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actors, or from the unreliable notes of short-hand writers, taken down at the performance.
If to the incompetency or neglect of printers, and the inaccurate manuscripts with which they were furnished, we add the fact that several of Shakespeare's dramas were not published until after his death, and that over the printing of those which had appeared previously he never exercised the slightest supervision, the very imperfect state in which they first appeared in print will be satisfactorily accounted for.
Shakespeare had been dead seven years when the first collected edition of his plays appeared, in 1623, under the sanction and superintendence of his old friends and fellow-actors, Heminge and Condell; and though in some respects this impression is a great improvement upon the surreptitious issues of single plays that preceded it, it is nevertheless disfigured by almost every species of error and imperfection to which a printed book is liable. Still, had the task of restoring and purifying the text of the great dramatist been earnestly undertaken at this period, while some of the original draughts of his works were probably in existence,-while many of his fellow-actors, besides hundreds who had witnessed the performance of his plays, were yet among the living,—while the many allusions to persons and events, the key to which is now irrecoverably lost, were familiar as household words;-had Shakespeare found at this critical period a single appreciative interpreter, less than a tithe of the learning and talent that have since been so bountifully lavished upon his writings would have yielded a more than golden harvest, and we might now rejoice in the possession of a genuine text, for which five generations of able commentators have labored almost in vain.
But though Shakespeare had warm friends and admirers even during his life, and his death was sincerely mourned by the friends of learning as a public calamity, yet the profound homage now so universally felt for his unrivalled genius was not the birth of his own age, nor yet of the century that succeeded it. For nearly a hundred years after the death of Shakespeare, his name, though not wholly darkened, was deeply eclipsed; and this period of its obscuration lent brilliancy to the lesser lights that twinkled in the firmament of letters, and secured to them for a time a degree of the admiration which none but a star of the first magnitude can permanently retain. It was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century that the words of the great dramatist had thrilled that deep responsive chord in the hearts of men, which is at once the pledge and the earnest of undying fame.
Simultaneously with this tardy recognition of his greatness, seems to have been first awakened the consciousness that the text of his plays was egregiously corrupt. Rowe, in his edition of 1709, to which was prefixed the earliest biography of the poet, was incited to the task of restoring the genuine readings of Shakespeare. The Herculean nature of the labor he had undertaken was soon, however, apparent. Three generations of men had already lived and departed since Shakespeare wrote his dramas. Revolutions in church and state, in language and literature, in manners and modes of thought, had in the mean time severed the links which connect successive ages, and swept away every means of interpreting the accidents and conventionalisms which identified the poet with his contemporaries and his country. To any other dramatist whose writings had been so corrupted, such a loss would have been equivalent to total destruction. But Shakespeare had that in his nature which no age or country could monopolize. He could pay back all that he owed to his contemporaries, and yet have wherewith to make sure his immortality. His fame is
based upon the imperishable affections of humanity. A master of the passions, he also possessed the commanding wisdom and unerring insight that can never grow old. As the noblest interpreter of the purity and innocence of youthful love, which glowed unsullied in his own breast through manhood and age, he has secured the hearts of the men and women of every clime while time endures.
Rowe's attempts to purify the text of Shakespeare had the effect of directing the attention of his countrymen to the importance of the work, to which, from that day to the present, a continual series of able commentators have zealously devoted themselves. Among these it is sufficient to name Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, Warburton, Johnson, Steevens, Reed, Malone, Monck Mason, Collier, Dyce, and others of scarce inferior note.
The business of depreciating the value of emendatory criticism, of exaggerating the mistakes of commentators, and of ridiculing the personal altercations into which an intemperate zeal has too often degenerated, is a species of industry possessing peculiar attractions for minds of a certain class, and one which has seldom declined through lack of operatives. But after making due allowance for the blunders, the vanity, and the tediousness of commentators, no candid person who compares the editions of Shakespeare current in our own day, with the original quartos and folios of the seventeenth century, can fail to acknowledge that for one of our purest intellectual enjoyments we are greatly the debtors of the well-abused critics.
