« ForrigeFortsett »
best commend a Booke, the Stationer saies. and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of inThen, how odde soever your braines be, or jurious impostors, that expos’d them : even your wisedomes, make your licence the same, those are now offer'd to your view cur'd and and spare not. Judge your sixe-pen'orth, perfect of their limbes ; and all the rest, abso your shillings worth, your five shillings worth lute in their numbers, as he conceived them : at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, rates, and welcome. But, whatever you do, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind Buy. Censure will not drive a Trade, or make and hand went together: and what he thought, the Jacke go. And though you be a Magistrate he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have of wit, and sit on the Stage at Black-Friers, or scarse received from him a blot in his papers. the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie, know, But it is not our province, who onely gather his these Playes have had their triall alreadie, and works, and give them you, to praise him. It stood out all Appeales; and do now come forth is yours that reade him. And there we hope, quitted rather by a Decree of Court, than any to your divers capacities, you will finde enough, purchas'd Letters of commendation.
both to draw, and hold you : for his wit can no It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, have bene wished, that the Author himselfe had therefore; and againe, and againe: And if then Jived to have set forth, and overseen his owne you doe not like him, surely you are in some writings: But since it hath bin ordain'd other manifest danger, not to understand him. And wise, and he by death departed from that right, so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom we pray you, doe not envie bis Friends, the if you need, can bee your guides : if you neede office of their care and paine, lo have collected them not, you can leade yourselves, and others. and publish'd them; and so lo have publish'a And such readers we wish him. them, as where (before) you were abus’d with
John HEMINGE, divers stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed
Every possible adulteration has of late years | lued at six or seven guineas, now it has reached been practised in fitting up copies of this folio its present enormous price, may not artifice be edition. When leaves have been wanting, they still more on the stretch to vamp up copies for have been reprinted with battered types, and the benefit of future catalogues and auctions ?foisted into vacancies, without notice of such Shakspeare might say of those who profit by defects and the remedies applied to them. hin, what Antony has observed of EnobarbusWhen the title has been lost, a spurious one
my fortuney have has been fabricated, with a blank space left for
Corrupted honest men." the head of Shakspeare, afterwards added from Mr. Garrick, about forty years ago, paid the second, third, or fourth impression. To only Il. 16s. to Mr. Payne at the Meuse Gate conceal these frauds, thick vermillion lines have for a fine copy of this folio. After the death of been usually drawn over the edges of the en- our Roscius, it should have accompanied his gravings, which would otherwise have betrayed collection of old plays to the British Museum; themselves when let into a supplemental page, but had been taken out of his library, and basse however craftily it was lined at the back, and not been heard of since. discoloured with tobacco-water till it had as- Perhaps the original impression of the book helemaa cumed the true jaune antique.
did not amount to more than 250 ; and we may Sometimes leaves have been inserted from the suppose that different fires in London had their second folio, and in a known instance, the entire share of them. Before the year 1649 they were play of Cymbeline; the genuine date at the end so scarce, that (as Mr. Malone bas observed) of it (1632) having been altered into 1623. King Charles I. was obliged to content himself
Since it was thought advantageous to adopt with a folio 1632, at present in my possession. such contrivances while the book was only va
It is not my design to enter into a criticism His characters are so much nature herself, upon this author; though to do it effectually, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so disand not superficially, would be the best occasion tant a name as copies of her. Those of other that any just writer could take, lo form the poets, have a constant resemblance, wbich judgment and taste of our nation. For of all shows that they received them from one another, English poets, Shakspeare must be confessed to and were but multipliers of the same image : be the sairest and fullest subject for criticism, each picture, like a mock rainbow, is but the and to afford the most numerous, as well as reflection of a reflection. But every single chamost conspicuous instances, both of beauties racter in Shakspeare is as much an individual and faults of all sorts. But this far exceeds the as those in life itself: it is as impossible to find bounds of a preface, the business of which is any two alike ; and such as from their relation only to give an account of the fate of his works, or affinity in any respect appear most to be and the disadvantages under which they have twins, will, upon comparison, be found remnarbeen transmitted to us. We shall hereby exte- kably distinct. To this life and variety of chaboate many faults which are his, and clear him racter, we must add the wonderful preservation from the imputation of many which are not : a of it: which is such throughout his plays, that design, which, though it can be no guide to had all the speeches been printed without the future critics to do him justice in one way, will very names of the persons, I believe one might at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him have applied them with certainty to every an injustice in the other.
