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First Player. I warrant, your honour.
Hamlet. Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor; suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first, and now, was, and is, to hold, as 'twere the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure. Now this, overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of which one must, in your allowance, o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players, that I have seen play,—and heard others praise, and that highly,-not to speak it profanely, that neither having the accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christians, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made man, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
Hamlet, Act III.
THE business of plays is to recommend virtue and discountenance vice. To shew the uncertainty of human greatness, the sudden turns of fate, and the unhappy conclusions of violence and injustice. "Tis to expose the singularities of pride and fancy, to make folly and falsehood contemptible, and to bring everything that is ill under infamy and neglect. COLLIER. On the Stage.
OR Sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child,
AND he the man whom Nature's self hath made
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate;
With kindly counter under mimick shade,
SPENSER. Tears of the Muses.
He was not for an age, but for all time!
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines!
SHAKSPEARE AND MILTON.
FAR from the sun and summer-gale
To him the mighty Mother did unveil
Thine, too, these golden keys, immortal boy!
Of Horror that, and thrilling Fears,
ope the sacred source of sympathetic Tears.
Nor second He, that rode sublime
Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy
The secrets of the abyss to spy:
He pass'd the flaming bounds of Space and Time The living throne, the sapphire-blaze,
Where angels tremble while they gaze,
He saw; but, blasted with excess of light,
Closed his eyes in endless night.
GRAY. The Progress of Poesy.
POETIC SPIRIT OF THE GREEK MYTHOLOGY.
ONCE more to distant ages of the world
And, in some fit of weariness, if he,
When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear
A beardless youth, who touched a golden lute,
Towards the crescent moon, with grateful heart
By echo multiplied from rock or cave)
Swept in the storm of chase; as moon or stars
When winds are blowing strong. The traveller slaked
Gliding apace, with shadows in their train,
Might, with small help from fancy, be transformed
The zephyrs fanning, as they passed, their wings
WORDSWORTH. The Excursion. Book IV.
FORTUNE DISPLAYS OUR VIRTUES AND OUR VICES, AS LIGHT MAKES ALL OBJECTS APPARENT.
PERHAPS in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
But knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Chill penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest rays serene
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
ANOTHER partiality may be observed in some to vulgar, and in others to heterodox tenets. Some are apt to conclude that which is the common opinion cannot but be true; so many men's understandings of all sorts cannot be deceived; and therefore will not venture to look beyond the notions of the place and age, nor have so presumptuous a thought as to be wiser than their neighbours. They are content to go with the crowd, and so go easily, which they think is going right or at least serves them as well. On the other hand some fly all common opinions as either false or frivolous. The little many-headed beast is a sufficient reason to them to conclude, that no truths of weight or consequence can be lodged there. Vulgar opinions are suited to vulgar capacities, and adapted to the ends of those that govern. He that will learn the truth of things must leave the common and beaten track, which none but weak and servile minds are satisfied to trudge along continually. But common or uncommon are not the marks to distinguish truth or falsehood; and therefore should not be any bias to us in our
It was a saying of Theognis that, "Vice is covered by wealth, and virtue by poverty," or among men there are some who have their vices covered by wealth, and others who have their virtues concealed by poverty. Quoted, Spectator, No. 464.
inquiries. We should not judge of things by men's opinions, but of opinions by things. Truth, whether in or out of fashion, is the measure of knowledge, and the business of the understanding; whatsoever is besides that, however authorized by consent or recommended by rarity, is nothing but ignorance or something worse.
LOCKE. Conduct of the Understanding.
To have right conceptions about them, we must bring our understandings to the inflexible natures, and unalterable relations of things, and not endeavour to bring things to any preconceived notions of our own.
WHAT are these
So wither'd, and so wild in their attire,
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth
And yet are on 't. Live you? Or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
Upon her skinny lips. You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
Macbeth, Act I.
STORY-TELLING is not an act, but what we call a "knack; it doth not so much subsist upon wit, as upon humour; and I add that it is not perfect without proper gesticulations of the body, which naturally attend such merry emotions of the mind. I know very well that a certain gravity of countenance sets some stories off to advantage, where the hearer is to be surprised in the end; but this is by no means a general rule; for it is frequently convenient to aid and assist by cheerful looks and whimsical gesticulations. I will yet go further and affirm that the success of a story very often depends upon the make of the body, and the formation of the features of him who relates it.* SWIFT.
* Nor, I'll venture to say, without scrutiny could he
You ask why Roome diverts you with his jokes,