Thumbnail sketches of editors, texts, and commentators
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Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) was trained as a barrister. His pioneering Shakespeare's plays—the first edition of Shakespeare to feature an editor’s namewas published in 1709. Six volumes in octavo, it followed folio ordering. It contained frontispieces to interpret striking scenes.
Rowe based his text on F4. However, he freely (and silently) emended that text with reference to earlier folios and the quartos. His major innovations as a Shakespearean editor included his lists of dramatis personae for all the plays (formerly found only in players’ quartos); his added act and scene divisions (beyond those in the Folio tradition); and his inclusion of a biographical essay on the playwright, the first of its kind.
Besides his work as an editor, Rowe wrote celebrated tragedies for the stage in the early 1700s.
See also Gildon and Sewell thumbnails.
Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964. 423-4.
Sherbo, Arthur. “Rowe” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, <> accessed 4 October 2006.
Mowat , Barbara, A. “Nicholas Rowe and the Twentieth-Century Shakespeare Text.” Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare World Congress, Tokyo, 1991. Ed. Tetsuo Kishi, Roger Pringle, and Stanley Wells. Newark, DE: Delaware UP, 1994. 314-22.

Charles Gildon (c. 1665-1724) was an impoverished gentleman who lived by his pen. His major, albeit often neglected contribution to Shakespeare studies was The Works of Mr. William Shakespeare. Volume the Seventh (1710), published under the imprint of Edmund Curll. The book presented Shakespeare’s nondramatic verse in a format to match Rowe's six-volume edition of the plays (rowe2), which had appeared in 1710 under Tonson's imprint. It also included Gildon’s "Critical Remarks" on Shakespeare's plays.
Though an independent publication, Gildon’s Works of ...Shakespeare. Volume the Seventh was made to look like an additional installment in rowe2. And indeed, just a few years later, Gildon's volume would be incorporated into Tonson's rowe3 (1714). Since Tonson considered himself the copyright holder of Shakespeare’s works—and was very concerned about his rights—the fact he republished Gildon’s volume in 1714 (rowe3) suggests either that he had initially approved Curll’s venture or else that he had since overcome Curll’s attempt to encroach on his property. (Relevant Tonson correspondence that could answer the question is in private hands.)
Gildon’s “Critical Remarks” have been seen as the first substantial overview of Shakespeare as a dramatist. Some of its central critical strategies—such as the collation of extracts under topical headings, and the quotation of analogous passages from the classics (to which a separate section was devoted)—clearly mark it a product of the commonplacing habits of Gildon's era.
Another, perhaps even more notable innovation of Gildon’s volume was his "Index of Antiquated Words," the first to be supplied in an edition of Shakespeare.
Finally, Gildon’s volume provided the first collected set of plot synopses for Shakespeare's plays, encompassing the comedies and tragedies, though not the histories. (For a full account of Gildon's editorial work, with special reference to Hamlet, see Clary.)
Over a decade earlier Gildon had published a Lives and Characters of the English Dramatic Poets (1698), in which he had claimed that Shakespeare composed the Ghost scene in Hamlet while living next to a "Charnel-House in the midst of the Night.” Gildon would repeat this claim in 1710 (see commentary note for TLN 1).
Among Gildon's other works one may note his Reflections on Rymer's Short View of Tragedy (1694), which included observations on Othello; four original tragedies, which were performed, but which made no lasting impression; an adaptation of Measure for Measure (1699), drawing largely on D'Avenant's earlier Law Against Lovers; a Life of Thomas Betterton (1710), who had played Angelo in Gildon's Measure; and Memoirs of the Life of William Wycherley (1718).
During the 1710s Gildon quarreled in print with Alexander Pope. Pope would later contemn the dead Gildon's "venal quill" in his Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot (161; cf. The Dunciad, 3:173). However, Pope's editions of Shakespeare (1723-25, 1728) reproduced the glossary that Gildon had published in 1710—and misrepresented it as the work of Pope's collaborator George Sewell (q.v.)
Clary, Frank Nicholas, "Charles Gildon's Editorial Apparatus and Nicholas Rowe's Hamlet." Hamlet Studies 25 (2003), pp. 156-74. In
Halliday, F. E. “Gildon, Charles,” A Shakespeare Companion (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964), p. 187.
Sambrook, James. 'Gildon, Charles (c.1665–1724)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 <> accessed 4 Oct 2006.

