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Few at the present day have the leisure or interest to know Shakespeare thoroughly; a mere bowing acquaintance with most of the plays, which in early years were hastily read through with little thought and scant appreciation, and a certain familiarity with portions of those commonly acted on the stage, are all with which most persons claiming to possess a liberal education can be credited.
It has been thought by the editor of this volume that it was possible to provide a means for increasing the general knowledge of Shakespeare by arranging in a manner which admits of easy reference those passages of wit and humor which must ever amuse and delight the mind, those of wisdom and philosophy from which the profoundest significance of action and habit in life may be deduced, and those of incomparable beauty which have become the absolute and fixed expression, never to be changed or displaced in our language, of the ideas they represent. This consideration of the natural grouping of the
selected passages seemed to furnish an appropriate title.
With this object in view all the passages in Shakespeare, long or short, which are of especial significance or distinguished by any inherent excellence, those which a speaker or writer might employ to lend grace or vigor to his theme, have been carefully sifted from out the great body of the poet's works, and collected together in a form which admits of their being used and appreciated by the most casual reader.
No selections have been taken from several plays often found in editions of Shakespeare, as in the light of the best authorities his connection with them is deemed highly improbable, nor have any passages been found in either of his two long poems which seem to have a separate value apart from their context.
The text has been made to conform to the Riverside edition of Shakespeare, where there is any difference in the readings of various editions.
C. S. W.
BOSTON, June, 1887.
King Lear (1605)