It is not, however, our purpose to discuss the merits of commentators. They all have claims upon the gratitude of Shakespeare's admirers. But we pass from them to notice the manuscript corrections, by an unknown hand, contained in a copy of the folio Shakespeare of 1632, first discovered among the rubbish of a second-hand bookseller by Mr. J. P. Collier, in 1849, and shortly after given to the world by that gentleman. Of the genuineness of this volume there can be no doubt; and we see as little reason to question the justness of Mr. Collier's assertion, that the corrections of every description so carefully made upon its margins-amounting in number to nearly 20,000-are in the hand-writing of a period but little subsequent to the publication of the original work. Who the individual was to whom we are indebted for this invaluable contribution, it is vain to conjecture; the character of his emendations, however, warrants the belief, not only that he was intimately connected with the stage, but that he was favored with sources of information in regard to the true text of Shakespeare's plays which have been enjoyed by none of his successors. The fact that his corrections in the folio of 1632 have anticipated more than three hundred of the conjectural emendations of modern critics, is, to use the words of Dr. Frese, a German translator of Shakespeare, "a conclusive argument in favor either of the corrector's perspicacity, or of the critical apparatus to which he had access; and in the proportion that this coincidence diminishes the bulk of what may be gained by the corrector's labors, in the same degree does it enhance the value of the remaining portion."
Further testimony to the value of the corrector's labors, from sources entitled to deference, could be adduced. Suffice it here to say, that the unanimous voice of disinterested judges, both in Europe and America, concurs in the opinion, that no future edition of the poet's works can be perfect without their aid. Convinced, therefore, from the conclusions of able critics, and from our own examination, that Mr. Collier's text of Shakespeare, embodying the emendations of the folio of 1632, is far the most perfect extant, it has been made the basis of the present edition. For
many of the most valuable of these emendations the reader will desire no authority; they carry conviction on their face, and that they are the genuine language of the poet becomes at once self-evident. If, however, there are a few which seem to deserve only a qualified approbation, we hazard nothing in saying, that from the large majority it will be found utterly impossible to dissent.
The text of Collier being without notes, or any means of distinguishing the new readings, for the present work we have collated it with the best modern editions, principally with those of Verplanck and Singer, and denoted its variations from them by figures, which are placed before the word or passage referred to. The reading of former editions is inserted, under corresponding figures, in the "NOTES TO THE EMENDATIONS" at the close of the volume. The means are thus furnished not only of comparing this edition with previous ones, but of restoring the former reading whenever desirable. As the drama of "Pericles" is not contained in the folio of 1632, none of the proposed emendations can of course be applicable to it: the text, in this instance, is that of the most authentic impressions.
Our text of the Poems is from Collier's edition of 1844.
Collier's "History of the English Stage to the Time of Shakespeare," affording, as it does, a view of the poet's stand-point at the outset of his career, is of great value in forming an estimate of the creative and reformatory power of his genius. It contains, however, much irrelevant matter of inferior interest, and has accordingly been abridged for the present work. The Life of Shakespeare and the Introductions to the Plays inserted in this edition have also been abridged from the same source. As something of interest to the reader, the preliminary matter belonging to the folio of 1632-consisting of "The Dedication," "Commendatory Verses," &c.-has been reproduced in the form and order there observed.
More than ordinary pains have been bestowed upon the foot-notes of this edition, in order to obviate the necessity of looking beyond the volume itself for any thing needful to its proper elucidation. While many difficult words and passages hitherto neglected have been explained, many lengthy interpretations of commentators have also been condensed; and it is believed these notes, as now arranged, will afford all the essential aid that can be derived both from a glossary of antiquated words, and a commentary upon obscure or involved passages, obsolete customs, &c. The footnotes are referred to by letters of the alphabet, which, in the text, are placed before the word or passage to be explained.
NEW YORK, June, 1855.
J. L. J.
THE ENGLISH DRAMA AND STAGE
THE TIME OF SHAKESPEARE.
In order to make the reader acquainted with the origin of the English stage, such as Shakespeare found it when he became connected with it, it is necessary to mention that a miracle-play or mystery, (as it has been termed in modern times), is the oldest form of dramatic composition in our language. The stories of productions of this kind were derived from the Sacred Writings, from the pseudo-evangelium, or from the lives and legends of saints and
Miracle-plays were common in London in the year 1170; and as early as 1119 the miracle-play of St. Katherine had been represented at Dunstable. During about 300 years this species of theatrical entertainment seems to have flourished, often under the auspices of the clergy, who used it as the means of religious instruction; but prior to the reign of Henry VI., a new kind of drama had become popular, which by writers of the time was denominated a moral, or moral play, and more recently a morality. It acquired this name from the nature and purpose of the representation, which usually conveyed a lesson for the better conduct of human life, the characters employed not being scriptural, as in miracle-plays, but allegorical, or symbolical. Miracle-plays continued to be represented long after moral plays were introduced, but from a remote date abstract impersonations had by degrees, not now easily traced, found their way into miracle-plays: thus, perhaps, moral plays, consisting only of such characters, grew out of them.
