Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of David Nichol Smith > Text of Alexander Pope: Preface To Edition Of Shakespeare. 1725

An essay by David Nichol Smith

Alexander Pope: Preface To Edition Of Shakespeare. 1725

Title:     Alexander Pope: Preface To Edition Of Shakespeare. 1725
Author: David Nichol Smith [More Titles by Smith]

It is not my design to enter into a Criticism upon this Author; tho' to do it effectually and not superficially would be the best occasion that any just Writer could take, to form the judgment and taste of our nation. For of all English Poets Shakespear must be confessed to be the fairest and fullest subject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous as well as most conspicuous instances, both of Beauties and Faults of all sorts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a Preface, the business of which is only to give an account of the fate of his Works, and the disadvantages under which they have been transmitted to us. We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not: A design, which, tho' it can be no guide to future Criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in the other.

I cannot however but mention some of his principal and characteristic Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly and universally elevated above all other Dramatic Writers. Not that this is the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any occasion of doing it.

If ever any Author deserved the name of an Original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of Nature; it proceeded thro' AEgyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The Poetry of Shakespear was Inspiration indeed: he is not so much an Imitator, as an Instrument, of Nature; and 'tis not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks thro' him.

His Characters are so much Nature her self, that 'tis a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her. Those of other Poets have a constant resemblance, which shews that they receiv'd them from one another, and were but multiplyers of the same image: each picture, like a mock-rainbow, is but the reflexion of a reflexion. But every single character in Shakespear is as much an Individual as those in Life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be Twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of Character, we must add the wonderful Preservation of it; which is such throughout his plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the very names of the Persons, I believe one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.

The Power over our Passions was never possess'd in a more eminent degree, or display'd in so different instances. Yet all along, there is seen no labour, no pains to raise them; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or be perceiv'd to lead toward it: But the heart swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proper places: We are surpriz'd, the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the passion so just, that we shou'd be surpriz'd if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.

How astonishing is it again, that the passions directly opposite to these, Laughter and Spleen, are no less at his command! that he is not more a master of the Great, than of the Ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations!

Nor does he only excel in the Passions: In the coolness of Reflection and Reasoning he is full as admirable. His Sentiments are not only in general the most pertinent and judicious upon every subject; but by a talent very peculiar, something between Penetration and Felicity, he hits upon that particular point on which the bent of each argument turns, or the force of each motive depends. This is perfectly amazing, from a man of no education or experience in those great and publick scenes of life which are usually the subject of his thoughts: So that he seems to have known the world by Intuition, to have look'd thro' humane nature at one glance, and to be the only Author that gives ground for a very new opinion, That the Philosopher, and even the Man of the world, may be Born, as well as the Poet.

It must be own'd that with all these great excellencies he has almost as great defects; and that as he has certainly written better, so he has perhaps written worse, than any other. But I think I can in some measure account for these defects, from several causes and accidents; without which it is hard to imagine that so large and so enlighten'd a mind could ever have been susceptible of them. That all these Contingencies should unite to his disadvantage seems to me almost as singularly unlucky, as that so many various (nay contrary) Talents should meet in one man, was happy and extraordinary.

It must be allowed that Stage-Poetry of all other is more particularly levell'd to please the Populace, and its success more immediately depending upon the Common Suffrage. One cannot therefore wonder, if Shakespear, having at his first appearance no other aim in his writings than to procure a subsistance, directed his endeavours solely to hit the taste and humour that then prevailed. The Audience was generally composed of the meaner sort of people; and therefore the Images of Life were to be drawn from those of their own rank: accordingly we find that not our Author's only but almost all the old Comedies have their Scene among Tradesmen and Mechanicks: And even their Historical Plays strictly follow the common Old Stories or Vulgar Traditions of that kind of people. In Tragedy, nothing was so sure to Surprize and cause Admiration, as the most strange, unexpected, and consequently most unnatural, Events and Incidents; the most exaggerated Thoughts; the most verbose and bombast Expression; the most pompous Rhymes, and thundering Versification. In Comedy, nothing was so sure to please, as mean buffoonry, vile ribaldry, and unmannerly jests of fools and clowns. Yet even in these our Author's Wit buoys up, and is born above his subject: his Genius in those low parts is like some Prince of a Romance in the disguise of a Shepherd or Peasant; a certain Greatness and Spirit now and then break out, which manifest his higher extraction and qualities.

