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the greatest part of the Roman empire.' But in recompence for his carelessness in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, The manners of his characters, in afting or speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shown by the poet, he may be generally justified, and in very many places greatly commended. For those plays which he has taken from the English or Roman history, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the historian. He seems, indeed, so far from proposing to himself any one action for a subject, that the title very often tells you, 'tis The Life of King John, King Richard &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our historians give of Henry the fixth, than the picture Shakespear has drawn of him! His manners are every where exactly the same with the story; one finds him ftill described with simplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy fubmission to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the fame time, the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by showing him pious, disinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly refigned to the severest dispensations of god's providence. There is a short scene in the second part of Henry VI. which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the duke of Gloucester, is shown in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is so much terrour in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as muft touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his Henry VIII, that prince is drawn with that greatness of mind, and all those good qualities which are attributed to him in any account of his reign. If his faults are not shown in an equal degree, and the shades in this picture do not bear a just proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or skill in the disposition of them; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to queen Elizabeth, since it could have been no very great respect to the memory of his mistress, to have exposed




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fome certain parts of her father's life upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with the minister of that great king, and certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of cardinal Wolfey. He has shown him insolent in his prosperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of general compassion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly described in the second scene of the fourth act. The distresses likewise of queen Catharine, in this play, are very movipgly touched;. and though the art of the

has screened king Henry from any gross imputation of injustice, yet one is inclined to wish, the queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the manners, proper to the persons represented, less justly observed, in those characters taken from the Roman history: and of this, the fierceness and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people, the virtue and philosophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last especially, you find them exactly as they are described by Plutarch, from whom certainly, Shakespear copy’d them. He has, indeed, followed his original pretty close, and taken in several little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his design seems most commonly rather to describe those great men in the several fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any single great action, and form his work fimply upon that. However, there are some of his pieces, where the fable is founded upon one action only. Such are more especially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The design in Romeo and Juliet, is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animosities that had been so long kept up between them, and occasioned the effusion of so much blood. In the management of this story, he has shown something wonderfully tender and passionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the distress

. Hamlet is founded on much the same tale with the Ele&tra of Sophocles. In each of them a young prince is engaged to revenge the death



of his father, their mothers are equally guilty, are both concerned
in the murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to
the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greek tragedy
something very moving in the grief of Ele&tra; but as Mr. D’Acier
has observed, there is something very unnatural and shocking in
the manners he has given that princess and Orestes in the latter
part. Orestes imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother;
and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately
upon the stage, yet so near, that the audience hear Clytemnestra
crying out to Ægysthus for help, and to her son for mercy: while
Electra, her daughter, and a princess (both of them characters
that ought to have appeared with more decency) stands upon
stage and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horrour
does this not raise! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had
deserved to die; nay, in the truth of the story, she was killed
by her own son; but to represent an action of this kind on the
stage, is certainly an offence against those rules of manners proper
to the persons, that ought to be observed there. On the contrary,
let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakespear. Hamlet
is represented with the same piety towards his father, and resolution
to revenge his death, as Orestes; he has the same abhorrence
for his mother's guilt, which to provoke him the more, is
heightened by incest: but ’tis with wonderful art and justness of
judgment, that the poet restrains him from doing violence to his
mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his
father's ghost forbid that part of his vengeance:

But howsoever thou pursu'st this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy foul contrive
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heav'n,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and Ring ber.

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This is to distinguish rightly between horrour and terrour. The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but the former ought always



to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick writer ever succeeded better in railing terrour in the minds of an audience than Shakespear has done. The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but

especially the scene where the king is murdered, in the second act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly fpirit with which he writ; and both show how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hainlet, without taiing notice of the advantage with which we have seen this masterpicce of Shakespear distinguish itself upon the fage, by Mr. Betterton's fine perforinance of that part. A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakespear's manner of expression; and, indeed, he has studied him so well, and is so much a master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him, for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakespear having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration.

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The following instrument was transmitted to us by John

Anstis, esq; Garter king at arms: it is marked,
G. 13. p. 349.

O all and singular noble and gentlemen of all estates and

degrees, bearing arms, to whom these presents shall come: William Dethick, Garter principal king of arins of England, and William Camden, alias Clarencieulx, king of arms for the south, east, and west parts of this realm, send greetings. Know ye, that in all nations and kingdoms the record and remembrance of the valiant facts and virtuous dispositions of worthy men have been made known and divulged by certain shields of arms and tokens of chivalry; the grant or testimony whereof appertaineth unto us, by virtue of our offices from the queen's most excellent majesty, and her highness's most noble and victorious progenitors: wherefore being solicited, and by credible report informed, that John Shakespere, now of Stratford upon Avon in the county of Warwick, gentleman, whose great grandfather for his faithful and approved service to the late most prudent prince, king Henry VII. of famous memory, was advanced and rewarded with lands and tenements, given to him in those parts of Warwickshire, where they have continued by some descents in good reputation and credit; and for that the said John Shakespere having married the daughter and one of the heirs of Robert Arden of Wellingcote in the faid county, and also produced this his ancient coat of arms, heretofore afligned to him whilst he was her majesty's officer and bailiff of that town. In consideration of the premises, and for the encouragement of his pofterity, unto whom such blazon of arms and atchievements of inheritance from their faid mother, by the ancient custom and laws of arms, may lawfully descend; we the faid Garter and Clarencieulx have assigned, granted, and confirmed, and by these presents exemplified unto the said John Shakespere, and to his posterity, that ihield and coat of arms, viz. In a field of gold upon a bend fables a spear of the first, the point


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