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The complete works of William Shakespeare (v. 4)

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Pages: 106

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/5/2009 - General Books LLC

By: William Shakespeare

Excerpt from book: INTRODUCTION ONCERNING the origin of " The Merry Wives of Windsor," there is — what there is not always in the case of Shakespeare's plays — at least one time-honoured tradition. It is said to have been written by command of Queen Elizabeth. The first mention of this tradition occurs in the " Epistle Dedicatory " of " The Comical Gallant: or the Amours of Sir John Falstaffe," a comedy produced at Drury Lane in 1702 by the clever but cross-grained old critic, John Dennis (Pope's "Appius"), who, in the occultation of Shakespeare at the opening of the eighteenth century, appears to have imagined that he could concoct from "The Merry Wives of Windsor" something better suited to the court of Queen Anne. " The Comical Gallant" had no success, and deserved none. But the " Epistle Dedicatory " contained one memorable utterance. " I knew very well," says Dennis, " that it [" The Merry Wives of Windsor"] had pleas'd one of the greatest Queens that ever was in the World.... This comedy [the " Merry Wives " again] was written at her Command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it Acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days: and was afterwards, as Tradition tells us, very well pleas'd at the Representation." Dennis again refers to the story in the Prologue: — " But Shakespear't Play in fourteen days was writ, And in that space to make all just and fit, Was an attempt surpassing human Wit. Yet our great Shdkespear't matchless Muse was such, None e'er in so small time perform'd so much." As regards the last lines Dennis should have remembered that, sixty years after Shakespeare, Moliere had run that " matchless Muse " very close in point of speed. The comedy of " Les Facheux," which was prepared for the fete given by Fouquet to Louis XIV. in 1661,...  


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