4 MAY 1923, Page 19

THE SHAKESPEARE COMMEMORATION.

THE tercentenary of the publication of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays has been fittingly celebrated by the

appearance of the first two volumes of a singularly beautiful reprint of the First Folio text. Messrs. Ernest Berm are to be congratulated on the courage and the good taste displayed in this Players' Shakespeare, which is, we imagine, the most ambitious essayed by any publisher of Shakespeare since Boydell in the reign of George HI. risked a fortune on his edition illustrated by all the best artists of the day. The new series opens with Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.

Each play fills a large quarto, and the price, for the cheaper edition limited to four hundred and fifty copies, is four guineas a volume. The price, of course, is high, but we are bound to say that the purchaser will get value for his money. The printing, done at the Shakespeare Head Press of Stratford- on-Avon, is excellent. The plain, bold Roman type, relieved by the plentiful italics of the Folio, is restful to look on and easy to read—a dual merit that was not possessed, for instance, by the much lauded Kelmscott books of William Morris. The rag paper used is of good quality, and the margins are delightfully generous, with the lower margin, as it should be,

much wider than the upper margin. There are many illus- trations, by Mr. Charles Ricketts for Macbeth and by Mr.

Thomas Lowinsky for The Merchant of Venice. Mr. Ricketts contributes mainly scenic designs, in his familiar manner, and some water-colour sketches of episodes which, to our thinking, do not accord very happily with the grave and dignified text. Mr. Lowinsky's illustrations are based mainly on the Venetian tradition as exemplified in the well-known Polipitile--designs in hard black outline or in masses of black and white which, though perhaps not very significant, are certainly decorative. He gives, also, some coloured pages in a mediaeval convention, with a few figures or a throne or some other object against a bare background : these, it must be confessed, arc rather trivial and pretentious. To each volume Mr. Granville Barker prefixes a lengthy and interesting essay on the play from the stage manager's and actor's point of view, with a general essay in the Macbeth volume on the modern presentation of Shakespeare. We have found these introductions uncommonly fresh and stimu- lating, as they ought to be when the commentator, like his author, is himself a playwright, a theatrical manager and an actor of wide experience. He is no pedant. To the producer he says :—

" Gain Shakespeare's effects by Shakespeare's means when you can. But gain Shakespeare's effects ; it is your business to discern them."

And, again :—

" If I am asked whether, with all the scene devising and designing in the world, we shall do better for Shakespeare than he did for himself upon his own plain stage, backed by a curtain and an inner room, surmounted by a balcony, I will answer that I doubt it, and do rather more than doubt. But, nevertheless, mere restora- tion of all this will not meet our ease. We cannot quite discard the present and, even could we, entering into the past would be a harder matter still."

He touches briefly on the fact that Shakespeare wrote for the boy-actress and remarks of Shakespeare's heroines that "it behsves the most devoted actress to remember that in the acting of these parts her sex is more a liability than an asset"

—a pronouncement which startles and yet is worth considering.

Mr. Granville Barker insists, with truth, that "the plays must be spoken beautifully." That is the all essential thing, and yet how rare it is on our modern stage to hear beautiful

speech. Mr. Granville Barker thinks that a reading of the First Folio text may help to this end. We are inclined to

agree with him. Certainly that text, despite its obvious imperfections, seems to recall the true Shakespeare more vividly than the many and various modern texts that laborious scholars have emended.

Professor Alfred W. Pollard, of the British Museum, gave an interesting Shakespeare Lecture on April 23rd, before the British Academy, on The Foundations of Shakespeare's Text (H. Milford, is. net). He discussed the fourteen " good " quartos and the four " bad " quartos of the sixteen plays that first appeared in that shape, and the methods of the editors of the First Folio, who perhaps used late quartos corrected by hand from manuscript copies of the plays. All this is highly speculative and yet curiously entertaining. We are glad to find Professor Pollard observing gravely that : "If we go beyond the imperfections to the cause of the imperfections there is only one man to blame for them, and that is Shakespeare himself." That should be a truism, and yet how many learned critics have trounced the poor editors, printers and publishers of the plays for their mistakes, regard- less of the fact that but for those humble men we should not have had the plays at all.

Professor Pollard, as Keeper of Printed Books, is als3 largely responsible for the excellent Shakespeare Exhibition arranged in the King's Library at the British Museum, the Trustees of which issue a valuable Guide to the MSS. and Printed Books Exhibited (1.s. net), with full bibliographical descriptions and eight plates and an introduction. There is no need for us to stress the importance of the unrivalled and unsurpassable Shakespeare collection at Bloomsbury, which everyone ought to see and see again. The Guide is a con- venient summary of information as to the genuine plays, the apocryphal plays and Shakespeare's sources and biography, and should be kept for reference.

Professor Pollard gives some remarkable figures from the British Museum catalogue to illustrate Shakespeare's world- wide fame. There are, for instance, a hundred complete editions of his works in various European languages, and nearly two hundred volumes of translations in Oriental tongues, including Turkish, Japanese and Sanskrit. The Shakespeare Association has planned a "Shakespeare Survey" of the influence exerted by the poet over many nations, and it has published as a specimen chapter a competent and interesting essay by Miss Josephine C,alina (Mrs. Allardyce Nicoll) on Shakespeare in Poland (H. Milford, Os. net). Poland, like Germany and Scandinavia, welcomed the English touring companies in the reign of James I., before the Thirty Years' War, but the Polish theatre was slow to develop, and the first Shakespearean play produced in Polish was staged at Lw6w (Lemberg) in 1797. The insurrectionary movements found a literary stimulus in the tragedies and historical plays, and Slowaeki, the leading Polish poet and dramatist of the second quarter of the nineteenth century, made Shake- speare his hero. Miss Calina prints typical passages from Slow acki's enthusiastic writings, with a free English rendering of the Polish text. She gives also a bibliography, running to fourteen pages, of the Shakespeare translations and adapta- tions which have appeared in Polish, including three complete editions, of which that edited by Professor Roman Dyboski is the latest and best.

