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Title: Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare
Author: Smith, David Nichol, 1875-1962
Language: English
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                            Eighteenth Century

                          Essays on Shakespeare

                                Edited by

                          D. Nichol Smith, M.A.


                         James MacLehose and Sons

                       Publishers to the University



Introduction. Shakespearian Criticism in the Eighteenth Century.
Nicholas Rowe: Some Account of the Life &c. of Mr. William Shakespear.
John Dennis: On the Genius and Writings of Shakespeare. 1711.
Alexander Pope: Preface to Edition of Shakespeare. 1725.
Lewis Theobald: Preface to Edition of Shakespeare. 1733.
Sir Thomas Hanmer: Preface to Edition of Shakespeare. 1744.
William Warburton: Preface to Edition of Shakespeare. 1747.
Samuel Johnson: Preface to Edition of Shakespeare. 1765.
Richard Farmer: An Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare: Addressed to
Joseph Cradock, Esq. 1767.
Maurice Morgann: An Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff.
   Nicholas Rowe.
   John Dennis.
   Alexander Pope.
   Lewis Theobald.
   Sir Thomas Hanmer.
   William Warburton.
   Samuel Johnson.
   Richard Farmer.
   Maurice Morgann.


The purpose of this book is to give an account of Shakespeare’s reputation
during the eighteenth century, and to suggest that there are grounds for
reconsidering the common opinion that the century did not give him his
due. The nine Essays or Prefaces here reprinted may claim to represent the
chief phases of Shakespearian study from the days of Dryden to those of
Coleridge. It is one of the evils following in the train of the romantic
revival that the judgments of the older school have been discredited or
forgotten. The present volume shows that the eighteenth century knew many
things which the nineteenth has rediscovered for itself.

It is at least eighty years since most of these essays were reprinted.
Rowe’s _Account of Shakespeare_ is given in its original and complete form
for the first time, it is believed, since 1714; what was printed in the
early Variorum editions, and previously in almost every edition since
1725, was Pope’s version of Rowe’s _Account_. Dennis’s Essay has not
appeared since the author republished it in 1721. In all cases the texts
have been collated with the originals; and the more important changes in
the editions published in the lifetime of the author are indicated in the
Introduction or Notes.

The Introduction has been planned to show the main lines in the
development of Shakespeare’s reputation, and to prove that the new
criticism, which is said to begin with Coleridge, takes its rise as early
as the third quarter of the eighteenth century. On the question of
Theobald’s qualifications as an editor, it would appear that we must
subscribe to the deliberate verdict of Johnson. We require strong evidence
before we may disregard contemporary opinion, and in Theobald’s case there
is abundant evidence to confirm Johnson’s view. Johnson’s own edition, on
the other hand, has not received justice during the last century.

It is a pleasure to the Editor to record his obligations to Professor
Raleigh, Mr. Gregory Smith, and Mr. J. H. Lobban.

EDINBURGH, _October_, 1903.


The early nineteenth century was too readily convinced by Coleridge and
Hazlitt that they were the first to recognise and to explain the greatness
of Shakespeare. If amends have recently been made to the literary ideals
of Pope and Johnson, the reaction has not yet extended to Shakespearian
criticism. Are we not still inclined to hold the verdicts of Hume and
Chesterfield as representative of eighteenth-century opinion, and to find
proof of a lack of appreciation in the editorial travesties of the
playhouse? To this century, as much as to the nineteenth, Shakespeare was
the glory of English letters. So Pope and Johnson had stated in
unequivocal language, which should not have been forgotten. “He is not so
much an imitator as an instrument of Nature,” said Pope, “and ’tis not so
just to say that he speaks from her as that she speaks through him”; and
Johnson declared that “the stream of time, which is continually washing
the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the
adamant of Shakespeare.” But Pope and Johnson had ventured to point out,
in the honesty of their criticism, that Shakespeare was not free from
faults; and it was this which the nineteenth century chose to remark.
Johnson’s Preface in particular was remembered only to be despised. It is
not rash to say that at the present time the majority of those who chance
to speak of it pronounce it a discreditable performance.

This false attitude to the eighteenth century had its nemesis in the
belief that we were awakened by foreigners to the greatness of
Shakespeare. Even one so eminently sane as Hazlitt lent support to this
opinion. “We will confess,” says the Preface to the _Characters of
Shakespeare’s Plays_, “that some little jealousy of the character of the
national understanding was not without its share in producing the
following undertaking, for we were piqued that it should be reserved for a
foreign critic to give reasons for the faith which we English have in
Shakespeare”; and the whole Preface resolves itself, however reluctantly,
into praise of Schlegel and censure of Johnson. When a thorough Englishman
writes thus, it is not surprising that Germany should have claimed to be
the first to give Shakespeare his true place. The heresy has been exposed;
but even the slightest investigation of eighteenth-century opinion, or the
mere recollection of what Dryden had said, should have prevented its rise.
Though Hazlitt took upon himself the defence of the national intelligence,
he incorporated in his Preface a long passage from Schlegel, because, in
his opinion, no English critic had shown like enthusiasm or philosophical
acuteness. We cannot regret the delusion if we owe to it the _Characters
of Shakespeare’s Plays_, but his patriotic task would have been easier,
and might even have appeared unnecessary, had he known that many of
Schlegel’s acute and enthusiastic observations had been anticipated at

Even those who are willing to give the eighteenth century its due have not
recognised how it appreciated Shakespeare. At no time in this century was
he not popular. The author of _Esmond_ tells us that Shakespeare was quite
out of fashion until Steele brought him back into the mode.(1) Theatrical
records would alone be sufficient to show that the ascription of this
honour to Steele is an injustice to his contemporaries. In the year that
the _Tatler_ was begun, Rowe brought out his edition of the “best of our
poets”; and a reissue was called for five years later. It is said by
Johnson(2) that Pope’s edition drew the public attention to Shakespeare’s
works, which, though often mentioned, had been little read. Henceforward
there was certainly an increase in the number of critical investigations,
but if Shakespeare had been little read, how are we to explain the
coffee-house discussions of which we seem to catch echoes in the
periodical literature? The allusions in the _Spectator_, or the essays in
the _Censor_, must have been addressed to a public which knew him. Dennis,
who “read him over and over and still remained unsatiated,” tells how he
was accused, by blind admirers of the poet, of lack of veneration, because
he had ventured to criticise, and how he had appealed from a private
discussion to the judgment of the public. “Above all I am pleased,” says
the _Guardian_, “in observing that the Tragedies of Shakespeare, which in
my youthful days have so frequently filled my eyes with tears, hold their
rank still, and are the great support of our theatre.”(3) Theobald could
say that “this author is grown so universal a book that there are very few
studies or collections of books, though small, amongst which it does not
hold a place”; and he could add that “there is scarce a poet that our
English tongue boasts of who is more the subject of the Ladies’
reading.”(4) It would be difficult to explain away these statements. The
critical interest in Shakespeare occasioned by Pope’s edition may have
increased the knowledge of him, but he had been regularly cited, long
before Pope’s day, as England’s representative genius. To argue that he
had ever been out of favour we must rely on later statements, and they are
presumably less trustworthy than those which are contemporary. Lyttelton
remarked that a veneration for Shakespeare seems to be a part of the
national religion, and the only part in which even men of sense are
fanatics;(5) and Gibbon spoke of the “idolatry for the gigantic genius of
Shakespeare, which is inculcated from our infancy as the first duty of an
Englishman.”(6) The present volume will show how the eighteenth century
could almost lose itself in panegyric of Shakespeare. The evidence is so
overwhelming that it is hard to understand how the century’s respect for
Shakespeare was ever doubted. When Tom Jones took Partridge to the gallery
of Drury Lane, the play was _Hamlet_. The fashionable topics on which Mr.
Thornhill’s friends from town would talk, to the embarrassment of the
Primroses and the Flamboroughs, were “pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and
the musical glasses.” The greatest poet of the century played a leading
part in erecting the statue in the Poets’ Corner. And it was an
eighteenth-century actor who instituted the Stratford celebrations.

During the entire century Shakespeare dominated the stage. He was more to
the actor then, and more familiar to the theatre-goer, than he is now. It
is true that from Betterton’s days to Garrick’s, and later, his plays were
commonly acted from mangled versions. But these versions were of two
distinct types. The one respected the rules of the classical drama, the
other indulged the license of pantomime. The one was the labour of the
pedant theorist, the other was rather the improvisation of the theatre
manager. And if the former were truly representative of the taste of the
century, as has sometimes been implied, it has to be explained how they
were not so popular as the latter. “Our taste has gone back a whole
century,” says the strolling player in the _Vicar of Wakefield_,(7)
“Fletcher, Ben Jonson, and all the plays of Shakespeare are the only
things that go down.” The whole passage is a satire on Garrick(8) and a
gibe at Drury Lane: “The public go only to be amused, and find themselves
happy when they can enjoy a pantomime under the sanction of Jonson’s or
Shakespeare’s name.” But, whatever was done with Shakespeare’s plays, they
were the very life of the theatre. When we remember also the number of
editions which were published, and the controversies to which they gave
rise, as well as the fact that the two literary dictators were among his
editors, we are prompted to ask, What century has felt the influence of
Shakespeare more than the eighteenth?


The century’s interest in Shakespeare shows itself in four main phases.
The first deals with his neglect of the so-called rules of the drama; the
second determines what was the extent of his learning; the third considers
the treatment of his text; and the fourth, more purely aesthetic, shows
his value as a delineator of character. The following remarks take these
questions in order; and a concluding section gives an account of the
individual essays here reprinted. Though the phases are closely connected
and overlap to some extent, the order in which they are here treated
accords in the main with their chronological sequence.


Dryden is the father of Shakespearian criticism. Though he disguised his
veneration at times, he expressed his true faith when he wrote,
deliberately, the fervent estimate in the _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_.
Johnson saw that Pope had expanded it, and his own experience made him say
that the editors and admirers of Shakespeare, in all their emulation of
reverence, had not done much more than diffuse and paraphrase this
“epitome of excellence.” But concurrently on to Johnson’s time we can
trace the influence of Thomas Rymer, who, in his _Short View of Tragedy_,
had championed the classical drama, and had gone as far in abuse as his
greater contemporary had gone in praise. The authority which each exerted
is well illustrated by Rowe’s _Account of Shakespeare_. Rowe is of the
party of Dryden, but he cannot refrain from replying to Rymer, though he
has resolved to enter into no critical controversy. He says he will not
inquire into the justness of Rymer’s remarks, and yet he replies to him in
two passages. That these were silently omitted by Pope when he included
the _Account of Shakespeare_ in his own edition in 1725 does not mean that
Rymer was already being forgotten. We know from other sources that Pope
rated his abilities very highly. But the condensed form in which the
_Account_ was regularly reprinted does not convey so plainly as the
original the influence of the rival schools at the beginning of the
eighteenth century. In addition to the passages on Rymer, Pope omitted
several valuable allusions to Dryden. The influence of Dryden, however, is
plain enough. He seems to have been ever present to Rowe, suggesting ideas
to be accepted or refuted. Rowe must have been indebted to the
conversation of Dryden as well as to the researches of Betterton.

Rowe’s own dramatic work is an interesting comment on the critical
portions of his _Account of Shakespeare_. When he professes to have taken
Shakespeare as his model,(9) which shows that his editorial work had
taught him the trick of an occasional line contrary to the normal rules of
blank verse. Notwithstanding a brave prologue, he was not able to shake
himself free from the rules, which tightened their grip on English tragedy
till they choked it. His regard for Shakespeare did not give him courage
for the addition of a comic element or an underplot. He must obey the
“hampering critics,” though his avowed model had ignored them.
Accordingly, in his more deliberate prose criticism we find, amid his
veneration of Shakespeare, his regard for the rules of the classical
drama. The faults of Shakespeare, we read, were not so much his own as
those of his time, for “tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age,”
and there was as yet no definite knowledge of how a play should be

The burden of Rowe’s criticism is that “strength and nature made amends
for art.” The line might serve as the text of many of the early
appreciations of Shakespeare. Though the critics all resented Rymer’s
treatment of the poet, some of them stood by his doctrines. They might
appease this resentment by protesting against his manners or refuting his
plea for a dramatic chorus; but on the whole they recognised the claims of
the classical models. The more the dramatic fervour failed, the more the
professed critics counselled observance of the rules. In 1702 Farquhar had
pleaded for the freedom of the English stage in his _Discourse upon
Comedy_, but his arguments were unavailing. The duller men found it easier
to support the rigid doctrines, which had been fully expounded by the
French critics. The seventh or supplementary volume of Rowe’s edition of
Shakespeare was introduced by Charles Gildon’s _Essay on the Art, Rise,
and Progress of the Stage in Greece, Rome, and __ England_, which, as the
title shows, was a laboured exposition of the classical doctrines. Gildon
had begun as an enemy of Rymer. In 1694 he had published _Some Reflections
on Mr. Rymer’s Short View of Tragedy and an Attempt at a Vindication of
Shakespeare_. Therein he had spoken of “noble irregularity,” and censured
the “graver pedants” of the age. By 1710 he is a grave pedant himself. In
1694 he had said that Rymer had scarce produced one criticism that was not
borrowed from the French writers; in 1710 the remark is now applicable to
its author. Gildon’s further descent as a critic is evident eight years
later in his _Complete Art of Poetry_. He is now a slave to the French
doctrine of the rules. He confesses himself the less ready to pardon the
“monstrous absurdities” of Shakespeare, as one or two plays, such as the
_Tempest_, are “very near a regularity.” Yet he acknowledges that
Shakespeare abounds in beauties, and he makes some reparation by including
a long list of his finer passages. Gildon was a man whose ideas took their
colour from his surroundings. In the days of his acquaintanceship with
Dryden he appreciated Shakespeare more heartily than when he was left to
the friendship of Dennis or the favours of the Duke of Buckinghamshire.
His _Art of Poetry_ is a dishonest compilation, which owes what value it
has to the sprinkling of contemporary allusions. It even incorporates,
without any acknowledgment, long passages from Sidney’s _Apologie_. We
should be tempted to believe that Gildon merely put his name to a
hack-work collection, were it not that there is a gradual deterioration in
his criticism.

John Dennis also replied to Rymer’s _Short View_, and was classed
afterwards as one of Rymer’s disciples. In his _Impartial Critick_ (1693)
he endeavoured to show that the methods of the ancient Greek tragedy were
not all suitable to the modern English theatre. To introduce a chorus, as
Rymer had recommended, or to expel love from the stage, would, he argued,
only ruin the English drama. But his belief in the classical rules made
him turn the _Merry Wives_ into the _Comical Gallant_. As he found in the
original three actions, each independent of the other, he had set himself
to make the whole “depend on one common centre.” In the Dedication to the
letters _On the Genius and Writings of Shakespeare_ we read that
Aristotle, “who may be call’d the Legislator of Parnassus, wrote the laws
of tragedy so exactly and so truly in reason and nature that succeeding
criticks have writ justly and reasonably upon that art no farther than
they have adhered to their great master’s notions.” But at the very
beginning of the letters themselves he says that “Shakespeare was one of
the greatest geniuses that the world e’er saw.” Notwithstanding his
pronounced classical taste, his sense of the greatness of Shakespeare is
as strong as Rowe’s, and much stronger than Gildon’s. His writings prove
him a man of competent scholarship, who had thought out his literary
doctrines for himself, and could admire beauty in other than classical
garb. The result is that at many points his opinions are at marked
variance with those of Rymer, for whom, however, he had much respect.
Rymer, for instance, had said that Shakespeare’s genius lay in comedy, but
the main contention of Dennis’s letters is that he had an unequalled gift
for tragedy. As a critic Dennis is greatly superior to Rymer and his
disciples. The ancients guided his taste without blinding him to modern

Even Lewis Theobald, whom some would consider Shakespeare’s greatest
friend in this century, believed in the rules. He complied with the taste
of the town when he wrote pantomimes, but he was a sterner man when he
posed as a critic. He would then speak of the “general absurdities of
Shakespeare,” and the “errors” in the structure of his plays. He passed
this criticism both in his edition of Shakespeare and in the early
articles in the _Censor_ on _King Lear_, which are also of considerable
historical interest as being the first essays devoted exclusively to an
examination of a single Shakespearian play. His complacent belief in the
rules prompted him to correct _Richard II._ “The many scattered beauties
which I have long admired,” he says naïvely in the Preface, “induced me to
think they would have stronger charms if they were interwoven in a regular
Fable.” No less confident is a note on _Love’s Labours Lost_: “Besides the
exact regularity of the rules of art, which the author has happened to
preserve in some few of his pieces, this is demonstration, I think, that
though he has more frequently transgressed the unity of Time by cramming
years into the compass of a play, yet he knew the absurdity of so doing,
and was not unacquainted with the rule to the contrary.”(10) Theobald was
a critic of the same type as Gildon. Each had profound respect for what he
took to be the accredited doctrines. If on certain points Theobald’s ideas
were liable to change, the explanation is that he was amenable to the
opinions of others. We do not find in Theobald’s criticism the courage of

