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In these days, when Shakespeare's noble and pathetic utterances have become "familiar in men's mouths as Household Words," it would be idle to enlarge on those qualities which entitle him to be considered our greatest dramatic poet; besides, so numerous and able have been his admiring commentators, that to do so would be, on my part, but “to gild refined gold.”
It will, however, I think, be admitted, by even the most enthusiastic admirers of Shakespeare, that though his works are comparatively free from the gross indelicacy of contemporary dramatists, they yet contain passages which render them, for the reading of young girls, somewhat objectionable, With this view it had been my intention to produce a volume of selections from Shakespeare; but as, by so doing, one of the greatest charms in Shakespeare—the fitness of the sentiment in the mouth of the speaker-would be entirely lost, I afterwards determined to present each drama in an abridged form, but retaining, as far as possible, the action, and consequently the interest, of the play. It
may be objected that in this abridgement one salient quality of our great poet is not adequately represented—I mean his humour, of which no poet has more ; the vein of satire which pervades the writing of his sardonic contemporary, Ben Jonson, gives to his humour the flash and sting of wit, whilst for genuine humour, irresistible because so spontaneous and hearty, Shakespeare is surpassed by none. Yet, as it is precisely in the humorous scenes that the greatest freedom of expression is to be found, and as, moreover, humour is the quality least appreciable by the class of readers for whom I have laboured, these omissions have not been made unadvisedly. The few examples which I have given of this vein in our poet will be found in the play of Hamlet, but in most of these the humour is dominated by pathos.
From "Antony and Cleopatra,” “Othello," and other plays, which, from
PERSONS OF THE DRAMA.
DUNCAN, King of Scotland.
generals of the King.
A Heath. Thunder. By Sinel's death, I know I am Thane of Glamis ; | Enter the three Witches. Enter also MACBETH But how of Cawdor ? the Thane of Cawdor lives, and BANQUO.
A prosperous gentleman; and, to be king, Macb. So foul and fair a day I have not seen. Stands not within the prospect of belief, Ban. How far is't call'd to Forres ? What are No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence these,
You owe this strange in ligence? or why So wither'd and so wild in their attire ;
Upon this blasted heath you stop our way That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, With such prophetic greeting ? --Speak, I charge And yet are on't? Live you ? or are you aught
[Witches vanish. That man may question :
Ban. The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, Speak, if you can ;-What are you?
And these are of them: Whither are they vanish'd ? 1 Witch. All hail, Macbeth ! hail to thee, Thane Macb. Into the air: and what seem'd corporal of Glamis !
melted 2 Witch. All hail, Macbeth ! hail to thee, Thane As breath into the wind.—'Would they had staid ! of Cawdor!
Your children shall be kings. 3 Witch. All hail, Macbeth ! that shalt be king Ban.
You shall be king. hereafter.
Macb. And Thane of Cawdor too; went it not Ban. Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear
Ban. To the self-same tune and words. Who's Things that do sound so fair ? --I' the name of
Enter Rosse and ANGUS. Are ye fantastical, or that indeed Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner Rosse. The king hath happily receiv'd, Macbeth, You greet with present grace, and great prediction The news of thy success : and when he reads Of noble having, and of royal hope,
Thy personal venture in the rebels' fight, That he seems wrapt withal; to me you speak not: His wonders and his praises do contend, If you can look into the seeds of time,
Which should be thine, or his. And say, which grain will grow, and which will And, for an earnest of a greater honour, not,
He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor, Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear In which addition, hail, most worthy thane ! Your favours nor your hate.
For it is thine, 1 Witch. Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. Ban. What, can the devil speak true ? 2 Witch. Not so happy, yet much happier.
Mach. The Thane of Cawdor lives: Why do you 3 Witch. Thou shalt get kings, though thou be
dress me none :
In borrowed robes ? So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
Who was the thane, lives yet; 1 Witch, Banquo and Macbeth, all hail! But under heavy judgment bears that life Macb. Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me which he deserves to lose, for treasons capital, more ;
Confess’d and prov'd, have overthrown him.