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The various readings found in the different impressions of the quarto copies are frequently mentioned by the late editors: it is obvious from what has been already stated, that the first edition of each play is alone of any authority, and accordingly to no other have I paid any attention. All the variations in the subsequent quartos were made by accident or caprice. Where, however, there are two editions printed in the same year, or an undated copy, it is necessary to examine each of them, because which of them was first, can not be ascertained; and being each printed from a manuscript, they carry with them a degree of authority to which a re-impression cannot be entitled. Of the tragedy of King Lear there are no less than three copies, varying from each other, printed for the same bookseller, and in the same year.

Of all the plays of which there are no quarto copies extant, the first folio, printed in 1623, is the only authentick edition.

An opinion has been entertained by some that the second impression of that book, published in 1632, has a similar claim to authenticity. "Whoever has any of the folios, (says Dr. Johnson) has all, excepting those diversities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first, from which (he afterwards adds) the subsequent folios never differ but by accident or negligence." Mr. Steevens, however, does not subscribe to this opinion. “The edition of 1652, (says that gentleman) is not without value; for though it be in some places more incorrectly printed than the preceding one, it has likewise the advantage of various readings, which are not merely such as reiteration of copies will naturally produce."

What Dr. Johnson has stated, is not quite accurate. The second folio does indeed very frequently differ from the first by negligence or chance; but much more frequently by the editor's profound ignorance of our poet's phraseology and metre, in consequence of which there is scarce a page of the book which is not disfigured by the capricious alterations introduced by the person to whom the care of that impression was entrusted. This person in fact, whoever he was, and Mr. Pope, were the two great corrupters of our poet's text; and I have no doubt that if the arbitrary alterations introduced by these two editors were numbered, in the plays of which no quarto copies are extant,

*In that copy anoint being corruptly printed instead of argint, "Anoint thee, witch, the rump-fed ronyon cries."

the error was implicitly adopted by D'Avenant.

† Except only in the instance of Romeo and Juliet, where the first copy, printed in 1597, appears to be an imperfect sketch, and therefore cannot be entirely relied on. Yet even this furnishes many valuable corrections of the more perfect copy of that tragedy in its present state, printed in 1599.

they would greatly exceed all the corruptions and errors of the press in the original and only authentick copy of those plays. Though my judgment on this subject has been formed after a very careful examination, I cannot expect that it should be received on my mere assertion: and therefore it is necessary to substantiate it by proof. This cannot be effected but by a long, minute, and what I am afraid will appear to many, an uninteresting disquisition: but let it still be remembered that to ascertain the genuine text of these plays is an object of great inportance.

On a revision of the second folio printed in 1632, it will be found, that the editor of that book was entirely ignorant of our poet's phraseology and metre, and that various alterations were made by him, in consequence of that ignorance, which render his edition of no value whatsoever.

I. His ignorance of Shakspeare's phraseology is proved by the following among many other instances.

He did not know that the double negative was the customary and authorised language of the age Queen Elizabeth, and therefore, instead of

"Nor to her bed no homage do I owe."

he printed

Comedy of Errors, Act III, sc. ii.

"Nor to her bed a homage do I owe."

So, in As you Like it, Act II, sc. iv, instead of "I can not go no further," he printed-"I can go no further."

In Much Ado about Nothing, Act III, sc. i, Hero, speaking of Beatrice, says,


there will she hide her, "To listen our purpose."

for which the second folio substitutesthere will she hide her,


"To listen to our purpose."

Again, in The Winter's Tale, Act I, sc. ii:

"Thou dost make possible, things not so held."

The plain meaning is, thou dost make those things possible, which are held to be impossible. But the editor of the second folio, not understanding the line, reads—

"Thou dost make possible things not to be so held;" i. e. thou dost make those things to be esteemed impossible, which are possible: the very reverse of what the poet meant. In the same play is this line:

"I am appointed him to murder you."

Here the editor of the second folio, not being conversant with Shakspeare's irregular language, reads

"I appointed him to murder you."

Again, in Macbeth:

"This diamond he greets your wife withal,

"By the name of most kind hostess; and shut up
"In measureless content."

Not knowing that shut up meant concluded, the editor of the second folio reads


"In measureless content."

and shut it up [i. e the diamond]

In the same play the word lated, ("Now spurs the 'lated traveller-") not being understood, is changed to latest, and ColmesInch to Colmes-hill.

Again, ibidem: when Macbeth says, “Hang those that talk of fear," it is evident that these words are not a wish or imprecation but an injunction to hang all the cowards in Scotland. The editor of the second folio, however, considering the passage in the former light, reads:

"Hang them that stand in fear!"

From the same ignorance,

is changed to

"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
"The way to dusty death."

"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
"The way to study death."

In King Richard II, Bolingbroke says,

"And I must find that title in your tongue," &c.

i. e. you must address me by that title. But this not being understood, town is in the second folio substituted for tongue.

The double comparative is common in the plays of Shakspeare. Yet, instead of

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"More worthy than their voices."

So, in Othello, Act I, sc. v,-" opinion, a sovereign mistress of effects, throws a more safer voice on you,"-is changed in the second folio, to-" opinion, &c. throws a more safe voice on you."

Again, in Hamlet, Act III, sc. ii, instead of "your wisdom should shew itself more richer, to signify this to the doctor;" we find in the copy of 1632," your wisdom should shew itself more rich," &c.


In The Winter's Tale, the word vast not being understood, they shook hands as over a vast.” we find in the second copy, 66 as over a vast sea."

First Folio.

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In King John, Act V, sc. v, first folio, are these lines:
The English lords


"By his persuasion are again fallen off."

The editor of the second folio, thinking, I suppose, that as these lords had not before deserted the French king, it was improper to say that they had again fallen off, substituted ". -are at last fallen off;" not perceiving that the meaning is, that these lords had gone back again to their own countrymen, whom they had before deserted.

In King Henry VIII, Act II, sc. ii, Norfolk, speaking of Wolsey, says, "I'll venture one have at him." This being misunderstood, is changed in the second copy to-"I'll venture one heave at him."

Julius Cæsar likewise furnishes various specimens of his ig norance of Shakspeare's language. The phrase, to bear hard, not being understood, instead of

"Caius Ligarius doth bear Cæsar hard." First Folio.

we find in the second copy,

"Caius Ligarius doth bear Cæsar hatred.”

and from the same cause the words dank, blest, and hurtled, are dismissed from the text, and more familiar words substituted in their room.*

In like manner in the Third Act of Coriolanus, sc. ii, the ancient verb to owe, i. e. to possess, is discarded by this editor, and own substituted in its place.

In Antony and Cleopatra, we find in the original copy these lines:


I say again, thy spirit

"Is all afraid to govern thee near him,
"But he alway, 'tis noble."

Instead of restoring the true word away, which was thus corruptly exhibited, the editor of the second folio, without any regard to the context, altered another part of the line, and absurdly printed—“ But he alway is noble.”

In the same play, Act I, sc. iii, Cleopatra says to Charmian56 Quick and return;" for which the editor of the second folio, not knowing that quick was either used adverbially, or elliptically for Be quick, substitutes—“ Quickly, and return."

In Timon of Athens, are these lines:

"To walk unbraced, and suck up the humours
"Of the dank morning." First Folio.

"Of the dark morning." Second Folio.

"We are blest that Rome is rid of him." First Folio.

"We are glad that Rome is rid of him."

Second Folio.

First Folio.

"The noise of battle hurtled in the air." "The noise of battle hurried in the air." VOL. I.

Second Folio.


"And that unaptness made your minister
"Thus to excuse yourself."

i. e. and made that unaptness your minister to excuse yourself; or, in other words, availed yourself of that unaptness as an excuse for your own conduct. The words being inverted and put out of their natural order, the editor of the second folio supposed that unaptness, being placed first, must be the nominative case, and therefore reads


"And that unaptness made you minister,
"Thus to excuse yourself."

In that play, from the same ignorance, instead, of Timon's exhortation to the thieves, to kill as well as rob.-" Take wealth and lives together," we find in the second copy, "Take wealth, and live together." And with equal ignorance and licentiousness this editor altered the epitaph on Timon, to render it what he thought metrical, by leaving out various words. In the original edition it appears as it docs in Plutarch, and therefore we may be certain that the variations in the second copy were here, as in other places, all arbitrary and capricious. Again, in the same play, we have

"I defil'd land."

"O, my good lord, the world is but a word," &c.

The editor not understanding either of these passages, and supposing that I in the first of them was used as a personal pronoun, (whereas it stands according to the usage of that time for the affirmative particle, ay,) reads in the first line,

"I defy land;"

and exhibits the other line thus:

"O, my good lord, the world is but a world," &c.

Our author and the contemporary writers generally write wars, not war, &c. The editor of the second folio being unapprised of this, reads in Antony and Cleopatra, Act III, sc. v: "Cæsar having made use of him in the war against Pompey,”— instead of wars, the reading of the original copy.

The seventh scene of the fourth act of this play concludes with these words: "Despatch.—Enobarbus!" Antony, who is the speaker, desires his attendant Eros to despatch, and then pronounces the name Enobarbus, who had recently deserted him, and whose loss he here laments. But there being no person on the scene but Eros, and the point being inadvertently omitted after the word dispatch, the editor of the second folio supposed that Enobarbus must have been an error of the press, and therefore reads:

"Dispatch, Eros."

In Troilus and Cressida, Cressida says,


Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."

i. e. the soul of joy lies, &c. So, "love's visible soul," and "my

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