Editors and Actors: Pope

What attitude towards the stage does Alexander Pope’s 1725 edition of Shakespeare’s plays evince? That is the question. Answering it turns out to be quite difficult, so this post will be as much about methodology as about tentative conclusions.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), painted around 1727 by Michael Dahl.

As most readers of Pope’s Shakespeare would, I began with the preface, where many differences with Rowe immediately made themselves apparent. With the aim of “extenuat[ing] many faults [of Shakespeare] which are his, and clear[ing] him from the imputation of many which are not”, Pope argues that, since he wrote to earn his living, Shakespeare was bound to please his audience and therefore had to conform with certain aspects of the theatre, such as farce and spectacle, that a more enlightened audience would abhor. On top of this, Pope also points out that Shakespeare also necessarily spent a lot of time with actors, a disreputable class of people whose lowness may well have tarnished Shakespeare’s brilliance. Ever the master of the pithy phrase, Pope sums up the extenuating circumstances for Shakespeare’s faults as follows:

to be obliged to please the lowest of people, and to keep the worst of company

No praise for actors here, nor even Rowe’s indication that Shakespeare may have himself performed (although Pope does reprint the biography verbatim some pages after this). In fact, Pope does not stop at blaming Shakespeare’s apparent faults on the actors and the stage’s connection to fickle public taste, but also lays out how every kind of error found in the early texts of Shakespeare, especially the First Folio, is also the fault of the players. “The additions of trifling and bombast passages” in such editions is a clear sign of the actors’ forcing Shakespeare to write to please the crowd; the disappearance of “beautiful passages” are the result of “lopping, or stretching an Author” for the stage; inconsistent printing of character names has its root in sloppy promptbook copy-texts; misordered scenes are the progeny of a play divided wherever actors “thought fit to make a breach in it”; and “Characters were confounded and mix’d, or two put in one” because of the size of the current company. Last but not least, the ‘player-editors’, Hemminge and Condell, were so ill-suited to their job that it seemed to Pope that “prose from verse they did not know”.

While Pope finishes this preface by excusing the players’ faults as the actions of people who knew no better, being without the contact with finer minds that eighteenth-century performers enjoyed, the overall tone of this text is clear, and it marks a break with Rowe. Whereas Rowe scarcely mentions the theatre or actors of Shakespeare’s time, Pope makes them bear the blame for many errors in Shakespeare. As for Pope’s attitude to contemporary theatre, things are less clear cut. On one hand, he does carry forward most of Rowe’s locators, as well as scene and act divisions (which were inspired by post-restoration practice), but, on the other, he removes the illustrations and some stage directions, so a particular attitude is harder to discern. Given what else is said about actors, though, I’d suspect a vague tendency towards anti-theatricality.

So much for the preface and some aspects of the text. I then turned to the 971 footnotes, with which Pope has adorned these volumes, along with numerous stars and other marginal markings to indicate passages of particular merit or regret. I know that there are 971 footnotes because I have counted them all, dividing them up into categories as I went. I did this in order to grasp the extent to which Pope’s hostility towards the conditions of Shakespeare’s stage was carried over into his notes. Was the attack on the stage confined to the preface or is it continued onto the page of Shakespeare’s plays as well?

My attempt at tallying up all Pope’s notes, and dividing them into categories.

Having read all the notes, I can now say that there are only eight notes that criticise actors explicitly. Such notes are scattered through all six volumes, suggesting that Pope was on the lookout for things “interpolated by the Players” throughout his editorial labours. Indeed, when editing Henry V, he actually wishes to have evidence for actors’ involvement in the creation of the ‘English lesson’ scene, as he could then have left it out.

I have left this ridiculous scene as I found it; and am sorry to have no colour left, from any of the editions, to imagine it interpolated.

Against the evidence that Pope’s hostility is found throughout his edition, there is, however, the simple fact that 8 notes on actors out of 971 is not a very high percentage at all, and so such notes and their attitude may easily be lost to the reader. I would argue against this by pointing out that the vast majority of these 971 notes are what I would call ‘textual notes’, pointing out words Pope has emended or insertions made from a different edition than that used for the rest of the playtext. Not only are such ‘textual notes’ often very short and easily ignored (unlike the various rants against actors), but they are also explicitly connected to the errors of actors in the preface: after all, it was the ignorance of the player-editors (at least according to Pope) that have made such textual emendation necessary.

