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6 speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chose that * circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted : and to juf* city mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this * fúe idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest
, and of an open and free “ patare, had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions ; wherein " he Howed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be itop
ped: Sufiaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own
power : would the rule of it had been so too! Many times he fell into those things " which could not escape laughter; as when he faid in the person of Cæfar, one ipeaking to hiin,
“ Cafar, thou doft me wrong. - He replied:
Cæsar did never wrong, but evith just cause" and fuch-like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his vir.
tues: there was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.”
As for the pailage which he mentions out of Shakspeare, there is somewhat lika it in Julius Cæjar, but without the absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have feen, as quoted by Mr. Jonton. Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never feen, and know nothing of. He writ likewite Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Luci?ce, in itanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems. Ás to the character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal in it: but I believe it may be as well exprefied by what Horace says of the firat Romans, who wrote trased upon the Greek models (or indeed tranilated them), in his epistle to Auguftus.
Naturâ fublimis & acer,
Sed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram. As I hare not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete collection upon Shakípeare's works, 1o I will only take the liberty, with all due fubmission to the judgment of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in berking him over.
His plays are properly to be distinguished only into comedies and tragedies. Those which are called histories, and even some of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them. That way of tragi-comedy was the common miitake of that age, and is indeed become fo agreeable to the English taite, that though the feverer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences feein to be better pleased with it than with an exact tragedy. The Jerry lives of Windjor, The Comedy of Errors, and The T aming of the Shrev, are all pure comedy; the reít, husvever they are called, have something of both kinds. Iz is not very easy to determnine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and tho' they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the satire of the present age has tai cia the liberty to do, yet there is a pleating and a well-distinguished variety in thole characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a mater-piece; the character is always well sustained, though drawn out into the length of three plays; and even the account of his death, given by his old lanilady Mrs. Quickly, in the first act of Henry tive Fifth, thongh it be extremely catural, is yet as diverting as any part of his life. If there be any fault in the draught he has made of this lewd old fellow, it is, that though he has made him a thiet, lying, cowardly, vain-glorious, and in short every way vicious, yet he has given him to much wit as to make him almost too agreeable; and I do not know whether some people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly
afforded them, been sorry to see his friend Hal use him so scurvily, when he comes to the crown in the end of the Second Part of Henry the Fourth. Amongst other extravagancies, in The Merry Wives of Windsor he has made him a deer-itealer, that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickfhire prosecutor, under the naine of Justice Shallow; he has given him very near the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parfon defcant very pleatantly upon them. That whole play is admirable ; the humours are various and well opposed; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twe!fth-Night there is something fingularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in Ali's Well that Ends Well, is as good as any thing of that kind in Plautus or Terence. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedict and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rofalind in As you Like 11, have much wit and sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: and I believe Therfites in Troilus and Cresiva, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master-pieces of ill-nature, and satirical inarling. To there I might add that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice ; but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was deiigned tragically by the author. There appears in it a deadly spirit of revenge, such a favage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree cither with the stile or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakipeare's. The tale indeed in that part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much removed froin the rules of probability ; but, taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of Antonio to Ballanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (supposing, as I said, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two pallages that deserve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of musick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you Like It, is as fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,
Difficile eft propriè communia dicere, it will be a hard tafk for any one to go beyond hiin in the defeription of the several degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
-All the world's a stage,
And fo be plays his part. The fixth age shifts
Sans teeth, fans eyes, sans tafte, sans every thing.
; it is an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,
She never told her love,
And sat like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. What an image is here given! and what a tafk would it have been for the greatest futters of Greece and Rome to have expressed the parlions designed by this iketch of statuary! The stile of his comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and tafy in itself; and the wit most cominonly sprightly and pleating, cxcept in those places where he runs into doggerel rhimes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, and playing upon words, it was the conmon vice of the age he lived in: and if we find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the fermons of some of the graveít divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the stage.
Bat certainly the greatness of this author's genius does no where so much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy to a flight zbore mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tratej, Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of thefe, The Tempeft, however it comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him: it seems to me as perfect in its kind, as almost anything we have of his. One may observe, that the unities are kept here, with an exactneis uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I suppole
, he valued himself least upon, since his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these fort of writings; yet he does it so very En-ts, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his lake, than reafon doe's Feil allow of. His magick has something in it very folemn and very poetical : and . tiat extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, shews a wonderful jarention in the author, who could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was seen. The ocíervation, which I have been informed * three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely juft; That Shakspeare had not only found out a nezu character in bis Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that chara&ter.
