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TEMPEST.] The Tempeft and The Midfummer Night's Dream are the nobleft efforts of that fublime and amazing imagination peculiar to Shakspeare, which foars above the bounds of nature, without forfaking fenfe; or, more properly, carries nature along with him beyond her established limits. Fletcher feems particularly to have admired thefe two plays, and hath wrote two in imitation of them, The Sea Voyage and The Faithful Shepherdefs. But when he prefumes to break a lance with Shakspeare, and write in emulation of him, as he does in The Falfe One, which is the rival of Antony and Cleopatra, he is not fo fuccessful. After him, Sir John Suckling and Milton catched the brightest fire of their imagination from thefe two plays; which thines fantastically indeed in The Goblins, but much more nobly and ferenely in The Mofk at Ludlow Cafile.
No one has hitherto been lucky enough to discover the romance on which Shakspeare may be fuppofed to have founded this play, the beauties of which could not fecure it from the criticism of Ben Jonfon, whofe malignity appears to have been more than equal to his wit. In the introduction to Bartholomew Fair, he fays: If there be never a fervant monster in the fair, who can help it, he fays, nor a neft of antiques? He is loth to make nature afraid in his plays, like thofe that beget Tales, Tempefts, and fuch like drolleries." STEEVENS.
I was informed by the late Mr. Collins of Chichester, that Shakspeare's Tempeft, for which no origin is yet affigned, was formed on a romance called Aurelio and fabella, printed in Italian, Spanish, French, and Englith, in 1588. But though this information has not proved true on examination, an useful conclufion may be drawn from it, that Shakspeare's story is fomewhere to be found in an Italian novel, at least that the ftory preceded Shakspeare. Mr. Collins had fearched this fubject with no lefs fidelity than judgement and induftry; but his memory failing in his laft calamitous indifpofition, he probably gave me the name of one novel for another. I remember he added a circumftance, which may lead to a difcovery,-that the principal character of the romance, anfwering to Shakspeare's Profpero, was a chemical necromancer, who had bound a fpirit like Ariel to obey his call, and perform his fervices. It was a common pretence af dealers in the occult fciences to have a demon at command. At least Aurelio, or Orelio, was probably one of the names of this romance, the production and multiplicity of gold being the grand object of alchemy. Taken at large, the magical part of the Tempeft is founded on that fort of philofophy which was practifed by John Dee and his affociates, and
has been called the Roficrucian.
The name Ariel came from the Talmudiftick mysteries with which the learned Jews had infected this fcience. T. WARTON.
Mr. Theobald tells us, that The Tempest muft have been written after 1609, because the Bermuda Islands, which are mentioned in it, were unknown to the English until that year; but this is a mistake. He might have seen in Hackluyt, 1600, folio, a defcription of Bermuda, by Henry May, who was shipwrecked there in 1593.
It was however one of our author's laft works. In 1598, he played a part in the original Every Man in his Humour. Two of the characters are Profpero and Stephano. Here Ben Jonfon taught him the pronunciation of the latter word, which is always right in The Tempeft:
"Is not this Stephano, my drunken butler?" And always wrong in his earlier play, The Merchant of Venice, which had been on the ftage at least two or three years before its publication in 1600:
"My friend Stephano, fignify I pray you," &c.
-So little did Mr. Capell know of his author, when he idly fuppofed his School literature might perhaps have been loft by the diffipation of youth, or the bufy fcene of publick life! FARMER.
This play muft have been written before 1614, when Jonfon fneers at it in his Bartholomew Fair. In the latter plays of Shakspeare, he has lefs of pun and quibble than in his early ones. In The Merchant of Venice, he expressly declares against them. This perhaps might be one criterion to discover the dates of his plays. BLACKSTONE.
See Mr. Malone's Attempt to afcertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, and a Note on The cloud-capp'd towers, &c. A&t IV.
Alonfo, hing of Naples.
Profpero, the rightful Duke of Milan.
Antonio, his brother, the ufurping Duke of Milan. Ferdinand, fon to the king of Naples.
Gonzalo, an honeft old counfellor of Naples.
Caliban, a favage and deformed flave.
Trinculo, a jefter.
Stephano, a drunken butler.
Mafier of a fhip, Boatfwain, and Mariners.
Miranda, daughter to Profpero.
Ariel, an airy spirit.
Other Spirits attending on Profpero.
SCENE, the fea, with a fhip; afterwards an uninhabited island.
* This enumeration of perfons is taken from the folio 1623.