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to listen to accusations of every kind against him. After the suffering from the long contests between the Red and White Roses, the English were grateful to the Tudors for peace. The private vices or crimes of Henry the Seventh or Henry the Eighth scarcely reached farther than the nobility or the powerful, and the people generally seemed to acquiesce in oppression or violence towards them. The only unpopular sovereign of the family was Mary, because she offended the nation in a variety of ways; yet, possibly, she had more sincerity than the rest; but the people care nothing for the private virtues of a tyrant, however they may regard with a jealous eye the moral conduct of a monarch whose power is limited. This last assertion seems a paradox; but it might be easily explained.
As far as Shakespeare is concerned, Richard was already drawn for him in the second and third parts of Henry the Sixth, as well as in the Chronicles of Holinshed; besides which, both as a dramatist and a public historian, he was bound to follow the general feeling of his countrymen, who, not in the fury of change, but after a hundred years, still pronounced their detestation of the murderer of his nephews, and the renewer of their civil wars. No doubt the poet saw, in the histories of his day, ample authorities for exhibiting on the stage a highly effective tyrant, and therefore he dramatized the authorities as they were. Something might be urged against him, had he exaggerated the picture by inventing new crimes.
Never having witnessed Richard the Third on the stage, I cannot say if it is really affective there. I am told that Mr. Macready played in it a few times some years ago, and that the whole performance as a tragic history, was electrifying; but so many in the audience had been accustomed to see Cibber's Richard the Third, that it did not meet with general success. The many were disappointed at not having the reckless tyrant's soliloquies on conscience, his puling moans over the thoughts of what posterity might say of him, and fifty other anomalies. According to Mrs. Inchbald's British Theatre, Cibber's gallimaufry contains no more than three hundred and thirty-one entire lines belonging to Shakespeare's Richard the Third ; that is, not quite enough to form one act out of the five, the rest being eked out with broken lines, and lines from other plays by Shakespeare, or with diseased inoculations by Cibber. Yet in this patchwork state, instead of being hooted from the stage, has been extremely popular for a century. May we not say that a real love, a wise love for our grand poet, is yet but partially felt in England ?
XV. COMEDY OF ERRORS.—Perhaps Shakespeare, no longer able to restrain his comic humour, gave vent to it in this farce, in a sort of joyous desperation. Regarding it merely as a farce, from the moment the Errors commence, nothing has equalled it. Until I saw it on the stage, (not mangled into an opera,) I had not imagined the extent of the mistakes, the drollery of them, their unabated continuance, till, at the end of the fourth act, they reached their climax with the assistance of Dr. Pinch, when the audience in their laughter rolled about like waves. It was the triumph of farce, of Shakespeare's art in all that belongs to dramatic action.
Here, it might be thought, that puns could be properly and plentifully introduced, where the twin brothers set the example of being personal puns on one another; yet there are few puns to be found. Truth is, the mistakes alone are ludicrous, and the action is serious. To the strange contrast of grave astonishment among the actors with their laughable situations in the eyes of the spectators, who are let into the secret, is to be ascribed the irresistible effect. The two Dromios, (Shakespeare's addition among other matters to Plautus) form a requisite link between the audience and the dramatis personæ; they invite us to mirth, otherwise we might half subdue it out of sheer principle.
The dresses in the representation were of no country, and bad for the purpose. Had they been more plain, and such as every Grecian, in a certain station, was likely to wear, one part of the improbability would have been overcome. But to see two pair of brothers elaborately tricked out in the same peculiar taste, with twin spangles and twin buttons, was increasing the improbability.
XVI. XVII. HENRY IV. First and Second Parts.-The deeply wrought Falstaff employs us at drawing conclusions with him, as soon as he is out of our company. He has puzzled those most whom he has most delighted, and may boast of having made our rigid moralist, Dr. Johnson, regret, while he condemned the reformed Bertram, that Falstaff's career should end in disgrace. Hazlitt joins in this regret; and of both bim and the moralist, we may say with Richardson,-“ But if they will allow themselves to examine the character in all its parts, they will perhaps agree with me, that such feeling is delusive, and arises from partial views. They will not take it amiss, if I say they are deluded in the same manner with Prince Henry. They are amused, and conceive an improper attachment to the means of their pleasure and amusement.” Richardson, though, professor-like, somewhat heavy with aphorisms, has afforded us good materials for thinking and arguing on this delightful compound of various and harmonized qualities; but we are chiefly indebted to Morgann's “ Essay on the dramatic character of Sir John Falstaff.” We have no single disquisition so good and complete as this ; and as many may not possess it, who regard Falstaff's disgrace as unmerited, I will transcribe a passage near the end. “ But whatever we may be told concerning the intention of Shakespeare to extend this character farther, there is a manifest preparation near the end of the second part of Henry the Fourth for his disgrace: the disguise is taken off, and he begins openly to pander to the excesses of the Prince, entitling himself to the character afterwards given him, of being the tutor and the feeder of his riots. “I will fetch off,' says he, these justices. I will devise matter enough out of this Shallow to keep the Prince in continual laughter the wearing out of six fashions. If the young dace be a bait for the old pike, speaking with reference to his own designs upon Shallow, 'I see no reason in the law of nature but I may snap at him.' - This is showing himself abominably dissolute: the laborious arts of fraud, which he practises on Shallow to induce the loan of a thousand pounds, create disgust; and the more, as we are sensible this money was never likely to be paid back, as we are told that was, of which the travellers had been robbed. It is true, we feel no pain for Shallow, he being a very bad character, as would fully appear, if he were unfolded; but Falstaff's deliberation in fraud is not, on that account, more excusable. The event of the old king's death draws him out almost into detestation: Master Robert Shallow, choose what office thou wilt in the land,—'tis thine. I am Fortune's steward; let us take any man's horses. The laws of England are at my commandment. Happy are they who have been my friends; and woe to my Lord Chief Justice.' After this, we ought not to complain if we see poetic justice duly executed upon him, and that he is finally given up to shame and dishonour."
XVIII. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. 1598.--As this play was entered at Stationers' Hall so late as 22nd July, I see no reason for ascribing it to the preceding year; and Meres mentions it, the last of the comedies, in November 1598. No chronologer of the plays has taken the account given by Meres, without due allowance, chiefly for omissions; yet he is our only guide. It has proved more difficult than I expected to class the plays up to this date in order, on account of the three entries made in 1597 ; but entries