18th Century – continued


England’s Seven Years War with France.  1756-1763

1765 -1766.  Samuel Johnson, edited the plays of Shakespeare.  Octavo.  8 volumes.  Famous for its preface on the topic of “variety” in Hamlet. “If the dramas of Shakespeare were to be characterized, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety.”  This is poached from Shakespeare, of course, from the epistle in the First Folio. Other important ideas stemming from his preface titled, “Observations on Hamlet” include emendations with comments by Warburton on the language in “To be, or not to be.”

Much thought is given to words that may have been transposed such as assail (for sea of troubles), and “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time” is speculated to have been put down as whips and scorns of tyrants (or title) in Johnson’s comments.   ”Hamlet is, through the whole play, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the King, he makes no attempt to punish him, and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet has no part in producing.”  Johnson’s general note regarding the character of Hamlet is unsympathetic to the heroes plight; for he gives far greater latitude to virtues of Ophelia than the wronged Prince of Denmark: “the gratification which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.” http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/hamlet.html and https://shine.unibas.ch/linksearlyeditors.htm .

1765-68.  Edward Capell.  Octavo.  Mr. Shakespeare, His Comedies, Histories, Tragedies 10 Volumes.  Spent 30 years collating quartos.  First editor to make use of stationer’s register and Frances Mere’s Palladis Tamia and to explore sources such as Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles and Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare) Added new material.Scientific criticism of the text begins with Edward Capell. He was the first to base his text actually on the quartos and folio”  His collation of the quartos and folios are often called “the best piece of textual criticism in the eighteenth century”  his method did not show the tremendous amount of work he had put into his edition. http://www.bartleby.com/215/1116.html and  Also Alden T. Vaughn and Virginia Mason Vaughn note in Shakespeare in America (Oxford University Press 2012, Folger Shakespeare Library) that Thomas Jefferson begged a copy of the new Capell edition published in 1768.  So the discrepancy in dates may refer to editions printed abroad and those reprinted in the American colonies.



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