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the midst of seeming inconsistencies, with which the principal character is supported. Lear is introduced as a very choleric person ; and, conscious of the error of his own disposition, and distrustful of bimself, it is curious to observe how he doubts the reality of his daughters' ingratitude, and appears desirous of refer- . ring at first to his own frailty. Thus, when the unkindness of his eldest daughter is first hinted to him, he observes
" Thou but rememberest me of mine own faint conception: I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity.”
The unity of action is perhaps not quite so well preserved as in Othello. The under plot of Gloster and Edgar presents, it is true, a kind of contrast to the other; but it is not necessary to the main action. All the characters are finely sustained ; that of Kent is original, and the most interesting under character perhaps to be found in any drama. Some of the speeches of Lear are highly poetical, especially
“ I tax not you, ye elements," &c.
Hamlet is perhaps the most faulty of our au.
thor's dramas; and yet it is perhaps the most interesting of them all in the representation. The plot is very ill conducted : the appearance of a ghost violates the probability of the action; and yet, as Dr. Johnson well remarks, " the apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose : the revenge that was required is not obtained but by the death of him who was required to take it." The murder of Polonius, and the subsequent madness and death of poor Ophelia, who is all along .cruelly treated, outrages humanity; and Hamlet's neglect of the opportunity to kill the king when at prayers (and that upon the most shocking of motives, , lest from the occasion he might obtain mercy of Heaven) seems to defeat the object of the play; and reduces the author to a very awk. . ward and disgusting catastrophe.
Where then lies the charm of Hamlet ? I answer, in the matchless genius of Shakspeare, who has combined in this play more variety of incident, more refinement of moral sentiment, more exquisite displays of human character than are to be found in any other drama. The ghost is such as no other author could have conjured up, solemn, dignified, yet ten.
der and pathetic. The incident of the play exhibited before the court is finely contrived; the spectator's interest is kept alive from the beginning for the fate of Hamlet; and the closet scene with the Queen is perhaps the finest specimen extant of dramatic dialogue. The pictures referred to are undoubtedly supposed to bang against the wall, as part of the furniture of the queen's closet.
Macbeth scarcely holds a lower rank than any of the preceding. I cannot agree with Dr. Johnson, that it is deficient in discrimination of character. I think the progress of wickedness is more finely marked in Macbeth than in any portrait that I have ever found. mences a brave, honourable, and loyal person. One false step conducts to another, and he becomes gradually so depraved, that he declares
" I am in blood
The machinery, which is grounded upon historical, or at least traditional evidence, is finely supported. I think it is Dryden that says:
"But Shakspeare's magic could not copied be,
“ Within that circle none durst walk but he.” And I cannot but remark with indignation on the abominable manner in which this incomparable play is commonly represented. The witches, who are designed as very serious characters, are represented by buffoons. On the contrary, instead of the low comedians, the very best declaimers in the theatre ought to support these awful, I had almost said sublime personages; and every exertion should be made to add to the solemnity of the scene.
The versatility of Shakspeare's talents is shewn in Cymbeline, where the passion of jealousy is exhibited under a different form and character to what it assumes in Othello. In his historical plays, the correctness with which the characters are drawn and sustained, as far as historical report enables us to judge, is greatly to be admired. The best I think are Julius Cæsar, and Richard III. In the former it is im possible not to observe how much better the character of Brutus is drawn by Shakspeare, than that of Cato by Mr. Addison.
Next to Sbakspeare, our best tragic writer is undoubtedly Otway. Dr. Beattie most unaccountably declares—" That the merit of Ve nice Preserved, and the Orphan, lies rather in the beauty of particular passages than in the general effect of the whole.” If this was the case, it is plain that these plays would only affect and please a few individuals of nice taste and discrimination, whereas the populace are always attracted by them and delighted with them. I believe much finer passages might be selected from some of Dryden's plays than any which are to be found in Otway, yet these plays do not keep the stage, and are not admired on the whole. In truth a few fine passages will