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Professor of English in Tulane Universitp 





I Preface xi 

II Introductory Essay xiii 

III John Heminge and Henrie Condell /u 1^3 x 

Biographical Sketches 1 

To the Great Variety of Readers 3 

IV Nicholas Rowe ^l^'^ C^ 

Biographical Sketch 5 

Account of the Life, etc. . . . ' 6 

" V Alexander Pope /7 i^V jS 

Biographical Sketch 29 

Preface 30 

' VI Lewis Theobald ^ ., . ^ 

Biographical Sketch ... 50 

Preface 51 

VII Sir Thomas Hanmer 

Biographical Sketch 85 

Preface 86 

VIII William Warburton ' 

Biographical Sketch ... 90 

Preface 91 

IX Samuel Johnson 

Biographical Sketch 110 

Preface Ill 




X George Steevens 

Biographical Sketch 171 

Advertisement to the Reader 172 

XI Edward Capell 

Biographical Sketch 186 

Introduction 187 

XII Isaac Reed 

Biographical Sketch 225 

Advertisement 225 

XIII Edmund M alone 

Biographical Sketch 229 

Preface 231 


Nicholas Rowe Frontispiece 

Alexander Pope Facing page 30 

The Distrest Poet Bi/ Hogarth 

Sir Thomas Hanmer 

Wm. Warburton 

Samuel Johnson 

George Steevens ... 

Edward Capell 

Isaac Reed 

Edmund Malone 



The editor hopes that he has performed a real service 
for students in thus bringing together, in one volume, 
the most notable utterances of Shakespearean criticism 
during the eighteenth century. 

The young reader is forever happening upon allusions 
to the opinions of Johnson, of Pope, of Theobald, etc., 
without being able to locate the references. The orig- 
inals of these elusive comments are scattered through 
many editions of the poet's works, and have never been 
available for the average reader, save in the form of pro- 
legomena to expensive publications, usually either be- 
yond the purse, or otherwise inaccessible to the great 
majority of readers. 

That this body of criticism and interpretation should 
be within reach of students both young and old, I have 
long been convinced, and it has been a labour of love to 
collect and illustrate the contents of this volume. The 
biographical and explanatory notes have been made as 
brief as is consistent with clearness and accuracy. 
The portraits are reproductions of old engravings 
gathered from many sources. Search has been made in 
vain for prints of Heminge and Condell, as well as of 
Sir Thomas North, the translator, whose work was used 
by Shakespeare in the construction of the Roman plays. 

The introductory essay is an attempt to estimate the 
critical value of these famous prefaces and to indicate 
the special contribution of their several authors to 
Shakespearean interpretation. 



^ Of THE ^^ 












IN Shakespeare's plays,'* etc., etc. 



Copyright, 1906, bt 
DoDD, Mead & Comfant 

Published March, 1906 


The eternal charm of Shakespeare to the English-speak- 
ing peoples is not that of an exotic forced into bloom 
by the nourishing of the commentators. There were other 
playwrights and poets in the end of the sixteenth and 
beginning of the seventeenth centuries, whose puppets 
passed across the stage of the Globe and Blackfriars 
theatres, as popular in their day perhaps as the great 
dramatist. The play-going world of the twentieth cen- 
tury knows them not at all, and even to students of 
literature they are hardly more than lists of names. A 
few stray bits of flotsam and jetsam from the vessels of 
Marlowe, Jonson and others of that day, have floated 
down the stream of time. But stately and fair swept 
on the precious bark of Shakespeare's lading, breast- 
ing the rude waves of the Puritan tempest, and riding 
the shallows of the French reaction, reaching safely the 
ports of a new world, its bulk undiminished and its value 

There was no criticism properly so called in the seven- 
teenth century. So far from any attempt to purify the 
text of Shakespeare, every actor on the stage felt him- 
self authorised to corrupt it by his own additions or 
emendations. In printing the Folio of 1623, the first 
complete edition of the dramatist's works, John Heminge 
and Henry Condell rendered the most precious service 
to English literature. 

The originals, from which more than one-half of the 
plays were printed in that volume, have never seen the 



light. Perhaps they were destroyed as useless after the 
Folio went to press, or were worn out in service in 
the greenroom. 

How much or how little revision was performed by the 
joint editors no one can say. The text of this Folio has 
become the foundation for all succeeding texts, and I 
am inclined to think that the actor-managers performed 
their task with fidelity, however imperfectly, and that 
they were really editors, not merely reprinters of blotted 

The Folio of 1623 is prefaced, among other tributes 
in prose and verse to the poet's honour, by the first of 
these famous Introductions by which the spirit of 
Shakespeare's dramatic work has been interpreted to 
readers and students. 

From this brief foreword " To the Great Variety of 
Readers," we extract some valuable information as to the 
condition of the dramatic stage during the Elizabethan 
cycle, as well as concerning the plays of Shakespeare 
himself. The semi-humorous opening paragraphs show 
no shyness on the editor's part at standing in the market 
place with wares to sell. 

" Read, and censure. Doe so, but buy it first. That 
doth best commend a Book, the Stationer saies." 

From this preface we learn that Shakespeare had not 
edited the plays for a collected edition. " A thing worthy 
to have been wished." Nevertheless there is abundant 
evidence that they were edited after a fashion, as many 
of them that had appeared in single quartos before and 
after Shakespeare's death up to the year 1623, show 
changes and alterations in the Folio which presuppose 
an editor's hand. We argue, therefore, that the other 
plays received the same attention. Indeed the players 


declare as much. They speak of former publications as 
" maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of 
injurious impostors " " now offered to your view cured 
and perfect of their limbes." 

To speak thus confidently the players must have had 
in their possession the manuscripts in original or 
authenticated copies. " His mind and hand went 
together," continues the preface, " and what he thought 
he uttered with that easinesse that we have scarce re- 
ceived from him a blot in his papers." 

The judgment of his fellow-players that " His wit 
can no more be hid than it can be lost," registered a few 
years after his death, has since been adopted in the high 
court of letters. 

With this word of prophecy the thirty-six plays were 
committed to posterity. Three times in the seventeenth 
century they were reprinted, 1632, 1664, 1685, with the 
addition of seven doubtful plays, only one of which 
(" Pericles," and that not without dispute) holds place 
in the modern Shakespearean canon. 

The Puritan reaction and the Royalist restoration 
alike acted against the frequent production of the 
Shakespearean drama; the one by closing the theatres, 
the other by debauching them. A revival of hybrid 
adaptations by poets who sought to improve or revamp 
the dramas to suit the public taste characterised the early 
part of the eighteenth century. In the first decade of 
that century, however, arose the beginnings of that 
school of Shakespearean criticism to which modern 
students and readers are so deeply indebted. 

To Nicholas Rowe, under-Secretary of State and poet 
laureate, belongs the honour of introducing Shakespeare 
to the world, by means of a formal biography and handy 


volume edition of the plays. Rowe's "Life," which pref- 
aces the seven octavo volumes (1709), I esteem as the 
most important of all contributions to Shakespearean 
literature, next to the plays printed from the lost manu- 
scripts which Heminge and Condell included in their 
Folio. He took great pains to gather all available 
material for a story of the poet's life, most of which 
would surely have been lost to posterity had it not been 
for his research. Later editors refer in scornful or 
complaining tones to the " meagre account " given by 
Rowe. As a matter of fact, however, pretty much all we 
know of Shakespeare even to this day is contained in 
that same meagre account. Very few additional facts 
have been discovered by later students. Documents have 
been unearthed, leases, wills, and stationers' registers 
have been exploited, but within those few octavo pages 
of Rowe are included all of the essential story that will 
ever be known of the career of William Shakespeare. 

The textual value of Rowe's edition is not great. He 
merely reprinted the fourth Folio, which was itself a 
reprint that had gathered errors through the careless 
typographical work of the seventeenth century. But 
his dramatic instinct and experience led him to perform 
a great service for the host of .editors and readers who 
were to follow him, in dividing all of the plays into acts 
and scenes, prefixing lists of dramatis personce, and so 
preparing them for intelligent study. 

Not until the last great edition of the eighteenth cen- 
tury appeared, that of Edmond Malone with his chrono- 
logical order of the composition of the plays, and a 
history of the English stage, was there a contribution to 
Shakespeare study as notable for its intrinsic value, as 
this of Rowe. 


How little the first commentator presaged what was 
to come on the Rialto of criticism, we learn from his 
deprecatory statement — '^ And though the works of 
Mr. Shakespeare may seem to many not to want a com- 
mentary, yet I fancy some little account of the man 
himself may not be thought improper to go along with 

It is not within the scope of this essay to meddle with 
questions of textual criticism, but with the contents and 
value of those introductions, prefaces, and advertise- 
ments of the eighteenth century editors which occupy 
themselves partly with estimates of their predecessors, 
and partly with setting forth and defending the canons 
of criticism by which the editors' own contentions are to 
be judged. 

No one editor seems ever to have been satisfied with 
any other's practice of editorial discrimination. The 
eighteenth century welkin rang in the most approved 
fashion with cries of the contestants in the arena of 
criticism. It must be admitted that a great mass of com- 
ment was directed towards the critics rather than fixed 
upon the Shakespeare text. 

Alexander Pope led the way in this battle of the thumb- 
biters. With his edition (1725) we open the pages of 
that enormous library of emendations, omissions, notes, 
comments, and new readings which has gained in bulk, 
if not always in value, ever since. 

His introduction is one of the best, as it was the first, 
of the all-round critical reviews of Shakespeare's work. 
He neither worshipped with bespattering praise, nor 
defiled with superficial censure. His mental attitude is 
much like that of Richard Grant White among modern 
editors. Grant White is cantankerous but honest, and 


not afraid to express his convictions. Shakespeare has 
become so idealised, that like some characters in history, 
many students think he can do no wrong. When an 
evident wrong, therefore, appears, the attempt is made 
to throw the responsibility of weak or unworthy lines 
upon some other pen. Beyond a doubt Shakespeare 
collaborated. The acute critic can trace (with no fear 
of contradiction save at the hand of other acute critics) 
exactly where the Stratford poet ends and Fletcher or 
Hey wood begins. But to attribute all of the gold to the 
titular author, and all of the alloy to those who worked 
with him, or whose works he redacted, is folly. Pope 
struck the key in which Shakespearean study should be 
carried on, when he says : " It must be owned that with 
all these great excellencies he has almost as great 
defects, and that as he has certainly written better, he 
has as certainly written worse than any other." 

Pope defended, moreover, that lack of an observance 
of those unities of time, place, and action which became 
the battleground of later critics, and which has been so 
admirably discussed by a recent writer.^ But Pope's 
defence was of what he himself considered a fault. He 
argues that Shakespeare's mission was to write to the 
people, and that he did what the people wanted, under- 
stood and rejoiced in. Dr. Johnson, in his famous intro- 
duction, strikes a truer note, by defending Shakespeare's 
art. The evolution of the drama since the sixteenth 
century, undoubtedly influenced by the example of the 
Master, has been away from the classical models, for 
which Ben Jonson was so sedulous, and of which Shake- 
speare was contemptuously and deliberately careless. 

^ Prof. Thos. R. Lounsbury (Yale University) in " Shakespeare as 
a Dramatic Artist.'* 


Pope also lifted his voice, not very wisely in my judg- 
ment, in defence of Shakespeare's " learning," which 
has also been a famous battleground. The advocates 
of the encyclopsedic knowledge of our poet leave out of 
account the sources from which he drew most, if not all 
of his plays. He is no more responsible for the knowl- 
edge of " natural philosophy, mechanics, ancient and 
modern history, poetical learning and mythology," the 
" customs, rites, and manners of antiquity," the law and 
medicine and geography treated in the works, than he 
is for the false historical movements in " King John," 
or the addition of a sea coast to Bohemia in " A Winter's 
Tale." He took them from the same sources whence he 
drew his plots. 

The knowledge of Shakespeare was transferred from 
his foundation plays and other sources. He was an 
omnivorous reader, but even this seems to have been 
limited to the novels, plays, poems, etc., out of which 
he was quarrying the immortal dramas which bear his 

The previous editors, Heminge and Condell, and Rowe, 
are dealt with by Pope in a manner which becomes 
amusingly familiar with each succeeding edition; while 
he (from lack of that patient collation of copies which 
is the dullest but most necessary part of a commentator's 
work) fell into many grievous errors which later critics, 
especially Malone, gleefully held up to pubHc scorn. 

A delicious bit of the approved mode of handling 
others who dared to walk in the same paths is the follow- 
ing preface to the eighth volume of his second edition, 
apropos of Theobald's critical attempts : ^ 

'Isaac Reed notes this, crediting Mr. Qialmer's "Supplemental 
Apology" as his authority. 


"Since the publication of our first edition, there 
having been some attempts upon Shakespeare, pub- 
hshed by Lewis Theobald (which he would not communi- 
cate during the time wherein that edition was preparing 
for the press, when we by public advertisement did re- 
quest the assistance of all lovers of this author), we 
have inserted in this impression, as many of 'em as are 
judged of any the least advantage to the poet; the whole 
amounting to about twenty-five words. . . . And 
we purpose for the future to do the same with re- 
spect to any other persons, who either through candour 
or vanity shall communicate or publish, the least things 
tending to the illustration of our author." 

Lewis Theobald followed Pope (1733) and laid him- 
self open to that irritable poet's caustic reference, by 
remarking that he, Pope, seldom corrected the text but to 
its injury, and " he frequently inflicted a wound where 
he intended a cure." Pope's first version of the " Dun- 
ciad " appearing about this time, in which Theobald was 
made the official hero of dulness, may be thought to 
justify the latter's remark that " His libels have been 
thrown out with so much inveteracy that, not to dispute 
whether they should come from a Christian, they leave it 
a question whether they could come from a man.^* 

Theobald's preface is turgid and high sounding and 
gives evidence that he is overcome by the attempt to 
estimate the poet's genius. He gives liberal space to 
biographical details, and adds a few unimportant facts 
to the Account of Rowe. One of these is the visit of 
Queen Henrietta to Stratford during the Civil War, and 
her occupancy of New Place. 

Theobald felt called upon to apologise for Shakes- 
peare's offences against chronology, etc., attributing 


them not to ignorance " but to the too powerful blaze 
of his imagination." I have already noted that they are 
properly to be attributed to the sources from whence he 
drew them. There are still worshippers, however, who 
seek to explain and account for them on other grounds. 
His summing up is an arraignment of Pope's method, 
or lack of method, and although Theobald's work was 
bitterly attacked both by Pope and his ally Warburton, 
the sifting of the centuries accords him a higher place 
in textual criticism than either of his great detractors, 
although Pope's preface is by far the more valuable. 
Running through Theobald's sentences we cannot but 
see that his grief was more over his own wounded vanity 
than that the great poet was mishandled. 

Sir Thomas Hanmer, who followed the hero of Pope's 
vitriolic verse, was a gentleman of elegant leisure and 
abundant means, who devoted himself in his latter years 
to the production of an edition of the ppet's works which 
would be representative of the poet's place in English 
letters. He was an exception to the run of backbiting 
critics, praised everything that had been achieved before 
him, and prefaced a very beautiful set of the works in 
six quarto volumes published by the University of 
Oxford (1744), with a short but stately preface, chiefly 
notable rather than valuable for his contention that a 
great deal of what he called " low stuff," ribaldry, coarse 
jests, etc., were interpolated by the players to please the 
vulgar audiences before which they played. There is 
much truth in this, but surely not enough to warrant 
the cutting out of a whole scene in " Henry V. " because 
the editor considered it " improper in French and unin- 
telligible in English." 

Hanmer's .own delicacy of mind and elegance of style 


induced him to leave out many such passages which 
were purely Shakespearean. This contribution to the 
increasing number of editions of Shakespeare's works 
deserves to be remembered as the first official recognition 
by the great Oxford University of the poet who 
achieved the highest eminence in English letters without 
passing through her preparatory halls. 

Bishop Warburton, who followed closely upon Han- 
mer (1747), was the first of the long line of clergymen 
who made Shakespeare the companion of the Old and 
New Testaments. And he devoted a portion of his 
lively preface to a defence of his secular studies. He 
assumes St. Chrysiostom as a godfather in poetic 
studies, who is known to have slept with Aristophanes 
under his pillow. In this connection he writes something 
that gives chief value in my opinion to his Preface, and 
I would that it might be laid to heart by the teachers 
of all English youth. 

" But they will say," he continues, " St. Chrysostom 
contracted a fondness for the comick poet for the sake 
of his Greek, To this indeed I have nothing to reply. 
Far be it from me to insinuate so unscholarlike a thing 
as if we had the same use for good English, that a Greek 
has for his Attick elegance." 

Warburton was a friend and admirer of Pope, and 
after some preliminary misunderstandings, they entered 
and maintained a close alliance in literary matters, offen- 
sive more than defensive. It was said that the poet 
made the clergyman a Bishop, and the Bishop made the 
poet a Christian. 

Warburton took up Pope's quarrel with Theobald, 
sneered at Rowe's account as " meagre," although sub- 
sequent generations have added little to it, and fell upon 


the amiable and elegant Hanmer with tooth and claw. 
His extravagance in the use of words led him often into 
unfairness and inaccuracy. He amused while he repelled. 
He carried the personalities of criticism to the extreme. 
For example, when in speaking of Theobald he said, 
" What he read he could transcribe, but, as what he 
thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, 
so he read on." Posterity judging between the two 
forgot Warburton and Pope as critics and bought 
several editions of Theobald. It is amusing to find such 
a writer saying that an " odd humour of finding fault 
hath long prevailed among critics, as if nothing were 
worth remarking that did not at the same time deserve 
to be reproved." 

The chief value of Warburton's Preface is his state- 
ment of the principles upon which textual criticism 
should proceed, which we may endorse to the student as 
sound and wholesome, although their author did not 
always act upon them with consistency. 

Dr. Samuel Johnson's Introduction to his edition of 
the plays in 1765, while ponderous in style, and occa- 
sionally whimsical in sentiment, is, in my judgment, the 
most valuable critical estimate of Shakespeare's genius 
which the eighteenth century produced. From some 
of his literary judgments we are bound to dissent. His 
assertion, for instance, that Shakespeare's natural bent 
was in the line of comedy, so that " In tragedy he often 
writes with great appearance of toil and study what is 
written at last with little felicity." 

Shakespeare's genius illuminated human life. In the 
broadest sense he wrote neither comedy nor tragedy, but 
interpreted men and women whose dealings with earth 
and time resulted in one or other or both. But the poet 


seems to me to be equally at home in both phases of life. 
Desdemona does not seem to be less naturally studied 
than Rosalind, " King Lear " and " Macbeth " are as 
spontaneous as " Twelfth Night," and far more so than 
the " Midsummer Night's Dream." But Johnson de- 
clares that " His tragedy seems to be skill, his comedy 
to be instinct." It is true that tragedy involves a more 
arduous toil, as it is a superior form of composition, 
but Shakespeare is surely as spontaneous in one as the 
other, and I do not think that the judgment of the ages 
acquiesces in the dictum that " In his tragic scenes there 
is always something wanting, his comedy often surpasses 
expectation or desire." 

The most whimsical of Dr. Johnson's utterances con- 
cerns the part played by love in Shakespearean drama. 
" Love," he says, " is only one of many passions, and as 
it has no great influence upon the sum of life it has little 
operation in the dramas of a poet who caught his ideas 
from the living world, and exhibited only what he saw 
before him." The italics are mine. The widow Porter 
was twenty years older than himself when Johnson took 
her to wife, but he is reported to have lived very happily 
with her, so this remarkable sentence must be taken as 
the result of general observation rather than a personal 
experience. I confess it is to me the most astounding 
adjudication in English letters. Love with one or more 
of its " spontaneous variations " is the theme of almost 
every comedy, of one third of the tragedies, and even 
plays no small part in many of the historical plays. As 
to the passion of love having no great influence upon 
the sum of life, if it were possible to withdraw that influ- 
ence, there would be little but rags and tatters left. 

Another judgment in which we cannot concur is 


that Shakespeare's " declamation or set speeches are 
commonly cold and weak ... in which he seldom 
escapes without the pity or resentment of the reader." 
We at once recall the grandeur of monologue which 
chai^acterises " Richard II." ; the whirling passion of 
" Julius Caesar " and " Antony and Cleopatra " ; the 
biting cynicism of " Richard III.," and wonder if Dr. 
Johnson did more than glance through the plays in order 
to see how the plot came to its denouement. 

In his other unfavourable comments upon, for in- 
stance, the quibbles with words, grossness of the comic 
parts, and lack of delicacy in his ladies and gentlemen, 
the critic half admitted that he was really criticising 
the manners and customs of the Elizabethan age from 
which Shakespeare drew his working models. 

Every critic, however, feels bound to censure here and 
there in order to justify his existence, and Dr. Johnson 
redeems the most extraordinary and whimsical of his 
utterances by certain excellencies of interpretation and 
shrewd common sense judgments. 

His defence of Shakespearean violation of the unities 
of the classic drama is not an apology in the vein of 
Pope, but a reconstruction of the theory of the drama. 
He strikes at the root of the claim that an observance 
of the unities is necessary to make the drama credible, 
in the sentence : " Delusion, if delusion be admitted, has 
no certain limitation ; if the spectator can be once per- 
suaded that his old acquaintance are Alexander and 
Caesar, or that a room illuminated with candles, is the 
plain of Pharsalia, or the bank of the Granicus, he is in 
a state of elevation above the reach of reason, or of 
truth, and from the heights of empyrean poetry, may 
despise the circumscriptions of terrestrial nature. There 


is no reason why a mind thus wandering in ecstacy 
should count the clock, or why an hour should not be a 
century in that calenture of the brain's that can make 
the stage a field." 

Shakespearean dramas offer a proof in themselves, 
and the developments of the later drama buttress this 
proof, " that the unities of time and place are not neces- 
sary to a great drama," and Dr. Johnson led the way to 
a juster estimate of the works of the great poet, by 
relieving them on sound, critical grounds from the incu- 
bus of irregularity which seventeenth and eighteenth 
century critics insisted upon saddling upon them. 

The shrewd mind of the great man perceived a truth 
to which so many before and after him seemed curiously 
blind, that the learning and knowledge of Shakespeare, 
as already noted, were to be attributed to the sources of 
his plays ; " I am inclined to believe," he says, " that he 
read little more than English, and chose for his fables 
only such tales as he found translated." 

Modern research has caused no material alteration of 
this judgment. We have access to Shakespeare's library 
in more than one exhaustive collection, and the student 
of these sources has no difficulty in accounting for the 
knowledge and learning displayed throughout the plays. 
This is not to say that the poet was unlearned, but that 
he need not have been learned in either the languages 
or sciences to have written the works attributed to 

Dr. Johnson added to his own comments a brief but 
judicious review of the editorial work which preceded 
his own, bestowing praise and blame with impartial pen, 
save as it seems to me in his criticism of Theobald. The 
literary atmosphere which he breathed was charged with 


a malignant spirit towards that unfortunate editor. It 
will be noticed, however, that those who criticised Theo- 
bald's vanity, his petulance and his learning, availed 
themselves of the results of his labour with no niggardly 
hand, and Johnson proved no exception. 

Dr. Johnson's observations form, on the whole, the best 
and finest critical estimate of Shakespeare's works which 
the eighteenth century produced, and whether we agree 
with him or not in every judgment, we cannot fail to 
be enlightened by his many-syllabled sentences. 

His advice to the average reader is sound and helpful. 
It is summed up in a conclusion which I am proud to 
remember was the result of my own judgment long be- 
fore I saw it so happily expressed by so great an 
authority : " Let him that is yet unacquainted with the 
powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the 
highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play 
from the first scene to the last with utter neghgence of 
all his commentators." 

It was thus that the audience who first saw these plays 
presented received their impressions. It is only so that 
modem readers can have original opinions. The 
herd-mind is not desirable. Every reader should be his 
own commentator, which is merely another way for say- 
ing that everyone should be able to form an independent 
judgment as to characters and events. Great names 
should not stand In the way. A very average-minded 
man has made within a few years one of the most lumi- 
nous comments on a line in Shakespeare which has been 
uttered in a generation: 

" Parts are not to be examined till the whole has been 
surveyed." Get the story in hand. Have a grasp of 
the plot. Then pay a closer attention to details, and 


then having his own opinion, let the student graft upon 
this original stock such shoots as shall seem worth while. 

George Steevens followed Dr. Johnson, in a new depar- 
ture, deserting the Folios and paying attention to the 
Quartos. His Advertisement to the Reader prefixed to 
the edition of twenty of the old Quarto copies (1766) 
is given in the following collection rather than the later 
Advertisement to the Steevens and Johnson edition, be- 
cause it calls attention to these earlier and rarer imprints 
of Shakespeare's plays. 

These Quartos were nearly all published during 
Shakespeare's life-time, and while some of them are 
doubtless the " stolen and surreptitious copies " referred 
to by Heminge and Condell in their " Address to the 
Great Variety of Readers," some of them bear evidence 
of enlargement and redaction, perhaps by Shakespeare 
himself. They offered the only standard of comparison 
for collation with the Folios, however, and Steevens's 
work in gathering and reprinting them in four volumes 
was of the greatest value to all succeeding students. 

Steevens opened another new avenue in the enlarging 
field of criticism by his suggestion, trite enough in these 
days, but new in the eighteenth century, that the mean- 
ing of many blind expressions in the plays might be 
retrieved by comparison with the works of contemporary 

In treating of the publication of scraps and bits of 
composition, " detached and broken sentences " of 
authors who never intended them for publication, 
Steevens rebukes that spirit which is much more preva- 
lent in the twentieth than in the eighteenth century, as 
is evidenced in shoals of volumes of posthumously ^inted 
letters and diaries. 


" A man conscious of literary reputation will grow in 
time afraid to write with tenderness to his sister, or with 
fondness to his child. . . . That esteem which pre- 
serves his letters will at last produce his disgrace; when 
that which he wrote to his friend or his daughter shall 
be laid open to the public." 

We recall a comparatively recent instance in which the 
most beautiful and tender love story of modern times 
was laid open to profane eyes by the son of two great 

Edward Capell's Introduction confines itself mainly to 
the Quartos, and defends the purity of their text from 
the slur of the players' Preface. His arguments are 
ingenious and may be said to be convincing, although 
like every man with a brief, he exaggerates facts which 
of themselves are sufficient if barely stated. 

He reviews briefly the editions preceding his own, dis- 
covering their errors and mistakes and failing to note 
their excellencies. His own work, he states, is based not 
upon the text of preceding editions (which is the cry- 
ing sin he declares of his predecessors from Rowe down), 
but upon the oldest editions, the Quartos when they are 
available, and the First Folio rather than later reprints. 
In this course he is entirely justified, but he was not the 
first or only commentator who did so. Mr. Capell was, 
until Malone, the most patient, conscientious and praise- 
worthy of annotators, although Dr. Johnson said of 
him, " he doth quibble monstrously." His learning was 
considerable and his genius for plodding beyond words. 
His chief contribution to Shakespeare lore, in this In- 
troduction, is in a few lines of explanation why the great 
poet seemed to lie 'perdu for two generations ; the 
change of the Court taste which ran to the Masques, in 



the construction of which Ben Johnson was past master, 
the civil war, the lascivious taste of the Restoration, and 
the alterations of Shakespeare's own text to please a 
debased public taste. He notes in this connection, how- 
ever, that the current of tendency towards Shakespeare 
never dried up even while " the stream of the public 
favour ran the other way." Capell also makes a very 
ingenious and I think judicious examination of the 
earlier plays of Shakespeare, upon which doubts of his 
authorship had been cast, because of their blunders and 
extravagance of language. His searching comments on 
" Love's Labour's Lost," and " Titus Andronicus," are 
fine pieces of critical acumen. 

When Rowe revived the poet in a convenient and handy 
form in 1709, and enlivened public interest in his works 
by the first account of his life that had been published, 
there was no small circle of his admirers remaining as a 
nucleus, and from that day there has never been a ques- 
tion as to William Shakespeare's right of eminent domain 
in English letters. 

Capell's Introduction acquired substantial value for 
his day in the appendix entitled " Origin of Shake- 
speare's Fables," being a brief description of the known 
works upon which nearly all the plays were founded. 
(This is omitted from the reprint in this volume, as cum- 
bersome, and it was by no means complete.) But it was 
a long step forward and collected material out of which 
scholars were thereafter to construct the true and com- 
plete fabric.^ 

Mr. Isaac Reed in 1*785 re-edited the Steevens text 

'The student is here referred to the six volumes called 
"Shakespeare's Library," edited first by Payne Collier (1843), 
revised and enlarged by W. Carew Hazlett (1875). 


and is the only known instance in the eighteenth cen- 
tury of a modest editor, as will appear from the 
following paragraph of his Advertisement: 

" The present editor thinks it unnecessary to say any- 
thing of his own share in the work except that he 
undertook it in consequence of an application which 
was too flattering and honourable to him to decline. He 
mentions this only to have it known that he did not 
intrude himself into the situation." 

Mr. Reed's Advertisement is here printed and his 
revision noted because the Steevens text to which he 
gave his labours was for a long period the standard, and 
until the beginning of the latter half of the nineteenth 
century most Shakespearean readers used it. 

Mr. Reed deserves to be remembered also as the editor 
of the first variorum edition of Shakespeare, based on 
Steevens's text in twenty-one volumes, published in 
1803, and practically reprinted in 1813. The next 
variorum was the work of James Boswell, son of John- 
son's " Bozzy," in 1821. The next and most stupendous, 
by our fellow countryman, Horace Howard Furness, 
was begun in 1871 and is now undergoing revision by 
his son. 

With Edmond Malone we reach the last of the great 
editors of the eighteenth century. His patience 
equalled and his special learning exceeded that of 
Capell, while his contribution to Elizabethan dramatic 
history and literature out-ranked all who preceded him, 
and serves as a mine for all who follow him. He quoted 
more generally than is customary from Dr. Johnson's 
Introduction, and took exception to some of his 

We must admit that Malone spoke with an authority 


no preceding editor could assume, (with the possible 
exception of Capell) in matters pertaining to the tradi- 
tions of the English stage, and the customs of the 
Elizabethan players in handling their parts. He had an 
extensive first-hand knowledge of the earliest printed 
copies both of Shakespeare's plays and those of his 
contemporaries. He displays this knowledge in tracing 
the gradual process of corruption in a text as it passes 
through the hands of editors and printers, in several 
pages of examples (which are omitted from the follow- 
ing reprint of his introduction as concerned only with 
matters of textual criticism) . 

Malone's contention that the First Folio has a value 
which is lacking in the three succeeding ones Is based 
upon the " numerous misrepresentations and interpola- 
tions " with which he was familiar from close personal 
examination. I have long been of his opinion that the 
first edition of each play is alone of any authority, and 
that they are properly the basis of annotation and 

He proves by comparison of the First and Second 
Folios that the editor of the latter was " entirely 
ignorant of our poet's phraseology " ; supporting his 
argument by quotations to a wearisome extent. 

The Introduction is enriched by the wide reading of its 
author in Elizabethan literature and he makes a stout 
defence of the editor's work against the complaints, of 
which we still have echoes, that the plays themselves are 
buried under the notes of the commentators. Malone 
believed the works of Shakespeare to be such a treasure 
house for the reader and student that he was bold 
enough to say " When our poet's entire library shall 
have been discovered, and the fables of all his plays 


traced to their original source, when every contemporary 
allusion shall have been pointed out, and every obscurity 
elucidated, then, and not till then, let the accumulation 
of notes be complained of." 

I consider that Malone's chief contribution to 
Shakespearean literature in this introduction is his 
estimate of the value of first editions. 

As one reads these famous introductions, covering a 
century of time, and reflects upon the immense industry 
and arduous toil which the editions and prefaces repre- 
sent, one is inclined to smile again at the naive remark 
of Rowe, " the works of Mr. Shakespeare may seem to 
many not to want a commentary." 

The smile broadens as we read Dr. Johnson's an- 
nouncement that he would deal with the faults and 
excellencies of the poet " without envious malignity or 
superstitious veneration. Since no question can be more 
innocently discussed than a dead poet's pretensions to 

The reader has but to follow the raging clamour of the 
famous editors of the eighteenth century as set forth in 
these pages, the scorns and sarcasms, the accusations of 
ignorance and malevolence, to realise how little the great 
" Cham " of literature could prophesy what was to be, 
or judiciously reflect upon what was going on within 
sound of his ears. For the echoes of Pope, Theobald, 
and Warburton's " innocent discussions " still fill the 

It is because of my belief in the value of these dis- 
cussions that I off^er the contribution of this volume to 
the student of Shakespeare. Every critic or editor 
whose preface, advertisement, or introduction is in- 
cluded in these pages improves our knowledge both of 


the text and the spirit of Shakespeare. To each one 
the empire of letters owes a distinct debt. 

Modern research has added many minor details to our 
knowledge of the poet and his works; modern editions 
have placed the results of the ripest scholarship within 
reach of the poorest student; modem machinery has 
produced in the perfection of form, fitting and graceful 
caskets for these jewels of English letters. But all — 
without exception — are and must remain debtors to the 
pioneer players who saved the bulk of the poet's work 
from the slag heap of annihilation; to the pioneer 
biographer who gleaned those otherwise neglected facts, 
which, meagre as they are, are still almost all we know 
of the poet's life; to Pope with his bitter tongue, 
Theobald with his petulant genius, Warburton with his 
sarcastic raillery, Steevens with his saturnine pugnacity, 
as well as Johnson with his far-reaching powers of 
analysis, Capell with his patient plodding, and Malone 
with his well-digested learning in things pertaining to 
the Elizabethan stage. 

The study of Shakespeare will continue to be the most 
noble pursuit in the large realm of English letters as 
long as the language lasts to which he gave both form 
and stability. 

And the student of Shakespeare cannot fail to be aided 
in his quest of the fascinating spirit of the plays, under 
the illumination cast upon their pages by the famous 
Introductions of the eighteenth century. 




JOHN HEMINGE, as he signs his name in the 
First Folio, or Hemmings as it appears in 
other places, was an actor, manager, and 
shareholder in both the Globe and Blackfriars 
theatres. There is no record extant of the time of his 
birth, but perhaps he was a native of Shottery, the 
home of Anne Hathaway, as a man of his name had a 
child baptised in Stratford Parish Church in 1567. 

His original trade was that of a grocer, as we learn 
from his will, where he describes himself as a "citizen 
and grocer " of London. 

His name is traced through various documents as actor 
in a number of plays, and Malone hands down a tradi- 
tion which he found in a forgotten pamphlet that 
Heminge was the creator of the character of FalstafF. 

He increased in wealth and importance, as is noted 
from two lists of players in the King's Company (the 
players were usually sharers in the profits), when in 
1603 his name stands sixth, and in 1619, it is at the 
head of the list. He was a warm personal friend of 
Shakespeare, who left him by will the sum of twenty-six 
shillings and sixpence wherewith to purchase a ring. 

His literary work was confined, so far as we know, to 
the publication (and editing after a fashion) of 
the celebrated First Folio edition of the plays of 
Shakespeare, in association with Henrie Condell. This 
was in 1623, seven years after the poet's death. 


In a " Sonnet upon the pitiful burning of the Globe 

Playhouse in London " (1613) occur the following 

lines : 

"There with swol'ii eyes like druncken Flemminges 
Distressed stood old stuttering Hemminges." * 

He died in October, 1630, at Aldermanbury. 


Heneie Condeli., or Cundell as it was sometimes 
spelled (Elizabethan spelling was a matter of individual 
taste and preference) was the associate of John Heminge 
in the production of the First Folio. He was an actor 
of moderate reputation and a fellow manager in theat- 
rical ventures with Heminge. From actors' lists we 
learn that he played in the productions of Shakespeare, 
Ben Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher. His relations 
with the former were confidential and friendly, and in 
the great poet's will he was also remembered by a bequest 
of money to buy a ring. 

He is mentioned in the " Sonnet " quoted above as 
follows : 

"Out runne the knightes, out runne the lordes, and there was 
great adoe, 
Some lost their hattes and some their swords, then out run 

Burbidge too. 
The reprobates thoughe drunck on Munday 
Pray'd for the Foole and Henry Condye." 

There is no record of his birth, but he died in 
December, 1627. 

No portraits are extant of either of the first two 
editors of Shakespeare's plays. 

*"OutUnes," by HalliweU Phillips. Vol. I, p. 310. Ed. 1887. 



[First Folio Edition, 1623.] 

To the Great Variety of Readers: 

From the most able, to him that can but spell: There 
you are number'd. We had rather you were weigh'd. 
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, & you wil 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 soever your 
braines be, or your wisedomes, 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, 
what ever you do. Buy. Censure will not drive a Trade, 
or make the Jacke go. And though you be a Magistrate 
of wit, and sit on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the 
Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie, know, these Playes 
have had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Appeales ; 
and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of 
Court, then any purchas'd Letters of commendation. 

It had been a thing, we confesse, worthie to have bene 
wished, that the Author himselfe had liv'd to have set 
forth, and overseen his owne writings ; But since it hath 
bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from 
that right, we pray you do not envie his Friends, the 
office of their care, and paine, to have collected & pub- 
lished them; and so to have publish'd them, as where 
(before) you were abus'd with diverse stolne, and sur- 
reptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds 


and stealths of injurious imposters, that expos'd them: 
even those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and per- 
fect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their 
numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happie 
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 from him a blot in his papers. But it is not 
our province, who only gather his works, and give them 
you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And 
there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will find 
enough, both to draw, and hold you : for his wit can no 
more lie hid, than it could be lost. Reade him, there- 
fore; and againe, and againe: And then if you do 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 your selves, and others 
and such Readers we wish him. 

John Heminge. 

Heneie Condell. 




THE high honour of being the first biographer 
of William Shakespeare belongs to Nicholas 
Rowe, bom in Bedfordshire in 1677, died 
in London December 6, 1718. He was a 
pupil at Westminster School under the famous Dr. 
Busby, became a student of the Inner Temple, was 
called to the bar, but forsook the law for politics and 
finally for literature. He was an under-Secretary of 
State, and Secretary of State for Scotland, but in the 
reign of George I. reached the object of his ambition 
and became poet laureate. 

He became a dramatic writer of repute. His chief 
works were, " The Ambitious Stepmother," " Tamer- 
lane," " The Famous Penitent " (famous as having 
among its dramatis personce the original " gallant gay 
Lothario "), " Ulysses," " The Royal Convert," " Jane 
Shore," and " Lady Jane Grey." Of these I believe only 
" Jane Shore " has been acted on the modern stage. 
Two volumes of miscellaneous poetry were also accred- 
ited to him. Rowe was a popular member of that literary 
coterie at the beginning of the eighteenth century which 
included Pope and Addison, whom he counted among 
his friends. 

His Shakespeare work was his most notable 
achievement. In 1709 he published an edition of the 
plays " with an account of his life and writings " in 
seven volumes octavo. This was followed in 1714 by a 


second edition in nine volumes. It was the first attempt 
to give any details of the great poet's life ; and Rowe's 
experience as a playwright led him to prefix to each 
play its list of dramatis personce, to divide the plays 
into numbered acts and scenes, and to mark exits and 

Rowe was buried in Westminster Abbey and Pope wrote 
the following epitaph for his tomb : 

" Thy relics, Rowe, to this sad shrine we trust. 
And near thy Shakespeare place thy honoured bust. 
Oh, next him, skilled to draw the tender tear. 
For never heartfelt passion more sincere; 
To nobler sentiment to fire the brave. 
For never Briton more disdained a slave; 
Peace to thy gentle shade and endless rest! 
Blest in thy genius, in thy love, too, blest! 
And blest, that timely from our scene removed, 
Thy soul enjoy the liberty it loved." 



This account is taken from the second edition (1714), slightly 
altered by the author from the first edition of 1709. 

It seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of 
excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and 
learning have made famous, to deliver some account of 
themselves, as well as their works, to posterity. For 
this reason, how fond do we see some people of discov- 
ering any little personal story of the great men of 
antiquity : their families, the common accidents of their 
lives, and even their shape, make, and features, have 
been the subject of critical inquiries. How trifling 


soever this curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very 
natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of 
any remarkable person, till we have heard him described 
even to the very clothes he wears. As for what relates 
to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may some- 
times conduce to the better understanding his book ; and 
though the works of Mr. Shakespeare may seem to many 
not to want a comment, yet I fancy some little account 
of the man himself may not be thought improper to go 
along with them. 

He was the son of Mr. John Shakespeare, and was bom 
at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, in April, 
1564. His family, as appears by the register and pub- 
lick writings relating to that town, were of good figure 
and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. 
His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so 
large a family, ten children in all, that though he was 
his eldest son, he could give him no better education 
than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, 
for some time at a free school,* where, it is probable, he 
acquired what Latin he was master of : but the narrow- 
ness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance 
at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, 
and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that 
language. It is without controversy, that in his works 
we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an 
imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and 
the natural bent of his own great genius (equal, if not 
superior, to some of the best of theirs), would certainly 
have led him to read and study them with so much 
pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally 

^ One of the grammar schools founded or reconstructed on older 
foundations by Edward VI. in 1547. 


have Insinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his 
own writings ; so that his not copying at least something 
from them, may be an argument of his never having 
read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were 
a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute: 
for though the knowledge of them might have made him 
more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the reg- 
ularity and deference for them, which would have 
attended that correctness, might have restrained some of 
that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance, 
which we admire in Shakespeare: and I believe we are 
better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and 
uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him so 
abundantly with, than if he had given us the most 
beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, 
and that in the most agreeable manner that it was 
possible for a master of the English language to 
deliver them. 

Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely 
into that way of living which his father proposed to him ; 
and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, 
he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young.^ 
His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said 
to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbour- 

2 Anne, daughter of Richard Hathaway of Shottery, a hamlet 
near Stratford. There is no record in the parish register or 
elsewhere so far as is known of the marriage. The only light 
upon it is a record in the Diocesan Registry (of Worcester) of a 
bond for £40 to free the Bishop from liability in the event of 
any impediment appearing upon the marriage of William 
Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. The date of this (Nov. 28, 
1582) affords reasonable inference that the marriage took place 
immediately after. As the oldest child, Susanna, was baptised 
May 26, 1583, Shakespeare must have been under nineteen when 
he married. 


hood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he 
continued for some time, till an extravagance that he 
was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and 
that way of living which he had taken up ; and though 
it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, 
and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily 
proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest 
geniuses that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He 
had by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, 
fallen into ill company, and amongst them, some that 
made a frequent practice of deer-stealing engaged him 
more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir 
Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this 
he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, 
somewhat too severely ; and in order to revenge that ill 
usage, he made a ballad upon him.^ And though this, 
probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is 
said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the 
prosecution against him to that degree, that he was 
obliged to leave his business and family in Warwick- 
shire for some time, and shelter himself in London.* 
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is 
said to have made his first acquaintance in the play- 
house. He was received into the company then in being, 
at first in a very mean rank, but his admirable wit, and 
the natural turn of it to the stage, soon distinguished 
him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent 
writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those 
times, amongst those of the other players, before some 

"This alleged ballad is very doubtful. But an allusion to Sir 
Thos. Lucy is evident in the coat of arms assigned to Justice 
Shallow in the opening scene of " The Merry Wives of Windsor." 

* Probably about 1586. 


old plays, but without any particular account of what 
sort of parts he used to play; and though I have 
inquired, I could never meet with any further account 
of him this way, than that the top of his performance 
was the Ghost in his own " Hamlet." ^ I should have 
been much more pleased, to have learned from certain 
authority, which was the first play he wrote ; it would be 
without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things 
of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of 
a fancy like Shakespeare's. Perhaps we are not to look 
for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among 
their least perfect writings ; art had so little, and nature 
so large a share in what he did, that, for aught I know, 
the performances of his youth, as they were the most 
vigorous, and had the most fire and strength of imagina- 
tion in them, were the best. I would not be thought by 
this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extrava- 
gant, as to be independent on the rule and government of 
judgment ; but that what he thought was commonly so 
great, so justly and rightly conceived in itself, that it 
wanted little or no correction, and was immediately 
approved by an impartial judgment at the first sight. 
But though the order of time in which the several pieces 
were written be generally uncertain, yet there are 
passages in some few of them which seem to fix their 
dates. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth act of 
" Henry the Fifth," by a compliment very handsomely 
turned to the Earl of Essex, shows the play to have 
been written when that lord was general for the Queen 
in Ireland; and his eulogy upon Queen Elizabeth, and 

•'According to Oldys, Shakespeare's younger brother Gilbert 
remembered his performance of the character of Adam in "As 
You Like It." 


her successor King James, in the latter end of his 
** Henry the Eighth," is a proof of that play's being 
written after the accession of the latter of these two 
princes to the crown of England.^ Whatever the par- 
ticular times of his writing were, the people of his age, 
who began to grow wonderfully fond of diversions of 
this kind, could not but be highly pleased to see a genius 
arise amongst them of so pleasurable, so rich a vein, and 
so plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite 
entertainments.N Besides the advantages of his wit, he 
was in himself a good-natured man, of great sweetness 
in his manners, and a most agreeable companion ; so that 
it is no wonder, if, with so many good qualities, he made 
himself acquainted with the best conversations of those 
times. Queen Elizabeth had several of his plays acted 
before her, and without doubt gave him many gracious 
marks of her favour : it is that maiden princess plainly, 
whom he intends by 

"... a fair vestal, throned by the west." 

— " A Midsummer-Night's Dream." 

and that whole passage is a compliment very properly 
brought in, and very handsomely applied to her. She 
was so well pleased with that admirable character of 
Fals taffy in the two parts of " Henry the Fourth," that 
she commended him to continue it for one play more, 
and to show him in love. This is said to be the occasion 
of his writing " The Merry Wives of Windsor." "^ How 
well she was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable 
proof. Upon this occasion it may not be improper to 

• It is generally admitted that Thos. Fletcher had a large share 
in the authorship of " Henry VIII." 
' Anecdote dates from 1702 but is not considered authentic. 


observe, that this part of Falstaff Is said to have been 
written originally under the name of Oldcastle: some of 
that family being then remaining, the Queen was pleased 
to command him to alter it ; upon which he made use of 
Falstaff. The present offence was indeed avoided; but 
I do not know whether the author may not have been 
somewhat to blame in his second choice, since it is cer- 
tain that Sir John Falstaff,^ who was a knight of the 
garter, and a lieutenant-general, was a name of dis- 
tinguished merit in the wars in France in Henry the 
Fifth's and Henry the Sixth's times. What grace 
soever the Queen conferred upon him, it was not to her 
only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit 
made. He had the honour to meet with many great and 
uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the 
Earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that 
time for his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of 
Essex. It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his 
poem of " Venus and Adonis." There is one instance 
so singular in the magnificence of this patron of 
Shakespeare's, that if I had not been assured that the 
story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who 
was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I 
should not have ventured to have inserted; that my 
Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand 
pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase 
which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, 
and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that 
profuse generosity the present age has shown to French 
dancers and Italian singers. 

What particular habitude or friendship he contracted 
with private men, I have not been able to learn, more 
than that every one, who had a true taste of merit, and 
« Sir John Fastolf. 


could distinguish men, had generally a just value and 
esteem for him. His exceeding candour and good- 
nature must certainly have inclined all the gentler part 
of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged 
the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite 
learning to admire him. 

His acquaintance with Ben Jonson began with 
a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature; 
Mr. Jonson, who was at that time altogether unknown 
to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players, 
in order to have it acted; and the persons into whose 
hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and 
superciliously over, were just upon returning it to 
him with an ill-natured answer, that it would be of no 
service to their company; when Shakespeare luckily 
cast his eye upon it, and found something so well in it, 
as to engage him first to read it through, and after- 
wards to recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings to 
the publick. 

Jonson was certainly a very good scholar, and in 
that had the advantage of Shakespeare ; though at the 
same time I believe it must be allowed, that what 
nature gave the latter, was more than a balance for 
what books had given to the former; and the judgment 
of a great man upon this occasion was, I think, very 
just and proper. In a conversation between Sir John 
Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, 
Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonson, Sir John 
Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakespeare, 
had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonson 
with some warmth; Mr. Hales, who had sat still for 
some time, told them, that if Mr. Shakespeare had not 
read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen anything 



from them; and that if he would produce any one 
topick finely treated by any one of them, he would 
undertake to show something upon the same subject at 
least as well written by Shakespeare. 
v( The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of 
good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, 
and the conversation of his friends. He had the good 
fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, 
in that, to his wish; and is said to have spent some 
years before his death at his native Stratford.^ His 
pleasurable wit and good-nature engaged him in the 
acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the 
gentlemen of the neighborhood. Amongst them, it is 
a story almost still remembered in that country that 
he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old 
gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and 
usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation 
amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told 
Shakespeare in a laughing manner, that he fancied he 
intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to out- 
live him; and since he could not know what might be 
said of him when he was dead, he desired it might be 
done immediately; upon which Shakespeare gave him 
these four verses : 

" Ten in the hundred lies here engrav'd, 
'Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not sav'd I 
If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb? 
Oh! Oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a Combe." 

