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This was a bold or a lazy avowal in Johnson; for Aristotle describes the popular admiration of the tragedy which ends happily for the good characters, and fatally for the bad, as a result of the "weakness of the spectators;" and though Johnson vigorously attacked Aristotle's Unities—or rather the doctrine of the Unities imputed to Aristotle the good critic must have been sleeping when he gave his voice to the general suffrage at the risk of being accounted weak. Johnson was too clever a man not to know that he lost something by not reading "the last scenes" of Shakspere's Lear; and we have considerable doubts whether he ever looked into the last scenes of Tate's Lear. Carrying the principle to the end with which we set out, we venture to print the last scene of each writer in apposition; and we ask our readers to apply the scale of Tate, in the manner which we have indicated, to the admeasurement of Shakspere :
"Enter ALBANY, KENT, and Knights to LEAR and CORDELIA in Prison.
Lear. Who are you?
My eyes are none o' th' best, I'll tell you straight:
Alb. Thou injur'd majesty,
The wheel of fortune now has made her circle,
Lear. Com'st thou, inhuman lord, to sooth us back
Our doom more wretched? Go to; we are too well
Alb. Since then my injuries, Lear, fall in with thine,
I have resolv'd the same redress for both.
Cord. Speak; for methought I heard
Alb. The troops by Edmund rais'd, I have disbanded:
What comfort may be brought to cheer your age,
For to your majesty we do resign
Your kingdom, save what part yourself conferr'd
Kent. Hear you that, my liege.
Cord. Then there are gods, and virtue is their care.
Let the spheres stop their course, the sun make halt,
Kent. Here, my liege.
Lear. Why, I have news that will recall thy youth; Ha! didst thou hear't?- or did th' inspiring gods Whisper to me alone?-Old Lear shall be
A king again.
Kent. The prince, that like a god has pow'r, has said it.
Cordelia is a queen.
Alb. Look, sir, where pious Edgar comes,
His wond'rous story well deserves your leisure;
I have seen the day, with my good biting faulchion
Lear. This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius ?
Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay,
• Treatise on Poetry-Twining's Translation.
Re-enter EDGAR with GLOSTER, L.H.
Glost. Where's my liege? Conduct me to his knees, to hail
His second birth of empire: My dear Edgar
Has, with himself, reveal'd the king's blest restoration.
Glost. O let me kiss that once more scepter'd hand!
Glost. My pious son, more dear than my lost eyes.
Edg. Divine Cordelia, all the gods can witness
(Flourish of Drums and Trumpets.)"
You lords, and noble friends, know our intent.
To him our absolute power:-You, to your rights:
With boot, and such addition as your honours
Lear. And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life:
And thou no breath at all? Thou 'It come no more.
Pray you undo this button: Thank you, sir.-
[Exeunt with a dead march."
And why do we ask any one of our readers to compare what cannot be compared ?-why do we put one of the most divine conceptions of poetry side by side with the meanest interpretation of the most unimaginative feelings-equally remote from the verisimilitude of common life, as from the truth of ideal beauty? It is, as we have said before, because we feel unable to impart to others our own conceptions of the marvellous power of the Lear of Shakspere, without employing some agency that may give distinctness to ideas which must be otherwise vague. There is only one mode in which such a production as the Lear of Shakspere can be understood-by study, and by reverential reflection. The age which produced the miserable parody of Lear that till within a few years has banished the Lear of Shakspere from the stage, was, as far as regards the knowledge of the highest efforts of intellect, a presumptuous, artificial, and therefore empty age. Tate was tolerated because Shakspere was not read. We have arrived, in some degree, to a better judgment, because we have learnt to judge more humbly. We have learnt to compare the highest works of the highest masters of poetry, not by the pedantic principle of considering a modern great only to the extent in which he is an imitator of an ancient, but by endeavouring to comprehend the idea in which the modern and the ancient each worked. The Cordelia of Shakspere and the Antigone of Sophocles have many points of similarity; but they each belong to a different system of art. It is for the highest minds only to carry their several systems to an approach to the perfection to which Shakspere and Sophocles have carried them. It was for the feeblest of imitators, in a feeble age, to produce such parodies as we have exhibited, under the pretence of substituting order for irregularity, but in utter ignorance of the principle of order which was too skilfully framed to be visible to the grossness of their taste.