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and the little which they have been able to per- | various readings of copies, and different interform might have taught them more candour to pretations of a passage, seem to be questions the endeavours of others.
that might exercise the wit, without engaging Before Dr. Warburton's edition, Critical the passions. But whether it be, that small Obserrations on Shakspeare had been published things make mean men proud, and vanity by Mr. Upton, a man skilled in languages, and catches small occasions; or that all contrariety acquainted with books, but who seems to have of opinion, even in those that can defend it no had no great vigour of genius or nicely of taste. longer, makes proud men angry; there is often Many of his explanations are curious and use- found in commentaries a spontaneous train of ful, but he, likewise, though he professed to invective and contempt, more eager and venooppose the licentious confidence of editors, and mous than is vented by the most furious conadhere to the old copies, is unable to restraintrovertist in politics against those whom he is the rage of emendation, thougb bis ardour is bired to defame. ill seconded by his skill. Every coid empirick, Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conwhen his heart is expanded by a successful ex- duce to the vehemence of the agency; when periment, swells into a theorist, and the la- the truth to be investigated is so near to inexisborious collator at some unlucky moment frolics tence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be in conjecture.
enlarged by rage and exclamation : that to wbich Critical, historical, and explanatory Notes all would be indifferent in its original state, have been likewise published upon Sbakspeare may altract notice when the fate of a name is by Dr. Grey, whose diligent perusal of the old appended to it. A commentator has indeed English writers bas enabled him to make some great temptations to supply by turbulence what usefal observations. What be undertook he he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a has well enough performed, but as he neither spacious surface, to work that to foam which no attempts judicial nor emendatory criticism, he art or diligence can exalt to spirit. employs rather his memory than his sagacity. The notes which I have borrowed or written li were to be wished that all would endeavour are either illustrative, by which difficulties are to imitate his modesty, who have not been able explained; or judicial, by which faults and to surpass his knowledge.
beauties are remarked; or emendatory, by which I can say with great sincerity of all my pre-depravations are corrected. decessors, what I hope will hereafter be said of The explanations transcribed from others, if me, that not one has left Shakspeare without I do not subjoin any other interpretation, I improvement, nor is there one to whom I have suppose commonly to be right, at least I intend Dot been indebted for assistance and informa- by acquiescence to confess, that I bave nothing fion. Whatever I have taken from them, it beller to propose. Fas my intention to refer to ils original author, After the labours of all the editors, I found and it is certain, that what I have not given to many passages which appeared to me likely to aolber, I believed when I wrote it to be my obstruct the greater number of readers, and own. In some perhaps 1 bave been anticipat- thought it my duty to facilitate their passage. ed; but if I am ever found to encroach upon the It is impossible for an expositor not to write too remarks of any other commentator, I am willing little for some, and too much for others. He that the honour, be it more or less, should be can only judge what is necessary by his own transferred to the first claimant, for his right, experience; and how long soever he may and bis alone, stands above dispute; the second deliberate, will at last explain many lines which can prove bis pretensions only to himself, nor the learned will think impossible to be mistaken, tan himself always distinguish invention, with and omit many for which the ignorant will sufficient certainty, from recollection.
want his help. These are censures merely They have all been treated by me with can relative, and must be quietly endured. I bave dour, which they have not been careful of endeavoured to be neither superfluously copious, observing to one another. It is not easy to por scrupulously reserved, and hope that I discover from what cause the acrimony of a have made my author's meaning accessible to scholiast can naturally proceed. The subjects many, who before were frighted from perusing to be discussed by bim are of very small impor- him, and contributed something to the public lance; they involve neither property nor liberty, by diffusing innocent and rational pleasure. por favour the interest of sect or party. The The complete explanation of an author not systematic and consequential, bat desultory | singularity deviated from it. Nothing is miand vagrant, abounding in casual allusions and nutely and particularly examined, and therefore light hints, is not to be expected from any single it is to be supposed, that in the plays which are scholiast. All personal reflections, when names condemned there is much to be praised, and in are suppressed, must be in a few years irreco- those which are praised much to be condemned. verably obliterated; and customs, loo minute The part of criticism in which the whole to attract the notice of law, such as modes of succession of editors has laboured with the dress, formalities of conversation, rules of visits, greatest diligence, which has occasioned the disposition of furniture, and practices of cere- most arrogant ostentation, and excited the mony, which naturally find places in familiar keenest acrimony, is the emendation of cordialogue, are so fugitive and unsubstantial, that rupted passages, to which the public attention they are not easily relained or recovered. What having been first drawn by the violence of the can be known will be collected by chance, from contention between Pope and Theobald, has the recesses of obscure and obsolete papers, been continued by the persecution, which, with perused commonly wild some other view. of a kind of conspiracy, has been since raised this knowledge every man has some, and none against all the publishers of Shakspeare. has much; but when an author has engaged the That many passages have passed in a state public attention, those who can add any thing of depravalion though all the editions is into his illustration, communicate their disco- dubitably certain; of these, the restoralion is veries, and time produces what bad eluded only to be attempted by collation of copies, or diligence.
