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Ilium and Priam's falling together, with the effect it had on the destroyer.
-The bellish Pyrrhus, &c. To, Repugnant to command.
The unnerved father falls, &c. To, So after Pyrrhus' pause. Now this circumstance, illustrated with the fine fimilitude of the ftorm, is so highly worked up, as to have well deserved a place in Virgil's second book of the Æneid, even though the work had been carried on to that perfection which the Roman poet had conceived.
3. The third proof is, from the effects which followed on the recital. Hamlet, his best character, approves it; the player is deeply affected in repeating it; and only the foolish Polonius tired with it. We have said enough before of Hamlet's sentiments. As for the player, he changes colour, and the tears start from his eyes. But our author was too good a judge of nature to make bombast and unnatural sentiment produce such an effect. Nature and Ho.' race both instructed him :
Si vis me flere, dolendum eft
Aut dormitabo aut ridebo. And it may be worth observing, that Horace gives this precept particularly to show, that bombast and unnatural sentiments are incapable of moving the tender passions, which he is directing the poet how to raise. For, in the lines just before, he gives this rule:
Telephus & Peleus, cùm pauper & exul uterque,
Projicit ampullas, & fesquipedalia verba. Not that I would deny, that very bad lines in bad tragedies have had this effect. But then it always proceeds from one or other of these causes.
1. Either when the subject is domestic, and the scene lies at home; the spectators, in this case, become interested in the fortunes of the distressed; and their thoughts are so much taken up with the subject, that they are not at liberty to attend to the poet ; who otherwise, by his faulty sentiments and diction, would have stifled the emotions springing up from a sense of the disa tress. But this is nothing to the case in hand. For, as Hamlet says:
What's Hecuba to him, or he 10 Hecuba ? 2. When bad lines raise this affection, they are bad in the other extreme; low, abject, and groveling, instead of being highly figurative and swelling; yet, when attended with a natural simplicity, they have force enough to itrike illiterate and simple minds. The tragedies of Banks will justify both these observations,
But if any one will still say, that Shakspeare intended to repre. fent a player unnaturally and fantastically affected, we must appeal to Hamlet, that is, to Shakspeare himself in this matter ; who, on the reflection he makes upon the player's emotion, in order to excite his own revenge, gives not the least hint that the player was unnaturally or injudiciously moved. On the contrary, his fine description of the actor's emotion shows, he thought juft otherwise :
- this player here,
A broken voice, &c. And indeed had Hamlet esteemed this emotion any thing annatural, it had been a very inproper circumstance to fpur him to his
As Shakspeare has here shown the effects which a fine description of nature, heightened with all the ornaments of art, had upon an intelligent player, whose business habituates him to enter intimately and deeply into the characters of men and manners, and to give nature its free workings on all occafions; so he has artfully Town what effects the very same scene would have upon a quite different man, Polonius; by nature, very weak and very artificial (two qualities, though commonly enough joined in life, yet generally fo much disguised as not to be seen by common eyes to be together; and which an ordinary poet durft not have brought so near one another]; by discipline, practised in a species of wit and eloquence, which was stiff, forced, and pedantic; and by trade a politician, and therefore, of consequence, without any of the affecting notices of humanity. Such is the man whom Shakspeare has judi. ciously chosen to represent the false taste of that audience which had condemned the play here reciting. When the actor comes to the finest and most pathetic part of the speech, Polonius cries out This is too long; on which Hamlet, in contempt of his ill judgement, replies, It shall to the barber's with thy beard; [intimating that, by this judgement, it appeared that all his wif. dom lay in his length of beard]. Pr’ythee, Jay on. He's for a jig or a tale of bawdry [the common entertainment of that time, as well as this, of the people] or he sleeps; say on. And yet this man of modern taste, who stood all this time perfectly unmoved with the forcible imagery of the relator, no sooner hears, amongst many good things, one quaint and fantastical word, put in, I suppose, purposely for this end, than he professes his appro. bation of the propriety and dignity of it. That's good. Mobled queen is good. On the whole then, I think, it plainly appears, that the long quotation is not given to be ridiculed and laughed at, but to be admired. The character given of the play, by Hamlet, cannot be ironical. The passage itself is extremely beautiful. It has the effect that all pathetick relations, naturally written, should have; and it is condemned, or regarded with indifference, by one of a wrong, unnatural taste. From hence (to observe it by the way) the actors, in their representation of this play, may learn how this speech ought to be spoken, and what appearance Hamlet ought to assume during the recital.
That which supports the common opinion, concerning this passage, is the turgid expression in some parts of it; which, they think, could never be given by the poet to be commended. We Mall therefore, in the next place, examine the lines most obnoxious to censure, and see how much, allowing the charge, this will make for the induction of their conclusion:
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide,
The unnerved father falls.
