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with an unwieldy sentiment, which he cannot well with another, and the conclusion follows by easy express, and will not reject; he struggles with it consequence. There are perhaps some incidents awhile, and if it continues stubborn, comprises it that might be spared, as in other poets there is much in words such as occur, and leaves it to be disen- talk that only fills up time upon the stage; but the tangled and evolved by those who have more leisure general system makes gradual advances, and the to bestow upon it.
end of the play is the end of expectation. Not that always where the language is intricate, To the unities of time and place he has shewn no the thought is subtle, or the image always great regard : and perhaps a nearer view of the principles where the line is bulky; the equality of words to on which they stand will diminish their value, and things is very often neglected, and trivial sentiments withdraw from them the veneration which, from the and vulgar ideas disappoint the attention, to which time of Corneille, they have very generally received, they are recommended by sonorous epithets and by discovering that they have given more trouble to swelling figures.
the poet, than pleasure to the auditor. But the admirers of this great poet have most The necessity of observing the unities of time reason to complain when he approaches nearest to and place arises from the supposed necessity of his highest excellence, and seems fully resolved to making the drama credible. The critics hold it imsink them in dejection, and mollify them with ten- possible, that an action of months or years can be der emotions by the fall of greatness, the danger of possibly believed to pass in three hours; or that the innocence, or the crosses of love. What he does spectator can suppose himself to sit in the theatre, best, he soon ceases to do. He is not long soft and wbile ambassadors go and return between distant pathetic without some idle conceit, or contemptible kings, while armies are levied and towns besieged, equivocation. He do sooner begins to move, than while an exile wanders and returns, or till he whom he counteracts himself; and terror and pity, as they they saw courting his mistress, shall lament the are rising in the mind, are checked and blasted by untimely fall of his son. The mind revolts from sadden frigidity.
evident falsehood, and fiction loses its force when A quibble is to Shakspeare what luminous va- it departs from the resemblance of reality. pours are to the traveller; he follows it at all ad. From the narrow limitation of time necessarily redtures ; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and arises the contraction of place. The spectator, who sure to engulf him in the mire. It has some ma- knows that he saw the first act at Alexandria, canlignant power over his mind, and its fascinations not suppose that he sees the next at Rome, at a disare irresistible. Whatever be the dignity or pro- tance to which not the dragons of Medea could, in fundity of bis disquisitions, whether he be enlarging so short a time, have transported him; he knows knowledge, or exalting affection, whether he be with certainty that he has not changed his place ; amasing attention with incidents, or enchaining it and he knows that place cannot change itself; that in sospense, let but a quibble spring up before him, what was a house cannot become a plain; that what and be leaves his work unfinished. A quibble is was Thebes can never be Persepolis. the golden apple for which he will always turn aside Such is the triumphant language with which a from his career, or stoop from his elevation. A critic exults over the misery of an irregular poet, faibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such de- and exults commonly without resistance or reply. Light, that he was content to purchase it by the It is time therefore to tell him, by the authority of sacrifice of reason, propriety, and truth. A quibble Shakspeare, that he assumes, as an unquestionable was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the principle, a position, which, while his breath is world, and was content to lose it.
forming it into words, his understanding pronounces It will be thought strange, that, in enumerating to be false. It is false, that any representation is the defects of this writer, have not yet mentioned mistaken for reality; that any dramatic fable in its bis neglect of the unities; his violation of those materiality was ever credible, or, for a single m lass which have been instituted and established by ment, was ever credited. the joint authority of poets and of critics.
The objection arising from the impossibility o. For his other deviations from the art of writing, passing the first hour at Alexandria, and the next I resign him to critical justice, witbout making any at Rome, supposes, that when the play opens, the other demand in his favour, than that which must spectator really imagines himself at Alexandria, and be indulged to all human excellence; that his vir believes that his walk to the theatre has been a tues be rated with his failings: but, from the cen- voyage to Egypt, and that he lives in the days of sure which this irregularity may bring upon him, I Antony and Cleopatra. Surely he that imagines shall, with due reverence to that learning which I this may imagine more. He that can take the stage wust oppose, adventure to try how I can defend him. at one time for the palace of the Ptolemies, may take
His histories, being neither tragedies nor come- it in half an hour for the promontory of Actium. cies, are not subject to any of their laws ; nothing Delusion, if delusion be admitted, has no certain limore is necessary to all the praise which they ex- mitation; if the spectator can be once persuaded, pect, than that the changes of action be so prepared that his old acquaintance are Alexander and Cæsar, as to be understood, that the incidents be various that a room illuminated with candles is the plain of and affecting, and the characters consistent, na. Pharsalia, or the bank of Granicus, he is in a state teral, and distinct. No other unity is intended, and of elevation above the reach of reason, or of truth, therefore none is to be sought.
and from the heights of empyrean poetry, may dtIn his other works he has well enough preserved spise the circumscriptions of terrestrial nature. the unity of action. He has not, indeed, an in. There is no reason why a mind thus wandering in trigue regularly perplexed and regularly unravelled; ecstasy should count the clock, or why an hour be does not endeavour to hide his design only to should not be a century in that caleature of the discover it, for this is seldom the order of real events, brains that can make the stage a field. and Shakspeare is the poet of nature : but his plan The truth is, that the spectators are always in cas commonly what Aristotle requires, a beginning, their senses, and know, from the first act to the last, i ziddle, and an eud; one event is concatenated that the stage is only a stage, and that the players are only players. They come to hear a certain reader of a narrative, before whom may pass in an number of lines recited with just gesture and ele- hour the life of a hero, or the revolutions of an eingant modulation. The lines relate to some action, pire. And an action must be in some place; but the dis- Whether Shakspeare knew the unities, and referent actions that complete a story may be in places jected them by design, or deviated from them by very remote from each other: and where is the ab- happy ignorance, it is, I think, impossible to desurdity of allowing that space to represent first cide, and useless to inquire. We may reasonably Athens, and then Sicily, which was always known suppose, that, when he rose to notice, he did not to be neither Sicily nor Athens, but a modern want the counsels and admonitions of scholars and theatre ?
critics, and that he at last deliberately persisted in By supposition, as place is introduced, time may a practice, which he might have begun by chance. be extended; the time required by the fable elapses As nursing is essential to the fable, but unity of for the most part between the acts; for, of so much action, anu the unities of time and place arise of the action as is represented, the real and poetical evidently from false assumptions, and, by circumduration is the same. If, in the first act, prepara- scribing the extent of the drama, lessen its variety, tions for war against Mithridates are represented to I cannot think it much to be lamented, that they be made in Rome, the event of the war may, with were not known by him, or not observed: nor, if out absurdity, be represented in the catastrophe as such another poet could arise, should I very vehappening in Pontus; we know that there is neither hemently reproach him, that his first act passed at war, nor preparation for war; we know that we are Venice, and his next in Cyprus. Such violations neither in Rome nor Pontus; that neither Mithri- of rules merely positive, become the comprehensive dates nor Lucullus are before us. The drama ex- genius of Shakspeare, and such censures are suitable hihits successive imitations of successive actions, to the minute and slender criticism of Voltaire :and why may not the second imitation represent an action that happened years after the first; if it be
"Non usque adeo permiscuit imis so connected with it, that nothing but time can be
Longus summa dies, ut non, si voce Metelli supposed to intervene ? Time is, of all modes of
Serventur leges, malint a Cæsare tolli.” existerce, most obsequious to the imagination ; a Yet when I speak thus slightly of dramatic rules, lapse of years is as easily conceived as a passage of I cannot but recollect how much wit and learning hours. In contemplation we easily contract the may be produced against me; before such authotime of real actions, and therefore willingly permit rities I am afraid to stand, not that I think the preit to be contracted when we only see their imitation. sent question one of those that are to be decided by
