« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
afforded them, been forry to see his friend Hal use him so scurvily, 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 Windsor he has made him a deer-stealer, that he might at the same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow; he has given him very near the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiqaities of that county, defcribes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parfon defcant very plealantiy upon them. That whole play is admirable ; the humours are various and well oppoled; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth-Night there is something fingularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in Ali's Well that Ends Well, is as good as any thing of that kind in Plautus or Terence. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedict and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rotalind in As you Like It, have much wit and sprightlinefs 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 Cressida, and Apemantus in Timor, will be allowed to be master-pieces of ill-nature, and satirical inarling. To these I might add that incomparable cha
racter of Shylock the Jew, in The Nerchant 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 author. There appears in it a deadly spirit of revenge, such a favage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody defignation of cruclty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the stile or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the inost finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale indeed in that part relating to the catkets, 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 must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of Antonio to Batlanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (suppoling, as I said, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two patlages that deserve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of mufick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you Like It, is as fingular and odd as it is diverung. And if, what Horace lays,
Difficile eft propriè communia dicere, it will be a hard talk 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,
eyes fovere, and beard of formal cut,
And so he plays bis part. The fixth age shifts
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans tafte, fans every thing. His images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would reprefent kands full before you, and you poflefs every part of it. I will venture to point out one more, which is, I think, as strong and as uncominon as any thing I ever law ; it is an inage of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,
She never told her love,
And lat like Patience on a monument,
"l'hat an image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest maiters of Greece and Runne to have expreffed the passions designed by this sketch of itatuary! The itile of his comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and eafy in itself; and the wit moit commonly iprightly and pleasing, except in those places where he runs into doggerel rhimes, as in 7 be Comedy of Errors, and forne other plays. As for his jintling fometimes, 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 fermons of some of the graveit divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the stage.
But certainly the greitnels of this author's genius does no where so much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loo.c, and raises his fancy to a flight above mankind, and the limits of the rilible world. Such are his atteinpts in The Tempel, Widfummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and H. mlet. Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be placed the firit by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him: it fcems 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 exacineis 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 feasible that he does, in this play, depart too much froin that likeness to truth which ought to be oblerved in these sort of writings; yet he does it to very finely, that one is cafily drawn in to have more faith for his fake, than reason does well allow of. His magick has founething in it very solemn and very poctical: and that extravagant character of Caliban is inighty well sustained, shews a wonderful invention in the author, who could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainiy one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was seen. The obfervation, which I have been informed * three very great men concurred in making upon this part, w?- extreincly just; That Shakspeare had not only found out a necu character in his lullan, but baik aló dolod and adapted a necu manner of language for that character.
It is the fars magick that raises the Fairies in VI:fummer Night's Dream, the Iitchus in Matheth, an! the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language fo proper to the parts tirey fuftain, and is peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two lait of these plays I thall have occafion to take notice, among the tragedies of
Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vanghar, and Mr. Selden.
