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REVISED EDITION WITH HELPS TO STUDY
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
ROBERT MORSS LOVETT
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
SCOTT, FORESMAN AND COMPANY
The editorial contributions to the present edition of The Merchant of Venice are of two kinds. In the Introduction the editor has tried to treat the play somewhat broadly, and to make the various sections illustrative of methods of study to be pursued also in other plays. Thus the accounts of the date and sources of the play are given at a length which without this explanation might seem excessive. In the same way certain typical peculiarities of Shakspere's verse and language have been treated in the Introduction, in the hope that the student, by seeing the illustrations grouped together and by referring to them from the text, will come to recognize the forms in his further reading of the author. On the contrary, in the notes and the glossary, which are to be used in direct connection with the text, the editor has striven to keep strictly within the limits of information needed for the understanding of the words of the play, in order that the interruption of the normal process of reading may be as slight as possible. The aim has been to suggest to the student that his chief object should be to read the text understandingly, not to master a certain quantity of Elizabethan lore. In the
division of matter between notes and glossary such explanations as refer simply to the particular passages under consideration have been placed in the notes, while synonyms for words of ordinary occurrence in Shakspere are given in the glossary. By the use of other editions, especially Dr. Furness's Variorum, the teacher will be able to supplement the notes, but it is suggested that such comment be directed toward the explanation of constructions and uses of language common in Shakspere and his contemporaries, rather than toward the examination of passages, possibly corrupt, to which the ingenuity of editors has given a factitious importance.
There are two methods of study to which Shakspere's plays are subjected. One consists in the examination and the interpretation of the text. In the other the play is considered as a masterpiece of the dramatic form, and is examined by scenes to determine the place of each in the advancement of the plot, the development of character, and the enforcement of the main theme. Both theories are useful. Neither by itself is sufficient; either may be pressed too far. It should not be forgotten that Shakspere wrote his play to give pleasure, that our object in reading it is to enjoy it, and that it is according as our study yields additional enjoyment that it is successful. It is, however, perfectly certain-inasmuch as poetry is an art which appeals to the intellect as
well as to the emotions-that the play will be the more enjoyed the more it is understood. Thus, in handling the play in class, enough questions must be asked upon the interpretation of the text to make sure that the student understands the word or phrase, and can refer it for comparison to a passage containing the same word or construction, if one has occurred earlier in the play. Some suggestions toward the use of the second method are given in the Introduction. It may be well to set down here, however, the caution there given against trying to find in Shakspere an artist or a moral teacher who transcended even the ideals of art and morality of his time.
For further study the student will find useful the editions of this play by Messrs. Clark and Wright (Clarendon Press), and Professor Gummere (Longman's English Classics). The Variorum, edited by Dr. Furness, contains the most valuable notes of various commentators, as well as extracts from the best criticism on the play. The general information in regard to Shakspere and his works which everyone should possess can be obtained from Dowden's Primer of Shakspere. Additional works are Sidney Lee's Life of William Shakespeare, Barrett Wendell's William Shakspere, Dowden's Shakspere: His Mind and Art, as well as the works of Mr. Fleay. For the general period see A. W. Ward's History of English Dramatic Literature, Symonds's Shaks pere's Predecessors,