Page:A Census of Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto (1916).djvu/21

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the Folio are best explained as reaching it in the form of casual corrections on a prompt-copy. The positive arguments advanced on the same side are: (a) that some of the errors of the First Quarto suggest that it was set up not from a clean-copy such as a scrivener would have made, but from a manuscript which, though generally clear, presented some difficulties, so that now and again the master-printer was driven to read it out to the compositor; (b) that the punctuation of the set speeches is a dramatic punctuation with peculiarities which, despite much carelessness, incline us to believe that it was derived from the author himself; (c) that this is true also of the method of using Emphasis Capitals. The punctuation, it is shown, is generally much lighter and the use of emphasis capitals more moderate than in the First Folio, and this fits in prettily with Shakespeare’s views as set forth in Hamlet’s exhortation to the players: “Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounc’d it to you, trippingly on the tongue, but if you mouth it as many of our Players do, I had as lieve the town-cryer spoke my lines.”

When we consider the question with reference to other plays we find that it can be readily proved that the source of the text of most of the good quartos was a prompt-copy and that such scanty evidence as survives shows that it was not unusual for a prompt-copy to be made by the prompter writing his notes on the author’s autograph manuscript. There is thus a high probability that at least some of the good Shakespeare quartos were set up from his autograph, a printed copy subsequently taking the place at the theatre of the manuscript thus destroyed and, after it had received casual correction and alterations, becoming in turn the ultimate source of the “corrected” Folio text. If this theory wins acceptance it is hoped that “probably printed from Shakespeare’s autograph” may prove an adequate counter-cry to the “probably stolen and surreptitious” of so many prefaces, and the estimation of the First Quartos be correspondingly enhanced. But if we advance no further than Malone’s position their importance remains very great. Malone believed that all the Quartos were in some unexplained manner “stolen from the playhouse,” but that the texts thus clandestinely obtained, so far from being maimed and imperfect, were the best versions we possess of what Shakespeare wrote. This is the essential point, and to anyone who admits it, the value of these First Quartos may well seem inestimable.

When we pass from the First Quartos to the reprints of them the most ardent collector must be sensible of a notable fall in temperature. In this Census all quarto editions are included down to the publication of Rowe’s Shakespeare in 1709, the first edition to which an editor put his name. All of them are of interest for the evidence which they offer of the popularity of Shakespeare in the Seventeenth Century as compared with the other playwrights of his day, and of the popularity of some of his plays as compared with others. Textually in themselves not one of them has any direct importance, with the apparent rather than real exception of the Richard II of 1608 in which 166 lines of the “Parliament Scene” appeared for the first time, but in a form so mutilated (almost certainly