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which he gives us as his own invention. Such is the scene in which Hamlet is first informed of the appearance of his father's ghost ; such the garden scene in Romeo and Juliet ; and such the scene in which Iago first awakens the jealousy of Othello; and fuch an hundred others. The characters of Shakespeare, also, are not only drawn with force and correctness, but many of them are of a very uncommon and original caft.-Such as Falstaff, Polonius, Jaques, Menenius, &c. Characters like these require the utmost careand delicacy in the execution, and afford the highest degree of entertainment when touched by the hand of a master : they are not so much close and exact copies of nature, as bold imitations ; they are not, perhaps, such characters as do exist, but, when once invented, such as might easily be supposed to exist. We perceive that they are so constructed as to display the most perfect knowledge of the human mind; that the component parts of these characters are strictly consonant to those ideas of truth and nature which we find in our own breasts ; but the combination is wholly new.
Who will venture to affert, that the character of Falstaff is unnatural ; but, if we look into real life, where shall a Falstaff be found ? it was to be found in the inexhaustible imagination of Shakespeare only :-though, so exquisite is the workmanship of this journeyman of nature,” that it would scarcely seem hyperbolical and extravagant to say, with the poet,
« Nature herself, amaz'd, may doubting stand,
It is further observable, that in characters of the same class, we find the nicest and most curious shades of discrimination. The heroines of Corneille are all of a family ; but if we survey with attention the characters of Desdemona, of Imogen, of Ophelia, of Juliet, &c. all innocent and amiable, we perceive that each has her peculiar traits, which distinguish her from the rest :-Juliet has not the artlessness and simplicity of Desdemona ; Imogen has not the courage and resolution of Juliet ; Ophelia has not the tender and delicate affection of Imogen ; nor Desdemona the filial piety of Ophelia. Another remarkable circumstance relating to this astonishing preservation of character is, that he is always careful to imitate, and not merely to describe, the feelings and passions of the different personages of the drama : the distinction between imitation and description has been well illustrated by Lord Kaims ; and it is certain, that nothing less than a genuine expression of passion can awaken the attention or sympathy of the spectator. Shakespeare deals
little in loose and unmeaning declamation : in trying and critical situations, we have usually the language of nature bursting from the heart; or if he fails, it is not by falling into the undramatical and uninteresting language of description, but into sentiments too much laboured, harsh or unseasonable metaphors, or quaint and farfetched conceits. Othello, when perfectly convinced of the falsehood of Defdeinona and the C3
treachery of Cassio, thus exclaims, in the most
perfect imitation of passion that can be conceived :
Oth, Oh! that the slave had forty thousand lives ;
fond love thus do I blow to heaven:
Arise, black Vengeance, from thy hollow cell !
up, O Love, thy crown and hearted throne To tyrannous Hate! swell, bosom, with thy fraught, For 'tis of aspicks tongues !
Iago. Yet be content.
But here the language of imitation changes to that of description :
Oth. Never, Iago : Like to the Pontick sea,
Swallow them up,
Beautiful as this comparison is, we feel the impropriety of it in the situation and circumstances of the speaker : this is a remarkable deviation from Shakespeare's usual mode of writing ; but if we look into modern plays, and into the works of the French dramatists, we shall find imitation of passion scarcely attempted, and description every where prevalent.
The next remarkable characteristic of this great poet which offers itself to notice is, the beauty
and energy of his diction. It is now two hundred years since he commenced writer, and in this time his language has acquired a certain obsolete cast, an air of antiquity, which it must be owned is of no advantage to his comedies, for the style of comedy should be always easy and familiar ; but which gives to his tragic compositions an inexpreffible grace and dignity. This is a species of excellence which modern writers cannot even attempt, without falling into a fost of literary mimicry which is productive of a very ludicrous effect, as the tragedies of Cumberland fully evince. The beautiful concluding lines of Dryden's epistle to Kneller, are as applicable to the art of poetry as to that of painting ; and it might have been as truly predicted of thę works of a Shakespeare, as of those of a Raffaelle.
More cannot be by mortal art exprest,
shall add the rest.
And give more beauties than he takes away. It cannot however be doubted, but that the style and diction of Shakespeare must have originally possessed merit of the highest kind; the most forcible as well as the most beautiful combination of words which the English language affords, are to be found in his works. Where, in the whole range
modern poetry, do we meet with fuch powers of expression as the following passages exhibit, which on the casual opening of a volume almost immediately present themselves.
All those which were his fellows but of late,
Who dares, who dares,
Here's gold; go on;
What ! think'st thou
-Oh! dear divorce (looking on the gold.)