Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > The Text of Shakespeare > Value of the first Folio
  Lack of evidence making Shakespeare responsible for Corrections or Additions The later Folios  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

XI. The Text of Shakespeare.

§ 7. Value of the first Folio.


In the case of the doublet quarto plays, the folio text, as we have seen, is subordinate to that of the second quarto. The first quarto of Romeo and Juliet is a valuable corrective. In spite of its lacunae, it was evidently made by a skilful reporter, for it contains many unquestionably genuine readings, where all the rest have gone astray. 13  In Hamlet, when the readings of the first quarto and folio coincide, they are to be preferred. 14  The intrinsic value of the first folio lies in the fact that it contains the only extant text of eighteen plays; but its merits are unequal. The text of some of the plays is as good as that of the duplicate quartos; that of the rest recalls the characteristics of the text of the variant quartos. Measure for Measure, All’s Well, Cymbeline, Coriolanus and Macbeth are among the worst texts in the folio. It is practically hopeless to determine the metre of Timon, in large portions of which it is impossible to tell whether verse or prose is intended. Julius Caesar holds the same position among the folio plays which A Midsummer Night’s Dream has among the quartos. The text is free from any serious error and might well have been printed from the original manuscript.   17

Note 13Troilus and Cressida, act III, sc. 2, 21. [ back ]
Note 14. Thus, Romeo’s wish (act I, sc. 4, 113),
       
But He, that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail,

is preserved by it, when the other quartos and the folio read “sute” for “sail.” [ back ]


CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Lack of evidence making Shakespeare responsible for Corrections or Additions The later Folios  
 
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