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the musicke, whewe at the children's action, whistle at the songs; and above all, curse the sharers, that whereas the same day you had bestowed forty shillings on an embroidered felt and feather (Scotch fashion) for your mistres in the court, or your punck in the cittie, within two houres after, you encounter with the very same block on the stage, when the haberdasher swore to you the impression was extant but that morning.
"To conclude, hoord up the finest play-scraps you can get, upon which your leane wit may most savourly feede, for want of other stuffe, when the Arcadian and Euphuis'd gentlewomen have their tongues sharpened to set upon you: that qualitie (next to your shittlecocke) is the only furniture to a courtier that's but a new beginner, and is but in his A B C of complement. The next places that are fil'd after the play-houses bee emptied, are (or ought to be) tavernes: into a taverne then let us next march, where the braines of one hogshead must be beaten out to make up another."4
The following pretty picture of THE STAGE is given in Gay'ton's Notes on Don Quixote, 1654, p. 271:
"Men come not to study at a play-house, but love such expressions and passages, which with ease insinuate themselves into their capacities. Lingua, that learned comedy of the contention betwixt the five senses for superiority, is not to be prostituted to the common stage, but is only proper for an Academy; to them bring Jack Drum's Entertainment, Green's Tu Quoque, the Devil of Edmonton, and the like; or, if it be on holy dayes, when saylers, water-men, shoo-makers, butchers, and apprentices, are at leisure, then it is good policy to amaze those violent spirits with some tearing Tragedy full of fights and skirmishes : as the Guelphs and Guiblins, Greeks and Trojans, or the three London Apprentices; which commonly ends in six acts, the spectators frequently mounting the stage, and making a more bloody catastrophe amongst themselves, than the players did. I have known upon one of these festivals, but especially at Shrove
I should have attempted on the present occasion to enumerate all other pamphlets, &c. from whence particulars relative to the conduct of our early theatres might be collected, but that Dr. Percy, in his first volume of the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, (third edit. p. 128, &c.) has extracted such passages from them as tend to the illustration of this subject; to which he has added more accurate remarks than my experience in these matters would have enabled me to supply. STEEVENS.
tide, where the players have been appointed, notwithstanding their bils to the contrary, to act what the major part of the company had a mind to; sometimes Tamerlane, sometimes Jugurth, sometimes The Jew of Malta; and sometimes parts of all these, and at last none of the three taking, they were forc'd to undresse and put off their tragick habits, and conclude the day with the Merry Milk-maides. And unlesse this were done, and the popular humour satisfied, as sometimes it so fortun'd, that the players were refractory; the benches, the tiles, the laths, the stones, oranges, apples, nuts, flew about most liberally; and, as there were mechanicks of all professions, who fell every one to his owne trade, and dissolved a house in an instant, and made a ruine of a stately fabrick. It was not then the most mimicall nor fighting man, Fowler, nor Andrew Cane, could pacifie: Prologues nor Epilogues would prevaile; the devill and the fool were quite out of favour. Nothing but noise and tumult fils the house, untill a cogg take 'um, and then to the bawdy houses and reforme them; and instantly to the Bank's Side, where the poor bears must conclude the riot, and fight twenty dogs at a time beside the butchers, which sometimes fell into the service; this perform'd, and the horse and jack-anapes for a jigge, they had sport enough that day for nothing."
MR. M. MASON'S COMMENTS, &c.
NOT thoroughly satisfied with any of the former editions of Shakspeare, even that of Johnson, I had resolved to venture upon one of my own, and had actually collected materials for the purpose, when that, which is the subject of the following Observations, made its appearance; in which I found that a considerable part of the amendments and explanations I had intended to propose were anticipated by the labours and eccentrick reading of Steevens, the ingenious researches of Malone, and the sagacity of Tyrwhitt.-I will fairly confess that I was somewhat mortified at this discovery, which compelled me to relinquish a favourite pursuit, from whence I had vainly expected to derive some degree of credit in the literary world. This, however, was a secondary consideration; and my principal purpose will be answered to my wish, if the Comments, which I now submit to the publick shall, in any other hands, contribute materially to a more complete edition of our inimitable poet.
If we may judge from the advertisement prefixed
• Edit. 1778.
to his Supplement, Malone seems to think that no other edition can hereafter be wanted; as in speaking of the last, he says, "The text of the author seems now to be finally settled, the great abilities and unwearied researches of the editor having left little obscure or unexplained.""
Though I cannot subscribe to this opinion of Malone, with respect to the final adjustment of the text, I shall willingly join in his encomium on the editor, who deserves the applause and gratitude of the publick, not only for his industry and abilities, but also for the zeal with which he has prosecuted the object he had in view, which prompted him, not only to the wearisome task of collation, but also to engage in a peculiar course of reading, neither pleasing nor profitable for any other pur
But I will venture to assert, that his merit is more conspicuous in the comments than the text; in the regulation of which he seems to have acted rather from caprice, than any settled principle; admitting alterations, in some passages, on very insufficient authority, indeed, whilst in others he has retained the antient readings, though evidently corrupt, in preference to amendments as evidently just; and it frequently happens, that after pointing out to us the true reading, he adheres to that which he himself has proved to be false. Had he regulated the text in every place according to his own judgment, Malone's observation would have been nearer to the truth; but as it now stands, the
As I was never vain enough to suppose the edit. 1778 was entitled to this encomium, I can find no difficulty in allowing that it has been properly recalled by the gentleman who bestowed it. See his Preface; and his Letter to the Reverend Dr. Farmer, p. 7 and 8. STEEVENS.
last edition has no signal advantage, that I can perceive, over that of Johnson, in point of correct
But the object that Steevens had most at heart, was the illustration of Shakspeare, in which it must be owned he has clearly surpassed all the former editors. If without his abilities, application, or reading, I have happened to succeed in explaining some passages, which he misapprehended, or in suggesting amendments that escaped his sagacity, it is owing merely to the minute attention with which I have studied every line of these plays, whilst the other commentators, I will not except even Steevens himself, have too generally confined their observation and ingenuity to those litigated passages, which have been handed down to them by former editors, as requiring either amendment or explanation, and have suffered many others to pass unheeded, that in truth, were equally erroneous or obscure. It may possibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trifling mistakes in the printing, which every reader perceives to be such, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, however immaterial, should escape unnoticed.
There is perhaps no species of publication whatever, more likely to produce diversity of opinion than verbal criticisms; for as there is no certain criterion of truth, no established principle by which we can decide whether they be justly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his censure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these observations will be generally approved of; some of them, I confess, are not thoroughly satis