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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, Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master-pieces of ill-nature, and satirical snarling. To these 1 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 thor. There appears in it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altoge ther, seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale indeed, in that part relating to the caskets, and the extrava gant and unusual kind of bond given by Antomo, is too much removed from the rules of probabi lity: but taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of Antonio to Bas sanio 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 ødd as it is diverting. And if, wat Horace
·Difficile est proprie communia dicere,
it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the several degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages. At first the infant Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms: And then, the whining school-boy with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd
Turning again tow'rd childish treble, pipes -
Is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans. teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every
Vol. III. p. 33.
His images are indeed every where so lively, that the thing he would represent stands full be fore 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,
But let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud, Feed on her damask cheek: Se pin'd in thought, And sate like Patience on a monument, Smiling at Grief.
What an image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest masters of Greece and Rome to have expressed the passions designed by this sketch of Statuary! The style 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 rhymes, aś in The Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, 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 gravest 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 rai.
ses his fancy to a flight above mankind and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him: it seems to me as perfect in'. its kind, as almost any thing we have of his. One may observe, that the unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing though that was what, I suppose, he-valued himself least upon, since 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 sake, than reason does well allow of. His magick has something in it very solemn 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 seen. The observation, which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely just; That Shakspeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character.
Is is the same magick that raises the Fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they sustain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But
of the two last of these plays I shall have occasion to take notice, among the tragedies of Mr. Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the mo del of the Grecian stage, it would be no very hard task to find a great many faults:
Shakspeare 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 stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatick poetry so far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the first, among those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a tragick or heroick poem; not, perhaps, at it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivance and course of the whole: and with the fable ought to be considered the fit disposition, order and conduct of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the drama that the strength and mastery of Shakspeare lay, SO I shall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were seldom invented, but rather taken either from true history, or novels and romances: and