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553 04 R7

1892

Illustrated.

ENGLISH

CLASSICS.

EDITED BY WM. J. ROLFE, A.M.

16mo, Cloth, 56 cents per volume; Paper, 40 cents per volume.

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PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.

Any of the above works will be sent by mail, postage prepaid, to any part of the United States, on receipt of the price.

Copyright, 1881, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

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ALL the critics agree that the Comedy of Errors, though first printed in the folio of 1623, is one of the earliest of the plays. It is mentioned by Meres (see M. N. D. p. 9), and

is probably the "Comedy of Errors, like to Plautus his Me nechmus," which, according to the Gesta Grayorum, was "played by the players" at Gray's Inn, one night in December, 1594. The pun in iii. 2. 121 on France "making war against her heir" would seem to show that the play was written between August, 1589, when the civil war about the succession of Henry IV. began, and July, 1593, when it ended.* Furnivall makes the date 1589, Collier “before 1590," Chalmers, Drake, Delius, and Stokes 1591, Malone 1592, Fleay (Chronicle Life of Shakespeare, 1886) 1594, the play having been revised, as he thinks, from the original version of 1590, which may have been partly from another hand.

The Comedy of Errors is the shortest of the plays, having only 1778 lines ("Globe" ed.), while Hamlet, the longest, has 3930, Richard III. 3620, Troilus and Cressida 3496, 2 Henry IV. 3446, etc. The next shortest is the Tempest with 2065, the next Macbeth with 2108, and the next the Midsummer-Night's Dream with 2180.

II. THE SOURCES OF THE PLOT.

"The general idea of this play," as Singer remarks, "is taken from the Menæchmi of Plautus, but the plot is entirely recast, and rendered much more diverting by the variety and quick succession of the incidents. To the twin brothers of Plautus are added twin servants, and though this increases the improbability, yet, as Schlegel observes, when once we have lent ourselves to the first, which certainly borders on the incredible, we should not probably be disposed to cavil about the second; and if the spectator is to be en

* A writer in the North British Review, April, 1870, attempts to show that events in French history of earlier date are alluded to. Henry of Navarre, he says, became heir to the throne on the death of the Duke of Anjou in 1584, and remained so until he became king on the murder of Henry III., Aug. 2, 1589.

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