« PreviousContinue »
procure, with which it could be thought he was acquainted, or that seem'd likely to contribute any thing towards his illustration.
To what degrec they illustrate him, and in how new a light they set the character of this great poet himself, can never be conceiv'd as it should be 'till these extracts come forth to the publick view, in their just magnitude, and properly digested: for befides the various passages that he has either made use of or alluded to, many other matters have been selected and will be found in this work, tending all to the fame 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 thein, namely--the almost innumerable examples, drawn from these ancient writers, of words and modes of expression which many have thought peculiar to Shakspeare, and have been too apt to impute to him as a blemish: but the quotations of this class do effe&ually purge him from such a
appear at one time or other. It may be thought ibat ihere is one argument fill unanswer'd, which has been brought against his acquaintance with the Latin and other languages; and that is, – that, had he been so acquainted, it could not have happen'd but that fome imitations would have crepe into his writings, of which certainly there are none; but this argument has been answer'd in effect; when it was said that his knowledge in these languages was but slender, and his conversation with the writers in them slender too of course: but had it been otherwise, and he as deeply read in them as foine people have thought him, his works (it is probable) had been as little deformid with imitations as we now see them: Shakspeare was far above such a pracrice ; he had the stores in himself, and wanted not the affiftance of a foreign hand to drefs him up in things of their lending.
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 it's time, who is so short-fighted as not to perceive upon first refledion, 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 retail'd 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 Shakspeare will be refer'd to occasionally; and one of the many indexes with which this fame School will be provided, will 'afford an ampler and truer Glossary tban 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 fome few of these notes with which he will be presented by and by: they were written at least four
years ago, with an intention of placing them at the head of the several notes that are delign'd for each play; but are now detach'd froin their fellows and made parcel 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 hinfelf and his editor after him, have been unfortunately immers’d.
This discourse is run out, we know not how, into greater heap of leaves than was any ways thought of, and has perhaps fatigu'd the reader equally with the penner of it: yet can we not disniiss lim, 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, beginning at p. 284; as we there ventur'd to stand up in the behalf of fome of the quarto's and maintain'd their authencity, 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 contested are - The Three Parts of Henry VI.; Love's Labour's Lost; The Taming of the Shrew; and Titus Andronicus; and the fun of what is brought against them, so far at least as is hitherto come to knowledge, may be all ultimately resolv'd into the fole opinion of their unworthiness, exclusive of some weak furmises 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 reasons, and something like proofs, which are totally wanting on the other fide, 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 conje&ure, that it was some considerable time after the other two; and perhaps, when those two were re-touch'd, and made a little fitter than they are in their first draught to rank with the author's other plays which he has fetch'd from our English history: and those two parts, even with all their re-touchings, being still much inferior to the other plays of that class, he may reasonably be suppos’d to have under-writ 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 history, 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 mangld either in the copy of thę press, or perhaps both: yet this may be discover'd 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 Shakspeare 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 Henry, and a scene of wondrous simplicity and wondrous tenderness united, in which that Henry is made a speaker while his last decisive battle is fighting, ---are as so many stamps upon these plays; by which his property is mark'd, and himself declar'd the owner of them, beyond controversy as we think: and though we have selected these pafsages only, and recommended them to observation, it had been casy 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 personages in them are distindly 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