Shakespeare and the Classics

Shakespeare and the Classics

Shakespeare and the Classics

Shakespeare and the Classics


The author has reconsidered those elements in Shakespeare which he might suppose without presumption that he has something to say. The work is done by a classical student, not an expert in Elizabethan literature.


It is certain that too many books are written about Shakespeare, and it will be for readers to decide whether the existence of another has been justified. The sole object of this Preface is to explain, not excuse, the book's deficiencies. These arise from the circumstance that it is the work of a classical student, not an expert in Elizabethan literature. All I have done, as it was all I am qualified to do, was to reconsider those classical elements in Shakespeare on which I might suppose without presumption that I had something to say.

I have used the text of the Globe edition as being on the whole that which is most familiar to readers and most nearly approaches a vulgate. In general I have not been punctilious about quoting Elizabethan authors in the form in which their words originally appeared. In a book which raises no textual problems the convenience of' the general reader is to be consulted. The Latin quotations I have translated as closely as I could without exaggeration or understatement or that subtle colouring of the true sense which the earnest advocate half unconsciously gives to the evidence. Not to translate at all I could not think right where so much depends on whether the reader agrees with me on the meaning of the Latin.

I have said enough for a Preface, and perhaps too much. Yet one thing I must add. In estimating the extent of Shakespeare's classical learning I have sought to establish what he certainly did know rather than to discuss what he may have known. He may have known a good deal more than I credit him with. I am very willing to believe that. But in scholarship it is fatal to let the wish to believe induce belief without sufficient evidence; and surmises and speculations, however plausible, are not evidence. Let us have the evidence first and let speculation -- which of course may be very valuable and even necessary -- be founded upon that.


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