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from other testimony. They are ascribed to Shake. speare by the firit editors, whose attestation may be received in questions of fact, however unskilfully they superintended their edition. They seem to be declared genuine by the voice of Shakespeare himself, who refers to the second play in his epilogue to Henry V. and apparently connects the first act of Richard III. with the last of the third part of Herry VI. If it be objected, that the plays were popular, and that therefore he alluded to them as well known; it may be answered, with equal probability, that the natural passions of a poet would have disposed him to separate his own works from those of an inferior hand. And, indeed, if an author's own testimony is to be overthrown by speculative criticism, no man can be any longer secure of literary reputation.
Of these three plays I think the second the best. The truth is, that they have not sufficient variety of action, for the incidents are too often of the same kind; yet many of the characters are well discriminated. King Ilenry, and his queen, king Edward, the duke of Gloucester, and the earl of Warcick, are very strongly and distinctly painted.
The old copies of the two latter parts of Henry VI. and of Henry V. are so apparently imperfect and mutilated, that there is no reason for supposing them the first draughts of Shakespeare. I am inclined to believe them copies taken by some auditor who wrote down, during the representation, what the cime would permit, then perhaps filled up some of his omillions at a second or third hearing, and when
he had by this method formed something like a play, sent it to the printer.
KING RICHARD Iit. . This is one of the most celebrated of our author's performances; yet I know not whether it has not happened to him as to others, to be praised most, when praise is not most deserved. That this play has scenes noble in themselves, and very well contrived to strike in the exhibition, cannot be denied. But some parts are trifing, others shocking, and some improbable.
I have nothing to add to the observations of the learned criticks, but that some traces of this antiquated exhibition are still retained in the rustick puppet-plays, in which I have seen the Devil very lustily belaboured by Punch, whom I hold to be the legitia mate successor of the old Vice.
KING HENRY VIII. The play of Henry the Eighth is one of those which still keeps possession of the stage by the splendor of its pageantry. The coronation about forty years ago, drew the people "together in multitudes for a great part of the winter. Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which inay be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakespeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every other part may be easily conceived, and easily written. Y &
The The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two parts of Henry the Fourth, and I'm the Fifth, are among the happiest of our au nors compositions; and King John, Richard the T:::. and Henry the Eigheh, deservedly stand in the fecoo: class. Those whose curiosity would refer the hiitos.cal scenes to their original, may consult Holingico and sometimes Hall: from Hcling shed, Stakespearelas often inserted whole speeches with no more altera: 0.1 than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecefTit, because the original is easily examined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian. • To play histories, or to exhibit a fucceffion of events by action and dialogue, was a common en. tertainment among our rude ancestors upon great festivities. The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell a play which lasted three days, concasing The history of the World.
The tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amuiing of our author's performances. The old man's merriment in Mlerienills; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal modesty in Virgilia; the patrician and military haughtiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity, and tribunitian infolence in Bruins and Sicirius, make a very pleasing and interesting variety: and the various revolutions of the hero's fortune fill the mind with anxious curiosity. There
is, perhaps, too much bustle in the first act, and too little in the last,
JULIUS CÆSAR, Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perysing it, and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with suine other of Shakespeare's plays; his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius,
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
This play keeps curiosity always busy, and the passions always interested. The continual hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and the quick succession of one personage to another, call the mind forward without intermission from the first act to the last. But the power of delighting is derived prin cipally from the frequent changes of the scene ; for except the feminine arts, some of which are too low which distinguish Cleopatra, no character is very strongly discriminated. Upton, who did not easily miss what he desired to find, has discovered that the language of Antony is, with great skill and learning, made pompous and luperb, according to his real practice. But I think his diction not distinguishable from that of others : the most timid speech in the play is that which Cæfar makes to OEtavia.
The events, of which the principal are described according to history, are produced without any at of connexion or care of difpofition.
TIMON OF ATHENS. The play of Timon is a domestick tragedy, a... therefore strongly fastens on the attention of the reader. In the plan there is not much art, but the incidents are natural, and the characters various ar exact. The catastrophe affords a very powerf:! warning against that oftentatious liberality, whib fcatters bounty, but confers no benefits, and burs Battery, but not friendship.
In this tragedy, are many passages perplexed, cb. seure, and probably corrupt, which I have endeavoured to rectify, or explain, with due diligence; but having only one copy, cannot promise my that my endeavours shall be much applauded.
All the editors and criticks agree with Mr. Toca. baid in supposing this play fpurious. I see no res. son for differing from them; for the colour of the file is wholly different froin that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular verfification, and artificial closes, not always inelegant, yet seldom plealing. The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience; yet we are told by Jonjon, that they were not only borne, but praised. That Shaks piure wrote any part,