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In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylva úa.

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[A Literal Copy from the Edition of 1623.]


To the most Noble and Incomparable Paire of Brethren. William Earle of Pembroke, &c. Lord Chamberlaine to the Kings moft Excellent Maiefty.

And Philip Earle of Montgomery, &c. Gentleman of his Maiefties Bed-Chamber. Both Knights of the most Noble Order of the Garter, and our fingular good Lords.

Right Honourable,

HILST we ftudie to be thankful in our particular, for the many fauors we haue receiued from your L. L. we are falne vpon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diuerse things that can bee, feare, and rashnesse; rashnesse in the enterprize, and feare of the fucceffe. For, when we valew the places your H. H. sustaine, we cannot but know their dignity greater, then to defcend to the reading of these trifles: and, while we name them trifles, we have depriu'd our felues of the defence of our Dedication. But fince your L. L. haue beene pleas'd to thinke these trifles fome-thing, heeretofore; and haue profequuted both them, and their Author liuing, with fo much fauour: we hope, that (they out-liuing him, and he not hauing the fate, common with fome, to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will vse the like indulgence toward them, you haue done vnto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Booke choose his Patrones, or finde them: This hath done both. For, fo much were your L. L. likings of the feuerall parts, when they were acted, as before they were published, the Volume ask'd to be yours. We haue but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition either of felfe-profit, or fame; onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow aliue, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we haue iuftly obferued, no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addreffe; it hath bin the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the prefent worthy of your H. H. by the perfection. But, there we must also craue our abilities to be confiderd, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our owne powers. Country hands reach foorth milke, creame, fruites, or what they haue: and many Nations (we haue heard) that had not gummes & incense, obtained their requests with a leauened Cake. It was no fault to approch their Gods, by what meanes they could: And the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples. In that name therefore, we most humbly confecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your feruant Shakespeare: that what delight is in them, may be euer your L. L. the reputation his, & the faults ours, if any be committed, by a payre so carefull to fhew their gratitude both to the liuing, and the dead, as is

Your Lordshippes moft bourden,



[A Literal Copy from the Edition of 1623.]



ROM the most able, to him that can but fpell: There you are number'd. We had rather you were weighd. Efpecially, when the fate of all Bookes depends vpon your capacities: and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well! it is now publique, & you wil ftand for your priuiledges wee know: to read, and cenfure. Do fo, but buy it firft. That doth best commend a Booke, the Stationer faies. Then, how odde foeuer your braines be, or your wifedomes, make your licence the fame, and fpare not. Iudge your fixe-pen'orth, your fhillings worth, your fiue fhillings worth at a time, or higher, fo you rife to the iuft rates, and welcome. But, what euer you do, Buy. Cenfure will not driue a Trade, or make the lacke go. And though you be a Magiftrate of wit, and fit on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie, know, these Playes haue had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, then any purchas'd Letters of commendation.

It had bene a thing, we confeffe, worthie to haue bene wifhed, that the Author himfelfe had liu'd to haue fet forth, and ouerfeen his owne writings; But fince it hath bin ordain'd otherwife, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envie his Friends, the office of their care, and paine, to haue collected, & publish'd them; and fo to haue publifh'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diuerse ftolne, and furreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious impofters, that expos'd them: euen thofe, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the reft, abfolute in their numbers, as he conceiued them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, was a moft gentle expreffer of it. His mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he vttered with that eafineffe, that wee haue scarfe receiued from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and giue them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be loft. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe : And if then you doe not like him, furely you are in fome manifeft danger, not to vnderstand him. And fo we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your felues, and others. And fuch Readers we wish him.







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Our illustrious poet was the eldest son, and received his early education, however narrow or liberal, at a free school, probably that founded at Stratford. From this he appears to have been soon removed, and placed in the office of some country attorney, or the seneschal of some manor court, where it is highly probable he picked up those technical law phrases that so frequently occur in his plays, and could not have been in common use, unless among professional men.


ILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d day of April, 1564. Of the rank of his family it is not easy to form an opinion. Mr. Rowe says that by the register and certain public writings relating to Stratford, it appears that his ancestors were "of good figure and fashion,” in that town, and are mentioned as “gentlemen,” an epithet which was more determinate then than at present, when it has become an unlimited phrase of courtesy. His father, John Shake-early life was incompatible with a course of education; speare, was a considerable dealer in wool, and had been an officer and bailiff (probably high-bailiff or mayor) of the body corporate of Stratford. He held also the office of justice of the peace; and at one time, it is said, possessed lands and tenements to the amount of £500, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and approved services to King Henry VII. This, however, has been asserted upon very doubtful authority. But whatever may have been his former wealth, it appears In his eighteenth year, or perhaps a little sooner, to have been greatly reduced in the latter part of his he married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older life, as we find, from the books of the Corporation, than himself, the daughter of one Hathaway, who is that, in 1579, he was excused the trifling weekly tax said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighof fourpence levied on all the aldermen; and that, in borhood of Stratford. Of his domestic economy, or 1586, another alderman was appointed in his room, in professional occupation at this time, we have no inconsequence of his declining to attend on the business formation; but it would appear that both were in a of that office. It is even said that he followed for some considerable degree neglected by his associating with time the occupation of a butcher. It must have been, a gang of deer-stealers. Being detected with them in however, at this time, no inconsiderable addition to robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, his difficulties that he had a family of ten children. near Stratford, he was so rigorously prosecuted by His wife was the daughter and heiress of Robert that gentleman, as to be obliged to leave his family Arden of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who is styled "a gentleman of worship." The woodland part of this country was anciently called Ardern, afterwards softened to Arden; and hence the name.

and it is certain, that "his contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually termed literature." It is, indeed, a strong argument in favor of Shakespeare's illiterature, that it was maintained by all his contemporaries, many of whom have left upon record every merit they could bestow on him; and by his successors, who lived nearest to his time, when "his memory was green."

and business, and take shelter in London. Sir Thomas, on this occasion, is said to have been exasperated by a ballad Shakespeare wrote, probably his first essay in poetry.

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