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W. SHAKSPEARE,

Ob. an. 1616. Ætat. 53.

Published Dec. 1 1789, as the Art directs by S.Stockclale, Picadilly.

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LONDON:

Printed for JoHN STOCKDALE, oppofite Burlington-House,

Piccadilly.

MDCCLXXXIV.

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PREFACE.

NEW edition of Shakspeare, and an edition of fo fingular

A a form as the prefent, in which all his plays are compre

hended in one volume, will, perhaps, appear furprifing to many readers, but, upon a little reflection, their furprize will, the editor doubts not, be converted into approbation,

Much as Shakspeare has been read of late years, and largely as the admiration and ftudy of him have been extended, there is still a numerous clafs of men to whom he is very imperfectly known. Many of the middling and lower ranks of the inhabi tants of this country are either not acquainted with him at all, excepting by name, or have only feen a few of his plays, which have accidentally fallen in their way,

It is to fupply the wants of thefe perfons that the prefent edi tion is principally undertaken; and it cannot fail of becoming to them a perpetual fource of entertainment and inftruction. That they will derive the highest entertainment from it, no one can deny; for it does not require any extraordinary degree of knowledge or education to enter into the general fpirit of Shakspeare, The paffions he deferibes are the paffions which are felt by every human being; and his wit and humour are not local, or confined to the customs of a particular age, but are fuch as will give pleafure at all times, and to men of all ranks, from the higheft to the lowest,

But the inftruction that may be drawn from Shakspeare is equal to the entertainment which his writings afford. He is the greatest master of human nature and of human life that, perhaps, ever exifted; fo that we cannot perufe his works without having our understandings confiderably enlarged. Befides this, he abounds in occafional maxims and reflections, which are calcu lated to make a deep impreffion upon the mind. There is fcarcely any circumstance in the common occurrences of the world, on which fomething may not be found peculiarly applicable in Shakspeare; and, at the fame time, better expreffed than in any other author. To promote, therefore, the knowledge of them, is to contribute to general improvement.

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Nor is the utility of the prefent publication confined to perfons of the rank already defcribed. It will be found ferviceable even to those whofe fituation in life hath enabled them to purchase all the expenfive editions of our great dramatift. The book now offered to the public may commodiously be taken into a coach or a poft-chaife, for amufement in a journey. Or if a company of gentlemen fhould happen, in converfation, to mention Shakspeare, or to difpute concerning any particular paffage, a volume containing the whole of his plays may, with great convenience, be fetched by a fervant out of a library or a clolet. In short, any particular paffage may at all times and with eafe be recurred to. It is a compendium, not an abridgement, of the nobleft of our poets, and a library in a fingle volume.

The editor hath endeavoured to give all the perfection to this work which the nature of it can admit. The account of his life, which is taken from Rowe, and his laft will, in reality comprehend almost every thing that is known with regard to the perfonal history of Shakspeare. The anxious refearches of his admirers have scarcely been able to collect any farther information concerning him.

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The text, in the prefent edition, is given as it has been fettled by the most approved commentators. It does not confift with the limits of the defign, that the notes fhould be large, or very numerous. They have not, however, been wholly neglected. The notes which are fubjoined are fuch as were neceflary for the purpofe of illuftrating and explaining obfolete words, unufual phrafes, old cuftoms, and obfcure or diftant allufions. In fhort, it has been the editor's aim to omit nothing which may ferve to render Shakfpeare intelligible to every capacity, and to every clafs of readers.

Having this view, he cannot avoid expreffing his hope, that an undertaking the utility of which is fo apparent, will be encouraged by the public; and his confidence of a favourable reception is increased by the confcioufnels that he is not doing an injury to The fuccefs of the prefent volume will not impede the fale of the larger editions of Shakipeare, which will ftill be equally fought for by thofe to whom the purchase of them may be conve

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