There is little about the rules in Pope’s Preface. That Pope respected
them cannot be doubted, else he would not have spoken so well of Rymer,
and in the critical notes added to his Homer we should not hear so much of
Le Bossu’s treatise on the Epic.(11) But Pope was a discreet man, who knew
when to be silent. He regarded it as a misfortune that Shakespeare was not
so circumstanced as to be able to write on the model of the ancients, but,
unlike the pedant theorists, he refused to judge Shakespeare by the rules
of a foreign drama. Much the same is to be said of Addison. His belief in
the rules appears in his _Cato_. His over-rated criticism of _Paradise
Lost_ is little more than a laboured application of the system of Le
Bossu. But in the _Spectator_ he too urges that Shakespeare is not to be
judged according to the rules. “Our critics do not seem sensible,” he
writes, “that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius who is
ignorant of the rules of art than in those of a little genius who knows
and observes them. Our inimitable Shakespeare is a stumbling-block to the
whole tribe of these rigid critics. Who would not rather read one of his
plays where there is not a single rule of the stage observed, than any
production of a modern critic where there is not one of them
violated?”(12) The rigid critics continued to find fault with the
structure of Shakespeare’s plays. In the articles in the _Adventurer_ on
the _Tempest_ and _King Lear_, Joseph Warton repeats the standard
objection to tragi-comedy and underplots. In the _Biographia Britannica_
we still find it stated that Shakespeare set himself to please the
populace, and that the people “had no notion of the rules of writing, or
the model of the Ancients.” But one whose tastes were classical, both by
nature and by training, had been thinking out the matter for himself. It
was only after long reflection, and with much hesitation, that Johnson had
disavowed what had almost come to be considered the very substance of the
classical faith. In his _Irene_ he had bowed to the rules; he had,
however, begun to suspect them by the time he wrote the _Rambler_, and in
the Preface to his edition of Shakespeare suspicion has become conviction.
His sturdy common sense and independence of judgment led him to anticipate
much of what has been supposed to be the discovery of the romantic school.
His Preface has received scant justice. There is no more convincing
criticism of the neo-classical doctrines.(13)

Henceforward we hear less about the rules. Johnson had performed a great
service for that class of critics whose deference to learned opinion kept
them from saying fully what they felt. The lesser men had not been at
their ease when they referred to Shakespeare. We see their difficulty in
the Latin lectures of Joseph Trapp, the first Professor of Poetry at
Oxford, as well as in the Grub Street _Essay upon English Tragedy_ (1747)
by William Guthrie. They admire his genius, but they persist in regretting
that his plays are not properly constructed. Little importance attaches to
Mrs. Montagu’s _Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare_
(1769).(14) It was only a well-meaning but shallow reply to Voltaire,(15)
and a reply was unnecessary. Johnson had already vindicated the national
pride in Shakespeare. That his views soon became the commonplaces of those
critics who strike the average of current opinion, is shown by such a work
as William Cooke’s _Elements of Dramatic Criticism_ (1775). But traces of
the school of Rymer are still to be found, and nowhere more strongly than
in the anonymous _Cursory Remarks on Tragedy_ (1774). In this little
volume of essays the dramatic rules are defended against the criticism of
Johnson by a lame repetition of the arguments which Johnson had
overthrown. Even Pope is said to have let his partiality get the better of
his usual justice and candour when he claimed that Shakespeare was not to
be judged by what were called the rules of Aristotle. There are laws, this
belated critic urges, which bind each individual as a citizen of the
world; and once again we read that the rules of the classical drama are in
accordance with human reason. This book is the last direct descendant of
Rymer’s _Short View_. The ancestral trait appears in the question whether
Shakespeare was in general even a good tragic writer. But it is a
degenerate descendant. If it has learned good manners, it is unoriginal
and dull; and it is so negligible that it has apparently not been thought
worth while to settle the question of its authorship.(16)


The discussion on Shakespeare’s attitude to the dramatic rules was closely
connected with the long controversy on the extent of his learning. The
question naturally suggested itself how far his dramatic method was due to
his ignorance of the classics. Did he know the rules and ignore them, or
did he write with no knowledge of the Greek and Roman models? Whichever
view the critics adopted, one and all felt they were arguing for the
honour of Shakespeare. If some would prove for his greater glory that
parallel passages were due to direct borrowing, others held it was more to
his credit to have known nothing of the classics and to have equalled or
surpassed them by the mere force of unassisted genius.

The controversy proper begins with Rowe’s _Account of Shakespeare_. On
this subject, as on others, Rowe expresses the tradition of the
seventeenth century. His view is the same as Dryden’s, and Dryden had
accepted Jonson’s statement that Shakespeare had “small Latin and less
Greek.” Rowe believes that his acquaintance with Latin authors was such as
he might have gained at school: he could remember tags of Horace or
Mantuan, but was unable to read Plautus in the original. The plea that
comparative ignorance of the classics may not have been a disadvantage, as
it perhaps prevented the sacrifice of fancy to correctness, prompted a
reply by Gildon in his _Essay on the Stage_, where the argument is based
partly on the belief that Shakespeare had read Ovid and Plautus and had
thereby neither spoiled his fancy nor confined his genius. The question
was probably at this time a common topic of discussion. Dennis’s abler
remarks were suggested, as he tells us, by conversation in which he found
himself opposed to the prevalent opinion. He is more pronounced in his
views than Rowe had been. His main argument is that as Shakespeare is
deficient in the “poetical art” he could not but have been ignorant of the
classics, for, had he known them, he could not have failed to profit by
them. Dennis is stirred even to treat the question as one affecting the
national honour. “He who allows,” he says, “that Shakespeare had learning
and a familiar acquaintance with the Ancients, ought to be looked upon as
a detractor from his extraordinary merit and from the glory of Great

The prominence of the controversy forced Pope to refer to it in his
Preface, but he had apparently little interest in it. Every statement he
makes is carefully guarded: there are translations from Ovid, he says,
among the poems which _pass for_ Shakespeare’s; he will not pretend to say
in what language Shakespeare read the Greek authors; Shakespeare _appears_
to have been conversant in Plautus. He is glad of the opportunity to reply
to Dennis’s criticism of _Coriolanus_ and _Julius Caesar_, but though he
praises the truthful representation of the Roman spirit and manners, he
discreetly refuses to say how Shakespeare came to know of them. As he had
not thought out the matter for himself, he feared to tread where the
lesser men rushed in. But though he records the evidence brought forward
by those who believed in Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Ancients, he does
not fail to convey the impression that he belongs to the other party. And,
indeed, in another passage of the Preface he says with definiteness,
inconsistent with his other statements, that Shakespeare was “without
assistance or advice from the learned, as without the advantage of
education or acquaintance among them, without that knowledge of the best
models, the Ancients, to inspire him with an emulation of them.”

During the fifty years between Pope’s Preface and Johnson’s, the
controversy continued intermittently without either party gaining ground.
In the Preface to the supplementary volume to Pope’s edition—which is a
reprint of Gildon’s supplementary volume to Rowe’s—Sewell declared he
found evident marks through all Shakespeare’s writings of knowledge of the
Latin tongue. Theobald, who was bound to go astray when he ventured beyond
the collation of texts, was ready to believe that similarity of idea in
Shakespeare and the classics was due to direct borrowing. He had, however,
the friendly advice of Warburton to make him beware of the secret
satisfaction of pointing out a classical original. In its earlier form his
very unequal Preface had contained the acute observation that the texture
of Shakespeare’s phrases indicated better than his vocabulary the extent
of his knowledge of Latin. The style was submitted as “the truest
criterion to determine this long agitated question,” and the conclusion
was implied that Shakespeare could not have been familiar with the
classics. But this interesting passage was omitted in the second edition,
perhaps because it was inconsistent with a less decided utterance
elsewhere in the Preface, but more probably because it had been supplied
by Warburton. In his earlier days, before he had met Warburton, he had
been emphatic. In the Preface to his version of _Richard II._ he had tried
to do Shakespeare “some justice upon the points of his learning and
acquaintance with the Ancients.” He had said that _Timon of Athens_ and
_Troilus and Cressida_ left it without dispute or exception that
Shakespeare was no inconsiderable master of the Greek story; he dared be
positive that the latter play was founded directly upon Homer; he held
that Shakespeare must have known Aeschylus, Lucian, and Plutarch in the
Greek; and he claimed that he could, “with the greatest ease imaginable,”
produce above five hundred passages from the three Roman plays to prove
Shakespeare’s intimacy with the Latin classics. When he came under the
influence of Warburton he lost his assurance. He was then “very cautious
of declaring too positively” on either side of the question; but he was
loath to give up his belief that Shakespeare knew the classics at first
hand. Warburton himself did not figure creditably in the controversy. He
might ridicule the discoveries of other critics, but his vanity often
allured him to displays of learning as absurd as theirs. No indecision
troubled Upton or Zachary Grey. They saw in Shakespeare a man of profound
reading, one who might well have worn out his eyes in poring over classic
tomes. They clutched at anything to show his deliberate imitation of the
Ancients. There could be no better instance of the ingenious folly of this
type of criticism than the passage in the _Notes on Shakespeare_, where
Grey argues from Gloucester’s words in _Richard III._, “Go you before and
I will follow you,” that Shakespeare knew, and was indebted to, Terence’s
_Andria_. About the same time Peter Whalley, the editor of Ben Jonson,
brought out his _Enquiry into the Learning of Shakespeare_ (1748), the
first formal treatise devoted directly to the subject of controversy.
Therein it is claimed that Shakespeare knew Latin well enough to have
acquired in it a taste and elegance of judgment, and was more indebted to
the Ancients than was commonly imagined. On the whole, however, Whalley’s
attitude was more reasonable than that of Upton or Grey, for he admitted
that his list of parallel passages might not settle the point at issue.

After such a display of misapplied learning it is refreshing to meet with
the common sense of one who was a greater scholar than any of these
pedants. Johnson has less difficulty in giving his opinion on the extent
of Shakespeare’s learning than in discovering the reasons of the
controversy. The evidence of Shakespeare’s contemporary, he says, ought to
decide the question unless some testimony of equal force can be opposed,
and such testimony he refuses to find in the collections of the Uptons and
Greys. It is especially remarkable that Johnson, who is not considered to
have been strong in research, should be the first to state that
Shakespeare used North’s translation of Plutarch. He is the first also to
point out that there was an English translation of the play on which the
_Comedy of Errors_ was founded,(17) and the first to show that it was not
necessary to go back to the _Tale of Gamelyn_ for the story of _As you
like it_. There is no evidence how he came by this knowledge. The casual
and allusive manner in which he advances his information would seem to
show that it was not of his own getting. He may have been indebted for it
to the scholar who two years later put an end to the controversy. The
edition of Shakespeare did not appear till October, 1765, and early in
that year Johnson had spent his “joyous evening” at Cambridge with Richard

The _Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare_ is not an independent treatise
like Whalley’s _Enquiry_, but rather a detailed reply to the arguments of
Upton and his fellows. Farmer had once been idle enough, he tells us
himself, to collect parallel passages, but he had been saved by his
remarkable bibliographical knowledge. He found out that the literature of
the age of Elizabeth was a better hunting ground than the classics for
Shakespearian commentators. Again and again he shows that passages which
had been urged as convincing proof of knowledge of Latin or Greek are
either borrowed from contemporary translations or illustrated by
contemporary usage. In so far as the _Essay_ aims at showing the futility
of the arguments advanced to prove Shakespeare’s learning, it is
convincing. The only criticism that can reasonably be passed on it is that
Farmer is apt to think he has proved his own case when he has merely
destroyed the evidence of his opponents. His conclusion regarding
Shakespeare’s knowledge of French and Italian may be too extreme to be
generally accepted now, and indeed it may not be logically deducible from
his examination of the arguments of other critics; but on the whole the
book is a remarkably able study. Though Farmer speaks expressly of
acquitting “our great poet of all piratical depredations on the Ancients,”
his purpose has often been misunderstood, or at least misrepresented. He
aimed at giving Shakespeare the greater commendation, but certain critics
of the earlier half of the nineteenth century would have it that he had
tried to prove, for his own glory, that Shakespeare was a very ignorant
fellow. William Maginn in particular proclaimed the _Essay_ a “piece of
pedantic impertinence not paralleled in literature.” The early Variorum
editions had acknowledged its value by reprinting it in its entirety,
besides quoting from it liberally in the notes to the separate plays, and
Maginn determined to do his best to rid them in future of this
“superfluous swelling.” So he indulged in a critical Donnybrook; but after
hitting out and about at the _Essay_ for three months he left it much as
he found it.(19) He could not get to close quarters with Farmer’s
scholarship. His bluster compares ill with Farmer’s gentler manner, and in
some passages the quiet humour has proved too subtle for his animosity.
There was more impartiality in the judgment of Johnson: “Dr. Farmer, you
have done that which was never done before; that is, you have completely
finished a controversy beyond all further doubt.”(20)


After the publication of Farmer’s _Essay_ there was a change in the
character of the editions of Shakespeare. Farmer is the forerunner of
Steevens and Malone. He had a just idea of the importance of his work when
he spoke of himself as the pioneer of the commentators. It did not matter
whether his main contention were accepted; he had at least shown the
wealth of illustration which was awaiting the scholar who cared to search
in the literature of Shakespeare’s age, and Steevens and Malone were not
slow to follow. They had the advantage of being early in the field; but it
is doubtful if any later editor has contributed as much as either of them
did to the elucidation of Shakespeare’s text. They have been oftener
borrowed from than has been admitted, and many a learned note of later
date may be found in germ in their editions. But with the advance of
detailed scholarship the Prefaces deteriorate in literary merit. They
concern themselves more and more with textual and bibliographical points,
and hence, if they are of greater interest to the student, they are of
less value as indications of the century’s regard for Shakespeare. The
change is already noticeable in Capell’s Preface, on the literary
shortcomings of which Johnson expressed himself so forcibly. Johnson is
the last editor whose Preface is a piece of general criticism. It is an
essay which can stand by itself.

By the time of Johnson and Capell the editor of Shakespeare has come to a
clear idea of his “true duty.” Rowe had no suspicion of the textual
problems awaiting his successors. A dramatist himself, he wished merely to
publish Shakespeare’s plays as he would publish his own. Accordingly he
modernised the spelling, divided the scenes, and added lists of dramatis
personae; and the folio gave place to six octavo volumes. He was content
to found his text on the fourth Folio, the last and worst; he had no idea
of the superior claims of the first, though he professed to have compared
the several editions. He corrected many errors and occasionally hit upon a
happy emendation; but on the whole his interest in Shakespeare was that of
the dramatist. Pope’s interest was that of the poet. There is some truth
in the criticism that he gave Shakespeare not as he was, but as he ought
to be, though Pope might well have retorted that in his opinion the two
conditions were identical. Whatever did not conform to his opinion of
Shakespeare’s style he treated as an interpolation. His collation of the
texts, by convincing him of their corruption, only prompted him to a more
liberal exercise of his own judgment. In the supplementary volume of
Pope’s edition, it had been suggested by Sewell that our great writers
should be treated in the same way as the classics were, and the idea was
put into practice by Theobald, who could say that his method of editing
was “the first assay of the kind on any modern author whatsoever.” By his
careful collation of the Quartos and Folios, he pointed the way to the
modern editor. But he was followed by Hanmer, who, as his chief interest
was to rival Pope, was content with Pope’s methods. It is easy to
underestimate the value of Hanmer’s edition; his happy conjectures have
been prejudiced by his neglect of the older copies and his unfortunate
attempt to regularise the metre; but what alone concerns us here is that
he reverts to the methods which Theobald had discarded. Warburton,
confident in his intellectual gifts, was satisfied with Theobald’s
examination of the early copies, and trusted to his own insight “to settle
the genuine text.” The critical ingenuity of editors and commentators,
before the authority of the Folios was established, betrayed them into
inevitable error. The amusing variety of conjectural readings was met by
the exquisite satire of Fielding,(21) as well as by the heavy censure of
Grub Street. “It is to be wished,” says a catchpenny publication, “that
the original text of Shakespeare were left unaltered for every English
reader to understand. The numerous fry of commentators will at last
explain his original meaning away.”(22) This criticism was out of date by
the time of Johnson and Capell. As it has long been the fashion to decry
Johnson’s edition, it is well to recall two statements in his Preface,
which show that he had already discovered what later editors have found
out for themselves:

    “I collated all the folios at the beginning, but afterwards used
    only the first.”(23)

    “It has been my settled principle that the reading of the ancient
    books is probably true.... As I practised conjecture more, I
    learned to trust it less.”

Johnson’s collation may not have been thorough; but no modern editor can
say that he proceeded on a wrong method.

Johnson has included in his Preface an account of the work of earlier
editors, and it is the first attempt of the kind which is impartial. He
shows that Rowe has been blamed for not performing what he did not
undertake; he is severe on Pope for the allusion to the “dull duty of an
editor,” as well as for the performance of it, though he also finds much
to praise; he does more justice to Sir Thomas Hammer than has commonly
been done since; and he is not silent on the weaknesses of Warburton. The
only thing in this unprejudiced account which is liable to criticism is
his treatment of Theobald. But the censure is as just as the praise which
it is now the fashion to heap on him. Though Theobald was the first to pay
due respect to the original editions, we cannot, in estimating his
capacity, ignore the evidence of his correspondence with Warburton. In the
more detailed account of his work given below, it is shown that there was
a large measure of justice in the common verdict of the eighteenth
century, but it was only prejudiced critics like Pope or Warburton who
would say that his Shakespearian labours were futile. Johnson is careful
to state that “what little he did was commonly right.”

