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AUTHOR OF THE THEORY OF ELOCUTION," THE CLASS-BOOK OF POETRY,”
ENGLISH AND ROMAN.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1895, by
DAVID CHARLES BELL,
in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington
GIBSON BROS., PRINTERS,
WASHINGTON, D, C.
There are many editions of Shakespeare's Works which appeal to the eye and to the mind : these Abridgments are chiefly intended for the voice and ear-to facilitate the much-prized but still neglected art of Reading Aloud. For this purpose, all Shakespeare's Dramas will be, for the first time, condensed, connected, emphasized, and annotated, on a uniform plan.
This first Volume consists exclusively of all the Historical Plays, English and Roman: the second Volume will contain all the Tragedies and Romantic Plays; and the third Volume all the Comedies.
Each Play is preceded by a brief Narrative, historical and literary : the principal Scenes, Incidents and Characters, not only of the main, but of the secondary plots, are connected by elucidatory remarks: the Text has been carefully condensed, collated, and preservedmaking allowance for the prime necessities of expurgation and compression.
Important and emphatic words are specially marked by a small diacritic line placed before the word, to facilitate, with the aid of improved punctuation, an easy comprehension and expressive delivery of the text. Explanatory notes are frequently inserted.
Each play is so condensed that it may be read aloud in about an hour, or an hour and a half.
The various readings of the early quartos and the first folio have not been overlooked. In important verbal changes, the folio of 1623 is frequently referred to—in the notes marked O. R. (Original Reading).
These Condensations are intended for use in Ladies' and Gentlemen's higher Schools and Colleges—for Private and Family Readingand for Public or Platform delivery. By the omission of the connecting narratives, they can be readily adapted for brief amateur dramatic representation ; while, as a compact collection of Scenes, Speeches, and Dialogues, they form a Vade-mecum for oratorical practice.
For the Family Reading of Shakespeare's Plays, the necessities of expurgation, condensation, and compression are generally acknowledged. Ben Jonson, the contemporary and rival of the great Poet and Dramatist, has thus written, in his “ Explorata or Discoveries":
I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who choose that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candour: for I loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was, (indeed,) honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent phantsie, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped.
His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too.
But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.”
The little unobtrusive mark which is placed before the important word or point of the sentence, does not demand 'absolute attention:
every collocation of words may be read in variety of ways: it is only where there is doubt as to the special meaning that its introduction should be appealed to. Emphatic words require especial care, because they call attention to directly antithetic thoughts, or to oblique, indirect, or inferential meanings: but such words do not admit of a balanced application of stress: because one is in all cases superior, being absolute or positive; while the other is merely negative or relative. There is plenty of scope for difference of opinion and variety of judgment: the “ Sir Oracles” of different“ readings are not difficult either to be found or confuted. The Editor's professional experience of more than fifty years may entitle many of these markings to some consideration.
This Book will be found useful not to young Readers only, but to all who wish to travel with comfort a long journey in a short time : it appeals in the first place to intellectuality and judgment, and will, in its practice, effectually destroy monotony and mannerism in delivery; but it leaves undirected the higher powers of
" Action, and utterance, and the power of speech
"To stir men's blood." In the School-room, it will tend to check the meaningless mumbling, the shrill discord, or the unintelligent gabble of the ordinary reading lesson; it will attract by its variety, harmony and beauty, and store the memory with its lessons of wit and wisdom: in the Family Circle, it will enable age and experience to become directors of an untried source of instruction and amusement: to the Student of either sex, wearied of Greek and Latiu prosody, it will emphasize the great "educational” fact that the manner of speech is as worthy of study as the matter : it will impart vigour, variety, and grace to the sleep-compelling monotony of the Clerical Reader: to the Platform Elocutionist it presents condensed forms of dramatic action and expression ; while to the Teacher-especially if he is enabled to drill in Simultaneous or Single Reading, -it may be used as a theme for every form of vocal scholastic exercise and instruction.-If these advantages can be realized to the young, what may not be expected in riper years when habit becomes a second nature ?
“Men are but children of a larger growth.” “There were two books,” says Archbishop Sharp, “ that made me an Archbishop,—the Bible, and Shakespeare.” To this clerical, may be added a 'judicial record of the late Lord Coleridge: “Leaving out, for obvious reasons, all Greek and Latin writers, before and above every one (including them) I should myself place Shakespeare, an inexhaustible store-house of wisdom, instruction, and exquisite diction; indispensable to any one who has anything to do with speaking or writing
I knew well... a great Advocate ...of whom it used to be said, that perhaps he did not know much law, but he did know a great deal of Shakespeare. And a great Judge who knew both law and Shakespeare, when this was repeated to him said, that although, in a lawyer, a little law was desirable, yet, if that could not be had, the next best thing to have was a knowledge of Shakespeare." So, bon voyage to the “Reader's Shakespeare." 1517, THIRTY-FIFTH STREET,
WEST WASHINGTON, D. C.