A Life of William Shakespeare

By Joseph Quincy Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXX
THE FIRST FOLIO

THE injury done to Shakespeare's reputation by Pavier, and the constant danger of a repetition of the offense, were probably among the causes that led the poet's actor-friends, at some date before October, 1621,1 to plan a complete and authentic edition of his dramatic works. At this time all the original venturers in the Globe enterprise were dead except John Heminges and Henry Condell. For nearly a quarter of a century they had enjoyed the poet's closest and warmest friendship (they were among the three persons in London to whom he left memorial rings), and now they were old men,2 ready to retire from active life. As a final tribute to their comrade, who had been so loyal to their interests, they resolved to collect and publish his plays. "We have but collected them," they write, "and done an office to the dead . . . 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."3

In the scheme they interested two men, William Jaggard, who by virtue of his monopoly of printing the

____________________
1
The date on which Othello was entered in the Stationers' Register. The play, it is clear, was released for publication because arrangements were under way to issue the First Folio, as shown by the manner in which the copyright was treated.
2
In 1613 Heminges had been described as "old Heminges"; see p. 438. Both were parishioners of St. Mary Aldermanbury, Cripplegate, and both served there as churchwardens.
3
That they initiated the enterprise is clearly indicated by their statement: "We pray you, do not envy his friends the office of their care and pain to have collected and published them"; by Digges's line: "Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellows give the world thy works"; and by the poems from the Salisbury Papers cited on p. 342.

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