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Romeo and Juliet was first printed in the year 1597, under the following title :"An excellent conceited Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants.” This edition, a copy of which is of great rarity and value, was reprinted by Steevens, in his collection of twenty of the plays of Shakspere.
The second edition of Romeo and Juliet was printed in 1599, under the following title :—“The most excellent and lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Juliet. Newly corrected, augmented, and amended : As it hath bene sundry times publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants.” This edition is also rare; but we have had the advantage of using a copy in the British Museum.
The subsequent original editions are,- an undated quarto; a quarto in 1607; a quarto in 1609, which has also been reprinted by Steevens; and the folio of 1623. All these editions are founded upon the quarto of 1599, from which they differ very slightly.
We have taken the folio of 1623 as the basis of our text, indicating the differences between that text and the quartos subsequent to that of 1597, whenever any occur. But we have not attempted to make up a text, as was done by Pepe, and subsequently by Steevens, out of the amended quarto of 1599 and the original of 1597. In some instances, indeed, the quarto of 1597 is of importance in the formation of a text, for the correction of typographical errors, which have run through the subsequent editions. Wherever our text differs from that commonly received, we state the difference, and the reasons for that difference. Our general reasons for founding the text upon the folio of 1623, which is, in truth, to found it upon the quarto of 1599, are as follows :
The quarto of 1599 was declared to be “Newly corrected, augmented, and amended." There can be no doubt whatever that the corrections, augmentations, and emendations were those of the author. There are typographical errors in this edition, and in all the editions, and occasional confusions of the metrical arrangement, which render it more than probable that Shakspere did not see the proofs of his printed works. But that the copy, both of the first edition and of the second, was derived from him, is, to our minds, perfectly certain. We know of nothing in literary history more curious or more instructive than the example of minute attention, as well as consummate skill, exhibited by Shakspere in correcting, augmenting, and amending the first copy of this play. We would ask, then, upon what canon of criticism can an editor be justified in foisting into a copy TRAGEDIES. – VOL. I. B2