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endeavour has been to point out the organic gravitating centre of each of his dramas, i. e. to discover in each that inmost secret spark of life, that unity of idea, which preeminently constitutes a work of art a living creation in the world of beauty. But I have also subjected his poetry to an historical as well as to an æsthetical criticism; that is to say, I have endeavoured to fix not only its true position on the borders of the 16th century, but also its true relation to the past, the present, and the future. For this end, it was indispensably necessary for me to determine what was Shakspeare's own conception of the essence of the tragic, comic, and historic drama; or, what is the same, to shew that a true æsthetical notion was the basis of each actual manifestation.

Lastly, I believed that I should be able to approach more nearly to the secret of the marvellous poems of Shakspeare, if I were likewise to consider them as reflected in the mirror of the poetry of Goethe and Calderon.

In the mere historical portion of my work it is manifest that my task is simply to appreciate and to put rightly together the existing materials. Out of England it is impossible to discover any fresh data, and it has not been my good fortune to be able to visit that country. For the mere facts, therefore, and for them alone, Malone, Steevens, Chalmers, and others, and particularly Drake, Skottowe, and Collier, must answer. For all the restfor historical combination, i. e. conjectures, &c., I must stand on my own responsibility.

I am too well aware that the philosophers par excellence will be able to see no depth in my book, either because it does not enter into the absolute profoundness of their own philosophy, or because it adopts a freedom from a strict philosophical form, or rather from what they at present call so. I would, however, beg leave to remind them that the expression of æsthetical ideas must at least precede a system of æsthetics, and I would also ask, whether an æsthetical system, which is not merely philosophically conceived, but also based on the firm foundation of history, is not preferable to every other. On the other hand, the philologers of the history of art will be disappointed to find my book not decked out with an array of great erudition, notes, emendations, and all the usual cram of historical and critical trifles. As to quotations, I have purposely abstained from them, except where a new or probably hitherto doubtful fact is brought forward, or where it seemed desirable to enable the reader himself to judge of the weight of authorities. Endless reading-great stores of historical, grammatical, and critical learning, no man can make a display of who does not possess them, and yet, if modesty allow, I might beg of these “masters” to look a little closer, and try whether they cannot find even here much of what they seek.

In conclusion, I have to express my sincere thanks to Dr. S. H. Spiker and Dr. G. Friedlander : to the former, for the ready kind'ness with which he opened to me his rich library of English works, and to the latter, for the obliging friendship with which not only on the present occasion, but on many previous ones, he has hastened to supply my wants from the Royal Library at Berlin.


Halle, Jan. 1839.



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