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The text here presented has been carefully collated with that of six or seven of the best editions. Where there was any disagreement we have adopted the readings which seemed most reasonable and were supported by the best authority.

Professor Meiklejohn's exhaustive notes form the substance of those here used; and his plan, as set forth in the “General Notice" annexed, has been carried out in these volumes. But as these editions of the plays are intended rather for pupils in school and college than for ripe Shakespearian scholars, we have not hesitated to prune his notes of whatever was thought to be too learned for our purpose, or on other grounds was deemed irrelevant to it.


An attempt has been made in these editions to interpret Shakespeare by the aid of Shakespeare himself. The Method of Comparison has been constantly employed; and the language used by him in one place has been compared with the language used in other places in similar circumstances, as well as with older English and with newer English.

“The first purpose in this elaborate annotation is, of course, the full working out of Shakespeare's meaning. The Editor has in all circumstances taken as much pains with this as if he had been making out the difficult and obscure terms of a will in which he himself was personally interested; and he submits that this thorough excavation of the meaning of a really profound thinker is one of the very best kinds of training that a boy or girl can receive at school. This is to read the very mind of Shakespeare, and to weave his thoughts into the fibre of one's own mental constitution. And always new rewards come to the careful reader-in the shape of new meanings, recognition of thoughts he had before missed, of relations between the characters that had hitherto escaped him. For reading Shakespeare is just like examining Nature; there are no hollownesses, there is no scamped work, for Shakespeare is as patiently exact and as first-hand as Nature herself.

"Besides this thorough working-out of Shakespeare's meaning, advantage has been taken of the opportunity to teach his English to make each play an introduction to the English of Shakespeare. For this purpose copious collections of similar phrases have been gathered from other plays; his idioms have been dwelt upon; his peculiar use of words; his style and his rhythm. Some teachers may consider that too many instances are given; but, in teaching, as in everything else, the old French saying is true: Assez n'y a, s'il trop n'y a. The teacher need not require each pupil to give him all the instances collected. If each gives one or two, it will probably be enough; and, among them all, it is certain that one or two will stick in the memory.

“It were much to be hoped that Shakespeare should become more and more of a study, and that every boy and girl should have a thorough knowledge of at least one play of Shakespeare before leaving school. It would be one of the best lessons in human life. It would also have the effect of bringing back into the too pale and formal English of modern times a large number of pithy and vigorous phrases which would help to develop as well as to reflect vigor in the characters of the readers. Shakespeare used the English language with more power than any other writer that ever lived-he made it do more and say more than it had ever done; he made it speak in a more original way; and his combinations of words are perpetual provocations and invitations to originality and to newness of insight.”—J. M. MEIKLEJOHN, M. A., Late Professor of Pedagogy in the University of St. Andrews.



"Shakespeare was born, it is thought, April 23, 1564, the son of a comfortable burgess of Stratford-on-Avon. While he was still young, his father fell into poverty, and an interrupted education left the son an inferior scholar. He had 'small Latin and less Greek.' But by dint of genius and by living in a society in which all sorts of information were attainable, he became an accomplished man. The story told of his deer-stealing in Charlecote woods is without proof, but it is likely that his youth was wild and passionate. At nineteen he married Ann Hathaway, seven years older than himself, and was probably unhappy with her. For this reason or from poverty, or from the driving of the genius that led him to the stage, he left Stratford about 1586–1587, and went to London at the age of twenty-two; and, falling in with Marlowe, Greene, and the rest, he became an actor and a playwright, and may have lived their unrestrained and riotous life for some years.

“His First Period.—It is probable that before leaving Stratford he had sketched a part at least of his Venus and Adonis. It is full of the country sights and sounds, of the ways of birds and animals, such as he saw when wandering in Charlecote woods. Its rich and overladen poetry and its warm coloring made him, when it was published, in 1593, at once the favorite of men like Lord Southampton, and lifted him into fame. But before that date he had done work for the stage by touching up old plays and writing new ones. We seem to trace his 'prentice hand' in many dramas of the time; but the first he is usually thought to have retouched is Titus Andronicus, and, some time after, the First Part of Henry VI. " Love's Labour 's Lost, the first of his original plays, in which he

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