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HE peculiar dexterity with which the author unfolds the characters, and prepares the events of this play, deferves our attention.
There is not perhaps any thing more difficult in the whole compass of the dramatic art, than to open to the spectator the previous incidents that were productive of the present circumstances, and the characters of the perfons from whofe conduct in fuch circumstances the fubfequent events are to flow. An intelligent fpectator will receive great pleasure from obferving every action naturally
naturally arifing out of the fentiments and manners of the perfons represented. Happier is the poet, the perplexities of whose fable are unfolded by the natural operation of the difpofitions of the perfons who compofe it, than even he, to whom it is permitted to call a deity to his affiftance. This play opens by the king's declaring his intention to undertake the crufade as foon as peace will allow him to do it. Weftmorland informs him of the defeat of Mortimer by Owen Glendower; the King relates the news of Percy's victory at Holmedon, which naturally leads him to the praife of this young hero, and to express an envy of Lord Northumberland's happiness
To be the father of fo bleft a fon,
While I (fays he)
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry;
then he mentions Percy's refufal of his prifoners, which Weftmorland attributes to the malevolent fuggeftions of Worcester. Thus at once is prefented to the spectator, the condition of the ftate, the temper of the times,
times, and the characters of the perfons from whence the catastrophe is to arise.
The ftern authority the king affumes on Hotfpur's disobedience to his commands, could not fail to inflame a warm young hero flushed with recent victory, and elate with the consciousness of having fo well defended a crown which his father and uncle had in a manner conferred. Nothing can be more natural than that, in fuch a temper, he should recur to the obligations the king had received from his family: and thus while he feems venting his fpleen, he explains to the spectator what is paft, and opens the fource of the future rebellion; and by connecting former transactions with the present paffions and events, creates in the reader an interest and a sympathy which a cold narration or a pompous declamation could not have effected. As the author defigned Percy fhould be an interefting character, his disobedience to the king, in regard to the prisoners, is mitigated by his pleading the unfitness of the perfon and unfavorableness of the occafion