One last point about footnotes and actors. I’ll quote here a long footnote in its entirety, originally found in Julius Caesar during the Plebeians’ responses to Antony’s funeral oration.

* ‘Caesar has had great wrong.
3 Pleb. Caesar had never wrong, but with just cause’.

If ever there was such a line written by Shakespear, I shou’d fancy it might have its place here, and very humorously in the character of a Plebeian. One might believe Ben Johnson’s remark was made upon no better credit than some blunder of an actor in speaking that verse near the beginning of the third act,

Know Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause
Will he be satisfy’d

But the verse as cited by Ben Johnson does not connect with – Will be satisfy’d. Perhpas this play was never printed in Ben Johnson’s time, and so he had nothing to judge by, but as the actor pleas’d to speak it.

This obscure note makes a bit more sense when one recalls that Jonson (in his Timber) criticised Shakespeare’s portrayal of Romans, citing the line “Caesar never had wrong, but with just cause” as evidence. The line, however, not being present in any of Pope’s editions, means that the editor is given free reign to attribute the target of Jonson’s critique to an actor’s ad-libbing. As with the process of extenuating the faults of Shakespeare in the preface, so here in the footnotes do the actors carry the buck as well.

To conclude, I’ll write out a larger idea that struck me as I was wading through notes 700 – 971 of Pope’s edition. The idea was that the figure of the actor was a useful tool, a kind of scapegoat, for the editor, since just the idea of an actor’s meddling in a supposedly correct authorial ur-text augments the options available to the editor. Is this section unsatisfactory? It was probably an actor’s interpolation and can be relegated. Is this passage from a later edition superior to a quarto text? The later text was probably the author’s correction of some player’s error, and therefore the editor must restore the later reading. And so on. The short version of the logic is this: if any part of any text by Shakespeare could have been corrupted by an actor (as Pope makes it out to be), then any part of any text by Shakespeare must be scrutinised by an editor. Ultimately then, the editor builds his authority upon the very nature of Shakespeare’s text as dramatic literature.

Editors and Actors: Rowe

Having chosen the topic of ‘actors and editors’ for the BSECS conference in January, I have started work on the voluminous editions of Shakespeare produced throughout the eighteenth century, looking for how the editors respond to the world of the stage. I’ve done some of this already, as exploratory reading for one chapter of the thesis, but this is the first time I’ve really attacked the editors.

Nicholas Rowe, date unknown.

I started with Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), a mediocre dramatist who produced the first edited edition of Shakespeare’s plays (not poems) for Jacob Tonson right at the start of the eighteenth century, with the volumes appearing in 1709-10. Rowe included a much-reprinted biography of Shakespeare, and, as well as earning the princely sum of £36.10s (£2,795.54 in today’s money), also unlocked some of his own creative fire with his editing, going on to compose his very Shakespearean Jane Shore in 1714.

I was using the UL’s facsimile copy of Rowe’s six-volume edition, with an introduction by Peter Holland that turned out to have done a great deal of my work for me. On top of pointing out how much the contemporary Shakespeare owes to Rowe (such as the name of ‘Puck’ and not ‘Robin Goodfellow’ for the mischievous sprite of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and ‘gertrude’ not ‘Gertrard’ in Hamlet), Holland also shows how much Rowe’s edition relies on the practices of the Restoration and early eighteenth-century stage.

In short, Rowe “made the plays conform to contemporary theatrical practice”. He did this by dividing the Shakespeare’s texts into five acts, each subdivided into scenes; Rowe also gave each scene a ‘locator’, such as “An Apartment” or “A Room in the Palace”. While such ‘locators’ might strike us now as something that pushes against the liberties of theatrical interpretation, they were in fact carefully tied to the available backdrops of the stage of that time. As most theatres would have a stock ‘apartment’ or ‘palace’, Rowe’s locations map Shakespeare’s situations onto the decorated stages that he himself had written for.

Of course, this does some weird things to Shakespeare, who wrote for stages largely without decoration, often in the round, and pretty much never with the moveable backdrops of the eighteenth century. I’ll quote Holland here, as he gives an example of how Rowe translates the Elizabethan stage practice to the post-Restoration theatre in Romeo and Juliet.

