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the greateft part of the Roman empire. But in recompence for his careleffnefs 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 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 hiftorian. He seems, indeed, fo far from propofing to himself any one action for a fubject, that the title very often tells you, 'tis The Life of King John, King Richard &c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our hiftorians give of Henry the fixth, than the picture Shakespear has drawn of him! His manners are every where exactly the fame with the ftory; one finds him ftill described with fimplicity, paffive fanctity, want of courage, weaknefs of mind, and easy 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 showing 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 scene in the second part of Henry VI. which I cannot but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beaufort, who had murdered the duke of Gloucester, is fhown in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying over him. There is fo much terrour in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the other, as muft touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his Henry VIII. that prince is drawn with that greatnefs 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 fhades in this picture do not bear a juft proportion to the lights, it is not that the artift wanted either colours or skill 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 respect to the memory of his mistress, to have exposed


fome certain parts of her father's life upon the ftage. He has dealt much more freely with the minister 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 addrefs, 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 second scene of the fourth act. The diftreffes likewife of queen Catharine, in this play, are very movingly touched;, and though the art of the poet has fcreened king Henry from any grofs imputation of injustice, yet one is inclined to wifh, 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 irregular greatness of mind in M. Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two laft especially, you find them exactly as they are defcribed by Plutarch, from whom certainly, Shakespear copy'd them. He has, indeed, followed his original pretty close, and taken in feveral little incidents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, his defign feems most commonly rather to defcribe those great men in the several 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 especially, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. The defign in Romeo and Juliet, is plainly the punishment of their two families, for the unreasonable 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 shown 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 husbands, 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. D'Acier has obferved, there is fomething very unnatural and shocking in the manners he has given that princess and Orestes in the latter part. Oreftes imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately upon the stage, yet fo near, that the audience hear Clytemnestra 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) stands upon the ftage and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horrour does this not raife! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deferved to die; nay, in the truth of the ftory, she was killed by her own fon; but to represent 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 Shakespear. Hamlet is represented with the fame piety towards his father, and refolution 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 'tis with wonderful art and juftness 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 ghost forbid that part of his vengeance:

But howfoever thou purfuft this act,

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

This is to diftinguish rightly between horrour and terrour. 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 terrour in the minds of an audience than Shakespear 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 ftrongest motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have feen this masterpiece of Shakespear distinguish itself upon the flage, 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 eftecm of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakespear's manner of expreflion; and, indeed, he has ftudied him fo well, and is fo much a mafter 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 muft own a particular obligation to him, for the most confiderable part of the paffages relating to this life, which I have here tranfmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakespear 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 fo great a veneration.

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The following inftrument was tranfmitted to us by John Anftis, efq; Garter king at arms: it is marked, G. 13. p. 349.

To all all

O all and fingular noble and gentlemen of all eftates and degrees, bearing arms, to whom these presents shall come: William Dethick, Garter principal king of arins of England, and William Camden, alias Clarencieulx, king of arms for the south, eaft, and weft parts of this realm, fend greetings. Know ye, that in all nations and kingdoms the record and remembrance of the valiant facts and virtuous difpofitions of worthy men have been made known and divulged by certain fhields of arms and tokens of chivalry; the grant or teftimony whereof appertaineth unto us, by virtue of our offices from the queen's most excellent majesty, and her highness's most noble and victorious progenitors: wherefore being folicited, and by credible report informed, that John Shakespere, now of Stratford upon Avon in the county of Warwick, gentleman, whofe great grandfather for his faithful and approved service to the late moft prudent prince, king Henry VII. of famous memory, was advanced and rewarded with lands and tenements, given to him in those parts of Warwickshire, where they have continued by fome defcents in good reputation and credit; and for that the faid John Shakespere having married the daughter and one of the heirs of Robert Arden of Wellingcote in the faid county, and also produced this his ancient coat of arms, heretofore afligned to him whilst he was her majesty's officer and bailiff of that town. In confideration of the pmifes, and for the encouragement of his pofterity, unto whom fuch blazon of arms and atchievements of inheritance from their faid mother, by the ancient cuftom and laws of arms, may lawfully descend; we the faid Garter and Clarencieulx have affigned, granted, and confirmed, and by these presents exemplified unto the faid John Shakefpere, and to his pofterity, that shield and coat of arms, viz. In a field of gold upon a bend fables a fpear of the first, the point upward,

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