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This is one of the last plays which Shakspeare wrote.
Dr. Warburton says of it—“ This play, and “ Midsummer Night's Dream,' are the noblest efforts of that sublime and amazing imagination, peculiar to Shakspeare, which soars above the bounds of nature, without forsaking sense; or, more properly, carries nature along with him, beyond her established limits.”
Shakspeare had now written more than thirty plays, and, like other hackneyed authors, he began to be weary of his employment. But he had a resource in fancy, to which others apply in vain. Tired of the same dull round of forming men and women, he said—“ Let there be spirits, fairies, goblins, and monsters." At his word, these supernatural things had dramatic existence.
But, however the learned may admire the poet's grand conception, and the complete execution of all that they can conceive he meant to do, to make this
play perfection; it would never have become a favourite on the stage, without the aid of Dryden's alteration. The human beings in the original drama had not business enough on the scene, to make human beings anxious about them: and the preternatural characters were more wonderful than pleasing ; for, whilst an auditor or a reader pours forth his praise before the Creator of Caliban, he loathes the creature.
Ariel, opposed to this monster, is one of those happy contrasts, which Shakspeare deals in; yet, this airy and mild spirit cannot charm an audience, except by singing. Nor could the love scenes produce much sympathy, but from the artlessness of the objects concerned. Ignorance of what their own sensations mean, is the charm which alone elevates those pleasing characters, above the common order of insipid lovers.
“ The Tempest” contains some of the author's best poetry-the noted passage of “ cloud-capp'd towers" is here; also some exquisite descriptions of wild rural scenery; and there is a sublimity in the pinches, cramps, and aches, of Caliban; his bogs, fens, flats, moles, barnacles, and apes—as well as in the oaks, rocks, winds, sea, earth, and air, of Prospero.
Dr. Warburton's praises of “The Tempest," are thus supported by Dr. Johnson's following eulogium:
“ In a single drama are here exhibited princes, courtiers, and sailors, all speaking in their real characters. There is the agency of airy spirits, and of an earthly goblin; the operation of magic, the tu.
mults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island, the native effusion of untaught affection, the punishment of guilt, and the final happiness of the pair, for whom our reason and our passions are equally interested."
All these things are doubtless comprised in “ The Tempest,” except the last implied quality-one, of all others, which an audience can, perhaps, the least dispense with. This drama does not interest the passions. Less variety might have engaged them ; but here genius has been too much expanded. Exercised on fewer objects, its force had been concentrated, and more effectual.
The senses are, indeed, powerfully engaged by the grandeur of the spectacle in a London theatre—and the senses highly gratified, are sometimes mistaken, by the possessor himself-for the passions.
Miss Meadows. The other SPIRITS by the general Chorus.
FURIES. Mr, Denman, Mr. Grimaldi, Mr. Lee, Mr. Street,
Mr. Treby, and others.
SCENE-An uninhabited Island,