Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

neral, the Egyptians, Venetians, French, &c. are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever object of nature, or branch of science, he either speaks of or describes ; it is always with competent, if not extensive knowledge: his descriptions are still exact ; all his metaphors appropriated, and remarkably drawn from the true nature and inherent qualities of each subject. When he treats of Ethic or Politic, we may constantly observe a wonderful justness of distinction, as well as extent of comprehension. No one is more a master of the Poetical story, or has more frequent allusions to the various parts of it: Mr. Waller (who has been celebrated for this last particular) has not shewn more \earning this way than Shakespear.

than Shakespear. We have Translations from Ovid published in his name, among those Poerns which pass for his, and for some of which we have undoubted authority, (being published by himfelf, and dedicated to his noble Patron the Earl of Southampton :) He appears also to have been converfant in Plautus, from whom he has taken the plot of one of his plays : he follows the Greek Authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius, in another : (altho? I will not pretend to say in what language he read them.) The modern Italian writers of Novels he was manifestly acquainted with; and we may conclude him to be no less conversant with the Ancients of his own country, from the use he has made of Chaucer in Troilus and Crefsida, and in the Two Noble Kinsmen, if that Play be his, as there goes a Tradition it was, ( and indeed it has little resemblance of Fletcher, and more of our Author than some of those which have been receiv'd-as genuine.)

I am inclined to think, this opinion proceeded orie ginally from the zeal of the Partizans of our Author and Ben Jobuyon fi as they endeavoured' to exalt the one at the expence of the other. : It is ever the nature of Parties to be in extremes, and lothing is fo pro

bable,

bable, ash that becaufe Ben Jobnfon had much the ;) more learning, it was faid on the one hand that Shakes !! Spear had none at all; and because Shakespear had much :) the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, - i that Johnsor wanted both. Because Shakespear bor24 rowed nothing, it was said that Ben Johnson borrowed ; every thing. Because Jobafon did not write extem I? pore, he was reproached with being a year about every piece ; cand because Shakespear wrote with ease. B and rapidity, they cry'd, he never once made a blof.. i!! Nay the fpirit of opposition ran fo high, that whatever thofe of the one fide objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned into Praises ; as in- s. judiciously, as their antagonists before had made them Objections.

Poets are always afraid of Envy ; but sure they >"} have as much reason to be afraid of Admiration. They are the Scylla and Charybdis of Authors; those who escape one, often fall by the other. Peffimum gentis inimicorum Laudantés, says Tacitus: and Virgil defires to wear a charm against those who praise a Poet with out rule or reason,

Si ultra placitum laudârit, baccare frontem Cingito, ne Vati noceat But however this contention might be carried on by the Partizans on either side, I cannot help thinking these two great Poets were good friends, and lived on amicable terms and in offices of society with each other. It is an acknowledged fact, that Ben Johnson was in. troduced upon the Stage, and his first works encouraged, by Shakespear. And after his death, that Author writes To the memory of his beloved Mr. Wil i liam Shakespear, which shows as if the friendship had continued thro' life. I cannot for my own part find any thing Invidious or Sparing in those verses, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of that opinion. He exalts

him

b 3

him not only above all his Contemporaries, but above Chaucer and Spenser, whom he will not allow to be great enough to be rank'd with him ; and challenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Æschylus, nay all 'Greece and Rome at once, to equal him; and (which is very particular) expresly vindicates him from the imputation of wanting Art, not enduring that all his excellencies shou'd be attributed to Nature. It is remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in his Discoveries seems to proceed from a personal kindness; he tells us that he lov'd the man, as well as honoured his memory ; celebrates the honesty, openness, and frankness of his temper ; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought, between the real merit of the Author, and the silly and derogatory applauses of the Players. Ben Johnson might indeed be sparing in his Commendations (tho' certainly he is not so in this instance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praising him justly, than lavishly. I say, I would fain believe they were Friends, tho' the violence and ill-breeding of their Followers and Flatterers were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I would hope that it may be with Parties, both in Wit and State, as with those Monsters described by the Poets ; and that their Heads at least may have something human, tho' their Bodies and Tails are wild beasts and serpents.

As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rise to the opinion of Shakespear's want of learning ; so what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first Publishers of his works. In these Editions their ignorance shines in almost every page ; nothing is more common than Astus tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches solus. Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in construction and spelling: Their very well is false.

Nothing

[ocr errors]

Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that gross kind, sprung from the same root : it not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the least tincture of a School, or the least conversation with such as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had some Latin ; which is utterly inconsistent with mistakes like these. Nay the constant blunders in proper names of persons and places, are such as must have proceeded from a man, who had not so much as read any history, in any language: so could not be Shakespear's.

I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost innumerable Errors, which have risen from one source, the ignorance of the Players, both as his actors, and as his Editors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and considered, I dare to say that not Shakespear only, but Aristotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the same fate, might have appear'd to want sense as well as learning.

It is not certain that any one of his Plays was published by himself. During the time of his employment in the Theatre, several of his pieces were printed feparately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not publish'd by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press: every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned or unusual words so intolerably mangled, that it's plain there either was no Corrector to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were supervised by himself, I should fancy the two parts of Henry the 4th, and MidsummerNight's Dream might have been fo: because I find no other printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) there is

very

little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two Prefaces, to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Cresida in 1609, b 4

and

[ocr errors]

Bohatever in

te this

and to that of Othello ; by which it appears, that the first was published without his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted, so late as seven of eight years before he died : and that the latter was not printed'aill after his death. The whole number of genuine plays which we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven. And of fame of these, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash different from the other : which I should fancy was occasion'd by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different Play-houses.

The folio edition in which all the plays we now receive as his, were first collected) was published by two Players, Heminges and Condell, in 1623, seven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were stolen and furreptitious, and affirm theirs 's to be purged from the errors of the former, true as to the literal errors, and no other , for in all refpects else it is far worse than the Quarto's. First, because the additions of trifling and bombast. b

For jo the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the 's printed text, and all stand charged upon the Author's He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, where w he wishes that those who play the Clowns wou'd Speak is

Jet 1 But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet there is no hint of 4.0 great number of the mean conceits and ribaldries now w to be found there. In others, the low scenes of Mobso: Plebeians and Clowns, are vaftly shorter than at present: And I have seen one in particular (which feems to have belonged to the play-houfe, By having the parts divided with lines, and the Azor's names in the

margin) yeah

This is

« PředchozíPokračovat »