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From the force of its sentiments, the beauty of its imagery, and, above all, the solemnity of its conduct, there is, perhaps, no tragedy in the English language better adapted to the purposes of a travesty* than “ Hamlet;" and
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 virtuous.
* 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.
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 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 under taken 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.
THE former Edition of this work having been
dery generally approved, I have endeavoured, by
a careful revision, to render the present Edition no less deserving of the public approbation. In the
subject, I have made such alterations as I conceived
would tend to the general improvement of the piece;
and the numerous additions which I have made to the
Annotations, will not, I hope, deprive this portion
of the work of the favour with which it has hitherto