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To draw no envy, Shakspeare, on thy name, Am I thus ample to thy book, and fame; While I confess thy writings to be such, As neither man, nor muse, can praise too much; Tis true, and all men's suffrage: but these ways Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise: For seeliest ignorance on these may light, Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right; Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance; Or crafty malice might pretend this praise, And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise: These are, as some infamous bawd, or whore, Should praise a matron; what could hurt her more? But thou art proof against them; and, indeed, Above the ill fortune of them, or the need: I therefore, will begin:-Soul of the age, The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage, My Shakspeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by Chancer, or Spenser; or bid Beaumont lie A little further, to make thee a room: Thou art a monument without a tomb; And art alive still, while thy book doth live, And we have wits to read, and praise to give. That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses; I mean, with great but disproportion'd muses: For, if I thought my judgment were of years, I should commit thee surely with thy peers; And tell-how far thou didst our Lyly outshine, Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line. And though thou hadst small Latin, and less Greek, From thence to honour thee, I would not seek For names; but call forth thund'ring Eschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, to us, Pacuvius, Accias, him of Cordoua dead, To life again, to hear thy buskin tread And stake a stage; or, when thy socks were on, Leave thee aloue; for the comparison Of all that insolent Greece, or hanghty Rome, Seat forth, or since did from their ashes come. Triumph, my Britain! thou hast one to show, To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe. He was not of an age, but for all time; And all the muses still were in their prime, When like Apollo he came forth to warm Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm. Nature herself was proud of his designs, And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines; Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit, As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit: The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes, Neat Terence, witty Plantus, now not please; Bat antiquated and deserted lie, As they were not of Nature's family. Yet most I not give Nature all; thy art, My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part:— For though the poet's matter nature be, His art doth give the fashion: and that he,

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COMMENDATORY VERSES ON SHAKSPEARE.

It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; againe, and againe: And if then you doe not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger,

and

not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade JOHN HEMINGE, yourselves, and others. And such readers we wish HENRIE CONDELL. him.

Commendatory Verses on Shakspeare,

BY CONTEMPORARY POETS.

On William Shakspeare, who died in April, 1616.

RENOWNED Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To learned Chancer; and rare Beaumont, lie
A little nearer Spenser, to make room

For Shakspeare, in your three-fold, four-fold tomb.
To lodge all four in one bed make a shift
Until doomsday; for hardly will a fift

Betwixt this day and that by fate be slain,
For whom your curtains may be drawn again.
Bat if precedency in death doth bar

A fourth place in your sacred sepulchre,
Under this carved marble of thine own,

Sleep, rare tragedian, Shakspeare, sleep alone.
Thy anmolested peace, unshared cave,

Possess, as lord, not tenant, of thy grave;
That nato us and others it may be

Honour hereafter to be laid by thee.-WILLIAM BASSE.

To the Memory of my Beloved the Author,

Mr. William Shakspeare, and what he hath left us.

Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the muses' anvil; turn the same,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame;
Or, for the laurel, he may gain a scorn,-

For a good poet's made, as well as born:
And such wert thou. Look, how the father's face
Lives in his issue; even so the race

Of Shakspeare's mind, and manners, brightly shines
In his well-torned and true-filed lines;

In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet swan of Avon, what a sight it were,
To see thee in our waters yet appear;

And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James!
But stay; I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a constellation there:-
Shine forth, thou star of poets; and with rage,

Or influence, chide, or cheer, the drooping stage;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like

night,

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SHAKSPEARE, at length thy pious fellows give
The world thy works; thy works, by which outlive
Thy tomb, thy name must: when that stone is rent,
And time dissolves thy Stratford monument,
Here we alive shall view thee still; this book,
When brass and marble fade, shall make thee look
Fresh to all ages, when posterity

Shall loath what's new, think all is prodigy
That is not Shakspeare's, every line, each verse,
Here shall revive, redeem thee from thy hers
Nor fire, nor cank'ring age,-as Naso said
Of his, thy wit-fraught book shall once invade:
Nor shall I e'er believe or think thee dead,
Though miss'd, until our bankrout stage be sped
(Impossible) with some new strain to out-do
Passions" of Juliet, and her Romeo;"
Or till I hear a scene more nobly take,
Than when thy half-sword parlying Romans spake:
Till these, till any of thy volume's rest,
Shall with more fire, more feeling be express'd,
Be sure, our Shakspeare, thou canst never die,
But, crown'd with laurel, live eternally.-L. DIGGES.

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Preface: by Dr. Samuel Johnson.

[First printed in 1765.]

THAT praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time.

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but from prejadice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.

To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works, not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientific, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long possessed they have often examined and compared, and if they persist to value the possession, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the works of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains, and many rivers; so in the production of genius, nothing can be styled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the same kind. Demonstration immediately displays its power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the flux of years; but works tentative and experimental must be estimated by their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long succession of endeavours. Of the first building that was raised, it might be with certainty determined that it was round or square; but whether it was spacious or lofty must have been referred to time. The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.

The reverence due to writings that have long subsisted, arises therefore, not from any credulous confidence in the superior wisdom of past ages, or gloomy persuasion of the degeneracy of mankind, But is the consequence of acknowledged indubitable positions, that what has been longest known has been most considered, and what is most considered is best understood.

The poet, of whose works I have undertaken the revision, may now begin to assume the dignity of an ancient, and claim the privilege of an established fame and prescriptive veneration. He has long outlived his century, the term commonly fixed as the test of literary merit. Whatever advantages he might once derive from personal allusions, local customs, or temporary opinions, have for many years been lost; and every topic of merriment or motive of sorrow, which the modes of artificial life afforded him, now only obscure the scenes

which they once illuminated. The effects of favour and competition are at an end; the tradition of his friendships and his enmities has perished; his works support no opinion with arguments, nor supply any faction with invectives; they can nei ther indulge vanity, nor gratify malignity; but are read without any other reason than the desire of pleasure, and are therefore praised only as pleasure is obtained; yet, thus unassisted by interest or passion, they have past through variations of taste and changes of manners, and, as they devolved from one generation to another, have received new honours at every transmission.

But because human judgment, though it be gradually gaining upon certainty, never becomes infallible; and approbation, though long continued, may yet be only the approbation of prejudice or fashion; it is proper to inquire, by what peculiarities of excellence Shakspeare has gained and kept the favour of his countrymen.

Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature. Particular manners can be known to few, and therefore few only can judge how nearly they are copied. The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight awhile, by that novelty of which the common satiety of life sends us all in quest; but the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose on the stability of truth.

2

Shakspeare is above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world: by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate but upon small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual: in those of Shakspeare it is commonly a species.

It is from this wide extension of design that so much instruction is derived. It is this which fills the plays of Shakspeare with practical axioms and domestic wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse was a precept; and it may be said of Shakspeare, that from his works may be collected a system of civil and economical prudence. Yet his real power is not shewn in the splendour of particular passages, but by the progress of his fable and the tenour of his dialogue; and he that tries to recommend him by select quotations, will succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as specimen.

It will not easily be imagined how much Shab speare excels in accommodating his sentiments real life, but by comparing him with other author It was observed of the ancient schools of declam tion, that the more diligently they were frequentethe more was the student disqualified for the worl because he found nothing there which he shou ever meet in any other place. The same rema may be applied to every stage but that of Sha speare. The theatre, when it is under any oth direction, is peopled by such characters as w never seen, conversing in a language which never heard, upon topics which will never arise the commerce of mankind. But the dialoguethis author is often so evidently determined by incident which produces it, and is pursued with much ease and simplicity, that it seems scarcely

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he thinks only on men. He knew that Rome, like every other city, had men of all dispositions; and wanting a buffoon, he went into the senate-house for that which the senate-house would certainly have afforded him. He was inclined to shew an usurper and a murderer, not only odious but destopicable; he therefore added drunkenness to his other qualities, knowing that kings love wine like other men, and that wine exerts its natural power upon kings. These are the petty cavils of petty minds; a poet overlooks the casual distinction of country and condition, as a painter, satisfied with the figure, neglects the drapery.