Robert Wilks (c.1665-1732), an Irish-born actor, first became successful in Dublin. After 1693 he worked chiefly in London. He is known to have played the part of Hamlet while appearing at the Haymarket and at Drury Lane between 1706 and 1709 (opening one production on 15 January 1708). Wilks then became an actor-manager at the Haymarket (where Betterton, meanwhile, starred in a Hamlet which opened on 20 September 1709). Wilks was most celebrated throughout his career for his charming performances in comedies of manners, such as Farquhar's.
Wilks was listed as principal actor in an anonymously edited duodecimo of 1718, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. A Tragedy. As it is now Acted by his Majesty's Servants. . . . Printed by J. Darby for M. Wellington (hence dubbed wilk1). Lewis Theobald made reference to a later, 1723 version of this text (wilk2) in his Shakespeare Restored (1726), praising the critical acumen of its editor (while referring to that editor as "Hughs”—that is, John Hughes, the poet and editor of Spenser; Kliman argues that we lack clear corroborating evidence for this attribution).
Many subsequent eighteenth-century "players' texts" were to draw on wilk. But wilk was also an inherently significant edition of Hamlet—for several reasons. For instance, wilk (according to Kliman) refined on previous quartos' methods of marking textual cuts made in performance, showing more precisely which words had been cut. Also, while based on the quarto tradition, wilk included emendations from the Folio (probably via Rowe's editions). It thus built further on the practice of conflation begun by Rowe.
It is conceivable that many points of later editorial and theatrical practice may be traceable back to, or through, Wilks himself—having begun with staging decisions that Wilks had made (or endorsed).
Kliman, Bernice W. "John Hughes and Shakespeare: The Eighteenth-Century Poet and the Construction of Knowledge," The Shakespearean International Yearbook 3. Ed. Graham Bradshaw et al. (2003), pp. 228-43.
Murtin, Miriam G. "Wilks, Robert (c. 1665-1732)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford UP, 2004 <>, accessed 4 Oct 2007.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), the poet, produced a quarto edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works (1725; 6 vols). In a critical "Preface" to his edition Pope exalted Shakespeare's natural poetic inspiration above even that of Homer (whose Iliad and Odyssey had recently been published in English translations made or supervised by Pope).
Like his earlier poem An Essay on Criticism (1711), Pope's "Preface" to Shakespeare charted a middle course between respect for neoclassical rules and admiration for brilliant departures from the norm. To "judge . . . of Shakespeare by Aristotle's rules," he wrote, would be "like trying a man by the laws of one country who acted under those of another." In Pope's version of Shakespeare's development, that other "country" whose laws Shakespeare obeyed was the London stage, which had shaped his tastes and formed his art until—under royal patronage—his writing came to reflect the regulated tastes of the "court" more than the unruly appetites of the "town."
In his "Preface" Pope lamented what he saw as the theater's role in corrupting the early printed texts of Shakespeare, especially the Folio. Pope contended that only unauthorized interpolations by early actors could account for the solecisms, anachronisms, and so on that he regarded as ludicrous excrescences in the text of 1623. To illustrate his disintegrative vision of a Shakespearean corpus mangled by thespians, Pope cited Hamlet's desire "that those who play the Clowns would speak no more than is set down for them.”
Pope's own claims to have addressed such errors in his edition, however, were critically evaluated by Lewis Theobald in his Shakespeare Restored, or a Specimen of the many Errors as well Committed as Unamended by Mr Pope in his late edition of this Poet (1726). For his pains, Theobald became the unfortunate hero of Pope's mock-epic The Dunciad in its first two incarnations (1728, 1729). Pope nonetheless acknowledged the force of Theobald's criticisms through giving them attention in his 1728 octavo edition of the plays.
Erskine-Hill, Howard . "Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford UP, 2004 <> accessed 4 Oct 2006.
Halliday, F. E. "Pope, Alexander." A Shakespeare Companion. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964, pp. 381–82.
Hopkins, David. " 'The English Homer': Shakespeare, Longinus, and English 'neo-classicism.' " Shakespeare and the Classics. Charles Martindale and A. B. Taylor, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. pp. 261-76.

George Sewell (c. 1687-1726) was a physician turned hack writer. He was billed as coeditor, with Alexander Pope, of an edition of Shakespeare's poems that appeared as the seventh volume of pope1 (1724). Later the same edition would be republished and billed as the tenth volume of pope2 (1728), with credit again being given to Pope and Sewell. Yet both volumes were almost identical to that published earlier, in 1710, by Charles Gildon (q.v.)—the only departures from Gildon being in the glossary, which reflected Pope's textual emendations. Thus, Gildon's editorial and critical labors were appropriated without credit by Sewell (or for him).
Sewell’s literary productions included political and medical writings and a Tragedy of Sir Walter Raleigh (1719).

