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that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them. Almost all his historical plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and distinct places: and in his Antony and Cleopatra, the fcene travels over the greatest part of the Roman empire, But in recompence for his careleffhefs in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the mauners of his characters, in acting or fpeaking what is proper for them, and fit to be fhewn by the poet, he may be generally justified, and in very many places greatly commended. For thofe plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the hiftorian. He seems indeed fo far from propofing to himself any one action for a fubject, that the title very often tells you, it is The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our hiftorians give of Henry the Sixth, than the picture Shakfpere has drawn of him? His manners are every where exactly the fame with the ftory; one finds him ftill defcribed with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy fubmiffion to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the fame time the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by fhowing him pious, difinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly refigned to the fevereft difpenfations of God's providence. There is a fhort fcene in the Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the Duke of Gloucefter, is fhewn in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is fo much terror in one, fo much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as must touch any one who is capable either
of fear or pity. In his Henry the Eighth, that prince is drawn with that greatnefs of mind, and all those good qualities which are attributed to him in any account of his reign. If his faults are not fhewn in an equal degree, and the fhades in this picture do. not bear a juft proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or skill in the dispo-. fition of them: but the truth, I believe, might be,. that he forebore doing it out of regard to Queen Elifabeth, fince it could have been no very great respect to the memory of his mistress, to have expofed fome certain parts of her father's life upon the ftage. He has dealt much more freely with the minister of that great king, and certainly nothing was ever more juftly written than the character of Cardinal Wolfey. He has fhewn him infolent in his profperity; and yet, by a wonderful addrefs, he makes his fall and ruin the fubject of general compaffion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly described in the fecond scene of the fourth act, The diftreffes likewife of Queen. Catharine, in this play, are very movingly touched; and though, the art of the poet has fcreened King Henry from any grofs imputation of injuftice, yet one is inclined to with the queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the manners proper to the perfons reprefented, lefs justly obferved in those characters taken from. the Roman history. And of this, the fierceness and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and difdain of the common people, the virtue and philofophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatnefs of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two laft efpecially, you find them exactly as they are defcribed by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shakfpere copied them.. He has indeed followed his original pretty close, and taken in feveral little incidents that might have been fpared in a play. But,
as I hinted before, his defign feems most commonly rather to defcribe thofe great men in the several fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any fingle great action, and form his work fimply upon that. However, there are fome of his pieces where the fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more especially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animofities that had been fo long kept up between them, and occafioned the effufion of fo much blood. In the management of this story, he has fhewn fomething wonderfully tender and paffionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the distress. Hamlet is founded on much the fame tale with the Elettra of Sophocles. In each of them, a young prince is engaged to revenge the death of his father; their mothers are equally guilty, are both concerned in the murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is, in the first part of the Greek tragedy, fomething very moving in the grief of Electra: but, as Mr. Dacier has obferved, there is fomething very unnatural and fhocking in the manners he has given that princefs and Oreftes in the latter part. Oreftes imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately upon the ftage, yet fo near, that the audience hear Clytemneftra crying out to Egyftus for help, and to her fon for mercy; while Electra, her daughter, and a princess, (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with more decency, ftands upon the ftage and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horror does this not raise ! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deserved to die; nay, in the truth of the ftory, fhe was killed by her own fon; but to represent an action of this kind on the ftage, is certainly an offence against
thofe rules of manners proper to the perfons, that ought to be obferved there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakfpere. Hamlet is represented with the fame piety towards his father, and refolution to revenge his death, as Oreftes; he has the fame abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by inceft: but it is with wonderful art and justnefs of judgment, that the poet_restrains him from doing violence to his mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his father's Ghost forbid that part of his vengeance:
But howfoever thou purfu'ft this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy foul contrive
This is to distinguish rightly between horror and terThe latter is a proper paffion of tragedy, but: the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick writer ever fucceeded better in raifing terror in the minds of an audience than Shakspere has done. The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the fcene where the king is murdered, in the fecond act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly fpirit with which he writ; and both fhow how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have feen this mafter-piece of Shakspere distinguish itself. upon the stage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part a man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakfpere's manner of expreffion; and
indeed he has ftudied him fo well, and is fo much a mafter of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpofe for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him, for the moft confiderable part of the paffages relating to this life, which I have here tranfmitted to the public; his veneration for the memory of Shakspere having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could of a name for which he . had so great a veneration.
To the foregoing account of SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE, I bave only one paffage to add, which Mr. Pope related, as communicated to him by Mr. Rowe.
In the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in ufe, thofe who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horfe-back to any distant bufinefs or diverfion. Many came on horfe-back to the play, and when Shakespeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal profecution, his firft expedient was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those that had no fervants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office, he became fo confpicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man as he alighted, called for Will Shakespeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trufted with a horse, while Will Shakespeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakefpeare, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection,