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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 of tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is indeed become fo agreeable to the English tafte, that though the feverer criticks among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences feem to be better pleased with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windfor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of a Shrew, are all pure comedy; the reft, however they are called, have fomething 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 fatire of the prefent age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-diftinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a masterpiece; 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 firft act of Henry the 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, vain-glorious, and in fhort every way vicious, yet he has given him fo much wit as to render him almoft too agreeable; and I do not know whether fome

people

people have not, in remembrance of the diverfion he had formerly afforded them, been forry to fee his friend Hal use him fo fcurvily 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 Windfor he has made him a deer stealer, that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire profecutor, under the name of Juftice Shallow; he has given him very near the fame coat of arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parfon descant very pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed; the main defign, which is to cure Ford of his unreafonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth Night there is fomething fingularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parafite and the vain-glorious 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 converfation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much Ado about Nothing, and of Rofalind, in As you like it, have much wit and fprightlinefs all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: and, I believe, Therfites in Troilus and Creffida, and Apemantus in Timon, will be allowed to be master-pieces of ill-nature, and fatirical foarling. To these I might add, that incomparable character of Shylock the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice; but though we have feen that play received

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and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was defigned tragically by the author. There appears in it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a favage fiercenefs and fellnefs, and fuch a bloody defignation of cruelty and mifchief, as cannot agree either with the ftyle or characters of comedy. The play itfelf, take it altogether, feems to me to be one of the moft finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale indeed, in that part relating to the cafkets, 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 Baffanio very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (fuppofing, as I faid, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two paffages that deserve a particular notice. The firft is, what Portia fays in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of mufick. The melancholy of Jacques, in ds you like it, is as fingular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,

Difficile eft proprie communia dicere,

it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the defcription of the feveral degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old, and common enough.

-All the world's a flage,

And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,

And

OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.

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 fhining 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 foldier;
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, fudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation

Ev`n in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice;
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,

With eyes fevere, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wife faws and modern inftances;
And fo he plays his part. The fixth age shifts
Into the lean and flipper'd pantaloon;
With fpectacles on nose, and pouch on fide;
His youthful hofe, well fav'd, a world too wide
For his fhrunk shank : and his big manly voice,
Turning again tow'rd childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his found: Laft fcene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,

Is fecond childishness, and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, fans eyes, fans tafte, fans every thing."

XV

His images are indeed every where fo lively, that the thing he would represent stands full before you, and you poffefs every part of it. I will venture to point out one more, which is, I think, as ftrong and as uncommon as any thing I ever faw; it is an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in love, he says,

She never told her love,

But let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud,

Feed

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Feed on her damask cheek: fhe pin'd in thought,
And fate like Patience on a monument,

Smiling at Grief.

What an image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the greatest masters of Greece and Rome to have expreffed the paffions defigned by this sketch of ftatuary! The ftyle of his comedy is, in general, natural to the characters, and eafy in itself; and the wit moft commonly fprightly and pleafing, except in those places where he runs into doggerel rhimes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and fome other plays. As for his jingling fometimes, and playing upon words; it was the common vice of the age he lived in: and if we find it in the pulpit, made ufe of as an ornament to the fermons of fome of the graveft divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the ftage.

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But certainly the greatness of this author's genius does no where fo much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loofe, and raises his fancy to a flight above mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempeft, A Midfummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. thefe, The Tempest, however it comes to be placed the firft by the publishers of his works, can never have been the firft written by him: it seems to me as perfect in its kind, as almoft any thing we have of his. One may observe, that the unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what, I fuppofe, he valued himself

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