It will be asked, how the drama moves, if it is mere authority, but because it is to be suspected, not credited. It is credited with all the credit due that these precepts have not been so easily received, to a drama. It is credited, whenever it moves, as but for betier reasons than I have yet been able to a just picture of a real original; as representing to find. The result of my inquiries, in which it would the auditor what he would himself feel, if he were be ludicrous to boast of impartiality, is, that the unito do or suffer what is there feigned to be suffered ties of time and place are not essential to a just or to be done. The reflection that strikes the heart drama; that though they may sometimes conduce is not, that the evils before us are real evils, but that to pleasure, they are always to be sacrificed to the they are evils to which we ourselves may be exposed. nobler beauties of variety and instruction; and that If there be any fallacy, it is not that we fancy the a play, written with nice observation of critical players, but that we fancy ourselves unhappy for a rules, is to be contemplated as an elaborate cu. inoment; but we rather lament the possibility than riosity, as the product of superfluous and ostentasuppose the presence of misery, as a mother weeps tious art, by which is shewn rather what is possible over her babe, when she remeinbers that death may than what is necessary. take it from her. The delight of tragedy proceeds He that, without diminution of any other excel. from our consciousness of fiction; if we thought lence, shall preserve all the unities unbroken, demurders and treasons real, they would please no more. serves the like applause with the architect, who
Imitations produce pain or pleasure, not because shall display all the orders of architecture in a they are mistaken for realities, but because they citadel, without any deduction from its strength; oring realities to mind. When the imagination is but the principal beauty of a citadel is to exclude recreated by a painted landscape, the trees are not the enemy; and the greatest graces of a play are supposed capable to give us shade, or the fountains to copy nature, and instruct lile. coolness; but we consider, how we should be pleased Perhaps, what I have here not dogmatically bat with such fountains playing beside us, and such deliberately written, may recall the principles of the woods waving over us. We are agitated in reading drama io a new examination. I am almost frighted the history of Henry the Fifth, yet po man takes at my own temerity; and when I estimate the fame his book for the field of Agincourt. A dramatic and the strength of those that maintain the conexhibition is a book recited with coucomitants that trary opinion, am ready to sink down in reverential increase or diminish its effect. Familiar comedy is silence; as Æneas withdrew from the defence of often more powerful on the theatre, than in the Troy, when he saw Neptune shaking the wall, and page; imperial tragedy is always less. The hu- Juno heading the besiegers. mour of Petruchio may be heightened by grimace; Those whom my arguments cannot persuade to but what voice or what gesture can hope to add dig. give their approbation to the judgment of Shakpity or force to the soliloquy of Cato?"
speare, will easily, if they consider the condition of A play read, affects the mind like a play acted. his life, make some allowance for his ignorance. It is therefore evident, that the action is not sup- Every man's performances, to be rightly esti posed to be real; and it follows, that between the mated, must be compared to the state of the age in acts a longer or shorter time may be allowed to pars, which he lived, and with his own particular oppor. and that no more account of space or duration is tunities; and though to a reader a book be not worse t be taken by the auditor of a drama, than by the lor better for the circumstances of the author, yol es there is always a silent refereuce of human works His plots, whether historical or fabulous, are al. to human abilities, and as the inquiry, bon iar man ways crowded with incidents, by which the attention may extend his designs, or how high he may rate of a rude people was more easily caught than by äis native force, is of far greater dignity than in sentiment or argumentation; and such is the power what rank we shall place any particular perform of the marvellous, even over those who despise it, ance, curiosity is always busy to discover the in- that every man finds his mir.d more strongly seized struments, as well as to survey the workmanship, to by the tragedies of Shakspeare than of any other know how much is to be ascribed te original powers, wiiter; others please us by particular speeches, but and how much to casual and adventitious help. The he always makes us anxious for the event, and has palaces of Peru or Mexico were certainly mean and perhaps excelled all but Homer in securing the first incommodious habitations, if compared to the houses purpose of a writer, by exciting restless and unof European monarchs; yet who could forbear to quenchable curiosity, and compelling him that reads view them with astonishinent, who remembered that his work to read it through. they were built without the use of iron ?
