« PreviousContinue »
the wit most commonly sprightly and pleasing, except in those places where he runs into doggrel rhymes, as in The Comedy of Errors, and some other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, and playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he lived in; and if we find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the sermons of some of the gravest divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought too light for the stage.
But certainly the greatness of this author's genius does no where so much appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy to a flight above mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him: it seems to me as perfect in its kind as almost any thing we have of his. One may observe, that the unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writings; though that was what, I suppose, he valued himself least upon, since his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible, that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these sort of writings; yet he does it so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his sake, than reason does well allow of. His magic has something in it very solemn and very poetical; and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, shows a wonderful invention in the author, who could strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was seen. The observation which, I have been informed, three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely just; that Shakspeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character.
It is the same magic that raises the Fairies in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they sustain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two last of these plays I shall have occasion to take notice, among the tragedies of Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian stage, it would be no very hard task to find a great many faults; but as Shakspeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal licence and ignorance: there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his own fancy. When one considers, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatic poetry so far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the first, among those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a tragic or heroic poem; not, perhaps, as it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivance and course of the whole; and with the fable ought to be considered the fit disposition, order, and conduct, of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the drama, that the strength and mastery of Shakspeare lay, so I shall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were seldom invented, but rather taken either from the true history, or novels and romances: and he commonly made use of them in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them. So The Winter's Tale, which is taken from an old book, called The Delectable History of Dorastus and Fawnia, contains the space of sixteen or seventeen years, and the scene is sometimes laid in Bohemia, and sometimes in Sicily, according to the original order of the story. Almost all his historical plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and distinct places : and in his Antony and Cleopatra, the scene travels over the greatest part of the Roman empire. But in recompense for his carelessness 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 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, it is The Life of King John, King Richard, &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our historians give of Henry the Sixth, than the picture Shakspeare has drawn of him? His manners are every where exactly the same with the story; one finds him still described with simplicity, passive sanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy submission to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though, at the same 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 resigned to the severest dispensations of God's providence. There is a short scene in The Second Part of Henry the Sixth, 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 terror in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as must 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 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 reyard to Queen Elizabeth; since it could have been no very great respect to the memory of his mistress, to have exposed some certain parts of her father's life upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with that minister of the great king; and, certainly, nothing was ever more justly written, than the character of Cardinal Wolsey. 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 Katharine, in this play, are very movingly touched; and, though the art of the poet 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 Bratus; 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 Shakspeare copied 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 simply 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 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 husbands, and are afterward married to the murderers. There is in the first part of the Greek tragedy something very moving in the grief of Electra ; but, as Mr. Dacier 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. On the contrary, 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, it is with wonderful art and justness of judge ment, 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, and thus distinguishes rightly between horror and terror. The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided. And, certainly, no dramatie writer ever succeeded better in raising 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 second Act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit 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 Hamlet without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakspeare distinguish itself upon the stage, 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, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare'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 public: 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 veneration,
Sir John FALSTAFF.
Robin, Page to Falstaff. FENTON.
SIMPLE, Servant to Slender.
RUGBY, Servant to Dr. Caius.
Mrs. QUICKLY, Servant to Dr. Caius.
Servants to Page, Ford, &c.
SCENE, Windsor; and the parts adjacent.
agements unto you, I am of the church, and SCENE I.-Windsor. Before Page's House. will be glad to do my benevolence, to make
atonements and compromises between you. Enter Justice SHALLOW, SLENDER, and Sir*
Shal. The Council* shall hear it: it is a riot. HUGH EVANS.
Eva. It is not meet the Council hear a riot ; Shal. Sir Hugh, persuade me not; I will there is no fear of Got in a riot: the Council, make a Star-chamber matter of it: if he were look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, twenty Sir John Falstaff's, he shall not abuse and not to hear a riot; take your vizamentst Robert Shallow, esquire.
in that. Slen. In the county of Gloster, justice of Shal. Ha! o'my life, if I were young again, peace, and coram.
the sword should end it. Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and Cust-alorum.t
Eva. It is petter that friends is the sword. Slen. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentle- and end it: and there is also another device in man born, master parson ; who writes himself my prain, which, peradventure, prings goot disarmigero ; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or cretions with it: There is Anne Page, which obligation, armigero.
is daughter to master George Page, which is Shal. Ay, that we do; and have done any pretty virginity. time these three hundred years.
Slen. Mistress Anne Page? She has brown Slen. All his successors, gone before bim, hair, and speaks smalls like a woman. have done't; and all his ancestors, that come Era. It is that fery verson for all the 'orld, after him, may: they may give the dozen white as just as you will desire; and seven hundred luces in their coat.
pounds of monies, and gold, and silver, is her Shal. It is an old coat.
grandsire, upon his death’s-bed, (Got deliver Eva. The dozen white louses do become an to a joyful resurrections !) give, when she is old coat well; it agrees well, passant: it is a able to overtake seventeen years old : it were familiar beast to man, and signifies-love.
a goot motion, if we leave our pribbles and Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish prabbles, and desire a marriage between masis an old coat.
ter Abraham, and mistress Anne Page. Slen. I may quarter, coz?
Shal. Did her grandsire leave her seven hunShal. You may, by marrying.
dred pound? Era. It is marring indeed, if he quarter it. Eva. Ay, and her father is make her a petter Shal. Not a whit.
penny. Eva. Yes, py'rf lady; if he has a quarter of Shal. I know the young gentlewoman ; she your coat, there is but three skirts for yourself, has good gifts. in my simple conjectures: but that is all one : Eva. Seven hundred pounds, and possibiliIf Sir John Falstaff have committed dispar- ties, is good gifts.
* A title formerly appropriated to chaplains. uslus rotulorum
# By our.
Court of Star-chamber
Shol. Well, let us see honest master Page : Slen. Ay, it is no matter. Is Falstaff there?
Pist. How now, Mephostophilus ?* Eva. Shall I tell you a lie? I do despise a Slen. Ay, it is no matter. liar, as I do despise one that is false; or, as I Nym. Slice, I say! pauca, pauca ;t slice! that's despise one that is not true. The knight, Sir my humour. John, is there; and, I beseech you, be ruled Slen. Where's Simple, my man ?- can you by your well-willer's. I will peat the door tell, cousin ? (knocks] for master Page. What, hoa ! Got Eva. Peace: I pray you! Now let us underpless your house here !
stand: There is three umpires in this matter Enter Page.
as I understand: that is master Page, fideli
cet, master Page; and there is myself, fidelicet, Page. Who's there?
Eva. Here is Got's plessing, and your friend, myself; and the three party is, lastly and and justice shallow : and here young master finally, mine host of the Garter. Slender; that, peradventures, shall tell you
Page. We three, to hear it, and end it be
tween them. another tale, if matters grow to your likings.
Eva. Fery goot: I will make a prief of it in Page. I am glad to see your worships well :
my note-book; and we will afterward 'ork I thank you for my venison, master Shallow. Shal
. Master Page, I am glad to see you ; upon the cause, with as great discreetly as we Much good do it your good heart! I wished
Fal. Pistol, your venison better: it was ill kill'd :-Hoa
Pist. He hears with ears. doth good mistress Page?--and I love you al
Eva. The tevil and his tam! what phrase is ways with my heart, la ; with my heart.
this, He hears with ear? Why, it is affectations. Page. Sir, I thank you. Shal. Sir, I thank you ; by yea and no, I do.
Fal. Pistol, did you pick master Slender's Page. I am glad to see you, good master purse? Slender.
Slen. Ay, by these gloves, did he, (or I would Slen. How does your fallow greyhound, Sir? I might never come in mine own great chamber I heard say, he was out-run on Cotsale.*
again else,) of seven groats in mill-sixpences,
and two Edward shovel-boards, that cost me Page. It could not be judg'd, Sir. Slen. You'll not confess, you'll not confess.
two shillings and twopence a-piece of Yead Shal. That he will not; 'tis your fault, 'tis Miller, by these gloves.
Fal. Is this true, Pistol? your fault :'Tis a good dog.
Era. No; it is false, if it is a pick-purse. Page. A cur, Sir. Shal. Sir, he's a good dog, and a fair dog;
Pist. Ha, thou mountain-foreigner Sir Can there be more said ? he is good, and fair.
John, and master mine, Is Sir John Falstaff here?
