Imágenes de páginas


fome people have not, in remembrance of the diverfion he had formerly afforded them, been forry to fee his friend Hal ufe him fo fcurvily, 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 fame time remember his Warwickshire profecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow; he has given him very near the fame coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, defcribes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parfon defcant very pleasantly upon them.. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well oppofed ; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealoufy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth-Night there is fomething fingularly ridiculous and pleafant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parafite 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. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The converfation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rofalind, in As you like it, have much wit and fprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: and, I believe,

7 -the fame coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, defcribes for a family there,] There are two coats, I obferve, in Dugdale, where three filver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat to the monument of Thomas Lucy, fon of Sir William Lucy, in which are quartered in four several divifions, twelve little fishes, three in each divifion, probably luces. This very coat, indeed, seems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white luces; and in Slender's faying he may quarter. THEOBALD.

Therfites in Troilus and Crefsida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be mafter-pieces of illnature, and fatirical fnarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but though we have feen that play received and acted as a comedy," and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was defigned tragically by the author. There appears in it fuch a deadly fpirit of revenge, fuch a favage fiercenefs and fellness, and fuch a bloody defignation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the ftyle or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, feems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale, indeed, in that part relating to the cafkets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much removed from the rules of probability; but taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is fomething in the friendship of Antonio to Baffanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth Act (fuppofing, as I faid, the fact to be probable,) is extremely fine. But there are two paffages that deferve a particular notice. The firft is, what Portia fays in praife of mercy, and the other on the


but though we have feen that play received and acted as a comedy,] In 1701 Lord Lanfdown produced his alteration of The Merchant of Venice, at the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, under the title of The Jew of Venice, and exprefsly calls it a comedy. Shylock was performed by Mr. Dogget. REED.

And fuch was the bad taste of our ancestors that this piece continued to be a stock-play from 1701 to Feb. 14, 1741, when The Merchant of Venice was exhibited for the first time at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and Mr. Macklin made his first appearance in the character of Shylock. MALONE.

power of mufick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As you like it, is as fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace fays,

"Difficile eft proprie communia dicere,"

it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the feveral degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.

[ocr errors]

-All the world's a stage,

"And all the men and women merely players;

[ocr errors]

They have their exits and their entrances,
"And one man in his time plays many parts,
"His acts being feven ages. At first, the infant,
"Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms:

"And then, the whining fchool-boy with his fatchel,
"And thining morning face, creeping like fnail
"Unwillingly to fchool. And then, the lover
"Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
"Made to his mistress' eye-brow. Then, a foldier;
"Full of ftrange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
"Jealous in honour, fudden and quick in quarrel,
"Seeking the bubble reputation

"Ev'n in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice;
"In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,
"With eyes fevere, and beard of formal cut,
"Full of wife faws and modern instances;
"And fo he plays his part. The fixth age fhifts
"Into the lean and flipper'd pantaloon;
"With spectacles on nofe, and pouch on fide;
"His youthful hofe, well fav'd, a world too wide
"For his fhrunk thank; and his big manly voice,
"Turning again tow'rd childish treble, pipes
"And whiftles in his found: Laft fcene of all,
"That ends this ftrange eventful hiftory,
"Is fecond childishnefs, and mere oblivion;

"Sans teeth, fans eyes, fans tafte, fans every thing."

His images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would reprefent ftands full before you, you poffefs every part of it. I will venture to


point out one more, which is, I think, as ftrong and as uncommon as any thing I ever faw; it is an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he fays,

She never told her love,

"But let concealment, like a worm i'th' bud,
"Feed on her damafk cheek: the pin'd in thought,
"And fate like Patience on a monument,

[ocr errors][merged small]

What an image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest mafters of Greece and Rome to have expreffed the paffions designed by this sketch of ftatuary! The ftyle of his comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and eafy in itself; and the wit moft commonly fprightly and pleafing, except in those places where he runs into doggrel rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and fome other plays. As for his jingling fometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he lived in and if we find it in the pulpit, made ufe of as an ornament to the fermons of fome of the graveft divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the stage.

But certainly the greatness of this author's genius does no where fo much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loofe, and raises his fancy to a flight above mankind, and the limits of the vifible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, A Midfummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of thefe, The Tempeft, however it comes to be placed 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 obferve, that the

unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I fuppofe, he valued himself leaft upon, fince his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very fenfible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be obferved in thefe fort of writings; yet he does it fo very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his fake, than reafon does well allow of. His magick has fomething in it very folemn and very poetical and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well fuftained, shows a wonderful invention in the author, who could strike out fuch a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotefques that ever was feen. The obfervation, which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely juft; that Shakspeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had alfo devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character.

It is the fame magick that raises the Fairies in A Midfummer-Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghoft in Hamlet, with thoughts and language fo proper to the parts they fuftain, and fo peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two laft of thefe plays I fhall have occafion to take


—which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making-] Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden. RowE.

Dryden was of the fame opinion. "His perfon (fays he, fpeaking of Caliban,) is monftrous, as he is the product of unnatural luft, and his language is as hobgoblin as his person: in all things he is diftinguished from other mortals." Preface to Troilus and Crefida. MALONE.

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »