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remember, pleased not the multitude, and the reafon was, its being wrote on the rules of the ancient Drama; to which they were entire ftrangers. But, in my opinion, and in the opinion of thofe for whofe judgment I bave the highest efteem, it was an excellent Play, well digefed in the fcenes, i. e. where the three unities were well preferved. Set down with as much modefty as cunning, i. e. where not only the art of compofition, but the fimplicity of nature, was carefully attended to. The characters were a faithful picture of life and manners, in which nothing was overcharged into Farce. But thete qual ties, which gained my efteem, loft the public's. For I remember one fit, there was no falt in the lines to make the matter favoury, i. e there was not, according to the mode of that time, a fool or clown to joke, quibble, and tak freely For no raner in the phrafe that might indite the author of affection, i. e. nor none of thofe paffiorate, pa thetic love fcenes, fo effential to modern tragedy. But he called it. an bonest method, i. e. he owned, however taftiefs this method of writing, on the ancient plan, was to our times, yet it was chafte and pure; the diftinguifhing character of the Greek Drama. I need only make one oblervation on all this; that, thus interpret ed, it is the juslest picture of a good tragedy, wrote on the ancient rules. And that I have rightly interpreted it appears farther from what we find added in the old Quarto, An boreft method, as wloleftme as fweet, and by

very much more HANDSOME than FINE, i. e. it had a natural beauty, but none of the fucus of falfe art.

2. A fecond proof that this fpeech was given to be admired, is from the intrinfic merit of the fpeech itself: which contains the defcription of a circumftance very happily imagined, namely lium and Friam's falling together, with the effect it had on the deftroyer.

-The bellif Pyrrhus, &c. To, Repugnant to command.

Th' unnerved father falis,&c. To, -So after Pyrrhus' faufe. Now this circumstance, illuftrated with the fine fimilitude of the form, is fo highly worked up as to have well deferved a place in Virgil's fecond Book of the Eneid, even tho' the work had been carried on to that perfection which the Roman Poet had con. ceived.

3. The third proof is, from the effects which followed on the recital. Hamlet, his belt character, approves it; the Player is deeply affected in repeating it; and only the foolish Polonius tired with it. We have faid enough before of Hamlet's fentiments. As for the player, he changes colour, and the tears start from his eyes. But our author was too good a judge of nature to make bombaft and unna tural fentiment produce fuch an effect. Nature and Horace both inftructed him,

Si vis me flere, dolendum eft
Primùm ipfi tibi, tunc twa me
infortunia lædent,
Telephe, vel Peleu. MALE SI

Aut dormitabo aut ridebo.


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And it may be worth obferving, that Horace gives this precept particularly to fhew, that bombaft and unnatural fentiments are incapable of moving the tender paflions, which he is directing the poet how to raife. For, in the lines just before, he gives this rule,


Peleus, cùm pauper exul uterque, Projicit Ampullas, & fefquipe

dalia verba.

Not that I would deny, that very bad lines in very bad tragedies have had this effect. But then it always proceeds from one or o. ther of thefe caufes.

1. Either when the subject is domeftic, and the tcene lies at home: The fpectators, in this cafe, become interested in the fortunes of the diftreffed; and their thoughts are fo much taken up with the fubject, that they are not at liberty to attend to the poet; who, otherwife, by his faulty fentiments and diction, would have stifled the emotions fpringing up from a fenfe of the diftrefs. But this is nothing to For, as Hamthe cafe in hand. let fays,

that Shakespear intended to reprefent a player unnaturally and fantastically affected, we muft appeal to Hamlet, that is, to Shakespear himself, in this matter? who on the reflection he makes upon the Player's emotion, in order to excite his own revenge, gives not the leaft hint that the player was unnaturally or injudiciously moved. On the contrary, his fine defcription of the Actor's emotion fhews, he thought juft otherwise.

-this Player here,

But in a fiction, in a dream of paffion,

Could force his foul so to bis

own conceit,

That from her working all his vifuge wan'd:

Tears in his eyes, diffraction in bis afpect,

A broken voice, &c. And indeed had Hamlet efteemed this emotion any thing unnatural, it had been a very improper circumftance to fpur him to his purpose.

