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PRINTED FOR JOHN STOCKDALE, PICCADILLY ;
A NEW edition of Silakspeare, and an edition of so singular a form as the present, in which all bis Plays are comprehended in One Volume, will, perhaps, appear surprising to many readers; but, upon a little reflection, their surprise will, the editor doubts not, be conyerted into approbation.
Much as Shakspeare has been read of late years, and widely as the study and admiration of him have been extended, there is still a numerous class to whom he is very imperfectly known. Many of the middling and lower ranks of the inhabitants of this country are either not acquainted with him at all, excepting by name, or have only seen a few of his Plays, which have accidentally fallen in their way.
It is to supply the wants of those persons, that the present edition is principally undertaken; and it cannot fail of becoming, to them, a perpetual source of entertainment and instruction. That they will derive the highest entertainment from it, no one can deny; for it does not require any extraordinary degree of knowledge or education to enter into the general spirit of Shakspeare. The passions he describes, are the passions which are felt by every human being; and his wit and humour are not local, or confined to the customs of a particular age, but are such as will give pleasure at all times, and to men of all ranks, from the highest to the lowest.
But the instruction that may be drawn from Shakspeare, is equal to the entertainment which bis writings afford. He is the greatest master of human nature and of human life that, perhaps, ever existed; so that we cannot peruse his works without having our understandings considerably enlarged. Besides this, he abounds in occasional maxims and reflections, which are calculated to make a deep impression upon the mind. There is scarcely any circumstance in the common occurrences of the world, on which something may not be found peculiarly applicable, in Shakspeare; and, at the same time, better expressed than in any other author. To promote, therefore, the knowledge of them, is to contribute to general improvement. a 3