But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung 
the man so severely, that he never forgave it.^^ 

• His permanent retirement is placed about 1613. 

"The story is doubtful. Combe left £5 to Shakespeare in his 
will, and made liberal donations both to his creditors and to the 


He died in the fifty-third year of his age,^^ and was 
buried on the north side of the chancel, in the great 
church at Stratford, where a monument is placed in the 
wall. On his grave-stone underneath is, — 

"Good friend, for Jesus* sake forbear 
To dig the dust inclosed here. 
Blest be the man that spares these stones. 
And curst be he that moves my bones."" 

He had three daughters, of which two lived to be 
married; Judith, the elder,^^ to one Mr. Thomas 
Quiney, by whom she had three sons, who all died with- 
out children; and Susanna, who was his favourite, to 
Dr. John Hall, a physician of good reputation in that 
country. She left one child only, a daughter, who was 
married first to Thomas Nashe, Esq., and afterwards 
to Sir John Barnard of Abington, but died likewise 
without issue. This is what I could learn of any note, 
either relating to himself or family; the character of 
the man is best seen in his writings. But since 
Ben Jonson has made a sort of an essay towards it in 
his Discoveries, ^^ I will give it in his words : 

" I remember the players have often mentioned it is 
an honour to Shakespeare that in writing (whatsoever 
he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer 
hath been. Would he had blotted a thousand! which 
they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told 
posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chose that 

"The parish register records his burial April 25, 1616. 

" Not the work of the poet. Author unknown. 

^' A mistake. Susanna was the oldest. Vide Note 3, page 8. 

14 " Discoveries Made Upon Men and Matters," a farrago of 
miscellaneous notes and comments unpublished until after 
Jonson's death. 


circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he 
most faulted: and to justify mine own candour, for I 
loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this side 
idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and 
of an open and free nature, had an excellent fancy, 
brave notions, and gentle expressions ; wherein he flowed 
with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he 
should be stopped: Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus 
said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power ; would 
the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into 
those things which could not escape laughter; as when 
he said in the person of Caesar, one speaking to him, 

" ' Caesar, thou dost me wrong.* 
He replied: 

"'Caesar did never wrong, but with just cause.'" 

and such like, which were ridiculous. But he 
redeemed his vices with his virtues; there was ever 
more in him to be praised than to be pardoned." 

As for the passage which he mentions out of 
Shakespeare, there is somewhat like it in " Julius 
Caesar," but without the absurdity ; nor did I ever meet 
with it in any edition that I have seen as quoted by 
Mr. Jonson. 

Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or 

three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbaine, which I have 

never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise 

" Venus and Adonis," and " Tarquin and Lucrece," in 

stanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of 

poems. As to the character given of him by 

Ben Jonson, there is a good deal true in it; but I 

" Know Caesar doth no wrong; nor without cause will he be 
satisfied.— " JuUus Caesar," III. 1. 


believe it may be as well expressed by what Horace 
says of the first Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the 
Greek models, (or indeed translated them), in hii 
epistle to Augustus : 

"... naturd sublimis ^ acer: 
Nam spiral tragicum satis, et feliciter audet, 
8ed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram." 

As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a 
large and complete criticism upon Shakespeare's 
works, so I will only take the liberty with all due sub- 
mission to the judgment of others, to observe some of 
those things I have^been pleased with in looking 
him over. 

—His plays are properly to be distinguished only into 
comedies and tragedies. Those which are called his- 
tories, and even some of his comedies, are really 
tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst 
them. That way of tragi-comedy was the common 
mistake of that age, and is indeed become so agreeable 
to the English taste, that though the severer criticks 
among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our 
audiences seem to be better pleased with it than with 
an exact tragedy. " The Merry Wives of Windsor," 
"The Comedy of Errors," and "The Taming of a 
Shrew," are all pure comedy; the rest, however they 
are called, have something of both kinds. It is not very 
easy to determine which way of writing he was most 
excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of enter- 
tainment in his comical humours; and though they did 
not then strike at all ranks of people, as the satire of 
the present age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is 
a pleasing and a well-distinguished variety in those 


characters which he thought fit to meddle with. 
Falsi a ff is allowed by every body to be a master-piece ; 
the character is always well sustained, though drawn 
out into the length of three plays; and even the 
account of his death given by his old landlady 
Mrs. Quickly, in the first Act of " Henry the Fifth," 
though it be extremely natural, is yet as diverting as 
any part of his life. If there be any fault in the 
draught he has made of this lewd old fellow, it is, that 
though he has made him a thief, lying, cowardly, vain- 
glorious, and in short every way vicious, yet he has 
given him so much wit as to make him almost too 
agreeable ; and I do not know whether some people have 
not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly 
aff^orded them, been sorry to see his friend Hal use him 
so scurvily, when he comes to the crown in the end of 
The Second Part of " Henry the Fourth." Amongst 
other extravagancies, in " The Merry Wives of 
Windsor," he made him a deer-stealer, that he might 
at the same time remember his Warwickshire prose- 
cutor, under the name of Justice Shallow; he has given 
him very near the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in 
his " Antiquities " of that county, describes for a 
family there, and makes the Welsh parson descant very 
pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; 
the humours are various and well opposed; the main 
design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable 
jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In " Twelfth- 
Night " there is something singularly ridiculous and 
pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio, The 
parasite and the vain-glorious in ParolleSy in " All's 
Well That Ends Well," is as good as any thing of that 
kind of Plautus or Terence, Petrucio in " The 


Taming of the Shrew," is an uncommon piece of 
humour. The conversation of Benedick and Beatrice, 
in " Much Ado About Nothing," and of Rosalind, in 
** As You Like It," have much wit and sprightliness all 
along. His clowns, without which character there was 
hardly any play writ in that time, are all very enter- 
taining ; and, I believe, Thersites in " Troilus and 
Cressida," and Apemantus in " Timon," will be allowed 
to be master-pieces of ill-nature and satirical snarling. 
To these I might add, that incomparable character of 
Shylock the Jew, in the " Merchant of Venice " ; but 
though we have seen that play received and acted as a 
comedy, and the part of the Jew performed by an 
excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was 
designed tragically by the author. ^* There appears in 
it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierce- 
ness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of 
cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the 
style or characters of comedy. The play itself, take 
it altogether, seems to me to be one of the most finished 
of any of Shakespeare's. The tale, indeed, in that 
part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and 
unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much 
removed from the rules of probability; but taking the 
fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beauti- 
fully written. There is something in the friendship of 
Antonio to Bassanio very great, generous, and tender. 
The whole fourth act (supposing, as I said, the fact to 
be probable), is extremely fine. But there are two 
passages that deserve a particular notice. The first 
10 In 1701 George Granville, Lord Landsdowne, produced a 
version of the " Merchant of Venice " called the " Jew of Venice," 
in which the character of Shylock was exhibited as a buffoon. 
This version held the stage for more than a generation. 


is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other 
on the power of musick. The melancholy of Jaques, 
in " As You Like It," is as singular and odd as it is 
diverting. And if, what Horace says, 

"Diddle est proprie communia dicere" 

it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in 
the description of the several degrees and ages of 
man's life, though the thought be old, and common 

"... All the world's a stage. 
And all the men and women merely players; 
They have their exits and their entrances. 
And one man in his time plays many parts. 
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant. 
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms: 
And then the whining school-boy with his satchel. 
And shining morning face, creeping like snail 
Unwillingly to school. And then, the lover 
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad 
Made to his mistress's eye-brow. Then, a soldier; 
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard. 
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel. 
Seeking the bubble reputation 

Ev'n in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice; 
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd. 
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut. 
Full of wise saws and modern instances; 
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts 
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon; 
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side; 
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide 
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice. 
Turning again tow'rd childish treble, pipes 
And whistles in his sound: Last scene of all. 
That ends this strange eventful history. 
In second childishness, and mere oblivion; 
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." it 

" " As You Like It." Act II. 7. 


His images are indeed every where so lively, that the 
thing he would represent stands full before you, and 
you possess every part of it. I will venture to point 
out one more, which is, I think, as strong and as 
uncommon as any thing I ever saw; it is an image of 
Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says : 

"... She never told her love. 
But let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud. 
Feed on her damask cheek: she pin'd in thought, 
And sate like Patience on a monument. 
Smiling at grief." " 

What an image is here given ! and what a task would it 
have been for the greatest masters of Greece and 
Rome to have expressed the passions designed by this 
sketch of Statuary! The style of his comedy is, in 
general natural to the characters, and easy in itself; 
and the wit most commonly sprightly and pleasing, 
except in those places where he runs into doggerel 
rhymes, as in " The Comedy of Errors," and some 
other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, and play- 
ing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he 
lived in : and if we find it in the pulpits, made use of as 
an ornament to the sermons of some of the gravest 
divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought 
too light for the stage. 

But certainly the greatness of this author's genius 
does no where so much appear, as where he gives his 
imagination an entire loose rein, and raises his fancy 
to a flight above mankind, and the limits of the visible 
world. Such are his attempts in "The Tempest," 
"A Midsummer-Night's Dream," "Macbeth," and 
" Hamlet." Of these, " The Tempest," however it 

^ " Twelfth Night." Act II. 4. 


comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his 
works, can never have been the first written by him: 
it seems to me as perfect in its kind, as almost any 
thing we have of his. One may observe, that the 
unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to 
the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I 
suppose, he valued himself least upon, since his excel- 
lencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible 
that he does, in this play, depart too much from that 
likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these 
sort of writings ; yet he does it so very finely, that one 
is easily drawn in to have more faith for his sake, than 
reason does well allow of. His magick has something 
in it very solemn and very poetical: and that extrava- 
gant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, 
shows a wonderful invention in the author, who could 
strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly 
one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that 
ever was seen. The observation, which I have been 
informed, three very great men concurred in making 
upon this part, ^^ was extremely just; that Shakespeare 
had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, 
but had also devised and adopted a new manner of 
language for that character. 

It is the same magick that raises the Fairies 
in "A Midsummer-Night's Dream," the Witches 
in "Macbeth," and the Ghost in "Hamlet," with 
thoughts and language so proper to the parts they sus- 
tain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But 
of the two last of these plays I shall have occasion to 
take notice, among the tragedies of Mr. Shakespeare. 

"Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan and Mr. Selden. — Bowe'a 


If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these 
by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and 
taken from the model of the Grecian stage, ^^ it would 
be no very hard task to find a great many faults ; but as 
Shakespeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, 
and had never been made acquainted with the regularity 
of those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge 
him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider 
him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal 
licence and ignorance: there was no established judge, 
but every one took the liberty to write according to the 
dictates of his own fancy. When one considers, that 
there is not one play before him of a reputation good 
enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present 
stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that 
he should advance dramatick poetry so far as he did. 
The fable is what is generally placed the first, among 
those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a 
tragick or heroick poem ; not, perhaps, as it is the most 
difficult or beautjful, but as it is the first properly to 
be thought of in the contrivance and course of the 
whole; and with the fable ought to be considered the 
fit disposition, order, and conduct of its several parts. 
As it is not in this province of the drama that the 
strength and mastery of Shakespeare lay, so I shall 
not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to 
point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His 
tales were seldom invented, but rather taken either from 
true history, or novels and romances : and he commonly 
made use of them in that order, with those incidents, and 
that extent of time in which he found them in the 
authors from whence he borrowed them. So the 
"The so-called "unities" of time, place and action. 


" Winter's Tale " which is taken from an old book, 
called "The Delectable History of Dorastus and 
Fawnia," contains the space of sixteen or seventeen 
years, and the scene is sometimes laid in Bohemia, and 
sometimes in Sicily, according to the original order of 
the story. Almost all his historical plays comprehend a 
great length of time, and very different and distinct 
places: and in his "Antony and Cleopatra," the scene 
travels over the greatest part of the Roman empire. 
But in recompence for his carelessness in this point, 
when he comes to another part of the drama, the man- 
ners of his characters, in acting or speaking what is 
proper for them, and fit to be shown by the poet, he may 
be generally justified^ and in very many places greatly 
commended. For those plays which he has taken from 
the English or Roman history, let any man compare 
them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet 
as the historian. He seems indeed so far from propos- 
ing to himself any one action for a subject, that the 
title very often tells you, it is The Life of King John, 
King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to 
the idea our historians give of " Henry the Sixth," 
than the picture Shakespeare has drawn of him.? His 
manners are everywhere exactly the same with the 
story; one finds him still described with simplicity, 
passive sanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, 
and easy submission to the governance of an imperious 
wife, or prevailing faction: though at the same time 
the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves 
the pity of his audience for him, by showing him pious, 
disinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, 
and wholly resigned to the severest dispensations of 
God's providence. There is a short scene in The 


Second Part of " Henry the Sixth," 21 which I cannot 
but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who 
had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is shown in the 
last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king 
praying over him. There is so much terror in one, so 
much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as 
must touch any one who is capable either of fear or 
pity. In his " Henry the Eighth," that prince is 
drawn with that greatness of mind and all those good 
qualities which are attributed to him in any account of 
his reign. If his faults are not shown in an equal 
degree, and the shades in this picture do not bear a 
just proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist 
wanted either colours or skill in the disposition of 
them ; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore 
doing it out of regard to Queen Elizabeth, since it 
could have been no very great respect to the memory 
of his mistress, to have exposed some certain parts of 
her father's life upon the stage. He has dealt much 
more freely with the minister of that great king; and 
certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than 
the character of Cardinal Wolsey, He has shown him 
insolent in his prosperity; and yet, by a wonderful 
address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of gen- 
eral compassion. The whole man, with his vices and 
virtues, is finely and exactly described in the second 
scene of the fourth act. The distresses likewise of 
Queen Katharine, in this play, are very movingly 
touched; and though the art of the poet has screened 
King Henry from any gross imputation of injustice, 
yet one is inclined to wish, the Queen had met with a 
fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are 
" Act III. 3. 


the manners, proper to the persons represented less 
justly observed, in those characters taken from the 
Roman history; and of this, the fierceness and 
impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of 
the common people, the virtue and philosophical temper 
of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in 
M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last 
especially, you find them exactly as they are described 
by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shakespeare copied 
them. He has indeed followed his original pretty close, 
and taken in several little incidents that might have 
been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his 
design seems most commonly rather to describe those 
great men in the several fortunes and accidents of 
their lives, than to take any single great action, and 
form his work simply upon that. However, there are 
some of his pieces, where the fable is founded upon one 
action only. Such are more especially, " Romeo and 
Juliet," "Hamlet," and "Othello." The design in 
" Romeo and Juliet " is plainly the punishment of 
their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and 
animosities that had been so long kept up between 
them, and occasioned the effusion of so much blood. In 
the management of this story, he has shown something 
wonderfully tender and passionate in the love-part, and 
very pitiful in the distress. " Hamlet " is founded on 
much the same tale with the " Electra " of Sophocles. 
In each of them a young prince is engaged to revenge 
the death of his father, their mothers are equally 
guilty, are both concerned in the murder of their 
husbands, and are afterwards married to the mur- 
derers. There is in the first part of the Greek tragedy 
something very moving in the grief of Electra; but, 


as Mr. Dacier has observed, there is something very 
unnatural and shocking in the manners he has given 
that princess and Orestes in the latter part. Orestes 
imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother ; and 
that barbarous action is performed, though not imme- 
diately upon the stage, yet so near, that the audiences 
hear Clytemnestra crying out to ^gysthus for help, 
and to her son for mercy: while Electra, her daughter, 
and a princess, (both of them characters that ought 
to have appeared with more decency), stands upon 
the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. 
What horror does this not raise! Clytemnestra was 
a wicked woman, and had deserved to die; nay, in 
the truth of the story, she was killed by her own 
son; put to represent an action of this kind on the 
stage, is certainly an offence against those rules of 
manners proper to the persons, that ought to be 
observed there. On the contrary, let us only look a 
little on the conduct of Shakespeare. Hamlet is repre- 
sented with the same piety towards his father, and 
resolution to revenge his death, as Orestes; he has the 
same abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to 
provoke him the more, is heightened by incest : but it is 
with wonderful art and justness of judgment, that the 
poet restrains him from doing violence to his mother. 
To prevent anything of that kind, he makes his father's 
Ghost forbid that part of his vengeance: 

"But howsoever thou pursu'st this act. 
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive 
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven, 
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge. 
To prick and sting her." 

This is to distinguish rightly between horror and 


terror. The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but 
the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And 
certainly no dramatick writer ever succeeded better in 
raising terror in the minds of an audience than 
Shakespeare has done. The whole tragedy of 
" Macbeth," but more especially the scene where the 
Ki/ng is murdered in the second Act, as well as this 
play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit with which 
he writ ; and both show how powerful he was, in giving 
the strongest motions to our souls that they are capa- 
ble of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice 
of the advantage with which we have seen this master- 
piece of Shakespeare distinguish itself upon the stage, 
by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. ^^ 
A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as 
he has a great many, must have made his way into the 
esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. 
No man is better acquainted with Shakespeare's manner 
of expression, and indeed he has studied him so well, 
and is so much a master of him, that whatever part of 
his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on 
purpose for him, and that the author had exactly con- 
ceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obliga- 
tion to him, for the most considerable part of the 
passages relating to this life, which I have here trans- 
mitted to the pubhck ; his veneration for the memory of 
Shakespeare having engaged him to make a journey to 
Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains 
he could, of a name for which he had so great a 
"Thomas Betterton (1634-1710), a great actor of Shakes- 
pearean parts. He was given a royal funeral in Westminster 




THE second editor was Alexander Pope, bom 
May 22, 1688, died May 30, 1744. 
Pope was a self-made man In the realm of 
letters. He had but little schooling and 
was self-taught in the languages, having as a basis for 
his Latin and Greek some lessons from a Roman Catholic 

In his sixteenth year he began to frequent the 
London coffee houses, where wits and writers of the day 
most did congregate. From the moment of making 
friends he made quarrels. His satire was bitter 
and cruel. 

We omit mention of his other literary work, which is 
sufficiently well known, to note that in 1725, eleven 
years after Rowe's second edition, appeared Pope's 
in six volumes quarto. His critical work in the notes 
by no means takes rank with his other literary achieve- 
ments. He set the pace for future critics, however. 
His malignant genius fastened upon Lewis Theobald, 
whom he made a hero of the " Dunciad," because 
of certain comments on Pope's methods of using 
Shakespeare's text. In 1728 he issued a second edition, 
and his text was reprinted after his death at Glasgow 
in 1766, and in Birmingham in 1768. He died at 



[To quarto edition of the works, in six volumes, 1728.] 

It is not my design to enter into a criticism upon this 
author: though to do it effectually, and not super- 
ficially, would be the best occasion that any just writer 
could take, to form the judgment and taste of our 
nation. For of all English poets Shakespeare must 
be confessed to be the fairest and fullest subject for 
criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as 
most conspicuous instances, both of beauties and faults 
of all sorts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a 
preface, the business of which is only to give an 
account of the fate of his works, and the disadvantages 
under which they have been transmitted to us. We shall 
hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear 
him from the imputation ^of many which are not? a 
design, which, though it can be no guide to future 
criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be 
sufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in 
the other. 

I cannot however but mention some of his principal 
and characteristick excellencies, for which (notwith- 
standing his defects) he is justly and universally 
elevated above all other dramatick writers. Not that 
this is the proper place of praising him, but because I 
would not omit any occasion of doing it. 

If ever any author deserved the name of an original, 
it was Shakespeare. Homer himself drew not his art 
so immediately from the fountains of nature; it pro- 
ceeded through Egyptian strainers and channels, and 
came to him not without some tincture of the learning, 



V> OF THE ^ 




or some cast of the models, of those before him. The 
poetry of Shakespeare was inspiration indeed: he is 
not so much an imitator, as an instrument, of nature: 
and it is not so just to say that he speaks from her, as 
that she speaks through him. 

His characters are so much nature herself, that it is 
a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as 
copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant 
resemblance, which shows that they received them from 
one another, and were but multipliers of the same 
image: each picture, like a mock-rainbow, is but the 
reflection of a reflection. But every single character 
in Shakespeare is as much an individual, as those in 
life itself ; it is as impossible to find any two alike ; and 
such, as from their relation or affinity in any respect 
appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be 
found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of 
characters, we must add the wonderful preservation 
of it; which is such throughout his plays, that had all 
the speeches been printed without the very names of 
the persons, I believe one might have applied them 
with certainty to every speaker. 

The power over our passions was never possessed in 
a more eminent degree, or displayed in so diff^erent 
instances. Yet all along there is seen no labour, no 
pains to raise them; no preparation to guide or guess 
to the eff^ect, or be perceived to lead towards it: but 
the heart swells, arid the tears burst out, just at the 
proper places: we are surprised the moment we weep; 
and yet upon reflection find the passion so just, that we 
should be surprised if we had not wept, and wept at 
that very moment. 

How astonishing is it again, that the passions 


directly opposite to these, laughter and spleen, are no 
less at his command; that he is not more a master of 
the great than of the ridiculous in human nature; of 
our noblest tendernesses than of our vainest foibles ; of 
our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations! 

Nor does he only excel in the passions ; in the coolness 
of reflection and reasoning he is full as admirable. % 
His sentiments are not only in general the most per- 
tinent and judicious upon every subject; but, by a 
talent very peculiar, something between penetration 
and felicity, he hits upon that particular point on 
which the bent of each argument turns, or the force of 
each motive depends. This is perfectly amazing from 
a man of no education or experience in those great and 
publick scenes of life which are usually the subject of 
his thoughts: so that he seems to have known the 
world by intuition, to have looked through human 
nature at one glance, and to be the only author that 
gives ground for a very new opinion, that the 
philosopher, and even the man of the world may be 
born as well as the poet. 

It must be owned, that with all these great excellencies, 
he has almost as great defects; and that as he has 
certainly written better, so he has perhaps written 
worse than any other. But I think I can in some 
measure account for these defects, from several causes 
and accidents; without which it is hard to imagine 
that so large and so enlightened a mind could ever have 
been susceptible of them. That all these contingencies 
should unite to his disadvantage seems to me almost as 
singularly unlucky, as that so many various (nay 
contrary) talents should meet in one man, was happy 
and extraordinary. 


It must be allowed that stage-poetry, of all other, is 
more particularly levelled to please the populace, and 
its success more immediately depending upon the 
common suffrage. One cannot therefore wonder, if 
Shakespeare, having at his first appearance no other 
aim in his writings than to procure a subsistence, 
directed his endeavors solely to hit the taste and 
humour that then prevailed. The audience was gen- 
erally composed of the meaner sort of people; and 
therefore the images of life were to be drawn from 
those of their own rank: accordingly we find, that not 
our author's only, but almost all the old comedies have 
their scene among tradesmen and mechanicks: and 
even their historical plays strictly follow the common 
old stories or vulgar traditions of that kind of people. 
In tragedy, nothing was so sure to surprise and cause 
admiration, as the most strange, unexpected, and con- 
sequently most unnatural, events and incidents; the 
most exaggerated thoughts; the most verbose and 
bombast expression; the most pompous rhymes, 
and thundering versification. In comedy, nothing wa.s 
so sure to please, as mean bufFoonry, vile ribaldry and 
unmannerly jest of fools and clowns. Yet even in 
these our author's wit buoys up, and is borne above his 
subject: his genius in those low parts is like some 
prince of a romance in the disguise of a shepherd or 
peasant; a certain greatness and spirit now and then 
break out, which manifest his higher extraction and 

It may be added, that not only the common audience 
had no notion of the rules of writing, but few even of 
the better sort piqued themselves upon any great 
degree of knowledge or nicety that way; till Ben 


Jonson getting possession of the stage, brought crit- 
ical learning into vogue. And that this was not done 
without difficulty, may appear from those frequent 
lessons (and indeed almost declamations) which he was 
forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into the 
mouth of his actors, the grex, chorus, S^c, to remove 
the prejudices, and inform the judgment of his 
hearers. 'Till then, our authors had no thoughts of 
writing on the model of the ancients: their tragedies 
were only histories in dialogue; and their comedies 
followed the thread of any novel as they found it, no 
less implicitly than if it had been true history. 

To judge therefore of Shakespeare by Aristotle's 
rules, is like trying a man by the laws of one country, 
who acted under those of another. He writ to the 
people; and writ at first without patronage from the 
better sort, and therefore without aims of pleasing 
them; without assistance or advice from the learned, 
as without the advantage of education or acquaintance 
among them; without that knowledge of the best 
models, the ancients, to inspire him with an emulation 
of them; in a word, without any views of reputation, 
and of what poets are pleased to call immortality; 
some or all of which have encouraged the vanity, or 
animated the ambition of other writers. 

Yet it must be observed, that when his performances 
had merited the protection of his prince, and when the 
encouragement of the court had succeeded to that of 
the town, the works of his riper years are manifestly 
raised above those of his former. The dates of his 
plays sufficiently evidence that his productions im- 
proved in proportion to the respect he had for his 
auditors. And I make no doubt this observation would 


be found true in every instance, were but editions 
extant from which we might learn the exact time when 
every piece was composed, and whether writ for the 
town, or the court. 

Another cause (and no less strong than the former) 
may be deduced from our poet's being a player, and 
forming himself first upon the judgment of that body 
of men whereof he was a member. They have ever had 
a standard to themselves, upon other principles than 
those of Aristotle. As they live by the majority, they 
know no rule but that of pleasing the present humour, 
and complying with the wit in fashion ; a consideration 
which brings all their judgment to a short point. 
Players are just such judges of what is right, as 
tailors are of what is graceful. And in this view it 
will be but fair to allow, that most of our author's 
faults are less to be ascribed to his wrong judgment as 
a poet, than to his right judgment as a player. 

By these men it would be thought a praise to 
Shakespeare, that he scarce ever blotted a line. This 
they industriously propagated, as appears from what 
we are told by Ben Jonson in his "Discoveries," 
and from the preface of Heminge and Condell to the 
First Folio Edition. But in reality (however it has 
prevailed) there never was a more groundless report, 
or to the contrary of which there are more undeniable 
evidences : as, the comedy of " The Merry Wives of 
Windsor," which he entirely new writ; The History of 
" Henry the Sixth," which was first published under 
the title of " The Contention of York and Lancaster ; " 
and that of " Henry the Fifth," extremely improved ; 
that of " Hamlet," enlarged to almost as much again 
as at first; and many others. I believe the common 


opinion of his want of learning proceeded from no 
better ground. This too might be thought a praise by 
some; and to this his errors have as injudiciously been 
ascribed by others. For it is certain, were it true, it 
could concern but a small part of them; the most are 
such as are not proper defects, but superfoetations, 
and arise not from want of learning or reading, but 
from want of thinking or judging: or rather (to be 
more just to our author) from a compliance to those 
wants in others. As to a wrong choice of the subject, 
a wrong conduct of the incidents, false thoughts, 
forced expressions, &c. if these are not to be ascribed 
to the aforesaid accidental reasons, they must be 
charged upon the poet himself, and there is no help 
for it. But I think the two disadvantages which I have 
mentioned (to be obliged to please the lowest of the 
people, and to keep the worst of company), if the con- 
sideration be extended as far as it reasonably may, will 
appear sufficient to mislead and depress the greatest 
genius upon earth. Nay, the more modesty with 
which such a one is endued, the more he is in danger of 
submitting and conforming to others, against his own 
better judgment. 

But as to his want of learning, it may be necessary to 
say something more: there is certainly a vast difference 
between learning and languages. How far he was 
ignorant of the latter, I cannot determine; but it is 
plain he had much reading at least, if they will not call 
it learning. Nor is it any great matter, if a man has 
knowledge, whether he has it from one language or from 
another. Nothing is more evident than that he had a 
taste of natural philosophy, mechanicks, ancient and 
modern history, poetical learning, and mythology: we 


find him very knowing in the customs, rites, and man- 
ners of antiquity. In " Coriolanus," and " Julius 
Caesar," not only the spirit, but manners of the 
Romans are exactly drawn and still a nicer distinc- 
tion is shown between the manner of the Romans 
in the time of the former, and of the latter. His 
reading in the ancient historians is no less conspicuous, 
in many references to particular passages: and the 
speeches copied from Plutarch in " Coriolanus " ^ 
may, I think, as well be made an instance of his 
learning, as those copied from Cicero in " Cataline," 
of Ben Jonson's. The manners of other nations in 
general, the Egyptians, Venetians, French, &c. are 
drawn with equal propriety. Whatever object of 
nature, or branch of science, he either speaks of or 
describes, it is always with competent, if not extensive 
knowledge: his descriptions are still exact: all his 
metaphors appropriate, and remarkably drawn from 
the true nature and inherent qualities of each 

When he treats of ethick or politick, we may constantly 
observe a wonderful justness of distinction, as well as 
extent of comprehension. No one is more a master of 
the political story, or has more frequent allusions to 
the various parts of it : Mr. Waller (who has been cele- 
brated for this last particular) has not shown more 
learning this way than Shakespeare. We have transla- 
tions from Ovid published in his name, among those 
poems which pass for his, and for some of which we have 

* Shakespeare used the translation of Sir Thomas North pub- 
lished in 1579, which was itself a translation not from the 
original but from a French version by Jacques Amyot, Bishop 
of Auxene. 


undoubted authority (being published by himself, and 
dedicated to his noble patron the Earl of Southamp- 
ton) : he appears also to have been conversant in 
Plautus, from which he has taken the plot of one of his 
plays :^ he follows the Greek authors, and particularly 
Dares Phrygius,^ in another (although I will not pre- 
tend to say in what language he read them). The 
modem Italian writers of novels he was manifestly 
acquainted with; and we may conclude him to be no 
less conversant with the ancients of his own country, 
for the use he has made of Chaucer in " Troilus and 
Cressida," and in " The Two Noble Kinsmen," if that 
play be his, as there goes a tradition it was (and indeed 
it has little resemblance of Fletcher, and more of our 
author than some of those which have been received as 

i I am inclined to think this opinion proceeded origi- 
nally from the zeal of the partizans of our author and 
Ben Jonson: as they endeavoured to exalt the one 
at the expense of the other. It is ever the nature of 
parties to be in extremes ; and nothing is so probable, 
as that, because Ben Jonson had much the more 
learning, it was said, on the one hand that Shakespeare 
had none at all ; and because Shakespeare had much the 
most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that 
Jonson wanted both. Because Shakespeare borrowed 
nothing, it was said that Ben Jonson borrowed 
everything. Because Jonson did not write extempore, 
he was reproached with being a year about every piece ; 
and because Shakespeare wrote with ease and rapidity, 

* " The Comedy of Errors," for which the " Menaechmi " and the 
" Amphitruo '* of Plautus are considered as foundation plays. 
•"Troilus and Cressida." 


they cried, he never once made a blot. Nay, the spirit 
of opposition ran so high, that whatsoever those of the 
one side objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, 
and turned Into praises ; as injudiciously, as their antag- 
onists before had made them objections. 

Poets are always afraid of envy; but sure they have 
as much reason to be afraid of admiration. They are 
the Scylla and Charybdis of authors ; those who escape 
one, often fall by the other. Pessimum genus i/nimi- 
corum ImidanteSy says Tacitus: and Virgil desires to 
wear a charm against those who praise a poet without 
rule or reason: 

" . « . Si ultra placitum laudarit haccare frontenu 
Cingite, ne vati noceat. . . ." 

But however this contention might be carried on by the 
partlzans on either side, I cannot help thinking these 
two great poets were good friends, and lived on amica- 
ble terms, and in offices of society with each other. It 
is an acknowledged fact that Ben Jonson was in- 
troduced upon the stage, and his first work encour- 
aged, by Shakespeare ; and after his death, that author 
writes, To the memory of his beloved William Shake- 
speare which shews as if the relationship had continued 
through life. I cannot, for my own part, find anything 
invidious or sparing In those verses, but wonder Mr. 
Dryden was of that opinion. He exalts him not only 
above all his contemporaries, but above Chaucer and 
Spenser, whom he will not allow to be great enough to 
be ranked with him, and challenges the names of 
Sophocles, Euripides, and ^schylus, nay all Greece and 
Rome at once, to equal him; and (which is very par- 
ticular) expressly vindicates him from the imputation 


of wanting art, not enduring that all his excellences 
should be attributed to nature. It is remarkable, too, 
that the praise he gives him in his *' Discoveries " seems 
to proceed from a personal kindness ; he tells us, that he 
loved the man, as well as honoured his memory; cele- 
brates the honesty, openness, and frankness of his 
temper ; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought, 
between the real merit of the author, and the silly and 
derogatory applauses of the players. Ben Jonson 
might indeed be sparing in his commendations (though 
certainly he is not so in this instance), partly from 
his own nature, and partly from judgment. For 
men of judgment think they do any man more service 
in praising him justly, than lavishly. I say, I would 
fain believe they were friends though the violence and 
ill-breeding of their followers and flatterers, were 
enough to give rise to the contrary report. I hope that 
it may be with parties both in wit and state, as with 
those monsters described by the poets; and that their 
heads at least may have something human, though 
their bodies and tails are wild beasts and serpents. 

As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rise to 
the opinion of Shakespeare's want of learning ; so what 
has continued it down to us may have been the many 
blunders and illiteracies of the first publishers of his 
works. In these editions their ignorance shines almost 
in every page; nothing is more common than actus 
tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches solus.^ 

Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in con- 

*This blunder appears to be of Mr. Pope's own invention. It is 
not to be found in any one of the four Folio copies of " Macbeth "; 
and there is no Quarto edition of it extant. — Note by Geo, 


struction and spelling: their very Welsh is false. 
Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders 
of Hector'' s quoting Aristotle, with others of that gross 
kind, sprung from the same root: it not being at all 
credible that these could be the errors of any man who 
had the least tincture of a school, or the least conversa- 
tion with such as had. Ben Jonson (whom they will 
not think partial to him) allows him at least to have 
had some Latin; which is utterly inconsistent with 
mistakes like these. Nay, the constant blunders in 
proper names of persons and places are such as must 
have proceeded from a man, who had not so much as 
read any history in any language: so could not be 

I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost 
innumerable errors, which have arisen from one source, 
the ignorance of the players, both as his actors, and 
as his editors. 

When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated 
and considered, I dare to say that not Shakespeare only, 
but Aristotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the 
same fate, might have appeared to want sense as well 
a learning. 

It is not certain that any one of his plays was pub- 
lished by himself. During the time of his employment 
in the theatres, several of his pieces were printed sep- 
arately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of 
these were not published by him, is the excessive care- 
lessness of the press : every page is so scandalously 
false spelled, and almost all the learned or unusual 
words so intolerably mangled, that it is plain there 
either was no corrector to the press at all, or one totally 
illiterate. If any were supervised by himself, I should 


fancy the two parts of " Henry the Fourth," and 
" Midsummer-Night's Dream," might have been so, 
because I find no other printed with any exactness ; and 
(contrary to the rest) there is very Httle variation in 
all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant 
two prefaces to the first Quarto edition of "Troilus 
and Cressida," in 1609, and to that of " Othello " ; by 
which it appears, that the first was published without 
his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted, 
so late as seven or eight years before he died: and that 
the latter was not printed till after his death. The 
whole number of genuine plays, which we have been 
able to find printed in his lifetime, amounts but to 
eleven. And of some of these we meet with two or more 
editions by different printers, each of which has whole 
heaps of trash different from the other : which I should 
fancy was occasioned by their being taken from dif- 
ferent copies belonging to different play-houses. 

The Folio edition (in which all the plays we now 
receive as his, were first collected) was published by two 
players, Heminge and Condell, in 1623, seven years 
after his decease. They declare, that all the other 
editions were stolen and surreptitious, and affirm theirs 
to be purged from the errors of the former. This is 
true as to the literal errors, and no other; for In all 
respect else it is far worse than the Quartos. 

First, because the additions of trifling and bombast 
passages are in this edition far more numerous. For 
whatever had been added, since those Quartos, by the 
actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written 
parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, 
and all stand charged upon the author. He himself 
complained of this usage in " Hamlet," where he wishes 


that those who plaj the clowns would speak no more 
than Is set down for them. ^ But as a proof that he 
could not escape it, in the old editions of " Romeo and 
Juliet," there is no hint of a great number of the mean 
conceits and ribaldries now to be found there. In 
others, the low scenes of mobs, plebeians, and clowns, 
are vastly shorter than at present : and I have seen one 
in particular (which seems to have belonged to the 
play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and 
the actors' names in the margin) where several of those 
very passages were added in a written hand, which are 
since to be found in the Folio. 

In the next place, a number of beautiful passages, 
which are extant in the first single editions, are omitted 
in this; as it seems, without any other reason, than 
their willingness to shorten some scenes: these men (as 
it was said of Procrustes) either lopping, or stretching 
an author, to make him just fit for their stage. 

This edition is said to be printed from the original 
copies ; I believe they meant those which had lain ever 
since the author's days in the play-house, and had from 
time to time, been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It 
appears that this edition, as well as the Quartos, was 
printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the 
prompter's book, or piece-meal parts written out for the 
use of the actors: for in some places their very names 
are, through carelessness, set down instead of the 
personcB dramatis; ^ and in others the notes of direction 
to the property-men for their movables, and to the 

»Act III. 4. 

•"Much Ado About Nothing." Act II. 3, Jacke Wilson for 
Balthazar. Act IV., Andrew Cowley and Kempe for Dogberry 
and Verges. "III. Henry VI.," Act III., "Enter Siliklo and 
Humphrey with cross bowes in their hands," etc 


players for their entries, are inserted into the text 
through the ignorance of the transcribers. 

The plays not having been before so much as dis- 
tinguished by Acts and Scenes, they are in this edition 
divided according as they played them; often when 
there is no pause in the action, or where they thought 
fit to make a breach in it, for the sake of musick, 
masques, or monsters. 

Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled back- 
ward and forward; a thing which could not otherwise 
happen, but by their being taken from separate and 
piece-meal written parts. 

Many verses are omitted entirely, and others trans- 
posed: from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, 
past the guess of any commentator to clear up, but 
just where the accidental glimpse of an old edition 
enlightens us. 

Some characters were confounded and mixed, or two 
put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. 
Thus in the Quarto edition of " Midsummer-Night's 
Dream," Act V., Shakespeare introduces a kind of 
master of the revels called Philostrate; all whose part 
is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the 
subsequent editions : so also in " Hamlet " and " King 
Lear." This too, makes it probable that the prompter's 
books were what they called the original copies. 

From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were 
put into the mouths of wrong persons, where the author 
now seems chargeable with making them speak out of 
character: or, sometimes, perhaps, for no better reason 
than that a governing player, to have the mouthing of 
some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the 
unworthy lips of an underling. 


Prose from verse they did not know, and they accord- 
ingly printed one for the other throughout the volume. 

Having been forced to say so much of the players, I 
think I ought in justice to remark, that the judgment, 
as well as condition, of that class of people, was then 
far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best 
play-houses were inns and taverns (the Globe, the 
Hope, the Red-Bull, the Fortune, &c.), so the top of 
the profession were then mere players, not gentlemen of 
the stage : they were led into the buttery^ by the steward, 
not placed at the lord's table, or lady's toilette; and 
consequently were entirely deprived of those advan- 
tages they now enjoy in the familiar conversation of 
our nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness) with 
people of the first condition. 

From what has been said, there can be no question 
but had Shakespeare published his works himself 
(especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from 
the stage), we should not only be certain which are 
genuine, but should find, in those that are, the errors 
lessened by some thousands. If I may judge from all 
the distinguishing marks of his style, and his manner 
of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare 
that those wretched plays, " Pericles," " Locrine," " Sir 
John Oldcastle," "Yorkshire Tragedy," "Lord Crom- 
well," " The Puritan," and " London Prodigal," and a 
thing called "The Double Falsehood," cannot be ad- 
mitted as his. ® And I should conjecture of some of the 
others (particularly 'Love's Labour's Lost," "The 

' " Taming of the Shrew." — Induction, »c. 1. 

•All of these plays except "The Double Falsehood" are pub- 
Kshed in the Third Folio (1664) as Shakespeare's. "Pericles" is 
the only one included in modern editions. 


Winter's Tale," " Comedy of Errors," and " Titus An- 
dronicus ") that only some characters, single scenes, 
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 administration; 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. Yet the players themselves, 
Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakespeare the 
justice to reject these eight plays in their edition; 
though they were then printed in his name, in every- 
body's hands and acted with some 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 induction to " Bartholomew-Fair," in the year 1614, 
when Shakespeare was yet living. And there is no better 
authority for these latter sort, than for the former, 
which were equally published in his lifetime. 

If we give in to 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, transposi- 
tions of scenes and lines, confusion of characters and 
persons, 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 considera- 
tions, I am verily persuaded that the greatest and the 
grossest 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 com- 
parison 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 de- 
sire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have dis- 
charged the dull duty of an editor, to my best judg- 
ment, 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 pre- 
ferred 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 in- 
serted 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, since he shifts 


them more frequently; and sometimes, without attend- 
ing to this particular, the reader would have met with 
obscurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are 
explained. Some of the most shining passages are 
distinguished 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 ostentatious 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 sub- 
joined a catalogue of those first editions, by which the 
greater part of the various readings and of the cor- 
rected passages are authorised (most of which are such 
as carry their own evidences along with them). These 
editions^ now hold the place of originals, 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 suc- 
cessfufl than mine, for the better accompHshment of this 

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 with those 
that are more finished and regular, as upon an ancient 
majestic piece of Gothic architecture compared with a 
neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and 
glaring, but the former is more strong and more solemn. 
It must be allowed that in one of these there are mate- 
rials enough to make many of the other. It has much 
" The reference is to the Quarto copies of single plays. 


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 




IEWIS THEOBALD was born April, 1688, 
and died September, 1744, exactly contem- 
j porary with Pope. He was educated in an 
"^ attorney's office, but chose literature as a 
profession. His first literary work was the translation 
of various Greek plays. He became a dramatist of 
very ordinary ability. His name holds its place in 
English literature because of his critical work in 
Shakespeare's plays. He reviewed Pope's edition 
(in 1726) under the title of " Shakespeare restored, 
or Specimens of the many errors as well Com- 
mitted as Unamended by Mr. Pope in his edition of this 
Poet, designed not only to correct the same edition, but 
to restore the true reading of Shakespeare in all the 
editions ever yet published." 

Pope bitterly denounced Theobald for this " imper- 
tinence," and pilloried him in the " Dunciad." Theo- 
bald, with many faults, was a real critic, and his edition 
of the plays in seven volumes (1733) took the place of 
Pope's among students, as the latter had superseded 

Theobald was unfortunate both in his financial aiFairs 
and his intellectual ambitions. He just failed of the 
Poet Laureateship in 1732, and passed most of his 
life in poverty. At the time of his death he was en- 
gaged in editing the collected works of Beaumont and 


In Hogarth's plate of "The Distressed Poet," the 
artist is supposed to have been inspired by the wretched 
fortunes of poor Theobald. George Steevens sug- 
gested that the picture was a satire upon the poet's 

The poet in the caricature is the only suggestion of a 
portrait of Theobald extant. 


[To his second edition of Shakespeare's Works published 1740, 
abridged from the first edition of 1733.] 

The 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 first promised, and a thousand beauties of 
genius and character, like so many gaudy apartments 
pouring at once upon the eye, diffuse and throw them- 
selves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to 
come within the compass of a single view; it is 4 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 enter- 

And as, in great piles of building, some parts are 
often furnished up to hit the taste of the connoisseur; 
others more negligently put together, to strike the 
fancy of a common and unlearned beholder ; some parts 
are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to sur- 
prise with the vast design and execution of the archi- 
tect ; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neat- 
ness and elegance in little; so, in Shakespeare, we may 


find traits that will stand the test of the severest judg- 
ment; and strokes as carelessly hit off, to the level of 
the more ordinary capacities; some descriptions raised 
to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish you with the 
compass and elevation of his thought ; and others copy- 
ing 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 clothing of his thoughts attract us, how much 
more must 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 char- 
acter! 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 different 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 tail- 
ors, and can adorn themselves without the aid of iraita- 


By Hogarth 

"It was suggested by George Steevens (q.v.) that Hogarth's plate, 'The Distressed Poet,' as 
first published on 3 March, 1736, was intended as a satire on the much abused Theobald. The 
composition was doubtless inspired by Pope's vivid picture of the dance-laureate-elect brooding 
over his sunken fortunes."— Z>ic<iOAiary of National Biography. 

I. a ^'' THE 



tion. If other poets draw more than one fool or cox- 
comb, 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 clowns and fops come all of a 
different house; they are no farther allied to one an- 
other than as man to man, members of the same species, 
but as different in features and lineaments of character 
as we are from one another in face or complexion. 
But I am unawares launching into his character as a 
writer, before I have said what I intended of him as a 
private member of the republic. 

Mr. Rowe has very justly observed, that people are 
fond of discovering any little personal story of the great 
men of antiquity, and that the common accidents of 
their lives naturally become the subject of our critical 
enquiries: that however trifling such a curiosity at the 
first view may appear, yet, as for what relates to men 
and letters, the knowledge of an author may, perhaps, 
sometimes conduce to the better understanding his works ; 
and, indeed, this author's works, from the bad treat- 
ment he has met with from copyists and editors, have so 
long wanted a comment, that one would zealously em- 
brace every method of information that could con- 
tribute to recover them from the injuries with which 
they have so long lain overwhelmed. 

'Tis certain that if we have first admired the man in 
his writings, his case is so circumstanced that we must 
naturally admire the writings in the man : that if we go 
back to take a view of his education, and the employ- 
ment in life which fortune had cut out for him, we shall 
retain the strongest ideas of his extensive genius. 


His father, we are told, was a considerable dealer in 
wool ; but having no fewer than ten children, of whom our 
Shakespeare was the eldest, the best education he could 
afford him was no better than to qualify him for his 
own business and employment. I cannot affirm with 
any certainty how long his father lived, but I take him 
to be the same Mr. John Shakespeare who was living in 
the year 1599, and who then, in honour of his son, 
took out an extract of his family arms from the 
herald's office, by which it appears that he had been 
officer and bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwick- 
shire, and that he enjoyed some hereditary lands and 
tenements, the reward of his great-grandfather's faith- 
ful and approved service to King Henry VII. 

Be this as it will, our Shakespeare, it seems, was bred 
for some time at a free-school — the very free-school, I 
presume, founded at Stratford — ^where, we are told, he 
acquired what Latin he was master of; but that his 
father being obliged, through narrowness of circum- 
stances, to withdraw him too soon from thence, he was 
thereby unhappily prevented from making any pro- 
ficiency in the dead languages: a point that will 
deserve some little discussion in the sequel of this 

How long he continued in his father's way of business, 
either as an assistant to him, or on his own proper 
account, no notices are left to inform us, nor have I 
been able to learn precisely at what period of life he 
quitted his native Stratford, and began his acquaint- 
ance with London and the stage. 

In order to settle in the world after a family manner, 
he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while 
he was yet very young. It is certain he did so, for by 


the monument in Stratford church, erected to the mem- 
ory of his daughter Susanna, the wife of John Hall, 
gentleman, it appears that she died on the 2d of July, 
in the year 1649, aged 66. So that she was bom in 
1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old; 
who was himself bom in the year 1564. Nor was she 
his eldest child,^ for he had another daughter, Judith, 
who was born before her, and who was married to one 
Mr. Thomas Quiney. So that Shakespeare must have 
entered into wedlock by that time he was turned of 
seventeen years. 

Whether the force of inclination merely, or some con- 
curring circumstances of convenience in the match, 
prompted him to marry so early, is not easy to be deter- • 
mined at this distance ; but it is probable a view of inter- 
est might sway his conduct in this point, for he married 
the daughter of one Hathaway, a substantial yeoman 
in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in 
age no less than eight years. She survived him not- 
withstanding seven seasons, and died that very year the 
players published the first edition of his works in Folio, 
anno Dom., 1623, at the age of 67 years, as we likewise 
learn from her monument in Stratford church. 

How long he continued in this kind of settlement, upon 
his own native spot, is not more easily to be determined. 
But if the tradition be true, of that extravagance which 
forced him both to quit his country and way of living, 
to wit, his being engaged with a knot of young deer- 
stealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, of 
Cherlecot, near Stratford, the enterprise savours so 
much of youth and levity, we may reasonably suppose it 

* A mistake. According to the parish register Susannah was the 
oldest, having been baptised May 26, 1583; Judith, Feb. 2, 1585. 


was before he could write full man. Besides, consider- 
ing he has left us six-and-thirty plays at least, avowed 
to be genuine; and considering too that he had retired 
from the stage to spend the latter part of his days at 
his own native Stratford, the interval of time neces- 
sarily required for the finishing so many dramatick 
pieces obliges us to suppose he threw himself very early 
upon the play-house. And as he could, probably, con- 
tract no acquaintance with the drama while he was 
driving on the affair of wool at home, some time must 
be lost, even after he had commenced player, before he 
could attain knowledge enough of the science to qualify 
himself for turning author. 

