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Yet will not this licence of alteration much mend the narrative; the cause and the effect are still confounded. Let us carry critical temerity a little further. Scaliger transposed the lines of Virgil's Gallus. Why may not the same experiment be ventured upon Shakespear.
The human mortals want their wonted year,
From our debate, from our dissension. I know not what credit the reader will give to this emendation, which I do not much credit myself.
Act III. SCENE i.
In the time of Shakespear there were many companies of players, sometimes five at the same time, contending for the favour of the publick. Of these some were undoubtedly very unskilful and very poor, and it is probable that the design of this Scene was to ridicule their ignorance, and the odd expedients to which they might be driven by the want of proper decorations. Bottom was perhaps the head of a rival house, and is therefore honoured with an Ass's head.
Act III. SCENE iii. (111. i. 177.)
the fiery glow-worm's eyes. I know not how Shakespeare, who commonly derived his knowledge of nature from his own observation, happened to place the glow-worm's light in his eyes, which is only in his tail. Act IV. SCENE i. (iv. i. 48–9.)
So doth the woodbine the sweet boney-suckle,
Gently entwist. Shakespeare perhaps only meant, so the leaves involve the flower, using woodbine for the plant and honey-suckle for the flower; or perhaps Shakespeare made a blunder.
Act IV. SCENE i. (iv. i. 110.)
Our observation is performed. The honours due to the morning of May. I know not why Shakespear calls this play a Midsummer-Night's Dream, when he so carefully informs us that it happened on the night preceding May day. Act V. SCENE üi. (v. ii. 31-2.) OBERON. Now until the break of day,
I brougb this bouse each Fairy stray. This speech, which both the old quartos give to Oberon, is in the Edition of 1623, and in all the following, printed as the song. I have restored it to Oberon, as it apparently contains not the blessing which he intends to bestow on the bed, but his declaration that he will bless it, and his orders to the Fairies how to perform the necessary rites. But where then is the song?-—I am afraid it is gone after many other things of greater value. The truth is that two songs are lost. The series of the Scene is this; after the speech of Puck, Oberon enters, and calls his Fairies to a song, which song is apparently wanting in all the copies. Next Titania leads another song which is indeed lost like the former, though the Editors have endeavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his Fairies to the despatch of the ceremonies.
The songs, I suppose, were lost, because they were not inserted in the players' parts, from which the drama was printed.
Of this play there are two editions in quarto, one printed for Thomas Fisher, the other for James Roberts, both in 1600. I have used the copy of Roberts, very carefully collated, as it seems, with that of Fisher. Neither of the editions approach to exactness. Fisher is sometimes preferable, but Roberts was followed, though not without some variations, by Hemings and Condel, and they by all the folios that succeeded them.
Wild and fantastical as it is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the authour designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
It is observable (I know not for what cause) that the stile of this comedy is less figurative, and more natural and unaffected than the greater part of this author's, tho' supposed to be one of the first he wrote.-POPE.
To this observation of Mr. Pope, which is very just, Mr. Theobald has added, that this is one of Shakespear's worst plays, and is less corrupted than any other. Mr. Upton peremptorily determines, that if any proof can be drawn from manner and style, this play must be sent packing and seek for its parent elsewhere. How
otherwise, says he, do painters distinguish copies from originals, and have not authours their peculiar style and manner from which a true critick can form as unerring a judgment as a Painter? I am afraid this illustration of a critick's science will not prove what is desired. A Painter knows a copy from an original by rules somewhat resembling these by which criticks know a translation, which if it be literal, and literal it must be to resemble the copy of a picture, will be easily distinguished. Copies are known from originals even when the painter copies his own picture; so if an authour should literally translate his work he would lose the manner of an original.
Mr. Upton confounds the copy of a picture with the imitation of a painter's manner. Copies are easily known, but good imitations are not detected with equal certainty, and are, by the best judges, often mistaken. Nor is it true that the writer has always peculiarities equally distinguishable with those of the painter. The peculiar manner of each arises from the desire, natural to every performer, of facilitating his subsequent works by recurrence to his former ideas; this recurrence produces that repetition which is called habit. The painter, whose work is partly intellectual and partly manual, has habits of the mind, the eye and the hand, the writer has only habits of the mind. Yet, some painters have differed as much from themselves as from any other; and I have been told, that there is little resemblance between the first works of Raphael and the last. The same variation may be expected in writers; and if it be true, as it seems, that they are less subject to habit, the difference between their works may be yet greater.
But by the internal marks of a composition we may discover the authour with probability, though seldom with certainty. When I read this play I cannot but think that I discover both in the serious and ludicrous scenes, the language and sentiments of Shakespear. It is not indeed one of his most powerful effusions, it has neither many diversities of character, nor striking delineations of life, but it abounds in yvõua. beyond most of his plays, and few have more lines or passages which, singly considered, are eminently beautiful. I am yet inclined to believe that it was not very successful, and suspect that it has escaped corruption, only because being seldom played it was less exposed to the hazards of transcription. Act I. SCENE Ü.
That this, like many other Scenes, is mean and vulgar, will be universally allowed; but that it was interpolated by the players seems advanced without any proof, only to give a greater licence to criticism. Act II. SCENE vii. (11. iv. 137-9.)
Love's a mighty lord :
There is no woe to his correction. No misery that can be compared to the punishment inflicted by love. Herbert called for the prayers of the Liturgy a little before his death, saying, None to them, none to them.
In this play there is a strange mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of care and negligence. The versification is often excellent, the allusions are learned and just; but the author conveys his heroes by sea from one inland town to another in the same country ; he places the Emperour at Milan and sends his young men to attend him, but never mentions him more; he makes Protheus, after an interview with Silvia, say he has only seen her picture, and, if we may credit the old copies, he has by mistaking places, left his scenery