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BRITISH and IRISH BIOGRAPHY. lic of another ; and many mischicfs and
many benefits are done and hindered Life of William Shakesprare.
without delign. Out of this chaos of (Continued from p. 68.)
mingled purposes and casualties, the an. THIS therefore is the praise of Shake- tient poets, according to the laws which IT of life ; that he who has mazed his crimes of men, and fome their absurdities, magination in following the phantoms fome the momentary vicillitudes of life, which other writers raise up before him, and fome the lighter occurrences; fome may here be cured of his delirious extasies, the terrors of diltrels, and some the gaiy reading human sentiments in human eties of prosperity. Thus role the two knguage ; by scenes from which a hermit modes of imitation, known by the names say estimate the transactions of the world, of tragedy and comedy, compositions ined a confeffor predict the progress of the tended to promote different ends by conpasions. His adherence to general nature trary means, and confidered as fó little *33 exposed him to the centure of critics, allied, that I do not recollect among the sho form their judgments upon narrower Greeks or Romans a fingle writer who atprinciples. Dennis and Rymer think bis tempted both. Romans pot sufficiently Roman : and Vol. "' Shakespeare has united the powers of tzire censures bis kirgs as not completely laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, fogal. Dennis is offended, that Meneni. but in one compofition. Almost all his
a senator of Rome, should play the buf- plays are divided between serious and lufoon; and Voltaire perhaps thinks decen. dicrous characters, and, in the successive ty violated, when the Danish usurper is evolutions of the defign, sometimes prorepresented as a drunkard. But Shakef. duce feriousness and forrow, and somepeare always makes nature predominate times levity and laughter. That this is a Ofer accident; and if he preserves the ef practice contrary to the rules of criticitin ential character, is not very careful of will be readily allowed ; but there is als etirdions superinduced and adventitious. ways an appeal open from criticism to naHis ftory requires Romans or kings ; but ture. The end of writing is to inftruet ; betbinks only on men. He knew that the end of poetry is to instruct by plealing: Rome, like every other city, had men of That ibe mingled drama may convey all il dispositions ; and wanting a buffoon, the instruction of tragedy or comedy, canbe went into the fenate-house for that not be denied, becarile it includes both iu abich the senate house would certainly its alterations of exhibition, and approach20€ offered him. He was inclined to es nearer than either to the appearance of dewan usurper and a murderer not only life, by fl:owing how great machinations odious, but despicable ; he therefore added and sender designs may promote or obvicrankenness to his other qualities, know. ate one another, and the high and the low that kings love wine like other men, co-operate in the general system by unaadtbat wine exerts its natural power up- voidable concatenation. It is objected, kings. These are the petty cavils of that by this change of fuenes the passions
ty minds; a poet overlooks the casual are interrupted in their progreffion ; and otisation of country and condition, as 'a that the principal event, being not advancrätter, satisfied with the figure, neglects ed by a due gradation of preparatory inci
dents, wants at least the power to move, * The censure which he has incurred by which contiitutes the perfection of drama. sting comic and tragic scenes, as it ex tic poetry. This reasoning is so specious, trods to all his works, deserves more con. that it is received as true even by thote Kerstion. Let the fa&t be firli ftated, and who in daily experience feel it to be false. Het examined. Shakespeare's plays are The interchanges of mingled scenes feldom sct in the rigorous or critical sense either fail to produce the intended v cillitudes of
tragedies or comedies, but compofitions paflion. Fi&tion cannot move so much, i da distinct kind; exhibiting the real state but that the attention may be easily trans
clublunary nature, which partakes of ferred; and though it must be allowed sed and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled that pleasing melancholy be sometimes in*th endless variety of proportion and in- terrupted by unwelcome levity, yet let it 52Table modes' of combination ; and be considered likewise, that melancholy is
1572 fling the course of the world, in often not pleafing, and that the ditiurbance otach the loss of one is the gain of another; of one man may be the relief of another ; a which, at the lame time, the reveller that different auditors have difterent habi* bafting to his wine, and the mourner is tudes; and that, upon the whole, ali Surying bis friend ; in which the maligni pleasure consists in variety."
of one is fometimes defeated by the fro Dr. Johnson bas also some curious o? Hib. Mag. Marcb, 1782.
