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character is masterly and unrivalled, represents Falstaff, not only as a voluptuous and base sycophant, but totally incorrigible. He displays, no quality or disposition which can serve as a basis for reformation. Even his abilities and agreeable qualities contribute to his depravity. Had he been less facetious, less witty, less dexterous, and less inventive, he might have been urged to self-condemnation, and so inclined to amendment. But mortification leads him to no conviction of folly, nor determines him to any change of life. He turns, as soon as possible, from the view given him of his baseness ; and rattles, as it were in triumph, the fetters of habituated and willing bondage.--Lear, violent and impetuous, but yet affectionate, from his misfortunes derives improvement. Macbeth, originally a man of feeling, is capable of remorse. And the understanding of Richard, rugged and insensible though he be, betrays his heart to the assault of conscience. But the mean sensualist, incapable of honourable and worthy thoughts, is irretrievably lost; totally, and for ever depraved. An important and awful lesson!
I may be thought perhaps to have treated Falstaff with too much severity. I am aware of his being a favourite. Persons of eminent worth feel for him some attachment, and think him hardly used by the King. But if they will allow themselves to examine the character in all its parts, they will perhaps agree with me, that such feeling is delusive, and arises from partial views. They will not take it aniss, if I say that they are deluded in the same manner with Prince Henry. They are amused, and conceive an improper attachment to the means of their pleasure and amusement. I appeal to every candid reader, whether the sentiment expressed by Prince Henry be not that which every judicious spectator and reader is inclined to feel.
I could have better spar'd a better man.
Upon the whole, the character of Sir John Falstaff, consisting of various parts, produces various feelings. Some of these are agreeable, and some disagreeable: but, being blended together, the general and united effect is much stronger than if their impulse had been disunited: not only so, but as the agreeable qualities are brought more into view, for in this sense alone they can be said to prevail in the character, and as the deformity of other qualities is often veiled by the pleasantry employed by the poet in their display, the general effect is in the highest degree delightful.
ON THE DRAMATIC CHARACTER OF KING LEAR.
DISINTERESTED principles are of different kinds: of consequence, the actions that flow from them are more or less beneficial, and more or less entitled to praise. We are moved by inconsiderate impulse to the performance of beneficent actions; as we are moved by inconsiderate impulse to the perpetration of guilt. You see an unhappy person; you discern the visitation of grief in his features; you hear it in the plaintive tones of voice; you are warmed with sudden and resistless emotion; you never enquire concerning the propriety of . ings, or the merits of the sufferer; and
you hasten to relieve him. Your conduct
proceeds from inconsiderate impulse. It en
titles you to the praise of sensibility, but not of reflection. You are again in the same situation ; but the symptoms of distress do not produce in you the same ardent effects: : you are moved with no violent agitation, and you feel little sympathy; but you perceive distress ; you are convinced that the sufferer suffers unjustly; you know you are bound to relieve him; and in consequence of these convictions, you offer him relief. Your conduct proceeds from sense of duty; and though it entitles you to the credit of rational humanity, it does not entitle you, in this instance, to the praise of fine sensibility.
Those who perform beneficent actions, from immediate feeling or impetuous impulse, have a great deal of pleasure. Their conduct, too, by the influence of sympathetic affection, imparts pleasure to the beholder, The joy felt both by the agent and the beholder is ardent, and approaches to rapture. There is also an energy in the principle, which produces great and uncommon exertions; yet both the principle of action, and the pleasure it produces, are shifting. “ Beauteous as the morning cloud or the