The Printable KISS Workbooks Shakespeare's Plays

from Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles & Mary Lamb 



     The following Tales are meant to be submitted to the young reader
as an introduction to the study of Shakespeare, for which purpose
his words are used whenever it seemed possible to bring them in;
and in whatever has been added to give them the regular form of a
connected story, diligent care has been taken to select such
words as might least interrupt the effect of the beautiful
English tongue in which he wrote: therefore, words introduced
into our language since his time have been as far as possible

     In those Tales which have been taken from the Tragedies, the
young readers will perceive, when they come to see the source
from which these stories are derived, that Shakespeare's own
words, with little alteration, recur very frequently in the
narrative as well as in the dialogue; but in those made from the
Comedies the writers found themselves scarcely ever able to turn
his words into the narrative form: therefore it is feared that,
in them, dialogue has been made use of too frequently for young
people not accustomed to the dramatic form of writing. But this
fault, if it be a fault, has been caused by an earnest wish to
give as much of Shakespeare's own words as possible: and if the
"He said" and "She said," the question and the reply, should
sometimes seem tedious to their young ears, they must pardon it,
because it was the only way in which could be given to them a few
hints and little foretastes of the great pleasure which awaits
them in their elder years, when they come to the rich treasures
from which these small and valueless coins are extracted;
pretending to no other merit than as faint and imperfect stamps
of Shakespeare's matchless image. Faint and imperfect images they
must be called, because the beauty of his language is too
frequently destroyed by the necessity of changing many of his
excellent words into words far less expressive of his true sense,
to make it read something like prose; and even in some few
places, where his blank verse is given unaltered, as hoping from
its simple plainness to cheat the young readers into the belief
that they are reading prose, yet still his language being
transplanted from its own natural soil and wild poetic garden, it
must want much of its native beauty.

     It has been wished to make these Tales easy reading for very
young children. To the utmost of their ability the writers have
constantly kept this in mind; but the subjects of most of them
made this a very difficult task. It was no easy matter to give
the histories of men and women in terms familiar to the
apprehension of a very young mind. For young ladies, too, it has
been the intention chiefly to write; because boys being generally
permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a much earlier
age than girls are, they frequently have the best scenes of
Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted to look
into this manly book; and, therefore, instead of recommending
these Tales to the perusal, of young gentlemen who can read them
so much better in the originals, their kind assistance is rather
requested in explaining to their sisters such parts as are
hardest for them to understand: and when they have helped them to
get over the difficulties, then perhaps they will read to them
(carefully selecting what is proper for a young sister's ear)
some passage which has pleased them in one of these stories, in
the very words of the scene from which it is taken; and it is
hoped they will find that the beautiful extracts, the select
passages, they may choose to give their sisters in this way will
be much better relished and understood from their having some
notion of the general story from one of these imperfect
abridgments;--which if they be fortunately so done as to prove
delight to any of the young readers, it is hoped that no worse
effect will result than to make them wish themselves a little
older, that they may be allowed to read the Plays at full length
(such a wish will be neither peevish nor irrational). When time
and leave of judicious friends shall put them into their hands,
they will discover in such of them as are here abridged (not to
mention almost as many more, which are left untouched) many
surprising events and turns of fortune, which for their infinite
variety could not be contained in this little book, besides a
world of sprightly and cheerful characters, both men and women,
the humor of which it was feared would be lost if it were
attempted to reduce the length of them.

     What these Tales shall have been to the YOUNG readers, that and
much more it is the writers' wish that the true Plays of
Shakespeare may prove to them in older years--enrichers of the
fancy, strengtheners of virtue, a withdrawing from all selfish
and mercenary thoughts, a lesson of all sweet and honorable
thoughts d actions, to teach courtesy, benignity, generosity,
humanity: for of examples, teaching these virtues, his pages are full.