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Shakspeare's text, who possesses the first of these. . Octavo, Johnson and Steevens, London, 1778. ought not to be unfurnished with the second.' 10 vols.
The third folio was printed in 1664, for P.C.. Ditto (published by Stockdale), 1784, 1 ditto. And a fourth, for H. Herringham, E. Brewster, Ditto, Johnson and Steevens, 1785, third edition, and R. Bentley, in 1682.
revised and augmented by the editor of * As to these impressions,' says Steevens, 'they Dodsley's Collection of old Plays (i. e. Mr. are little better than waste paper, for they differ Reed), 10 ditto. only from the preceding ones by a larger accu- Duodecimo (published by Bell), London, 1788, mulation of errors.'
20 vols. These are all the ancient editions of Shak. Octavo (published by Stockdale), 1790, 1 ditto. speare.
Crown 8vo. Malone's, ditto, 1790, 10 ditto.
&c. ditto, 1793, 15 ditto.
Reed, 1803, 21 ditto.
The dramatic Works of Shakspeare, in 6 vole MODERN EDITIONS.
8vo. with Notes, by Joseph Rann, A. M. Ocaro, Rowe's, London, 1709, 7 vols.
Vicar of St. Trinity, in Coventry.-Cla Duodecimo, Rowe's, ditto, 1714, 9 ditto.
rendon Press, Oxford. Quarto, Pope's, ditto, 1725, 6 ditto.
1786 Duodecimo, Pope's, ditto, 1728, 10 ditto.
1787 Octavo, Theobald's, ditto, 1733, 7 ditto.
1789 Duodecimo, Theobald's, ditto, 1740, 8 ditto.
1791 Quarto, Hanmer's, Oxford, 1744, 6 ditto. Octavo, Warburton's, London, 1747, 8 ditto.
} 1794 Ditto, Johnson's, ditto, 1765, 8 ditto.
The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare, Ditto, Steevens's, ditto, 1766, 4 ditto.
with the corrections and illustrations of various Crown 8vo. Capell's, 1768, 10 ditto.
commentators: comprehending a Life of the Quarto, Hanmer's, Oxford, 1771, 6 ditto.
Poet, and an enlarged history of the stage, by Octavo, Johnso, and Steevens, London, 1773, the late Edward Malone, 1821. This edition 10 ditto.
was superintended by the late Mr. Boswell.
Vol. v. ....
PLAYS ASCRIBED TO SHAKSPEARE.
WMR BY THE EDITORS OF THE TWO LATER FOLIOS, OR BY THE COMPILERS OF
from the papers of Henslowet that Sir John Old Sir John Oldcustle.
castle was the work of four writers Munday, Lord Cromwell.
Drayton, Wilson, and Hathway. It is impossible The London Prodigal.
to discover to whom the rest are to be attributed. The Puritan.
Some other plays, with about equal pretensions, The Yorkshire Tragedy.
have likewise been given to our author. These were all printed as Shakspeare's in the The Arraignment of Paris, which is known to third folio, 1664, without having the slightest have been written by George Peele. claim to such a distinction. Steevens thought The Birth of Merlin, the work of Rowley, althat the Yorkshire Tragedy might probably be a though in the title-page, 1662, probably by a hasty sketch of our great poet; but he after- fraud of the bookseller, it is stated to be the joint wards silently abandoned this opinion. We find production of Rowley and Shakspeare.
This edition is moro scarce than even that of He appears to have been proprietor of the Rose 1623; most of the copies having been destroyed in Theatre, near the bank side in Southwark. The MSS. the fre of London, 1606.
alluded to were found at Dulwich College.