speaker. * I cannot however but mention some of his The porrer over our passions was never posprincipal and characteristic excellencies, for sessed in a more eminent degree, or displayed which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly in so different instances. Yet all along, there and universally elevated above all other drama- is seen no labour, no pains to raise them; no lie writers. Not that this is the proper place preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or of praising him, but because I would not omit be perceived to lead toward it: but the heart aby occasion of doing it.
swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proIf ever any author deserved the name of an per places : we are surprised the moment we original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himself weep; and yet upon reflection find the passion drew Dot his art so immediately from the foun- so just, that we should be surprised if we had lains of nature; it proceeded through Egyptian not wept, and wept at that very moment. strainers and channels, and came to him not How astonishing is it again, that the passions without some tincture of the learning, or some directly opposite to these, laughter and spleen, cast of the models, of those before him. The poetry of Sbakspeare was inspiration indeed : he • Addison, in the 273d Spectator, has delivered is not so much an imitator, as an instrument a similar opinion respecting Homer: “There is of nature; and it is not so just to say that he reader may not ascribe to the person who speaks
scarce a speech or action in the Iliad, which the speaks from her, as that she speaks through or acts, without seeing his name at the head of it." bim.
are no less at his command ! that he is not pected, and consequently most unnatural, events more a master of the great than of the ridiculous and incidents; the most exaggerated thoughts ; in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, the most verbose and bombast expression ; the than of our vainest foibles ; of our strongest most pompous rhymes, and thundering versifiemotions, than of our idlest sensations ! cation. In comedy, nothing was so sure 10
Nor does he only excel in the passions : in please, as mean buffoonery, vile ribaldry, and the coolness of reflection and reasoning he is unmannerly jests of fools and clowns. Yet eren full as admirable. His sentiments are not only in these our author's wils are buoyed up, and in general the most pertinent and judicious upon borne above his subject : bis genius in those every subject; but by a talent very peculiar, low parts is like some prince of a romance in something between penetration and felicity, he the disguise of a shepherd or peasant; a cerhits upon that particular point on which the tain greatness and spirit now and then break bent of each argument turns, or the force of out, which manifest bis higher extraction and each motive depends. This is perfectly amaz- qualities. ing, from a man of no education or expe- It may be added, that not only the common rience in those great and public scenes of life audience had no notion of the rules of writing, which are usually the subject of his thoughts : but few even of the better sort piqued themselves so that he seems to have known the world by upon any great degree of knowledge or nicely intuition, to have looked through human nature that way: till Ben Jonson getting possession of at one glance, and to be the only author that the stage, brought critical learning into vogue; gives ground for a very new opinion, that the and that this was not done without difficulty, philosopher, and even the man of the world, may appear from those frequent lessons (and may be born, as well as the poet.
indeed almost declamations) which he was It must be owned, that with all these great forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into excellencies, he has almost as great defects; and the mouth of his actors, the grex, chorus, fc. that as he has certainly written better, so he has to remove the prejudices, and inform the judgperhaps written worse, than any olher. But I ment of his hearers. Till then, our authors think I can in some measure account for these had no thoughts of writing on the model of the defects, from several causes and accidents; ancients : their tragedies were only histories in without which it is hard to imagine that so large dialogue ; and their comedies followed the and so enlightened a mind could ever have been thread of any novel as they found it, no less susceptible of them. That all these contingen- implicitly than if it had been true history. cies should unite to his disadvantage seems to To judge therefore of Shakspeare by Aristome almost as singularly unlucky, as that so many tle's rules, is like trying a man by the laws of various (nay contrary) talents should meet in one country who acted under those of another. one man, was happy and extraordinary. He writ to the people ; and writ at first without
