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to determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and tho' they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the Satire of the prefent age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleasing and a well-distinguish'd variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allow'd by every body to be a master-piece; the Character is always well-sustain'd, tho' drawn out into the length of three Plays ; and even the account of his death, given by his old landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the first act of Henry V. tho it be extremely natural, is yet as diverting as any part of his life. If there bé any fault in the draught he has made of this lewd old fellow, it is, that tho' 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 don't know whether some people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded 'em, been sorry to see his friend Hal use him so scurvily, 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 Windsor, he has made him a Deer-stealer, that he might at the same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, 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, describes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parson descant very pleasantly upon 'em. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well oppos’d; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In TwelfthNight 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. Petrucbio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much ado 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, Therfites in Troilus and Cressida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allow'd to be mafter-pieces
of ill-nature, and fatyrical snarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Sbylock the Jew, in the Merchant of Venice ; but tho we have seen that play receiv'd and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew perform'd 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 favage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of Comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the moft finish'd of any of Shakespear'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 remov'd 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 friend, ship of Antonio to Basanio very great, generous and tender. The whole fourth act (supposing, as I said, 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 musick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you like it, is as fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,
Difficile eft proprie communia dicere,
'twill 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 a Stage,
And shining morning-face, creeping like snail
fixth age shifts
Vol. 2. p. 203•
His Images are indeed every where so lively, that the thing he would represent stands full before you,
and you possess 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; 'tis an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,
She never told her love,
And sat like Patience on a monument,
What an Image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest masters of Greece and Rome to have express'd the passions design'd by this sketch of Statuary! The style of his Comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and easy in itself; and the wit most commonly sprightly and pleasing, except in those places where he runs into doggril rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he liv'd in: And if we find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the Sermons of some of the gravest Divines of those times; perhaps it may not be thought too light for the Stage.
But certainly the greatness of this Author's genius do's no where so much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy to a Aight above mankind and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, Midsummer-Night's Dream, Mackbeth, and Hamlet. Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be plac'd the first by the Publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him.: It seems to me as perfect in its kind, as almost any thing we have of his. One may observe, that the Unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing:
tho' that was what, I suppose, he valu'd himself least upon, since his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible that he do's, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observ'd in these sort of writings; yet he does it so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his fake, than reason does well allow of. His Magick has something in it very folemn and very poetical: And that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well fustain’d, shews a wonderful invention in the Author, who could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon Grotesques that was ever seen. The Observation, which I have been inform’d (a) three very great men concurr’d in making upon this part, was extremely just ; That Shakespear had not only found out a new Character in his Caliban, but had also devis'd and adapted a new manner of Language for that CharaEter.
It is the same magick that raises the Fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Mackbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they sustain, and so peculiar to the talent of this Writer. But of the two last of these Plays I shall have occasion to take notice, among the Tragedies of Mr. Shakespear. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules whch are establish'd by Aristotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian Stage, it would be no very hard task to find a great many faults: But as Shakespear liv'd under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as a man that liv'd in a state of almost universal license and ignorance; there was no establish'd
judge (a) Lord Falkland, Lord C. 7. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.