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William Shakespeare

With a Life of the Poet, Ex-
planatory Foot-notes, Critical
Notes and a Glossarial Index



barvard Edition

Twenty Volumes


Vol. XX

The Athenæum Press


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1881, by

HENRY N. HUDSON, in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

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EGISTERED in the Stationers' book for publication, on

the gth of May, 1594, by John Harrison, and published the same year.

The poem was reissued by the same publisher in 1598, 1600, and 1607.

In his dedication of this poem to the Earl of Southampton, the author speaks in a more confident tone than in that of the

Venus and Adonis, as if his growth of reputation during the 'interval had given him a feeling of strength with his noble friend and patron. The language, too, of the dedication is such as to infer that he had in the meantime tasted more largely of the Earl's bounty. — The poem was not commended so much as its predecessor during the author's life; but it received commendation from higher sources, and in a higher style.

Lucretia the Chaste is a theme of frequent recurrence in the romantic literature of the Middle Ages, when knighthood and chivalry were wont to feed themselves on the glory of her example. The story was accessible to Shakespeare in Chaucer and Lydgate, and in Paynter's Palace of Pleasure: there were also several ballads on the subject. As to the classical sources of the tale, it is not likely that the Poet was beholden directly to any of them, except, perhaps, the Fasti, of which an English version appeared in 1570.

Modern criticism, generally, assigns the Lucrece a place of merit considerably below that of the Venus and Adonis. The thought and passion of the later poem were, from the nature of the subject, of a much severer order, and probably did not admit of the warmth and vividness of colouring and imagery which so distinguish the earlier ; though there is in both a certain incontinence of wit and fancy, which shows that impulse was at that time stronger with the Poet than art. The truth seems to be,

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