Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that gross kind, sprung from the same root: it not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the least tinciure of a school, or the least conversation with such as had. Ben Jonson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had some Latin; which is utterly inconástent with mistakes like these. Nay, the constant blunders in proper

. names of persons and places, are such as must have proceeded from a man, who had not so much as read any history in any language: so could not be Shakspeare's.

I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost innumerable errors, which haye risen from one source, the ignorance of the players, both as his actors, and as his editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and considered, I dare to fay that not Shakspeare only, but Aristotle 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 prin ted separately in quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not published by him, is the excessive carelesness 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 fo: because I find no other printed with any VOL. I.

K

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 prin'ted 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 thould 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 furreptitious and affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, other; for in all respects else it is far worse than the quartos.

First, because the additions of trilling 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 asage in 'Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the clowns would speak no more than is set down for them.

and no

(A& III. sc. i.) 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 are 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 reafon, 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 orir ginal 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 ire some places their very' names are through careleslness set 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

3 Much Ado about Nothing, AC 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 2623, and 1632. POPE.

7

entries, are inserted into the text through the iga norance 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 sake of musick, masques, or monsters.

Sometimes the scenes are transported 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.

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, AV. Shakspeare introduces a kind of master of the revels called Philostrate; all whose part is given to another chara&ter (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

A Such as,

[ocr errors]

66 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 fuch line in any play of Shakspeare, as that quoted by Mr. Pope. MALONE.

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 himfelf, 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 playhouses were inns and taverus, (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 Reward:' not placed at the 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

Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, spoken by a Lord, who is giving directions to his feryant concerning some players:

166 Go, firrah, take them to the buttery,

46 And give them friendly welcome, every one.rs But he seems not to have observed that the players here in. troduced were strollers; and there is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge, Burbage, Lowin, &c. who were licenfed by K. James, were treated in this manner. MALONE.

7

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »