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Dissimilitude of style, and heterogeneousness of sentiment, may sufficiently show that a work does not really belong to the reputed author. But in these plays no such marks of spuriousness are found. The diction, the versification, and the figures, are Shakespeare's. These plays, considered, without regard to characters and incidents, merely as narratives in verse, are more happily conceived, and more accurately finished then those of King John, Richard II. or the tragick scenes of Henry IV. and V. If we take these plays from Shakespeare, to whom shall they be given? What author of that age had the same easiness of expression and fluency of numbers ?

Having considered the evidence given by the plays themselves, and found it in their favour, let us now enquire what corroboration can be gained from other testimony. They are ascribed to Shakespeare by the first 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 Henry 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 over. thrown 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 Henry and his queen, king Edward, the duke of Gloucester, and the earl of Warwick, 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 time would permit, then perhaps filled up some of his omissions 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 atte thor'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 trifling, 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 legitimate 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 funished some scenes, which may 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.

The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two parts of Henry the Fourth, and Henry the Fifth, are among the happiest of our author's compositions; and King John, Richard the Third, and Henry the Eighth, deservedly stand in the second class. Those whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes to their original, may consult Holingshed, and sometimes Hall: from Holingshed, Shakespeare has often inserted whole speeches with no more alteration than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecessary, 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 succession of events by action and dialogue, was a common enVol. II.

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tertainment among our rude ancestors upon great festivities. - The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell a play which lasted three days, containing The History of the World.

CORIOLANUS.

The tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amus. ing of our author's performances. The old man's merriment in Menenius ; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal modesty in Virgilia;

the patrician and military haughtiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity, and tribunitian insolence in Brun tus and Sicinius, make a very pleasing and interresting 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 perusing it, and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakespeare's plays; his adherenceto the real story, and to Romanmanners, 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 af 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 principally 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 superb, 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 Cesar makes to Octavia.

The events, of which the principal are described according to history, are produced without any art of connection or care of disposition.

TIMON OF ATHENS.

The play of Timon is a domestick tragedy, and 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 and exact. The catastrophe affords a very powerful warning against that ostentatious liberality, which scatters bounty, but confers no benefits, and buys flattery, but not friendship.

In this tragedy, are many passages perplexed, obscure, and probably corrupt, which I have endea. voured to rectify, or explain, with due diligence; but having only one copy, cannot promise myself that my endeavours shall be much applauded.

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