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COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY WILLIAM ALLAN NEILSON
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The text and the line-numbering in this volume are those of The Cambridge Shakespeare, edited by Professor W. A. Neilson. In references to other plays of Shakespeare, the line-numbering of the same edition has been followed.
While the distinction is one that cannot be absolutely drawn, the Introduction treats of questions relating to the play as a whole, and the Notes treat of details. In the Introduction, a comparatively large amount of space is devoted to the previous versions of the story, as affording an unusually interesting example of literary evolution. The Notes are intended as an aid both to understanding and to appreciating the play; pains have been taken to limit those with the former purpose to matters which a student really needs to know. Thus no minute account is given of the “ tassel-gentle” or of the game of “Dun's in the mire."
In conclusion, the editor wishes to record his obligations to his colleagues, Professor Martin W. Sampson, Professor Lane Cooper, Professor Joseph Quincy Adams, Jr., and Mr. Frederick M. Smith, who have aided him with information, counsel, and encouragement.
W. STRUNK, JR. CORNELL UNIVERSITY,
June 28, 1911.
Romeo and Juliet was first published in 1597. This edition, known as the First Quarto (Q1), is badly printed,
containing obvious blunders and omissions. It
bears every indication of being one of those “stolen and surreptitious copies" of which Shakespeare's fellow-actors, the editors of the First Folio, complained, and which unprincipled publishers at times issued, employing shorthand reporters to take down the text in the theatre, and bribing actors to furnish the words of their parts. Q1, however, is occasionally useful in giving the right reading where subsequent early editions are incorrect, and is also of value for its stage-directions, which seem to have been noted from the actual performance. The Second Quarto (Q2), printed in 1599, and professing to give the play as “newly corrected, augmented, and amended," does actually present a text which has undergone slight revision in numerous places, and apparently is an authorized publication of the correct text. The Third Quarto (Q3), printed in 1607, is a reprint of Q2. The First Folio (F1), of 1623, the first collective edition of Shakespeare's plays, reprints Romeo and Juliet from Q3. Q2 is thus the main authority for the play in its final form, and its text is the basis of the present volume. The stage-directions of Q1 have been used to supplement those of Q2; a few others, necessary for clearness, have been added in brackets.
The title-page of Q1 describes the tragedy as “often (with great applause) plaid publiquely by the L. of Huns
don his Servants.” The company of actors to The Date
which Shakespeare belonged was officially so named from July, 1596, to April, 1597. The argument that the Nurse's line, “’T is since the earthquake now eleven years” (1, iii, 23), enables us to fix the date of performance in 1591, eleven years after a notable English earthquake, is not very convincing. As Professor Dowden points out, the
humor of the allusion may have lain in the fact that the Nurse was astray in her chronology. The best recent criticism has tended to regard the play as probably written within a year, one way or the other, of 1595, when Shakespeare was about thirty-one years of age. The frequent use of rhyme and stanza, the occasional passages of rhetorical declamation, and the fondness for verbal wit and word-play, employed sometimes in most inappropriate places, mark the play as comparatively early, while its masterly construction and superb poetry prevent us from placing it among Shakespeare's earliest works.
The plot of Romeo and Juliet belongs to that class of stories whose subject may be indicated by the phrase, love contending against obstacles. The same may be said of nine tenths of the stories, poems, novels, Nature of
the Story and plays ever written in which love is a principal concern. Unless love meets with obstacles, it is not as a rule interesting to other people, and story-tellers, novelists, and dramatists aim to be interesting. Again and again Shakespeare treated plots of this class : Love's Labour's Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night, not to mention others, are all stories of love contending against obstacles. By characterizing the plot a little more precisely, we may bring it under a narrower division, that of stories which deal with lovers separated by a family feud. A plot of this nature obviously contains possibilities of great interest: the striking contrast between the hatred of two families and the love existing between two of their children ; the secrecy of stolen interviews; the danger of detection, and the consequent suspense; perhaps the conflicting emotions of a hero or heroine hesitating between love and filial duty; perhaps, if the scene is appropriately laid, swordplay, and a thrilling escape or a tragic death. Of stories of this kind, Romeo and Juliet is by far the best known."
1 Vanity Fair (George Osborne and Amelia Sedley) and The Mill on the Floss (Philip Wakem and Maggie Tulliver) deal with lovers separ