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works unworthy to be preserved, which the critics of following ages were to contend for the fame of restoring and explaining.

want a commentary; that his language should become obsolete, or his sentiments obscure. But it is vain to carry wishes beyond the condition of human things; that which must happen to all, Among these candidates of inferior fame, I am has happened to Shakspeare, by accident and now to stand the judgment of the public; and time; and more than has been suffered by any wish that I could confidently produce my comother writer since the use of types, has been suf-mentary as equal to the encouragement which I fered by him, through his own negligence of fame, or perhaps by that superiority of mind, which despised its own performances, when it compared them with its powers, and judged those

have had the honour of receiving. Every work of this kind is by its nature deficient, and I should feel little solicitude about the sentence, were it to be pronounced only by the skilful and the learned.





Ir is observed of "The Tempest," that its plan is regular; this the author of "The Revisal" thinks, what I think too, an accidental effect of the story, not intended or regarded by our author. But whatever might be Shakspeare's intention in forming or adopting the plot, he has made it instrumental to the production of many characters diversified with boundless in vention, and preserved with profound skill in nature, extensive knowledge of opinions, and accurate observation of life. In a single drama are here exhibited princes, courtiers, and sailors, all speaking in their real characters. There is the agency of airy spirits, and of an earthly goblin; the operations of magic, the tumults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island, the native effusion of untaught affection, the punishment of guilt, and the final happiness of the pair for whom our passions and reason are equally



"Titus Andronicus:" and it will be found more credible, that Shakspeare might sometimes sink below his highest flights, than that any other should rise up to his lowest.


Of this play there is a tradition preserved by Mr. Rowe, that it was written at the command of queen Elizabeth, who was so delighted with the character of Falstaff, that she wished it to be diffused through more plays; but suspecting that it might pall by continued uniformity, directed the poet to diversify his manner by showing him in love. No task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakspeare knew what the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former cast would have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his profession could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus work enjoined him; yet having perhaps in the the poet approached as near as he could to the former plays completed his own idea, seems not to have been able to give Falstaff all his former power of entertainment.

number of the personages, who exhibit more This comedy is remarkable for the variety and characters appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.

In this play there is a strange mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of care and negligence. The versification is often excellent, the allusions are learned and just; but the author conveys his heroes by sea from one inland town to another in the same country; he places the emperor at Milan, and sends his young men to attend him, but never mentions him more; he makes Protheus, after an interview with Silvia, say he has only seen her picture; and, if we may credit the old copies, he has, by mistaking places, left his duced upon the English stage the effect of lanWhether Shakspeare was the first that proscenery inextricable. The reason of all this confusion seems to be, that he took his story from guage distorted and depraved by provincial or novel, which he sometimes followed, and some- This mode of forming ridiculous characters can foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly decide. times forsook, sometimes remembered, and sometimes forgot. confer praise only on him, who originally discoThat this play is rightly attributed to Shak-vered it, for it requires not much of either wit or speare, I have little doubt. If it be taken from him, to whom shall it be given? This question may be asked of all the disputed plays, except


wholly from the player, but its power in a skil judgment; its success must be derived almost ful mouth, even he that despises it, is unable to resist.

The conduct of this drama is deficient: the

Mr. Heath, who wrote a Revisal of Shakspeare's action begins and ends often before the conclu

text, published in Svo. circa 1760.

sion, and the different parts might change places | The story has been published in English, and 1 without inconvenience; but its general power, that power by which all works of genius shall finally be tried, is such, that perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator, who did not think it too soon at an end.


There is perhaps not one of Shakspeare's plays more darkened than this, by the peculiarities of its author, and the unskilfulness of its editors, by distortions of praise, or negligence of transcription.

The novel of "Giraldi Cynthio," from which Shakspeare is supposed to have borrowed this fable, may be read in “Shakspeare Illustrated," elegantly translated, with remarks, which will assist the inquirer to discover how much absurdity Shakspeare has admitted or avoided.

have epitomized the translation. The transla tor 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 Shakspeare must have had some 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 comic 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 Friar," which yet, I believe, the critic will find excelled by this play.

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I cannot but suspect that some other had new- Of this play the fable is wild and pleasing. I modelled this novel of Cynthio, or written a story know not how the ladies will approve the faci which in some particulars resembled it, and that lity with which both Rosalind and Celia give Cynthio was not the author whom Shakspeare away their hearts. To Celia much may be forimmediately followed. The emperor, in Cyn- given for the heroism of her friendship. The thio, is named Maximine; the duke, in Shak-character of Jacques is natural and well preservspeare's enumeration of the persons of the drama, is called Vincentio. This appears a very slight remark; but since the duke has no name in the play, nor is ever mentioned but by his title, why should he be called Vincentio among the persons, but because the name was copied from the story, and placed superfluously at the head of the list by the mere habit of transcription? It is therefore likely, that there was then a story of Vincentio, duke of Vienna, different from that of Maximine, emperor of the Romans.

