Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Not Peer Reviewed

Prefatory Materials (Folio 1, 1664)

To the most Noble and Incomparable pair of Brethren,
WILLIAM Earl of Pembroke, &c. Lord Chamberlain to the
Kings most Excellent Majestie;
And PHILIP Earl of Montgomery, &c. Gentleman to His Ma-
jesties Bed-Chamber. Both Knights of the most Noble Order of
the Garter, and our singular good LORDS.
Right Honourable,
WHilst we study to be thankful in our particu-
lar, for the many favours we have received
from your LL, we are faln upon the ill for-
tune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can
be, fear, and rashnesse in the enterprise, and fear of
the successe. For, when we value the places your H.H.
sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater,
than to descend to the reading of these trifles: and,
while we name them trifles, we have depriv'd our
selves of the defence of our Dedication. But since your
L.L. have been pleas'd to think these trifles something
heretofore, and have prosecuted both them, and their
Authour living, with so much favour: we hope, (that
they out-living him, and he not having the fate, com-
mon with some, to be Executor to his own writings)
you will use the same indulgence toward them, you
have done unto their parent. There is a great diffe-
rence, whether any Book choose his Patrones, or find
them: This hath done both. For, so much were your
L.L. likings of the several parts, when they were
acted, as before they were published, the Volume ask'd
to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an
office to the dead, to procure his Orphanes, Gura-
dians; without ambition either of self-profit, or fame:
only to keep the memory of so worthy a Friend and
Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare, by humble
offer of his Playes, to your most Noble Patronage.
Wherein, as we have justly observed, no man to come
near your L.L. but with a kind of religious address;
it hath been the height of our care, who are the Pre-
senters, to make the Present worthy of your H.H.
by the Perfection. But, there we must also crave our
abilities to be considered, my Lords. We cannot goe
beyond our own powers. Countrey hands reach forth
Milk, Cream, Fruits, or what they have: and many
Nations (we have heard) that had not Gummes and
Incense, obtained their requests with a leavened
Cake; It was no fault to approach their gods, by
what means they could: And the most, theugh mean-
est of things, are made precious, when they are dedica-
ted to Temples. In that name therefore, we most hum-
bly consecrate to your H.H. these remains of your
servant Shakespeare; that what delight is in them,
may be ever your L.L. the reputation his, and the
faults ours, if any be committed by a pair so care{f}ul to
shew their gratitude both to the living, and the dead,
as is
Your Lordships most bounden
John Heminge,
Henry Condell.
FRom the most able, to him that can but
spell. There you are number'd, We
had rather you were weigh'd. Espe
cially, when the fate of all Books de-
pends upon your capacities: and not of your
heads alone, but of your Purses. VVell, it is
now publick, and you will stand for your privi-
ledges, we know: to read, and censure. Doe so,
but buy it first; that doth best commend a Book,
the Stationer sayes. Then, how odde soever your
brains be, or your wisdomes, make your silience
the same, and spare not. Iudge your six-penny
worth, your shillings worth, your five shillings
worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just
rates, and welcome. But, whatever you do, Buy,
Censure will not drive a Trade, nor make the
Jack goe. And though you be a Magistrate of
Wit, and sit on the Stage at Black-Fryers, or
the Cock-pit, to arraign Playes daily, know, these
Playes have had their trial already, and stood out
all Appeals; and do now come forth quitted ra-
ther by a Decree of Court, then any purchas'd
Letters of Commendation.
It had been a thing, we confesse, worthy to
have been wished, that the Author himself had
liv'd to have set forth, and overseen his own
Writings; But since it hath been ordain'd other-
wise, and he by death departed from that right,
we pray you do not envy his Friends, the office
of their care, and pain, to have collected and
publish'd them; & so to have publish'd them, as
where (before) you were abus'd with divers
stoln, and surreptitious Copies, maimed and de-
formed by the frauds & stealths of injurious Im-
postors, that expos'd them: even those, are now
offer'd to your view cured, and perfect of their
limbs; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers
as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happy
imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser
of it. His mind and hand went together: And
what he thought, he uttered with that easiness,
that we have scarce received from him a blot in
his Papers. But it is not our Province, who only
gather his Works, and give them you to praise
him. It is yours that read him. And there we
hope, to your divers capacities, you will find e-
nough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit
can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Read
him, therefore; and again, & again: And if then
you do not like him, surely you are in some ma-
nifest danger, not to understand him. And so we
leave you to other of his Friends, who, if you
need, can be your guides: if you need them not,
you can lead yourselves, and others. And such
Readers we wish him.
J. Heminge. H. Condell.