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The various readings found in the different impreffions of the quarto copies are frequently mentioned by the late editors: it is obvious from what has been already ftated, 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 fubfequent quartos were made by accident or caprice. Where, however, there are two editions printed in the fame year, or an undated copy, it is neceffary to examine each of them, because which of them was firft, can not be afcertained; and being each printed from a manufcript, they carry with them a degree of authority to which a re-impreffion cannot be entitled. Of the tragedy of King Lear there are no lefs than three copies, varying from each other, printed for the fame bookfeller, and in the fame year.
Of all the plays of which there are no quarto copies extant, the first folio, printed in 1623, is the only authentick edition.
An opinion has been entertained by fome that the fecond impreffion of that book, published in 1632, has a fimilar claim to authenticity. "Whoever has any of the folios, (fays Dr. Johnfon,) has all, excepting thofe diverfities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards ufed only the firft, from which (he afterwards adds,) the subfequent folios never differ but by accident or negligence." Mr. Steevens, however, does not fubfcribe to this opinion. "The edition of 1632,
9 Except only in the inftance of Romeo and Juliet, where the firft copy, printed in 1597, appears to be an imperfect sketch, and therefore cannot be entirely relied on. Yet even this furnishes many valuable corrections of the more perfect copy of that tragedy in its present state, printed in 1599.
(says that gentleman,) is not without value; for though it be in fome places, more incorrectly printed than the preceding one, it has likewife the advantage of various readings, which are not merely fuch as re-iteration of copies will naturally produce."
What Dr. Johnson has stated, is not quite accurate. The fecond folio does indeed very frequently differ from the first by negligence or chance; but much more frequently by the editor's profound ignorance of our poet's phrafeology and metre, in confequence of which there is fcarce a page of the book which is not disfigured by the capricious alterations introduced by the perfon to whom the care of that impreffion was entrusted. This perfon 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 prefs in the original and only authentick copy of thofe plays. Though my judgment on this fubject has been formed after a very careful examination, I cannot expect that it fhould be received on my mere affertion: and therefore it is neceffary to fubftantiate it by proof. This cannot be affected but by a long, minute, and what I am afraid will appear to many, an uninteresting difquifition but let it ftill be remembered that to afcertain the genuine text of these plays is an object of great importance.
On a revifion of the fecond 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 confequence of that ignorance, which render his edition of no value whatsoever.
I. His ignorance of Shakspeare's phrafeology is proved by the following among many other inftances.
He did not know that the double negative was the customary and authorized language of the age of Queen Elizabeth, and therefore, inftead of
"Nor to her bed no homage do I owe."
Comedy of Errors, A&t III. fc. ii.
"Nor to her bed a homage do I owe."
So, in As you like it, Act II. fc. iv. inftead of— "I can not go no further," he printed—“ I can go no further."
In Much Ado about Nothing, Act III. fc. i. Hero, fpeaking of Beatrice, fays,
Again, in The Winter's Tale, Act I. fc. ii:
"Thou doft make poffible, things not fo held."
The plain meaning is, thou doft make thofe things poffible, which are held to be impoffible. But the editor of the fecond folio, not understanding the line, reads
"Thou doft make poffible things not to be fo held;".
i. e. thou doft make those things to be efteemed impoffible, which are poffible: the very reverfe of what the poet meant.
In the fame play is this line:
"I am appointed him to murder you."
Here the editor of the fecond folio, not being converfant with Shakspeare's irregular language, reads
"I appointed him to murder you."
Again, in Macbeth:
"This diamond he greets your wife withal,
Not knowing that shut up meant concluded, the editor of the fecond folio reads
In the fame play the word lated, ("Now fpurs the 'lated traveller-") not being understood, is changed to lateft, and Colmes-Inch to Colmeshill.
Again, ibidem: when Macbeth fays, "Hang thofe that talk of fear," it is evident that thefe words are not a wifh or imprecation, but an injunction to hang all the cowards in Scotland. The editor of the fecond folio, however, confidering the paffage in the former light, reads:
Hang them that stand in fear."
From the fame ignorance,
"And all our yefterdays have lighted fools
is changed to
"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
In King Richard II. Bolingbroke fays,
"And I must find that title in your tongue," &c.
i. e. you must addrefs me by that title. But this not being understood, town is in the fecond folio fubftituted for tongue.
The double comparative is common in the plays of Shakspeare. Yet, inftead of
I'll give my reasons
"More worthier than their voices."
Coriolanus, A& III. fc. i. First Folio.
we have in the second copy,
"More worthy than their voices."
So, in Othello, Act I. fc. v.-" opinion, a fovereign mistress of effects, throws a more fafer voice on you," is changed in the fecond folio, toopinion, &c. throws a more fafe voice on you." Again, in Hamlet, A&t III. fc. ii. inftead of your wisdom should show itself more richer, to fignify this to the doctor;' ;" we find in the copy of 1632, your wifdom Thould fhow itfelf more
In The Winter's Tale, the word vaft not being understood,
they shook hands as over a vast." First Folio.