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Guildenstern, for example, is known well enough without their candied and fawning speeches to the king, after the play-scene ; and both Hamlet's mental vacillation and the springs of it are plainly evident long before he reaches his monologue on the expedition of Fortinbras. In a few instances lines of the original have been transposed: in a very few instances words have been altered-brit never to the perversion of the meaning. Coarse phrases have been cast aside, or modified, wherever they occur. In the fourth act, Marcellus, instead of Horatio, has been made to announce the madness of Ophelia, and to attend upon her-for the reason that had Horatio been aware of her calamity he must have communicated it to Hamlet prior to their encounter with the funeral procession in the church-yard. Care has been particularly taken to omit nothing that is essential to the exposition of Hamlet's madness, and of the mental condition that leads him to assume it. “ Hamlet's wildness," says Coleridge, “is but half false: he plays that subtle trick of pretending to act, only when he is very near really being what he acts.” The point is a subtle one, and of immense importance to the comprehension of the character. It has been steadily kept in view ; and the clearness and fullness of all the characters implicated have been studiously sought, in the necessary condensation of the piece. In brief, a conscientious effort has here been made to construct an acting version of “Hamlet” which yet should escape the reproach of having garbled the original. “ The theatrical copies of Shakespeare's plays," says Charles Cowden Clarke, “are so notoriously abridged that it is impossible, by them, to judge fairly of the poet's delineation of character, who never wrote a line that did not harmonize with, and tend to define, the portrait he was limning."— To meet the exigencies of the stage without
sacrificing the beauties of the author, and to present Humlet clearly without keeping him too long in the public eye, will not, at least, be thought an injudicious endeavor. The tragedy is here set forth precisely as it is presented by Edwin Booth : that is to say, with the arrangement of scenes and the stagedirections made and used by him. The Appendix, for which, of course, the Editor is alone responsible to critical judgment, contains remarks upon the character and information respecting the tragedy of "Hamlet,” which it is hoped may prove useful—at least by way of suggestion — to theatrical students.
W. W. New-York, Feb. 7th, 1878.
"Shakespeare is a being of a higher nature, to whom I do but look up, and whom it is my part to worship and to honour."-GOETHE.
" Once more assay
"Gervinus remarks that whenever the name of Shakespeare is mentioned, the play of 'Hamlet' first comes to remembrance : and John Kemble observed that in every copy of Shakespeare's works it appeared that 'Hamlet' had been the play most read.”—DR. CONOLLY.
“Flame trembles most when it doth highest rise."-DAVENANT.
“We have here an oak planted in a costly vase, fit only to receive lovely flowers within its bosom : the roots spread, and burst the vase.”—GOETHE.
“He has the desire and the power to accomplish great things, but it must be in obedience to the dictates of his own thoughts, and by his own independent, original, and creative energy.
* The poor plans and intentions of man do not miscarry through the weakness of their authors, but their baseless projects are also, by an intrinsic necessity, as frequently crossed and frustrated by the equally baseless empire of chance."-ULRICI.
“Wide yawns the grave; dull tolls the solemn bell;
Dark lie the dead; and long the last farewell."—WILSON.
CLAUDIUS, KING OF DENMARK.
Place and Time.
SCENE.-Elsinore, in Denmark.