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tempts in The Tempeft, Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of these, Thé Tempel, however it comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him: it feems to me as perfect in its kind, as almost any thing we have of his. One may observe, that the unities are kept hiere, with an exactress uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I suppose, he valued himself leait upon, fince his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these sort of writings; yet he does it so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his fake, than reafon does well allow of. His magick has something in it very folemn and' very poetical: and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, shews a wonderful invention in the author, who could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was feen. The observation, which I have been informed * three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely just; That Shakespeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also deviled and adapted a new manner of language for that character.
It is the same magick that raises the Fairies in Mid/ummet Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they sustain, and to peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two last of these plays I Mall have occasion to take notice, among the tragedies of Mr. Shakespeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the model of a Grecian stage, it would be no very hard tak to find a great many faults; but as Shakespeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal licence and ignorance: there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his own fancy. When one considers, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present itage, it cannot
* Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.
but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dra-
generally justified, and in very many places greatly commended. For those plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the historian. He seems indeed so far from proposing to himself any one action for a subject, that the title very often tells you, it is The Life of Kingfohn, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our historians give of Henry the Sixth, than the picture Shakespeare has drawn of him! His manners are every where exactly the same with the story; one finds him still described with fimplicity, passive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy submission to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the fame time the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by shewing him pious, disinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly resigned to the severest dispensations of God's providence. There is a short scene in the Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is Mewn in the last agonies on his death-bed,
with the good king praying over him. There is so much terror in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as must touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his Henry the Eighth, that prince is drawn with that greatness of mind, and all those good qualities which are attributed to him in any account of his reign. If his faults are not thewn in an equal degree, and the shades in this picture do not bear a juit propertion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or skill in the disposition of them; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to queen Elizabeth, since it could have been no very great respect to the memory of bis mistress, to have exposed some certain parts of her father's life upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with the minister of that great king, and certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolsey. He has shewn him infolent in his prosperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of general compassion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly described in the second scene of the fourth act. The distresses likewise of Queen Catharine, in this play, are very movingly touched; and though the art of the poet has screened King Henry from any gross imputation of injustice, yet one is inclined to with, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the manners, proper to the persons represented, less justly observed, in those characters taken from the Roman history; and of this, the fierceness and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people, the virtue and philosophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last especially, you find them exactly as they are described by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shakespeare copied them. He has indeed followed his original pretty close, and taken in several little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his design seems most commonly rather to describe those great men in the several fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any single great action, and form his work fimply upon that. However, there are some of his pieces, where the fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more especially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othelle. The design in Romeo and Juliet' is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feude
and animosities that had been so long kept up between them,
But howsoever thou pursu's this act,
This is to distinguish rightly between horror and terror. The latter is a proper paffion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick writer ever succeeded better in raising terror in the minds of an audience than Shakespeare has done. The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the King is murdered, in the second act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both thew how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakcipeare distinguish itself upon the stage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakespeare's manner of expreffion, and indeed he has studied him so well, and is so much a master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpofe for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to hiin, for the most considerable part of the paflages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakespeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickihire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration”.
• This Account of the Life of Shakespeare is printed from Mr. Rowe's second edition, in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance in 1709.