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' HE two most notable productions of English
literature are the Authorised Version of the Bible and the works of William Shakspere. Many publications of the Sunday School Association are devoted to the study of the Bible, and the present volume is intended to help parents, teachers and elder scholars to appreciate the treasures of wisdom contained in the writings of our greatest dramatist. To our younger readers I would strongly recommend, as an introduction to the plays, the little book called Tales from Shakspere, by Charles and Mary Lamb. At the close of the preface to these Tales we have this beautiful estimate of the poet's works : What these tales shall have been to the young readers, that and much more it is the writers' wish that the true plays of Shakspere may prove to them in older years—enrichers of the fancy, strengtheners of virtue, a withdrawing from all selfish and mercenary thoughts, a lesson of all sweet and honourable thoughts and actions, to teach courtesy, benignity, generosity, humanity : for of examples, teaching these virtues, his pages are full.'
I Am indebted to the extensive Shaksperian literature for many suggestions in the writing of these Studies, but I have not thought well to cumber the pages with notes acknowledging my obligations. I must, however, mention the name of John Weiss, who has done so much to encourage the study of Shakspere in the United States. His essay on Hamlet is the most masterly interpretation I have met with ; and wherein I have ventured to differ from his exposition of one important passage, proof is afforded of the measure in which he has taught me to read the play for myself without prejudice or bias.