A very remarkable and interesting miracle-play, not founded upon the Sacred Writings, but upon a popular legend, and all the characters of which, with one exception, purport to be real personages, has recently been discovered in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, in a manuscript certainly as old as the later part of the reign of Edward IV.
It was not until the reign of Elizabeth that miracleplays were generally abandoned, but in some distant parts of the kingdom they were persevered with even till the time of James I. Miracle-plays, in fact, gradually gave way to moral plays, which presented more variety of situation and character; and moral plays in turn were superseded by a species of mixed drama, which was strictly neither moral play nor historical play, but a combination of both in the same representation.
Of this singular union of discordant materials, no person who has hitherto written upon the history of our dramatic poetry has taken due notice; but it is very necessary not to pass it over, inasmuch as it may be said to have led ultimately to the introduction of tragedy, comedy, and history, as we now under
stand the terms, upon the boards of our public theatres. No blame for the omission can fairly be imputed to our predecessors, because the earliest specimens of this sort of mixed drama which remain to us have been brought to light within a comparatively few years. The most important of these is the "Kynge Johan" of Bishop Bale. We are not able to settle with precision the date when it was originally written, but it was evidently_performed, with additions and alterations, after Elizabeth came to the throne. The purpose of the author was to promote the Reformation, by applying to the circumstances of his own times the events of the reign of King John, when the kingdom was placed by the Pope under an interdict, and when, according to popular belief, the sovereign was poisoned by a draught administered to him by a monk. This drama resembles a moral play in the introduction of abstract impersonations, and an historical play in the adaptation of a portion of our national annals, with real characters, to the purposes of the stage. Though performed in the reign of Elizabeth, we may carry back the first composition and representa tion of "Kynge Johan" to the time of Edward VI.
The object of Bule's play was, as we have stated, to advance the Reformation under Edward VI.; but in the reign of his successor a drama of a similar description, and of a directly opposite tendency, was written and acted. The anonymous author calls his drama "Respublica,” and he adds that it was "made in the year of our Lord 1553, and the first year of the most prosperous reign of our most gracious Sovereign, Queen Mary the First." He was supposed to speak the prologue himself, in the character of "a Poet;" and although every person he introduces is in fact called by some abstract name, he avowedly brings forward the Queen herself as Nemesis, the Goddess of redress and correction," while her kingdom of England is intended by Respublica," and its inhabitants represented by People:" the Reformation in the Church is distinguished as "Oppression;" and Policy, Authority, and Honesty, are designated Avarice," Insolence," and "Adulation." All this is distinctly stated by the author on his title-page, while he also employs the impersonations of Misericordia, Veritas, Justitia, and Pax, (agents not unfrequently resorted to in the older miracle-plays) as the friends of "Nemesis," the Queen, and as the supporters of the Roman Catholic religion in her dominions.
The production was evidently written by a man of education; but, although there are many attempts at humor, and some at variety, both in character and situation, the whole must have been a very weari
some performance, adapted to please the court by its general tendency, but little calculated to accomplish any other purpose entertained by the writer.
In the midst of the performance of dramatic productions of a religious or political character, each party supporting the views which most accorded with the author's individual opinions, John Heywood, who was a zealous Roman Catholic, and who sequently suffered for his creed under Edward VI. and Elizabeth, discovered a new species of entertainment, of a highly humorous, and not altogether of an uninstructive kind; which seems to have been very acceptable to the sovereign and nobility, and to have obtained for the author a distinguished character as a court dramatist, and ample rewards as a court dependant. These were properly called "interludes," being short comic pieces, represented ordinarily in the interval between the feast and the banquet; and we may easily believe that they had considerable influence in the settlement of the form which our stage-performances ultimately assumed. Heywood does not appear to have begun writing until after Henry VIII. had been some years on the throne. His "John Tib and Sir John," his "Four Ps," his "Pardoner and Friar," and pieces of that description, presented both variety of matter and novelty of construction, as well as considerable wit and drollery in the language. He was a very original writer, and certainly merits more admiration than any of his dramatic contemporaries.
