In this book I have tried to survey all the information that we possess in regard to the theater of Shakespeare's time. On matters offering difficulty I have endeavored to indicate the evidence and to arrive at some conclusion, in the hope of presenting within the compass of a single volume a synthesis of the subject that will be of service both to the student and the general reader.
Although sometimes the material is of a sort better suited for reference than for reading, it is hoped that other chapters may not wholly lack that wider interest belonging to a history of the stage, and so finely justified in the words of Burke:
"A history of the Stage is no trivial thing to those who wish to study human nature in all shapes and positions. It is of all things the most instructive, to see not only the reflections of manners and characters at several periods, but the modes of making their reflection, and the manner of adapting it at those periods to the taste and disposition of mankind. The Stage indeed may be considered as the republic of active literature, and its history as the history of that state."
The study of Shakespeare's theater virtually began with the researches of Edmund Malone, which were embodied in his Historical Account of the English Stage, included in his 1790 edition of Shakespeare's . . .