« ZurückWeiter »
Printed for J. and J. KNAPTON, J. DARBY, A. BET.
TESWORTH, J. TONSON, F. FAYRAM, W. MEARS
Ο Ρ Τ Η Ε
E DI TO R.
T is not my design to enter into a Criticism upon this Author: tho’ to do it effectually and not superficially, would be the
best occasion that any just Writer could take, to form the judgment and taste of our nation. For of all English Poets Shakespear must be confessed to be the fairest and fullest subject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as most conspicuous instances, both of Beauties and Faults of all forts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a Preface, the businessof which is only to give an account of the Fate of his Works, and the disadvantages under which they have been transmitted to
us. We shall hereby extenuate many fauies which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not : A defign, which tho' it can be no guide to future Criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in the other.
I cannot however but mention some of his principal and characteriftic Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defcets) he is justly and universally elevated above all other Dramatic Writers. Not that this is the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any occasion of doing it.
If ever any Author deserved the name of an Original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of Nature, it proceeded thro' Ægyptian ftrainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The Poetry of ShakeSpear was Inspiration indeed : he is not so much an Imitator, as an Instrument, of Nature; and 'tis not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that the speaks thro' him.'
His Characters are so much Nature her self, that 'is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her. Those of other Poets haye a constant re
femblance, which shews that they receiv'd them from one another, and were but multiplyers of the fame image: each picture like a mock-rainbow is but the reflexion of a reflexion. But every single character in
espear is as much an Individual, as those in Life itself ; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and fuch as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be Twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of Character, we must add the wonderful Preservation of it ; which is fuch throughout his plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the very natnes of the Persons, I believe one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.
The Power over our Pasions was never poffefs'd in a more eminent degree, or difplay'd in so different instances. Yet all 2long, there is seen no labour, no pains to raise them ; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or be perceiv'd to lead toward it : But the heart swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proper places : We are surpriz'd, the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the passion fo just, that we shou'd be fürpriz'd if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.
How astonishing is it again, that the palsions directly opposite to these, Laughter