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This compact edition of SHAKESPEARE is offered you as a grateful, tho'small, return, for the infinite pleasure, and extensive information, derived from your exquisite perforinance, and judicious remarks, by,
Your most obedient
HAKESPEARE's admirers, even
the enthusiastic ones, who worship him as the god of their idolatry, have never scrupled to admit that his most regular pieces. produce some scenes and passages, highly derogatory to his incomparable general merit; he frequently trifles, is now and then obscure, and, sometimes, to gratify a vitiated age, indelicate: but can any degree of critical taste wilh the preservation of dark spots, because they have grown upon dramatic funshine? is not the corrective hand frequently proved to be the kindeft? critics, like parents, should neither spare the rod, nor use it wantonly.
There is no doubt but all our author's faults may justly be attributed to the loose, quibbling, licentious taste of his time; he, no doubt, upon many occasions, wrote wildly, merely to gratify the public; as Dryden wrote bombastically, and ConGreve obscenely, to indulge the humour, and engage the favour of their audiences : no man can suppose that the former confidered his rhiming dialogues as marks of fublimity, por that the latter imagined his
double entendres were wit; one wanted money, the other fame; for which, pompous sounds and grofs ideas, were then popular baits ; consequently chaste criticism and delicacy were without scruple, "facrificed to their several views.
Our author did not go quite so far, but very frequently preserved himself free from taint, reining his fiery Pegasus with an able masterly hand; why then should not the noble monuments he has left us, of unrivalled ability, be restored to due proportion and natural lustre, by sweeping off those cobwebs, and that duft of depraved opinion, which SHAKESPEARE was unfortunately forced to throw on them; forced, we say, for it is no ftrain of imagination, to suppose that the Goths and Vandals of criticism, who frequented the theatre, in his days, would, like those who over-ran the Roman empire, have destroyed and consigned to barbarous oblivion, the sublime beauties which they could not relish; and it is matter of great question with us, whether the fool, in King Lear, was not a more general favourite, than the old monarch himself.
The above considerations first started the idea, and induced the undertaking, of this cdition; and as the THEATRES, especially
of late, have been generally right in their omissions, of this author particularly, we have printed our text after their regulations; and from this part of our design, an evident use will arise ; that those who take books to the THEATRE, will not be so puzzled themselves to accompany the speaker; nor lo apt to condemn performers of being imperfect, when they pass over what is designedly omitted. Upon this point, however, it is to be observed, that the difference of
of voice and execution, between different
performers, may make one erase more than another; nevertheless we come so near the mark of all, that scarce any perplexity can arise, in tracing them.; besides we would hope, that a reasonable standard being thus laid down, professors of the drama will not be so forward, as capriciously and arbitrarily to deviate from it; it is commendable to consult the extent of expression, but thro’ idleness to retrench what is beautiful and necessary, or through vanity to retain what is heavy and unessential to action, we dcern an affront to the public, and a disgrace to the performer.
As an author, replete with spirited ideas, and a full flow of language, especially one possessing a muse of fire, cannot stop exactly where stage utterance and public attention
require; some paffages, of great merit for the closet, are never fpoken; such, though omitted in the text, we have carefully preserved in the notes.
And now, being upon this part of our subject, we hold ourselves bound in justice and gratitude to Mr. Garrick, to mention a delicate fear, which he suggested, when we first folicited his fanction and affiftance. This fear was, left the prunings, tranfpofitions, or other alterations, which, in his province as a manager he had often found necessary to make, or adopt, with regard to the text, for the convenience of representation, or accommoda- ; tion to the powers and capacities of his performers, might be misconstrued into a critical presumption of offering to the literati a reformed and more correct edition of our author's works; this being by no means his intention, we hope it will not become liable to such an unmerited misconstruction. In justification of ourselves also, we take this opportunity of declaring, that to expect any thing more of this work, than as a companion to the theatre; is to mistake the purpose of the editors.
Having been long convinced that multiplying conjectural verbal criticisms, tends rather to perplex, than inform readers ; we