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frequent, smoothed the cadence, or regulated the wholly in my power; for what could be their measure ; on these I have not exercised the same care of colons and commas, who corrupted words rigour; if only a word was transposed, or a par- and sentences? Whatever could be done by adticle inserted or omitted, I have sometimes suf-justing points, is therefore silently performed, in fered the line to stand; for the inconstancy of some plays with much diligence, in others with the copies is such, as that some liberties may be less; it is hard to keep a busy eye steadily fixed easily permitted. But this practice I have not upon evanescent acoms, or a discursive mind suffered to proceed far, having restored the pri- upon evanescent truth. mitive diction wherever it could for any reason The same liberty has been taken with a few be preferred.
particles, or other words of slight effect. I have The emendations, which comparison of copies sometimes inserted or omitted them without nosupplied, I have inserted in the iext; sometimes tice. I have done that sometimes, which the where the improvement was light, without notice, other editors have done always, and which inand sometimes with an account of the reasons of deed the state of the text may sufficiently justify. the change.
The greater part of readers, instead of blaming Conjecture, though it be sometimes unavoid us for passing trifles, will wonder that on mere able, I have not wantonly or licentiously in- trifles so much labour is expended, with such dulged. It has been my settled principle, that importance of debate, and such solemnity of dicthe reading of the ancient books is probably true, tion. To these I answer with confidence, that and therefore is not to be disturbed for the sake they are judging of an art which they do not unof elegance, perspicuity, or mere improvement of derstand; yet cannot much reproach them with the sense, for though much credit is not due to their ignorance, nor promise that they' would the fidelity, nor any to the judgment of the first become in general, by learning criticism, more publishers, yet they who had the copy before useful, happier, or wiser. their eyes were more likely to read it right, than As I practised conjecture more, I learned to we who read it only by imagination. But it is trust it less; and after I had printed a few plays, evident that they have often made strange mis- resolved to insert none of my own readings in takes by ignorance or negligence, and that there the text. Upon this caution I now congratulate fore something may be properly attempted by myself
, for every day increases my doubt of my criticism, keeping the middle way between pre- emendations. sumption and timidity.
Since I have confined my imagination to the Such criticism I have attempted to practise, margin, it must not be considered as very repre and where any passage appeared inextricably hensible, if I have suffered it to play some freaks perplexed, have endeavoured to discover how it in its own dominion. There is no danger in conmay be recalled to sense, with least violence. jecture, if it be proposed as conjecture ; and | Bui my first labour is, always to turn the old text while the text remains uninjured, those changes i on every side, and try if there be any interstice, may be safely offered, which are not considered
through which the light can find its way; (nor even by him that offers them as necessary or would Huetius himself condemn me, as refusing safe. the trouble of research, for the ambition of alte If my readings are of little value they have not ration. In this modest industry I have not been been ostentatiously displayed or importunately unsuccessful. I have rescued many lines from obtruded. I could have written longer notes, for the violations of temerity, and secured many the art of writing notes is not of difficult attainscenes from the inroads of correction. I have ment. The work is performed, first by railing adopted the Roman sentiment, that it is more at the stupidity, negligence, ignorance, and asihonourable to save à citizen, than to kill an nine tastelessness of the former editors, and enemy, and have been more careful to protect showing, from all that goes before and all that than to attack.
follows, the inelegance and absurdity of the old I have preserved the common distribution of reading; then by proposing something, which to the plays into acts, though I believe it to be in superficial readers would seem specious, but almost all the plays void of authority. Some of which the editor rejects with indignation; then those which are divided in the later editions have by producing the true reading, with a long parano division in the first folio, and some that are phrase, and concluding with loud acclamations on divided in the folio have no division in the pre- the discovery, and a sober wish for the advanceceding copies. The settled mode of the theatre ment and prosperity of genuine criticism. requires four intervals in the play; but few, if All this may be done, and perhaps done someany, of our author's compositions can be pro- times without impropriety. "But have always perly distributed in that manner. An act is so suspected that the reading is right, which requires much of the drama as passes without interven- many words to prove it wrong; and the emention of time, or change of place. A pause makes dation wrong, that cannot without so much labour a new act. In every real, and therefore in every appear to be right. The justness of a happy imitative, action, the intervals may be more or restoration strikes at once, and the moral precept fewer, the restriction of five acts being accidental may be well applied to criticism, quod dubitas ne and arbitrary. This Shakspeare knew, and this feceris. he practised; his plays were written, and at first To dread the shore which he sees spread with printed in one unbroken continuity, and ought wrecks, is natural to the sailor, I had before my now to be exhibited with short pauses interposed eye so many critical adventures ended in miscaras often as the scene is changed, or any consi- riage, that caution was forced upon me. I en. derable time is required to pass. This method countered in every page wit struggling with its would at once quell a thousand absurdities. own sophistry, and learning confused by the mul.