It would appear that Macaulay’s estimate of Johnson’s own edition has been
generally accepted, even by those who in other matters remark on the
historian’s habit of exaggeration. “The Preface,” we read, “though it
contains some good passages, is not in his best manner. The most valuable
notes are those in which he had an opportunity of showing how attentively
he had, during many years, observed human life and human nature. The best
specimen is the note on the character of Polonius. Nothing so good is to
be found even in Wilhelm Meister’s admirable examination of _Hamlet_. But
here praise must end. It would be difficult to name a more slovenly, a
more worthless edition of any great classic. The reader may turn over play
after play without finding one happy conjectural emendation, or one
ingenious and satisfactory explanation of a passage which had baffled
preceding commentators.”(24) And we still find it repeated that his
edition was a failure. Johnson distrusted conjecture; but that there is
not one happy conjectural emendation is only less glaringly untrue than
the other assertion that there is not one new ingenious and satisfactory
explanation. Even though we make allowance for Macaulay’s mannerism, it is
difficult to believe that he had honestly consulted the edition. Those who
have worked with it know the force of Johnson’s claim that not a single
passage in the whole work had appeared to him corrupt which he had not
attempted to restore, or obscure which he had not endeavoured to
illustrate. We may neglect the earlier eighteenth-century editions of
Shakespeare, but if we neglect Johnson’s we run a serious risk. We may now
abandon his text; we must rely on later scholarship for the explanation of
many allusions; but, wherever a difficulty can be solved by common sense,
we shall never find his notes antiquated. Other editions are distinguished
by accuracy, ingenuity, or learning; the supreme distinction of his is
sagacity. He cleared a way through a mass of misleading conjectures. In
disputed passages he has an almost unerring instinct for the explanation
which alone can be right; and when the reading is corrupt beyond
emendation, he gives the most helpful statement of the probable meaning.
Not only was Johnson’s edition the best which had yet appeared; it is
still one of the few editions which are indispensable.


The third quarter of the eighteenth century, and not the first quarter of
the nineteenth, is the true period of transition in Shakespearian
criticism. The dramatic rules had been finally deposed. The corrected
plays were falling into disfavour, and though Shakespeare’s dramas were
not yet acted as they were written, more respect was being paid to the
originals. The sixty years’ controversy on the extent of his learning had
ended by proving that the best commentary on him is the literature of his
own age. At the same time there is a far-reaching change in the literary
appreciations of Shakespeare, which announces the school of Coleridge and
Hazlitt: his _characters_ now become the main topics of criticism.

In the five essays on the _Tempest_ and _King Lear_ contributed by Joseph
Warton to the _Adventurer_ in 1753-54, we can recognise the coming change
in critical methods. He began them by giving in a sentence a summary of
the common verdicts: “As Shakespeare is sometimes blamable for the conduct
of his fables, which have no unity; and sometimes for his diction, which
is obscure and turgid; so his characteristical excellences may possibly be
reduced to these three general heads—his lively creative imagination, his
strokes of nature and passion, and his preservation of the consistency of
his characters.” Warton himself believed in the dramatic conventions. He
objected to the Edmund story in _King Lear_ on the ground that it
destroyed the unity of the fable. But he had the wisdom to recognise that
irregularities in structure may be excused by the representation of the
persons of the drama.(25) Accordingly, in his examination of the _Tempest_
and _King Lear_, he pays most attention to the characters, and relegates
to a short closing paragraph his criticism of the development of the
action. Though his method has nominally much in common with that of
Maurice Morgann and the romantic critics, in practice it is very
different. He treats the characters from without: he lacks the intuitive
sympathy which is the secret of later criticism. To him the play is a
representation of life, not a transcript from life. The characters, who
are more real to us than actual persons of history, and more intimate than
many an acquaintance, appear to him to be creatures of the imagination who
live in a different world from his own. Warton describes the picture: he
criticises the portraits of the characters rather than the characters

The gradual change in the critical attitude is illustrated also by Lord
Kames, whom Heath had reason to describe, before the appearance of
Johnson’s Preface, as “the truest judge and most intelligent admirer of
Shakespeare.”(26) The scheme of his _Elements of Criticism_ (1762) allowed
him to deal with Shakespeare only incidentally, as in the digression where
he distinguishes between the presentation and the description of passion,
but he gives more decisive expression to Warton’s view that observance of
the rules is of subordinate importance to the truthful exhibition of
character. The mechanical part, he observes, in which alone Shakespeare is
defective, is less the work of genius than of experience, and it is
knowledge of human nature which gives him his supremacy. The same views
are repeated in the periodical essays. The _Mirror_ regards it as
“preposterous” to endeavour to regularise his plays, and finds the source
of his superiority in his almost supernatural powers of invention, his
absolute command over the passions, and his wonderful knowledge of nature;
and the _Lounger_ says that he presents the abstract of life in all its
modes and in every time. The rules are forgotten,—we cease to hear even
that they are useless. But the _Elements of Criticism_ gave Kames no
opportunity to show that his attitude to the characters themselves was
other than Warton’s.

No critic had questioned Shakespeare’s truth to nature. The flower of
Pope’s Preface is the section on his knowledge of the world and his power
over the passions. Lyttleton showed his intimacy with Pope’s opinion when
in his _Dialogues of the Dead_ he made him say: “No author had ever so
copious, so bold, so _creative_ an imagination, with so perfect a
knowledge of the passions, the humours and sentiments of mankind. He
painted all characters, from kings down to peasants, with equal truth and
equal force. If human nature were destroyed, and no monument were left of
it except his works, other beings might know what man was from those
writings.” The same eulogy is repeated in other words by Johnson. And in
Gray’s _Progress of Poesy_ Shakespeare is “Nature’s Darling.” It was his
diction which gave most scope to the censure of the better critics. An age
whose literary watchwords were simplicity and precision was bound to
remark on his obscurities and plays on words, and even, as Dryden had
done, on his bombast. What Shaftesbury(27) or Atterbury(28) had said at
the beginning of the century is repeated, as we should expect, by the
rhetoricians, such as Blair. But it was shown by Kames that the merit of
Shakespeare’s language lay in the absence of those abstract and general
terms which were the blemish of the century’s own diction. “Shakespeare’s
style in that respect,” says Kames, “is excellent: every article in his
descriptions is particular, as in nature.” And herein Kames gave
independent expression to the views of the poet who is said to have lived
in the wrong century. “In truth,” said Gray, “Shakespeare’s language is
one of his principal beauties; and he has no less advantage over your
Addisons and Rowes in this than in those other great excellences you
mention. Every word in him is a picture.”(29)

The first book devoted directly to the examination of Shakespeare’s
characters was by William Richardson, Professor of Humanity in the
University of Glasgow. His _Philosophical Analysis and Illustration of
some of Shakespeare’s remarkable Characters_, which dealt with Macbeth,
Hamlet, Jaques, and Imogen, appeared in 1774; ten years later he added a
second series on Richard III., King Lear, and Timon of Athens; and in 1789
he concluded his character studies with his essay on Falstaff. As the
titles show, Richardson’s work has a moral purpose. His intention, as he
tells us, was to make poetry subservient to philosophy, and to employ it
in tracing the principles of human conduct. Accordingly, he has prejudiced
his claims as a literary critic. He is not interested in Shakespeare’s art
for its own sake; but that he should use Shakespeare’s characters as the
subjects of moral disquisitions is eloquent testimony to their truth to
nature. His classical bias, excusable in a Professor of Latin, is best
seen in his essay “On the Faults of Shakespeare,”(30) of which the title
was alone sufficient to win him the contempt of later critics. His essays
are the dull effusions of a clever man. Though they are not inspiriting,
they are not without interest. He recognised that the source of
Shakespeare’s greatness is that he became for the time the person whom he

Before the appearance of Richardson’s _Philosophical Analysis_, Thomas
Whately had written his _Remarks on Some of the Characters of
Shakespeare_; but it was not published till 1785. The author, who died in
1772, had abandoned it in order to complete, in 1770, his _Observations on
Modern Gardening_. The book contains only a short introduction and a
comparison of Macbeth and Richard III. The fragment is sufficient,
however, to indicate more clearly than the work of Richardson the coming
change. The author has himself remarked on the novelty of his method. The
passage must be quoted, as it is the first definite statement that the
examination of Shakespeare’s characters should be the main object of
Shakespearian criticism:

    “The writers upon dramatic composition have, for the most part,
    confined their observations to the fable; and the maxims received
    amongst them, for the conduct of it, are therefore emphatically
    called, _The Rules of the Drama_. It has been found easy to give
    and to apply them; they are obvious, they are certain, they are
    general: and poets without genius have, by observing them,
    pretended to fame; while critics without discernment have assumed
    importance from knowing them. But the regularity thereby
    established, though highly proper, is by no means the first
    requisite in a dramatic composition. Even waiving all
    consideration of those finer feelings which a poet’s imagination
    or sensibility imparts, there is, within the colder provinces of
    judgment and of knowledge, a subject for criticism more worthy of
    attention than the common topics of discussion: I mean the
    distinction and preservation of _character_.”

The earlier critics who remarked on Shakespeare’s depiction of character
had not suspected that the examination of it was to oust the older

A greater writer, who has met with unaccountable neglect, was to express
the same views independently. Maurice Morgann had apparently written his
_Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff_ about 1774, in an
interval of political employment, but he was not prevailed upon to publish
it till 1777. The better we know it, the more we shall regret that it is
the only critical work which he allowed to survive. He too refers to his
book as a “novelty.” He believes the task of considering Shakespeare in
detail to have been “hitherto unattempted.” But his main object, unlike
Whately’s or Richardson’s, is a “critique on the genius, the arts, and the
conduct of Shakespeare.” He concentrates his attention on a single
character, only to advance to more general criticism. “Falstaff is the
word only, Shakespeare is the theme.”

Morgann’s book did not meet with the attention which it deserved, nor to
this day has its importance been fully recognised. Despite his warnings,
his contemporaries regarded it simply as a defence of Falstaff’s courage.
One spoke of him as a paradoxical critic, and others doubted if he meant
what he said. All were unaccountably indifferent to his main purpose. The
book was unknown even to Hazlitt, who in the preface to his _Characters of
Shakespeare’s Plays_ alludes only to Whately(31) and Richardson as his
English predecessors. Yet it is the true forerunner of the romantic
criticism of Shakespeare. Morgann’s attitude to the characters is the same
as Coleridge’s and Hazlitt’s; his criticism, neglecting all formal
matters, resolves itself into a study of human nature. It was he who first
said that Shakespeare’s creations should be treated as historic rather
than as dramatic beings. And the keynote of his criticism is that “the
impression is the fact.” He states what he _feels_, and he explains the
reason in language which is barely on this side idolatry.(32)

The Essays.

Nicholas Rowe.

Nicholas Rowe’s _Account of the Life, etc., of Mr. William Shakespear_
forms the introduction to his edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1709, 6
vols., 8vo).

Rowe has the double honour of being the first editor of the plays of
Shakespeare and the first to attempt an authoritative account of his life.
The value of the biography can best be judged by comparing it with the
accounts given in such books as Fuller’s _Worthies of England_ (1662),
Phillips’s _Theatrum Poetarum_ (1675), Winstanley’s _English Poets_
(1687), Langbaine’s _English Dramatick Poets_ (1691), Pope Blount’s
_Remarks upon Poetry_ (1694), or Jeremy Collier’s _Historical and Poetical
Dictionary_ (1701). Though some of the traditions—for which he has
acknowledged his debt to Betterton—are of doubtful accuracy, it is safe to
say that but for Rowe they would have perished.

The _Account of Shakespeare_ was the standard biography during the
eighteenth century. It was reprinted by Pope, Hanmer, Warburton, Johnson,
Steevens, Malone, and Reed; but they did not give it in the form in which
Rowe had left it. Pope took the liberty of condensing and rearranging it,
and as he did not acknowledge what he had done, his silence led other
editors astray. Those who did note the alterations presumed that they had
been made by Rowe himself in the second edition in 1714. Steevens, for
instance, states that he publishes the life from “Rowe’s second edition,
in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance
in 1709.” But what Steevens reprints is Rowe’s _Account of Shakespeare_ as
edited by Pope. In this volume the _Account_ is given in its original form
for the first time since 1714.

Pope omitted passages dealing only indirectly with Shakespeare, or
expressing opinions with which he disagreed. He also placed the details of
Shakespeare’s later years (pp. 21-3) immediately after the account of his
relationship with Ben Jonson (p. 9), so that the biography might form a
complete portion by itself. With the exception of an occasional word,
nothing occurs in the emended edition which is not to be found somewhere
in the first.

A seventh and supplementary volume containing the Poems was added in 1710.
It included Charles Gildon’s _Remarks_ on the Plays and Poems and his
_Essay on the Art, Rise, and Progress of the Stage in Greece, Rome, and

John Dennis.

John Dennis’s three letters “on the genius and writings of Shakespear”
(February 1710-11) were published together in 1712 under the title _An
Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shakespear_. The volume contained also
two letters on the 40th and 47th numbers of the _Spectator_. All were
reprinted in Dennis’s _Original Letters, Familiar, Moral and Critical_, 2
vols., 1721. The Dedication is to George Granville, then Secretary at War.
“To whom,” says Dennis, “can an Essay upon the Genius and Writings of
Shakespear be so properly address’d, as to him who best understands
Shakespear, and who has most improv’d him? I would not give this just
encomium to the _Jew of Venice_, if I were not convinc’d, from a long
experience of the penetration and force of your judgment, that no
exaltation can make you asham’d of your former noble art.”

In 1693 Dennis had published the _Impartial Critick_, a reply to Rymer’s
_Short View of Tragedy_; but there is little about Shakespeare in its five
dialogues, their main purpose being to show the absurdity of Rymer’s plea
for adopting the Greek methods in the English drama. Dennis had, however,
great respect for Rymer’s ability. In the first letter to the _Spectator_
he says that Rymer “will always pass with impartial posterity for a most
learned, a most judicious, and a most useful critick”; and in the
_Characters and Conduct of Sir John Edgar_ he says that “there was a great
deal of good and just criticism” in the _Short View_.

In 1702 he brought out a “corrected” version of the _Merry Wives_ with the
title of the _Comical Gallant or the Amours of Sir John Falstaffe_. The
adaptation of _Coriolanus_, which was the occasion of the _Letters_ given
in this volume, appeared as the _Invader of his country, or the Fatal
Resentment_. It was produced at Drury Lane in November, 1719, but ran for
only three nights. It was published in 1720. An account of it will be
found in Genest’s _English Stage_, iii. 2-5. It is the subject of Dennis’s
letter to Steele of 26th March, 1719 (see Steele’s _Theatre_, ed. Nichols,
1791, ii. pp. 542, etc.).

Alexander Pope.

Pope’s edition of Shakespeare was published by Tonson in six quarto
volumes. The first appeared in 1725, as the title-page shows; all the
others are dated “1723.”

In the note to the line in the _Dunciad_ in which he laments his “ten
years to comment and translate,” Pope gives us to understand that he
prepared his edition of Shakespeare after he had completed the translation
of the _Iliad_ and before he set to work on the _Odyssey_. His own
correspondence, however, shows that he was engaged on Shakespeare and the
_Odyssey_ at the same time. There is some uncertainty as to when his
edition was begun. The inference to be drawn from a letter to Pope from
Atterbury is that it had been undertaken by August, 1721. We have more
definite information as to the date of its completion. In a letter to
Broome of 31st October, 1724, Pope writes: “Shakespear is finished. I have
just written the Preface, and in less than three weeks it will be public”
(Ed. Elwin and Courthope, viii. 88). But it did not appear till March.
Pope himself was partly to blame for the delay. In December we find Tonson
“impatient” for the return of the Preface (_id._ ix. 547). In the revision
of the text Pope was assisted by Fenton and Gay (see Reed’s Variorum
edition, 1803, ii. p. 149).

A seventh volume containing the poems was added in 1725, but Pope had no
share in it. It is a reprint of the supplementary volume of Rowe’s
edition, “the whole revised and corrected, with a Preface, by Dr. Sewell.”
The most prominent share in this volume of “Pope’s Shakespeare” thus fell
to Charles Gildon, who had attacked Pope in his _Art of Poetry_ and
elsewhere, and was to appear later in the _Dunciad_. Sewell’s preface is
dated Nov. 24, 1724.

Pope made few changes in his Preface in the second edition (1728, 8 vols.,
12mo). The chief difference is the inclusion of the _Double Falshood_,
which Theobald had produced in 1727 as Shakespeare’s, in the list of the
spurious plays.

The references in the Preface to the old actors were criticised by John
Roberts in 1729 in a pamphlet entitled _An Answer to Mr. Pope’s Preface to
Shakespear. In a Letter to a Friend. Being a Vindication of the Old Actors
who were the Publishers and Performers of that Author’s Plays.... By a
Stroling Player._

Lewis Theobald.

Theobald’s edition of Shakespeare (7 vols. 8vo) appeared in 1733. The
Preface was condensed in the second edition in 1740. It is here given in
its later form.

