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ON THE CLOWNS AND FOOLS OF SHAKSPEARE; ON THE
COLLECTION OF POPULAR TALES ENTITLED
GESTA ROMANORUM; AND ON THE
The practice, and also the necessity of explaining the writings of Shakspeare, have already been so ably defended by former commentators, that no other apology on the part of those who may elect to persevere in this kind of labour seems to be necessary than with regard to the qualifications of the writer : but as no one in this case perhaps ever thought, or at least should think, himself incompetent to the task assumed of instructing or amusing others, it may be as well, on the present occasion, to waive altogether such a common-place intrusion on the reader's time. It is enough to state that accident had given birth to a considerable portion of the following pages,
and that design supplied the rest. The late Mr. Steevens had already, in a manner too careless for his own reputation, and abundantly too favourable to his friend, presented to public view such of the author's remarks as were solely put together for the private use and consideration of that able critic. The former wish of their compiler has, with the present opportunity, been accomplished; that is, some of them withdrawn, and others, it is hoped, rendered less exceptionable.
The readers of Shakspeare may be properly divided into three classes. The first, as they travel through the text, appeal to each explanation of a word or passage as it occurs. The second, read a large portion of the text, or perhaps the whole, uninterruptedly, and then consult the notes ; and the third reject the illustrations altogether. Of these the second appear to be the most rational. The last, with all their affectation, are probably the least learned, but will undoubtedly remain so; and it may be justly remarked on this occasion, in the language of the