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enlarging knowledge, or exalting affection, | Medea could, in so short a time, have transported whether he be amusing attention with incidents, him; he knows with certainty that he has not or enchaining it in suspense, let but a quibble changed his place; and he knows that place can. spring up before him, and he leaves his work un- not change itself; that what was a house cannot finished. A quibble is the golden apple for which become a plain; that what was Thebes can never he will always turn aside from his career, or be Persepolis. stoop from his elevation. A quibble, poor and Such is the triumphant language with which barren as it is, gave him such delight, that he the critic exults over the misery of an irregular was content to purchase it by the sacrifice of rea- poet, and exults commonly without resistance son, propriety, and truth. A quibble was to him or reply. It is time therefore to tell him, by the the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, authority of Shakspeare, that he assumes, as an and was content to lose it.
unquestionable principle, a position, which, while It will be thought strange, that, in enumerat- his breath is forming it into words, his undering the defects of this writer, I have not yet standing pronounces to be false. It is false, mentioned his neglect of the unities; his viola. that any representation is mistaken for retion of those laws which have been instituted and ality; that any dramatic fable in its materiality established by the joint authority of poets and of was ever credible, or, for a single moment, was critics.
ever credited. For his other deviations from the art of writ. The objection arising from the impossibility ing, I resign him to critical justice, without mak. of passing the first hour at Alexandria, and the ing any other demand in his favour, than that next at Rome, supposes, that when the play which must be indulged to all human excellence; opens, the spectator really imagines himself at that his virtues be rated with his failings: but, Alexandria, and believes that his walk to the from the censure which this irregularity may theatre has been a voyage to Egypt, and that he bring upon him, I shall, with due reverence to lives in the days of Antony and Cleopatra. that learning which I must oppose, adventure to Surely he that imagines this may imagine more. try how I can defend him.
He that can take the stage at one time for the His histories, being neither tragedies nor come palace of the Ptolemies,
may take it in half an dies, are not subject to any of their laws; nothing hour for the promontory of Actium. Delusion, more is necessary to all the praise which they if delusion be admitted, has no certain limita. expect, than that the changes of action be so tion; if the spectator can be once persuaded, prepared as to be understood, that the incidents that his old acquaintance are Alexander and be various and affecting, and the characters con- Cæsar, that a room illuminated with candles is sistent, natural, and distinct. No other unity is the plain of Pharsalia, or the bank of Granicus, intended, and therefore none is to be sought. he is in a state of elevation above the reach of
In his other works he has well enough pre- reason or of truth, and from the heights of emserved the unity of action. He has not, indeed, pyrean poetry, may despise the circumscriptions an intrigue regularly perplexed and regularly of terrestrial nature. There is no reason why a unravelled; he does not endeavour to hide his mind thus wandering in ecstasy should count design only to discover it, for this is seldom the the clock, or why an hour should not be a cenorder of real events, and Shakspeare is the poet tury in the calenture of the brains that can of nature: but his plan has commonly what make the stage a field. Aristotle requires, a beginning, a middle, and an The truth is, that the spectators are always in end; one event is concatenated with another, their senses, and know from the first act to the and the conclusion follows by easy consequence. last, that the stage is only a stage, and that the There are perlaps some incidents that might be players are only players. They come to hear a spared, as in other poets there is much talk that certain number of lines recited with just gesture only fills up time upon the stage; but the general and elegant modulation. The lines relate to system makes gradual advances, and the end of some action, and an action must be in some the play is the end of expectation.
place; but the different actions that complete a To the unities of time and place he has shewn story may be in places very remote from each no regard: and perhaps a nearer view of the other: and where is the absurdity of allowing principles on which they stand will diminish that space to represent first Athens, and then their value, and withdraw from them the venera- Sicily, which was always known to be neither tion which, from the time of Corneille, they have Sicily nor Athens, but a modern theatre? very generally received, by discovering that they By supposition, as place is introduced, time have given more trouble to the poet, than plea- may be extended; the time required by the fable sure to the auditor.
