The Works of William Shakespeare
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012 - 364 pages
Purchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM. INTRODUCTION. DR. JOHNSON, doling out scarce half a dozen lines of cold approval to this play, devotes two of them to Baying, Fairies in his [Shakespeare's] time were much in fashion: common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great. But, unfortunately for Shakespeare's reputation, the ignorance and misapprehension displayed in this sentence sadly impair the value of that approbation of which it forms so large a part. An editor of Shakespeare should have known that the fairies of The Faerie Qtteen ancr those of A Mid- iummer-Nighfs Dream are not the same. A reader capable of appreciating either poem, on reading both, must see, untold, that they have nothing in common. The personages of Spenser's allegory are the supernatural beings of stately romance, endowed with traits typical of the moral virtues: the freakful atomies of Shakespeare's dream are the ' good people' in whose actual existence every rustic in England had full faith ? a faith shared by no small proportion of his superiors in rank and education, until the poet's hand transplanted elf and fay from the byways of tradition and the dim retreats of superstition into the bright and open realms of fancy and imagination. For there seems to be no ground on which to rest a doubt that Shakespeare was the first to give the fairy of the fireside tale either an embodiment upon the stage or a place in literature, however humble. Evidence abounds that the Oberon, the Ti- lania, and, above all, the Puck of this play are ideals, the prototypes of which figured in countless tales familiar as household words to English folk of Shakespeare's day and their immediate progenitors; and yet there is great lack of contemporary illustration of this subject, because, until ...