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IN preparing the text of this volume, we have in general followed the same rules as in the so-called 'Cambridge Shakespeare': rules which we adopted originally after much deliberation, and of which the soundness has been confirmed by our subsequent experience.
As however the two editions differ in plan, the one recording in foot-notes all the various readings and conjectural emendations, the other giving only the text, we have in some particulars modified our rules.
For instance, in cases where the text of the earliest editions is manifestly faulty, but where it is impossible to decide with confidence which, if any, of several suggested emendations is right, we have in the 'Cambridge Shakespeare' left the original reading in our text, mentioning in our notes all the proposed alterations: in this edition, we have substituted in the text the emendation which seemed most probable, or in cases of absolute equality, the earliest suggested. But the whole number of such variations between the texts of the two editions is very small.
In this volume, whenever the original text has been corrupted in such a way as to affect the sense, no admissible emendation having been proposed, or whenever a lacuna occurs too 'great to be filled up with any approach to certainty by conjecture, we have marked the passage with an obelus (†).
As in the larger work, we have numbered the lines of each scene for convenience of reference.'
In the stage directions we have preserved as far as we could, consistently with clearness, the language of the oldest texts.
The Glossary has been prepared by the Rev. J. M. Jephson, of King's College, London.
We trust that the title which has been chosen for the present edition will neither be thought presumptuous nor be found inappropriate. It seems indeed safe to predict that any volume which presents, in a convenient form, with clear type and at a moderate cost, the complete works of the foremost man in all literature, the greatest master of the language most widely spoken among men, will make its way to the remotest corners of the habitable globe.