sagacity of conjecture. The collalor's province To time I have been obliged to resign many is safe and easy, the conjecturer's perilous and passages, which, though I did not understand difficult. Yet as the greater part of the plays them, will perhaps hereafter be explained, hav- are extant only in one copy, the peril must not ing, I hope, illustrated some, which others have be avoided, nor the difficulty refused. neglected or mistaken, sometimes by short re- Of the readings which this emulation of marks, or marginal directions, such as every amendment bas hitherto produced, some from editor has added at his will, and often by comments the labours of every publisher I have advanced more laborious than the matter will seem to into the text; those are to be considered as in deserve; but that wbich is most difficult is not my opinion sufficiently supported; some I have always most important, and to an editor nothing rejected without mention, as evidently eris a trifle by which his author is obscured. roncous: some I have left in the notes without
The poetical beaulies or defects I have not censure or approbation, as resting in equipoise been very diligent to observe. Some plays between objection and defence; and some, have more, and some fewer judicial observa- | which seemed specions but not right, I have tions, not in proportion to their difference of inserted with a subsequent animadversion. merit, but because I give this part of my design Having classed the observations of others, I to chance and to caprice. The reader, I was at last to try what I could substitute for believe, is seldom pleased to find his opinion their mistakes, and how I could supply their anticipated; it is natural to delight more in omissions. I collated such copies as I could what we find or make, than in what we receive. procure, and wished for more, but have not Judgment, like other faculties, is improved by found the collector of these rarities very compractice, and its advancement is hindered by municative. Of the editions which chance or submission to dictatorial decisions, as the me- kindness put into my hands, I have given an mory grows lorpid by the use of a table-book. enumeration, that I may not be blamed for Some initiation is however necessary; of all neglecting what I had not the power to do. skill, part is infused by precept, and part is By examining the old copies, I soon found obtained by habit; I have therefore shown so that the later publishers, with all their boasts much as may enable the candidate of criticism of diligence, suffered many passages to stand to discover the rest.
unauthorized, and contented themselves with To most of the plays I have added short Rowe's regulation of the text, even wbere strictures, containing a general censure of faults, they knew it to be arbitrary, and with a little or praise of excellence; in which I know not consideration might have found it to be wrong. how much I have concurred with the current Some of these alterations are only the ejection opinion; but I bave not by any affectation of of a word for one that appeared to him more
elegant or more intelligible. These corruptions I have preserved the common distribution of I have often silently rectified; for the bistory the plays into acts, though I believe it in almost of our language, and the true force of our all the plays void of authority. Some of those words, can only be preserved, by keeping the which are divided in the laler editions have no text of authors free from adulteration. Others, division in the first folio, and some that are and lbose very frequent, smoothed the cadence, divided in the folio have no division in the preer regulated the measure; on these I have not ceding copies. The settled mode of the theatre esercised the same rigour; if only a word was requires four intervals in a play, but few, if transposed, or a particle inserted or omit- any, of our author's compositions can be proted, I bave sometimes suffered the line to stand; perly distributed in that manner.
An act is so for the inconstancy of the copies is such, as that much of the drama as passes without intervensome liberties may be easily permitted. But tion of time, or change of place.
A pause this practice I have not suffered to proceed far, makes a new act. In every real, and therefore having restored the primitive diction wherever in every imitative action, the intervals may be it could for any reason be preferred.
more or fewer, the restriction of five acts being The emendations, which comparison of copies accidental and arbitrary. This Shakspeare sapplied, I have inserted in the text; some- knew, and this he practised; his plays were tines, where the improvement was slight, written, and at first printed in one unbroken without notice, and somelimes with an account continuity, and ought now to be exhibited with of the reasons of the change.
short pauses, interposed as often as the scene Conjecture, though it be sometimes unavoid- is changed, or any considerable time is required able, I have not wantonly nor licentiously in- to pass. This method would at once quell a dulged. It has been my settled principle, that thousand absurdities. the reading of the ancient books is probably In restoring the author's works to their intrue, and therefore is not to be disturbed for tegrity, I have considered the punctuation as ibe sake of elegance, perspicuity, or mere im- wholly in my power; for what could be their provement of the sense. For though much care of colons and commas, who corrupted credit is not due to the fidelity, nor any lo the words and sentences ? Whatever could be judgment of the first publishers, yet they who done by adjusting points, is therefore silently bad the copy before their eyes were more likely performed, in some plays with much diligence, to read it right, than we who read it only by in olhers with less; it is hard to keep a busy eye imagination. But it is evident that they have steadily fixed upon evanescent atoms, or a dis often made strange mistakes by ignorance or cursive mind upon evanescent truth. Degligence, and that therefore something may The same liberty has been taken with a few be properly attempted by criticism, keeping particles, or other words of slight effect. I the middle way between presumption and timi- have sometimes inserted or omitted them withdity.
