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other nations in general, the Egyptians, Venetians, French, &c. are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever object of nature, or branch of fcience, he either fpeaks of or describes, it is always with competent, if not extenfive knowledge: his defcriptions are ftill exact; all his metaphors appropriated, and remarkably drawn from the true nature and inherent qualities of each fubject. When he treats of ethick or politick, we may conftantly observe a wonderful juftnefs of diftinction, as well as extent of comprehenfion. No one is more a master of the political story, or has more frequent allufions to the various parts of it: Mr. Waller (who has been celebrated for this laft particular) has not shown more learning this way than Shakspeare. We have tranflations from Ovid publifhed in his name,3 among thofe poems which pafs for his, and for fome of which we have undoubted authority (being published by himself, and dedicated to his noble patron the Earl of Southampton): he appears alfo to have been converfant in Plautus, from whom he has taken the plot of one of his plays he follows the Greek authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius, in another, (although I will not pretend to fay in what language he read them). The modern Italian writers of novels he was manifeftly acquainted with; and we may conclude him to be no lefs converfant with the ancients of his own country, from the ufe he has made of Chaucer in Troilus and Crefsida, and in The Two Noble Kinfmen, if that play be his, as there goes a tradition it was (and indeed it has little refemblance of Fletcher, and more of our author than fome of those which have been received as genuine).
They were written by Thomas Heywood. See [Mr. Malone's] Vol. X. p. 321, n. 1. MALONE.
I am inclined to think this opinion proceeded originally from the zeal of the partizans of our author and Ben Jonfon; as they endeavoured to exalt the one at the expence of the other. It is ever the nature of parties to be in extremes; and nothing is so probable, as that because Ben Jonfon had much the more learning, it was faid on the one hand that Shakspeare had none at all; and because Shakspeare had much the moft wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that Jonfon wanted both. Because Shakspeare borrowed nothing, it was faid that Ben Jonfon borrowed every thing. Because Jonfon did not write extempore, he was reproached with being a year about every piece; and because Shakspeare wrote with cafe and rapidity, they cried, he never once made a blot. Nay, the fpirit of oppofition ran fo high, that whatever thofe of the one fide objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned into praises; as injudiciously, as their antagonists before had made them objections.
Poets are always afraid of envy; but fure they have as much reafon to be afraid of admiration. They are the Scylla and Charybdis of authors; those who escape one, often fall by the other. Pefsimum genus inimicorum laudantes, fays Tacitus; and Virgil defires to wear a charm against those who praise a poet without rule or reafon :
fi ultra placitum laudârit, baccare frontem Cingite, ne vati noceat
But however this contention might be carried on by the partizans on either fide, I cannot help thinking these two great poets were good friends, and lived on amicable terms, and in offices of fociety VOL. I.
with each other. It is an acknowledged fact, that Ben Jonson was introduced upon the ftage, and his first works encouraged, by Shakspeare. And after his death, that author writes, To the memory of his beloved William Shakspeare, which fhows as if the friendship had continued through life. I cannot for my own part find any thing invidious or Sparing in those verses, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of that opinion. He exalts him not only above all his contemporaries, but above Chaucer and Spenfer, whom he will not allow to be great enough to be ranked with him; and challenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Æfchylus, nay, all Greece and Rome at once, to equal him: and (which is very particular) exprefsly vindicates him from the imputation of wanting art, not enduring that all his excellencies fhould be attributed to nature. It is remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in his Discoveries feems to proceed from a perfonal kindness; he tells us, that he loved the man, as well as honoured his memory; celebrates the honefty, openness, and frankness of his temper; and only diftinguishes, as he reasonably ought, between the real merit of the author, and the filly and derogatory applaufes of the players. Ben Jonfon might indeed be fparing in his commendations (though certainly he is not fo in this inftance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praifing him juftly, than lavishly. I fay, I would fain believe they were, friends, though the violence and ill-breeding of their followers and flatterers were enough to give rife to the contrary report. I hope that it may be with parties, both in wit and state, as with thofe monfters described by the poets; and that their heads at leaft may have
fomething human, though their bodies and tails are wild beafts and ferpents.
As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rife to the opinion of Shakspeare's want of learning; fo what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the firft publifhers of his works. In thefe editions their ignorance fhines in almost every page; nothing is more common than Actus tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches folus.4 Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in conftruction and spelling: their very Welsh is falfe. Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that grofs kind, fprung from the fame root: it not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the leaft tincture of a school, or the least conversation with fuch as had. Ben Jonfon (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had fome Latin; which is utterly inconfiftent with mistakes like thefe. Nay, the conftant blunders in proper names of perfons and places, are fuch as muft have proceeded from a man, who had not fo much as read any history in any language: fo could not be Shakspeare's.
I fhall now lay before the reader fome of those almost innumerable errors, which have rifen from one fource, the ignorance of the players, both as his actors, and as his editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and confidered, I dare to say that not Shakspeare only, but Ariftotle
• Enter three Witches folus.] This blunder appears to be of Mr. Pope's own invention. It is not to be found in any one of the four folio copies of Macbeth, and there is no quarto edition of it extant. STEEVENS.
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 himself. During the time of his employment in the theatre, feveral of his pieces were printed feparately in quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not publifhed by him, is the exceffive carelessnefs of the prefs: every page is to fcandaloufly falfe fpelled, and almoft 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 Midfummer-Night's Dream, might have been fo: because I find no other printed with any exactnefs; and (contrary to the reft) there is very little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two prefaces to the firft quarto edition of Troilus and Crefsida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the firft 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 fome of thefe, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trafh 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,