Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > The Text of Shakespeare > The later Folios
  Value of the first Folio Subsequent history of the Text of Shakespeare  


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.

§ 8. The later Folios.

The value of the later folios is comparatively small. They take great liberties with the text, though, it must be admitted, not beyond those taken by some of the later editors. When the second folio makes an alteration, this is, as a rule, perpetuated in the third and fourth. Where the second or third stands alone, it is nearly always wrong. The fourth folio is not so free in making alterations, except in order to modernise the spelling. Were it not for the legacy of errors inherited from the second and third, the fourth would often be nearer a modern text than either. The later folios, however, have all made some happy restorations of the text. 15  In the case of the variant quarto plays, where a later folio agrees with the quarto against the first, we have a better attested reading. There are some remarkable cases of this coincidence. 16    18
  One cause of variation between the different quarto and folio texts remains to be noted. It is the most prolific and the most modern of all—the mistakes of editor and printer.   19

Note 15. Thus, the “fretful porpentine” of the ghost’s speech (act I, sc. 5, 20) has greater textual authority than the “fearfull propentine” of the later quartos, because it is supported by two independent copies. [ back ]
Note 16. One of the best is to be found in Coriolanus (act II, sc. 3, 18). The third citizen says: “not that our heads are, some brown, some black, some auburn, some bald, but that our wits are so diversely coloured.” The fourth folio was the first to suggest “auburn” for “Abram,” which is read by the first three. [ back ]

  Value of the first Folio Subsequent history of the Text of Shakespeare  

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