elapses for the most part between the acts; for, The necessity of observing the unities of time of so much of the action as is represented, the and place arises from the supposed necessity of real and poetical duration is the same. If, in making the drama credible. The eritics hold it the first act, preparations for war against Mithimpossible, that an action of months or years ridates are represented to be made in Rome, the can be possibly believed to pass in three hours; event of the war may, without absurdity, be or that the spectator can suppose himself to sit represented in the catastrophe as happening in in the theatre, while ambassadors go and return Pontus; we know that we are neither in Rome between distant kings, while armies are levied nor Pontus; that neither Mithridates nor Luand towns besieged, while an exile wanders and cullus are before us. The drama exhibits sucreturns, or till he whom they saw courting his cessive imitations of successive actions, and mistress, shalldament the untimely fall of why may not the second imitation represent an his son. The mind revolts from evident false action that happened years after the first, if it hood, and fiction loses its force when it departs be so connected with it, that nothing but timo from the resemblance of reality.
can be supposed to intervene? Time is of all From the narrow limitation of time necessarily modes of existence most obsequious to the imarises the contraction of place. The spectator agination; a lapse of years is as easily conceived who knows that he saw the first act at Alexan. as a passage of hours. In contemplation we easily dria, cannot suppose that he sees the next at contract the time of real actions, and therefore Rome, at a distance to which not the dragons of
willingly permit it to be contracted when we authorities I am afraid to stand, not that I think only see their imitation.
the present question one of those that are to be It will be asked how the drama moves, if it is decided by mere authority, but because it is to be not credited. It is credited with all the credit suspected that these precepts have not been so due to a drama. It is credited, whenever it easily received, but for better reasons than J moves, as a just picture of a real original; as have yet been able to find. The result of my representing to the auditor what he would him. inquiries, in which it would be ludicrous to self feel, if he were to do or suffer what is there boast of impartiality, is, that the unities of time feigned to be suffered or to be done. The re- and place are not essential to a just drama; flection that strikes the heart is not, that the that though they may sometimes conduce to evils before us are real evils, but that they are pleasure, they are always to be sacrificed to the evils to which we ourselves may be exposed. nobler beauties of variety and instruction; and If there be any fallacy, it is not that we fancy that a play, written with nice observation of the players, but we fancy ourselves unhappy for critical rules, is to be contemplated as an elaboa moment; but we rather lament the possibility rate curiosity, as the product of superfluous and than suppose the presence of misery, as a mother ostentatious art, by which is shown rather what weeps over her babe when she remembers that is possible than what is necessary. death may take it from her. The delight of tra- He that, without diminution of any other ex. gedy proceeds from our consciousness of fiction; | cellence, shall preserve all the unities unbroken, if we thought murders and treasons real, they deserves the like applause with the architect, who would please no more.
shall display all the orders of architecture in a Imitations produce pain or pleasure, not citadel, without any deduction from its strength ; because they are mistaken for realities, but but the principal beauty of a citadel is 'to ex. because they bring realities to mind. When clude the enemy; and the greatest graces of a the imagination is recreated by a painted land play are to copy nature, and instruct life. scape, the trees are not supposed capable to give Perhaps, what I have bere not dogmatically us shade, or the fountains coolness; but we con. but deliberately written, may recall the princi. sider, how we should be pleased with such ples of the drama to a new examination. I am fountains playing beside us, and such woods almost frightened at my own temerity; and when waving over us. We are agitated in reading I estimate the fame and the strength of those the history of Henry the Fifth, yet no man takes that maintain the contrary opinion, am ready his book for the field of Agincourt. A dramatic to sink down in reverential silence; as Æneas exhibition is a book recited with concomitants withdrew from the defence of Troy, when he saw that increase or diminish its effect. Familiar Neptune shaking the wall, and Juno heading the comedy is often more powerful on the theatre, besiegers. than in the page; imperial tragedy is always Those whom my arguments cannot persuade less. The humour of Petruchio may be height to give their approbation to the judgment of ened by grimace; but what voice or what gesture Shakspeare, will easily, if they consider the concan hope to add dignity or force to the soliloquy dition of his life, make some allowance for his of Cato?
