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No. XCIII, Tuesday, Septembor 25. 1753.
Irritat, mulcet, fallis terroribus implet
'Tis he who gives my breast a thousand pains,
WRITERS of a mixed chara&er, that abound in tranf. cendent beauties and in gross imperfections, are the molt proper and most pregnant subjects for criticism. The regularity and correctness of a Virgil or Horace, almost confine their commentators to perpetual pane. gyric, and afford them few opportunities of diversifying their remarks by the detection of latent blemishes. For this reason, I am inclined to think, that a few obe fervations on the writings of Shakespeare, will not be deemed useless or unentertaining, because he exhibits more numerous examples of excellencies and faults, of every kind, than are, perhaps, to be discovered in any other author. I shall, therefore, from time to time, examine his merit as a poet, without blind admiration, or wanton invective.
As Shakespeare is sometimes blameable for the conduct of his fables, which have no unity: and sometimes for his diction, which is obscure and turgid; fo his characteristical excellencies may possibly be reduced to these three general heads': “his lively creative ima. “ gination ; his strokes of nature and paffion, and his " preservation of the confiftency of his characters." These excellencies, particolarly the laft, are of so much importance in the drama, that they amply compensate for his transgressions against the rules of Time and Place, which being of a more mechanical nature, are often strictly observed by a genius of the lowest order; but to portray characters naturally, and to preserve them uniformly, requires such an intimate knowledge of the heart of man, and is so rare a portion of felici. ty, as to have been enjoyed, perhaps, only by two write ers Homer and Shakespeare.
Of all the plays of Shakespeare, the Tempest is the most striking instance of his creative power. He has there given the reins to his boundless imagination, ard has carried the romantic, the wonderful, and the wild, to the most pleafing extravagance. The scene is a defolate illand; and the characters the most new and fingular that can well be conceived : a prince who practises magic, an attendant spirit,'a monfter the son of a witch, and a young lady who had been brought to this
solitude in her infancy, and had never beheld a man ex. cept her father.
As I have affirmed that Shakespeare's chief excellence is the consistency of his characters, I will exemplify the truth of this remark, by pointing out some master-trokes of this nature in the drama before us.
The poet artfully acquaints us that Profpero is a ma. gician, by the very first words which his daughter Mi. randa speaks to him :
If by your art, my deareft father, you have
which intimate that the tempelt described in the preceding scene, was the effect of Prospero's power. The manner in which he was driven from his dukedom of Milan, and landed afterwards on this folitary island, .accompanied only by his daughter, is immediately introduced in a short and natural narration.
The officers of his attendant Spirit, Ariel, are enumerated with amazing wildness of fancy, and yet with equal propriety : his employment is said to be,
To tread the ooze
In defcribing the place in which he has concealed the Neapolitan ship, Ariel expresses the secrecy of its fitua
tion by the following circumstance, which artfully glances at another of his services;
In the deep nook, where once
Ariel, being one of those elves or spirits, whose pal46 time is to make midnight*mushrooms, and who re
joice to listen to the folemn curfew ;" by whose assistance Profpero has bedimm'd the fun at noon-tide,
And 'twixt the green sea and the azur'd vault,
has a set of ideas and images peculiar to his station and office; a beauty of the same kind with that which is so justly admired in the Adam of Milton, whose manners and sentiments are all Paradifaical. How delightfully and how suitably to his character, are the habitations and pastimes of this invisible being pointed out in the following exquisite fong!
Where the bee fucks, there fuck I:
Mr. Pope, whose imagination has been thought by fome the leaft of his excellencies, has, doubtless; .conceived and carried on the machinery in his “Rape of “ the Lock,” with valt exuberance of fancy. The images, cuftoms, and employments of his Sylphs, are exa&tly adapted to their natures, are peculiar and appropriated, are all, if I may be allowed the expression, Sylphilh. The enumeration of the punishments they were to undergo, if they neglected their charge, would, on account of its poetry and propriety, and especially the mixture of oblique satire, be superior to any circumstances in Shakespeare's Ariel, if we could suppose Pope to have been unacquainted with the Tempeft, when he wrote this part of his accomplished poem.
-She did confine thee Into a cloven pine ; within which rift Imprison'd, thou didst painfully remain A dozen years : within which space the dy'd, And left thee there ; where thou didit vent thy
groans, As fast as mill-wheels strike.
If thou more mus
urmur'st, I will rend an oak, And peg thee in his knotty entrails, 'till Thou'st howl'd away twelve winters.
For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
ing Than bees that made 'em,