Courtney, W. P. "Sewell, George (bap. 1687, d. 1726)," rev. M. E. Clayton, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 <> accessed 4 Oct 2006.

Lewis Theobald (c. 1688-1744) is a central figure in the history of Shakespearean editing. His major work, published in January 1734 to immediate acclaim, was his seven-volume edition of Shakespeare's Works (theo1; dated 1733). Its "1356 explanatory notes” constituted a huge expansion of the critical apparatus for Shakespeare editions (Seary), and it included Theobald’s important preface on the aims and methods of editorial scholarship.
The text of Theobald’s 1734 edition was based on Pope's—a decision made not for critical reasons, but rather to protect the copyright of the publisher, Tonson, who published most of early eighteenth-century Shakespeares. But from this unpromising departure point Theo1 made major innovations. Theobald was the first Shakespearean editor to argue that textual emendations should be proposed only under two conditions: when they reflect patterns of usage that can be documented elsewhere in Shakespeare's work, and when posited textual "corruptions" are consistent with particular errors that a compositor might seem likely to have made while setting up type from copy. (Theobald’s knowledge of secretary hand, which he had learned as an attorney's apprentice, prompted the last rule and enabled him to put it into practice.)
In his youth Theobald had translated ancient and modern works, publishing some of the results, and had also written poems (including The Cave of Poverty, which borrowed the form of Shakespeare's narrative poems and advertised itself as an "imitation" of them). In 1715 and 1717 Theobald had produced two short runs of a periodical entitled The Censor, including significant critical essays on Shakespeare. During the same period he had associated himself with a theater, writing pantomime libretti as well as other works for the stage, and thus learning about the physical metamorphosis of dramatic texts into performance texts. Later, while editing Shakespeare’s plays, Theobald would draw on that experience in reflecting on the possible origins of early printed playtexts.
Theobald’s work of Shakespearean textual scholarship had been a long critical assessment of Alexander Pope’s edition of Shakespeare (pope1 [1723-25]), titled Shakespeare Restored, or a Specimen of the many Errors as well Committed as Unamended by Mr Pope in his late edition of this Poet (theon [1726]). It "devote[d] 132 pages to cruces in Hamlet" alone (Seary). One of its scholarly innovations was to note parallel passages, part of a systematic effort to infer Shakespeare's linguistic habits. Remarkably, Theobald made those notes without the aid of a concordance (none existed). Shakespeare Restored also offered Theobald's famous emendation of the phrase, "a Table of greene fields," in Henry V, to "a' babbled of green fields." Most editors still consider this the best solution to the problem of what the Hostess should report about the scene at Falstaff's deathbed.
In 1727 Theobald had published Double Falsehood, or The Distrest Lovers, which he claimed was based on a manuscript he had found of Shakespeare’s lost Cardenio. The forgery, if it was one, signifies the desperate straits of a young man trying to make a living as a writer.
In 1728 Pope's Shakespeare had appeared in a second edition (pope2), with some concessions to Theobald’s corrections and some snide comments. Pope also featured Theobald in two versions of The Dunciad (1728, 1729). In 1729 Theobald, in turn, had published more strictures on Pope's efforts. Also around 1729, Theobald had begun a lengthy correspondence with William Warburton (q.v.)—an exchange that continued through 1733 (Folger MS W.b. 74-75). Their letters included energetic discussions of a Shakespeare edition that Theobald was then preparing. Warburton, however, would become annoyed when Theobald did not use all the many notes he had shared in their correspondence. Always looking for the main chance, Warburton was then to transfer his allegiance to Pope (eventually becoming his literary executor).
The proceeds from theo1 supported Theobald financially for a few years after 1734. Pope and Warburton, meanwhile, did their best to diminish Theobald’s achievement. And Samuel Johnson (who perhaps owed Warburton something) did his best to belittle Theobald, even while recording his notes extensively.
Despite being based on Pope’s text, Theobald’s Shakespeare contains much that is still valuable to scholars concerned with establishing authorial intentions or the content of early printers' copy. It was reissued many times in the eighteenth century, though sometimes with the number of notes reduced (as in theo2 [1740]; this was also the first version of his edition with illustrations). Later reprintings appeared in 1752 (theo3), 1757 (theo4), and later years, making Theobald's Shakespeare "the most popular" of its era (Seary). By contrast, Warburton's competing edition appeared once, in 1747, and was not reprinted thereafter. Nevertheless, Theobald died in poverty.
Nichols, John. Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century. Consisting of Authentic Memoirs and Original Letters of Eminent Persons and Intended as a Sequel to The Literary Anecdotes. London: Printed for the author, 1817. A continuation of Literary Anecdotes, below.
