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"their ignorance, who chofe that circumstance to "commend their friend by, wherein he moft fault"ed: and to juftify mine own candour, for I loved "the man, and do honour his memory, on this fide idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, ho"neft, and of an open and free nature, had an "excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expreffions; wherein he flowed with that facility, that "fometimes it was neceffary he should be flopped: Sufflaminandus erat, as Auguftus faid of Haterius. "His wit was in his own power; would the rule of "it had been fo too. Many times he fell into "those things which could not escape laughter; as "when he faid in the perfon of Cæfar, one fpeak"ing to him,
Cæfar, thou doft me wrong.'
• Cæfar did never wrong, but with just cause.'
"and fuch like, which were ridiculous. But he
The Merry Wives of Windfor, indeed, and Romeo and Juliet, and perhaps Love's Labour's Loft, our author appears to bave altered and amplified; and to King Richard II. what is called the parliament-fcene, feems to have been added; (though this laft is by no means certain ;) but neither will these tations and new-modellings difprove what has been afferted by Shakspeare's fellow-comedians concerning the facility of his writing, and the exquifite felicity of his firft expreffions.
The hafty sketch of The Merry Wives of Windfor, which he is faid to have composed in a fortnight, he might have written without a blot; and three or four years afterwards, when he chofe to dilate his plan, he might have compofed the additional scenes without a blot likewife. In a word, fuppofing even that Nature had not endowed him with that rich vein which he unquestionably poffeffed, he who in little more than twenty years produces thirty-four or thirty-five pieces for the stage, has certainly not much time for expunging. MALone.
"redeemed his vices with his virtues; there was "ever more in him to be praised than to be par"doned."
As for the paffage which he mentions out of Shakspeare, there is fomewhat like it in Julius Cæfar, but without the abfurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have feen as quoted by Mr. Jonton.3
Befides his plays in this edition, there are two or three afcribed to him by Mr. Langbaine, which
3 nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have Seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonfon.] See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note on Julius Cæfar, Act III. fc. i. Vol. XVI. MALONE.
Befides his plays in this edition, there are two or three afcribed to him by Mr. Langbaine,] The Birth of Merlin, 1662, written by W. Rowley; the old play of King John, in two parts, 1591, on which Shakspeare formed his King John; and The Arraignment of Paris, 1584, written by George Peele.
The editor of the folio 1664, fubjoined to the 36 dramas published in 1623, seven plays, four of which had appeared in Shakfpeare's life-time with his name in the title-page, viz. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609, Sir John Oldcafile, 1600, The London Prodigal, 1605, and The Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608; the three others which they inferted, Locrine, 1595, Lord Cromwell, 1602, and The Puritan, 1607, having been printed with the initials W. S. in the title-page, the editor chose to interpret those letters to mean William Shakspeare, and ascribed them alfo to our poet. I published an edition of these seven pieces fome years ago, freed in fome meafure from the grofs errors with which they had been exhibited in ancient copies, that the publick might fee what they contained; and do not hesitate to declare my firm perfuafion that of Locrine, Lord Cromwell, Sir John Oldcastle, The London Prodigal, and The Puritan, Shakspeare did not write a single line.
How little the bookfellers of former times fcrupled to affix the names of celebrated writers to the productions of others, even in the life-time of fuch celebrated authors, may be collected from Heywood's tranflations from Ovid, which in 1612, while Shakspeare was yet living, were afcribed to him. See Vol. X. p. 321, n. 1.* With the dead they would certainly
* Mr. Malone's edition of our author's works, 1790.
I have never feen, and know nothing of. He writ likewife Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Luicrece, in ftanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems.5 As to the character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal true in it : but I believe it may be as well expreffed by what Horace fays of the firft Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed tranflated them,) in his epifile to Auguftus:
naturâ fublimis & acer :
"Nam fpirat tragicum fatis, et feliciter audet,
"Sed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram.”,
As I have not propofed to myself to enter into a large and complete criticifm upon Shakspeare's works, fo I will only take the liberty, with all due fubmiffion to the judgment of others, to observe fome of those things I have been pleased with in looking him over.
