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The plan and the purpose of the Twentieth Century Shakespeare have been briefly stated in “ Julius Cæsar," the first of the series. Such changes as the present play requires have been made: the account of Shakespeare's theater and his people is omitted, and an explanation of the fate theme in “Hamlet” is given instead of the information on Roman life. To this is added a few words about the meter. As in
· Julius CÆSAR," the text of the Clarendon Press edition has been used; but, owing to the difference in the size of the type, it has been found impossible to follow the numbering of the lines in the scenes in which prose occurs.
In the preparation of notes, frequent reference has been made to Furness's “Variorum Shakespeare ;” also to Rolfe's and to the Clarendon Press (CLARK and WRIGHT) edition; and the obligation is hereby acknowledged.
“ HAMLET » A WORLD TYPE.
Of all the plays of Shakespeare, “Hamlet” appeals most widely to human experience; voices most truthfully the woes of men who must act and dare not. Few of us are Macbeths; few would kill the king to gain his robe and crown; but many have felt the knotted scourge of Duty upon their backs, and have seen Dread in the gloom before them, daring them onward — have felt their lives to be guided, in spite of their struggles, by some force out of sight and beyond control. Rare indeed are the men with the firmness of resolve, the steadiness of nerve, the confidence in the strength of their purposes to challenge Fate to the uttermost, to seem even to shape their own destinies. These are the heroic minority. Most of us prefer the pleached garden, with herbs and apples; or, perhaps, the jug of wine, the easily earned loaf and the enticing singer, to the hot, determined struggle across the desert, the toilsome cleavage of the brier-choked wilderness, or the fight that must be fought. Leave the twelve labors to Hercules; we are partial to peace, with no loss of mirth. The hard duty that confronts us, we put off till a more opportune to-morrow; we dawdle, temporize, debate; we watch our wills stagger; we rival the “poor cat i' the adage ;” and, attributing all to worthy motives, we rather admire ourselves for praiseworthy forbearance. Thus we fall for a time into self-deception, skilfully parrying the thrusts of our own consciences; until at last all: occasions begin to inform against us, to shame us, and we are driven to the fight by the incessant scourge. - the fight whose result is determined neither by our wills nor our desires, but by a blind, all-compelling Fate. So, in “Hamlet we read our own histories.
Doubtless it was Shakespeare's history, too. Sad, indeed, that we have been denied the life story of the greatest of poets! If we could but know his boyhood, the dreams he dreamed on the shores of the Avon and in the paths about Stratford and Shottery; if we could know what shattering of dreams he experienced, and what consciousness of weakness he felt as a mature man, in spite of his success in his despised profession, what duties urged him forward, what fears waved him back, what resistance he felt from the Invisible Hand, we should better under