It must be allowed that stage-poetry, of all patronage from the better sort, and therefore other, is more particularly levelled to please the without aims of pleasing them: without assispopulace, and its success more immediately de- tance or advice from the learned, as without the pending upon the common suffrage. One can advantage of education or acquaintance among not therefore wonder, if Shakspeare, having at them ; without that knowledge of the best of his first appearance no other aim in his writings, models, the ancients, to inspire him with an than to procure a subsistence, directed his en- emulation of them ; in a word, without any deavours solely to hit the taste and humour that views of reputation, and of what poets are then prevailed. The audience was generally pleased to calls immortality: some or all of composed of the meaner sort of people; and which have encouraged the vanity, or animated therefore the images of life were to be drawn the ambition of other writers. from those of their own rank : accordingly we Yet it must be observed, that when his perfind, that not our author's only, but almost all forinances had merited the protection of his the old comedies have their scene among trades- prince, and when the encouragement of the men and mechanics : and even their historical court had succeeded to that of the town; the plays strictly follow the common old stories or works of his riper years are manifestly raised vulgar traditions of that kind of people. In above those of his former. The dates of bis tragedy, nothing was so sure to surprize and plays sufficiently evidence that his productions cause admiration, as the most strange, unes- improved, in proportion to the respect he had
for his auditors. And I make no doubt this foresaid accidental reasons, they must be charged observation will be found true in every instance, upon the poet himself, and there is no help were but editions extant from which we might for it. But I think the two disadvantages, learn the exact time when every piece was com- which I have mentioned (to be obliged to please posed, and whether writ for the town, or the the lowest of the people, and to keep the worst
of company), if the consideration be extended Another cause (and no less strong than the as far as it reasonably may, will appear sufficient former) may be deduced from our poet's being to mislead and depress the greatest genius upon a player, and forming himself first upon the earth. Nay, the more modesly with which judgments of that body of men whereof he was such a one is endured, the more he is in danger a member. They have ever had a standard to of submitting and conforming to others, against themselves, upon other principles than those bis own belter judgment. of Aristolle. As they live by the majority, But as to his want of learning, it may be they know no rule but that of pleasing the pre- necessary to say something more : there is sent bumour, and complying wilh the wit in certainly a vast difference belween learning fasbion; a consideration which brings all their and languages. How far he was ignorant of judgment to a short point. Players are just the latter, I cannot determine ; but it is plain such judges of what is right as tailors are of he had much reading at least, if they will not what is yraceful. And in this view it will be call it learning. Nor is it any great matter, if but fair to allow, that most of our author's faults a man has knowledge, whether he has it from are less to be ascribed to his wrong judgment one language or from another. Nothing is as a poet, than to his right judgment as a player. more evident than that he had a taste of natu
By these men it would be thought* a praise ral philosophy, mechanics, ancient and modern to Shakspeare, that he scarce ever blotted a line. history, poetical learning, and mythology : we This they industriously propagated, as appears find him very knowing in the customs, rites, from what we are told by Ben Jonson in his and manners of antiquity. In Coriolanus and Discoreries, and from the preface of Heminge Julius Cæsar, not only the spirit, but manners and Condell to the first folio edition. But in of the Roman are exactly drawn; and still a reality (however it has prevailed) there never nicer distinction is shown between the manners was a more groundless report, or to the con- of Romans in the time of the former, and of trary of wbich there are more undeniable the latter. His reading in the ancient historians evidences. As, the comedy of The Merry Wives is no less conspicuous, in many references to of Windsor, which he entirely new writ; The particular passages : and the speeches copied History of Henry the Sixth, which was first from Plutarch in Coriolanus* may, I think, as published under the title of The Contention of well be made an instance of his learning, as York and Lancaster; and that of Henry the those copied from Cicero in Catiline, of Ben Pijte extremely improved; that of Hamlet Jonson's. The manners of other nations in enlarged to almost as much again as at first, general, the Egyptians, Venetians, French, etc. and many others. I believe the common are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever opinion of his want of learning proceeded from object of nature, or branch of science, he either so better ground. This too might be thought speaks of or describes, it is always with coma praise by some, and to this his errors have as petent, if not extensive knowledge : bis deinjudiciously been ascribed by others. For 'tis scriptions are still exact ; all his metaphors certain, were it true, it would concern but a appropriated, and remarkably drawn from the small part of them; the most are such as are true nature and inherent qualities of each subhat properly defects, but superfætations ; and ject. When he treats of ethic or politic, we arise not from want of learning or reading, may constantly observe a wonderful justness of but from want of thinking or judging : or distinction, as well as extent of comprehension. rather (to be more just to our author) from No one is more a master of the poetical story, a compliance to those wants in others. As to
or has more frequent allusions to the various 3 wrong choice of the subject, a wrong conduct parts of it : Mr. Waller (who has been celeof the incidents, false thought, forced expressions, etc. if these are not to be ascribed to the
* These, as the reader will find in the notes on
that play, Shakspeare drew from Sir Thomas "was thought”--Orig. Edit.
