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The Dedication prefixed to the folio of 1623'. To the most Noble' and Incomparable Paire of Brethren.
William Earle of Pembroke, &c. Lord Chamberlaine, to the Kings most excellent Maiesty.
And Philip Earle of Montgomery, &c. Gentleman of his Maiesties Bed-Chamber. Both Knights of the most Noble
Order of the Garter, and our singular good Lords. Right Honourable,
Whilst we studie to be thankful in our particular, for the many fauors we haue receiued from your L. L we are falne vpon the ill
1 The following is an exact copy of the title-page of the folio of 1623. It is faced, on a fly-leaf, by the verses of Ben Jonson (see p. 225) on the head of Shakespeare, engraved by Droeshout, which occupies the centre:
“ Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Published according to the True Originall Copies. London Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed. Blount.
At the bottom of the last leaf of the volume is the following colophon : “ Printed at the Charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.”
The title-page of the folio of 1632 has “The second Impression ” after “ true Originall Copies," and the imprint at the bottom is as follows:
:-“ London, Printed by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, and are to be sold at the signe of the Blacke Beare in Pauls Church-yard. 1632.” The colophon on the last leaf is “ Printed at London by Thomas Cotes, for John Smethwick, William Aspley, Richard Hawkins, Richard Meigben, and Robert Allot, 1632."
In the third and fourth folios the head of Shakespeare is made a frontispiece, facing the title-page, with Ben Jonson's verses printed under it. After “ The third Impression,” in the folio of 1664, these words are added, “ And unto this Impression is added seven Playes, never before Printed in Folio, viz. Pericles Prince of Tyre. The London Prodigall. The History of Thomas Ld Cromwell. Sir John Oldcastle Lord Cobham. The Puritan Widow. A Yorkshire Tragedy. The Tragedy of Locrine."
? We have given this Dedication, and the “ Address to the variety of Readers," which follows it, precisely as they stand in the original, to the observation of the most minute point. The Dedication was omitted in the folio of 1664, but inserted again in the folio of 1685.
fortune, to mingle two the most diuerse things that can bee, feare, and rashnesse ; rashnesse in the enterprize, and feare of the successe. For, when we valew the places your H.H. sustaine, we cannot but know their dignity greater, then to descend to the reading of these trifles : and, while we name them trifles, we haue depriu'd our selues of the defence of our Dedication. But since your L. L. have beene pleas'd to thinke these trifles something, heeretofore; and have prosequuted both them, and their Author liuing, with so much fauour: we hope that (they out-liuing him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will vse the like indulgence toward them, you haue done vnto their parent. There is a great differwhether
any booke choose his Patrones, or finde them : This hath done both. For, so much were your L. L. likings of the seuerall parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the Volume ask'd to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, and Fellow aliue, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we haue iustly obserued, no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addresse; it hath bin the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the present worthy of yovr H. H. by the perfection. But, there we must also craue our abilities to be considerd, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach foorth milke, creame, fruites, or what they baue : and many Nations (we haue heard) that had not gummes and incense, obtained their requests with a leauened Cake. It was no fault to approch their Gods, by what meanes they could : and the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples. In that name therefore, we must humbly consecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your seruant SHAKESPEARE ; that what delight is in them, may be
L. L. the reputation his, & the faults ours, if any be committed, by a payre so carefull to shew their gratitude both to the liuing, and the dead, as is
Your Lordshippes most bounden,
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS ,
rom the most able, to him that can but spell : There you are number'd. We had rather you were weighd. Especially, when the fate of all Bookes depends vpon your capacities : and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well! It is now publique, and you wil stand for your priviledges wee know: to read, and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a Booke, the Stationer saies. Then, how odde soeuer your braines be, or your wisedomes, make your licence the same, and spare not. Iudge your sixe-pen'orth, your shillings worth, your fiue shillings worth at a time, or higher, so as you rise to the iust rates, and welcome. But, whatever you do, Buy. Censure will not driue a Trade, or make the Iacke go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and sit on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie, know, these Playes haue had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Appeales ; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, then any purchas'd Letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to haue bene wished, that the Author himselfe had liu'd to haue set forth, and ouerseen his owne writings; But since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you doe not envie his Friends, the office of their care, and paine, to have collected and publish'd them; and so to haue publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus’d with divers stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious impostors, that expos’d them : even those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued thē: Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together : And what he thought, he vttered with that easinesse, that wee haue scarse receiued from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe: And if then you doe not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides : if you neede them not, you can leade your selues, and others. And such Readers we wish him.
3 To the great variety of readers,] This address also precedes the folios of 1632, 1664, and 1685. Malone and others have conjectured that it was written by Ben Jonson, and it is certainly much in his style.
THE WORKES OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE,
Containing all his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies : Truely set
forth, according to their first Originall.
4 This heading precedes the list of the Actors in the folio of 1623, and in the three subsequent editions in the same form : we spell the names precisely as they stand in the first folio. In 1846 the Shakespeare Society published “Memoirs ” of all these performers, including what Malone and Chalmers had collected, and much information derived from Parish Registers and other sources, to which they had not access.
PREFIXED TO THE FOLIO OF 1623.
To the Memory of the deceased Author, Master William
1 Than when thy half-sword parleying Romans spake :] Leonard Digges prefixed a long copy of verses to the edition of Shakespeare's Poems in 1640, 8vo, in which he makes this passage, referring to “ Julius Cæsar," more distinct; he also there speaks of the audiences Shakespeare's plays at that time drew, in comparison with Ben Jonson's. This is the only part of his production worth adding in a note.
“ So have I seen, when Cæsar would appear,
And on the stage at half-sword parley were