It has been observed by Mr. Rowe that amongst other 
extravagancies which our author has given to his Sir 
John Falstaff in " The Merry Wives of Windsor," he 
has made him a deer-stealer ; and, that he might at the 
same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, under 
the name of Justice Shallow, he has given him very near 
the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his " Antiqui- 
ties " of that county, describes for a family there. 
There are two coats, I observe, in Dugdale, where three 
silver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy ; and another 
coat, to the monument of Thomas Lucy, son of Sir 
William Lucy, in which are quartered, in four several 
divisions, twelve little fishes, three in each division, prob- 
ably Luces. This very coat, indeed, seems alluded to 
in Shallow's giving the dozen white Luces, and in Slen- 
der saying he may quarter. When I consider the ex- 
ceeding candour and good nature of our author (which 
inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, 
as the power of his wit obliged the men of the most deli- 
cate knowledge and polite learning to admire him), and 


that he should throw this humorous piece of satire at 
his prosecutor at least twenty years after the provoca- 
tion given, I am confidently persuaded it must be owing 
to an unforgiving rancour on the prosecutor's side ; and 
if this was the case, it were pity but the disgrace of such 
an inveteracy should remain as a lasting reproach, and 
Shallow stand as a mark of ridicule to stigmatise his 

It is said our author spent some years before his death 
in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends, 
at his native Stratford. I could never pick up any 
certain intelligence when he relinquished the stage. I 
know it has been mistakenly thought by some that Spen- 
ser's Thalia, in his " Tears of the Muses," where she 
laments the loss of her Willi/, in the comic scene, has 
been applied to our author's quitting the stage. But 
Spenser himself, it is well known, quitted the stage of 
life in the year 1598, and five years after this we find 
Shakespeare's name among the actors in Ben Jonson's 
" Sejanus," which first made its appearance in the year 
1603. Nor, surely, could he then have any thoughts of 
retiring, since that very year a licence under the privy- 
seal was granted by King James I. to him and Fletcher, 
Burbage, Phillippes, Hemings, Condell, etc., authoris- 
ing them to exercise the art of playing comedies, trage- 
dies, etc., as well at their usual house called The Globe 
on the other side of the water, as in any other parts of 
the kingdom, during his Majesty's pleasure (a copy of 
which licence is preserved in Rymer's Foedera). Again, 
it is certain that Shakespeare did not exhibit his 
" Macbeth " till after the Union was brought about, 
and till after King James I. had begun to touch for the 
evil ; for it is plain he has inserted compliments on both 


those accounts upon his royal master, in that tragedy. 
Nor, indeed, could the number of the dramatick pieces 
he produced admit of his retiring near so early as that 
period. So that what Spenser there says, if it relate 
at all to Shakespeare, must hint at some occasional 
recess he made for a time upon a disgust taken; or the 
Willi/ there mentioned must relate to some other favour- 
ite poet. I believe we may safely determine that he 
had not quitted in the year 1610. For, in his " Tem- 
pest " ^ our author makes mention of the Bermuda 
islands, which were unknown to the English till, in 1609, 
Sir John Summers made a voyage to North America 
and discovered them, and afterwards invited some of 
his countrymen to settle a plantation there. That he 
became a private gentleman at least three years before 
his decease is pretty obvious from another circum- 
stance; I mean, from that remarkable and well-known 
story which Mr. Rowe has given us of our author's inti- 
macy with Mr. John Combe, an old gentleman noted 
thereabouts for his wealth and usury, and upon whom 
Shakespeare made the following facetious epitaph: 

"Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd, 
*Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not sav'd; 
If any man ask, who lies in this tomb. 
Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe." 

This sarcastical piece of wit was, at the gentleman's 
own request, thrown out extemporally in his company. 
And this Mr. John Combe I take to be the same who, by 
Dugdale in his " Antiquities of Warwickshire " is said 
to have died in the year 1614, and for whom, at the 

* " ... to fetch dew 

From the still-vex'd Bermoothes." 

— " Tempest." Act I. 2. 


upper end of the quire of the Guild of the Holy Cross 
at Stratford a fair monument is erected, having a 
statue thereon cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with 
this epitaph : " Here lieth interred the body of John 
Combe, esq., who died the 10th of July, 1614, who be- 
queathed several annual charities to the parish of Strat- 
ford, and £100 to be lent to fifteen poor tradesmen from 
three years to three years, changing the parties every 
third year, at the rate of fifty shillings per annum, the 
increase to be distributed to the almes-poor there." 
The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious 

Shakespeare himself did not survive Mr. Combe long, 
for he died in the year 1616, the 53d of his age. He 
lies buried on the north side of the chancel in the great 
church at Stratford, where a monument, decent enough 
for the time, is erected to him, and placed against the 
wall. He is represented under an arch in a sitting pos- 
ture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his 
right hand, and his left rested on a scroll of paper. 
The Latin distich which is placed under the cushion has 
been given us by Mr. Pope, or his graver, in this 
manner : 

*' INOENIO Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem, 
Terra tegit, populus moeret, Olympus hahet'* 

I confess I do not perceive the difference between in- 
genio and genio in the first verse. They seem to me 
intirely synonymous terms; nor was the Pylian sage 
Nestor celebrated for his ingenuity, but for an experi- 
ence and judgment owing to his long age. Dugdale, 
in his " Antiquities of Warwickshire," has copied this 
distich with a distinction which Mr. Rowe has followed, 


and which certainly restores us the true meaning of the 
epitaph : 

" JUDICIO Pylium, genio Socratem" etc* 

In 1614 the greater part of the town of Stratford was 
consumed by fire, but our Shakespeare's house, among 
some others, escaped the flames. This house was first 
built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an 
ancient family in that neighbourhood, who took their 
name from the manor of Clopton. Sir Hugh was 
Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III., and Lord 
Mayor in the reign of King Henry VII. To this gen- 
tleman the town of Stratford Is indebted for the fine 
stone bridge, consisting of fourteen arches, which, at an 
extraordinary expense, he built over the Avon, together 
with a causeway running at the west end thereof ; as also 
for rebuilding the chapel adjoining his house, and the 
cross-aisle in the church there. It is remarkable of 
him that though he lived and died a bachelor, among the 
other extensive charities which he left both to the city of 
London and town of Stratford, he bequeathed consider- 
able legacies for the marriage of poor maidens of good 
name and fame both in London and at Stratford. 
Notwithstanding which large donations in his life, and 
bequests at his death, as he had purchased the manor of 
Clopton, and all the estates of the family, so he left 
the same again to his elder brother's son with a very 
great addition (a proof of how well beneficence and 
economy may walk hand in hand in wise families), good 
part of which estate Is yet in the possession of Edward 
Clopton, Esq., and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt., lineally 
descended from the elder brother of the first Sir Hugh, 
^Judicio Pylium is the correct transcription. 


who particularly bequeathed to his nephew, by his 
will, his house, by the name of his Great House in 

The estate had now been sold out of the Clopton fam- 
ily for above a century at the time when Shakespeare 
became the purchaser; who, having repaired and re- 
modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New- 
Place, which the mansion-house, since erected upon the 
same spot, at this day retains. The house, and lands 
which attended it, continued in Shakespeare's descend- 
ants to the time of the Restoration, when they were 
re-purchased by the Clopton family, and the mansion 
now belongs to Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt.* To the favour 
of this worthy gentleman I owe the knowledge of one 
particular, in honour of our poet's once dwelling-house, 
of which I presume Mr. Rowe never was apprised. 
When the civil war raged in England, and King Charles 
the First's Queen was driven by the necessities of affairs 
to make a recess in Warwickshire, she kept her court 
for three weeks ^ in New-Place. We may reasonably 
suppose it then the best private house in the town ; and 
her Majesty preferred it to the college, which was in the 
possession of the Combe family, who did not so strongly 
favour the King's party. 

How much our author employed himself in poetry 
after his retirement from the stage does not so evi- 
dently appear ; very few posthumous sketches of his pen 
have been recovered to ascertain that point. We have 

*The house (rebuilt after Shakespeare's time) was pulled down 
by its owner Francis Gastrell in 1759. 

" " Halliwell [in his * History of New Place '] reduced these three 
weeks to three days, July 11-13, 1643, and points out that on the 
14th the Queen made her entry into Oxford accompanied by the 
King:*— Karl Elze, " William Shakespeare," p. 524. 


been told, indeed, in print, but not till very lately, that 
two large chests full of this great man's loose papers 
and manuscripts, in the hands of an ignorant baker of 
Warwick (who married one of the descendants from our 
Shakespeare) were carelessly scattered and thrown 
about as garret lumber and litter, to the particular 
knowledge of the late Sir William Bishop, till they were 
all consumed in the general fire and destruction of that 
town. I cannot help being a little apt to distrust the 
authority of this tradition, because his wife survived 
him seven years, and, as his favourite daughter Susanna 
survived her twenty-six years, it is very improbable 
they should suffer such a treasure to be removed and 
translated into a remoter branch of the family without 
a scrutiny first made into the value of it. This, I say, 
inclines me to distrust the authority of the relation; 
but notwithstanding such an apparent improbability, 
if we really lost such a treasure, by whatever fatality 
or caprice of fortune they came into such ignorant and 
neglected hands, I agree with the relater, the misfor- 
tune is wholly irreparable. 

To these particulars, which regard his person and 
private life, some few more are to be gleaned from Mr. 
Rowe's Account of his Life and Writings. Let us now 
take a short view of him in his public capacity as a 
writer, and from thence the transition will be easy to 
the state in which his writings have been handed down 
to us. 

No age, perhaps, can produce an author more various 
from himself than Shakespeare has been universally ac- 
knowledged to be. The diversity in style and other 
parts of composition, so obvious in him, is as variously 
to be accounted for. His education, we find, was at 


best but begun; and he started early into a science 
from the force of genius, unequally assisted by acquired 
improvements. His fire, spirit, and exuberance of 
imagination, gave an impetuosity to his pen; his ideas 
flowed from him in a stream rapid, but not turbulent; 
copious, but not ever overbearing its shores. The ease 
and sweetness of his temper might not a little contribute 
to his facility in writing, as his employment as a player 
gave him an advantage and habit of fancying himself 
the very character he meant to delineate. He used the 
helps of his function in forming himself to create and 
express that sublime, which other actors can only copy 
and throw out in action and graceful attitude. But, 
Nullum sme venia placuit ingenium, says Seneca. The 
genius, that gives us the greatest pleasure, sometimes 
stands in need of our indulgence. Whenever this hap- 
pens with regard to Shakespeare, I would willingly 
impute it to a vice of his times. We see complaisance 
enough in our days paid to a bad taste. So that his 
clinches, false wit, and descending beneath himself, may 
have proceeded from a deference paid to the then 
reigning barbarism. 

I have not thought it out of my province, whenever 
occasion offered, to take notice of some of our poet's 
grand touches of nature, some, that do not appear 
sufficiently such, but in which he seems the most deeply 
instructed; and to which, no doubt, he has so much 
owed that happy preservation of his characters, for 
which he is justly celebrated. Great geniuses, like his, 
naturally unambitious, are satisfied to conceal their 
arts in these points. It is the foible of your worser 
poets to make a parade and ostentation of that little 
science they have; and to throw it out in the most 


ambitious colours. And whenever a writer of this class 
shall attempt to copy these artful concealments of our 
author, and shall either think them easy, or practised by 
a writer for his ease, he will soon be convinced of his 
mistake by the difficulty of reaching the imitation 
of them. 

" 8peret idem, sudet multum, frustraque laboret, 
Ausus idemi . . ." 

Indeed to point out and exclaim upon all the beauties 
of Shakespeare, as they come singly in review, would be 
as insipid, as endless; as tedious, as unnecessary: but 
the explanations of those beauties that are less obvious 
to common readers, and whose illustration depends on 
the rules of just criticism, and on exact knowledge of 
human life, should deservedly have a share in a general 
critique upon the author. But to pass over at once to 
another subject: — 

It has been allowed on all hands, how far our author 
was indebted to nature; it is not so well agreed, how 
much he owed to languages and acquired learning. The 
decisions on this subject were certainly set on foot by 
the hint from Ben Jonson, that he had small Latin, and 
less Greek: and from this tradition, as it were, Mr. 
Rowe has thought fit peremptorily to declare that, 
*' It is without controversy, he had no knowledge of the 
writings of the ancient poets, for that in his works we 
find no traces of anything which looks like an imitation 
of the ancients. For the delicacy of his taste (con- 
tinues he) and the natural bent of his own great genius 
(equal, if not superior, to some of the best of theirs), 
would certainly have led him to read and study them 
with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images 


would naturally have insinuated themselves Into, and 
been mixed with, his own writings : and so his not copy- 
ing, at least something from them, may be an argument 
of his never having read them." I shall leave it to the 
determination of my learned readers, from the numerous 
passages which I have occasionally quoted in my notes, 
in which our poet seems closely to have imitated the 
classicks, whether Mr. Rowe's assertion be so absolutely 
to be depended on. The result of the controversy must 
certainly, either way, terminate to our author's 
honour: how happily he could imitate them, if that 
point be allowed; or how gloriously he could think like 
them, without owing anything to imitation. 

Though I should be very unwilling to allow Shake- 
speare so poor a scholar, as many have laboured to 
represent him, yet I shall be very cautious of declaring 
too positively on the other side of the question ; that is, 
with regard to my opinion of his knowledge in the dead 
languages. And therefore the passages, that I 
occasionally quote from the classicks, shall not be urged 
as proofs that he knowingly imitated those originals; 
but brought to show how happily he has expressed him- 
self upon the same topicks. A very learned critick of 
our own nation has declared that a sameness of thought 
and sameness of expression too, in two writers of a 
different age, can hardly happen, without a violent 
suspicion of the latter copying from his predecessor. 
I shall not therefore run any great risque of a censure, 
therefore I should venture to hint, that the resemblances 
in thought and expression of our author and an ancient 
(which we should allow to be imitation in the one whose 
learning was not questioned) may sometimes take its 
rise from strength of memory, and those impressions 


which he owed to the school. And if we may allow a 
possibility of this, considering that, when he quitted the 
school, he gave in to his father's profession and way 
of living, and had, it is likely, but a slender library of 
classical learning; and considering what a number of 
translations, romances, and legends, started about his 
time, and a little before (most of which, it is very 
evident, he read), I think it may easily be reconciled why 
he rather schemed his plots and characters from these 
more latter informations, than went back to those 
fountains, for which he might entertain a sincere 
veneration, but to which he could not have so ready a 

In touching upon another part of his learning, as it 
related to the knowledge of history and books, I shall 
advance something that, at first sight, will very much 
wear the appearance of a paradox. For I shall find it 
no hard matter to prove, that, from the grossest 
blunders in history, we are not to infer his real ignor- 
ance of it ; nor from a greater use of Latin words, than 
ever any other English author used, must we infer his 
intimate acquaintance with that language. 

A reader of taste may easily observe, that though 
Shakespeare, almost in every scene of his historical 
plays, commits the grossest offences against chro- 
nology, history, and ancient politicks ; yet this was not 
through ignorance, as is generally supposed, but 
through the too powerful blaze of his imagination, 
which, once raised, made all acquired knowledge vanish 
and disappear before it. But this licence in him, as I 
have said, must not be imputed to ignorance, since as 
often we may find him, when occasion serves, reasoning 
up to the truth of history ; and throwing out sentiments 


as justly adapted to the circumstances, of his subject, 
as to the dignity of his characters, or dictates of nature 
in general. 

Then to come to his knowledge of the Latin tongue, it 
is certain there is a surprising effusion of Latin words 
made English, far more than in any one English author 
I have seen; but we must be cautious to imagine this 
was of his own doing. For the English tongue, in this 
age, began extremely to suffer by an inundation of 
Latin: and this to be sure, was occasioned by the 
pedantry of those two monarchs, Elizabeth and James, 
both great Latinists. For it is not to be wondered at, 
if both the court and schools, equal flatterers of power, 
should adapt themselves to the royal taste. 

But now I am touching on the question (which has been 
so frequently agitated, yet so entirely undecided) of 
his learning and acquaintance with the languages: an 
additional word or two naturally falls in here upon the 
genius of our author, as compared with that of Jonson, 
his contemporary. They are confessedly the greatest 
writers our nation could ever boast of in the drama. 
The first, we say, owed all to his prodigious natural 
genius; and the other a great deal to his art and 
learning. This, if attended to, will explain a very 
remarkable appearance in their writings. Besides, 
those wonderful master-pieces of art and genius, which 
each has given us ; they are the authors of other works 
very unworthy of them : but with this difference, that in 
Jonson's bad pieces we do not discover one single trace 
of the author of " The Fox " and " Alchemist " ; but in 
the wild extravagant notes of Shakespeare, you every 
now and then encounter strains that recognise the divine 
composer. This difference may be thus accounted for. 


Jonson, as we said before, owing all his excellence to his 
art, by which he sometimes strained himself to an 
uncommon pitch, when at other times, he unbent and 
played with his subject, having nothing then to support 
him, it is no wonder that he wrote so far beneath 
himself. But Shakespeare, indebted more largely to 
nature than the other to acquired talents, in his most 
negligent hours, could never so totally divest himself of 
his genius, but that it would frequently break out with 
astonishing force and splendor. 

As I have never proposed to dilate farther on the 
character of my author than was necessary to explain 
the nature and use of this edition, I shall proceed to 
consider him as a genius in possession of an everlasting 
name. And how great that merit must be, which could 
gain it against all the disadvantages of the horrid con- 
dition in which he had hitherto appeared ! Had Homer, 
or any other admired author, first started into publick 
so maimed and deformed, we cannot determine whether 
they had not sunk for ever under the ignominy of such 
an ill appearance. The mangled condition of Shake- 
speare has been acknowledged by Mr. Rowe, who 
published him indeed, but neither corrected his text, nor 
collated the old copies. This gentleman has abilities, 
and sufficient knowledge of his author, had but his 
industry been equal to his talents. The same mangled 
condition has been acknowledged, too, by Mr. Pope, 
who published him likewise, pretended to have collated 
the old copies, and yet seldom has corrected the text 
but to his injury. I congratulate with the. manes of 
our poet, that this gentleman has been sparing in 
indulging his private sense, as he phrases it; for he 
who tampers with an author, whom he does not under- 


stand, must do it at the expence of his subject. I have 
made it evident throughout my remarks, that he has 
frequently inflicted a wound where he intended a cure. 
He has acted with regard to our author, as an editor, 
whom Lipsius mentions, did with regard to Martial; 
Inventus est nescio quis Popa, qui non vitia ejus, sed 
ipsum excidit. He has attacked him like an unhandy 
slaughterman; and not lopped off the errors, but the 

While this is found to be fact, how absurd must appear 
the praises of such an editor! It seems a moot point, 
whether Mr. Pope has done most injury to Shakespeare, 
as an editor and encomiast ; or Mr. Rymer has done him 
service, as his rival and censurer. They have both 
shown themselves in an equal impuissance of suspecting 
or amending the corrupted passages: and though it be 
neither prudent to censure or commend what one does 
not understand ; yet if a man must do one when he plays 
the critick, the latter is the more ridiculous office; and 
by that Shakespeare suffers most. For the natural 
veneration which we have for him makes us apt to 
swallow whatever is given us as his, and set off with 
encomiums; and hence we quit all suspicions of deprav- 
ity: on the contrary, the censure of so divine an author 
sets us upon his defence; and this produces an exact 
scrutiny and examination, which ends in finding out and 
discriminating the true from the spurious. 

It is not with any secret pleasure that I so frequently 
animadvert on Mr. Pope as a critick, but there are 
provocations, which a man can never quite forget. His 
libels have been thrown out with so much inveteracy, 
that, not to dispute whether they should come from a 
Christian, they leave it a question whether they could 


come from a man. I should be loth to doubt, as Quintus 
Serenus did in a like case : 

" Sive homo, seu similis turpissima bestia nobis 
Vulnera dente dedit. . . ." 

The indignation, perhaps, for being represented a 
blockhead, ^ may be as strong in us, as it is in the 
ladies for a reflection on their beauties. It is certain, I 
am indebted to him for some flagrant civilities; and I 
shall willingly devote a part of my life to the honest 
endeavour of quitting scores: with this exception, how- 
ever, that I will not return those civilities in his peculiar 
strain, but confine myself, at least, to the limits of 
common decency. I shall ever think it better to want 
wit, than to want humanity: and impartial posterity 
may, perhaps, be of my opinion. 

But to return to my subject, which now calls upon me 
to enquire into those causes, to which the depravations 
of my author originally may be assigned. We are to 
consider him as a writer, of whom no authentick manu- 
script was left extant; as a writer, whose pieces were 
dispersedly performed on the several stages then in 
being. And it was the custom of those days for the 
poets to take a price of the players for the pieces they, 
from time to time, furnished; and thereupon, it was 
supposed they had no farther right to print them with- 
out the consent of the players. As it was the interest 
of the companies to keep their plays unpublished, when 
any one succeeded, there was a contest betwixt the 
curiosity of the town, who demanded to see it printed, 
and the policy of the stagers, who wished to secrete it 

•"High on a gorgeous seat that far outshone Henley's gilt tub, 
or Flecknoe's Irish throne, Great Tibbald nods." — Pope's 
" Dunciad." 


withm their own walls. Hence many pieces were taken 
down in short-hand, and imperfectly copied by ear from 
a representation; others were printed from piece-meal 
parts surreptitiously obtained from the theatres, 
uncorrect, and without the poet's knowledge. To some 
of these causes we owe the train of blemishes that 
deform those pieces which stole singly into the world in 
our author's life-time. '^ 

There are still other reasons, which may be supposed 
to have affected the whole set. When the players took 
upon them to publish his works entire, every theatre was 
ransacked to supply the copy; and parts collected, 
which had gone through as many changes as per- 
formers, either from mutilations or additions made to 
them. Hence we derive many chasms and incoherences 
in the sense and matter. Scenes were frequently trans- 
posed, and shuffled out of their true place, to humour 
the caprice, or supposed convenience, of some particular 
actor. Hence much confusion and impropriety has 
attended and embarrassed the business and fable. To 
these obvious causes of corruption it must be added, 
that our author has lain under the disadvantage of 
having his errors propagated and multiplied by time: 
because, for near a century, his works were published 
from the faulty copies, without the assistance of any 
intelligent editor: which has been the case likewise of 
many a classick writer. 

The nature of any distemper once found has generally 
been the immediate step to a cure. Shakespeare's case 
has in a great measure resembled that of a corrupt 
classick; and, consequently, the method of cure was 
likewise to bear a resemblance. By what means, and 
' Vide Heminge and Condell's Introduction, p 3. 


with what success, this cure has been effected on 
ancient writers, is too well known, and needs no formal 
illustration. The reputation, consequent on tasks of 
that nature, invite me to attempt the method here ; with 
this view, the hopes of restoring to the publick their 
greatest poet in his original purity, after having so 
long lain in a condition that was a disgrace to common 
sense. To this end I have ventured on a labour, that 
is the first essay of the kind on any modern author 
whatsoever. For the late edition of Milton, by the 
learned Dr. Bentley, is, in the main, a performance of 
another species. It is plain, it was the intention of 
that great man rather to correct and pare off the 
excrescencies of the " Paradise Lost," in the manner 
that Tucca and Varius were employed to criticise the 
JEneid of Virgil, than to restore corrupted passages. 
Hence, therefore, may be seen either the Iniquity or 
ignorance of his censurers, who, from some expressions 
would make us believe the doctor every where gives us 
his corrections as the original text of the author; 
whereas the chief turn of his criticism is plainly to 
show the world, that, if Milton did not write as he 
would have him, he ought to have wrote so. 

I thought proper to premise this observation to the 
readers, as it will show that the critick on Shakespeare 
is of a quite different kind. His genuine text is for the 
most part, religiously adhered to, and the numerous 
faults and blemishes, purely his own, are left as they 
were found. Nothing is altered but what by the clearest 
reasoning can be proved a corruption of the true text ; 
and the alteration, a real restoration of the genuine 
reading. Nay, so strictly have I strove to give the true 
reading, though sometimes not to the advantage of my 


author, that I have been ridiculously ridiculed for it by 
those, who either were iniquitously for turning every 
thing to my disadvantage ; or else were totally ignorant 
of the true duty of an editor. 

The science of criticism, as far as it affects an editor, 
seems to be reduced to these three classes ; the emenda- 
tion of corrupt passages ; the explanation of obscure 
and difficult ones ; and an enquiry into the beauties and 
defects of composition. This work is principally con- 
fined to the two former parts: though there are some 
specimens interspersed of the latter kind, as several of 
the emendations were best supported, and several of the 
difficulties best explained, by taking notice of the 
beauties and defects of the composition peculiar to this 
immortal poet. But this was but occasional, and for 
the sake only of perfecting the two other parts, which 
were the proper objects of the editor's labour. The 
third lies open for every willing undertaker : and I shall 
be pleased to see it the employment of a masterly pen. 

It must necessarily happen, as I have formerly 
observed, that where the assistance of manuscripts is 
wanting to set an author's meaning right, and rescue 
him from those errors which have been transmitted 
down through a series of incorrect editions, and a long 
intervention of time, many passages must be desperate, 
and past a cure; and their true sense irretrievable 
either to care or the sagacity of conjecture. But is 
there any reason therefore to say, that because all 
cannot be retrieved, all ought to be left desperate ? We 
should show very little honesty, or wisdom, to play the 
tyrants with an author's text; to raze, alter, innovate, 
and overturn, at all adventures, and to the utter detri- 
ment of his sense and meaning: but to be so very 


reserved and cautious, as to interpose no relief or con- 
jecture, where it manifestly labours and cries out for 
assistance, seems, on the other hand, an indolent 

As there are very few pages in Shakespeare, upon 
which some suspicions of depravity do not reasonably 
arise ; I have thought it my duty in the first place, by a 
diligent and laborious collation, to take in the assistance 
of all the older copies. 

In his historical plays, whenever our English chroni- 
cles, and in his tragedies, when Greek or Roman story 
could give any light, no pains have been omitted to set 
passages right, by comparing my author with his 
originals ; for, as I have frequently observed, he was a 
close and accurate copier wherever his fable was 
founded on history. 

Wherever the author's sense is clear and discoverable, 
(though, perchance, low and trivial), I have not by any 
innovation tampered with his text, out of an ostentation 
of endeavouring to make him speak better than the old 
copies have done. 

Where, through all the former editions, a passage has 
laboured under flat nonsense and invincible darkness, if, 
by the addition or alteration of a letter or two, or a 
transposition in the pointing, I have restored to him 
both sense and sentiment; such corrections, I am 
persuaded, will need no indulgence. 

And whenever I have taken a greater latitude and lib- 
erty in amending, I have constantly endeavoured to 
support my corrections and conjectures by parallel 
passages and authorities from himself, the surest means 
of expounding any author whatsover. " Cette voie 
d'inter'preter un autheur par luimeme est plus sure que 


tou8 les comTnentaires" says a very learned French 

As to my notes, (from which the common and learned 
readers of our author, I hope, will derive some satisfac- 
tion), I have endeavoured to give them a variety in 
some proportion to their number. Wherever I have 
ventured at an emendation, a note is constantly sub- 
joined to justify and assert the reason of it. Where I 
only offer a conjecture, and do not disturb the text, I 
fairly set forth my grounds for such conjecture, and 
submit it to judgment. Some remarks are spent in 
explaining passages, where the wit or satire depends on 
an obscure point of history : others, where allusions are 
to divinity, philosophy, or other branches of science. 
Some are added to show where there is a suspicion of 
our author having borrowed from the ancients : others, 
to show where he is rallying his contemporaries; or 
where he himself is rallied by them. And some are 
necessarily thrown in, to explain an obscure and obsolete 
term, phrase, or idea. I once intended to have added a 
complete and copious glossary; but as I have been 
importuned, and am prepared to give a correct edition 
of our author's poems, (in which many terms occur 
which are not to be met with in his plays), I thought a 
glossary to all Shakespeare's works more proper to 
attend that volume. 

In reforming an infinite number of passages in the 
pointing, where the sense was before quite lost, I have 
frequently subjoined notes to show the depraved, and 
to prove the reformed, pointing: a part of labour in 
this work which I could very willingly have spared 
myself. May it not be objected, why then have you 
burdened us with these notes .'^ The answer is obvious, 


and if I mistake not, very material. Without such 
notes, these passages in subsequent editions would be 
liable, through the ignorance of printers and correctors, 
to fall into the old confusion: whereas, a note on every 
one hinders all possible return to depravity: and for- 
ever secures them in a state of purity and integrity not 
to be lost or forfeited. 

Again, as some notes have been necessary to point out 
the detection of the corrupted text, and establish the 
restoration of the genuine reading; some others have 
been as necessary for the explanation of passages 
obscure and difScult. To understand the necessity and 
use of this part of my task, some particulars of my 
author's character are previously to be explained. 
There are obscurities in him, which are common to him 
with all poets of the same species ; there are others, the 
issue of the times he lived in; and there are others, 
again, peculiar to himself. The nature of comick 
poetry being entirely satirical, it busies itself more in 
exposing what we call caprice and humour, than vices 
cognizable to the laws. The English, from the happi- 
ness of a free constitution, and a turn of mind 
peculiarly speculative and inquisitive, are observed to 
produce more humourists, and a greater variety of 
original characters, than any other people whatsoever: 
and these owing their immediate birth to the peculiar 
genius of each age, an infinite number of things 
alluded to, glanced at, and exposed, must needs become 
obscure, as the characters themselves are antiquated 
and disused. An editor, therefore, should be well 
versed in the history and manners of his author's age, 
if he aims at doing him a service in this respect. 

Besides, wit lying mostly in the assemblage of ideas, 


and m putting those together with quickness and 
variety, wherein can be found any resemblance, or con- 
gruity, to make up pleasant pictures, and agreeable 
visions in the fancy; the writer, who aims at wit, must 
of course, range far and wide for materials. Now the 
age in which Shakespeare lived, having, above all others, 
a wonderful affection to appear learned, they declined 
vulgar images, such as are immediately fetched from 
nature, and ranged through the circle of the sciences, to 
fetch their ideas from thence. But as the resemblances 
of such ideas to the subject must necessarily lie very 
much out of the common way, and every piece of wit 
appear a riddle to the vulgar; this, that should have 
taught them the forced, quaint, unnatural tract they 
were in, (and induce them to follow a more natural 
one), was the very thing that kept them attached to it. 
The ostentatious affectation of abstruse learning, 
peculiar to that time, the love that men naturally have 
to everything that looks like mystery, fixed them down 
to the habit of obscurity. Thus became the poetry of 
Donne (though the wittiest man of that age), nothing 
but a continued heap of riddles. And our Shakespeare, 
with all his easy nature about him, for want of the 
knowledge of the true rules of art, falls frequently into 
this vicious manner. 

The third species of obscurities which deform our 
author, as the effects of his own genius and character, 
are those that proceed from his peculiar manner of 
thinking, and as peculiar a manner of clothing those 
thoughts. With regard to this thinking, it is certain 
that he had a general knowledge of all the sciences : but 
his acquaintance was rather that of a traveller than a 
native. Nothing in philosophy was unknown to him; 


but every thing in it had the grace and force of novelty. 
And as novelty is one main source of admiration, we 
are not to wonder that he has perpetual allusions to the 
most recondite parts of the sciences : and this was done 
not so much out of affectation, as the effect of admira- 
tion begot by novelty. Then, as to his style and diction, 
we may much more justly apply to Shakespeare, what a 
celebrated writer said of Milton: Our language sunk 
under him, and was unequal to that greatness of soul 
which furnished him with such glorious conceptions. 
He therefore frequently uses old words, to give his 
diction an air of solemnity ; as he coins others, to express 
the novelty and variety of his ideas. 

Upon every distinct species of these obscurities, I have 
thought it my province to employ a note for the service 
of my author, and the entertainment of my readers. 
A few transient remarks too I have not scrupled to 
intermix, upon the poet's negligence and omissions in 
point of art ; but I have done it always in such a 
manner, as will testify my deference and veneration for 
the immortal author. Some censurers of Shakespeare, 
and particularly Mr. Rymer, * have taught me to dis- 
tinguish betwixt the railer and critick. The outrage of 
his quotations is so remarkably violent, so pushed 
beyond all bounds of decency and sober reasoning, that 
it quite carries over the mark at which it was levelled. 
Extravagant abuse throws off the edge of the intended 
disparagement, and turns the madman's weapon 
into his own bosom. In short, as to Rymer, this 
is my opinion of him from his criticisms on the trage- 

®"A Short View of Tragedy," etc., "with some reflections on 
Shakespeare and other practitioners for the stage," by Thomas 
Rymer, 1693. 


dies of the last age. He writes with great vivacity, 
and appears to have been a scholar: but as for his 
knowledge of the art of poetry, I cannot perceive it was 
any deeper than his acquaintance with Bossu and 
Dacier, from whom he has transcribed many of his best 
reflections. The late Mr. Gildon ^ was one attached to 
Rymer by a similar way of thinking and studies. They 
were both of that species of criticks who are desirous of 
displaying their powers rather in finding faults, than in 
consulting the improvement of the world; the hyper- 
critical part of the science of criticism. 

I had not mentioned the modest liberty I have here and 
there taken of animadverting on my author, but that I 
was willing to obviate in time the splenetick exaggera- 
tions of my adversaries on this head. From past 
experiments I have reason to be conscious, in what light 
this attempt may be placed: and that what I call a 
modest liberty will, by a little of their dexterity, be 
inverted into downright impudence. From a hundred 
mean and dishonest artifices employed to discredit this 
edition, and to cry down its editor, I have all the 
grounds in nature to beware of attacks. But though 
the malice of wit, joined to the smoothness of versifica- 
tion, may furnish some ridicule; fact, I hope, will be 
able to stand its ground against banter and gaiety. 

It has been my fate, it seems, as I thought it my duty, 
to discover some anachronisms in our author; which 
might have slept in obscurity but for this Restorer as 
Mr. Pope is pleased aff^ectionately to style me: as for 
instance, where Aristotle is mentioned by Hector in 

'Charles Gildon, who published many "Remarks** and 
" Reflections " on Shakespeare, including a vindication against 
Rymer's " Short View." 


" Troilus and Gressida " ; and Galen, Cato, and 
Alexander the Great, in " Coriolanus." These, in Mr. 
Pope's opinion, are blunders, which the illiteracy of 
the first publishers of his works has fathered upon the 
poet's memory: it not being at all credible, that these 
could be the errors of any man who had the least 
tincture of a school, or the least conversation with such 
as had. But I have sufficiently proved, in the course of 
my notes, that such anachronisms were the effect of 
poetick licence, rather than of ignorance in our poet. 
And if I may be permitted to ask a modest question 
by the way, why may not I restore an anachronism 
really made by our author, as well as Mr. Pope take 
the privilege to fix others upon him, which he never 
had it in his head to make ; as I may venture to affirm 
he had not, in the instance of Sir Francis Drake, to 
which I have spoken in the proper place .f* 

But who shall dare make any words about this freedom 
of Mr. Pope's toward Shakespeare, if it can be proved, 
that, in his fits of criticism, he makes no more ceremony 
with good Homer himself? To try, then, a criticism of 
his own advancing: in the eighth book of the Odyssey, 
where Demodocus sings the episode of the loves of Mars 
and Venus ; and that, upon their being taken in the net 
by Vulcan, 

"... The god of arms 
Must pay the penalty for lawless charms;" 

Mr. Pope is so kind gravely to inform us, " That Homer 
in this, as in many other places, seems to allude to the 
laws of Athens, where death was the punishment of 
adultery." But how is this significant observation made 
out? Why, who can possibly object any thing to the 


contrary? — ^Does not Pausanias relate that Draco, the 
lawgiver to the Athenians, granted impunity to any 
person that took revenge upon an adulterer? And was 
it not also the institution of Solon, that if any one took 
an adulterer in the fact, he might use him as he pleased? 
These things are very true: and to see what a good 
memory, and sound judgment in conjunction, can 
achieve though Homer's date is not determined down 
to a single year, yet it is pretty generally agreed that 
he lived above three hundred years before Draco and 
Solon: and that, it seems, has made him seem to allude 
to the very laws, which these two legislators propounded 
above three hundred years after. If this inference be 
not something like an anachronism or prolepsis, I will 
look once more into my lexicons for the true meaning of 
the words. It appears to me, that somebody besides 
Mars and Venus has been caught in a net by this 
episode: and I could call in other instances, to confirm 
what treacherous tackle this net-work is, if not 
cautiously handled. 

How just, notwithstanding, I have been in detecting 
the anachronisms of my author, and in defending him 
for the use of them, our late editor seems to think, they 
should rather have slept in obscurity: and the having 
discovered them is sneered at, as a sort of wrong-headed 

The numerous corrections which I have made of the 
poet's text in my Shakespeare Restored, and which the 
publick have been so kind to think well of, are in the 
appendix of Mr. Pope's last edition, slightingly called 
various readings, guesses, &c. He confesses to have 
inserted as many of them as he judged of any the least 
advantage to the poet; but says, that the whole 


amounted to about twenty-five words: and pretends to 
have annexed a complete list of the rest, which were not 
worth his embracing. Whoever has read my book will, 
at one glance, see how in both these points veracity is 
strained, so an injury might be done. Malus, etsi 
ohesse non pote, tamen cogitat. 

Another expedient to make my work appear of a 
trifling nature, has been an attempt to depreciate literal 
criticism. To this end, and to pay a servile compliment 
to Mr. Pope, an anonymous writer has, like a 
Scotch pedlar in wit, unbraced his pack on the subject. 
But, that his virulence might not seem to be levelled 
singly at me, he has done me the honour to join Dr. 
Bentley in the libel. I was in hopes we should have been 
both abused with smartness of satire at least, though not 
with solidity of argument ; that it might have been worth 
some reply in defence of the science attacked. But I 
may fairly say of this author, as Falsi aff does of 
Poins: — "Hang him, baboon! his wit is as thick as 
Tewksbury mustard; there is no more conceit in him, 
than is in a Mallet." *^ If it be not a profanation to set 
the opinion of the divine Longinus against such a scrib- 
bler, he tells us expressly, "That to make a judgment 
upon words (and writings) is the most consummate fruit 
of much experience." 

^ yap riDV XSywv xptfft^ ttoAA^? e nsipag rsXsuraiov entyevrjiia. 

Whenever words are depraved, the sense of course must 
be corrupted; and thence the reader is betrayed into a 
false meaning. 
If the Latin and Greek languages have received the 

" David Mallet was the name of the " anonymous writer." 


greatest advantages imaginable from the labours of the 
editors and critics of the last two ages, by whose aid 
and assistance the grammarians have been enabled to 
write infinitely better in that art than even the preceding 
grammarians, who wrote when those tongues flourished 
as living languages ; I should account it a peculiar hap- 
piness that, by the faint essay I have made in this 
work, a path might be chalked out for abler hands, by 
which to derive the same advantages to our own tongue ; 
a tongue which, though it wants none of the funda- 
mental qualities of an universal language, yet, as a 
noble writer says, lisps and stammers as in its cradle, 
and has produced little more towards its polishing than 
complaints of its barbarity. 

Having now run through all these points, which I 
intended should make any part of this dissertation, and 
having in my former edition made public acknowledg- 
ments of the assistances lent me, I shall conclude with a 
brief acount of the methods taken in this. 

It was thought proper, in order to reduce the bulk 
and price of the impression, that the notes, wherever 
they would admit of it, might be abridged; for which 
reason I have curtailed a great quantity of such, in 
which explanations were too prolix, or authorities in 
support of an emendation too numerous; and many I 
have entirely expunged, which were judged rather ver- 
bose and declamatory (and so notes merely of ostenta- 
tion) than necessary or instructive. 

The few literal errors which had escaped notice for 
want of revisals, in the former edition, are here re- 
formed, and the pointing of innumerable passages is 
regulated with all the accuracy I am capable of. 

I shall decline making any further declaration of the 


pains I have taken upon my author, because it was my 
duty, as his editor, to publish him with my best care 
and judgment; and because I am sensible all such dec- 
larations are construed to be laying a sort of debt on 
the public. As the former edition has been received 
with much indulgence, I ought to make my acknowledg- 
ments to the town for their favourable opinion of it, 
and I shall always be proud to think that encouragement 
the best payment I can hope to receive for my poor 




SIR THOMAS HANMER, of a distinguished 
county family, was born at the family seat in 
Hanmer, Suffolk, September 24, 1677, and 
died May 7, 1746. 
He was a student of Christ Church, Oxford, and 
occupied himself during the entire years of his life 
with politics of the High-Church tory stamp. In spite 
of his aristocratic convictions, however, he was one of 
the keenest advocates for the Protestant Succession. He 
was a member of Parliament for various constituencies 
from 1701 to 1727. In 1714 he was elected Speaker of 
the House of Commons and was in that high office at 
the death of Queen Anne. Retiring from public life 
in 1727, he devoted the balance of his days to garden- 
ing and literature. 

Under the auspices of Oxford University he brought 
out a superbly printed edition of Shakespeare's works 
in six volumes, quarto, in 1744. His critical powers 
were not conspicuous, although some of his readings 
were of value enough to be adopted by later editors. 
The Oxford edition was an elegant and ornamental piece 
of book-making, containing many engravings, a worthy 
shrine for the great poet's literary remains. 
The " Dunciad " has this reference to Hanmer: 

** There moved Montalto with superior air. 
His stretched out arms displayed a volume fair. 
Courtiers and patriots in two ranks divide 
Through both he passed and bowed from side to side." 



[Prefixed to quarto edition in six volumes, 1744.] 

What the public is here to expect is a true and correct 
edition of Shakespeare's works, cleared from the cor- 
ruption with which they have hitherto abounded. One 
of the great admirers of this incomparable author hath 
made it the amusement of his leisure hours for many 
years past to look over his writings with a careful eye 
to note the obscurities and absurdities introduced into 
the text, and according to the best of his judgment to 
restore the genuine sense and purity of it. In this he 
proposed nothing to himself but his private satisfaction 
in making his own copy as perfect as he could ; but as 
the emendations multiplied upon his hands other gentle- 
men, equally fond of the author, desired to see them, 
and some were so kind as to give their assistance, by 
communicating their observations and conjectures upon 
difficult passages which had occurred to them. Thus 
by degrees the work growing more considerable than 
was at first expected, they who had the opportunity 
of looking into it, too partial perhaps in their judgment, 
thought it worth being made public; and he who hath 
with difficulty yielded to their persuasions is far from 
desiring to reflect upon the late editors for the omis- 
sions and defects which they left to be supplied by others 
who should follow them in the same province. On the 
contrary, he thinks the world much obliged to them for 
the progress they made in weeding out so great a num- 
ber of blunders and mistakes as they have done; and 
probably he who hath carried on the work might never 
have thought of such an undertaking if he had not 
found a considerable part so done to his hands. 


From what causes it proceeded that the works of this 
author, in the first publication of them, were more 
injured and abused than perhaps any that ever passed 
the press, hath been sufficiently explained in the preface 
to Mr. Pope's edition, which is here subjoined, and there 
needs no more to be said upon that subject. This only 
the reader is desired to bear in mind, that as the corrup- 
tions are more numerous and of a grosser kind than can 
be well conceived but by those who have looked nearly 
into them, so in the correcting them this rule hath been 
most strictly observed, not to give a loose to fancy or 
indulge a licentious spirit of criticism, as if it were 
fit for any one to presume to judge what Shakespeare 
ought to have written, instead of endeavouring to dis- 
cover truly and retrieve what he did write ; and so great 
caution hath been used in this respect that no alterations 
have been made but what the sense necessarily required, 
what the measure of the verse often helped to point out, 
and what the similitude of words in the false reading 
and in the true, generally speaking, appeared very well 
to justify. 

Most of these passages are here thrown to the bottom 
of the page and rejected as spurious, which were stig- 
matised as such in Mr. Pope's edition, and it were to be 
wished that more had then undergone the same sentence. 
The promoter of the present edition hath ventured 
to discard but few more upon his own judgment, the 
most considerable of which is that wretched piece of 
ribaldry in " King Henry the Fifth," ^ put into the 
mouths of the French princess and an old gentlewoman, 
improper enough as it is all in French, and not intelli- 
gible to an English audience; and yet that perhaps is 

»Act III. 4. 


the best thing that can be said of it. There can be 
no doubt but a great deal more of that low stuff, 
which disgraces the works of this great author, was 
foisted in by the players after his death to please the 
vulgar audiences by which they subsisted ; and though 
some of the poor witticisms and conceits must be sup- 
posed to have fallen from his pen, yet as he hath put 
them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant 
people, so it is to be remembered that he wrote for the 
stage, rude and unpolished as it then was, and the 
vicious taste of the age must stand condemned for 
them, since he hath left upon record a signal proof how 
much he despised them. In his play of " The Merchant 
of Venice," ^ a clown is introduced quibbling in a miser- 
able manner; upon which one, who bears the character 
of a man of sense, makes the following reflection : " How 
every fool can play upon a word! I think the best 
grace of wit will shortly turn into silence, and discourse 
grow commendable in none but parrots." He could 
hardly have found stronger words to express his indig- 
nation at those false pretences to wit then in vogue, and 
therefore, though such trash is frequently interspersed 
in his writings, it would be unjust to cast it as an impu- 
tation upon his taste and judgment and character as a 

There being many words in Shakespeare which are 
grown out of use and obsolete, and many borrowed from 
other languages which are not enough naturalised or 
known among us, a glossary is added at the end of the 
work, for the explanation of all those terms which have 
hitherto been so many stumbling blocks to the generality 
of readers; and where there is any obscurity in the 
'Act III. 5. 


text, not arising from the words, but from a reference 
to some antiquated customs now forgotten, or other 
causes of that kind, a note is put at the bottom of the 
page, to clear up the difficulty. 

With these several helps, if that rich vein of sense 
which runs through the works of this author can be 
retrieved in every part, and brought to appear in its 
true light, and if it may be hoped, without presumption, 
that this is here effected, they who love and admire him 
will receive a new pleasure, and all probably will be 
more ready to join in doing him justice, who does great 
honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a singular 
genius ; one who hath attained a high degree of perfec- 
tion in those two great branches of poetry, tragedy and 
comedy, different as they are in their natures from each 
other, and who may be said without partiality to have 
equalled, if not excelled^ in both kinds, the best writers 
of any age or country, who have thought it glory 
enough to distinguish themselves in either. 

Since therefore other nations have taken care to dig- 
nify the work of their most celebrated poets with the 
fairest impressions beautified with the ornaments of 
sculpture, well may our Shakespeare be thought to 
deserve no less consideration; and as a fresh acknowl- 
edgement hath lately been paid to his merit, and a high 
regard to his name and memory by erecting his statue 
at a public expense,^ so it is desired that this new edition 
of his works, which hath cost some attention and care, 
may be looked upon as another small monument designed 
and dedicated to his honour. 

•The monument set up in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey, 




the son of a Newark attorney, De- 
cember 4, 1698, and died Bishop of 
Gloucester, June 7, 1779. He was 
educated at various small schools, and in 1714* 
articled in an attorney's office. Always a great 
reader, he included theology in his list of subjects, 
and was led to take orders in the English Church 
(1723). Awarded the M.A. degree by Cambridge 
in 1728, he was successively curate, vicar. King's 
Chaplain, Lincoln's Inn Preacher^ Prebendary, Dean, 
and finally Bishop of Gloucesterc 

He was a voluminous and vigorous writer mainly in 
apologetics. His chief work, the " Divine Legation of 
Moses," was severely handled by Gibbon, the historian. 
It was a brilliant, scholarly, but paradoxical and futile 
mass of learning. 

He and Pope formed a friendly alliance, although the 
parson had at one time roundly abused the poet. 

In 1747 he brought out a new edition of Shakespeare's 
works, founded upon, although not bound by. Pope's 
text. He was a critic of the slashing order, and added 
little of value to the fast accumulating commentaries. 
He quarrelled fiercely with Theobald, accusing him of 
both ignorance and lack of critical ability. Time, how- 
ever, did nX)t justify the criticism. Warburton's Intro- 
duction is interesting reading. 



[Prefixed to an octavo edition in eight volumes, 1747.] 

It hath been no unusual thing for writers, when dissat- 
isfied with the patronage or judgment of their own 
times, to appeal to posterity for a fair hearing. Some 
have even thought fit to apply to it in the first instance, 
and to decline acquaintance with the public till envy 
and prejudice had quite subsided. But, of all the 
trusters to futurity, commend me to the author of the 
following poems, who not only left it to time to do him 
justice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For 
what between too great attention to his profit as a 
player, and too little to his reputation as a poet, his 
works, left to the care of door-keepers and prompters, 
hardly escaped the common fate of those writings, how 
good soever, which are abandoned to their own fortune, 
and unprotected by party or cabal. At length, indeed, 
they struggled into light, but so disguised and traves- 
tied that no classic author, after having run ten secular 
stages through the blind cloisters of monks and canons, 
ever came out in half so maimed and mangled a con- 
dition. But for a full account of his disorders, I refer 
the reader to the excellent discourse which follows,^ and 
turn myself to consider the remedies that have been 
applied to them. 

