صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

of the Greek tragedy, something very moving in the grief of Electra; but, as Mr. Dacier has observed, there is something very unnatural and shocking in the manners he has given that princess and Orestes in the latter part. Orestes imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately upon the stage, yet so near, that the audience hear Clytemnestra crying out to Ægysthus for help, and to her son for mercy: while Electra, her daughter, and a princess (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with more decency), stands upon the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. What hor- ror does this not raise! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deserved to die; nay, in the truth of the story, she was killed by her own son; but to represent an action of this kind on the stage, is certainly an offence against those rules of manners pro. per to the persons, that ought to be observed there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakspere. Hamlet is represented with the same piety towards his father, and resolution to revenge his death, as Orestes; he has the same abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by incest: but it is with wonderful art and justness of judgment, that the poet restrains him from doing violence to his mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his father's. Ghost forbid that part of his vengeance:

[blocks in formation]

But howsoever thou pursu'st this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heav'n,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her.

This is to distinguish rightly between horror and terror. The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick writer ever succeeded better in raising terror in the minds of an audience than Shakspere has done. The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the king is murdered, in the second act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both shew how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakspere distinguish itself upon the stage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part; a man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, nust have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspere's manner of expression, and indeed he has studied him so well, and is so much a master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular

obligation obligation to him, for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakspere having engaged him to make à journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration *.

* This Account of the Life of Shakspere is printed from Mr. Rowe's second edition, in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance in 1709.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

To the foregoing Accounts of SHAKSPERE's Life,

I have only one Passage to add, which Mr.
Pope related, as communicated to him by
Mr: Rowe.

In the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play *, and when

* Plays were at this time performed in the afternoon, • The pollicie of plaies is very necessary, howsoever some shallow-brained censurers (not the deepest searchers into the secrets of government) mightily oppugne them. For whereas the afternoone being the idlest time of the day wherein men that are their own masters (as gentlemen of the court, the innes of the court, and a number of captains and soldiers about London) do wholly bestow themselves upon pleasure, and that pleasure they devide (how vertuously it skills not) either in gaming, following of harlots, drinking, or seeing a play, is it not better (since of four extreames all the world cannot keepe them but they will choose one that they should betake them to the least, which is plaies ?" Nash's Pierce Pennilesse his supplication to the Devil, 1595. STEEVENS.

Shakspere Shakspere fled to London from the terror of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the perforinance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man, as he alighted, called for Will. Shakspere, and scarcely any other waiter was 'trusted with a horse, while Will. Shakspere could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspere, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will. Shakspere was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, I am Shakspere's boy, Sir. In time Shakspere found higher employment; but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakspere's boys *. JOHNSON.


* I cannot dismiss this anecdote, without observing that it seems to want every mark of probability. Though Shakspere quitted Stratford on account of a juvenile irregularity, we have no reason to suppose that he had forfeited the protection of his father, who was engaged in a lucrative business, or the love of his wife who had already brought him two children, and was herself the daughter of a substantial yeoman. It is unlikely, therefore, when he was beyond the reach of his prosecutor, that he should conceal his plan of life, or place of residence from those who, if he found himself distressed, could not fail to


« السابقةمتابعة »