The censure which he has incurred by mixing comic and tragic scenes, as it extends to all his works, deserves more consideration. Let the fact be first stated, and then examined.

claim the merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of common conversation,

and common occurrences.

Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by whose power all good and evil is distribated, and every action quickened or retarded. To bring a lover, a lady, and a rival into the fable; entangle them in contradictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of interest, and harass them with violence of desires inconsistent with each other; to mak them meet in rapture, and part in agony to fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy and outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing homan ever was distressed; to deliver them as nothing human ever was delivered, is the business of modern dramatist. For this, probability is violated, life is misrepresented, and language is depraved. Bat love is only one of many passions, and as it has no great influence upon the sum of life, it has little operation in the dramas of a poet, who caught his ideas from the living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He knew, that any other passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity. Characters thus ample and general were not easily discriminated and preserved, yet perhaps, no poet ever kept his personages more distinct from each other. I will not say with Pope, that every speech may be assigned to the proper speaker, because many speeches there are which have nothing characteristical; but, perhaps, though some may be equally adapted to every person, it will be difficult to find any that can be properly transferred from present possessor to another claimant. The choice is right, when there is reason for choice. Other dramatists can only gain attention by hyperbolical or aggravated characters, by fabulous and unexampled excellence or depravity, as the writers of barbarous romances invigorated the reader by a giant and a dwarf; and he that should form bis expectations of human affairs from the play, or from the tale, would be equally deceived. Shakspeare has no heroes; his scenes are occupied enly by men, who act and speak as the reader thinks that he should himself have spoken or acted on the same occasion: even where the agency is supernatural, the dialogue is level with life. Other writers disguise the most natural passions and most frequent incidents; so that he who contemplates them in the book will not know them in the world: Shakspeare approximates the remote, and familiarizes the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen, but if it were possible, its effects would probably be such as he has assigned; and it may be said, that he has not only shewn human nature as it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials, to which it cannot be exposed.

the

Shakspeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another; in which, at the same time, the reveller is basting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend, in which the malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the frolic of another; and many mischiefs and many benefits are done and hindered without design.

Out of this chaos of mingled purposes and casualties, the ancient poets, according to the laws which custom had prescribed, selected some the crimes of men, and some their absurdities: some the momentous vicissitudes of life, and some the lighter occurrences; some the terrors of distress, and some the gaieties of prosperity. Thus rose the two modes. of imitation, known by the names of tragedy and comedy, compositions intended to promote different ends by contrary means, and considered as so little allied, that I do not recollect among the Greeks or Romans a single writer who attempted both.

Shakspeare has united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow, not only in one mind, but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive evolutions of the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, and sometimes levity and laughter.

That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily allowed; but there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature. The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the instruction of tragedy or comedy cann be denied, because it includes both in its alternations of exhibition, and approaches nearer than either to the appearance of life, by shewing how great machinations and slender designs may promote or obviate one another, and the high and the low co-operate in the general system by unavoidable concatenation.

This therefore is the praise of Shakspeare, that his drama is the mirror of life; that he who has mazed his imagination, in following the phantoms which other writers raise up before him, may here be cared of his delirious ecstacies, by reading human sentiments in human language; by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor predict the progress of the

passions.

His adherence to general nature has exposed him to the censure of critics, who form their judgments apon narrower principles. Dennis and Rymer think is Romans not sufficiently Roman; and Voltaire ressures his kings as not completely royal. Dennis is offended, that Menenius a senator of Rome, should play the buffoon; and Voltaire perhaps thinks decency violated when the Danish usurper is represented as a drunkard. But Shakspeare always he preserves the essential character, is not very sidered likewise, that melancholy is often not makes nature predominate over accident; and if interrupted by unwelcome levity, yet let it be concareful of distinctions superinduced and adventi- pleasing, and that the disturbance of one man may tious. His story requires Romans or kings, but be the relief of another; that different auditors have

