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INTRODUCTION

HAVE always been disposed to think that collaboration on the

part of several authors in the proan duction of a work of importance

should, where it is possible, be I

avoided; since the probable incompatibility of their views, to say nothing of the inequality of their style, thus only increases the confused estimate concerning Literature already too prevalent in the present Age. But to write of

Shakespeare, under whatever conditions, is a privilege for any one, and for the writer of this Introduction to have an opportunity of doing so for American readers is a peculiarly attractive temptation."

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1 What may be considered to be the well-established facts concerning the life and writings of Shakespeare are, in the opinion of the writer, to be found in Mr. Sidney Lee's erudite, comprehensive, and wholly admirable work on

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The germs of Shakespeare's mature and fully developed genius are to be traced in his earliest acknowledged writings, “ Venus and Adonis,” “ The Rape of Lucrece," and the “Sonnets”; for, while these unmistakably manifest both striking dramatic power and a copious rhetoric, the most majestic and terrible of his Tragedies exhibit, in the construction and music of their blank verse, the lyrical note running so bewitchingly through the first utterances of his Muse, which resembles the nightingale, that most variously gifted of songbirds, in its power to express the singing quality equally in the rise, the prolongation, and the fall of its voice, in its sadness no less than in its joy, in its most woeful as in its most amorous and exultant descants. This persistently lyrical quality in Shakespeare's blank verse has not, as far as I have observed, ever been indicated as it should be; and this can be done only by comparing it with the blank verse of other greatly esteemed English Poets, and likewise with the rhymed verse of Shakespeare himself. A few examples must here suffice, by reason of the limited dimensions of space at one's disposal. Let us open Milton and Shakespeare quite accidentally, and cite the passages on which one's eye happens first to fall.

“ Thus talking, hand in hand alone they passed

On to their blissful bower; it was a place
Chosen by the sovereign Planter, when he framed
All things to man's delightful use : the roof

the subject ; and, in all I shall say, it will be assumed that the reader is familiar with that volume. Those who are not, if there be such, should become so, at

once.

Of thickest covert was inwoven shade,
Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew
Of firm and fragrant leaf.”

" Paradise Lost," Book IV. Dalila. I see thou are implacable, more deaf

To prayers than winds and seas, yet winds to seas
Are reconciled at length, and sea to shore.
Thy anger unappeasable still rages,
Eternal tempest never to be calmed."

“Samson Agonistes.”
Portia. The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark
When neither is attended, and I think
The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.1
How many things by season season'd are
To their right praise and true perfection !
Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion
And would not be awaked.”

“The Merchant of Venice," Act V, sc. 1. Lear. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! blow ! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Tiu you

have drench'd our steeples, drownd the cocks !
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!”

* King Lear,” Act III, sc. 2. 1 Shakespeare perforce must have been well aware that the nightingale does sing by day just as much as by night, but doubtless wished to convey that it pauses, or might just as well pause, in its singing when geese begin to cackle.

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