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Page 80 - Shakespeare is, above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet of nature ; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life.
Page 91 - ... carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong, and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of his age cannot extenuate ; for it is always a writer's duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time or place.
Page 85 - Shakespeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another; in which, at the same time, the reveller is hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend...
Page 82 - But love is only one of many passions, and as it has no great influence upon the sum of life, it has little operation in the dramas of a poet who caught his ideas from the living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He knew that any other passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity. Characters thus ample and general were not easily discriminated and preserved, yet perhaps no poet ever kept his personages more distinct from each other.
Page 85 - Shakespeare has united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive evolutions of the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, and sometimes levity and laughter.
Page 86 - ... poetry. This reasoning is so specious that it is received as true even by those who in daily experience feel it to be false. The interchanges of mingled scenes seldom fail to produce the intended vicissitudes of passion. Fiction cannot move so much but that the attention may be easily transferred...
Page 82 - But the dialogue of this author is often so evidently determined by the incident which VOL. ii. a produces it, and is pursued with so much ease and simplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of common conversation, and common occurrences.
Page 31 - TT is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good ; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise ; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.
Page 103 - Our author's plots are generally borrowed from novels ; and it is reasonable to suppose, that he chose the most popular, such as were read by many, and related by more ; for his audience could not have followed him through the intricacies of the drama, had they not held the thread of the story in their hands. The stories, which we now find only in remoter authors, were, in his time, accessible and familiar. The fable of As You Like It, which is supposed to be copied from Chaucer's Gamelyn, was a...
Page 78 - As among the works of nature, no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains and many rivers ; so in the productions of genius, nothing can be styled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the same kind.