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but having only one copy, cannot promise myself that my endeavours shall be much applauded.

JOHNSON.

Theobald declares it incontestable, I see no reason for believing. JOHNSON.

KING LEAR.-The tragedy of Lear is deservCORIOLANUS.-The tragedy of Coriolanus is edly celebrated among the dramas of Shakspeare. one of the most amusing of our author's perform- There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention unces. The old man's merriment in Menenius; so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our pasthe lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal mo- sions, and interests our curiosity. The artful indesty in Virgilia; the patrician and military haugh-volutions of distinct interests, the striking oppotiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity and sitions of contrary characters, the sudden changes tribunitian insolence in Brutus and Sicinius, make of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill a very pleasing and interesting variety; and the the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, various revolutions of the hero's fortune, fill the and hope. There is no scene which does not conmind with anxious curiosity. There is, perhaps, tribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct too much bustle in the first act, and too little in the to the action, and scarce a line which does not conlast. JOHNSON. duce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.

JULIUS CÆSAR.-Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is univer

sally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it, and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakspeare's plays: his adherence to the real story, and to the Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius.

JOHNSON.

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.-This play keeps curiosity always busy, and the passions always interested. The continual hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and the quick succession of one personage to another, call the mind forward without intermission, from the first act to the last. But the power of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the scene; for, except the feminine arts, some of which are too low, which distinguish Cleopatra, no character is very strongly discriminated. Upton, who did not easily miss what he desired to find, has discovered that the language of Antony is, with great skill and learning, made pompous and superb, according to his real practice. But I think his diction not distinguishable from that of others: the most tumid speech in the play

is that which Cæsar makes to Octavia.

The events, of which the principal are described according to history, are produced without any art of connection or care of disposition.-JOHNSON.

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On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which the story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely racters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds discriminates, and so minutely describes the chathe characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.

Adventurer very minutely criticised this play, reMy learned friend, Mr. Warton, who has in The marks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage and shocking, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think, be answered, by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only I am not able to apologise with equal plausibility drawn it into a series by dialogue and action. But for the extrusion of Gloster's eyes, which seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatic exhibition, and such as must always compel the mind to relieve its distress by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered that our author well knew what would please the audience for which he wrote.

The injury done by Edmund to the simplicity of the action is abundantly recompensed by the addition of variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the oppor tunity which he gives the poet of combining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the wicked son with the wicked daughters, to impress this important moral, that villany is never at a stop, that crimes lead to crimes, and at last terminate in ruin.

TITUS ANDRONICUS.-All the editors and critics agree with Mr. Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see no reason for differing from But though this moral be incidentally enforced, them; for the colour of the style is wholly different Shakspeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to from that of the other plays; and there is an at- perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas tempt at regular versification and artificial closes, of justice, to the hope of the reader, and, what is not always inelegant, yet seldom pleasing. The yet more strange, to the faith of chronicles. Yet barbarity of the spectacles, and the general mas-this conduct is justified by The Spectator, who sacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience; yet we are told by Jonson, that they were not only borne, but praised. That Shakspeare wrote any part, though

blames Tate for giving Cordelia success and hap piness in his alteration, and declares, that in his opinion, the tragedy has lost half its beauty. Dennis has remarked, whether justly or not, that, to

lived out the time allotted him in the construction of the play; nor do I doubt the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his existence, though some of his sallies are perhaps out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to humour, but acute, argumentative, comprehensive, and sublime.

The Nurse is one of the characters in which the author delighted: he has, with great subtilty of distinction, drawn her, at once, loquacious and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and dishonest

His comic scenes are happily wrought, but his pathetic strains are always polluted with some unexpected depravations. His persons, however distressed, have a conceit left them in their misery, a JOHNSON.