What's Hecuba to him, or he upon to Hecuba ?

2. When bad lines raife this affection, they are bad in the other extreme; low, abject, and groveling, infead of being highly figurative and fwelling; yet when attended with a natural fimplicity, they have force enough to frike illiterate and fimple minds. The Tragedies of Banks will justify both thefe obfervations..

But if any one will fill fay,

As Shakespear has here fhewn the effects which a fine defcription of Nature, heightened with all the ornaments of art, had upon an intelligent Player, whofe bufinefs habituates him to enter intimately and deeply into the characters of men and manners, and to give nature its free workings on all occafions; fo he has artiully fhewn what effects the very fame fcene would have upon a quite different man, Potinius; by nature, very weak and very artificial [two qualities, tho' commonly enough joined in life, yet generally to much difguifed as not to be icen by common


eyes to be together; and which an ordinary Poet durft not have brought fo near one another] by difcipline, practifed in a fpecies of wit and eloquence, which was ftiff, forced, and pedantic; and by trade a Politician, and therefore, of confequence, without any of the affecting notices of humanity. Such is the man whom Shakespear has judiciously chofen to reprefent the falfe tafte of that audience which had condemned the play here reciting. When the actor comes to the finest and most pathetic part of the fpeech, Polonius cries out, this is too lng; on which Hamlet, in contempt of his ill judgment, replies, It ball to the barber's with thy beard [intimating that, by this judgment, it appeared that all his wifdom lay in his length of beard,] Pry'thee, Jay on. He's for a jig or a tale of baudry. [the common entertainment of that time, as well as this, of the people] or he fleeps, fay on. And yet this man of modern tafte, who flood all this time perfectly unmoved with the forcible imagery of the relator, no fooner hears, amongst many good things, one quaint and fantaftical word, put in, I fuppofe, purpofely for this end, than he profeffes his approbation of the propriety and dignity of it. That's good. Mobled Queen is good. On the whole then, I think, it plainly appears, that the long quotation is not given to be ridiculed and laughed at, but to be admired. The character given of the Play, by Hamlet, cannot be ironical. The paffage itfelf is extremely beautiful. It has the

effect that all pathetic relations, naturally written, fhould have; and it is condemned, or regarded with indifference, by one of a wrong, unnatural tafte. From hence (to obferve it by the way) the Actors, in their reprefentation of this play, may learn how this fpeech ought to be fpoken, and what appearance Hamlet ought to affume during the recital.

That which fupports the common opinion, concerning this paffage, is the turgid expreffion in fome parts of it; which, they think, could never be given by the poct to be commended. We fhall therefore, in the next place, examine the lines mott obnoxious to cenfure, and fee how much, allowing the charge, this will make for the induction of their conclufion.

Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage firikes wide,

But with the whif and wind of bis feil fword

Th' unnerved Father falls.
And again,

Out, out, thou frumpet For-
tune! All you Gods,
In general Synod, take away
her power:

Break all the Spokes and fellies
from her wheel,

And bowl the round nave down the hill of Heaven, As low as to the Fiends. Now whether thefe be bombaft or not, is not the question; but whether Shakespear esteemed them fo. That he did not fo eftcem them appears from his having uled the very fame thoughts in the fame expreflion, in his best plays, and given them


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Play: which, letting us into a circumftance of our Author's life (as a writer) hitherto unknown, was the reason I have been fo large upon this Question. I think then it appears, from what has been faid, that the Play in difpute was Shakespear's own: and that this was the occafion of writing it. He was defirous, as foon as he had found his ftrength, of restoring the chaftness and regularity of the ancient Stage; and therefore compofed this Tragedy on the model of the Greek Drama, as may be seen by throwing fo much action into relation. But his attempt proved fruitless; and the raw, unnatural tafte, then prevalent, forced him back again into his old Gothic manner. For which he took this revenge upon his Audience.






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