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relating to the characters in this piece, we may, perhaps, find a fort of apology for the motley mixture thrown into it. We cannot but fuppofe, that at the time it was written, many stories yet fubfifted of the wild adventures of this Prince of Wales, and his idle companions. His fubfequent reformation, and his conquests in France, rendered him a very popular character. It was a delicate affair to expose the follies of Henry V, before a people proud of his victories, and tender of his fame, at the fame time fo informed of the extravagancies and excesses of his youth, that he could not appear divested of them with any degree of historical probability. Their enormity would have been greatly heightened, if they had appeared in a piece entirely serious and full of dignity and decorum. How happily therefore was the character of Falstaffe introduced, whose wit and feftivity in fome measure excuse the Prince for admitting him into his familiarity, and suffering himself to be led by him into fome irregularities. There is hardly a young hero

hero, full of gaiety and spirits, who, if he had once fallen into the fociety of fo pleasant a companion, could have the severity to difcard him, or would not fay, as the Prince does,

He could better spare a better man.

How skilfully does our author follow the tradition of the Prince's having been engaged in a robbery, yet make his part in it a mere frolic to play on the cowardly and braggart temper of Falstaffe! The whole conduct of that incident is very artful: he rejects the propofal of the robbery, and only complies with playing a trick on the robbers; and care is taken to inform you, that the money is returned to its owners. -The Prince feems always diverted, rather than feduced by Falstaffe; he despises his vices while he is entertained by his humour: and though Falstaffe is for a while a ftain upon his character, yet it is of a kind with those colours, which are used for a disguise in fport, being of fuch a nature as are easily washed out, without leaving any bad tincture, And we fee Henry, as foon as he is G 4 called

called to the high and ferious duties of a king, come forth at once with unblemished majefty. The difpofition of the hero is made to pierce through the idle frolics of the boy, throughout the whole play; for his reformation is not effected in the last scene of the last act, as is ufual in our comedies, but is prepared from the very beginning of the play. The scene between the Prince and Francis, is low and ridiculous, and feems one of the greatest indecorums in the piece; at the fame time the attentive spectator will find the purpose of it is to fhew him, that Henry was studying human nature, in all her variety of tempers and faculties. I am now, says he, acquainted with all humours, (meaning difpofitions) fince the days of good man Adam to the present hour. In the play of Henry V. you are told, that in his youth he had been fedulously observing mankind; and from an apprehension, perhaps, how difficult it was to acquire an intimate knowledge of men, whilft he kept up the forms his rank prescribed, he waved the ceremonies and decorums of his fituation, and

and familiarly conversed with all orders of fociety.- -The jealoufy his father had conceived of him would probably have been increased, if he had affected fuch a fort of popularity as would have gained the esteem and love of the multitude.

Whether Henry in the early part of his life was indulging a humour that inclined him to low and wild company, or endeavouring to acquire a deeper and more extenfive knowledge of human nature, by a general acquaintance with mankind, it is the business of his hiftorians to determine. But a critic must surely applaud the dexterity of Shakefpear for throwing this colour over that part of his conduct, whether he feized on fome intimations historians had given of that sort, or, of himself imagined fo refpectable a motive for the Prince's deviations from the dignity of his birth. This piece must have delighted the people at the time it was written, as the follies of their favourite character were so managed, that they rather feemed

feemed foils to fet off its virtues, than ftains which obfcured them,

Whether we confider the character of Falstaffe as adapted to encourage and excufe the extravagancies of the Prince, or by itself, we must certainly admire it, and own it to be perfectly original.

The profeffed wit, either in life or on the ftage, is ufually fevere and fatirical. But mirth is the fource of Falftaffe's wit. He seems rather to invite you to partake of his merriment, than to attend to his jeft; a perfon must be ill-natured, as well as dull, who does not join in the mirth of this jovial companion, who is in all respects the best calculated to raise laughter of any that ever appeared on a stage.

He joins the fineffe of wit with the drollery of humour. Humour is a kind of grotesque wit, fhaped and coloured by the difpofition of the perfon in whom it refides, or by the subject to which it is applied. It


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