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served, that he is stained with no enormous or comprehensive views, and to draw bis opinion sanguinary crimes, so that his licentiousness is from the general effect and spirit of the componot so offensive but that it may be borne for his sition, which he thinks inferior to the other his. mirth.

torical plays. The moral to be drawn from this representa From mere inferiority nothing can be infertion is, that no man is more dangerous than he red; in the productions of wit there will be in. that, with a will to corrupt, hath the power to equality. Sometimes judgment will err, and please; and that neither wit nor honesty ought sometimes the matter itself will defeat the artist. to think themselves safe with such a companion, of every author's works one will be the best when they see Henry seduced by Falstaff. and one will be the worst. The colours are not

equally pleasing, nor the attitudes equally graceKING HENRY V.

ful, in all the pictures of Titian or Reynolds. This play has many scenes of high dignity, Dissimilitude of style, and heterogeneousness and many of easy merriment. The character of of sentiment, may sufficiently show that a work the king is well supported, except in his couri- does not really belong to the reputed author. ship, where he has neither the vivacity of Hal, But in these plays no such marks of spuriousnor the grandeur of Henry. The humour of ness are fouud. The diction, the versification, Pistol is very happily continued: his character and the figures, are Shakspeare's. These plays, has perhaps becn the model of all the bullies that considered without regard to characters and in. have yet appeared on the English stage. cidents, merely as narratives in verse, are more

The lines given to the chorus have many ad- happily conceived, and more accurately finished, mirers; but the truth is, that in them a little may than those of "King John,” “Richard II.” or be praised, and much must be forgiven: nor can the tragic scenes of "Henry IV. and V.” If it be easily discovered why the intelligence given we take these plays from Shakspeare, to whom by the chorus is more necessary in this play, shall they be given? What author of that age than in many others where it is omitted. The had the same easiness of expression and fluency great defect of this play is the emptiness and nar- of numbers ? rowness of the last act, which a very little dili Having considered the evidence given by the gence might have easily avoided.

plays themselves, and found it in their favour, KING HENRY VI. PART I.

let us now inquire what corroboration can be

gained from other testimony. They are ascribed Of this play there is no copy earlier than that to Shakspeare by the first editors, whose attesof the folio in 1623, though the two succeeding tation may be received in questions of fact, how. parts are extant in two editions in quarto. That ever unskilfully they superintended their edition. the second and third parts were published with. They seem to be declared genuine by the voice out the first, may be admitted as no weak proof of Shakspeare

himself

, who refers to the second that the copies were surreptitiously obtained, and play in his epilogue to “ Henry V." and appathat the printers of that time gave the public rently connects the first act of “Richard III." those plays, not such as the author designed, with the last of the third part of “Henry VI.” but such as they could get them. That this play If it be objected that the plays were popular, was written before the two others, is undubitably and that therefore he alluded to them as well collected from the series of events; that it was known; it may be answered, with equal probawritten and played before Henry the Fifth, is bility, that the natural passions of a poet would apparent, because in the epilogue there is men- have disposed him to separate his own works tion made of this play, and not of the other parts: from those of an inferior hand. And, indeed, if Henry the Sixth in swaddling bands crown'd king, an author's own testimony is to be overthrown Whose state so many had the manaying

by speculative criticism, no man can be any That they lost France, and made his England bleed, longer secure of literary reputation. Which oft our stage hath shown.

Of these three plays I think the second the France is lost in this play. The two following best. The truth is, that they have not sufficient contain, as the old title imports, the contention variety of action, for the incidents are too often of the houses of York and Lancaster.

of the same kind; yet many of the characters The second and third parts of “ Henry VI.” are well discriminated. King Henry and his were printed in 1600. When “Henry V.” was queen, king Edward, the duke of Gloucester, written, we know not, but it was printed likewise and the earl of Warwick, are very strongly and in 1600, and therefore before the publication of distinctly painted. the first part: the first part of “Henry VI.” The old copies of the two latter parts of had been often shown on the stage, and would “Henry VI.” and of “ Henry V." are so apcertainly have appeared in its place had the au- parently imperfect and mutilated, that there is thor been the publisher.

no reason for supposing them the first draughts of Shakspeare. ` I am inclined to believe them

copies taken by some auditor who wrote down, The three parts of “Henry VI.” are suspect during the representation, what the time would ed, by Mr. Theobald, of being supposititious, permit, then perhaps filled up some of his omisand are declared, by Dr. Warburton, to be cer- sions at a second or third hearing, and when he tainly not Shakspeare's. Mr. Theobald's sus- had by this method formed something like a picion arises from some obsolete words; but the play, sent it to the printer. phraseology is like the rest of our author's style, and single words, of which however I do not

KING RICHARD III. observe more than two, can conclude little. This is one of the most celebrated of our

Dr. Warburton gives no reason, but I suppose author's performances; yet I know not whether him to judge upon deeper principles and more it has not happened to him as to others, to be

KING HENRY VI PART III.

KING HENRY Vill.

praised most, when praise is not most deserved. | Shakspeare's plays; his adherence to the real That this play has scenes noble in themselves, story, and to Roman manners, seems to have and very well contrived to strike in the exhibi- impeded the natural vigour of his genius. tion, cannot be denied. But some parts are trifling, others shocking, and some improbable.

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. I have nothing to add to the observations of the learned critics, but that some traces of this the passions always interested. The continual

This play keeps curiosity always busy, and antiquated exhibition are still retained in the hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and rustic puppet-plays, in which I have seen the the quick succession of one personage to anDevil very lustily belaboured by Punch, whom other, call the mind forward without intermisI hold to be the legitimate successor of the old sion from the first act to the last. But the power Vice.

of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the scene; for except the

feminine arts, some of which are too low, which The play of “ Henry the Eighth” is one of distingnish Cleopatra, no character is very strongthose which still keep possession of the stage by ly discriminated. Upton, who did not easily the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation, miss what he desired to find, nas discovered that about forty years ago, drew the people together the language of Antony is, with great skill and in multitudes for a great part of the winter. learning, made pompous and superb, according Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. to his real practice. "But I think his diction not The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of distinguishable from that of others : the most Katharine have furnished some scenes, which cumid speech in the play is that which Cæsar may be justly numbered among the greatest makes to Octavio. efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shak The events, of which the principal are despeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. scribed according to history, are produced withEvery other part may be easily conceived, and out any art of connexion or care of disposition. easily written. The historical dramas are now concluded, of

TIMON OF ATHENS. which the two parts of “Henry the Fourth,” and “Henry the Fifth,” are among the happiest and therefore strongly fastens on the attention

The play of “Timon” is a domestic tragedy, of our author's compositions ; and "King John,” of the reader. In the plan there is not much "Richard the Third,” and “Henry the Eighth,” deservedly stand in the second class.

art, but the incidents are natural, and the chaThose

racters various and exact. whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes affords a very powerful warning against that

The catastrophe to their original

, may consult Hollinshed, and ostentatious liberality, which scatters bounty, sometimes Hall: from Hollinshed, Shakspeare but confers no benefits, and buys flattery, but has often inserted whole speeches with no more alteration than was necessary to the numbers of

not friendship. his verse. To transcribe them into the margin obscure, and probably corrupt, which I have en

In this tragedy are many passages perplexed, was unnecessary, because the original is easily deavoured to rectify, or explain, with due diliexamined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian.

gence; but having only one copy, cannot pro

mise myself that my endeavours shall be much To play histories, or to exhibit a succession of

applauded. events by action and dialogue, was a common entertainment among our rude ancestors, upon

TITUS ANDRONICUS. great festivities. The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell' a play which lasted

All the editors and critics agree with Mr. three days, containing “The History of the Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see World.”

no reason for differing from them; for the colour

of the style is wholly different from that of the CORIOLANUS.

other plays, and there is an attempt at regular

versification, and artificial closes, not always inThe tragedy of “Coriolanus” is one of the elegant, yet seldom pleasing. The barbarity of most amusing of our author's performances. the spectacles, and the general massacre, which The old man's merriment in Menenius; the are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia ; the bridal tolerable to any audience; yet we are toid by modesty in Virgilia; the patrician and military Jonson, that they were not only borne, but haughtness in Coriolanus ; the plebeian malig; praised. That Shakspeare wrote any part, nity, and tribunitian insolence, in Brutus and though Theobald declares it incontestible, I see Sicinius, make a very pleasing and interesting no reason for believing. variety: and the various revolutions of the hero's

The testimony produced at the beginning of fortune fill the mind with anxious curiosity. this play, by which it is ascribed to Shakspeare, There is, perhaps, too much bustle in the first is by no means equal to the argument against act, and too little in the last.

its authenticity, arising from the total difference

of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which JULIUS CÆSAR.

