Page images

imitating the paffion in all its afpects, by purfuing it through all its windings and labyrinths, by moderating or accelerating its impetuofity according to the influence of other principles and of external events, and finally by combining it in a judicious manner with other paffions and propenfities, or by fetting it aptly in opposition. He thus unites the two effential powers of dramatic invention, that of forming characters; and that of imitating, in their natural expreffions, the paffions and affections of which they are compofed. It is, therefore, my intention to examine fome of his remarkable characters, and to analyze their component parts: An exercise no less adapted to improve the heart, than to inform the understanding. It is obvious my design by no means coincides with that of the ingenious author of the Effay on the Writings and Genius of Shakefpeare, whofe fuccefs in refcuing the fame of our poet from the attacks of partial criticism,


ticifm, and in drawing the attention of the public to various excellences in his works which might otherwise have escaped the notice they deferve, gives her a just title to the reputation fhe has acquired. My intention is to make poetry fubfervient to philofophy, and to employ it in tracing the principles of human conduct. The defign furely is laudable: Of the execution, I have no right to determine.





HE human mind, in different fituunder


goes many extraordinary changes, and affumes a variety of different aspects. Men of gaiety and chearfulness become reserved and unfocial: The beneficent temper, lofing its agreeable fweetnefs, becomes morofe: The indolent man leaves his retire-. ment: The man of bufinefs becomes inactive: And men of gentle and kind affections acquire habits of cruelty and revenge. As thefe changes affect the temper, and


not the faculties of the mind, they are produced by irregular and outrageous paffions. In order, therefore, to explain any unusual alteration of temper or character, we must confider the nature of the ruling paffion, and obferve its tendency.

In the character of Macbeth, we have an inftance of a very extraordinary change. In the following paffages we difcover the complexion and bias of his mind in its natural and unperverted state.

Brave Macbeth, (well he deferves that name.)
Difdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which fmok'd with bloody execution,

Like Valour's minion, carved out his paffage.

The particular features of his character are more accurately delineated by Lady Macbeth.

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor ;-and fhalt be What thou art promis'd-Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o'the milk of human kindness,

To catch the nearest way. Thou would't be great ; Art not without ambition; but without

The illness fhould attend it.


« PreviousContinue »