It is the fame magick that raises the Fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language fo prok to the parts they sustain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the tav lait of these plays I shall have occafion to take notice, among the tragedies of * Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.
Mr. Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken froin the model of a Grecian stage, it would be no very hard talk to find a great many faults; but as Shakspeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, to it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal licence and ignorance : there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dict::tes of his own fancy. When one considers, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he thould advance dramatick poetry so far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the first among those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a tragick or heroick poem; not, perhaps, as it is the moit difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivance and course of the whole ; and with the fable ought to be considered the fit difpofition, order, and conduct of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the drama that the strength and mastery of Shakspeare lay, so I shall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were seldom invented, but rather taken either from true history, or novels and romances : and he commonly made use of them in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them, Almost all his historical plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and distinct places : and in his Antony and Cleopatra, the scene travels over the greatest part of the Roman empire. But in recompence for his careletiness in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the manners of his characters, in acting or /peaking what is proper for them, and fit to be sherun by the
be generally justified, and in very many places greatly cominended. For those plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the historian. He seems indeed so far from proposing to himself any one action for a subject, that the title very often tells you, it is The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our historians give of Henry the Sixth, than the picture Shakspeare has drawn of him?
His manners are every where exactly the fame with the story ; one finds him ftill described with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy submitsion to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the same time the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by shewing him pious, disinterested, a contemner of the thing of this world, and wholly refigned to the severest dispensations of God's providence. There is a short scene in the Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is thewn in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is so much terror in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as muit touch any one who is capable either of tear or pity. In his Henry the Eighth, that prince is drawn with that greatness of mind, and all those good qualities which are attria buted to him in any account of his reign. If his faults are not shewn in an equal degree, and the shades in this picture do not bear a juit proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or tkill in the disposition of them, but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forebore doing it out of regard to queen Elizabeth, since it could have been no very great respect to the memory of his mistress, to have exposed some certain parts of her father's life upon the stage. He has deale much more freely with the minister of that great king, and certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolley. He has thewn him infolent in his prosperity ; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of general compattion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly described in the second scene of the fourth act.. The diftreffes likewise of Queen Catharine, in this play, are very movingly touched ;
and though the art of the poet has sereened King Henry from any grofs imputation o intuitice, get one is inclined to wish, the Queen had met with a fortune more Forthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the manners, proper to the persons reprelented, lets justly observed in those characters taken from the Roman history; and of this, the fierceness and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people, the virtue and philofophical temper of Brutus, and the irreguiar greatneis of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last elpecaliy, you find thein exactly as they are described by Plutarch, from whom ceraz Shakipeare copied them. He has indeed followed his original pretty close, and taken in several little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I bized betore, his design feems most commonly rather to describe those great men in the leveral fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any fingle great action, and form his work simply upon that. However, there are some of his pieces where the fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more especially, Reara and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The design in Romeo and Juliet is pliniy the punishment of their two families, for the unrealonable feuds 23: animofities that had been so long kept up between them, and occalioned the con of 1o much blood. In the management of this story, he has thewn fomething wonderfully tender and passionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the caress. Hanlei is founded on much the same tale with the Electra of Sophocles. In each of them a young prince is engaged to revenge the death of his father, their mebers are equally guilty, are both concerned in the murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greek tragedy something very moving in the grief of Electra ; but, as Mr. Dacier has goferred, there is fomething very unnatural and shocking in the manners he has girea that Princess and Orestes in the latter part. Orestes imbrues his hands in the boos of his own mother; and that barbarous action is perforined, though not immediately upon the stage, yet fo near, that the audience hear Clytemnestra crying cat to Egyíthus for help, and to her son for mercy: while Electra her daughter, anda Princess (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with more deCercy) ftands upon the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horrors does this not raise! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deserved to ce; nay, in the truth of the story, she was killed by her own fon; but to represent
2 action of this kind on the stage, is certainly an offence against those rules of manDes proper to the persons, that ought to be observed there. On the contrary, let us calç iook a little on the conduct of Shakspeare. Hamlet is represented with the fame piety towards his father, and resolution to revenge his death, as Orestes; he has the fame abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by incest: but it is with wonderful art and juítness of judgment that the poet retrains him from doing violence to his mother. To prevent any thing of thai kind, he makes his father's Ghost forbid that part of his vengeance :
But bo vsoever thou pursu'f this aft,
This is to distinguish between horror and terror. The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatic writer ever succeeded better in railing terror in the minds of an audience itan Shakspeare has done. The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the King is murdered, in the second act, as well as this play, is a Doble proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both thew how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leare Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this maiter-piece of Shakspeare distinguish itselt upon the stage, by Mr. Bet