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HE works of Shakspere have had many

learned commentators and candid eu

logists. Francis Meres, one of the earliest, was born in the year 1565, and died in 1646; he was M. A. of both Universities. In the second part of his book entitled Wit's Common

" wealth,' dated 1598, page 623, he says: 'As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakspere ; witness his “ Venus and Adonis,” his “ Lucrece,” his sugred ri Sonnets” among

his private friends. As Plartus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines, so Shakspere among the English is the most excellent in both kindes for the stage : for Comedy witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labour's lost, his Love Labour's wonne, his Midsummer's Night Dreame,

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and his Merchant of Venice; for Tragedy, his Richard II., Richard III., Henry IV., King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet.'

* As Epius Stolo said that the Muses would speak with Plautus' tongue, if they would speak Latine, so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakspere's fine-filed phrase if they would speak English.' In the introduction to Kemp’s ‘Nine Daies'

' Wonder,' printed for the Camden Society, Mr. Dyce gives the following as relating to Shakspere in a scene of an early drama, which exhibits Kemp in propria persona. The Returne from Parnassus, or the Scourge of Simony, publiquely acted by the students in St. John's College, Cambridge, 1606, Act. iv. Scene 5. Enter Burbage and Kempe. Kempe (to Burbage) says : Few of the University men plaies well ; they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer's Metamorphoses, and talke too much of Proserpina and Juppiter. Why, here's our fellow Shakspere puts them all downe, I and Ben Jonson too. Oh, that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow ! he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakspere hath given him a purge that made him beray his credit.'

Burbage. It's a shrewd fellow, indeed. I wonder these scollers stay so long.'

Some of the writings of Shakspere were published

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as early as 1600, in a volume by Robert Allott, entitled England's Parnassus, or the Choysest Flowers of our Modern Poets,' &c. This book is dedicated to the Right Worshipfull Sir Thomas Mounson, and it is now scarce and costly.

The first edition of the collected works of Shakspere was published in one volume, folio, by John Heminge and Henry Condell, in the year 1623, and the dedication is :--'To the most noble and incomparable pair of brethren, William, Earl of Pembroke, &c., lord-chamberlain to the King's most excellent Majesty, and Philip, Earl of Montgomery, &c., gentleman of His Majesty's bedchamber, both knights of the most noble order of the Garter, and our singular good lords. Their address is, “To the great variety of readers, and it concludes as follows: It had been a thing we confess worthy to have been wished, that the author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends the office of their care and pain to have collected and published them, and so to have published them as where (before) you were abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that

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exposed them—even those are now offered to your view cured and perfect of their limbs; and all the rest absolute in their members as he conceived them, who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.

But it is not our province, who only gather his works and give them you, to praise him; it is yours that read him, and

. there we hope to your divers capacities you will find enough both to draw and hold you, for his wit can no more be hid than it could be lost. Read him, therefore, and again and again, and if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger not to understand him, and so we leave you to other of his friends, whom, if you need, can be your guides; if you need them not, you can lead yourselves and others, and such readers we wish him. Under the portrait in this folio edition of Shakspere's works, engraved by Martin Droeshout, sculp., are the following lines, written by Ben Jonson :

TO THE READER.

This figure that thou here see'st put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;

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