It may be added, that not only the common Audience had no notion of the rules of writing, but few even of the better sort piqu'd themselves upon any great degree of knowledge or nicety that way, till Ben Johnson getting possession of the Stage brought critical learning into vogue: And that this was not done without difficulty, may appear from those frequent lessons (and indeed almost Declamations) which he was forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into the mouth of his Actors, the Grex, Chorus, &c.; to remove the prejudices, and inform the judgment of his hearers. Till then, our Authors had no thoughts of writing on the model of the Ancients: their Tragedies were only Histories in Dialogue; and their Comedies follow'd the thread of any Novel as they found it, no less implicitly than if it had been true History.

To judge therefore of Shakespear by Aristotle's rules, is like trying a man by the Laws of one Country, who acted under those of another. He writ to the People; and writ at first without patronage from the better sort, and therefore without aims of pleasing them: without assistance or advice from the Learned, as without the advantage of education or acquaintance among them: without that knowledge of the best models, the Ancients, to inspire him with an emulation of them; in a word, without any views of Reputation, and of what Poets are pleas'd to call Immortality: Some or all of which have encourag'd the vanity, or animated the ambition, of other writers.

Yet it must be observ'd, that when his performances had merited the protection of his Prince, and when the encouragement of the Court had succeeded to that of the Town, the works of his riper years are manifestly raised above those of his former. The Dates of his plays sufficiently evidence that his productions improved, in proportion to the respect he had for his auditors. And I make no doubt this observation will be found true in every instance, were but Editions extant from which we might learn the exact time when every piece was composed, and whether writ for the Town or the Court.

Another Cause (and no less strong than the former) may be deduced from our Author's being a Player, and forming himself first upon the judgments of that body of men whereof he was a member. They have ever had a Standard to themselves, upon other principles than those of Aristotle. As they live by the Majority, they know no rule but that of pleasing the present humour, and complying with the wit in fashion; a consideration which brings all their judgment to a short point. Players are just such judges of what is right, as Taylors are of what is graceful. And in this view it will be but fair to allow, that most of our Author's faults are less to be ascribed to his wrong judgment as a Poet, than to his right judgment as a Player.

By these men it was thought a praise to Shakespear, that he scarce ever blotted a line. This they industriously propagated, as appears from what we are told by Ben Johnson in his Discoveries, and from the preface of Heminges and Condell to the first folio Edition. But in reality (however it has prevailed) there never was a more groundless report, or to the contrary of which there are more undeniable evidences: As, the Comedy of the Merry Wives of Windsor, which he entirely new writ; the History of Henry the 6th, which was first published under the Title of the Contention of York and Lancaster; and that of Henry the 5th, extreamly improved; that of Hamlet enlarged to almost as much again as at first, and many others. I believe the common opinion of his want of Learning proceeded from no better ground. This too might be thought a Praise by some; and to this his Errors have as injudiciously been ascribed by others. For 'tis certain, were it true, it would concern but a small part of them; the most are such as are not properly Defects, but Superfoetations: and arise not from want of learning or reading, but from want of thinking or judging: or rather (to be more just to our Author) from a compliance to those wants in others. As to a wrong choice of the subject, a wrong conduct of the incidents, false thoughts, forc'd expressions, &c.; if these are not to be ascrib'd to the foresaid accidental reasons, they must be charg'd upon the Poet himself, and there is no help for it. But I think the two Disadvantages which I have mentioned (to be obliged to please the lowest of the people, and to keep the worst of company), if the consideration be extended as far as it reasonably may, will appear sufficient to mis-lead and depress the greatest Genius upon earth. Nay the more modesty with which such a one is endued, the more he is in danger of submitting and conforming to others, against his own better judgment.

