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power; would the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things which could not escape langhter; as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him,
“ Cæsar, thou dost me wrong." He replied:
“ Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause.” and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues; there was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoued.”
As for the passage wbich he mentious ont of Shakspeare, there is somewhat like it in Julius Cæsar, but without the absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen as quoted by Mr. Jonson.
Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbaine, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise l'enus and A donis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in stanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems. As to the character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal true iu it: but I believe it may be as well expressed by what Horace says of the first Romans who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed translated them) in his epistle to Augustus :
"-natura sublimis & acer;.
Nam spirat tragicam satis, et feliciter audet,
Sed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram."
As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete criticism npon
Shakspeare's works, so I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judg-
ment of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in looking bim
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 mistake of that age, and is mdeed become so agreeable to the English taste, that though the severer critics among as cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences seein to be better pleased with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of a Shrew, are all pure comedy; the rest, however they are called, have something of both kinds. It is not very easy to determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and though they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the satire of the present age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleasing and a well-distin. guished variety in those characters which he thougbt fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a master-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 land. lady Mrs. Quickly, in the first Act of Henry the Fifth, though it be extremely natural, 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 niade him a thief, lying, cowardly, vainglorions, and in short every way vicious, yet he has given him so 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. Adiongst other extravagancies, in The Merry Wives of Windsor he has made him a deer-stealer, that he might at the same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow; he bas 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 parson descant very pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his un. reasonable jealonsy, is extremely well conducted. Iu Twelfth Night there is something singularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in All'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 Benedick and Beatrice, in Much Ado about No. thing, and of Rosalind, in As you like it, have much wit and sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very cutertaining: and, I believe, Thersites in Troilus und Cressida, and A pemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master pieces of ill-nature and satirical snarling. To these 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 designed tragically by the anthur. There appears in it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seeins to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakspeare'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 from 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 Bassanio 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 passages that deserve a par
licular notice. The first is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of music. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you like it, is as singular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,
“ Difficile est proprie communia dicere,"
it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the several de.
grees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
-All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then, the whining school-boy with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then, the lover
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eye-brow. Then, a soldier;
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and qaick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice;
In fair round belly, with good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of fornial cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shists
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon;
With spectacles on nose, and pouch un side ;
His youthful hose well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes.
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishpess, and mere oblivion ;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing."
His images are indeed every where so lively, that the thing he would represent stands
full before you, and you possess every part of it.
I will venture to point out one more, which is, I think, as strong and as uncommon as any thing I ever saw; it is an image of Patience. Speaking of a naid in love, he says,
She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i'th' bud,
Feed on her damask cheek; she pined in thought,
And sate like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at Grief."
What an image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest masters
of Greece and Rome to have expressed the passions designed by this sketch of statuary!
The style of his comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and easy in itself; and the
wit most commonly sprightly and pleasing, except in those places where he runs into dog-
grel rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling
sometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he lived in ; and
if we find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the sermons of some of the gravest
divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the stage.
But certainly the greatness of this author's genius does no where so much appear, as wbere he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy to a Aight above mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by bim: it seems to me as perfect in its kind as almost any thing we have of his. One may observe, that the unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing ; though that was what, I suppose, he valued himself least opon, 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 sort of writings, yet he does it so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his sake, than reason does well allow of. His magic has something in it very solemn and very poetical; and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, shews a wonderful invention 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 observation which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making upou this part, was extremely just; that Shakspeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character.
It is the same magic that raises the Fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they sustain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two last of these plays I shall have occasion to take notice, among the tragedies of Mr. Shakspeare. If one uudertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian stage, it would be no very hard task 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, so
would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as
man that lived in a state of almost universal licence and ignorance: there was no estab
lished judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his ow
fancy. When one considers, that there is not one play before him of a reputatiou good
enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present stage, it cannot but be a matter of
great wonder that he should advance dramatic poetry so far as be did. The fable is what
is geocrally placed the first, among those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a
tragic or heroick poem; not, perhaps, as it is the most 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 disposition, order, and conduct of its several parts.