Of this play, the light or comic part is very natural and pleasing, but the grave scenes, if a few passages 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.


ed. The comic dialogue is very sprightly, with less mixture of low buffoonery than in some other plays: and the graver part is elegant and harmonious. By hastening to the end of his work, Shakspeare suppressed the dialogue be tween the usurper and the hermit, and lost 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 inThe attention is entertained with all the variety jury to the art with which they are interwoven. of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconnected incidents."

eminently sprightly and diverting. At the mar The part between Katharine and Petruchio is riage of Bianca, the arrival of the real father, The whole play is very popular and diverting. perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure.


deep knowledge of human nature. Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the stage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakspeare.

This play has many delightful scenes, though not sufficiently probable, and some happy chaIn this play, which all the editors have con-racters, though not new, nor produced by any curred 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 Shakspeare.


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 time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great.


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.

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, sneaks home to a second marrage, is accused by a woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is dismissed to happiness.

The story of Bertram and Diana had been told before of Mariana and Angelo, and, to confess the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a second



This play is in the graver part elegant and easy, and in some of the lighter scenes exqui sitely humorous. Ague-cheek is drawn with

great propriety, but his character is, in a great measure, that of natural fatuity, and is therefore


I fancy every reader, when he ends this play, not the proper prey of a satirist. The soliloquy cries out with Desdemona, "O most lame and of Malvolio is truly comic; he is betrayed to ridi-impotent conclusion!" As this play was not, to cule merely by his pride. The marriage of Oli- our knowledge, divided into acts by the author, via, and the succeeding perplexity, though well I could be content to conclude it with the death enough contrived to divert on the stage, wants of Henry the Fourth. credibility, and fails to produce the proper instruction required in the drama, as it exhibits no just picture of life.


The story of this play is taken from "The pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia," written by Robert Greene.

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


In that Jerusalem shall Harry die.

These scenes, which now make the fifth act of "Henry the Fourth," might then be the first of "Henry the Fifth :" but the truth is, that they When these plays were represented, I believe do unite very commodiously to either play. they ended as they are now ended in the books; but Shakspeare seems to have designed that the whole series of action, from the beginning of "Richard the Second," to the end of "Henry the Fifth," should be considered by the reader as one work, upon one plan, only broken into parts by the necessity of exhibition.

This play is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fictions, and solemnity, grandeur, None of Shakspeare's plays are more read and variety of its action, but it has no nice dis- than the "First and Second Parts of Henry the criminations of character; the events are too Fourth." Perhaps no author has ever in two great to admit the influence of particular dispo- plays afforded so much delight. The great events sitions, and the course of the action necessarily are interesting, for the fate of kingdoms depend determines the conduct of the agents. upon them; the slighter occurrences are divertThe danger of ambition is well described:ing, and, except one or two, sufficiently proand I know not whether it may not be said, in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that in Shakspeare'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 some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall.


The tragedy of "King John," though not written with the utmost power of Shakspeare, is varied with a very pleasing interchange of incidents and characters. The lady's grief is very affecting; and the character of the bastard contains that mixture of greatness and levity which this author delighted to exhibit.


This play is extracted from the Chronicle of Hollinshed, in which many passages may be found which Shakspeare has, with very little alteration, transplanted into his scenes; particularly a speech of the bishop of Carlisle in defence of King Richard's unalienable right, and immunity from human jurisdiction.

Jonson, who, in his "Catiline and Sejanus," has inserted many speeches from the Roman historians, was perhaps induced to that practice by the example of Shakspeare, who had condescended sometimes to copy more ignoble writers. But Shakspeare had more of his own than Jonson, and if he sometimes was willing to spare his labour, showed by what he performed at other times, that his extracts were made by choice or idleness rather than necessity.

This play is one of those which Shakspeare has apparently revised; but as success in works of invention is not always proportionate to labour, it is not finished at last with the happy force of some other of his tragedies, nor can be said much to affect the passions, or enlarge the understanding.

bable; the incidents are multiplied with wonderful fertility of invention, and the characters and the profoundest skill in the nature of man. diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment,

The prince, who is the hero both of the comic and tragic part, is a young man of great abilities and violent passions, whose sentiments are right, though his actions are wrong; whose virtues are obscured by negligence, and whose understanding is dissipated by levity. In his idle hours he is rather loose than wicked; and when the occasion forces out his latent qualities, he is great without effort, and brave without tumult. The trifler is roused into a hero, and the hero again reposes in the tifler. This character is great, original, and just.

