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"I remember the players have often mentioned it as an "honour to Shakspeare, that in writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath "been, Would he had blotted a thousand! which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity "this, but for their ignorance, who chose that circum "stance to commend their friend by, wherein he most "faulted: and to justify mine own candour, for I loved "the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idola66 try, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of "an open and free nature, had an excellent fancy, brave 66 notions, and gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with "that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should "be stopped: Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of "Haterius. His wit was in his own power; would the "rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things which could not escape laughter; as when he "said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him,
Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.'
" He replied:
' Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause.
"and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed "his vices with his virtues; there was ever more in him "to be praised than to be pardoned."
As for the passage which he mentions out of Shakspeare, there is somewhat like it in Julius Cæsar, but without the absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonson*.
Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbaine, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in stanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems. As to the,
* nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonson.] See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note on Julius Cæsar, Act III. Sc. I. vol. xii. p. 75, n. 8. MALONE.
t 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.
character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal true in it: but I believe it may be as well expressed by what Horace says of the first Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed translated them,) in his epistle to Augustus:
naturâ sublimis et acer:
"Nam spirat tragicum satis, et feliciter audet,
As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete criticism upon Shakspeare's works, so I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judg ment of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in looking him over, 4b Bay
His plays are properly to be distinguished only into comedies and tragedies. Those which are called histories, and even some of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them. That way
are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them.] Heywood, our author's contemporary, has stated the best defence that can be made for his intermixing lighter with the more serious scenes of his dramas:
"It may likewise be objected, why amongst sad and grave histories I have here and there inserted fabulous jests and tales savouring of lightness. I answer, I have therein imitated our historical, and comical poets, that write to the stage, who, lest the auditory should be dulled with serious courses, which are merely weighty and material, in every act present some Zany, with his mimick action to breed in the less capable mirth and laughter; for they that write to all, must strive to please all. And as such fashion themselves to a multitude diversely addicted, so I to an universality of readers diversely disposed." Pref.. to History of Women, 1624. MALONE.
The criticks who renounce tragi-comedy as barbarous, I fear, speak more from notions which they have formed in their closets, than any well-built theory deduced from experience of what pleases or displeases, which ought to be the foundation of all rules.
Even supposing there is no affectation in this refinement, and that those criticks have really tried and purified their minds till there is no dross remaining, still this can never be the case of a popular audience, to which a dramatick representation is referred.
Dryden in one of his prefaces condemns his own conduct in The Spanish Friar; but, says he, I did not write it to please my
of tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is indeed become so agreeable to the English taste, that though the severer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences seem to be better pleased with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of a Shrew, are all pure comedy; the rest, however they are called, have something of both kinds. It is not very easy 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 strike at all ranks of people, as the satire of the present age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleasing and a well-distinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a master-piece; the character is always well sustained, 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 first Act of Henry the #boc:69 1 self, it was given to the publick. Here is an involuntary cons fession that tragi-comedy is more pleasing to the audience; I would ask then, upon what ground it is condemned ?s grom sis This ideal excellence of uniformity rests upon a supposition that we are either more refined, or a higher order of beings than we really are: there is no provision made for what may be called the animal part of our minds. *y,? Though we should acknowledge this passion for variety and contrarieties to be the vice of our nature, it is still a propensity which we all feel, and which he who undertakes to divert us must find provision for. sargual
We are obliged, it is true, in our pursuit after science, or ex cellence in any art, to keep our minds steadily fixed for a long continuance; it is a task we impose upon ourselves: but I do not wish to task myself in my amusements.w abbing enf
If the great object of the theatre is amusement, a dramatick work must possess every means to produce that effect; if it gives instruction by the by, so much its merit is the greater; but that is not its principal object. The ground on which it stands, and which gives it a claim to the protection and encouragement of civilised society, is not because it enforces moral precepts, or gives instruction of any kind; but from the general advantage that it produces, by habituating the mind to find its amusement in intellectual pleasures; weaning it from sensuality, and by degrees filing off, smoothing, and polishing, itsrugged corners.. ZEE SIR J. REYNOLDS.
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, vainglorious, and in short every way vicious, yet he has given him so much wit as to make him almost too agreeable; and I do not know whether some people have not, in remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded them, been sorry to see his friend Hal use him so scurvily when he comes to the crown in the end of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth. Amongst other extravagancies, in The Merry Wives of Windsor he has made him a deerstealer, that he might at the same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow; he has given him very near the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there *, and makes the Welsh parson descant very pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth Night there is something singularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite and the vainglorious in Parolles, in All's Well that Ends Well, is as good as any thing of that kind in Plautus or Terence. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rosalind, in As You Like It, have much wit, and sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: and, I believe, Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master-pieces of ill-nature, and satirical snarling, To these I might
the same coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there,] There are two coats, I observe, in Dugdale, where three silver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat to the monument of Thomas Lucy, son of Sir William Lucy, in which are quartered in four several divisions, twelve little fishes, three in each division, probably luces. This very coat, indeed, seems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white luces; and in Slender's saying he may quarter. THEOBALD,
add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy*, and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was designed tragically by the author. There appears in it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale, indeed, in that part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much removed from the rules of probability; but taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of Antonio to Bassanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth Act (supposing, as I said, the fact to be probable,) is extremely fine. But there are two passages that deserve a particular notice. The first is, what Portia says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of musick. The melancholy of Jaques, in As You Like It, is as singular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,
"Difficile est proprie communia dicere,"
it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the several degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.
but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy,] In 1701 Lord Lansdown produced his alteration of The Merchant of Venice, at the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, under the title of The Jew of Venice, and expressly calls it a comedy. Shylock was performed by Mr. Doggett. REED.
And such was the bad taste of our ancestors that this piece? continued to be a stock-play from 1701 to Feb. 14, 1741, when The Merchant of Venice was exhibited for the first time at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and Mr. Macklin made his first appearance in the character of Shylock. MALONE.
In justice to Lord Lansdown it should be mentioned, that the alterations which he made in the part of Shylock were very inconsiderable; and that therefore the misconception of this character must be imputed to the performers. Mr. Reed's censure upon him for calling it a comedy, is altogether unfounded. It is included among the comedies in the first folio, and in the early quartos it is termed The Comical Historie of The Merchant of Venice.