it stands apart from all the rest. Meres had Of this tragedy many particular passages probably no other evidence than that of a titledeserve regard, and the contention and recon- page, which though in our time it be sufficient, cilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally was then of no great authority ; for all the plays celebrated; but I have never been strongly agi- which were rejected by the first coilectors of tated in perusing it, and think it somewhat cola Shakspeare's works, and admitted in later ediand waffecting, compared with some other of tions, and again rejected by the critical editors,

had Shakspeare's name on the title, as we may the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce suppose, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, a line which does not conduce to the progress of while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertise the scene. So powerful is the current of the ments, nor any means of circulating literary poet's imagination, that the mind which once intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any cele- ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along. brated name. Nor bad Shakspeare any interest On the seeming improbability of Lear's conin detecting the imposture, as none of his fame duct, it may be observed, that he is represented or profit was produced by the press.

according to histories at that time vulgarly reThe chronology of this play does not prove ceived as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our it not to be Shakspeare's. 'If it had been writ- thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of ten twenty-five years in 1614, it might have been the age to which this story is referred, it will written when Shakspeare was twenty-five years appear not so unlikely as while we estimate old. When he left Warwickshire I know not; Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late one daughter to another, or resignation of doto fly for deer-stealing.

minion on such conditions, would be yet crediRavenscroft, who in the reign of Charles II. ble, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Ma-, revised this play, and restored it to the stage, dagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention tells us, in his preface, from a theatrical tradi- of his carls and dukes, has given us the idea of tion, I suppose, which in his time might be of times more civilized, and of life regulated by sufficient authority, that this play was touched softer manners; and the truth is, that though he in different parts by Shakspeare, but written by so nicely discriminates, and so minutely desome other poet. I do not find Shakspeare's scribes, the characters of men, he commonly touches very discernible.

neglects and confounds the characters of ages,

by mingling customs, ancient and modern, Eng TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.

lish and foreign. This play is more correctly written than most

My learned friend Mr. Warton, who has in

"The Adventurer” very minutely criticised this of Shakspeare's compositions, but it is not one of those in which either the extent of his views play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are or elevation of his fancy is fully displayed. As of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story.

too savage and shocking, and the intervention the abounded with materials, he has ex These objections may, I think, be answered, by erted little invention; but he has diversified his characters with great variety, and preserved repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is them with great exactness. Éis vicious charac | an historical fact, to which the poet has added ters sometimes disgust, but cannot corrupt, for little, having only drawn it into a series by diaboth Cressida and Pandarus are detested and logue and action. But I am not able to apolocontemned. The comic characters seem to

gize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of have been the favourites of the writer; they are be endured in dramatic exhibition, and such as

Gloster's

eyes, which seems an act too horrid to of the superficial kind, and exhibit more of manners than nature ; but they are copiously filled, tress by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered,

must always compel the mind to relieve its disand powerfully impressed. Shakspeare' has in his story followed for the that our author well knew what would please

the audience for which he wrote. greater part the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular: but the character of Ther: city of the action, is abundantly recompensed by

The injury done by Edmund to the simplisites, of which it makes no mention, is a proof the addition of variety, by the art with which he that this play was written after Chapman had is made to co-operate with the chief design, and published his version of Homer

the opportunity which he gives the poet of comCYMBELINE.

bining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the

wicked son with the wicked daughters, to imThis play has many just sentiments, some na press this important moral, that villany is never tural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but at a stop, that crimes lead to crimes, and at last they are obtained at the expense of much incon- terminate in ruin. gruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the

But though this moral be incidentally enforced, absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the Shakspeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia names and manners of different times, and the to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural impossibility of the events in any system of life, ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and, were to waste criticism upon unresisting im- what is yet more strange, to the faith of chronibecility, upon faults too evident for detection, cles. Yet this conduct is justified by “The and too gross for aggravation.

Spectator," who blames Tate for giving Cordelia success and happiness in his alteration, and

declares, that in his opinion the tragedy has lost The tragedy of “Lear” is deservedly cele- half its beauty. Dennis has remarked, whether brated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There justly or not, that, to secure the favourable reis perhaps no play which keeps the attention so ception of “Catothe loron was poisoned with strongly fixed; which so much agitates our much false and abominable criticism, and that enpassions and interests our curiosity. The art-deavours had been used to discredit and decry ful involutions of distinct interests, the striking poetical justice. A play in which the wicked opposition of contrary characters, the sudden prosper, and the virtuous miscarry, may doubtchanges of fortune, and the quick succession of less be good, because it is a just representation events, the mind with a perpetual tumult of of the common events of human life: but since indignation, pity, and hope." There is no scene all reasonable beings naturally love justice, I which does not contribute to the aggravation of I cannot easily be persuaded, that the observation

KING LEAR.

