I venture to believe that we are too much accustomed to regard Shakespeare as a writer of impulse rather than premeditation;1 the fact is that almost throughout the whole period of his authorship he combined a marvellous spontaneity with an equally marvellous discipline of thought and command of material. And this fact is not less true of the sources of his dramas; he spares no pains in his research; he disdains no authority, and no hint in any authority. To these preliminary considerations two other facts may be added. Shakespeare usually avoided the trouble not, of course, of elaborating — but of inventing a story; he preferred to adapt the plot of some existing novel or drama; and rightly, as I think; for a glance at almost any one of the great literatures of the world will convince us that to originate in the matter of myth or episode or narrative has been more often the frolic of a nation in its youth, or the task of mere ingenuity, and that the higher creative genius has displayed itself by its power of trans muting the crude metal of popular fable or story into the fine gold of drama and epic. But the remaining fact has yet to be stated; for this power of transmuting was possessed by Shakespeare in a far greater degree than by any other literary alchemist.