Shakespeare's works, when they escaped the players, 
did not fall into much better hands when they came 
amongst printers and booksellers ; who, to say the truth, 
had at first but small encouragement for putting them 
into a better condition. The stubborn nonsense with 
which he was incrusted occasioned his lying long neg- 
* Pope's Preface. 


lected amongst the common' lumber of the stage. And 
when that resistless splendour which now shoots all 
around him had, by degrees, broke through the shell 
of those impurities, his dazzled admirers became as sud- 
denly insensible to the extraneous scurf that still stuck 
upon him as they had been before to the native beauties 
that lay under it. So that, as then he was thought not 
to deserve a cure, he was now supposed not to need 

His growing eminence, however, required that he should 
be used with ceremony, and he soon had his appoint- 
ment of an editor in form. But the bookseller, whose 
dealing was with wits, having learned of them I know 
not what silly maxim, that none but a poet should pre- 
sume to meddle with a poet, engaged the ingenious Mr. 
Rowe to undertake this employment. A wit indeed he 
was, but so utterly unacquainted with the whole business 
of criticism that he did not even collate or consult the 
first editions of the work he undertook to publish, but 
contented himself with giving us a meagre account of 
the author's life, interlarded with some commonplace 
scraps from his writings. The truth is, Shakespeare's 
condition was yet but ill understood. The nonsense, 
now, by consent, conceived for his own, was held in a 
kind of reverence for its age and author, and thus it 
continued till another great poet broke the charm by 
showing us that the higher we went, the less of it was 
still to be found. 

For the proprietors, not discouraged by their first 
unsuccessful effort, in due time made a second; and, 
though they still stuck to their poets, with infinitely 
more success in their choice of Mr. Pope, who, by the 
mere force of an uncommon genius, without any par- 


f^\M>crl #^^'^»^c^ ^M^, 





ticular study or profession of this art, discharged the 
great parts of it so well as to make his edition the best 
foundation for all further improvements. He separated 
the genuine from the spurious plays; and with equal 
judgment, though not always with the same success, 
attempted to clear the genuine plays from the inter- 
polated scenes. He then consulted the old editions, and, 
by a careful collation of them, rectified the faulty, and 
supplied the imperfect reading in a great number of 
places. And lastly, in an admirable preface, hath drawn 
a general, but very lively sketch of Shakespeare's 
poetic character, and, in the corrected text, marked out 
those peculiar strokes of genius which were most proper 
to support and illustrate that character. Thus far 
Mr. Pope. And although much more was to be done 
before Shakespeare could be restored to himself (such as 
amending the corrupted text where the printed books 
afford no assistance, explaining his licentious phraseol- 
ogy and obscure allusions, and illustrating the beauties 
of his poetry), yet, with great modesty and prudence, 
our illustrious author left this to the critick by pro- 

But nothing will give the common reader a better idea 
of the value of Mr. Pope's edition than the two attempts 
which have been since made by Mr. Theobald and Sir 
Thomas Hanmer in opposition to it ; who, although they 
concerned themselves only in the first of these three 
parts of criticism, the restoring the text (without any 
conception of the second, or venturing even to touch 
upon the third), yet succeeded so very ill in it that they 
left their author in ten times a worse condition than 
they found him. But, as it was my ill fortune to have 
some accidental connections with these two gentlemen, it 


will be incumbent on me to be a little more particular 
concerning them. 

The one was recommended to me as a poor man, the 
other as a poor critic, and to each of them, at different 
times, I communicated a great number of observations 
which they managed, as they saw fit, to the relief of their 
several distresses. As to Mr. Theobald, who wanted 
money, I allowed him to print what I gave him for his 
own advantage, and he allowed himself in the liberty of 
taking one part for his own, and sequestering another 
for the benefit, as I supposed, of some future edition. 
But, as to the Oxford editor, who wanted nothing but 
what he might very well be without, the reputation of 
a critick, I could not so easily forgive him for trafficking 
with my papers without my knowledge; and when that 
project failed, for employing a number of my con- 
jectures in his edition against my express desire not to 
have that honour done unto me. 

Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to industry and 
labour. What he read he could transcribe; but as to 
what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill 
express, so he read on, and by that means got a charac- 
ter of learning, without risquing to every observer the 
imputation of wanting a better talent. By a punc- 
tilious collation of the old books he corrected what was 
manifestly wrong in the latter editions by what was 
manifestly right in the earlier. And this is his real 
merit, and the whole of it. For where the phrase was 
very obsolete or licentious In the common books, or only 
slightly corrupted in the other, he wanted sufficient 
knowledge of the progress and various stages of the 
English tongue, as well as acquaintance with the pecu- 
liarity of Shakespeare's language, to understand what 


was right; nor had he either common judgment to see, 
or critical sagacity to amend, what was manifestly 
faulty. Hence he generally exerts his conjectural tal- 
ent in the wrong place; he tampers with what is found 
in the common books, and, in the old ones, omits all 
notice of variations, the sense of which he did not under- 

How the Oxford editor came to think himself qualified 
for this office, from which his whole course of life had 
been so remote, is still more difficult to conceive. For 
whatever parts he might have either of genius or erudi- 
tion, he was absolutely ignorant of the art of criticism, 
as well as of the poetry of that time, and the language 
of his author. And so far from the thought of exam- 
ining the first editions, that he even neglected to compare 
Mr. Pope's, from which he printed his own, with Mr. 
Theobald's ; whereby he lost the advantage of many fine 
lines, which the other had recovered from the old 
quartos. Where he trusts to his own sagacity, in what 
affects the sense, his conjectures are generally absurd 
and extravagant, and violating every rule of criticism. 
Though, in this rage of correcting, he was not abso- 
lutely destitute of all art. For, having a number of 
my conjectures before him, he took as many of them as 
he saw fit to work upon, and by changing them to some- 
thing he thought synonymous or similar he made them 
his own and so became a critick at a cheap expense. But 
how well he hath succeeded in this, as likewise in his con- 
jectures which are properly his own, will be seen in the 
course of my remarks; though, as he hath declined to 
give the reasons for his interpolations he hath not 
afforded me so fair a hold of him as Mr. Theobald hath 
done, who was less cautious. But his principal object 


was to reform his author's numbers, and this, which he 
hath done on every occasion, by the insertion or omis- 
sion of a set of harmless unconceming expletives, makes 
up the gross body of his Innocent corrections. And so, 
in spite of that extreme negligence In numbers which 
distinguishes the first dramatick writers, he hath tricked 
up the old bard, from head to foot, in all the finical 
exactness of a modern measurer of syllables. 

For the rest, all the corrections which these two editors 
have made on any reasonable foundation are here ad- 
mitted into the text and carefully assigned to their 
respective authors, a piece of justice which the Oxford 
editor never did, and which the other was not always 
scrupulous in observing towards me. To conclude "with 
them in a word, they separately possessed those two 
qualities which, more than any other, have contributed 
to bring the art of criticism into disrepute — dulness 
of apprehension, and extravagance of conjecture. 

I am now to give some account of the present under- 
taking. For as to all those things which have been 
published under the title of Essays, Remarks, Observa- 
tions, etc., on Shakespeare (if you except some critical 
notes on "Macbeth," given as a specimen of a pro- 
jected edition, and written, as appears, by a man of 
parts and genius), the rest are absolutely below a seri- 
ous notice.^ 

The whole a critick can do for an author who deserves 
his service is to correct the faulty text, to remark the 
peculiarities of language, to illustrate the obscure allu- 
sions, and to explain the beauties and defects of senti- 
ment or composition. And surely, if ever author had 
a claim to this service, it was our Shakespeare; who, 
'Dr. Johnson. 


widely excelling in the knowledge of human nature, hath 
given to his infinitely varied pictures of it, such truth 
of design, such force of drawing, such beauty of col- 
ouring, as was hardly ever equalled by any writer, 
whether his aim was the use, or only the entertainment 
of mankind. The notes in this edition, therefore, take 
in the whole compass of criticism. 

I. The first sort is employed in restoring the poet's gen- 
uine text, but in those places only where it labours with 
inextricable nonsense ; in which, how much soever I may 
have given scope to critical conjecture, where the old 
copies failed me, I have indulged nothing to fancy or 
imagination, but have religiously observed the severe 
canons of literal criticism, as may be seen from the 
reasons accompanying every alteration from the common 
text. Nor would a different conduct have become a 
critic whose greatest attention, in this part, was to vin- 
dicate the established reading from interpolations occa- 
sioned by the fanciful extravagances of others. I once 
intended to have given the reader a body of canons for 
literal criticism, drawn out in form, as well such as 
concern the art in general, as those that arise from the 
nature and circumstances of our author's works in par- 
ticular. And this for two reasons. First, to give the 
unlearned reader a just idea, and consequently a better 
opinion of the art of criticism, now sunk very low in the 
popular esteem, by the attempts of some who would 
needs exercise it without either natural or acquired 
talents, and by the ill success of others who seemed to 
have lost both when they come to try them upon English 
authors. Secondly, to deter the unlearned writer from 
wantonly trifling with an art he is a stranger to, at the 
expence of his own reputation and the integrity of the 


text of established authors. But these uses may be 
well supplied by what is occasionally said upon the sub- 
ject in the course of the following remarks. 

II. The second sort of notes consists in an explanation 
of the author's meaning when by one or more of these 
causes it becomes obscure: either from a licentious use 
of terms, or a hard or ungrammatical construction, or 
lastly, from far-fetched or quaint allusions. 

1. This licentious use of words is almost peculiar to 
the language of Shakespeare. To common terms he 
hath affixed meanings of his own, unauthorised by use, 
and not to be justified by analogy. And this liberty he 
hath taken with the noblest parts of speech, such as 
mixed modes, which, as they are most susceptible of 
abuse, so that abuse much hurts the clearness of the 
discourse. The criticks (to whom Shakespeare's licence 
was still as much a secret as his meaning which that 
licence had obscured) fell into two contrary mistakes, 
but equally injurious to his reputation and his writings. 
For some of them, observing a darkness that pervades 
his whole expression, have censured him for confusion 
of ideas and inaccuracy of reasoning. '' In the neighing 
of a horse (says Rymer) or in the growling of a mas- 
tiff, there is- a meaning, there is a lively expression, and, 
I may say, more humanity than many times in the trag- 
ical flights of Shakespeare." The ignorance of which 
censure is of a piece with its brutality. The truth is, 
no one thought clearer, or argued morfe closely, than 
this immortal bard. But his superiority of genius less 
needing the intervention of words in the act of think- 
ing, when he came to draw out his contemplations into 
discourse, he took up (as he was hurried on by the 
torrent of his matter) with the first words that lay in 


his way; and if, amongst these, there were two mixed 
modes that had but a principal idea in common, it was 
enough for him. He regarded them as synonymous, 
and would use the one for the other without fear or 
scruple. Again, there have been others, such as the 
two last editors, who have fallen into a contrary ex- 
treme, and regarded Shakespeare's anomalies (as we 
may call them) amongst the corruptions of his text; 
which, therefore, they have cashiered in great numbers 
to make room for a jargon of their own. This hath 
put me to additional trouble, for I had not only their 
interpolations to throw out again, but the genuine text 
to replace and establish in its stead, which, in many 
cases could not be done without showing the peculiar 
sense of the terms and explaining the causes which led 
the poet to so perverse a use of them. I had it once, 
indeed, in my design, to give a general alphabetic gloss- 
ary of those terms ; but as each of them is explained in 
its proper place, there seems the less occasion for such 
an index. 

2. The poet's hard and unnatural construction had 
a different original. This was the effect of mistaken 
art and design. The publick taste was in its infancy, 
and delighted (as it always does during this state) in 
the high and tiargid ; which leads the writer to disguise 
a vulgar expression with hard and forced construction, 
whereby the sentence frequently becomes cloudy and 
dark. Here his criticks show their modesty, and leave 
him to himself. For the arbitrary change of a word 
doth little towards dispelling an obscurity that ariseth, 
not from the licentious use of a single term, but from 
the unnatural arrangement of a whole sentence. And 
they risqued nothing by their silence. For Shakespeare 


was too clear in fame to be suspected of a want of 
meaning, and too high in fashion for anyone to own 
he needed a critick to find it out. Not but, in his best 
works, we must allow, he is often so natural and flowing, 
so pure and correct, that he is even a model for style 
and language. 

3. As to his far-fetched and quaint 'allusions, these 
are often a cover to common thoughts; just as his 
hard construction is to common expression. When they 
are not so, the explanation of them has this further 
advantage that, in clearing the obscurity, you fre- 
quently discover some latent conceit not unworthy of 
his genius. 

III. The third and last sort of notes is concerned in 
a critical explanation of the author's beauties and de- 
fects; but chiefly of his beauties, whether in style, 
thought, sentiment, character, or composition. An odd 
humour of finding fault hath long prevailed amongst 
the criticks, as if nothing were worth remarking that 
did not at the same time deserve to be reproved. 
Whereas the publick judgment hath less need to be 
assisted in what it shall reject than in what it ought to 
prize, men being generally more ready at spying faults 
than in discovering beauties. Nor is the value they 
set upon a work a certain proof that they understand 
it. For it is ever seen that half a dozen voices of credit 
give the lead, and if the publick chance to be in good 
humour, or the author much in their favour, the people 
are sure to follow. Hence it is that the true critick hath 
so frequently attached himself to works of established 
reputation : not to teach the world to admire, which, in 
those circumstances, to say the truth, they are apt 
enough to do of themselves, but to teach them how 


with reason to admire ; no easy matter, I will assure you, 
on the subject in question, for though it be very true, 
as Mr. Pope hath observed, that Shakespeare is the 
fairest and fullest subject for criticism, yet it is not 
such a sort of criticism as may be raised mechanically 
on the rules which Dacier, Rapin, and Bossu have col- 
lected from antiquity, and of which such kind of writers 
as Rymer, Gildon, Dennis, and Oldmixon have only 
gathered and chewed the husks. Nor, on the other 
hand, is it to be formed on the plan of those crude and 
superficial judgments on books and things with which 
a certain celebrated paper so much abounds ;^ too good, 
indeed, to be named with the writers last mentioned, 
but being unluckily mistaken for a model, because it 
was an original, it hath given rise to a deluge of the 
worst sort of critical jargon — ^I mean that which looks 
most like sense. But the kind of criticism here re- 
quired is such *SiS judgeth our author by those only 
Jaws and principles on which he wrote, nature and com- 

Our observations, therefore, being thus extensive, will, 
I presume, enable the reader to form a right judgment 
of this favourite poet without drawing out his charac- 
ter, as was once intended, in a continued discourse. 

These, such as they are, were among my younger 
amusements when, many years ago, I used to turn over 
these sort of writers to unbend myself from more seri- 
ous applications ; and what certainly the publick at this 
time of day had never been troubled with, but for the 
conduct of the two last editors, and the persuasion of 
dear Mr. Pope, whose memory and name, 

"... semper acerbum. 

Semper honoratum (sic Di voluistis) habebo." 

• The Spectator. 


He was desirous I should give a new edition of this poet, 
as he thought it might contribute to put a stop to a 
prevailing folly of altering the text of celebrated 
authors without talents or judgment. And he was will- 
ing that his edition should be melted down into mine, 
as it would, he said, afford him (so great is the modesty 
of an ingenuous temper) a fit opportunity of confessing 
his mistakes. In memory of our friendship, I have 
therefore made It our joint edition. His admirable 
preface is here added; all his notes are given, with 
his name annexed; the scenes are divided according to 
his regulation; and the most beautiful passages dis- 
tinguished, as in his book, with inverted commas. In 
imitation of him, I have done the same by as 
many others as I thought most deserving of the 
reader's attention, and have marked them with double 

If, from all this, Shakespeare or good letters have 
received any advantage, and the publick any benefit or 
entertainment, the thanks are due to the proprietors, 
who have been at the expence of procuring this edition. 
And I should be unjust to several deserving men of a 
reputable and useful profession if I did not, on this 
occasion, acknowledge the fair dealing I have always 
found amongst them, and profess my sense of the unjust 
prejudice which lies against them; whereby they have 
been hitherto unable to procure that security for their 
property which they see the rest of their fellow-citizens 
enjoy; a prejudice in part arising from the frequent 
piracies (as they are called) committed by members of 
their own body. But such kind of members no body is 
without. And It would be hard that this should be 
turned to the discredit of the honest part of the pro- 


fession, who suffer more from such injuries than any 
other men. It hath in part, too, arisen from the clam- 
ours of profligate scribblers, ever ready for a piece of 
money, to prostitute their bad sense for or against any 
cause, profane or sacred, or in any scandal, publick or 
private; these meeting with little encouragement from 
men of account In the trade (who, even in this enlight- 
ened age, are not the very worst judges or rewarders of 
merit), apply themselves to people of condition, and 
support their Importunities by false complaints against 

But I should now, perhaps, rather think of my own 
apology than busy myself in the defence of others. I 
shall have some Tartuffe ready on the first appearance 
of this edition to call out again and tell me that I suffer 
myself to be wholly diverted from my purpose by these 
matters less suitable to my clerical profession. " Well, 
but (says a friend) why not take so candid an Intima- 
tion in good part? Withdraw yourself again, as you 
are bid, into the clerical pale; examine the records of 
sacred and profane antiquity, and on them erect a 
work to the confusion of infidelity." Why, I have 
done all this, and more; and hear now what the same 
men have said to it. They tell me, I have wrote to the 
wrong and injury of religion, and furnished out more 
handles for unbelievers. " Oh ! now the secret is out ; and 
you may have your pardon, I find, upon easier terms. 
It is only to write no more." Good gentlemen! and 
shall I not oblige them? They would gladly obstruct 
my way to those things which every man who endeavours 
well in his profession, must needs think he has some 
claim to when he sees them given to those who never 
did endeavour, at the same time that they would deter 


me from taking those advantages which letters enable 
me to procure for myself. If then I am to write no 
more (though as much out of my profession as they may 
please to represent this work, I suspect their modesty 
would not insist on a scrutiny of our several applica- 
tions of this profane profit and their purer gains), if, I 
say, I am to write no more, let me at least give the pub- 
lick, who have a better pretence to demand it of me, some 
reason for my presenting them with these amusements ; 
which, if I am not much mistaken, may be excused by 
the best and fairest examples ; and, what is more, may 
be justified on the surer reason of things. 

The great Saint Chrysostom, a name consecrated to 
immortality by his virtue and eloquence, is known to 
have been so fond of Aristophanes as to wake with him 
at his studies, and to sleep with him under his pillow; 
and I never heard that this was objected either to his 
piety or his preaching, not even in those times of pure 
zeal and primitive religion. Yet, in respect of Shake- 
speare's great sense, Aristophanes' best wit is but buf- 
foonery; and in comparison of Aristophanes' freedoms, 
Shakespeare writes with the purity of a vestal. But 
they will say, St. Chrysostom contracted a fondness 
for the comick poet for the sake of his Greek. To this, 
indeed, I have nothing to reply. Far be it from me to 
insinuate so unscholar-like a thing, as if we had the 
same use for good English that a Greek had for his 
Attick elegance. Critick Kuster, in a taste and language 
peculiar to grammarians of a certain order, hath de- 
creed that the history and chronology of Greek words 
is the most solid entertainment of a man of letters. 

I fly then to a higher example, much nearer home, and 
still more in point, the famous university of Oxford. 


This illustrious body, which hath long so justly held, 
and with such equity dispensed the chief honours of 
the learned world, thought good letters so much inter- 
ested in correct editions of the best English writers, that 
they very lately in their publick capacity undertook one 
of this very author by subscription. And if the editor * 
hath not discharged his task with suitable abilities for 
one so much honoured by them, this was not their fault, 
but his, who thrust himself into the employment. After 
such an example, it would be weakening any defence to 
seek further for authorities. All that can be now 
decently urged is the reason of the thing; and this I 
shall do, more for the sake of that truly venerable body 
than my own. 

Of all the literary exercitations of speculative men, 
whether designed for the use or entertainment of the 
world, there are none of so much importance or what 
are more our immediate concern than those which let 
us into the knowledge of our nature. Others may exer- 
cise the reason, or amuse the imagination, but these only 
can improve the heart and form the human mind to 
wisdom. Now, in this science, our Shakespeare is con- 
fessed to occupy the foremost place, whether we con- 
sider the amazing sagacity with which he investigates 
every hidden spring and wheel of human action, or his 
happy manner of communicating this knowledge, in the 
just and living paintings which he has given us of all 
our passions, appetites and pursuits. These afford a 
lesson which can never be too often repeated, or too con- 
stantly inculcated, and to engage the reader's due atten- 
tion to it hath been one of the principal objects of this 

*Hanmer's edition was issued by the Oxford University Press. 


As this science (whatever profound philosophers may 
think) is, to the rest, in things ; so, in words (whatever 
supercilious pedants may talk), every one's mother 
tongue is to all other languages. This hath still been 
the sentiment of nature and true wisdom. Hence, the 
greatest men of antiquity never thought themselves bet- 
ter employed than in cultivating their own country 
idiom. So, Lycurgus did honour to Sparta in giving 
the first complete edition of Homer ; and Cicero to Rome, 
in correcting the works of Lucretius. Nor do we want 
examples of the same good sense in modern times, even 
amidst the cruel inroads that art and fashion have made 
upon nature and the simplicity of wisdom. Menage, 
the greatest name in France for all kinds of philologick 
learning, prided himself in writing critical notes on 
their best lyrick poet, Malherbe ; and our greater Selden, 
when he thought it might reflect credit on his country, 
did not disdain even to comment a very ordinary poet, 
one Michael Drayton. But the English tongue, at this 
juncture, deserves and demands our particular regard. 
It hath, by means of the many excellent works of dif- 
ferent kinds composed in it, engaged the notice and 
became the study of almost every curious and learned 
foreigner, so as to be thought even a part of literary 
accomplishment. This must needs make it deserving of 
a critical attention ; and its being yet destitute of a test 
or standard to apply to in cases of doubt or difficulty, 
shows how much it wants that attention. For we have 
neither Grammar nor Dictionary, neither chart nor com- 
pass, to guide us through this wide sea of words. And 
indeed, how should we? since both are to be composed 
and finished on the authority of our best established 
writers. But their authority can be of little use till the 


text hath been correctly settled, and the phraseology 
critically examined. As, then, by these aids, a Gram- 
mar and Dictionary planned upon the best rules of 
logick and philosophy (and none but such will deserve 
the name) are to be procured, the forwarding of this 
will be a general concern; for, as Quintillian observes, 
" Verborum proprietas ac differentia omnibus, qui ser- 
monem cures habent, debet esse communis " By this 
way, the Italians have brought their tongue to a degree 
of purity and stability which no living language ever 
attained unto before. It is with pleasure I observe 
that these things now begin to be understood among 
ourselves, and that I can acquaint the publick we may 
soon expect very elegant editions of Fletcher and Mil- 
ton's " Paradise Lost," from gentlemen of distinguished 
abilities and learning. But this interval of good sense, 
as it may be short, is indeed but new. For I remember 
to have heard of a very learned man who, not long since, 
formed a design of giving a more correct edition of 
Spenser, and, without doubt, would have performed it 
well; but he was dissuaded from his purpose by his 
friends, as beneath the dignity of a professor of the 
occult sciences. Yet these very friends, I suppose, would 
have thought it added lustre to his high station to have 
new-furnished out some dull northern chronicle, or dark 
Sibylline aenigma. But let it not be thought that what 
is here said insinuates anything to the discredit of 
Greek and Latin criticism. If the follies of particular 
men were sufficient to bring any branch of learning into 
disrepute, I do not know any that would stand in a 
worse situation than that for which I now apologise. 
For I hardly think there ever appeared, in any learned 
language, so execrable a heap of nonsense, under the 


name of commentaries, as hath been lately given us on a 
certain satyrick poet, of the past age, by his editor and 

I am sensible how unjustly the very best classical crit- 
icks have been treated. It is said that our great philos- 
opher ^ spoke with much contempt of the two finest 
scholars of this age, Dr. Bentley and Bishop Hare, for 
squabbling, as he expressed it, about an old play-book; 
meaning, I suppose, Terence's comedies. But this story 
is unworthy of him, though well enough suiting the 
fanatick turn of the wild writer that relates it. Such 
censures are amongst the follies of men immoderately 
given over to one science, and ignorantly undervaluing 
all the rest. Those learned criticks might, and perhaps 
did, laugh in their turn (though still, sure, with the 
same indecency and indiscretion) at that incomparable 
man, for wearing out a long life in poring through a 
telescope. Indeed, the weaknesses of such are to be 
mentioned with reverence. But who can bear, without 
indignation, the fashionable cant of every trifling 
writer, whose insipidity passes, with himself, for polite- 
ness, for pretending to be shocked, forsooth, with the 
rude and savage air of vulgar criticks ; meaning such as 
Muretus, Scaliger, Casaubon, Salmasius, Spanheim, 
Bentley! When, had it not been for the deathless 
labours of such as these, the western world, at the re- 
vival of letters, had soon fallen back again into a state 
of ignorance and barbarity as deplorable as that from 
which Providence had just redeemed it. 

To conclude with an observation of a fine writer and 

"Reed notes this reference as belonging to Dr. Grey's edition of 
Hudibras, 1744. 
•Sir Isaac Newton. 


great philosopher of our own, which I would gladly 

bind, though with all honour, as a phylactery, on the 

brow of every awful grammarian, to teach him at once 

the use and limits of his art: Words are the money of 

foolsy and the counters of wise men? 

'"For words are wise men's counters,— they do but reckon by 
them; but they are the money of fools."— TAo*. Hobbes, "The 
Leviathan." Part 1., chap, iv. 




JOHNSON, the great leviathan of English 
letters in the eighteenth century, lexicog- 
rapher and author of " Rasselas," was bom 
September 18, 1709, the son of a bookseller of 
moderate means, in Lichfield, and died full of honours 
in London, December 13, 1784. 

Prepared at various small schools, he entered Pem- 
broke College at Oxford, and left after a stay of nearly 
three years without a degree. Married to a woman 
twenty years older than himself, a widow, Mrs. Porter, 
he tried school-keeping and failed. In 1737 he emi- 
grated from the provinces to London, and beginning 
as a contributor to the " Gentleman's Magazine," 
embarked upon his half century career as the " great 
Cham " of English literature. 

Passing over the works which have given him his fame, 
we note that his first contribution to the elucidation of 
Shakespeare was a pamphlet, " Miscellaneous Observa- 
tions on the Tragedy of Macbeth" (1745). It was not 
until twenty years later (1765), that his edition of the 
Plays, in association with George Steevens, was pub- 
lished. The most valuable part of this work was the 
Introduction, which is, perhaps, the most famous of all 
contributions of a like character. His textual criticism 
did not add much to his reputation. His Shakespearean 
work was but a by-product of his most fruitful genius. 



[Prefixed to octavo edition in eight volumes, 1765.] 

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 heresies of paradox; or those, 
who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory 
expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the 
present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the 
regard 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 rever- 
ence it, not from reason, but from prejudice. Some seem 
to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long pre- 
served, without considering that time has sometimes co- 
operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to 
honour past than present excellence ; and the mind con- 
templates 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 

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 com- 
pared, 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, and many rivers ; so 
in the production of genius, nothing can be styled 
excellent till it has been compared with other works of 
the same kind. Demonstration immediately displays its 
power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the flux of 
years; but works tentative and experimental must be 
estimated by their proportion to the general and col- 
lective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long 
succession of endeavours. Of the first building that 
was raised, it might be with certainty determined that 
it was round or square ; but whether it was spacious or 
lofty must have been referred to time. The Pythagorean 
scale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect; 
but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend 
the common limits of human intelligence, but by 
remarking, that nation after nation, and century after 
century, has been able to do little more than transpose 
his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase 
his sentiments. 

The reverence due to writings that have long subsisted, 
arises therefore, not from any credulous confidence in 
the superior wisdom of past pages, or gloomy per- 
suasions of the degeneracy of mankind, but is the 
consequence of acknowledged and indubitable positions, 
that what has been longest known has been most 
considered, and what is most considered is best 

The poet, of whose works I have undertaken the 






revision, may now begin to assume the dignity of an 
ancient, and claim the privilege of an established fame 
and prescriptive veneration. He has long outlived his 
century, the term commonly fixed as the test of literary 
merit. Whatever advantages he might once derive from 
personal allusions, local customs, or temporary opin- 
ions, have for many years been lost; and every topick 
of merriment or motive of sorrow, which the modes of 
artificial life afforded him, now only obscure the scenes 
which they once illuminated. The effects of favour and 
competition are at an end; the tradition of his friend- 
ships and his enmities has perished; his works support 
no opinion with arguments, nor supply any faction with 
invectives ; they can neither indulge vanity, nor gratify 
malignity; but are read without any other reason than 
the desire of pleasure, and are therefore praised only as 
pleasure is obtained ; yet, thus unassisted by interest or 
passion, they have past through variations of taste and 
changes of manners, and, as they devolved from one 
generation to another, have received new honours at 
every transmission. 

But because human judgment, though it be gradually 
gaining upon certainty, never becomes infallible; and 
approbation, though long continued, may yet be only 
the approbation of prejudice or fashion ; it is proper to 
inquire, by what peculiarities of excellence Shakespeare 
has gained and kept the favour of his countrymen. 

Nothing can please many, and please long, but just 
representations of general nature. Particular manners 
can be known to few, and therefore few only can judge 
how nearly they are copied. The irregular combinations 
of fanciful invention may delight awhile, by that novelty 
of which the common satiety of life sends us all in quest ; 


the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and 
the mind can only repose on the stability of truth. 

Shakespeare is above all writers, at least above all 
modem writers, the poet of nature ; the poet that holds 
up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of 
life. His characters are not modified by the customs 
of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the 
world, by the peculiarities of studies or professions, 
which can operate but upon small numbers; or by the 
accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: 
they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, 
such as the world will always supply, and observation 
will always find. His persons act and speak by the 
influence of those general passions and principles by 
which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of 
life is continued in motion. In the writings of other 
poets a character is too often an individual ; in those of 
Shakespeare it is commonly a species. 

It is from this wide extension of design that so much 
instruction is derived. iLis this which fills the plays of 
Shakespeare with practical axioms and domestick 
wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse was 
a precept; and it may be said of Shakespeare, that 
from his works may be collected a system of civil and 
economical prudence. Yet his real power is not shown 
in the splendour of particular passages, but by the 
progress of his fable, and the tenor of his dialogue ; and 
he that tries to recommend him by select quotations, will 
succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he 
J ofl^ered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket 
as a specimen. 

It will not easily be imagined how much Shakespeare 
excels in accommodating his sentiments to real life, but 


by comparing him with other authors. It was observed 
of the ancient schools of declamation, that the more 
diligently they were frequented, the more was the 
student disqualified for the world, because he found 
nothing there which he should ever meet in any other 
place. The same remark may be applied to every stage 
but that of Shakespeare. The theatre, when it is under 
any other direction, is peopled by such characters as 
were never seen, conversing in a language which was 
never heard, upon topicks which will never arise in the 
commerce of mankind. But the dialogue of this author 
is often so evidently determined by the incident which 
produces it, and is pursued with so much ease and sim- 
plicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit of 
fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection 
out of common conversation, and common occur- 

Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by 
whose power all good and evil is distributed, and every 
action quickened or retarded. To bring a lover, a lady, 
and a rival into the fable; to entangle them in contra- 
dictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of 
interest, and harass them with violence of desires incon- 
sistent with each other; to make them meet in rapture, 
and part in agony ; to fill their mouths with hyperbolical 
joy and outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing 
human ever was distressed; to deliver them as nothing 
human ever was delivered, is the business of a modern 
dramatist. For this, probability is violated, life is 
misrepresented, and language is depraved. But love is 
only one of many passions, and as it has no great 
influence upon the sum of life, it has little operation in 
the dramas of a poet, who caught his ideas from the 


living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. 
He knew, that any other passion, as it was regular or 
^ exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity. 

Characters thus ample and general were not easily 
discriminated and preserved, yet perhaps no poet ever 
kept his personages more distinct from each other. I 
will not say with Pope, that every speech may be 
assigned to the proper speaker, because many speeches 
there were which have nothing characteristical ; but, 
perhaps, though some may be equally adapted to every 
person, it will be difficult to find any that can be properly 
transferred from the present possessor to another 
claimant. The choice is right, when there is reason 
for choice. 

Other dramatists can only gain attention by hyper- 
bolical or aggravated characters, by fabulous and 
unexampled excellence or depravity as the writers of 
barbarous romances invigorated the reader by a giant 
and a dwarf; and he that should form his expectation 
of human affairs from the play, or from the tale, would 
be equally deceived. Shakespeare has no heroes; his 
scenes are occupied only by men, who act and speak as 
the reader thinks that he should himself have spoken 
and acted on the same occasion: even where the agency 
is super-natural, the dialogue is level with life. Other 
writers disguise the most natural passions and most 
frequent incidents ; so that he who contemplates them 
j in the book will not know them in the world : Shakespeare 
I approximates the remote, and familiarizes the won- 
« derful; the event which he represents will not happen, 
but if it were possible, its eiff ects would probably be such 
as he has assigned ; and it may be said, that he has not 
only shown human nature as it acts in real exigencies, 


but as It would be found in trials, to which it cannot 
be exposed. 

This, therefore, is the praise of Shakespeare, that his 
drama is the mirror of life ; that he who has mazed his 
imagination, in following the phantoms which other 
writers raise up before him, may here be cured of his 
delirious ecstasies, by reading human sentiments in 
human language, by scenes from which a hermit may 
estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor 
predict the progress of the passions. 

His adherence to general nature has exposed him to the 
censure of criticks, who form their judgments upon 
narrow principles. Dennis and Rymer think his 
Romans not sufficiently Roman; and Voltaire censures 
his kings as not completely royal. Dennis is offended, 
that Menenius, a senator of Rome, should play the 
buffoon; and Voltaire perhaps thinks decency violated 
when the Danish usurper is represented as a drunkard. 
But Shakespeare always makes nature predominate over 
accidents; and if he preserves the essential character, 
is not very careful of distinctions superinduced and 
adventitious. His story requires Romans or kings, but 
he thinks only on men. He knew that Rome, like every 
other city, had men of all dispositions; and wanting a 
buffoon, he went into the senate-house for that 
which the senate-house would certainly have afforded 

He was inclined to show an usurper and a murderer not 
only odious, but despicable; he therefore added drunk- 
enness to his other qualities, knowing that kings love 
wine like other men, and that wine exerts its natural 
power upon kings. These are the petty cavils of petty 
minds ; a poet overlooks the casual distinction of country 


and condition, as a painter, satisfied with the figure, 
neglects the drapery. 
/ The censure which he has incurred by mixing comick 
and tragick scenes, as it extends to all his works, 
deserves more consideration. Let the fact be first 
stated, and then examined. 

Shakespeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical 
sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a 
distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary 
nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and 
sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and 
innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the 
course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain 
of another; in which, at the same time, the reveller is 
hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his 
friend; in which the malignity of one is sometimes 
defeated by the frolick of another; and many mis- 
chiefs and many benefits are done and hindered without 

Out of this chaos of mingled purposes and casualties 
the ancient poets, according to the laws which custom 
had prescribed, selected some the crimes of men, and 
some their absurdities : some the momentous vicissitudes 
of life, and some the lighter occurrences ; some the 
terrors of distress, and some the gayeties of prosperity. 
Thus rose the two modes of imitation, known by the 
names of tragedy and comedy, compositions intended to 
promote different ends by contrary means, and con- 
sidered as so little allied, that I do not recollect among 
the Greeks or Romans, a single writer who attempted 

Shakespeare has united the powers of exciting laughter 
and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition. 


Almost all his plays are divided between serious and 
ludicrous characters, and in the successive evolutions of 
the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, 
and sometimes levity and laughter. 

That this is a practice contrary to the rules of 
criticism will be readily allowed; but there is always an 

/appeal open from criticism to nature. The end of 
writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct 
by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all 
the instruction of tragedy or comedy cannot be denied, 
because it included both in its alternations of exhibition, 
and approaches nearer than either to the appearance 
of life, by showing how great machinations and slender 
designs may promote or obviate one another, and the 
high and the low co-operate in the general system of 
unavoidable concatenation. 

It is objected, that by this change of scenes the 
passions are interrupted in their progression, and that 
the principal event, being not advanced by a due grada- 
tion of preparatory incidents, wants at last the power 
to move, which constitutes the perfection of dramatick 
poetry. This reasoning is so specious, that it is received 
as true, even by those who in daily experience feel it to 
be false. The interchanges of mingled scenes seldom 
fail to produce the intended vicissitudes of passion. 

«^ Fiction cannot move so much, but that the attention 
may be easily transferred; and though it must be 
allowed that pleasing melancholy be sometimes inter- 
rupted by unwelcome levity, yet let it be considered 
likewise, that melancholy is often not pleasing, and that 
the disturbance of one man may be the relief of another ; 
that different auditors have different habitudes; and 
that, upon the whole, all pleasure consists in variety. 


The players, who in their edition divided our author's 
works into comedies, histories, and tragedies, seem not 
to have distinguished the three kinds, by any very exact 
or definite ideas. 

An action which ended happily to the principal per- 
sons, however serious or distressful through its inter- 
mediate incidents, in their opinion constituted a comedy. 
This idea of a comedy continued long amongst us, and 
plays were written, which, by changing the catastrophe, 
were tragedies to-day, and comedies to-morrow. 

Tragedy was not in those times a poem of more gen- 
eral dignity or elevation than comedy; it required only 
a calamitous conclusion, with which the common criti- 
cism of that age was satisfied, whatever lighter pleas- 
ure it afforded in its progress. 

History was a series of actions, with no other than 
chronological succession, dependent on each other, 
and without any tendency to introduce and regulate 
the conclusion. It is not always very nicely dis- 
tinguished from tragedy. There is not much nearer 
approach to unity of action in the tragedy of 
"Antony and Cleopatra," than in the history of 
"Richard the Second." But a history might be con- 
tinued through many plays; as it had no plan, it had 
no limits. 

Through all these denominations of the drama, 
Shakespeare's mode of composition is the same ; an inter- 
change of seriousness and merriment, by which the mind 
is softened at one time, and exhilarated at another. 
But whatever be his purpose, whether to gladden or 
depress, or to conduct the story, without vehemence or 
emotion, through tracts of easy and familiar dialogue, 
he never fails to attain his purpose; as he commands 


us, we laugh or mourn, or sit silent with quiet expecta- 
tion, in tranquillity without indifference. When Shake- 
speare's plan is understood, most of the criticisms 
of Rymer and Voltaire vanish away. The play of 
" Hamlet " is opened, without impropriety, by two 
centinels; I ago bellows at Brabantio's window, without 
injury to the scheme of the play, though in terms which 
a modern audience would not easily endure; the char- 
acter of Polonius is seasonable and useful; and the 
Gravediggers themselves may be heard with applause. 

Shakespeare engaged in dramatick poetry with the 
world open before him; the rules of the ancients were 
yet known to few; the publick judgment was unformed; 
he had no example of such fame as might force him 
upon imitation, nor criticks of such authority as might 
restrain his extravagance: he therefore indulged his 
natural disposition, and his disposition, as Rymer has ^ 
remarked, led him to comedy. In tragedy he often 
writes with great appearance of toil and study, what 
is written at last with little felicity; but in his comick 
scenes, he seems to produce without labour, what no 
labour can improve. In tragedy he is always struggling ^ 
after some occasion to be comick, but in comedy he 
seems to repose, or to luxuriate, as in a mode of thinking 
congenial to his nature. In his tragick scenes there is 
always something wanting, but his comedy often sur- 
passes expectation or desire. His comedy pleases by the 
thoughts and the language, and his tragedy for the 
greater part by incident and action. His tragedy 
seems to be skill, his comedy to be instinct. 

The force of his comick scenes has suffered little dimi- 
nution from the changes made by a century and a half, 
in manners or in words. As his personages act upon 


principles arising from genuine passion, very little 
modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexa- 
tions are communicable to all times and to all places ; 
they are natural, and therefore durable ; the adventitious 
peculiarities of personal habits, are only superficial dies, 
bright and pleasing for a little while, yet soon faded to 
a dim tint, without any remains of former lustre; and 
the discrimination of true passion are the colours of 
nature; they pervade the whole mass, and can only 
perish with the body that exhibits them. The accidental 
compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by 
the chance that combined them; but the uniform sim- 
plicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase, 
nor suff^ers decay. The sand heaped by one flood is 
scattered by another, but the rock always continues in 
its place. The stream of time, which is continually 
washing the dissoluble fabricks of other poets, passes 
without injury by the adamant of Shakespeare. 

If there be, what I believe there is, in every nation, a 
style which never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of 
phraseology so consonant and congenial to the analogy 
and principles of its respective language, as to remain 
settled and unaltered : this style is probably to be sought 
in the common intercourse of life, among those who 
speak only to be understood, without ambition of 
elegance. The polite are always catching modish inno- 
vations, and the learned depart from established forms 
of speech, in hope of finding or making better; those 
who wish for distinction forsake the vulgar, when the 
vulgar is right ; but there is a conversation above gross- 
ness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and 
where this poet seems to have gathered his comick 
dialogue. He is therefore, more agreeable to the ears 


of the present age, than any other author equally 
remote, and among his other excellencies deserves to 
be studied as one of the original masters of our 

These observations are to be considered not as unex- 
ceptionably constant, but as containing general and 
predominant truth. Shakespeare's familiar dialogue is 
affirmed to be smooth and clear, yet not wholly without 
ruggedness or difficulty ; as a country may be eminently 
fruitful, though it has spots unfit for cultivation: his 
characters are praised as natural, though their senti- 
ments are sometimes forced, and their actions im- 
probable; as the earth upon the whole is spherical, 
though its surface is varied with protuberances and 

Shakespeare, with his excellencies, has likewise faults, 
and faults sufficient to obscure and overwhelm any other 
merit. I shall show them in the proportion in which 
they appear to me, without envious malignity or super- 
stitious veneration. No question can be more innocently 
discussed than a dead poet's pretensions to renown ; and 
little regard is due to that bigotry which sets candour 
higher than truth. 

His first defect is that to which may be imputed most 
of the evil in books or in men. He sacrifices virtue to 
convenience, and is so much more careful to please than 
to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral 
purpose. From his writings indeed a system of social 
duty may be selected, for he that thinks reasonably 
must think morally; but his precepts and axioms drop 
casually from him; he makes no just distribution of 
good or evil, nor is always careful to show in the virtu- 
ous a disapprobation of the wicked; he carries his 


persons indifferently through right and wrong, and at 
the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves 
their examples to operate by chance. This fault the 
barbarity of his age cannot extenuate ; for it is always 
a writer's duty to make the world better, and justice is 
a virtue independent on time or place. 

The plots are often so loosely formed that a very 
slight consideration may improve them, and so care- 
lessly pursued, that he seems not always fully to 
comprehend his own design. He omits opportunities of 
instructing or delighting, which the train of his story 
seems to force upon him, and apparently rejects those 
exhibitions which would be more affecting, for the sake 
of those which are more easy. 

It may be observed, that in many of his plays, the latter 
part is evidently neglected. When he found himself 
near the end of his work, and in view of his reward, he 
shortened the labour to snatch the profit. He therefore 
remits his efforts where he should most vigorously exert 
them, and his catastrophe is improbably produced or 
imperfectly represented. 

He had no regard to distinction of time or place, but 
gives to one age or nation, without scruple, the customs, 
institutions, and opinions of another, at the expence not 
only of likelihood, but of possibility. These faults 
Pope has endeavoured, with more zeal than judgment, to 
transfer to his imagined interpolators. We need not 
wonder to find Hector quoting Aristotle, when we see the 
loves of Theseus and Hippolyta combined with the 
Gothick mythology of fairies. Shakespeare, indeed, 
was not the only violator of chronology, for in the same 
age Sidney, who wanted not the advantages of learning, 
has, in his " Arcadia," confounded the pastoral with the 


foudal times, the days of innocence, quiet, and security, 
with those of turbulence, violence, and adventure. 

In his comick scenes, he is seldom very successful, when 
he engages his characters in reciprocations of smart- 
ness and contests of sarcasm; their jests are commonly 
gross, and their pleasantry licentious ; neither his gen- 

* tlemen nor his ladies have much delicacy, nor are 
sufficiently distinguished from his clowns by any appear- 
ance of refined manners. Whether he represented the 
real conversation of his time is not easy to determine; 
the reign of Elizabeth is commonly supposed to have 
been a time of stateliness, formality, and reserve, yet 
perhaps, the relaxations of that severity were not very 
elegant. There must, however, have been always some 
modes of gaiety preferable to others, and a writer ought 
to choose the best. 

In tragedy his performance seems constantly to be 
worse, as his labour is more. The effusions of passion, 
which exigence forces out, are for the most part striking 
and energetick ; but whenever he solicits his invention, or 
strains his faculties, the offspring of his throes is 
tumour, meanness, tediousness, and obscurity. 
In narration he affects a disproportionate pomp of 

f diction, and a wearisome train of circumlocution, and 
telTs^ the incident imperfectly in many words, which 
might have been more plainly delivered in few. Narra- 
tion in dramatick poetry is naturally tedious, as it is 
unanimated and inactive, and obstructs the progress of 
the action; it should, therefore, always be rapid, and 
enlivened by frequent interruption. Shakespeare found 
it an incumbrance, and instead of lightening it by 
brevity, endeavoured to recommend it by dignity and 


His declamations or set speeches are commonly cold 
and weak, for his power was the power of nature ; when 
he endeavoured, like other tragic writers, to catch 
opportunities of amplification, and instead of inquiring 
what the occasion demanded, to show how much his 
stores of knowledge could supply, he seldom escapes 
without the pity or resentment of his reader. 

It is incident to him to be now and then entangled 
with an unwieldy sentiment, which he cannot well ex- 
press, and will not reject; he struggles with it a while, 
and if it continues stubborn, comprises it in words such 
as occur, and leaves it to be disentangled and evolved 
by those who have more leisure to bestow upon it. 

Not that always where the language is intricate, the 
thought is subtle, or the image always great where the 
line is bulky; the equality of words to things is very 
often neglected, and trivial sentiments and vulgar ideas 
disappoint the attention, to which they are recom- 
mended by sonorous epithets and swelling figures. 

But the admirers of this great poet have most reason 
to complain when he approaches nearest to his highest 
excellence, and seems fully resolved to sink them in 
dejection, and mollify them with tender emotions by 
the fall of greatness, the danger of innocence, or the 
crosses of love. What he does best, he soon ceases to 
do. He is not long soft and pathetick without some idle 
conceit, or contemptible equivocation. He no sooner 
begins to move, than he counteracts himself ; and terror 
and pity, as they are rising in the mind, are checked 
and blasted by sudden frigidity. 

A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapours 
are to the traveller; he follows it at all adventures; it 
is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf 


him in the mire. It has some malignant power over his 
mind, and its fascinations are irresistible. Whatever 
be the dignity or profundity of his disquisitions, 
whether he be enlarging knowledge, or exalting affec- 
tion, whether he be amusing attention with incidents, or 
enchaining it in suspense, let but a quibble spring up 
before him, and he leaves his work unfinished. A quibble 
is the golden apple for which he will always turn aside 
from his career, or stoop from his elevation. A quibble, 
poor and barren as it is, gave him such delight, that he 
was content to purchase it by the sacrifice of reason, 
propriety and truth. A quibble was to him the fatal 
Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content 
to lose it. 

It will be thought strange, that, in enumerating the 
defects of this writer, I have not yet mentioned his 
neglect of the unities ; his violation of those laws which 
have been instituted and established by the joint 
authority of poets and criticks. 

For his other deviations from the art of writing, I 

resign him to critical justice, without making any other 

demand in his favour than that which must be indulged 

\ to all human excellence ; that his virtues be rated with his 

failings : but, from the censure which this irregularity 

ay bring upon him, I shall, with due reverence to that 

earning which I must oppose, adventure to try how I 

an defend him. ^ 

His histories, being neither tragedies nor comedies, are 
ot subject to any of their laws; nothing is more 
ecessary to all the praise which they expect, than that 

*For the best discussion of this much vexed question see Prof, 
los. R. Lounsbury's " Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist," 
lapters I-III. 


the changes of action be so prepared as to be understood, 
that the incidents be various and affecting, and the 
characters consistent, natural, and distinct. No other 
unity is intended, and therefore none is to be sought. 

In his other works he has well enough preserved the 
unity of action. He has not, indeed, an intrigue 
regularly perplexed and regularly unravelled; he does 
not endeavour to hide his design only to discover it, for 
this is seldom the order of real events, and Shakespeare 
is the poet of nature: but his plan has commonly what 
Aristotle requires, a beginning, a middle, and an end; 
one event concatenated with another, and the con- 
clusion follows by easy consequence. There are, per- 
haps, some incidents ^ that might be spared, as in other 
poets there is much talk that only fills up time upon the 
stage ; but the general system makes gradual advances, 
and the end of the play is the end of expectation. 

