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aussi peu auoir esté songées d'Homere, que d'Ouide en ses Me tamorphoses les sacrements de l'Euangile, lesquelz vng frere Lubin. vray croquelardon, s'est efforcé de monstrer, si d'aduenture il rencontroit gens aussi fols que luy, & (comme dict le prouerbe) couuercle digne du chaudron."
Well may it be said, that if we listen to the learned folly of these notemongers we will approach Shakespeare's meaning “ni de pieds, ni de mains." They, like the Homerian commentators, put that into his mouth which was as far from his intent as “les Sacrements de l'Evangile," from the Metamorphoses of Ovid.
With regard to conjectural or arbitrary emendations, there is safety only in adhering to the decision of the generally judicious Malone, that all are arbitrary which are “made at the will and pleasure of the conjecturer, and without any authority,” and that all readings " not authorized by authentic copies, printed or manuscript, stand on the same footing, and are to be judged of by their reasonableness or probability.” The soundness of this position is self-evident ; but the previous pages have established it by an examination of the history of Shakespeare's text from its first publication to the present day.
As to the MS. corrections in Mr. Collier's copy of the second folio, an overwhelming weight of internal evidence has compelled the conclusion that they have no pretension to greater deference than that which is due to mere conjecture, and were made not earlier than about 1670, at which time speculative emendation could have no advantages which it does not possess at the present day, except in the possible survival of a few modes of expression which have since become obsolete ; and even this the MS. corrections, by the numerous evidences which they furnish, that the maker or makers of them did not understand phrases and words which are perfectly understood by English scholars of the present day, prove to have been no advantage at all. But although these MS. corrections have no semblance of authority, and at least one thousand and thirteen, out of the one thousand three hundred and three, are unworthy of a moment's further consideration, because in the words of Mr. Dyce they are “ignorant, tasteless and wanton;" * and although, as a highly accomplished and judicious critic has beautifully and justly remarked, “they almost invariably take the fire out of the poetry, the fine tissue out of the thought, the ancient aroma and flavor out of the language ; ” † still, as I have before observed, the discovery of this corrected folio will prove to be of some service to the text of Shakespeare. Nevertheless, even its most plausible corrections are to receive only the consideration due to them as arbitrary and conjectural, and must be "judged of by their reasonableness and probability.” With the thousand and thirteen, new and old, before mentioned, we have of course nothing further to do. Of the remaining two hundred and ninety, one hundred and seventy-three have been a part of the received text for more than a quarter of a century; and these obviously present no claims for present examination. But in the one hundred and seventeen still undisposed of, there are a very few which assert at once an unquestionable claim to be received into the text, and some which are at least worthy of careful consideration before they are rejected. In the course of the following pages
I shall examine the inherent merits of the more important of the latter number—the one hundred and seventeen.
* A Few Notes, &c.-Preface.
Act I. SCENE 1.
“Ant. Where is the master, Boson."
ALTHOUGH the authentic folio makes Antonio very plainly say “ Boson," and the King of Naples, just as plainly, “Boatswain”-in the original, “Boteswaine "—for which “Boson” could not have been a misprint, all the modern editors, with the exception of Mr. Knight, have altered this characteristic contraction to Boatswain. Antonio is a man of coarse and flippant manners; and he was made by Shakespeare to adopt the cant of the forecastle as an indication of his character. This design is frustrated by the use of the correct form of the word. The editors might as well have mended the English of Dogberry or Sir Hugh Evans.
Mr. Dyce, in support of the reading Boatswain, says that the word was printed “Boson” merely in consequence of “the unsettled state of our early orthography,” and quotes passages from Taylor in which it is spelled in three ways, and once, ‘Boson.' But this, in my opinion, cannot be permitted to set aside the peculiar fitness of the word in the original to the character of Antonio. If it stood the other way,-if in the first folio Alonzo said boson,' and Antonio 'boatswain,' Mr. Dyce's argument would justify a change in the first instance; because then there would be an obvious incongruity which now does not exist. Besides, it should be remembered that Taylor, who furnishes Mr. Dyce with the spelling, 'Boson,' had been a sailor, and says, as Mr. Dyce himself quotes,
"Seven times at sea I served Elizabeth."
“[A confused noise within.] Mercy on us! we split," &c. These exclamations are evidently a part of the confused noise within, as Johnson suggested. They are entirely foreign to the character of Gonzalo, who, besides, had neither wife, children, nor brother that we hear of.
But as the words were not sufficiently separated from his speech in the original folio, they have been hitherto attributed to him, except by Johnson and Mr. Knight. Mr. Collier actually breaks up this “confused noise" into heroic lines !
"Prosp. Who having unto truth, by telling of it,
Made such a sinner of his memory
The construction of this sentence is a little involved, and so the MS. corrector of Collier's folio of 1632 changes the words "unto truth” in the first line, to to untruth. But this will never do. How can a man make a sinner of his memory to untruth by telling a lie? The correction achieves nothing but nonsense. The plain construction of the passage, as the original gives it, is, 'Who, having made such a sinner of his memory unto truth, to credit his own lie by telling of it;' which gives us a portrait of a kind of liar that is not uncommon.
"Prosp. Go make thyself like a nymph o' the sea.”
with superfluous barbarity changes to, “Go make thyself a like nymph o' the sea.'
Bow wowgh [Burthen dispersedly
The last line is thus plainly printed in the original folio ; but it has been arbitrarily changed into cock-adoodle-doo by all modern editors. The last could scarcely have been mistaken for the first; and the first rhymes with the “bow-wow" of the burden. This is a small matter ; but I notice it because various liberties have been taken, from time to time, with the text of this fanciful song. It should be given just as it stands in the original, by varying from which nothing has been gained ; but the contrary.
My prime request,
No wonder, Sir; But, certainly, a maid." It would seem impossible to misunderstand this passage, or perhaps it is better to say, to understand it in more than one sense. Ferdinand, struck with Miranda's wondrous beauty, asks her, as the question in which he is most interested, and just as he would have asked her in any other place if he had no other means of obtaining the momentous information, 'tell me, you wonderful creature, are you maid or wife ?' and she replies, with proper modesty, that, though she has no claims to be considered