His plays are properly to be diftinguifhed only into comedies and tragedies. Thofe which are called hiftories, and even fome of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of come
make ftill more free. "This book (fays Anthony Wood, speaking of a work to which the name of Sir Philip Sydney was prefixed) coming out fo late, it is to be inquired whether Sir Philip Sydney's name is not fet to it for fale-fake, being a ufual thing in thefe days to fet a great name to a book or books, by fharking bookfellers, or fnivelling writers, to get bread." Athen. Oxon. Vol. I. p. 208. MALONE."
S -in a late collection of poems.] In the fourth volume of State Poems, printed in 1707. Mr. Rowe did not go beyond A Late Collection of Poems, and does not seem to have known that Shakspeare also wrote 154 Sonnets, and a poem entitled A Lover's Complaint. MALONE.
dy amongst them. That way of tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is indeed bes
are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them.] Heywood, our author's contemporary, has ftated the best defence that can be made for his intermixing lighter with the more ferious fcenes of his dramas:
It may likewife be objected, why amongst fad and grave hiftories I have here and there inferted fabulous jefts and tales favouring of lightnefs. I anfwer, I have therein imitated bur hiftorical, and comical poets, that write to the stage, who, left the auditory fhould be dulled with ferious courses, which are merely weighty and material, in every act prefent fonie Zany, with his mimick action to breed in the lefs capable mirth and laughter; for they that write to all, must firive to please all. And as fuch fashion themselves to a multitude diverfely addicted, fo I to an univerfality of readers diverfely disposed." Pref. to Hiftory of Women, 1624. MALONE.
The criticks who renounce tragi-comedy as barbarous, I fear, fpeak more from notions which they have formed in their closets, than any well-built theory deduced from experience of what pleases or difpleafes, which ought to be the foundation of all rules.
Even fuppofing there is no affectation in this refinement, and that thofe criticks have really tried and purified their minds till there is no drofs remaining, ftill this can never be the cafe of a popular audience, to which a dramatick reprefentation is referred.
Dryden in one of his prefaces condemns his own conduct in The Spanish Friar; but, fays he, I did not write it to please myself, it was given to the publick. Here is an involuntary confeffion that tragi-comedy is more pleafing to the audience; I would atk then, upon what ground it is condemned ?
This ideal excellence of uniformity refts upon a fuppofition that we are either more refined, or a higher order of beings than we really are there is no provifion made for what may be called the animal part of our minds.
Though we should acknowledge this paffion for variety and contrarieties to be the vice of our nature, it is ftill a propensity which we all feel, and which he who undertakes to divert us must find provision for.
We are obliged, it is true, in our purfuit after science, or excellence in any art, to keep our minds fteadily fixed for a long continuance; it is a tafk we impofe on ourselves: but I do not wish to talk myself in my amufements.
If the great object of the theatre is amusement, a dramatick
come fo agreeable to the English tafte, that though the feverer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences feem to be better pleafed with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windfor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of a Shrew, are all pure comedy; the reft, however they are called, have something of both kinds. It is not very eafy to determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and though they did not then ftrike at all ranks of people, as the fatire of the prefent age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-diftinguifhed variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a mafterpiece; the character is always well fuftained, though drawn out into the length of three plays; and even the account of his death given by his old landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the firft Act of Henry the Fifth, though it be extremely natural, is yet as diverting as any part of his life. If there be any fault in the draught he has made of this lewd old fellow, it is, that though he has made him a thief, lying, cowardly, vain-glorious, and in fhort every way vicious, yet he has given him fo much wit as to make him almoft too agreeable; and I do not know whether
work muft poffefs every means to produce that effect; if it gives inftruction by the by, fo much its merit is the greater; but that is not its principal object. The ground on which it ftands, and which gives it a claim to the protection and encouragement of civilifed fociety, is not because it enforces moral precepts, or gives inftruction of any kind; but from the general advantage that it produces, by habituating the mind to find its amufement in intellectual pleafures; weaning it from fenfuality, and by degrees filing off, fmoothing, and polishing, its rugged corners. SIR J. REYNOLDS.