The shews and bustle with which his plays abound The English nation, in the time of Shakspeare, have the same original. As knowledge 'advances, was yet struggling to emerge from barbarity. The pleasure passes from the eye to the ear, but returns, philology of Italy had been transplanted hither in as it declines, from the ear to the eye. Those to the reign of Henry VIII.; and the learned lan- whom our author's labours were exhibited had more guages had been successfully cultivated by Lilly, skill in pomps or processions than in poetical lanLinacre, and More; by Pole, Cheke, and Gardiner; guage, and perhaps wanted some visible and disand afterwards by Smith, Clerk, Haddon, and criminated events, as comments on the dialogue. Ascham, Greek was now taught to boys in the He knew how he should most please; and whether principal schools ; and those who united elegance his practice is more agreeable to nature, or whether with learning, read, with great diligence, the Italian his example has prejudiced the nation, we still find and Spanish poets. But literature was yet confined tha' on our stage something must be done as well as to professed scholars, or to men and women of high said, and inactive declamation is very coldly heard, rank. The public was gross and dark; and to be however musical or elegant, passionate or sublime. able to read and write, was an accomplishment still Voltaire expresses his wonder, that our author's valued for its rarity.
extravagancies are endured by a nation, which has Nations, like individuals, have their infancy. A seen the tragedy of Cato. Let him bé answered, people Dewly awakened to literary curiosity, being that Addison speaks the language of poets, and yet unacquainted with the true state of things, Shakspeare of men. We find in Cato innumerable koows not how to judge of that which is proposed beauties which enamour us of its author, but we as its resemblance. Whatever is remote from com- see nothing that acquaints us with human sentimon appearances is always welcome to vulgar, as ments or human actions; we place it with the fairto childish credulity; and of a country unenlight-est and the noblest progeny which judginent propaeved by learning, the whole people is the vulgar. gates by conjunction with learning; but Othello is The stody of those who then aspired to plebeian the vigorous and vivacious offspring of observation learning was laid out upon adventures, giants, dra- impregnated by genius. Cato affords a splendid guns, and enchantments. The Death of Arthur exhibition of artificial and fictitious manners, and was the favourite volume.
delivers just and noble sentiments, in diction easy, The mind, which has feasted on the luxurious elevated, and harmonious, but its hopes and fears wonders of fiction, has no taste of the insipidity of communicate no vibration to the heart; the comtruth. A play which imitated only the common oc- position refers us only to the writer; we pronounce currences of the world, would upon the admirers of the name of Cato, but we think on Addison. Palmeria and Guy of Warwick, have made little The work of a correct and regular writer is a impression ; be that wrote for such an audience was garden accurately formed and diligently planted, ander the necessity of looking round for strange varied with shades and scented with flowers: the events and fabulous transactions, and that incredi- composition of Shakspeare is a forest, in which oaks bility, by which maturer koowledge is offended, was extend their branches, and pines tower in the air, the chief recommendating of writings, to unskilful interspersed sometimes with weeds and bramblas, cariosity.
and sometimes giving shelter to myrtles and to Our author's plots are generally borrowed from roses ; filling the eye with awful pomp, and gratifyDovels; and it is reasonable to suppose, that he ing the mind with endless diversity. Other poets ebose the most popular, such as were read by many, display cabinets of precious rarities, minutely fi. and related by more; for his audience could not wished, wrought into shape, and polished into brightbare followed him through the intricacies of the ness. Shakspeare opens a mine which contains drama, had they not held the thread of the story in gold and diamonds in inexhaustible plenty, though their hands.