It is objected, that by this change of scenes the passions are interrupted in their progression, and that the principal event, being not advanced by a due gradation of preparatory incidents, wants at last the power to move, which constitutes the perfection of dramatic poetry. This reasoning is so specious, that it is received as true even by those who in daily experience feel it to be false. The interchanges of mingled scenes seldom fail to produce the intended vicissitudes of passion. Fiction cannot move so much, but that the attention may be easily transferred; and though it must be allowed that pleasing melancholy may be sometimes

different habitudes; and that, upon the whole, all pleasure consists in variety.

The players, who in their edition divided our author's works into comedies, histories, and tragedies, seem not to have distinguished the three kinds, by any very exact or definite ideas.

An action which ended happily to the principal persons, however serious or distressful through its intermediate incidents, in their opinion constituted a comedy. This idea of a comedy continued long among us, and plays were written, which, by changing the catastrophe, were tragedies to-day, and comedies to-morrow.

crimination of true passion are the colours of ngture; they pervade the whole mass, and can only perish with the body that exhibits them. The accidental compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by the chance that combined them; but the uniform simplicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase, nor suffers decay. The sand heaped by one flood is scattered by another, but the rock always continues in its place. The stream of time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakspeare.

If there be, what I believe there is, in every naTragedy was not in those times a poem of more tion, a style which never becomes obsolete, a cergeneral dignity or elevation than comedy; it re- tain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial quired only a calamitous conclusion, with which to the analogy and principles of its respective lanthe common criticism of that age was satisfied, guage, as to remain settled and unaltered: this whatever lighter pleasure it afforded in its progress. style is probably to be sought in the common interHistory was a series of actions, with no other course of life, among those who speak only to be than chronological succession, independent on each understood, without ambition of elegance. The po other, and without any tendency to introduce and lite are always catching modish innovations, and the regulate the conclusion. It is not always very learned depart from established forms of speech, in nicely distinguished from tragedy. There is not hope of finding or making better; those who wish much nearer approach to unity of action in the for distinction forsake the vulgar, when the valgar tragedy of Autony and Cleopatra, than in the his- is right; but there is a conversation above grosstory of Richard the Second. But a history mightness and below refinement, where propriety resides, be continued through many plays; as it had no plan, and where this poet seems to have gathered his coit had no limits. mic dialogue. He is, therefore, more agreeable to the ears of the present age, than any other author equally remote, and, among his other excellencies, deserves to be studied as one of the original masters of our language.

Through all these denominations of the drama, Shakspeare's mode of composition is the same; an interchange of seriousness and merriment, by which the mind is softened at one time, and exhilarated at another. But whatever be his purpose, whether to gladden or depress, or to conduct the story, without vehemence or emotion, through tracts of easy and familiar dialogue, he never fails to attain his purpose; as he commands us, we laugh or mourn, or sit silent with quiet expectation, in tranquillity without indifference.

When Shakspeare's plan is understood, most of the criticisms of Rymer and Voltaire vanish away. The play of Hamlet is opened, without impropriety, by two centinels: Iago bellows at Brabantio's window, without injury to the scheme of the play, though in terms which a modern audience would not easily endure; the character of Polonius is seasonable and useful; and the Gravediggers selves may be heard with applause.

Shakspeare engaged in dramatic poetry with the world open before him; the rules of the ancients were yet known to few; the public judgment was unformed; he had no example of such fame as might force him upon imitation, nor critics of such authority as might restrain his extravagance; he therefore indulged his natural disposition, and his disposition, as Rymer has remarked, led him to comedy. In tragedy he often writes with great appearance of toil and study, what is written at last with little felicity; but in his comic scenes, he seems to produce without labour, what no labour can improve. In tragedy he is always struggling after some occasion to be comic, but in comedy he seems to repose, or to luxuriate, as in a mode of thinking congenial to his nature. In his tragic scenes there is always something wanting, but his comedy often surpasses expectation or desire. His comedy pleases by the thoughts and the language, and his tragedy for the greater part by incident and action. His tragedy seems to be skill, his comedy to be instinct.

