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he will not allow to be great enough to be rank'd with him; and challenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Æfchylus, nay all Greece and Rome at once, to equal him And (which is very particular) exprefly vindicates him from the imputation. of wanting Art, not enduring that all his excellencies hou'd be attributed to Nature. It is remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in his Discoveries feems to proceed from a perfonal kindness; he tells us that he lov'd the man, as well as honoured his memory; celebrates the honefty, openness, and franknefs of his temper; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought,. between the real merit of the Author, and the filly and derogatory applaufes of the Players. Ben Johnson might indeed be sparing in his Commendations (tho' certainly he is not fo in this inftance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praifing him juftly,than lavishly. 1 fay, I would fain believe they were Friends, tho' the violence and ill breeding of their Followers and Flatterers. were enough to give rife to the contrary report. I would hope that it may be with Parties, both in Wit and State, as with those Monsters defcribed by the Poets; and that their Heads at least may have fomething

fomething humane, tho' their Bodies and Tails are wild beafts and ferpents.

As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rise to the opinion of Shakespear's want of learning; fo what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the firft Publifhers of his works. In thefe Editions their ignorance fhines almoft in every page; nothing is more common than Altus tertia, Exit Omnes, Enter three Witches folus: Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in construction and fpelling: Their very Welb is falfe. Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Ariftotle, with others of that grofs. kind, fprung from the fame root. It not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the leaft tin&ture of a School, or the leaft conversation with fuch as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at at least to have had fome Latin; which is utterly inconfiftent with mistakes like these. Nay the conftant blunders in proper names of perfons and places, are fuch as must have proceeded from a man, who had not fo much as read any history, in any language: fo could not be Shakespear's.

I shall now lay before the reader fome of those almoft innumerable Errors, which have risen from one fource, the ignorance


of the Players, both as his actors, and as his editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and confidered, I dare to fay that not Shakespear only, but Ariftotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the fame fate, might have appear'd to want fenfe as well as learning.

It is not certain that any one of his Plays was published by himself. During the time of his employment in the Theatre, several of his pieces were printed feparately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not published by him, is the exceffive carelessness of the prefs: every page is fo fcandaloufly false spelled, and almoft all the learned or unufual words fo intolerably mangled, that it's plain there ei ther was no Corrector to the prefs at all, or one totally illiterate If any were fupervi→ fed by himself, I fhould fancy the two parts of Henry the 4th, and Midsummer-Night's Dream might have been fo: because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the reft) there is very little variation in all the fubfequent editions of them. There are extant two Prefaces, to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Creffida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the firft was pub lifh'd without his knowledge or confent, and even before it was acted, fo late as feven or eight years before he died: and that the lat

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ter was not printed 'till after his death. The whole number of genuine plays which we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven. And of fome of thefe, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trafh different from the other which I fhould fancy was occafion'd by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different Play-houfes.

The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his, were first collected) was published by two Players, Heming and Condell, in 1623, feven years after his deceafe. They declare, that all the other editions were ftolen and furreptitious, and' affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other; for in all refpects elfe it is far wosfe than the Quarto's:

First, because the additions of trifling and bombaft paffages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, fince thofe Quarto's, by the actors, or had ftolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the Author. He himself complained of this ufage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the Clowns wou'd Speak no more than is fet down for them. (A&t. 3.

Sc. 4.)

Sc. 4.) But as a proof that he could not. escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet there is no hint of a great number of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found there. In others, the low fcenes of Mobs, Plebeians and Clowns, are vaftly shorter than at prefent: And I have seen one in particular (which feems to have belonged to the play-houfe, by having the parts divided with lines, and the Actors names in the margin) where several of those very paffages were added in a written hand, which are fince to be found in the folio.

In the next place, a number of beautiful paffages which are extant in the first single editions, are omitted in this: as it seems, without any other reason, than their willingness to shorten fome scenes: These men (as it was faid of Procruftes) either lopping, or ftretching an Author, to make him just fit for their Stage.

This edition is faid to be printed from the Original Copies; I believe they meant thofe which had lain ever fince the Author's days in the play-house, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the Quarto's, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the Prompter's Book, or Piece-meal Parts written out for the use of the actors: For in fome places their very


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