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them. That whole play is admirable; the hu- . mours are various and well opposed; the main defign, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth Night, 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. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedict 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, Thersites in Troilús and Crefida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master-pieces of ill-nature, and satirical snarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice ; but though we have seen 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 designed tragically by the author. There appears in it a deadly spirit of Tevenge, 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 * In 1701 Lord Lansdowne produced his alteration of The Merchant of Venice, at the theatre in LincolnsIon-Fields, under the title of The Few of Venice, and expressly calls it a comedy. Shylock was performed by Mr Dogget. REED,
seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakespeare'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 removed 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 friendship of Antonio to Baffanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (lupposing, as I faid, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two passages that deferve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia fays 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 est propriè communia dicere, it will 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 worl.l's a flage,
Jealous in honour, fudden and quick in quarrel,
Sans teeth, fans eyes, fans tafie, sans every thing. His images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would represent stands full before you, and you poffefs every part of it. I will venture to point out ne more, which is, I think, as strong and as uncommon as any thing I ever faw; it is án image of patience. Speaking of a maid in love,
She never told her love,
Smiling at grief. What an image is here given ! and what a task would it have been for the greatest masters of Greece and Rome to have expressed the passions designed 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 doggrel rhimes, 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 lived in: and if we find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the sermons of some 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 so much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy to a flight above mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempeft, Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of these, The Tempest, 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 observe, that the unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I suppose, he valued himself least upon, fince his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these fort 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 weli fustained; Thews a wonderful invention in the author, who
could could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was seen. The observation, which I have been informed three very great men * concurred in making upon this part, was extremely jult ; That Shakespeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character.
It is the same magick that raises the Fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghoft in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they fustain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two last of these plays I shall have occafion to take notice, among the tragedies of Mr Shakespeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the model of a Grecian stage, it would be no very hard talk to find a great many faults; but as Shakespeare lived 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 lived in a state of almost universal licence and igndrance: there was no established judge; but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his own fancy. When one confiders, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatick poetry so far as he did. The fable is
what * Lord Falkland, Lord C. J. Vaughan, and Mr Selden.