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leaft upon, fince his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very fenfible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these fort 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 fomething in it very solemn, and very poetical and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well fuftained, fhews a wonderful invention in the author, who could strike out fuch a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was feen. The obfervation, which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely juft; that ShakSpeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had alfo devifed and adapted a new manner of language for that character.

It is the fame magick that raises the Fairies in A Midfummer-Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghoft in Hamlet, with thoughts and language fo proper to the parts they fuftain, and fo peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two laft of these plays I fhall have occafion to take notice, among the tragedies of Mr. Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules w'ich are established by Ariftotle, and taken from t' del of the Grecian ftage, it would be no very hard tafk to find a great many faults; but as Shakspeare lived under a kind of mere light of r

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those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to confider 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 con fiders, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the prefent ftage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatic poetry fo far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the firft, among thofe that are reckoned the conftituent parts of a tragick or heroick poem; not, perhaps, as it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivance and courfe of the whole; and with the fable ought to be confidered the fit difpofition, order, and conduct of its feveral parts. As it is not in this province of the drama that the ftrength and mastery of Shakspeare lay, fo I fhall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the feveral faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were feldom invented, but rather taken either from the true hiftory, or novels and romances; and he commonly made ufe of them in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them. So The Winter's Tale, which is taken from an old book, called The Delectable Hiftory of Doraftus and Fawnia, contains the fpace of fixteen or feventeen years, and the fcene is fometimes laid



in Bohemia, and fometimes in Sicily, according to the original order of the ftory. Almost all his hiftorical plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and distinct places and in his Antony and Cleopatra, the scene travels over the greatest part of the Roman empire. But in recompence for his carelessness in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the manners of his characters, in acting or Speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be fhewn by the poet, he may be generally justified, and in very many places greatly commended. For thofe plays which he has taken from the English or Roman hiftory, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the hiftorian. He feems indeed fo far from propofing to himself any one action for a subject, that the title very often tells you, it is The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our hiftorians give of Henry the Sixth, than the picture Shakspeare has drawn of him! His manners are every where exactly the fame with the story; one finds him still described with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and eafy fubmiffion to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the fame time the poet does juftice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by fhewing him pious, difinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly refigned to the fevereft difpenfations of God's providence. There is a short scene in The Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot but

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think admirable in its kind.

Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is fhewn in the laft agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is fo 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 fhewn in an equal degree, and the fhades in this picture do not bear a juft proportion to the lights, it is not that the artift wanted either colours or kill in the difpofition of them; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to queen Elizabeth, fince it could have been no very great respect to the memory of his mistress, to have expofed fome certain parts of her father's life upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with the minifter of that great king; and certainly nothing was ever more juftly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolfey. He has fhewn him infolent in his profperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the fubject of general compaffion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly defcribed in the fecond fcene of the fourth act. The diftreffes likewife of Queen Katharine, in this play, are very movingly touched; and though the art of the poet has screened King Henry from any grofs imputation of injuftice, 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 perfons reprefented, lefs juftly obferved, in thofe characters taken from the Roman history; and of this, the fiercenefs and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people, the virtue and philofophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two laft especially, you find them exactly as they are defcribed by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shakfpeare copied them. He has indeed followed his original pretty close, and taken in feveral little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his defign feems moft commonly rather to defcribe those great men in the feveral fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any fingle great action, and form his work fimply upon that. However, there are fome of his pieces, where the fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more especially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animofities that had been fo long kept up between them, and occafioned the effufion of fo much blood. In the management of this story, he has fhewn fomething wonderfully tender and paflionate in the lovepart, and very pitiful in the diftrefs. Hamlet is founded on much the fame tale with the Electra of Sophocles. In each of them a young prince is engaged to revenge the death of his father, their mothers are equally guilty, are both concerned in the murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the

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