and genuine copies) the editions of plays preceding the folio, are the very basis of those we have there; which are either printed from those editions, or from the copies which they haye made use of: and this is principally evident in—First and Second Henry IV, Lave's Labour's Loft, Merchant of Verice, Midsummer Night's dream, Much Ado about

[ocr errors]

Nothing, Richard II. Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Cressida;" for in the others we see fomewhat a greater latitude, as was observ'd, a little above : but in these plays, there is an almost strict conformity between the two impressions : some additions are in the second, and some omissions ; but the faults and errors of the quarto's are all preferv'd in the folio, and others added to them; and what difference there is, is generally for the worse on the side of the folio editors: which should give ons but faint hopes of meeting with greater accuracy in the plays which they first publish'd ; and, accordingly, we find them fubje s to all the imperfections that have been noted in the former : nor is their edition in general dislinguish'd by any mark of preference above the earliest quarto's, but · that some of their plays are divided into acts, and some others into acts and scenes; and that with

; due precision, and agreeable to the author's idea of the nature of such divisions. The order of printing these plays, the way in which they are class'd, and the titles given them, being matters of some curiosity, the Table that is before the first folio is here reprinted: and to it are added marks, put between crotchets, shewing the plays that are divided; a signifying-acts, a &c facts and scenes. TABLE of Plays in the folio.8

Measure for Measure. [ COMEDIES. The Tempeft. [a & S.] The Comedy of Errours. The Two Gentlemen of [a.] Verona.* [a & S.]

Much adoo about Nothing. The Merry Wives of [a.] Windsor. [a&.]

& f

Loves Labour Loft.* 3 The plays mark'd with asterisks, are spoken of by name,

&l.]

« ПредишнаНапред »