The five plays contained in this volume are here printed in the order in which they occur in the Folios.
1. Much Ado About Nothing. The first edition of this play is a Quarto, of which the title is as follows:
Much adoe about | Nothing. | As it hath been sundrie times publikely | acted by the right honourable, the Lord | Chamberlaine his seruants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | London | Printed by V. S. for Andrew Wise, and | William Aspley. | 1600.
The First Folio edition of this play was obviously printed from a copy of the Quarto belonging to the library of the theatre, and corrected for the purposes of the stage. Some stage directions of interest occur first in the Folio, but as regards the text, where the Folio differs from the Quarto it differs almost always for the worse. The alterations are due however to accident not design.
‘Davenant’s version,’ to which reference is made in the notes, is his play ‘The Law against Lovers.’
2. Love’s Labour’s Lost was published for the first time in Quarto, with the following title:
A | Pleasant | Conceited Comedie | called, | Loues labors lost. | As it was presented before her Highnes | this last Christmas. | Newly corrected and augmented | By W. Shakespere. | Imprinted at London by W. W. | for Cutbert Burby. | 1598.
The Folio edition is a reprint of this Quarto, differing only in its being divided into Acts, and, as usual, inferior in accuracy. The second Quarto (Q2) is reprinted from the First Folio.
It bears the following title:
Loues Labours lost. | A wittie and | pleasant | comedie, | As it was Acted by his Maiesties Seruants at | the Blacke-Friers and the Globe. | Written | By William Shakespeare. | London, | Printed by W. S. for John Smethwicke, and are to be | sold at his Shop in Saint Dunstones Church-yard vnder the Diall. | 1631.
3. A Midsummer-Night’s Dream. Of this play also the first edition is a Quarto, bearing the following title:
A | Midsommer nights | dreame. | As it hath beene sundry times pub|lickcly acted, by the Right honoura|ble, the Lord Chamberlaine his | seruants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | Imprinted at London, for Thomas Fisher, and are to | be soulde at his shoppe, at the Signe of the White Hart, | in Fleetestreete. 1600.
The copy of this Quarto in the Capell collection was formerly in the possession of Theobald, and bears this note in his handwriting: “Collated with the other Old Quarto with the same Title, printed by James Roberts in 1600, L. T.” The results of the collation are recorded in the margin. We have called this Q1.
In the same year another edition appeared, also in Quarto, with this title:
A | Midsommer nights | dreame. | As it hath beene sundry times pub|likely acted, by the Right Honoura|ble, the Lord Chamberlaine his | seruants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | Printed by Iames Roberts, 1600.
On comparing these two Quartos we find that they correspond page for page, though not line for line, except in the first five pages of sheet G. The printer’s errors in Fisher’s edition are corrected in that issued by Roberts, and from this circumstance, coupled with the facts that in the Roberts Quarto the ‘Exits’ are more frequently marked, and that it was not entered at Stationers’ Hall, as Fisher’s edition was, we infer that the Roberts Quarto was a pirated reprint of Fisher’s, probably for the use of the players. This may account for its having been followed by the First Folio. Fisher’s edition, though carelessly printed, contains on the whole the best readings, and may have been taken from the author’s manuscript.
The First Folio edition was printed from Roberts’s Quarto, which we have quoted as Q2.
4. The Merchant of Venice. Two Quarto editions of this play were published in the same year; (1) that generally known as the ‘Roberts Quarto,’ our Q1, bearing the following title-page:
The | excellent [History of the Mer|chant of Venice.| With the extreme cruelty of Shylocke | the Iew towards the saide Merchant, in cut|ting a iust pound of his flesh. And the obtaining | of Portia, by the choyse of | three Caskets.| Written by W. Shakespeare. | Printed by J. Roberts, 1600.
and (2) that known as the ‘Heyes Quarto,’ which we have called Q2, whose title-page is as follows:
The most excellent | Historie of the Merchant | of Venice. | With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe | towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound | of his flesh: and the obtayning of Portia| by the choyse of three | chests. | As it hath beene diuers times acted by the Lord | Chamberlaine his Servants.| Written by William Shakespeare. At London, | Printed by I. R. for Thomas Heyes, | and are to be sold in Paules Church-yard, at the | signe of the Greene Dragon. | 1600. |
Different opinions have been entertained as to the respective priority of these two editions. Johnson and Capell both speak of the Heyes Quarto as the first. On the other hand, in the title-page of the Roberts Quarto, now at Devonshire House, J. P. Kemble, to whom the whole collection of Dramas belonged, has written ‘First edition.’ ‘Collated and perfect, J. P. K. 1798.’ And on the opposite page he has copied the following ‘entry on the Stationers’ Registers.’ ‘July 22, 1598. (James Roberts) A booke of the Merchaunt of Venyse, otherwise called the Jewe of Venyse. Provided that it be not printed by the said James Roberts or any other whatsoever without leave first had from the ryght honourable, the Lord Chamberlen—39. b.’ This shows that he had examined the question. He possessed moreover a copy of the Heyes Quarto, also collated by him and found perfect.