I combat challenge of this latten bilbo : Page. Sir, he is within; and I would I could Word of denial in thy labras|| here ; do a good office between you.
Word of denial ; froth and scum, thou liest. Eva. It is spoke as a Christians ought to
Slen. By these gloves, then 'twas he. speak.
Nym. Be advised, Sir, and pass good huShal. He hath wrong'd me master Page.
mours: I will say, marry trap, with you, if you
run the nuthook'sT humour on me; that is the Page. Sir, he doth in some sort confess it.
Shal. If it be confess'd, it is not redress'd ; is very note of it. not that so, master page? He hath wrong'd
Slen. By this hat, then he in the red face had me; indeed, he hath ;-at a word, he hath ;- it: for though I cannot remember what I did believe me ;-Robert Shallow, esquire, saith, when you made me drunk, yet I am not altohe is wrong'd.
gether an ass.
Fal. What say you, Scarlet and John ? Page. Here comes Sir John.
Bard. Why, Sir, for my part, I say, the Enter Sir JoAN FALSTAFF, BARDOLPA, NYM,
gentleman had drunk himself out of his five and PISTOL.
sentences. Fal. Now, master Shallow; you'll complain Eva. It is his five senses : fie, what the ignoof me to the king?
rance is! Shal. Knight you have beaten my men, killed Bard. And being fap,** Sir, was, as they my deer, and broke open my lodge.
say, cashier'd ; and so conclusions pass'd the Fal. But not kiss'd your keeper's daughter? careires.tt Shal. Tut, a pin! this shall be answer'd.
Slen. Ay, you spake in Latin then too; but Fal. I will answer it straight ;-) have done 'tis no matter : I'll ne'er be drunk whilst í live all this :-That is now answer'd.
again, but in honest, civil, godly company, for Shal. The Council shall know this.
this trick : if I be drunk, I'll be drunk with Fal. "Twere better for you, if it were known those that have the fear of God, and not with in counsel : you'll be laugh'd at.
drunken knaves. Eva. Pauca verba, Sir John, good worts.
Eva. So Got 'udge me, that is a virtuous Fal. Good worts !t good cabbage.--Slender, mind. I broke your head; What matter have you Fal. You hear all these matters denied, genagainst me?
tlemen ; you hear it. Slen. Marry, Sir, I have matter in my head Enter Mistress Anne Page with wine; Mistress against you; and against your coney-catchingf FORD and Mistress Page following. rascals, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol. They
Page. Nay, daughter, carry the wine in ; carried me to the tavern, and made me drunk, we'll drink within.
[Exit ANNE PAGE. and afterward picked my pocket. Bard. You Banbury cheese!
The name of an ugly spirit. | Few words.
# King Edward's shillings, used in the game of shuffle* Cotswold in Gloucestershire.
board. Blade as thin as a lath. || Lips. † Worte was the ancient name of all the cabbage kind. 1 If you sav I am a thief.
** Drunk. Sharpers.
Nothing but paring. 11 The bounds of good behaviour.
Slen. O heavens! this is mistress Anne Page. Shal. Ay, I think my cousin meant well. Page. How now, mistress Ford?
Slen. Ay, or else I would I might be hanged, Fal. Mistress Ford, by my troth, you are very
la. well met: by your leave, good mistress.
Re-enter Anne Page. (Kissing her.
Shal. Here comes fair mistress Anne: Page. Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome :-- Would I were young, for your sake, mistress Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner; Anne! come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down
Anne. The dinner is on the table; my father all unkindness.
desires your worships' company. (Exeunt all but SHALLOW, SLENDER, & Evans. Shal. I will wait on him, fair mistress Anne.
Slen. I had rather than forty shillings, I had Eva. Od's plessed will! I will not be abmy book of Songs and Sonnets here :-
sence at the grace. Enter SIMPLE.
]Ereunt Shallow and Sir H. Evans. How now, Simple! where have you been? I
Anne. Will't please your worship to come
in, Sir. must wait on myself, must I? You have not The Book of Riddles about you, have you?
Slen. No, I thank you, forsooth, heartily; I Sim. Book of Riddles! why, did you not lend
am very well.
