Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

some people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded them, been sorry to see his friend Hal use him fo scurvily, when he comes to the crown in the end of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth. Amongst 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 has 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 unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth-Night there is something fingularly 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 Nothing, 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 entertaining : and, I believe,

o m the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there,] There are two coats, I observe, in Dugdale, where three silver fithes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat to the monument of Thomas Lucy, son of Sir William Lucy, in which are quara tered in four several divifions, twelve little fishes, three in each division, probably luces. This very coat, indeed, seems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white luces ; and in Slender's saying he may quarter. THEOBALD.

Therfites in Troilus and Cressida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master-pieces of illnature, and satirical snarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylack 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 author. There appears in it fuch a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of crus elty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether; seems 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 Baffanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth Act (fuppofing, as I said, the fact to be probable,) is extremely fine. But there are two passages that deserve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia fays in praise of mercy, and the other on the

[ocr errors]

8 but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy,] In 1701 Lord Lansdown produced his alteration of The Merchant of Venice, at the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, under the title of The Jew of Venice, and expressly calls it a comedy. Shylock was performed by Mr. Dogget. Reed.

And such was the bad taste of our ancestors that this piece continued to be a stock-play from 1701 to Feb. 14, 1741, when The Merchant of Venice was exhibited for the first time at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and Mr. Macklin made his first appearance in the character of Shylock. Malone.

power of musick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you like it, is as fingular 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 degrees 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 feven 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 woful ballad
" Made to his mistress' eye-brow. Then, a soldier ;
« Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
“ Seeking the bubble reputation
« Ev'n in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice;
“ In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
" With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
" Full of wise faws and modern instances ;
“ And so he plays his part. The fixth age shifts
« Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon;..
“ With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side;
« His youthful hose, well fav’d, a world too wide
" For his shrunk (hank; and his big manly voice,
“ Turning again tow'rd childish treble, pipes
“ And whistles in his found : Laft scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
“ Is second childishness, and mere oblivion ;
“ Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans tafte, 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 faw; it is an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,

“ - She never told her love,

or But let concealment, like a worm i'th' bud,
' " Feed on her damask cheek : the pip'd in thought,

“ And fate like Patience on a monument,
« Smiling at Grief.

What an image is here given! and what a talk 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 doggrel rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and fome 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 where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy to a flight 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 him : 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 upon, fince 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 fake, than reafon does well allow of. His magick has something in it very folemn and very poetical : and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, Thows 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 yery great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely just; that Shakspeare' had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted new manner of language for that character.

It is the fame magick that raises the Fairies in d Midsummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghoft in Hamlet, with thoughts and "language fo 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

9 which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making - ] Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden. Rowe.

Dryden was of the same opinion. « His person (says he, speaking of Caliban,) is monstrous, as he is the product of unnatural luft, and his language is as hobgoblin as his perfon : in all things he is diftinguished from other mortals." Preface to Troilus and Crefda. MALQNE.

VOL. I.

« AnteriorContinuar »