In restoring ihe author's works to their inte tiplicity of its views. I was forced to censure grity, I have considered the punctuation as those whom I admired, and could not bui reflect,
while I was dispossessing their emendations, how many, after all my efforts, I have retreated, and soon the same fate might happen to my own, and confessed the repulse. I have not passed over how many of the readings which I have corrected with affected superiority what is equally difficult may be by some other editor defended and esta- to the reader and to myself, but, where I could blished.
not instruct him, have owned my ignorance. I Critics I saw, that others' names efface,
might easily have accumulated a mass of seemAnd fix their own, with labour, in the place; ing learning upon easy scenes ; but it ought not Their own, like others, soon their place resign'd, to be imputed to negligence, that, where nothing Or disappear'd, and left the first behind. Pope. .
was necessary, nothing has been done, or thai
, That a conjectural critic should often be mis- where others have said enough, I have said no taken, cannot be wonderful, either to others or more. himself, if it be considered, that in his art there Notes are often necessary, but they are neces. is no system, no principal and axiomatical truth, sary evils. Let him that is yet unacquainted that regulates subordinate positions. His chance with the powers of Shakspeare, and who desires of error is renewed at every attempt ; an oblique to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can view of the passage, a slight misapprehension of give, read every play, from the first scene to the a phrase, a casual inattention to the parts con- last, with utter negligence of all his commentanected, is sufficient to make him not only fail tors When his fancy is once on the wing, let it but fail ridiculously; and when he succceds best, not stoop at correction or explanation. When his he produces perhaps but one reading of many attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike probable, and he that suggests another will to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of always be able to dispute his claims.
Pope. Let him read on through brightness and It is an unhappy state, in which danger is hid obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let under pleasure. The allurements of emen- him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue dation are scarcely resistible, Conjecture has all and his interest in the fable. And when the pleathe joy and all the pride of invention, and he that sures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt has once started a happy change, is too much exactness, and read the commentators. delighted to consider what objections may rise Particular passages are cleared by notes, but against it.
the general effect of the work is weakened. The Yet conjectural criticism has been of great use mind is refrigerated by interruption; the thoughts in the learned world; nor is it my intention to are diverted from the principal subject; the readepreciate a study, that has exercised so many der is weary, he suspects not why; and at last mighty minds, from the revival of learning to our throws away the book which he has too diligently own age, from the bishop of Aleria to English studied. ' Bentley. The critics of ancient authors have, Parts are not to be examined till the whole has in the exercise of their sagacity, many assist- been surveyed; there is a kind of intellectual ances, which the editor of Shakspeare is con- remoteness necessary for the comprehension of demned to want. They are employed upon any great work in its full design and in its true grammatical and settled languages, whose con- proportions ; a close approach shows the smaller struction contributes so much to perspicuity, that niceties, but the beauty of the whole is discerned Homer has fewer passages unintelligible than no longer. Chaucer. The words have not only a known re It is not very grateful to consider how little the gimen, but invariable quantities, which direct and succession of editors has added to this author's confine the choice. There are commonly more power of pleasing. He was read, admired, stumanuscripts than one; and they do not often died, and imitated, while he was yet deformed conspire in the same mistakes. Yet Scaliger with all the improprieties which ignorance and could confess to Salmasius how little
satisfaction neglect could accumulate upon him; while the his emendations gave him. Illudunt nobis con- reading was yet not rectified, nor his allusions jecturæ nostræ, quarum nos pudet, posteaquam in understood; yet then did Dryd en pronounce, that meliores codices incidinus. And Lipsius could Shakspeare was the “man, who, of all modern, complain, that critics were making faults by try- and perhaps ancient, poets, had the largest and ing to remove them; Ut olim vitiis, ita nunc reme- most comprehensive soul. All the images of diis laboratur. And, indeed, where mere conjec- nature were still present to him, and he crew ture is to be used, the emendations of Scaliger them not laboriously, but luckily'; when he de and Lipsius, notwithstanding their wonderful. scribes any thing, you more than see it, you feel sagacity and erudition, are often vague and dis- it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted putable, like mine or Theobald'&
learning, give him the greater commendation : Perhaps I may not be more censured fordoing he was naturally learned: he needed not the wrong, than for doing little ; for raising in the spectacles of books to read nature : he looked public expectations which at last I have not inwards, and found her there. I cannot say be answered. The expectation of ignorance is in- is every where alike; were he so, I should do him definite, and that of knowledge is often tyranni- injury to compare hím with the greatest of mana cal. It is hard to satisfy those who knew not. kind. He is many times flat and insipid ; his what to demand, or those who demand by design, comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious what they think impossible to be done. I have swelling into bombast. But he is always great indeed disappointed no opinion more than my when some great occasion is presented to him; own; yet I have endeavored to perform
my task no man
can say, he ever had a fit subject for his with 'no slight solicitude. Not a single passage wil, and did not then raise himself as high above in the shole work has appeared to me corrupt, the rest of poets, which I have not attempted to restore; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to illustrate.
Quantam lenta solent inter viburna cupressi"" In many I have failed, like others; and from It is to be lamented that such a writer should
want a commentary; that his language should works unworthy to be preserved, which the cribecome obsolete, or his sentiments obscure. But tics of following ages were to contend for the it is vain to carry wishes beyond the condition of fame of restoring and explaining, human things; that which must happen to all, Among These candidates of inferior fame, I am has happened to Shakspeare, by accident and now to stand the judgment of the public; and time; and more than has been suffered by any wish that I could confidently produce my comothor writer since the use of types, has been suf- mentary as equal to the encouragement which I fered by him, through his own 'negligence of have had the honour of receiving. Every work of fame, or perhaps by that superiority of mind, this kind is by its nature deficient, and I should feel which despised its own performances, when it little solicitude about the sentence, were it to be compared them with its powers, and judged those pronounced only by the skilful and the learned.
PLAYS OF SHAKSPEARE.
“Titus Andronicus :" and it will be found more It is observed of "The Tempest,” that its credible, that Shakspeare might sometimes sink plan is regular; this the author of "The Revi- below his highest fights, than that any other sal”* thinks, what I think too, an accidental should rise up to his lowest. effect of the story, not intended or regarded by
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. our author. But whatever might be Shak
Of this play there is a tradition preserved by speare's intention in forming or adopting the plot, Mr. Rowe, that it was written at the command he has made it instrumental to the production of of queen Elizabeth, who was so delighted with many characters diversified with boundless in the character of Falstaff, that she wished it to be vention, and preserved with profound skill in diffused through more plays; but suspecting that nature, extensive knowledge of opinions, and it might pall by continued uniformity, directed accurate observation of life. In a single drama the poet to diversify his manner by showing him are here exhibited princes, courtiers, and sailors, in love. No task is harder than ihat of writing all speaking in their real characters. There is to the
ideas of another. Shakspeare knew what the agency of airy spirits, and of an eartbly the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have goblin ; the operations of magic, the tumults of known, that by any real passion of tenderness, å storm, the adventures of a desert island, the the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy native effusion of untaught affection, the punish- luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much ment of guilt, and the final happiness of the pair abatement, that little of his former cast would for whom our passions and reason are equally have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by interested.
ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterTWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA. feit love, and his profession could be prompted, In this play there is a strange mixture of know- not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus ledge and ignorance, of care and negligence. work enjoined him; yet having perhaps in the
poet approached as near as he could to the The versification is often excellent, the allusions former plays completed his own idea, seems not are learned and just; but the author conveys his heroes by sea from one inland town to another
in to have been able to give Falstaff all his former the same country; he places the emperor at
power of entertainment. Milan, and sends his young men to attend him, number of the personages, who exhibit more
This comedy is remarkable for the variety and but never mentions him more; he makes Protheus, after an interview with Silvia, say he has
characters appropriated and discriminated, than only seen her picture ; and, if we may credit the perhaps can be found in any other play. old eepies, he has, by mistak ing places, left his duced upon the English stage the effect of lan
Whether Shakspeare was the first that profusion seems to be, that he took his story from a guage distorted and depraved by provincial or novel, which he sometimes followed, and some
foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly decide. times forsook, sometimes remembered, and some confer praise only on him, who originally disco
This mode of forming ridiculous characters can times forgot. speare, I have little doubt? If it be taken from wholly from the player, but its power in a skilThat this play is rightly attributed to Shak. vered it
, for it requires not much of either wit or
its success must be derived almost him, to whom shall it be given ? This question ful mouth, even be that despises it, is unable to may be asked of all the disputed plays, except resist. * Mr. Heath, who wrote a Revisal of Shakspeare's) action begins and ends often before the conclu
The conduct of this drama is deficient : the sexi, published in 8vo. circa 1760.
sion, and the different parts might change places | The story has been published in English, and I without inconvenience; but its general power, have epitomized the translation. The translathat power by which all works of genius shall tor is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is finally be tried, is such, that perhaps it never yet borrowed from a tale of Boccace, which I have had reader or spectator, who did not think it too likewise abridged, though I believe that Shaksoon at an end.
