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their spelling vagaries, their misreadings of the "copy," and their inability to reproduce intelligently any words in a foreign language - have set no mean difficulties in the way of the Shakespearean scholar. But the opportunities of attaining full and satisfying knowledge of Shakespeare's writings must not be unduly disparaged. Many columns of the First Folio and many pages of the quartos can be perused uninterruptedly with understanding by the careful student of Elizabethan typography and Elizabethan English. Probably no more than one in each thousand lines presents really formidable obstacles to the expert reader's progress. And Shakespeare's writings were inherently of too fertile and too potent an excellence to suffer materially or permanently from the embarrassments or incompetence of those who first saw them through the press. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a long line of able editors set all but a few fragments of the original texts on a sound and intelligible typographical footing. The best results were embodied in the Cambridge edition, mainly prepared by Dr. Aldis Wright, and that version of the text is followed in the present edition.

The profitable opportunities which Shakespeare's works offer for exercises in textual criticism are no longer abundant. It is needful indeed to resist the temptation of making fresh conjectural emendations. Many a passage which has puzzled the uninitiated reader and has been denounced by him as a corruption of scrivener or compositor, loses its obscurity, even as it stands in the First Folio, or in the original quartos, in the seeing eye

of the trained Shakespearean scholar. At any rate, none should now endeavour to repair the typographical errors of the first editions who is not specially equipped for the task. It is requisite to acquire beforehand a thorough knowledge of the orthography, the phraseology, the prosody, the technical vocabulary, the printer's and publisher's methods of work, which were in vogue in Shakespeare's era. The textual critic must be gifted with a natural appreciation of the rhythm of prose and He must above all things have faith in the complex resources of Shakespeare's genius and some capacity to realise its varied working. The typographical defects of the original editions of Shakespeare should neither be extenuated nor exaggerated; but the unique place, which those rare volumes hold in the world's literature as the sole surviving sources of first-hand knowledge of Shakespeare's writings, gives their text indefeasible right only to be handled in the sternest spirit of reverent scholarship.



It is among the happiest fortunes of the Englishspeaking peoples that Shakespeare should have written in their tongue, and should have become a link binding them together in a common affection for him. But Shakespeare's glory is no creation of mere patriotic or racial sentiment. Nor can it be justly regarded as an exclusively English possession.

'Although an Englishman and an English writer of an epoch in English history which bears very definitely the

impress of the national character, Shakespeare's transcendental power has long since overridden the limitations of nationality. No charge of provincial infatuation can now be brought against the English-speaking peoples who honour Shakespeare as the greatest of great men. No undue pride of race can be alleged against those who, descending from his fellow-countrymen, acclaim his supremacy in the universal empire of literature. Nations which bear no lineal relation with him are as generous in their laudation as those who are born to speak his language. His pre-eminence is recognised in every quarter of the globe to which civilised life has penetrated. All the world over, language is applied to his creations that ordinarily applies to beings of flesh and blood. Hamlet and Othello, Lear and Macbeth, Falstaff and Shylock, Brutus and Romeo, Ariel and Caliban are studied in almost every civilised tongue as if they were historic personalities, and the chief of the impressive phrases that fall from their lips are rooted in the speech of civilised humanity. Differences of national or racial temperament count for little or nothing in the recognition of Shakespeare. It was the Frenchman Dumas who gave voice to the eulogy that is not likely to be surpassed in pith or moment: "After God, Shakespeare has created most."




THIS Figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut:
Wherein the Graver had a strife

With Nature, to out-do the life:
O, could he but have drawn his wit
As well in brass, as he hath hit
His face, the Print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass.
But, since he cannot, Reader, look,

Not on his Picture, but his Book.

BI 3

1 The spelling of the contents of the prefatory pages has been modernised and the punctuation revised. Capital letters have been retained.

2 Printed on the fly-leaf facing the titlepage of the First Folio, on which appeared the engraving of Shakespeare's portrait by Martin Droeshout.


BI] Ben Jonson. See note on p. [xxxiii], infra.


To the most noble and Incomparable pair of brethren, William Earl of Pembroke, &c Lord Chamberlain to the King's most Excellent Majesty, and Philip Earl of Montgomery, &c Gentleman of his Majesty's bed-chamber, both knights of the most Noble Order of the Garter, and our singular good Lords.1



Whilst we study to be thankful in our particular, for the many favours we have received from your Lordships, we are fallen upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can be, fear and rashness; rashness in the enterprise and fear of the success. For, when we value the places your Highnesses sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles and, while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the defence of our Dedication. But since your Lordships have been pleased to think these trifles something heretofore, and have prosecuted both them and their Author living with so much favour, we hope that (they outliving him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings) you will use the like indulgence toward them you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Book choose

1 William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke (1580-1630), had been Knight of the Garter since 1603 and Lord Chamberlain since 1615. His younger brother Philip (1584-1650), who was created Earl of Montgomery in 1605, was made Knight of the Garter in 1608, and succeeded to the earldom of Pembroke on his elder brother's death in 1630. Both were generous patrons of poets and dramatists, and numerous volumes were, as in the present instance, dedicated to them jointly. Cf. Ducci's Ars Aulica, or The Courtier's Arte, 1607, Stephens' A World of Wonders, 1607, and Gerardo, The Unfortunate Spaniard, a translation by Leonard Digges of a Spanish novel, 1622.

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