Mr. Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the model of a Grecian stage, it would be no very hard talk to find a great many faults; but as 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 contider 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 Thould 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, as 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 difpofition, 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 Mall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guiity of in it. His tales were feldom invented, but rather taken either from true history, or novels and romances : and he commonly made use 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. Almott all his historical 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 recoinpence for his carelcfincts in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the manners of his characters, in a&ting or speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shewn by the poet, he may be generally justified, and in very many places greatly cominended. For those plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the historian. He seems indeed so far from propoting 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 historians 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 ftill defcribed with fimplicity, pailive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy submillion to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the same time the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by ihewing him pious, disintereited, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly resigned to the feverest dispensations of God's providence. There is a short scene in the Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is Thewn in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is so much terror in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as muít 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 thewn in an equal degree, and the shades in this picture do not bear a just proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or skill in the disposition of thein; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forebore doing it out of regard to queen Elizabeth, since it could have been no very great respect to the meinory of his mistress, to have exposed some certain parts of her father's life upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with the minister of that great king, and certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolsey. He has thewn him infolent in his prosperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of general compation. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is fincly and exactly described in the second scene of the fourth act. The diftreffes likewise of Queen Catharine, in this play, are very movingly touched ;
and though the art of the poet has sereened King Henry from any gross imputation of injustice, yet one is inclined to wish, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the manners, proper to the persons represented, lets juily observed in those characters taken from the Roman history; and of this, the fierceness and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people, the virtue and philosophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last eipecially, you find them exactly as they are described by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shaktpeare copied them. He has indeed followed his original pretty clofe, and taken in several little incidents that might have been ipared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his design seems most commonly rather to describe those great mcn in the several fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any single great action, and form his work fimply upon that. However, there are fome of his pieces where the fuble is founded upon one action only. Such are more cspecially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The design in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animofiiies that had been so long kept up between them, and occasioned the effufion of so much blood. In the management of this story, he has shewn fomething wonderfully tender and paflionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the distrels. 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 mnothers are equally guilty, are both concerned in the murder of their huibands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greck tragedy something very moving in the grief of Electra ; but, as Mr. Dacier has observed, there is something very unnatural and shocking in the manners he has given that Princess and Orestes in the latter part. Oreites imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately upon the trage, yet so near, that the audience hear Clytemneitra crying out to Egyithus for help, and to her son for mercy; while Electra her daughter, and a Princess (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with more decency) itands upon the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horrors does this not raise! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and bad deserved to die ; nay, in the truth of the itory, the was killed by her own ton; but to represent an action of this kind on the stage, is certainly an offence against those rules of manners proper to the persons, that ougit to be observed there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakspeare. Hamlet is represented with the same picty towards his father, and resolution to revenge his death, as Orestes ; he has the same abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by inceit: but it is with wonderful art and justness of judgment that the poet refrains him from doing violence to his mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his father's Ghoit forbid that part of his vengeance :
But howsoever thou purfis this aft,
To prick and sling ber. This is to distinguish between horror and terror. The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatic writer ever fucceeded better in railing terror in the minds of an audience than Shakspeare has done. The whole tragedy of Macbetis, but more especially the scene where the King is murdered, in the second act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both show how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have feen this master-piece of Shakspeare distinguish itself upon the flage, by Mr. Bet. terton's fine performance of that part ; a man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many; must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare's manner of expression, and indeed he has studied him so well, and is lo much a master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him, for the most confiderable part of the pallages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the publick ; his veneration for the memory of Shakspeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had fo great a veneration *.
* This Account of the life of Shikspeire is printed from Mr. Rowe's second edition, in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance in 1709.
S H A K S P E A RE’s
W I L L,
Extracted from the Registry of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Vicefimo quinto die Martii Anno Rrgni Domini noftri Jacobi nunc Regis Anglia, &c
decimo quarto & Scotia quadragefimo nono, Anno Domini 1616,
N the name of God, Amen. I William Shakspeare of Stratford upon Avon, in the
and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following; that is to say:
First, I commend my soul into the hands of God my creator, hoping, and aliuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Chritt my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting ; and my body to the earth whereof that is made.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds of Jawful English money, to be paid unto her in manner and form following ; that is to say, one hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion within one year after my deceale, with confiderations after the rate of two fillings in the pound for so long time as the same shall be unpaid unto her after my decease ; and the fifty pounds relidue thereof, upon her surrendering of or giving of such sufficient fecurity as ibe overseers of this my will Mall like of, to surrender or grant all her estate and right that Mall descend or come unto her after my decease, or that she now hath of, in, or to, one copyhold tenement, with the appurienances, lying and being in Stratford upon Avon aforesaid, in the said county of Warwick, being parcel or holden of the manor of Rowington, unto my daughter Susannah Hall, and her heirs sor ever.
Iten, I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds more, if the, or any iffure of her body, be living at the end of three years next ensuing the day of the date of this my will, during which time my executors to pay her confideration from my decease according to the rate aforesaid : and if lhe die within the said term without issue of her body, then my will is, and I do give and bequeath one hundred pounds thereof to my niece Elizabeth Hall, and the fifty pounds to be set forth by my executors during the life of my lifter Joan Harte, and the ule and profit thereof coming, Thall be paid to my said liiter Joan, and after her decease the said fifty pounds shall remain amongst the children of my said lifter, equally to be divided amongst them ; but