Nichols, John. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. Comprizing Biographical Memoirs of William Bowyer, Printer, F.S.A. and Many of His Learned Friends; An Incidental View of the Progress and Advancement of Literature in This Kingdom during the Last Century; and Biographical Anecdotes of a Considerable Number of Eminent Writers and Ingenious Artists; with a very Copious Index. [1st ed. 1782. 2nd ed. 1812 ] In Six Volumes. Vol. 5. London: Printed for the Author, 1812. Reprinted AMS 1966.
Seary, Peter. "Theobald, Lewis (bap. 1688, d. 1744)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford UP, 2004. <> accessed 4 Oct 2006.

Sir Thomas Hanmer (1677-1746), a baronet from Flintshire, sat in the House of Commons from 1701 to 1727; he was its Speaker in 1714. After retiring from politics he produced a six-volume, large-quarto, illustrated edition of Shakespeare's Works (han1 [1743-44]).
Hanmer wanted to produce a correct, beautiful edition, and for that purpose chose illustrations by Francis Hayman (engraved by Hubert Gravelot). He also appended a much more thorough glossary than had appeared in earlier editions.
Oxford University Press published Hanmer’s edition, in spite of Tonson’s rights to the text. Tonson retaliated with a cheaper version of Hanmer’s edition without engravings, 1745 (han2).
Han2 anonymously added ascriptions to Hanmer’s notes, crediting and sometimes miscrediting the authors of notes not by Hanmer. This rudimentary apparatus has been attributed to William Warburton; Kliman suggests Samuel Johnson instead. (Hanmer had had a lengthy correspondence with Warburton, who had gotten wind of Hanmer’s editing project and wanted to be his coeditor.)
In 1771 a new version of Hanmer’s edition was printed in the original quarto format (han3), with many alterations and additions to the notes by Thomas Hawkins. Hawkins also expanded the glossary with reference to more recent scholarship.
Hanmer has been credited with authoring the anonymous Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1736), now ascribed to George Stubbes (Vickers), as well as A Review of The Text of . . . Paradise Lost (1733; also anonymous). The first known copy of Q1 Hamlet bound with several other plays was discovered in 1823 by a Hanmer descendant, in a closet on the family estate. There is no evidence that Hanmer referred to it in preparing his edition.
Halliday, F. E. "Hanmer, Sir Thomas," A Shakespeare Companion. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964. 205-6.
Hayton, D. W. "Hanmer, Sir Thomas, fourth baronet (1677–1746)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford UP, 2004; online edn, May 2005 <> accessed 4 Oct 2006.
Kliman, Bernice W. "Samuel Johnson and Tonson's 1745 Shakespeare: Warburton, Anonymity, and the Shakespeare Wars," in Reading Readings: Essays on Shakespeare Editing in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Joanna Gondris. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP. 299-317.
Vickers, Brian, ed. Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage 3: 1733-1752. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. 40.

William Warburton (1698-1779) was a clergyman trained in the law. His literary productions included an edition of Shakespeare (warb [1747]) and other editions and translations. Yet those endeavors were to prove far less important than Warburton's other writings on antiquarian, historical, and ecclesiastical subjects. Warburton’s most significant works by far concerned divine revelation and the church (in 1760 he became Bishop of Gloucester). His activity as a Shakespearean textual scholar was not well received, either in its time or by posterity.
From 1729-33 Warburton exchanged views on the text of Shakespeare in correspondence with Lewis Theobald (q.v.), who had publicly criticized Alexander Pope's recent edition (pope1) and was currently at work on his own edition (theo1 [dated 1733]). Warburton had privately expressed his own negative views of Pope in 1727, in a letter to the poet Matthew Concanen. However, in 1738, Warburton cannily endeared himself to Pope by publishing a defense of Pope's Essay on Man. That led to Warburton's becoming the executor of Pope's estate, and, accordingly, to Warburton's turning against Theobald.
In 1747 Warburton produced The Works of Shakespear in Eight Volumes. The Genuine Text (collated with all the former Editions, and then corrected and emended) . . . Being restored from the Blunders of the first Editors, and the Interpolations of the two Last. In his preface the editor directed ad hominem abuse at both Theobald and another recent editor, Thomas Hanmer (q.v.), while claiming to have done parts of the work behind both their Shakespeare editions.
Warburton's text was soon harshly reviewed by Thomas Edwards in his Supplement to Warburton's Edition of Shakespeare (1748; also cited as The Canons of Criticism). More attacks soon followed, in John Upton's Critical Observations on Shakespeare (1748) and Benjamin Heath's Revisal of Shakespeare's Text (1766). Warburton's edition was not subsequently reprinted.
