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better they are, the worse doe you distast them: and beeing on your feete, sneake not away like a coward, but salute all your gentle acquaintance that are spred either on the rushes or on stooles about you, and draw what troope you can from the stage after you: the mimicks are beholden to you, for allowing them elbow roome: their poet cries perhaps, a pox go with you, but care not you for that; there's no musick without frets.
Mary, if either the company, or indisposition of the weather binde you to sit it out, my counsell is then that you turne plaine ape: take up a rush and tickle the earnest eares of your fellow gallants, to make other fooles fall a laughing: mewe at the passionate speeches, blare at merrie, finde fault with the musicke, whewe at the children's action, whistle at the songs; and above all, curse the sharers, that whereas the same day you had bestowed forty shillings on an embroidered felt and feather (Scotch fashion) for your mistres in the court, or your punk in the cittie, within two houres after, you encounter with the very same block on the stage, when the haberdasher swore to you the impression was extant but that morning.
"To conclude, hoord up the finest play-scraps you can get, upon which your leane wit may most savourly feede, for want of other stuffe, when the Arcadian and Euphuis'd gentlewomen have their tongues sharpened to set upon you: that qualitie (next to your shittlecocke) is the only furniture to a courtier that 's but a new beginner, and is but in his A B C of complement. The next places that are fil'd after the play-houses bee emptied, are (or ought to be) tavernes: into a taverne then let us next march, where the braines of one hogshead must be beaten out to make up another."*
*The following pretty picture of THE STAGE is given in Gayton's Notes on Don Quixote, 1654, p. 271:
"Men come not to study at a play-house, but love such expressions and passages, which with ease insinuate themselves into their capacities. Lingua, that learned comedy of the contention betwixt the five senses for superiority, is not to be prostituted to the common stage, but is only proper for an Academy; to them bring Jack Drum's Entertainment, Green's Tu Quoque, the Devil of Edmonton, and the like; or, if it be on holy dayes, when saylers, water-men, shoo-makers, butchers, and appren tices, are at leisure, then it is good policy to amaze those violent spirits with some tearing Tragedy full of fights and skir. mishes: as the Guelphs and Guiblins, Greeks and Trojans, or the three London Apprentices; which commonly ends in six acts, the spectators frequently mounting the stage, and making a more bloody catastrophe amongst themselves, than the players did. I have known upon one of these festivals, but especially at Shrove-tide, where the players have been appointed, notwithstanding their bils to the contrary, to act what the major part of the company had a mind to; sometimes Tamerlane, sometimes Jugurth, sometimes The Jew of Malta; and sometimes parts of
I should have attempted on the present occasion to enumerate all other pamphlets, &c. from whence particulars relative to the conduct of our early theatres might be collected, but that Dr. Percy, in his first volume of the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, (third edit. p. 128, &c.) has extracted such passages from them as tend to the illustration of this subject; to which he has added more accurate remarks than my experience in these matters would have enabled me to supply.
TO MR. M. MASON'S COMMENTS, &c.
NOT thoroughly satisfied with any of the former editions of Shakspeare, even that of Johnson, I had resolved to venture upon one of my own, and had actually collected materials for the purpose, when that, which is the subject of the following observations, made its appearance; in which I found that a considerable part of the amendments and explanations I had intended to propose were anticipated by the labours and eccentrick reading of Steevens, the ingenious researches of Malone, and the sagacity of Tyrwhitt.-I will fairly confess that I was somewhat mortified at this discovery, which compelled me to relinquish a favourite pursuit, from whence I had vainly expected to derive some degree of credit in the literary world. This,
all these, and at last none of the three taking, they were forc'd to undresse and put off their tragick habits, and conclude the day with The Merry Milk-maides. And unlesse this were done, and the popular humour satisfied, as sometimes it is so fortun'd, that the players were refractory; the benches, the tiles, the laths, the stones, oranges, apples, nuts, flew about most liberally; and, as there were mechanicks of all professions, who fell every one to his owne trade, and dissolved a house in an instant, and made a ruine of a stately fabrick. It was not then the most mimicall nor fighting man, Fowler, nor Andrew Cane, could pacifie: Prologues nor Epilogues would prevaile; the devill and the fool were quite out of favour. Nothing but noise and tumult fils the house, untill a cogg take 'um, and then to the bawdy houses and reforme them; and instantly to the Bank's Side, where the poor bears must conclude the riot, and fight twenty dogs at a time beside the butchers, which sometimes fell into the service; this perform'd, and the horse and jack-anapes for a jigge, they had sport enough that day for nothing.”
however, was a secondary consideration; and my principal pur pose will be answered to my wish, if the comments, which I now submit to the publick shall, in any other hands, contribute materially to a more complete edition of our inimitable poet.
If we may judge from the advertisement prefixed to his supplement, Malone seems to think that no other edition can hereafter be wanted; as in speaking of the last, he says, "The text of the author seems now to be finally settled, the great abilities and unwearied researches of the editor having left little obscure or unexplained."*
Though I cannot subscribe to this opinion of Malone, with respect to the final adjustment of the text, I shall willingly join in his encomium on the editor, who deserves the applause and gratitude of the publick, not only for his industry and abilities, but also for the zeal with which he has prosecuted the object he had in view, which prompted him, not only to the wearisome task of collation, but also to engage in a peculiar course of reading, neither pleasing nor profitable for any other purpose.