Theobald had long been interested in Shakespeare. In 1715 he had written
the _Cave of Poverty_, a poem “in imitation of Shakespeare,” and in 1720
he had brought out an adaptation of _Richard II_. But it was not till
1726—though the Dedication bears the date of March 18, 1725—that he
produced his first direct contribution to Shakespearian
scholarship,—_Shakespeare restored: or, a Specimen of the Many Errors, as
well Committed, as Unamended, by Mr. Pope in his Late Edition of this
Poet. Designed Not only to correct the said Edition, but to restore the
True Reading of Shakespeare in all the Editions ever yet publish’d._

We learn from a letter by Theobald dated 15th April, 1729, that he had
been in correspondence with Pope fully two years before the publication of
this volume. (See Nichols, _Illustrations of the Literary History of the
Eighteenth Century_, ii., p. 221). Pope, however, had not encouraged his
advances. In the same letter Theobald states that he had no design of
commenting on Shakespeare till he saw “how incorrect an edition Mr. Pope
had given the publick.” This remark was prompted by a note in the
_Dunciad_ of 1729, where it was stated that “during the space of two
years, while Mr. Pope was preparing his Edition of Shakespear, and
published advertisements, requesting all lovers of the author to
contribute to a more perfect one, this Restorer (who had then some
correspondence with him, and was solliciting favours by letters) did
wholly conceal his design, ’till after its publication.” But if Theobald
had not thought of issuing comments on Shakespeare’s plays till Pope’s
edition appeared, he must have known them well already, for _Shakespeare
Restored_ is not a hasty piece of work.

Despite the aggressiveness of the title, Theobald protests his regard for
Pope in such passages as these:

    “It was no small Satisfaction therefore to me, when I first heard
    Mr. _Pope_ had taken upon him the Publication of _Shakespeare_. I
    very reasonably expected, from his known Talents and Abilities,
    from his uncommon Sagacity and Discernment, and from his unwearied
    Diligence and Care of informing himself by an happy and extensive
    Conversation, we should have had our Author come out as perfect,
    as the want of _Manuscripts_ and _original Copies_ could give us a
    Possibility of hoping. I may dare to say, a great Number of
    _Shakespeare_’s Admirers, and of Mr. _Pope_’s too, (both which I
    sincerely declare myself,) concurred in this Expectation: For
    there is a certain _curiosa felicitas_, as was said of an eminent
    _Roman_ Poet, in that Gentleman’s Way of working, which, we
    presum’d, would have laid itself out largely in such a Province;
    and that he would not have sate down contented with performing, as
    he calls it himself, the _dull Duty_ of an _Editor_ only.”

    “I have so great an Esteem for Mr. _Pope_, and so high an Opinion
    of his Genius and Excellencies, that I beg to be excused from the
    least Intention of derogating from his Merits, in this Attempt to
    restore the true Reading of _Shakespeare_. Tho’ I confess a
    Veneration, almost rising to Idolatry, for the writings of this
    inimitable Poet, I would be very loth even to do _him_ Justice at
    the Expence of _that other_ Gentleman’s Character.”

Whether or not these declarations were sincere, they would hardly have
stayed the resentment of a less sensitive man than Pope when passage after
passage was pointed out where errors were “as well committed as
unamended.” Theobald even hazarded the roguish suggestion that the
bookseller had played his editor false by not sending him all the sheets
to revise; and he certainly showed that the readings of Rowe’s edition had
occasionally been adopted without the professed collation of the older
copies. The volume could raise no doubt of Theobald’s own diligence. The
chief part of it is devoted to an examination of the text of _Hamlet_, but
there is a long appendix dealing with readings in other plays, and in it
occurs the famous emendation of the line in _Henry V._ describing
Falstaff’s death,—“for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and _a’ babled of
green fields_.” It should be noted that the credit of this reading is not
entirely Theobald’s. He admits that in an edition “with some marginal
conjectures of a Gentleman sometime deceased” he found the emendation “and
_a’ talked_ of green fields.” Theobald’s share thus amounts to the
doubtful improvement of substituting _babbled_ for _talked_.

Though this volume has undoubted merits, it is not difficult to understand
why the name of Theobald came to convey to the eighteenth century the idea
of painful pedantry, and why one so eminently just as Johnson should have
dubbed him “a man of heavy diligence, with very slender powers.” While his
knowledge is indisputable, he has little or no delicacy of taste; his
style is dull and lumbering; and the mere fact that he dedicated his
_Shakespeare Restored_ to John Rich, the Covent Garden manager who
specialised in pantomime and played the part of harlequin, may at least
cast some doubt on his discretion. But he successfully attacked Pope where
he was weakest and where as an editor he should have been strongest. “From
this time,” in the words of Johnson, “Pope became an enemy to editors,
collators, commentators, and verbal critics; and hoped to persuade the
world that he had miscarried in this undertaking only by having a mind too
great for such minute employment.”

Not content with the errors pointed out in _Shakespeare Restored_—a quarto
volume of two hundred pages—Theobald continued his criticisms of Pope’s
edition in _Mist’s Journal_ and the _Daily Journal_, until he was ripe for
the _Dunciad_. Pope enthroned him as the hero of the poem, and so he
remained till he was replaced by Colley Cibber in 1741, when the
alteration necessitated several omissions. In the earlier editions
Theobald soliloquised thus:

    Here studious I unlucky Moderns save,
    Nor sleeps one error in its father’s grave,
    Old puns restore, lost blunders nicely seek,
    And crucify poor Shakespear once a week.
    For thee I dim these eyes, and stuff this head,
    With all such reading as was never read;
    For the supplying, in the worst of days,
    Notes to dull books, and prologues to dull plays;
    For thee explain a thing ’till all men doubt it,
    And write about it, Goddess, and about it.

Theobald is introduced also in the _Art of Sinking in Poetry_ among the
classes of authors described as swallows and eels: the former “are
eternally skimming and fluttering up and down, but all their agility is
employed to catch flies,” the latter “wrap themselves up in their own mud,
but are mighty nimble and pert.” About the same time, however, Pope
brought out the second edition (1728) of his Shakespeare, and in it he
incorporated some of Theobald’s conjectures, though his recognition of
their merit was grudging and even dishonestly inadequate. (See the preface
to the various readings at the end of the eighth volume, 1728.) Yet one’s
sympathies with Theobald are prejudiced by his ascription to Shakespeare
of the _Double Falshood, or the Distrest Lovers_, a play which was acted
in 1727 and printed in the following year. Theobald professed to have
revised it and adapted it to the stage. The question of authorship has not
been settled, but if Theobald is relieved from the imputation of forgery,
he must at least stand convicted of ignorance of the Shakespearian manner.
Pope at once recognised that the play was not Shakespeare’s, and added a
contemptuous reference to it in the second edition of his Preface. It was
the opinion of Farmer that the groundwork of the play was by Shirley (see
the _Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare_, p. 181).

Theobald now sought to revenge himself on Pope, and, in his own words, he
“purposed to reply only in Shakespeare” (Nichols, _id._ ii., p. 248). His
first plan was to publish a volume of _Remarks on Shakespeare_. On 15th
April, 1729, he says the volume “will now shortly appear in the world”
(id., p. 222), but on 6th November he writes to Warburton, “I know you
will not be displeased, if I should tell you in your ear, perhaps I may
venture to join the _Text_ to my _Remarks_” (_id._, p. 254). By the
following March he had definitely determined upon giving an edition of
Shakespeare, as appears from another letter to Warburton: “As it is
necessary I should now inform the publick that I mean to attempt to give
them an edition of that Poet’s [_i.e._ Shakespeare’s] text, together with
my corrections, I have concluded to give this notice, not only by
advertisements, but by an occasional pamphlet, which, in order to
retaliate some of our Editor’s kindnesses to me, I mean to call, _An Essay
upon Mr. Pope’s Judgment, extracted from his own Works; and humbly
addressed to him_” (_id._ ii., p. 551). Of this he forwards Warburton an
extract. The pamphlet does not appear to have been published. The
_Miscellany on Taste_ which he brought out anonymously in 1732 contains a
section entitled “Of Mr. Pope’s Taste of Shakespeare,” but this is merely
a reprint of the letter of 15th (or 16th) April, which had already been
printed in the _Daily Journal_. A considerable time elapsed before
arrangements for publication were completed, the interval being marked by
a temporary estrangement from Warburton and an unsuccessful candidature
for the laureateship. Articles with Tonson were signed in November, 1731
(_id._ ii., pp. 13, 618), and at the same time the correspondence with
Warburton was renewed. The edition did not appear till 1733. The Preface
had been begun about the end of 1731.

From March, 1729, with the short break in 1730, Theobald had been in
steady correspondence with Warburton, and most of his letters, with a few
of those of Warburton, have been preserved by Nichols (see _id._ ii., pp.
189, 607). But it would have been more fortunate for Theobald’s reputation
had they perished. The cruel contempt and bitterness of Warburton’s
references to him after their final estrangement may be offensive, but the
correspondence shows that they were not without some justification.
Theobald submits his conjectures anxiously to the judgment of Warburton,
and again and again Warburton saves him from himself. In one of the
letters Theobald rightly condemns Pope’s proposed insertion of “Francis
Drake” in the incomplete line at the end of the first scene of _Henry VI.,
Part 1._; but not content with this flawless piece of destructive
criticism he argues for inserting the words “and Cassiopeia.” The
probability is that if Warburton had not condemned the proposal it would
have appeared in Theobald’s edition. “With a just deference to your most
convincing reasons,” says Theobald, “I shall with great cheerfulness
banish it as a bad and unsupported conjecture” (_id._ ii., p. 477); and
this remark is typical of the whole correspondence. A considerable share
of the merit of Theobald’s edition—though the share is mostly
negative—belongs to Warburton, for Theobald had not taste enough to keep
him right when he stepped beyond collation of the older editions or
explanation by parallel passages. Indeed, the letters to Warburton,
besides helping to explain his reputation in the eighteenth century, would
in themselves be sufficient to justify his place in the _Dunciad_.

Warburton had undoubtedly given Theobald ungrudging assistance and was
plainly interested in the success of the edition. But as he had gauged
Theobald’s ability, he had some fears for the Preface. So at least we
gather from a letter which Theobald wrote to him on 18th November, 1731:

    “I am extremely obliged for the tender concern you have for my
    reputation in what I am _to prefix to my Edition_: and this part,
    as it will come last in play, I shall certainly be so kind to
    myself to communicate in due time to your perusal. The whole
    affair of _Prolegomena_ I have determined to soften into
    _Preface_. I am so very cool as to my sentiments of my Adversary’s
    usage, that I think the publick should not be too largely troubled
    with them. _Blockheadry_ is the chief hinge of his satire upon me;
    and if my Edition do not wipe out that, I ought to be content to
    let the charge be fixed; if it do, the reputation gained will be a
    greater triumph than resentment. But, dear Sir, will you, at your
    leisure hours, think over for me upon the contents, topics,
    orders, etc., of this branch of my labour? You have a
    comprehensive memory, and a happiness of digesting the matter
    joined to it, which my head is often too much embarrassed to
    perform; let that be the excuse for my inability. But how
    unreasonable is it to expect this labour, when it is the only part
    in which I shall not be able to be just to my friends: for, to
    confess assistance in a _Preface_ will, I am afraid, make me
    appear too naked. Rymer’s extravagant rancour against our Author,
    under the umbrage of criticism, may, I presume, find a place here”
    (_id._ ii., pp. 621, 622).

This confession of weakness is valuable in the light of Warburton’s
Preface to his own edition of 1747. His statement of the assistance he
rendered Theobald is rude and cruel, but it is easier to impugn his taste
than his truthfulness. Theobald did not merely ask for assistance in the
Preface; he received it too. Warburton expressed himself on this matter,
with his customary force and with a pleasing attention to detail, in a
letter to the Rev. Thomas Birch on 24th November, 1737. “You will see in
Theobald’s heap of disjointed stuff,” he says, “which he calls a Preface
to Shakespeare, an observation upon those poems [_i.e._ _L’Allegro_ and
_Il Penseroso_] which I made to him, and which he did not understand, and
so has made it a good deal obscure by contracting my note; for you must
understand that almost all that Preface (except what relates to
Shakespeare’s Life, and the foolish Greek conjectures at the end) was made
up of notes I sent him on particular passages, and which he has there
stitched together without head or tail” (Nichols, ii., p. 81). The Preface
is indeed a poor piece of patch-work. Examination of the footnotes
throughout the edition corroborates Warburton’s concluding statement. Some
of the annotations which have his name attached to them are repeated
almost verbatim (_e.g._ the note in _Love’s Labour’s Lost_ on the use of
music), while the comparison of Addison and Shakespeare is taken from a
letter written by Warburton to Concanen in 1726-7 (_id._ ii., pp. 195,
etc.). The inequality of the essay—the fitful succession of limp and acute
observations—can be explained only by ill-matched collaboration.

Warburton has himself indicated the extent of Theobald’s debt to him. In
his own copy of Theobald’s Shakespeare he marked the passages which he had
contributed to the Preface, as well as the notes “which Theobald deprived
him of and made his own,” and the volume is now in the Capell collection
in Trinity College, Cambridge. Mr. Churton Collins, in his attempt to
prove Theobald the greatest of Shakespearean editors, has said that “if in
this copy, which we have not had the opportunity of inspecting, Warburton
has laid claim to more than Theobald has assigned to him, we believe him
to be guilty of dishonesty even more detestable than that of which the
proofs are, as we have shown, indisputable.”(33) An inspection of the
Cambridge volume is not necessary to show that a passage in the Preface
has been conveyed from one of Warburton’s letters published by Nichols and
by Malone. Any defence of Theobald by an absolute refusal to believe
Warburton’s word can be of no value unless some proof be adduced that
Warburton was here untruthful, and it is peculiarly inept when Theobald’s
own page proclaims the theft. We know that Theobald asked Warburton for
assistance in the Preface, and gave warning that such assistance would not
be acknowledged. Warburton could have had no evil motive in marking those
passages in his _private_ copy; and there is surely a strong presumption
in favour of a man who deliberately goes over seven volumes, carefully
indicating the material which he considered his own. It happens that one
of the passages contains an unfriendly allusion to Pope. If Warburton
meant to be “dishonest”—and there could be no purpose in being dishonest
before he was Theobald’s enemy—why did he not disclaim this allusion some
years later? The simple explanation is that he marked the passages for his
own amusement while he was still on friendly terms with Theobald. They are
thirteen in number, and they vary in length from a few lines to two pages.
Four of them are undoubtedly his, and there is nothing to disprove that
the other nine are his also.(34)

Theobald quotes also from his own correspondence. On 17th March, 1729-30,
he had written to Warburton a long letter dealing with Shakespeare’s
knowledge of languages and including a specimen of his proposed pamphlet
against Pope. “Your most necessary caution against inconsistency, with
regard to my opinion of Shakespeare’s knowledge in languages,” he there
says characteristically, “shall not fail to have all its weight with me.
And therefore the passages that I occasionally quote from the Classics
shall not be brought as proofs that he imitated those originals, but to
shew how happily he has expressed themselves upon the same topics”
(Nichols, ii., pp. 564, etc.). This part of the letter is included
verbatim three years afterwards in the Preface. So also is the other
passage in the same letter replying to Pope on the subject of
Shakespeare’s anachronisms. Theobald borrows even from his own published
writings. Certain passages are reproduced from the Introduction to
_Shakespeare Restored_.

If Theobald could hardly acknowledge, as he said, the assistance he
received in writing the Preface, he at least admitted his editorial debt
to Warburton and others punctiliously and handsomely. After referring to
Dr. Thirlby of Jesus College, Cambridge, and Hawley Bishop, he thus writes
of his chief helper:

    “To these, I must add the indefatigable Zeal and Industry of my
    most ingenious and ever-respected Friend, the Reverend Mr.
    _William Warburton_ of _Newark_ upon _Trent_. This Gentleman, from
    the Motives of his frank and communicative Disposition,
    voluntarily took a considerable Part of my Trouble off my Hands;
    not only read over the whole Author for me, with the exactest
    Care; but enter’d into a long and laborious Epistolary
    Correspondence; to which I owe no small Part of my best Criticisms
    upon my Author.

    “The Number of Passages amended, and admirably Explained, which I
    have taken care to distinguish with his Name, will shew a Fineness
    of Spirit and Extent of Reading, beyond all the Commendations I
    can give them: Nor, indeed, would I any farther be thought to
    commend a Friend, than, in so doing, to give a Testimony of my own

So the preface read in 1733. But by the end of 1734 Warburton had
quarrelled with Theobald, and by 1740, after a passing friendship with Sir
Thomas Hanmer, had become definitely attached to the party of Pope. This
is probably the reason why, in the Preface to the second edition, Theobald
does not repeat the detailed statement of the assistance he had received.
He wisely omits also the long and irrelevant passage of Greek conjectures,
given with no other apparent reason than to parade his learning. And
several passages either claimed by Warburton (_e.g._ that referring to
Milton’s poems) or known to be his (_e.g._ the comparison of Addison and
Shakespeare) are also cancelled.

The merits of the text of Theobald’s edition are undeniable; but the text
is not to be taken as the sole measure of his ability. By his diligence in
collation he restored many of the original readings. His knowledge of
Elizabethan literature was turned to good account in the explanation and
illustration of the text. He claims to have read above eight hundred old
English plays “to ascertain the obsolete and uncommon phrases.” But when
we have spoken of his diligence, we have spoken of all for which, as an
editor, he was remarkable. Pope had good reason to say of him, though he
gave the criticism a wider application, that

    Pains, reading, study are their just pretence,
    And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.

The inner history of his Preface would prove of itself that Theobald well
deserved the notoriety which he enjoyed in the eighteenth century.