ignorance. A play read, affects the mind like a play Every man's performances, to be rightly esti. acted. It is therefore evident, that the action is mated, must be compared with the state of the age not supposed to be real ; and it follows, that be- in which he lived, and with his own particular optween the acts a longer or shorter time may be portunities : and though to a reader a book be allowed to pass, and that no more account of not worse or better for the circumstances of the space or duration is to be taken by the auditor author, yet as there is always a silent reference of a drama, than by the reader of a narrative, of human works to human abilities, and as the before whom may pass in an hour the life of a inquiry, how far man may extend his designs, hero, or the revolutions of an empire.
or how high he may rate his native force, is of Whether Shakspeare knew the unities and re- far greater dignity than in what rank we shall jected them by design, or deviated from them by place any particular performance, curiosity is al. happy ignorance, it is, I think, impossible to ways busy to discover the instruments, as well decide, and useless to inquire. We may reason. as to survey the workmanship; to know how much ably suppose, that, when be rose to notice, he is to be ascribed to original powers, and how much did not want the counsels and admonitions of to casual and adventitious help. The palaces of scholars and critics, and that he at last deliber- Peru and Mexico were certainly mean and in. ately persisted in a practice, which he might commodious habitations, if compared to the have begun by chance. As nothing is essential houses of European monarchs; yet who could to the fable, but unity of action, and as the forbear to view them with astonishment, who reunities of time and place arise evidently from membered that they were built without the use false assumptions, and, by circumscribing the of iron? extent of the drama, lessen its variety, I cannot The English nation, in the time of Shakspeare, think it much to be lamented, that they were was yet struggling to emerge from barbarity. not known by him, or not observed: nor, if such The philology of Italy had been transplanted hi. another poet could arise, should I very vehe- ther in the reign of Henry VIII.; and the learnmently reproach him, that his first act passed ed languages had been successfully cultivated by at Venice, and his next in Cyprus. Such viola- Lilly, Linacre, and More; by Pole, Cheke, and tions of rules merely positive, become the com- Gardiner : and afterwards by Smith, Clerk, Had. prehensive genius of Shakespeare, and such don, and Ascham. Greek was now taught to censures are suitable to the minute and slender boys in the principal schools; and those who criticism of Voltaire:
united elegance with learning, read, with great “Non usque adeo perniscuit imis
diligence, the Italian and Spanish poets. But Longus summa dies, ut non, si voce Metelli literature was yet confined to professed scholars,
Serventur leges, malint a Cæsare tolli.” or to men and women of high rank. The public Yet when I speak thus slightly of dramatic rules, was gross and dark: and to be able to read and I cannot but recollect how much wit and learn- write, was an accomplishment still valued for its ing may be produced against me; before such rarity.