secure the favourable reception of Cato, the town
was poisoned with much false and abominable cri-
ticism, and that endeavours had been used to dis-
credit and decry poetical justice. A play in which
the wicked prosper, and the virtuous miscarry, may
doubtless be good, because it is a just representation
of the common events of human life: but since all
reasonable beings naturally love justice, I cannot
easily be persuaded, that the observation of justice
makes a play worse; or that, if other excellencies
are equal, the audience will not always rise better
pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue.
In the present case the public has decided. Cor-
delia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with
victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could
add any thing to the general suffrage, I might re-miserable conceit.
late, I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's
death, that I know not whether I ever endured to
read again the last scenes of the play, till I under-
took to revise them as an editor. There is another
controversy among the critics concerning this play.
It is disputed whether the predominant image in
Lear's disordered mind be the loss of his kingdom
or the cruelty of his daughters. Mr. Murphy, a
very judicious critic, has evinced, by induction of
particular passages, that the cruelty of his daughters
is the primary source of his distress, and that the
loss of royalty affects him only as a secondary and
subordinate evil. He observes, with great justness,
that Lear would move our compassion but little, did
we not rather consider the injured father than the
degraded king. The story of this play, except the
episode of Edmund, which is derived, I think, from
Sidney, is taken originally from Geoffry of Mon-
mouth, whom Holinshed generally copied; but per-
haps immediately from an old historical ballad.
My reason for believing that the play was posterior
to the ballad, rather than the ballad to the play, is,
that the ballad has nothing of Shakspeare's noc-objections.
turnal tempest, which is too striking to have been
omitted, and that it follows the chronicle; it has the
rudiments of the play, but none of its amplifications;
it first hinted Lear's madness, but did not array it
in circumstances. The writer of the ballad added
something to the history, which is a proof that he
would have added more, if more had occurred to
his mind; and more must have occurred if he had
seen Shakspeare.
JOHNSON.

HAMLET.-If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity: with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations; and solemnity not strained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life, and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that, in the first act, chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that exposes affectation to just contempt.

The conduct is, perhaps, not wholly secure against

The action is, indeed, for the most

part, in continual progression; but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of sanity. He plays the madman most, when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.

Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the ROMEO AND JULIET.-This play is one of stratagem of the play, convicted the king, he makes the most pleasing of our author's performances. no attempt to punish him; and his death is at last The scenes are busy and various, the incidents nu-effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part merous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly in producing. affecting, and the process of the action carried on with such probability, at least with such congruity to popular opinions, as tragedy requires.

Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to represent the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. Mr. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might easily reach his time, of a declaration made by Shakspeare, that he was obliged to kill Mercutio in the third act, lest he should have been killed by him. Yet he thinks him no such formidable person, but that he might have lived through the play, and died in his bed, without danger to the poet. Dryden well knew, had he been in quest of truth, in a pointed sentence, that more regard is commonly had to the words than the thought, and that it is very seldom to be rigorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gaiety and courage, will always procure him friends that wish him a longer life; but his death is not precipitated, he has

The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme might easily be formed, to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.

The poet is accused of having shewn little regard to poetical justice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose: the revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification, which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious. JOHNSON

OTHELLO.-The beauties of this play impress themselves so strongly upon the attention of the reader, that they can draw no aid from critical il

lustration. The fiery openness of Othello, magnanimous, artless, and credulous, boundless in his confidence, ardent in his affection, inflexible in his resolution, and obdurate in his revenge; the cool malignity of Iago, silent in his resentment, subtle in his designs, and studious at once of his interest and his vengeance; the soft simplicity of Desdemona, confident of merit, and conscious of innocence, her artless perseverance in her suit, and her slowness to suspect that she can be suspected, are such proofs of Shakspeare's skill in human nature, as, I suppose, it is vain to seek in any modern writer. The gradual progress which Iago makes in the Moor's conviction, and the circumstances which he employs to inflame him, are so artfully natural, that, though it will, perhaps, not be said of him as he says of himself, that he is a man not easily jealous, yet we cannot but pity him, when at last we find him perplexed in the extreme.

There is always danger, lest wickedness, conjoined with abilities, should steal upon esteem, though it misses of approbation; but the character of Iago is so conducted, that he is, from the first scene to the last, hated and despised.

Even the inferior characters of this play would be very conspicuous in any other piece, not only for their justness, but their strength. Cassio is brave, benevolent, and honest, ruined only by his want of stubbornness to resist an insidious invitation. Roderigo's suspicious credulity, and impatient submission to the cheats which he sees practised upon him, and which, by persuasion, he suffers to be repeated, exhibit a strong picture of a weak mind betrayed, by unlawful desires, to a false friend; and the virtue of Emilia is such as we often find, worn loosely, but not cast off; easy to commit small crimes, but quickened and alarmed at atrocious villanies.

The scenes, from the beginning to the end, are busy, varied by happy interchanges, and regularly promoting the progression of the story; and the narrative in the end, though it tells but what is known already, yet is necessary to produce the death of Othello.

Had the scene opened in Cyprus, and the preceding incidents been occasionally related, there had been little wanting to a drama of the most exact and scrupulous regularity. JOHNSON.

VENUS AND ADONIS.

THE EPISTLE.

