Abbildungen der Seite

does the whole course of the Fourth Act of the Play (with the exception only of the first short Scene), restoring propriety and consistency to the conduct of the action and the parts sustained by the various personages, and vindicating a reading of the First Folio in a subsequent speech (571) which, curiously enough, had never been previously noticed by anybody, but has been silently ignored and departed from even by those of the modern editors who have professed to adhere the most scrupulously to that original text.

For the rest, the present text differs in nothing material from that which is found in all the modern editions, unless it be that I have restored from the First Folio one or two antiquated forms,-such as 'em for them, and moe in several places for more,—which have been usually suppressed, although 'em remains familiar enough in our colloquial speech, or at any rate is still perfectly intelligible and unambiguous, and moe is sometimes the only form that will suit the exigencies of the verse.

A merely mechanical innovation in the typographical exhibition of the text will at once catch the eye. The present is, I suppose, the first edition of a Play, in any language, with the speeches numbered. Possibly it may be the first time that any one has thought of counting the speeches in a Play. In that case, the result arrived at, that there are about eight hundred separate utterances, or divisions of the dialogue, long and short, in the drama here examined, may be received as one of some little curiosity and interest. At any,

rate, such a method as I have adopted seems to afford the only available means for distinct and expeditious reference. It has a double advantage over the mere pagination; first, inasmuch as a speech is usually much shorter than a page, and, secondly, inasmuch as the division into speeches is the same for all editions. The only other plan that has been, or that, apparently, can be taken, is to make shift with the ordinary division into Acts and Scenes. This is what has been commonly done in the various verbal indexes to Shakespeare. But to be told simply that a word or phrase which we are in search of occurs in a certain Scene of one of Shakespeare's Plays is in most cases only a degree better than being told that it may be found somewhere within the compass of the Play. We may be often half an hour in finding it. The Scenes in Shakespeare (the notation of which, by the bye, is for the most part the work of his modern edi. tors) continually run out to dimensions which make this kind of reference a mere tantalizing and tormenting mockery. In any liberally printed library edition, such as those of Mr. Knight or Mr. Collier, with a very small proportion of the space taken up by footnotes, it is not unusual to find that the Scene to which we have been directed extends over twenty or thirty pages. Even in the present edition of Julius Cæsar, compactly printed as it is, several of the Scenes cover seven or eight pages. In the entire Play, filling sixty pages, there are only eighteen Scenes, so that the average throughout is considerably above three pages for each. Even Jennens's more scientific division, which is also the most minute that has been proposed, gives us only twenty-six Scenes for this Play, making an average of above two of our pages for each. This is the utmost amount of definiteness attainable by the system of reference to Scenes. The enumeration of the speeches reduces the average space which a reference includes to about the thirteenth part of a page. As there are about eight hundred speeches in the Play, and only eighteen Scenes (according to the common division), it follows that the one method of reference must be on the whole between forty and fifty times more precise, and consequently more serviceable, than the other.

Mrs. Cowden Clarke's Concordance to Shakspere is a noble monument of the fair compiler's loving patience and carefulness; its correctness, especially when we take into account the multitude of mere figures and symbols which there was nothing in the sense or the context to protect from perversion, is wonderful; it would be hard to name a printed volume either of more difficult or of more faultless execution; it is rare to find a single figure or letter wrong; it may be questioned if any equally elaborate work, literary or of any other kind, so remarkable for exactness and freedom from error, ever before proceeded from the female head or hand; even as it stands, it is invaluable, and in a manner indispensable, for critical purposes. But it is much to be wished that before it was undertaken there had existed an edition of the Plays with the speeches numbered throughout, as in the present edition of the Julius Cæsar, to which it might have been accommodated. We should in that case have found whatever we might seek by its assistance in about a fiftieth part of the average time that it now takes us.

As for the present Commentary on the Play of Julius Cæsar, it will be perceived that it does not at all aspire to what is commonly distinguished as the higher criticism. It does not seek to examine or to expound this Shakespearian drama æsthetically, but only phi. lologically, or with respect to the language. The only kind of criticism which it professes is what is called verbal criticism. Its whole aim, in so far as it relates to the particular work to which it is attached, is, as far as may be done, first to ascertain or determine the text, secondly to explain it; to inquire, in other words, what Shakespeare really wrote, and how what he has written is to be read and construed.

Wherever either the earliest text or that which is commonly received has been deviated from to the extent of a word or a syllable, the alteration has been distinctly indicated. In this way a complete representation is given, in so far at least as regards the language, both of the text of the editio princeps and of the textus receptus. I have not sought to register with the same exactness the various readings of the other texts, ancient and modern ; but I believe, nevertheless, that all will be found to be noted that are of


interest either in the Second Folio or among the conjectures

of the long array of editors and commentators extending from Rowe to our own day.

Then, with regard to the explanation of the text :I confess that here my fear is rather that I shall be thought to have done too much than too little. But I have been desirous to omit nothing that any reader might require for the full understanding of the Play, in so far as I was able to supply it. I have even retained the common schoolboy explanations of the few points of Roman antiquities to which allusions occur, such as the arrangements of the Calendar, the usages of the Lupercalia, etc. The expression, however, is what I have chiefly dwelt upon. The labours of scores of expositors, embodied in hundreds of volumes, attest the existence in the writings of Shakespeare of numerous words, phraseologies, and passages the import of which is, to say the least, not obvious to ordinary readers of the present day. This comes partly from certain characteristics of his style, which would probably have made him occasionally a difficult author in any circumstances; but much more from the two facts, of the corrupted or at least doubtful state of the text in many places, and the changes that our national speech has undergone since his age. The English of the sixteenth century is in various respects a different language from that of the nineteenth. The words and constructions are not throughout the same, and when they are they have not always the same meaning. Much of Shakespeare's vocabulary has ceased to fall from either our lips or our pens; much of the meaning

« ZurückWeiter »