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To fulfil this excellent purpose the editor has embodied the best features of the most authoritative editions previously published. The text chosen is that of the famous Cambridge edition which has been universally accepted as the standard text. The type selected is one of unusual legibility. It will be no trouble at all to read the pages of these volumes; so that the reader's mind, relieved of the difficulties of this mechanical exercise of the eye, is free to appreciate and to enjoy the beauty of the language and the wisdom it embodies.
from our age.
Shakespeare lived in an age separated by three centuries The habits, customs, daily lives, ways of thinking of the people of that age were entirely different from those of our day. Of necessity the language of a writer of that age will contain phrases, terms of expressions, ways of thinking, allusions to contemporary events which have passed out of use and which are quite foreign These differences of expression and thought have been sore trials with editors of Shakespeare's works. The best scholarship and the most acute minds have been devoted to an explanation of them. Without the aid of the labors of these men it is very difficult to understand Shakespeare thoroughly. To enable readers to receive the full benefit of this scholarship the publishers of the present edition have had incorporated in it the best that has been written about Shakespeare's life and about Shakespeare's plays. Among the scholars whose works have been laid under contribution for this edition may be named: Edward Dowden, Karl Elze, Gervinus, C. H. Herford, Georg Brandes, Schelling, William Hazlitt, Heinrich Heine, George Henry Lewes, Coleridge, Walter Pater, Stopford Brooke, Charles Knight, Moulton, Furnivall, Gollancz,
d William Winter, Henry Hallam, Schlegel, Halliwell, Victor Hugo, James Russell Lowell, Professor Bradley, Swinus burne, Macaulay, Ten Brink, Lounsbury, Samuel Johnson s and the other eminent commentators and critics whose al labors have been devoted to expounding the work of the f great English dramatist. Extracts from the works of e these writers are printed either as introductions or notes, 0 so that the reader is enabled to become fully conversant e with the best and latest thought on these plays.
In addition to these introductions there are notes and comments from nearly two hundred of the ablest Shakesfpearean critics who have interested themselves in correcting the errors of the original printers of the folio and quarto issues of the plays, and who have suggested better readings and more satisfactory meanings. In the first volume is a Life of Shakespeare by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, who devoted a life to research into the history of the poet's career. Following this is a Chronological List of Shakespeare's Plays, a List of Contemporary Plays, and an Index of the Characters in the Plays. Each play is preceded by a preface by Professor Israel Gollancz and an Introduction by Henry Norman Hudson. Then follow the comments and a synopsis by the editor. The critical and explanatory notes by Professor Gollancz, Hudson and Herford accompany the text and are printed at the foot of the same page as is the matter to which they refer. A Glossary by Professor Gollancz and a set of Study Questions complete each volume.
It will be at once evident that this edition of Shakespeare's works is, for every valuable purpose, the most desirable. Text, biographies, comments, notes, elucidations and criticisms are by the ablest scholars and thinkers; while
the type and general make-up of the volumes are for the comfort and enjoyment of the reader.
This edition of Shakespeare's Works is not a piece of dryasdustery. On the contrary, it is what it was intended it should be, namely, a living and helpful companion with whom the reader can talk and of whom he can ask questions with the assurance that he will receive satisfying answers. With this edition in his possession the reader and student can have no excuse for not reading, understanding and thoroughly enjoying the plays of Shakespeare. The enjoyment is a rare and most desirable pleasure and, once experienced, will never be forgotten. To understand this man's writings is to harvest a wisdom which no other literature can give us in equal measure or in equal ripeness. When we have understood and enjoyed we shall know how profoundly true it is of Shakespeare what Shakespeare said of one of his own characters: "The gods still give us some faults to make us men," but "a rarer spirit" than this "ne'er did steer humanity."
In the reign of King Edward the Sixth there lived in Warwickshire a farmer named Richard Shakespeare, who rented a messuage and a considerable quantity of land at Snitterfield, an obscure village in that county. He had two sons, one of whom, named Henry, continued throughout his life to reside in the same parish. John, the other son, left his father's home about the year 1551, and, shortly afterwards, is found residing in the neighboring and comparatively large borough of Stratford-on-Avon, in the locality which has been known from the middle ages. to the present day as Henley Street, so called from its being the terminus of the road from Henley-in-Arden, a markettown about eight miles distant.
At this period, and for many generations afterwards, the sanitary condition of the thoroughfares of Stratfordon-Avon was, to our present notions, simply terrible. Under-surface drainage of every kind was then an unknown art in the district. There was a far greater extent of moisture in the land than would now be thought possible, and streamlets of a water-power sufficient for the operations of corn-mills meandered through the town. This general humidity intensified the evils arising from the
want of scavengers, or other effective appliances for the preservation of cleanliness. House-slops were recklessly thrown into ill-kept channels that lined the sides of unmetalled roads; pigs and geese too often reveled in the puddles and ruts; while here and there small middens were ever in the course of accumulation, the receptacles of offal and every species of nastiness. A regulation for the removal of these collections to certain specified localities interspersed through the borough, and known as common dung-hills, appears to have been the extent of the interference that the authorities ventured or cared to exercise in such matters. Sometimes, when the nuisance was thought to be sufficiently flagrant, they made a raid on those inhabitants who had suffered their refuse to accumulate largely in the highways. On one of these occasions, in April, 1552, John Shakespeare was amerced in the sum of twelve-pence for having amassed what was no doubt a conspicuous sterquinarium before his house in Henley Street, and under these unsavory circumstances does the history of the poet's father commence in the records of England. But although there was little excuse for his negligence, one of the public stores of filth being within a stone's throw of his residence, all that can be said to his disparagement is that he was not in advance of his neighbors in such matters, two of whom were coincidently fined for the same offense.
For some years subsequently to this period, John Shakespeare was a humble tradesman at Stratford-on-Avon, holding no conspicuous position in the town; yet still he must have been tolerably successful in business, for in October, 1556, he purchased two small freehold estates, one being the building in Henley Street annexed to that which is