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they could have been by the moft judicious orator. I know not that any poet, ancient or modern, has shewn so perfect a judgment in rhetoric as our countryman. I wish he had employed his eloquence too in arraigning the baseness and treachery of John of Lancaster's conduct, in breaking his covenant with the rebels.
Pistol is an odd kind of personage, intended I fuppofe to ridicule fome fashionable affectation of bombaft language. When fuch characters exist no longer any where but in the writings in which they have been ridiculed, they seem to have been monsters of the poet's brain. The originals loft and the mode forgot, one can neither praise the imitation nor laugh at the ridicule. Comic writers should therefore always exhibit fome characteristic diftinctions as well as temporary modes. Juftice Shallow will for ever rank with a certain species of men ; he is like a well painted portrait in the dress of his age. Piftol appears a mere antiquated habit, fo uncouthly fashioned, we can hardly believe
believe it was made for any thing but a masquerade frolic. The poets who mean to please posterity, fhould therefore work ás painters, not as taylors, and give us peculiar features, rather than fantastic habits but where there is fuch a prodigious variety of well-drawn portraits as in this play, we may excufe one piece of mere drapery, especially when exhibited to expose an abfurd and troublesome fashion.
Mine hoftefs Quickly is of a fpecies not extinct. It may be faid, the author there finks from comedy to farce, but the helps to compleat the character of Falstaffe, and fome of the dialogues in which the is engaged are diverting. Every scene in which Doll Tearsheet appears is indecent, and therefore not only indefenfible but inexcufable. There are delicacies of decorum in one age unknown to another age, but whatever is immoral is equally blamable in all ages, and every approach to obscenity is an offence for which wit cannot atone, nor the
the barbarity or the corruption of the times excufe.
Having confidered the characters of this piece, I cannot pass over the conduct of it without taking notice of the peculiar felicity with which the fable begins to unfold itself from the very beginning.
The firft fcenes give the outlines of the characters, and the argument of the drama. Where is there an instance of any opening of a play equal to this? And I think I did not rafhly affert, that it is one of the most difficult parts of the dramatic art; for that furely may be allowed fo, in which the greatest masters have very feldom fucceeded. Euripides is not very happy in this refpect. Iphigenia in Tauris begins by telling to herself, in a pretty long foliloquy, who she is, and all that happened to her at Aulis. As Ariftotle gives this play the highest praise, we may be affured it did not in any respect offend the Greek tafte: and Boileau not injudiciously prefers this
fimple expofition, destitute as it is of any grace, to the perplexed and tedious declamation of the modern stage.
Que dès les premiers vers l'action préparée,
Sans peine, du fujet applaniffe l'entrée,
Je me ris d'un acteur, qui lent à s'exprimer,
De ce qu'il veut, d'abord ne fait pas m'informer;
That the fimplicity of Euripides is preferable to the perplexity or bombast of Corneille's manner in developing the story of feveral of his tragedies, no person of just taste I believe will difpute. The first scene of the Cinna has been ridiculed by Boileau. That of Sertorius is not very happy. His famous play of Rodogune is opened by two unknown perfons, one of whom begins,
Enfin ce jour pompeux, cet heureux jour, nous luit; and,
and, after un tas de confufes merveilles in the most wretched verfe, extended to the length of feventy lines, when the reader very impatiently expects to be informed of the whole of the narration, stops short with these words,
Je vous acheverai le reste une auftre fois.
Two brothers united by the most tender friendship, living in the fame palace, having been long in love with the fame princess, never have intimated their paffion to each other, not out of a motive of jealousy or diftruft, but that their confidents may tell it the fpectator, and make him fome amends for the abrupt conclufion of the former converfation. However, ftill the poor spectator is much in the dark, till the queen, who is a perfect Machiavel, relates, merely from love of talking, all the murders the has committed, and thofe the ftill intends to commit, to her waiting-woman, for whose parts the expreffes at the fame time a fovereign contempt.