Rowe’s notion of place in Shakespeare can be most sharply seen at one moment in Romeo and Juliet. In IV.iv Capulet tells the Nurse to wake Juliet and then leaves the stage; the Nurse does what she has been told to do, for Juliet is still on stage, ‘dead’ on her bed. […]] On Shakespeare’s stage this is no problem. For Rowe’s it was. Juliet cannot possibly still be on stage after she has taken the potion at the end of IV.iii, a scene Rowe places in ‘Juliet’s Chamber’. The next scene begins in ‘a Hall’ but then, at Capulet’s exit, Rowe adds a direction: ‘SCENE draws and discovers Juliet on a Bed’. On the stage in 1710 the two painted shutters showing the hall would have been closed in front of the bed at the end of IV.iii, leaving the shutters for the chamber upstage and Juliet in her bed concealed behind the hall shutters; at the right moment in IV.iv the hall shutters would have been drawn apart and Juliet, the bed and the shutters for the chamber would have been discovered. It is a conventional technique in post-Restoration theatre, and Rowe adopts it here.

In addition to the ‘locators’, the illustrations accompanying each play (commissioned by Tonson) seem often to have been inspired by the contemporary theatre. The best-known is Hamlet’s, which, as Holland notes, may well be a (very rare) image of the famous actor Thomas Betterton (1635-1710) in performance.

A Plate from Rowe’s Edition of Shakespeare: Betterton (as Hamlet) is on the left. The fallen chair, part of a famous bit of stage business, suggests this engraving was inspired by a performance.

Not content with mining Peter Holland’s observations, I also dove into the text itself, looking for anything else which might fit with (or undermine) my purposes. As I said earlier, Rowe’s edition contains the editor’s biography of Shakespeare. This text was widely read and reprinted in the period, and, importantly for me, contains several observations on Shakespeare’s own attitude to the stage, many of them based on research carried out by Thomas Betterton in the seventeenth century, when the actor went and interviewed anyone in Warwickshire (and London) who had a memory of Shakespeare.

It is in this biography that we find a portrait of Shakespeare the writer and Shakespeare the player.

He was receiv’d into the Company then in being, at first in a very mean Rank; But his admirable Wit, and the natural Turn of it to the Stage, soon distinguish’d him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer. His Name is Printed, as was the Custom in those Times, amongst those of the other Players, before some old Plays, but without any particular Account of Parts he us’d to play; and tho’ I have inquir’d, I could never meet with any further Account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet.
Along with the much recycled image of Shakespeare as the Ghost, the insinuation that Shakespeare wasn’t much of an actor goes on from this text to provoke all sorts of debate, particularly amongst those authors who turn to Shakespeare’s texts for a source of advice about how to act.

Other passages of the biography build upon Rowe’s interest in the contemporary stage, praising Betterton for his performance as Hamlet, so good it is “as if [the role] had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceiv’d it as he plays it”. Such connection between Shakespeare and Betterton is the model for later praise of Garrick as someone who not only performs Shakespeare as if it were written for him, but who also – somehow – rivals Shakespeare’s genius.

This post is becoming diffuse, so I’ll conclude here by observing that Rowe’s edition is a markedly ‘theatrical’ edition, interested in (and not at all negative about) the theatrical conditions of Shakespeare’s time, whilst also keen to use Rowe’s own knowledge of the contemporary stage to prepare Shakespeare for this edition’s readers. In this connection to post-Restoration theatrical practice, there lies the roots of later conjunctions between Shakespeare and acting, such as Shakespeare as dramatic mentor or the actor as someone capable of reconnecting with the long-dead playwright.

Next stop, Pope…

Anne Barton and My Thesis

I came across Anne Barton’s Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play on a nicely named ‘local interest’ shelf at the Chaucer Head bookshop, Stratford-upon-Avon. The title immediately leapt out at me, as it offered a way of formulating my own thoughts on Shakespeare and drama in the eighteenth-century: the phrase ‘the idea of’ neatly allows Barton to both talk about concrete realities of the stage and the metaphorical uses of such realities, something I’d very much like to do in my own research. Turning the book over to look at the blurb, I noted that this book started life as Barton’s thesis, something at once encouraging (a real book may come of a thesis on Shakespeare and the stage) and frightening (this thesis book was not only published in 1962, but then reissued into this Penguin Shakespeare Library edition five years later, presumably because of its popularity). Needless to say, I bought the slim volume for £3.75 (it was originally five shillings), eager to find out what Barton had to say, but also how she says it, given the similarity of our interests, if not of our time periods.

