Page images

Which is as dry as the remainder bisket

After a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'è
With obfervation, the which he vents

In mangled forms :-O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat.

Duke. Thou shalt have one.

Jaq. It is my only fuit;

Provided, that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion, that grows rank in them,
That I am wife. I must have liberty
Withal; as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please; for fo fools have:
And they that are most gauled with my folly,
They moit must laugh: And why, fir, muft they so?
The why is plain as way to parish church, &c.
Invest me in my motley; give me leave

To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,

If they will patiently receive my medicine.

This mixture of melancholy and mifanthropy in the character of Jaques is more agreeable to human nature than the representation of either of the extremes; for a complete mifanthrope is as uncommon an object as a a man who fuffers injury without refentment. Mankind hold a

[merged small][ocr errors]

fort of middle rank, and are in general too good for the one, and too bad for the other. As benevolence and fenfibility are manifeft in the temper of Jaques, we are not offended with his feverity. By the oddity of his manner, by the keenness of his remarks, and fhrewdnefs of his obfervations, while we are inftructed, we are also amused. He is precisely what he himfelf tells us," often wrapped in a most "humourous fadnefs." His fadness, of a mild and gentle nature, recommends him to our regard; his humour amuses.

A picture of this kind fhews the fertility of Shakespeare's genius, his knowledge of human nature, and the accuracy of his pencil, much more than if he had reprefented in ftriking colours either of the component parts. By running them into one another, and by delineating their fhades where they are gradually and almost imperceptibly blended together, the extent and delicacy of his conceptions, and his


amazing powers of execution are fully evident. Violent and impetuous paffions are obvious, their colours are vivid, their features ftrongly marked, they may eafily be difcerned and eafily copied. But the fenfibility of the foul flows out in a variety of emotions and feelings, whofe impulses are less apparent, and whose progress and operation may escape the notice of fuperficial obfervers; but whofe influence in governing the conduct, and fashioning the tempers of mankind, is more extenfive than we are apt to imagine. Affections and paffions which gain an afcendant in the foul by filent and unobserved approaches, which, instead of impelling, feduce, and are not perceptible in the geftures or countenance till they have established a peculiar habit or temper, are represented to us by thofe only whom nature has diftinguished; and whom, by rendering them exquifitely susceptible of every feeling, she has rendered fupremely


happy, or miserable beyond the common lot of humanity. To men of this character, endowed with lively imaginations, and a talent of eafy expreffion, the most delicate emotions and affections of the foul fubmit themselves, fuffering them to copy their true appearance, and exhibit them for the profit and pleasure of mankind: Like thofe aerial agents, the fylphs, fairies, and other divinities of the poets, that prefide over the seasons, and regulate the progress of vegetation, but which can only be rendered vifible by the spells and authority of a skilful magician.

II. That Jaques, on account of difappointments in friendship, fhould become referved and cenforious, is confiftent with human nature: But is it natural that he fhould abjure pleasure, and confider the world and every enjoyment of fenfe as frivolous and inexpedient? Ought he not rather to have recurred to them for con


folation, and to have fought in them wherewithal to have relieved and folaced him? On the contrary, he expatiates with fatisfaction on the infufficiency of human happiness, and on the infignificance of our pursuits.

[ocr errors]

All the world's a ftage,

And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms:

And then, the whining fchool-boy with his fatchel,
And shining morning-face, creeping like fnail
Unwillingly to fchool :-And then, the lover;
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his miftrefs' eye-brow :-Then, a soldier
Full of ftrange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, fudden and quick in quarrel;

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth :-And then, the juftice;

In fair round belly, with good capon lin❜d,

With eyes fevere, and beard of formal cut,

Full of wife faws and modern instances,

And fo he plays his part :-The fixth age fhifts
Into the lean and flipper'd pantaloon ;

With spectacles on nofe, and pouch on fide;


« PreviousContinue »