Sir Thomas Hanmer.

Sir Thomas Hanmer’s edition of Shakespeare, in six handsome quarto
volumes, was printed at the Clarendon Press in 1743-44. As it appeared
anonymously it was commonly called the “Oxford edition.” It was well
known, however, that Hanmer was the editor. Vols. ii., iii., and iv. bear
the date 1743; the others, 1744.

Hanmer had been Speaker of the House of Commons from 1713 to 1715, and had
played an important part in securing the Protestant succession on the
death of Queen Anne. He retired from public life on the accession of
George II., and thereafter lived in “lettered ease” at his seat of
Mildenhall near Newmarket till his death in 1746. It is not known when he
undertook his edition of Shakespeare, but the idea of it was probably
suggested to him by the publication of Theobald’s edition in 1733. His
relative and biographer, Sir Henry Bunbury, writing in 1838, refers to a
copy of this edition with corrections and notes on the text of every play
in Hanmer’s handwriting. There can be no doubt, however, of the accuracy
of Warburton’s statement that his edition was printed from Pope’s, though
the hastiest examination will prove the falsity of Warburton’s other
remark that Hanmer neglected to compare Pope’s edition with Theobald’s. He
relied on Pope’s judgment as to the authenticity of passages and on
Theobald’s accuracy in collation. Thus while he omits lines which Pope had
omitted, or degrades them to the foot of the page, he often adopts
Theobald’s reading of a word or phrase.

He had certainly made considerable progress with the edition by May, 1738,
when he was visited by Warburton (see Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii. 44,
69). It was still incomplete in March, 1742, but it was sent to the
printer at the end of that year, as we learn from a letter of 30th
December to Zachary Grey, the editor of _Hudibras_: “I must now acquaint
you that the books are gone out of my hands, and lodged with the
University of Oxford, which hath been willing to accept of them as a
present from me. They intend to print them forthwith, in a fair impression
adorned with sculptures; but it will be so ordered that it will be the
cheapest book that ever was exposed to sale.... None are to go into the
hands of booksellers” (Nichols, _Literary Anecdotes_, v., p. 589). Earlier
in the year, in the important letter concerning his quarrel with
Warburton, which will be referred to later, he had spoken of his edition
in the following terms: “As to my own particular, I have no aim to pursue
in this affair; I propose neither honour, reward, or thanks, and should be
very well pleased to have the books continue upon their shelf, in my own
private closet. If it is thought they may be of use or pleasure to the
publick, I am willing to part with them out of my hands, and to add, for
the honour of Shakespear, some decorations and embellishments at my own
expense” (_id._ v., p. 589). The printing of the edition was not
supervised by Hanmer himself, but by Joseph Smith, Provost of Queen’s
College, and Robert Shippen, Principal of Brasenose. We find them
receiving instructions that there must be care in the correction of the
press, that the type must be as large as in Pope’s edition, but that the
paper must be better.

These facts are of interest in connection with Hanmer’s inclusion in the
fourth book of the _Dunciad_. In a note by Pope and Warburton he is
referred to as “an eminent person, who was about to publish a very pompous
edition of a great author, _at his own expense_”; and in the poem the
satire is maladroitly aimed at the handsomeness of the volumes. Warburton
afterwards implied that he was responsible for the inclusion of this
passage (_id._, p. 590), and though the claim is disputed by Hanmer’s
biographer, the ineffectiveness of the attack would prove that it was not
spontaneous. Pope, however, would yield to Warburton’s desire the more
readily if, as Sir Henry Bunbury had reason to believe, the anonymous
_Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_, published in 1736, was the work of
Hanmer,(35) for there Pope’s edition was compared unfavourably, though
courteously, with that of Theobald. (See the _Correspondence of Sir Thomas
Hanmer_, 1838, pp. 80, etc.)

William Warburton.

“The Works of Shakespear in Eight Volumes. The Genuine Text (collated with
all the former Editions, and then corrected and emended) is here settled:
Being restored from the _Blunders_ of the first Editors, and the
_Interpolations_ of the two Last; with a Comment and Notes, Critical and
Explanatory. By Mr. Pope and Mr. Warburton. 1747.”

So runs the title of what is generally known as Warburton’s edition. It is
professedly a revised issue of Pope’s. In point of fact it is founded, not
on Pope’s text, but on the text of Theobald. Warburton does not follow
even Pope’s arrangement of the plays. With one insignificant
transposition, he gives them in the identical order in which they appear
in Theobald’s edition. And though he has his gibe at Hanmer in the title
page, he incorporates Hanmer’s glossary word for word, and almost letter
for letter. But his animosity betrays him in his Preface. He complains of
the trouble which he has been put to by the last two editors, for he has
had “not only their interpolations to throw out, but the genuine text to
replace and establish in its stead.” He would not have had this trouble
had he used Pope’s edition. He may have believed that what he took from
Hanmer and Theobald was very much less than what they had received from
him. According to his own statements he supplied each with a large number
of important emendations which had been used without acknowledgment. Yet
this does not excuse the suggestion that his edition was founded on

The explanation is Warburton’s just pride in Pope’s friendship,—a pride
which he took every opportunity of gratifying and parading. But in his
earlier days he had been, all unknown to Pope, an enemy. He escaped the
_Dunciad_ by reason of his obscurity. He was the friend of Concanen and
Theobald, and in a letter to the former, containing his earliest extant
attempt at Shakespearian criticism, he observes that “Dryden borrows for
want of leisure, and Pope for want of genius.” The letter is dated 2nd
January, 1726-27, but luckily for Warburton it was not publicly known
till, in 1766, Akenside used it as a means of paying off old scores (see
Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii., pp. 195-198, and Malone’s Shakespeare,
1821, vol. xii., pp. 157, etc.). It is of interest also from the fact that
Theobald transcribed from it almost verbatim the comparison of Shakespeare
and Addison in the Preface of 1733.

Theobald’s deference and even humility must have confirmed Warburton’s
confidence in his own critical powers, but it was not till Theobald’s
Shakespeare was published that Warburton first hinted at an edition by
himself. From 1729 to 1733 he had given Theobald loyally of his best. On
the appearance of the edition he betrayed some annoyance that all his
suggestions had not been accepted. “I have transcribed about fifty
emendations and remarks,” he writes on 17th May, 1734, “which I have at
several times sent you, omitted in the Edition of Shakespeare, which, I am
sure, are better than any of mine published there. These I shall convey to
you soon, and desire you to publish them (as omitted by being mislaid) in
your Edition of the ‘Poems,’ which I hope you will soon make ready for the
press” (Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii., p. 634). These he duly forwarded,
along with a flattering criticism of the edition. He gives no hint that he
may himself turn them to account, till the October of the same year, when
he writes, “I have a great number of notes, etc., on Shakespeare, _for
some future Edition_” (_id._, p. 654). Here the correspondence ceases. Up
to this time Warburton had aided Theobald’s schemes of retaliating on
Pope. We have his own authority for attributing to him the remark in
Theobald’s Preface that “it seems a moot point whether Mr. Pope has done
most injury to Shakespeare as his Editor and Encomiast, or Mr. Rymer done
him service as his Rival and Censurer.” It is probable even that he had a
hand in Theobald’s and Concanen’s _Art of a Poet’s sinking in Reputation,
or a Supplement to the Art of sinking in Poetry_.

Warburton then gave his services to Sir Thomas Hanmer. They had become
acquainted by 1736, and they corresponded frequently till Warburton’s
visit to Mildenhall in May, 1737. It is needless to enter into their
quarrel, for the interest of it is purely personal. Hanmer told his
version of it to Joseph Smith, the Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, in
his letter of 28th October, 1742, and Warburton gave his very different
account nineteen years later, on 29th January, 1761, when he discovered
that Hanmer’s letter was about to be published in the _Biographia
Britannica_. In the absence of further evidence it is impossible to decide
with whom the truth rests. The dignity of Hanmer’s letter wins favour by
contrast with the violence of Warburton’s. Yet there must be some truth in
Warburton’s circumstantial details, though his feelings may have prevented
his seeing them in proper perspective. He says that Hanmer used his notes
without his knowledge. The statement is probably accurate. But when Hanmer
says that Warburton’s notes were “sometimes just but mostly wild and out
of the way,” we are satisfied, from what we know of Warburton’s other
work, that the criticism was merited. Hanmer apparently found that
Warburton did not give him much help, and Warburton may have been annoyed
at failing to find Hanmer as docile as Theobald. They had quarrelled by
September, 1739, when Warburton records that he has got all his letters
and papers out of Sir Thomas Hanmer’s hands (Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii.
110. See also Nichols, _Literary Anecdotes_, v. 588-590; _Biographia
Britannica_, vol vi. (1763), pp. 3743-4, and appendix, p. 223; Philip
Nichols, _The Castrated Letter of Sir Thomas Hanmer_, 1763; and Bunbury,
_Correspondence of Hanmer_, pp. 85-90).

During his friendship with Hanmer, Warburton had not lost sight of his own
edition. The quarrel was precipitated by Hanmer’s discovery of Warburton’s
intention; but there is no evidence that Warburton had tried to conceal
it. Everything goes to show that each editor was so immersed in his own
scheme that he regarded the other as his collaborator. Hanmer did not know
at first that Warburton was planning an edition as a means of making some
money; and Warburton had not suspected that Hanmer would publish an
edition at all. This is the only reasonable inference to be drawn from a
letter written by him to the Rev. Thomas Birch in October, 1737. “You are
pleased to enquire about Shakespeare,” he writes. “I believe (to tell it
as a secret) I shall, after I have got the whole of this work out of my
hands which I am now engaged in, give an Edition of it to the world. Sir
Thomas Hanmer has a true critical genius, and has done great things in
this Author; so you may expect to see a very extraordinary edition of its
kind. I intend to draw up and prefix to it a just and complete critique on
Shakespeare and his Works.” This letter reads curiously in the light of
after events; but it proves, if it proves anything, that Warburton did not
suspect Hanmer’s scheme, and believed that Hanmer was helping him in his
edition. It is equally plain that Hanmer believed he was being helped by

Announcements of Warburton’s forthcoming edition were made in Birch’s
article on Shakespeare in the _General Dictionary, Historical and
Critical_, vol. ix., January, 1739-40, and in the _History of the Works of
the Learned_ for 1740 (Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii., pp. 72-4, and _Lit.
Anecdotes_, v., p. 559). But there were no signs of its appearance, and
Hanmer had good reason to say in October, 1742, in his letter to Joseph
Smith, “I am satisfied there is no edition coming or likely to come from
Warburton; but it is a report raised to support some little purpose or
other, of which I see there are many on foot.” Up to this time Warburton
had merely suggested emendations and puzzled out explanations: he had not
set to work seriously on the complete text. Since 1740, when he published
the _Vindication of the Essay on Man_, his critical and polemical talents
had been devoted to the service of Pope. To judge from what he says in his
Preface, his project of an edition of Shakespeare might have been
abandoned had not Pope persuaded him to proceed with it by the offer of
making it appear their joint work. Pope had nothing to do with it, for it
was not begun till after his death. But it was a cruel fate that what
professed to be a new edition of his “Shakespeare” should really be
founded on Theobald’s. The knowledge of Theobald’s use of the Quartos and
Folios led Warburton to commit a detestable quibble on his title-page.
There is said to be no evidence that Warburton himself had consulted them.
Yet the statement that his text is “collated with all the former editions”
is not absolutely without the bounds of truth: Theobald had consulted
them, and Warburton does not say that he had consulted them himself. What
Warburton did was to give full play to his talent for emendation, and to
indulge what Johnson called his rage for saying something when there is
nothing to be said. Yet we are too prone to depreciate Warburton. He has
prejudiced his reputation by his arrogance and his contemptuous malignity;
but we do him an injustice if we endeavour to gauge his merit only by
comparing his edition with those of his immediate predecessors. No early
editor of Shakespeare has gained more than Theobald and suffered more than
Warburton by the custom of attributing the whole merit of an edition to
him whose name is on the title page. When we read their correspondence and
see their editions in the making, it is not difficult to realise what
Johnson meant when he said that Warburton as a critic would make “two and
fifty Theobalds, cut into slices.”

Samuel Johnson.

Johnson’s Preface is here reprinted from the edition of 1777, the last to
appear in his lifetime. The more important of the few alterations made on
the original Preface of 1765 are pointed out in the notes.

In 1745 Johnson had published his _Miscellaneous Observations on the
Tragedy of Macbeth: with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmer’s Edition of
Shakespeare. To which is affixed Proposals for a new Edition of
Shakespeare, with a Specimen._ As Warburton’s edition was expected, this
anonymous scheme met with no encouragement, and Johnson laid it aside till
1756, when he issued new Proposals. In the interval he had written of
Shakespeare in the admirable Prologue which inaugurated Garrick’s rule at
Drury Lane, and had shadowed in the _Rambler_ and in the Dedication to
Mrs. Lennox’s _Shakespear Illustrated_ (1753) much of what was to appear
in perfect form in the Preface of 1765. It was one of the conditions in
the Proposals that the edition was to be published on or before Christmas,
1757. As in the case of the _Dictionary_ Johnson underestimated the labour
which such a work involved. In December, 1757, we find him saying that he
will publish about March, and in March he says it will be published before
summer. He must have made considerable progress at this time, as,
according to his own statement, “many of the plays” were then printed. But
its preparation was interrupted by the _Idler_ (April, 1758, to April,
1760). Thereafter Johnson would appear to have done little to it till he
was awakened to activity by the attack on him in Churchill’s _Ghost_
(1763). The edition at length appeared in October, 1765. “In 1764 and
1765,” says Boswell, “it should seem that Dr. Johnson was so busily
employed with his edition of _Shakespeare_ as to have had little leisure
for any other literary exertion, or indeed even for private
correspondence.” The Preface was also published by itself in 1765 with the
title—_Mr. Johnson’s Preface to his Edition of Shakespear’s Plays_.

The work immediately attracted great attention. Kenrick lost no time in
issuing _A Review of Doctor Johnson’s New Edition of Shakespeare: in which
the Ignorance or Inattention of that Editor is exposed, and the Poet
defended from the Persecution of his Commentators_, 1765. Johnson was
“above answering for himself,” but James Barclay, an Oxford student,
replied for him, to his annoyance, in _An Examination of Mr. Kenrick’s
Review_, 1766, and Kenrick himself rejoined in _A Defence of Mr. Kenrick’s
Review ... By a Friend_, 1766. The most important criticism of the edition
was Tyrwhitt’s _Observations and Conjectures upon some Passages of
Shakespeare_, issued anonymously by the Clarendon Press in 1766. Though we
read that “the author has not entered into the merits of Mr. Johnson’s
performance, but has set down some observations and conjectures,” the book
is in effect an examination of Johnson’s edition. Notices appeared also in
the _Monthly_ and _Critical Reviews_, the _London Magazine_, the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_, and the _Annual Register_. The _Monthly Review_
devotes its two articles (October and November, 1765) chiefly to the
Preface. It examines at considerable length Johnson’s arguments against
the “unities,” and concludes that “there is hardly one of them which does
not seem false or foreign to the subject.” The _Critical Review_, on the
other hand, pronounces them “worthy of Mr. Johnson’s pen”; and the _London
Magazine_ admits their force, though it wishes that Johnson had “rather
retained the character of a reasoner than assumed that of a pleader.”

Richard Farmer.

Farmer’s _Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare_ was published at Cambridge
early in January, 1767. In the Preface to the second and enlarged edition,
which appeared in the same year, Farmer says that “the few who have been
pleased to controvert any part of his doctrine have favoured him with
better manners than arguments.” This remark, like most of the Preface,
appears to be directed chiefly at the prejudiced notice which appeared in
the _Critical Review_ for January, 1767. The writer of it was well versed
in the controversy, for he had expressed his opinion unhesitatingly in an
earlier number, and he lost no time in advancing new evidence in
opposition to Farmer’s doctrine; but he only provided Farmer with new
proofs, which were at once incorporated in the text of the Essay. The
third edition, which was called for in 1789, differs from the second only
by the inclusion of a short “advertisement” and a final note explaining
that Farmer had abandoned his intention of publishing the _Antiquities of
Leicester_. In the “Advertisement” he admits that “a few corrections might
probably be made, and many additional proofs of the argument have
necessarily occurred in more than twenty years”; but he did not think it
necessary to make any changes. He was content to leave the book in the
hands of the printers, and accordingly he is still described on the
title-page as “Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge,” though he had
succeeded to the mastership of his college in 1775.

Farmer had, however, already supplemented his Essay by a letter to
Steevens, who printed it as an appendix to his edition of Johnson’s
Shakespeare in 1773. “The track of reading,” says Farmer, “which I
sometime ago endeavoured to prove more immediately necessary to a
commentator on Shakespeare, you have very successfully followed, and have
consequently superseded some remarks which I might otherwise have troubled
you with. Those I now send you are such as I marked on the margin of the
copy you were so kind to communicate to me, and bear a very small
proportion to the miscellaneous collections of this sort which I may
probably put together some time or other.” Farmer did not carry out this
intention, and the _Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare_ remains his only
independent publication.

Maurice Morgann.