Anne. The dinner attends you, Sir. it to Alice Shortcake upon Allhallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas ?*
Slen. I am not a-hungry, I thank you, forShal. Come, coz; come, coz; we stay for sooth: Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go, you. A word with you, coz: marry, this, coz: A justice of peace sometime may be beholden
wait upon my cousin Shallow: [Exit SIMPLE. There is, as 'twere, a tender, a kind of tender, to his friend for a man -I keep but three men made afer off by Sir Hugh here;-Do you un- and a boy yet, till my mother be dead : But derstand me? Slen. Ay, Sir, you shall find me reasonable ;
what though? yet I live like a poor gentleman
born. if it be so, I shall do that that is reason. Shal. Nay, but understand me.
Anne. I may not go in without your worship: Slen. So I do, Sir.
they will not sit, till you come. Era. Give ear to his motions, master Slender:
Slen. I'faith, I'll eat nothing; I thank you I will description the matter to you, if you be as much as though I did. capacity of it.
Anne. I pray you, Sir, walk in.
Slen. I had rather walk here, I thank you; Slen. Nay, I will do as my cousin Shallow
I bruised my shin the other day with playing says: I pray you, pardon me; he's a justice of peace in his country, simple though I stand at sword and dagger with a master of fence, bere.
three veneys* for a dish of stewed prunes; and, Era. But that is not the question ; the ques- by my troth, I cannot abide the smell of hot tion is concerning your marriage.
meat since. Why do your dogs bark so? be
there bears i' the town? Shal. Ay, there's the point, Sir. Eva. Marry, is it; the very point of it; to
Anne. I think, there are, Sir; I heard them
talked of. mistress Anne Page. Slen. Why, if it be so, I will marry her, upon soon quarrel at it, as any man in England.-
Slen. I love the sport well; but I shall as any reasonable demands.
Evan. But can you affection the 'oman? Let You are afraid, if you see the bear loose, are us command to know that of your mouth, or of you not? your lips; for divers philosophers hold, that
Anne. Ay, indeed, Sir.
Slen. That's meat and drink to me now:1 the lips is parcel of the mouth;--Therefore, precisely, can you carry your good will to the have taken him by the chain: but, I warrant
have seen Sackersont loose, twenty times; and maid?
Shal. Cousin Abraham Slender, can you love you, the women have so cried and shriek'd at her?
it, that it pass'd :1—but women, indeed, cannot Slen. I hope, Sir, I will do, as it shall be- abide 'em; they are very ill-favoured rough come one that would do reason.
things. Eva. Nay, Got's lords and his ladies, you
Re-enter PAGE. must speak possitable, if you can carry her
Page. Come, gentle master Slender, come; your desires towards her.
we stay for you. Shal. That you must: Will you upon good
Slen. I'll eat nothing : I thank you Sir. dowry, marry her?
Page. By cock and pye, you shall not choose, Slen. I will do a greater thing than that, upon Sir: come, come. your request, cousin, in any reason.
Slen. Nay, pray you, lead the way. Shal. Nay, conceive me, conceive me, sweet Page. Come on, Sir. coz; what I do, is to pleasure you, coz: Can
Slen. Mistress Anne, yourself shall go first. you love the maid?
Anne. Not I, Sir; pray you, keep on. Slen. I will marry her, Sir, at your request;
Slen. Truly, I will not go first; truly, la: I but if there be no great love in the beginning, will not do you that wrong. yet heaven may decrease it upon better ac
Anne. I pray you, Sir. quaintance, when we are married, and have Slen. I'll rather be unmannerly than trouble. more occasion to know one another : I hope, some: you do yourself wrong, indeed, la. upon familiarity will grow more contempt :
(Exeuni. but if you say, marry her, I will marry ber,
SCENE 11. The same. that I am freely dissolved, and dissolutely.
Enter Sir Hugh Evans and SIMPLE. Eva. It is a fery discretion answer; save, the faul' is in the 'ort dissolutely: the 'ort is, ac
Eva. Go your ways, and ask of Doctor cording to our meaning, resolutely;-his mean- Caius' house, which is the way: and there ing is good.
* Three set-to's, bouts, or hits.
| The name of a bear exhibited at Paris-Garden in * An intended bruntieri
Surpindeed all expressicn.