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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 bé presum'd the true one; in other respe&s, 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 so 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 perfons 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 speaking, you have the actor 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
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-transpofition of words, fentences, 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 pidure of the condition of these first printed plays: which bąd 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 six plays, and sixteen that were never publish'd before:? the editors make great profeflions of fidelity, and some complaints of injury done to
? There is yet extant in the books of the Stationers' Com. pany, an entry bearing date - Feb. 12, 1624, to Messrs. Jaga gard and Blount, the proprietors of this first folio, which is thus worded : " Mr. Wm. Shakespear's Comedy's History's & Tragedy's so many of the said copy's as bee not enter'd to other men : and this entry is followed by the titles of all those fixteen plays that wețe first printed in the folio; The other twenty plays (Othello, and King John, excepted; which the person who furnished this transcript, thinks he may have overlook’d, ) are enter'd too in these books, under their respective years; buț to whom the transcript says not.
them and the author by folen and maim'd copics ; giving withal an advantageous, if juft
, idea of the copies which they have follow'd: but see the terms they make use of.
" It had bene a thing, we confefle, worthie to have bene wished, that the author himselfe had liv'd to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but since it hạth 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 so to have publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diverse stolne, and furreptitious 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 perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he
a happie įmitator of nature, was a most gențle expreffer of it. His minde and hand went together; and what he thought he uttered with that eafinefle, that we 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 have made use of: and this is principally evident in “First and Second Henry IV. Lave's Labour's Loft, Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night's dream, Much Ado about
Nothing, Richard II. Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Cressida;" for in the others we see somewhat a greater latitude, as was observ'd, a little above: but in these plays, there is an almost strict conformity between the two impressions: fome additions are in the second, and some omissions; but the faults and errors of the quarto's are all preferu'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 us but faint hopes of meeting with greater accuracy in the pla
in the plays which they first publish'd; and, accordingly, we find them subjes to all the imperfections that have been noted in the former : nor is their edition in general distinguish'd by any mark of preference above the earliest quarto's, but that some of their plays are divided into acts, and fome 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 & f_acts and scenes.
TABLE of Plays in the folio.8
Measure for Measure. [
Much adoo about Nothing. The Merry Wives of [a.]
Windsor. [a & f.] Loves Labour Loft.* & The plays maark'd with asterisks, are spoken of by name,
Midsummer Nights The Tragedy of Coriolanus. Dreame.* (a.)
[a.] The Merchant of Venice.* Titus Andronicus.* [a. ] (a.]
Romeo and Juliet. * As you like it. [a & S.] Timon of Athens. The Taming of the Shrew. The Life and Death of JuAll is well, that Ends lius Cæsar. [a.] well. [a.]
The Tragedy of Macbeth. I welfe-Night, or what (a & f.]
you will. [a & f. ] The Tragedy of Hamlet. The Winters Tale, [a & S.] King Lear. [a. & S.]
Othello, the Moore of Ver TRAGEDIES.
nice. [a & S. 1 [Troylus and Creffida | Antony and Cleopater.
from the second folio; Cymbeline Kingof Britaine. Comitted in the first. [a & S.]
in a book callid - Wit's Treasury, being the second part of Wit's Commonwealth, written by Francis Meres; at p. 282: who, in the fame paragraph, mentions another play as being Shakspeare's, under the title of Loves Labours Wönne ; a title that seems well adapted to All's well that ends well, and under which it might be first acted. In the paragraph immediately preceding, he speaks of his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, and his Sonnets: this book was printed in 1598, by P. Short, for Cuthbert Burbie ; octavo, fmall. The same author, at p. 283, mentions too a Richard the Third, written by doctor Leg, author of another play, called The Destruction of Jerufalem. And there is in the Mufæum, a manuscript Latin play upon the same subject, written by one Henry Lacy in 1586 : which Latin play is but a weak performance; and yet feemeth to be the play fpoken of by Sir John Harrington, (for the author was a Cambridge man, and of St. John's, ) in this passage af his Apologie of Poetrie, prefix'd to his translation of Ariosto's Orlando, edit. 1591, fol."--and for tragedies, to omit other famous tragedies; that, that was played at St. Johns in Cambridge, of Richard the 3. would move (I thinke) Phalaris the tyraunt, and terrifie all tyrapnous minded men, from