Life of William Shakespeare. fervations on Shakespeare's disregard of the much reading at least, if they will not unities of time and place, delivered with call it learning. Nor is it any great mathis asual energy and eloquence. This ter, if a man has knowledge, whether he learned writer has endeavoured to thew, has it from one language or from another. that these unities are not effential to a Nothing is more evident, than that he had just drama, and that though they may a taste of natural philosophy, mechanics, sometimes conduce to pleasure, they are antient and modern biltory, poetical learalways to be sacrificed to the nobler beau- ning, and mythology. We find him very ties of variation and instruction. Theli- knowing in the customs, rites, and manmits of our work will not permit us to in- ners of antiquity. In Coriolanus and Jusert the doctor's remarks upon this suljet; lius Cæfar, not only the spirit, but manwe shall, therefore, only transcribe his ners, of the Romans, are exactly drawn ; concluding paffage, which is as follows: and still a nicer distinction is nown be“ As nothing is essential to the fable, but tween the manners of the Romans in the unity of action, and as the unities of time time of the former, and of the latter. His and place arile evidently from false af- reading in the antient historians is no leis fumptions, and, by circumscribing the ex- conspicuous, in many references to partitent of the drama, leffen its variety, I can. cular passages : and the speeches copied not think it much to be lamented that they from Plutarch in Coriolanus, may, I think, were not known by Shakespeare, or not as well be made an inliance of his learning, observed : nor, if such another poet could as those copied from Cicero in Catiline, arise, should I very vehemently reproach of Ben Johnfon's. The manners of other him, that his first act passed at Venice, nations in general, the Egyptians, Veneti. and his next in Cyprus. Such violations ans, French, &c. are drawn with equal of rules merely politive, become the com- propriety. Whatever object of nature, or prehensive genius of Shakefpeare, and such brauch of science, he either speaks of or censures are fuiiable to the minute and describes, it is always with competent, if Nender criticisin of Voltaire."
not extensive, knowledge : his descriptiMuch has been fuid by different writers ons are till exact; all his metaphors apupon the subject of Shakespeare's learning. propriated, and remarkably drawn froin Dr. Johnfon fays, “It is most likely that the true nature and inherent qualities of be had learned Latin fufficiently to make each fubject." him acquainted with construction, but The plays written by Shakespeare are that he never advanced to an easy perufal the following: of the Roman authors. Concerning his 1. The Tenpest, a comedy. This is an fkill in modern languages, I can find no admirable play; and is one instance, a. sufficient ground of determination ; but mong many, as an ingenious writer exas no imitations of French or Italian aq- prefies it, of Shakespeare's creative faculthors have been discovered, though the ty, who sometimes seems wantonly, as if Italian poetry was then in high esteem, I tired with rummaging in nature's store. am inclined to believe, that he read little house for his characters, to prefer the formmore than English, and chose for his fa- ing of such as she never dreamt of, in orbles only such tales as he found translated. der to diew his own power of making There is however proof enough that he them act and speak just as she would have was a very diligent reader, nor was our done, had the thought proper to have givlanguage then so indigent of books, but en them existence. One of these characthat he might very liberally indulge bis cu- ters is Caliban in this play, than which riosity without excurlion into foreign lite. nothing can be more outrè, and which rature. Many of the Roman authors yet is very naturally supported. His Ariel were transated, and some of the Greek; is another of these inftances, and is a most the Reformation had filled the kingdom striking contrast to the heavy earth-born with theological learning ; most of the to- clod just mentioned ; all his descriptions, pics of human disquisition had found En- and indeed every word he speaks, appear. glish writers ; and poetry had been culti- ing to partake of the properties of that vated, not only with diligence, but suc- light and invitible element which he is the cess. This was a stock of knowledge fuf- inhabitant of. Nor is his Miranda less fcient for a mind so capable of approprie deserving of notice, her fimplicity and na. ating and improving it."
tural sensations under the circumstances “ As to Shakespeare's want of learning he has placed her in, being such as no one (faye Mr. Pope) it may be neceflary to fince, though many writers have attempt. Cintirve, that there is certainly a valt dif- ed an imitation of the character, has ever ict between learning and languages. been able to arrive at. Trip was ignorant of the latter, I II. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, craine; but 'tis plaio be had comedy. This is a very fine play; the
Barnt parts of ii dars been made use of
plot fimple and natural ; the characters frequently in the formation of more pieces
X. The Merchant of Venice, a tragi.
Johnson says, that “ of this play the faIV. The Merry Wives of Windsor, a ble is wild and plealing. The comic diacomedy. This is generally considered as logue is very sprightly, with lefs mixture fuckespeare's best performance in the co- of low buffoonery tha:i in some other plays; mic way; and there is perhaps no picce and the graver part is elegant and harmo** our own, or in any other language, in nions. a lich fo extensive a groupe of perfect and XII. The Taming of the Shrew, a cobgtly finished characters are set forth in medy. This picce contains a very humo.
rous representation of a woman of an inMeasure for Measure, a comedy. folent, pasionate, and fiery ten per and This is a most admirable play, as well behaviour, being brought to the utmost stb refpcê to character and conduct, as tractableness, submission, and obedience. bothe language and sentiment. The plot “ Of this play (says Dr. Johnson) the two is built on a novel of Cynthio Giraldi. plots are so well united, that they can VI. The comedy of Errors : which is hardly be called two, without injury to beaded upon the Mæoechmi of Plautus, the art with which they are interwoven. bet greatly excels the original.
The attention is entertained with all the 'II
. Much Ado About Nothing, a co- variety of a double plot, yet is not distractsedy. This play is a very pleasing one, ed by unconnected incidents.
The part bas many beauties in iț. The scene between Catherine and Petruchio is emin la ia Messina, and part of the plot is bor- nently (prightly and diverting. At the mated from the fifth book of Ariolto's marriage of Bianca, the arrival of the real Dando Furioso.
father perhaps produces more perplexity KUI. Love's Labour Loft, a comedy. than pleasure. The whole play is very B. Johnson says, that “in this play, popular and diverting.” rhon all the editors have concurred to XIII. All's Well that Ends Well, a co. cockare, and some bave rejected as un- medy. Dr. Johnson observes, that this archy of our poet, it must be confeffed play has many delightful scenes, though here are many passages mean, childish, not sufficiently probable, and some happy
Fulgar ; and some which ought not characters, though not new, nor produced a bare been exhibited, as we are told by any deep knowledge of human nature. Boy were, to a maiden queen. But there Parolles is å boalter and a coward, such scattered, througb the whole, many as has always been the sport of the dage, its of genius ; nor is there any play but perhaps never raised more laughter or a bas more evident marks of the hand contempt, than in the hands of Shaker
peare. The story is taken from one of the ll. The Midsummer Night's Dream, a novels of Boecace. medy. This play is one of the wild and XIV.The Twelfth Night, or What You
qular overflowings of our great poet's Will, a comedy. This play (says Dr. ptive imagioation. It is now never Johnson) is in the graver part elegant and
ed under its original form, yet it con- easy, and in some of the lighter lesnes exSava vast variety of beauties, a ad the quilitely humerous
March, XV. The Winter's Tale, a Tragi-co- virtuous distress of Catherine have furnishmedy. This is one of the most irregular cd some very pathetic scenes. of our pott's performances : it contains, XXIV. Troilus and Crellida, a tragedy. however, many striking beauties. The This is perhaps the moth irregular of all plot of the whole is borrowed from Robert Shakespeare's plays, being not even divided Green's novel of Dorastus and Faunia. into acts ; bui it contains a great variety
