Imagens das páginas
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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 Creffida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allow'd to be mafter-pieces of ill-nature, and fatyrical fnarling. To thefe I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but tho' we have feen that play receiv'd and acted as a Comedy, and the part of the Jew perform'd by an excellent Come dian, yet I cannot but think it was defign'd tragi. cally by the Author. There appears in it fuch a deadly spirit of revenge, fuch a favage fiercenefs and fellness, and fuch a bloody defignation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the flyle or characters of Comedy. The Play it felf, take it all together, feems to me to be one of the most finifh'd of any of Shakespear's. The tale indeed, in that part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unufual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much remov'd from the rules of probability: But taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is fomething in the friendship of Antonio to Baffanio very great, generous and tender.

The whole fourth act (fuppofing, as I faid, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two paffages that deferve a particular notice. The firft is, what Portia fays in praife of mercy, and the other on the power of mufick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you like it, as is fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if what Horace Lay's

Difficile eft proprie communia dicere,

'twill be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the feveral degrees and

ages

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ages of man's life, tho' the thought be old, and common enough.

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All the world's a Stage,

And all the men and women meerly Players;
They have their Exits and their Entrances,
And one man in his time plays many Parts,
His Acts being feven ages. First the Infant
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms:
And then, the whining School-boy with his fatchel,
And fhining morning-face, creeping like fnail
Unwillingly to fchool. And then the Lover
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his Miftrefs' eye-brow. Then a Soldier
Full of frange oaths, and bearded like the Pard,
Jealous in honour, fudden, quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble Reputation

Ev'n in the canon's mouth. And then the Juftice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,
With eyes fevere, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wife faws and modern instances;
And fo he plays his part. The fixth age shifts
Into the lean and flipper'd Pantaloon,
With fpectacles on nofe, and pouch on fide;
His youthful hofe, well fav'd, a world too wide
For his fhrunk fank; and his big manly voice
Turning again tow'rd childish treble pipes,
And whiftles in his found. Laft Scene of all,
That ends this ftrange eventful History,
Is fecond childishness and meer oblivion,
Sans teeth, fans eyes, fans tafte, fans ev'ry thing.

His Images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would represent ftands full before you, and you poffefs every part of it. I will venture to point out one more, which is, I

Speaking

think, as ftrong and as uncommon as any thing I ever faw; 'tis an image of Patience. of a maid in love, he fays,

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She never told her love,

But let concealment, like a worm i th' bud,
Feed on ber damask cheek: She pin'd in thought,
And fate 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 mafters of Greece and Rome to have exprefs'd the paffions defign'd by this sketch of Statuary? The ftyle of his Comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and eafy in it felf; and the wit moft commonly sprightly and pleafing, except in those places where he runs into dogrel rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and fome other plays. As for his jingling fometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he liv'd in: And if we find it in the Pulpit, made ufe of as an ornament to the Sermons of fome of the graveft divines of thofe times; perhaps it may not be thought too light for the Stage.

But certainly the greatnefs of this Author's genius do's no where fo much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loofe, and raifes his fancy to a flight above mankind and the limits of the vifible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, Midfummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of thefe, The Tempeft, however it comes to be plac'd the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the firft written by him: It seems to me as perfect in its kind, as almoft any thing we have of his. One måy obferve, that the Unities are kept here, with an exactness

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Cxactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing: tho' that was what, I fuppofe, he valu'd himself leaft upon, fince his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very fenfible that he do's, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be obferv'd in thefe fort of writings; yet he do's it fo very finely that one is eafily drawn in to have more faith for his fake, than reafon does well allow of.. His Magick has fomething in it very folemn and very poetical: And that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well fuftain'd, fhews a wonderful invention in the Author, who could ftrike out fuch a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the fineft and moft uncommon Grotefques that was ever feen. The obfervation, which I have been inform'd * three very great men concurr'd in making upon this part, was extremely juft. That Shakespear had not only found out a new Character in his Caliban, but had alfo devis'd and adapted a new manner of Language for that Character.

It is the fame magick that raifes the Fairies in Midfummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Mackbeth, and the Ghoft in Hamlet, with thoughts and language fo proper to the parts they fuftain, and fo peculiar to the talent of this Writer. But of the two laft of thefe Plays I fhall have occafion to take notice, among the Tragedies of Mr. Shakespear. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of thefe by thofe rules which are eftablish'd by Ariftotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian Stage, it would be no very hard task to find a great many faults: But as Shakespear liv'd under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, fo it would be hard to VOL. I. judge *Ld. Falkland, Ld. C. J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.

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judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to confider him as a man that liv'd in a state of almoft univerfal licenfe and ignorance: there was no eftablish'd judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his own fancy. When one confiders, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the prefent Stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he fhould advance dramatick Poetry fo far as he did. The Fable is what is generally plac'd the firft,, among thofe that are reckon'd the conftituent parts of a Tragick or Heroick Poem; not, perhaps, as it is the moft difficult or beautiful, but as it is the firft properly to be thought of in the contrivance and courfe of the whole; and with the Fable ought to be confider'd, the fit Difpofition, Order and Conduct of its feveral parts. As it is not in this province of the Drama that the ftrength and maftery of Shakespear Jay, fo I fhall not undertake the tedious and ill-natur'd trouble to point out the feveral faults he was guilty of in it. His Tales were feldom invented, but rather taken either from true Hiftory, or Novels and Romances: And he commonly made ufe of 'em in that order, with thofe incidents, and that extent of time in which he found 'em in the Authors from whence he borrow'd them. So The Winter's Tale, which is taken from an old book, call'd, The Delectable Hiftory of Doraftus and Eaunia, contains the fpace of fixteen or feventeen years, and the Scene is fometimes laid in Bohemia, and fometimes 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 diftinct places: And in his Antony and Cleopatra, the Scene travels over the greatest part of the Roman Empire. But in recompence for

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