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But the sharpness of the fatire is said to have ftung the man
He died in the 53d year of his age *, and was buried on
He had three daughters, of which two lived to be married;
This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to
" I remember the players have often mentioned it as an " honour to Shakespeare, that in writing (whatsoever he
penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath « been, Would he had blotted a thousand! which they thought “ a malevolent speech. I had not told pofterity this, but “ for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance to com“ mend their friend by, wherein he most faulted: and to
justify mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do " honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any.
He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free “ nature, had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gen“ tle expressions; wherein he flowed with that facility, that “ sometimes it was necessary he should be itopped: Suffia• minandus erat, as Auguftus faid of Haterius. His wit was “ in his own power, would the rule of it had been so too. “ Many times he fell into those things which could not ef
• He died on his birth-day, April 23, 1616, and had exactly compleated his fifty-second year.
cape laughter; as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him,
“ Cæfar thou doft me wrong: “ He replied:
« Cefar did never wrong, but with just cause. « And such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed « his vices with his virtues: there was ever more in him to “ be praised than to be pardoned.”
As for the paffage which he mentions out of Shakespeare, there is somewhat like it in Julius Cæfar, but without the absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonson. Belides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrele, in stanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems. As to the character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal in it: but I believe it may be as well expressed by what Horace says of the first Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models (or indecd translated them) in his epistle to Augustus.
Naturâ fullimis & acer,
As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete collection upon Shakespeare's works, so I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judgment of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in looking him over.
His plays are properly to be distinguished only into comedies and tragedics. Those which are called histories, and even some of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongit them. That way of tragis comedy was the cominon miltake of that age, and is indeed become fo agreeable to the English taste, that though the severer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences seem to be better pleased
with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Comea ory of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, are all pure co
of Mr. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 183 medy; the rest, however they are called, have something of both kinds. It is not very easy to determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and though they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the fatire of the present age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleasing and a well-distinguished variety in those characters.' which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a master-piece; the character is always well suitained, though drawn out into the length of three plays; and even the account of his death, given by his old landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the first act of Henry the Fifth, though it be extremely natural, is yet 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, that though he has made him a thief, lying, cowardly, vain-gloricus, and in short every way vicious, yet he has given him so much wit as to make him almost too agreeable; and I do not know whether fome people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded them, been sorry to see his friend Hal use him so 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 him very near the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there, and makes the Welth parfon descant very pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth Night there is something fingularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in All's Well thai Ends Well, is as good as any thing of that kind in Plautus or Terence. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedict and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rosalind in As you like it, have much wit and sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: and, i believe, Therfites in Troilus and Crefida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be mater-pieces of ill-nature, and satirical snarling. To these
I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was designed tragically by the author. There appears in it a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fiercenofs and fellness, and such a bloody defignation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the stile or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakespeare's. The tale indeed, in that part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much removed from 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 Baflanio 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 passages 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 of Jaques, in As you like it, is as singular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,
Dificile est proprie communia dicere,
-- All the world's a fiage,
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
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; it is an image of patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,
She never told her love,
What an image is here given! and what a talk would it have been for the greatest masters of Greece and Rome to have expressed the passions designed by this sketch of statuary! The stile 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 doggerel rhimes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling fometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he lived in: and if we find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the sermons of some of the graveft 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 flight above mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his at