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Therfites in Troilus and Crefsida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be mafter-pieces of illnature, and fatirical fnarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but though we have feen 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 defigned tragically by the author. There appears in it fuch a deadly fpirit of revenge, fuch a favage fierceness and fellness, and fuch a bloody defignation of cruelty and mifchief, as cannot agree either with the ftyle or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, feems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale, indeed, in that part relating to the cafkets, 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 fomething in the friendship of Antonio to Baffanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth Act (fuppofing, as I faid, the fact to be probable,) is extremely fine. But there are two paffages that deferve a particular notice. The firft is, what Portia fays in praise of mercy, and the other on the
— but though we have feen that play received and acted as a comedy,] In 1701 Lord Lanfdown produced his alteration of The Merchant of Venice, at the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, under the title of The Jew of Venice, and exprefsly calls it a comedy. Shylock was performed by Mr. Dogget. REED.
And fuch was the bad taste of our ancestors that this piece continued to be a stock-play from 1701 to Feb. 14, 1741, when The Merchant of Venice was exhibited for the first time at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and Mr. Macklin made his first appearance in the character of Shylock. MALONE.
power of musick. The melancholy of 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,"
it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the feveral degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
"All the world's a stage,
"And all the men and women merely players;
Unwillingly to school. And then, the lover
"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 strong and as uncommon as any thing I ever faw; it is 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,
Smiling at Grief."
What an image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest mafters of Greece and Rome to have expreffed the paffions defigned by this sketch of ftatuary! The ftyle of his comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and eafy in itfelf; and the wit most commonly fprightly and pleafing, except in those places where he runs into doggrel 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 lived in and if we find it in the pulpit, made ufe of as an ornament to the fermons of fome of the graveft divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the stage.
But certainly the greatnefs of this author's genius does no where so 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 vifible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, A Midfummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of thefe, The Tempeft, however it comes to be placed the firft 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 almost any thing we have of his. One may obferve, that the
unities are kept here, with an exactpefs uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I fuppofe, he valued 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 likeness to truth which ought to be obferved in thefe 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 sof Caliban is mighty well, fuftained, fhows a sderful 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 ever was feen. The obfervation, which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making2 upon this part, was extremely juft; that Shakspeare had not only found out a new character • in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a • new manner of language for that character.
It is the fame magick that raifes the Fairies in A Midfummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and -language fo proper to the parts they fuftain, and fo peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two last of these plays I shall have occasion, to take
? which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making-] Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, -and Mr. Selden. RowE.
Dryden was of the fame opinion. "His perfon (fays he, fpeaking of Caliban,) is monftrous, as he is the, product of unnatural luft, and his language is as hobgoblin as his perfon: in all things, he is diftinguished from other mortals." Preface to Troilus and Creffida. MALONE.
notice, among the tragedies of Mr. Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of thefe by thofe rules which are established by Ariftotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian stage, it would be no very hard tafk to find a great many faults; but as Shakspeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, fo it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to confider him as a Iman that lived in a ftate of almoft univerfal licence and ignorance: there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according 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 present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he fhould advance dramatick poetry fo far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the firft, among those that are reckoned the conftituent parts of a tragick or heroick poem ; not, perhaps, as it is the moft 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 confidered the fit difpofition, order, and conduct of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the drama that the ftrength and maftery of Shakspeare lay, fo I fhall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were feldom invented, but rather taken either from the true hiftory, or novels and romances: and he commonly made use of them in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them. So The Winter's Tale,