« PreviousContinue »
Fal. I am glad, though you have ta’en a special stand to strike at me, that your arrow hath glanc'd. 1 2 Page. Well, what remedy ? Fenton, heaven give
thee joy! What cannot be eschew'd, must be embrac'd.
Eva. I will dance and eat plums at your wedding.
Fal. When night-dogs run, all sorts of deer aro chacd. Mrs. Page. Well, I will muse no further. Master
Ford. Let it be so: Sir John,
2 Page. Well, what remedy? ] In the first sketch of this play, which, as Mr. Pope observes, is much inferior to the latter performance, the only sentiment of which I regret the omiffion, occurs at this critical time, when Fenton brings in his wife, there is this dialogue.
Mrs. Ford. Come, mifirefs Page, I muft be bold with you, 'Tis pity to part love that is so true.
Mrs. Page. (Aside.] Although that I have miss'd in my intent, Yet I am glad my husband's match is cross'd.
Here Fenton, take her.
Page. I cannot tell, and yet my heart is easd;
Of this play there is a tradition preserved by Mr. Rowe, that it was wţiţten at the command of queen Elizabeth, who was fo dolighted with the character of Falstaff, that she wilhed it to be diffused through more plays; but suspecting that it might pall by continued uniformity, directed the poet to diversify his manner, by shewing him in love. No task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakespeare knew what the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that
by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jóllity, and the lazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered to much abatement, that little of his former cat would have remained. Falstaff could not love; but by ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his profeinons could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus the poet approached as near as he cculd to the work enjoined him; yet having perhaps in the former plays completed his own idea, seems not to have been able to give Falstaif all his former power of entertainment.
This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.
Whether Shakespeare was the first that produced upon the English Itage the effect of language distorted and depraved by provincial or foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly decide. This mode of forming ridiculous characters can confer praise only on him, who originally discovered it, for it requires not much of either wit, or judgment: its success must be derived almost wholly from the player, but its power in a skilful mouth, even he that despises it, is unable to relist.
The conduct of this drama is deficient; the action begins and ends often before the conclusion, and the di:ferent parts might
change places without inconvenience; but its general power, :that power by which all works of genius shall finally be tried,
is such, that perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator, who did not think it too soon at an end. . JOHNSON.
END OF VOLUME THE FIRST,
THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
This book is under no circunstances to be
taken from the Building