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THE

PREFACE.

W

HAT the Publick is here to expect is a true and correct Edition of Shakespear's works cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded. One of the great Admirers of this incomparable Author hath made it the amufement of his leifure hours for many years paft to look over his writings with a careful eye, to note the obScurities and abfurdities introduced into the text, and according to the best of his judgment to restore the genuine Senfe and purity of it. In this he proposed nothing to himself but his private fatisfaction in making his own copy as perfect as he could: but as the emendations multiplied upon his hands, other Gentlemen equally fond of the Author defired to fee them, and fome were fo kind as to give their affiftance by communicating their obfervations and conjectures upon difficult paffages which had occurred to them.

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them. Thus by degrees the work growing more confiderable than was at firft expected, they who had the opportunity of looking into it, too partial perhaps in their judgment, thought it worth being made publick; and he, who hath with difficulty yielded to their perfuafions, is far from defiring to reflect upon the late Editors for the omiffions and defects which they left to be supplied by others who should follow them in the fame province. On the contrary, he thinks the world much obliged to them for the progrefs they made in weeding out fo great a number of blunders and mistakes as they have done, and probably he who hath carried on the work might never have thought of such an undertaking if he had not found a confiderable part so done to his hands.

From what caufes it proceeded that the works of this Author in the first publication of them were more injured and abufed than perhaps any that ever pass'd the Prefs, hath been fufficiently explained in the Preface to Mr. Pope's Edition which is here fubjoined, and there needs no more to be faid upon that fubject. This only the Reader is defired to bear in mind, that as the corruptions are more numerous and of a groffer kind than can well be conceived but by those who have looked nearly into

them;

them; fo in the correcting them this rule hath been most Strictly obferved, not to give a loose to fancy, or indulge a licentious Spirit of criticism, as if it were fit for any one to presume to judge what Shakespear ought to have written, instead of endeavouring to discover truly and retrieve what he did write: and fo great caution hath been used in this respect, that no alterations have been made but what the fenfe neceffarily required, what the measure of the verse often helped to point out, and what the fimilitude of words in the falfe reading and in the true, generally Speaking, appeared very well to justify.

Moft of thofe paffages are here thrown to the bottom of the page and rejected as Spurious, which were ftigmatized as fuch in Mr. Pope's Edition; and it were to be wished that more had then undergone the fame fentence. The promoter of the prefent Edition hath ventured to dif card but few more upon his own judgment, the most confiderable of which is that wretched piece of ribaldry in King Henry V. put into the mouths of the French Princefs and an old Gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in French and not intelligible to an English audience, and yet that perhaps is the best thing that can be faid of it. There can be no doubt but a great deal more of that low

Ruff

ftuff which disgraces the works of this great Author, was foifted in by the Players after his death, to please the vulgar audiences by which they fubfifted: and though fome of the poor witticisms and conceits must be supposed to have fallen from his pen, yet as he hath put them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people, fo it is to be remember'd that he wrote for the Stage, rude and unpolished as it then was; and the vicious tafte of the age muft ftand condemned for them, fince he hath left upon record a fignal proof how much he defpifed them. In his Play of The Merchant of VENICE a Clown is introduced quibbling in a miferable manner, upon which one who bears the character of a man of fenfe makes the following reflection; How every fool can play upon a word! I think the beft grace of wit will shortly turn into filence, and discourse grow commendable in none but parrots. He could hardly have found Stronger words to exprefs his indignation at thofe falfe pretences to wit then in vogue; and therefore though fuch trash is frequently interspersed in his writings, it would be unjust to caft it as an imputation upon his taste and judgment and character as a Writer.

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