Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your enjoyment/understanding of the work?
I never read the forwards of novels until after I have finsished (or decided to abandon) the novel. The only exception is that I read any front matter that was written by the author. The scholars who write those learned introductions seem to have no scruples at all about spoiling the story. When I write about books, even classics, I try not to give away so much about the story that it will interfere with someone else's first reading of the book. In college I dutifully read the introductions and discovered this problem. The completeness of introductions did help me out in junior high school though. I was able to pass the test on The Red Badge of Courage having read only the introduction and the first chapter. (I hated that book!) I do find that the introductions to classics are often interesting and are a good way to focus my thoughts about a book I have just read.
This is the August monthly meme question from the Classics Club.