HAMLET.

of justice makes a play worse; or that, if other the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his excellencies are equal, the audience will not al- existence, though some of his sallies are perhaps ways rise better pleased from the final triumph out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was of persecuted virtue.

not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to huIn the present case the public has decided. mour, but acute, argumentalive, comprehensive, Cordelia, from the time of Tate, has always re- and sublime. tired with victory and felicity. And, if my sen. The nurse is one of the characters in which sations could add any thing to the general suf- the author delighted; he has with great subtility frage, I might relate, I was many years ago so of distinction, drawn her at once loquacious shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and whether I ever endured to read again the last dishonest, scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them His comic scenes are happily wrought, but his as an editor.

pathetic strains are always polluted with some There is another controversy among the critics unexpected depravations. His persons, howconcerning this play. It is disputed whether ever distressed, have a conceit lejt them in their the predominant image in Lear's disordered misery, a miserable conceit. mind be the loss of his kingdom or the cruelty of his daughters. Mr. Murphy, a very judicious critic, has evinced by induction of particular If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be cha passages, that the cruelty of his daughters is the racterised, each by the particular excellence primary source of his distress, and that the loss which distinguishes it from the rest, we must of royalty affects him only as a secondary and allow to the tragedy of “Hamlet” the praise of subordinate evil. He observes, with great justo variety. The incidents are so numerous, that ness, that Lear would move our compassion but the argument of the play would make a long little, did we not rather consider the injured fa- tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversither than the degraded king.

fied with merriment and solemnity; with merThe story of this play, except the episode ofriment, that includes judicious and instructive Edmund, which is derived, I think, from Sidney, observations; and solemnity, not strained by is taken originally from Geoffry of Monmouth, poetical violence above the natural sentiments whom Hollinshed generally copied: but per- of man. New characters appear from time to haps immediately from an old historical ballad. time in continual succession, exhibiting various My reason for believing that the play was pos- forms of life and particular modes of conversaterior to the ballad, rather than the ballad to the tion. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes play, is that the ballad has nothing of Shake much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia speare's nocturnal tempest, which is too striking fills the heart with tenderness, and every personto have been omitted, and that it follows the age produces the effect intended, from the apchronicle; it has the rudiments of the play, but paration that in the first act chills the blood with none of its amplifications: it first hinted Lear's horror, to the fop in the last that exposes affecmadness, but did not array it in circumstances. tation to just contempt. The writer of the ballad added something to the The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure history, which is a proof that he would have against objections. The action is indeed for the added more, if more had occurred to his mind, most part in continual progression, but there are and more must have occured if he had seen

some scenes which neither forward nor retard Shakspeare.

it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there ROMEO AND JULIET.

appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing

which he might not have done with the reThis play is one of the most pleasing of our putation of sanity. He plays the madman author's performances. The scenes are busy most, when he treats Ophelia with so much and various, the incidents numerous and impor- rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton tant, the catastrophe irresistibly affecting, and cruelty. the process of the action carried on with such Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an probability, at least with such congruity to popu- instrument than an agent. After he has, by the lar opinions, as tragedy requires.

stratagem of the play, convicted the king, he Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare makes no attempt to punish him; and his death to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to re- is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet present the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. had no part in producing. Mr. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might The catastrophe is not very happily produced; easily reach his time, of a declaration made by the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient Shakspeare, that he was obliged to kill Mer- of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme cutio in the third act, lest he should have been might easily have been formed to kill Hamlet killed by him." Yet he thinks him “no such with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl. formidable person but that he might have lived The poet is accused of having shown little through the play, and died in his bed,” without regard to poetical justice, and may be charged danger to the poet

. Dryden well knew, had he with equal neglect of poetical probability. The been in quest of truth, that in a pointed sentence, apparition left the regions of the dead to little more regard is commonly had to the words than purpose; the revenge which he demands is not the thought, and that it is very seldom to be ri- obtained, but by the death of him that was regorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gayety, quired to take it; and the gratification, which and courage, will always procure him friends that would arise from the destruction of an usurper wish him a longer life; but his death is not pre- and a murderer, is abated, by the untimely death cipitated, he has lived out the time allotted him of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmin the construction of the play; nor do I doubt less, and the pious.