To the unities of time and place, he has shown no 
regard ; and perhaps a nearer view of the principles on 
which they stand will diminish their value, and with- 
draw from the veneration which, from the time of 
Corneille, they have very generally received, by discov- 
ering that they have given more trouble to the poet, 
than pleasure to the auditor. 

The necessity of observing the unities of time and 
place arises from the supposed necessity of making the 
drama credible. The criticks hold it impossible that an 
action of months or years can be possibly believed to 
pass in three hours ; or that the spectator can suppose 
himself to sit in the theatre, while ambassadors go and 
return between distant kings, while armies are levied 
and towns besieged, while an exile wanders and returns, 
or till he whom they saw courting his mistress, shall 


lament the untimely fall of his son. The mind revolts 
from evident falsehood, and fiction loses its force when 
it departs from the resemblance of reality. 

From the narrow limitation of time necessarily arises 
the contraction of place. The spectator, who knows 
that he saw the first act at Alexandria, cannot suppose 
that he sees the next at Rome, at a distance to which not 
the dragons of Medea could, in so short a time, have 
transported him; he knows with certainty that he has 
not changed his place; and he knows that place cannot 
change itself; that what was a house cannot become a 
plain; that what was Thebes can never be Persepolis. 

Such is the triumphant language with which a 
critick exults over the misery of an irregular poet, and 
exults commonly without resistance or reply. It is 
time, therefore, to tell him, by the authority of Shake- 
speare, that he assumes, as an unquestionable principle, 
a position, which, while his breath is forming it into 
words, his understanding pronounces to be false. It is 
false, that any representation is mistaken for reality; 
that any dramatick fable in its materiality was ever 
credible, or, for a single moment, was ever credited. 

The objection arising from the impossibility of 
passing the first hour at Alexandria, and the next at 
Rome, supposes, that when the play opens, the spectator 
really imagines himself at Alexandria, and believes that 
his walk to the theatre has been a voyage to Egypt, and 
that he lives in the days of Antony and Cleopatra. 
Surely he that imagines this may imagine more. He 
that can take the stage at one time for the palace of 
the Ptolemies, may take it in half an hour for the prom- 
ontory of Actium. Delusion, if delusion be admitted, 
has no certain limitation; if the spectator can be once 



persuaded, that his old acquaintance are Alexander and 
Caesar, that a room illuminated with candles is the plain 
of Pharsalia, or the bank of Granicus, he is in a state of 
elevation above the reach of reason, or of truth, and 
from the heights of empyrean poetry, may despise the 
circumscriptions of terrestrial nature. There is no 
reason why a mind thus wandering in ecstacy should 
count the clock, or why an hour should not be a century 
in that calenture of the brains that can make the stage 
a field. 

The truth is, that the spectators are always in their 
senses, and know, from the first act to the last, that the 
stage is only a stage, and that the players are only 
players. They come to hear a certain number of lines 
recited with just gesture and elegant modulation. The 
lines relate to some action, and an action must be in 
some place; but the different actions that complete a 
story may be in places very remote from each other; 
and where is the absurdity of allowing that space to 
represent first Athens, and then Sicily, which was always 
known to be neither Sicily nor Athens, but a modern 

By supposition, as place is introduced, time may be 
extended ; the time required by the fable elapses, for the 
most part, between the acts; for, of so much of the 
action as is represented, the real and poetical duration 
is the same. If, in the first act, preparations for war 
against Mithridates are represented to be made in 
Rome, the event of the war may, without absurdity, be 
represented, in the catastrophe, as happening in Pontus ; 
we know that there is neither war, nor preparation for 
war ; we know that we are neither in Rome nor Pontus ; 
that neither Mithridates nor Lucullus are before us. 


The drama exhibits successive imitations of successive 
actions, and why may not the second imitation repre- 
sent an action that happened years after the first ; if it 
be so connected with it, that nothing but time can be 
supposed to intervene? Time is, of all modes of exist- 
ence, most obsequious to the imagination; a lapse of 
years is as easily conceived as a passage of hours. In 
contemplation we easily contract the time of real actions, 
and therefore, willingly permit it to be contracted when 
we only see their imitation. 

It will be asked, how the drama moves, if it is not 
credited. It is credited with all the credit due to a 
drama. It is credited, whenever it moves, as a just 
picture of a real original ; as representing to the auditor 
what he would himself feel, if he were to do or suffer 
what is there feigned to be suffered or to be done. The 
reflection that strikes the heart is not, that the evils 
before us are real evils, but that they are evils to which 
we ourselves may be exposed. If there be any fallacy, 
it is not that we fancy the players, but that we fancy 
ourselves unhappy for a moment ; but we rather lament 
the possibility than suppose the presence of misery, as a 
mother weeps over her babe, when she remembers that 
death may take it from her. The delight of tragedy 
proceeds from our consciousness of fiction; if we 
thought murders and treasons real, they would please 
no more. 

Imitations produce pain or pleasure, not because they 
are mistaken for realities, but because they bring 
realities to mind. When the imagination is recreated 
by a painted landscape, the trees are not supposed 
capable to give us shade, or the fountains coolness ; but 
we consider, how we should be pleased with such 


fountains jdaying beside us, and such woods waving 
over us. We are agitated in reading the History of 
*' Henry the Fifth," yet no man takes his book for the 
field of Agincourt. A dramatick exhibition is a book 
recited with concomitants that increase or diminish its 
effect. Famihar comedy is often more powerful on 
the theatre than in the page ; imperial tragedy is always 
less. The humour of Petruchio may be heightened by 
grimace; but what voice or what gesture can hope to 
add dignity or force to the soliloquy of Cato? 

A play read, affects the mind like a play acted. It is 
therefore evident that the action is not supposed to be 
real; and it follows, that between the acts a longer or 
shorter time may be allowed to pass, and that no more 
account of space or duration is to be taken by the 
auditor of a drama, than by the reader of a narrative, 
before whom may pass in an hour the life of a hero, or 
the revolutions of an empire. 

Whether Shakespeare knew the unities, and rejected 
them by design, or deviated from them by happy ignor- 
ance, it is, I think, impossible to decide, and useless to 
enquire. We may reasonably suppose, that, when he 
rose to notice, he did not want the counsels and admoni- 
tions of scholars and criticks, and that he at last 
deliberately persisted in a practice, which he might 
have begun by chance. 

As nothing is essential to the fable, but unity of 
action, and as the unities of time and place arise 
evidently from false assumptions, and, by circum- 
scribing the extent of the drama, lessen its variety, I 
cannot think it much to be lamented that they were not 
known by him, or not observed : nor, if such another poet 
could arise, should I very vehemently reproach him, that 


his first act passed at Venice, and his next in Cyprus. 

Such violations of rules merely positive, became the 

comprehensive genius of Shakespeare, and such 

censures are suitable to the minute and slender 

criticism of Voltaire: 

" Non usque adeo permiscuit imis 
Longus summa dies, ut non, si voce MetelK 
Serventure leges, malint a Cwsare tolli.'* 

Yet when I speak thus slightly of dramatick rules, I 
cannot but recollect how much wit and learning may be 
produced against me; before such authorities I am 
afraid to stand, not that I think the present question 
one of those that are to be decided by mere authority, 
but because it is to be suspected that these precepts 
have not been so easily received, but for better reasons 
than I have yet been able to find. The result of my 
inquiries. In which It would be ludicrous to boast of 
Impartiality, Is that the unities of time and place are 
not essential to a just drama, that though they may 
sometimes conduce to pleasure, they are always to be 
sacrificed to the nobler beauties of variety and instruc- 
tion; and that a play, written with nice observation of 
critical rules, Is to be contemplated as an elaborate 
curiosity, as the product of superfluous and ostentatious 
art, by which Is shown, rather what is possible, than 
what Is necessary. 

He that, without diminution of any other excellence, 
shall preserve all the unities unbroken, deserves the 
like applause with the architect, who shall display all 
the orders of architecture In a citadel, without any 
deduction from Its strength; but the principal beauty 
of a citadel is to exclude the enemy; and the greatest 
graces of a play are to copy nature and instruct life. 


Perhaps, what I have here not dogmatically but delib- 
erately written, may recall the principles of the drama 
to a new examination. I am almost frightened at my 
own temerity; and when I estimate the fame and the 
strength of those that maintain the contrary opinion, 
am ready to sink down in reverential silence; as ^neas 
withdrew from the defence of Troy, when he saw 
Neptune shaking the wall, and Juno heading the 

Those whom my arguments cannot persuade to give 
their approbation to the judgment of Shakespeare, will 
easily, if they consider the condition of his life, make 
some allowance for his ignorance. 

Every man's performances, to be rightly estimated, 
must be compared to the state of the age in which he 
lived, and with his own particular opportunities; and 
though to a reader a book be not worse or better for the 
circumstances of the author, yet as there is always a 
silent reference of human works to human abilities, and 
as the enquiry, how far man may extend his designs, or 
how high he may rate his native force, is of far greater 
dignity than in what rank we shall place any particular 
performance, curiosity is always busy to discover the 
instruments, as well as to survey the workmanship, to 
know how much is to be ascribed to original powers, and 
how much to casual and adventitious help. The palaces 
of Peru or Mexico were certainly mean and incom- 
modious habitations, if compared to the houses of 
European monarchs; yet who could forbear to view 
them with astonishment, who remembered that they 
were built without the use of iron.? 

The English nation, in the time of Shakespeare, was 
yet struggling to emerge from barbarity. The phi- 


lology of Italy had been translated hither in the reign 
of Henry the Eighth; and the learned languages had 
been successfully cultivated by Lilly, Linacre, and 
More; by Pole, Cheke, and Gardiner; and afterwards 
by Smith, Clerk, Haddon, and Ascham. Greek was 
now taught to boys in the principal schools ; and those 
who united elegance with learning, read, with great 
diligence, the Italian and Spanish poets. But literature 
was yet confined to professed scholars, or to men and 
women of high rank. The publick was gross and dark ; 
and to be able to read and write was an accomplish- 
ment still valued for its rarity. 

Nations, like individuals, have their infancy. A people 
newly awakened to literary curiosity, being yet un- 
acquainted with the true state of things, knows not 
how to judge of that which is proposed as its resem- 
blance. Whatever is remote from common appearances 
is always welcome to vulgar, as to childish credulity; 
and of a country unenlightened by learning, the whole 
people is the vulgar. The study of those who then as- 
pired to plebeian learning was laid out upon adventures, 
giants, dragons, and enchantments. The " Death of 
Arthur " was the favourite volume. 

The mind, which has feasted on the luxurious wonders 
of fiction, has no taste for the insipidity of truth. A 
play, which imitated only the common occurrences of 
the world, would, upon the admirers of Palmerin and 
Guy of Warwick, have made little impression ; he that 
wrote for such an audience was under the necessity of 
looking round for strange events and fabulous trans- 
actions, and that incredibility, by which maturer 
knowledge is offended, was the chief recommendation 
of writings to unskilful curiosity. 


Our author's plots are generally borrowed from 
novels; and it is reasonable to suppose that he chose 
the most popular, such as were read by many, and 
related by more; for his audience could not have 
followed him through the intricacies of the drama, had 
they not held the thread of the story in their hands. 

The stories, which we now find only in remoter authors, 
were in his time accessible and familiar. The fable of 
" As You Like It," which is supposed to be copied from 
Chaucer's " Gamelyne," ^ was a little pamphlet of those 
times; and old Mr. Cibber remembered the tale of 
" Hamlet " in plain English prose, which the criticks 
have now to seek in Saxo Grammaticus. 

His English histories he took from English chroni- 
cles and English ballads;^ and as the ancient writers 
were made known to his countrymen by versions, they 
supplied him with new subjects; he dilated some of Plu- 
tarch's lives into plays, when they had been translated 
by North. 

His plots, whether historical or fabulous, are always 
crowded with incidents, by which the attention of a rude 
people was more easily caught than by sentiment or 
argumentation ; and such is the power of the marvellous, 
even over those who despise it, that every man finds his 
mind more strongly seized by the tragedies of Shake- 
speare than of any other writer; others please us by 
particular speeches, but he always makes us anxious 
for the event, and has perhaps excelled all but Homer 
in securing the first purpose of a writer, by exciting 

"The foundation of "As You Like It" was Thos. Lodge's 
novel " Rosalynde or Euphues Legacy.'* 

'Except "King John" which was based upon an old play by 
John Bale entitled "The Troublesome Raigne of King John," a 
l>itter tractate against the papacy. 


restless and unquenchable curiosity, and compelling him 
that reads his work to read it through. 

The shows and bustle with which his plays abound 
have the same original. As knowledge advances, pleas- 
ure passes from the eye to the ear but returns, as it 
declines, from the ear to the eye. Those to whom our 
author's labours were exhibited had more skill in pomps 
or processions than in poetical language, and perhaps 
wanted some visible and discriminated events, as com- 
ments on the dialogue. He knew how he should most 
please; and whether his practice is more agreeable to 
nature, or whether his example has prejudiced the 
nation, we still find that on our stage something must 
be done as well as said, and inactive declamation is very 
coldly heard, however musical or elegant, passionate or 

Voltaire expresses his wonder, that our author's ex- 
travagances are endured by a nation which has seen 
the tragedy of " Cato." Let him be answered, that Addi- 
son speaks the language of poets, and Shakespeare of 
men. We find in " Cato " innumerable beauties which 
enamour us of its author, but we see nothing that 
acquaints us with human sentiments or human actions ; 
fwe place it with the fairest and the noblest progeny 
which judgment propagates by conjunction with learn- 
ing ; but " Othello " is the vigorous and vivacious off- 
spring of observation impregnated by genius. " Cato " 
affords a splendid exhibition of artificial and fictitious 
manners, and delivers just and noble sentiments, in dic- 
tion easy and harmonious, but its hopes and fears com- 
municate no vibration to the heart; the composition 
refers us only to the writer; we pronounce the name of 
" Cato," but we think on Addison. 


The work of a correct and regular writer is a garden 
accurately formed and diligently planted, varied with 
shades, and scented with flowers: the composition of 
Shakespeare is a forest, in which oaks extend their 
branches, and pines tower in the air, interspersed some- 
times with the weeds and brambles, and sometimes 
giving shelter to myrtles and to roses; filling the eye 
with awful pomp and gratifying the mind with endless 
diversity. Other poets display cabinets of precious 
rarities, minutely finished, wrought into shape, and 
polished into brightness. Shakespeare opens a mine 
which contains gold and diamonds in unexhaustible 
plenty, though clouded by incrustations, debased by im- 
purities, and mingled with a mass of meaner minerals. 

It has been much disputed, whether Shakespeare owed 
his excellence to his own native force, or whether he had 
the common helps of scholastic education, the precepts 
of critical science, and the examples of ancient authors. 

There has always prevailed a tradition, that Shake- 
speare wanted learning, that he had no regular education 
nor much skill in the dead languages. Jonson, his friend, 
affirms that he had small Latin, and less Greek; who, 
besides that he had no imaginable temptation to false- 
hood, wrote at a time when the character and acquisi- 
tions of Shakespeare were known to multitudes. His 
evidence ought, therefore, to decide the controversy, 
unless some testimony of equal force could be opposed. 

Some have imagined that they have discovered deep 
learning in imitation of old writers; but the examples 
which I have known urged, were drawn from books 
translated in his time; or were such easy coincidences 
of thought, as will happen to all who consider the same 
subjects ; or such remarks on life or axioms of mortality 


as float in conversation, and are transmitted through 
the world in proverbial sentences. 

I have found it remarked, that, in this important sen- 
tence, " Go before, I'll follow," we read a translation 
of, / 'prae sequar, I have been told, that when Caliban, 
after a pleasing dream, says, " I cried to sleep again," 
the author imitates Anacreon, who had, like every other 
man the same wish on the same occasion. 

There are a few passages which may pass for imita- 
tion, but so few, that the exception only confirms the 
rule; he obtained them from accidental quotations, or 
by oral communication, and as he used what he had, 
would have used more if he had obtained it. 

" The Comedy of Errors " is confessedly taken from 
the " Menaechmi " of Plautus ; from the only play of 
Plautus which was then in English. What can be more 
probable, than that he who copied that, would have 
copied more ; but that those which were not translated 
were inaccessible? 

Whether he knew the modern languages is uncertain. 
That his plays have some French scenes proves but 
little; he might easily procure them to be written, and 
probably, even though he had known the language in 
the common degree, he could not have written it without 
assistance. In the story of " Romeo and Juliet " he 
is observed to have followed the English translation, 
where it deviates from the Italian; but this on the 
other part proves nothing against his knowledge of 
the original. He was to copy, not what he knew him- 
self, but what was known to his audience. 

It is most likely that he had learned Latin sufficiently 
to make him acquainted with construction, but that he 
never advanced to an easy perusal of the Roman 


authors. Concerning his skill in modem languages, I 
can find no sufficient ground of determination; but as 
no imitations of French or Italian authors have been 
discovered, though the Italian poetry was then in high 
esteem, I am inclined to believe, that he read little more 
than English, and chose for his fables only such tales 
as he found translated. 

That much knowledge is scattered over his works is 
very justly observed by Pope, but it is often such 
knowledge as books did not supply. He that will 
understand Shakespeare, must not be content to study 
him in the closet, he must look for his meaning some- 
times among the sports of the field, and sometimes 
among the manufactures of the shop. 

There is, however, proof enough that he was a very 
diligent reader, nor was our language then so indigent of 
books, but that he might very liberally indulge his curi- 
osity without excursions into foreign literature. Many 
of the Roman authors were translated, and some of the 
Greek; the Reformation had filled the kingdom with 
theological learning ; most of the topicks of human dis- 
quisition had found English writers; and poetry had 
been cultivated, not only with diligence, but success. 
This was a stock of knowledge sufficient for a mind so 
capable of appropriating and improving it. 

But the greater part of his excellence was the 
product of his own genius. He found the English 
stage in a state of the utmost rudeness; no essays 
either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from which 
it could be discovered to what degree of delight either 
one or the other might be carried. Neither character 
nor dialogue were yet understood. Shakespeare may 
be truly said to have introduced them both amongst us, 


and in some of his happier scenes to have carried them 
both to the utmost height. 

By what gradations of improvement he proceeded, is 
not easily known; for the chronology of his works is 
yet unsettled. Rowe is of opinion that perhaps we 
are not to look for his beginning, like those of other 
writers, in his least perfect works ; art had so little, and 
nature so large a share in what he did, that for aught I 
know, says he, the performances of his youth, as they 
were the most vigorous, were the best. But the power 
of nature is only the power of using to any certain 
purpose the materials which diligence procures or 
opportunity supplies. Nature gives no man knowledge, 
and when images are collected by study and experience, 
can only assist in combining or applying them. Shake- 
speare, however, favoured by nature, could impart only 
what he had learned ; and as he must increase his ideas, 
like other mortals, by gradual acquisition he, like them, 
grew wiser as he grew older, could display life better, 
as he knew it more, and instruct with more efficacy, as 
he was himself more amply instructed. 

There is a vigilance of observation and accuracy of 
distinction which books and precepts cannot confer; 
from this almost all original and native excellence 
proceeds. Shakespeare must have looked upon man- 
kind with perspicacity, in the highest degree curious 
and attentive. Other writers borrow their characters 
from preceding writers, and diversify them only hj the 
accidental appendages of present manners; the dress 
is a little varied, but the body is the same. Our author 
had both matter and form to provide; for, except the 
characters of Chaucer, to whom I think he is not much 
indebted, there were no writers in English, and perhaps 




not many in other modern languages, which showed 
hfe in its native colours. 

The contest about the original benevolence or malig- 
nity of man, had not yet commenced. Speculation had 
not yet attempted to analyse the mind, to trace the 
passions to their sources, to unfold the seminal prin- 
ciples of vice and virtue, or sound the depths of the 
heart for the motives of action. All those enquiries, 
which from that time that human nature became the 
fashionable study, have been made sometimes with nice 
discernment, but often with idle subtilty, were yet unat- 
tempted. The tales, with which the infancy of learn- 
ing was satisfied, exhibited only the superficial 
appearances of action, related the events, but omitted 
the causes, and were formed for such as delighted in 
wonders rather than in truth. Mankind was not then 
to be studied in the closet; he that would know the 
world, was under the necessity of gleaning his own 
remarks by mingling as he could in its business and 

Boyle congratulated himself upon his high birth, 
because it favoured his curiosity, by facilitating his 
access. Shakespeare had no such advantage; he came 
to London a needy adventurer, and lived for a time by 
very mean employments. Many works of genius and 
learning have been performed in states of life that 
appear very little favourable to thought or to enquiry ; 
so many, that he who considers them is inclined to think 
that he sees enterprise and perseverance predominating 
over all external agency, and bidding help and hin- 
drance vanish before them. The genius of Shakespeare 
was not to be depressed by the weight of poverty nor 
limited by the narrow conversation to which men in 


want are inevitably condemned; the incumbrances of 
his fortune were shaken from his mind, as dew-drops 
from a lion's mane. 

Though he had so many difficulties to encounter, and 
so little assistance to surmount them, he has been able 
to obtain an exact knowledge of many modes of Hfe, 
and many casts of native dispositions; to vary them 
with great multiplicity; to mark them by nice dis- 
tinctions ; and to show them in full view by proper 
combinations. In this part of his performances he had 
none to imitate, but has himself been imitated by all 
succeeding writers ; and it may be doubted whether from 
all his successors more maxims of theoretical knowledge, 
or more rules of practical prudence, can be collected, 
than he alone has given to his country. 

Nor was his attention confined to the actions of men; 
he was an exact surveyor of the inanimate world; his 
descriptions have always some peculiarities, gathered 
by contemplating things as they really exist. It may 
be observed that the earUest poets of many nations 
preserve their reputation, and that the following gen- 
erations of wit, after a short celebrity, sink into 
oblivion. The first, whoever they be, must take their 
sentiments and descriptions immediately from knowl- 
edge; the resemblance is therefore just, their descrip- 
tions are verified by every eye, and their sentiments 
acknowledged by every breast. Those whom their fame 
invites to the same studies^ copy partly them, and partly 
nature, till the books of one age gain such authority, as 
to stand in the place of nature to another, and imitation, 
always deviating a little, becomes at last capricious and 
casual. Shakespeare, whether life or nature be his 
subject, shows plainly that he has seen with his own 


eyes; he gives the image which he receives, not weak- 
ened or distorted by the intervention of any other 
mind; the ignorant feel his representations to be just, 
and the learned see that they are complete. 

Perhaps it would not be easy to find any author, except 
Homer, who invented so much as Shakespeare, who so 
much advanced the studies which he cultivated, or 
effused so much novelty upon his age or country. The 
form, the character, the language, and the shows of 
the English drama are his. " He seems," says Dennis, 
" to have been the very original of our English tragical 
harmony, that is, the harmony of blank verse, diversified 
often by dissyllable and trissyllable terminations. For 
the diversity distinguishes it from heroick harmony, 
and by bringing it nearer to common use makes it more 
proper to gain attention, and more fit for action and 
dialogue. Such verse we make when we are writing 
prose; we make such verse in common conversation." 

I know not whether this praise is rigorously just. The 
dissyllable termination, which the critick rightly appro- 
priates to the drama, is to be found, though I think not 
in Gorboduc, * which is confessedly before our author; 
yet in Hieronymo, ^ of which the date is not certain, 
but which there is reason to believe at least as old as his 
earliest plays. This, however, is certain, that he is the 
first who taught either tragedy or comedy to please, 
there being no theatrical piece of any older writer, of 
which the name is known, except to antiquaries and col- 

*"Gorboduc, or Ferrex and PoUex," the first tragedy written in 
the English tongue; by Thos. Norton and Thos. Sackville. The 
latter became Earl of Dorset and Lord High Treasurer of 
England. The tragedy was performed as early as 1561 and 
published in 1565. 

''By Thos. Kyd. 


lectors of books, which are sought because they are 
scarce, and would not have been scarce, had they been 
much esteemed. 

To him we must ascribe the praise, unless Spenser 
may divide it with him, of having first discovered to how 
much smoothness and harmony the English language 
could be softened. He has speeches, perhaps sometimes 
scenes, which have all the delicacy of Rowe, without his 
effeminacy. He endeavours indeed commonly to strike 
by the force and vigour of his dialogue, but he never 
executes his purpose better than when he tries to sooth 
by softness. 

Yet it must be at last confessed, that as we owe every- 
thing to him, he owes something to us ; that, if much of 
his praise is paid by perception and judgment, much is 
likewise given by custom and veneration. We fix our 
eyes upon his graces, and turn them from his deformi- 
ties, and endure in him what we should in another loath 
or despise. If we endure without praising, respect for 
the father of our drama might excuse us; but I have 
seen, in the book of some modem critick, a collection of 
anomalies, which show that he has corrupted language 
by every mode of depravation, but which his admirer 
has accumulated as a monument of honour. 

He has scenes of undoubted and perpetual excellence, 
but perhaps not one play, which, if it were now exhib- 
ited as the work of a contemporary writer, would be 
heard to the conclusion. I am indeed far from think- 
ing that his works were wrought to his own ideas of 
perfection; when they were such as would satisfy the 
audience, they satisfied the writer. It is seldom that 
authors, though more studious of fame than Shake- 
speare, rise much above the standard of their own age ; 


to add a little to what is best will always be sufficient 
for present praise, and those who find themselves 
exalted into fame, are willing to credit their encomiasts-, 
and to spare the labour of contending with themselves. 

It does not appear that Shakespeare thought his 
works worthy of their posterity, that he levied any ideal 
tribute upon future times, or had any further prospects 
than of present popularity and present profit. When 
his plays had been acted his hope was at an end; he 
solicited no addition of honour from the reader. He 
therefore made no scruple to repeat the same jests in 
many dialogues, or to entangle different plots by the 
same knot of perplexity, which may be at least forgiven 
him, by those who recollect, that of Congreve's four 
comedies, two are concluded by a marriage in a mask; 
by a deception, which perhaps never happened, and 
which, whether likely or not, he did not invent. 

So careless was this great poet of future fame, that, 
though he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet 
little declined into the vale of years, before he could be 
disgusted with fatigue, or disabled by infirmity, he 
made no collection of his works, nor desired to rescue 
those that had been already published from the deprava- 
tions that obscured them, or secure to the rest a better 
destiny, by giving them to the world in their genuine 

Of the plays which bear the name of Shakespeare in 
the late editions, the greater part were not published 
till about seven years after his death, and the few which 
appeared in his life, are apparently thrust into the 
world without the care of the author, and therefore 
probably without his knowledge. 

Of all the publishers, clandestine or professed, the 


negligence and unskilfulness has by the late revisers, 
been sufficiently shown. The faults of all are indeed 
numerous and gross, and have not only corrupted many 
passages perhaps beyond recovery, but have brought 
others into suspicion, which are only obscured by obso- 
lete phraseology, or by the writer's unskilfulness and 
affectation. To alter is more easy than to explain, and 
temerity is a more common quality than diligence. 
Those who saw that they must employ conjecture to a 
certain degree, were willing to indulge it a little further. 
Had the author published his own works, we should 
have sat quietly down to disentangle his intricacies, 
and clear his obscurities; but now we tear what we 
cannot loose, and eject what we happen not to un- 

The faults are more than could have happened without 
the concurrence of many causes. The style of Shake- 
speare was in itself ungrammatical, perplexed, and 
obscure; his works were transcribed for the players by 
those who may be supposed to have seldom understood 
them; they were transmitted by copiers equally 
unskilful, who still multiplied errors; they were, per- 
haps, sometimes mutilated by the actors, for the sake of 
shortening the speeches; and were at last printed 
without correction of the press. 

In this state they remained, not as Dr. Warburton 
supposed, because they were unregarded, but because 
the editor's art was not yet applied to modem 
languages, and our ancestors were accustomed to so 
much negligence of English printers, that they could 
very patiently endure it. At last an edition was under- 
taken by Rowe ; not because a poet was to be published 
by a poet, for Rowe seems to have thought very little on 



correction or explanation, but that our author's works 
might appear like those of his fraternity, with the 
appendages of a life and recommendatory preface. 
Rowe has been clamorously blamed for not performing 
what he did not undertake, and it is time that justice be 
done him, by confessing, that though he seems to have 
had no thought of corruption beyond the printer's 
errors, yet he has made many emendations, if they were 
not made before, which his successors have received 
without acknowledgment, and which, if they had pro- 
duced them, would have filled pages and pages with 
censures of the stupidity by which the faults were com- 
mitted, with displays of the absurdities which they 
involved, with ostentatious expositions of the new read- 
ing, and self-congratulations on the happiness of 
discovering it. 

As of the other editors I have preserved the prefaces, 
I have likewise borrowed the author's life from Rowe, 
though not written with much elegance or spirit; it 
relates, however, what is now to be known, and therefore 
deserves to pass through all succeeding publications. 

The nation had been, for many years, content enough 
with Mr. Rowe's performance, when Mr. Pope made 
them acquainted with the true state of Shakespeare's 
text, showed that it was extremely corrupt, and gave 
reason to hope that there was means of reforming it. 
Pie collated the old copies, which none had thought to 
examine before, and restored many lines to their integ- 
rity; but, by a very compendious criticism, he rejected 
whatever he disliked, and thought more of amputation 
than of cure. 

I know not why he is commended by Dr. Warburton 
for distinguishing the genuine from the spurious plays. 


In this choice he exerted no judgment of his own; the 
plays which he received, were given to Hemings and 
Condel, the first editors; and those which he rejected; 
though, according to the Hcentiousness of the press in 
those times, they were printed during Shakespeare's 
life, with his name, had been omitted by his friends, and 
were never added to his works before the edition of 
1664, from which they were copied by the latter 

This was a work which Pope seems to have thought 
unworthy of his abilities, being not able to suppress his 
contempt of the dull duty of an editor. He understood 
but half his undertaking. The duty of a collator is 
indeed dull, yet like other tedious tasks is very neces- 
sary ; but an emendatory critick would ill discharge his 
duty, without qualities very different from dullness. 
In perusing a corrupted piece, he must have before him 
all possibilities of meaning, with all possibilities 
of expression. Such must be his comprehension of 
thought, and such his copiousness of language. Out of 
many readings possible, he must be able to select that 
which best suits with the state, opinions, and modes of 
language prevailing in every age, and with his author's 
particular cast of thought and turn of expression. 
Such must be his knowledge, and such his taste. Con- 
jectural criticism demands more than humanity pos- 
sesses, and he that exercises it with most praise, has 
very frequent need of indulgence. Let us now be told 
no more of the dull duty of an editor. Confidence is the 
common consequence of success. They whose excellence 
of any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to 
conclude that their powers are universal. Pope's edition 
fell below his own expectations, and he was so much 


offended, when he was found to have left any thing for 
others to do, that he passed the latter part of his life 
in a state of hostility with verbal criticism. 

I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of so 
great a writer may be lost ; his preface, valuable alike 
for elegance of composition and justness of remark, 
and containing a general criticism on his author, so 
extensive that little can be added, and so exact that 
little can be disputed, every editor has an interest to 
suppress, but that every reader would demand its 

Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of narrow 
comprehension, and small acquisitions, with no native 
and intrinsick splendour of genius, with little of the 
artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute 
accuracy, and not negligent in pursuing it. He col- 
lated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A 
man so anxiously scrupulous might have been expected 
to do more, but what little he did was commonly 

In his report of copies and editions he is not to be 
trusted without examination. He speaks sometimes 
indefinitely of copies, when he has only one. In his 
enumeration of editions, he mentions the first two 
folios as of high, and the third folio as of middle author- 
ity; but the truth is, that the first is equivalent to all 
others, and that the rest only deviate from it by the 
printer's negligence. Whoever has any of the folios, 
has all, excepting those diversities which mere reitera- 
tion of editions will produce. I collated them all at the 
beginning, but afterwards used only the first. 

Of his notes I have generally retained those which he 
retained himself in his second edition, except when they 


were confuted by subsequent annotators, or were too 
minute to merit preservation. I have sometimes adopted 
his restoration of a comma, without inserting the 
panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his 

The exuberant excrescence of his diction I have often 
lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and 
Rowe I have sometimes suppressed, and his contemptible 
ostentation I have frequently concealed; but I have in 
some places shown him, as he would have shown himself, 
for the reader's diversion, that the inflated emptiness of 
some notes may justify or excuse the contraction of 
the rest. 

Theobald, thus weak and ignorant, thus mean and 
faithless, thus petulant and ostentatious, by the good 
luck of having Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and 
escaped alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. 
So willingly does the world support those who solicit 
favour, against those who command reverence; and so 
easily is he praised, whom no man can envy. 

Our author fell then into the hands of Sir Thomas 
Hanmer, the Oxford editor, a man, in my opinion, emi- 
nently qualified by nature for such studies. He had, 
what is the first requisite to emendatory criticism, that 
intuition by which the poet's intention is immediately dis- 
covered, and that dexterity of intellect which despatches 
its work by the easiest means. He had undoubtedly 
read much; his acquaintance with customs, opinions, 
and traditions, seems to have been large ; and he is often 
learned without show. He seldom passes what he does 
not understand, without an attempt to find or to make a 
meaning, and some times hastily makes what a little 
more attention would have found. He is solicitous to 



reduce to grammar, what he could not be sure that his 
author intended to be grammatical. Shakespeare 
regarded more the series of ideas, than of words; and 
his language, not being designed for the reader's desk, 
was all that he desired it to be, if it conveyed his 
meaning to the audience. 

Hanmer's care of the metre has been too violently 
censured. He found the measure reformed in so many 
passages, by the silent labours of some editors, with 
the silent acquiescence of the rest, that he thought him- 
self allowed to extend a little further the licence, which 
had already been carried so far without reprehension; 
and of his corrections in general, it must be confessed, 
that they are often just, and made commonly with the 
least possible violation of the text. 

But, by inserting his emendations, whether invented 
or borrowed, into the page, without any notice of vary- 
ing copies, he has appropriated the labour of his 
predecessors, and made his own edition of little 
authority. His confidence, indeed, both in himself and 
others, was too great ; he supposed all to be right that 
was done by Pope and Theobald; he seems not to sus- 
pect a critick of fallibility, and it was but reasonable 
that he should claim what he so liberally granted. 

As he never writes without careful enquiry and dili- 
gent consideration, I have received all his notes, and 
believe that every reader will wish for more. 

Of the last editor it is more difficult to speak. Respect 
is due to high place, tenderness to Hving reputation, 
and veneration to genius and learning ; but he cannot be 
justly offended at the liberty of which he has himself so 
frequently given an example, nor very solicitous what 
is thought of notes, which he ought never to have con- 


sidered as part of his serious employment, and which, I 
suppose, since the ardour of composition is remitted, he 
no longer numbers among his happy effusions. 

The original and predominant error of his com- 
mentary is acquiescence in his first thoughts ; that pre- 
cipitation which is produced by consciousness of quick 
discernment; and that confidence which presumes to do, 
by surveying the surface, what labour only can per- 
form, by penetrating the bottom. His notes exhibit 
sometimes perverse interpretations, and sometimes im- 
probable conjectures; he at one time gives the author 
more profundity of meaning than the sentence admits, 
and at another discovers absurdities, where the sense is 
plain to every other reader. But his emendations are 
hkewise often happy and just; and his interpretation of 
obscure passages learned and sagacious. 

Of his notes, I have commonly rejected those, against 
which the general voice of the publick has exclaimed, or 
which their own incongruity immediately condemns, and 
which, I suppose the author himself would desire to be 
forgotten. Of the rest, to part I have given the highest 
approbation, by inserting the offered reading in the 
text; part I have left to the judgment of the reader, 
as doubtful, though specious ; and part I have censured 
without reserve, but I am sure without bitterness of 
malice, and, I hope, without wantonness of insult. 

It is no pleasure to me, in revising my volumes, to 
observe how much paper is wasted in confutation. 
Whoever considers the revolutions of learning, and the 
various questions of greater or less importance, upon 
which wit and reason have exercised their powers, must 
lament the unsuccessfulness of enquiry, and the slow 
advances of truth, when he reflects, that great part of 


the labour of every writer is only the destruction of 
those that went before him. The first care of the 
builder of a new system is to demolish the fabricks 
which are standing. The chief desire of him that 
comments an author, is to show how much other 
commentators have corrupted and obscured him. The 
opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the reach 
of controversy, are confuted and rejected in another, 
and rise again to reception in remoter times. Thus the 
human mind is kept in motion without progress. Thus 
sometimes truth and error, and sometimes contrarieties 
of error, take each other's place by reciprocal invasion. 
The tide of seeming knowledge which is poured over 
one generation, retires and leaves another naked and 
barren ; the sudden meteors of intelligence, which for a 
while appear to shoot their beams into the regions of 
obscurity, on a sudden withdraw their lustre, and leave 
mortals again to grope their way. 

These elevations and depressions of renown, and the 
contradictions to which all improvers of knowledge must 
for ever be exposed, since they are not escaped by the 
highest and brightest of mankind, may surely be 
endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who 
can rank themselves but as the satellites of their 
authors. How canst thou beg for life, says Homer's 
hero to his captive, when thou knowest that thou art 
now to suffer only what must another day be suffered 
by Achilles.? 

Dr. Warburton had a name sufficient to confer 
celebrity on those who could exalt themselves into 
antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too 
loud to be distinct. His chief assailants are the authors 
of " The Canons of Criticism," and of " The Revisal of 


Shakespeare's Text " ; of whom one ridicules his errors 
with airy petulance, suitable enough to the levity of the 
controversy ; the other attacks them with gloomy malig- 
nity, as if he were dragging to justice an assassin or 
incendiary. The one stings like a fly, sucks a little 
blood, takes a gay flutter, and returns for more; the 
other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave 
inflammations and gangrene behind him. When I think 
on one, with his confederates, I remember the danger of 
Coriolanus, who was afraid that girls with spits, and 
boys with stones, should slay him in puny battle; when 
the other crosses my imagination, I remember the 
prodigy in " Macbeth " : 

"A falcon tow'ring in his pride of place. 
Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd.*' 

Let me, however, do them justice. One is a wit, and 
one a scholar. They have both shown acuteness suf- 
ficient in the discovery of faults, and have both advanced 
some probable interpretations of obscure passages ; but 
when they aspire to conjecture and emendation, it 
appears how falsely we all estimate our own abilities, 
and the little which they have been able to perform 
might have taught them more candour to the en- 
deavours of others. 

Before Dr. Warburton's edition, " Critical Observation 
on Shakespeare," had been published by Mr. Upton, a 
man skilled in languages, and acquainted with books, 
but who seems to have had no great vigour of genius or 
nicety of taste. Many of his explanations are curious 
and useful, but he likewise, though he professed to 
oppose the licentious confidence of editors, and adhere 
to the old copies, is unable to restrain the rage of 


emendation, though his ardour is ill seconded by his 
skill. Every cold empirick, when his heart expanded by 
a successful experiment, swells into a theorist, and the 
laborious collator at some unlucky moment frolicks in 
conjecture. . 

Critical, historical, and explanatory notes have been \ 
likewise published upon Shakespeare by Dr. Grey, whose 
diligent perusal of the old English writers has enabled 
him to make some useful observations. What he under- 
took he has well enough performed, but as he neither 
attempts judicial nor emendatory criticisms, he em- 
ploys rather his memory than his sagacity. It were 
to be wished that all would endeavour to imitate his 
modesty, who have not been able to surpass his 

I can say with great sincerity of all my predecessors, 
what I hope will hereafter be said of me, that not one 
has left Shakespeare without improvement, nor is there 
one to whom I have not been indebted for assistance and 
information. Whatever I have taken from them, it was' 
my intention to refer to its original author, and it is 
certain, that what I have not given to another, I believe 
when I wrote it to be my own. In some, perhaps, I have 
been anticipated; but if I am ever found to encroach 
upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am will- 
ing that the honour, be it more or less, should be 
transferred to the first claimant, for his right, and his 
alone, stands above dispute; the second can prove his 
pretensions only to himself, nor can himself always 
distinguish invention, with sufficient certainty, from 

They have all been treated by me with candour, which 
they have not been careful of observing to one another. 


It IS not easy to discover from what cause the acrimony 
of a scholiast can naturally proceed. The subjects to 
be discussed by him are of very small importance ; they 
involve neither property nor liberty; nor favour the 
interest of sect or party. The various readings of 
copies, and different interpretations of a passage, seem 
to be questions that might exercise the wit, without 
engaging the passions. But whether it be, that small 
things make mean men proud, and vanity catches small 
occasions ; or that all contrariety of opinion, even in 
those that can defend it no longer, makes proud men 
angry; there is often found in commentaries a spon- 
taneous strain of invective and contempt, more eager 
and venomous than is vented by the most furious con- 
trovertist in politicks against those whom he is hired 
to defame. 

Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to 
the vehemence of the agency; when the truth to be 
investigated is so near to inexistence as to escape 
attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and 
exclamation: that to which all would be indifferent in 
its original state may attract notice when the fate of a 
name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed 
great temptations to supply by turbulence what he 
wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a spacious 
surface, to work that to foam which no art or diHgence 
can exalt to spirit. 

The notes which I have borrowed or written, are either 
illustrative, by which difficulties are explained; or 
judicial, by which faults and beauties are remarked; or 
emendatory, by which depravations are corrected. 

The explanations transcribed from others, if I do not 
subjoin any other interpretation, I suppose commonly 


to be right, at least I intend by acquiescence to confess 
that I have nothing better to propose. 

After the labours of all the editors, I found many 
passages, which appeared to me likely to obstruct the 
greater number of readers, and thought it my duty to 
facilitate their passage. It is impossible for the expos- 
itor not to write too little for some, and too much for 
others. He can only judge what is necessary by his 
own experience ; and how long soever he may deliberate, 
will at last explain many lines which the learned will 
think impossible to be mistaken, and omit many for 
which the ignorant will want his help. These are cen- 
sures merely relative, and must be quietly endured. I 
have endeavoured to be neither superfluously copious, 
nor scrupulously reserved, and hope that I have made 
my author's meaning accessible to many, who before 
were frighted from perusing him, and contributed some- 
thing to the publick, by diffusing innocent and rational 

The complete explanation of an author not syste- 
matick and consequential, but desultory and vagrant, 
abounding in casual allusions and light hints, is not to 
be expected from any single scholiast. All personal 
reflections, when names are suppressed, must be in a few 
years irrecoverably obliterated ; and customs, too minute 
to attract the notice of law, yet such as modes of dress, 
formalities of conversation, rules of visits, disposition 
of furniture, and practices of ceremony, which natur- 
ally find places in familiar dialogue, are so fugitive and 
unsubstantial that they are not easily retained or 
recovered. What can be known will be collected by 
chance, from the recesses of obscure and obsolete 
papers, pursued commonly with some other view. Of 


this knowledge every man has some, and none has much ; 
but when an author has engaged the publick attention, 
those who can add any thing to his illustration, com- 
municate their discoveries, and time produces what had 
eluded diligence. 

To time I have been obliged to resign many passages, 
which, though I did not understand them, will perhaps 
hereafter be explained, having, I hope, illustrated 
some, which others have neglected or mistaken, some- 
times by short remarks, or marginal directions, such as 
every editor has added at his will, and often by com- 
ments more laborious than the matter will seem to 
deserve; but that which is most difficult is not always 
most important, and to an editor nothing is a trifle by 
which his author is obscured. 

The poetical beauties or defects I have not been very 
diligent to observe. Some plays have more, and some 
fewer judicial observations, not in proportion to their 
difference of merit, but because I gave this part of my 
design to chance, and to caprice. The reader, I believe, 
is seldom pleased to find his opinion anticipated; it is 
natural to delight more in what we find or make, than in 
what we receive. Judgment, like other faculties, is 
improved by practice, and its advancement is hindered 
by submission to dictatorial decisions, as the memory 
grows torpid by the use of a table-book. Some initiation 
is however necessary ; of all skill, part is infused by pre- 
cept, and part is obtained by habit; I have, therefore, 
shown so much as may enable the candidate of 
criticism to discover the rest. 

To the end of most plays I have added short strictures, 
containing a general censure of faults, or praise of 
excellence; in which I know not how much I have con- 


curred with the current opinion ; but I have not, by any 
affectation or singularity, deviated from it. Nothing 
is minutely and particularly examined, and therefore, 
it is to be supposed that in the plays which are con- 
demned there is much to be praised, and in these which 
are praised much to be condemned. 

The part of criticism in which the whole succession of 
editors has laboured with the greatest diligence, which 
has occasioned the most arrogant ostentation, and 
excited the keenest acrimony, is the emendation of cor- 
rupted passages, to which the publick attention having 
been first drawn by the violence of the contention 
between Pope and Theobald, has been continued by the 
persecution, which, with a kind of conspiracy, has been 
since raised against all the publishers of Shakespeare. 

That many passages have passed in a state of depra- 
vation through all the editions is indubitably certain ; of 
these, the restoration is only to be attempted by colla- 
tion of copies, or sagacity of conjecture. The col- 
lator's province is safe and easy, the conjecturer's 
perilous and difficult. Yet as the greater part of the 
plays are extant only in one copy, the peril must not 
be avoided, nor the difficulty refused. 

Of the readings which this emulation of amendment 
has hitherto produced, some from the labours of every 
publisher I have advanced into the text ; those are to be 
considered as in my opinion sufficiently supported; 
some I have rejected without mention, as evidently 
erroneous ; some I have left in the notes without censure 
or approbation, as resting in equipoise between objec- 
tion and defence; and some, which seemed specious 
but not right, I have inserted with a subsequent 


Having classed the observations of others, I was at 
last to try what I could substitute for their mistakes, 
and how could I supply their omissions. I collated such 
copies as I could procure, and wished for more, but 
have not found the collectors of these rarities very 
communicative. Of the editions which chance or kind- 
ness put into my hands I have given an enumeration, 
that I may not be blamed for neglecting what I had 
not the power to do. 

By examining the old copies, I soon found that the 
later publishers, with all their boasts of diligence, suf- 
fered many passages to stand unauthorized, and 
contented themselves with Rowe's regulation of the 
text, even where they knew it to be arbitrary, and with 
a little consideration might have found it to be wrong. 
Some of these alterations are only the ejection of a word 
for one that appeared to him more elegant or more intel- 

These corruptions I have often silently rectified; 
for the history of our language, and the true force of 
our words, can only be preserved by keeping the text of 
authors free from adulteration. Others, and those very 
frequent, smoothed the cadence, or regulated the 
measure ; on these I have not exercised the same rigour ; 
if only a word was transposed, or a particle inserted or 
omitted, I have sometimes suffered the line to stand ; for 
the inconstancy of the copies is such, as that some liber- 
ties may be easily permitted. But this practice I have 
not suffered to proceed far, having restored the primi- 
tive diction wherever it could for any reason be pre- 

The emendations, which comparison of copies sup- 
plied, I have inserted in the text ; sometimes, where the 


improvement was slight, without notice, and sometimes 
with an account of the reasons of the change. 

Conjecture, though it be sometimes unavoidable, I have 
not wantonly nor licentiously indulged. It has been my 
settled principle, that the reading of the ancient books 
is probably true, and therefore is not to be disturbed 
for the sake of elegance, perspicuity, or mere improve- 
ment of the sense. For though much credit is not due 
to the fidelity, nor any to the judgment of the first pub- 
lishers, yet they who had the copy before their eyes were 
more likely to read it right, than we who read it only 
by imagination. But it is evident that they have often 
made strange mistakes by ignorance or negligence, and 
that, therefore, something may be properly attempted 
by criticism, keeping the middle way between presump- 
tion and timidity. 

Such criticism I have attempted to practice, and where 
any passage appeared inextricably perplexed, have en- 
deavored to discover how it may be recalled to sense, 
with least violence. But my first labour is, always to 
turn the old text on every side, and try if there be any 
interstice, through which light can find its way; nor 
would Huetius himself condemn me, as refusing the 
trouble of research, for the ambition of alteration. In 
this modest industry, I have not been unsuccessful. I 
have rescued many lines from the violations of temerity, 
and secured many scenes from the inroads of correction. 
I have adopted the Roman sentiment that it is more 
honourable to save a citizen than to kill an enemy, and 
have been more careful to protect than to attack. 

I have preserved the common distribution of the plays 
into acts, though I believe it to be in almost all the plays 
void of authority. Some of those which are divided in 


the later editions have no division in the first folio, and 
some that are divided in the folio have no division in 
the preceding copies. The settled mode of the theatre 
requires four intervals in the play, but few, if any, of 
our author's compositions can be properly distributed 
in that manner. An act is so much of the drama as 
passes without intervention of time, or change of place. 
A pause makes a new act. In every real, and therefore 
in every imitative action, the intervals may be more or 
fewer, the restriction of 'five acts being accidental and 
arbitrary. This Shakespeare knew, and this he prac- 
tised ; his plays were written, and at first printed in one 
unbroken continuity, and ought now to be exhibited with 
short pauses, interposed as often as the scene is changed, 
or any considerable time is required to pass. This 
method would at once quell a thousand absurdities. 

