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Copyright, 1890, by H. H. FURNESS
WESTCOTT & THOMSON,
PRESS OF J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY,
ALL needful information in regard to the scope and design of this Edition may be found on p. 439 of the Appendix.
The Text is that of the FIRST FOLIO, as accurately reproduced as a comparison almost letter by letter can make it.
There are many passages in SHAKESPEARE whereon it is desirable to have notes demanding no profundity of antiquarian research of archæological knowledge on the part of the annotator, but requiring solely keenness of intellect with clearness of thought or of expres. sion. On such passages there cannot be, speaking for myself, too many notes nor too much discussion, provided only that we are fortunate enough to conjure into the circle such minds as DR JOHNSON'S, or COLERIDGE'S, HAZLITT'S, CAMPBELL'S, CHRISTOPHER NORTH'S, MRS JAMESON'S, or CHARLES LAMB's; or can summon to our aid the traditions of GARRICK, or of KEAN, or of MRS SIDDONS; or listen to MRS KEMBLE or to LADY MARTIN. Indeed, the professions of 'love' and 'admiration' for SHAKESPEARE from those who can turn aside from such nights and feasts of the gods are of doubtful sincerity.
At the same time, to be perfectly fair, it must be confessed that we read our SHAKESPEARE in varying moods. Hours there are, and they come to all of us, when we want no voice, charm it never so wisely, to break in upon SHAKESPEARE's own words. If there be obscurity, we rather like it; if the meaning be veiled, we prefer it veiled. Let the words flow on in their own sweet cadence, lulling our senses, charming our ears, and let all sharp quillets cease. When AMIENS's gentle voice sings of the winter wind that its 'tooth is not so keen because it is not seen,' who of us ever dreams, until wearisome commentators gather mumbling around, that there is in the line the faintest flaw in 'logical sequence'? But this idle, receptive mood does not last for ever. The time comes when we would fain catch every ray of light
flashing from these immortal plays, and pluck the heart out of every mystery there; then, then, we listen respectfully and gratefully to every suggestion, every passing thought, which obscure passages have stirred and awakened in minds far finer than our own. Then it is that we welcome every aid which notes can supply, and find, too, a zest in tracing the history of Shakespearian Comment from the condescending, patronising tone of the early critics toward the 'old bard,' with WARBURTON'S cries of 'rank nonsense,' to the reverential tone of the present day.
It has been a source of entertainment, in this present play of As You Like It, to note what I think has been but seldom noted, the varied interpretations which the character of JAQUES has received. With the sole exception of HAMLET, I can recall no character in SHAKESPEARE of whom the judgements are as diverse as of this 'old gentleman,'/as AUDREY calls him. Were he really possessed of all the qualities attributed to him by his critics, we should behold a man both misanthropic and genial, sensual and refined, depraved and elevated, cynical and liberal, selfish and generous, and finally, as though to make him still more like HAMLET, we should see in him the clearly marked symptoms of incipient insanity. Indeed, so mysterious and so attractive is this character that, outside of England at least, JAQUES has often received a larger share of attention than even ROSALIND. So completely did he fascinate GEORGE SAND that in her version of the play for the French stage JAQUES is the guiding spirit of the whole drama, and is represented, by her, as so madly in love with CELIA that in a fit of jealousy he is only with difficulty restrained from fighting a duel with ORLANDO, and the curtain falls on the prettiest of ring-times between him and his adoration.
If all degrees of surprise had not been, for me, long ago exhausted concerning SHAKESPEARE, not alone at the poet himself, but at every circumstance howsoever connected with him, I should be inclined to wonder that the students of Anthropology, instead of adopting various standards, such as Facial Angles, Craniological Measurements, and the like, had not incontinently adopted one of SHAKESPEARE'S comedies as the supreme and final test in determining nationality, at least as between the Gallic, the Teutonic, and the Anglosaxon races. I suggest a comedy as the test rather than a tragedy, because in what is tragic the whole world thinks pretty much alike; a fount of tears is