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Copyright 1896, by
Plinpton Press H. M. PLIMPTON & Co., PRINTERS & BINDERS,
NORWOOD, MASS., U.S.A.
The longer I teach English literature, the clearer grows my conviction that what young students of this subject need is guidance and stimulus to self-help rather than large supplies of direct information. Hence I have always disapproved, — and I disapprove to-day more strongly than ever, —of the practice of appending to English texts full elucidations of the difficulties that may check a reader's progress. For I believe that for a reader to have his progress checked, and to find himself reduced to the necessity of thinking, investigating, comparing and remembering, is educationally a most wholesome and desirable consummation. A recitation abounding in prompt and correct answers, furnished forth from the stores of the memory, is a thing to be guarded against: its smoothness is a delusion and a snare. The matter in hand is to receive light from many sources. The pedagogic art consists in focusing upon a point as many rays as a score or two of vigorous and prepared minds can give out from their stores of discoveries and conjectures.
In accordance with these convictions I have prepared this edition of Macbeth. Conceding so much to custom and convenience, I have called by the name of notes a body of matter which I have added to the text of the play: but it will be seen that these notes are, strictly, not notes at all in the conventional sense, but rather queries; not giving answers, but calling for them; prompting to vigi
lance, rather than begetting heedlessness by making vigilance unnecessary. Long habituation to informationgiving notes fosters that feeling of security which is mortals' chiefest enemy. The habit of querying and responding to queries issues in scholarship. The scholar knows how to go to work. He has begun to feel at home in literature. He has learned to carry his difficulty in his mind for a season, knowing that its solution is sure.
My notes therefore are queries; with here and there a conventional note to set forth a point I deemed too remote from the range of search possible to youth. I have printed here a considerable number of the questions I would ask, and the topics for exploration I would assign, on the play of Macbeth. By no means, however, would I be understood as having exhausted, -or come anywhere near exhausting, — the stock of possible class-room questioning on this play. It will be easy to think of knotty Shakespearian problems much more perplexing than any I have broached. I may say, however, that I have meant, by my queries, to indicate how far it seems to me in high schools desirable to push the discussion of Shakespearian difficulties. The scope of possible querying among the easier subjects is of course practically unlimited.
To facilitate juvenile research in Shakespeare, the first requisite is free access to the Globe edition of the poet's works. The school should possess Globes enough for the pupils to use without restriction, some carrying the books home at night, and others finding their chance in the study hours. The Crowell Globe Shakespeare is not a handsome book, but it is cheap. The Macmillan Globe costs twice as much and is all of twice as good.
It will be seen that I have laid emphasis on the study of Shakespeare's rhythm. The study of English metric has been, in secondary education, most grievously neglected. I find that an ear for rhythm, even in communities reputed highly cultivated, and especially devoted to music, is almost non-existent. Multitudes of girls play the piano: but hardly one in a hundred reads verse. Multitudes sing: but the speaking voice hàs run wild, and rarely betrays literary culture. This is a defect in our education which I do not perceive that our pedagogical theorists recognize or care about.
But whatever may be the case in educational theory, in literary study it is to be said that vocal expression, the faculty of surrender to verse movement, the power to modulate the voice in harmony with the artistic presentation of emotion, is an element of culture of the very first importance. Notes and queries will be of but slight avail in the teaching of the art of vocal expression. Nothing will suffice here but the skill of the teacher in opening to responsive minds the secrets of poetic meaning, and in setting the living example with his own voice.
What seemed feasible in printed note or query I have, within the limited scope of my plan, undertaken to do. The Shakespearian verse is normally iambic with five accents. Departures from this norm, except in the confessed short lines, are rare, unless the poet has an obvious dramatic purpose to subserve by a change of rhythm. Thus there has been frequent occasion for calling attention to peculiarities of the Shakespearian verse management, and, occasionally, for warning against misplacement of emphasis, or against conceiving a speech wrongly as regards its tone.