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H. H. F.
My other selfe, my Counsailes Consistory, My Oracle, My Prophet, I, as a childe, will go by thy direction,
II, ii, 159
It is certainly fortunate that very few of SHAKESPEARE's plays are furnished with such a number of sources whence the text is to be drawn, or such a mosaic text, when finally obtained, as Richard the Third. It appeared in what, according to Heminge and Condell, were 'stolne and surreptitious' Quartos no less than six times before it was set forth 'cured and perfect of its] limbes' in the Folio of 1623. And it is the differences between these multitudinous texts that present to an editor one of the gravest problems in the whole range of Shakespearian literature; a determination of the true text demands wary walking; to omit a reading in the Quarto seems sacrilege: to include every reading spells confusion. In the following pages the text of the First Folio is reprinted with all the accuracy at my command; in it is incorporated, and designated by asterisks, the additions of the Quartos, whereof the omissions and transpositions are duly recorded in the Textual Notes. Thus the present text, which, to a certain extent, is a text of shreds and patches, has at least the merit of omitting nothing which we have reason to believe was SHAKESPEARE's own-we, like Garrick, cannot lose one drop of that immortal man.
No one familiar with that department of Shakespearian study which deals with textual problems can be at all surprised at the variety and number of theories and solutions proposed to account for the mystery of the eight Quarto versions of the present play. The field is spacious and excellently furnished with pitfalls and quagmires, wherein each critic views with pleasure his rivals caught or floundering, while he himself, in his own opinion, walks triumphant and secure; we are involuntarily reminded of Pope's well-known lines:
' 'Tis with our judgements as our watches; none
Go just alike, but each believes his own.'
master Barlowe, and master warden man
* Arber's Transcript, iii, 25.