In restoring the author's works to their integrity, I 
have considered the punctuation as wholly in my power ; 
for what could be their care of colons and commas, who 
corrupted words and sentences? Whatever could be 
done by adjusting points, is therefore silently per- 
formed, in some plays, with much diligence, in others 
with less; it is hard to keep a busy eye steadily fixed 
upon evanescent atoms, or a discursive mind upon 
evanescent truth. 

The same liberty has been taken with a few particles, 
or other words of slight effect. I have sometimes in- 
serted or omitted them without notice. I have done that 
sometimes, which the other editors have done always, 
and which, indeed, the state of the text may sufiiciently 

The greater part of readers, instead of blaming us for 
passing trifles, will wonder that on mere trifles so much 


labour Is expended, with such importance of debate, and 
such solemnity of diction. To these I answer with con- 
fidence, that they are judging of an art which they do 
not understand; yet cannot much reproach them with 
their ignorance, nor promise that they would become in 
general, by learning criticism, more useful, happier, or 

As I practised conjecture more, I learned to trust it 
less; and after I had printed a few plays, resolved to 
insert none of my own readings in the text. Upon this 
caution I now congratulate myself, for every day in- 
creases my doubt of my emendations. 

Since I have confined my imagination to the margin, 
it must not be considered as very reprehensible, if I 
have suffered it to play some freaks in its own dominion. 
There is no danger in conjecture, if it be proposed as 
conjecture; and while the text remains uninjured, those 
changes may be safely offered, which are not considered 
even by him that offers them as necessary or safe. 

If my readings are of little value, they have not been 
ostentatiously displayed or importunately obtruded. I 
could have written longer notes, for the art of writing 
notes is not of difficult attainment. The work is per- 
formed first by railing at the stupidity, negligence, 
ignorance, and asinine tastelessness of the former 
editors, showing, from all that goes before and all that 
follows, the inelegance and absurdity of the old read- 
ing ; then by proposing something, which to superficial 
readers would seem specious, but which the editor rejects 
with indignation; then by producing the true reading, 
with a long paraphrase, and concluding with loud accla- 
mations on the discovery, and a sober wish for the 
advancement and prosperity of genuine criticism. 


All this may be done, and perhaps done sometimes with- 
out impropriety. But I have always suspected that the 
reading is right, which requires many words to prove 
it wrong; and the emendation wrong, that cannot with- 
out so much labour appear to be right. The justness 
of a happy restoration strikes at once, and the moral 
precept may be well applied to criticism, quod duhitas 
ne feceris. 

To dread the shore which he sees spread with wrecks, 
is natural to the sailor. I had before my eye, so many 
critical adventures ended in miscarriage, that caution 
was forced upon me. I encountered in every page wit 
struggling with its own sophistry, and learning con- 
fused by the multiplicity of its views. I was forced 
to censure those whom I admired, and could not but 
reflect, while I was dispossessing their emendations, how 
soon the same fate might happen to my own, and how 
many of the readings which I have corrected may be by 
some other editor defended and established. 

** Criticks I saw, that others, names eflface. 
And fix their own, with labour, in the place; 
Their own, like others, soon their place resigned. 
Or disappear'd, and left the first behind." — Pope, 

That a conjectural critick should often be mistaken, 
cannot be wonderful, either to others, or himself, if it 
be considered, that in his art there is no system, no prin- 
cipal and axiomatical truth that regulates subordinate 
positions. His chance of error is renewed at every at- 
tempt; an oblique view of the passage, a slight misap- 
prehension of a phrase, a casual inattention to the parts 
connected, is sufficient to make him not only fail, but fail 
ridiculously; and when he succeeds best he produces 


perhaps but one reading of many probable, and he that 
suggests another will always be able to dispute his 

It is an unhappy state, in which danger is hid under 
pleasure. The allurements of emendation are scarcely 
resistible. Conjecture has all the joy and all the pride 
of invention, and he that has once started a happy 
change, is too much delighted to consider what objec- 
tions may rise against it. 

Yet conjectural criticism has been of great use in the 
learned world ; nor is it my intention to depreciate a 
study, that has exercised so many mighty minds, from 
the revival of learning to our own age, from the Bishop 
of Aleria ^ to English Bentley. The criticks on ancient 
authors have, in the exercise of their sagacity, many 
assistances, which the editor of Shakespeare is con- 
demned to want. They are employed upon grammatical 
and settled languages, whose construction contributes 
so much to perspicuity, that Homer has fewer passages 
unintelligible than Chaucer. The words have not only 
a known regimen, but invariable quantities, which 
direct and confine the choice. There are commonly more 
manuscripts than one; and they do not often conspire 
in the same mistakes. Yet Scaliger could confess to 
Salmasius how little satisfaction his emendations gave 
him. Illudunt nobis conjecturoe, quarum nos pudet, 
posteaqucmi in meliores codices incidimus. And Lipsius 
could complain, that criticks were making faults, by 
trying to remove them, Ut olim vitiis, ita nunc remediis 
labor atur. And indeed, when mere conjecture is to be 

"John Andreas, Bishop of Aleria, a province of Corsica. He 
edited and published several classic authors under the patronage 
of Pope Paul II. — Note by Steevena. 


used, the emendations of Scaliger and Lipsius, not- 
withstanding their wonderful sagacity and erudi- 
tion, are often vague and disputable, like mine or 

Perhaps I may not be more censured for doing wrong 
than for doing little ; for raising in the publick expecta- 
tions which at last I have not answered. The expectation 
of ignorance is indefinite, and that of knowledge is often 
tyrannical. It is hard to satisfy those who know not 
what to demand, or those who demand by design what 
they think impossible to be done. I have indeed dis- 
appointed no opinion more than my own; yet I have 
endeavoured to perform my task with no slight solici- 
tude. Not a single passage in the whole work has ap- 
peared to me corrupt, which I have not attempted to 
restore; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to 
illustrate. In many I have failed like others ; and from 
many, after all my efforts, I have retreated, and con- 
fessed the repulse. I have not passed over, with affected 
superiority, what is equally difficult to the reader and to 
myself, but where I could not instruct him, have owned 
my ignorance. I might easily have accumulated a mass 
of seeming learning upon easy scenes ; but it ought not 
to be imputed to negligence, that, where nothing was 
necessary, nothing has been done, or that, where others 
have said enough, I have said no more. 

Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. 
Let him, that is yet unacquainted with the powers of 
Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure 
that the drama can give, read every play, from the first 
scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commen- 
tators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not 
stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention 


is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside 
to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him read on 
through brightness and obscurity, through integrity 
and corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of 
the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when 
the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt 
exactness, and read the commentators. 

Particular passages are cleared by notes, but the gen- 
eral effect of the work is weakened. The mind is re- 
frigerated by interruption; the thoughts are diverted 
from the principal subject; the reader is weary, he sus- 
pects not why ; and at last throws away the book which 
he has too diHgently studied. 

Parts are not to be examined till the whole has been 
surveyed; there is a kind of intellectual remoteness 
necessary for the comprehension of any great work in 
its full design and in its true proportions; a close ap- 
proach shows the smaller niceties, but the beauty of the 
whole is discerned no longer. 

It is not very grateful to consider how little the suc- 
cession of editors has added to this author's power of 
pleasing. He was read, admired, studied, and imitated, 
while he was yet deformed with all the improprieties 
which ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon 
him ; while the reading was yet not rectified, nor his allu- 
sions understood ; yet then did Dryden pronounce, " that 
Shakespeare was the man who, of all modern and perhaps 
ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive 
soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, 
and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily ; when he 
describes anything, you more than see it, you feel it, too. 
Those, who accuse him to have wanted learning, give 
him the greater commendation ; he was naturally learned ; 


he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; 
he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say 
he is everywhere alike ; were he so, I should do him injury 
to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is 
many times flat and insipid ; his comic wit degenerating 
into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But 
he is always great, when some great occasion is pre- 
sented to him: no man can say, he ever had a fit subject 
for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above 
the rest of poets. 

" ' Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.' " 

It is to be lamented, that such a writer should want a 
commentary ; that his language should become obsolete, 
or his sentiments obscure. But it is vain to carry 
wishes beyond the condition of human things ; that which 
must happen to all, has happened to Shakespeare, by 
accident and time; and more than has been suffered by 
any other writer since the use of types, has been suf- 
fered by him through his own negligence of fame, or 
perhaps, by that superiority of mind, which despised its 
own performances, when it compared them with its 
powers, and judged those works unworthy to be pre- 
served, which the criticks of following ages were to 
contend for the fame of restoring and explaining. 

Among these candidates of inferior fame, I am now 
to stand the judgment of the publick; and wish that I 
could confidently produce my commentary as equal to 
the encouragement which I have had the honour of 
receiving. Every work of this kind is by its nature 
deficient, and I should feel little solicitude about the 
sentence, were it to be pronounced only by the skillful 
and the learned. 


Of what has been performed in this revisal, an account 
is given in the following pages by Mr. Steevens, '^ who 
might have spoken both of his own diligence and sagac- 
ity, in terms of greater self approbation, without 
deviating from modesty or truth. 

'The final paragraph refers to the second edition with added 
notes by George Steevens, published in 1773. 




GEORGE STEEVENS was born in Stepney, 
May 10, 1736, and died in his hermit 
^retreat at Hampstead, January 22, 1800. 
He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, 
although he received from the latter no degree. 
Unlike his great associate. Dr. Johnson, Shake- 
spearean criticism was his vocation; to it he devoted 
his life, and to such good account, that the text 
he left behind him remained the standard for quite half 
a century, and is the basis of many modern editions. 

He first made a departure from the beaten track of 
Shakespearean criticism, in that he devoted his virgin 
pen to the Quartos instead of the Folio copies. These 
he published in 1766, under the title " Twenty of the 
Plays of Shakespeare, being the whole number printed 
in quarto during his life-time, or before the Res- 

In collaboration with Dr. Johnson, and assisted in a 
very moderate degree by Edmund Malone, he issued a 
ten volume edition in 1773; revised in 1778; which 
became the basis for Isaac Reed's edition of 1793. In 
1779 he published Six Old Plays upon which Shake- 
speare founded the plays of "Measure for Measure," 
" Comedy of Errors," " Taming of the Shrew," " King 
John," " King Lear," « Henry IV.," and " Henry V." 

Steevens was a man of most uncertain temper, which 
manifested itself in his literary as well as his domestic 


life. He was led by a saturnine humour to play mis- 
chievous practical jokes of a literary turn, and used 
both the forged letter and the anonymous libel to 
further his ends. 

His vitriolic jesting led him even to make obscene notes 
to coarse passages in the plays, and by some peculiar 
diabolism to attribute these comments to two amiable 
clergymen, whose names he mentioned. 

No wonder that when he died Samuel Rogers wrote of 
him, " the outlaw is at last dead in his den." 

The student of Shakespeare owes him an enonnous 



[Prefixed to Mr. Steevens's edition of twenty of the old quarto 
copies of Shakespeare, etc., in 4 volumes, 8vo. 1766.] 

The plays of Shakespeare have been so often repub- 
lished, with every seeming advantage which the joint 
labours of men of the first abilities could procure for 
them, that one would hardly imagine they could stand 
in need of anything beyond the illustration of some 
few dark passages. Modes of expression must remain 
in obscurity, or be retrieved from time to time, as chance 
may throw the books of that age into the hands of crit- 
icks who shall make a proper use of them. Many have 
been of opinion that his language will continue difficult 
to all those who are unacquainted with the provincial 
expressions which they suppose him to have used; yet 
for my own part, I cannot believe but that those which 
are now local may once have been universal, and must 
have been the language of those persons before whom 
his plays were represented. However, it is certain, that 




the instances of obscurity from this source are very few. 
Some have been of opinion that even a particular 
syntax prevailed in the time of Shakespeare; but, as I 
do not recollect that any proofs were ever brought in 
support of that sentiment, I own I am of the contrary 

In this time indeed a different arrangement of sylla- 
bles had been introduced in imitation of the Latin, as we 
find in Ascham ; and the verb was frequently kept back 
in the sentence; but in Shakespeare no marks of it are 
discernible; and though the rules of syntax were more 
strictly observed by the writers of that age than they 
have been since, he of all the number is perhaps, the 
most ungrammatical. To make his meaning intel- 
ligible to his audience seems to have been his only care, 
and with the ease of conversation he has adopted its 

The past editors, eminently qualified as they were 
by genius and learning for this undertaking, wanted 
industry; to cover which they published catalogues, 
transcribed at random, of a greater number of old 
copies than ever they can be supposed to have had in 
their possession; when, at the same time, they never 
examined the few which we know they had, with any 
degree of accuracy. The last editor alone has dealt 
fairly with the world in this particular ; he professes to 
have made use of no more than he had really seen, and 
has annexed a list of such to every play, together with a 
complete one of those supposed to be in being, at the 
the conclusion of his work, whether he had been able to 
procure them for the service of it or not. 

For these reasons I thought it would not be unaccept- 
able to the lovers of Shakespeare to collate all the 



quartos I could find, comparing one copy with the rest, 
where there were more than one of the same play; and 
to multiply the chances of their being preserved, by 
collecting them into volumes, instead of leaving the few 
that have escaped, to share the fate of the rest, which 
was probably hastened by their remaining in the form 
of pamphlets, their use and value being equally unknown 
to those into whose hands they fell. 

Of some I have printed more than one copy; as there 
are many persons, who, not contented with the pos- 
session of a finished picture of some great master, 
are desirous to procure the first sketch that was made 
for it, that they may have the pleasure of tracing the 
progress of the artist from the first light colouring to 
the finishing stroke. To such the earlier editions of 
" King John," " Henry the Fifth," " Henry the Sixth," 
" The Merry Wives of Windsor," and " Romeo and 
Juliet," will, I apprehend, not be, unwelcome ; since in 
these we may discern as much as will be found in the 
hasty outlines of the pencil, with a fair prospect of that 
perfection to which he brought every performance he 
took the pains to retouch. 

The general character of the quarto editions may more 
advantageously be taken from the words of Mr. Pope, 
than from any recommendation of my own. 

" The folio edition (says he), in which all the plays we 
now receive as his were first collected, was published by 
two players, Hemings and Condell, in 1623, seven years 
after his decease. They declare that all the other 
editions were stolen and surreptitious, and affirm theirs 
to be purged from the errors of the former. This is 
true as to the literal errors, and no other; for in all 
respects else it is far worse than the quartos. 


" First, because the additions of trifling and bombast 
passages are in this edition far more numerous. For 
whatever had been added since those quartos, by 
the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into 
the written parts, were from thence conveyed into 
the printed text, and all stand charged upon the 
author. He himself complained of this usage in 
' Hamlet,' where he wishes those who play the clowns 
would speak no more than is set down for them, (Act 
HI. sc. iv) . But as a proof that he could not escape it, 
in the old editions of * Romeo and Juliet,' there is no 
hint of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found 
there. In others, the scenes of the mobs, plebeians, 
and clowns are vastly shorter than at present; and I 
have seen one in particular (which seems to have 
belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided 
by lines, and the actors' names in the margin), where 
several of those very passages were added in a written 
hand, which since are to be found in the folio. 

"In the next place, a number of beautiful passages 
were omitted, which were extant in the first single 
editions ; as it seems without any other reason than their 
willingness to shorten some scenes." ^ 

To this I must add, that I cannot help looking on the 
folio as having suffered other injuries from the licen- 
tious alteration of the players ; as we frequently find in it 
an unusual word changed into one more popular ; some- 
times to the weakening of the sense, which rather seems 
to have been their work, who knew that plainness was 
necessary for the audience of an illiterate age, than 
that it was done by the consent of the author: for he 
would hardly have unnerved a line in his written copy, 
* Pope's Preface, p. 42. 


which they pretend to have transcribed, however he 
might have permitted many to have been familiarised 
in the representation. Were I to indulge my own 
private conjecture, I should suppose that his blotted 
manuscripts were read over by one to another among 
those who were appointed to transcribe them ; and hence 
it would easily happen, that words of similiar sound, 
though of sense directly opposite, might be confounded 
with each other. They themselves declare that Shake- 
speare's time of blotting was past, and yet half the 
errors we find in their edition could not be merely typo- 
graphical. Many of the quartos (as our own printers 
assume), were far from being skilfully executed, and 
some of them were much more correctly printed than 
the Folio, which was published at the charge of the 
same proprietors, whose names we find prefixed to the 
older copies; and I cannot join with Mr. Pope in 
acquitting that edition of more literal errors than those 
which went before it. The particles in it seem to be 
as fortuitously disposed, and proper names as fre- 
quently undistinguished by Italick or capital letters 
from the rest of the text. The punctuation is equally 
accidental; nor do I see, on the whole, any greater 
marks of a skilful revisal, or the advantage of being 
printed from unblotted originals in the one, than in the 
other. One reformation indeed there seems to have been 
made, and that very laudable; I mean the substitution 
of more general terms for a name too often unneces- 
sarily invoked on the stage; but no jot of obscenity is 
omitted: and their caution against profaneness is, in 
my opinion, the only thing for which we are indebted to 
the judgment of the editors of the folio. 
How much may be done by the assistance of the old 


copies will now be easily known ; but a more difficult task 
remains behind, which calls for other abilities than are 
requisite In the laborious collator. 

From a diligent perusal of the comedies of con- 
temporary authors, I am persuaded that the meaning 
of many expressions In Shakespestre might be retrieved ; 
for the language of conversation can only be expected 
to be preserved In works which in their time assume the 
merit of being pictures of men and manners. The style 
of conversation we may suppose to be as much altered 
as that of books; and, in consequence of the change, 
we have no other authorities to recur to in either 

Should our language ever be recalled to a strict exam- 
ination, and the fashion become general of striving to 
maintain our old acquisitions, Instead of gaining new 
ones, which we shall be at last obliged to give up, or 
be Incumbered with their weight ; It will then be lamented 
that no regular collection was ever formed of the old 
English books; from which, as from ancient reposi- 
tories, we might recover words and phrases as often as 
caprice or wantonness should call for variety; Instead 
of thinking it necessary to adopt new ones, or barter 
solid strength for feeble splendour, which no language 
has long admitted and retained its purity. 

We wonder that, before the time of Shakespeare, we 
find the stage in a state so barren of productions, but 
forget that we have hardly any acquaintance with the 
authors of that period, though some few of their 
dramatick pieces may remain. The same might be 
almost said of the Interval between that age and the 
age of Dryden, the performances of which, not being 
preserved In sets, or diffused as now, by the greater 



number printed, must lapse apace into the same ob- 

" Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona 
Multi . . /' 

And yet we are contented from a few specimens 
only, to form our opinions of the genius of ages gone 
before us. Even while we are blaming the taste of that 
audience which received with applause the worst plays 
in the reign of Charles the Second, we should consider 
that the few in possession of our theatre, which would 
never have been heard a second time had they been writ- 
ten now, were probably the best of hundreds which had 
been dismissed with general censure. The collection of 
plays, interludes, &c. made by Mr. Garrick, with an in- 
tent to deposit them hereafter in some publick library,^ 
will be considered as a valuable acquisition; for pam- 
phlets have never yet been examined with a proper re- 
gard to posterity. Most of the obsolete pieces will be 
found on enquiry to have been introduced into libraries 
but some few years since; and yet those of the present 
age, which may one time or other prove as useful, are 
still entirely neglected. I should be remiss, I am sure, 
were I to forget my acknowledgments to the gentlemau 
I have just mentioned, to whose benevolence I owe the 
use of several of the scarcest quartos, which I could not 
otherwise have obtained; though I advertised for them, 
with sufficient offers, as I thought, either to tempt the 
casual owner to sell, or the curious to communicate 
them; but Mr. Garrick's zeal would not permit him to 
withhold any thing that might ever so remotely tend to 
show the perfections of that author who could only 
have enabled him to display his own. 

'Now in the British Museum. 


It IS not merely to obtain justice to Shakespeare, that 
I have made this collection, and advise others to be 
made. The general interest of English literature, and 
the attention due to our own language and history, 
require that our ancient writings should be diligently 
reviewed. There is no age which has not produced 
some works that deserve to be remembered ; and as words 
and phrases are only understood by comparing them 
in different places, the lower writers must be read for 
the explanation of the highest. No language can be 
ascertained and settled, but by deducing its words from 
their original sources, and tracing them through their 
successive varieties of signification; and this deduction 
can only be performed by consulting the earliest and 
intermediate authors. 

Enough has already been done to encourage us to do 
more. Dr. Hickes,^ by reviving the study of the Saxon 
language, seems to have excited a stronger curiosity 
after old English writers, than ever had appeared 
before. Many volumes which were mouldering in 
dust have been collected ; many authors which were for- 
gotten have been revived; many laborious catalogues 
have been formed; and many judicious glossaries com- 
piled; the literary transactions of the darker ages are 
now open to discovery; and the language in its inter- 
mediate gradations, from the Conquest to the Res- 
toration, is better understood than in any former 

To incite the continuance, and encourage the extension 

of this domestick curiosity, is one of the purposes of 

•George Hickes, 1642-1715. An English clergyman who, in addi- 
tion to some theological works, published Institutionea Oram- 
maticce Anglo Saxonioce (1689), and Antiquce Literaturce 
Septentrionalis Thesaurus (1703-5). 


the present publication. In the plays it contains, the 
poet's first thoughts, as well as words, are preserved; 
the additions made in subsequent impressions, dis- 
tinguished in Italicks, and the performances themselves 
make their appearance with every typographical error, 
such as they were before they fell into the hands of the 
player-editors. The various readings, which can only 
be attributed to chance, are set down among the rest, 
as I did not choose arbitrarily to determine for others 
which were useless, or which were valuable. And many 
words differing only by the spelling, or serving 
merely to show the difficulties which they to whose lot 
it first fell to disentangle their perplexities must have 
encountered, are exhibited with the rest. I must 
acknowledge that some few readings have slipped in by 
mistake, which can pretend to serve no purpose of 
illustration, but were introduced by confining myself to 
note the minutest variations of the copies, which soon 
convinced me that the oldest were in general the most 
correct. Though no proof can be given that the poet 
superintended the publication of any one of these 
himself, yet we have little reason to suppose that he 
who wrote at the command of Elizabeth, and under the 
patronage of Southampton, was so very negligent of 
his fame, as to permit the most imcompetent judges, 
such as the players were, to vary at their pleasure what 
he had set down for the first single editions ; and we 
have better grounds for suspicion that his works did 
materially suffer from their presumptuous corrections 
after death. 

It is very well known, that before the time of Shake- 
speare, the art of making title pages was practised 
with as much, or perhaps more, success than it has been 


since. Accordingly, to all his plays we find long and 
descriptive ones, which, when they were first published, 
were of great service to the venders of them. Pamphlets 
of every kind were hawked about the streets by a set of 
people resembling his own Autolycus, who proclaimed 
aloud the qualities of what they offered to sale, and 
might draw in many a purchaser by the mirth he was 
taught to expect from the humours of Corporal Nyiriy 
or the swaggering vaine of Auncient Pistoll, who was 
not to be tempted by the representation of a fact merely 
historical. The players, however, laid aside the whole 
of this garniture, not finding it so necessary to pro- 
cure success to a bulky volume, when the author's 
reputation was established, as it had been to bespeak 
attention to a few struggling pamphlets while it was 
yet uncertain. 

The sixteen plays which are not in these volumes, 
remained unpublished till the Folio in the year 1623, 
though the compiler of a work called " Theatrical 
Records," mentions different single editions of them all 
before that time. But as no one of the editors could 
ever meet with such, nor has any one else pretended to 
have seen them, I think myself at liberty to suppose 
the compiler supplied the defects of the list out of 
his own imagination; since he must have had singular 
good fortune to have been possessed of two or three 
different copies of all, when neither editors nor col- 
lectors, in the course of nearly fifty years, have been 
able so much as to obtain the sight of one of the 

At the end of the last volume I have added a tragedy 
of " King Leir," published before that of Shakespeare, 
which it was not improbable he might have seen, as the 


father kneeling to the daughter, when she kneels to ask 
his blessing, is found in it; a circumstance two poets 
were not very likely to have hit on separately; and 
which seems borrowed by the latter with his usual judg- 
ment, it being the most natural passage in the whole 
play; and is introduced in such a manner, as to make 
it fairly his own. The ingenious editor of the " Reliques 
of Ancient English Poetry " having never met with this 
play, and as it is not preserved in Mr. Garrick's 
collection, I thought it a curiosity worthy the notice of 
the publick. 

I have likewise reprinted " Shakespeare's Sonnets," 
from a copy published in 1609, by G. Eld, one of the 
printers of his plays ; which, added to the consideration 
that they made their appearance with his name, and in 
his life-time, seems to be no slender proof of their 
authenticity. The same evidence might operate in 
favour of several more plays which are omitted here, 
out of respect to the judgment of those who had 
omitted them before. 

It is to be wished that some method of publication 
most favourable to the character of an author were once 
established; whether we are to send into the world all 
his works without distinction, or arbitrarily to leave 
out what may be thought a disgrace to him. The first 
editors, who rejected "Pericles," retained "Titus 
Andronicus " ; and Mr. Pope, without any reason, 
named "The Winter's Tale," a play that bears the 
strongest marks of the hand of Shakespeare, among 
those which he supposed to be spurious. Dr. War- 
burton has fixed a stigma on the three parts of " Henry 
the Sixth," and some others: 

" Inde Dolabella, est, atque hinc Antonius;" 


and all have been willing to plunder Shakespeare, or 
mix up a breed of barren metal with his purest ore. 

Joshua Barnes, the editor of " Euripides," thought 
every scrap of his author so sacred, that he has pre- 
served with the name of one of his plays, the only 
remaining word of it. The same reason indeed might be 
given in his favour, which caused the preservation of 
that valuable trisyllable; which is, that it cannot be 
found in any other place in the Greek language. But 
this does not seem to have been his only motive, as we 
find he has to the full as carefully published several 
detached and broken sentences, the gleanings from 
scholiasts, which have no claim to merit of that kind; 
and yet the author's works, might be reckoned by some 
to be incomplete without them. If then this duty is 
expected from every editor of a Greek or Roman poet, 
why is the same not insisted on in respect of an English 
classick.'' But if the custom of preserving all whether 
worthy of it or not, be more honoured in the breach, 
than the observance, the suppression at least should not 
be considered as a fault. The publication of such 
things as Swift had written merely to raise a laugh 
among his friends, has added something to the bulk of 
his works, but very little to his character as a writer. 
The four volumes that came out since Dr. Hawkes- 
worth's edition, not to look on them as a tax levied on 
the publick, (which I think one might, without 
injustice), contain not more than sufficient to have 
made one of real value; and there is a kind of disin- 
genuity, not to give it a harsher title, in exhibiting what 
the author never meant should see the light; for no 
motive but a sordid one, can betray the survivors to 
make that publick, which they themselves must be 


of opinion will be unfavourable to the memory of the 

Life does not often receive good unmixed with evil. 
The benefits of the art of printing are depraved by the 
facility with which scandal may be diffused, and secrets 
revealed; and by the temptation which traffick solicits 
avarice to betray the weaknesses of passion, or the 
confidence of friendship. 

I cannot forbear to think these posthumous publi- 
cations injurious to society. A man conscious of 
literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write 
with tenderness to his sister, or with fondness to his 
child; or to remit on the slightest occasion, or most 
pressing exigence, the rigour of critical choice, and 
grammatical severity. That esteem which preserves his 
letters, will at last produce his disgrace, when that 
which he wrote to his friend or his daughter shall be 
laid open to the publick. 

There is, perhaps, sufficient evidence, that most of 
the plays in question, unequal as they may be to the 
rest, were written by Shakespeare; but the reason gen- 
erally given for publishing the less correct pieces of an 
author, that it affords a more impartial view of a man's 
talents or way of thinking, than when we only see him 
in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough 
to condemn an editor who thinks and practises other- 
wise. For what is all this to show, but that every man 
is more dull at one time than at another? A fact which 
the world would easily have admitted, without asking 
any proofs in its support that might be destructive to 
an author's reputation. 

To conclude; if the work, which this publication was 
meant to facilitate, has been already performed, the 


satisfaction of knowing It to be so may be obtained 
from hence; if otherwise, let those who raised expecta- 
tions of correctness, and through negligence defeated 
them, be justly exposed by future editors, who will now 
be in possession of by far the greatest part of what 
they might have enquired after for years to no pur- 
pose ; for in respect of such a number of the old Quartos 
as are here exhibited, the first Folio is a common book. 
Tills advantage will at least arise^ that future editors 
having equally recourse to the same copies, can chal- 
lenge distinction and preference only by genius, 
capacity, industry, and learning. 

As I have only collected materials for future artists, 
I consider what I have been doing as no more than an 
apparatus for their use. If the publick is inclined to 
receive it as such, I am amply rewarded for my trouble ; 
if otherwise, I shall submit with cheerfulness to the 
censure which should equitably fall on an injudicious 
attempt; having this consolation however, that my 
design amounted to no more than a wish to encourage 
others to think of preserving the oldest editions of the 
English writers, which are growing scarcer every day; 
and to afford the world all the assistance or pleasure it 
can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its 
noblest poet. 






EDWARD CAPELL was born In Throston, 
Suffolk, June 11, 1713, and died at Brill 
Court Temple, London, February 24, 1781. 
He was educated at Cambridge, and in 
1737 received the appointment of Deputy Inspector 
of Plays with the functions of a censor. This both 
gave him time and whetted his taste for the study 
of Elizabethan dramatic literature. His first essay in 
letters was " Prolusions, or Select Pieces of Ancient 
Poetry," in which appeared the anonymous play of 
" Edward III.," which the editor tentatively attributed 
to Shakespeare. 

In 1768 appeared his edition of Shakespeare's works, 
in ten volumes. His " Notes and Various Readings to 
Shakespeare " were published in advance of the text in 
1759, but were withdrawn, and the first two volumes, 
revised, appeared in 1779. The third volume, called the 
" School of Shakespeare," appeared in 1783, after his 
death. The " School " consisted of poems, plays, etc., 
extant in Shakespeare's time and supposed to have 
formed a part of his literary capital. Two other works, 
long since forgotten, are credited to Capell, " Two 
tables elucidating the sound of letters" (1749), 
"Reflections in originality of Authors" (1766). He 
also collaborated with David Garrick in a special edition 
of " Antony and Cleopatra." 



[Prepared to octavo edition in ten volumes, 1768.] 

It is said of the ostrich, that she drops her egg at 
random, to be dispos'd of as chance pleases; either 
brought to maturity by the sun's kindly warmth, or 
else crushed by beasts and the feet of passers-by : such 
at least, is the account which naturalists have given us 
of this extraordinary bird ; and admitting it for a truth, 
she is in this a fit emblem of almost every great genius : 
they conceive and produce with ease those noble issues 
of human understanding ; but incubation, the dull work 
of putting them correctly upon paper and afterwards 
publishing, is a task they can not away with.^ If the 
original state of all such author's writings, even from 
Homer downward, could be enquir'd into and known, 
they would yield proof in abundance of the justness of 
what is here asserted: but the author now before us 
shall suffice for them all; being at once the greatest 
instance of genius in producing noble things, and of 
negligence in providing for them afterwards. This 
negligence indeed was so great, and the condition in 
which his works are come down to us so very deformed, 
that it has, of late years, induc'd several gentlemen to 
make a revision of them : but the publick seems not to be 
satisfied with any of their endeavours; and the reason 
of its discontent will be manifest, when the state of 
his old editions, and the methods that they have taken 
to amend them, are fully lay'd open, which is the first 
business of this Introduction. 

Of thirty-six plays which Shakespeare has left us, and 
which compose the collection that was afterwards set 
out in folio, thirteen only were published in his life- 


time, that have much resemblance to those in the folio ; 
these thirteen are — " Hamlet," First and Second 
"Henry IV.," "King Lear," "Love's Labour's Lost," 
" Merchant of Venice," " Midsummer-Night's Dream," 
"Much Ado About Nothing," "Richard IL," 
" Richard III.," " Romeo and Juliet," " Titus Andron- 
icus," and " Troilus and Cressida." Some others, that 
came out in the same period, bear indeed the titles of — 
"Henry V.," "King John," "Merry Wives of 
Windsor," and "Taming of the Shrew," but are no 
other than either first draughts, or mutilated and per- 
haps surreptitious impressions of those plays, but 
whether of the two is not easy to determine: "King 
John" is certainly a first draught, and in two parts; 
and so much another play that only one line of it is 
retain'd in the second: there is also a first draught of 
the Second and Third parts of " Henry VI.," published 
in his life time under the following title, — " The whole 
Contention between the two famous Houses, Lancaster 
and Yorke " : and to these plays, six in number, may be 
added the first impression of " Romeo and Juliet," 
being a play of the same stamp: The date of all these 
quartos, and that of their several re-impressions, may 
be seen in a table that follows the Introduction. 
" Othello " came out only one year before the folio ; and 
is, in the main, the same play that we have there: 
and this too, is the case of the first-mentioned thirteen ; 
notwithstanding there are in many of them great varia- 
tions, and particularly in " Hamlet," " King Lear," 
" Richard III.," and "Romeo and Juliet." 

As for the plays which, we say, are either the poet's 
first draughts, or else imperfect and stolen copies, it 
will be thought, perhaps, they might as well have been 
left out of the account : but they are not wholly useless ; 




some lacunae, that are in all the other editions, have been 
judiciously fill'd up in modern impressions by the 
authority of these copies; and in some particular pas- 
sages of them, where there happens to be a greater 
conformity than usual between them and the more per- 
fect editions, there is here and there a various reading 
that does honour to the poet's judgment, and should 
upon that account, be presum'd the true one; in other 
respects, they have neither use nor merit, but are 
merely curiosities. 

Proceed we then to a description of the other fourteen. 
They all abound in faults, though not in equal degree ; 
and those faults are so numerous, and of so many dif- 
ferent natures, that nothing but a perusal of the pieces 
themselves can give an adequate conception of them; 
but amongst them are these that follow. Divisions of 
acts and scenes, they have none, " Othello " only 
excepted, which is divided into acts: entries of persons 
are extremely imperfect in them, (sometimes more, 
sometimes fewer, than the scene requires), and their 
exits are very often omitted ; or when mark'd, not always 
in the right place ; and few scenical directions are to be 
met with throughout the whole : speeches are frequently 
confounded, and given to wrong persons, either whole, 
or in part ; and sometimes, instead of the person speak- 
ing, you have the actor who presented him: and in two 
of the plays, ( "Love's Labour's Lost," and " Troilus 
and Cressida"), the same matter, and in nearly the 
same words, is set down twice in some passages; which 
who sees not to be only a negligence of the poet, and 
that but one of them ought to have been printed? But 
the reigning fault of all is in the measure : prose is very 
often printed as verse, and verse as prose; or, where 
rightly printed verse, that verse is not always right 


divided: and in all these pieces, the songs are in every 
particular still more corrupt than the other parts of 
them. These are the general and principal defects: to 
which if you add — transposition of words, sentences, 
lines, and even speeches; words omitted, and others 
added without reason; and a punctuation so deficient, 
and so often wrong, that it hardly deserves regard ; you 
have, upon the whole, a true but melancholy picture of 
the condition of these first printed plays : which bad as 
it is is yet better than that of those which came after ; or 
than that of the subsequent folio impression of some of 
these which we are now speaking of. 

This folio impression was sent into the world seven 
years after the author's death, by two of his fellow- 
players; and contains, besides the last mention'd four- 
teen, the true and genuine copies of the other six plays, 
and sixteen that were never publish'd before : the editors 
make great professions of fidelity, and some complaint 
of injury done to them and the author by stolen and 
maim'd copies, giving withal an advantageous, if just, 
idea of the copies which they have f ollow'd ; but see the 
terms they make use of : " It had been a thing, we con- 
fesse, worthie to have bene wished, that the author him- 
selfe had liv'd to have set forth, and overseen his owne 
writings ; but since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and 
he by death departed from that right, we pray you do 
not envy his friends, the office of their care, and paine, 
to have collected & published them ; and so to have pub- 
lish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with 
diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and 
deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious 
imposters, that expos'd them; even those, are now 
offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; 


and all the rest absolute in their numbers, as he con- 
ceived them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of 
nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His minde 
and hand went together: and what he thought, he 
uttered with that easinesse, that we have scarce received 
from him a blot in his papers." Who now does not feel 
himself inclin'd to expect an accurate and good per- 
formance in the edition of these prefacers? But alas, 
it is nothing less: for (if we except the six spurious 
ones, whose places were then suppli'd by true and gen- 
uine copies) the editions of plays preceding the folio, 
are the very basis of those we have there; which are 
either printed from those editions, or from the copies 
which they made use of ; and this is principally evident 
in — ^First and Second " Henry IV.," " Love's Labour's 
Lost," " Merchant of Venice," " Midsummer-Night's 
Dream," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Richard XL," 
" Titus Andronicus," and " Troilus and Cressida " ; for 
in the others we see somewhat a greater latitude as was 
observ'd a little above: but in these plays, there is an 
almost strict conformity between the two impressions: 
some additions are in the second, and some omissions; 
but the faults and errors of the quartos are all pre- 
serv'd in the folio, and others added to them ; and what 
difference there is, is generally for the worse on the 
side of the folio editors ; which should give us but faint 
hopes of meeting with greater accuracy in the plays 
which they first publish'd; and, accordingly, we find 
them subject to all the imperfections that have been 
noted in the former: nor is their edition in general dis- 
tinguish'd by any mark of preference above the earliest 
quartos, but that some of their plays are divided into 
acts, and some others into acts and scenes ; and that with 



due precision, and agreeable to the author's idea of the 

nature of such divisions. The order of printing these 

plays, the way in which they are class'd, and the titles 

given them, being matters of some curiosity, the Table 

that is before the first folio is here reprinted : and to it 

are added marks, put between crotchets, shewing the 

plays that are divided; a signifying — acts, a & s — acts 

and scenes. 

Table of Plays ik the Folio. 
Comedies. The First Part of King Henry 

The Tempest, (a & s.) the Sixt. 

The Two Gentlemen of Ver- The Second part of 

ona.* (a & s.) 
The Merry Wives of Windsor. 

(a & s.) 
Midsommer Nights Dreame.* 

The Merchant of Venice.* (a.) 
As You Like It. (a & s.) 
The Taming of the Shrew. 
All Is Well That Ends WeE, 

Twelfe-Night, or What You 

Will, (a & s.) 
The Winter's Tale, (a & s.) 
Measure for Measure, (a & s.) 
The Comedy of Errors.* (a.) 
Much Adoo About Nothing, (a.) 
Loves Labour lost.* 


The Life and Death of King 

John.* (a & s.) 
The Life and Death of 

Richard the second.* (a&s.) 
The First part of King 

Henry the fourth, (a & s.) 
The Second part of King 

Henry the fourth.* (a&s.) 
The Life of King Henry the 



Henry the Sixt. 
The Third part of 

Henry the Sixt. 
The Life & Death of Richard 

the Third.* (a & s.) 
The Life of King Henry the 

Eighth, (a & s.) 


Othello, the Moore of Venice. 

(a & s.) 
Antony and Cleopater. 
(Troylus and Cressida) from 

the second folio; omitted in 

the first. 
The Tragedy of Coriolanus, 

Titus Andronicus.* (a.) 
Romeo and Juliet.* 
Timon of Athens. 
The Life and Death of Julius 

Caesar, (a.) 
The Tragedy of Macbeth. 

(a & s.) 
The Tragedy of Hamlet. 
King Lear, (a & s.) 
Cymbeline King of Britaine. 

(a & s.) 


The plays, mark'd with asterisks, are spoken of by name, in a 
book, call'd— " Wit's Treasury," being the " Second Part of Wit's 
Commonwealth," written by Francis Meres, who in the same 
paragraph mentions another play as being Shakespeare's under 
the title of "Love's Labours Wonne"; a title that seems well 
adapted to "All's Well that Ends Well," and under which it 
might first be acted. In the paragraph inmiediately preceding, he 
speaks of his " Venus and Adonis," his " Lucrece," and his " Son- 
nets"; this book was printed in 1598, by P. Short, for Cuthbert 
Burbie; octavo, small. The same author mentions, too, a " Richard 
the Third," written by Doctor Leg, author of another play, called 
"The Destruction of Jerusalem." And there is in the Museum 
a manuscript Latin play upon the same subject, written by one 
Henry Lacy in 1586: which Latin play is but a weak perform- 
ance; and yet seemeth to be the play spoken of by Sir John 
Harrington, (for the author was a Cambridge man, and of St. 
John's) in this passage of his "Apologie of Poetrie," prefixed to his 
translation of Ariosto's "Orlando," edit. 1591, fol.: "... and 
for tragedies, to omit other famous tragedies; that, that was 
played at S. John's in Cambridge of * Richard the 3,' 
would move (I think) Palaris the tyraunt and terrific all 
tyrarious minded men, fro following their foolish ambitious 
humors, seeing how his ambition made him kill his brother, his 
nephews, his wife, beside infinit others; and last of all after a 
short and troublesome raigne, to end his miserable life, and to 
have his body harried after his death." — Capell, in loco. 

Having premis'd thus much about the state and condi- 
tion of these first copies, it may not be improper, nor 
will it be absolutely a disgression, to add something 
concerning their authenticity: in doing which it will 
be greatly for the reader's ease, — and our own, to con- 
fine ourselves to the quartos: which, it is hop'd, he 
will allow of; especially as our intended vindications of 
them will also include in it (to the eye of a good 
observer) that of the plays that appear'd first in the 
folio: which therefore omitting, we now turn ourselves 
to the quartos. 

We have seen the slur that is endeavour'd to be thrown 
upon them indiscriminately by the player-editors, and 



we see it too wip'd off by their having themselves fol- 
low'd the copies that they condemn. A modern editor, 
who is not without his followers, is pleased to assert 
confidently in his preface, that they are printed from 
" piece-meal parts, and copies of prompters " : but his 
arguments for it are, some of them, without foundation, 
and the others not conclusive; and it is to be doubted, 
that the opinion is only thrown out to countenance an 
abuse that has been carry'd to much too great lengths 
by himself and another editor, — that of putting out of 
the text passages that they did not like. These censures 
then, and this opinion being set aside, is it criminal to 
try another conjecture, and see what can be made of it.? 
It is known, that Shakespeare liv'd to no great age, 
being taken off in his fifty-third year ; and yet his works 
are so numerous, that, when we take a survey of them, 
they seem the productions of a life of twice that length : 
for to the thirty-six plays in this collection, we must add 
seven, (one of which is in two parts), perhaps written 
over again; seven others that were publish'd, some of 
them in his life-time, and all with his name ; and another 
seven, that are upon good grounds imputed to him; 
making in all, fifty-eight plays; besides the part that 
he may reasonably be thought to have had in other 
men's labours, being himself a player and a manager of 
theatres : what his prose productions were, we know not : 
but it can hardly be suppos'd, that he, who had so con- 
siderable a share in the confidence of the Earls of Essex 
and Southampton, could be a mute spectator only of 
controversies in which they were so much interested; 
and his other poetical works, that are known, will fill a 
volume the size of these that we have here. When the 
number and bulk of these pieces, the shortness of his 


life, and the other busy employments of It are reflected 
upon duly, can it be wondered that he should be so loose 
a transcriber of them? or why should we refuse to give 
credit to what his companions tell us, of the state of 
those transcriptions, and of the facility with which 
they were pen'd? Let it then be granted, that these 
quartos are the poet's own copies, however they were 
come by; hastily written at first, and issuing from 
presses most of them as corrupt and licentious as can 
any where be produc'd, and not overseen by himself, nor 
by any of his friends: and there can be no stronger 
reason for subscribing to any opinion, than may be 
drawn in favour of this from the condition of all the 
other plays that were first printed in the folio ; for, in 
method of publication, they have the greatest likeness 
possible to those which preceded them, and carry all 
the same marks of haste and negligence; yet the gen- 
uineness of the latter is attested by those who pub- 
lish'd them, and no proof brought to invalidate their 
testimony. If it be still asked what then becomes of 
the accusation brought against the quartos by the 

i player-editors, the answer is not so far off as may 

1 1 perhaps be expected: it may be true that they were 
" stoln " ; but stoln from the author's copies by tran- 
scribers who found means to get at them: and 
" maim'd " they must needs be, in respect of their 
many alterations after the first performance: and who 

1 1 knows, if the difference that is between them, in some of 

' the plays that are common to them both, has not been 

studiously heighten'd by the player-editors, — who had 

the means in their power, being masters of all the altera- 

1 1 tions, — to give at once a greater currency to their own 


against the quartos ? This, at least, is a probable opin- 
ion, and no bad way of accounting for those differences. 
It were easy to add abundance of other argument in 
favour of these quartos ; — Such as, their exact affinity 
to almost all the publications of this sort that came out 
about that time ; of which it will hardly be asserted by 
any reasoning man, that they are all clandestine copies, 
and publish'd without their author's consent: next, the 
high improbability of supposing that none of these plays 
were of the poet's own setting-out: whose case is 
render'd singular by such a supposition; it being cer- 
tain, that every other author of the time, without excep- 
tion, who wrote any thing largely, publish'd some of his 
plays himself, and Ben Jonson all of them: nay, the 
very errors and faults of these quartos — of some of them 
at least, and those such as are brought against them 
by other arguers, — are with the editor, proofs of their 
genuineness ; for from what hand, but that of the author 
himself, could come those seemingly strange repetitions 
which are spoken of,^ those imperfect exits, and 
entries of persons who have no concern in the play 
at all, neither in the scene where they are made to enter, 
nor ii} any other part of it ? yet such there are in several 
of these quartos; and such might well be expected in 
the hasty draughts of so negligent an author, who 
neither saw at once all he might want, nor. In some 
instances, have himself sufficient time to consider the 
fitness of what he was then penning. These and other 
like arguments might, as is said before, be collected, and 
urg'd for the plays that were first publish'd in the 
quartos; that is, for fourteen of them, for the other 
six are out of the question : but what has been enlarg'd 

^Vide pp. 43-4.4. 


upon above, of their being foUow'd by the folio, and 
their apparent general likeness to all the other plays that 
are in that collection, is so very forcible as to be suffi- 
cient of itself to satisfy the unprejudic'd, that the plays 
of both impressions spring all from the same stock, and 
owe their numerous imperfections to one common origin 
and cause, — ^the too great negligence and haste of their 
over-careless producer. 

But to return to the things immediately treated, — 
the state of the old editions. The quartos went through 
many impressions, as may be seen in the Table: and, 
in each play, the last is generally taken from the 
impression next before it, and so onward to the first; 
the few that come not within this rule, are taken notice 
of in the Table: and this further is to be observed of 
them: that, generally speaking, the more distant they 
are from the original, the more they abound in faults ; 
'till in the end, the corruptions of the last copies become 
so excessive, as to make them of hardly any worth. The 
folio too, had its re-impressions, the dates and notices 
of which are likewise in the Table, and they tread the 
same round as did the quartos: only that the third of 
them has seven plays more (see their titles below ),^ 
in which it is followed by the last; and that again by 
the first of the modern impressions, which come now to 
be spoken of. 

If the stage be a mirror of the times, as undoubtedly 
It is, and we judge of the age's temper by what we see 

►revailing there, what must we think of the times that 

""Locrine;" "The London Prodigal;" "Pericles, Prince of 
^re;" "The Puritan, or, the Widow of WatUng Street;" "Sir 

Fohn Oldcastle;" "Thomas Lord Cromwell;" and "The York- 
lire Tragedy." 


succeeded Shakespeare? Jonson, favour'd by a court 
that delighted only in masques, had been gaining ground 
upon him even in his life-time ; and his death put him in 
full possession of a post he had long aspir'd to, the 
empire of the drama : the props of this new king's throne, 
were — ^Fletcher, Shirley, Middleton, Massinger, 
Broome, and others ; and how unequal they all were, the 
monarch and his subjects too, to the poet they came 
after, let their works testify : yet they had the vogue on 
their side, during all those blessed times that preceded 
the civil war, and Shakespeare was held in disesteem. 
The war, and the medley government that foUow'd, 
swept all these things away : but they were restor'd with 
the king; and another stage took place, in which 
Shakespeare had little share. Dryden had then the lead, 
and maintain'd it for half a century : though his govern- 
ment was sometimes disputed by Lee, Tate, Shadwell, 
Wytcherly, and others ; weakened much by " The 
Rehearsal " ; and quite overthrown in the end by Otway, 
and Rowe: what the cast of their plays was, is known 
to every one: but that Shakespeare, the true and gen- 
uine Shakespeare, was not much relish'd, is plain from 
the many alterations of him, that were brought upon 

. the stage by some of those gentlemen, and by others 

I within that period. 

