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made a sort of an essay towards it in his Discoveries, I will give it in his words :
“ I remember the players have often mentioned it « as an honour to Shakespeare, that in writing (what“ soever he penned) he never blotted cut a line. My “ answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand! “ which they thought a malevolent speech. Í had “ not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who “ chose that circumstance to commend their friend by, “ wherein he most faulted : and to justify mine own “ candour, for I loved the man, and do honour his “ memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. “ He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free “ nature, had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and
gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that
facility, that sometimes it was necefiary he should. “ be stopped : Sufflaminandas erat, as Augustus said of “ Haterius. His wit was in his own power, would “ the rule of it had been so ton. Many times he fell “ into those things which could not escape laughter; “ as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him,
Cæfar thou dost me wrong. “ He replied :
“ Cafar did never wrong, but with just cause. " And such like, which were ridiculous. But he re66 deemed his vices with his virtues : there was ever “ more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.”
As for the paffage which he mentions out of Shakespeare, there is somewhat like it in Julius Casar, but without the absurdity ; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonson. Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ like. wise Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in
ftanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems. As to the character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal in it: but I believe it may be as well expressed by what Horace says of the firit Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models (or indeed translated them) in his epistle to Auguitus.
Naturâ fublimis & acer,
Sed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram. As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete collection upon Shakespeare's works, so I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judgment of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in locking him Over.
His plays are properly to be distinguished only into comedies and tragedies. Those which are called hiftories, and even some of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongit them. That
way of tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is indeed become so agreeable to the English taste, that though the severer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences seem to be better pleased with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, are all pure comedy; the reft, however they are called, have something of both kinds.
It is not very easy to determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours, and though they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the satire of the present age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleasing and a well-distinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a master-piece ; the character is always well sustained, though drawn out into the length of three plays; and even the aca count of his death, given by his old landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the first act of Henry the Fifth, though 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 though he has made him a thief, lying, cowardly, vain-glorious, and in short every way vicious, yet he has given him so much wit as to make him almost too agreeable ; and I do not know whether some people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded them, been forry to see his friend Hal use him so fcurvily, when he comes to the crown in the end of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth. Amongst other extravagancies, in The Merry Wives of Windfor he has made him a deer-stealer, that he might ao the same time remember his Warwickshire profecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow; he has given him very near the same 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 them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreafonable jealousy, is extremely well conducteda In Twelfth Night there is something singularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite 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 conversation of Benedict and Beatrice, in Much Ada about Nothing, and of Rosalind in As you like it, have much wit and sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: and, I believe, Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be mafter-pieces
of ill-nature, and satirical snarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice ; but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was designed tragically by the author. There appears in it a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the stile or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakespeare's. The tale indeed, in that part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much removed from the rules of probability; but taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of Antonio to Bassanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (supposing, as I faid, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two passages that deserve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of mulick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you like it, is as singular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,
Difficile eft proprie communia dicere, It will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the several degrees and ages
of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
-All the world is e ficge,
[M] - Meteling
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms :
Vol. II. p. 203 His images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would represent stands full before you, and you poffefs every part of it. I will venture to point out one more, which is, I think, as strong and as uncommon as any thing I ever saw ; it is an image of patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,
She never told her love,