Nations, like individuals, have their infancy. | wered, that Addison speaks the language of poets, A people newly awakened to literary curio. and Shakspeare of men. We find in Cato innu. sity, being yet unacquainted with the true state merable beauties which enamour us of its author, of things, knows not how to judge of that which but we see nothing that acquaints us with huis proposed as its resemblance. Whatever is re- man sentiments or human actions; we place it mote from common appearances is always wela with the fairest and the noblest progeny which come to vulgar, as to childish credulity; and of judgment propagates by conjunction with learna country unenlightened by learning, the whole ing; but Othello is the vigorous and vivacious people is the vulgar. The study of those who offspring of observation impregnated by genius. then aspired to plebeian learning was laidoutupon Cato affords a splendid exhibition of artificial and adventures, giants, dragons, and enchantments. fictitious manners, and delivers just and noble The Death of Arthur was the favourite volume. sentiments, in diction easy, elevated, and harmo
The mind, which has feasted on the luxurious nious, but its hopes and fears communicate no wonders of fiction, has no taste of the insipidity vibration to the heart; the composition refers us of truth. A play which imitated only the common only to the writer; we pronounce the name of occurrences of the world, would upon the admir. Cato, but we think on Addison. ers of Palmerin and Guy of Warwick, have made The work of a correct and regular writer is a little impression; he that wrote for such an au- garden accurately formed and diligently plantdience was under the necessity of looking rounded, varied with shades and scented with flowers : for strange events and fabulous transactions, and the composition of Shakspeare is a forest, in that incredibility, by which maturer knowledge which oaks extend their branches, and pines is offended, was the chief recommendation of wri. tower in the air, interspersed sometimes with tings, to unskilful curiosity.
weeds and brambles, and sometimes giving shelOur author's plots are generally borrowed from ter to myrtles and to roses; filling the eye with novels; and it is reasonable to suppose that he awful pomp, and gratifying the mind with endchose the most popular, such as were read by less diversity. Other poets display cabinets of many, and related by more; for his audience precious rarities, minutely finished, wrought into could not have followed him through the intrica. shape, and polished into brightness. Shakspeare cies of the drama, had they not held the thread opens a mine which contains gold and diamonds of the story in their hands.
in inexhaustible plenty, though clouded by in. The stories, which we now find only in remoter crustations, debased by impurities, and mingled authors, were in his time accessible and familiar. | with a mass of meaner minerals. The fable of As You Like It, which is supposed It has been much disputed, whether Shak. to be copied from Chaucer's Gamelyn, was a lit- speare owed his excellence to his own native tle pamphlet of those times; and old Mr. force, or whether he had the common helps of Cibber remembered the tale of Hamlet in plain scholastic education, the precepts of critical English prose, which the critics have now to seek science, and the examples of ancient authors. in Saxo Grammaticus.
There has always prevailed a tradition that His English histories he took from English Shakspeare wanted learning, that he had no rechronicles and English ballads; and as the an- gular education, nor much skill in the dead lan. cient writers were made known to his country- | guages. Jonson, his friend, aflirms, that “he men by versions, they supplied him with new had small Latin, and less Greek;" who, besides subjects; he dilated some of Plutarch's lives into that he had no imaginable temptation to falseplays, when they had been translated by North. hood, wrote at the time when the character and
His plots, whether historical or fawulous, are acquisitions of Shakspeare were known to mul. always crowded with incidents, by which the attitudes. His evidence ought therefore to decide tention of a rude people was more easily caught the controversy, unless some testimony of equal than by sentiment or argumentation; and such force could be opposed. is the power of the marvellous, even over those Some have imagined, that they have discover. who despise it, that every man finds his minded deep learning in imitation of old writers; but more strongly seized by the tragedies of Shak. the examples which I have known urged, were speare than of any other writer; others please drawn from books translated in his time; or us by particular speeches, but he always makes were such easy coincidences of thought, as will us anxious for the event, and has perhaps excel happen to all who consider the same subjects; led all but Homer in securing the first purpose or such remarks on life or axioms of morality as of a writer, by exciting restless and unquench- float in conversation, and are transmitted through able curiosity, and compelling him that reads his the world in proverbial sentences. work to read it through.
