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In introducing a volume consisting of twelve of the Plays of Shakespeare, to which a very brief glossary is appended, some explanation is required of the purpose and aim of the book and the method of selection.
With regard to the study of Shakespeare, the feeling has been very general among teachers of English Literature that there was a great nakedness about the “one play” study; that most of the editions of single plays were either unexpurgated or overloaded with notes; that the purchase of single plays was in itself expensive ; that handy reference to other plays was vital to a proper appreciation of Shakespeare; and that a volume containing all the plays of Shakespeare was necessarily somewhat heavy and clumsy. To remedy this to some extent some fifty teachers, representing all types of schools, were invited to make suggestions as to the twelve plays most suitable from every point of view for the purpose.
As a result the following ten of the twelve plays appearing in this volume obtained an almost unanimous vote :
Merchant of Venice.
A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The Tragedy of King Richard II. - Twelfth Night.
The next in order was the Tragedy of King Lear, but this has been omitted from the volume for various reasons, and also because it appeared that the great tragedies were sufficiently represented by Hamlet and Macbeth, and therefore the next two in order—Coriolanus and the Tragedy of King Richard III.—have been introduced. Thus the twelve plays contained in the volume represent five Comedies, four Tragedies and three Historical plays. The text of each play is complete with the exception of such expurgation as is necessary to render it suitable for school reading.
It is hoped that in this way even greater stimulus will be given to the study of the plays of Shakespeare, and that, by the manner in which the volume is arranged, attention can be concentrated in the first instance upon the play itself, its plot, and the persons concerned in it, without the use of introduction or notes.
A. V. H.