But as to his Want of Learning, it may be necessary to say something more: There is certainly a vast difference between Learning and Languages. How far he was ignorant of the latter, I cannot determine; but 'tis plain he had much Reading at least, if they will not call it Learning. Nor is it any great matter, if a man has Knowledge, whether he has it from one language or from another. Nothing is more evident than that he had a taste of natural Philosophy, Mechanicks, ancient and modern History, Poetical learning, and Mythology: We find him very knowing in the customs, rites, and manners of Antiquity. In Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, not only the Spirit, but Manners, of the Romans are exactly drawn; and still a nicer distinction is shewn, between the manners of the Romans in the time of the former and of the latter. His reading in the ancient Historians is no less conspicuous, in many references to particular passages: and the speeches copy'd from Plutarch in Coriolanus may, I think, as well be made an instance of his learning, as those copy'd from Cicero in Catiline, of Ben Johnson's. The manners of other nations in general, the Egyptians, Venetians, French, &c.;, are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever object of nature, or branch of science, he either speaks of or describes, it is always with competent, if not extensive knowledge: his descriptions are still exact; all his metaphors appropriated, and remarkably drawn from the true nature and inherent qualities of each subject. When he treats of Ethic or Politic, we may constantly observe a wonderful justness of distinction, as well as extent of comprehension. No one is more a master of the Poetical story, or has more frequent allusions to the various parts of it: Mr. Waller (who has been celebrated for this last particular) has not shown more learning this way than Shakespear. We have Translations from Ovid published in his name, among those Poems which pass for his, and for some of which we have undoubted authority (being published by himself, and dedicated to his noble Patron the Earl of Southampton). He appears also to have been conversant in Plautus, from whom he has taken the plot of one of his plays: he follows the Greek Authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius, in another (altho' I will not pretend to say in what language he read them). The modern Italian writers of Novels he was manifestly acquainted with; and we may conclude him to be no less conversant with the Ancients of his own country, from the use he has made of Chaucer in Troilus and Cressida, and in the Two Noble Kinsmen, if that Play be his, as there goes a Tradition it was (and indeed it has little resemblance of Fletcher, and more of our Author than some of those which have been received as genuine).

I am inclined to think, this opinion proceeded originally from the zeal of the Partizans of our Author and Ben Johnson; as they endeavoured to exalt the one at the expence of the other. It is ever the nature of Parties to be in extremes; and nothing is so probable, as that because Ben Johnson had much the more learning, it was said on the one hand that Shakespear had none at all; and because Shakespear had much the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that Johnson wanted both. Because Shakespear borrowed nothing, it was said that Ben Johnson borrowed every thing. Because Johnson did not write extempore, he was reproached with being a year about every piece; and because Shakespear wrote with ease and rapidity, they cryed, he never once made a blot. Nay the spirit of opposition ran so high, that whatever those of the one side objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned into Praises; as injudiciously as their antagonists before had made them Objections.

Poets are always afraid of Envy; but sure they have as much reason to be afraid of Admiration. They are the Scylla and Charybdis of Authors; those who escape one, often fall by the other. Pessimum genus inimicorum Laudantes, says Tacitus: and Virgil desires to wear a charm against those who praise a Poet without rule or reason.

----Si ultra placitum laudarit, baccare frontem
Cingito, ne Vati noceat----.

But however this contention might be carried on by the Partizans on either side, I cannot help thinking these two great Poets were good friends, and lived on amicable terms and in offices of society with each other. It is an acknowledged fact, that Ben Johnson was introduced upon the Stage, and his first works encouraged, by Shakespear. And after his death, that Author writes To the memory of _ his beloved Mr. William Shakespear, which shows as if the friendship had continued thro' life. I cannot for my own part find any thing Invidious or Sparing in those verses, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of that opinion. He exalts him not only above all his Contemporaries, but above Chaucer and Spenser, whom he will not allow to be great enough to be rank'd with him; and challenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and AEschylus, nay all Greece and Rome at once, to equal him: And (which is very particular) expressly vindicates him from the imputation of wanting Art, not enduring that all his excellencies shou'd be attributed to Nature. It is remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in his Discoveries seems to proceed from a personal kindness; he tells us that he lov'd the man, as well as honoured his memory; celebrates the honesty, openness, and frankness of his temper; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought, between the real merit of the Author, and the silly and derogatory applauses of the Players. Ben Johnson might indeed be sparing in his Commendations (tho' certainly he is not so in this instance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praising him justly, than lavishly. I say, I would fain believe they were Friends, tho' the violence and ill-breeding of their Followers and Flatterers were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I would hope that it may be with Parties, both in Wit and State, as with those Monsters described by the Poets; and that their Heads at least may have something humane, tho' their Bodies and Tails are wild beasts and serpents.

