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striking difference perceivable between Fletcher and Shakspeare, is the fondness of the former for unnatural and violent situations. He seems to have thought that nothing great could be produced in an ordinary way. The chief incidents in The Wife for a Month, in Cupid's Revenge, in The Double Marriage, and in many more of his tragedies, show this. Shakspeare had nothing of this contortion in his mind, none of that craving after romantic incidents, and flights of strained and improbable virtue, which I think always betrays an imperfect moral sensibility.

There are some scenes in The Two Noble Kinsmen of Fletcher which give etrong countenance to the tradition that Shakspeare had a hand in this play. They have a luxuriance in them which strongly resembles Shakspeare's manner in those parts of his plays where, the progress of the interest being subordinate, the poet was at leisure for description. I might fetch instances from Troilus and Timon. That Fletcher should have copied Shakspeare's manner through so many entire scenes, (which is the theory of Mr. Steevens,) is not very probable; that he could have done it with such facility is to me not certain. His ideas ( as I have before remarked") moved slow; his versifica

. It was ascribed, in the title-page, to Fletcher and Shakspeare in 1634, only sixteen years after the death of the latter. Fletcher was nearly contemporary with Shakspeare. He was born twelve years later (in 1576), and died nine years after him (in 1625).

tion, though sweet, is tedious; it stops every moment; he lays line upon line, making up one after the other, adding image to image so deliberately that we see where they join : Shakspeare mingles every thing; he runs line into line, embarrasses sentences and metaphors; before one idea has burst its shell, another is hatched and clamorous for disclosure. If Fletcher wrote some scenes in imitation, why did he stop? or shall we say that Shakspeare wrote the other scenes in imitation of Fletcher ? that he gave Shakspeare a curb and a bridle, and that Shakspeare gave him a pair of spurs; as Blackmore and Lucan are brought in exchanging gifts in the Battle of the Books.

The wit of Fletcher is excellent, like his serious scenes; but there is something strained and farfetched in both. He is too mistrustful of Nature; he always goes a little on one side of her. Shak. speare chose her without a reserve, and had riches, power, understanding, and long life, with her, for a dowry.


The comparisons which form this number are taken from a volume entitled “Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, who lived about the Time of Shakspeare," published by Mr. Charles Lamb, in the year 1808. They are included in the notes accompanying these specimens, and are, in my opinion, though miniatures, remarkable for their justness of comparative delineation, and their uncommon beauty and felicity of language. They are, in fact, gems of the purest water.



No. 1.


WRITERS of a mixed character, that abound in transcendent beauties and in gross imperfections, are the most proper and most pregnant subjects for criticism. The regularity and correctness of a Virgil or Horace almost confine their commentators to perpetual panegyric, and afford them few opportunities of diversifying their remarks by the detection of latent blemishes. For this reason, I am inclined to think that a few observations on the writings of Shakspeare will not be deemed useless or unentertaining, because he exhibits more numerous examples of excellence and faults of

every kind, than are, perhaps, to be discovered in any other author. I shall, therefore, examine his merit as a poet, without blind admiration or wanton invective.

As Shakspeare is sometimes blameable for the conduct of his fables, which have no unity, and sometimes for his diction, which is obscure and turgid, so his characteristical excellences may possibly be reduced to these three general heads: ‘his lively creative imagination ; his strokes of nature and passion; and his preservation of the

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