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Not to interpose any thing of length between the author and his reader, we have thought it proper generally to throw the notes that are grammatical, philological, critical, historical, or explanatory of usages, to the end of each play; and at the bottom of the pages of the text, to give such only as were either very short, or immediately necessary to explain our author's meaning. As to the number of our notes, the mixed and various scenes of Shakespeare embrace so great a variety and vast extent of matter; and talent and intelligence are so very variously and unequally distributed, that to adjust exactly the “ too much or too little,” is utterly impracticable. But though we write for those who are in want of aid, and think it better that some should conceive offence at being taught, than that any should be at a loss for information, we have made no comments but where we have felt doubt ourselves, or seen that others have; and we have suffered nothing like difficulty to pass
without offering our conjecture at least, or acknowledging our inability to remove it. The number may indeed have swelled beyond our wish : and it is true, that not a few of them have been written, lest the reader, misled by great names, should adopt what we conceive to be manifest error. Having taken the arrangement of the scenes, &c. from the current edition of Mr. Reed, and had that edition in our eye throughout, we have adopted a large portion of its notes; as we have also many of the observations and illustrations of subsequent writers.
The tragedy of HAMLET has been chosen as a specimen; not as being the most perfect of our author's dramas, but because, in many points of view, it offered more matter for discussion, than any other of his plays. At the same time, it has always excited a great degree of interest; and, as it ever has been, is now highly popular with the British public: and As YOU LIKE IT, a comedy of the highest general interest, is, as we conceive, the most elegant of our author's compositions of this class.
This is all that it has been thought necessary to state with respect to the Principle of the work. Of the work itself, we have only to say, that the materials have been long collected; and that the whole has now been worked up with as much care as the parts here presented to the public, without the least regard to what the play was, or distinction as to the degree of its merit or popularity. Ill health and a growing infirmity of many years, which terminated in total blindness, were amongst the causes, which prevented the Editor from prosecuting further a work, which seemed not to be called
for: and thence some of the notes, which would have appeared in these pages, were thrown into their
proper places in other plays. As to the division of acts and scenes, consulting the convenience and habits of our readers, we in the present specimen follow the current edition, that of Johnson and Steevens, by Reed.
Licentious and conjectural emendation has not been confined merely to our author's text. His name has, without any sufficient warrant, and against the use and evidence of his own age, and a century and a half afterwards, been barbarously corrupted. As he published it, it was uniformly Shakespeare; and in his Sonnets, printed seven or eight years before his death, it is given with a hyphen, Shake-speare, not only in the title, but in the running line at the head of every leaf throughout the book. It is so also published in the address of one of the copies of commendatory verses, prefixed to the folios. As he published it, all his contemporaries printed it: and such printing, with a pronunciation correspondent with the spelling, descended to the middle of the last century. It is only then upon his signatures to his will and a mortgage deed, fac-similes of which are given from Mr. Malone in Reed's edition, that the modern alteration of his name to Shakspeare is founded. But in one out of these four signatures the last syllable of his name is abbreviated, and in two others spelt by abbreviation differently from what is on all hands admitted to be the proper spelling of his name.* Supposing it to be clear then that he has, solely in these instances, spelt the first syllable also differently, it is not easy to conceive why that should be taken as a decisive proof that his name
was not there also abbreviated, and was other than he had himself in print given it, and the whole world besides had for many generations supposed it to be, and had so printed and pronounced it. And here it may be observed that throughout this very deed, as also in the attestation under the signature itself, the name is spelt Shakespeare. For these reasons, we have continued the reading of his day and the times subsequent, and call our author Shakespeare; a name, which they, who sent out into the world, from time to time, quartos under that name surreptitiously, would never have so printed, and by giving it, as some of them have, with an hyphen in their title-pages, have thus excited suspicion of their fraud, if such had not been his use, and the just and true orthography of their day at least.
noulin Shaffen 284 no Mishran Esjulsport