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Who would excel, when few can make a test
Betwixt indifferent writing and the best?
For favours, cheap and common, who would strive,
Which, like abandon'd prostitutes, you give?
Yet, scatter'd here and there, I some behold,
Who can discern the tinsel from the gold:
To these he writes; and if by them allow'd,
'Tis their prerogative to rule the crowd.
For he more fears, like a presuming man,
Their votes who cannot judge, than theirs who can.







THE prologue to the preceding play has already acquainted us, that Dryden's taste for Rhyming, or Heroic Plays, was then upon the wane; and, accordingly, "Aureng-Zebe" was the last tragedy which he formed upon that once admired model. "Henceforth a series of new times began," for, when given up by the only writer, whose command of flowing and powerful numbers had rendered it impressive, that department of the drama was soon abandoned by the inferior class of play-writers, to whom it presented multiplied difficulties, without a single advantage. The new taste, which our author had now decidedly adopted, was founded upon the style of Shakespeare, of whose works he appears always to have been a persevering student, and, at length, an ardent admirer. Accordingly, he informs us, in the introduction, that this play is professedly written in imitation of "the divine Shakespeare." As if to bring this more immediately under the eye of the reader, he has chosen a subject upon which his immortal original had already laboured; and, perhaps, the most proper introduction to "All for Love," may be a parallel betwixt it and Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra."

The first point of comparison is the general conduct, or plot, of the tragedy. And here Dryden, having, to use his own language, undertaken to shoot in the bow of Ulysses, imitates the wily Antinous in using art to eke out his strength, and suppling the weapon before he attempted to bend it.

Shakespeare, with the licence peculiar to his age and character, had diffused the action of his play over Italy, Greece, and Egypt; but Dryden, who was well aware of the advantage to be derived from a simplicity and concentration of plot, has laid every scene in the city of Alexandria. By this he guarded the audience from that vague and puzzling distraction which must necessarily attend a violent change of place. It is a mistake to suppose, that the argument in favour of the unities depends upon preserving the deception of the scene; they are necessarily connected with the intelligibility of the piece. It may be true, that no spectator supposes that the stage before him is actually the court of Alexandria;

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