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great men concurr'd in making upon this part, was extremely juft; That Shakespear had not only found out a new Character in his Caliban, but had also devis'd and adapted a new manner of Language for that Cha+ racter.
It is the fame magick that raises the Fairies in Mid, Jummer-Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghoft in Hamlet, with thoughts and language fo proper to the parts they sustain, and fo peculiar to the talent of this Writer. But of the two laft of thefe Plays I fhall have occafion to take notice, among the Tragedies of Mr. Shakespear. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of thefe by thofe rules which are establish'd by Aristotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian Stage, it would be no very hard talk to find a great many faults. But as Shakespear liv'd under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of thofe written precepts, fo it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to confider him as a man that liv'd in a ftate of almost univerfal licenfe and ignorance: there was no eftablish'd judge, but every one took the liberty to write ac cording to the dictates of his own fancy. When one confiders, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the prefent Stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatick Poetry fo far as he did. The Fable is what is generally plac'd the firft, among thofe that are reckon'd the conflituent parts of a Tragick or Heroic Poem; not, per haps, as it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivance and courfe of the whole; and with the Fable ought to be confider'd, the fit Difpofition, Order and Condu of its feveral parts. As it is not in this province of the Drama that the ftrength and mastery of Shake, Spear lay, fo I fhall not undertake the tedious and ill,
natur'd trouble to point out the feveral faults he was guilty of in it. His Tales were feldom invented, but rather taken either from true Hiftory, or Novels and Romances: And he commonly made ufe of 'em in that order, with those Incidents, and that extent of time in which he found 'em in the Authors from whence he borrow'd them. Almost all his historical Plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and diftinct places: And in his Antony and Cleopatra, the Scene travels over the greatest part of the Roman Empire. But in recompence for his care lefsnefs in this point, when he comes to another part of the Drama, The Manners of his Characters, in alling or Speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shown by the Poet, he may be generally justify'd, and in very many places greatly commended. For thofe Plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare 'em, and he will find the cha racter as exact in the Poet as the Hiftorian. He feems indeed fo far from propofing to himself any one action for a Subject, that the Tile very often tells you, 'tis The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our hiftorians give of Henry the fixth, than the picture Shakespear has drawn of him! His Manners are every where exactly the fame with the ftory; one finds him ftill defcrib'd with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy fubmiffion to the governance of an imperious Wife, or prevailing Faction: Tho' at the fame time the Poet does juftice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by fhewing him pious, difinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly refign'd to the fevereft difpenfations of God's providence. There is a fhort Scene in the fecond part of Henry VI. which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murder'd the Duke of Gloucefter, is fhewn in the laft agonies on his death-bed,
with the good King praying over him. There is fo much terror in one, fo much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as muft touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his Henry VIII, that Prince is drawn with that greatnefs of mind, and all thofe good qualities which are attributed to him in any account of his reign. If his faults are not fhewn in an equal degree, and the fhades in this picture do not bear a just proportion to the lights, it is not that the Artift wanted either colours or skill in the difpofition of 'em; but the truth, I believe, might be, that ha forbore doing it out of regard to Queen Elizabeth, fince it could have been no very great refpect to the memory of his Mistress, to have expos'd fome certain parts of her father's life upon the ftage. He has dealt much more freely with the Minister of that great King, and certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolfey. He has fhewn him infolent in his profperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the fubject of general compaffion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly defcrib'd in the fecond scene of the fourth act. The diftreffes likewife of Queen Catharine, in this play, are very movingly touch'd; and tho' the art of the Poet has fcreen'd King Henry from any grofs imputation of injuftice, yet one is inclin'd to with, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the Manners, proper to the perfons reprefented, lefs justly obferv'd, in thofe characters taken from the Roman History; and of this, the fiercenefs and impatience of Coriclanus, his courage and difdain of the common people, the virtue and philofophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last especially, you find 'em exactly as they are defcrib'd by Plutarch, from whom certainly ShakeSpear copy'd 'em. He has indeed followed his origiVOL. I. k
nal pretty clofe, and taken in feveral little incidents that might have been fpared in a Play. But, as I hinted before, his defigns feem most commonly rather to defcribe thofe great men in the feveral fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any single great action, and form his work fimply upon that. However, there are fome of his pieces, where the Fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more efpecially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet, is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animofities that had been fo long kept up between 'em, and occafion'd the effufion of fo much blood. In the management of this ftory, he has fhewn fomething wonderfully tender and paffionate in the lovepart, and very pitiful in the diftrefs. Hamlet is founded on much the fame tale with the Eletra of Sophocles. In each of 'em a young Prince is engaged to revenge the death of his father, their mothers are equally guilty, are both concern'd in the murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greek Tragedy, fomething very moving in the grief of Electra; but as Mr. Dacier has obferv'd, there is fomething very unnatural and fhocking in the Manners he has given that Princefs and Oreftes in the latter part. Orefies embrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is perform'd, tho' 'not immediately upon the ftage, yet fo near, that the audience hear Clytemnestra crying out to Egyftbus for help, and to her fon for mercy: While Electra her daughter, and a Princefs (both of them characters that ought to have appear'd with more decency) ftands upon the ftage and encourages her brother in the Parricide. What horror does this not raife! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deferv'd to die; nay, in the truth of the ftory, fhe was kill'd by her own fon; but to reprefent an action of this kind on the
ftage, is certainly an offence against thofe rules of manners proper to the perfons, that ought to be obferv'd there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakespear. Hamlet is reprefented with the fame piety towards his father, and refolution to revenge his death, as Oreftes; he has the fame abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heighten'd by inceft: But 'tis with wonderful art and juftness of judgment, that the Poet restrains him from doing violence to his mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his father's Ghoft forbid that part of his vengeance.
But bowfoever thou purfu'ft this Act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy foul contrive
This is to diftinguish rightly between Horror and Terror. The latter is a proper paffion of Tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick Writer ever fucceeded better in raifing Terror in the minds of an audience than ShakeSpear has done. The whole Tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the fcene where the King is murder'd, in the fecond Act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly fpirit with which he writ; and both fhew how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have feen this Mafter-piece of Shakespear diftinguish itself upon the ftage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who tho' he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakespear's manner of k 2