Barton’s approch is impressive. She divides the book into two halves, the first offering an insightful description of how plays from the thirteenth century to the mid-1500s speak about the nature of plays themselves. A lot of this section is to do with audiences, how they were first deeply implicated in the religious blend of drama and ceremony of medieval texts, before shifting to be represented by a ‘double’, the ‘Mankind’ or ‘Everyman’ of morality plays. The over-arching theme becomes the question of how the audience is excluded or included in the world of the play, with Elizabethan drama reaching the precarious equilibrium whereby the ‘play world’ excludes the audience at the same time as recognising its presence. A typical paragraph from this half of the book, stunning in the breadth of knowledge that must underwrite all such apparently simple description, merits quotation.

Half ceremonial, half drama, the guild plays which developed outside the Church were poised precariously between ritual and art. The people who crowded about the pageant on the feast of Corpus Christi formed an audience, certainly, but an audience actively involved in the performance of a community rite, a re-accomplishment of sacred history. By the fifteenth century, the special demands of the Morality form had produced an alteration in this relationship of actors and audience. The audience now depended upon a double, in the form of the central character for its part in the action. It was granted a second role as well, that of enlightened Mankind, which permitted it a greater measure of distance from the events of the play. Gradually, the spectators assumed possession of reality, while the world of the stage dwindled. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the tradition of the audience as actor became more a hindrance than an asset.

Once she has brought the narrative up to the dawn of Shakespeare’s time, Barton closes the first half and devotes the rest of the book to a close reading of Shakespeare’s use of ‘the idea of the play’. This remains more or less chronological, allowing her to trace Shakespeare’s artistic debts and innovations, as well as his development. Beginning with the early comedies, she then analyses the motif of the ‘player king’ (very much a Shakespearean innovation, albeit connected to such ancient tropes as the ‘May King’) before tackling Hamlet and Julius Caesar as the apogee of Shakespeare’s confidence in the power of the stage. Next she identifies a decline in such confidence, with unflattering portraits of players and audiences in Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and more. This then gives way to a new approach in the ‘romances’, particularly The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, where illusion tends to become reality: Perdita, for example, plays the role of a queen at the shepherds’ festivities, only to be discovered an actual princess a few scenes later. This point about the ‘romances’ is very similar to one made by Barton at greater length in Essays, Mainly Shakespearean, which I discovered as an undergraduate.

The final few pages describe the way in which Shakespeare’s late plays break down the barriers and subterranean connections between stage and reality, notably in Prospero’s “Our revels now are ended” speech. This sweeping away leads directly into the Jacobean fondness for masques, whose involvement of audience and actors in a mix of drama and ceremony brings us almost full circle, back to a secular version of the medieval plays Barton began with. Such a relation between plays and reality destroys the fragile and productive equilibrium of Shakespeare’s stage, meaning that this aspect of the golden age of British play-writing, even before the closure of the theatres in 1642, was “gone beyond recall”.

What did I learn from Barton’s methods? First, that despite the title’s emphasis on ‘Shakespeare’, she is not shackled to the bard, and her book is all the better for being about more than just William. In my own work, I should also be prepared to dive into the prehistory of each area before examining Shakespeare’s place within it: the French sources of English acting manuals, or the methods of classical scholarship that informed the editing of Shakespeare.

The book in question, Anne Barton being Anne Righter before marriage.

Second, the organisation of this book in chronological order, paired with a division into two parts, each with their own chapters and sub-chapters, makes this text very easy to read, with a clear sense of one’s position in the argument. Part 1, Chapter 1, Sub-section 3 is on early drama, specifically mystery cycles and morality plays, and even more specifically on the ‘tyranny of the audience’ over how things could be represented. Such organisation is again testament to Barton’s formidable command of her material, but also an awareness of the needs of an academic reader of any level. If I can, I would like to bring some chronological organisation to my work, although (given my current skeleton) this will be at a chapter and not at a thesis-wide level. Similarly, I will certainly need to break chapters down into subsections, not just for my own sanity but also to provide a logical and clear map to any reader.