Edward the Third. This play Capell ascribed | Kinsmen. If he was the person who united with to Shakspeare, for no other reason but that be Jonson in the composition of Sejanus, which Mr. thought it too good to be the work of any of his Gifford very reasonably doubts, no portion of his contemporaries.
work is now remaining. The piece, as originally Fair Emma. There is no other ground for written, was not successful; and the passages supposing this play to be among our author's supplied by the nameless friend of Jonson were productions, than its having been met with in a omitted in publication. The fact of his having volume, which formerly belonged to Charles II. co-operated with Fletcher in the Two Noble Kinswhich is lettered on the back, SHAKSPEARE, men has been much discussed ; Pope favours the Vol. I.
supposition that Shakspeare's hand may be disThe Merry Devil of Edmonton, entered on the covered in the tragedy: Dr. Warburton exStationers' books as Shakspeare's about the time presses a belief that our great poet wrote the of the Restoration ; but there is a former entry, first act, but in his worst manner.' All the rest in 1608, in which it is said to be written by T. B. of the commentators, without exception, agree whom Malone supposes to have been Tony or in rejecting this opinion; and attribute the origin Antony Brewer.
of the tale to the puff of a bookseller, who found Mucedorus. The real author unknown. Ma- bis profit in uniting the name of Shakspeare with lone conceives that he might be R. Greene. that of Fletcher on publishing the play. The
Shakspeare is supposed to have had a share judgment of the majority appears in this case to in two other plays, and to have assisted ben be the most correct. Jonson ir Sejanus, and Fletcher in the Two Noole
T'HAT praises are without reason lavished on the ancient, and claim the privilege of established fame
dead, and that the honours due only to excellence and prescriptive veneration. He has long outlived are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be his century, the term commonly fixed as the test of always continued by those, who, being able to add literary merit. Whatever advantages he might once nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the here. derive from personal allusions, local customs, or sies of paradox ; or those, who, being forced by dis- temporary opinions, have for many years been lost ; appointment upon consolatory expedients, are will- and every topic of merriment or motive of sorrow, ing to hope from posterity what the present age re. which the modes of artificial life afforded him, now fuses, and flatter themselves that the regard which is only obscure the scenes which they once illuminated. yet denied by enyy, will be at last bestowed by time. The effects of favour and competition are at an end ;
Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the tradition of his friendships and his enmities has the notice of mankind, fas undoubtedly votaries that perished ; his works support no opinion with arguIeverence it, not from reason, but from prejudice. ments, nor supply any faction with invectives ; they Soine seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has can neither indulge vanity, nor gratify malignity ; been long preserved, without considering that time but are read without any other reason than the desire has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps of pleasure, and are therefore praised only as pleaare more willing to honour past than present excel- sure is obtained ; yet, thus unassisted by interest or lence: and the mind contemplates genius through the passion, they have passed through variations of taste shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through and changes of manners, and, as they are devolved artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism from one generation to another, have received new is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties | honours at every transmission. of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we *But because human judgment, though it be gra. estimate his powers by his worst performance, and dually gaining upon certainty, never becomes inWhen he is dead, we rate them by his best. fallible; and approbation, though long continued,
*To works, however, of which the excellence is not may, yet be only the approbation of prejudice or absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; fashion; it is proper to inquire, by what peculiarities to works not raised upon principles demonstrative of excellence Shakspeare has gained and kept the and scientific, but appealing wholly to observation favour of his countrymeu and experience, no other test can be applied than Nothing can please many and please long, but length of duration and continuance of esteem. What just representations of general nature. Particulai mankind have long possessed they have often ex- manners can be known to few, and therefore few only ainined and compared, and if they persist to value can judge how nearly they are copied. The irreguthe possession, it is because frequent comparisons lar combinations of fanciful invention may delight have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the awhile, by that novelty of which the common satiety works of Dature, no man can properly call a river of life sends us all in quest ; but the pleasures of deep, or a mountain high, without ihe knowledge of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and the mind can many mountains, and many rivers ; so in the pro- , only repose on the stability of truth. ductions of genius, nothing can be styled excellent | Shakspeare is above all writers, at least above all till it has been compared with other works of the modern writers, the poet of nature; the poet that same kind. Demonstration immediately displays its holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the flux and life. His characters are not modified by the of years : but works tentative and experimental must customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest be estimated by their proportion to the general and of the world; by the peculiarities of studies or pro. collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long fessions, which can operate but upon small numbers; succession of endeavours. Of the first building that or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary was raised, it might be with certainty determined opinions : they are the genuine progeny of common that it was round or square ; but whether it was humanity, such as the world will always supply, and spacious or lofty must have been referred to time. observation will always find. His persons act and The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once dis- speak by the influence of those general passions and co'ered to be perfect; but the poems of Homer we principles by which all minds are agitated, and the yei know not to transcend the common limits of whole system of life is continued in motion. In the human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation writings of other poets a character is too often an after nation, and century after century, has been able individual ; in those of Shakspeare it is commonly a to do little more than transpose his incidents, new species. name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments. It is from this wide extension of design that so