I have found it remarked, that, in this impor. The shows and bustle with which his plays tant sentence, “ Go before, I'll follow, we read abound have the same original. As knowledge a translation of I præ, sequar. I have been told, advances, pleasure passes from the eye to the that when Caliban, after a pleasing dream, says, ear, but returns, as it declines, from the ear to “I cried to sleep again,” the author imitates
Those to whom our author's labours Anacreon, who had, like every other man, the were exhibited had more skill in pomps or pro- same wish on the same occasion. cessions than in poetical language, and perhaps There are a few passages which may pass for wanted some visible and discriminated events, imitations, but so few, that the exception only as comments on the dialogue. He knew how he confirms the rule; he obtained them from acci. should most please; and whether his practice is dental quotations, or by oral communication, and more agreeable to nature, or whether his exam. as he used what he had, would have used more ple has prejudiced the nation, we still find that if he had obtained it. on our stage something must be done as well as The Comedy of Errors is confessedly taken said, and inactive declamation is very coldly from the Menæchmi of Plautus; from the only heard, however musical or elegant, passionate or play of Plautus which was then in English. sublime.
What can be more probable, than that he who Voltaireexpresses his wonder, that our author's copied that, would have copied more, but that extravagancies are endured by a nation, which those which were not translated were inaccessi. has seen the tragedy of Cato. Let him be ans. ble?
Whether he knew the modern languages is un. There is a vigilance of observation and accucertain. That his plays have some French scenes racy of distinction which books and precepts canproves but little; he might easily procure them not confer; from this almost all original and nato be written, and probably, even though he had tive excellence proceeds. Shakspeare must known the language in the common degree, he have looked upon mankind with perspicacity, in could not have written it without assistance. In the highest degree curious and attentive. Other the story of Romeo and Juliet he is observed to writers borrow their characters from preceding have followed the English translation, where it writers, and diversify them only by the accidendeviates from the Italian; but this on the other tal appendages of present manners; the dress is part proves nothing against his knowledge of the a little varied, but the body is the same. Our original. He was to copy, not what he knew author had both matter and form to provide; himself, but what was known to his audience. for, except the characters of Chaucer, to whom I
It is most likely that he had learned Latin suf- think he is not much indebted, there were no ficiently to make him acquainted with construc- writers in English, and perhaps not many in tion, but that he never advanced to an easy pe- other modern languages, which showed life in its rusal of the Roman authors. Concerning his native colours. skill in modern languages, I can find no suffici- The contest about the original benevolence or ent ground of determination; but as no imita- malignity of man had not yet commenced. Spetions of French or Italian authors have been dis- culation had not yet attempted to analyse the covered, though the Italian poetry was then in mind, to trace the passions to their sources, to high esteem, I am inclined to believe, that he unfold the seminal principles of vice and virtue, read little more than English, and chose for his or sound the depths of the heart for the motives fables only such tales as he found translated. of action. All those inquiries, which from that
That much knowledge is scattered over his time that human nature became the fashionable works is very justly observed by Pope, but it is study, have been made sometimes with nice disoften such knowledge as books did not supply. cernment, but often with idle subtilty, were yet He that will understand Shakspeare, must not unattempted. The tales, with which the infancy be content to study him in the closet; he must of learning was satisfied, exhibited only the sulook for his meaning sometimes among the sports perficial appearances of action, related theevents, of the field, and sometimes among the manufac- but omitted the causes, and were formed for such tures of the shop.
as delighted in wonders rather than in truth There is, however, proof enough that he was a Mankind was not then to be studied in the clovery diligent reader, nor was our language then set; he that would know the world, was under so indigent of books, but that he might very li- the necessity of gleaning his own remarks, by berally indulge his curiosity without excursion mingling as he could in its business and amuseinto foreign literature. Many of the Roman au- ments. thors were translated, and some of the Greek; Boyle congratulated himself upon his high the Reformation had filled the kingdom with birth, because it favoured his curiosity, by faci. theological learning; most of the topics of hu- litating his access. Shakspeare had no such adman disquisition had found English writers; and | vantage; he came to London a needy adventurer, poetry had been cultivated, not only with dili- and lived for a time by very mean employments. gence, but success. This was a stock of know. Many works of genius and learning have been ledge sufficient for a mind so capable of appropri- performed in states of life that appearvery little faating and improving it.