To the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth we may refer several theatrical productions which make approaches, more or less near, to comedy, tragedy, and history, and still retain many of the known features of moral plays. "Tom Tiler and his Wife" is a comedy in its incidents; but the allegorical personages, Desire, Destiny, Strife, and Patience, connect it immediately with the earlier species of stage-entertainment. "The conflict of Conscience," on the other hand, is a tragedy on the fate of an historical personage; but Conscience, Hypocrisy, Avarice, Horror, &c., are called in aid of the purpose of the writer. 'Appius and Virginia" is in most respects a history, founded upon facts; but Rumor, Comfort, and Doctrine, are importantly concerned in the representation. These, and other productions of the same class, which it is not necessary to particularize, show the gradual advances made towards a better, because a more natural, species of theatrical composition.
| a lady of property, called Custance, betrothed to Gawin Goodluck, a merchant, who is at sea when the comedy begins, but who returns before it concludes. The main incidents relate to the mode in which the hero, with the treacherous help of his as sociate, endeavors to gain the affections of Custance. He writes her a letter, which Merrygreek sub-reads without a due observance of the punctuation, so that it entirely perverts the meaning of the writer: he visits her while she is surrounded by her female domestics, but he is unceremoniously rejected: he resolves to carry her by force of arms, and makes an assault upon her habitation; but with the assistance of her maids, armed with mops and brooms, she drives him from the attack. Then, her betrothed lover returns, who has been misinformed on the subject of her fidelity, but he is soon reconciled on an explanation of the facts; and Ralph Roister Doister, finding that he has no chance of success. and that he has only been cajoled and laughed at, makes up his mind to be merry at the wedding of Goodluck and Custance. Were the dialogue modernized, the comedy might be performed, even in our own day, to the satisfaction of many of the usual attendants at our theatres.
What is justly to be considered the oldest known comedy in our language is of a date not much posterior to the reign of Henry VIII., if, indeed, it were not composed while he was on the throne. It has the title of " Ralph Roister Doister," and it was written by Nicholas Udall, who was master of Eton school in 1540, and who died in 1557. It is on every account a very remarkable performance; and as the scene is laid in London, it affords a curious picture of metropolitan manners. The regularity of its construction, even at that early date, may be gathered from the fact, that in the single copy which has descended to us it is divided into acts and scenes. The story is one of common, every-day life; and none of the characters are such as people had been accustomed to find in ordinary dramatic entertainments. The piece takes its name from its hero, a young town-gallant, who is mightily enamored of himself, and who is encouraged in the good opinion he entertains of his own person and accomplishments by Matthew Merrygreek, a poor relation, who attends him in the double capacity of companion and servant. Ralph Roister Doister is in love with
The drama which we have been accustomed to regard as our oldest tragedy, and which probably has a just claim to the distinction, was acted on 18th January, 1562, and printed in 1565. It was originally called "Gorboduc;" but it was reprinted in 1571 under the title of "Forrex and Porrex," and a third time in 1590 as Gorboduc." The first three acts were written by Thomas Norton, and the last two by Thomas Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset, and it was performed "by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple." Although the form of the Greek drama is observed in "Gorboduc," and each act concluded by a chorus, yet Sir Philip Sidney, who admitted (in his "Apology of Poetry") that it
"full of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases," could not avoid complaining that the unities of time and place had been disregarded. Thus, in the very outset and origin of our stage, as regards what may be termed the regular drama, the liberty, which allowed full exercise to the imagination of the audience, and which was afterwards happily carried to a greater excess, was distinctly asserted and maintained. It is also to be remarked, that "Gorboduc" is the earliest known play in our language in which blank-verse was employed; but of the introduction of blank-verse upon our public stage, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. It was an important change, which requires to be separately considered.
We have now entered upon the reign of Elizabeth; and although, as already observed, moral plays and even miracle-plays were still acted, we shall soon see what a variety of subjects, taken from ancient history, from mythology, fable, and romance, were employed for the purposes of the drama. Stephen Gosson, one of the earliest enemies of theatrical performances, writing his "Plays confuted in Five Actions" a little after the period of which we are now speaking, but adverting to the drama as it had existed some years before, tells us, that "the Palace of Pleasure, the Golden Ass, the Ethiopian History, Amadis of France, and the Round Table," as well as "comedies in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish, have been thoroughly ransacked to furnish the play-houses in London." Hence, unquestionably, many of the materials of what is termed our romantic drama were obtained. The accounts of the Master of the Revels between 1570 and 1580