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"An attempt has been made in these new editions to interpret Shakespeare by the aid of Shakespeare himself. The Method of Comparison has been constantly employ
and the language used by him in one place has been compared with the language used in other places in similar circumstances, as well as with older English and with newer English. The text has been as carefully and as thoroughly annotated as the text of any Greek or Latin classic.
“The first purpose in this elaborate annotation is, of course the full working out of Shakespeare's meaning. The Editor has in all circumstances taken as much pains with this as if he had been making out the difficult and obscure terms of a will in which he himself was personally interested ; and he submits that this thorough excavation of the meaning of a really profound thinker is one of the very best kinds of training that a boy or girl can receive at school. This is to read the very mind of Shakespeare, and to weave his thoughts into the fibre of one's own mental constitution. And always new rewards come to the careful reader in the shape of new meanings, recognition of
thoughts he had before missed, of relations between the characters that had hitherto escaped him. For reading Shakespeare is just like examining Nature; there are no hollownesses, there is no scamped work, for Shakespeare is as patiently exact and as first-hand as Nature herself.
“Besides this thorough working-out of Shakespeare's meaning, advantage has been taken of the opportunity to teach his English-to make each play an introduction to the ENGLISH OF SHAKESPEARE. For this purpose copious collections of similar phrases have been gathered from other plays; his idioms have been dwelt upon; his peculiar use of words ; his style and his rhythm. Some Teachers may consider that too many instances are given; but, in teaching, as in everything else, the old French saying is true: Assez n'y a, s'il trop n'y a. The Teacher need not require each pupil to give him all the instances collected. If each gives one or two, it will probably be enough; and, among them all, it is certain that one or two will stick in the memory. It is probable that, for those pupils who do not study either Greek or Latin, this close examination of every word and phrase in the text of Shakespeare will be the best substitute that can be found for the study of the ancient classics.
“ It were much to be hoped that Shakespeare should become more and more of a study, and that every boy and girl should have a thorough knowledge of at least one play of Shakespeare before leaving school. It would be one of the best lessons in human life, without the chance of a polluting or degrading experience. It would also have the effect of bringing back into the too pale and fora mal English of modern times a large number of pithy and
vigorous phrases which would help to develop as well as to reflect vigor in the characters of the readers. Shakespeare used the English language with more power than any other writer that ever lived-he made it do more and say more than it had ever done ; he made it speak in a more original way; and his combinations of words are perpetual provocations and invitations to originality and to newness of insight.”—J. M. D. MEIKLEJOHN, M.A., Professor of the Theory,
and Practice of Educa. tion in the University of St. Andrews.
Shakespeare lived at a time when the grammar and vocabulary of the English language were in a state of transition. Various points were not yet settled; and so Shakespeare's grammar is not only somewhat different from our own but is by no means uniform in itself. In the Elizabethan age, “ Almost any part of speech can be used as any other part of speech. An adverb can be used as a verb, 'They askance their eyes;' as a noun, the backward and abysm of time;' or as an adjective, 'a seldom pleasure. Any noun, adjective, or intransitive verb can be used as a transitive verb. You can happy' your friend, 'malice'
or 'foot' your enemy, or 'fall' an axe on his neck. An adjective can be used as an adverb; and you can speak and act
easy, free, excellent;'or as a noun, and you can talk of 'fair instead of beauty,' and ' a pale ' instead of a paleness.' Even the
pronouns are not exempt from these metamorphoses, A 'he is used for a man, and a lady is described by a gentleman as 'the fairest she he has yet beheld. In the second place, every variety of apparent grammatical inaccuracy meets us. He for him, him for he; spoke and took for spoken and taken; plural nominatives with singular verbs; relatives omitted where they are now considered necessary; unnecessary antecedents inserted; shall for will, should for would, world for wish; to omitted after •I ought,' inserted after 'I durst; ' double negatives; double comparatives (more better,' &c.) and superlatives; such fol. lowed by which, that by as, as used for as if; that for so that; and lastly some verbs apparently with two nominatives, and others without any nominative at all." Dr. Abbott's Bhakesperian Grammar,
Shakespeare's Versification. Shakespeare's Plays are written mainly in what is known as blank' verse; but they contain a number of riming, and a considerable number of prose, lines. As a rule, rime is much commoner in the earlier than in the later plays. Thus, Love's Labor's Lost contains nearly 1,100 riming lines, while (if we except the songs) Winter's Tale has none. The Merchant of Venice has 124.
In speaking, we lay a stress on particular syllables: this stress is called accent. When the words of a composition are so arranged that the accent recurs at regular intervals, the composition is said to be rhythmical. In blank verse the lines consist usually of ten syllables, of which the second, fourth, sixth,