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No apology seems necessary for again bringing our inmortal Bard before the public, nor for adding another to the numerous editions of his works, which have already issued, and which will, while the English language lasts, continue to issue, from the press. His transcendent merits require none of the eulogist's encomiums; the increasing, and almost universal estimation, in which he is held, is manifest from the numerous and varied editions of his works continually brought forward. And there is no part of the British Empire, or hardly a spot inhabited by a being who can read his language, in which Shaskpeare, in some garb or other, may not be found.

The object of the present edition has been to give the text of the author pure and correct, and to unite excellence with cheapness-to afford a handsome and complete book, at a moderate price. No edition of Shakspeare has hitherto been precisely upon the same plan as the present. The text of the last edition by Mr. Reed, in twenty one volumes, octavo, has been adhered to in every respect, with the exception of some amendment (it is hoped) in the punctuation, and one alteration only in the text itself, which will be noticed hereafter. It is neither overloaded nor interrupted by notes of any kind. The Public is here presented with Shakspeare, and nothing but Shakspeare, and the whole of his extensive dramatic works are comprised in two portable volumes.


This edition is printed uniformly with the British Drama, of which, indeed, it may be said to form a part; a work, which has been generally admired, both in its plan and execution. With that work it makes a complete series of our best dramatic writers; and thus, in the most convenient space, in a handsome form, and at a very moderate price, the public is in possession of a comprehensive, yet portable, library of the best English dramatic literature, from the earliest period to the present time.




THE most indefatigable researches have been made, and the ablest pens have been employed, in bringing to light and recording every circumstance, however minute and trifling in itself, relative to the life and actions of our greatest national dramatic poet. But the length of time that had elapsed from the death of Shakspeare to the period, when these researches commenced, has rendered the effects of them of less importance than could have been wished; and but few events have come to light since Mr. Rowe undertook to write his Life. That Life contains, says Dr. Johnson, all that is now known, though not written with much elegance or spirit.

The following remarks are confessedly taken from Mr. Rowe's Life, which is here very considerably abridged: While some of his mistakes are rectified, and such other matter is inserted, as the labours of more recent editors have discovered.

William Shakspeare was born at Stratford on Avon, in April 1564. His father, whose name was John, was at one time possessed of considerable property; but from losses in trade, for he was a dealer in wool, or some other cause, now unknown, he became very much reduced in his circumstances. At one time, probably when he was appointed a justice of the peace, he was possessed, in lands and tenements, of £500 (See Malone's note, page 59, vol. I. Reed's edition 1803,) but whether of yearly rent, or otherwise, does not appear. In 1569, John Shakspeare filled the office of High Bailiff in Stratford.

His mother was the daughter and heir of Robert Arden, " a gentleman of worship," as he is called, of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick.

Our author was the eldest of ten children. His father placed him at first at the free school in the town. His stay there, however, was but short, as he was soon taken from thence, on account, probably, of the misfortunes of his paHe was immediately put to the business of his father. At least, so says Rowe; while Mr. Malone supposes him to have been placed, upon his removal



from school, with some attorney or seneschal of a manor court:-Shakspeare was eighteen when he married, as appears from a flat stone in the parish church of Stratford, on which the deaths both of his wife and eldest daughter are inscribed. The latter died on the 11th July, 1649, aged sixty-six, consequently he was nineteen years old, when she was born. His wife's name was Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a respectable yeoman in the neighbourhood. She was eight years older than her husband. He continued at Stratford for some time after his marriage; but either falling into bad company, or being of an extravagant heedless disposition, his wild and lawless conduct compelled him to fly from his family. Deer stealing was then a much more usual crime than at present, particularly near the forests; and although it was reckoned a heinous offence, there does not seem to have been that degree of odium attached to it, which it certainly deserved. In this employment, however, our bard was engaged more than once, and was, in fact, caught, while robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, at Charlecote, near Stratford. The consequence of his detection was a prosecution by that gentleman; to revenge himself for which, he wrote a satirical ballad on him. This composition possesses very little if any merit. It is curious, however, as it had the effect he wished. It may be worth while to insert the only stanza now extant; it is the first, and is as follows:

A parliemente member, a justice of peace,

At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse,
If lowsie is Lucy, as some volk miscalle it,
Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befall it:

He thinks himself greate,

Yet an asse in his state,

We allow by his ears but with asses to mate.
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volk miscalle it,
Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befall it.

This ballad, trifling and contemptible as it appears from this specimen to have been, had a considerable effect upon Sir Thomas, a vain, weak, and vindictive magistrate, as Steevens calls him. Shakspeare stuck it up at his park gates, and got it circulated among the neighbourhood. The consequence of this was, as might be expected, the most violent enmity on the part of the person lampooned, and our author was obliged to leave that part of the country.

From this period is to be dated his first acquaintance with the stage; and theatrical tradition gives him the humble employment of what is now denomi nated call-boy" to the prompter. He soon, however, distinguished himself,. at least as an author, if not as an actor, though, as was usual in those days,

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