These observations are to be considered not as unexceptionably constant, but as containing general and predominant truth. Shakspeare's familiar dialogue is affirmed to be smooth and clear, yet not wholly without ruggedness or difficulty; as a country may be eminently fruitful, though it has spots unfit for cultivation: his characters are praised as natural, though their sentiments are sometimes forced, and their actions improbable; as the earth upon the whole is spherical, though its surface is varied with protuberances and cavities.

Shakspeare with his excellencies has likewise faults, and faults sufficient to obscure and overwhelm any other merit. I shall shew them in the them-proportion in which they appear to me, without envious malignity or superstitious veneration. No question can be more innocently discussed than a dead poet's pretensions to renown; and little regard is due to that bigotry which sets candour higher than truth.

His first defect is that to which may be imputed most of the evil in books or in men. He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral purpose. From his writings indeed a system of social duty may be selected, for be that thinks reasonably must think morally; but his precepts and axioms drop casually from him: he makes no just distribution of good or evil, nor is always careful to shew in the virtuous a disapprobation of the wicked; he carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong, and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of his age cannot extenuate; for it is always a writer's duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time or place.

The force of his comic scenes has suffered little diminution from the changes made by a century and a half, in manners or in words. As his personages act upon principles arising from genuine passion, very little modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexations are communicable to all times and to all places; they are natural, and therefore durable; the adventitious peculiarities of personal habits, are only superficial dies, bright and pleasing for a little while, yet soon fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former lustre; and the dis

The plots are often so loosely formed, that a very slight consideration may improve them, and so carelessly pursued, that he seems not always fully to comprehend his own design. He omits opportunities of instructing or delighting, which the train of his story seems to force upon him, and apparently rejects those exhibitions which would be more affecting, for the sake of those which are more easy.

It may be observed, that in many of his plays the latter part is evidently neglected. When he found

sink them in dejection, and mollify them with ten-
der emotions by the fall of greatness, the danger of
innocence, or the crosses of love. What he does
best, he soon ceases to do. He is not long soft
and pathetic without some idle conceit, or con-
temptible equivocation. He no sooner begins to
move, than he counteracts himself; and terror and
pity, as they are rising in the mind, are checked
and blasted by sudden frigidity.

He had no regard to distinction of time or place, bat gives to one age or nation, without scraple, the customs, institutions, and opinions of another, at the expense not only of likelihood, but of possibility. These faults Pope has endeavoured, with more zeal than judgment, to transfer to his imagined interpolators. We need not wonder to find Hector quoting Aristotle, when we see the loves of Theseus and Hippolyta combined with the Gothic mythology of fairies. Shakspeare, indeed, was not

A quibble is to Shakspeare, what luminous va-
is sure to lead him out of his way,
pours are to the traveller; he follows it at all ad-
ventures;
and sure to engulf him in the mire. It has some
malignant power over his mind, and its fascinations
are irresistible. Whatever be the dignity or pro-
fundity of his disquisitions, whether he be enlarg-

Sidney, who wanted not the advantages of learning,
has, in his Arcadia, confounded the pastoral with
the fendal times, the days of innocence, quiet, and
security, with those of turbulence, violence, and

adventure.

the only violator of chronology, for in the same ageing knowledge, or exalting affection, whether he be amusing attention with incidents, or enchaining it in suspense, let but a quibble spring up before him, and he leaves his work unfinished. A quibturn aside from his career, or stoop from his elevable is the golden apple for which he will always tion. A quibble, poor and barren as it is, gave bim such delight, that he was content to purchase it by the sacrifice of reason, propriety, and truth. A quibble was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it.

In his comic scenes, he is seldom very successful, when he engages his characters in reciprocations of smartness and contests of sarcasm; their jests are commonly gross, and their pleasantry licentions; neither his gentlemen nor his ladies have much delicacy, nor are sufficiently distinguished from his clowns by any appearance of refined manners. Whether he represented the real conversation of bis time is not easy to determine; the reign of Elizabeth is commonly supposed to have been a time of stateliness, formality, and reserve, yet perhaps the relaxations of that severity, were not very elegant. There must, however, have been always some modes of gaiety preferable to others, and a writer ought to choose the best.

It will be thought strange, that, in enumerating the defects of this writer, I have not yet mentioned his neglect of the unities; his violation of those laws which have been instituted and established by the joint authority of poets and of critics.

For his other deviations from the art of writing, I resign him to critical justice, without making must be indulged to all human excellence; that any other demand in his favour, than that which his virtues be rated with his failings: but, from the censure which this irregularity may bring upon him, I shall, with due reverence to that learning which I must oppose, adventure to try how I can defend him.

In tragedy his performance seems constantly to be worse, as his labour is more. The effusions of passion, which exigence forces out, are for the most part striking and energetic; but whenever he solicits his invention, or strains his faculties, the offspring of his throes is tumour, meanness, tediousness, and obscurity.

His histories, being neither tragedies nor comemore is necessary to all the praise which they exdies, are not subject to any of their laws; nothing as to be understood, that the incidents be various pect, than that the changes of action be so prepared and affecting, and the characters consistent, natural, and distinct. No other unity is intended, and therefore none is to be sought.

In his other works he has well enough preserved the unity of action. He has not, indeed, an in

In narration he affects a disproportionate pomp of diction, and awearisome train of circumlocution, and tells the incident imperfectly in many words, which might have been more plainly delivered in few. Narration in dramatic poetry is naturally tedious, as it is unanimated and inactive, and obstructs the progress of the action; it should therefore always be rapid, and enlivened by frequent in-trigue regularly perplexed and regularly unravelterruption. Shakspeare found it an incumbrance, led; he does not endeavour to hide his design real events, and Shakspeare is the poet of nature: and instead of lightening it by brevity, endeavour-only to discover it, for this is seldom the order of ed to recommend it by dignity and splendour. a beginning, a middle, and an end; one event is but his plan has commonly what Aristotle requires, concatenated with another, and the conclusion folsome incidents that might be spared, as in other lows by easy consequence. There are perhaps the stage; but the general system makes gradual poets there is much talk that only fills up time upon advances, and the end of the play is the end of expectation.

His declamations or set speeches are commonly cold and weak, for his power was the power of nature; when he endeavoured, like other tragic writers, to catch opportunities of amplification, and instead of inquiring what the occasion demanded, to shew how much his stores of knowledge could supply, he seldom escapes without the pity or resentment of his reader.

It is incident to him to be now and then entangled with an unwieldy sentiment, which he cannot well express, and will not reject; he struggles with it awhile, and if it continues stubborn, comprises it in words such as occur, and leaves it to be disentangled and evolved by those who have more leisure to bestow upon it.

To the unities of time and place he has shewn no regard: and perhaps a nearer view of the princiand withdraw from them the veneration which, from ples on which they stand will diminish their value, ceived, by discovering that they have given more the time of Corneille, they have very generally retrouble to the poet, than pleasure to the auditor.

Not that always where the language is intricate, the thought is subtle, or the image always great where the line is bulky; the equality of words to things is very often neglected, and trivial sentiments and vulgar ideas disappoint the attention, to which they are recommended by sonorous epithets and swelling figures.

The necessity of observing the unities of time and place arises from the supposed necessity of making the drama credible. The critics hold it impossible, that an action of months or years can the spectator can suppose himself to sit in the be possibly believed to pass in three hours; or that distant kings, while armies are levied and towns. theatre, while ambassadors go and return between besieged, while an exile wanders and returns, or

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DR. JOHNSON'S PREFACE.

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himself near the end of his work, and in view of his reward, he shortened the labour to snatch the profit. He therefore remits his efforts where he should most vigorously exert them, and his catastrophe is improbably produced or imperfectly represented.

But the admirers of this great poet have most reason to complain when he approaches nearest to his highest excellence, and seems fully resolved to

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