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The critic, essayist and painter William Hazlitt (1778-1830) published and lectured widely on English literature, from Elizabethan drama to reviews of the latest work of his own time. His first extended work of literary criticism was Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, published in 1817. This volume from 1908 takes the text of the first edition and adds notes explaining complex terms to readers and an introduction by J. H. Lobban, a lecturer in English at Birkbeck College. As such it is the ideal introduction to Hazlitt's criticism. Hazlitt's political view of Shakespeare drew the ire of the Tory Quarterly review, whose hostile review destroyed sales of the second edition. The work remains of value, however, both as a contribution to the study of Shakespeare and, as with all of Hazlitt's prose, as a model of an elegant, persuasive essay.