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In this edition of SHAKESPEARE an attempt is made to present the greater plays of the dramatist in their literary aspect, and not merely as material for the study of philology or grammar. Criticism purely verbal and textual has only been included to such an extent as may serve to help the student in the appreciation of the essential poetry. Questions of date and literary history have been fully dealt with in the Introductions, but the larger space has been devoted to the interpretative rather than the matter-of-fact order of scholarship. Æsthetic judgments are never final, but the Editors have attempted to suggest points of view from which the analysis of dramatic motive and dramatic character may be profitably undertaken. In the Notes likewise, while it is hoped that all unfamiliar expressions and allusions have been adequately explained, yet it has been thought even more important to consider the dramatic value of each scene, and the part which it plays in relation to the whole. These general principles are common to the whole series; in detail each Editor is alone responsible for the play or plays that have been intrusted to him.
Every volume of the series has been provided with a Glossary, an Essay upon Metre, and an Index; and Appendices have been added upon points of special interest which could not conveniently be treated in the Introduction or the Notes. The text is based by the several Editors on that of the Globe edition.
1. LITERARY HISTORY OF THE PLAY
I. THE DATE OF COMPOSITION. Many of Shakespeare's plays were published during his lifetime, either from his own MSS. (as in all probability the 1599 edition of Romeo and Juliet) or surreptitiously from pirated copies such as might have been bought or stolen from an actor in the play, or written in shorthand by some spectator in the pay of a publisher, as, for instance, the 1603 edition of Hamlet. These publications of separate plays are all quartos (so called, because the size of the page is one-fourth that of a full-sized or folio sheet).
But not all of Shakespeare's plays were thus published. In 1623, seven years after his death, two of his fellow actors and fellow shareholders in the Globe Theatre, John Heminge and Henry Condell, collected his plays and published them in one volume. This volume is known as the Folio of 1623, or the First Folio, and its editors, if not always having access to Shakespeare's own MSS., generally have valuable authority for their version; moreover, their volume included seventeen plays of which we have no previous quarto edition.
But Love's Labour's Lost is not one of these. We have a quarto edition: A | PLEASANT | Conceited Comedie | CALLED, | Loues labors lost. | As it was presented before her Highnes | this last Christmas. | Newly corrected and augmented By W. Shakespere. Imprinted at London by W.W. I for Cutbert Burby. I 1598. It is the earliest occurrence of the name of Shakespeare on the titlepage to a play, although anonymous quarto versions of some of his plays, and his poems with the author's name, had already appeared.
The play was next printed in the First Folio (1623), and we have a second quarto edition in 1631. The Second Quarto corresponds to the text of the First Folio, but both have many, usually unimportant, variations from the First Quarto.
The earliest reference to the play in contemporary literature is in 1598: in that year the play is mentioned in a list of Shakespeare's plays in Mere's Palladis Tamia or Wits Treasurie, and also in