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PREFACE.

THE author offers no apologies for his little work, ,

nor for his opinions. If true, then truth can need no apology; although we know, thanks to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, it is “dreadfully attended,” even in these days. If, on the other hand, they are insane delusions, then the author will be happy to have so illustrious an example as Hamlet, and say with him, “His madness (if it be so) is poor Hamlet's enemy.” The play of Hamlet is not

" merely a piece of exquisite writing; it is a practical and every-day affair. Hamlet is being acted on the world's stage, by humanity, at this present hour. And every momentous epoch in the world's history only realizes some line or prognostication of the play itself. Finally, we have to remark, the interpretation of Shakespeare's plays is not an affair which will remain for ever at the dispensation of fancy or of carping criticism. Our Poet's own words will finally lift the veil off his works, and then let those who think they know him best beware of eating their own words.

It is high time some attempt be made to show Shakespeare was a thinker, and not alone an artist. We can imagine the rage such a question may excite; but, nevertheless, we know absolutely nothing of Shakespeare's own thoughts. The fragments of beautiful mosaic in thought, which are all we at present grasp, must not be mistaken for our Poet's beliefs. Nor has any systematic attempt been yet made to seize in synthesis the unity and symbolism of one of his works. The sole way of meeting any counter-charge to this fact, is to enunciate some questions like the following. Do we know Shakespeare subjectively? Are we intimate with the man himself as we are with Milton, with Goethe, or with any other genius? Do we know what Shakespeare's political, philosophical, or historical opinions were? In short, can we as yet venture to separate the author from his works, detecting in the unity of the objective art the subjective man? Answers to questions of this sort (which might be multiplied ad infinitum) are not to be found. Where shall we search for them ? Echo answers, where indeed ? We are quite aware there are plenty of people who would attempt to answer these questions readily. But let us assure them, no extracts

. from the text will satisfy the problem. Shakespeare was far too objective in his art to confound his own thoughts with anything short of unity of idea. . Besides, if we appeal to the text, we could easily find negations to almost every positive thought somewhere else. No, it is alone in the unity of the symbolic and spiritual soul of art that we can find the true thought and inspiration of its creator. With this opinion deeply rooted within us, we offer the hypothesis worked out in this little work, as help and suggestion towards final solution.

LONDON, February 18th, 1875.

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