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brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption ... with utter negligence of all commentators.” This reading of the play may at once be followed by its careful study, using the notes; these include questions and comment on the development of the plot and characters. The student may then compare the results of his study with those of the editor, given under the heading : “ Interpretation of the Play.”
The article “Shakspere and Plutarch” will, it is thought, give the average student a clearer understanding of the dramatist's method with his sources than he would gain by a detailed study of the text of Plutarch. There is, moreover, in such detailed study, danger of blurring the lines of the poet's pictures by overlaying them with those of the historian. For those who wish to make extended comparison of the two texts, full references have been made to Skeat's Shakespeare's Plutarch.
The study of the play as poetry may well follow, rather than accompany, the study of it as a drama. The editor has followed Mr. Sidney Lanier in treating verse as a form of music. Whatever fault may be found with certain applications of this theory, it certainly aids to an appreciation of the esthetic values of rhythm and rhyme.
THE TEXT OF THE PLAY
Shakspere's. Early Life: Influences of Natural and
Historical Surroundings. In the place of his birth and early life, as truly as in the times in which his whole life was cast, the genius of Shakspere seems to have been singularly favored. He was born in the midland shire of Warrick, even then known as the Heart of England. The river Avon, threading its leisurely way southwesterly through the county, divides it into nearly equal parts. Southeast of the river the country was then as now mainly open land; northwest of it stretched the great Forest of Arden, in whose haunted depths every reader of As You Like It has wandered. Into this forest, nearly a thousand years before Shakspere's birth, the sturdiest of the early Britons were crowded by the sturdier Saxons. When the blood of the two races ceased to mingle in battle it began to blend in marriage. That in the veins of our greatest poet there was some Celtic blood mixed with the Saxon is not at all improbable. “It is not without significance,” says the historian Green, “that the highest type of the race, the one who has combined in their largest measure the mobility and fancy of the Celt with the depth and energy of the Teutonic temper, was born on the old Welsh and English borderland, in the forest of Arden.” 1
* See Ency. Brit., art. Shakespeare, p. 740.
Perhaps before the Saxon invasion a town sprang up in the southern edge of the forest at the point where a Roman road (strata) forded the Avon-hence the name, Stratford. At the time of Shakspere's birth Stratford had perhaps two or three hundred houses, some of which are still standing. One of these, a two-storied, dormer-windowed cottage, whose heavy beams project through the facing of plaster, is known to have belonged to John Shakspere. He conducted his business, that of a glover and a dealer in hides and wool, on the ground floor. Above this is a low room in which, it is believed, his son William was born, presumably three days before his baptism, which was on April 26, 1654. John Shakspere was a man of limited or no education but of sufficient standing in the town to be elected to several public offices, including that of high bailiff, or mayor. In 1557 he had married Mary Arden, a country girl of somewhat aristocratic ancestry, but of whom we know almost nothing else.
Nor do we know with certainty anything of her son's boyhood. That he was a friendly, free-hearted, and soundhearted boy is quite certain. His great rival, Ben Jonson, a man not given to soft speech, said of him after his death : “I loved the man and do honor his memory, on this side of idolatry, as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy; brave and gentle impressions.” The boy must therefore have been thoroughly likable, a good comrade, perhaps a little dreamy at times but never “ queer.” He certainly had a hand in all the right sort of fun, and, according to uniform tradition, in some that was not right. His wholesome love of Nature, his true alma mater, would lead him often into field or forest, where the people of his "excellent fancy” would make the solitudes places of high revelry or stately tragedy. It is thought that no scenery could have excelled