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the style of Shakspeare, that none of his interpolators has ventured to impose it on us, and the poorest lines that bear his name are with the noblest alike exempt from it. Thus it is evident, that, instead of regarding our poet as chargeable with ruggedness of composition, we should esteem him rather an exemplar of metrical harmony, and freely join in the praise which Jonson has bestowed on
“ His well-toned and true-filed lines.”
The passage from Hamlet, as, probably, may have appeared, was selected, not so much for its excellence, howsoever admirable it is, as on account of the corruptions that were attached to it; for it would be easy to adduce from Shakspeare's stock, examples of the highest and most finished poetry which happily have escaped the infectious and degrading hand of the interpolator; but such a display would be rather ostentatious than edifying, and is not included in the scope of the present design, the object of which is, first, to point out some instances of readings, in the early
quartos, which seem preferable to those adopted by the last editor ; secondly, to substitute order for derangement, by dismissing from the text all such words as have intruded to disturb the metre, without any benefit to the sense, as well as to restore others that have been omitted, to the detriment of both :(e) in the third place, to expose the grammatical anomalies of what kind soever they are: and lastly, to attempt an exposition of many passages, occult or dubious, which appear to have been, by the commentators, either overlooked or misinterpreted. The readings adopted from the early quartos, and proposed for preference, shall appear in their places, as will the notes which are offered in elucidation. It might seem proper, here, to make some remarks upon the violations of syntax that occur in these works; but, after a close examination, I believe it will be found that very few of those irregularities are justly ascribable to Shakspeare, and hardly any of them peculiar to him, so that the strictures which they would call forth must necessarily wander into an abstract treatise of philology; they shall,
therefore, be referred to the several passages; with care, (in instances similar) to avoid the tediousness of repetition, by a significant mark, or by reference to what had preceded. Nothing now remains, by way of preface, but to say a few words upon the notes which are presented in illustration ; of these, a few will be advanced with confidence, as the suggestions of some valued friends, eminently qualified for any work of criticism, and intimately conversant with the genuine style and spirit of our poet. The friends here alluded to, are Mr. Capel Lofft, Mr. Ben. Strutt, of Colchester, and the late noble person whose name is inserted in the title page. The notes derived from these sources shall be marked with the appropriate signatures. Concerning the others, the author of them will neither affect modesty nor display arrogance; they will, doubtless, in many instances, be found weak, superfluous, and erroneous; but so, likewise, have been not a few of those to which are annexed names with whom it may be honourable to be associated, even in miscarriage: thus far, only, will he presume to emulate his
critical predecessors, in a desire to make the brightness of Shakspeare's genius still more conspicuous; and, should it be found that he has effected this purpose, in any material degree, his ambition will be gratified, and his industry rewarded.
ON THE INTRODUCTION.
(a) When lines like those which follow present themselves, we must rather deplore than commend his veneration for an. tique deformity, who would scruple to adopt the obvious restorations that are subjoined.
66 You do look, my son, in a mov'd sort.”
66 You have seen Cassio and she together.”
-- - “ Cassio and her,” &c.
66 Norway himself with terrible numbers.”
- " Numbers terrible.”
“ That .croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan.” Ibid.
o Whether ever I " Have to you spake.”
K. Ilen. VIII. “ Spoke,” the current corruption of spoken.
"Let no man abide this deed but we the doers."
Jul. Cæsar. -- " But us.”
“ Having no more but thought of what thou wert.”
K. Rich. III.