clouded by incrustations, debased by impurities, and The stories, which we now find only in remoter mingled with a mass of meaner minerals. authors, were in his time accessible and familiar. It has been much disputed, whether Shakspeare The fable of As You Like It, which is supposed to owed his excellence to his own native force, or whebe copied from Chaucer's Gamelyn, was a little pam- ther he had the common helps of scholastic educa. palet of those times; and old Mr.Cibber remembered tion, the precepts of critical science, and the examthe tale of Hamlet in plain English prose, which ples of ancient authors. the critics have now to seek in Saxo Grammaticus. There has always prevailed a tradition that Shak
His English histories he took from English chro- speare wanted learning, that he had no regular eduaicles and English ballads; and as the ancient cation, nor much skill in the dead languages. Jonkriters were made known to his countrymen by ver- son, his friend, affirms, that “ he had small Latin, sions, they supplied him with new subjects; he di- and less Greek;” who, besides that he had no imalated some of Plutarch's lives into plays, when they ginable temptation to falsehood, wrote at a time Bud been translated by North.
when the character and acquisitions of Shakspeare were known to multitudes. His evidence ought But the greater part of his excellence was the therefore to decide the controversy, unless some tes- product of his own genius. He found the English timony of equal force could be opposed.
stage in a state of the utmost rudeness; no essays Some have imagined, that they have discovered either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from deep learning in imitation of old writers; but the which it could be discovered to what degree of deexamples which I have known urged, were drawn light either one or other might be carried. Neither from books translated in his time; or were such character nor dialogue were yet understood. Shake easy coincidences of thought, as will happen to speare may be truly said to have introduced them all who consider the same subjects; or such re- both amongst us, and in some of his happier scenes marks on life or axioms of morality as float in con- to have carried them both to the utmost height. versation, and are transmitted through the world in By what gradations of improvement he proceeded, proverbial sentences.
is not easily known ; for the chronology of his I have found it remarked, that, in this important works is yet unsettled. Rowe is of opinion, that sentence, “Go before, I'll follow,” we read a trans- "perhaps we are not to look for his beginning, like iation of, I præ, sequar. I have been told, that when those of other writers, in his least perfect works; Caliban, after a pleasing dream, says, “I cried to art had so little, and nature so large a share in sleep again,” the author imitates Anacreon, who what he did, that for aught I know,” says he, “the had, like every other man, the same wish on the performances of his youth, as they were the most same occasion.
vigorous, were the best.” But the power of nature There are a few passages which may pass for imi- is only the power of using to any certain purpose tations, but so few, that the exception only confirms the materials which diligence procures, or oppor. the rule; he obtained them from accidental quota- tunity supplies. Nature gives no man knowledge, tions, or by oral communication, and as he used what and when images are collected by study and expe. ne bad, would have used more if he had obtained it. rience, can only assist in combining or applying
The Comedy of Errors is confessedly taken from them. Shakspeare, bowever favoured by nature, the Menachmi of Plautus; from the only play of could impart only what he had learned; and as he Plautus which was then in English. What can be must increase his ideas, like other mortals, by gramore probable, than that he who copied that, would dual acquisition, he, like them, grew wiser as he have copied more; but that those which were not grew older, could display life better, as he knew it translated were inaccessible ?
more, and instruct with more efficacy, as he was Whether he knew the modern languages is un himself more amply instructed. certain. That his plays have some French scenes There is a vigilance of observation and accuracy proves but little ; he might easily procure them to of distinction which books and precepts cannot conbe written, and probably, even though he had fer; from this almost all original and native excel. known the language in the common degree, he lence proceeds. Shakspeare must have looked upon could not have written it without assistance. In mankind with perspicacity, in the highest degree the story of Romeo and Juliet he is observed to curious and attentive. Oiher writers borrow their have followed the English translation, where it de- characters from preceding writers, and diversify viates from the Italian; but this on the other part them only by the accidental appendages of present proves nothing against his knowledge of the original. manners; the dress is a little varied, but the body He was to copy, not what he knew himself, but is the same. Our author had both matter and form what was known to his audience.
