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his carelessnefs in this point, when he comes to another part of the Drama, The Manners of his Characters, in acting or Speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shown by the Poet, he may be generally juftify'd, and in very many places greatly commended. For thofe Plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare 'em, and he will find the character as exact in the Poet as the Hiftorian. He feems indeed fo far from propofing to himself any one action for a Subject, that the Title very often tells you, 'tis The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our hiftorians give of Henry the fixth, than the picture Shakespear has drawn of him! His manners are every where exadly the fame with the ftory; one finds him ftill defcrib'd with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of Courage, weaknefs of mind, and eafie fubmiffion to the governance of an imperious Wife, or prevailing Faction: Tho' at the fame time the Poet do's juftice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by fhowing him pious, difinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly refign'd to the fevereft difpenfations of God's providence. There is a fhort Scene in the fecond part of Henry VI, which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murder'd the duke of Gloucester, is fhewn in the laft agonies on his death-bed, with the good King praying over him. There is fo much terror in one, fo much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as muft touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his Henry VIII, that Prince is drawn. with that greatnefs of mind, and all thofe 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 fhades in this picture do not bear a

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juft proportion to the lights, it is not that the Artift wanted either colours or skill in the difpofition of 'em; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to Queen Elizabeth, fince it could have been no very great refpect to the memory of his Miftrefs, to have expos'd fome certain parts of her father's life upon the ftage. He has dealt much more freely with the Minister of that great King, and certainly nothing was ever more juftly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolfey. He has thewn him infolent in his profperity; and yet, by a wonderful addrefs, he makes his fall and ruin the fubject of general compaffion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly defcrib'd in the fecond scene of the fourth act. The diftreffes likewife of Queen Katharine, in this Play, are very movingly touch'd; and tho' the art of the Poet has skreen'd King Henr from any grofs Imputation of injuftice, yet one is inclin'd to with, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the Manners, proper to the perfons reprefented, lefs juftly obferv'd, in thofe characters taken from the Roman Hiftory; and of this, the fiercenefs and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and difdain of the common people, the virtue and philofophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two laft efpecially, you find 'em exactly as they are defcrib'd by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shakespear copy'd 'em. He has indeed follow'd his original pretty clofe, and taken in feveral little incidents that might have been fpar'd in a Play. But as I hinted before, his defign feems most commonly rather to defcribe thofe great men in the feveral fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any fingle great action, and form his work fim


ply upon that. However, there are fome of his pieces, where the Fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more especially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet, is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animofities that had been fo long kept up between 'em, and occafion'd the effuton of fo much blood. In the management of this ftory, he has fhewn fomething, wonderfully tender and paffionate in the love-part,, and very pitiful in the diftrefs. Hamlet is founded on much the fame Tale with the Electra of Sophocles. In each of 'em a young Prince is engaged to revenge the death of his father, their mothers are equally guilty, are both concern'd in the: murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greek Tragedy, fomething very moving in the e grief of Electra; but as Mr. D'Acier has obferv'd, there is fomething very unnatural and fhocking in the Manners he has given that Princefs and Oreftes in the latter part. Oreftes embrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous acti-on is perform'd, tho' not immediately upon. the: ftage, yet fo near, that the audience hear Clytemneftra crying out to Agyfthus for help, and to her fon for mercy: While Electra, her daughter, and: a Princefs (both of them characters that ought to have appear'd with more decency) ftands upon the ftage and encourages her brother in the Parricide. What horror does this not raife! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deferv'd to die; nay, in the truth of the ftory, fhe was kill'd by her own fon;, but to represent an action of this kind on the stage, is certainly an offence against thofe rules of man-ners proper to the perfons, that ought to be obferv'd: there. On the contrary, let us only look a little:

on the conduct of Shakespear. Hamlet is reprefented with the fame piety towards his father, and refolution to revenge his death, as Oreftes; he had the fame abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heighten'd by inceft: But 'tis with wonderful art and juftnefs 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 Ghoft forbid that part of his vengeance.

But howsoever thou pursu'ft this Act,

Taint not thy mind; nor let thy foul contrive
Against thy mother ought; leave her to heav'n,
And to thofe thorns that in her bofom lodge,
To prick and fting her.

This is to diftinguish rightly between Horror and Terror. The latter is a proper paffion of Tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick Writer ever fucceeded better in raifing Terror in the minds of an audience than Shakespear has done. The whole Tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the King is murder'd, in the second act, as well as this Play, is a noble proof of that manly fpirit with which he writ; and both fhew how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have feen this Mafter-piece of ShakeSpear diftinguish it felf upon the ftage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who tho' 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 Shakespear's manner



of expreffion, and indeed he has ftudy'd him fo dwell, and is fo 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 conceiv'd it as he plays it. Imuft Own a particular obligation to him, for the most confiderable part of the paffages relating to this life, h which I have here tranfmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakespear 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 fo great a veneration.



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