Mr Bolton Corney in Notes and Queries (2nd ser. Vol. x. p. 21), has shown that there is at least a strong probability in favour of the precedence of the Roberts Quarto. We have therefore decided to call the Roberts Quarto Q1, and the Heyes Q2.
In a critical point of view the question is of little or no consequence. After a minute comparison of the two, we have come to the conclusion that neither was printed from the other. We are indebted sometimes to one and sometimes to the other for the true reading, where it is very improbable that the printer should have hit upon the correction. For example, Act ii. Sc. 8, line 39, the Roberts Quarto, sig. E. 1. recto, has ‘Slubber not business...’ while the Heyes Quarto, sig. D. 4. recto, has ‘Slumber....’ On the other hand, Act iii. Sc. 1, line 6, the Heyes Quarto, sig. F. 2. recto, has ‘gossip report,’ the true reading, while the Roberts Quarto, sig. F. 2. verso, has ‘gossips report.’ Other instances might be brought to prove that neither edition is printed from the other. But there is reason to think that they were printed from the same MS. Their agreement in spelling and punctuation and in manifest errors is too close to admit of any other hypothesis. We incline to believe that this common MS. was a transcript made from the author’s. It is certain, for instance, that the MS. had ‘veiling an Indian beauty’ (Act iii. Sc. 2, line 99), and it is equally certain that ‘beauty’ was not the word Shakespeare meant. Other examples of common errors derived from the MS. will be found in our footnotes, and our readers may investigate the question for themselves.
Q1 seems to have been printed by a more accurate printer or ‘overseen’ by a more accurate corrector than Q2, and therefore cœteris paribus we have preferred the authority of Q1.
The First Folio text is a reprint of the Heyes Quarto, which had doubtless belonged to the theatre library, and, as in other cases, had had some stage directions inserted.
The third Quarto, Q3, is also reprinted from Q2. It was published with the following title-page:
The most excellent | Historie of the Merchant | of Venice. | With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke | the Iewe towards the said Merchant, in | cutting a just pound of his flesh: and the obtaining of Portia by the choice | of three Chests. | As it hath beene divers times acted by the | Lord Chamberlaine his Servants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | London, | Printed by M.P. for Laurence Hayes, and are to be sold | at his Shop on Fleetbridge. 1637.
The so-called Fourth Quarto differs from Q3 only in having a new title-page. We might have suppressed ‘Q4’ altogether, but having made the collation we allow the record to stand. The title-page of Q4 is as follows:
The most excellent | Historie | of the | Merchant of Venice: | With the extreame cruelty of Shylocke | the Jew towards the said Merchant, in cutting a | just pound of his flesh; and the obtaining | of Portia by the choyce of three Chests. | As it hath beene diverse times acted by the | Lord Chamberlaine his Servants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | London: | Printed for William Leake, and are to be solde at his shop at the | signe of the Crown in Fleetstreet, between the two | Temple Gates. 1652.
The ‘Lansdowne version,’ which we have quoted in the notes, is the adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, published by Lord Lansdowne in 1701 under the title of The Jew of Venice.
5. As You Like It was printed for the first time in the First Folio; at least if any previous edition was ever published, no copy of it is known to be extant. This alone, of all the plays contained in the present volume, is divided into scenes in the Folio. In this play an unusual number of certain and probable emendations are due to the Second Folio.
The ‘De Quincey (or ‘Quincy’) MS.’ is an annotated copy of the Fourth Folio, quoted by Mr Grant White and Mr Halliwell.
In addition to those mentioned in the preface to the first volume, to whom we beg here to repeat our acknowledgments, we have to thank the Countess of Ellesmere and the Duke of Devonshire for the liberality with which they have thrown open to us the treasures of their libraries. We have to thank the Duke of Devonshire also for the interest which he has taken in our work and the help he has been kind enough to render in person. And on the same score we owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Kingsley, Mr Howard Staunton, Mr H. J. Roby, and Professor Craik, whose excellent volume The English of Shakespeare is too well known to need any commendation from us.
One act of kindness deserves an especial record. Dr Leo of Berlin, who had himself prepared an edition of Coriolanus, was meditating a complete edition of Shakespeare on the plan we have adopted, but gave up the scheme when he found we had anticipated him. Reading in the preface to our first volume an expression of regret that there was no index to Mr Sidney Walker’s Shakespeare Criticisms, Dr Leo copied out and sent us an index which he had made for his own use. It has been of the greatest service to us, and we here beg to thank him most cordially for his generous aid.