North's translation, 1579. MALONE.
brated for this last particular ) bas not shown But however this contention might be carried more learning this way than Shakspeare. We on by the partizans on either side, I cannot help have translations from Ovid published in his thinking these two great poets were good friends, name,* among those poems which pass for and lived on amicable terms, and in offices of his, and for some of which we have undoubted society with each other. It is an acknowledged authority (being published by himself, and fact, that Ben Jonson was introduced upon the dedicated to his noble patron the earl of South-stage, and his first works encouraged, by amplon), he appears also to bave been con- Shakspeare. And after his death, that author versant in Plautus, from whom he has taken writes, To the memory of his beloved William the plot of one of his plays : he follows the Shakspeare, which shows as if the friendship Greek authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius, had continued through life. I cannot for my in another (although I will not pretend to say own part find any thing invidious, or sparing in what language he read them). The modern in those verses, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of Italian writers of novels he was manifestly that opinion. He exalls him not only above acquainted with ; and we may conclude him all his contemporaries, but above Chaucer to be no less conversant with the ancients of and Spenser, whom he will not allow to be his own country, from the use be has made of great enough to be ranked with him; and chalChaucer in Troilus and Cressida, and in The lenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Two Noble Kinsmen, if that play be his, as Æschylus, nay, all Greece and Rome at once there goes a tradition it was (and indeed it has to equal him : and (which is very particular) little resemblance of Fletcher, and more of our expressly vindicates him from the imputation author than some of those which have been of wanting art, not enduring that all bis excelreceived as genuine).
lencies should be attributed to nature. It is I am inclined to think this opinion proceeded remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in originally from the zeal of the partizans of our his Discoveries seems to proceed from a perauthor and Ben Jonson ; as they endeavoured sonal kindness; he tells us, that be loved the to exalt the one at the expense of the other. man, as well as honoured his memory; celeIt is ever the nature of parties to be in extremes ; brates the honesty, openness, and frankness of and nothing is so probable, as that because his temper; and only distinguishes, as he reaBen Jonson had much the more learning, it sonably ought, between the real merit of the was said on the one hand that Shakspeare had author, and the silly and derogatory applauses none at all; and because Shakspeare had much of the players. Ben Jonson might indeed be the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the sparing in his commendations (though certainly other, that Jonson wanted both. Because he is not so in this instance) partly from his Shakspeare borrowed notbing, it was said that own nature, and partly from judgment. For Ben Jonson borrowed every thing. Because men of judgment think they do any man more Jonson did not write extempore, he was re- service in praising him justly, than lavishly. proached with being a year about every piece ; I say, I would fain believe they were friends, and because Shakspeare wrote with ease and though the violence and ill-breeding of their rapidity, they cried, he never once made a followers and Natterers were enough to give rise blot. Nay, the spirit of opposition ran so high, to the contrary report. I would hope that it that whatever those of the one side objected to may be with parties, both in wit and state, as the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned with those monsters described by the poets ; into praises; as injudiciously, as their anta- and that their heads at least may have some gonist before had made them objections. thing human, though their bodies and tails are
Poels are always afraid of envy; but sure they wild beasts and serpents. have as much reason to be afraid of admiration. As I believe that what I have mentioned gave They are the Scylla and Charybdis of authors ; rise to the opinion of Shakspeare's want of those who escape one, often fall by the other. | learning; so what has continued it down to us Pessimum genus inimicorum laudantes, says Ta. may have been the many blunders and illiteracies citus; and Virgil desires to wear a charm against of the first publishers of his works. In these those who praise, a poet without rule or reason : editions their ignorance shines in almost every --si ultra placitum laudarit, baccare frontem
page; nothing is more common than Actus Cingite, de vati noceat.
tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches solus.* • They were written by Thomas Heywood. * Enter three Wilches solus.] This blunder