XVI. The Life and Death of King John. of beauties. The characters of the leveral • The tragedy of King John (lays Dr. Greeks and Trojans are finely drawn, and Johnson) though not written with ihe ut- accurately distinguished; and the heroisin moft power of Shakespeare, is varied with of the greatest part of them finely contraita plealing interchange of incidents and cha- ed by the brutality of Therftes, and the racters. The lady's grief is very affecting, contemptible levity of Pandaros, The and the character of the Batara contains plot is taken from Chaucer's poem of Troithat mixture of greatness and levity, lus and Crellina, which was itself only a which this author delighted to exlibit." transition of a Latin poem, written by one
XVII. The Life and Death of King Ri. Lollius a Lombard. chard II, This biļlorical play does not XXV. Coriolarus, a tragedy. The plot comprehend in it all the events which of this playis chiefy taken from Plutarch's might be expected from its title. Little life of Coriolanus. ' Dr. Johnson obferves, more is comprized in it, than the two that it is one of the most amusing of our last years of that prince. The action of author's performances. The old man's the drama begins with Bolingbroke's accu. merriment in Menenius ; the lofty lady's ling the duke of Norfolk of high treaton, dignity in Volunnia ; the bridal modeily which happened in 1398 ; and it clofes in Virgilia; the patrician and military with the murder of King Richard at Pon- haughtincts in Coriolanus; the Plebeian tefract castle in the year 1.00.
malignity, and Tribunitian infolence in XVIII. The Life of king Henry V. This Brutus and Sicinius, make a very pleafing piece, Dr. Johnson obferves, has many and interesting variery ; and the various icenes of high dignity, and many of eatý revolutions of the hero's fortune, fill the merriment. The character of the king is mind with anxious curiosity. well supported, except in his courtship, XXVI. Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy. where lie has neither the vivacity of Hal, The fable of this play is built on a real trafor the grandeur of Henry. The humour gedy that happened about the beginning of Pistol is very happily continued ; his of the fourteenth century. The story, character has perhaps been the model of with all its circumstances, is related by all the bullies that have yet appeared upon Girolame Corte, in his history of Verona. the English Nage.
And Breval, in his account of Verona, inXIX. The first part of king Henry VI. troducing the story of Romeo and Juliet, The bittorical transactions contained in has the following remark : “ Shakespeare, this play, take in the compals of above as I have found upon a tiriet learch into
the bittories of Verona, has varied very XX. The second part of king Henry little either in his names, characters, or VI.
other circundances, from truth and matXXI. The third part of king Henry VI. ter of fact. He obfirved this rule inThe second and third parts of king Henry deed in most of his tragedies; which are VI. contain that troublesome period of so much the more moving, as they are This prince's reign, which took in the con. not only grounded upon nature and history, tention between the two bouses of York but likewise as he keeps closer to both than and Lancaster. Some of the commenta. any dramatic writer we ever had besides tors have suspected, that the tbiee parts himself.” Romeo and Juliet is a very afof Henry VI. were not written by Shakel. fecting play. A few years ago it was actpeare ; but their fufpicions on this head ed fourteen nights together at both houses appear to be entirely destitute of any so- at the same time. lid foundation.
XXVII. Timon of Athens. The plot of XXII. The life and death of king Ri. this tragedy is taken from the dialogues of chard Ill. This is an admirable produc- Lucian. tion.
XXVIII. Julius Cæsar. There are in XXIII. The life of king Henry VIII. numerable beauties in this tragedy ; in This is the closing piece of the whole se particular, the speeches of Brutus and Anries of our poet's historical dramas. It tony over Cefar's body, are perhaps as contains many beauties, the character of fine pieces of oratory as any in the Encardinal Wolsey in particular being finely glish language ; por can there be a finersupported, and the meck forrows and the cene of resentment between two friends,