Last, but not least, I enjoyed Barton’s willingness to let the texts speak for themselves. She quotes a great deal, and lets what she means by ‘the idea of the play’ emerge naturally as something multifarious and constantly evolving. In part, this is because other elements of her study are very clearly defined: she sticks closely to theatrical texts, with only brief sallies into Plato, Francis Bacon and other prose thinkers. In the Shakespeare section, she focuses all her attention on the text, avoiding discussion of staging or other theatrical conventions unless they are built into what Shakespeare wrote. There is nothing here on collaboration, for example. I suppose the lesson here involves what one must sacrifice to get a coherent narrative, the importance of something stable (i.e. the focus on the playtext) in the telling of a complex narrative. As things stand with my thesis, I suspect that I still have too many moving parts: potential simplifications could involve the concentration on the figure of the ‘Shakespearean Actor’, removing anything on ‘dramatic illusion’ unless directly relevant.

As well as all this thought about the ‘how’ of Barton’s book, I also picked up some useful ‘what’. I’ll summarise it here in a few bullet-point observations with no particular order:

  1. The eighteenth-century interest in the connection between actor and dramatist (Garrick being seen as Shakespeare’s double) pulls against what Barton identifies as a tendency in Elizabethan drama to connect dramatist and audience. That said, Prospero is both actor in and dramatist of his own world, proving Shakespeare’s own evolution.
  2. Shakespeare was very unusual amongst his contemporaries for rarely including references to contemporary theatrical conditions. I guess this made him “not for an age, but for all time”…
  3. Many of the plays Elizabeth Montague discusses in her Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare are grouped by Barton as evidence of Shakespeare’s most unique responses to the idea of the play: the player king in the histories, Brutus and Cassius’ descriptions of themselves as actors, and Hamlet’s use of illusion as a weapon.

Points one and three fit into a chapter on dramatic illusion, while point two doesn’t yet have a home unless it be the introduction. Whether I use the material or not, Barton’s book has already taught me a lot.

“The rubbish cast on thy fair page”

I have just submitted this paper proposal for the BSECS in early 2014. It also works as a rough overview for part of what I’m currently calling chapter 1.

London Conference, 1832, by Daumier

Pope relegates the “Interpolations” of actors to the bottom of the page; Johnson criticises Heminge and Condell as player-editors who divided up Shakespeare’s plays without “very exact or definite ideas”; Malone denies any utility in the second folio, despite its appearance at a time when Shakespeare remained in the living memory of the stage. Throughout the eighteenth-century, the editors of Shakespeare often appear openly hostile to the role played by the theatre in Shakespeare’s text, minimising the collaborative nature of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama in an effort to establish the expression of Shakespeare’s unique genius. This paper will consider the means by which they do this, and the limits and contradictions of such an approach.

As well as the analysis of editorial attitudes to the stage, I will also argue for the interest of actors, particularly star performers such as Garrick and Kemble, in the work of the editors. Whilst acting manuals urged all performers to study their texts in detail, the cultural prestige inherent in producing an edited volume of the national playwright appears to have been of special interest to the leading lights of the stage. As well as his friendship with many editors, Garrick’s letters contain evidence of his own attempts to gloss Shakespeare’s texts. Later in the period, Garrick’s successor, Kemble, in his Essay in Response to Remarks on Some Characters of Shakespeare (1786, 1817), carries out an attack on Shakespeare’s editors via his footnotes, using the authority and insights available only to a performer as a way of supporting his argument.

Despite, therefore, the apparent hostility between stage and page, this paper intends to show their many connections. In this, it continues work undertaken in Vanessa Cunningham’s Shakespeare and Garrick (2008), but widens its focus, being concerned above all with the figure of the actor and the question of what such stage entertainers contribute to the scholarly establishment of a literary cultural icon.

Shakespeare’s off-stage beauties

Dodd (in his day job as clergyman) officiating at a Tyburn execution, date and author unknown

The Beauties of Shakespear, Regularly Selected from Each Play, with a General Index Digesting them under Proper Heads, Illustrated with Explanatory Notes and Similar Passages from Ancient and Modern Authors was a bestseller: my text was from 1752 (first edition), but reprintings of this anthology, each larger than the last, abounded. As well as being popular, William Dodd’s anthology is also a book that seems to do all it can to avoid contact with the stage, and I thought I’d take a moment to evaluate some of the work’s techniques in this respect.

