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Well and truly has it been said of Shakespeare that "his works are ranked not among the luxuries, but among the necessaries of life.” No household that aims at home culture can now be without a copy of Shakespeare ; no domestic circle, that justly looks upon social reading aloud as a means of true happiness and improvement, can think itself duly provided without this among its books, however few the number may be to which due economy limits its cherished store. The mother, who wishes that her boys should have interesting yet vigorous matter of perusal ever at hand, to keep the younger ones out of mischief, and to induce a taste for home and home-pleasures among the elder ones; the father, who desires to see his girls acquire a love of the beautiful, and cultivate that polish and grace which the study of poetical themes and ennobling subjects inevitably produces; the parents eager to introduce their children to higher thoughts and aspirations amid the needful duties and pursuits of every-day life, will certainly make a point of having this noblest of poetic books as their homestead friend and favourite.
It was this hope of having our present edition in the hands of young readers, and readers in family circles, which induced us to yield to our publishers' desire that it might exclude phrases not thought objectionable at the time when Shakespeare wrote, but coarse and unfit for modern utterance. So unwilling were we that any marring should occur in the pleasure of an assembled home met together to enjoy the Dramatist's pages-the father, perhaps, reading to the rest while they pursued their several occupations; the mother and girls at their sewing; the boys with their slate or their sketching—that we made the omission of expressions that might have checked the reader aloud; just such expressions as Shakespeare's own Perdita forbids when she utters the words which we have adopted for our second title to this edition of his dramas :-“ Forewarn him that he use no scurrilous words in his tunes. We have also omitted “Titus Andronicus," a play commonly attributed to Shakespeare ; and we have done this, not only on account of its grossness, but because of our strong conviction that it is not his writing. An explanation of our motives for this omission is contained in the “Announcement” which we placed in this edition between the plays of “ Coriolanus” and “Romeo and Juliet ;” and it gives us pleasure to reflect that this, our " People's Edition,” should be free from that specimen
, of squalid horror and atrocity, the “Titus Andronicus." The pervading spirit of the composition, when not hideous, is contemptible; and if less disgusting, it would be laughable. Take, for an example of the diction, one of the lines :
“In peace and honour live lord Titus long!”
which is scarcely exceeded in caricature effect by the famous line in “ The Rejected Addresses :"
Long may Long Tylney Wellesley Long Pole live !"
Entertaining the pleasant hope of counting among the perusers and possessors of our present edition younger and more unaccustomed students of Shakespeare than had heretofore been his readers, we have pursued a system of annotation which we think surpasses in scope of elucidation that which has hitherto been adopted. In undertaking this particular edition (which differs from those we previously superintended by having foot-notes to each page, while our former editions comprised the subject matter of Notes in a Verbal and Sentential Glossary) we gave our iltmost thought to the entire system on which we should work; and thus we have pursued an original plan, varying in some things from that found in usual annotated editions, while we adhered to their form where we thought it judicious.
First, we so systematised our arrangement as to make it include, in condensed form, all that usually figures diffusedly in editions of Shakespeare. For example, the introductory matter, which generally occupies from two to three spread-out pages before each play in other editions, in ours is compressed into the first note appended to the title of each play ; and the supplementary Critical Remarks, which in other editions follow each play, in our edition form part of the current comment introduced into the notes. Thus, matter which generally remains unread, from its bulk and prolixity, is in our present edition put into such concise shape and apposite place as to render it more immediately interesting.
Secondly, a great object has been with us to make Shakespeare himself, as much as possible, his own illustrator and interpreter, by, in every case where a word or a passage is discussed, referring to a similar instance occurring elsewhere in his works. This, although considerably increasing our own labour, has the advantage of enabling the peruser of the passage, at little cost of trouble, to compare and judge for himself, and thus, in fact, to become his own editor. So carefully made and diligently multiplied are our references, that they form a chain of consecutive illustrative indication, showing how the author thinks, how he writes, and what forms the veritable essence of his style. Each note on a particular word is made to furnish a clue to another parallel instance, where the same word is similarly used. For example, on turning to our Note 5, Act iv., “King Lear," it will be seen that
there is reference made to other passages where the word “secure is peculiarly and Shakespearianly used; witness, also, our Notes on the word “ cause,” to which a connecting link of guidance is supplied from Note 10, Act v., “Macbeth," back through Note 85, Act iii., “Coriolanus ;” Note 60, Act ii., “ Henry V. ;" Note 11, Act v., “King John;" to 62, Act iii., “King John," where our view of Shakespeare's special use of this word is first discussed by us; likewise such Note; as Note 18, Act iii., “ Coriolanus;" Note 73, Act ii., “ Julius Cesar;" and Note 44, Act ii., “Othello," where we give collected references to other Notes on the subject discussed; and as Note 13, Act jii., “Troilus and Cressida," where we observe upon a systematic principle pursued by him.