The reverence due to writings that have long sub. much instruction is derived. It is this which fills sisted, arises therefore not from any credulous con- the plays of Shakspeare with practical axioms and fidence in the superior wisdom of past ages, or domestic wisdom. It was said of Euripides, thai gloomy persuasion of the degeneracy of mankind, every verse was a precept; and it may be said of but is the consequence of acknowledged and indu- Shakspeare, that from his works may be collected a bitable positions, that what has been longest known system of civil and economical prudence. Yet his has been most considered, and what is most con- real power is not shewn in the splendour of partj. sidered is best understood.
cular passages, but by the progress of his fable, and The poet, of whose works I have undertaken the I the tenor of his dialogue ; and he that tries to re. revis op, may now begin to assume the dignity of an coinmend him by seleci quotations, will succeed
like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered has assigned ; and it may be said, that he has not his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a only shewn human nature as it acts in real exigences, specimen.
but as it would be found in trials, to which it cannot It will not easily be imagined how much Shak- be exposed. speare excels in accommodating his sentiments to This therefore is the praise of Shakspeare, that real life, but by comparing him with other authors. his drama is the mirro: of life ; that he who has It was observed of the ancient schools of declama mazed his imagination, in following the phantoms tion, that the more diligently they were frequented, which other writers raise up before him, may here be the more was the student disqualified for the world, cured of his delirious ecstacies, by reading human because he found nothing there which he should sentiments in human language ; by scenes from ever meet in any other place. The same remark which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the may be applied to every stage but that of Shakspeare. world, and a confessor predict the progress of the The theatre, when it is under any other direction, is passions. peopled by such characters as were never seen, con- His adherence to general nature has exposed him versing in a language which was never heard, upon to the censure of critics, who form their judgments topics which will never arise in the commerce of upon narrower principles. Dennis and Rymer think mankind. But the dialogue of this author is often liis Romans not sufficiently Roman, and Voltaire so evidently determined by the incident which pro- censures his kings as not completely royal. Dennis duces it, and is pursued with so much ease and is offended, that Menenius, a senator of Rome, should simplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit play the buffoon ; and Voltaire perhaps thinks de. of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent se.cency violated when the Danish usurper is reprelection out of common conversation, and common sented as a drunkard. But Shakspeare always makes
nature predominate over accident; and if he preUpon every other stage the universal agent is love, serves the essential character, is not very careful of by whose power all good and evil is distributed, and distinctions superinduced and adventitious. every action quickened or retarded. To bring a lover, story requires Romans or kings, but he thinks only a lady, and a rival into the fable ; to entangle them on men. He knows that Rome, like every other city. in contradictory obligations, perplex them with op. had men of all dispositions; and wanting a buffoon, positions of interest, and harass them with violence he went into the senate-house for that which the of desires inconsistent with each other; to make senate-house would certainly have afforded him. He them meet in rapture, and part in agony; to fill was inclined to shew an usurper and a murderer not their mouths with hyperbolical joy and outrageous only odious, but despicable; he therefore added sorrow ; to distress them as nothing human ever was drunkenness to his other qualities, knowing that distressed ; to deliver them as nothing human ever kings love wine like other men, and that wine exerts was delivered, is the business of a modern dramatist. its natural power upon kings. These are the petty For this, probability is violated, life is misrepresented, cavils of petty minds; a poet overlooks the casual and language is depraved. But love is only one of distinction of country and condition, as a painter, many passions, and as it has no great influence upon satisfied with the figure, neglects the drapery. the sum of life, it has little operation in the dramas The censure which he has incurred by mixing of a poet, who caught his ideas from the living world, comic and tragic scenes, as it extends to all his works, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He deserves more consideration. Let the fact be first knew, that any other passion, as it was regular or stated, and then examined. exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity. Shakspeare's plays are not in the rigorous and cri
Characters thus ample and general were not easily tical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compodiscriminated and preserved, yet perhaps no poet sitions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real staie ever kept his personages more distinct from each of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, other. I will not say with Pope, that every speech joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of promay be assigned to the proper speaker, because many portion and innumerable modes of combination; and speeches there are which have nothing characteris- expressing the course of the world, in which the loss tícal : but, perhaps, though some may be equally of one is the gain of another' ; in which, at the same adapted to every person, it will be difficult to find time, the reveller is hasting to his wine, and the any that can be properly transferred from the present mourner burying his friend, in which the malignity possessor to another claimant. The choice is right, of one is sometimes defeated by the frolic of anwhen there is reason for choice.