As a Shakespearean editor, as in his other literary pursuits, Warburton affected a haughty contempt for others' efforts. But his own text of Shakespeare was condemned as inept. Its chief importance is due to the fact that Samuel Johnson (q.v.) made it a principal source for his own edition, which appeared in 1765, while Warburton was still alive.
Halliday, F. E. “Warburton, William,” A Shakespeare Companion. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964. p. 520.
Kliman, Bernice W. “Samuel Johnson and Tonson’s 1745 Shakespeare: Warburton, Anonymity and the Shakespeare Wars.” Reading Readings: Essays on Shakespeare Editing in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Joanna Gondris. Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1998. 299-317.
Young, B. W. "Warburton, William (1698-1779)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford UP, Sept 2004; accessed online, Oct 2005 <> accessed 4 Oct 2006.

Caldecott, Thomas (1744-1833). Educated at Rugby School, Winchester College, and New College, Oxford, Caldecott became a barrister and member of the Middle Temple while maintaining a lifelong association with New College. His one-volume double edition of Hamlet and As You Like It (cald1 [1819, 1820], cald2 [1832]) was the first publication to include copious endnotes for Hamlet.
Cald1 was a trial balloon for a complete edition. But it was unsuccessful, evidently, because Caldecott did not publish other plays. Possibly Caldecott’s timing in 1819-20 was unpropitious: the public at that time was anticipating v1821 (the updating of Malone's 1790 complete edition by James Boswell the younger), while the earlier variorum editions were being continually republished.
Caldecott was the first editor conscientiously to choose F1 as the primary source text—a choice recommended, he says, by Horne Tooke (2:52-3). (Rowe in 1709, followed by others, had very naturally based his edition on the last reprinted edition, in his case F4 [1685], while also consulting quartos and other folios.)
Caldecott’s presentation of the text emulated Reed’s in v1813, which like cald had a running head with act and scene on either side of the gutter. For the text of the plays Caldecott listed variants in the side margins, indicated with an asterisk or similar signal. At the bottom of pages he placed short notes, often attributed to a source (say, steevens) but without a specific date.
Caldecott’s most distinctive innovation, however, was his inclusion of copious endnotes. Editors who are limited to notes at the bottoms of pages generally keep their commentaries in check. Caldecott freed himself from the limits of the page and so could expatiate at length, much as others had done in Shakespeare books containing notes without playtexts (for example, Annotations by Sam. Johnson & Geo. Steevens . . . [1787], apparently edited by Henley).
Caldecott’s notes added act, scene and speaker to his own and others' references to parallels in other plays. For analogues from non-Shakespearean texts Caldecott often provided page or signature numbers, date of publication, and the like, simplifying the task of locating his references for those who followed him.
(The two early versions of cald1 appear identical except for one variation: in 1819 Caldecott omitted his name from the title page and in 1820 he added it. Caldecott, however, made many small changes to correct errors and infelicities in cald2 [1832]. Distributed to friends and not for sale, only 50 copies of cald2 were printed. See Folger ms. letter Y.c. 442[1] and copy of text on Whereas Caldecott had based his first edition on F1 rather than on Q3—evidently the only Hamlet quarto he had had on hand, and only through George Steevens's 1766 reprint of the quartos —in Cald2 he introduced additional F1 variants. Also, by then Q1 had come to light, and cald2 refers to it.)
Caldecott’s personal library was substantial; among his books were first editions of Shakespeare's nondramatic works (now in the Bodleian), three imperfect copies of F1, and copies of later Shakespeare editions. The British Library (BL) preserves Caldecott's annotated and emended copies of his own editions of Hamlet and As You Like It, as well as his annotated copy of one of the Johnson-Steevens-Reed variorum editions (v1813).
Caldecott has been said to have called Steevens "an ass" and Malone "a fool’—a possible reaction to the failure of his own attempt at a Folio-based edition.
Annotations by Sam. Johnson & Geo. Steevens, and the various commentators, upon Hamlet, written by Will. Shakspere. London: Printed for John Bell, 1787. See Bernice W. Kliman, Cum Notis Variorum: Samuel Henley, Shakespeare Commentator in Bell’s Annotations.” Shakespeare Newsletter 48. 4 (Winter 1998/1999): 91-2; 108, 110.
Spevack, Marvin. “Caldecott, Thomas.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online at <> accessed 31 August 2006.
Tooke, Horne. Diversions of Purley. 1805. Rpt. Menston: Scolar Press, 1968.