As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rise to the opinion of Shakespear's want of learning; so what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first Publishers of his works. In these Editions their ignorance shines almost in every page; nothing is more common than Actus tertia, Exit Omnes, Enter three Witches solus. Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in construction and spelling: Their very Welsh is false. Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that gross kind, sprung from the same root: It not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the least tincture of a School, or the least conversation with such as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had some Latin; which is utterly inconsistent with mistakes like these. Nay the constant blunders in proper names of persons and places, are such as must have proceeded from a man who had not so much as read any history, in any language: so could not be Shakespear's.

I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost innumerable Errors which have risen from one source, the ignorance of the Players, both as his actors, and as his editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and considered, I dare to say that not Shakespear only, but Aristotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the same fate, might have appear'd to want sense 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 separately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not publish'd by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press: every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned and unusual words so intolerably mangled, that it's plain there either was no Correcter to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were supervised by himself, I should fancy the two parts of Henry the 4th and Midsummer-Night's Dream might have been so: because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) there is very little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two Prefaces, to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Cressida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the first was publish'd without his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted, so late as seven or eight years before he died: and that the latter 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 some of these, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash different from the other: which I should fancy was occasion'd by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different Playhouses.

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, seven years after his decease. They declare that all the other editions were stolen and surreptitious, 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 respects else it is far worse than the Quarto's:

First, because the additions of trifling and bombast passages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, since those Quarto's, by the actors, or had stolen 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 usage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the Clowns wou'd speak no more than is set down for them (Act 3. 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 scenes of Mobs, Plebeians, and Clowns, are vastly shorter than at present: And I have seen one in particular (which seems to have belonged to the Playhouse, by having the parts divided with lines, and the Actors names in the margin) where several of those very passages were added in a written hand, which are since to be found in the folio.

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

This edition is said to be printed from the Original Copies; I believe they meant those which had lain ever since the Author's days in the playhouse, 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 some places their very(38) names are thro' carelessness set down instead of the Personae Dramatis: And in others the notes of direction to the Property-men for their Moveables, and to the Players for their Entries,(39) are inserted into the Text, thro' the ignorance of the Transcribers.


[38: Much ado about nothing, Act 2. Enter Prince, Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wilson, instead of Balthasar. And in Act 4. Cowley, and Kemp, constantly thro' a whole Scene. Edit. Fol. of 1623, and 1632.

[39: Such as,

--My Queen is murder'd! Ring the little Bell--
--His nose grew as sharp as a pen, and a table of Greenfield's, &c.;]

The Plays not having been before so much as distinguish'd by Acts and Scenes, they are in this edition divided according as they play'd them; often when there is no pause in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the sake of Musick, Masques, or Monsters.

Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward; a thing which could no otherwise happen, but by their being taken from separate and piece-meal-written parts.

Many verses are omitted intirely, and others transposed; from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, past the guess of any Commentator to clear up, but just where the accidental glympse of an old edition enlightens us.

Some Characters were confounded and mix'd, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the Quarto edition of Midsummer-Night's Dream, Act 5, Shakespear introduces a kind of Master of the Revels called Philostratus: all whose part is given to another character (that of AEgeus) in the subsequent editions: So also in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the Prompter's Books were what they call'd the Original Copies.

From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths of wrong persons, where the Author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character: Or sometimes perhaps for no better reason than that a governing Player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an Underling.

Prose from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.

Having been forced to say so much of the Players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the Judgment, as well as Condition, of that class of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the best Playhouses were Inns and Taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.;), so the top of the profession were then meer Players, not Gentlemen of the stage: They were led into the Buttery by the Steward, not plac'd at the Lord's table, or Lady's toilette: and consequently were intirely depriv'd of those advantages they now enjoy, in the familiar conversation of our Nobility, and an intimacy (not to say dearness) with people of the first condition.

From what has been said, there can be no question but had Shakespear published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we should not only be certain which are genuine; but should find in those that are, the errors lessened by some thousands. If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his style, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, The Puritan, and London Prodigal, cannot be admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus), that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasion'd some Plays to be supposed Shakespear's was only this; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the Theatre while it was under his administration: and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give Strays to the Lord of the Manor: A mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the House to remove. Yet the Players themselves, Hemings and Condell, afterwards did Shakespear the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition; tho' they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with some applause (as we learn from what Ben Johnson says of Pericles in his Ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same Author openly express his contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew-Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakespear was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, than for the former, which were equally published in his lifetime.