Morgann has himself told us in his Preface all that we know about the
composition of his _Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff_.
The result of a challenge arising out of a friendly conversation, it was
written “in a very short time” in 1774, and then laid aside and almost
forgotten. But for the advice of friends it would probably have remained
in manuscript, and been destroyed, like his other critical works, at his
death. On their suggestion he revised and enlarged it, as hastily as he
had written it; and it appeared anonymously in the spring of 1777. The
original purpose of the Essay is indicated by the motto on the title-page:
“I am not John of Gaunt your grandfather, but yet no Coward, Hal”; but as
Morgann wrote he passed from Falstaff to the greater theme of Falstaff’s
creator. He was persuaded to publish his Essay because, though it dealt
nominally with one character, its main subject was the art of Shakespeare.
For the same reason it finds a place in this volume.

In 1744 Corbyn Morris had briefly analysed the character of Falstaff in
his _Essay towards fixing the true standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery,
Satire, and Ridicule_; Mrs. Montagu had expressed the common opinion of
his cowardice in her _Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare_;
the _Biographia Britannica_ had declared him to be Shakespeare’s
masterpiece; while his popularity had led Kenrick to produce in 1766
_Falstaff’s Wedding_ as a sequel to the second part of _Henry IV._; but
Morgann’s Essay is the first detailed examination of his character. He was
afterwards the subject of papers by Cumberland in the _Observer_ (1785,
No. 73), and by Henry Mackenzie in the _Lounger_ (1786, Nos. 68, 69), and
in 1789 he was described by Richardson in an essay which reproduced
Morgann’s title. None of these later works have the interest attaching to
James White’s _Falstaff’s Letters_ (1796).

The _Essay on Falstaff_ was republished, with a short biographical
preface, in 1820, and a third and last edition came out in 1825. What is
apparently the first detailed criticism of it occurs in the _London
Review_ for February, 1820.


It seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men,
especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to
deliver some account of themselves, as well as their works, to Posterity.
For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little
personal story of the great men of Antiquity, their families, the common
accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features have
been the subject of critical enquiries. How trifling soever this Curiosity
may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfy’d
with an account of any remarkable person, ’till we have heard him
describ’d even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of
letters, the knowledge of an Author may sometimes conduce to the better
understanding his book: And tho’ the Works of Mr. _Shakespear_ may seem to
many not to want a comment, yet I fancy some little account of the man
himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.

He was the son of Mr. _John Shakespear_, and was born at _Stratford_ upon
_Avon_, in _Warwickshire_, in _April_ 1564. His family, as appears by the
Register and publick Writings relating to that Town, were of good figure
and fashion there, and are mention’d as gentlemen. His father, who was a
considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all,
that tho’ he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education
than his own employment. He had bred him, ’tis true, for some time at a
Free-school, where ’tis probable he acquir’d that little _Latin_ he was
master of: But the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his
assistance at home, forc’d his father to withdraw him from thence, and
unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is
without controversie, that he had no knowledge of the writings of the
antient poets, not only from this reason, but from his works themselves,
where we find no traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of ’em;
the delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great _Genius_,
equal, if not superior to some of the best of theirs, would certainly have
led him to read and study ’em with so much pleasure, that some of their
fine images would naturally have insinuated themselves into, and been
mix’d with his own writings; so that his not copying at least something
from them, may be an argument of his never having read ’em. Whether his
ignorance of the Antients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a
dispute: For tho’ the knowledge of ’em might have made him more correct,
yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them,
which would have attended that correctness, might have restrain’d some of
that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance which we admire in
_Shakespear_: And I believe we are better pleas’d with those thoughts,
altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supply’d him so
abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out
of the _Greek_ and _Latin_ poets, and that in the most agreeable manner
that it was possible for a master of the _English_ language to deliver
’em. Some _Latin_ without question he did know, and one may see up and
down in his Plays how far his reading that way went: In _Love’s Labour
lost_, the Pedant comes out with a verse of _Mantuan_; and in _Titus
Andronicus_, one of the _Gothick_ princes, upon reading

    Integer vitæ scelerisque purus
    Non eget Mauri jaculis nec arcu—

says, “_Tis a verse in_ Horace, _but he remembers it out of his_ Grammar”:
which, I suppose, was the Author’s case. Whatever _Latin_ he had, ’tis
certain he understood _French_, as may be observ’d from many words and
sentences scatter’d up and down his Plays in that language; and especially
from one scene in _Henry_ the Fifth written wholly in it. Upon his leaving
school, he seems to have given intirely into that way of living which his
father propos’d to him; and in order to settle in the world after a family
manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was
the daughter of one _Hathaway_, said to have been a substantial yeoman in
the neighbourhood of _Stratford_. In this kind of settlement he continu’d
for some time, ’till an extravagance that he was guilty of forc’d him both
out of his country and that way of living which he had taken up; and tho’
it seem’d at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune
to him, yet it afterwards happily prov’d the occasion of exerting one of
the greatest _Genius_’s that ever was known in dramatick Poetry. He had,
by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company;
and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of Deer-stealing,
engag’d him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong’d to
Sir _Thomas Lucy_ of _Cherlecot_ near _Stratford_. For this he was
prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in
order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And tho’ this,
probably the first essay of his Poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have
been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that
degree, that he was oblig’d to leave his business and family in
_Warwickshire_, for some time, and shelter himself in _London_.

It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made
his first acquaintance in the Play-house. He was receiv’d into the Company
then in being, at first in a very mean rank; but his admirable wit, and
the natural turn of it to the stage, soon distinguish’d him, if not as an
extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer. His name is printed, as
the custom was in those times, amongst those of the other Players, before
some old Plays, but without any particular account of what sort of parts
he us’d to play; and tho’ I have inquir’d, I could never meet with any
further account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was
the Ghost in his own _Hamlet_. I should have been much more pleas’d to
have learn’d from some certain authority, which was the first Play he
wrote; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things
of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like
_Shakespear_’s. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those
of other authors, among their least perfect writings; art had so little,
and nature so large a share in what he did, that, for ought I know, the
performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the
most fire and strength of imagination in ’em, were the best. I would not
be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant,
as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what
he thought, was commonly so great, so justly and rightly conceiv’d in it
self, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approv’d
by an impartial judgment at the first sight. Mr. _Dryden_ seems to think
that _Pericles_ is one of his first Plays; but there is no judgment to be
form’d on that, since there is good reason to believe that the greatest
part of that Play was not written by him; tho’ it is own’d, some part of
it certainly was, particularly the last Act. But tho’ the order of time in
which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there
are passages in some few of them which seem to fix their dates. So the
_Chorus_ in the beginning of the fifth Act of _Henry_ V. by a compliment
very handsomly turn’d to the Earl of _Essex_, shews the Play to have been
written when that Lord was General for the Queen in _Ireland_: And his
Elogy upon Q. _Elizabeth_, and her successor K. _James_, in the latter end
of his _Henry_ VIII. is a proof of that Play’s being written after the
accession of the latter of those two Princes to the crown of _England_.
Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age,
who began to grow wonderfully fond of diversions of this kind, could not
but be highly pleas’d to see a _Genius_ arise amongst ’em of so
pleasurable, so rich a vein, and so plentifully capable of furnishing
their favourite entertainments. Besides the advantages of his wit, he was
in himself a good-natur’d man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a
most agreeable companion; so that it is no wonder if with so many good
qualities he made himself acquainted with the best conversations of those
times. Queen _Elizabeth_ had several of his Plays acted before her, and
without doubt gave him many gracious marks of her favour: It is that
maiden Princess plainly, whom he intends by

    ——A fair Vestal, Throned by the West.
                            _Midsummer Night’s Dream._

And that whole passage is a compliment very properly brought in, and very
handsomely apply’d to her. She was so well pleas’d with that admirable
character of _Falstaff_, in the two parts of _Henry_ the Fourth, that she
commanded him to continue it for one Play more, and to shew him in love.
This is said to be the occasion of his writing _The Merry Wives of_
Windsor. How well she was obey’d, the play it self is an admirable proof.
Upon this occasion it may not be improper to observe, that this part of
_Falstaff_ is said to have been written originally under the name of
_Oldcastle_; some of that family being then remaining, the Queen was
pleas’d to command him to alter it; upon which he made use of _Falstaff_.
The present offence was indeed avoided; but I don’t know whether the
Author may not have been somewhat to blame in his second choice, since it
is certain that Sir _John Falstaff_, who was a Knight of the Garter, and a
Lieutenant-general, was a name of distinguish’d merit in the wars in
_France_ in _Henry_ the Fifth’s and _Henry_ the Sixth’s times. What grace
soever the Queen conferr’d upon him, it was not to her only he ow’d the
fortune which the reputation of his wit made. He had the honour to meet
with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl
of _Southampton_, famous in the histories of that time for his friendship
to the unfortunate Earl of _Essex_. It was to that noble Lord that he
dedicated his Poem of _Venus_ and _Adonis_, the only piece of his Poetry
which he ever publish’d himself, tho’ many of his Plays were
surrepticiously and lamely printed in his life-time. There is one instance
so singular in the magnificence of this Patron of _Shakespear_’s, that if
I had not been assur’d that the story was handed down by Sir _William
D’Avenant_, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I
should not have ventur’d to have inserted, that my Lord _Southampton_ at
one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a
purchase which he heard he had a mind to: A bounty very great, and very
rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present
age has shewn to _French_ Dancers and _Italian_ Eunuchs.

What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I
have not been able to learn, more than that every one who had a true taste
of merit, and could distinguish men, had generally a just value and esteem
for him. His exceeding candor and good nature must certainly have inclin’d
all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit
oblig’d the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to
admire him. Amongst these was the incomparable Mr. _Edmond Spencer_, who
speaks of him in his _Tears of the Muses_, not only with the praises due
to a good Poet, but even lamenting his absence with the tenderness of a
friend. The passage is in _Thalia’s_ Complaint for the Decay of Dramatick
Poetry, and the Contempt the Stage then lay under, amongst his
Miscellaneous Works, _p._ 147.

    And he the Man whom Nature’s self had made
    To mock her self, and Truth to imitate
    With friendly Counter under mimick Shade,
    Our pleasant _Willy_, ah! is dead of late:
    With whom all Joy and jolly Merriment
    Is also deaded, and in Dolour drent.

    Instead thereof, scoffing Scurrility
    And scorning Folly with Contempt is crept,
    Rolling in Rhimes of shameless Ribaudry,
    Without Regard or due _Decorum_ kept;
    Each idle Wit at will presumes to make,
    And doth the Learned’s Task upon him take.

    But that same gentle Spirit, from whose Pen
    Large Streams of Honey and sweet _Nectar_ flow,
    Scorning the Boldness of such base-born Men,
    Which dare their Follies forth so rashly throw;
    Doth rather choose to sit in idle Cell,
    Than so himself to Mockery to sell.

I know some people have been of opinion, that _Shakespear_ is not meant by
_Willy_ in the first _stanza_ of these verses, because _Spencer_’s death
happen’d twenty years before _Shakespear_’s. But, besides that the
character is not applicable to any man of that time but himself, it is
plain by the last _stanza_ that Mr. _Spencer_ does not mean that he was
then really dead, but only that he had withdrawn himself from the publick,
or at least with-held his hand from writing, out of a disgust he had taken
at the then ill taste of the Town, and the mean condition of the Stage.
Mr. _Dryden_ was always of opinion these verses were meant of
_Shakespear_; and ’tis highly probable they were so, since he was three
and thirty years old at _Spencer_’s death; and his reputation in Poetry
must have been great enough before that time to have deserv’d what is here
said of him. His acquaintance with _Ben Johnson_ began with a remarkable
piece of humanity and good nature; Mr. _Johnson_, who was at that time
altogether unknown to the world, had offer’d one of his Plays to the
Players, in order to have it acted; and the persons into whose hands it
was put, after having turn’d it carelessly and superciliously over, were
just upon returning it to him with an ill-natur’d answer, that it would be
of no service to their Company, when _Shakespear_ luckily cast his eye
upon it, and found something so well in it as to engage him first to read
it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. _Johnson_ and his writings to
the publick. After this they were profess’d friends; tho’ I don’t know
whether the other ever made him an equal return of gentleness and
sincerity. _Ben_ was naturally proud and insolent, and in the days of his
reputation did so far take upon him the supremacy in wit, that he could
not but look with an evil eye upon any one that seem’d to stand in
competition with him. And if at times he has affected to commend him, it
has always been with some reserve, insinuating his uncorrectness, a
careless manner of writing, and want of judgment; the praise of seldom
altering or blotting out what he writ, which was given him by the Players
who were the first Publishers of his Works after his death, was what
_Johnson_ could not bear; he thought it impossible, perhaps, for another
man to strike out the greatest thoughts in the finest expression, and to
reach those excellencies of Poetry with the ease of a first imagination,
which himself with infinite labour and study could but hardly attain to.
_Johnson_ was certainly 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 occasion 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 profess’d
admirer of _Shakespear_, had undertaken his defence against _Ben Johnson_
with some warmth; Mr. _Hales_, who had sat still for some 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 likewise 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 one of them, he would undertake to shew something
upon the same subject at least as well written by_ Shakespear. _Johnson_
did indeed take a large liberty, even to the transcribing and translating
of whole scenes together; and sometimes, with all deference to so great a
name as his, not altogether for the advantage of the authors of whom he
borrow’d. And if _Augustus_ and _Virgil_ were really what he has made ’em
in a scene of his _Poetaster_, 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 so. There is one Play of his, indeed, _The Comedy
of Errors_, in a great measure taken from the _Menæchmi_ of _Plautus_. How
that happen’d, I cannot easily divine, since, as I hinted before, I do not
take him to have been master of _Latin_ enough to read it in the original,
and I know of no translation of _Plautus_ so old as his time.

As I have not propos’d to my self to enter into a large and compleat
criticism upon _Shakespear_’s Works, so I suppose it will neither be
expected that I should take notice of the severe remarks that have been
formerly made upon him by Mr. _Rhymer_. I must confess, I can’t very well
see what could be the reason of his animadverting with so much sharpness,
upon the faults of a man excellent on most occasions, and whom all the
world ever was and will be inclin’d to have an esteem and veneration for.
If it was to shew his own knowledge in the Art of Poetry, besides that
there is a vanity in making that only his design, 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 so well
establish’d, he has had the mortification to fail altogether in his
attempt, and to see 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 last 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 likewise of good and gentle dispositions, 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 judgments
of others, to observe some 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 Histories, and even some 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 so agreeable to the _English_ taste, that tho’ the severer
Critiques among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audiences
seem to be better pleas’d with it than with an exact Tragedy. _The Merry
Wives of_ Windsor, _The Comedy of Errors_, and _The Taming of the Shrew_,
are all pure Comedy; the rest, however they are call’d, have something of
both kinds. ’Tis not very easy to determine which way of writing he was
most 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 pleasing 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-sustain’d, tho’ drawn out into
the length of three Plays; and even the account of his death, given by his
old 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, vain-glorious, and in
short every way vicious, yet he has given him so much wit as to make him
almost too agreeable; and I don’t know whether some people have not, in
remembrance of the diversion he had formerly afforded ’em, been sorry to
see his friend _Hal_ use him so scurvily, 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_ Windsor, he has made him a
Deer-stealer, that he might at the same time remember his _Warwickshire_
prosecutor, under the name of Justice _Shallow_; he has given him very
near the same coat of arms which _Dugdale_, in his Antiquities of that
county, describes for a family there, and makes the _Welsh_ parson descant
very pleasantly upon ’em. That whole play is admirable; the humours are
various and well oppos’d; the main design, which is to cure _Ford_ of his
unreasonable jealousie, is extremely well conducted. _Falstaff’s
Billet-Doux_, and Master _Slender_’s

    Ah! Sweet _Ann Page_!

are very good expressions of love in their way. In _Twelfth-Night_ there
is something singularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward
_Malvolio_. The parasite and the vain-glorious in _Parolles_, in _All’s
Well that ends Well_, is as good as any thing of that kind in _Plautus_ or
_Terence_. _Petruchio_, in _The Taming of the Shrew_, is an uncommon piece
of humour. The conversation of _Benedick_ and _Beatrice_, in _Much Ado
about Nothing_, and of _Rosalind_ in _As you like it_, have much wit and
sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was
hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining: And, I
believe, _Thersites_ in _Troilus_ and _Cressida_, and _Apemantus_ in
_Timon_, will be allow’d to be master-pieces of ill nature and satyrical
snarling. To these I might add that incomparable character of _Shylock_
the _Jew_ in _The Merchant of_ Venice; but tho’ we have seen that play
receiv’d and acted as a Comedy, and the part of the _Jew_ perform’d by an
excellent Comedian, yet I cannot but think it was design’d tragically by
the Author. There appears in it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a
savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty
and mischief, as cannot agree either with the stile or characters of
Comedy. The Play it self, take it all together, seems to me to be one of
the most finish’d of any of _Shakespear_’s. The tale indeed, in that part
relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond
given by _Antonio_, is a little too much remov’d from the rules of
probability: But taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very
beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of _Antonio_ to
_Bassanio_ very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act,
supposing, as I said, the fact to be probable, is extremely fine. But
there are two passages that deserve a particular notice. The first is,
what _Portia_ says in praise of mercy, and the other on the power of
musick. The melancholy of _Jaques_, in _As you like it_, is as singular
and odd as it is diverting. And if what _Horace_ says,

    Difficile est proprie communia dicere,

’twill be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of
the several degrees and ages of man’s life, tho’ the thought be old, and
common enough.

