Page images
PDF
EPUB

important, would they who have the opportunity bestow their attention on those passages of the works of our great poet which have not yet been satisfactorily explained.

There is another division of criticism, extremely important to an Editor, which is unquestionably still in its infancy: I allude to the grammatical construction of the English language in Shakespeare's time, especially of the colloquial speech so much employed by the great poet. Gifford was the only critic who had really paid any attention to the subject; for all that his successors, Dyce, Collier, and others, have accomplished, is the explanation of certain grammatical idioms previously misunderstood. None of these writers, however, have attempted to analyze the results of their reading into a system; and many of the most usual constructions in Elizabethan grammar are evidently unknown. I may mention, as an example, a well-known passage in the Tempest

4

You are three men of sin, whom destiny

(That hath to instrument this lower world,
And what is in't) the never-surfeited sea
Hath caus’d to belch up you

[ocr errors]

where, if Mr. Collier had known that the duplication of the pronoun is the rule, not the exception, in particular constructions, he would scarcely have thought the second you in this passage had “ crept into the old text by mere inadvertence.” None of the Editors of Shakespeare, as far as I can find, have explained this and other grammatical rules of a similar description; yet surely it should be necessary for an Editor

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to have a knowledge of the grammatical construction of the language in which the author wrote. The language of Elizabeth's time differed very much in its construction from that used in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Here is a field of criticism, which requires the labour of many students for many years. The materials are scattered, but not unattainable; and a collection of idiomatic phrases and peculiar constructions would soon lead to a glimpse of the system, the history of the formation of which should be collected from the time of the departure of the terminal contractions (the representatives of the vowel terminations of the AngloSaxon), in the fifteenth century.

Passing over a very important department, that of philosophical criticism, which has the advantage of employing the pens of some of the most able writers of the present day, we may turn to that curious branch of inquiry which is the subject of the present volume, and which indirectly illustrates the history of the poet's mind, in exhibiting to us the simple materials from which his wonderful dramas were constructed. The original tales used by Shakespeare, chiefly consisting of translations, have been collected by Mr. Collier in his “ Shakespeare's Library,” 1842. The work of M. Simrock will form an appropriate supplement to that excellent collection, and although, perhaps, he has too frequently entered into discussions that can scarcely be considered illustrative of Shakespeare, there is a great deal of curious matter in his Remarks, which will repay perusal. The

Germans have access to a great variety of works connected with the history of fiction, that are little known in this country, or procured with great difficulty; and M. Simrock has made very good use of them. The Remarks were published at the end of a collection of the tales used by Shakespeare, collected and translated by Dr. Echtermeyer, M. Henschel, and M. Simrock, 8vo., Berlin, 1831.

It is right to add, that the Editor of this volume is not in any way responsible for the translation, which was made by a competent person under the direction of the Council of the Shakespeare Society, and is believed to be a faithful version of the original.

J. O. H. Avenue Lodge, Brixton Hill.

June, 1850.

« PreviousContinue »