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Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
The Family Shakespeare. London: Richard Cruttwell for J. Hatchard, 1807. 4 Volumes.
Call Number: (SPL)(SHAK) PR 2753 .B7 1807
Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

To be or not to be soliloquy from The Family Shakespeare

This set contains twenty plays expurgated by Thomas Bowdler. As Bowdler makes clear in his "Preface" to the first volume, his purpose was to clean up Shakespeare's act: he wanted to "make the young reader acquainted with the various beauties of this writer, unmixed with any thing that can raise a blush on the cheek of modesty."

He didn't worry about his own cheekiness when he brought out this edition in which, he proudly says, he has not added a single line: he has merely "endeavoured to remove every thing that could give just offence to the religious and virtuous mind." In fairness, he points out that for those who like the naughty bits in Shakespeare and who relish plays about adultery, fornication, seduction, rape, murder, incest and the like, there are plenty of editors who have left all that in.

But Shakespeare has been revenged, in a way: he's given his name to the process by which a work is cut or edited merely because someone finds something objectionable in it. We aren't flattering anyone by calling him a "Bowdlerizer"!


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Prepared by Christopher Barth, Virginia Haas, and Sarah McDaniel