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or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasioned some plays to be supposed Shakespeare's was only this ; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up
for the theatre while it was under his adminiftration; and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give strays to the lord of the manor: a mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the house to remove. Yer the players themselves, Heminges and Condell, afterwards did Shakespeare the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition ; though they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with fome applause (as we learn from what Ben Jonson says of Pericles in his ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same author openly express his contempt of it in the industion to Bartholomew-Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakespeare was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter fort, than for the former, which were equally, published in his life-time.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages might no longer reflect upon this great genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults
may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary additions, expunctions, transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of characters and perfons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages by the ignorance, and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence, of his first editors ? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest and the groffest part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.
: This is the state in which Shakespeare's writings lie at present; for since the above-mentioned folio edition, all the rest have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the injuries already done him; too much time has elapsed, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharged the dull duty of an editor, to my best judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all innovation, and without any indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will shew itself. The various readings are fairly put in the margin; so that every one may compare them; and those I have preferred into the text are constantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. - The alterations or additions, which Shakespeare himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some suspected passages, which are excessively bad (and which seem interpolations by being so inserted, that one can entirely omit them without any chasm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page ; with an asterisk referring to the places of their insertion. The scenes are marked so distinctly, that every removal of place is specified ; which is more necessary in this author than any other, fince he shifts them more frequently; and sometimes, without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explined. Some of the most shining passages are diftinguished by commas in the margin ; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a star is prefixed to the scene. This seems to me a shorter, and less oftentatious method of performing the better half of criticism (namely, the pointing out an author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with
citations of fine passages, with general applauses, or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is also fubjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorized (most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them). These editions now hold the place of originais, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or restore the corrupted sense of the author : I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakespeare, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finished and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allowed, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur.
Mr. T H E O BAL D's
P R E F A C E.
HE attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is
like going into a large, a spacious, and a
splendid dome through the conveyance of a narrow and obscure entry. A glare of light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at firit promised : and a thousand beauties of genius and character, like so many gaudy apartments pouring at once upon the eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a single view : it is a gay confusion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration; and they must be separated, and eyed distinctly, in order to give the proper entertainment.
And as in great piles of building, fome parts are often finished up to hit the taste of the connoiseur ; others more negligently put together, to strike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder : some parts are made ftupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast design and execution of the architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find traits that will stand the test of the feverest judgment; and strokes as carelesy hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capacities : fome de
· This is Mr. Theobald's preface to his second edition in 1740, and was a good deal curtailed by himself after its first appearance before the impresion in 1733.
fcriptions scriptions raised to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish you with the compass and elevation of his thought: and others copying nature within so narrow, so confined a circle, as if the author's talent lay only at drawing in miniature.
In how many points of light must we be obliged to gaze at this great poet! In how many branches of excellence to consider and admire him! Whether we view him on the side of art or nature, he ought equally to engage our attention : whether we respect the force and greatness of his genius, the extent of his knowledge and reading, the power and address with which he throws out and applies either nature or learning, there is ample scope both for our wonder and pleasure. If his diction, and the cloathing of his thoughts attract us, how much more muft we be charmed with the richness and variety of his images and ideas ! If his images and ideas steal into our souls, and strike upon our fancy, how much are they improved in price, when we come to reflect with what propriety and justness they are applied to character! If we look into his characters, and how they are furnished and proportioned to the employment he cuts out for them, how are we taken up with the mastery of his portraits ! What draughts of nature ! What variety of originals, and how differing each from the other! How are they dressed from the stores of his own luxurious imagination ; without being the apes of mode, or borrowing from any foreign wardrobe ! Each of them are the standards of fashion for themselves : like gentlemen that are above the direction of their taylors, and can adorn themfelves without the aid of imitation. If other poets draw more than one fool or coxcomb, there is the same resemblance in them, as in that painter's draughts, who was happy only at forming a rose : you find them all younger brothers of the same family, and all of them have a pretence to give the same crest : but Shakespeare's