An attractive pamphlet, In Commemoration of the First Folio Centenary (H. Milford, 5s. net), comes from the Shakespeare Association, which has arranged a loan exhibition of Shakespeare folios and quartos at Stationers' Hall. Sir Israel Gollanez contributes a lucid essay on the First Folio as a preface to a well executed reprint, on a smaller scale than the original, of the title-page, piefaces, complimentary poems and lists of actors and plays with which the First Folio opens, The title-page is reproduced from the fine copy lately given to the British Museum, which has an early state of the Droeshout engraved portrait ; the familiar print is not by any means a great work but the early impressions—one of which is in the Bodleian—have some life in them.

The London Shakespeare League has done well in reprinting in a sixpenny pamphlet The Prefatory Pages of the Ftrst Folio, with a comment by Sir Sidney Lee and the frontispiece portrait (W. J. Bryce, 69 High Holborn). These pages are worth reading, and yet it may be doubted if one Shakespearean student in a thousand has ever read beyond the preliminary verse. Let us commend, too, the - enterprise of Southwark, the Elizabethan players' home, in celebrating the occasion with an exhibition in the Southwark Central Reference Library, a catalogue of which appears under the care of Mr. Richard W. Mould. It is a good collection, strengthened by loans and by the Harvard-Shakespeare Memorial donation.

Mr. R. Crompton Rhodes, in Shakespeare's First Folio (Oxford : Blackwell, 4s. 6d. net), has made an important and novel contribution to the subject. His main contention is that Heminge and Condell "had no editorial policy beyond writing the epistles and collecting, at some difficulty, the copy " ; "they had no thought but that what was good for the playhouse was good for the printing-house, and accord- ingly they made no alterations of any kind, except where chance imposed upon them the task of reconstructing a lost text "—assembled from the parts assigned to the different actors. All the peculiarities of the text were, he says, "of theatrical origin, not of literary design." His detailed examination of the Folio, its pagination, page-headings, stage directions and lists of characters, is particularly instruc- tive. We may note his comments on the case of Troilus and Cressida, which, as he shows, was accidentally put among the tragedies, then held back and replaced by Timon, and finally inserted between the histories and tragedies —not comedies, as the author inadvertently says—but so late that its title was not given in the prefatory

catalogue. Mr. Rhodes's book will provoke much controversy among Shakespearean specialists, but it is uncommonly well worth readings

Another admirable book provoked by the Commemoration is Shakespeare and the Universities, by Dr. Frederick S. Boas (Oxford : Blackwell, 12s. (Id. net). It is somewhat amusing, in view of a recent Oxford contretemps, to find Dr. Boas saying in his preface : "Now that theatrical art promises to be brought into closer contact with University studies, the chronicle of their unhappy estrangement may not be without its use "—and referring to Jowett's liberal policy towards the Oxford theatre when he was Vice-Chancellor. The reference, of course, is undesigned. Dr. Boas is thinking of the Eliza- bethan and Jacobean Vice-Chancellors who paid the players to go away or forbade their performing, while the Mayor and Corporation for their part encouraged the touring companies to play in the city. Dr. Boas discusses various subjects connected with the drama and the stage under the Stuarts. We may mention in particular the chapter on Walter Mount- fort, an official of the East India CoMpany and a dramatist, and the full account of the play which he wrote on his voyage home from India in 1632, entitled The Lanchinge of the Mary ; or, The Seaman's Honest Wyfe, which is in effect a dramatic apologia for the Company. It is an absurdly bad play, but it is uncommonly interesting to students because the manuscript, which has been preserved, shows all the cuts and alterations made by the censor, Sir Henry Herbert, in 1638, for political and moral reasons.

The old controversy about the site of the Globe Theatre seemed to have been settled by the able pamphlet, issued by the London County Council, in which Mr. Braines demon- strated that the theatre must have stood to the south of Maiden Lane, Southwark. But Mr. George Hubbard, un- convinced by Mr. Braines's painstaking argument, to which we referred at the time of its publication, restates his cage with considerable force in a volume, On the Site of the Globe Playhouse of Shakespeare (Cambridge University Press, 7s. 6d. net). It does, of course, seem more reasonable to suppose that the Globe stood to the north of Maiden Lane and on the Bankside close to the staiis where playgoers who had crossed the water by boat would land. Moreover, Mr.. Hubbard's documentary evidence, fortified by maps and plans and by an intimate knowledge of what is now a very dull and remote corner of the Borough, is formidable. But he has not demolished the very elaborate case built up by Mr. Braines, whose sober and precise method of collecting and handling minute details impressed us favourably. Mr. Braines showed that nearly all the north side of Maiden Lane was occupied by other owners, leaving no room for the Globe frontage of 156 feet, and this almost conclusive argument is not seriously shaken by Mr. Hubbard. The dispassionate reader will marvel at the wealth of information to be extracted from the records concerning Shakespeare's London.