If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages might no longer reflect upon this great Genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary Additions, Expunctions, Transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of Characters and Persons, wrong application of Speeches, corruptions of innumerable Passages by the Ignorance, and wrong Corrections of 'em again by the Impertinence, of his first Editors? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily perswaded, that the greatest and the grossest part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.

This is the state in which Shakespear's, writings lye at present; for since the above-mentioned Folio Edition, all the rest have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the Injuries already done him; too much time has elaps'd, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharg'd the dull duty of an Editor to my best judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all Innovation, and without any indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this Edition will show it self. The various Readings are fairly put in the margin, so that every one may compare 'em; and those I have prefer'd into the Text are constantly ex fide Codicum, upon authority. The Alterations or Additions which Shakespear himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some suspected passages which are excessively bad (and which seem Interpolations by being so inserted that one can intirely omit them without any chasm or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an Asterisk referring to the places of their insertion. The Scenes are mark'd so distinctly that every removal of place is specify'd; which is more necessary in this Author than any other, since he shifts them more frequently: and sometimes, without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are distinguish'd by comma's in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars but in the whole, a star is prefix'd to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less ostentatious method of performing the better half of Criticism (namely the pointing out an Author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine passages, with general Applauses, or empty Exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoin'd a Catalogue of those first Editions by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorised (most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them). These Editions now hold the place of Originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiences or restore the corrupted sense of the Author: I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.

I will conclude by saying of Shakespear, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his Drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finish'd and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick Architecture, compar'd with a neat Modern building: The latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more solemn. It must be allow'd that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; tho' we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the Whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, tho' many of the Parts are childish, ill-plac'd, and unequal to its grandeur.


Alexander Pope

48. His Characters. The same idea had been expressed by Gildon in his Essay on the Stage, 1710, p. li.: "He has not only distinguish'd his principal persons, but there is scarce a messenger comes in but is visibly different from all the rest of the persons in the play. So that you need not to mention the name of the person that speaks, when you read the play, the manners of the persons will sufficiently inform you who it is speaks." Cf. also Addison's criticism of Homer, Spectator, No. 273: "There is scarce a speech or action in the Iliad, which the reader may not ascribe to the person that speaks or acts, without seeing his name at the head of it."

50. To judge of Shakespear by Aristotle's rules. This comparison had appeared in Farquhar's Discourse upon Comedy: "The rules of English Comedy don't lie in the compass of Aristotle, or his followers, but in the Pit, Box, and Galleries. And to examine into the humour of an English audience, let us see by what means our own English poets have succeeded in this point. To determine a suit at law we don't look into the archives of Greece or Rome, but inspect the reports of our own lawyers, and the acts and statutes of our Parliaments; and by the same rule we have nothing to do with the models of Menander or Plautus, but must consult Shakespear, Johnson, Fletcher, and others, who by methods much different from the Ancients have supported the English Stage, and made themselves famous to posterity." Cf. also Rowe, p. 15: "it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of."--Is it unnecessary to point out that there are no "rules" in Aristotle? The term "Aristotle's rules" was commonly used to denote the "rules of the classical drama," which, though based on the Poetics, were formulated by Italian and French critics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

51. The Dates of his plays. Pope here controverts Rowe's statement, p. 4.

blotted a line. See note, p. 43. Though Pope here controverts the traditional opinion, he found it to his purpose to accept it in the Epistle to Augustus, ll. 279-281:

And fluent Shakespear scarce effac'd a line.
Ev'n copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,
The last and greatest art, the art to blot.

52. Pope's references to the early editions of the Merry Wives and other plays do not prove his assertions. Though an imperfect edition of the Merry Wives appeared in 1602, it does not follow that this was "entirely new writ" and transformed into the play in the Folio of 1623. The same criticism applies to what he says of Henry V., of which pirated copies appeared in 1600, 1602, and 1608. And he is apparently under the impression that the Contention of York and Lancaster and the early play of Hamlet were Shakespeare's own work.