Percy is a rugged soldier, choleric and quarrelsome, and has only the soldier's virtues, generosity and courage.

But Falstaff, unimitated, unimitable Falstaff, how shall I describe thee? Thou compound of sense and vice: of sense which may be admired, but not esteemed; of vice which may be despised, but hardly detested. Falstaff is a character loaded with faults, and with those faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief and a glutton, a coward and a boaster, always ready to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor; to terrify the timorous, and insult the defenceless. At once obsequious and malignant, he satirizes in their absence those whom he lives by flattering. He is familiar with the prince only as an agent of vice, but of this familiarity he is so proud, as not only to be supercilious and haughty with common men, but to think his interest of importance to the duke of Lancaster. Yet the man thus corrupt, thus despicable, makes himself necessary to the prince that despises him, by the most pleasing of all qualities, perpetual gayety, by an unfailing power of exciting laughter, which is the more freely indulged, as his wit is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but consists in easy scapes and sallies of levity, which make sport, but raise no envy. It must be ob

served, that he is stained with no enormous or sanguinary crimes, so that his licentiousness is not so offensive but that it may be borne for his mirth.

The moral to be drawn from this representation is, that no man is more dangerous than he that, with a will to corrupt, hath the power to please; and that neither wit nor honesty ought to think themselves safe with such a companion, when they see Henry seduced by Falstafi


This play has many scenes of high dignity, and many of easy merriment. The character of the king is well supported, except in his courtship, where he has neither the vivacity of Hal, nor the grandeur of Henry. The humour of Pistol is very happily continued: his character has perhaps been the model of all the bullies that have yet appeared on the English stage.

The lines given to the chorus have many admirers; but the truth is, that in them a little may be praised, and much must be forgiven: nor can it be easily discovered why the intelligence given by the chorus is more necessary in this play, than in many others where it is omitted. The great defect of this play is the emptiness and narrowness of the last act, which a very little diligence might have easily avoided.


Of this play there is no copy earlier than that of the folio in 1623, though the two succeeding parts are extant in two editions in quarto. That the second and third parts were published without the first, may be admitted as no weak proof that the copies were surreptitiously obtained, and that the printers of that time gave the public those plays, not such as the author designed, but such as they could get them. That this play was written before the two others, is undubitably collected from the series of events; that it was written and played before Henry the Fifth, is apparent, because in the epilogue there is mention made of this play, and not of the other parts: Henry the Sixth in swaddling bands crown'd king, Whose state so many had the managing

That they lost France, and made his England bleed,
Which oft our stage hath shown.

France is lost in this play. The two following
contain, as the old title imports, the contention
of the houses of York and Lancaster.

comprehensive views, and to draw his opinion from the general effect and spirit of the compo sition, which he thinks inferior to the other historical plays.

From mere inferiority nothing can be inferred; in the productions of wit there will be inequality. Sometimes judgment will err, and sometimes the matter itself will defeat the artist. Of every author's works one will be the best and one will be the worst. The colours are not equally pleasing, nor the attitudes equally graceful, in all the pictures of Titian or Reynolds.

Dissimilitude of style, and heterogeneousness of sentiment, may sufficiently show that a work does not really belong to the reputed author. But in these plays no such marks of spuriousness are fouud. The diction, the versification, and the figures, are Shakspeare's. These plays, considered without regard to characters and incidents, merely as narratives in verse, are more happily conceived, and more accurately finished, than those of "King John," "Richard II." or the tragic scenes of "Henry IV. and V.” If we take these plays from Shakspeare, to whom shall they be given? What author of that age had the same easiness of expression and fluency of numbers?

Having considered the evidence given by the plays themselves, and found it in their favour, let us now inquire what corroboration can be gained from other testimony. They are ascribed to Shakspeare by the first editors, whose attestation may be received in questions of fact, however unskilfully they superintended their edition. They seem to be declared genuine by the voice of Shakspeare himself, who refers to the second play in his epilogue to "Henry V." and apparently connects the first act of "Richard III." with the last of the third part of "Henry VI." If it be objected that the plays were popular, and that therefore he alluded to them as well known; it may be answered, with equal probability, that the natural passions of a poet would have disposed him to separate his own works from those of an inferior hand. And, indeed, if an author's own testimony is to be overthrown by speculative criticism, no man can be any longer secure of literary reputation.

Of these three plays I think the second the best. The truth is, that they have not sufficient variety of action, for the incidents are too often of the same kind; yet many of the characters are well discriminated. King Henry and his queen, king Edward, the duke of Gloucester, and the earl of Warwick, are very strongly and distinctly painted.

