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DEDICATION OF THE PLAYERS.
MOST NOBLE AND INCOMPARABLE PAIRE OF
Earle of PEMBROKE, &c. Lord Chamberlaine to the Kings moft Excellent Majeftie;
Earle of MONTGOMERY, &c. Gentleman of his Majefties Bed-chamber.
Both Knights of the Moft Noble Order of the Garter, and our fingular good LORDS.
WHILST we studie to be thankfull in our par
ticular, for the many favors we have received from your L. L. we are falne upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the moft diverfe things that can be, feare, and rafhneffe; rafhneffe in the enterprize, and feare of the fucceffe. For, when we value the places your H. H. fuftaine, wee cannot but know the dignity greater, than to defcend to the reading of these trifles: and, while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the de
fence of our dedication. But fince your L. L. have been pleased to thinke these trifles fomething, heretofore; and have profequuted both them, and their authour living, with fo much favour; we hope that (they out-living him, and he not having the fate, common with fome, to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will ufe the fame indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any booke choose his patrones, or find them: this hath done both. For fo much were your L. L. likings of the feveral parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the volume afked to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his orphanes, guardians; without ambition either of felfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of fo worthy a friend, and fellow alive, as was our SHAKSPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we have juftly obferved no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addreffe, it hath bin the height of our care, who are the presenters, to make the prefent worthy of your H. H. by the perfection. But, there we muft alfo crave our abilities to be confidered, my lords. We cannot goe beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach forth milke, creame, fruits, or what they have: and many nations (we have heard) that had not gummes and incenfe, obtained their requests with a leavened cake. It was no fault to approach their
• Country hands reach forth milk, &c. and many nationsthat had not gummes and incenfe, obtained their requests with a leavened cake.] This feems to have been one of the commonplaces of dedication in Shakspeare's age. We find it in Morley's Dedication of a Book of Songs to Sir Robert Cecil, 1595: I have prefumed (fays he) to make offer of these fimple compofi
gods by what meanes they could: and the most, though meaneft, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to temples. In that name therefore, we moft humbly confecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your fervant SHAKSPEARE; that what delight is in them may be ever your L. L. the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a paire fo carefull to fhew their gratitude both to the living, and the dead, as is
tions of mine, imitating (right honourable) in this the customs of the old world, who wanting incenfe to offer up to their gods, made shift infteade thereof to honour them with milk." The fame thought (if I recollect right) is again employed by the players in their dedication of Fletcher's plays, folio 1647.
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS,
FROM the most able, to him that can but spell ;
there are you numbered, we had rather you were weighed. Efpecially, 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, and you will ftand for your priviledges, wee know: to read, and cenfure. Doe fo, but buy it first. That doth beft commend a booke, the ftationer faies. Then, how odde foever your braines be, or your wifdomes, make your licence the fame, and spare not. Judge your fixe-pen'orth,?
7 Judge your fixe-pen'orth, &c.] So, in the Induction to Ben Jonfon's Bartholomew Fair: 66 it fhall be lawful for any man to judge his fix-pen'worth, his twelve-pen'worth, fo to his eighteen pence, two fhillings, half a crown, to the value of his place; provided always his place get not above his wit. And if he pay for half a dozen, he may cenfure for all them too, fo that he will undertake that they fhall be filent. He fhall put in for cenfurers here, as they do for lots at the lottery: marry, if he drop but fix-pence at the door, and will cenfure a crownsworth, it is thought there is no confcience or justice in that."
Perhaps Old Ben was author of the Players' Preface, and, in the inftance before us, has borrowed from himself. STEEVEns.
your fhillings worth, your five fhillings worth at a time, or higher, fo you rife to the juft rates, and welcome. But, whatever you doe, buy. Cenfure will not drive a trade, or make the jacke goe. And though you be a magiftrate of wit, and fit on the ftage at Black-friars, or the Cockpit, to arraigne plays dailie, know, these playes have had their triall already, and stood out all appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confeffe, worthie to have been wished, that the author himselfe had lived to have set forth, and overfeen his owne writings; but fince it hath been ordained otherwife, 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 and published them; and fo to have published them, as where (before) you were abused. with divers ftolne and furreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and ftealthes of injurious imposters, that expofed them, even those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the reft, abfolute in their numbers as he conceived them: who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was a moft gentle expreffer of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that eafineffe, that wee have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.9 But it is not our province, who onely gather his workes, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid,
8 as where-] i. e. whereas. MALONE.
• Probably they had few of his MSS. STEEVENS.