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INTRODUCTION TO FOURTH
THE appearance of this biography of Shakespeare in a fourth edition within two years of the date of its publication may be interpreted, without assumption on the part of the author, as one of the many evidences of the growth of interest in the work of the foremost poet who has used our language. As the peoples who speak that language are driven more and more by their world-wide activities and responsibilities to study their own motives and the sources of their power they will turn with deepening concern to the man who, more profoundly than any other who has given expression to their spirit and genius, has comprehended their view of life, of character, and of history, and interpreted it in dramatic form.
Consciously or unconsciously Shakespeare has formulated that underlying conception of the interdependence of thought and action, of the fundamental significance of character in relation to truth, which is the key to the spirit and achievement of the English-speaking peoples. The more impressively this conception is disclosed in action and institution the deeper will be the craving for clear comprehension of its nature and significance ; and in the search for this deeper understanding of themselves the peoples of English blood will turn more and more eagerly to the greatest text-book of their
In this study of Shakespeare it has been the endeavour of the writer to present the poet as a man, not as a series of problems associated with a name; to reveal the dramatist in the growth of his spirit, his thought, and his art by filling in the background of landscape, educational opportunity, social condition, and race activity, which, in connection with his work, give his face distinctness of outline and feature. It is hardly necessary to remind students that the uncertainties and doubts with regard to Shakespeare which have been widely discussed, and to which an importance has sometimes been attached out of all proportion to their reality and weight, found their opportunity at a time when Shakespearean scholarship was far less rich and thorough than it has become of late years, and have their root very largely in lack of familiarity
with the conditions under which the dramatist did his work, or in lack of literary insight and feeling.
The kindly reception which this study has received at the hands not only of students of Shakespeare, but of scholars of standing here and abroad, has confirmed the writer in his conviction that there was room for a biography which, in an unassuming spirit, should put aside the numberless technical questions and approach the author of “Hamlet” as one approaches the author of “In Memoriam " or of “ Pippa Passes.”
The edition of the plays and poems in connection with which this biography now appears possesses the highest authority both as regards text and critical apparatus. The text is based on the work of the editors of the Cambridge and Globe Shakespeares, and it is hardly necessary to say that no better textual work has been done in the field of Shakespearean scholarship. It involved an exhaustive collocation of the four Folios and of all the Quarto editions, and of all the later editions and commentaries. Professor Herford's Introductions present, in a very interesting form, the historical and literary data relating to the sources of the plays and poems, and an interpretation of their place and meaning in Shakespeare's work as a whole; while the notes