But I will venture to assert, that his merit is more conspicuous in the comments than the text; in the regulation of which he seems to have acted rather from caprice, than any settled principle; admitting alterations, in some passages, on very insufficient authority, indeed, whilst in others he has retained the antient readings, though evidently corrupt, in preference to amendments as evidently just; and it frequently happens, that after pointing out to us the true reading, he adheres to that which he himself has proved to be false. Had he regulated the text in every place according to his own judgment, Malone's observation would have been nearer to the truth; but as it now stands, the last edition has no signal advantage, that I can per ceive, over that of Johnson, in point of correctness.
But the object that Steevens had most at heart, was the illustration of Shakspeare, in which it must be owned he has clearly surpassed all the former editors. If without his abilities, application, or reading, I have happened to succeed in explaining some passages, which he misapprehended, or in suggesting amendments that had escaped his sagacity, it is owing merely to the minute attention with which I have studied every line of these plays, whilst the other commentators, I will not except even Steevens himself, have too generally confined their obser vation and ingenuity to those litigated passages, which have been handed down to them by former editors, as requiring either amendment or explanation, and have suffered many others to pass unheeded, that in truth, were equally erroneous or obscure. It may possibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trifling mistakes in the print
* As I was never vain enough to suppose the edit. 1778 was entitled to this encomium, I can find no difficulty in allowing that it has been properly recalled by the gentleman who be stowed it, Steevens.
ing, which every reader perceives to be such, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, however immaterial, should escape unnoticed.
There is perhaps no species of publication whatever, more likely to produce diversity of opinion than verbal criticisms; for as there is no certain criterion of truth, no established principle by which we can decide whether they be justly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his censure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these observations will be generally approved of; some of them, I confess, are not thoroughly satisfactory even to myself, and are hazarded, rather than relied on: -But there are others which I offer with some degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favourable reception from the admirers of Shakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of passages which have hitherto been misprinted or misunderstood.
In forming these comments, I have confined myself solely to the particular edition which is the object of them, without comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnson: not doubting but the editors had faithfully stated the various readings of the first editions, I resolved to avoid the labour of collating; but had I been inclined to undertake that task, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I reside.
I have selected from the supplement, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, because it is supposed by some of the commentators to have been the work of Shakspeare, and is at least as faulty as any of the rest. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither, in my opinion, the production of our poet, or sufficiently incorrect to require any comment.
MR. REED'S ADVERTISEMENT,
BEFORE THE THIRD EDITION, 1785.
THE works of Shakspeare, during the last twenty years, have been the objects of publick attention more than at any former period. In that time the various editions of his performances have been examined, his obscurities illuminated, his defects pointed out, and his beauties displayed, so fully, so accurately, and in so satisfactory a manner, and that it might reasonably be presumed little would remain to be done by either new editors or new commentators: yet, though the diligence and sagacity of those gentlemen who contributed towards the last edition of this author may seem to have almost exhausted the subject, the same train of enquiry has brought to light new discoveries, and accident will probably continue to produce further illustrations,
which may render some alterations necessary in every succeeding republication.
Since the last edition of this work in 1778, the zeal for elucidating Shakspeare, which appeared in most of the gentlemen whose names are affixed to the notes, has suffered little abate. ment. The same persevering spirit of enquiry has continued to exert itself, and the same laborious search into the literature, the manners, and the customs of the times, which was formerly so successfully employed, has remained undiminished. By these aids some new information has been obtained, and some new materials collected. From the assistance of such writers, even Shakspeare will receive no discredit.
When the very great and various talents of the last editor, particularly for this work, are considered, it will occasion much regret to find, that having superintended two editions of his favourite author through the press, he has at length declined the laborious office, and committed the care of the present edition to one who laments with the rest of the world the secession of his predecessor; being conscious, as well of his own inferiority, as of the injury the publication will sustain by the change.
As some alterations have been made in the present edition, it may be thought necessary to point them out. These are of two kinds, additions and omissions. The additions are such as have been supplied by the last editor, and the principal of the living commentators. To mention these assistances, is sufficient to excite expectation; but to speak any thing in their praise will be superfluous to those who are acquainted with their former labours. Some remarks are also added from new commentators, and some notices extracted from books which have been pub. lished in the course of a few years past.
Of the omissions, the most important are some notes which have been demonstrated to be ill founded and some which were supposed to add to the size of the volumes without increasing their value. It may probably have happened that a few are rejected which ought to have been retained; and in that case the present editor, who has been the occasion of their removal, will feel some concern from the injustice of his proceeding. He is, however, inclined to believe, that what he has omitted will be pardoned by the reader; and that the liberty which he has taken will not be thought to have been licentiously indulged. At all events, that the censure may fall where it ought, he desires it to be understood that no person is answerable for any of these innovations but himself.
It has been observed by the last editor, that the multitude of instances which have been produced to exemplify particular words, and explain obsolete customs, may, when the point is once known to be established, be diminished by any future editor, and, in conformity to this opinion, several quotations, which were heretofore properly introduced, are now curtailed. Were an apology required on this occasion, the present editor might shelter himself under the authority of Prior, who long ago has said,