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those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to confider him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal licence and ignorance: there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dićtates 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 present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatic poetry so far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the first, among those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a tragick or heroick poem; not, perhaps, as it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivanee and course of the whole; and with the fable ought to be confidered the fit disposition, order, and condućt of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the drama that the strength and mastery of Shakspeare lay, so I shall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were seldom invented, but rather taken either from the true history, or novels and romances; and he commonly made use of them in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them. So The H7nter's Tale, which is taken from an old book, called 7he Delectable History of Dorous and Fawnia, contains the space of fixteen or seventeen years, and the scene is sometimes laid 1Il

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