As it is not in this province of the drama that the strength and inasteryof 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 the true his
tory, or novels and romauces : 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. So The Winter's Tale, which is taken from an old book, called The De-
lectable History of Dorastus and Fawnia, contains the space of sixteen or seventeen
years, and the scene is sometimes laid in Bohemia, and sometimes in Sicily, according to the
original order of the story. 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 careless-
ness in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the manners of his chu-
racters, in acting or spcaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shewn by the poet,
he may be generally justified, and in very many places greatly commended. 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 bistorian. 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 bim?
His manners are every where exactly the same with the story; one finds him still described
with simplicity, passive sanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy submission
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 things of this world, and wholly re-
signed 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. Car-
dinal Beaufort, who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is shewu 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 must touch any one who is capable
either of fear or pity. In his Henry the Eighth, that prince is drawn with that greatness
of mind, and all those good qualities which are attributed 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 just proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or
skill in the disposition of them; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore 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 dealt much more freely with the minister of that great king; and certainly
nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolsey. He has
shewn him insolent in his prosperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall
and rain the subject of general compassion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues,
is finely and exactly described in the second scene of the fourth Act. The distresses, like-
wise, of Queen Katharine, in this play, are very movingly touched; and though the art of
the poet has screened King Henry from any gross imputation of injustice, yet one is in-
clined to wish, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue.
Nor are the manners, proper to the person's represented, less justly observed, in those cha.
racters takeu from the Roman history; and of this, the fierceness and impatience of Co-
riolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people; the virtue and philosophical
temper of Brutus; and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs.
For the two last especially, you find them exactly as they are described by Plutarch, from
whom certainly Shakspeare 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 l'hinted
before, his design seems most commonly rather to describe those great men in the several
fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any single 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, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello.
The design in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the
unreasonable feuds and animosities that had been so long kept up between them, and oc-
easioned the effusion of so much blood. In the management of this story, he has shewn
something wonderfully tender and passionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the dis-
tress. Hamlet is founded on much the same tale with the Electra of Sophocles. In each
of thein a young prince is cagaged to revenge the death of his father, their mothers 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 observed, there is something very
unnatural and sbocking in tbe manners he has given that princess and Orestes in the latter
part. Orestes imbrues bis hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action
is performed, though not immediately upou the stage, yet so near, that the audience hear,
Clytemnestra crying out to Ægysthus for help, and to her son for mercy: while Electra
her daughter, and a princess, (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with
more decency) stands upon the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. What
horror does this not raise! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deserved to die;
nay, in the truth of the story, she was killed by her own son; but, to represent an action
of this kind on the stage, is certainly an offence against those rules of manners proper to
the persons, that ought tu be observed there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on
the conduct of Shakspeare. Hamlet is represented with the same piety towards his father,
and resolution to revenge his death, as Orestes; he has the same abhorrence for his mo-
ther's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by incest : but it is with won-
derful art and justness of judgment, that the poet restrains him from doing violence to his
mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his Father's Ghost forbid that part
of his vengeance :
" But howsoever thou pnrsnest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her."
This is to distinguish rightly 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 raising terror in the minds of an audience than 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 nuble proof of that manly spirit,
with which he writ; and both shew how powerful he was in giving the strongest motions
to our souls that they are capable of.. I cannot leave Hamlet without taking notice of the
advantage with which we have seeu this master-piece of Shakspeare distinguish itself upon
the stage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who, though he had
no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem
of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shak-
speare's manner of expression; and indeed he has studied him so well, and is so much a
master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written
on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must
own a particular obligation to him, for the most considerable part of the passages relating
to this life, which I have here transmitted to the public: bis veneration for the memory
of Shakspeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire on purpose to
gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration.
As every thing relating to Shakspeare carries along with it a considerable degree of interest, we subjoin the following fac simile of his hand writing, copied from the signature of his Will, now deposited in the Prerogative Office, Doctor's Commons.
2By pud Molliam Shakespeare
his ided elle
the Toc EF0 dis