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Three of the five plays contained in this volume are to be found among the Tragedies in the First Folio, although, perhaps, strictly speaking, only two-Julius Cæsar and Macbeth—really belong to that category; Troilus and Cressida being a play of that nondescript class which is generally described as tragi-comedy. Of the two comedies which complete this volume, All's Well That Ends Well is one of the least popular of all Shakespeare's plays of that class; while Measure for Measure forms, as it were, a stepping-stone betweéri che greatest of his comedies and the greatest of his tragedies.". It is a play but seldom seen upon the stage; yet it is quite as dramatic as 'The Merchant of Venice, though the nature of the story, and the almost total absence of the element of high comedy, will prevent its ever attaining any great popularity.
The delay in the issue of this volume has been caused by more than one circumstance, chiefly by an unfortunate loss of nearly four acts of the text of Hamlet, which had been prepared for the printers. It was thought better, therefore, to include Macbeth in this volume; though it must be clearly understood that this play is entirely out of its chronological order. In fact, according to the original plan, Hamlet should have preceded both Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida. I have to thank Mr. Arthur Symons for enabling us to get this play ready under very considerable pressure as to time.
As in the last volume, those notes added by me to plays edited by any of our collaborators, for the opinions expressed in which I am solely responsible, are distinguished by the addition of my initials. For the Stage Histories of all the plays in this volume I am also responsible.
I cannot help referring here to a loss which all lovers and students of Shakespeare have recently sustained. As this volume was being prepared for publication, the news arrived of the death of Mr. HalliwellPhillipps, whose long and loving devotion to the memory of Shakespeare has given to us work, the value of which it would be difficult to exaggerate. From the very commencement of this edition he took the warmest interest in it; and I owe much to the hearty encouragement which I always received from him. In spite of the fact that many of the conclusions arrived at, and of the opinions expressed in my
Introductions, were contrary to those which, guided by the experience of a lifetime, he himself held, his criticism of our work was as generous as his help, in every way and whenever we asked it, was ungrudgingly given. It is impossible not to feel that, not only I myself personally, but all concerned in the production of the Henry Irving Shakespeare, have lost a true friend. I had hoped to have had the benefit of his guidance in the preparation of the brief life of Shakespeare, which is to be given with the last volume of this edition; but that, alas, was not to be; and I can only hope that all. of us, who are engaged in the study of Shakespeare, may try anu: Säitate his qintiring industry, his genuine modesty, his true kindness of heart, and his:layal enthusiasm in the work to which he devoted not only his time, but what is dearer to many men than their time—a great portion of his fợrtune.
F. A. MARSHALL.
London, January, 1889.