other : and many mischiefs and many benefits are Other dramatists can only gain attention by hy. done and hindered without design. perbolical or aggravated characters, by fabulous and Out of this chaos of mingled purposes and casualunexampled excellence or depravity, as the writers ties, the ancient poets, according to the laws which of barbarous romances invigorated the reader by a custom had prescribed, selected some the crimnes of giant and a dwarf; and he that should foria his ex- men, and some their absurdities ; some the momentpectation of human affairs from the play, or from the ous vicissitudes of life, and some the lighter occur. iale, would be equally deceived. Shakspeare has no rences ; some the terrors of distress, and some the heroes ; his scenes are occupied only by men, who gaieties of prosperity. Thus rose the two modes of aci and speak as the reader thinks that he should imitation, known by the names of ti agedy and comedy, hunself have spoken or acted on the same occasion; compositions intended to promote different ends by even where the agency is supernatural, the dialogue contrary means, and considered as so little allied, is level with life. Other writers disguise the most that I do not recollect among the Greek or Romans natural passions and most frequent incidents; so that a single writer who attempted both. he who contemplates them in the book will not know Shakspeare has united the powers of exciting them in the world : Shakspeare approximates the re- laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in mote, and familiarizes the wonderful; the event one composition. Almost all his plays are divided which he represents will not happen, but if it were between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the possible its effects would probably be such as he successive evolutions of the design, sometimes pro.
As his personages
luce serious and sorrow, and sometimes levitydow,without injury to the scheme of the play, though and 'aughter.
in terms which a modern audience would not easily hat this is a practice cɔntiary to the rules of endure ; the character of Polonius is seasonable and criticism will be readily allowed: but there is always useful ; and the Gravediggers themselves may be an appeal open from criticism to nature. The end heard with applause. of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry to instruct Shakspeare engaged in dramatic poetry with the by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey world open before him ; the rules of the ancients all ine instruction of tragedy o: comedy cannot be were yet known to few; the public judgment was denied, because it includes both in its alternations of unformed ; he had no example of such fame as might exhibition, and approaches nearer than either to the force him upon imitation, nor critics of such autho. appearance of life, by shewing how great machina- rity as might restrain his extravagance : he therefore tions and slender designs may promote or obviate indulged his natural disposition, and his disposition, one another, and the high and the low co-operate in as Rymer has remarked, led him to comedy.' In trathe general system hy unavoidable concatenation. gedy he often writes with great appearance of toil
It is objected, tisat by this change of scenes the and study, what is written at last with little felicity; passions are interrupted in their progression, and but in his comic scenes, he seems to produce without that the principal event, being not advanced by a labour, what no labour can improve. In tragedy he due gradation of preparatory incidents, wants at last is always struggling after some occasion to be comic, the power to move, which constitutes the perfection but in comedy he seems to repose, or to luxuriate, of dramatic poetry. This reasoning is so specious, as in a mode of thinking congenial to his nature. In that it is received as true even by those who in daily his tragic scenes there is always something wanting, experience feel it to be false. The interchanges of but his comedy often surpasses expectation or desire. Iningled scenes seldom fail to produce the intended His comedy pleases by the thoughts and the language, vicissitudes of passion. Fiction cannot move so and his tragedy for the greater part by incident and much, but that the attention may be easily trans- action. His tragedy seems to be skill, his comedy to ferred ; and though it must be allowed that pleasing be instinct. melancholy be sometimes interrupted by unwelcome The force of his comic scenes has suffered little levity, yet let it be considered likewise, that melan- diminution from the changes made by a century and choly is often not pleasing, and that the disturbance a half, in manners or in words. of one man may be the relief of another ; that differ- act upon principles arising from genuine passion, ent auditors have different habitudes ; and that,
upon very little modified by particular forms, their pleathe whole, all pleasure consists in variety.