to provide ; for, except the characters of Chaucer, It is most likely that he had learned Latin suffi- to whom I think he is not much indebted, there ciently to make him acquainted with construction, were no writers in English, and perhaps not many but that he never advanced to an easy perusal of the in other mouern languages, which shewed life in its Roman authors. Concerning his skill in modern native colours. languages, I can find no sufficient ground of deter- The contest about the original benevolence or mination; but as no imitations of French or Italian malignity of man had not yet commenced. Specuauthors have been discovered, though the Italian lation had not get attempted to analyse the mind, poetry was then in high esteem, I am inclined to to trace the passions to their sources, to unfold the bekieve, that he read little more than English, and seminal principles of vice and virtue, or sound the chose for his fables only such tales as he found depths of the heart for the motives of action. All translated.
these inquiries, which from that time that human That much knowledge is scattered over his works nature became the fashionable study, have been is very justly observed by Pope, but it is often such made sometimes with nice discernment, but often knowledge as books did not supply. He that will with idle subtilty, were yet unattenıpted. The tales, understand Shakspeare, must not be content to with which the infancy of learning was satisfied, study him in the closet, he must look for his mean: exhibited only the superficial appearances of action, ing sometimes among the sports of the field, and related the events, but omitted the causes, and were sometimes among the manufactures of the shop. formed for such as delighted in wonders rather than
There is, however, proof enough that he was a in truth. Mankind was not then to be studied in very diligent reader, vor was our language then so the closet; he that would know the world, was uns indigent of books, but that he might very liberally der the necessity of gleaning his own remarks, by indulge his curiosity without excursion into foreign mingling as he could in its business and amuseliterature. Many of the Roman authors were trans- ments. lated, and some of the Greek; the Reformation had Boyle congratulated himself upon his bigh birth, filled the kingdom with theological learning ; most because it favoured his curiosity, by facilitating his of the topics of human disquisition had found Eng- access. Shakspeare had no such' advantage; he lish writers; and poetry had been cultivated, not came to London a needy adventurer, and lived for oily with diligence, but success. This was a stock a time by very mean employments. Many works of of knowiciige sufficient for a mind so capable of genius and learning have been perforined in states appropriating and improving it.
of life that appear very little fainurable to thought
or to inquiry ; so many, that he who considers them are sought because they are scarce, and would not is inclined to think that he sees enterprise and per- have been scarce, had they been much esteemed. severance predominating over all external agency, To him we must ascribe the praise, unless Spenser and bidding belp and hindrance vanish before them. may divide it with him, of having first discovered to The genius of Shakspeare was not to be depressed how much smoothness and harmony the English by the weight of poverty, nor limited by the nar- language could be softened. He has speeches, perrow conversation to which men in want are inevita- haps sometimes scenes, which have all the delicacy bly condemned; the incumbrances of his fortune of Rowe, without his effeminacy. He endeavour's were shaken from his mind, as dew-drops from a indeed commonly to strike by the force and vigour lion's mane.
of his dialogue, but he never executes his purpose Though he had so many difficulties to encounter, better, than when he tries to sooth by softness. and so little assistance to surmount them, he has Yet it must be at last confessed, that as we owe been able to obtain an exact knowledge of many every thing to him, he owes something to us; that, modes of life, and many casts of native disposi- if much of his praise is paid by perception and tions; to vary them with great multiplicity; to judgment, much is likewise given by custom and mark them by nice distinctions; and to shew them veneration. We fix our eyes upon his graces, and in full view by proper combinations. In this part turn them from his deformities, and endure in him of his performances he had none to imitate, but has what we should in another loath or despise. If we himself been imitated by all succeeding writers; endured without praising, respect for the father of and it may be doubted, whether from all his succes- our drama might excuse us; but I have seen, in the sors more maxims of theoretical knowledge, or more book of some modern critic, a collection of anomarules of practical prudence, can be collected, than lies, which shew that he has corrupted language by be alune has given to his country.
every mode of depravation, but which his admirer Nor was his attention confined to the actions of has accumulated as a monument of honour. men; he was au exact surveyor of the inanimate He has scenes of undoubted and perpetual excelworld; his descriptions have alwaye some peculi. lence, but perhaps not one play, which, if it were arities, gathered by contemplating things as they now exhibited as the work of a contemporary writer, really exist. It may be observed, that the oldest would be heard to the conclusion. I am indeed far poets of many nations preserve their reputation, and from thinking, that his works were wrought to his that the following generations of wit, after a short own ideas of perfection; when they were such as celebrity, sink into oblivion. The first, whoever they would satisfy the audience, they satisfied the writer. be, must take their sentiments and descriptions im. It is seldom that authors, though more studious of mediately from knowledge; the resemblance is there- fame than Shakspeare, rise much above the standard fore just, their descriptions are verified by every eye, of their own age; to add a lit:le to what is best will and their sentiments acknowledged by every breast. always be sufficient for present praise, and those Those whom their fame invites to the same studies, / who find themselves exalied into fame, are willing copy partly them, and partly nature, till the books to credit their encomiasts, and to spare the labour of one age gain such authority, as to stand in the of contending with themselves. place of nature to another, and imitation, always It does not appear, that Shakspeare thought his Leviating a little, becomes at last capricious and works worthy of posterity, that he levied any ideal casual. Sbakspeare, whether life or nature be bis tribute upon future times, or had any further pros. subject, shews plainly, that he has seen with his own pect, than of present popularity and present profit. eres; he gives the image which he receives, not When his plays had been acted, his hope was at an weakened or distorted by the intervention of any end; he solicited no addition of honour from the other mind; the ignorant feel his representations to reader. He therefore made no scruple to repeat be just, and the learned see that they are complete. the same jests in many dialogues, or to entangle
Perhaps it would not be easy to find any author, different plots by the same knot of perplexity, which except Homer, who invented so much as Shakspeare, may be at least forgiven him, by those who recollect, bo so much advanced the studies which he culti. that of Congreve's four comedies, two are concluded vated, or effused so much novelty upon his age or by a marriage in a mask, by a deception, which per. tuuntry. The form, the character, the language, haps never happened, and which, whether likely or and the shews of the English drama, are bis. He not, he did not invent. seems," says Dennis, “to have been the very ori- So careless was this great poet of future fame, gioal of our English tragical harmony, that is, the that, though he retired to ease and plenty, while he harmony of blank verse, diversified often by dissyl- was yet little declined into the vale of years, before lable and trissyllable terminations. For the diver- he could be disgusted with fatigue, or disabled by sity distinguishes it from heroic harmony, and by infirmity, he made no collection of his works, nor bringing it nearer to common use, makes it more desired to rescue those that had been already pub proper to gain attention, and more fit for action and lished from the depravations that obscured them, or dialogue. Such verse we make when we are writing secure to the rest a better destiny, by giving them prose; we make such verse in common conversation, to the world in their genuine state.
I know not whether this praise is rigorously just. Of the plays which bear the name of Shakspeare The dissyliable termination, which the critic rightly in the late editions, the greater part were not pubappropriates to the drama, is to be found, though, i lished till about seven years after his death, and the think, pot is Gorboduc, which is confessedly before few which appeared in his life are apparently thrust car autor; yet in Hieronymo, of which the date is into the world without the care of the author, and Det certain, but which there is reason to believe at therefore probably without his knowledge. least as old as his earliest plays. This however is Of all the publishers, clandestine or professed, the certain, that be is the first who taught either tragedy negligence and unskilfulness bas by the late revisers er comedy to please, there being no theatrical piece been sufficiently shewn. The faults of all are indeed of any older writer, of which the name is known, numerous and grous, and have not only corrupted except to antiquaries and collectors of books, which many passages perhaps beyond recovery, but have