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tainly a very good Scholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakespear; tho' at the same time I believe it must be allow'd, that what Nature gave the latter, was more than a Ballance for what Books had given the former; and the Judgment of a great Man upon this occafion was, I think, very just and proper. In a Conversation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eaton, and Ben Johnson; Sir John Suckling, who was a profefs'd Admirer of Shakespear, had undertaken his Defence against Ben Johnson with fome warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat still for fome time, hearing Ben frequently reproaching him with the want of Learning, and Ignorance of the Antients, told him at last, That if Mr. Shakespear had not read the Antients, he had likewife not stollen any thing from 'em; (a Fault the other made no Conscience of ) and that if he would produce any one Topick finely treated by any of them, he would undertake to fhew fomething upon the fame Subject at least as well written by Shakespear. Johnson did indeed take a large liberty, even to the tranfcribing and tranflating of whole Scenes together; and fometimes, with all Deference to fo great a Name as his, not altogether for the advantage of the


Authors of whom he borrow'd. And if Auguftus and Virgil were really what he has made 'em in a Scene of his Poetafter, they are as odd an Emperor and a Poet as ever met. Shakespear, on the other Hand, was beholding to no body farther than the Foundation of the Tale, the Incidents were often his own, and the Writing intirely fo. There is one Play of his, indeed, The Comedy of Errors, in a great measure taken from the Menachmi of Plautus. How that happen'd, I cannot eafily Divine, fince, as I hinted before, I do not take him to have been Mafter of Latin enough to read it in the Original, and I know of no Tranflation of Plautus fo Old as his Time.

As I have not propos'd to my self to enter into a Large and Compleat Criticism upon Mr. Shakespear's Works, fo I fuppofe it will neither be expected that I fhould take notice of the fevere Remarks that have been formerly made upon him by Mr. Rhymer. I must confefs, I can't very well fee what could be the Reason of his animadverting with so much Sharpnefs, upon the Faults of a Man Excellent on moft Occafions, and whom all the World ever was and will be inclin'd to have an Esteem and Veneration for. If it was to fhew his own Know

Knowledge in the Art of Poetry, befides that there is a Vanity in making that only his Defign, I question if there be not many Imperfections as well in those Schemes and Precepts he has given for the Direction of others, as well as in that Sample of Tragedy which he has written to shew the Excellency of his own Genius. If he had a Pique against the Man, and wrote on purpose to ruin a Reputation fo well establish'd, he has had the Mortification to fail altogether in his Attempt, and to fee the World at least as fond of Shakespear as of his Critique. But I won't believe a Gentleman, and a good-natur'd Man, capable of the laft Intention. Whatever may have been his Meaning, finding fault is certainly the easiest Task of Knowledge, and commonly those Men of good Judgment, who are likewife of good and gentle Difpofitions, abandon this ungrateful Province to the Tyranny of Pedants. If one would enter into the Beauties of ShakeSpear, there is a much larger, as well as a more delightful Field; but as I won't prescribe to the Tastes of other People, so I will only take the liberty, with all due Submission to the Judgment of others, to obferve fome of those Things I have been pleas'd with in looking him over.

His Plays are properly to be distinguish'd only into Comedies and Tragedies. Those which are called Hiftories, and even fome of his Comedies, are really Tragedies, with a run or mixture of Comedy amongst 'em. That way of Trage-Comedy was the common Mistake of that Age, and is indeed become fo agreeable to the English Taft, that tho' the feverer Critiques among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our Audiences feem to be better pleas'd with it than with an exact Tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windfor, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, are all pure Comedy; the reft, however they are call'd, have fomething of both Kinds. "Tis not very easie to determine which way of Writing he was moft Excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of Entertainment in his Comical Humours; and tho' they did not then strike at all Ranks of People, as the Satyr of the present Age has taken the Liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-distinguish'd Variety in those Characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allow'd by every body to be a Master-piece; the Character is always well-fuftain'd, tho' drawn out into the length of three Plays; and even the Account of his Death, given by his Old VOL. I. Landlady


Landlady Mrs. Quickly, in the first Act of Henry V. tho' it be extremely Natural, is yet as diverting as any Part of his Life. If there be any Fault in the Draught he has made of this lewd old Fellow, it is, that tho' he has made him a Thief, Lying, Cowardly, Vainglorious, and in fhort every way Vicious, yet he has given him fo much Wit as to make him almoft too agreeable; and I don't know whether fome People have not, in remembrance of the Diverfion he had formerly afforded 'em, been forry to fee his Friend Hal ufe him fo fcurvily, when he comes to the Crown in the End of the Second Part of Henry the Fourth. Amongst other Extravagances, in The Merry Wives of Windfor, he has made him a Dear-stealer, that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire Profecutor, under the Name of Juftice Shallow; he has given him very near the fame Coat of Arms which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that County, defcribes for a Family there, and makes the Welsh Parfon defcant very plea-. fantly upon 'em. That whole Play is admirable; the Humours are various and well op pos'd; the main Design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable Jealoufie, is extreme


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