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though Theobald declares it inconteftible, I fee ng reason for believing.
The testimony produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is ascribed to Shakespeare, is by no means equal to the argument against its authenticity, arising from the total difference of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which it stands apart from all the rest. Meres had probably no other evidence than that of a title-page, which, though in our time it be sufficient, was then of no great authority; for all the plays which were rejected by the first collectors of Shakespeare's works, and admitted in later editions, and again rejected by the critical editors, had Shakespeare's name on the title, as we must suppose, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating literary intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any celebrated name. Nor had Sbakespeare any interest in detecting the impofture, as none of his fame or profit was produced by the press.
The chronology of this play does not prove it not to be Shakespeare's. If it had been written twentyfive years in 1614, it might have been written when Shakespeare was twenty-five years old. When he left Warwickshire I know not; but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late to fly for deerstealing.
Ravenscroft, who in the reign of Charles II. revised this play, and restored it to the fage, tells us, in his preface, from a theatrical tradision, I suppose, which in his time might be of sufficient authority, that this play was touched in different parts by
Shakespeare, but written by some other poet. I do not find Shakespeare's touches very discernible.
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA. This play is more correctly written than most cí Shakespeare's compositions, but it is not one of the in which either the extent of his views or elevarian of his fancy is fully displayed. As the story abounded with materials, he has exerted little invention; but lie has diversified his characters with great variery, and preserved them with great exactneis. His vicious characters fometimes disgust, but cannot corrupt, for both Crellida and Pandarus are detetted and contemned. The comick characters seem to have been the favourites of the writer; they are o the fuperficial kind, and exhibit more of manners than nature; but they are copiously filled, and powerfully impressed.
Shakespeare has in his story followed for the greater part the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular; but the character of Tberfiles, of which it makes no mention, is a proof that this play wis written after Chapman had published his version or Hemer.
CYMBELINE, This play has many just sentiments, fome natural dialogues, and some plcaling scenes, but they are obtained at the expence of much incongruity. To ren ark the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names, and manners of different times, and the impoffibility of the even's in any systein of life, were to walte criticism upon
unresisting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.
The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakespeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interefts, the striking opposition of contrary charac, ters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggra. vation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.
On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakespeare, indeed, by the mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer man
ners; ners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.
My learned friend Mr. Warton, who has in the Attenturer very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage and mocking, and that the intervention of Edinund destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections inay, I think, be answered, by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series by dialogue and action. But I am not able to apologize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of Glofter's eyes, which seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatic exhibition, and fuch as must always compel the mind to relieve its distress by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered that our author well knew what would please the audience for which he wrote.
The injury done by Edmund to the simplicity of the action is abundantly recompensed by the addi. tion of variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the opportunity which he gives the poet of combining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the wicked son with the wicked daughters, to impress this important moral, that villany is never at a stop, that crimes lead iu crimes, and at last terininate in ruin.
But though this moral be incidentally enforced, Schemere has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perilh in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and, what is yet more strange, to the faith of chronicles. Yet this conduct is justified by The Speétator, who blames Tate for giving Cordelia success and happiness in his alteration, and declares, that, in his opinion, the tragedy has lost half its beauty. Dennis has remarked, whether justly or not, that, to secure the favourable reception of Cato, the town was poisoned with much falje and abominable criticism, and that endeavours had been used to discredit and decry poetical justice. A play in which the wicked prosper, and the virtuous miscarry, may doubtless be good, because it is a just representation of the common events of human life: but since all reasonable beings naturally love justice, I cannot easily be persuaded, that the observation of justice makes a play worse ; or, that if other excellencies are equal, the audience will not always rise better pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue.
In the present case the publick has decided. Cordelia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could add any thing to the general suffrage, I might relate, I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook ço revise them as an editor.
There is another controversy among the criticks concerning this play. It is disputed whether the predominant image in Lear's disordered mind be the loss of his kingdom or the cruelty of his daughters. Mr. Murphy, a very judicious critick, has evinced by induction of particular passages, that the cruelqy of