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EDITED WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES
G. S. GORDON, M.A.
FELLOW OF MAGDALEN COLLEGE, oxford
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
LONDON: HENRY FROWDE
AND AT EDINBURGH, GLASGOW, NEW YORK
The following plays are now ready (May 1912):
A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM
AS YOU LIKE IT
Others are in preparation
T is a common complaint against editors of Shakespeare
that they exceed their part; that by doing too much for their author they gain readers for themselves at his expense. In preparing this edition I have tried always to remember that it is better for an editor to say too little than 'too much, and that the first aim of an editor of Shakespeare should be to gain readers for Shakespeare. The Notes, therefore, are concerned about one thing only, the meaning of the text. Everything which seemed in any degree to need explanation has been explained, and care has been taken to explain nothing else.
The Introductions are written with more freedom. They are full, and so far as they have a common spirit it is a spirit of inquiry. No question of history or criticism has been treated dogmatically when it could be treated otherwise. There is indeed no part of literary history where dogma is less in place.
It is impossible for any editor of Shakespeare to write a preface without remembering his debts. There are parts of these Introductions where I am conscious of no obligation, but wherever scholarship or learning or interpretation was needed I have found my best guides in the eighteenth-century editors, in Dr. Aldis Wright, and in the Oxford Dictionary.
G. S. G.
OXFORD May 1, 1912
SOURCE AND DATE
THE story of Hamlet is a legend of the North, the work of the The rovers who harried our coasts before the coming of the Normans. legend of It was first made known to the general world by Saxo Grammaticus, or 'The Scholar', in a history of his countrymen the Danes which he wrote about the end of the twelfth century. The story as it appears in Saxo has been thus summarized by Professor Dowden :
Horwendil and his brother Feng rule Jutland under King Rorik of Denmark. Horwendil slays Koll, King of Norway, and marries Gerutha, the daughter of King Rorik; their son is Amleth. Feng, jealous of his brother, slays Horwendil, and takes Gerutha to wife. Amleth feigns to be dull of wits and little better than a beast, while secretly planning vengeance. He baffles the courtiers by riddling words, which for them are nonsense, but are really significant. A girl, his foster-sister, is placed in his way, in the hope that his conduct may betray his true state of mind; his foster-brother warns him of the snare, and he baffles his enemies. A friend of Feng, more confident than wise,' proposes to act as eavesdropper during an interview between Amleth and his mother. Amleth, coming like a cock, flapping his arms like wings, and leaping hither and thither, discovers the eavesdropper hidden under straw, stabs him and brutally disposes of the body. He explains to his mother that his madness is feigned and that he plans revenge, and he gains her over to his side. His uncle sends Amleth to Britain, with two companions, who bear a letter graven on wood, requesting the king to slay Amleth. The letter is altered by Amleth, and his companions are put to death. His adventures in Britain do not affect Shakespeare's play. He returns, makes the courtiers drunk, sets them in hangings knitted by his mother, sets fire to the