speare must have had some other novel in view,
Of “The Merchant of Venice," the style is MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, There is perhaps not one of Shakspeare's or anomalies of construction. The comic part plays more darkened than this, by the peculiari- raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. ties of its author, and the unskilfulness of its The probability of either one or the other story editors, by distortions of praise, or negligence of cannot be maintained. The union of two actranscription
tions in one event is in this drama eminently The novel of “Giraldi Cynthio,” from which happy. Dryden was much pleased with his Shakspeare is supposed to have borrowed this own address in connecting che two plots of his fable, may be read in “Shakspeare Illustrated,” “ Spanish Friar,” which yet, I believe, the critic elegantly translated, with remarks, which will will find excelled by this play. assist the inquirer to discover how much absur
AS YOU LIKE IT. dity Shakspeare has admitted or avoided.
I cannot but suspect that some other had new Of this play the fable is wild and pleasing. I modelled this novel of Cynthio, or written a story know not how the ladies will approve the faciwhich in some particulars resembled it, and that (lity with which both Rosalind and Celia give Cynthio was not the author whom Shakspeare away their hearts. To Celia much may be forimmediately followed. The emperor, in Cyn-given for the heroism of her friendship. The thio, is named Maximine ; the duke, in Shak- character of Jacques is natural and well preservspeare's enumeration of the persons of the drama, ed. The comic dialogue is very sprightly, with is called Vincentio. This appears a very slight | less mixture of low buffoonery than in some remark; but since the duke has no name in ihe other plays : and the graver part is elegant and play, nor is ever mentioned but by his title, why harmonious. By hastening to the end of his should he be called Vincentio among the persons, work, Shakspeare suppressed the dialogue bebut because the name was copied from the story, tween the usurper and the hermit, and lost an and placed superfluously at ihe head of the list opportunity of exhibiting a moral lesson in which by the mere habit of transcription ? It is there he might have found matter worthy of his highfore likely, that there was then a story of Vin- est powers. centio, duke of Vienna, different from that of
TAMING OF THE SHREW. Maximine, emperor of the Romans. of this play, the light or comic part is very that they can hardly be called two without in
Of this play the two plots are so well united, few passages be excepted, have more labour jury to the art with which they are interwoven.
The attention is entertained with all the variety than elegance. The plot is rather intricate than of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconartful. The time of the action is indefinite;
nected incidents. some time, we know not how much, must have elapsed between the recess of the duke, and the eminently sprightly and diverting. At the mar
The part between Katharine and Petruchio is imprisonment of Claudio ; for he must have riage of Bianca, the arrival of the real father, learned the story of Mariana in his disguise, or perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure. he delegated his power to a man already known The whole play is very popular and diverting. to be corrupted. The unities of action and place are sufficiently preserved.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
This play has many delightful scenes, though
not sufficiently probable, and some happy chaIn this play, which all the editors have con- racters, though not new, nor produced by any curred to censure, and some have rejected as un- deep knowledge of human nature. Parolles is a worthy of our poet, it must be confessed that boaster and a coward, such as has always been there are many passages mean, childish, and the sport of the stage, but perhaps never raised vulgar; and some which ought not to have been more laughter or contempt than in the hands of exhibited, as we are told they were, to a maiden Shakspeare. queen. But there are scattered through the I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram; a man whole many sparks of genius; nor is there any noble without generosity, and young without play that has more evident marks of the hand of truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and Shakspeare.
leaves her as a profligate: when she is dead by MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marWild and fantastical as this play is, all the wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is
riage, is accused by a woman whom he has parts in their various modes are well written, and
dismissed to happiness. give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fa- before of Mariana and Angelo, and, to confess
The story of Bertram and Diana had been told shion; common tradition had made them familiar, the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a second and Spenser's poem had made them great.
time. MERCHANT OF VENICE,
TWELFTH NIGHT. It has been lately discovered, that this fable is This play is in the graver part elegant and taken from a story in the “ Pecorone” of Gio- easy, and in some of the lighter scenes exquivanni Fiorentino, a novelist, who wrote in 1378. sitely humorous. Ague-cheek is drawn with
great propriety, but his character is, in a great | KING HENRY IV. PART II. measure, that of natural fatuity, and is therefore I fancy every reader, when he ends this play, not the proper prey of a satirist. The soliloquy cries out with Desdemona, “O most lame and of Malvolio is truly comic; he is betrayed to ridi- impotent conclusion !” As this play was not, to cule merely by his pride. The marriage of Oli- our knowledge, divided into acts by the author, via, and the succeeding perplexity, though well I could be content to conclude it with the death enough contrived to divert on the stage, wants of Henry the Fourth. credibility, and fails to produce the proper instruction required in the drama, as it exhibits no
In that Jerusalem shall Harry die. just picture of life.
