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humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak by the influence of those general pallions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual; in those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species.

It is from this wide extension of design that so much instruction is derived. It is this which fills the plays of Shakespeare with practical axioms and domestick wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse was a precept; and it may be said of Shakespeare, that from his works may be collected a system of civil and economical prudence. Yet his real power is not shown in the splendour of particular passages, but by the progress of his fable, and the tenour of his dialogue ; and he that tries to recommend him by felect quotations, will succeed like the pejant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried (a brick in his pocket as a specimen.

It will not easily be imagined how much ShakeSpeare excells in accommodating his sentiments to real life, but by comparing him with other authours. It was observed of the ancient schools of declama ion, that the more diligently they were frequented, the more was the student disqualified for the world, because he found nothing there which he should ever meet in any other place. The same remark may be applied to every stage but that of Shakespear. The

theatre,

theatre, when it is under any other direction, is pedpled by such characters as were never seen, conversing in a language which was never heard; upon topicks which will never arise in the commerce of mankind. But the dialogue of this authour is often so evidently determined by the incident which pro duces it, and is pursued with fò much ease and fimiplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of conimon conversation, and common occur. rences.

Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by whose power all good and evil is distributed, and every action quickened or retarded. To bring a lover, a lady and a rival into the fable; tó entangle them in contradictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of interest, and harrass them with violence of desires inconsistent with each other; to make them meet in rapture and part in agony ; to fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy and outrageous forrows to distress them as nothing human ever was distres fed ; to deliver them as nothing human ever was delivered, is the business of a modern dramarilt. For this probability is violated, life is misrepresented, and language is depraved. But love is only one of many passions, and as it has no great influence upon the sum of life, it has lictle operation in the dramas of a poet, who cauglit his ideas from the living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He knew, that any other passion, as it was

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regular or exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity.

Characters thus ample and general were not easily discriminated and preserved, yet perhaps no poet ever kept his personages more diftinct from each other, I will not say with Pope, that every speech may be assigned to the proper speaker, because many speeches there are which have nothing characteristical; but, perhaps, though some may be equally adapted to every person, it will be difficult to find, any that can be properly transferred from the present poffeffor to another claimant. The choice is right, when there is reason for choice.

Other dramatists can only gain attention by hyperbolical or aggravated characters, by fabulous and unexampled excellence or depravity, as the writers of barbarous romances invigorated the reader by a giant and a dwarf; and he that should form his expectations of human affairs from the play, or from the tale, would be equally deceived. Shakespeare has no heroes ; his scenes are occupied only by men, who act and speak as the reader thinks that he should himself have spoken or acted on the same occasion : Even where the agency is supernatural the dialogue is level with life. Other writers disguise the mot natural passions and most frequent incidents ; fo that he who contemplates them in the book will not know them in the world : Sbakespeare approximates the remote, and familiarizes the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen, but if it were :

poffible,

possible, its effects would be probably such as he has assigned ; and it may be said, that he has not only shewn human nature as it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials, to which it cannot be exposed.

This therefore is the praise of Shakespeare, that his drama is the mirrour of life; that he who has mazed his imagination, in following the phantoms which other writers raile up before him, may here be cured of his delirious extasies, by reading human sentiments in human language ; by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confeffor predict the progress of the passions.

His adherence to general nature has exposed him to the censure of criticks, who form their judgments upon narrower principles, Dinnis and Rhymer think his Romans not sufficiently Roman; and Voltaire cenfures his kings as not completely royal. Dennis is offended, that Menenius, a senator of Rome, should play the buffoon; and Voltaire perhaps thinks decency violated when the Danish Usurper is represented as a drunkard. But Shakespeare always makes nature predominate over accident; and if he preserves the essential character, is not very careful of distinctions superinduced and advertitious. His story requires Romans or kings, but he thinks only on men. He knew that Rome, like every other city, had men of all dispositions ; and wanting a buffoon, he went into the senate-house for that which the fenate-house would certainly have afforded him. He was inclined to shew

an

an usurper and a murderer not only cdious but despicable, he therefore added drunkenness to his other qualities, knowing that kings love wine like other men, and that wine exerts its natural power upon kings. These are the petty cavils of petty minds; a poet overlooks the casual distinction of country and condition, as a painter, fatisfied with the figure, neglects the drapery.

The censure which he has incurred by mixing comick and tragick scenes, as it extends to all his works, deserves more consideration. Let the fact be first stated, and then examined.

Shakespeare's plays are not in the rigorous or critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real ftate of fublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination : and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another ; in which, at the same time, the reveller is hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend ; in which the malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the frolick of another; and many mischiefs and many benefits are done and hindered without design.

Out of this chaos of mingled purposes and casualties the ancient poets, according to the laws which custom had prescribed, selected some tire crimes of men, and some their absurdities; some the momençous vicissitudes of life, and some the lighter occur

rences ;

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