The Fortunes of Falstaff

The Fortunes of Falstaff

The Fortunes of Falstaff

The Fortunes of Falstaff

Excerpt

Apart from the Introduction and passages omitted here and there from later chapters, ill order to bring them within the compass of the one hour's traffic of the class-room, the contents of this book were delivered at Cambridge in May 1943 as five Clark Lectures. Lest my hearers should weary of the names of many authorities, I reserved most acknowledgements of indebtedness for the Notes, printed at the end of the volume. I cannot hope that these are complete; for, though I have striven to present a true account, in the study of Shakespeare as in life it is impossible for the individual to recognize all that he derives from others. But my chief creditor, without a doubt, is Andrew Bradley. His paper on Falstaff is perhaps the weakest of his writings, and my thesis has compelled me to criticize it at every turn; yet he remains, nearly half a century after the appearance of his Shakespearian Tragedy, the greatest of modern Shakespearian critics, and we are all his pupils.

When the Master and Fellows of Trinity College did me the honour of asking me to give these lectures, my first impulse was to speak of what Trinity has done, and is still doing, for Shakespearian scholarship. It is enough to mention (i) the Capell collection in the library, (ii) the Cambridge Shakespeare, originally produced by William G. Clark, generous founder of this lectureship, and by W. Aldis Wright, Vice-Master of the college and, after Samuel Johnson, wisest of Shakespeare's editors, and (iii) the names of R. B. McKerrow and W. W. Greg, joint-founders, with A. W. Pollard, of modern Shakespearian textual criticism, to show what wealth and promise the theme holds. But a treatment in any sense worthy would have asked time and quiet and the use of books, all at this moment of history out of reach; and I was therefore obliged to fall back upon a subject ready to hand and, as explained in the Introduction, for some years maturing . . .

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