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and Spleen, are no less at his command ! that he is not more a master of the Great, than of the Ridiculous in human nature; of cour noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles ; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations!

Nor does he only excell in the Passions : In the coolness of Reflection and Reasoning he is full as admirable. His Sentiments are not only in general the most pertinent and judicious upon every subject; but by a talent very peculiar, something between Penetration and Felicity, he hits upon that particular point on which the bent of each argument turns, or the force of each motive depends. This is perfectly amazing, from a man of no education, or experience in those great and publick scenes of life, which are usually the subject of his thoughts: So that he seems to have known the world by Intuition, to have look'd thro' humane nature at one glance, and to be the only Author that gives ground for a very new opinion, That the Philosopher and even the Man of the world, may be Born, as well as the Poet.

It must be own'd that with all these great excellencies, he has almost as great defects; and that as he has certainly written better, fo he has perhaps written worse, than any other. But I think I can in fome measure account for these defccts, from see

veral causes and accidents ; without which it is hard to imagine that so large and so enlighten'd a mind could ever have been fusceptible of them. That all these Contingencies should unite to his disadvantage, seems to me almost as fingularly unlucky, as that so many various (nay contrary) Ta.“ lents should meet in one man, was happy and extraordinary.

It must be allowed that Stage-Poetry of all other, is more particularly levellid to please the Populace, and its success more immediately depending upon the Common Suffrage. One cannot therefore wonder if Shakespear having at his first appearance no other aim in his writings than to procure a subsistance, directed his endeavours folely to hit the taste and humour that then prevailed. The Audience was generally composed of the meaner fort of people ; and therefore the Images of Life were to be drawn from those of their own rank: accordingly we find, that not our Author's only, but almost all the old Comedies, have their Scene among Tradesmen and Mechanicks : And even their Historical Plays strictly follow the common Old Stories or Vulgar Traditions of that kind of people. In Tragedy, nothing was so sure to Sure" prize and cause Admiration, as the most strange, unexpected, and consequently most unnatural, Events and Incidents, the most



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exaggerated Thoughts ; the moft verbofe and bombast Expression ; the most pompous Rhymes, and thundering Vertification. In Comedy, nothing was so sure to please, as mean buffoonry, vile ribaldry, and unmannerly jests of fools and clowns. Yet even in there, our Author's Wit buoys up, and is born above his subject : his Genius in those low parts is like some Prince of a Romance in the disguise of a Shepherd or Peasant ; a certain Greatness and Spirit now and then break out, which manifest his higher extraction and qualities. It

may be added, that not only the common Audience had no notion of the Rules of writing, but few even of the better fort piqu'd themselves upon any great degree of knowledge or nicety that way; till Bex Johnson getting possession of the Stage, brought critical learning into vogue: And that this was not done without difficulty, may appear from those frequent lessons (and indeed almost Declamations) which he was forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into the mouth of his Actors, the Grex, Chorus, &c. to remove the prejudices, and inform the judgment of his hearers. Till then, our Authors had no thoughts of writing on the model of the Ancients : their Tragedies were only Histories in Dialogue ; and their Comedies follow'd the


thread of any Novel as they found it, no less implicitly than if it had been true History.

To judge therefore of Shakespear by 4ristotle's rules, is like trying a man by the Laws of orte Counrry, who acted under those of another. He writ to the People ; and writ at first without patronage from the better fort, and therefore without aims of pleasing them : without assistance or advice from the Learned, as without the advantage of education or acquaintance among them : without that knowledge of the best models, the Ancients, to inspire him with an emulation of them ; in a word, without any views of Reputation, and of what Poets are pleas’d to call Im-mortality : Some or all of which have en-courag'd the vanity, or animated the amo" bition, of other writers.

Yet it must be observed, that when his performances had merited the protection of bis Prince, and when the encouragement of the Court had succeeded to that of the Town; the works of his riper years are manifestly raised above those of his former. The Dates of his plays fufficiently evidence that his productions improved, in proportion to the respect he had for his auditors. And I make no doubt this observation would be found true in every instance, were but Editions extant from which we


might learn the exact time when every piece was composed, and whether writ for the Town, or the Court.

Another Cause (and no less strong than the former) may be deduced from our Author's being a Player, and forming himself first upon the judgments of that body of men whereof he was a member. They have ever had a Standard to themselves, upon other principles than those of Arió stotle. As they live by the Majority, they know no rule but that of pleasing the present humour, and complying with the wir in fashion ; a consideration which brings all their judgment to a short point. Players are just such judges of what is right, as Taylors are of what is graceful. And in this view it will be bur fair to allow, that most of our Author's faults are tess to be ascribed to his wrong judgment as a Poet, than to his right judgment as a Player.

By these men it was thought a praise to Shakespear, that he scarce ever blotted a line. This they industriously propagated, as appears from what we are told by Ben Johnson in his Discoveries, and from the preface of Heminges and Condell to the firit folio Edition. But in reality (however it has prevailed) there never was a more groundless report, or to the contrary of which there are more undeniable evidences. As, the Comedy of the Merry Wives of Windo



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