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NOTICE OF THE ORIGINAL EDITIONS OF THE PLAYS.

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E propose here to give a very brief account of the Original Copies, upon which the Text of every edition of our

author must be founded. “Mr. William Shakspeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, published according to the True Originall Copies,” is the title of this first collection of our poet's plays. This volume is “printed by Isaac Laggard and Ed. Blount;" but the Dedication bears the signatures of “ John Heminge, Henry Condell.” That Blount and Jaggard had become the proprietors of this edition we learn from an entry in the Stationers' registers, under date November 8, 1623; in which they claim “Mr. William Shakespeere's Comedyes, Histories, and Tragedyes, soe many of the said copies as are not formerly entered to other men.”

Most of the plays “formerly entered to other men” had been previously published-some in several editions-at dates extending from 1597 to 1622. These are what are commonly spoken of as the quarto editions.

John Heminge and Henry Condell were amongst the “principal actors” of the plays of Shakspere, according to a list prefixed to their edition. In 1608 they were shareholders with Shakspere in the Blackfriars Theatre. In his will, in 1616, they are honourably recognized in the following bequest :-“To my fellows, John Hemynge, Richard Burbage, and Henry Condell, twenty-six shillings eight-pence apiece, to buy them rings.” In 1619, after the death of Shakspere and Burbage, they were at the head of their remaining “fellows."

This first folio edition is dedicated to the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Montgomery. The two friends and fellows of Shakspere, in an Address “to the great variety of readers,” use very remarkable words :-“It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that the author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings. But since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he, by death, departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends the office of their care and pain to have collected and published them; and so to have published them, as where, before, you were abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors that exposed them,-even those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them; who, as he was happy imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.

That the editors of Shakspere were held to perform an acceptable service to the world by this publication, we may judge from some of the verses prefixed to the edition. Ben Jonson's celebrated poem, “To the Memory of my beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare: and what he hath left us,” follows the preface, and it concludes with these lines :

“ Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage,

Or influence, chide, or cheer, the drooping stage ;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,

And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.
Another poem in the same volume, by Leonard Digges, is in the same tone: -

“ Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellows give
The world thy works ; thy works by which outlive
Thy tomb thy name must. When that stone is rent,
And time dissolves thy Stratford monument,
Here we alive shall view thee still.

This book,
When brass and marble fade, shall make thee look

Fresh to all ages.”
The edition of 1623 secured from a probable destruction, entire or partial, some of the noblest monuments of
Shakspere's genius. The poet had been dead seven years when this edition was printed. Some of the plays which
it preserved, through the medium of the press, had been written a considerable period before his death. We have
not a single manuscript line in existence, written, or supposed to be written, by Shakspere. If, from any notions
of exclusive advantage as the managers of a company, Heminge and Condell had not printed this edition of
Shakspere,-if the publication had been suspended for ten, or at most for fifteen, years, till the civil wars broke
out, and the predominance of the puritanical spirit had shut up the theatres,—the probability is that all Shakspere's
manuscripts would have perished. What then should we have lost, which will now remain when “brass and
marble fade!” We will give the list of those plays which, as far as any edition is known, were printed for the first
time in the folio of 1623 :
The Tempest.

King John.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

HISTORIES

Henry VI., Part I.

Henry VIII.
The Comedy of Errors.

Coriolanus,
COMEDIES
As You Like It.

Timon of Athens.
The Taming of the Shrew.

TRAGEDIES

Julius Cæsar.
All's Well that Ends Well.

Macbeth,
Twelfth Night.

Antony and Cleopatra.
The Winter's Tale.

Cymbeline.

Measure for Measure.

B

NOTICE OF THE ORIGINAL EDITIONS OF THE PLAYS.

In addition to the eighteen plays thus recited, which were first printed in the folio, there were four other plays there first printed in a perfect shape. Of the fourteen Comedies, nine first appeared in that edition. Between the quarto editions of the four Comedies,-Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado about Nothing, and the folio of 1623, the variations are exceedingly few; and these have probably, for the most part, been created by the printer. The Merry Wives of Windsor — of the quarto edition of which, in 1602 and in 1619, we shall give a more particular account in our notice of that play—is a very incomplete sketch of the Comedy which first appeared in a perfect shape in the edition of 1623.

The second edition of 1632 was held up as an authority by Steevens, because, in some degree, it appeared to fall in with his rutions of versification. We doubt if it had an editor properly so called; for the most obvious typographical errors are repeated without change. The printer, probably, of this edition occasionally pieced out what he considered an imperfect line, and altered a word here and there that had grown obsolete during the changes in our language since Shakspere first wrote. But, beyond this, we have no help in the second edition ; and none whatever in the subsequent ones. For eighteen plays, therefore, the folio of 1623 must be received as the only accredited copy-standing in the same relation to the text as the one manuscript of an ancient author. For four other plays it must be received as the only accredited complete copy.

The folio of 1623 contains thirty-six plays : of these, thirteen were published in the author's lifetime, with such internal evidences of authenticity, and under such circumstances, as warrant us in receiving them as authentic copies. These copies are, therefore, entitled to a very high respect in the settlement of the author's text.

But they do not demand an exclusive respect; for the evidence, in several instances, is most decided, that the author's posthumous copies in manuscript were distinguished from the printed copies by verbal alterations, by additions, by omissions not arbitrarily made, by a more correct metrical arrangement.

To refer these differences to alterations made by the players, has been a favourite theory with some of Shakspere's editors; but it is manifestly an absurd

We see, in numerous cases, the minute but most effective touches of the skilful artist; and a careful examination of this matter in the plays where the alterations are most numerous, is quite sufficient to satisfy us of the jealous care with which Shakspere watched over the more important of these productions, so as to leave with his “fellows” more complete and accurate copies than had been preserved by the press. The order in which the Comedies are presented in the folio of 1623 is as follows : The Tempest.

Midsummer Night's Dream.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The Merchant of Venice.
The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Measure for Measure.

The Taming of the Shrew.
The Comedy of Errors.

All's Well that Ends Well.
Much Ado about Nothing.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will.
Love's Labour's Lost.
In this edition we have endeavoured, to the best of our judgment, to arrange the Comedies and Tragedies
according to the evidence of the dates of their composition. The Histories follow the Chronology of the several
Reigns.

one.

As You Like It.

The Winter's Tale.

1598

1598

We subjoin a Chronological Table of Shakspere's Plays, which we have constructed with some care, showing the positive facts which determine dates previous to which they were produced.

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF SHAKSPERE'S PLAYS.
Henry VI. Part I.
Alluded to by Nash, in “ Pierce Pennilesse".

1592
Henry VI. Part IJ.
Printed as the “ First Part of the Contention”

1594
Henry VI. Part III.
Printed as “ The True Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York”

1595
Richard II.
Printed

1597
Richard III.
Printed

1597
Romeo and Juliet
Printed

1597
Love's Labour's Lost

Printed
Henry IV. Part I.
Printed

1598
Henry IV. Part II.
Printed

1600
Henry V......
Printed

1600
Merchant of Venice
Printed 1600. Mentioned by Meres

1598
Midsummer Night's Dream

Printed 1600. Mentioned by Meres
Much Ado about Nothing
Printed

1600
As You Like It
Entered at Stationers' Hall

1600
All's Well that Ends Well

Held to be mentioned by Meres as “Love's Labour's Won
Two Gentlemen of Verona

Mentioned by Meres
Comedy of Errors

Mentioned by Meres
King John .....
Mentioned by Meres

1598
Titus Andronicus
Printed

1600
Merry Wives of Windsor
Printed

1602
Hamlet..
Printed

1603
Twelfth Night
Acted in the Middle Temple Hall

1602
Othello.....
Acted at Harefield

1602
Measure for Measure

Acted at Whitehall
Lear ....
Printed 1608. Acted at Whitehall

1607
Taming of the Shrew

Supposed to have been acted at Henslowe's Theatre, 1593. Entered at Stationers' Hall.. 1607
Troilus and Cressida
Printed 1609. Previously acted at Court

1609
Pericles
Printed

1609
The Tempest
Acted at Whitehall

1611
The Winter's Tale
Acted at Whitehall.

1611
Henry VIII.
Acted as a new play when the Globe was burned

1613 Out of the thirty-seven Plays of Shakspere the dates of thirty-one are thus to some extent fixed in epochs. These dates are, of course, to be modified by other circumstances. There are only six plays remaining, whose dates are not thus limited by publication, by the notice of contemporaries, or by the record of their performances; and these certainly belong to the poet's latter period. They are:Macbeth. Timon of Athens.

Antony and Cleopatra.
Cymbeline.
Julius Cæsar.

Coriolanus.

1598 1598 1598

1604

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