« PreviousContinue »
by the most delicate; who, if they are not without feelings, may chance to find themselves touch'd by it with such passions as tragedy should excite, that is-terror, and pity. The reader will please to observe-that all these contested plays are in the folio, which is dedicated to the poet's patrons and friends, the earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, by editors who are seemingly honest men, and profess themselves dependant upon those noblemen; to whom therefore they would hardly have had the confidence to present forgeries, and pieces supposititious; in which too they were liable to be detected by those identical noble persons themselves, as well as by a very great part of their other readers and auditors: which argument, though of no little strength in itself, we omitted to bring before, as having better (as we thought) and more forcible to offer; but it had behov'd those gentlemen who have question'd the plays to have got rid of it in the first instance, as it lies full in their way in the very entrance upon this dispute.
We shall close this part of the Introduction with some observations,'that were reserv'd for this place, upon that paragraph of the player editors' preface which is quoted at p. 330; and then taking this further liberty with the reader,-to call back his attention to some particulars that concern the present edition, dismiss him to be entertain'd (as we hope) by a sort of appendix, consisting of those notes that have been mention'd, in which the true and undoubted originals of almost all the poet's fables are clearly pointed out. But first of the preface. Besides the authenticity of all the several pieces that make up this collection, and their care in publishing them, both solemnly affirm'd in the paragraph refer'd to, we there find these honest
editors acknowledging in terms equally solemn the author's right in his copies, and lamenting that he had not exercis'd that right by a publication of them during his life-time; and from the manner in which they express themselves, we are strongly inclin❜d to think-that he had really form'd such a design, but towards his last days, and too late to put it in execution: a collection of Jonson's was at that instant in the press, and upon the point of coming forth; which might probably inspire such a thought into him and his companions, and produce conferences between them-about a similar publication from him, and the pieces that should compose it, which the poet might make a list of. It is true, this is only a supposition; but a supposition arising naturally, as we think, from the incident that has been mention'd, and the expressions of his fellow players and editors: and, if suffer'd to pass for truth, here is a good and sound reason for the exclusion of all those other plays that have been attributed to him upon some grounds or other; he himself has proscrib'd them; and we cannot forbear hoping, that they will in no future time rise up against him, and be thrust into his works; a disavowal of weak and idle pieces, the productions of green years, wantonness, or inattention, is a right that all authors are vested with; and should be exerted by all, if their reputation is dear to them; had Jonson us'd it, his character had stood higher than it does. But, after all, they who have pay'd attention to this truth are not always secure; the indiscreet zeal of an admirer, or avarice of a publisher, has frequently added things that dishonour them; and where realities have been wanting, forgeries supply the place; thus has Homer his Hymns, and the poor Mantuan his Ciris
and his Culex. Noble and great authors demand all our veneration: where their wills can be discover'd, they ought sacredly to be comply'd with; and that editor ill discharges his duty, who presumes to load them with things they have renounc'd: it happens but too often, that we have other ways to shew our regard to them; their own great want of care in their copies, and the still greater want of it that is commonly in their impressions, will find sufficient exercise for any one's friendship, who may wish to see their works set forth in that perfection which was intended by the author. And this friendship we have endeavour'd to shew to Shakspeare in the present edition: the plan of it has been lay'd before the reader; upon whom it rests to judge finally of its goodness, as well as how it is executed: but as several matters have interven'd that may have driven it from his memory; and we are desirous above all things to leave a strong impression upon him of one merit which it may certainly pretend to, that is—it's fidelity; we shall take leave to remind him, at parting, that-Throughout all this work, what is added without the authority of some ancient edition, is printed in a black letter: what alter'd, and what thrown out, constantly taken notice of; some few times in a note, where the matter was long, or of a complex nature; but, more generally, at the
The particulars that could not well be pointed out below, according to the general method, or otherwise than by a note, are of three sorts;-omissions, any thing large; transpositions; and such differences of punctuation as produce great changes in the sense of a passage: instances of the first occur in Love's Labour's Lost, p. 54, and in Troilus and Cressida, p. 109 and 117; of the second, in The Comedy of Errors, p. 62, and in Richard III. p. 92, and 102; and The Tempest, p. 69, and King
bottom of the page; where what is put out of the text, how minute and insignificant soever, is always to be met with; what alter'd, as constantly set down, and in the proper words of that edition upon which the alteration is form'd: and, even in authoriz'd readings, whoever is desirous of knowing further, what edition is follow'd preferably to the others, may be gratify'd too in that, by consulting the Various Readings; which are now finish'd and will be publish'd, together with the Notes, in some other volumes, with all the speed that is convenient.
ORIGIN OF SHAKSPEARE'S FABLES.
All's well that ends well.
The fable of this play is taken from a novel, of which Boccace is the original author; in whose Decameron it may be seen at p. 97.b of the Giunti edition, reprinted at London. But it is more than probable, that Shakspeare read it in a book, call'd The Palace of Pleasure: which is a collection of novels translated from other authors, made by one William Painter, and by him first publish'd in the years 1565 and 67, in two tomes, quarto; the novel now spoken of, is the thirty-eighth of tome the first. This novel is a meagre translation, not (perhaps)
Lear, p. 53, afford instances of the last; as may be seen by looking into any modern edition, where all those passages stand nearly as in the old ones.
[All these references are to Mr. Capell's own edition of our author.]
immediately from Boccace, but from a French translator of him: as the original is in every body's hands, it may there be seen-that nothing is taken from it by Shakspeare, but some leading incidents of the serious part of his play.
Antony and Cleopatra.
This play, together with Coriolanus, Julius Cæsar, and some part of Timon of Athens, are form'd upon Plutarch's Lives, in the articles-Coriolanus, Brutus, Julius Cæsar, and Antony: of which lives there is a French translation, of great fame, made by Amiot, Bishop of Auxerre and great almoner of France; which, some few years after it's first appearance, was put into an English dress by our countryman Sir Thomas North, and publish'd in the year 1579, in folio. As the language of this translation is pretty good, for the time; and the sentiments, which are Plutarch's, breathe the genuine spirit of the several historical personages; Shakspeare has, with much judgment, introduc'd no small number of speeches into these plays, in the very words of that translator, turning them into verse: which he has so well wrought up, and incorporated with his plays, that, what he has introduc'd, cannot be discover'd by any reader, 'till it is pointed out for him.
As you like it.
A novel, or (rather) pastoral romance, intitl❜dEuphues's Golden Legacy, written in a very fantastical style by Dr. Thomas Lodge, and by him first publish'd in the year 1590, in quarto, is the foun