But, from what has been said, we are not to conclude — 
that the poet had no admirers : for the contrary is true ; 
and he had in all this interval no inconsiderable party 
amongst men of the greatest understanding who both 
saw his merit, in despite of the darkness it was then 
wrapt up in, and spoke loudly in praise ; but the stream 
f of the publick favour ran the other way. But this, too, 
coming about at the time we are speaking of, there was 


a demand for his works, and in a form that was more 
convenient than the fohos; in consequence of which, 
the gentleman last mentioned was set to work by the 
booksellers ; and, in 1709, he put out an edition in six ^ 
volumes octavo, which, unhappily, is the basis of all 
the other moderns : for this editor went no further than 
to the edition nearest to him in time, which was the 
folio of 1685, the last and worst of those impressions: 
this he republished with great exactness; correcting 
here and there some of its grossest mistakes, and divid- 
ing into acts and scenes the plays that were not divided 

But no sooner was this edition in the hands of the 
publick, than they saw in part its deficiencies, and one 
of another sort began to be required of them; which 
accordingly was set about some years after by two 
gentlemen at once, Mr. Pope and Mr. Theobald. The 
labours of the first came out ii> 1725, in six volumes 
quarto: and he has the merit of having first improved 
his author, by the insertion of many large passages, 
speeches, and single lines, taken from the quartos ; and 
of amending him in other places, by readings fetch'd 
from the same: but his materials were few, and his 
collation of them not the most careful; which, join'd 
to other faults, and to that main one — of making his 
predecessor's the copy himself follow'd, brought his 
labours in disrepute, and has finally sunk them in 

His publication retarded the other gentleman, and he 
did not appear 'till the year 1733, when his work, too, 
came out in seven volumes octavo. The opposition 
that was between them seems to have enflam'd him, 




which was heighten'd by other motives, and he declaims 
vehemently against the work of his antagonist: which 
yet serv'd him for a model; and his own is made only 
a little better, by his having a few more materials ; of 
which he was not a better collator than the other, nor 
did he excel him in use of them ; for, in this article, both 
their judgments may be equally call'd in question; in 
what he has done that is conjectural, he is rather more 
happy ; but in this he had large assistances. 

But the gentleman that came next, is a critick of 
another stamp; and pursues a trick, in which it is 
greatly to be hop'd he will never be f oUow'd in the pub- 
lication of any authors whatsoever: for this were, in 
effect, to annihilate them, if carry'd a little further; 
by destroying all marks of peculiarity and notes of 
time, all easiness of expression and numbers, all just- 
ness of thought, and the nobility of not a few of their 
conceptions : The manner in which his author is treated, 
excites an indignation that will be thought by some to 
vent itself too strongly; but terms weaker would do in- 
justice to my feelings, and the censure shall be hazarded. 
Mr. Pope's edition was the ground-work of this over- 
bold one; splendidly printed at Oxford in six quarto 
volumes, and publish'd in the year 1744: the publisher 
disdains all collation of folio, or quarto; and fetches 
all from his great self, and the moderns his predecessors : 
wantoning in very license of conjecture; and sweeping 
all before him (without notice, or reason given), that 
not suits his tastes, or lies level to his conceptions. But 
this justice should be done him: — as his conjectures are 
numerous, they are oftentimes not unhappy; and some 
of them are of that excellence, that one is struck with 
amazement to see a person of so much judgment as he 


shows himself in them, adopt a method of publishing 
that runs counter to all the ideas that wise men have 
hitherto entertain'd of an editor's province and duty. 

The year 1747 produc'd a fifth edition in eight octavo 
volumes published by Mr. Warburton ; which, though it 
is said in the title page to be the joint work of himself 
and the second editor, the third ought rather to have 
been mention'd, for it is printed from his text. The 
merits of this performance have been so thoroughly 
discuss'd in two very ingenious books, " The Canons of 
Criticism," and "Revisal of Shakespeare's Text," that 
it is needless to say any more of it: this only shall be 
added to what may be there met with, — -that the edition 
is not much benefited by fresh acquisitions from the old 
ones, which this gentleman seems to have neglected. 

Other charges there are, that might be brought against 
these modern impressions, without infringing the laws 
of truth or candour either ; but what is said, will be suffi- 
cient; and may satisfy their greatest favourers, — that 
the superstructure cannot be a sound one, which is built 
upon so bad a foundation as that work of Mr. Rowe's ; 
which all of them, as we see, in succession, have yet 
made their corner-stone: The truth is it was impossible 
that such a beginning should end better than it has done : 
the fault was in the setting-out; and all the diligence 
that could be used, join'd to the discernment of a 
Pearce, or a Bentley, could never purge their author 
of all his defects by their method of proceeding. 

The editor now before you was apriz'd in time of this 
truth ; saw the wretched condition his author was reduc'd 
to by these late tamperings, and thought seriously of 
^a cure for it, and that so long ago as the year 1745; 

for the attempt was first suggested by that gentleman's 


performance, which came out at Oxford the year before : 
which when he had perus'd with no Httle astonishment, 
and consider'd the fatal consequences that must inevit- 
ably follow the imitation of so much license, he resolv'd 
himself to be champion; and to exert to the uttermost 
such abilities as he was master of, to save from further 
ruin an edifice of this dignity, which England must 
forever glory in. Hereupon he possess'd himself of the 
other modern editions, the folios, and as many quartos 
as could be presently be procur'd; and, within a few 
years, after, fortune and industry help'd him to all the 
rest, six only excepted; adding to them withal twelve 
more, which the compilers of former tables had no 
knowledge of. Thus fumish'd, he fell immediately to 
collation, — ^which is the first step in works of this 
nature; and, without it, nothing is done to purpose, — 
first of modems with moderns, then of modems with 
ancients, and afterwards of ancients with others more 
ancient : 'tiU, at the last, a ray of light broke forth upon 
him, by which he hop'd to find his way through the 
wilderness of these editions into that fair country, the 
poet's real habitation. He had not proceeded far in his 
collation, before he saw cause to come to this resolu- 
tion; — to stick invariably to the old editions (that is, 
the best of them), which hold now the place of manu- 
scripts, no scrap of the author's writing having the 
luck to come down to us ; and never to depart from them, 
but in cases where reason, and the uniform practice of 
men of the greatest note in this art, tell him — ^they may 
be quitted ; nor yet in those, without notice. But it will 
be necessary, that the general method of this edition 
should now be lay'd open ; that the publick may be put 
in a capacity not only of comparing it with those they 


already have, but of judging whether anything remains 
to be done towards the fixing this author's text in the 
manner himself gave it. 

It is said a little before, — ^that we have nothing of his 
in writing; that the printed copies are all that is left 
to guide us ; and that those copies are subj ect to num- 
berless imperfections, but not all in like degree: our 
first business then, was — to examine their merit, and 
see on which side the scale of goodness preponderated; 
which we have generally found to be on that of the 
most ancient: it may be seen in the Table, what editions 
are judg'd to have the preference among those plays 
that were printed singly in quarto ; and for those plays, 
the text of those editions is chiefly adher'd to: in all 
the rest, the first folio is f ollow'd ; the text of which is 
by far the most faultless of the editions in that form ; 
and has also the advantage in three quarto plays, in 
" 2 Henry IV.," " Othello," and " Richard III." Had 
the editions thus follow'd been printed with carefulness, 
from correct copies, and copies not added to or otherwise 
alter'd after those impressions, there had been no occa- 
sion for going any further : but this was not at all the 
case, even in the best of them ; and it therefore became 
proper and necessary to look into the other old editions, 
and to select from thence whatever improves the author, 
or contributes to his advancement in perfectness, the 
point in view throughout all this performance : that they 
do improve him, was with the editor an argument in 
their favour; and a presumption of genuineness for 
what is thus selected, whether additions, or differences 
of any other nature ; and the causes of their appearing 
in some copies, and being wanting in others, cannot now 
be discover'd, by reason of the time's distance, and 



diefect o£ fit materials for making the discovery. Did 
the limits of his Introduction allow of it, the editor 
would gladly have dilated and treated more at large this 
article of his plan; as that which is of greatest im- 
portance, and most likely to be contested of any thing 
in it: but this doubt, or this dissent (if any be), must 
come from those persons only who are not yet possess'd 
of the idea they ought to entertain of these ancient 
impressions; for of those who are, he fully persuades 
himself he shall have both the approof and the applause. 
But without entering further in this place into the 
reasonableness, or even necessity, of so doing, he does 
for the present acknowledge — that he has everywhere 
made use of such materials as he met with in other old 
copies, which he thought improv'd the editions that are 
made the ground-work of the present text : and whether 
tTiey do so or no, the judicious part of the world may 
certainly know, by turning to a collection that will be 
publish'd; where all discarded readings are enter'd, all 
additions noted, and variations of every kind; and the 
editions specify'd, to which they severally belong. 

But, when these helps were administered, there was yet 
behind a very great number of passages, labouring 
under various defects and those of various degree, that 
had their cure to seek from some other sources, that of 
copies affording it no more. For these he had recourse 
in the first place to the assistance of modern copies : and, 
where that was incompetent, or else absolutely deficient, 
which was very often the case, there he sought the 
remedy in himself, using judgment and conjecture; 
which, he is bold to say, he will not be found to have 
exercis'd wantonly, but to follow the establlsh'd rules 
of critique with soberness and temperance. These 


emendations (whether of his own, or other gentlemen), 
carrying in themselves a face of certainty, and coming 
in aid of places that were apparently corrupt, are 
admitted into the text, and the rejected reading is 
always put below ; some others, — that are neither of that 
certainty, nor are of that necessity, but are specious 
and plausible, and may be thought by some to mend 
the passage they belong to, — ^will have a place in the 
collection that is spoken of above. But where it is said, 
that the rejected reading is always put below, this 
must be taken with some restriction: for some of the 
emendations, and of course the ancient readings upon 
which they are grounded, being of a complicated nature, 
the general method was there inconvenient; and, for 
these few, you are referr'd to a note which will be found 
among the rest: and another sort there are, that are 
simply insertions; these are effectually pointed out by 
being printed in the gothick or black character. 

Hitherto, the defects and errors of these old editions 
have been of such a nature, that we could lay them before 
the reader, and submit to his judgment the remedies 
that are apply'd to them; which is accordingly done, 
cither in the page itself where they occur, or in some 
note that is to follow: but there are some behind that 
would not be so manag'd either by reason of their fre- 
quency, or difficulty of subjecting them to the rules 
under which the others are brought; they have been 
spoken of before (at p. 189), where the corruptions are 
all enumerated, and are as follows: — a want of proper 
exits and entrances, and of many scenical directions, 
throughout the work in general, and, in some of the 
plays, a want of division; and the errors are those of 
measure, and punctuation: all these are mended, and 


supply'd, without notice and silently; but the reason 
for so doing, and the method observed in doing it, shall 
be a little enlarg'd upon, that the fidelity of the editor, 
and that which is chiefly to distinguish him from those 
who have gone before, may stand sacred and unim- 
peachable ; and, first, of the division. 

The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the list of 
titles that may be seen (at p. 192), to show which plays 
were divided into acts, which into acts and scenes, and 
which of them were not divided at all; and the number 
of the first class is — eight; of the third — eleven: for 
though in " Henry V., " " 1 Henry VI.," " Love's 
Labour's Lost," and "The Taming of the Shrew," 
there is some division aim'd at; yet it is so lame and 
erroneous that it was thought best to consider them as 
totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now 
when these plays were to be divided, as well those of the 
first class as those of the third, the plays of the second 
class were studiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd 
out from them, by which to regulate this division : which 
rule might easily have been discover'd before, had but 
any the least pains have been bestow'd upon it; and 
certainly it was very well worth it, since neither can 
the representation be manag'd, nor the order and thread 
of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till 
this article is adjusted. The plays that are come down 
to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's 
own settling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find 
him following establish'd precepts, or, rather, conform- 
ing himself to the practice of some other dramatick 
writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, 
were the books he was best acquainted with: his scene 
divisions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon 


the drama ; for, in them, he observed a method in which 
perhaps he is singular, and he is invariable in the use 
of it; with him, a change of scene implies generally a 
change of place, though not always; but always an 
entire evacuation of it, and a succession of new persons : 
that liaison of the scenes, which Jonson seems to have 
attempted and upon which the French stage prides 
itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of; of 
the other unities he was perfectly well appriz'd; and 
has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great 
strictness and greater happiness than can perhaps be 
met with in any other writer : the play meant is " The 
Comedy of Errors " ; in which the action is one, the 
place one, and the time such as even Aristotle himself 
would allow of — the revolution of half a day : but even 
in this play, the change of scene arises from change 
of persons, and by that it is regulated; as are also all 
the other plays that are not divided in the folio: for 
whoever will take the trouble to examine those that are 
divided (and they are pointed out for him in the list), 
will see them conform exactly to the rule above men- 
tioned ; and can then have but little doubt, that it should 
be apply'd to all the rest. To have distinguish'd these 
divisions, — made (indeed), without the authority, but 
following the example of the folio, — had been useless 
and troublesome ; and the editor fully persuades himself 
that what he has said will be sufficient, and that he shall 
be excus'd by the ingenious and candid for overpassing 
them without further notice: whose pardon he hopes 
also to have for some other unnotic'd matters that are 
related to this in hand, such as — marking the place of 
action, both general and particular ; supplying scenical 
directions ; and due regulating of exits, and entrances : 


for the first, there is no title in the old editions ; and in 
both the latter, they are so deficient and faulty through- 
out, that it would not be much amiss if we look'd upon 
them as wanting too ; and then all these several articles 
might be consider'd as additions, that needed no other 
pointing out than a declaration that they are so: the 
light that they throw upon the plays in general, and par- 
ticularly upon some parts of them, — such as, the battle 
scenes throughout ; Ccesar^s passage to the senate-house, 
and subsequent assassination; Antonyms death, the sur- 
prizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronir 
cus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed 
new in this edition, — ^will justify these insertions; and 
may, possibly, merit the reader's thanks, for the great 
aids which they aff^ord to his conception. 

It remains now to speak of errors of the old copies 
which are here amended without notice, to wit — ^the 
pointing, and wrong division of much of them respect- 
ing the numbers. And as to the first, it is so extremely 
erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old 
copy, that small regard is due to it ; and it becomes an 
editor's duty (instead of being influenc'd by such a 
punctuation, or even casting his eyes upon it), to attend 
closely to the meaning of what is before him, and to 
new-point it accordingly: was it the business of this 
edition — to make parade of discoveries, this article 
alone would have aff^orded ample field for it, for a very 
great number of passages are now first set to rights by 
this only, which, before, had either no sense at all, or one 
unsuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner 
of it; but all the emendations of this sort, though in- 
ferior in merit to no others whatsoever, are consign'd 
to silence; some few only excepted, of passages that 


have been much contested, and whose present adjustment 
might possibly be call'd in question again ; these will be 
spoken of in some note, and a reason given for embrac- 
ing them; all the other parts of the works have been 
examin'd with equal diligence, and equal attention ; and 
the editor flatters himself, that the punctuation he has 
follow'd (into which he has admitted some novelties), 
will be found of so much benefit to his author, that those 
who run may read, and that with profit and understand- 
ing. The other great mistake in these old editions, and 
which is very insufficiently rectify'd in any of the new 
ones, relates to the poet's numbers ; his verse being often 
wrong divided, or printed wholly as prose, and his prose 
as often printed like verse : this, though not so universal 
as their wrong pointing, is yet so extensive an error 
in the old copies, and so impossible to be pointed out 
otherwise than by a note, that an editor's silent amend- 
ment of it is surely pardonable at least ; for who would 
not be disgusted with that perpetual sameness which 
must necessarily have been in all the notes of this sort ? 
Neither are they, in truth, emendations that require 
proving; every good ear does immediately adopt them, 
and every lover of the poet will be pleas'd with that 
accession of beauty which results to him from them: it 
is perhaps to be lamented, that there is yet standing in 
his works much unpleasing mixture of prosaick and 
material dialogue, and sometimes in places seemingly 
improper, as — in "Othello," and some others which men 
of judgment will be able to pick out for themselves : but 
these blemishes are not now to be wip'd away, at least 
not by an editor, whose province it far exceeds to make 
1 a change of this nature ; but must remain as marks of 
y^ie poet's negligence, and of the haste with which liis 



pieces were compos'd: what he manifestly intended 
prose (and we can judge of his intentions only from 
what appears in the editions that are come down to us), 
should be printed as prose, what verse as verse; which, 
it is hop'd, is now done, with an accuracy that leaves 
no great room for any further considerable improve- 
ment in this way. 

Thus have we run through, in as brief a manner as 
possible, all the several heads, of which it was thought 
proper and even necessary that the publick should be 
appriz'd; as well those that concern preceding editions, 
both old and new; as the other which we have just 
quitted, — the method observ'd in the edition that is 
now before them: which though not so entertaining, it 
is confess'd, nor affording so much room to display the 
parts and talents of a writer, as some other topicks that 
have generally supply'd the place of them; such as — 
criticisms or panegyricks upon the author, historical 
anecdotes, essays, and florilegia; yet there will be found 
some odd people, who may be apt to pronounce of them 
— ^that they are suitable to the place they stand in, and 
convey all the instruction that should be look'd for in 
a preface. Here, therefore, we might take our leave 
of the reader, bidding him welcome to the banquet that 
is set before him ; were it not apprehended, and reason- 
ably, that he will expect some account why it is not 
serv'd up to him at present with its accustom'd and 
laudable garniture, of " Notes, Glossaries," etc. Now 
though it might be reply'd, as a reason for what is 
done, — that a very great part of the world, amongst 
whom is the editor himself, profess much dislike to this 
paginary intermixture of text and comment; in works 
merely of entertainment, and written in the language 


of the country; as also — that he, the editor, does not 
possess the secret of dealing out notes by measure, and 
distributing them amongst his volumes so nicely that 
the equality of their bulk shall not be broke in upon 
the thickness of a sheet of paper; yet, having other 
matter at hand which he thinks may excuse him better, 
he will not have recourse to these above mention'd! 
which matter is no other, than his very strong desire of 
approving himself to the publick a man of integrity; 
and of making his future present more perfect, and as 
worthy of their acceptance as his abilities will let him. 
For the explaining of what is said, which is a little 
wrap'd up in mystery at present, we must inform that 
publick — ^that another work, is prepar'd, and in great 
forwardness, having been wrought upon many years; 
nearly indeed as long as the work which is now before 
them, for they have gone hand in hand almost from the 
first ; this work, to which we have given for title " The 
School of Shakespeare,^ consists wholly of extracts, 
(with observations upon some of them, inter spers'd 
occasionally,) from books that may properly be called 
— his school ; as they are indeed the sources from which 
he drew the greater part of his knowledge in mythology 
and classical matters, his fable, his history, and even 
the seeming peculiarities of his language: to furnish 
out of these materials, all the plays have been perus'd, 
within a very small number, that were in print in his 
time or some short time after; the chroniclers his con- 
temporaries, or that a little preceded him ; many origi- 
nal poets of that age, and many translators ; with essay- 
ists, novelists, and story-mongers in great abundance: 

Published in three volumes, 1783, two years after Capell's 


every book, in short, has been consulted that it was 
possible to procure, with which it could be thought he 
was acquainted, or that seem'd likely to contribute any- 
thing towards his illustrations. To what degree they 
illustrate him, and in how new a light they set the 
character of this great poet himself can never be con- 
ceived as it should be, 'till these extracts came forth 
to the publick view, in their just magnitude, and prop-| 
erly digested: for besides the various passages that he 
has either made use of or alluded to, many other mat- 
ters have been selected and will be found in this work, 
tending all to the same end, — our better knowledge of 
him and his writings; and one class of them there is, 
for which we shall perhaps be censur'd as being too 
profuse in them, namely — the almost innumerable ex- 
amples, drawn from those ancient writers, of words 
and modes of expression which many have thought 
peculiar to Shakespeare, and have been too apt to im- 
pute to him as a blemish: but the quotations of this 
class do effectually purge him from such a charge, 
which is one reason of their profusion ; though another 
main inducement to it has been, a desire of shewing 
the true force and meaning of the aforesaid unusual 
words and expressions; which can no way be better 
ascertain'd, than by a proper variety of well-chosen 
examples. Now, — to bring this matter home to the 
subject for which it has been alledg'd, and upon whose 
account this affair is now lay'd before the publick 
somewhat before its time, — ^who is so short-sighted 
as not to perceive, upon first reflection, that, without 
manifest injustice, the notes upon this author could 
not precede the publication of the work we have been 
describing; whose choicest materials would unavoidably 


and certainly have found a place in those notes, and so 
been twice retailed upon the world; a practice which 
the editor has often condemn'd in others, and could 
therefore not resolve to be guilty of in himself? By 
postponing these notes a while, things will be as they 
ought: they will then be confin'd to that which is their 
proper subject, explanation alone, intermix'd with some 
little criticism; and instead of long quotations, which 
would otherwise have appear'd in them, " The School of 
Shakespeare " will be ref err'd to occasionally ; and one 
of the many indexes with which this same " School " will 
be provided, will afford an ampler and truer Glossary 
than can be made out of any other matter. In the mean 
while, and 'till such time as the whole can be got ready, 
and their way clear'd for them by publication of the 
book above mention'd, the reader will please to take in 
good part some few of these notes with which he will be 
presented by and by: they were written at least four 
years ago, with intention of placing them at the head 
of the several notes that are design'd for each play; 
but are now detach'd from their fellows, and made par- 
cel of the Introduction, in compliance with some friends' 
opinion; who having given them a perusal, will needs 
have it, that 'tis expedient the world should be made 
acquainted forthwith — in what sort of reading the poor 
poet himself, and his editor after him, have been unfor- 
tunately immers'd. 

This discourse is run out, we know not how, into 
greater heaps of leaves than was anyways thought of, 
and has perhaps fatigu'd the reader equally with the 
penner of it ; yet can we not dismiss him, nor lay down 
our pen, 'till one article more has been enquir'd into, 
which seems no less proper for the discussion of this 


place, than one which we have inserted before, begin- 
ning at p. 191 ; as we have ventur'd to stand up in the 
behalf of some of the quartos and maintain their au- 
thenticity, so mean we to have the hardiness here to 
defend some certain plays in this collection from the 
attacks of a number of writers who have thought fit 
to call in question their genuineness: the plays con- 
tested are— The Three Parts of "Henry VI."; 
"Love's Labour's Lost"; "The Taming of the 
Shrew " ; and " Titus Andronicus " ; and the sum of 
what is brought against them, so far at least as is 
hitherto come to the knowledge, may be all ulti- 
mately resolv'd into the sole opinion of their unworthi- 
ness, exclusive of some weak surmises which do not 
deserve a notice: it is therefore fair and allowable, by 
all laws of duelling, to oppose opinion to opinion ; which 
if we can strengthen with reason, and something like 
proofs, which are totally wanting on the other side, 
the last opinion may chance to carry the day. 

To begin then with the first of them, the " Henry VI." 
in three parts. We are quite in the dark as to when the 
first part was written ; but should be apt to conj ecture, 
that it was some considerable time after the other two ; 
and, perhaps, when those two were retouch'd, and made 
a little fitter than they are in their first draught to rank 
with the author's other plays which he has f etch'd from 
our English history : and those two parts, even with all 
their retouchings, being still much inferior to the other 
plays of that class, he may reasonably be suppos'd to 
have underwrit himself on purpose in the first, that it 
might the better match with those it belong'd to: now 
that these two plays (the first draughts of them, at 
least), are among his early performances, we know 



certainly from their date; which is further confirm'd 
by the two concluding lines of his " Henry V." spoken by 
the Chorus; and (possibly) it were not going too far, 
to imagine — that they are his second attempt in his- 
tory, and near in time to his original "King John" which 
is also in two parts ; and, if this be so, we may safely 
pronounce them his, and even highly worthy of him; it 
being certain, that there was no English play upon the 
stage, at that time, which can come at all in competition 
with them; and this probably it was, which procur'd 
them the good reception that is mention'd too in the 
Chorus. The plays we are now speaking of have been 
inconceivably mangl'd either in the copy or the press, 
or perhaps both: yet this may be discovered in them — 
that the alterations made afterwards by the author 
are nothing near so considerable as those in some other 
plays; the incidents, the characters, every principal 
outline in short being the same in both draughts ; so that 
what we shall have occasion to say of the second, may, 
in some degree, and without much violence, be apply'd 
also to the first: and this we presume to say of it; — 
that, low as it must be set in comparison with his other 
plays, it has beauties in it, and grandeurs, of which no 
other author was capable but Shakespeare only; that 
extreamly-affecting scene of the death of young 
Rutland, that of his father which comes next it, and of 
Clifford, the murtherer of them both; Beaufort^ s 
dreadful exit, the exit of King Henri/, and a scene of 
wondrous simplicity and wondrous tenderness united, in 
which that Henry is made a speaker, while his last decis- 
ive battle is fighting, — are as so many stamps upon these 
plays; by which his property is mark'd, and himself 
declared the owner of them, beyond controversy as we 


think : and though we have selected these passages only, 
and recommended them to observation, it had been easy 
to name abundance of others which bear his mark as 
strongly: and one circumstance there is that runs 
through all the three plays, by which he is as surely to 
be known as by any other that can be thought of ; and 
that is, — the preservation of character: all the person- 
ages in them are distinctly and truly delineated, and the 
character given them sustain'd uniformly throughout; 
the enormous Richard's particularly, which in the third 
of these plays is seen rising towards its zenith : and who 
sees not the future monster, and acknowledges at the 
same time the pen that drew it, in those two lines only, 
spoken over a king who lies stab'd before him, — 

" What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster 
Sink in the ground? I thought it would have mounted."' 

let him never pretend discernment hereafter in any case 
of this nature. 

It is hard to persuade one's self, that the objectors to 
the play which comes next, are indeed serious in their 
opinion ; for if he is not visible in " Love's Labour's 
Lost," we know not in which of his comedies he can be 
said to be so ; the ease and sprightliness of the dialogue 
in very many parts of it ; it's quick turns of wit, and the 
humour it abounds in; and (chiefly) in those truly 
comick characters, the pedant and his companion, the 
page, the constable. Costard, and Armado, — seem 
more than sufficient to prove Shakespeare the author of 
it : and for the blemishes of this play, we must seek the 
true cause in it's antiquity; which we may venture to 
carry higher than 1598, the date of it's first impression : 
•"Henry VI." part III., V., 6. 


rime, when this play appear'd, was thought a beauty of 
the drama, and heard with singular pleasure by an 
audience, who but a few years before, had been 
accustom'd to all rime ; and the measure we call dogrel, 
and are so much offended with, had no such effect upon 
the ears of that time : but whether blemishes or no, how- 
ever this matter be which we have brought to exculpate 
him, neither of these articles can with any face of justice 
be alleg'd against " Love's Labour's Lost," seeing they 
are both to be met with in several other plays, the gen- 
uineness of which has not been question'd by any one. 
And one thing more shall be observ'd in the behalf of 
this play; — that the author himself was so Httle dis- 
pleased at least with some part of it, that he has brought 
them a second time upon the stage; for who may not 
perceive that his famous Benedict and Beatrice are but 
little more than the counter-parts of Biron and 
Rosaline? All which circumstances consider'd, and that 
especially of the writer's childhood (as it may be 
term'd) when this comedy was produc'd, we may con- 
fidently pronounce it his true offspring, and replace 
it amongst its brethren. 

That the " Taming of the Shrew " should ever have 
been put into this class of plays, and adjudg'd a spuri- 
\ ous one, may justly be reckon'd wonderful, when we 
consider it's merit, and the reception it has generally 
met with in the world: its success at first, and the 
esteem it was then held in, induc'd Fletcher to enter the 
lists with it in another play, in which Petruchio is 
humbl'd and Catharine triumphant; and we have it in 
his works, under the title of " The Woman's Prize, or, 

I the Tamer tam'd " : but, by an unhappy mistake of 
buffoonery for humour and obscenity for wit, which was 


not uncommon with that author, his production came 
lamely off, and was soon consign'd to the oblivion in 
which it is now bury'd; whereas this of his antagonist 
flourishes still, and has maintained its place upon the 
stage (in some shape or other) from its very first 
appearance down to the present hour : and this success it 
has merited, by true wit and true humour; a fable of 
very artful construction, much business, and highly 
interesting; and by natural and well-sustained char- 
acters, which no pen but Shakespeare's was capable of 
drawing : what defects it has, are chiefly in the diction ; 
the same (indeed) with those of the play that was last- 
mention'd, and to be accounted for the same way : for we 
are strongly inclin'd to believe it a neighbour in time to 
" Love's Labour's Lost," though we want the proofs of 
it which we have luckily for that. 

But the plays which we have already spoken of are but 
slightly attack'd, and by few writers, in comparison of 
this which we are now come to of " Titus Andronicus " ; 
commentators, editors, every one (in short) who has had 
to do with Shakespeare, unite all in condemning it, — 
as a very bundle of horrors, totally unfit for the stage, 
and unlike the poet's manner, and even the style of his 
other pieces; all which allegations are extremely true, 
and we readily admit of them, but can not admit the con- 
clusion — that therefore it is not his; and shall now 
proceed to give the reasons of our dissent, but (first) 
the play's age must be enquir'd into. In the Induction 
to Jonson's " Bartholomew Fair," which was written in 
the year 1614, the audience is thus accosted; — "Hee 
that will sweare, ' Jeronimo,' or ' Andronicus ' are the 
best playes, yet, shall passe unexcepted at, heere, as a 
man whose judgement shews it is constant, and hath 



stood still, these five and twentie, or thirty yeeres. 
Though it be an ignorance, it is a vertuous and stay'd 
ignorance; and next to truth, a confirm'd errour does 
well ; such a one the author knowes where to finde him." 
We have here the great Ben himself, joining this play 
with " Jeronimo, or The Spanish Tragedy," and bearing 
express testimony to the credit they were both in with 
the publick at the time they were written; but this by 
the by ; to ascertain that time, was the chief reason for 
inserting the quotation, and there we see it fix'd to 
twenty-five or thirty years prior to this Induction : now 
it is not necessary to suppose that Jonson speaks in 
this place with exact precision; but allowing that he 
does, the first of these periods carries us back to 1589, 
a date not very repugnant to what is afterwards 
advanc'd: Langbaine, in his "Account of the English 
Dramatick Poets," under the article " Shakespeare," 
does expressly tell us, — that " * Andronicus ' was first 
printed in 1594, quarto, and acted by the Earls of 
Derby, Pembroke, and Essex, their servants " ; and 
though the edition is not now to be met with, and he 
who mentions it be no exact writer, nor greatly to bo 
rely'd on in many of his articles, yet in this which we 
have quoted he is so very particular that one can hardly 
withhold assent to it; especially, as this account of its 
printing coincides well enough with Jonson's sera of 
writing this play; to which therefore we subscribe, 
and go on upon that ground. The books of that time 
afford strange examples of the barbarism of the pub- 
lick taste both upon the stage and elsewhere : a conceited 
one of John Lilly's set the whole nation a-madding ; and, 
for a while, every pretender to politeness " parl'd 
Euphuism," as it was phras'd, and no writings would go 


down with them but such as were pen'd In that fan- 
tastical manner: the setter-up of this fashion try'd it 
also in comedy; but seems to have miscarry'd in that, 
and for this plain reason; the people who govern 
theatres are, the middle and lower order of the world; 
and these expected laughter in comedies, which this 
stuff of Lilly's was incapable of exciting : but some other 
writers, who rose exactly at that time, succeeded better 
in certain tragical performances, though as outrageous 
to the full in their way, and as remote from nature, as 
these comick ones of Lilly ; for falling in with that Innate 
love of blood which has been often objected to British 
audiences, and choosing fables of horror which they 
made horrider still by their, manner of handling them, 
they produc'd a set of monsters that are not to be 
parallel'd in all the annals of play-writing; yet they 
were received with applause, and were the favourites of 
the publick for almost ten years together ending at 
1595 ; many plays of this stamp. It Is probable, have per- 
ish'd ; but those that are come down to us, are as follows ; 
—"The Wars of Cyrus," " Tamburlaine the Great," 
in two parts ; " The Spanish Tragedy," likewise in two 
parts ; " Soliman and Perseda," and " Selimus, a trag- 
edy " ; which whoever has means of coming at, and can 
have patience to examine, will see evident tokens of a 
fashion then prevailing, which occaslon'd all these plays 
to be cast In the same mold. Now, Shakespeare, what- 
ever motives he might have In some other parts of It, at 
this period of his life wrote certainly for profit; and 
seeing it was to be had In this way, (and this way only, 
perhaps), he fell in with the current, and gave his sorry 
auditors a piece to their tooth in this contested play of 
" Titus Andronicus " ; which as it came out at the same 



time with the plays above-mention'd, is most exactly like 
them in almost every particular; their very numbers, 
consisting all of ten syllables with hardly any redundant, 
are copied by this Proteus, who could put on any shape 
that either serv'd his interest or suited his inclination: 
and this, we hope, is a fair and unf orc'd way of account- 
ing for " Andronicus " ; and may convince the most 
prejudic'd — that Shakespeare might be the writer of it ; 
as he might also of "Locrine" which is ascribed to him, a 
ninth tragedy, in form and time agreeing perfectly with 
the others. But to conclude this article, — However he 
may be censur'd as rash or ill- judging, the editor ven- 
tures to declare — that he himself wanted not the convic- 
tion of the foregoing argument to be satisfy'd who the 
play belongs to; for though a work of imitation, and 
conforming itself to models truly execrable throughout, 
yet the genius of its author breaks forth in some places, 
and, to the editor's eye, Shakespeare stands confess'd: 
the third act in particular may be read with admiration 
even by the most delicate ; who, if they are not without 
feelings, may chance to find themselves touch'd by it 
with such passions as tragedy should excite, that is — 
terror, and pity. The reader will please to observe — 
that all these contested plays are in the folio, which is 
dedicated to the poet's patrons and friends, the Earls of 
Pembroke and Montgomery, by editors who are seem- 
ingly honest men, and profess themselves dependant 
upon those noblemen, to whom therefore they would 
hardly have had the confidence to present forgeries, and 
pieces supposititious ; in which too they were liable to 
be detected by those identical noble persons themselves, 
as well as by a very great part of their other readers 
nd auditors: which argument, though of no little 


strength in itself, we omitted to bring before, as having 
better (as we thought) and more forcible to offer; but 
it had behov'd those gentlemen who have question'd the 
plays to have got rid of it in the first instance as it lies 
full in their way in the very entrance upon this dispute. 
We shall close this part of the introduction with some 
observations, that were reserv'd for this place, upon 
that paragraph of the player-editor's preface which is 
quoted at p. 190; and then taking this further liberty 
with the reader, — to call back his attention to some par- 
ticulars that concern the present edition, dismiss him to 
be entertain'd (as we hope) by a sort of appendix, con- 
sisting of those notes that have been mention'd, in which 
the true and undoubted originals of almost all the poet's 
fables are clearly pointed out. But first of the preface. 
Besides the authenticity of all the several pieces that 
make up this collection, and their care in publishing 
them, both solemnly affirm'd in the paragraph refer'd to, 
we there find these honest editors acknowledging in 
terms equally solemn the author's right in his copies, 
and lamenting that he had not exercis'd that right by a 
publication of them during his life-time; and from the 
manner in which they express themselves, we are strongly 
inclin'd to think — that he had really form'd such a 
design, but towards his last days, and too late to put it 
in execution : a collection of Jonson's was at that instant 
in the press, and upon the point of coming forth ; which 
might probably inspire such a thought into him and his 
companions, and produce conferences between them — 
about a similar publication from him, and the pieces 
that should compose it, which the poet might make a 
list of. It is true, this is only a supposition ; but a sup- 
position arising naturally, as we think, from the incident 


that has been mentlon'd, and the expressions of his fel- 
low-players and editors: and, if suffer'd to pass for 
truth, here is a good and sound reason for the exclusion 
of all those other plays that have been attributed to him 
upon some grounds or other ; — he himself has proscrib'd 
them; and we cannot forbear hoping, that they will in 
no future time rise up against him, and be thrust into 
his works ; a disavowal of weak and idle pieces, the pro- 
ductions of green years, wantonness, or inattention, is a 
right that all authors are vested with; and should be 
exerted by all, if their reputation is dear to them ; had 
Jonson us'd it, his character had stood higher than it 
does.' But, after all, they who have pay'd attention to 
this truth are not always secure; the indiscreet zeal of 
an admirer, or avarice of a publisher, has frequently 
added things that dishonour them; and where realities 
have been wanting, forgeries supply the place ; thus has 
Homer his Hymns, and the poor Mantuan his Ciris and 
his Culex. Noble and great authors demand all our ven- 
eration: where their wills can be discover'd, they ought 
sacredly to be comply'd with; and that editor ill dis- 
charges his duty, who presumes to load them with things 
they have renounc'd: it happens but too often, that we 
have other ways to shew our regard to them ; their own 
great want of care in their copies, and the still greater 
want of it that is commonly in their impressions, will 
find sufficient exercise for any one's friendship, who 
may wish to see their works set forth in that perfection 
which was intended by the author. And this friendship 
re have endeavour'd to shew to Shakespeare in the 
jsent edition ; the plan of it has been lay'd before the 
jader ; upon whom it rests to judge finally of its good- 
iss, as well as how it is executed : but as several matters 


have Interven'd that may have driven it from his 
memory ; and we are desirous above all things to leave a 
strong impression upon him of one merit which it 
may certainly pretend to, that is — it's fidelity ; we shall 
take leave to remind him, at parting, that — ^Throughout 
all this work, what is added without the authority of 
some ancient edition, is printed in a black letter: what 
alter'd, and what thrown out, constantly taken notice of ; 
some few times in a note, where the matter was long, or 
of a complex nature ; but, more generally, at the bottom 
of the page; where what is put out of the text, how 
minute and insignificant soever, is always to be met 
with; what alter'd, as constantly set down, and in the 
proper words of that edition upon which the alteration 
is form'd: and, even in authoriz'd readings, whoever is 
desirous of knowing further, what edition is follow'd 
preferably to the others, may be gratify 'd too in that, 
by consulting the " Various Readings " ; which are now 
finish'd; and will be publish'd, together with the 
" Notes," in some other volumes, with all the speed that 
is convenient.^ 

•Here follows a summary, filling several pages, of the original 
sources of Shakespeare's plays. As it has no critical value it is 
here omitted. 




ISAAC REED, the son of a baker, was bom in 
London, January, 1742, and died January, 1807. 
He received such slender education as the narrow 
means of his parents allowed, but was wisely 
directed in his reading by his father. Beginning 
life as clerk in a solicitor's office, he became a convey- 
ancer, and finally adopted literature. He was the 
friend of Horace Walpole, Bishop Percy, Dr. Farmer, 
and even George Steevens, with whom he was associated 
in Shakespearean criticism. He was a modest man, the 
editor of a number of memoirs and collected works, to 
which he rarely attached his name, and of which little 
note is taken at this day, save his edition of " Doddsley's 
Old Plays," and his additions and augmentations to the 
Johnson and Steevens edition of Shakespeare, pub- 
lished in 1785, again in 1793, and a fifth edition in 
twenty-one volumes, after his death in 1813. 

Reed's Advertisement, which follows, gives us the 
quality of the man, modest, sincere, and honest. 


[The third edition, prefixed to a revision of Johnson and Stee- 
vens's text, 1785.] 

The works of Shakespeare, during the last twenty 
l^fcyears, have been the objects of publick attention more 


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, that it might reasonably be pre- 
sumed 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 acci- 
dent will probably continue to produce further illustra- 
tions, which may render some alterations necessary in 
every succeeding republication. 

Since the last edition of this work in 1778, the zeal for 
elucidating Shakespeare, which appeared in most of the 
gentlemen whose names are affixed to the notes, has suf- 
fered little abatement. 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 Shakespeare will receive no 

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 com- 
mitted the care of the present edition to one who laments 
with the rest of the world the secession of his pre- 
decessor ; being conscious, as well of his own inferiority. 



as of the injury the publication will sustain by the 

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 expec- 
tation ; but to speak of anything 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 published 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 proba- 
bly 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. 
jHe is, however, inclined to believe, that what he has 
>mitted 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 cen- 
sure may fall where it ought, he desires it to be under- 
stood that no person is answerable for any of these 

movations but himself. 
It has been observed by the last editor, that the mul- 
titude of instances which have been produced to 
exemplify particular words, and explain obsolete cus- 
[toms, may, when the point is once known to be estab- 


lished, be diminished by any future editor, and, in con- 
formity of 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, 

" That when one's proofs are aptly chosen. 
Four are as valid as four dozen." 

The present editor thinks it unnecessary to say any 
thing of his own share in the work, except that he 
undertook it in consequence of an application which was 
too flattering and too honourable to him to decline. He 
mentions this only to have it known that he did not 
intrude himself into the situation. He is not insensible, 
that the task would have been better executed by many 
other gentlemen, and particularly, by some whose names 
appear to the notes. He has added but little to the bulk 
of the volumes from his own observations, having, upon 
every occasion, rather chosen to avoid a note, than to 
court the opportunity of inserting one. The liberty he 
has taken of omitting some remarks, he is confident, has 
been exercised without prejudice and without par- 
tiality; and therefore, trusting to the candour and 
indulgence of the publick, will forbear to detain them 
any longer from the entertainment they may receive 
from the greatest poet of this or any other nation. 




EDMUND MALONE was bom in Dublin, 
October 4, 1741, and died in London, May 
! 25, 1812. 
He was educated at Trinity College, 
Dublin, and became a member of the Irish bar. He 
turned his back, however, both upon the land of 
his birth and the profession of his adoption, and set- 
tling in London in the year 1777, devoted himself to 
literature, and mainly to Shakespearean criticism. His 
first essay in this field was " An Attempt to Ascertain 
the Order in Which the Plays of Shakespeare Were 
Written " (1778) ; followed two years later by two 
volumes supplementary to the Steevens and Johnson 
edition of the works. 

These volumes opened a new era in Shakespearean inter- 
pretation. They contained the " Supplemental Observa- 
tions," as he called them, which were afterwards made 
the basis of his history of the English stage ; a reprint 
of Arthur Brooke's translation from the Italian of the 
old poem, " Romeus and Juliet," the " Yenus and 
Adonis," " Rape of Lucrece," " Sonnets," " Passionate 
Pilgrim," and " A Lover's Complaint of Shakespeare " ; 
and the seven doubtful plays, " Pericles," " Locrine," 
"Sir John Oldcastle," "Lord Cromwell," "London 
Prodigal," "The Puritans," and "The Yorkshire 

A first and second appendix followed these Yolumes, 
containing additional notes and emendations. 


His own complete edition of the " Plays and Poems," 
in ten volumes, appeared in 1790, and gave evidence 
of a patient and plodding industry, accompanied by 
critical powers of great ability. This was the most 
monumental of all editions up to that date; containing 
not only " the corrections and illustrations of various 
commentators," but to which were added, " an essay on 
the chronological order of his plays (previously pub- 
lished) ; a^ essay relating to Shakespeare and Johnson ; 
a dissertation on the three parts of * King Henry VI.' 
and an historical account of the ' English Stage.' " 

In 1796 Malone published " An Inquiry Into the 
Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and 
Legal Instruments," etc., known as the " Ireland Forg- 
eries," which sufficiently exposed the duplicity of young 
William Henry Ireland, who claimed to have discovered 
a number of autographs of Shakespeare, Queen Eliza- 
beth, and of the Earl of Southampton, with one whole 
play of the former's and fragments of others. 

Malone edited the works of Dryden, William Gerard 
Hamilton and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Visiting Stratford 
and the tomb of the poet, he convinced the vicar that 
the monument of Shakespeare should not be in colors as 
originally designed, and was allowed to cover it with 
white paint. It was restored as nearly as possible to its 
former state more than half a century later ; but gave 
rise to the following bitter screed published in the 
" Gentleman's Magazine," 1815 : 

" Stranger, to whom this monument is shown, 
Invoke the poet's curse upon Malone; 
Whose meddling zeal his barbarous taste displays. 
And daubs his tombstone as he mars his plays." 

^;^.y^ /9'7^K^-^^^><H.^^^ 






[Prefixed to octavo edition in 10 volumes, 1790.] 

In the following work, the labour of eight years, I have 
endeavoured, with unceasing solicitude, to give a faith- 
ful and correct edition of the plays and poems of Shake- 
speare. Whatever imperfection or errors therefore, may 
be found in it, (and what work of so great a length 
and difficulty was ever free from error or imperfection?) 
will, I trust, be imputed to any other cause than want of 
zeal for the due execution of the task which I venture to 

The difficulties to be encountered by an editor of the 
works of Shakespeare, have been so frequently stated, 
and are so generally acknowledged, that it may 
seem unnecessary to conciliate the publick favour by 
this plea : but as these in my opinion have in some par- 
ticulars, been over-rated, and in others, not sufficiently 
insisted on, and as the true state of the ancient copies of 
this poet's writings has never been laid before the pub- 
lick, I shall consider the subject as if it had not been 
already discussed by preceding editors. 

In the year 1756 Dr. Johnson published the following 
excellent scheme of a new edition of Shakespeare's 
< dramatick pieces, which he completed in 1765 : 

" When the works of Shakespeare are, after so many 

litions, again offered to the publick, it will doubtless be 
inquired, why Shakespeare stands in more need of crit- 
ical assistance than any other of the English writers, 
fend what are the deficiencies of the late attempts, which 
another editor may hope to supply. 

The business of him that republishes an ancient book 

I, to correct what is corrupt, and to explain what is 


obscure. To have a text corrupt in many places, and 
in many doubtful, is, among the authors that have 
written since the use of types, almost peculiar to 
Shakespeare. Most writers, by publishing their own 
works, prevent all various readings and preclude all 
conjectural criticism. Books indeed are sometimes 
published after the death of him who produced them, 
but they are better secured from corruption than these 
unfortunate compositions. They subsist in a single 
copy, written or revised by the author ; and the faults 
of the printed volume can be only faults of one descent. 

" But of the works of Shakespeare the condition has 
been far different: he sold them, not to be printed, but 
to be played. They were immediately copied for the 
actors, and multiplied by transcript after transcript, 
vitiated by the blunders of the penman, or changed by 
the affectation of the player; perhaps enlarged to in- 
troduce a jest, or mutilated to shorten the representa- 
tion; and printed at last without the concurrence of 
the author, without the consent of the proprietor, from 
compilations made by chance or by stealth out of the 
separate parts written for the theatre: and thus thrust 
into the world surreptitiously and hastily, they suf- 
fered another depravation from the ignorance and negli- 
gence of the printers, as every man who knows the state 
of the press in that age will readily conceive. 

*' It is not easy for invention to bring together so many 
causes concurring to vitiate a text. No other author 
ever gave up his works to fortune and time with so little 
care; no books could be left in hands so likely to injure 
them, as plays frequently acted, yet continued in manu- 
script: no other transcribers were likely to be so little 
qualified for their task, as those who copied for the stage, 


at a time when the lower ranks of the people were uni- 
versally illiterate: no other editions were made from 
fragments so minutely broken, and so fortuitously re- 
united ; and in no other age was the art of printing in 
such unskilful hands. 

" With the causes of corruption that make the revisal 
of Shakespeare's dramatick pieces necessary, may be 
enumerated the causes of obscurity, which may be partly 
imputed to his age, and partly to himself. 

" When a writer outlives his contemporaries, and re- 
mains almost the only unforgotten name of a distant 
time, he is necessarily obscure. Every age has its modes 
of speech, and its cast of thought ; which, though easily 
explained when there are many books to be compared 
with each other, become sometimes unintelligible, and 
always difficult, when there are no parallel passages that 
may conduce to their illustration. Shakespeare is the 
first considerable author of sublime or familiar dialogue 
in our language. Of the books which he read, and from 
which he formed his style some perhaps have perished, 
and the rest are neglected. His imitations are therefore 
unnoted, his allusions are undiscovered, and many 
beauties both of pleasantry and greatness, are lost 
with the objects to which they were united, as the figures 
vanish when the canvas has decayed. 

" It is the great excellence of Shakespeare, that he drew 
his scenes from nature, and from life. He copied the 
manners of the world then passing before him, and has 
more allusions than other poets to the traditions and 
superstitions of the vulgar; which must therefore be 
traced before we can understand. 

" He wrote at a time when our poetical language was 
yet unformed, when the meaning of our phrases was yet 



in fluctuation, when words were adopted at pleasure from 

the neighbouring languages, and while the Saxon was 
still visibly mingled in our diction. The reader is there- 
fore embarrassed at once with dead and with foreisTi 
languages, with obsoleteness and innovation. In that 
age, as in all others, fashion produced phraseology, 
which succeeding fashion swept away before its mean- 
ing was generally known, or sufficiently authorized ; and 
in that age, above all others, experiments were made 
upon our language, which distorted its combinations, 
and disturbed its uniformity. 

