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This play is one of the most pleasing of our author's performances. The scenes are busy and various, the incidents numerous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly 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 lived out the time allotted him in the construction of the play. 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 comick 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 miserable conceit. JOHNSON. The story on which this play is founded, is related as a true one in Girolamo de la Corte's History of Verona. It was originally published by an anonymous Italian novelist in 1549, at Venice; and again in 1553, at the same place. The first edition of Bandello's work appeared a year later than the last of these already mentioned. Pierre Boisteau copied it with alterations and additions. Belleforest adopted it in the first volume of his collection 1596; but very probably some edition of it yet more ancient had found its way abroad; as, in this improved state, it was translated into English, and published in an octavo volume,

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