The aim in the selection of the plays in this volume has been twofold: first, to present typical examples of the work of the most important of Shakespeare's contemporaries, so that, read with Shakespeare's own writings, they might afford a view of the development of the English drama through its most brilliant period; secondly, to present, as far as it was possible in one volume, the most distinguished plays of that period, regarded merely from the point of view of their intrinsic value. It is clear that these two purposes could. not always be perfectly combined; but it is hoped that each has been in good measure achieved without undue sacrifice of the other, and that the interests of the academic student and the general reader have been fairly harmonized.
In the treatment of the text, the same principles have been followed as in the editor's edition of Shakespeare's works in the Cambridge Poets Series. Each play has been printed from the most authentic text accessible, and emendations have been adopted sparingly. Modern stage directions, and divisions into scenes and acts which do not appear in the original editions, have been distinguished by square brackets; modern notes of place at the beginning of scenes have been relegated to the footnotes; and indications given by the early copies of the authors' intentions with regard to the reading of the metre have been carefully preserved, especially in the matter of elided vowels. It is probable that, in the case of most of the present plays, the final -ed of verbs was intended to be pronounced as a separate syllable whenever it is spelled in full. The spelling and punctuation have been modernized throughout, except when the older spelling implied a different pronunciation.
The footnotes give the most important variant readings, and explanations of obsolete expressions; and the Additional Notes at the end of the volume supply information with regard to the circumstances of publication, date, and sources of each play. In accordance with the plan of the Chief Poets Series, to which the volume belongs, there have been added concise biographical sketches and a selected bibliography of the dramatic work of each author. In view of the full bibliographies printed recently in Professor Schelling Elizabethan Drama and in The Cambridge History of English Literature, vols. v and vi, it has not seemed advisable to attempt to give exhaustive bibliographies at the expense of reducing the number of dramas. All collected editions of the dramatists concerned are, however, mentioned; all separate editions of the plays here printed; a complete list of each author's dramas, with the dates of the original editions; and a selection of the more important critical and biographical articles and books. Attention may also be called to the complete index of all the dramatis personae who have speaking parts, and to the index of songs.
In the selection of the thirty plays to be included I have received valuable advice from many friends and colleagues on the faculties of many colleges and universities; so many that a complete acknowledgment would be impracticable, a partial one invidious. For all such help I am deeply grateful. I have also received courtesies from the authorities of . . .