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AND HIS TIMES
Including the Biography of the Poet
CPITICISM ON HJS GENIUS AND WRITINGS; A NEW CHRONOLOGY OF HIS PLAYS; A DISQUISITION ON TIE
OBJECT OF HIS SONXETS; AND A HISTORY OF THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, AMUSEMENTS,
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Taough two centuries have now elapsed, since the death of Shakspeare, no attempt has hitherto been made to render him the medium for a comprehensive and connected view of the Times in which he lived.
Yet, if any man be allowed to fill a station thus conspicuous and important, Shakspeare has undoubtedly the best claim to the distinction; not only from his pre-eminence as a dramatic poet, but from the intimate relation which bis works bear to the manners, customs, superstitions, and amusements of his
Struck with the interest which a work of this kind, if properly executed, might possess, the author was induced, several years ago, to commence the undertaking, with the express intention of blending with the detail of mammers, etc. such a portion of criticism, biography, and literary history, as should render the whole still more attractive and complete.
In attempting this, it has been his aim to place Shakspeare in the foreground of the picture, and to throw around him, in groups more or less distinct and full, the various objects of his design; giving them prominency and light, according to their greater or smaller connection with the principal figure.
More especially has it been his wish, to infuse throughout the whole plan, whether considered in respect to its entire scope, or to the parts of which it is composed, that degree of unity and integrity, of relative proportion and just bearing, without which neither harmony, simplicity, nor effect, can be expected or produced.
With a view, also, to distinctness and perspicuity of elucidation, the whole has been distributed into three parts or pictures, entitled, -- "SHAK
SPEARE IN STRATFORD; -“SHAKSPEATE IN LONDON;
66 SHAKŠPEARE IN RETIREMENT;"- which, though inseparably united, as forming but portions of the same story, and harmonized by the same means, have yet, both in subject and execution, a peculiar character to support.
The first represents our Poet in the days of his youth, or the Crii his native Avon, in the midst of rural imagery, occupation ments; in the second, we behold him in the Capital of his country, in the centre of rivalry and competition, in the active pursuit of reputation and glory; and in the third, we accompany the venerated bard to the shades of retirement, to the bosom of domestic peace, to the enjoyment of unsullied fame.
It has, therefore, been the business of the author, in accordancy with his plan, to connect these delineations with their relative accompaniments; to incorporate, for instance, with the first, what he has to relate ci the country, as it existed in the age of Shakspeare; its manners, customs, and characters; its festivals, diversions, and many of its superstitions; opening and closing the subject with the biography of the poet, and binding the intermediate parts, not only by a perpetual reference to his drama, but by their own constant and direct tendency towards the development of the one object in view.
With the second, which commences with Shakspeare's introduction to the stage as an actor, is combined the poetic, dramatic, and cent! literature of the times, together with an account of metropolitan manner's and diversions, and a full and continued criticism on the poems an plays of our bard.
After a survey, therefore, of 'e Literary world, under the beads of Bibliography, Philology, Criticism, Ivory, Romantic and Miscellaneous Literature, follows a View of the Poetry ( the same period, succeeded by a critique on the juvenile productions of Shakspeare, aline including a biographical sketch of Lord Southampton, and a new! thesis on the origin and object of the Sonnets.
Of the immediately subsequent description of diversions, etc. the Economy of the Stage forms a leading feature, as preparatory to a History of Dramatic Poetry, previous to the year 1590; and this is again introduc