Impressed ourselves by the extreme condensation that marks Shakespeare's style, notwithstanding the abundant imagery and overflow of thought that distinguish it, we have taken care to point out the evidences of his singularly inclusive diction, of the combined senses which his words bear, and of the elliptical phraseology, which all three contribute to constitute this extreme condensation. In manifestation of his inclusive diction, we would refer to our Note 49, Act iv., “ Troilus and Cressida ;" Note 39, Act iii., “ Julius Cæsar;". Note 37, Act iv., “King Lear ;” and Note 121, Act i., “Othello;" of his using words in combined senses, to our Note 23, Act ii., “Tempest;" Note 21, Act iii., “ Henry VIII. ;" Note il, Act iii., “ Coriolanus;" Note 8, Act i., “Macbeth ;" and Note 34, Act v., “ Cymbeline;” and of his elliptical phraseology, to our Note 33, Act i., “Henry V.;" Note 75, Act i., “Coriolanus ;" Notes 5 and 11, Act v., "Henry VIII. ;" Notes 26, Act ii.,
.;, and 1, Act iv., “Romeo and Juliet ;" Note 75, Act iv., “Othello ;” and Note 27, Act i., “Cymbeline.” As a token of the frequent employment made by Shakespeare of ellipses in construction, we mention that our Notes on bis elliptical words and phrases alone amount to several hundred; and investigation of this particular characteristic of the great Poet's diction will render our Notes on the subject valuable to the philological student, as well as to the mere beginner in appreciation of literary style and composition. Shakespeare's mastery in language, his power of brevity and succinctness, no less than his amplitude and copiousness, his knowledge of the exact shades of meaning in words, and his capacity for blending and concentrating, no less than his faculty of largely and figuratively applying them, with nicest aptitude in each of these particulars, render him as great a magician in verbal sway as in every other operation of his “so potent art."
Another original feature of our Annotated Edition, we trust, will be found in the space we have devoted to the discussion of Shakespeare's system of Dramatic Art. We have pointed out his peculiar felicities in narration; his expedients for drawing his audience's or reader's attention to points demanding their special notice (see Notes 10 and 61, Act i., “Cymbeline "); his expressive and characteristic mode of writing soliloquy (see Note 11, Act iv., “Measure for Measure;” Note 34, Act iv., “ Henry V.;" Note 3, Act ii., “Julius Cæsar;” Note 22, Act iv., “Romeo and Juliet;" and Note 08, Act ii., “King Lear"); his mode of denoting place and scene (see Note 52, Act ij., "Midsummer
Night's Dreain;" Note 26, Act v., "Merchant of Venice;" and Note 19, Act ii., “Romeo and Juliet "); his skill in the introduction of brief explanatory or commentatory scenes (see Note 23, Act iii., “ Timon of Athens ;” and Note 144, Act iv., " King Lear "), his judgment in producing harmonious contrast by short, grotesque scenes immediately preceding those of grave import and interest, or even of tragic terror and solemnity (see Note 43, Act iv., “Romeo and Juliet;" Note 27, Act ii., “ Macbeth ;" Note 27, Act v., “Hamlet;" Note 56, Act v., " Antony and Cleopatra "); and, above all, that perfectly new particular, never before adverted to in any edition of Shakespeare, his very peculiar system of Dramatic Time; a system invented and employed solely by himself, a system which permits long and short time to co-exist and co-operate simultaneously in the progress of his plays. (See Notes i and 35. Act iv., “Measure for Measure;" Notes 96, Act ii., and 7, Act iii., “Merchant of Venice;" Note 49, Act iii., “ Henry V.;" Note 18, Act iv., “Romeo and Juliet ;" Note 38, Act ii., "Julius Cæsar ;" Notes 36, Act ii., and 22, Act v., “Macbeth ;" Notes 21 and 62, Act iii., “Hamlet ;" and Notes 58 and 96, Act iii., “Othello.")