    ——All the World’s a Stage,
    And all the men and women meerly Players;
    They have their Exits and their Entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many Parts,
    His Acts being seven Ages. At first the Infant
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms:
    And then, the whining School-boy with his satchel,
    And shining morning-face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the Lover
    Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
    Made to his Mistress’ eye-brow. Then a Soldier
    Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the Pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble Reputation
    Ev’n in the cannon’s mouth. And then the Justice
    In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
    With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth Age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d Pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side;
    His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice
    Turning again tow’rd childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound: Last Scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful History,
    Is second childishness and meer oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans ev’ry thing.

His Images are indeed ev’ry where so lively, that the thing he would
represent stands full before you, and you possess ev’ry part of it. I will
venture to point out one more, which is, I think, as strong and as
uncommon as any thing I ever saw; ’tis an image of Patience. Speaking of a
maid in love, he says,

    ——She never told her love,
    But let concealment, like a worm i’th’ bud,
    Feed on her damask cheek: She pin’d in thought,
    And sate like _Patience_ on a monument,
    Smiling at _Grief_.

What an Image is here given! and what a task would it have been for the
greatest masters of _Greece_ and _Rome_ to have express’d the passions
design’d by this sketch of Statuary! The stile of his Comedy is, in
general, natural to the characters, and easie in it self; and the wit most
commonly sprightly and pleasing, except in those places where he runs into
dogrel rhymes, as in _The Comedy of Errors_, and a passage or two in some
other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, and playing upon words, it was
the common vice of the age he liv’d in: And if we find it in the Pulpit,
made use of as an ornament to the Sermons of some of the gravest Divines
of those times; perhaps it may not be thought too light for the Stage.

But certainly the greatness of this Author’s genius do’s no where so much
appear, as where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his
fancy to a flight above mankind and the limits of the visible world. Such
are his attempts in _The Tempest_, _Midsummer Nights Dream_, _Macbeth_,
and _Hamlet_. Of these, _The Tempest_, however it comes to be plac’d the
first by the former publishers of his works, can never have been the first
written by him: It seems to me as perfect in its kind, as almost any thing
we have of his. One may observe, that the Unities are kept here, with an
exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing; tho’ that was what, I
suppose, he valu’d himself least upon, since his excellencies were all of
another kind. I am very sensible that he do’s, in this play, depart too
much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observ’d in these sort
of writings; yet he do’s it so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to
have more faith for his sake, than reason does well allow of. His Magick
has something in it very solemn and very poetical: And that extravagant
character of _Caliban_ is mighty well sustain’d, shews a wonderful
invention in the Author, who could strike out such a particular wild
image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon Grotesques
that was ever seen. The observation, which I have been inform’d(36) three
very great men concurr’d in making upon this part, was extremely just:
_That_ Shakespear _had not only found out a new Character in his_ Caliban,
_but had also devis’d and adapted a new manner of Language for that
Character_. Among the particular beauties of this piece, I think one may
be allow’d to point out the tale of _Prospero_ in the first Act; his
speech to _Ferdinand_ in the fourth, upon the breaking up the masque of
_Juno_ and _Ceres_; and that in the fifth, when he dissolves his charms,
and resolves to break his magick rod. This Play has been alter’d by Sir
_William D’Avenant_ and Mr. _Dryden_; and tho’ I won’t arraign the
judgment of those two great men, yet I think I may be allow’d to say, that
there are some things left out by them, that might, and even ought to have
been kept in. Mr. _Dryden_ was an admirer of our Author, and, indeed, he
owed him a great deal, as those who have read them both may very easily
observe. And, I think, in justice to ’em both, I should not on this
occasion omit what Mr. _Dryden_ has said of him.

    _Shakespear_, who, taught by none, did first impart
    To _Fletcher_ Wit, to lab’ring _Johnson_ Art:
    He, monarch-like, gave those his subjects Law,
    And is that Nature which they paint and draw.
    _Fletcher_ reach’d that which on his heights did grow,
    Whilst _Johnson_ crept and gather’d all below:
    This did his Love, and this his Mirth digest,
    One imitates him most, the other best.
    If they have since out-writ all other men,
    ’Tis with the drops which fell from _Shakespear_’s pen.
    The(37) Storm which vanish’d on the neighb’ring shoar,
    Was taught by _Shakespear_’s Tempest first to roar.
    That innocence and beauty which did smile
    In _Fletcher_, grew on this _Enchanted Isle_.
    But _Shakespear_’s Magick could not copied be,
    Within that Circle none durst walk but he.
    I must confess ’twas bold, nor would you now
    That liberty to vulgar Wits allow,
    Which works by Magick supernatural things:
    But _Shakespear_’s Pow’r is Sacred as a King’s.

    Prologue to _The Tempest_, as it is alter’d by Mr. _Dryden_.

It is the same magick that raises the Fairies in _Midsummer Night’s
Dream_, the Witches in _Macbeth_, and the Ghost in _Hamlet_, with thoughts
and language so proper to the parts they sustain, and so peculiar to the
talent of this Writer. But of the two last of these Plays I shall have
occasion to take notice, among the Tragedies of Mr. _Shakespear_. If one
undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are
establish’d by _Aristotle_, and taken from the model of the _Grecian_
stage, it would be no very hard task to find a great many faults: But as
_Shakespear_ liv’d under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never
been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, so it
would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider
him as a man that liv’d in a state of almost universal licence and
ignorance: There was no establish’d judge, but every one took the liberty
to write according to the dictates of his own fancy. When one considers
that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to
entitle it to an appearance on the present Stage, it cannot but be a
matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatick Poetry so far as
he did. The Fable is what is generally plac’d the first, among those that
are reckon’d the constituent parts of a Tragick or Heroick Poem; not,
perhaps, as it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first
properly to be thought of in the contrivance and course of the whole; and
with the Fable ought to be consider’d the fit Disposition, Order, and
Conduct of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the _Drama_
that the strength and mastery of _Shakespear_ lay, so I shall not
undertake the tedious and ill-natur’d trouble to point out the several
faults he was guilty of in it. His Tales were seldom invented, but rather
taken either from true History, or Novels and Romances: And he commonly
made use of ’em in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of
time in which he found ’em in the Authors from whence he borrow’d them. So
_The Winter’s Tale_, which is taken from an old book, call’d _The
Delectable History of_ Dorastus _and_ Faunia, contains the space of
sixteen or seventeen years, and the Scene is sometimes laid in _Bohemia_,
and sometimes in _Sicily_, according to the original order of the Story.
Almost all his historical Plays comprehend a great length of time, and
very different and distinct places: And in his _Antony_ and _Cleopatra_,
the Scene travels over the greatest part of the _Roman_ empire. But in
recompence for his carelessness in this point, when he comes to another
part of the _Drama, The Manners of his Characters, in acting or speaking
what is proper for them, and fit to be shown by the Poet_, he may be
generally justify’d, and in very many places greatly commended. For those
Plays which he has taken from the _English_ or _Roman_ history, let any
man compare ’em, and he will find the character as exact in the Poet as
the Historian. He seems indeed so far from proposing to himself any one
action for a Subject, that the Title very often tells you, ’tis _The Life
of King_ John, _King_ Richard, _&c._ What can be more agreeable to the
idea our historians give of _Henry_ the Sixth, than the picture
_Shakespear_ has drawn of him! His Manners are every where exactly the
same with the story; one finds him still describ’d with simplicity,
passive sanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easie submission
to the governance of an imperious Wife, or prevailing Faction: Tho’ at the
same time the Poet do’s justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity
of his audience for him, by showing him pious, disinterested, a contemner
of the things of this world, and wholly resign’d to the severest
dispensations of God’s providence. There is a short Scene in the second
part of _Henry_ VI., which I cannot but think admirable in its kind.
Cardinal _Beaufort_, who had murder’d the Duke of _Gloucester_, is shewn
in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good King praying over him.
There is so much terror in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in the
other, as must touch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his
_Henry_ VIII. that Prince is drawn with that greatness of mind, and all
those good qualities which are attributed to him in any account of his
reign. If his faults are not shewn in an equal degree, and the shades in
this picture do not bear a just proportion to the lights, it is not that
the Artist wanted either colours or skill in the disposition of ’em; but
the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing it out of regard to
Queen _Elizabeth_, since it could have been no very great respect to the
memory of his Mistress, to have expos’d some certain parts of her father’s
life upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with the Minister of
that great King, and certainly nothing was ever more justly written, than
the character of Cardinal _Wolsey_. He has shewn him tyrannical, cruel,
and insolent in his prosperity; and yet, by a wonderful address, he makes
his fall and ruin the subject of general compassion. The whole man, with
his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly describ’d in the second Scene
of the fourth Act. The distresses likewise of Queen _Katherine_, in this
Play, are very movingly touch’d; and tho’ the art of the Poet has skreen’d
King _Henry_ from any gross imputation of injustice, yet one is inclin’d
to wish, the Queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and
virtue. Nor are the Manners, proper to the persons represented, less
justly observ’d in those characters taken from the _Roman_ History; and of
this, the fierceness and impatience of _Coriolanus_, his courage and
disdain of the common people, the virtue and philosophical temper of
_Brutus_, and the irregular greatness of mind in _M. Antony_, are
beautiful proofs. For the two last especially, you find ’em exactly as
they are describ’d by _Plutarch_, from whom certainly _Shakespear_ copy’d
’em. He has indeed follow’d his original pretty close, and taken in
several little incidents that might have been spar’d in a Play. But, as I
hinted before, his design seems most commonly rather to describe those
great men in the several fortunes and accidents of their lives, than to
take any single great action, and form his work simply upon that. However,
there are some of his pieces, where the Fable is founded upon one action
only. Such are more especially, _Romeo_ and _Juliet_, _Hamlet_, and
_Othello_. The design in _Romeo_ and _Juliet_ is plainly the punishment of
their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animosities that had
been so long kept up between ’em, and occasion’d the effusion of so much
blood. In the management of this story, he has shewn something wonderfully
tender and passionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the distress.
_Hamlet_ is founded on much the same Tale with the _Electra_ of
_Sophocles_. In each of ’em a young Prince is engag’d to revenge the death
of his father, their mothers are equally guilty, are both concern’d in the
murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers.
There is in the first part of the _Greek_ Tragedy, something very moving
in the grief of _Electra_; but as Mr. _D’Acier_ has observ’d, there is
something very unnatural and shocking in the Manners he has given that
Princess and _Orestes_ in the latter part. _Orestes_ embrues his hands in
the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is perform’d, tho’
not immediately upon the stage, yet so near, that the audience hear
_Clytemnestra_ crying out to _Ægysthus_ for help, and to her son for
mercy: While _Electra_, her daughter, and a Princess, both of them
characters that ought to have appear’d with more decency, stands upon the
stage and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horror does this
not raise! _Clytemnestra_ was a wicked woman, and had deserv’d to die;
nay, in the truth of the story, she was kill’d by her own son; but to
represent an action of this kind on the stage, is certainly an offence
against those rules of manners proper to the persons, that ought to be
observ’d there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct
of _Shakespear_. _Hamlet_ is represented with the same piety towards his
father, and resolution to revenge his death, as _Orestes_; he has the same
abhorrence for his mother’s guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is
heighten’d by incest: But ’tis with wonderful art and justness of
judgment, that the Poet restrains him from doing violence to his mother.
To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his father’s Ghost forbid that
part of his vengeance.

    But howsoever thou pursu’st this Act,
    Taint not thy mind; nor let thy soul contrive
    Against thy mother ought; leave her to Heav’n,
    And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
    To prick and sting her.

This is to distinguish rightly between _Horror_ and _Terror_. The latter
is a proper passion of Tragedy, but the former ought always to be
carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatick Writer ever succeeded better
in raising _Terror_ in the minds of an audience than _Shakespear_ has
done. The whole Tragedy of _Macbeth_, but more especially the scene where
the King is murder’d, in the second Act, as well as this Play, is a noble
proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both shew how powerful
he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable
of. I cannot leave _Hamlet_ without taking notice of the advantage with
which we have seen this Master-piece of _Shakespear_ distinguish it self
upon the stage, by Mr. _Betterton_’s fine performance of that part: A man
who, tho’ he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must
have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only
excellency. No man is better acquainted with _Shakespear_’s manner of
expression, and indeed he has study’d him so well, and is so much a master
of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had
been written on purpose for him, and that the Author had exactly conceiv’d
it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him, for the most
considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here
transmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of _Shakespear_
having engaged him to make a journey into _Warwickshire_, on purpose to
gather up what remains he could of a name for which he had so great a
value. Since I had at first resolv’d not to enter into any critical
controversie, I won’t pretend to enquire into the justness of Mr.
_Rhymer_’s Remarks on _Othello_; he has certainly pointed out some faults
very judiciously; and indeed they are such as most people will agree, with
him, to be faults: But I wish he would likewise have observ’d some of the
beauties too; as I think it became an exact and equal Critique to do. It
seems strange that he should allow nothing good in the whole: If the Fable
and Incidents are not to his taste, yet the Thoughts are almost every
where very noble, and the Diction manly and proper. These last, indeed,
are parts of _Shakespear_’s praise, which it would be very hard to dispute
with him. His Sentiments and Images of things are great and natural; and
his Expression (tho’ perhaps in some instances a little irregular) just,
and rais’d in proportion to his subject and occasion. It would be even
endless to mention the particular instances that might be given of this
kind: But his Book is in the possession of the publick, and ’twill be hard
to dip into any part of it, without finding what I have said of him made

The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish
theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends.
He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in
that, to his wish; and is said to have spent some years before his death
at his native _Stratford_. His pleasurable wit, and good nature, engag’d
him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship of the
gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almost still
remember’d in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr.
_Combe_, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: It
happen’d, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends,
Mr. _Combe_ told _Shakespear_ in a laughing manner, that he fancy’d he
intended to write his Epitaph, if he happen’d to out-live him; and since
he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead, he desir’d
it might be done immediately: Upon which _Shakespear_ gave him these four

    Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav’d,
    ’Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not sav’d:
    If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb?
    Oh! ho! quoth the devil, ’tis my _John-a-Combe_.

But the sharpness of the Satyr is said to have stung the man so severely,
that he never forgave it.

He dy’d in the 53d year of his age, and was bury’d on the north side of
the chancel, in the great church at _Stratford_, where a monument, as
engrav’d in the plate, is plac’d in the wall. On his Grave-stone
underneath is,

    Good friend, for Jesus sake, forbear
    To dig the dust inclosed here.
    Blest be the man that spares these stones,
    And curst be he that moves my bones.

He had three daughters, of which two liv’d to be marry’d; _Judith_, the
elder, to one Mr. _Thomas Quiney_, by whom she had three Sons, who all
dy’d without children; and _Susannah_, who was his favourite, to Dr. _John
Hall_, a physician of good reputation in that country. She left one child
only, a daughter, who was marry’d first to _Thomas Nash_, Esq; and
afterwards to Sir _John Bernard_ of _Abington_, but dy’d likewise without

This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to himself or
family: The character of the man is best seen in his writings. But since
_Ben Johnson_ has made a sort of an essay towards it in his _Discoveries_,
tho’, as I have before hinted, he was not very cordial in his friendship,
I will venture to give it in his words.

“I remember the Players have often mention’d it as an honour to
_Shakespear_, that in writing (whatsoever he penn’d) he never blotted out
a line. My answer hath been, _Would he had blotted a thousand_, which they
thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their
ignorance, who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein
he most faulted: And to justifie mine own candor (for I lov’d the man, and
do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any). He was,
indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature, had an excellent fancy,
brave notions, and gentle expressions; wherein he flow’d with that
facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopp’d:
_Sufflaminandus erat_, as _Augustus_ said of _Haterius_. His wit was in
his own power, would the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell
into those things could not escape laughter; as when he said in the person
of _Cæsar_, one speaking to him,

    _Cæsar_ thou dost me wrong.

He reply’d:

    _Cæsar_ did never wrong, but with just cause.

and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeem’d his vices with his
virtues: There was ever more in him to be prais’d than to be pardon’d.”

As for the passage which he mentions out of _Shakespear_, there is
somewhat like it in _Julius Cæsar_, but without the absurdity; nor did I
ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr.
_Johnson_. Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three
ascrib’d to him by Mr. _Langbain_, which I have never seen, and know
nothing of. He writ likewise, _Venus_ and _Adonis_, and _Tarquin_ and
_Lucrece_, in stanza’s, which have been printed in a late collection of
Poems. As to the character given of him by _Ben Johnson_, there is a good
deal true in it: But I believe it may be as well express’d by what
_Horace_ says of the first _Romans_, who wrote Tragedy upon the _Greek_
models (or indeed translated ’em), in his epistle to _Augustus_.

    —— Natura sublimis & Acer,
    Nam spirat Tragicum satis & feliciter Audet,
    Sed turpem putat in Chartis metuitque Lituram.

There is a Book of Poems, publish’d in 1640, under the name of Mr.
_William Shakespear_, but as I have but very lately seen it, without an
opportunity of making any judgment upon it, I won’t pretend to determine,
whether it be his or no.


Letter I.

_Sir_, Feb. 1. 1710/11.

