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PREFIXED TO SOME COPIES OF THE EDITION
Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never staled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar, and yet passing full of the palm comical ; for it is a birth of your brain, that never undertook any thing comical vainly : and were but the vain names of comedies changed for the titles of commodities, or of plays for pleas, you should see all those grand censors, that now style them such vanities, flock to them for the main grace of their gravities; especially this author's comedies, that are so framed to the life, that they serve for the most common commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such a dexterity and power of wit, that the most displeased with plays are pleased with his comedies. And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings, as were never capable of the wit of a comedy, coming by report of them to his representations, have found that wit there that they never found in themselves, and have parted better-witted than they came ; feeling an edge of wit set upon them, more than ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on. So much and such savoured salt of wit is in his comedies, that they seem (for their height of pleasure) to be born in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this; and had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you think your testern well
2 A never Writer to an ever Reader. News.] This address, or epistle, is only found in such copies of “Troilus and Cressida” as do not state on the title-page that it was acted by the King's Majesty's servants at the Globe." See Introduction.
bestowed) but for so much worth, as even poor I know to be stuffed in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best comedy in Terence or Plautus: and believe this, that when he is gone, and his comedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English inquisition. Take this for a warning, and at the peril of your pleasure's loss, and judgment's, refuse not, nor like this the less for not being sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude ; but thank fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you, since by the grand possessors' wills, I believe, you should have prayed for them, rather than been prayed 4. And so I leave all such to be prayed for (for the states of their wits' healths) that will not praise it.—Vale.
3 - and set up a new English inquisition.] This prophecy has been well verified of late years, when (to say nothing of the prices of first editions of Shakespeare's undoubted works) 1001. have been given for a copy of the old “ Taming of a Shrew,” 1594, and 1301. for “ The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York," 1595, merely because they were plays which Shakespeare made use of in his compositions.
4 – rather than been prayed.] This passage refers, probably, to the unwillingness of the company to which Shakespeare belonged to allow any of their plays to be printed. Such seems to have been the case with all the associations of actors, and hence the imperfect manner in which most of the dramas of the time have come down to us, and the few that issued from the press, compared with the number that were written. The word “ them,” in “ prayed for them," refers, as Mr. Barron Field suggests to me, not to the “ grand possessors,” but to “his comedies," mentioned above.
PRIAM, King of Troy.
> his Sons.
HELEN, Wife to Menelaus.
Trojan and Greek Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE, Troy, and the Grecian Camp before it.
i First supplied by Rowe.
In Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of Greece
· The Prologue.] It was first inserted in the folio, 1623 : no copy of the quarto contains it.
2 SPERR up the sons of Troy.) The four folios read, “ Stir up the sons of Troy;" spelt stirre in the folio, 1623. Stirre was clearly a misprint for sperre, as Theobald pointed out ; and many authorities may be quoted for the use of sperre in the sense of spar, or bar up. The most apposite of these is from Spenser's “ Faiery Queene,” b. v. c. 10.
“The other which was entred labour'd fast
To sperre the gate."
Sets all on hazard.—And hither am I come
3 A prologue ARM’D,] It was usual for the prologue-speaker in our old theatres to be dressed in black. See Hist. Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage, vol. iii. p. 442. There were, however, many exceptions to this rule, and the instance before us is one of them.
4 Leaps o'er the VAUNT,] i.e. the commencement : from the Fr. atant. Such is Percy's explanation ; but possibly “ vaunt” may be taken in the sense of boast, at the outset of the siege.