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who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is fhown 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 fhown 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 difpofition of them; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to Queen Elizabeth, 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 stage. He has dealt much more freely with the minifter of that great king; and certainly nothing was ever more juftly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolfey. He has fhown him infolent in his profperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of general compaffion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly defcribed in the fecond fcene of the fourth Act. The diftreffes likewife of Queen Katharine, 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 juftly obferved, in those characters taken from the Roman hiftory; and of this, the fiercenefs 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 Shakspeare copied them. He has indeed followed his original pretty clofe, and taken in feveral little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his defign feems moft commonly rather to defcribe those great men in the feveral 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 efpecially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreafonable 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 ftory, he has shown something wonderfully tender and paffionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the diftrefs. Hamlet is founded on much the fame tale with the Electra 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 hufbands, 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 shocking in the manners he has given that princess and Oreftes in the latter part. Oreftes
are both concerned in the murder of their husbands,] It does not appear that Hamlet's mother was concerned in the death of her husband. MALONE.
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 Ægyfthus for help, and to her fon for mercy: while Electra her daughter, and a princefs, (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 raife! Clytemneftra 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 reprefent 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 observed there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakspeare. Hamlet is represented with the fame piety towards his father, and resolution 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 juftnefs 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 Ghoft forbid that part of his vengeance:
"But how foever thon purfu'ft this act,
"Taint not thy mind, nor let thy foul contrive
This is to diftinguifh rightly between horror and terror. The 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 Shakspeare has done. The whole
tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the King is murdered,, in the second 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 ftrongest motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakspeare diftinguish itself upon the ftage, 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, muft have made his way into the efteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare'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 purpose 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 publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakspeare 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 fo great a
of a name for which he had fo great a veneration.] Mr. Betterton was born in 1635, and had many opportunities of collecting information relative to Shakspeare, but unfortunately the age in which he lived was not an age of curiofity. Had either he or Dryden or Sir William D'Avenant taken the trouble to vifit our poet's youngest daughter, who lived till 1662, or hist grand-daughter, who did not die till 1670, many particulars might have been preferved which are now irrecoverably loft. Shakspeare's fifter, Joan Hart, who was only five years younger than him, died at Stratford in Nov. 1646, at the age of feventy
To the foregoing Accounts of SHAKSPEARE'S LIFE, I have only one Passage to add, which Mr. Pope related, as communicated to him by Mr. Rowe.
the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in ufe, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horfeback to any diftant business or diverfion. Many came on horfeback to the play, and when Shakspeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal profecution, his firft expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of thofe that had no fervants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became fo confpicuous for
fix; and from her undoubtedly his two daughters, and his granddaughter Lady Barnard, had learned feveral circumstances of his early hiftory antecedent to the year 1600. MALONE.
This Account of the Life of Shakspeare is printed from Mr. Rowe's fecond edition, in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance in 1709. STERVENS.
3 Many came on horseback to the play,] Plays were at this time performed in the afternoon. "The pollicie of plaies is very neceffary, howfoever fome fhallow-brained cenfurers (not the deepest fearchers into the fecrets of government) mightily oppugne them. For whereas the afternoon being the idleft time of the day wherein men that are their own mafters (as gentlemen of the court, the innes of the court, and a number of captains and foldiers about London) do wholly beftow themfelves upon pleafure, and that pleasure they divide (how vertuously if kills not) either in gaming, following of harlots, drinking, or feeing a play, is it not better (fince of four extreames all the world cannot keepe them but they will choose one) that they should betake them to the leaft, which is plaies ?" Nash's Pierce Pennilee his Supplication to the Devil, 1592. STEEVENS.