" If Shakespeare has difficulties above other writers, it is 
to be imputed to the nature of his work, which required 
the use of the common colloquial language, and con- 
sequently admitted many phrases allusive, elliptical, 
and proverbial, such as we speak and hear every hour 
without observing them; and of which, being now 
familiar, we do not suspect that they can ever grow 
uncouth, or that, being now obvious, they can ever seem j 
remote. ^ 

" These are the principal causes of the obscurity of 
Shakespeare; to which may be added that fullness of 
idea, which might sometimes load his words with more 
sentiment than they could conveniently convey, and 
that rapidity of imagination which might hurry him 
to a second thought before he had fully explained the 
first. But my opinion is, that very few of his lines were 
difficult to his audijence, and that he used such expres- 
sions as were then common, though the paucity of con- I 
temporary writers makes them now seem peculiar. 

" Authors are often praised for improvement, or blamed 
for innovation, with very little justice, by those who 
read few other books of the same age. Addison himself 


has been so unsuccessful in enumerating the words with 
which Milton has enriched our language, as perhaps not 
to have named one of which Milton was the author ; and 
Bentley has yet more unhappily praised him as the intro- 
ducer of those elisions into English poetry, which had 
been used from the first essays of versification among 
us, and which Milton was indeed the last that practised. 

" Another impediment, not the least vexatious to the 
commentator, is the exactness with which Shakespeare 
followed his author. Instead of dilating his thoughts 
into generalities, and expressing incidents with poetical 
latitude, he often combines circumstances unnecessary 
to his main design, only because he happened to find 
them together. Such passages can be illustrated only 
by him who has read the same story in the very book 
which Shakespeare consulted. 

" He that undertakes an edition of Shakespeare, has all 
these difficulties to encounter, and all these obstructions 
to remove. 

" The corruptions of the text will be corrected by a 
careful collation of the oldest copies, by which it is hoped 
that many restorations may yet be made ; at least it will 
be necessary to collect and note the variations as mate- 
rials for future criticks, for it very often happens that 
a wrong reading has affinity to the right. 

" In this part all the present editions are apparently 
and intentionally defective. The criticks did not so much 
as wish to facilitate the labour of those that followed 
them. The same books are still to be compared; the 
work that has been done, is to be done again, and no 
single edition will supply the reader with a text on 

rhich he can rely as the best copy of the works of 



" The edition now proposed will at least have this ad- 
vantage over others. It will exhibit all the observable 
varieties of all the copies that can be found ; that, if the 
reader is not satisfied with the editor's determination, 
he may have the means of choosing better for himself. 

" Where all the books are evidently vitiated and colla- 
tion can give no assistance, then begins the task of criti- 
cal sagacity; and some changes may well be admitted 
in a text never settled by the author, and so long ex- 
posed to caprice and ignorance. But nothing shall be 
imposed, as in the Oxford edition, without notice of the 
alteration ; nor shall conjecture be wantonly or unneces- 
sarily indulged. 

" It has been long found, that very spacious emenda- 
tions do not equally strike all minds with conviction, nor 
even the same mind at different times; and, therefore, 
though perhaps many alterations may be proposed as 
eligible, very feW will be obtruded as certain. In a lan- 
guage so ungrammatical as the English, and so licentious 
as that of Shakespeare, emendatory criticism is always 
hazardous ; nor can it be allowed to any man who is not 
particularly versed in the writings of that age, and par- 
ticularly studious of his author's diction. There is 
danger lest peculiarities should be mistaken for corrup- 
tions, and passages rejected as unintelligible, which a 
narrow mind happens not to understand. 

" All the former criticks have been so much employed on 
the correction of the text, that they have not sufficiently 
attended to the elucidation of passages obscured by acci- 
dent or time. The editor will endeavour to read the 
books which the author read, to trace his knowledge to 
its source, and compare his copies with the originals. 
If in this part of his design he hopes to attain any de- 


gree of superiority to his predecessors, it must be con- 
sidered, that he has the advantage of their labours ; that 
part of the work being already done, more care is natu- 
rally bestowed on the other part; and that, to declare 
the truth, Mr. Rowe and Mr. Pope were very ignorant 
of the ancient English literature; Dr. Warburton was 
detained by more important studies ; and Mr. Theobald, 
if fame be just to his memory, considered learning only 
as an instrument of gain, and made no further inquiry 
after his author's meaning, when once he had notes suffi- 
cient to embellish his page with the expected decorations. 

" With regard to obsolete or peculiar diction, the editor 
may perhaps claim some degree of confidence, having 
had more motives to consider the whole extent of our 
language than any other man from its first formation. 
He hopes, that, by comparing the works of Shakespeare 
with those of writers who lived at the same time, imme- 
diately preceded, or immediately followed him, he shall 
be able to ascertain his ambiguities, disentangle his in- 
tricacies, and recover the meaning of words now lost in 
the darkness of antiquity. 

" When, therefore, any obscurity arises from an allusion 
to some other book, the passage will be quoted. When 
the diction is entangled, it will be cleared by a para- 
phrase or interpretation. When the sense is broken by 
the suppression of part of the sentiment in pleasantry 
or passion, the connection will be supplied. When any 
forgotten custom is hinted, care will be taken to retrieve 
and explain it. The meaning assigned to doubtful words 
will be supported by the authorities of other writers, or 
by parallel passages of Shakespeare himself. 

*' The observation of faults and beauties is one of the 
iduties of an annotator, which some of Shakespeare's 


editors have attempted, and some have neglected. For 
this part of his task, and for this only, was Mr. Pope 
eminently and indisputably qualified: nor has Dr. War- 
burton followed him with less diligence or less success. 
But I never observed that mankind was much delighted 
or improved by their asterisks, commas, or double com- 
mas ; of which the only effect is, that they preclude the 
pleasure of judging for ourselves ; teach the young and 
ignorant to decide without principles; defeat curiosity 
and discernment by leaving them less to discover ; and, 
at last, show the opinion of the critick, without the 
reasons on which it was founded, and without affording 
any light by which it may be examined. 

" The editor, though he may less delight his own vanity, 
will probably please his reader more, by supposing him 
equally able with himself to judge of beauties and faults, 
which require no previous acquisition of remote knowl- 
edge. A description of the obvious scenes of nature, 
a representation of general life, a sentiment of reflec- 
tion or experience, a deduction of conclusive argument, 
a forcible eruption of effervescent passion, are to be 
considered as proportionate to common apprehensions, 
unassisted by critical officiousness ; since to conceive 
them, nothing more is requisite than, acquaintance with 
the general state of the world, and those faculties which 
he must always bring with him who would read Shake- 

" But when the beauty arises from some adaptation of 
the sentiment to customs worn out of use, to opinions 
not universally prevalent, or to any accidental or minute 
particularity, which cannot be supplied by common 
understanding, or common observation, it is the duty 
of a commentator to lend his assistance. 


" The notice of beauties and faults thus limited will 
make no distinct part of the design, being reducible to 
the explanation of obscure passages. 

" The editor does not, however, intend to preclude him- 
self from the comparison of Shakespeare's sentiments 
or expressions with those of ancient or modern authors, 
or from the display of any beauty not obvious to the 
students of poetry, for, as he hopes to leave his author 
better understood, he wishes likewise to procure him 
more rational approbation. 

" The former editors have affected to slight their 
predecessors : but in this edition all that is valuable will 
be adopted from every commentator, that posterity may 
consider it as including all the rest and exhibit whatever 
is hitherto known of the great father of the English 

Though Dr. Johnson has here pointed out with his 
usual perspicuity and vigour, the true course to be 
taken by an editor of Shakespeare, some of the posi- 
tions which he has laicf down may be controverted, and 
some are indubitably not true. It is not true that the 
plays of this author were more incorrectly printed than 
those of any of his contemporaries : for in the plays of 
Marlowe, Marston, Fletcher, Massinger, and others, as 
many errors may be found. It is not true that the art 
of printing was in no other age in so unskilful hands. 
Nor is it true, in the latitude in which it is stated, that 
" these plays were printed from compilations made by 
chance or by stealth out of the separate parts written 
for the theatre"; two only of all his dramas, "The 
Merry Wives of Windsor," and " King Henry V.," 
appear to have been thus thrust into the world, and of 
the former it is yet a doubt whether it is a first sketch 


or an imperfect copy. I do not believe that words were 
then adopted at pleasure from the neighbouring 
languages, or that an antiquated diction was then em- 
ployed by any poet but Spenser. That the obscurities 
of our author, to whatever cause they may be referred, 
do not arise from the paucity of contemporary writers, 
the present edition may furnish indisputable evidence. 
And lastly, if it be true, that " very few of Shake- 
speare's lines were difficult to his audience, and that he 
used such expressions as were then common," (a posi- 
tion of which I have not the smallest doubt), it cannot' 
be true, that " his reader is embarrassed at once with 
dead and with foreign languages, with obsoleteness and 

When Mr. Pope first undertook the task of revising 
these plays, every anomaly of language, and every ex- 
pression that was not understood at that time, were con- 
sidered as errors or corruptions, and the text was 
altered, or amended, as it was called, at pleasure. The 
principal writers of the early part of this century seem 
never to have looked behind them, and to have con- 
sidered their own era and their own phraseology as the 
standard of perfection : hence, from the time of Pope's 
edition, for above twenty years, to alter Shakespeare's 
text and to restore it, were considered as synonymous 
terms. During the last thirty years our principal em- 
ployment has been to restore, in the true sense of the 
word; to eject the arbitrary and capricious innovations 
made by our predecessors from ignorance of the phrase- 
ology and customs of the age in which Shakespeare 

As on the one hand our poet's text has been described 
as more corrupt than it really is, so on the other, the 


labour required to investigate fugitive allusions, to ex- 
plain and justify obsolete phraseology by parallel pas- 
sages from contemporary authors, and to form a genuine 
text by a faithful collation of the original copies, has 
not perhaps had that notice to which it is entitled; for 
undoubtedly it is a laborious and a difficult task : and the 
due execution of this it is, which can ajone entitle an 
editor of Shakespeare to the favour of the publick. 

I have said that the comparative value of the various 
ancient copies of Shakespeare's plays has never been 
precisely ascertained. To prove this, it will be neces- 
sary to go into a long and minute discussion for which, 
however, no apology is necessary ; for though to explain 
and illustrate the writings of our poet is a principal duty 
of his editor, to ascertain his genuine text, to fix what 
is to be explained, is his first and immediate object: and 
till it be established which of the ancient copies is entitled 
to preference, we have no criterion by which the text can 
be ascertained. 

Fifteen of Shakespeare's plays were printed in quarto 
antecedent to the first complete collection of his works, 
which was published by his fellow-comedians in 1623. 
These plays are, " A Midsummer Night's Dream," 
" Love's Labour's Lost," " Romeo and Juliet," " Ham- 
let," The Two Parts of "King Henry IV.," "King 
Richard XL," "King Richard III.," "The Merchant of 
Venice," " King Henry V.," " Much Ado About Noth- 
ing," " The Merry Wives of Windsor," " Troilus and 
Cressida," " King Lear," and " Othello." 

The players, when they mention these copies, represent 
them all as mutilated and imperfect ; but this was merely 
thrown out to give an additional value to their own 
edition, and is not strictly true of any but two of the 


whole number ; " The Merry Wives of Windsor," and 
" King Henry V." — ^With respect to the other thirteen 
copies, though undoubtedly they were all surreptitious, 
that is, stolen from the playhouse, and printed without 
the consent of the author or the proprietors, they in 
general are preferable to the exhibition of the same 
plays in the folio ; for this plain reason, because instead 
of printing these plays from a manuscript, the editors 
of the folio, to save labour, or from some other motive, 
printed the greater part of them from the very copies 
which they represented as maimed and imperfect, and 
frequently from a late, instead of the earliest edition; 
in some instances with additions and alteration of their 
own. Thus, therefore, the first folio, as far as respects 
the plays above enumerated, labours under the disad- 
vantage of being at least a second, and in some cases a 
third, edition of these quartos. I do not, however, mean 
to say, that many valuable corrections of passages un- 
doubtedly corrupt in the quartos are not found in the 
folio copy; or that a single line of these plays should 
be printed by a careful editor without a minute exami- 
nation, and collation of both copies ; but those quartos 
were in general the basis on which the folio editors built, 
and are entitled to our particular attention and examina- 
tion as first editions. 

It is well known to those who are conversant with the 
business of the press, that (unless when the author cor- 
rects and revises his own works) as editions of books 
are multiplied, their errors are multiplied also ; and that 
consequently every such edition is more or less correct, 
as it approaches nearer to or is more distant from the 
first. A few instances of the gradual progress of cor- 
ruption will fully evince the truth of this assertion. 



[Here follow, in the original, several pages of examples 
of what Malone considered as corruptions of the text, 
which are omitted as having no special interest to the 
general reader.] 

So little known indeed was the value of the early im- 
pressions of books (not revised or corrected by their 
authors), that King Charles the First, though a great 
admirer of our poet, was contented with the second folio 
edition of his plays, unconscious of the numerous mis- 
representations and interpolations by which every page 
of that copy is disfigured ; and in a volume of the quarto 
plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, which formerly be- 
longed to that king, and is now in my collection, I did 
not find a single first impression. In like manner. Sir 
William D'Avenant, when he made his alteration of the 
play of " Macbeth," appears to have used the third 
folio printed in 1664. 

The various readings found in the different impressions 
of the quarto copies are frequently mentioned by the 
late editors: it is obvious from what has been already 
stated, that the first edition of each play is alone of any 
authority, and accordingly to no other have I paid any 
attention. All the variations in the subsequent quartos 
were made by accident or caprice. When, however, there 
are two editions printed in the same year, or an undated 
copy, it is necessary to examine each of them, because 
which of them was first, cannot be ascertained ; and being 
each printed from a manuscript, they carry with them a 
degree of authority to which a re-impression cannot be 
entitled. Of the tragedy of " King Lear," there are no 
less than three copies, varying from each other, printed 
for the same bookseller, and in the same year. 


Of all the plays of which there are no quarto copies 
extant, the first folio, printed in 1623, is the only au- ' 
thentick edition. 

An opinion has been entertained by some that the 
second impression of that book, published in 1632, has 
a similar claim to authenticity. " Whoever has any of 
the folios (says Dr. Johnson), has all, excepting those 
diversities which mere reiteration of editions will pro- ' 
duce. I collated them all at the beginning, but after- 
wards used only the first, from which (he afterwards ' 
adds), the subsequent folios never differ but by accident ■ 
or negligence." Mr. Steevens, however, does not sub- 
scribe to this opinion. " The edition of 1632 (says that 
gentleman), is not without value; for though it be in 
some places more incorrectly printed than the preceding 
one, it has likewise the advantage of various readings, 
which are not merely such as reiteration of copies wil 
naturally produce." 

What Dr. Johnson has stated, is not quite accurate. 
The second folio does indeed very frequently differ from 
the first by negligence or chance; but much more fre- 
quently by the editor's profound ignorance of our poet's 
phraseology and metre, in consequence of which there is 
scarce a page of the book which is not disfigured by the 
capricious alterations introduced by the person to whom 
the care of that impression was entrusted. This person; 
in fact, whoever he was, and Mr. Pope, were the two 
great corrupters of our poet's text; and I have no, 
doubt that if the arbitrary alterations introduced by 
these two editors were numbered, in the plays of which 
no quarto copies are extant, they would greatly exceed 
all the corruptions and errors of the press in the origi- 
nal and only authentick copy of those plays. Though 


i"y judgment oii this subject has been formed after a 
very careful examination, I cannot expect that it should 
be received on my mere assertion: and therefore it is 
necessary to substantiate it by proof. This cannot be 
effected but by a long, minute, and what I am afraid 
will appear to many, an uninteresting disquisition: but 
let it still be remembered that to ascertain the genuine 
text of these plays is an object of great importance. 

On a revision of the second folio printed in 1632, it will 
be found, that the editor of that book was entirely 
ignorant of our poet's phraseology and metre, and that 
various alterations were made by him, in consequence 
of that ignorance, which render his edition of no value 

[Several pages of quotations follow which, having to 
do with textual criticism only, are here omitted.] 

Various other instances of the same kind might be pro- 
duced ; but that I may not weary my readers, I will only 
add, that no person who wishes to peruse the plays of 
Shakespeare should ever open the Second Folio, or either 
of the subsequent copies, in which all these capricious 
alterations were adopted, with many additional errors 
and innovations. 

It may seem strange, that the person to whom the care 
of supervising the second folio was consigned, should 
have been thus ignorant of our poet's language ; but it 
should be remembered, that in the beginning of the 
reign of Charles the First many words, and modes of 
speech began to be disused, which had been common in 
the age of Queen Elizabeth. The editor of the second 
folio was probably a young man, perhaps bom in the 


year 1600. That Sir William D'Avenant, who was born 
in 1605, did not always perfectly understand our 
author's language, is manifest from various alterations 
which he has made in some of his pieces. The successive 
" Chronicles of English History," which were compiled 
between the years 1540 and 1630, afford indubitable 
proofs of the gradual change in our phraseology during 
that period. Thus a narrative which Hall exhibits in 
what now appears to us as very uncouth and ancient 
diction, is again exhibited by Holinshed, about forty 
years afterwards, in somewhat a less rude form ; and in 
the chronicles of Speed and Baker in 1611 and 1630, 
assumes a somewhat more polished air. In the second 
edition of " Gascoigne's Poems," printed in 1587, the 
editor thought it necessary to explain many of the 
words by placing more familiar terms in the margin, 
though not much more than twenty years had elapsed 
from the time of their composition: so rapid were at 
that time the changes in our language. 

My late friend, Mr. Tyrwhitt, a man of such candour, 
accuracy, and profound learning that his death must be 
considered as an irreparable loss to literature, was of 
opinion, that in printing these plays the original spell- 
ing should be adhered to, and that we never could be 
sure of a perfectly faithful edition, unless the first folio 
copy was made the standard, and actually sent to the 
press, with such corrections as the editor might think 
proper. By others it was suggested, that the notes 
should not be subjoined to the text, but placed at the end 
of each volume, and that they should be accompanied by 
a complete Glossary. The former scheme (that of 
sending the first folio to the press), appeared to me 
liable to many objections; and I am confident that if 


the notes were detached from the text, many readers 
would remain uninformed, rather than undergo the 
trouble occasioned by perpetual references from one 
part of a volume to another. 

In the present edition I have endeavoured to obtain all 
the advantages which would have resulted from Mr. 
Tyrwhitt's plan, without anj of Its inconveniences. 
Having often experienced the fallaciousness of colla- 
tion by the eye, I determined, after I had adjusted the 
text In the best manner in my power, to have every 
proof-sheet of my work read aloud to me, while I pe- 
rused the first folio, for those plays which first appear In 
that edition ; and for all those which had been previously 
printed, the first quarto copy, excepting only in the 
instances of " The Merry Wives of Windsor," and 
"King Henry V.," which, being either sketches or 
imperfect copies, could not be wholly relied on ; and 
"King Richard IH." of the earliest edition of which 
tragedy I was not possessed. I had at the same time 
before me a table which I had formed of the variations 
between the quartos and the folio. By this laborious 
process not a single Innovation, made either by the 
editor of the second folio, or any of the modern editors, 
could escape me. From the Index to all the words and 
phrases explained or illustrated In the notes, which I 
have subjoined to this work, every use may be derived 
which the most copious Glossary could afford; while 
the readers who are less Intent on philological Inquiries, 
by the notes being appended to the text, are relieved 
from the irksome task of seeking information in a 
different volume from that Immediately before them. 

If it be asked, what has been the fruit of all this 
labour, I answer, that many innovations, transposi- 


tions, &c. have been detected by this means; many 
hundred emendations have been made, and, I trust, a 
genuine text has been formed. Wherever any deviation 
is made from the authentick copies, except in the case 
of mere obvious errors of the press, the reader is 
apprized by a note ; and every emendation that has been 
adopted, is ascribed to its proper author. When it is 
considered that there are one hundred thousand Hues in 
these plays, and that it often was necessary to consult 
six or seven volumes, in order to ascertain by which of 
the preceding editors, from the time of the publication 
of the second folio, each emendation was made, it will 
easily be believed that this was not effected without 
much trouble. 

Whenever I mention the old copy in my notes, if the 
play be one originally printed in quarto, I mean the 
first quarto copy; if the play appeared originally in 
folio, I mean the first folio ; and when I mention the old 
copies, I mean the first quarto and first folio, which, 
when that expression is used, it may be concluded, 
concur in the same reading. In like manner, the folio 
always means the first folio, and the quarto, the 
earliest quarto, with the exceptions already mentioned. 
In general, however, the date of each quarto is given, 
when it is cited. Where there are two quarto copies 
printed in the same year, they are particularly dis- 
tinguished, and the variations noticed. 

The two great duties of an editor are: to exhibit the 
genuine text of his author, and to explain his obscurities. 
Both of these objects have been so constantly before my 
eyes, that, I am confident, one of them will not be found 
to have been neglected for the other. I can, with per- 
fect truth say, with Dr. Johnson, that " Not a single 


passage in the whole work has appeared to me obscure, 
which I have not endeavoured to illustrate." I have 
examined the notes of all the editors, and my own 
former remarks, with equal rigour; and have endeav- 
oured as much as possible to avoid all controversy, 
having constantly had in view a philanthropick obser- 
vation made by the editor above mentioned : " I know not 
(says that excellent writer), why our editors should, 
with such implacable anger, persecute their prede- 
cessors. 01 v£xpo\ fi^ Xaxeaivj the dead, it is true, can 
make no resistance, they may be attacked with great 
security; but since they can neither feel nor mend, the 
safety of mauling them seems greater than the pleasure : 
nor, perhaps, would it be much misbeseem us to remem- 
ber, amidst our triumphs over the nonsensical and the 
senseless, that we likewise are men; that dehemur 
morti, and, as Swift observed to Burnet, shall soon be 
among the dead ourselves." 

I have, in general, given the true explication of a 
passage, by whomsoever made, without loading the 
page with the preceding unsuccessful attempts at 
elucidation, and by this means, have obtained room 
for much additional illustration: for, as on the one 
hand, I trust very few superfluous or unnecessary anno- 
tations have been admitted, so on the other, I believe, 
that not a single valuable explication of any obscure 
passage in these plays has ever appeared, which will not 
be found in the following volumes. 

The admirers of this poet will, I trust, not merely 
pardon the great accession of new notes in the present 
edition, but examine them with some degree of 
pleasure. An idle notion has been propagated, that 
Shakespeare has been buried under his commentators; 


and it has again and again been repeated by the taste- 
less and the dull, " that notes, though often necessary, 
are necessary evils." There is no person, I believe, who 
has a higher respect for the authority of Dr. Johnson 
than I have ; but he has been misunderstood, or misrep- 
resented, as if these words contained a general caution 
to all the readers of this poet. Dr. Johnson, in the part 
of his preface here alluded to, is addressing the young 
reader, to whom Shakespeare is new; and him he very 
judiciously counsels to " read every play from the first 
scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his com- 
mentators. Let him read on, through brightness and 
obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him 
preserve his comprehension of the dialogue, and his 
interest in the fable." But to much the greater and 
more enlightened part of his readers, (for how few are 
there comparatively to whom Shakespeare is new?) he 
gives a very different advice: Let them to whom the 
pleasures of novelty have ceased, " attempt exactness, 
and read the commentators." 

During the era of conjectural criticism and capricious 
innovation, notes were indeed evils ; while one page was 
covered with ingenious sophistry in support of some 
idle conjecture, and another was wasted in its over- 
throw, or in erecting a new fabrick equally unsubstan- 
tial as the former. But this era is now happily past 
away; and conjecture and emendation have given place 
to rational explanation. We shall never, I hope, again 
be told, that " as the best guesser was the best diviner, so 
he may be said in some measure to be the best editor of 
Shakespeare." ^ Let me not, however, be supposed an 
enemy to all conjectural emendation; sometimes un- 
* Newton's Preface to his edition of Milton. 


doubtedly, we must have recourse to it; but, like the 
machinery of the ancient drama, let it not be resorted to 
except in cases of difficulty; nisi dignus vindici nodus, 
** I wish (says Dr. Johnson) we all conjectured less, 
and explained more." When our poet's entire library 
shall have been discovered, and the fables of all his plays 
traced to their original source, when every temporary 
allusion shall have been pointed out, and every obscurity 
elucidated, then, and not till then, let the accumulation 
of notes be complained of. I scarcely remember ever 
to have looked into a book of the age of Queen 
Elizabeth, in which I did not find somewhat that tended 
to throw a light on these plays. While our object is, te 
support and establish what the poet wrote, to illustrate 
his phraseology by comparing it with that of his con- 
temporaries, and to explain his fugitive allusions to 
customs long since disused and forgotten, while this 
object is kept steadily in view, if even every line of his 
plays were accompanied with a comment, every intelli- 
gent reader would be indebted to the industry of him 
who produced it. Such uniformly has been the object 
of the notes now presented to the publick. Let us, then 
hear no more of this barbarous jargon concerning 
Shakespeare's having been elucidated into obscurity, 
and buried under the load of his commentators. Dryden 
is said to have regretted the success of his own instruc- 
tions, and to have lamented that at length, in conse- 
quence of his critical prefaces, the town had become too 
skilful to be easily satisfied. The same observation 
may be made with respect to many of these objectors, to 
whom the meaning of some of our poet's most difficult 
passages is now become so familiar, that they fancy they 
originally understood them " Without a prompter," 


and with great gravity exclaim against the unnecessary 
illustrations furnished by his Editors: nor ought we 
much to wonder at this; for our poet himself has 
told us, 

"... 'tis a common proof. 
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, 
Whereto the climber upward turns his face; 
But when he once attains the upmost round, 
He then unto the ladder turns his back; 
Looks in the clouds . . ." 

I have constantly made it a rule in revising the notes 
of former editors, to compare such passages as they 
have cited from any author, with the book from which 
the extract was taken, if I could procure it; by which 
some inaccuracies have been rectified. The incorrect 
extract made by Dr. Warburton from Saviola's treatise 
on " Honour and Honourable Quarrels," to illustrate 
a passage in " As You Like It," fully proves the 
propriety of such a collation. 

At the end of the tenth volume I have added an 
Appendix, containing corrections, and supplementary 
observations, made too late to be annexed to the plays 
to which they belong. Some object to an Appendix; 
but in my opinion, with very little reason. No book 
can be the worse for such a supplement; since the 
reader, if such be his caprice, need not examine it. If 
the objector means that he wishes that all the informa- 
tion contained in an appendix, were properly disposed 
in the preceding volumes, it must be acknowledged that 
such an arrangement would be extremely desirable : but 
as well might be required from the elephant the spright- 
liness and agility of the squirrel, or from the squirrel 
the wisdom and strength of the elephant, as expect that 


■ an editor's latest thoughts suggested by discursive 
reading while the sheets that compose his volumes were 
passing through the press, should form a part of his 
original work; that information acquired too late to 
be employed in its proper place, should yet be found 

That the very few stage-directions which the old copies 
exhibit, were not taken from our author's manuscripts, 
but furnished by the players, is proved by one in 
*' Macbeth," Act IV., sc. 1, where " A show of eight 
kings " is directed, " and Banquo last, with a glass in 
his hand " ; though from the very words which the poet 
has written for Macbeth, it is manifest that the glass 
ought to be borne by the eighth king, and not by 
Banquo, All the stage directions, therefore, through- 
out this work, I have considered as wholly in my power, 
and have regulated them in the best manner I could. The 
reader will also, I think, be pleased to find the place in 
which every scene is supposed to pass, precisely ascer- 
tained; a species of information, for which, though it 
often throws light on the dialogue, we look in vain in 
the ancient copies, and which has been too much neg- 
lected by the modem editors. 

The play of " Pericles, Prince of Tyre," which is 
now once more restored to our author, I originally 
intended to have subjoined, with " Titus Andronicus,'* 
to the tenth volume; but, to preserve an equality of 
size in my volumes, have been obliged to give it a dif- 
ferent place. The hand of Shakespeare being indubita- 
bly found in that piece, it will, I doubt not, be consid- 
ered as a valuable accession; and it is of little 
consequence where it appears. 
It has long been thought, that " Titus Andronicus '* 


was not written originally by Shakespeare; about 
seventy years after his death, Ravenscroft having men- 
tioned that he had been " told by some anciently con- 
versant with the stage, that our poet only gave some 
master-touches to one or two of the principal parts or 
characters." The very curious papers lately discovered 
in Dulwich College, from which large extracts are given 
at the end of the " History of the Stage," prove, what 
I long since suspected, that this play, and the First 
Part of " King Henry VI." were in possession of the 
scene when Shakespeare began to write for the stage; 
and the same manuscripts show, that it was then very 
common for a dramatick poet to alter and amend 
the work of a preceding writer. The question, there- 
fore, is now decisively settled; and undoubtedly some 
additions were made to both these pieces by Shake- 
speare. It is observable that the second scene of the 
third act of " Titus Andronicus," is not found in the 
quarto copy printed in 1611. It is, therefore, highly 
probable, that this scene was added by our author ; and 
his hand may be traced in the preceding act, as well as 
in a few other places. The additions which he made to 
" Pericles " are much more numerous, and therefore 
more strongly entitled it to a place among the dra- 
matick pieces which he has adorned by his pen. 

With respect to the other contested plays, " Sir John 
Oldcastle," " The London Prodigal," &c., which have 
now for near two centuries been falsely ascribed to our 
author, the manuscripts above-mentioned completely 
clear him from that imputation; and prove that while 
his great modesty made him set but little value on his 
own inimitable productions, he could patiently endure 
to have the miserable trash of other writers publickly 


imputed to him, without taking any measure to vindi- 
cate his fame. " Sir John Oldcastle," we find from 
indubitable evidence, though ascribed in the title-page to 
"William Shakspeare," and printed in the year 1600, 
when his fame was in its meridian, was the joint-produc- 
tion of four other poets; Michael Drayton, Anthony 
Mundy, Richard Hathwaye, and Robert Wilson. 

In the Dissertation annexed to the three parts of 
" King Henry the Sixth," I have discussed at large the 
question concerning their authenticity; and have as- 
signed my reasons for thinking that the second and 
third of those plays were formed by Shakespeare, on 
two elder dramas now extant. Any disqaisition, there- 
fore, concerning these controverted pieces is here 

Some years ago I published a short essay on the 
economy and usages of our old theatres. The "Histor- 
ical Account of the English Stage," which has been 
formed on that essay, has swelled to such a size, in con- 
sequence of various researches since made, and a great 
accession of very valuable materials, that it is become 
almost a new work. Of these, the most important are 
the curious papers which have been discovered at 
Dulwich, and the very valuable " OfBce-book of Sir 
Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels to King James and 
King Charles the First," which have contributed to 
throw much light on our dramatick history, and fur- 
nished some singular anecdotes of the poets of those 

Twelve years have elapsed since the essay on the order 
of time in which the plays of Shakespeare were written, 
first appeared. A re-examination of these plays since 
that time has furnished me with several particulars in 


confirmation of which I had formerly suggested on this 
subject. On a careful revisal of that essay, which, I 
hope, is improved as well as considerably enlarged, I had 
the satisfaction of observing that I had found reason 
to attribute but two plays- to an era widely distant from 
that to which they had been originally ascribed ; and to 
make only a minute change in the arrangement of a 
few others. Some information, however, which has been 
obtained since that essay was printed in its present 
form, inclines me to think, that one of the two plays 
which I allude to, "The Winter's Tale," was a still 
later production than I have supposed ; for I now have 
good reason to believe, that it was first exhibited in the 
year 1613 ; and that consequently it must have been one 
of our poet's latest works. 

Though above a century and a half has elapsed since 
the death of Shakespeare, it is somewhat extraordinary, 
(as I observed on a former occasion), that none of his 
various editors should have attempted to separate his 
genuine poetical compositions from the spurious per- 
formances with which they have been long intermixed; 
or have taken the trouble to compare them with the 
earliest and most authentick copies. Shortly after his 
death, ^ a very Incorrect impression of his poems was 
issued out, which in every subsequent edition, previous 
to the year 1780, was implicitly followed. They have 
been carefully revised, and with many additional illus- 
trations, are now a second time faithfully printed from 
the original copies, excepting only " Venus and 
Adonis," of which I have not been able to procure the 
first Impression. The second edition, printed in 1596, 
was obligingly transmitted to me by the late Reverend 

« 1640. 


Thomas Warton, of whose friendly and valuable cor- 
respondence I was deprived by death, when these vol- 
umes were almost ready to be issued from the press. It 
is painful to recollect how many of (I had almost said) 
my coadjutors have died since the present work was 
begun : the elegant scholar, and ingenious writer, whom 
I have just mentioned; Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Tyrwhitt: 
men, from whose approbation of my labours I had 
promised myself much pleasure, and whose stamp could 
give a value and currency to any work. 

With the materials which I have been so fortunate as 
to obtain, relative to our poet, his kindred, and 
friends, it would not have been difficult to have formed 
a new Life of Shakespeare, less meagre and imperfect 
than that left us by Mr. Rowe: but the information 
which I have procured having been obtained at very 
different times, it is necessarily dispersed, partly in the 
copious notes subjoined to " Rowe's Life," and partly 
in the " Historical Account of Our Old Actors." At 
some future time I hope to weave the whole into one 
uniform and connected narrative. 

My inquiries having been carried on almost to the very 
moment of publication, some circumstances relative to 
our poet were obtained too late to be introduced into 
any part of the present work. Of these due use will be 
made hereafter. 

The prefaces of Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton, 
I have not retained, because they appeared to me to 
throw no light on our author or his works: the room 
which they would have taken up, will, I trust be found 
occupied by more valuable matter. 

As some of the preceding editors have justly been 
condemned for innovation, so perhaps, (for of objec- 


tions there is no end), I may be censured for too strict 
an adherence to the ancient copies. I have constantly 
had in view the Roman sentiment adopted by Dr. 
Johnson, that " it is more honourable to save a citizen 
than to destroy an enemy," and, like him, " have been 
more careful to protect than to attack." " I do not 
wish the reader to forget, (says the same writer), that 
the most commodious (and he might have added, the 
most forcible and elegant), is not always the true read- 
ing." On this principle I have uniformly proceeded, 
having resolved never to deviate from the authentick 
copies, merely because the phraseology was harsh or 
uncommon. Many passages, which have heretofore 
been considered as corrupt, and are now supported by 
the usage of contemporary writers, fully prove the pro- 
priety of this caution. 

The rage for innovation till within these last thirty 
years was so great, that many words were dismissed 
from our poet's text, which in his time were current in 
every mouth. In all the editions since that of Mr. 
Rowe, in the Second Part of " King Henry IV." the 
word channel has been rejected, and kennel substituted 
in its room, though the former term was commonly 
employed in the same sense in the time of our author; 
and the learned Bishop of Worcester has strenuously 
endeavoured to prove that in " Cymbeline " the poet 
wrote — ^not shakes, but shuts or checks, " all our buds 
from growing"; though the authenticity of the orig- 
inal reading is established beyond all controversy by 
two other passages of Shakespeare. Very soon, indeed, 
after his death, this rage for innovation seems to have 
seized his editors ; for in the year 1616 an edition of his 
" Rape of Lucrece " was published, which was said to 


be newly revised and corrected; but in which, in fact, 
several arbitrary changes were made, and the ancient 
diction rejected for one somewhat more modern. Even 
in the first complete collection of his plays published 
in 1623, some changes were undoubtedly made from 
ignorance of his meaning and phraseology. They had, 
I suppose, been made in the playhouse copies after his 
retirement from the theatre. Thus in " Othello," 
Brahantio is made to call to his domesticks to raise 
" some special officers of might," instead of " officers of 
night " ; and the phrase " of all loves," in the same 
play, not being understood, " for loves sake," was sub- 
stituted in its room. So, in " Hamlet," we have ere 
ever for or ever, and rites instead of the more ancient 
word, crants. In " King Lear," Act I., sc. 1, the sub- 
stitution of — " Goes thy heart with this ? " instead of 
— " Goes this with thy heart ? " without doubt arose 
from the same cause. In the plays of which we have no 
quarto copies, we may be sure that similar innovations 
were made, though we have now no certain means of 
detecting them. 

After what has been proved concerning the sophistica- 
tions and corruptions of the Second Folio, we cannot 
be surprized that when these plays were republished by 
Mr. Rowe in the beginning of this century from a later 
folio, in which the interpolations of the former were all 
preserved, and many new errors added, almost every 
page of his work was disfigured by accumulated cor- 
ruptions. In Mr. Pope's edition our author was not 
less misrepresented ; for though by examining the oldest 
copies he detected some errors, by his numerous fanciful 
alterations the poet was so completely modernized, that 
I am confident, that had he " re-visited the glimpses of 


the moon," he would not have understood his own works. 
From the quartos Indeed a few valuable restorations 
were made; but all the advantage that was thus 
obtained, was outweighed by arbitrary changes, 
transpositions, and interpolations. 

The readers of Shakespeare being disgusted with the 
liberties taken by Mr. Pope, the subsequent edition of 
Theobald was justly preferred; because he professed to 
adhere to the ancient copies more strictly than his com- 
petitor, and illustrated a few passages by extracts from 
the writers of our poet's age. That his work should at 
this day be considered of any value, only shows how 
long impressions will remain, when they are once made; 
for Theobald, though not so great an innovator as 
Pope, was yet a considerable innovator ; and his edition 
being printed from that of his immediate predecessor, 
while a few arbitrary changes made by Pope were 
detected, innumerable sophistications were silently 
adopted. His knowledge of the contemporary authors 
was so scanty, that all the illustration of that kind dis- 
persed throughout his volumes, has been exceeded by 
the researches which have since been made for the 
purpose of elucidating a single play. 

Of Sir Thomas Hanmer it is only necessary to say, 
that he adopted almost all the innovations of Pope, 
adding to them whatever caprice dictated. 

To him succeeded Dr. Warburton, a critick, who (as 
hath been said of Salmasius) seems to have erected his 
throne on a heap of stones, that he might have them at 
hand to throw at the heads of all those who passed by. 
His unbounded licence in substituting his own chimeri- 
cal conceits in the place of the author's genuine text, 
has been so fully shown by his revisers, that I suppose 


no critical reader will ever again open his volumes. An 
hundred strappadoes, according to an Italian comick 
writer, would not have induced Petrarch, were he living, 
to subscribe to the meaning which certain commentators 
after his death had by their glosses extorted from his 
works. It is a curious speculation to consider how 
many thousand would have been requisite for this editor 
to have inflicted on our great dramatick poet for the 
same purpose. The defence which has been made for 
Dr. Warburton on this subject, by some of his friends, 
is singular. " He well knew," it has been said, " that 
much the greater part of his notes do not throw any 
light on the poet of whose works he undertook the 
revision, and that he frequently imputed to Shakespeare 
a meaning of which he never thought; but the editor's 
great object was to display his own learning, not to 
illustrate his author, and this end he obtained; for in 
spite of all the clamour against him, his work added to 
his reputation as a scholar." Be it so then ; but let none 
of his admirers ever dare to unite his name with that of 
Shakespeare; and let us at least be allowed to wonder, 
that the learned editor should have had so little respect 
for the greatest poet that has appeared since the days 
of Homer, as to use a commentary on his works merely 
as " a stalking-horse, under the presentation of which 
he might shoot his wit." 

At length the task of revising these plays was under- 
taken by one, whose extraordinary powers of mind, as 
they rendered him the admiration of his contempor- 
aries, will transmit his name to posterity as the 
brightest ornament of the eighteenth century; and will 
transmit it without competition, if we except a great 
orator, philosopher, and statesman, now living, ^ whose 
•Edmund Burke. 


talents and virtues are an honour to human nature. In 
1765, Dr. Johnson's edition, which had long been 
impatiently expected, was given to the publick. His 
admirable preface, (perhaps the finest composition in 
our language), his happy, and in general just, char- 
acters of these plays, his refutation of the false glosses 
of Theobald and Warburton, and his numerous explica- 
tions of involved and difficult passages, are too well 
known to be here enlarged upon ; and therefore, I shall 
only add, that his vigorous and comprehensive under- 
standing threw more light on his author than all his 
predecessors had done. 

In one observation, however, concerning our poet, I do 
not entirely concur with him. " It is not (he remarks ) 
very grateful to consider how little the succession of 
editors has added to this author's power of pleasing. 
He was read, admired, studied and imitated, while he 
was yet deformed with all the improprieties which 
ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon him." 

He certainly was read, admired, studied, and imitated, 

at the period mentioned; but surely not in the same 

degree as at present. The succession of editors has 

effected this; it has made him understood; it has made 

him popular; it has shown every one who is capable of 

reading, how much superior he is not only to Jonson 

and Fletcher, whom the bad taste of the last age from 

the time of the Restoration to the end of the century 

set above him, but to all the dramatick poets of 

antiquity : 

" . . . jam monte potitus. 
Bidet anhelantem dura ad vestigia turbam." 

Every author who pleases must surely please more as 
he is more understood, and there can be no doubt that 


Shakespeare is now infinitely better understood than he 
was in the last century. To say nothing of the people 
at large, it is clear that Dryden himself, though a great 
admirer of our poet, and D'Avenant, though he wrote 
for the stage in the year 1627, did not always under- 
stand him. The very books which are necessary to our 
author's illustration, were of so little account in their 
time, that what now we can scarce procure at any price, 
was then the furniture of the nursery or stall. In fifty 
years after our poet's death Dryden mentions that he 
was then become " a little obsolete." In the beginning 
of the present century Lord Shaftesbury complains of 
his "rude unpolished stile, and his ANTIQUATED 
phrase and wit " ; and not long afterwards Gildon 
informs us that he had been rejected from some modern 
collections of poetry on account of his obsolete 
language. Whence could these representations have 
proceeded, but because our poet, not being diligently 
studied, not being compared with the contemporary 
writers was not understood.'' If he had been " read, 
admired, studied, and imitated," in the same degree as 
he is now, the enthusiasm of some one or other of his 
admirers in the last age would have induced him to 
make some enquiries concerning the history of his 
theatrical career, and the anecdotes of his private 

But no such person was found ; no anxiety in the pub- 
lick sought out any particulars concerning him after 
the Restoration (if we except the few which were col- 
lected by Mr. Aubrey), though at that time the history 
of his life must have been known to many ; for his sister, 
Joan Hart, who must have known much of his early 
years, did not die till 1646: his favourite daughter, 


Mrs. Hall, lived till 1649; and his second daughter, 
Judith, was living at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the 
beginning of the year 1662. His grand-daughter. 
Lady Barnard, did not die till 1670. Mr. Thomas 
Combe, to whom Shakespeare bequeathed his sword, sur- 
vived our poet above forty years, having died at Strat- 
ford in 1657. His elder brother, William Combe, lived 
till 1667. Sir Richard Bishop, who was bom in 1585, 
lived at Bridgetown near Stratford till 1672: and his 
son. Sir William Bishop, who was born in 1626, died 
there in 1700. From all these persons without doubt 
many circumstances relative to Shakespeare might have 
been obtained; but that was an age as deficient in 
literary curiosity as in taste. 

It was remarkable that in a century after our poet's 
death, &\e editions only of his plays were published; 
which probably consisted of not more than three 
thousand copies. During the same period three editions 
of the plays of Fletcher, and four of those of Jonson 
had appeared. On the other hand, from the year 1716 
to the present time, that is, in seventy-four years, but 
two editions of the former writer, and one of the latter, 
have been issued from the press ; while about thirty 
thousand copies of Shakespeare have been dispersed 
through England. That nearly as many editions of 
the works of Jonson as of Shakespeare should have 
been demanded in the last century, will not appear sur- 
prising, when we recollect what Dryden has related 
soon after the Restoration : that " others were then 
generally preferred before him." By others Jonson 
and Fletcher were meant. To attempt to show to the 
readers of the present day the absurdity of such a 
preference, would be an insult to their understandings. 


When we endeavour to trace any thing like a ground 
for this preposterous taste, we are told of Fletcher's 
ease, and Jonson's learning. Of how little use his 
learning was to him, an ingenious writer of our own 
time has shown with that vigour and animation for 
which he was distinguished. "Jonson, in the serious 
drama, is as much an imitator as Shakespeare is an 
original. He was very learned, as Sampson was very 
strong, to his own hurt. Blind to the nature of tragedy, 
he pulled down all antiquity on his head, and buried 
himself under it. We see nothing of Jonson, nor indeed 
of his admired (but also murdered), ancients; for what 
shone in the historian is a cloud on the poet, and 
* Catiline ' might have been a good play, if Sallust had 
never written. 

" Who knows whether Shakespeare might not have 
thought less, if he had read more.? Who knows if he 
might not have laboured under the load of Jonson's 
learning, as Enceladus under ^tna.? His mighty 
genius, indeed, through the most mountainous oppres- 
sion would have breathed out some of his inextinguisha- 
ble fire; yet possibly he might not have risen up into 
that giant, that much more than common man, at 
which we now gaze with amazement and delight. Per- 
haps he was as learned as his dramatick province 
required; for whatever other learning he wanted, he 
was master of two books unknown to many of the pro- 
foundly read, though books which the last conflagra- 
tion alone can destroy; the book of nature, and that 
of man." * 

To this and the other encomiums on our great poet 
which will be found in the following pages, I shall not 

• " Conjectures on Original Composition,'* by Dr. Edward Young. 


attempt to make any addition. He has justly 
observed, that 

"To guard a title that was rich before. 
To gild refined gold, or paint the lily. 
To throw a perfume on the violet, 
To smooth the ice, or add another hue 
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light 
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish. 
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess." 

Let me, however, be permitted to remark, that beside 
all his other transcendent merits, he was the great 
refiner and polisher of our language. His compound 
epithets, his bold metaphors, the energy of his expres- 
sions, the harmony of his numbers, all these render the 
language of Shakespeare one of his principal beauties. 
Unfortunately none of his letters, or other prose com- 
positions, not in a dramatick form, have reached pos- 
terity ; but if any of them ever shall be discovered, they 
will, I am confident, exhibit the same perspicuity, the 
same cadence, the same elegance and vigour, which we 
find in his plays. " Words and phrases," says Dryden, 
"must of necessity receive a change in succeeding 
ages; but it is almost a miracle, that much of his 
language remains so pure; and that he who began 
dramatick poetry amongst us, untaught by any, and, 
as Ben Jonson teUs us, without learning, should by the 
force of his own genius perform so much, that in a 
manner he has left no praise for any who come after 

In these prefatory observations my principal object 
was, to ascertain the true state and respective value of 
the ancient copies, and to mark out the course which 
has been pursued in the editions now offered to the 


publick. It only remains, that I should return my very 
sincere acknowledgments to those gentlemen, to whose 
good offices I have been indebted in the progress of my 
work. My thanks are particularly due to Francis 
Ingram, of Ribbisford in Worcestershire, Esq., for 
the very valuable " Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert," 
and several other curious papers, which formerly 
belonged to that gentleman; to Penn Asheton Curzon, 
Esq., for the use of the very rare copy of " King 
Richard III.," printed in 1597; to the Master, and 
the Rev. Mr. Smith, librarian, of Dulwich College, 
for the Manuscripts relative to one of our ancient the- 
atres, which they obligingly transmitted to me ; to John 
Kipling, Esq., keeper of the rolls in Chancery, who in 
the most liberal manner directed every search to be made 
in the Chapel of the Rolls that I should require, with 
a view to illustrate the history of our poet's life; and 
to Mr. Richard Clark, registrar of the diocese of 
Worcester, who with equal liberality, at my request, 
made many searches in his office for the wills of various 
persons. I am also in a particular manner indebted to 
the kindness and attention of the Rev. Mr. Davenport, 
vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon, who most obligingly 
made every inquiry in that town and the neighbour- 
hood, which I suggested as likely to throw any light on 
the Life of Shakespeare. 

I deliver my book to the world not without anxiety; 
conscious, however, that I have strenuously endeavoured 
to render it not unworthy the attention of the publick. 
If the researches which have been made for the illustra- 
tion of our poet's works, and for the dissertations which 
accompany the present edition, shall afford as much 
entertainment to others, as I have derived from them, 


I shall consider the time expended on it as well 
employed. Of the dangerous ground on which I tread, 
I am fully sensible. " Multa sunt in his studiis (to use 
the words of a venerable fellow-labourer in the mines of 
Antiquity) cineri supposita, doloso. Errata possint 
esse multa a memoria. Quis enim in memorice thesauro 
omnia simul sic complectatur, ut pro arbitratu suo possit 
expromere ? Errata possint esse plura ah imperitia. 
Quis envm tam peritus, ut in ccbco hoc antiquitatis mari, 
cum tempore colluctatus, scopulis non allidatur ? 
Haec tamen a te, humanissime lector, tua humanitas, 
mea i/ndustria, patrice charitas, et SHAKSPEARI 
dignitas, mihi exorent, ut quid mei sit judicii, sine 
aliorum prcejudicio libere proferam; ut eadem via qua 
alii in his studiis solent, insist am; et ut erratis, si ego 
agnoscam, tu ignoscas,** Those who are the warmest 
admirers of our great poet, and most conversant with 
his writings, best know the difficulty of such a work, 
and will be most ready to pardon its defects; remem- 
bering that in all arduous undertakings, it is easier to 
conceive than to accomplish; that "the will is infinite, 
and the execution confined ; that the desire is boundless, 
and the act a slave to limit." 

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