In many of our Notes Shakespeare's text is viewed from a more poetic point than is the case in most editions. Remarks upon his beauties of characterisation (see Note 5, Act iv., “Much Ado about Nothing;" Notes 56, Act i.; 2, Act iii. ; 20, Act v.,
« First Part Henry IV.;" Notes 8, Act iv.; 2 and 30, Act v., "Romeo and Juliet;" Notes 53, Act ii.; 84, Act iii., “Othello”); his melodies of versification (see Notes 38 and 74, Act iji. ; 22, Act iv., “ Midsummer Night's Dream ;" Note 80, Act iv., “Winter s Tale;" Note 40,
. Act iv., “ Henry V; Note 25, Act iii., "Pericles "); his might of passion (see Notes 98 and 120, Act ii.; 140, Act iv., “ King Lear;" Notes 39, Act iii.) 31, Act iv.; “Othello;" Notes 47, Act iii. ; 31, Act v., " Pericles "), hitherto made the subject of supplementary essays, have been by us condensed into some of our Notes. We have thought that many a young reader coming freshly to Shakespeare, having heard infinite praise awarded to him, will be glad to have the passages pointed out, in course of procedure, which specially mark the excellences of this author. who is not to be understood or appreciated at first perusal ; and that the comments upon such passages will be received by the tyro readers of our dramatist as pleasant indices supplied by his experienced admirers, the Editors.
To those who may feel that some few of our Notes are superfluously explanatory, we would quote the opening of the chorus to Act v. of “ Henry V.:"
Therefore we have not omitted to explain particulars that to maturer readers might seem too obvious to need a Note; as, for instance, certain mythological allusions (see Notes 16 and 28, Act iii., “Merchant of Venice;" Note 42, Act ii., “Macbeth ;” and Note 72,
Act iii., “Pericles”), well understood by classical scholars, but new to beginners in literature. Yet, even to the most proficient, a casual explanation can scarcely come anriss ; such readers are ever the most forbearing, and are willing to tolerate an observation needless to themselves, for the sake of possible benefit to others to whom it may be needful. From Shakespeare's universality of mind and genius, his writings include a vast field of allusion; vaster than that spanned by any other writer : therefore, it follows that explanation of these myriad allusions must involve details introducing unpractised students to subjects which, of themselves, form a whole world of valuable knowledge.
Several of our Notes will be found to discuss a point never hitherto canvassed namely, the subtle truth with which Shakespeare has suggested concomitant physical indications in those he represents under mental suffering (see Note 101, Act iv., "King Lear;" Notes 62 and 63, Act iv., “Othello;" Note 31, Act v., " Tempest;" Note 50, Act v., “ Pericles:"); also, another particular not heretofore observed upon-one almost paradoxical in its statement-his curious power of writing silence (see Notes 21, Act ii. ; 20, Act iv.; and 50, Act v., “Coriolanus;" Note 59, Act v., “Winter's Tale;" Note 85, Act iv., “Macbeth"), and his singular faculty of producing perfect impression through imperfect erpression (see Note 85, Act ii., “Coriolanus;" Notes 5 and 31, Act iv., “Othello;" Notes 76, Act iv.; 88, Act v., "Cymbeline;" Note 61, Act v., "Pericles").
;, Instances of Shakespeare's noble faith and morality have been earnestly dwelt upon in such Notes as 10, Act iii., “Winter's Tale ;" Note 22, Act v., “Timon of Athens ;" Notes 77, Act iv., and 53, Act v., “Cymbeline;" Notes 29, Act iii.; 50 and 55, Act v., “King Lear;" Note 88, Act iii., “Romeo and Juliet ;" Note 42, Act iii.; 2, Act v., "Othello;" Note 34, Act v., “ Macbeth ;" Notes 67 and 79, Act v., "Cymbeline;" while his appreciation of the sacredness of friendship is shown in such Notes as 26, Act iv., “Merchant of Venice;" Note 98, Act iii., “Twelfth Night;" Note 72, Act iii., “ Julius Cæsar;" Notes 53, Act iii., and 67, Act iv., “Hamlet.”
We have taken occasion to point out intrinsic evidences of Shakespeare's style at various epochs of his career—a question not hitherto made the subject of annotation-in several Notes, like 17, Act i., “ As You Like It ;" Notes i and 9, Act iv., “Romeo and Juliet ;" Notes 29, Act i. ; 22, Act v., “ Henry VIII. ;" Note 68, Act i., “Troilus and Cressida ;" Note 71, Act ii., “Coriolanus."
Many passages merely pronounced difficult and left unexplained by some editors, while suffered to pass entirely unnoticed by others, we have frankly dealt with ; facing the difficulty, sedulously endeavouring to solve it, and discover the meaning originally intended by the author. (See Note 18, Act iii., “ All's Well that Ends Well ;” Note 80, Act i.,
Coriolanus ;" Notes 37, Act iv., and 53, Act v., “ King Lear;" Note 27, Act ii.,
several of our own conjectural readings may be found on reference to Note 87, Act ii., “Coriolanus;" Note 80, Act iv., “Henry V.;" Note 28, Act iv.,