Editors choose which version to use as their base text, and then amend that text with words, lines or speech prefixes from the other versions that, in their judgment, make for a better or more accurate text.
Other editorial decisions involve choices about whether an unfamiliar word could be understood in light of other writings of the period or whether it should be changed; decisions about words that made it into Shakespeare’s text by accident through four hundred years of printings and misprinting; and even decisions based on cultural preference and taste.
Until now, with the release of the Folger Digital Texts, readers in search of a free online text of Shakespeare’s plays had to be content primarily with using the Moby™ Text, which reproduces a late-nineteenth century version of the plays. Many ordinary readers assume that there is a single text for the plays: what Shakespeare wrote.
But Shakespeare’s plays were not published the way modern novels or plays are published today: as a single, authoritative text.
The editors of the Moby™ Shakespeare produced their text long before scholars fully understood the proper grounds on which to make the thousands of decisions that Shakespeare editors face.
(See , 1.2: “Abhorred slave,/Which any print of goodness wilt not take,/Being capable of all ill! All Shakespeare editors at the time took the speech away from her and gave it to her father, Prospero.Prospero secretly approves of their love, but tests the pair by enslaving Ferdinand.After secretly watching Miranda and Ferdinand exchange vows, Prospero releases Ferdinand and consents to their marriage.Readers who want to know more about Shakespeare and his plays can follow the paths these distinguished scholars have tread by visiting the Folger either in-person or online, where a range of physical and digital resources exists to supplement the material in these texts.I commend to you these words, and hope that they inspire.The reader of the Folger Shakespeare knows where the text has been altered because editorial interventions are signaled by square brackets (for example, from Who hath relieved/you? At any point in the text, you can hover your cursor over a bracket for more information.