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deed besparing in his Commendations (tho'certainly he is not so in this instance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praising him justly, than lavishly. I say, I would fain believe they were Friends, tho' the violence and ill-breeding of their Followers and Flatterers were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I would hope that it may be with Parties, both in Wit and State, as with those Monsters described by the Poets; and that their Heads at least may have something human, tho' their Bodies and Tails are wild beasts and serpents. As I believe that what I have mentioned
rise to the opinion of Shakespear's want of learning; so what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first Publishers of his works. In these Editions their ignorance fhines in almost every page; nothing is more common than Astus tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches folus. Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in construction and spelling: Their very Wels is false. Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that gross kind, sprung from the same root: it not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the least tincture of a School, or the least conversation with such as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had Some Latin; which is utterly inconsistent with mistakes like these. Nay the constant blunders in proper names of persons and places, are such as must a 3
have proceeded from a man, who had not so much as read any history, in any language: fo could not be Shakespear's.
I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost innumerable Errors, which have risen from one source, the ignorance of the Players, both as his actors, and as his Editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and considered, I dare to say that not Shakespear only, but Aristotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the same fate, might have appear'd to want sense as well as learning.
It is not certain that any one of his Plays was published by himself. During the time of his employment in the Theatre, several of his pieces were printed separately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not publish'd by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press : every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned or unusual words so intolerably mangled, that it's plain there either was no Corrector to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were supervised by himself, I should fancy the two parts of Henry the 4th, and Midsummer-Night's Dream might have been so; because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) there is very little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two Prefáces, to the first
edition of Troilus and Cressida in 1609, and to that of Othello ; by which it appears, that the first was published without his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted, so late as seven or eight years before he died: and that the latter was not printed 'till after his death. The whole number of genuine plays
which we have been able to find printed in his lifetime, amounts but to eleven. And of some of these, we meet with two or more: editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash different from the other : which I should fancy was occasion’d by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different Play-houses.
The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his, were first collected) was published by two Players, Heminges and Condell, in 1623, seven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were stolen and surreptitious, and affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other ; for in all respects else it is far worse than the Quarto's.
First, because the additions of trifling and bombast passages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, since those Quarto's, by the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the Author. He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the Clowns wou'd speak no more than is set down for them. (Act. 3. But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet there is no hint of a great number of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found there. In others, the low scenes of Mobs, Plebeians and Clowns, are vastly shorter than at present: And I have seen one in particular (which seems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the Actors names in the margin) where several of those very passages
were added in a written hand, which are since to be found in the folio.
In the next place, a number of beautiful passages which are extant in the first single editions, are omitted in this: as it seems, without any other reason, than their willingness to shorten some scenes: These men (as it was faid of Procruftes) either lopping, or stretching an Author, to make him just fit for their Stage.
This edition is said to be printed from the Origi, nal Copies; I believe they meant those which had lain ever since the Author's days in the play-house, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the Quarto's, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the Prompter's Book, or Piecemeal Parts written out for the use of the actors: For in some places their very a names are thro' carelessness set down instead of the Perfonæ Dramatis: And in others the notes of direction to the Property-men for their Moveables, and to the Players for their Entries, are inserted into the Text, thro' the ignorance of the Transcribers.
The Plays not having been before so much as distinguish'd by Acts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they play'd them often where there is no pause in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the sake of Musick, Masques, or Monsters,
Some(a) Much ado about nothing. A&t. 2. Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilson, infead of Balthasar. And in A&t. 4. Cowley, and Kemp, constantly thro' a whole Scene.
Edit. Fol. of 1623, and 1632.
Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwise happen, but by their being taken from separate and piece-meal-written parts.
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 glympse 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 Midsummer-Night'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 yolume.
Having been forced to say so much of the Players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the Judgment, as well as Condition, of that class of