sures and vexations are communicable to all times The players, who in their edition divided our au- and to all places; they are natural, and therefore thor's works into comedies, histories, and tragedies, durable ; the adventitious peculiarities of personal seem not to have distinguished the three kinds, by habits, are only superficial dies, bright and pleasing any 'ery exact or definite ideas.
for a little while, yet soon fading to a deep tinct, withAn action which ended happily to the principal out any remains of former lustre ; but the discrimi. persons, however serious or distressful througl its nations of true passion are the colours of nature; intermediate incidents, in their opinion constituted they pervade the whole mass, and can only perish a comedy. This idea of a comedy continued long with the body that exhibits them. The accidental amongst us, and plays were written, which, by chang- compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved ing the catastrophe, were tragedies to-day, and co- by the chance which combined them: but the uniform medies to-morrow.
simplicity of primitive qualities neither admits inTragedy was not in those times a poem of more crease, nor suffers decay. The sand heaped by one general dignity or elevation than comedy; it required flood is scattered by another, but the rock always only a calamitous conclusion, with which the com- continues in its place. The stream of time, which is mon criticism of that age was satisfied, whatever continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other lighter pleasure it afforded in its progress.
poets, passes without injury by the adamant of ShakHistory was a series of actions, with no other speare. than chronological succession, independent on each If there be, what I believe there is, in every nation, other, and without any tendency to introduce and a style which never becomes obsolete, a certain mode regulate the conclusion. It is not always very nicely of phraseology so consonant and congenial to the distinguished from tragedy. There is not much analogy and principles of its respective language, as Dearer approach to unity of action in the tragedy of to remain settled and unaltered: this style is proAntony and Cleopatra than in the history of kichard bably to be sought in the common intercourse of life, the Second. But a history mighı be continued through among those who speak only to be understood, withmany plays; as it had no plan, it had no limits. out ambition of elegance. The polite are always
Through all these denominations of the drama, catching modish innovations, and the learned depart Shakspeare's mode of composition is the same; an from established forms of speech, in hope of finding interchange of seriousness and merriment, by which or making better ; those who wish for distinction the mind is softened at one time, and exhilarated at forsake the vulgar, when the vulgar is right: but a nother. But whatever be his purpose, whether to there is a conversation above grossness and below y ladden or depress, or to conduct the story, without refinement, where propriety resides, and where this vehemence or emotion, through tracts of easy and poet seems to have gathered his comic dialogue He familiar dialogue, he never fails to attain his pur- is therefore more agreeable to the ears of the present puse; as he commands us, we laugh or mourn, or age than any other auther equally remote, and among su silent with quiet expectation, in tranquillity with - his other excellencies deserves to be studied as one out indifference.
of the original masters of our language. When Shakspeare's plan is understood, dost of These observations are to be considered not as udse criticisms of Rymer and Voltaire vanish away. exceptionally constant, but as containing general and he play of Hamlet is opened, without impropriety, predominant truth. Shakspeare's familiar dialogue my two centinels ; lago bellows at Brabantio's win-! is affirmed to be smooth and clear, yet not wholly