Vilia miretur vulgus, mihi flavus Apollo Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.-OVID. TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLY, Earl of Southampton, and Baron of Tichfield. RIGHT HONOURABLE,-I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your ordship, nor how the world will censure me for hoosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burhen: only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and nour to your heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's hopeful expectation. Your Honour's in all duty,

your

ho

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.

EVEN as the sun with purple-colour'd face
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek'd Adonis hied him to the chase;

Hunting he lov'd, but love he laugh'd to scorn: Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him, And like a bold-fac'd suitor 'gins to woo him. Thrice fairer than myself, (thus she began,)

The field's chief flower, sweet above compare, Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,

More white and red than doves or roses are; Nature that made thee, with herself at strife, Saith, that the world hath ending with thy life Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,

And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow; If thou wilt deign this favour, for thy meed

A thousand honey secrets shalt thou know: Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses, And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses: And yet not cloy thy lips with loath'd satiety, But rather famish them amid their plenty, Making them red and pale with fresh variety;

Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty: A summer's day will seem an hour but short, Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.

With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And, trembling in her passion, calls it balm,

Earth's sovereign salve to do a goddess good:
Being so enrag'd, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,

Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blush'd and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot, as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire.
The studded bridle on a ragged bough

The steed is stalled up, and even now
Nimbly she fastens; (O, how quick is love!)

To tie the rider she begins to prove:
Backward she push'd him, as she would be thrust,
And govern'd him in strength, though not in lust.
So soon was she along, as he was down,

Each leaning on their elbows and their hips: Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown, And 'gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips: And kissing speaks, with lustful language broken, If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never open.

He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks; Then with her windy sighs, and golden hairs,

To fan and blow them dry again she seeks: He saith, she is immodest, blames her 'miss; What follows more, she murders with a kiss.

Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,

Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh, and bone, Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,

Till either gorge be stuff'd, or prey be gone; Even so she kiss'd his brow, his cheek, his chin, And where she ends, she doth anew begin.

Forc'd to content, but never to obey,

Panting he lies, and breatheth in her face; She feedeth on the steam, as on a prey,

And calls it heavenly moisture, air of grace; Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers, So they were dew'd with such distilling showers.

Look how a bird lies tangled in a net,

So fasten'd in her arms Adonis lies Pure shame and aw'd resistance made him fret, Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes: Rain added to a river that is rank, Perforce will force it overflow the bank.

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Thou can'st not see one wrinkle in my brow; [ing;
Mine eyes are grey, and bright, and quick in turn-
My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow,

My flesh is soft and plump, my marrow burning;
My smooth moist hand, were it with thy hand felt,
Would in thy palm dissolve, or seem to melt.
Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green,
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevell'd hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen :
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,

Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.
Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie; [me;
These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support
Two strengthless doves will draw me thro' the sky,
From morn till night, even where I list to sport me:
Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
That thou should'st think it heavy unto thee?

Is thine own heart to thine own face affected?
Can thy right hand seize love upon thy left?
Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,

Steal thine own freedom, and complain on theft
Narcissus, so, himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.

Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,

Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use; Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear;

Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse:
Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth beauty;
Thou wast begot,-to get it is thy duty.

Upon the earth's increase why shou'st thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?

By law of nature thou art bound to breed,

That thine may live, when thou thyself art dead;
And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.

By this, the love-sick queen began to sweat,
For, where they lay, the shadow had forsook them,
And Titan, tired in the mid-day heat,

With burning eye did hotly overlook them;
Wishing Adonis had his team to guide,
So he were like him, and by Venus' side.
And now Adonis, with a lazy spright,

And with a heavy, dark, disliking eye,
His low'ring brows o'er-whelming his fair sight
Like misty vapours, when they blot the sky,-
Souring his cheeks, cries Fie, no more of love;
The sun doth burn my face; I must remove.
Ah me, (quoth Venus,) young, and so unkind?
What bare-excuses mak'st thou to be gone!
I'll sigh celestial breath, whose gentle wind

Shall cool the heat of this descending sun;
I'll make a shadow for thee of my hairs;
If they burn too, I'll quench them with my tears.
The sun that shines from heaven, shines but warm,
And lo, I lie between that sun and thee;
The heat I have from thence doth little harm,
Thine eye darts forth the fire that burneth me.
And were I not immortal, life were done,
Between this heavenly and earthly sun.
Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel,

Nay more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth?
Art thou a woman's son, and canst not feel

What 'tis to love? how want of love tormenteth?
O, had thy mother borne so hard a mind,
She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind.

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