페이지 이미지


Pieces, that will much enhance the Value of them to the more capable Readers; which has never, I think, been obferv'd. The Images, in each Poem, which he raifes to excite Mirth and Melancholy, are exactly the fame, only fhewn in different Attitudes. Had a Writer, lefs acquainted with Nature, given us two Poems on thefe Subjects, he would have been fure to have fought out the moft contrary Images to raife thefe contrary Paffions. And, particularly, as Shakespeare, in the Paffage I am now commenting, fpeaks of thefe different Effects in Mufick; fo Milton has brought it into each Poem as the Exciter of each Affection: and left we fhould mistake him, as meaning that different Airs had this different Power, (which every Fid ler is proud to have you underftand,) He gives the Image of thofe felf-fame Strains that Orpheus used to regain Eurydice, as proper both to excite Mirth and Melancholy. But Milton most industriously copied the Conduct of our Shakespeare, in Paffages that fhew'd an intimate Acquaintance with Nature and Science.

I have not thought it out of my Province, speare's whenever Occafion offer'd, to take notice of Knowledge fome of our Poet's grand Touches of of Nature. Some, that do not appear fuperficially fuch;


but in which he feems the moft deeply instructed; and to which, no doubt, he has fo much ow'd that happy Prefervation of his


Characters, for which he is justly celebrated. If he was not acquainted with the Rule as deliver'd by Horace, his own admirable Genius pierc'd into the Neceffity of fuch a Rule, Servetur ad imum

Qualis ab incepto procefferit, & fibi conftet.

For what can be more ridiculous, than, in our

youodern Writers, to make a debauch'd

young Man, immers'd in all the Vices of his Age and Time, in a few hours take up, confine himself in the way of Honour to one Woman, and moralize in good earneft on the Follies of his paft Behaviour? Nor can, that great Examplar of Comic Writing, Terence be altogether excufed in this Regard; who, in his Adelphi, has left Demea in the laft Scenes fo unlike himself: whom, as Shakespeare exproffes it, he has turn'd with the feamy Side of bis Wit outward. This Conduct, as Errors are more readily imitated than Perfections, Beaumont and Fletcher feem to have follow'd in a Character in their Scornful Lady. It may be objected, perhaps, by fome who do not go to the Bottom of our Poet's Conduct, that he has likewife tranfgrefs'd against the Rule himself, by making Prince Harry at once, upon coming to the Crown, throw off his former Diffolutenefs, and take up the Practice of a fober Morality and all the kingby Virtues. But this would be a mistaken Objection. The Prince's Reformation is not


fo fudden, as not to be prepar'd and expected by the Audience. He gives, indeed, a Loofe to Vanity, and a light unweigh'd Behaviour, when he is trifling among his diffolute Companions; but the Sparks of innate Honour and true Noblenefs break from him upon every proper Occafión, where we would hope to fee him awake to Sentiments fuiting his Birth and Dignity. And our Poet has fo well, and artfully, guarded his Character from the Sufpicions of habitual and unreformable Profligatenefs; that even from the firft fhewing him upon the Stage, in the firft Part of Henry IV, when he made him confent to join with Falstaffe in a Robbery on the Highway, he has taken care not to carry him off the Scene, without an Intimation that he knows them all, and their unyok'd Humour; and that, like the Sun, he will permit them, only for a while to obfcure and cloud his Brightness; then break thro' the Mist, when he pleases to be himself again; that his Luftre, when wanted, may be the more wonder'd at.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Another of Shakespeare's grand Touches of Nature, and which lies ftill deeper from the Ken of common Observation, has been taken notice of in a Note upon The Tempeft; where Profpero at once interrupts the Mafque of Spirits, and ftarts into a fudden Paffion and Disorder of Mind. As the latent Cause of his Emotion is there fully inquir'd into, I fhall no farther dwell upon it here.


Such a Conduct in a Poet (as Shakespeare has manifefted on many like Occafions ;) where the Turn of Action arifes from Reflexions of his Characters, where the Reafon of it is not exprefs'd in Words, but drawn from the inmoft Resources of Nature, fhews him truly capable of that Art, which is more. in Rule than Practice: Ars eft celare Artem. 'Tis the Foible of your worfer Poets to make a Parade and Oftentation of that little Science they have; and to throw it out in the most ambitious Colours. And whenever a Writer of this Clafs fhall attempt to copy thefe artful Concealments of our Author, and fhall either think them eafy, or practifed by a Writer for his Eafe, he will foon be convinced of his Miftake by the Difficulty of reaching the Imitation of them:


Speret idem, fudet multùm, fruftráq; laboret,
Aufus idem:

[ocr errors]

Another grand Touch of Nature in our Author, (not lefs difficult to imitate, tho' more obvious to the Remark of a common Reader) is, when he brings down at once any, Character from the Ferment and Height of Paffion, makes him correct himself for the unruly Difpofition, and fall into Reflexions of a fober and moral Tenour. An exquifite fine Inftance of this Kind occurs in Lear, where that old King, hafty and intemperate in his Paffions, coming to his Son and Daughb


ter Cornwall, is told by the Earl of Gloucefter that they are not to be spoken with: and thereupon throws himfelf into a Rage, fuppofing the Excufe of Sicknefs and Weariness in them to be a purpos'd Contempt: Gloucefter begs him to think of the fiery and unremoveable Quality of the Duke and This, which was defign'd to qualify his Paffion, ferves to exaggerate the Tranfports of it.

As the Conduct of Prince Henry in the firft Inftance, the fecret and mental Reflexions in the Cafe of Profpero, and the instant Detour of Lear from the Violence of Rage to a Temper of Reasoning, do fo much Honour to that furpizing Knowledge of human Nature, which is certainly our Author's Mafterpiece, I thought, they could not be fet in too good a Light. Indeed, to point out, and exclaim upon, all the Beauties of Shakespeare, as they come fingly in Review, would be as infipid, as endless; as tedious, as unneceffary: But the Explanation of thofe Beauties, that are lefs obvious to common Readers, and whofe Illuftration depends on the Rules of juft Criticism, and an exact Knowledge of human Life, fhould defervedly have a Share in a general Critic upon the Author.

I fhall difmifs the Examination into these his latent Beauties, when I have made a fhort Comment upon a remarkable Paffage from, Julius Cafar, which is inexpreffibly fine in

its felf,

« 이전계속 »