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him by Ben Jonfon, there is a good deal true in it: but I believe it may be as well expreffed by what Horace fays of the firft Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed tranflated them,) in his epiftle to Auguftus:


-naturâ fublimis & acer:

"Nam fpirat tragicum fatis, & feliciter audet,

"Sed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram."

As I have not propofed to myself to enter into a large and complete criticifm upon Shakspeare's works, fo I will only take the liberty, with all due fubmiffion to the judgment of others, to obferve fome of those things I have been pleased with in looking him over.

His plays are properly to be diftinguished only into comedies and tragedies. Those which are called hiftories, and even fome of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them.' That way of tragi-comedy was

yond A late Collection of Poems, and does not feem to have known that Shakspeare alfo wrote 154 Sonnets, and entitled A Lover's Complaint. MALONE.


7 are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them.] Heywood, our author's contemporary, has ftated the best defence that can be made for his intermixing lighter with the more ferious fcenes of the dramas.


It may likewife be objected, why amongft fad and grave hiftories I have here and there inferted fabulous jefts and tales favouring of lightnefs. I answer I have therein imitated our hiftorical and comical poets, that write to the stage, who, left the auditory fhould be dulled with ferious courfes, which are merely weighty and material, in every act prefent fome Zany, with his mimick action to breed in the lefs capable mirth and laughter; for they that write to all, muft ftrive to pleafe all. And as fuch fashion themselves to a multitude diverfely addicted, fo I to an univerfality of readers diverfely difpofed." Pref. to Hiflory of Women, 1624.


the common mistake of that age, and is indeed become fo agreeable to the English taste, that' though

The criticks who renounce tragi-comedy as barbarous, I fear, fpeak more from notions which they have formed in their closets, than any well-built theory deduced from experience of what pleafes or difpleafes, which ought to be the foundation of all rules.

Even fuppofing there is no affectation in this refinement, and that thofe criticks have really tried and purified their minds till there is no drofs remaining, ftill this can never be the cafe of a popular audience, to which a dramatick reprefentation is referred.

Dryden in one of his prefaces condemns his own conduct in The Spanish Friar; but, fays he, I did not write it to please myself, it was given to the publick. Here is an involuntary confeffion that tragi-comedy is more pleafing to the audience; I would ask then, upon what ground it is condemned?

This ideal excellence of uniformity refts upon a fuppofition that we are either more refined, or a higher order of beings than we really are: there is no provifion made for what may be called the animal part of our minds.

Though we fhould acknowledge this paffion for variety and contrarieties to be the vice of our nature, it is ftill a propenfity which we all feel, and which he who undertakes to divert us muft find provifion for.

We are obliged, it is truc, in our purfuit after science, or excellence in any art, to keep our minds fteadily fixed for a long continuance; it is a talk we impofe on ourselves : but I do not wish to talk myself in my amusements.

If the great object of the theatre is amufement, a dramatick work muft poffefs every means to produce that ef fect; if it gives inftruction, by the by, fo much its merit is the greater; but that is not its principal object. The ground on which it ftands, and which gives it a claim to the protection and encouragement of civilifed fociety, is not because it enforces moral precepts, or gives inftruction of any kind; but from the general advantage that it produces, by habituating the mind to find its amufement in intellectual pleasures; weaning it from fenfuality, and by degrees filing off, fmoothing, and polishing, its rugged corners. SIR J. REYNOLDS

the feverer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences feems to be better pleafed with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windfor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of a Shrew, are all pure comedy; the reft, however they are called, have fomething of both kinds. It is not very easy to determine which way of writing he was moft excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and though they did not then ftrike at all ranks of people, as the fatire of the prefent age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-diftinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a mafterpiece; the character is always well fuftained, 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-glorious, and in fhort every way vicious, yet he has given him fo much wit as to make him almoft too agreeable; And I do not know whether fome people have not, in remembrance of the diverfion he had formerly afforded them, been forry to fee his friend Hal ufe him fo fcurvily, 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 Windfor he has made him a deer-stealer, that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire profecutor, under the


name of Juftice Shallow; he has given him very near the fame coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, defcribes for a family there, and makes the Welfh parfon defcant very pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main defign, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealoufy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth-Night there is fomething fingularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical fteward Malvolio. The parafite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in All's Well that Ends Well, is as good as any thing of that kind in Plautus or Terence.


truchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The converfation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rofalind, in As you like it, have much wit and fprightliness 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 Creffida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be mafter-pieces of illnature, and fatirical fnarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but though we have

8 the fame coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, defcribes for a family there,] There are two coats, I obferve in Dugdale, where three filver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat to the monument of Thomas Lucy, fon of Sir William Lucy, in which are quartered in four feveral divifions, twelve little fishes, three in each divifion, probably luces. This very coat, indeed, feems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white luces, and in Slender's faying he may quarter. THEOBALD.

feen 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 defigned tragically by the author. There appears in it fuch a deadly fpirit of revenge, fuch a favage fiercenefs and fellness, and fuch a bloody defignation of cruelty and mifchief, as cannot agree either with the ftile or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, feems to me to be one of the most finifhed of any of Shakspeare'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 muft allow it to be very beautifully written. There is fomething in the friendship of Antonio to Baffanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (fuppofing, as I faid, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two paffages that deferve a particular notice. The firft is, what Portia fays in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of inufick. The melancholy of Jaques, in you like it, is as fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace fays,


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"Difficile eft proprie communia dicere."

9 but though we have feen that play received and acted as a comedy,] In 1701 Lord Lanfdown produced his alteration. of The Merchant of Venice, at the theatre in Lincoln's-InnFields, under the title of The Jew of Venice, and exprefsly calls it a comedy. Shylock was performed by Mr. Dogget.


And fuch was the bad taste of our ancestors that this piece continued to be a ftock-play from 1701 to Feb. 14, 1741, when The Merchant of Venice was exhibited for the first time at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and Mr. Macklin made his first appearance in the character of Shylock, MALONE.

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