The preface to the anthology contains the wish that critics had “sociably united; and instead of putting themselves in a posture of defence one against another, jointly taken the field, and united all their efforts to rescue so inimitable an author from the Gothic outrage of dull players, duller printers, and still duller editors.” The antipathy is clear, and continues in a more muted fashion with appeals to the “attentive reader” of Shakespeare, and a marked preference for the exploration of Shakespeare’s learning (the knowledge of the Athenian legal system displayed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example) and the discovery of classical parallels (such as the bees speech from Henry V and Virgil’s Georgics).

On top of this, Dodd presents his quotations shorn of all context. To the point that he has to reconstitute stage directions in a footnote in order to make sense of Rumour’s speech at the start of Henry IV part 2. It is hard to imagine any kind of stage when a speech is announced with such a title as “Tears compared to dew upon a lily” (any guesses?).

Nevertheless, if one looks closely enough, Dodd is not wholly antipathetic to the stage. Some of the beauties he selects are famous set pieces for actors (such as Adam’s scenes in As You Like It), while there are more than a few footnotes devoted to the praise of Garrick as Benedick or as King Lear. In addition to this, whereas Dodd occasionally bemoans the interpolations of actors, he ends up quoting Romeo’s solioquy upon his death in order to show how superior to the adapted stage versions are to it.

[On Romeo’s dying speech] I have given the reader this last speech of Romeo, rather to let him into the plot, and convince him of the merit of the lacerations made in it, than for any singular beauty of its own; Romeo’s surviving till Juliet awakens, is certainly productive of great beauties, particularly in the acting. And, indeed, this play of our author’s hath met with better success than any other which has been attempted to be altered: whoever reader Otway’s Caius Marius will soon be convinced of this; and it is to be wish’d none would presume to build upon Shakespeare’s foundation, but such as are equal masters with Otway.

This can be read two ways: either that Dodd believes there are some beauties of Shakespeare to be found on the stage, or that, since these adaptations are not from the pen of Shakespeare, they deserve no place in this anthology. After all, the actor and the theatre, in the little they appear, always remain in the footnotes: pride of place is given to the beauties, which do not announce themselves as stage beauties.

Malone’s Method

The following comes from an exchange between Edmund Malone and Joseph Ritson, where the latter violently attacked Malone’s 1778 edition of Shakespeare, stooping so low as to attribute any errors to Malone’s “irishness”. At one point, Malone gives his method regarding which texts to use as the basis of an edition.

The second edition of a printed book can only derive authority from its being printed with the author’s last corrections, or from some more correct manuscript of his work than that from which the first edition was printed. From whence should the authority of the second folio be derived? We know that Shakespeare did not correct his manuscripts for the press, even for the first edition which was published in 1623 […]

Edmund Malone, by Joshua Reynolds 1786

This short passage is interesting for not mentioning the role of actors in the preparation of the first folio, either for good or ill. After all, actors with a memory of Shakespeare’s performance were around when the first folio was published, and indeed when the second was issued in 1632 too. That Malone discounts the contribution of actors to the improvement of the text is indicative of a certain way of thinking about Shakespeare’s plays: they are the property of Shakespeare only, and best enjoyed as the sole expression of his own mind to the extent that such a thing is possible.

I shall, at some point, have to read Malone’s notes for references to the theatre. Given the attitude evinced here, I expect it to be very slim pickings indeed. That said, such slim pickings are useful in their own way: it’s important not to push the theatre into everything, and its exclusion is just as interesting as its inclusion.


Another quote from Malone on his method:

Thus some emendations have been taken even from Pope and Hanmer, as well as from the editor of the second folio; though all these editors have with almost equal licentiousness corrupted the author’s text; but they are adopted, not because their books are of any authority, but because the emendations themselves are evidently just; for the editor of the second folio, as soon as his book is proved not to be authentic, can rank only by the side of any other conjecturer, commentator, or verbal critic.

Except that any other conjecturer may not have been alive at a time when Shakespeare’s performances could be remembered and his actors interviewed…