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It is matter of adıniration to observe how many incidents the poet has collected in a small compass, to set the military character of his chief personage in a brilliant point of view. A succession of scouts and messengers report a variety of intelligence, all which, though generally of the most alarming nature, he meets not only with his natural gallantry, but sometimes with pleasantry, and a certain archness and repartee, which is peculiar to him throughout the drama.
It is not only a curious, but delightful task to examine by what subtle and almost imperceptible touches Shakespear contrives to ser such marks upon his characters, as give them the most living likenesses that can be conceived. In this, above all other poets that ever existed, he is a study and a model of perfection: The great distinguishing passions every poet may describe ; but Shakespear gives you their humours, their minutest foibles, those little starts and caprices, which nothing but the most intimate familiarity brings to light : Other authors write characters like hiftorians; he like the bosom friend of the person
he describes. The following extracts will
Ratcliff informs Richard that a fleet is
K. Rich. Some light-foot friend post to the Duke of Nora
Ratcliff, thyself ; or Catesby-Where is he?
What from your grace I Mall deliver to him.
I am persuaded I need not point out to the reader's sensibility the fine turn in this expreffion, Good Catesby! How can we be surprised if fuch a poet makes us in love cven
with his villains ?-Ratcliff proceeds
Rat. IV hat may it please you fhall I do at Salisbury ??
These fine touches can escape no man, who has an eye for nature.
Lord Stanley reports to Richard
Stanl. Richmond is on the seas.
W bite-liver'd runagate, what doth he there?
This reply is pointed with irony and invective: There are two causes in nature and character for this ; first, Richard was before informed of the news; his passion was not taken by surprize, and he was enough at ease to make a play upon Stanley's words on the seas—and retort—be the seas on him! Secondly, Stanley was a suspected subject, Richard was therefore interested to shew a contempt of his competitor before a man of such doubtful allegiance. In the spirit of this impression he urges Stanley to give an explicit answer to the question-What doth he there ? Stanley endeavours to evade by answering that he knows not but by guess : The evasion only strengthens Richard's fufpicions, and he again pushes him to disclose what he only gueffesWell, as you guess Stanley replies
He makes for England, here to claim the crown.
Is the king dead? the empire unpless’d?
What a cluster of characteristic excellencies are here before us ? All these interrogatories are ad hominem ; they fit no man but Stanley, they can be uttered by no man but Richard, and they can flow from the conceptions of no poet but the poet of nature.
Stanley's whole scene ought to be investigated, for it is full of beauties, but I confess myself exhausted with the task, and language does not suffice to furnish fresh terms of admiration, which a closer scrutiny would call forth.
Other messengers succeed Lord Stanley, Richard's fiery impatience does not wait the telling, but taking the outset of the account to be ominous, he strikes the courier, who proceeding with his report concludes with the good tidings of Buckingham's disperfion--Richard instantly retracts and says-
Oh! I thee
mercy. There is my purse to cure that blow of thine.
This is another trait of the same cast with that of Good Catesby.
Battles are of the growth of modern tragedy; I am not learned enough in the old stage to know if Shakespear is the inventor of this bold and bustling innovation; but I am sure he is unrivalled in his execution of it, and this of Bosworth-field is a master-piece. I shall be less particular in my prefent description of it, because I may probably bring it under general review with other scenes of the like fort.
It will be sufficient to observe, that in the catastrophe of Richard nothing can be more glowing than the scene, nothing more brilliant than the conduct of the chief character: He exhibits the character of a perfect general, in whom however ardent courage seems the ruling feature; he performs every part of his office with minute attention, he enquires if certain alterations are made in his armour, and even orders what particular horse he intends to charge with : He is gay with his chief officers, and even gracious to some he confides in : His gallantry is of so dazzling a quality, that we begin to feel the pride of Englishmen, §