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Set up and electrotyped. Published December, 1924
Press of J. J. Little & Ives Company, New York
The twelve short plays in this book are intended to serve as a broad and enjoyable introduction to Shakespeare. The series of playlets represents abridgments from eleven of Shakespeare's principal plays. The texts have been simplified by the omission of difficult Elizabethan expressions and references which have been obscured by time. Occasional obsolete words have also been replaced by other words from the same contexts. Familiar lines, however, such as are memory gems, have not been touched.
The omissions have greatly shortened the dialog and quickened the action. The plays can be handled readily as units in a high school recitation or study period. Each can be read in dialog form, with good preparation, in thirty-five to forty minutes, and should be read for the first time by a good silent reader that is, one whose eye skims the page for ideas and who does not pronounce the words either with his lips or mentally — in forty-five minutes. Dramatic readings take longer, as do elaborate presentations with incidental music and pauses between acts and scenes.
An appendix has been added summarizing the different styles of presentation for entertainment and furnishing helps for the dramatic presentation of the plays, as well as special notes for staging each of them.
Undoubtedly the most enjoyable handling of the playlets in class is that which allows for a free choice of rôles, and reading in dialog on different days with different casts. Each of the playlets represents the most interesting dramatically of the several plots which Shakespeare intertwined in the great play from which it was taken, and the principal characters include many of the brightest and greatest figures in Shakespeare. These characters, once impersonated and loved in the playlets, should move certainly with greater interest and sympathy through the wider scenes of the complete plays. Their speeches and stories, like the early-learned motifs of an opera, should take on richer meanings when the great works themselves are studied.
As an aid to oral reading, the proper names have been pronounced. The marking of the names has been extremely difficult. From the time of Shakespeare himself, actors have pronounced foreign names with reckless inconsistency. Anglicized and foreign pronunciations mingle in the same play, and sometimes in the same word. In selecting but one pronunciation for such names it is necessary to be more or less arbitrary. Consistency is well-nigh impossible, due to the different sources of the names; for example, Greek, Latin, Italian, French,-some names in the original orthography and some Anglicized either in spelling or pronunciation or in both.
The illustrations in the book are principally those of amateur performances, showing what can be done by school children and non-professionals. Where it has been possible to secure a picture of a famous actor to illustrate a favorite rôle, the portrait has been used to show the height of artistry the presentation may reach.
Acknowledgment is made to the Salt Lake Costuming Company which kindly lent the costumes for the amateur pictures.
Acknowledgments of assistance on the text and other parts of the book are due the works on Shakespeare and the stage memoranda now generally accessible in libraries. I have received personal help from Professor B. Roland Lewis and his staff of the English Department of the University of Utah (who have reviewed the notes and verbal transpositions as well as all of the plays) and from other members of the faculty, who deserve most grateful thanks. UNIVERSITY OF Utah,
FRED G. BARKER. July, 1924