53. Coriolanus and Julius Caesar. Pope replies tacitly to Dennis's criticism of these plays.

those Poems which pass for his. The seventh or supplementary volume of Rowe's and Pope's editions contained, in addition to some poems by Marlowe, translations of Ovid by Thomas Heywood. Like Rowe, Pope has some doubt as to the authorship of the poems, but on the score of the dedications he attributes to him Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece. Both editors ignored the Sonnets. It is doubtful how far Shakespeare was indebted to Ovid in his Venus and Adonis. He knew Golding's translation of the Metamorphoses (1565-67); but Venus and Adonis has many points in common with Lodge's Scillaes Metamorphosis which appeared in 1589. See, however, J. P. Reardon's paper in the "Shakespeare Society's Papers," 1847, iii. 143-6, where it is held that Lodge is indebted to Shakespeare.

Plautus. Cf. Rowe, p. 9. Gildon had claimed for Shakespeare greater acquaintance with the Ancients than Rowe had admitted, and Pope had both opinions in view when he wrote the present passage. "I think there are many arguments to prove," says Gildon, "that he knew at least some of the Latin poets, particularly Ovid; two of his Epistles being translated by him: His motto to Venus and Adonis is another proof. But that he had read Plautus himself, is plain from his Comedy of Errors, which is taken visibly from the Menaechmi of that poet.... The characters he has in his plays drawn of the Romans is a proof that he was acquainted with their historians.... I contend not here to prove that he was a perfect master of either the Latin or Greek authors; but all that I aim at, is to shew that as he was capable of reading some of the Romans, so he had actually read Ovid and Plautus, without spoiling or confining his fancy or genius" (1710, p. vi).

Dares Phrygius. The reference is to the prologue of Troilus and Cressida. See the note in Theobald's edition, and Farmer, p. 187.

Chaucer. See Gildon's remarks on Troilus and Cressida, 1710, p. 358.

54. Ben Johnson. Pope is here indebted to Betterton. Cf. his remark as recorded by Spence, Anecdotes, 1820, p. 5. "It was a general opinion that Ben Jonson and Shakespeare lived in enmity against one another. Betterton has assured me often that there was nothing in it; and that such a supposition was founded only on the two parties, which in their lifetime listed under one, and endeavoured to lessen the character of the other mutually. Dryden used to think that the verses Jonson made on Shakespeare's death had something of satire at the bottom; for my part, I can't discover any thing like it in them."

Pessimum genus, etc. Tacitus, Agricola, 41.

Si ultra placitum, etc. Virgil, Eclogues, vii. 27, 28.

55. Dryden. Discourse concerning Satire, ad init. (ed. W. P. Ker, ii., p. 18).

Enter three Witches solus. "This blunder appears to be of Mr. Pope's own invention. It is not to be found in any one of the four folio copies of Macbeth, and there is no quarto edition of it extant" (Steevens).

56. Hector's quoting Aristotle. Troilus and Cressida, ii. 2. 166.

57. those who play the Clowns. "Act iii., Sc. 4" in Pope's edition, but Act iii., Sc. 2 in modern editions.

58. Procrustes. Cf. Spectator, No. 58.

Note 2. In the edition of 1728, Pope added to this note "which last words are not in the first quarto edition."

59. led into the Buttery of the Steward. "Mr. Pope probably recollected the following lines in The Taming of the Shrew, spoken by a Lord, who is giving directions to his servant concerning some players:

Go, Sirrah, take them to the buttery,
And give them friendly welcome every one.

But he seems not to have observed that the players here introduced were strollers; and there is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge, Burbage, Lowin, etc., who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner" (Malone).

London Prodigal. After these seven plays Pope added in the edition of 1728 "and a thing call'd the Double Falshood" (see Introduction, p. xlv). It will be noted that he speaks incorrectly of "eight" plays. In the same edition he also inserted The Comedy of Errors between The Winter's Tale and Titus Andronicus (top of p. 60).

60. tho' they were then printed in his name. His name was given on the title-page of Pericles, Sir John Oldcastle, the Yorkshire Tragedy, and the London Prodigal.

[The end]
David Nichol Smith's essay: Alexander Pope: Preface To Edition Of Shakespeare. 1725