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body lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to my daughter Judith, and the heirs males of her body lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to the right heirs of me the said William Shakspeare for ever.
Item, I give unto my wife my second best bed, with the fur. niture.
Item, I give and bequeath to my said daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bowl. All the rest of my goods, chattels, leases, plate, jewels, and houshold stuff whatsoever, after my debts and legacies paid, and my funeral expences discharged, I give, de. vise, and bequeath to my son-in-law, John Hall, gent. and my daughter Susanna his wife, whom I ordain and make executors of this my last will and testament. And I do entreat and ap. point the said Thomas Russel, esq. and Francis Collins, gent. to be overseers hereof. And do revoke all former wills, and publish this to be my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto put my hand, the day and year first above writ. ten.
By me* WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE. Fitness to the publishing hereof,
Magistro William Byrde. Legum Doctore, &c. vicesimo se
my second best bed, with the furniture.] Thus Shak. speare's original will. Mr. Theobald and the other modern edi. tors have been more bountiful to Mrs. Shakspeare, having printed instead of these words, “ — my brown best bed, with the fur. niture.” Malone.
It appears, in the original will of Shakspeare, (now in the Prerogative-office, Doctors' Commons,) that he had forgot his wife ; the legacy to her being expressed by an interlineation, as well as those of Heminge, Burbage, and Condell.
The will is written on three sheets of paper, the two last of which are undoubtedly subscribed with Shakspeare's own hand. The first indeed has his name in the margin, but it differs somewhat in spelling as well as manner, from the two signatures that follow. The reader will find a fac-simile of all the three, as well as those of the witnesses, opposite this page. Steevens.
The name at the top of the margin of the first sheet was probably written by the scrivener who drew the will. This was the constant practice in Shakspeare's time. Malone.
DEDICATION OF THE PLAYERS.
TO THE MOST NOBLE AND INCOMPARABLE PAIRE OF BRETHREN,
Kings most Excellent Majestie ;
our singular good Lords.
Right Honourable, WHILST we studie to be thankfull in our particular, for the many favors we have received from your L. L. we are falne upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can be, feare, and rashnesse; rashnesse in the enterprize, and feare of the successe. For, when we value the places your H. H. sustaine, wee cannot but know the dignity greater, than to de. scend to the reading of these trifles: and, while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the defence of our dedi. cation. But since your L. L. have been pleased to thinke these trifles something, heretofore; and have prosequuted both them, and their authour living, with so much favour; we hope that
By me William Shakspture.] This was the mode of our poet's time. Thus the register of Stratford is signed at the bottom of each page, in the year 1616:“ Per me Richard Watts, Minister.” These concluding words have hitherto been inaccurately exhi. bited thus: “ the day and year first above-written by me, William Shakspeare.” Neither the day, nor year, nor any preceding part of this will, was written by our poet. By me, , &c. only means - The above is the will of me William Shakspeare. Malone.
t- Fra. Collins,] See p. 106. Malone.
#- Julius Shaw,] was born in Sept. 1571. He married Anne Boyes, May 5, 1594; and died at Stratford in June, 1629. Malone.
John Robinson,] John, son of Thomas Robinson, was baptized at Stratford, Nov. 30, 1589. I know not when he died.
Malone. पा Hamnet Sadler,] See p. 91. Malone. VOL. I.
(they out-living him, and he not having the fate, common with some to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will use the same indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any booke choose his patrones, or find them: this hath done both. For so much were your L. L. likings of the several parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the volume asked to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his orphanes, guardians; without ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a friend, and fellow alive, as was our SHAKSPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addresse, it hath bin the height of our care, who are the presenters, to make the present worthy of your H. H. by the perfection. But, there we must also crave our abili. ties to be considered, my lords. We cannot goe beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach forth milke, creame, fruits, or what they have: and many nations (we have heard) that had not gummes and incense, obtained their requests with a leavened cake.* It was no fault to approach their gods by what meanes they could: and the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to temples. In that name therefore, we most humbly consecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your servant SHAKSPEARE; that what delight is in them may be ever your L. L. the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a paire so carefull to shew their gratitude both to the living, and the dead, as is
Your Lordshippes most bounden,
* Country hands reach forth milk, &c. and many nations that had not gumes anıl incense, obtained their requests with a leavened cake.] This seems to have been one of the common-places of dedication in Shakspeare's age. We find it in Morley's Dedication of a Book of Songs to Sir Robert Cecil, 1595: “I have presumed (says he) to make offer of these simple compositions of mine, imitating (right honourable) in this the customs of the old world, who wanting incense to offer up to their gods, made shift instead thereof to honour them with milk.” The same thought (if I recollect right) is again employed by the players in their dedication of Fletcher's plays, folio, 1647. Malone,
To the great variety of Readers.
FROM the most able, to him that can but spell: there you are numbered, we had rather you were weighed. Especially, when the fate of all bookes depends upon your capacities : and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well! it is now publique, and you will stand for your priviledges, wee know : to read, and censure. Doe so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a booke, the stationer saies. Then, how odde so ever your braines be, or your wisdomes, make your licence the same, and spare not, Judge your sixe-pen’orth,* your shillings worth, your five shillings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, whatever you doe, buy. Censure will not drive a trade, or make the jacke goe. And though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit on the stage at Black-friars, or the Cockpit, to arraigne plays dailie, know, these playes have had their triall already, and stood out all appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a degree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation,
It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to have been wished, that the author himselfe had lived to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you doe not envie his friends the office of their care and paine, to have collected and published them; and so to have published them, as wheret (before) you were abused with divers stolne and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors, that exposed them, even those are now ofiered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them: who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarce received
Judge your sixe-pen’orth, &c.] So, in the Induction to Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair: it shall be lawful for any man to judge his six-pen'worth, his twelve-pen’worth, so to his eighteen pence, two shillings, balf a crown, to the value of his place ; provided always his place get not above his wit. And if he pay for half a dozen, he may censure for all them too, so that he will undertake that they shall be silent. He shall put in for censurers here, as they do for lots at the lottery: marry, if he drop but six-pence at the door, and will censure a crowns-worth, it is thought there is no conscience or justice in that.”
Perhaps Old Ben was author of the Players' Preface, and, in the instance before us, has borrowed from himself. Steevens
t as where -] i.e. whereas. Malone.
from him a blot in his papers.* But it is not our province, who onely gather his workes, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you : for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore ; and againe, and againe: and if then you doe not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his friends, who, if you need, can bee, your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade yourselves, and others. And such readers we wish him.
DR. JOHNSON'S PREFACE.
THAT praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the here. sies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and Hatter themselves that the regurd which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time.
Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but from prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time las some times co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.
To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientifick, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long possessed they have often examined and compared, and if they persist to value the possession, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the works of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains,
Probably they had few of his MSS. Steevens. † First printed in 1765.