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Published according to the True Originall Copies.
PREFATORY MATTER TO FIRST FOLIO
To the Reader
This figure, that thou here seest put,
O, could he but have drawne his wit
As well in brasse as he hath hit
His face, the print would then surpasse
But since he cannot, reader, looke
INCOMPARABLE PAIR OF BRETHREN
Earl of Pembroke, &c., Lord Chamberlain to the
Earl of Montgomery, &c., Gentleman of his Majesty's
WHILST We study to be thankful in our particular, for the many favours we have received from your L.L., we are fallen upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can be, fear, and rashness; rashness in the enterprise, and fear of the success. For, when we value the places your H.H. sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles: and, while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the defence of our Dedication. But since your L.L. have been pleased to think these trifles something heretofore; and have prosecuted both them, and their Author living, with so much favour: we hope, that (they outliving him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings) you will use the like indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Book choose his Patrons or find them: This hath done both. For, so much were your L.L. likings of the several parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the Volume asked to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure
PREFACE TO his Orphans, Guardians; without ambition either of self-profit, or FIRST FOLIO fame: only to keep the memory of so worthy a Friend, and Fellow alive, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his plays, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed, no man to come near your L.L. but with a kind of religious address; it hath been the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the present worthy of your H.H. by the perfection. But, there we must also crave our abilities to be considered, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our own powers. Country hands reach forth milk, cream, fruits, or what they have: and many Nations (we have heard) that had not gums and incense, obtained their requests with a leavened Cake. It was no fault to approach their Gods, by what means they could: And the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples. In that name, therefore, we most humbly consecrate to your H.H. these remains of your servant, Shakespeare; that what delight is in them, may be ever your L.L. the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a pair so careful to show their gratitude, both to the living, and the dead, as is
Your Lordships' most bounden,
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS.
FROM the most able, to him that can but spell. There you are
sixpenny worth, your shilling's worth, your five shillings' worth at PREface to a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, FIRST FOLIO whatever you do, Buy. Censure will not drive a Trade, or make the Jack go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and fit on the stage at Black-Friars, or the Cock-pit, to arraign Plays daily, know, these Plays have had their trial already, and stood out all Appeals; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, than any purchased Letters of commendation.
It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that the Author himself had lived to have set forth, and overseen his own writings; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his Friends, the office of their care, and pain, to have collected and published them; and so to have published them; as where (before) you were abused with diverse stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious imposters, that exposed them: even those, are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happy imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expressor of it. His mind and hand went together. And what he thought, he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our province, who only gather his works, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that read him. And there we hope, to your diverse capacities, you will find enough, both to draw, and hold you; for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be lost. Read him, therefore: and again, and again: and if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can be your guides: if you need them not, you can lead yourselves, and others. And such Readers we wish him.