OTHELLO.

the character of lago is so conducted, that he The beauties of this play impress themselves is from the first scene to the last hated and so strongly upon the attention of the reader, despised. that they can draw no aid from critical illustra Even the inferior characters of this play would tion. The fiery openness of Othello, magnani- be very conspicuous in any other piece, not only mous, artless, and credulous, bourdless in his for their justness, but their strength. Cassio is confidence, ardent in his affection, inflexible in brave, benevolent, and honest, ruined only by his resolution, and obdurate in his revenge: the his want of stubbornness to resist an insidious cool malignity of lago, silent in his resentment, invitation. Roderigo's suspicious credulity, and subtle in his designs, and studious at once of his impatient submission to the cheats which he sees interest and his vengeance: the soft simplicity of practised upon him, and which by persuasion Desdemona, confident of merit, and conscious he suffers to be repeated, exhibit a strong picture of innocence, her artless perseverance in her of a weak mind betrayed by unlawful desires to suit, and her slowness to suspect that she can a false friend; and the virtue of Æmilia is such be suspected, are such proofs of Shakspeare's as we often find worn loosely, but not cast off, skill in human nature, as, I suppose, it is vain to easy to commit small crimes, but quickened and seek in any modern writer. The gradual pro- alarmed at atrocious villanies. gress which Iago makes in the Moor's conviction, The scenes from the beginning to the end are and the circumstances which he employs to in- busy, varied by happy interchanges, and reguflame him, are so artfully natural, that, though larly promoting the progression of the story; it will perhaps not be said of him as he says of and the narrative in the end, though it tells but himself

, that he is a man not easily jealous, yet what is known already, yet is necessary to prowe cannot but pity him, when at last we find duce the death of Othello. him perplexed in the extreme.

Had the scene opened in Cyprus, and the preThere is always danger, lest wickedness, ceding incidents been occasionally related, there conjoined with abilities, should steal upon es had been little wanting to a drama of the most teem, though it misses of approbation; but exact and scrupulous regularity.

AN ACCOUNT OF

THE HARLEIAN LIBRARY.

To solicit a subscription for a Catalogue of the studious, that it excels any library that was Books exposed to sale, is an attempt for which ever yet offered to public sale in the value as some apology cannot but be necessary; for few well as number of the volumes which it contains; would willingly contribute to the expense of and that therefore this catalogue will not be of volumes, by which neither instruction nor enter- less use to men of letters, than those of the Thutainment could be afforded, from which only the anian, Heinsian, or Barberinian libraries, it may bookseller could expect advantage, and of which not be improper to exhibit a general account of the only use must cease, at the dispersion of the the different classes, as they are naturally divided library.

by the several sciences. Nor could the reasonableness of a universal By this method we can indeed exhibit only a rejection of our proposal be denied, if this cata- general idea, at once magnificent and confused; logue were to be compiled with no other view, an idea of the writings of many nations, collectthan that of promoting the sale of the books ed from distant parts of the world, discovered which it enumerates, and drawn up with that sometimes by chance, and sometimes by curiinaccuracy and confusion which may be found osity, amidst the rubbish of forsaken monasteries, in those that are daily published.

and the repositories of ancient families, and But our design, like our proposal, is uncom- brought hither from every part, as to the unimon, and to be prosecuted at a very ancommon versal receptacle of learning. expense; it being intended, that the books shall

It will be no unpleasing effect of this account, be distributed into their distinct classes, and if those that shall happen to perase it, should every class ranged with some regard to the be inclined by it to reflect on the character of age of the writers; that every book shall be accu- the late proprietors, and to pay some tribute of rately described ; that the peculiarities of editions veneration to their ardour for literature, to that shall be remarked, and observations from the generous and exalted curiosity which they gratiauthors of literary history occasionally inter- fied with incessant searches and immense exspersed; that, by this catalogue, we may inform pense, and to which they dedicated that time, posterity of the excellence and value of this great and that superfluity of fortune, which many collection, and promote the knowledge of scarce others of their rank employ in the pursuit of books, and elegant editions. For this purpose contemptible amusements, or the gratification men of letters are engaged, who cannot even be of guilty passions. And, surely, every man, supplied with amanuenses, but at an expense who considers learning as ornamental and adabove that of a common catalogue.

vantageous to the community, must allow them To show that this collection deserves a par- the honour of public benefactors, who have inticular degree of regard from the learned and troduced amongst us authors not hitherto well

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