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PRE FAC E.
NEW edition of Shakspeare, and an edition of fo fingular a form as the prefent, in which all his plays are comprehended in one volume, will, perhaps, appear furprifing to many readers; but, upon a little reflection, their furprize will, the editor doubts not, be converted into approbation.
Much as Shakspeare has been read of late years, and largely as the admiration and ftudy of him have been extended, there is ftill a numerous clafs of men to whom he is very imperfectly known. Many of the middling and lower ranks of the inhabi tants of this country are either not acquainted with him at all, excepting by name, or have only feen a few of his plays, which have accidentally fallen in their way,
It is to fupply the wants of thefe perfons that the prefent edition is principally undertaken; and it cannot fail of becoming to them a perpetual fource of entertainment and inftruction. That they will derive the highest entertainment from it, no one can deny; for it does not require any extraordinary degree of knowledge or education to enter into the general fpirit of Shakspeare. The paffions he defcribes are the paffions which are felt by every human being; and his wit and humour are not local, or confined to the customs of a particular age, but are fuch as will give pleafure at all times, and to men of all ranks, from the highest to the lowest.
But the inftruction that may be drawn from Shakspeare is equal to the entertainment which his writings afford. He is the greatest master of human nature and of human life that, perhaps, ever exifted; fo that we cannot perufe his works without having our understandings confiderably enlarged, Befides this, he abounds in occafional maxims and reflections, which are calcu lated to make a deep impreffion upon the mind. There is fcarcely any circumftance in the common occurrences of the world, on which fomething may not be found peculiarly applicable in Shakspeare; and, at the fame time, better expreffed than in any other author. To promote, therefore, the knowledge of them, is to contribute to general improvement,