vourable to thought or to inquiry; so many, that But the greater part of his excellence was the be who considers them is inclined to think that product of his own genius. He found the Eng. he sees enterprise and perseverance predominaTish stage in a state of the utmost rudeness; no ting over all external agency, and bidding help essays either in tragedy or comedy had appear. and hindrance vanish before them. The genius ed, from which it could be discovered to what de- of Shakspeare was not to be depressed by the gree of delight either one or other might be car. weight of poverty, nor limited by the narrow ried. Neither character nor dialogue were yet conversation to which men in want are inevitaunderstood. Shakspeare may be truly said to bly condemned; the incumbrances of his fortune have introduced them both amongst us, and in were shaken from his mind, as dew-drops from some of his happier scenes to have carried them a lion's mane. both to the utmost height.
Though he had so many difficulties to encount. By what gradations of improvement he pro- er, and so little assistance to surmount them, he ceeded, is not easily known; for the chronology has been able to obtain an exact knowledge of of his works is yet unsettled. Rowe is of opinion, many modes of life, and many casts of native that “perhaps we are not to look for his begin- dispositions; to vary them with great multiplicining, like those of other writers, in his least per ty; to mark them by nice distinctions; and to fect works; art had so little, and nature so large show them in full view by proper combinations. a share in what he did, that for aught I know," In this part of his performances he had none to says he, “the performances of his youth, as they imitate, but has himself been imitated by all were the most vigorous, were the best.” But succeeding writers; and it may be doubted, the power of nature is only the power of using whether from all his successors more maxims of to any certain purpose the materials which dili. theoretical knowledge, or more rules of practical gence procures, or opportunity supplies. Na prudence, can be collected, than he alone has ture gives no man knowledge, and when images given to his country. are collected by study and experience, can only
Nor was his attention confined to the actions assist in combining and applying them. Shak- of men; he was an exact surveyor of the inanispeare, however favoured by nature, could im- mate world; his descriptions bare always some part only what he had learned ; and as he must peculiarities, gathered by contemplating things increase his ideas, like other mortals, by gradual as they really exist. It may be observed, that acquisition, he, like thenı, grew wiser as he grew the oldest poets of many nations preserve their older, could display life better, as he knew it more, reputation, and that the following generations and instruct with more efficacy, as he was bim- of wit, after a short celebrity, sink into oblivion. self more amply instructed.
The first, whoever they be, must take their sen
timents and descriptions immediately from know. am indeed far from thinking, that his works ledge; the resemblance is therefore just, their were wrought to his own ideas of perfection ; descriptions are verified by every eye, and their when they were such as would satisfy the audi sentiments acknowledged by every breast. ence, they satisfied the writer. It is seldom Those whom their fame invites to the same that authors, though more studious of fame than studies, copy partly them, and partly nature, till Shakspeare, rise much above the standard of the books of one age gain such authority, as to their own age; to add a little to what is best stand in the place of nature to another, and imi. will always be sufficient for present praise, and tation, always deviating a little, becomes at last those who find themselves exalted into fame, aro capricious and casual. Shakspeare, whether willing to credit their encomiasts, and to spare life or natur be his subject, shows plainly, that the labour of contending with themselves. he has seen with his own eyes; he gives the im- It does not appear, that Shakspeare thought age which he receives, not weakened or distort. his works worthy of posterity, that he levied any ed by the intervention of any other mind; the ideal tribute upon future times, or had any fur. ignorant feel his representations to be just, and ther prospect, than of present popularity and the learned see that they are complete.
