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is a good deal true in it : But I believe it may be as well express’d by what Horace says of the first Romans, who wrote Tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed translated 'em) in his epistle to Auguftus.
Naturâ fublimis & acer,
Sed turpem pulat in Cbartis metuitque Lituram. As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and compleat collection upon Shakespear's Works, fo I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judgment of others, to observe some of thole things I have been pleas'd with in looking him over.
His plays are properly to be distinguish'd only into Comedies and Tragedies. Those which are callid Histories, and even some of his Comedies are really Tragedies, with a run or mixture of Comedy amongit 'em. That way of Tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is indeed become so agreeable to the English taste, that tho' the severer Critics among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences seem to be better pleas’d with it than with an exact Tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Comedy of Errors, and the Taming of the Sbrew, are all pure Comedy; the rest, however they are callid, have fomething of both kinds. 'Tis not very easy 10 determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and tho' they did not then ftrike at all ranks of people, as the Satire of the prefent age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-distinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allow'd by every body to be a master-piece ; the Character is always well sustain'd, cho' drawn out into the dength of three plays; and even the account of his death, given by his old landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the firft act of Henry V. tho' it be extremely natural, is
get as diverting as any part of his life.' If there be any fault in the draught he has made of this lewd old fellow, it is, thac cho' he has made him a thief, lying, cowardly, vain-glorious, and in short every way vicious, yet he has given him so much wit as to make him almost too agreeable ; and I don't know whether fome people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded 'em, 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 hinı very near the same Coat of Arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that County, describes for a family there, and makes the Wels parfon descant very pleasantly upon 'em. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jeaJou.y, is extremely well conducted. In Twellib-Night there is something singularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical iteward 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. Petrucbio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedick and Beair ce, in Much ado about Nothing, and of Rosalind in As you like it, have much wit and sprigh:linets all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play wric in that time, are all very entertaining: And, I believe, Tber sites in Trưilus and Crefida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allow'd to be malter-pieces of ill-nature, and satyrical
To these i might add, that incomparable character of Sbylock the few, in the Merchant of Venice ; but tho’ we have seen that play receiv'd, and acted as a comedy, and the part of the few perform'd
by an excellent Comedian, yet I cannot bur think it was designed tragically by the Author. There
appears in it a deadly Spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and inischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of Comedy. The play itself, take it al. together, seems to me to be one of the mot finish'd of any of Shakespear's. The tale indeed, in that part selating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unuiual kind of bond given by An onio, is too much remov'd íroin 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 Bassanio very great, generous and tender. The whole fourth act (supposing, as I said, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine.
But there are two paffages that deserve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of musick. The melancholy in Jaques, in As you like it, is as singular and odu as it is diverting. And if, what Horace lays,
D ficile eft proprie communia dicere,
It will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the delcription of the several degrees and ages of a man's life, tho' the thought be old, and common enough.
All the world is a Stage,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Vol. II. p. 203,
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 saw ; 'tis an image of Pscience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,
She never told ber love,
And sat 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 masters of Greece and Rome to have express’d the passions design'd by this ikerch 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 doggril rhymes, as in Tbe Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, 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 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 fight above mankind and the limits of the viGble world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, Midsummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet, Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be plac'd 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 : tho' that was what, I suppose, he valu'd himself least upon, since his Excellencies were all of another kind. I am very fensible that he does, in this play, deparc too much from that likeness to truch which ought to be observ'd in these sort of writings; yet he does it so so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his sake, than reason does well allow of. His Magick has something in it very solemn and very poetical: And that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustain'd, thews a wonderful invention in the Author, who could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and moft uncommon Grotesques that was ever seen. The Obfervation, which I have been inform'd (a) three very
(a) Lord Falkland, Lord C. y. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.