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which is taken from an old book, called The Delectable Hiftory of Doraftus and Fawnia, contains the fpace of fixteen or feventeen years, and the scene is fometimes laid in Bohemia, and fometimes in Sicily, according to the original order of the story. Álmost all his hiftorical plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and diftinct places: and in his Antony and Cleopatra, the fcene travels over the greatest part of the Roman empire. But in recompence for his carelessnefs in this point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the manners of his characters, in acting or speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shown by the poet, he may be generally juftified, and in very many places greatly commended. For thofe plays which he has taken from the English or Roman hiftory, let any man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the hiftorian. He feems indeed fo far from propofing to himself any one action for a fubject, that the title very often tells you, it is The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our hiftorians give of Henry the Sixth, than the picture Shakspeare has drawn of him? His manners are every where exactly the fame with the story; one finds him still described with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weaknefs of mind, and eafy fubmiffion to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the fame time the poet does juftice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience for him, by fhowing him pious, difinterested, a contemner of the things of this world, and wholly refigned to the fevereft difpenfations of God's providence. There is a fhort fcene in The Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot think but admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort,

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who had murdered the Duke of Gloucester, is shown in the laft agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is fo much terror one, fo much tenderness and moving piety in the other,, as, muft touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his Henry the Eighth, that prince is drawn with that greatness of mind, and all tho 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 fhades in this picture do not bear a juft proportion to the lights, it is not that the artift wanted either colours or fkill in the difpofition of them; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to Queen Elizabeth, fince it could have been no very great refpect to the memory of his miftrefs, to have expofed fome certain parts of her father's life upon the flage. He has dealt much more freely with the minifter of that great king; and certainly nothing was ever more juftly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolfey. He has fhown him infolent in his profperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the fubject of general compaffion. The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly defcribed in the fecond fcene of the fourth Act. The diftreffes likewife of Queen Katharine, in this play, are very movingly I touched; and though the art of the poet has fcreened King Henry from any grofs imputation of injuftice, yet one is inclined to with, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor are the manners, proper to the perfons reprefented, lefs juftly obferved, in those characters taken from the Roman hiftory; and of this, the fiercenefs and impatience of Coriolanus, his courage and difdain of the common people, the virtue and philofophical temper of Brutus, and the

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irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two laft especially, you find them exactly as they are described by Plutarch, from whom certainly Shakspeare copied them. He has indeed followed his original pretty clofe, and taken in several little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his defign feems most commonly rather to defcribe thofe great men in the feveral fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to take any fingle 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 efpecially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreafonable feuds and animofities that had been fo long kept up Between them, and occafioned the effufion of fo much blood. In the management of this ftory, he has fhown fomething wonderfully tender and paffionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the diftrefs. Hamlet is founded on much the fame tale with the Electra 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 hufbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greek tragedy fomething very moving in the grief of Electra; but, as Mr. Dacier has obferved, there is fomething very unnatural and fhocking in the manners he has given that princefs and Oreftes in the latter part. Oreftes


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are both concerned in the murder of their husbands,] It does not appear that Hamlet's mother was concerned in the death of her husband, MALONE. ↑ 7;

imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately upon the ftage, yet so near, that the audience hear Clytemneftra crying out to Ægyfthus for help, and to her fon for mercy: while Electra her daughter, and a princefs, (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with more decency,) ftands upon the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horror does this not raife! Clytemneftra was a wicked woman, and had deserved to die; nay, in the truth of the story, she was killed by her own fon; but to reprefent an action of this kind on the ftage, is certainly an offence against thofe rules of manners proper to the perfons, that ought to be obferved there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakspeare. Hamlet is reprefented with the fame piety towards his father, and resolution to revenge his death, as Oreftes; he has the fame abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by inceft: but it is with wonderful art and juftnefs 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 Ghoft forbid that part of his vengeance:

"But howfoever thou purfu'ft this act,

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Taint not thy mind, nor let thy foul contrive
"Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
"And to thofe thorns that in her bofom lodge,
"To prick and fting her."

This is to diftinguifh rightly between horror and terror. The latter is a proper paffion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick writer ever fucceeded better in raifing terror in the minds of an audience than Shakspeare has done. The whole

tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the King is murdered, in the fecond Act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly fpirit with which he writ; and both fhow how powerful he was, in giving the ftrongeft motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this mafter-piece of Shakspeare diftinguish itself upon the ftage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, muft have made his way into the efteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare's manner of expreffion, and indeed he has ftudied him fo well, and is fo 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 moft confiderable part of the paffages relating to this life, which I have here tranfmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakspeare 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 yeneration.2


of a name for which he had fo great a veneration.] Mr. Betterton was born in 1635, and had many opportunities of collecting information relative to Shakspeare, but unfortunately the age in which he lived was not an age of curiofity. Had either he or Dryden or Sir William D'Avenant taken the trouble to vifit our poet's youngest daughter, who lived till 1662, or his grand-daughter, who did not die till 1670, many particulars might have been preferved which are now irrecoverably loft. Shakspeare's fifter, Joan Hart, who was only five years younger than him, died at Stratford in Nov. 1646, at the age of feventy-.

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