present profit. When his plays had been acted, Perhaps it would not be easy to find any his hope was at an end; he solicited no ads author, except Homer, who invented as much as dition of honour from the reader. He therefore Shakspeare, who so much advanced the studies made no scruple to repeat the same jests in which he cultivated, or effused so much novelty many dialogues, or to entangle different plots by upon his age or country. The form, the char. the same knot of perplexity, which may be at acters, the language, and the shows of the Eng. least forgiven him, by those who recollect, that lish drama, are his.' “He seems,” says Dennis, of Congreve's four comedies, two are concluded "to have been the very original of our English by a marriage in a mask, by a deception, which tragical harmony, that is, the harmony of blank perhaps never happened, and which, whether verse, diversified often by dissyllable and tris. likely or not, he did not invent. syllable terminations. For the diversity distin. So careless was this great poet of future fame, guishes it from heroic harmony, and by bring. that, though he retired to ease and plenty, while ing it nearer to common, use, makes it more he was yet little declined into the vale of years, proper to gain attention, and more fit for action before he could be disgusted with fatigue, or disand dialogue. Such verse we make when we abled by infirmity, he made no collection of his are writing prose; we make such verse in com- works, nor desired to rescue those that had been mon conversation.”
already published, from the depravations that I know not whether this praise is rigorously obscured them, or secure to the rest a better des. just. The dissyllable termination, which the tiny, by giving them to the world in their genucritic rightly appropriates to the drama, is to be ine state. found, though, I think, not in Gorboduc, which Of the plays which bear the name of Shake is confessedly before our author; yet in Hier- speare in the late editions, the greater part were onymo, of which the date is not certain, but not published till about seven years after his which there is reason to believe at least as old death, and the few which appeared in his life as his earliest plays. This however is certain, were apparently thrust into the world without that he is the first who taught either tragedy or the care of the author, and therefore probably comedy to please, there being no theatrical piece without his knowledge. of any older writer, of which the name is known, Of all the publishers, clandestine or professed, except to antiquaries and collectors of books, the negligence and unskilfulness has by the late which are sought because they are scarce, and revisers been sufficiently shown. The faults of would not have been scarce, had they been much all are indeed numerous and gross, and have not esteemed.
only corrupted many passages perhaps beyond To him we must ascribe the praise, unless recovery, but bave brought others into suspicion, Spenser may divide it with him, of having first which are only obscured by obsolete phraseology, discovered to how much smoothness and har. or by the writer's unskilfulness and affectation. mony the English language could be softened. To alter is more easy than to explain, and teHe has speeches, perhaps sometimes scenes, merity is a more common quality than diligence. which have all the delicacy of Rowe, without his Those who saw that they must employ conjeceffeminacy. He endeavours indeed commonly ture to a certain degree, were willing to indulge to strike by the force and vigour of his dialogue, it a little further. Had the author published but he never executes his purpose better, than his own works, we should have sat quietly down when he tries to sooth by softness.
to disentangle his intricacies, and clear his obYet it must be at last confessed, that as we scurities; but now we tear what we cannot owe every thing to him, he owes something to loose, and eject what we happen not to under. us; that, if much of his praise is paid by per- stand. ception and judgment, much is likewise given The faults are more than could have happened by custom and veneration. We fix our eyes up without the concurrence of many causes. The on his graces, and turn them from his deformi- style of Shakspeare was in itself ungrammatical, ties, and endure in him what we should in ano- perplexed, and obscure; his works were tranther loath or despise. If we endured without scribed for the players by those who may be sup. praising, respect for the father of our drama posed to have seldom understood them; they might excuse us; but I have seen, in the book were transmitted by copiers equally unskilful, of some modern critic, a collection of anomalies, who still multiplied errors; they were perhaps which show that he has corrupted language by sometimes mutilated by the actors, for the sake every mode of depravation, but which his ad- of shortening the speeches; and were at last mirer has accumulated as a monument of hon. printed without correction of the press.
In this state they remained, not as Dr. War. He has scenes of undoubted and perpetual ex. burton supposes, because they were unregarded, cellence, but perhaps not one play, which, if it but because the editor's art was not yet applied were now exhibited as the work of a contempor. to modern languages, and our ancestors were ac. ary writer, would be heard to the conciusion. I customed to so much negligence of English