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SHAKS PEARE will be read with enthusiasm ; and any serious attempt to tarnish his fame, or to degrade him from his exalted station, must ever be considered as weak and as ridiculous in the design, as it would certainly be found unavailing and impossible in the execution.
But whatever apology or extenuation may be deemed necessary for the liberty that is taken with the poet, it is presumed that neither will be required for the freedom that is used in the treatment of his annotators : for no real admirer of SHAKS PEAR E but must feel indignant at finding his sense perverted, and his meaning obscured, * by the false lights, and the fanciful and arbitrary
* The poets of the present day have wisely provided against injuries of this nature; for, with the assistance of an abundance of notes, they have so clearly explained their own meanings
illustrations, of Black-letter Critics and Coney-catching Commentators. And it had been well if some able satirist had exposed and punished their folly, their affectation, and their arrogance, at the time when the rage for editing, and commenting on SHAKS PEARE was at its height, and every pedant in Black-letter lore assumed the prerogative of an authorised pollutor of his text.*
From the force of its sentiments, the beauty of its imagery, and, above all, the solemnity
(which, it must be confessed, would, otherwise, be frequently unintelligible) as to supersede the labours of future critics. .
* From this general reproach must the great Dr. Johnson be excepted, who, even as a Shaksperian Commentator, is entitled to our respect; and of whom it may truly be said, that he never wrote without the intention, and scarcely ever without the effect, of rendering mankind more wise or more
of its conduct, there is, perhaps, no tragedy in the English language better adapted to the purposes of travesty* than “Hamlet;” and from its being so frequently before the public, so very generally read, and so continually quoted, it is, more than any other, calculated to give a travesty its full effect, and which can only be produced by a facility of contrast
* It may not be amiss to remark that, although oftentimes used indifferently, the terms burlesque and travesty are properly distinct: burlesque is more general in its application ; travesty more particular: the former is levelled against blemishes and defects, which its object is to expose and ridicule, and pleases by comparison ; the latter is constructed upon the various excellencies of any particular work, and derives its effect solely from the force of contrast. Hence a travesty, instead of derogating from the value or the reputation of its subject, may be considered as no inadequate test of its merit.
with its subject work. For it is obvious, that in a work of this nature (the object of which is to convey the precise sentiments and ideas contained in its original, but in language, and in a manner, unsuited to their subject and the character of the speaker), many parts must appear ridiculous, and even contemptible, when considered independently of the passage or passages to which they allude. For a reader, therefore, to derive entertainment from the perusal of a travesty, but more particularly to be enabled to decide whether it be ill or well executed, a familiar acquaintance with its original is indispensable.
This travesty having been originally undertaken with an idea to its representation on the stage, it will be perceived that stage-effect is sometimes considered : as in the opening of the piece amidst the magnificence of the palace, in
preference to the stillness of the platform; and in the substitution of a pugilistic trial of skill, in the last scene, for the more elegant exercise of the rapier.
With respect to the annotations ; particular allusions are sometimes made, but, in general, nothing more is intended than an imitation of the general style, manner, and character, of the commentators ; and an attempt to produce the ludicrous by the application of the pride and affectation of critical sagacity, and the violence of controversial asperity, to subjects light, triAing, and insignificant.
With no other view, in the publication of this trifle, than to afford an hour's amusement, the author solicits for it an exemption from severe and minute criticism ; and, trusting to an indulgent and liberal reception of his work, he respectfully submits it to the public.