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A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE, AND AN ESTIMATE OF HIS WRITINGS ;
cat DIA, Discuits US-Nostri Est FARRAGo Lunelli. Juvenal.
AND H. S. BAYNES, EDINBURGH.
The present collection of Shakspeare's Plays differs in arrangement from any out has hitherto been published. The Tragedies, Comedies, and Historical Plays, are divided; and in each division, the consecutive order of the pieces has reference to the reasury in which the action is laid, or to the epoch at which it is supposed to have taken place. Such as are founded on Grecian or Roman occurrences, are distinctly separated from those which commemorate the events of British history; and in each class a proper corological priority is as much as possible maintained. Thus the merry knights of Christendom are not associated with the sober demagogues of Rome; nor the belles and beaux of Venice confounded with the “worn and withered” phantoms of a Scottish heath.
The text has been critically and laboriously collated with the standard edition of 1803, and an uniform and judicious method of punctuation, so necessary to the intelligibility of the old English writers, has been adopted throughout.
Large or numerous notes being inconsistent with the design of the work, such only are subjoined, as were necessary for explaining obsolete words, unusual passages, old customs, and obscure allusions.
A literary and historical Notice is prefixed to each Play, containing a succinct crititen upon its merits or defects, tracing the origin of its plot, investigating the fidelity as as characters, and assigning as nearly as possible the date of its production.
is the preparation of these, and of the biographical portraiture of Shakspeare, the resarks of Rowe, Pope, Theobald, Warburton, Hanmer, Jolinson, Stevens, Malone, Reed, Percy, Tollett, Warton, Hazlett, and others, have been carefully examined, and courasted with each other.
The Editor feels that little praise can accompany the termination of his undertaking, u -ity of matter be the only criterion of merit; but he thought it more becoming to *dease and re-mould the accumulated comments of so many distinguished writers, as to revive speculations which have become too stale to be interesting, or to search * ees proofs of that which has long been an article of belief.
it was formerly urged, as a recommendation of polite studies, that they were always **panionable, and never cumbersome. “Delectant domi, non impediunt foris,” says 1-1. “At home they are delightful, and abroad they are not troublesome.” In the use manner, this edition may conveniently accompany the traveller by a stage-coach, -s tourist in his chaise or gig, and the pedestrian in his solitary ramble.
To comprise the multiplied and diffusive materials of many large, laboured, and costly polications, in one commodious volume, has not been unattended with difficulty; but * type is sufficiently large for the common purposes of study, whilst the beautiful • *-dow of margin" by which it is surrounded, secures its handsome appearance *** clothed in a proper binding, and placed upon the shelves of a library.
WILLIAM SHARspeARE was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, April 23, 1564. His ancestors are mentioned as “gentlemen of good figure and fashion.” His frther was a considerable dealer in wool, and had been the high-bailiff or mayor of the body corporate of Stratford. . He held also the office of justice of the peace, and at one time, it is said, possessed lands and tenements to the amount of £500; but he must have been greatly reduced in the latter part of his life, as he was excused the trifling weekly tax of fourpence, levied on all aldermen, and subsequently resigned the office to another individual. His wife was the daughter and heiress of Robert Arden, of Wellingcote, in Warwickshire, “a gentleman of worship.” This lady brought him ten children; of whom William, our poet, was the eldest. At a proper age he was sent to the freeschool in stratford, to which he was indebted for whatever learning he may have possessed; though his father had apparently no design to make him “a scholar,” as he took him, at an early period, into his own business. Mr. Malone, on the contrary, conjectures, that he was placed in the office of some country attorney, after leaving school, or with the semeschal of some manor court, where he picked up those technical law phrases that so frequently occur in his plays, and could not have been in common use unless among prosessional men. However this may be, he resolved to write “man” earlier than usual, and before be was eighteen, married Anne Hathaway, eight years older than himself, the daughter of John Hathaway, who is said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. Before the expiration of his minority he became the father of three children, a son and two daughters, his wife producing him twins. Nothing is known of his domestic economy or professional occupation at this time; though Mr. Capell supposes that flu, early marriage prevented his being sent to some university. Shortly after the birth of his youngest child, he left Stratford for the metropolis : his motive for doing so, as well as his connexion and prospects in London, are involved in considerable obscurity. It is said that he became acquainted with a gang of deer-stealers, and being detected with them in robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, was prosecuted with so much rigour as to be obliged to take shelter in London; having first revenged himself upon the knight by writing a satirical ballad. This was affixed to Sir Thomas's park-gates, and being liberally circulated in the neighbourhood, excited considerable attention, though it does no honour to our poet's genius, and was manifestly unjust. Some writers have asserted, that Shakspeare escaped with impunity after his first offence; but that, repeator it audaciously, he was prosecuted by Sir Thomas, whom he grossly lampooned— ** to escape a prison, he fled to London, where, as might be expected from a man of wit asd humour in similar circumstances, he threw himself among the players, and made his first appearance on the stage in a very subordinate character. This account forcording to a modern publication) is not entitled to full credence; for though he may have associated with some idle youths, either for the sake of catching deer, or for some less difficult and hazardous enterprise, yet the story seems improbable, and comes in such a maestionable shape, that it ought to be strongly corroborated before it be believed. Without depending on this circumstance, or supposing that “he held horses at the door of a theatre for his livelihood,” a rational motive for his visiting London may be found in ** areamstance, that he had a relative and townsman already established there; Thomas Crees, “a celebrated comedian.” The statement of John Aubrey, a student in the unirero of Oxford only twenty-six years after our poet's death, strongly substantiates this - of the case, though it differs in some particulars from the commonly accepted opi* respecting his parentage and occupation. “His father (says Aubrey) was a butcher, * I have been told heretofore, by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he **ernsed his father's trade, but when he killed a calfe, he would doe it in a high style, od make a speeche. This William, (meaning Shakspeare,) being naturally inclined to retro and acting, came to London, I guesse about eighteen, and was an actor at one of to play-houses, and did act exceedingly well. He began early to make essayes at dra**-ose poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his playes tooke well.” This is rod to a certain extent; but the truth probably is, that some freak, or it might be, felony, *ermined shakspeare promptly to embrace that profession to which his habits and *daations had for a long time previously on- him. The playful enthusiasm of his