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This comedy contains scenes which are truly worthy of the first of dramatic poets. Isabella pleading with Angelo in behalf of mercy to her brother, and afterwards insisting that his life must not be purchased by the sacrifice of her chastity, is an object of such interest, as to make the reader desirous of overlooking the many great defects which are to be found in other parts of this play. The story is little suited to a comedy. The wickedness of Angelo is so atrocious, that I recollect only one instance of a similar kind being recorded in history *; and that is considered by many persons as of doubtful authority. His crimes, indeed, are not completed, but he supposes them to be so; and his guilt is as great as it would have been, if the person of Isabella had been violated, and the head of Ragozine had been Claudio's. This monster of iniquity appears before the Duke, defending his cause with unblushing boldness; and after the detection of his crimes, he can scarcely be said to receive any punishment. A hope is even expressed that he will prove a good husband, but for no good reason-namely, because he has been a little bad. Angelo abandoned his contracted wife for the most despicable of all reasons, the loss of her fortune. He added to his guilt not only insensibility to her affliction, but the detestable aggravation of injuring


# Kirk.


her reputation by an unfounded slander ; ascribing his desertion of Mariana to levity in her conduct, of which she never was guilty. He afterwards betrayed the trust reposed in him by the Duke. He threatened Isabella that if she would not surrender her virtue, he would not merely put her brother to death, but make

“ His death draw out to lingering sufferance.”

And finally, when he thought his object accomplished, he ordered Claudio to be murdered, in vio. lation of his most solemn engagement.

These are the crimes, which, in the language of Mariana, are expressed by the words a little bad; and with a perfect knowledge of Angelo's having committed them, she

“ Craves no other, nor no better man.”

Claudio's life having been preserved by the Provost, it would not, perhaps, have been lawful to have put Angelo to death; but the Duke might, with great propriety, have addressed him in the words of Bolingbroke to Exton:

u Go, wander through the shades of night,

“ And never show thy head by day nor light.” Other parts of the play are not without faults. The best characters act too much upon a system of duplicity and falsehood; and the Duke, in the fifth act, trifes cruelly with the feelings of Isabella, allowing her to suppose her brother to be dead, much longer than the story of the play required. Lucio is inconsistent as well as profligate. He appears in the first act, as the friend of Claudio, and in the fifth, he assists the cause of Angelo, hom he supposes to be his murderer. Lastly,


the indecent expressions with which many of the scenes abound, are so interwoven with the story, that it is extremely difficult to separate the one from the other.

I trust, however, that I have succeeded in doing it, and I should not be sorry if the merit or demerit of the whole work were to be decided by the examination of this very extraordinary play, as it is now printed in the Family SHAKSPEARE.

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