Shakespeare and Voltaire

By Thomas R. Lounsbury | Go to book overview

PREFACE

IN the opening volume of this series I sought to show, among other things, that the controversy between what we now commonly call the classical and romantic dramas was carried on as vigorously during the Elizabethan era as it has been at any period since. The present names did not exist, it is true; but the realities were just as active and as potent. The lines were drawn as rigidly then as they have been at any time: and according to their preferences and beliefs men allied themselves with the one or the other party.

Evidence of this was furnished from the mouths of various witnesses. But had not their testimony been handed down, the existence of such a condition of things could have been inferred, not merely from the acts of Shakespeare, but from his very words. From them it is clear that he not only recognized the distinction between the two kinds of drama, but that he advisedly ranged himself upon the side of the romanticists. His rejection of the unities, for illustration, was not accidental but deliberate. He made this evident not only by his marked conformity to them in at least one instance; in two or three others he practically proclaimed his dissent from them in the references he made to the arguments by which they were supported. This single fact is sufficient of itself to dispose of the

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