The second and third parts of "Henry VI." were printed in 1600. When "Henry V." was written, we know not, but it was printed likewise in 1600, and therefore before the publication of the first part: the first part of "Henry VI." The old copies of the two latter parts of had been often shown on the stage, and would "Henry VI." and of "Henry V." are so apcertainly have appeared in its place had the au-parently imperfect and mutilated, that there is thor been the publisher.


The three parts of "Henry VI." are suspected, by Mr. Theobald, of being supposititious, and are declared, by Dr. Warburton, to be certainly not Shakspeare's. Mr. Theobald's suspicion arises from some obsolete words; but the phraseology is like the rest of our author's style, and single words, of which however I do not observe more than two, can conclude little.

Dr. Warburton gives no reason, but I suppose him to judge upon deeper principles and more

no reason for supposing them the first draughts of Shakspeare. I I am inclined to believe them copies taken by some auditor who wrote down, during the representation, what the time would permit, then perhaps filled up some of his omissions at a second or third hearing, and when he had by this method formed something like a play, sent it to the printer.


This is one of the most celebrated of our author's performances; yet I know not whether it has not happened to him as to others, to be

praised most, when praise is not most deserved. | Shakspeare's plays; his adherence to the real That this play has scenes noble in themselves, story, and to Roman manners, seems to have and very well contrived to strike in the exhibi- impeded the natural vigour of his genius. tion, cannot be denied. But some parts are trifling, others shocking, and some improbable.

I have nothing to add to the observations of the learned critics, but that some traces of this antiquated exhibition are still retained in the rustic puppet-plays, in which I have seen the Devil very lustily belaboured by Punch, whom I hold to be the legitimate successor of the old Vice.


The play of "Henry the Eighth" is one of those which still keep possession of the stage by the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation, about forty years ago, drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter. Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every other part may be easily conceived, and easily written.



This play keeps curiosity always busy, and the passions always interested. The continual hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and the quick succession of one personage to another, call the mind forward without intermission from the first act to the last. But the power of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the scene; for except the feminine arts, some of which are too low, which distingnish Cleopatra, no character is very strongly discriminated. Upton, who did not easily miss what he desired to find, has discovered that the language of Antony is, with great skill and learning, made pompous and superb, according to his real practice. But I think his diction not distinguishable from that of others: the most tumid speech in the play is that which Cæsar makes to Octavio.

The events, of which the principal are described according to history, are produced with out any art of connexion or care of disposition.


The historical dramas are now concluded, of which the two parts of "Henry the Fourth," The play of "Timon" is a domestic tragedy, and "Henry the Fifth," are among the happiest and therefore strongly fastens on the attention of our author's compositions; and "King John," of the reader. In the pian there is not much "Richard the Third," and "Henry the Eighth," art, but the incidents are natural, and the chadeservedly stand in the second class. racters various and exact. The catastrophe whose curiosity would refer the historical scenes affords a very powerful warning against that to their original, may consult Hollinshed, and ostentatious liberality, which scatters bounty, sometimes Hall: from Hollinshed, Shakspeare but confers no benefits, and buys flattery, but has often inserted whole speeches with no more not friendship. alteration than was necessary to the numbers of his verse. To transcribe them into the margin was unnecessary, because the original is easily examined, and they are seldom less perspicuous in the poet than in the historian.

To play histories, or to exhibit a succession of events by action and dialogue, was a common entertainment among our rude ancestors, upon great festivities. The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell a play which lasted three days, containing "The History of the World."


The tragedy of "Coriolanus" is one of the most amusing of our author's performances. The old man's merriment in Menenius; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal modesty in Virgilia; the patrician and military haughtness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity, and tribunitian insolence, in Brutus and Sicinius, make a very pleasing and interesting variety: and the various revolutions of the hero's fortune fill the mind with anxious curiosity. There is, perhaps, too much bustle in the first act, and too little in the last.


Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it, and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of

In this tragedy are many passages perplexed, obscure, and probably corrupt, which I have endeavoured to rectify, or explain, with due dili gence; but having only one copy, cannot promise myself that my endeavours shall be much applauded.


All the editors and critics agree with Mr. Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see no reason for differing from them; for the colour of the style is wholly different from that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular versification, and artificial closes, not always in elegant, yet seldom pleasing. The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience; yet we are told by Jonson, that they were not only borne, but praised. That Shakspeare wrote any part, though Theobald declares it incontestible, I see no reason for believing.

The testimony produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is ascribed to Shakspeare, is by no means equal to the argument against its authenticity, arising from the total difference of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which it stands apart from all the rest. Meres had probably no other evidence than that of a titlepage, which though in our time it be sufficient, was then of no great authority; for all the plays which were rejected by the first collectors of Shakspeare's works, and admitted in later editions, and again rejected by the critical editors,

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