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there is a good deal true in it: But I believe it may be as well exprefs'd by what Horace fays of the first Romans, who wrote Tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed tranflated 'em) in his epiftle to Auguftus, Natura fublimis & acer,
Nam fpirat Tragicum fatis & feliciter Audet,
As I have not propos'd to myfelf to enter into a large and compleat collection upon Shakespear's Works, fo I will only take the liberty, with all due fubmiffion to the judgment of others, to obferve fome of thofe things I have been pleas'd with in looking him over.
His plays are properly to be diftinguith'd only into Comedies and Tragedies. Thofe which are call'd Hiftories, and even fome of his Comedies are really Tragedies, with a run or mixture of Comedy amongst 'em. That way of Tragi-comedy was the common miftake of that age, and is indeed become fo agreeable to the English tafte, that tho' the feverer Critics among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences feem to be better pleas'd with it than with an exact Tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windfor, the Comedy of Errors, and the Taming of the Shrew, are all pure Comedy; the reft, however they are call'd, have fomething of both kinds. 'Tis not very easy to determine which way of writing he was moft excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and tho' they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the Satire of the prefent age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-diftinguifh'd variety in thofe characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allow'd by every body to be a mafter-piece; the Character is always well-fuftain'd, tho' drawn out into the length of three plays; and even the account of his death, given by his old landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the first act of Henry V. tho' it be extremely natural,
is yet as diverting as any part of his life. If there be any fault in the draught he has made of this lewd old fellow, it is, that tho he has made him a thief, lying, cowardly, vain-glorious, and in fhort every way vicious, yet he has given him fo much wit as to make him almoft too agreeable; and I don't know whether fome people have not, in remembrance of the diver fion he had formerly afforded 'em, been forry to fee his friend Hal ufe him fo fcurvily, when he comes to the crown in the end of the fecond part of Henry the fourth, Amongst other extravagancies, in the Merry Wives of Windfor, he has made him a Deer-ftealer, that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire profecutor, under the name of Juftice Shallow; he has given him very near the fame coat of arms which Dugdale, in his antiquities of that county, defcribes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parfon defcant very pleasantly upon 'em. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well oppos'd; the main defign, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealoufy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth-Night there is fomething fingularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parafite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in All'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 converfation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much ado about Nothing, and of Rofalind in As you like it, have much wit and fprightlinefs 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 Crefida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allow'd to be mafter-pieces of ill nature, and fatyrical fnarling. To thefe I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in the Merchant of Venice; but tho' we have feen that play receiv'd and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew perform'd
by an excellent Comedian, yet I cannot but think it was defigned tragically by the Author. There appears in it a deadly spirit of revenge, fuch a favage fiercenefs and fellness, and fuch a bloody defignation of cruelty and mifchief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of Comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, feems to me to be one of the most finish'd of any of Shakespear's. The tale indeed, in that part relating to the cafkets, and the extravagant. and unufual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much remov'd from the rules of probability: But taking the fact for granted, we muit allow it to be very beautifully written. There is fomething in the friendfhip of Antonio to Baffanio very great, generous and tender. The whole fourth act (fuppofing, as I said, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two paffages that deferve a particular notice. The firft is, what Portia lays in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of mufick. The melancholy in Jaques, in As you like it, is as fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace fays,
Difficile eft proprie communia dicere,
'twill be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the defcription of the feveral degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
All the world is a Stage,
And all the men and women meerly Players;
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Ev'n in the cannon's mouth. And then the Justice
His Images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would reprefent ftands full before you, and you poffefs every part of it. I will venture to point out one more, which is, I think, as ftrong and as uncommon as any thing I ever faw; 'tis an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he fays,
She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud,
What an Image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest mafters of Greece and Rome to have exprefs'd the paffions defign'd by this sketch of Statuary! The ftyle of his Comedy is, in
general, natural to the characters, and easy in itfelf; and the wit most commonly fprightly and pleafing, except in thofe places where he runs into doggril rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and fome other plays. As for his jingling fometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he liv'd in: And if we find it in the pulpit, made ufe of as an ornament to the Sermons of fome of the gravest Divines of those times; perhaps it may not be thought too light for the Stage.
But certainly the greatness of this Author's genius does no where fo much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loofe, and raises his fancy to a flight above mankind and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, Midfummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of thefe, The Tempest, however it comes to be plac'd the first by the Publishers of his works, can never have been the firft written by him: It feems to me as perfect in its kind, as almoft any thing we have of his. One may obferve, that the Unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing: tho' that was what, I fuppofe, he valu'd himself leaft upon, fince his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very fenfible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likenefs to truth which ought to be observ'd in these fort of writings; yet he does it fo very finely, that one is eafily drawn in to have more faith for his fake, than reafon does well allow of. His Magick has fomething in it very folemn and very poetical: And that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well fuftain'd, fhews a wonderful invention in the Author, who could ftrike out fuch a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon Grotefques that was ever feen The Obfervation, which I have been inform'd (a) three very
(a) Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.