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selves by the power of imagination in trying situations, in the conflicts of duty and passion, or the strife of contending duties ; what sort of loves and enmities theirs were ; how their griefs were tempered, and their full-swoln joys abated : how much of Shakspeare shines in the great men his contemporaries, and how far in his divine mind and manners he surpassed them and all mankind.
Another object which I had in making these selections was, to bring together the most admired scenes in Fletcher and Massinger, in the estimation of the world the only dramatic poets of that age who are entitled to be considered after Shakspeare, and to exhibit them in the same volume with the more impressive scenes of old Marlowe, Heywood, Tourneur, Webster, Ford, and others. To shew what we have slighted, while beyond all proportion we have cried up one or two favourite
The specimens are not accompanied with any thing in the shape of biographical notices * I had nothing of consequence to add to the slight sketches in Dodsley and the Biographica Dramatica, and I was unwilling to swell the volume with mere transcription. The reader will not fail to observe from the frequent instances of two or more persons joining in the composition of the same play (the noble practice of those times), that of most of the writers contained in these selections it may be strictly said, that they were contemporaries. The whole period, from the middle of Elizabeth's reign to the close of the reign of Charles I., comprises a space of little more than half a century, within which time nearly all that we have of excellence in serious dramatic composition was produced, if we except the Samson Agonistes of Milton.
* The few notes which are interspersed will be found to be chiefly critical.