He intended the Injunction, rather than the Artillery of Heaven

There is much fun in a history of readings and misreadings, textual editing, and the battles than ensue. Here’s the start of Hamlet’s first monologue (1.2):

HAMLET
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

Alexander Pope’s 1725 edition of Shakespeare has ‘cannon’ here. Lewis Theobald, afterwards a key early editor of Shakespeare, disagreed with this reading and a host of others and let fly the following year 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; designed not only to correct the said Edition, but to restore the true Reading of Shakespeare in all the Editions ever published. His entry for this passage (pages 15-17 in the edition linked) is well reasoned – building primarily on Shakespeare’s own usages – but his best work is his snark – “[Shakespeare] intended the Injunction, rather than the Artillery of Heaven.”

Pope struck back a few years later by making Theobald (as Tibbald) the ‘hero’ of the first three books of his Dunciad (A). I’ll add a few lines for partial illustration (bk 1 251-260, the goddess Dulness is speaking):


I see a King! who leads my chosen sons
To lands, that flow with clenches and with puns:
‘Till each fam’d Theatre my empire own,
‘Till Albion, as Hibernia, bless my throne!
I see! I see! –‘ Then rapt, she spoke no more.
‘God save King Tibbald!’ Grubstreet alleys roar.
So when Jove’s block descended from on high,
(As sings they great fore-father, Ogilby,)
Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog,
And the hoard nation croak’d, God save King Log!

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