These scenes, which now make the fifth act WINTER'S TALE.
of “Henry the Fourth,” might then be the first The story of this play is taken from “ The of “Henry the Fifth :" but the truth is, that they pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia," writ- When these plays were represented, I believe
do unite very commodiously to either play. ten by Robert Greene.
This play, as Dr. Warburton justly observes, they ended as they are now ended in the hooks ; is
, with all its absurdities, very entertaining. The but Shakspeare seems to have designed that the character of Autolycus is very naturally con
whole series of action, from the beginning of ceived, and strongly represented.
“Richard the Second," to the end of “Henry the Fifth,” should be considered by the reader as
one work, upon one plan, only broken into parts This play is deservedly celebrated for the pro- by the necessity of exhibition. priety of its fictions, and solemnity, grandeur,
None of Shakspeare's plays are more read and variety of its action, but it has no nice dis- than the “First and Second Parts of Henry the criminations of character; the events are too Fourth." Perhaps no author has ever in two great to admit the influence of particular dispo- plays afforded so much delight. The great events sitions, and the course of the action necessarily are interesting, for the fate of kingdoms depend determines the conduct of the agents.
upon them; the slighter occurrences are divertThe danger of ambition is well described : ing, and, except one or two, sufficiently proand I know not whether it may not be said, in bable; the incidents are multiplied with wondefence of some parts which now seem improba- derful fertility of invention, and the characters ble, that in Shakspeare's time it was necessary and the profoundest skill in the nature of man.
diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment, to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.
The prince, who is the hero both of the comic The passions are directed to their true end. and tragic part, is a young man of great abilities Lady Macbeth is merely detested; and though and violent passions, whose sentiments are right, the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, though his actions are wrong; whose virtues are yet every reader rejoices at his fall.
obscured by negligence, and whose understand
ing is dissipated by levity. In his idle hours he KING JOHN
is rather loose than wicked; and when the occaThe tragedy of “King John,” though not sion forces out his latent qualities, he is great written with the utmost power of Shakspeare, without effort, and brave without tumult
. The is varied with a very pleasing interchange of in- trifler is roused into a hero, and the hero again cidents and characters. The lady's grief is very reposes in the trifler. This character is great, affecting ; and the character of the bastard con- original, and just. tains that mixture of greatness and levity which Percy is a rugged soldier, choleric and quarthis author delighted to exhibit.
relsome, and has only the soldier's virtues, gene
rosity and courage. KING RICHARD II.
But Falstaff, unimitated, unimitable Falstaff, This play is extracted from the Chronicle of how shall I describe thee?' Thou compound of Hollinshed, in which many passages may be sense and vice: of sense which may be admired, found which Shakspeare has, with very little but not esteemed; of vice which may be despised, alteration, transplanied into his scenes ; particu- but hardly detested. Falstaff is a character loadlarly a speech of the bishop of Carlisle in defence ed with faults, and with those faults which natuof King Richard's unalienable right, and immu- rally produce contempt. He is a thief and a nity from human jurisdiction.
glutton, a coward and a boaster, always ready Jonson, who, in his “Catiline and Sejanus,” to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor; to has inserted many speeches from the Roman terrify the timorous, and insult the defenceless. historians, was perhaps induced to that practice At once obsequious and malignant, he satirizes by the example of Shakspeare, who had conde in their absence those whom he lives by flatterscended sometimes to copy more ignoble writers. ing. He is familiar with the prince only as an But Shakspeare had more of his own than Jonson, agent of vice, but of this familiarity he is so proud, and if he sometimes was willing to spare his la- as not only to be supercilious and haughty with bour, showed by what he performed at other common men, but to think his interest of imtimes, that his extracts were made by choice or portance to the duke of Lancaster. Yet the idleness rather than necessity.
man thus corrupt, thus despicable, makes himThis play is one of those which Shakspeare self necessary to the prince that despises him, has apparently revised; but as success in works by the most pleasing of all qualities, perpetual of invention is not always proportionate to la- gayety, by an unfailing power of exciting laughbour, it is not finished at last with the happy ter, which is the more freely indulged, as his wit force of some other of his tragedies, nor can be is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but consaid much to affect the passions, or enlarge the sists in easy scapes and sallies of levity, which understanding.
make sport, but raise no envy. It must be ob