ted many kinds of folly, he has also contrived to exhibit mere stupidity in a most diverting and entertaining manner. There is also a peculiar species of the farcical to be found in his pieces, which seems to us to be introduced in a more arbitrary manner, but which, however, is founded in imitation of an actual custom. This is the introduction of the buffoon; the fool with his cap and motley dress, called in English, clown, who appears in several comedies, though not in all, but in Lear alone of the tragedies, and who generally exercises his wit merely in conversation with the principal persons, though he is also sometimes incorporated with the action. In those times it was not only usual for princes to keep court fools; but in many distinguished families they retained, along with other servants, such an exhilarating house-mate as a good antidote against the insipidity and wearisomeness of ordinary life, as a welcome interruption of established formalities. Great men, and even churchmen, did not consider it beneath their dignity to recruit and solace themselves after important concerns with the conversation of their fools. The celebrated Sir Thomas More had his fool painted along with himself by Holbein. Shakspeare appears to have lived immediately before the time when the custom began to be abolished; in the English comic authors who succeeded him, the clown is no longer to be found. The dismissal of the fool has been extolled as a proof of refinement; and our honest forefathers have been pitied for taking delight in such a coarse and farcical entertainment. I am much rather, however, disposed to believe that the practice was dropped from the difficulty in finding fools able to do full justice to their parts :* on the other hand, reason, with all its conceit of itself, has become too timid to tolerate such bold irony; it is always careful lest the mantle of its gravity should be disturbed in any of its folds; and rather than allow a privileged place to folly beside itself, it has unconsciously assumed the part of the ridiculous ; but, alas ! a heavy and cheerless ridicule. * It would be easy to make a collection of the excellent sallies and biting sarcasms which have been preserved of celebrated court fools. It is well known that they frequently told such truths to princes as are never now told to them.* Shakspeare's fools, along with somewhat of an overstraining for wit, which cannot altogether be avoided when wit becomes a separate profession, have, for the most part, an incomparable humour, and an infinite abundance of intellect, enough to supply a whole host of ordinary wise men.

* See Hamlet's praise of Yorick. In The Twelfth Night,

Viola says :

This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
And to do that well, craves a kind of wit;
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of the persons, and the time;
And like the baggard, check at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practice
As full of labour as a wise man's art:
For folly that he wisely shows is fit,

But wise men's folly fall’n quite taints their wit. • " Since the little wit that fools have was silenced, the little foolery that wise men have makes a greater show."-As You Like It, Act 1. Sc. 2.

* Charles the Bold, of Burgundy, is known to have frequently boasted that he wished to rival Hannibal as the greatest general


of all ages. After his defeat at Granson, his fool accompanied him in his hurried flight, and exclaimed, “Ah, your Grace, they have for once Hanniballed us!” If the Duke had given an ear to this warning raillery, he would not so soon afterwards have come to a disgraceful end.

* Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. ii. p. 128–132. and 138—145. Black's Translation.



SHAKSPEARE was familiar with all beautiful forms and images, with all that is sweet or majestic in the simple aspects of nature—with that indestructible love of flowers and odors, and dews and clear waters—and soft airs and sounds, and bright skies, and woodland solitudes, and moonlight bowers, which are the material elements of poetry-and with that fine sense of their undefinable relation to mental emotion, which is its essence and vivifying soul-and which, in the midst of his most busy and atrocious scenes, falls, like gleams of sunshine on rocks and ruins-contrasting with all that is rugged and repulsive, and reminding us of the existence of purer and brighter elements—which HE ALONE has poured out from the richness of his own mind without effort or restraint, and contrived to intermingle with the play of all the passions, and the vulgar course of this world's affairs, without deserting for an instant the proper business of the scene, or appearing to pause or digress from love of ornament or need of repose ;-He alone, who, when the object requires it, is always keen, and worldly, and practical—and who yet, without changing his hand, or stopping his course, scatters around him, as he goes, all sounds and shapes of sweetness,and conjures up landscapes of immortal fragrance and freshness, and peoples them with spirits of glorious aspect and attractive grace—and is a thousand times more full of fancy, and imagery, and splendor, than those who, for the sake of such qualities, have shrunk back from the delineation of character or passion, and declined the discussion of human duties and cares. More full of wisdom, and ridicule, and sagacity,' than all the moralists and satirists in existence, he is more wild, airy, and inventive, and more pathetic and fantastic than all the poets of all regions and ages of the world, and has all those elements so happily mixed up in him, and bears his high faculties so temperately, that the most severe reader cannot complain of him for want of strength or of reason, nor the most sensitive for defect of ornament or ingenuity. Every thing in him is in unmeasured abundance and unequalled perfection; but every thing so balanced and kept in subordination, as not to jostle or disturb, or take the place of another. The most exquisite poetical conceptions, images, and descriptions, are given with such brevity, and introduced with such skill, as merely to adorn, without loading the sense they accompany. Although his sails are purple and perfumed, and his prow of beaten gold, they waft him on his voyage, not less, but more rapidly and directly than if they had been composed of baser materials. All his excellences, like those of Nature herself, are thrown

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