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In the present edition of the Works of Shakespeare, the text of the plays has been taken from that published in London by J. Payne Collier, a few months since, embodying the manuscript emendations recently discovered by him in a copy of the second folio edition published in 1632. The text of the Poems, the Life of Shakespeare, the account of the early English Drama, and the separate prefaces to the plays are from the octavo edition in 1844, by the same editor. As the latest edition contained no notes and those in his previous one were, to some extent, superseded by the alterations in the text, and were unsuited from their length to the requirements of a copy in a compact form, it was deemed advisable that new notes should be prepared.
This has been undertaken for the present work. It has been the aim by close condensation to convey a greater amount of information directly illustrative of the text than has ever been presented in a similar form. For information on an important portion of the task, that of indicating the variations between the quarto (where such are in existence) and.folio copies of the plays, reliance has been placed almost entirely on Mr. Collier’s first edition. That gentleman had free access to all the early copies in the libraries of the Duke of Devonshire and Lord Francis Egerton, better known to American readers as Earl of Ellesmere; collections formed at great labor and expense, and far more complete than any previously brought together in public or private repositories. The notes illustrative of obsolete words, expressions and customs, have been derived from the edition of Mr. Collier already referred to, Mr. Knight's Pictorial Shakspere, the works of Dyce, Douce, Halliwell, Hunter, Richardson, and the American editions of Messrs. Verplanck and Hudson, with such aid as a long acquaintance with the Dramatic and general Literature of the age of Elizabeth and James could furnish.
Notes, pointing out or commenting upon the sentiments expressed in the text, have been purposely avoided, it being presumed that the reader having been furnished with every material for the employment of a correct taste and judgment, will prefer to exercise these faculties for himself.
Comment of this description, which has often been carried to an impertinent or tedious extreme, has also been avoided in noting the variations between the text of the present and that of previous editions. The reader has been placed in possession of the old by the side of the new readings, and left to an unbiassed choice between them. The frequent recurrence of notes of this description rendered necessary the simple abbreviation of f.e. for former edition, the edition referred to being that of Collier, published in 1844, and almost universally received as the established text, until the discovery by the same editor of the celebrated copy of the folio of 1632. No other abbreviations occur in the notes, unless the mention of the first, or folio of 1623, as “the folio” be so regarded. It may be
proper to state that the notes, unless where otherwise expressed, refer to the word preceding the corresponding numbers in the text.
G. L. D. NEW YORK, September, 1853.
To the most Noble and Incomparable Pair of Brethry
William Earl of Pembroke, &c. Lord Chamberlain t> the King's most Excellent Majesty.
And Philip Earl of Montgomery, &c. Gentleman of
his Majesty's Bedchamber. Both Knights of the most Noble Order of the Garter, and our singular good Lords. Right Honourable,
Whilst we study to be thankful in our particular for the many favours we have received from your Lordships, we are fallen upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can be, fear, and rashness; rashness in the enterprise, and fear of the success. For, when we value the places your Highnesses sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles : and, while we name them trifles, we have
deprived ourselves of the defence of our Dedication. But since your Lordships have been pleased to think these trifles something, heretofore ; and have prosecuted both them, and their Author living, with so much favour, we hope, (that they outliving him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings) you will use the like indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any book choose his patrons, or find them; this hath done both. For, so much were your Lordships' likings of the several parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the volume asked to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his orphans, guardians ; without ambition either of self-profit, or fame: only to keep the memory of so worthy a friend, and fellow alive, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his plays, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed, no man to come near your Lordships but with a kind of religious address, it hath been the height of our care, who are the presenters, to make the present worthy of your Highnesses by the perfection. But, there we must also crave our abilities to be considered, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our own powers. Country hands reach forth milk, cream, fruits, or what they have; and many nations, (we have heard) that had not gums and incense, obtained their requests with a leavened cake. It was no fault to approach their gods, by what means they could; and the most
, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to temples. In that name therefore, we most humbly consecrate to your Highnesses these remains of your servant SHAKESPEARE ; that what delight is in them, may be ever your Lordships', the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a pair so careful to shew their gratitude both to the living, and the dead, as is
Your Lordships' most bounden,
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS.
From the most able, to him that can but spell : there you are numbered. We had rather you were weighed. Especially, when the fate of all books depends upon your capacities; and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well, it is now public, and you will stand for your privileges, we know: to read, and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a book, the stationer says. Then, how odd soever your brains be, or your wisdoms, make your licence the same, and spare not. Judge your sixpen'orth, your shilling's worth, your five shillings' worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, whatever you do, buy. Censure will not drive a trade, or make the jack go. And though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit on the stage at Blackfriars, or the Cock-pit, to arraign plays daily, know, these plays have had their trial already, and stood out all appeals ; and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation.
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 bave published them, as where (before) you were abused