out notice. I have done that sometimes which Sach crilicism
bave attempted to practise, the other editors have done always, and which and where any passage appeared inextricably indeed the state of the text may sufficiently perplexed, bave endeavoured to discover bow justify. it may be recalled to sense, with least violence. The greater part of readers, instead of blamBat my first labour is, always to turn the old ing us for passing trifles, will wonder that on tert on every side, and try if there be any in- mere trifles so much labour is expended, with terstice, through which light can find its way; such importance of debate, and such solemnity DAP would Huetius bimself condemn me, as of diction. To these l answer with confidence, refusing the trouble of research for the ambi- that they are judging of an art which they do ting of alteration. In this modest industry 1 not understand; yet cannot much reproach them bure not been unsuccessful. bave rescued with their ignorance, nor promise that they Dany lines from the violations of temerily, and would become in general, by learning criticism, secured many scenes from the inroads of cor- more useful, happier, or wiser. rection. I have adopted the Roman sentiment, As I practised conjecture more, I learned to that it is more honourable to save a citizen, than trust it less; and after I bad printed a few plays, to kill an enemy, and have been more careful resolved to insert none of my own readings in to protect than to attack.
the text. Upon this caution I now congratulale
and wish that I could confidently produce my | I should feel little solicltude about the sentence, commentary as equal to the encouragement were it to be pronounced only by the skilful and which I have had the honour of receiving. Every the learned. work of this kind is by ils nature deficient, and
The drama before the time of Shakspeare | tracling from various parts of bis valuable work, 93 so little cultivated, or so ill understood, such particulars as suit my present purpose. that to many it may appear unnecessary to The earliest dramatic entertainments exbicarry oor theatrical researches higher than that bited in England, as well as every other part of period. Dryden has truly observed, that he Europe, were of a religious kind. So early as "* found not, but created first the stage;" of in the beginning of the twelfth century, it was which no one can doubt, who considers, that of customary in England on holy festivals to reall the plays issued from the press antecedent present, in or near the churches, either the lives to the year 1592, when there is reason to be and miracles of saints, or the more mysterious lieve he commenced a dramatic writer, the titles parts of Holy Writ, such as the incarnation, are scarcely known, except to antiquaries ; nor passion, and resurrection of Christ. From the is there one of them that will bear a second subject of these spectacles, these scriplural plays perosal. Yet these, contemptible and few as were denominated Miracles, or Mysteries. At they are, we may suppose to have been the what period of time they were first exhibited in Dost popular productions of the time, and this country, I am unable to ascertain. Unthe best that had been exhibited before the ap- doubtedly, however, they are of very great antipearance of Sbakspeare.*
quity; and Riccoboni, who has contended that A mioute investigation, therefore, of the the Italian theatre is the most ancient in Euorigin and progress of the drama in England, rope, has claimed for his country an honour to Till scarcely repay the labour of the enquiry. which it is not entitled. The era of the earliest Hymerer, as the best introduction to an account representation in Italy founded on Holy Writ, of the internal economy and usages of the Eng- he has placed in the year 1264, when the lish theatres in the time of Shakspeare (the fraternity del Gonfalone was established; but principal object of this dissertation), I shall take we had similar exhibitions in England above a cursory view of our most ancient dramatic ex- 150 years before that time. In the year 1110, hibitions, though I fear I can add but little to as Dr. Percy and Mr. Warton bave observed, the researches wbich bave already been made the Miracle-play of Saint Catharine, written
by Geoffrey, a learned Norman (afterwards Mr. Warton in bis elegant and ingenious abbot of St. Alban's), was acted, probably by History of English Poetry bas given so accurate his scholars, in the abbey of Dunstable; perin account of our earliest dramatic poetry per- haps the first spectacle of this kind exhibited in formances, that I shall make no apology for ex- | England. William Fitz-Stephen, a monk of
Canterbury, who according to the best accounts * Mr. Reed gives a list of seventy-five plays composed his very curious work in 1174, about bow extant, written from the year 1540 to 1600. four years after the murder of his patron ArchThese are exclusive of mysteries, moralities, interlades
, and translated pieces, and of some dramatic bishop Becket, and in the twenty-first year of pieces which were entered on the books of the the reign of King Henry the Second, mentions, Stationers' Company, but have not been printed. that “ London, for its theatrical exhibitions,
on that subject.