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or Cicero, had their works undergone the same fate, might have appeared to want sense 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, several of his pieces were printed separately in quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not published by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press: every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned and unusual words so intolerably mangled, that it is plain there either was no corrector to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were supervised by himself, I should fancy The Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, and Midsummer-Night's Dream, might have been so: because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) 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 Cressida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the first was published without his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted, so late as seven 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 should fancy was occasioned 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 first collected) was published by two players, Heminge and Condell, in 1623,
seven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were stolen and surreptitious, 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 bombast passages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, since those quartos, by the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the author. He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the clowns would speak no more than is set down for them. (Act III. sc. 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 scenes of mobs, plebeians, and clowns, are vastly shorter than at present: and I have seen one in particular (which seems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the actors names in the margin) where several of those very passages were added in a written hand, which are since to be found in the folio.
In the next place, a number of beautiful passages, which are extant in the first single editions, are omitted in this: as it seems, without any other reason,than their willingness to shorten some scenes: these men (as it was said of Procrustes) either lopping, or stretching an author, to make him just fit for their stage.
This edition is said to be printed from the original copies; I believe they meant those which had
lain ever since 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 least partly) from no better copies than the prompter's book, or piece-meal parts written out for the use of the actors for in some places their very names are through carelessness set down instead of the Persona Dramatis; and in others the notes of direction to the propertymen for their moveables, and to the players for their entries, are inserted into the text through the ignorance of the transcribers.
The plays not having been before so much as distinguished 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 sake of musick, masques, or monsters.
Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwise happen, but by their being taken from separate and piece-meal written parts.
Many verses are omitted entirely, and others transposed; from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, past the guess of any commentator to clear up, but just where the accidental glimpse of an old edition enlightens us.
* Much Ado about Nothing, Act II: "Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilson," instead of Balthasar. And in Act IV. Cowley and Kemp constantly through a whole scene. Edit. fol. of 1623, and 1632. POPE.
6 Such as
My queen is murder'd! Ring the little bell.”
"His nose grew as sharp as a pen, and a table of green fields;" which last words are not in the quarto. POPE.
There is no such 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 Midsummer-Night's Dream, Act V. Shakspeare introduces a kind of master of the revels called Philostrate; all whose part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the subsequent editions: so also 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 also were put into the mouths of wrong persons, where the author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character: or sometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an underling.
Prose from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.
Having been forced to say so 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-houses were inns and taverns, (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) so the top of the profession were then mere players, not gentlemen of the stage: they were led into the buttery by the steward; not placed at the
7 Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, spoken by a Lord, who is giving direc tions to his servant concerning some players:
"Go, sirrah, take them to the buttery,
"And give them friendly welcome, every one." But he seems not to have observed that the players here introduced were strollers; and there is no reason to suppose that
lord's table, or lady's toilette: and consequently were entirely deprived of those advantages they now enjoy in the familiar conversation of our nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness) with people of the first condition.
From what has been said, there can be no question but had Shakspeare published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we should not only be certain which are genuine, but should find in those that are, the errors lessened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his style, 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 Falshood, cannot be admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus,) that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasioned some plays to be supposed 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 strays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the house to remove. Yet the
our author, Heminge, Burbage, Lowin, &c. who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner. MALONE.
7 The Double Falshood, or The Distressed 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 Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare, Vol. II. REED.