Out, out, thou strumpet fortune! All you gods,
As low as to the fiends, Now whether these be bombast or not, is not the question; but whether Shakspeare esteemed them so. That he did not so eiteem them appears from his having used the very fame thoughts in the fame expressions, in his best plays, and given them to his principal characters, where he aims at the sublime. As in the following passages:
Troilus, in Troilus and Creffida, far outstrains the execution of Pyrrhus's sword in the character he gives of Hector's:
" When many times the caitive Grecians fall
“ You bid them rise and live." Cleopatra, in intony and Cleopatra, rails at fortune in the same inanner:
“ No, let me speak, and let me rail so high,
“ Provok'd at my offence.” But another use may be made of these quotations; a discovery of this recited play : which, letting us into a circumitance of our author's life (as a writer) hitherto unknown, was the reason I have been so large upon this question. I think then it appears, from what has been said, that the play in dispute was Shakspeare's own; and that this was the occasion of writing it. He was delirous, az Toon as he had found his strength, of restoring the chafteness and regularity of the ancient stage: and therefore composed this tra. gedy on the model of the Greek drama, as may be seen by throwing so much action into relation. But his attempt proved fruitless; and the raw, unnatural taste, then prevalent, forced him back again into his old Gothic manner. For which he took this revenge upon his audience. WARBURTON.
I formerly thought that the lines which have given rife to the foregoing observations, were extracted from some old play, of which it appeared to me probable that Christopher Marlowe was the author; but whatever Shakspeare's view in producing them may have been, I am now decidedly of opinion they were written by himself, not in any former unsuccessful piece, but expressly for the play of Hamlet. It is observable that what Dr. Warburton calls - the fine fimilitude of the storm,” is likewise found in our poet's Venus and Adonis. MALONE. .
The praise which Hamlet bestows on this piece is certainly difsembled, and agrees very well with the character of madness, which, before witnesses, he thought it necessary to support. The speeches before us have so little merit, that nothing but an affectation of fingularity, could have influenced Dr. Warburton to undertake their defence. The poet, perhaps, meant to exhibit a just resemblance of some of the plays of his own age, in which the faults were too general and too glaring to permit a few splendid passages to atone for them. The player knew his trade, and spoke the lines in an affecting manner, because Hamlet had declared them to be pathetick, or might be in reality a little moved by them; for, “ There are less degrees of nature (says Dryden) by which some faint emotions of pity and terror are raised in us, as a less engine will raise a less proportion of weight, though not so much as one of Archimedes' making." The mind of the prince, it must be confessed, was fitted for the reception of gloomy ideas, and his tears were ready at a Night solicitation. It is by no means proved, that Shakspeare has employed the same thoughts clothed in the same expressions, in his beft plays. If he bids the false huswife Fortune break her wheel, he does not desire her to break all its ipokes; nay, even its periphery, and make use of the nave afterwards for such an immeasurable caft. Though if what Dr. Warburton has said should be found in any instance to be exactly true, what can we infer from thence, but that Shakspeare was sometimes wrong in spite of conviction, and in the hurry of writing committed those very faults which his judgement could detect in others ? Dr. Warburton is inconsistent in his assertions concerning the literature of Shakspeare. In a note on Troilus and Cressida, he affirms, that his want of learning kept him from being acquainted with the writings of Homer; and, in this instance, would suppose him capable of producing a complete tragedy written on the ancient rules; and that the speech before us had sufficient merit to entitle it to a place in the second book of Virgil's Æneid, even though the work had been carried to that perfection which the Roman poet had conceived.*
Had Shakspeare made one unsuccessful attempt in the manner of the ancients (that he had any knowledge of their rules, remains to be proved,) it would certainly have been recorded by contemporary writers, among whom Ben Jonson would have been the first. Had his darling ancients been unskilfully imitated by a rival poet, he would at least have preserved the memory of the fact, to show how unsafe it was for any one, who was not as thorough a scholar as himself, to have meddled with their sacred remains.
" Within that circle none durst walk but he.” He has represented Inigo Jones as being ignorant of the very names of those classick authors, whose architecture he undertook to correct; in his Poetafter he has in several places hinted at our poet's injudicious use of words, and seems to have pointed his ridicule more than once at some of his descriptions and characters. It is true that he has praised him, but it was not while that praise could have been of any service to him; and posthumous applause is always to be had on easy conditions. Happy it was for Shakspeare, that he took nature for his guide, and, engaged in the warm pursuit of her beauties, left to Jonson the repositories of learning : fo has he escaped a contest which might have rendered his life uneasy, and bequeathed to our possession the more valuable copies from nature herself: for Shakspeare was (says Dr. Hurd, in his notes on Horace's Art of Poetry) « the first that broke through the bondage of classical superstition. And he owed this felicity, as he did some others, to his want of what is called the advantage of a learned education.
Thus uninfluenced by the weight of early prepossession, he struck at once into the road of nature and common sense: and without defigning, without knowing it, hath left us in his historical plays, with all their anomalies, an exacter resemblance of the Athenian stage than is any where to be found in its most professed admirers and copyifts.” Again, ibid : “ It is possible, there are, who think a want of reading, as well as vaft superiority of genius, hath con
• It appears to me not only that Shakspeare had the favourable opinion of these lines which he makes Hamlet express, but that they were extracted from fome play which he, at a more early period, had either produced or projected upon the story of Dido and Æneas. The verses recited are far superior to those of any coeval writer: the parallel paliage in Marlowe and Nashe's Dido will not bear the comparison. Possibly, indeed, it might have been his first attempt, before she divinity that lodg'd within bim had initructed him to despise the tumid and unna. tural ityle fo much and so unjustly admired in his predecessors or contemporaries, and which he afterward fo happily ridiculed in the swaggering vaine of Ancient Pittol.” Ritson,