Abbildungen der Seite

some of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautisul extravagance, which we cannot help admiring in Shakespear.”

As to his want of learning, Mr. Pope makes the following just obfervation : That there is certainly a vait difference between learning and languages. “ How far he was ignorant of the latter, I cannot,” says he; « determine; but it is plain he had much reading, at least, if they will not call it learning: nor is it any great matter if a man has knowledge, whether he has it from one la.. guage or from another. Nothing is more evident than, that he had a talte for natural philosophy, mechanics, ancient and modun history, poetical learning, and inythology, We find him very knowing in the cuslom, rites and manners of the Romans. In Corina lanus and Julius Cæfar, not only the spirit, but manners, of the Romans, are extélly drawn ; and still a nicer distinction is mewn between the manners of the Romans in the time of the former and the latter. His read. ing in the ancient historians is no less confpicuous, in many references to particular palfages; and the speeches copied from Plutarch in Coriolanus, may as well be made instances of his learning, as those copied from Cicero in the Cataline of Ben Johnson.

6. The manners of other nations in general, the Ægyptians, Venetians, French, &c. are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever obB 3

ject ject of nature, or branch of science, he either speaks or describes, it is always with competent, if not extensive knowledge. His descriptions are still exaci, and his metaphors appropriated, and remarkably drawn, from the nature and inherent qualities of each subject.

- We have translations from Ovid published in his name, among those poemas which pass for his, and for some of which we have undoubted authority, being published by bimfelf, and dedicated to the earl of Southampton. He appears also to have been conversant with Plautus, from whence he has taken the plot of one of his playss. He follows the Greek authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius in another; although I will not pretend,” continues Mr. Pope,

to say in what languages he read them.”

Mr. Warburtori has strongly contended for Shakespear's learning, and has produced many imitations and parallel passages with ancient authors; in which I am inclined to think him right, and beg leave to produce a few initances of it. “ He always,” says Mr. Warburton, “ makes an antient speak the language of an antient. So Julius Cæsar, act i. scene 2.

Ye Gods! it doth amaze me
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world,
And bear the palm alone.


This noble image is taken from the Olympic games. This majestic world is a fine periphrasis of the Roman empire ; majestic, because the Romans ranked themselves on a footing with kings ; and a world, because they called their empire Orbis Romanus; but the whole story seems to allude to Cæfar's great exemplar, Alexander, who, when he was asked, Whether he would run the course of the Olympic games ? replied, “ Yes, if the racers were kings.” So again, in Anthony and Cleopatra, act i. scene i. Anthony says, with an astonishing sublimity,

Let Rome in Tyber melt, and the wide arch
Of the raz’d empire fall.
Taken from the Roman custom of raising tri-
umphal arches to perpetuate their victories.

And again, act. iii. scene 4. Oétavia says to Anthony, of the difference between him and her brother,

-Wars 'twixt you twain would be As if the world should cleave, and that slain


Should folder up the rest.

This thought seems taken from the Rory of Curtius leaping into the chasm in the Forum, in order to close it; so that, as that was closed by one Roman, if the whole world were to


B 4

cleave, Romais only could folder it up. The metaphor of soldering is extremely exaci, according to Mr. Warburton ; “ for," says he,

as metal is soldered up by metal that is more refined than that which it folders ; so the carth was to be foldered by men, who are only a more refined earth.” The manners of other nations in general, Egyptians, Venetians, French, &c. are drawn with equal propriety. An inslance of this thall be produced with regard to the Venetians. In the Merchant of Venice, act. iv, scene I.

His losses, That have of late so huddled on his back, Enough to press a royal merchant down,

We are not to imagine the word Royal to be a random founding epithet: it is used with great propriety by the poet, and defigned to thew him well acquainted with the history of the people whom he here brings upon the fage : for, when the French and the Venetians, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, had von Constancinople, the French, under the emperor Henry, endeavoured to extend their conqueits in the provinces of the Grecian empire', on the Terra.Firma, while the Venetians, being malleis of the sea, gave liberty to any subject of the republic, who would fit out veilcis, to make themselves masters of the illes of the Archipelago and other maritime places,


to enjoy their conquests in fovereignty, only doing homage to the republic for their several principalities.

In pursuance of this licence, the Sanados, the Juftiniani, the Grimaldi, the Summaripas, and others, all Venetian merchants, erected principalities in the several places of the Archipelago ; and thereby became truly and pro. perly Royal Merchants. But there are several places which one cannot forbear thinking a translation from classic writers. In the Tempeit, act v. scene 11. Profpero says,

I have Called forth the mutinous winds, And, 'twixt the green sea, and the azur’d

vault, Set roaring war; to the dread ratling thunder Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's itout oak With his own bolt; the strong bas'd promon

tory Have I made shake; and by the spurs pluckt

up The pine and cedar; graves, at my command, Have wak'd their sleepers, op'd and let them

forth By my so potent art.

So Medea, in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Stantia concatio canta freta ; nubila peilo, Nubilaque induco, ventos abigo que, vocoque, Vivaque faxa sua convulsaque robora terra

« ZurückWeiter »