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1. THE HISTORY OF THE PLAY. The earliest known edition of the play is a quarto printed in 1597, with the following title-page :
The Tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, His treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his iunocent nephewes : | his tyrannicall vsurpation : with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued death. | As it hath beene lately Acted by the | Right honourable the Lord Chamber- | laine his seruants. | AT LONDON | Printed by Valentine Sims, for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Chuch-yard, at the Signe of the Angell. 1597
The play had been entered on the Stationers' Registers on the zoth of October, 1597, by Wise, under the title of “The Tragedie of Kinge Richard the Third, with the death of the Duke of Clarence.”
A second quarto edition was published the following year, with the addition of “By William Shake-speare ” on the titlepage ; .in other respects it is a reprint of the first. Other quarto editions appeared in 1602, 1605, 1612, and 1622. All four are said to be “newly augmented," but they contain nothing that is not found in the ad quarto, unless it be additional errors of the press.*
The text of the play in the ist folio differs materially from that of the quartos. Besides many little changes in expression, it contains several passages—one of more than fifty lines—not found in the earlier texts; while, on the other hand, it omits sundry lines—in some cases, essential to the context-given in the quartos. The play is, moreover, one of the worst printed in the folio, and the quartos often help us in correcting the typographical errors. Which is on the whole the better text, and what is the relation of the one to the other, are questions which have been much disputed, but probably will never be satisfactorily settled. The Cambridge editors remark : “The respective origin and authority of the ist quarto and ist folio texts of Richard III. is perhaps the most difficult question which presents itself to an editor of Shakespeare. In the case of most of the plays a brief survey leads him to form a definite judgment; in this, the most attentive examination scarcely enables him to propose with confidence a hypothetical conclusion.” Staunton says: “the diversity has proved, and will continue to prove, a source of
* A seventh quarto edition was printed in 1629, not from the folio 1623, but from the quarto of 1622. An eighth quarto, a reprint of the seventh, appeared in 1634.
incalculable trouble and perpetual dispute to the editors, since, although it is admitted by every one properly qualified to judge, that a reasonably perfect text can only be formed from the two versions, there will always be a conflict of opinions regarding some of the readings." Furnivall considers " the making of the best text” of the play “the hardest puzzle in Shakspere-editing.”
Non nostrum tantas componere lites. All that we can do is to take one of the texts as a basis-we are inclined, with Collier, Knight, Verplanck, Hudson, and White, to choose the folio*—and to use the other, according to our best judgment, in correcting and amending it. All variations of any importance will be recorded in the Notes.
The date of the play was fixed by Malone in 1593, and Dowden considers that it “ can hardly be later.” White is inclined to put it in the same year,“ or early in 1594.” Furnivall and Stokes favour 1594 ; Fleay (Manual) says "probably 1595;" while Dyce (2d ed.) thinks it was “ perhaps not long before 1597, the date of the earliest quarto.”ť If the allusion to “Richard” in the 22d of John Weever's Epigrammes, addressed “Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare,” is to Richard III., as the critics generally agree, the date of the play cannot well be later than 1595, as the Epigrammes, according to Drake and Ingleby, were written in 1595, though not printed until 1599.
The internal evidence is in favour of as early a date as 1594. Stokes remarks: “There are many signs of comparatively early work: for instance, the prologue-like speech
* Malone preferred the quasto, as do the Cambridge editors, Staunton, and (in his 2d ed.) Dyce. For a very full discussion of the relations of the two texts, see the papers by Spedding and Peckersgill in the Transactions of the New Shakspere Society, 1875–76, pp. l-124.
† Collier also (2d ed.), referring to Malone's date of 1593, is “disposed to place it nearer the time of its original publication in 1597;” though Stokes quotes him as agreeing with Malone.