Imágenes de páginas

or Cicero, had their works undergone the fame fate, might have appeared to want fenfe as well as learning.

It is not certain that any one of his plays was published by himfelf. During the time of his employment in the theatre, several of his pieces were printed feparately in quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not published by him, is the exceffive carelefsnefs of the prefs: every page is fo fcandaloufly falfe fpelled, and almost all the learned and unufual words fo intolerably mangled, that it is plain there either was no corrector to the prefs at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were supervised by himself, I fhould fancy The Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, and Midsummer-Night's Dream, might have been fo: because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the reft) there is very little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two prefaces to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Crefsida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the first was published without his knowledge or confent, and even before it was acted, fo late as feven 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 life-time, 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 fhould fancy was occafioned by their being taken from different copies belonging to different playhouses.

The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his were firft collected) was published by two players, Heminge and Condell, in 1623,

feven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were ftolen and furreptitious, 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 quartos.

First, because the additions of trifling and bombaft paffages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, fince thofe quartos by the actors, or had ftolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all ftand charged upon the author. He himself complained of this ufage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the clowns would speak no more than is fet down for them. (Act III. fc. ii.) 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 fcenes of mobs, plebeians, and clowns, are vaftly fhorter than at present and I have feen one in particular (which feems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the actors names in the margin) where feveral of those very paffages were added in a written hand, which are fince to be found in the folio.

In the next place, a number of beautiful paffages, which are extant in the firft fingle editions, are omitted in this as it feems, without any other reason, than their willingness to fhorten fome scenes: thefe men (as it was faid of Procruftes) either lopping, or ftretching an author, to make him juft fit for their ftage.

This edition is faid to be printed from the original copies; I believe they meant thofe which had

lain ever fince 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 quartos, was printed (at leaft partly) from no better copies than the prompter's book, or piece-meal parts written out for the ufe of the actors: for in fome places their very 5 names are through carelessnefs fet down instead of the Perfonæ Dramatis ; and in others the notes of direction to the propertymen for their moveables, and to the players for their entries, are inferted into the text through the ignorance of the transcribers.


The plays not having been before so much as diftinguished by Acts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they played them ; often when there is no pause in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the fake of mufick, mafques, or monsters.

Sometimes the scenes are tranfpofed and fhuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwife happen, but by their being taken from separate and piece-meal written parts.

Many verfes are omitted entirely, and others tranfpofed; from whence invincible obfcurities have arifen, paft the guess of any commentator to clear up, but juft where the accidental glimpse of an old edition enlightens us.

Much Ado about Nothing, A&t II: "Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilfon," inftead of Balthafar. And in A&t IV. Cowley and Kemp conftantly through a whole scene. Edit. fol. of 1623, and 1632. POPE.

• Such as


My queen is murder'd! Ring the little bell."

His nofe grew as fharp as a pen, and a table of green

fields;" which laft words are not in the quarto. POPE.

There is no fuch line in any play of Shakspeare, as that quoted above by Mr. Pope. MALONE.

Some characters were confounded and mixed, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the quarto edition of Midfummer-Night's Dream, Act V. Shakspeare introduces a kind of mafter of the revels called Philoftrate; all whose part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the subsequent editions: fo alfo in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the prompter's books were what they called the original copies.

From liberties of this kind, many speeches alfo were put into the mouths of wrong perfons, where the author now feems chargeable with making them speak out of character: or fometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing player, to have the mouthing of fome favourite fpeech himfelf, would fnatch it from the unworthy lips of an underling.

Profe from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.

Having been forced to fay fo much of the players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the judgment, as well as condition of that class of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best play-houfes were inns and taverns, (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) fo the top of the profeffion were then mere players, not gentlemen of the ftage: they were led into the buttery by the steward; not placed at the lord's

7 Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, fpoken by a Lord, who is giving directions to his fervant concerning fome players:

"Go, firrah, take them to the buttery,

"And give them friendly welcome, every one."

But he seems not to have obferved that the players here introduced were strollers; and there is no reason to suppose that

table, or lady's toilette: and confequently were entirely deprived of thofe advantages they now enjoy in the familiar converfation of our nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearnefs) with people of the firft condition.

From what has been faid, there can be no queftion but had Shakspeare published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we fhould not only be certain which are genuine, but fhould find in thofe that are, the errors leffened by fome thousands. If I may judge from all the diftinguifhing marks of his ftyle, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, London Prodigal, and a thing called The Double Falfhood," cannot be admitted as his. And I fhould conjecture of fome of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Loft, The Winter's Tale, Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus,) that only some characters, single fcenes, or perhaps a few particular paffages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafioned fome plays to be fuppofed Shakspeare's, was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre while it was under his administration; and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give ftrays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may also obferve) it was not for the intereft of the houfe to remove. Yet the players them

our author, Heminge, Burbage, Lowin, &c. who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner. MALONE.

7 The Double Falfhood, or The Diftreffed Lovers, a play, acted at Drury Lane, 8vo. 1727. This piece was produced by Mr. Theobald as a performance of Shakspeare's. See Dr. Farmer's Efay on the Learning of Shakspeare, Vol. II. REED.

« AnteriorContinuar »