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Of this play the light or comick part is very natural and pleasing, but the grave scenes, if a few paffages be excepted, have more labour than elegance. The plot is rather intricate than artful. The time of the action is indefinite; some time, we know not how much, must have elapsed between the recess of the duke and the imprisonment of Claudio ; for he must have learned the story of Mariana in his disguise, or he delegated his power to a man already known to be corrupted. The unities of action and place are sufficiently preserved.


In this play, which all the editors bave concurred to censure, and some have rejected as unworthy of our poet, it must be confessed that there are many passages mean, childish, and vulgar; and some which ought not to have been exhibited, as we are told they were, to a maiden queen. But there are scattered through the whole many sparks of genius ; nor is there any play that has more evident marks of the hand of Shakespeare.

MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Wild and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his cime were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great.

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MERCHANT OF VENICE. It has been lately discovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorone of Giovanni Fiorentino, a novelist, who wrote in 1378. The story has been published in English, and I have epitomized the translation. The translator is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is borrowed from a tale of Boccace, which I have likewise abridged, though I believe that Shakespeare must have had fome other novel in view.

Of the MERCHANT of Venice the style is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased with his own address in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Frier, which yet, I believe, the critick will find excelled by this play.

AS YOU LIKE IT. Of this play the fable is wild and pleasing. I know not how the ladies will approve the facility with which both Rosalind and Celia give away their hearts. To Celia much may be forgiven for the heroifin of her friendship. The character of Jaques is natural and well preserved. The comick dialogue is very sprightly, with less mixture of low buffoonery than in some other plays; and the graver part is clegant and harmonious. By hastening to the end of his work, Shakespeare suppressed the dialogue 5


between the usurper and the hermit, and loft an opportunity of exhibiting a moral lesson in which he might have found matter worthy of his highest powers,


Of this play the two plots are so well united, that they can hardly be called two without injury to the art with which they are interwoven. The attention is entertained with all the variety of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconnected incidents.

The part between Katharine and Petruchio is emi. nently spritely and diverting. At the marriage of Bianca the arrival of the real father, perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure, The whole play is very popular and diverting,

ALL's WELL THAT ENDS WELL. . This play has many delightful scenes, though not fufficiently probable, and some happy characters, though not new, nor produced by any deep knowledge of human nature. Parolles is a boafter and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the ftage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakespeare.

I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate : when she is dead by his unkindness, {neaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a



woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is disinised to happiness.

The story of Bertrain and Diana had been told before of Mariano and Angelo, and, to confess the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a second time.


This play is in the graver part elegant and easy, and in some of the lighter scenes exquisitely humorous. Ague-cheek is drawn with great propriery, but his character is, in a great measure, that of natural fatuity, and is therefore not the proper prey of a fatirift. The soliloquy of Malvolio is truly comick; he is betrayed to ridicule merely by his pride. The marriage of Olivii, and the succeeding perplexity, though well enough contrived to divert on the stage, wants credibility, and fails to produce the proper instruction required in the drama, as it exhibits no just picture of life.

WIN T E R's TALE. The story of this play is taken from the pleasant History of Doratus and I atenia, written by Robert Greene.

This play, as Dr. Warburton justly observes, is, with all its abfurdlicies, very entertaining. The character of Antilyones is very naturally conceived, and strongly represented.

MACBETH. This play is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fictions, and folemnity, grandeur, and variety ofits action, but it lias no nice discriminations of character; the events are too great to admit the influence of particular dispositions, and the course of the action necessarily determines the conduct of the agents.


The danger of ambition is well described ; and I know not whether it may not be said, in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that, in Shakespeare's time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.

The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested ; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves fome esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall.

[Note. The reader, it is presumed, is by this time aware that the observations of Johnson here given, are such only as occur at the end of the several plays. In this of Macbeth there is a note at the beginning, which, as it contains the editor's sentiments respecting witches and witchcraft, and is in fact a differtation on that subject, was thought too valuable to be rejected, and is therefore here inserted.]

In order to make a true estimate of the abilities and merit of a writer, it is always necessary to examine the genius of his age, and the opinions of his contemporaries. A poet who should now make the whole action of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief events by the aslistance of supernatural agents, would be censured as transgressing the bounds of probability,

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