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(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 re-iteration 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, 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 importance.
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 in
He did not know that the double negative was the customary and authorized language of the age of Queen Elizabeth, and therefore, instead of
"Nor to her bed no homage do I owe."
"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 substitutes
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
Not knowing that shut up meant concluded, the editor of the second folio reads
and shut it up [i. e. the diamond] "In measureless content."
In the same play the word lated, ("Now spurs the 'lated traveller-") not being understood, is changed to latest, and Colmes-Inch to Colmeshill.
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,
"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
is changed to
"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
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
I'll give my reasons
we have in the second copy,
Coriolanus, Act III. sc. i. First Folio.
"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, toopinion, &c. throws a more safe voice on you." Again, in Hamlet, Act III. sc. ii. instead of
your wisdom should show itself more richer, to signify this to the doctor;" we find in the copy of 1632," your wisdom should show itself more rich," &c.
In The Winter's Tale, the word vast not being understood,
they shook hands as over a vast." First Folio.
we find in the second copy, sea."
In King John, Act V. sc. v. first folio, are these lines:
The English lords
"By his persuasion are again fallen off."
we find in the second copy,
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.”
as over a vast
Julius Cæsar likewise furnishes various specimens of his ignorance of Shakspeare's language. The phrase, to bear hard, not being understood, instead of
"Caius Ligarius doth bear Cæsar hard." First Folio.
"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.'
"To walk unbraced, and suck up the humours
First Folio. Second Folio.