I here send you the Tragedy of _Coriolanus_, which I have alter’d from the
Original of _Shakespear_, and with it a short Account of the Genius and
Writings of that Author, both which you desired me to send to you the last
time I had the good Fortune to see you. But I send them both upon this
condition, that you will with your usual Sincerity tell me your Sentiments
both of the Poem and of the Criticism.

_Shakespear_ was one of the greatest Genius’s that the World e’er saw for
the Tragick Stage. Tho’ he lay under greater Disadvantages than any of his
Successors, yet had he greater and more genuine Beauties than the best and
greatest of them. And what makes the brightest Glory of his Character,
those Beauties were entirely his own, and owing to the Force of his own
Nature; whereas his Faults were owing to his Education, and to the Age
that he liv’d in. One may say of him as they did of _Homer_, that he had
none to imitate, and is himself inimitable. His Imaginations were often as
just, as they were bold and strong. He had a natural Discretion which
never cou’d have been taught him, and his Judgment was strong and
penetrating. He seems to have wanted nothing but Time and Leisure for
Thought, to have found out those Rules of which he appears so ignorant.
His Characters are always drawn justly, exactly, graphically, except where
he fail’d by not knowing History or the Poetical Art. He has for the most
part more fairly distinguish’d them than any of his Successors have done,
who have falsified them, or confounded them, by making Love the
predominant Quality in all. He had so fine a Talent for touching the
Passions, and they are so lively in him, and so truly in Nature, that they
often touch us more without their due Preparations, than those of other
Tragick Poets, who have all the Beauty of Design and all the Advantage of
Incidents. His Master-Passion was Terror, which he has often mov’d so
powerfully and so wonderfully, that we may justly conclude, that if he had
had the Advantage of Art and Learning, he wou’d have surpass’d the very
best and strongest of the Ancients. His Paintings are often so beautiful
and so lively, so graceful and so powerful, especially where he uses them
in order to move Terror, that there is nothing perhaps more accomplish’d
in our _English_ Poetry. His Sentiments for the most part in his best
Tragedies, are noble, generous, easie, and natural, and adapted to the
Persons who use them. His Expression is in many Places good and pure after
a hundred Years; simple tho’ elevated, graceful tho’ bold, and easie tho’
strong. He seems to have been the very Original of our _English_ Tragical
Harmony; that is the Harmony of Blank Verse, diversifyed often by
Dissyllable and Trissyllable Terminations. For that Diversity
distinguishes it from Heroick Harmony, and, bringing it nearer to common
Use, makes it more proper to gain Attention, and more fit for Action and
Dialogue. Such Verse we make when we are writing Prose; we make such Verse
in common Conversation.

If _Shakespear_ had these great Qualities by Nature, what would he not
have been, if he had join’d to so happy a Genius Learning and the Poetical
Art? For want of the latter, our Author has sometimes made gross Mistakes
in the Characters which he has drawn from History, against the Equality
and Conveniency of Manners of his Dramatical Persons. Witness _Menenius_
in the following Tragedy, whom he has made an errant Buffoon, which is a
great Absurdity. For he might as well have imagin’d a grave majestick
_Jack-Pudding_, as a Buffoon in a _Roman_ Senator. _Aufidius_ the General
of the _Volscians_ is shewn a base and a profligate Villain. He has
offended against the Equality of the Manners even in his Hero himself. For
_Coriolanus_ who in the first part of the Tragedy is shewn so open, so
frank, so violent, and so magnanimous, is represented in the latter part
by _Aufidius_, which is contradicted by no one, a flattering, fawning,
cringing, insinuating Traytor.

For want of this Poetical Art, _Shakespear_ has introduced things into his
Tragedies, which are against the Dignity of that noble Poem, as the Rabble
in _Julius Cæsar_, and that in _Coriolanus_; tho’ that in _Coriolanus_
offends not only against the Dignity of Tragedy, but against the Truth of
History likewise, and the Customs of Ancient _Rome_, and the Majesty of
the _Roman_ People, as we shall have occasion to shew anon.

For want of this Art, he has made his Incidents less moving, less
surprizing, and less wonderful. He has been so far from seeking those fine
Occasions to move with which an Action furnish’d according to Art would
have furnish’d him, that he seems rather to have industriously avoided
them. He makes _Coriolanus_, upon his Sentence of Banishment, take his
leave of his Wife and his Mother out of sight of the Audience, and so has
purposely as it were avoided a great occasion to move.

If we are willing to allow that _Shakespear_, by sticking to the bare
Events of History, has mov’d more than any of his Successors, yet his just
Admirers must confess, that if he had had the Poetical Art, he would have
mov’d ten times more. For ’tis impossible that by a bare Historical Play
he could move so much as he would have done by a Fable.

We find that a Romance entertains the generality of Mankind with more
Satisfaction than History, if they read only to be entertain’d; but if
they read History thro’ Pride or Ambition, they bring their Passions along
with them, and that alters the case. Nothing is more plain than that even
in an Historical Relation some Parts of it, and some Events, please more
than others. And therefore a Man of Judgment, who sees why they do so, may
in forming a Fable, and disposing an Action, please more than an Historian
can do. For the just Fiction of a Fable moves us more than an Historical
Relation can do, for the two following Reasons: First, by reason of the
Communication and mutual Dependence of its Parts. For if Passion springs
from Motion, then the Obstruction of that Motion or a counter Motion must
obstruct and check the Passion: And therefore an Historian and a Writer of
Historical Plays, passing from Events of one nature to Events of another
nature without a due Preparation, must of necessity stifle and confound
one Passion by another. The second Reason why the Fiction of a Fable
pleases us more than an Historical Relation can do, is, because in an
Historical Relation we seldom are acquainted with the true Causes of
Events, whereas in a feign’d Action which is duly constituted, that is,
which has a just beginning, those Causes always appear. For ’tis
observable, that, both in a Poetical Fiction and an Historical Relation,
those Events are the most entertaining, the most surprizing, and the most
wonderful, in which Providence most plainly appears. And ’tis for this
Reason that the Author of a just Fable must please more than the Writer of
an Historical Relation. The Good must never fail to prosper, and the Bad
must be always punish’d: Otherwise the Incidents, and particularly the
Catastrophe which is the grand Incident, are liable to be imputed rather
to Chance, than to Almighty Conduct and to Sovereign Justice. The want of
this impartial Distribution of Justice makes the _Coriolanus_ of
_Shakespear_ to be without Moral. ’Tis true indeed _Coriolanus_ is kill’d
by those Foreign Enemies with whom he had openly sided against his
Country, which seems to be an Event worthy of Providence, and would look
as if it were contriv’d by infinite Wisdom, and executed by supreme
Justice, to make _Coriolanus_ a dreadful Example to all who lead on
Foreign Enemies to the Invasion of their native Country; if there were not
something in the Fate of the other Characters, which gives occasion to
doubt of it, and which suggests to the Sceptical Reader that this might
happen by accident. For _Aufidius_ the principal Murderer of _Coriolanus_,
who in cold Blood gets him assassinated by Ruffians, instead of leaving
him to the Law of the Country, and the Justice of the _Volscian_ Senate,
and who commits so black a Crime, not by any erroneous Zeal, or a mistaken
publick Spirit, but thro’ Jealousy, Envy, and inveterate Malice; this
Assassinator not only survives, and survives unpunish’d, but seems to be
rewarded for so detestable an Action, by engrossing all those Honours to
himself which _Coriolanus_ before had shar’d with him. But not only
_Aufidius_, but the _Roman_ Tribunes, _Sicinius_ and _Brutus_, appear to
me to cry aloud for Poetick Vengeance. For they are guilty of two Faults,
neither of which ought to go unpunish’d: The first in procuring the
Banishment of _Coriolanus_. If they were really jealous that _Coriolanus_
had a Design on their Liberties, when he stood for the Consulship, it was
but just that they should give him a Repulse; but to get the Champion and
Defender of their Country banish’d upon a pretended Jealousy was a great
deal too much, and could proceed from nothing but that Hatred and Malice
which they had conceiv’d against him, for opposing their Institution.
Their second Fault lay in procuring this Sentence by indirect Methods, by
exasperating and inflaming the People by Artifices and Insinuations, by
taking a base Advantage of the Open-heartedness and Violence of
_Coriolanus_, and by oppressing him with a Sophistical Argument, that he
aim’d at Sovereignty, because he had not delivered into the Publick
Treasury the Spoils which he had taken from the _Antiates_. As if a Design
of Sovereignty could be reasonably concluded from any one Act; or any one
could think of bringing to pass such a Design, by eternally favouring the
Patricians, and disobliging the Populace. For we need make no doubt but
that it was among the young Patricians that _Coriolanus_ distributed the
Spoils which were taken from the _Antiates_; whereas nothing but caressing
the Populace could enslave the _Roman_ People, as _Cæsar_ afterwards very
well saw and experienc’d. So that this Injustice of the Tribunes was the
original Cause of the Calamity which afterwards befel their Country, by
the Invasion of the _Volscians_, under the Conduct of _Coriolanus_. And
yet these Tribunes at the end of the Play, like _Aufidius_, remain
unpunish’d. But indeed _Shakespear_ has been wanting in the exact
Distribution of Poetical Justice not only in his _Coriolanus_, but in most
of his best Tragedies, in which the Guilty and the Innocent perish
promiscuously; as _Duncan_ and _Banquo_ in _Mackbeth_, as likewise Lady
_Macduffe_ and her Children; _Desdemona_ in _Othello_; _Cordelia_, _Kent_,
and King _Lear_, in the Tragedy that bears his Name; _Brutus_ and _Porcia_
in _Julius Cæsar_; and young _Hamlet_ in the Tragedy of _Hamlet_. For tho’
it may be said in Defence of the last, that _Hamlet_ had a Design to kill
his Uncle who then reign’d; yet this is justify’d by no less than a Call
from Heaven, and raising up one from the Dead to urge him to it. The Good
and the Bad then perishing promiscuously in the best of _Shakespear_’s
Tragedies, there can be either none or very weak Instruction in them: For
such promiscuous Events call the Government of Providence into Question,
and by Scepticks and Libertines are resolv’d into Chance. I humbly
conceive therefore that this want of Dramatical Justice in the Tragedy of
_Coriolanus_ gave occasion for a just Alteration, and that I was oblig’d
to sacrifice to that Justice _Aufidius_ and the Tribunes, as well as

Thus have we endeavour’d to shew that, for want of the Poetical Art,
_Shakespear_ lay under very great Disadvantages. At the same time we must
own to his Honour, that he has often perform’d Wonders without it, in
spight of the Judgment of so great a Man as _Horace_.

    Natura fieret laudabile carmen, an arte,
    Quæsitum est: ego nec studium sine divite vena,
    Nec rude quid prosit video ingenium; alterius sic
    Altera poscit opem res, & conjurat amice.

But from this very Judgment of _Horace_ we may justly conclude that
_Shakespear_ would have wonderfully surpass’d himself, if Art had been
join’d to Nature. There never was a greater Genius in the World than
_Virgil_: He was one who seems to have been born for this glorious End,
that the _Roman_ Muse might exert in him the utmost Force of her Poetry:
And his admirable and divine Beauties are manifestly owing to the happy
Confederacy of Art and Nature. It was Art that contriv’d that incomparable
Design of the _Æneis_, and it was Nature that executed it. Could the
greatest Genius that ever was infus’d into Earthly Mold by Heaven, if it
had been unguided and unassisted by Art, have taught him to make that
noble and wonderful Use of the _Pythagorean_ Transmigration, which he
makes in the Sixth Book of his Poem? Had _Virgil_ been a circular Poet,
and closely adher’d to History, how could the _Romans_ have been
transported with that inimitable Episode of _Dido_, which brought a-fresh
into their Minds the _Carthaginian_ War, and the dreadful _Hannibal_? When
’tis evident that that admirable Episode is so little owing to a faithful
observance of History, and the exact order of Time, that ’tis deriv’d from
a very bold but judicious Violation of these; it being undeniable that
_Dido_ liv’d almost 300 Years after _Æneas_. Yet is it that charming
Episode that makes the chief Beauties of a third Part of the Poem. For the
Destruction of _Troy_ it self, which is so divinely related, is still more
admirable by the Effect it produces, which is the Passion of _Dido_.

I should now proceed to shew under what Disadvantages _Shakespear_ lay for
want of being conversant with the Ancients. But I have already writ a long
Letter, and am desirous to know how you relish what has been already said
before I go any farther: For I am unwilling to take more Pains before I am
sure of giving you some Pleasure. I am,

_Your most humble, faithful Servant_.

Letter II.

_Sir_, Feb. 6. 1710/11.

Upon the Encouragement I have receiv’d from you, I shall proceed to shew
under what Disadvantages _Shakespear_ lay for want of being conversant
with the Ancients. But because I have lately been in some Conversation,
where they would not allow but that he was acquainted with the Ancients, I
shall endeavour to make it appear that he was not; and the shewing that in
the Method in which I pretend to convince the Reader of it, will
sufficiently prove what Inconveniencies he lay under, and what Errors he
committed for want of being conversant with them. But here we must
distinguish between the several kinds of Acquaintance: A Man may be said
to be acquainted with another who never was but twice in his Company; but
that is at the best a superficial Acquaintance, from which neither very
great Pleasure nor Profit can be deriv’d. Our Business is here to shew
that _Shakespear_ had no familiar Acquaintance with the _Græcian_ and
_Roman_ Authors. For if he was familiarly conversant with them, how comes
it to pass that he wants Art? Is it that he studied to know them in other
things, and neglected that only in them, which chiefly tends to the
Advancement of the Art of the Stage? Or is it that he wanted Discernment
to see the Justness, and the Greatness, and the Harmony of their Designs,
and the Reasonableness of those Rules upon which those Designs are
founded? Or how come his Successors to have that Discernment which he
wanted, when they fall so much below him in other things? How comes he to
have been guilty of the grossest Faults in Chronology, and how come we to
find out those Faults? In his Tragedy of _Troylus_ and _Cressida_, he
introduces _Hector_ speaking of _Aristotle_, who was born a thousand Years
after the Death of _Hector_. In the same Play mention is made of _Milo_,
which is another very great Fault in Chronology. _Alexander_ is mention’d
in _Coriolanus_, tho’ that Conqueror of the Orient liv’d about two hundred
Years after him. In this last Tragedy he has mistaken the very Names of
his Dramatick Persons, if we give Credit to _Livy_. For the Mother of
_Coriolanus_ in the _Roman_ Historian is _Vetturia_, and the Wife is
_Volumnia_. Whereas in _Shakespear_ the Wife is _Virgilia_, and the Mother
_Volumnia_. And the _Volscian_ General in _Shakespear_ is _Tullus
Aufidius_, and _Tullus Attius_ in _Livy_. How comes it that he takes
_Plutarch_’s Word, who was by Birth a _Græcian_, for the Affairs of
_Rome_, rather than that of the _Roman_ Historian, if so be that he had
read the latter? Or what Reason can be given for his not reading him, when
he wrote upon a _Roman_ Story, but that in _Shakespear_’s time there was a
Translation of _Plutarch_, and there was none of _Livy_? If _Shakespear_
was familiarly conversant with the _Roman_ Authors, how came he to
introduce a Rabble into _Coriolanus_, in which he offended not only
against the Dignity of Tragedy, but the Truth of Fact, the Authority of
all the _Roman_ Writers, the Customs of Ancient _Rome_, and the Majesty of
the _Roman_ People? By introducing a Rabble into _Julius Cæsar_, he only
offended against the Dignity of Tragedy. For that part of the People who
ran about the Streets upon great Festivals, or publick Calamities, or
publick Rejoicings, or Revolutions in Government, are certainly the Scum
of the Populace. But the Persons who in the Time of _Coriolanus_ rose in
Vindication of their just Rights, and extorted from the Patricians the
Institution of the Tribunes of the People, and the Persons by whom
afterwards _Coriolanus_ was tried, were the whole Body of the _Roman_
People to the Reserve of the Patricians, which Body included the _Roman_
Knights, and the wealthy substantial Citizens, who were as different from
the Rabble as the Patricians themselves, as qualify’d as the latter to
form a right Judgment of Things, and to contemn the vain Opinions of the
Rabble. So at least _Horace_ esteems them, who very well knew his

    Offenduntur enim, quibus est equus, aut pater, aut res,
    Nec, siquid fricti ciceris probat aut nucis emptor,
    Æquis accipiunt animis donantve Corona.

Where we see the Knights and the substantial Citizens are rank’d in an
equal Degree of Capacity with the _Roman_ Senators, and are equally
distinguish’d from the Rabble.

If _Shakespear_ was so conversant with the Ancients, how comes he to have
introduc’d some Characters into his Plays so unlike what they are to be
found in History? In the Character of _Menenius_ in the following Tragedy,
he has doubly offended against that Historical Resemblance. For first
whereas _Menenius_ was an eloquent Person, _Shakespear_ has made him a
downright Buffoon. And how is it possible for any Man to conceive a
_Ciceronian Jack-pudding_? Never was any Buffoon eloquent, or wise, or
witty, or virtuous. All the good and ill Qualities of a Buffoon are summ’d
up in one Word, and that is a Buffoon. And secondly, whereas _Shakespear_
has made him a Hater and Contemner and Villifier of the People, we are
assur’d by the _Roman_ Historian that _Menenius_ was extremely popular. He
was so very far from opposing the Institution of the Tribunes, as he is
represented in _Shakespear_, that he was chiefly instrumental in it. After
the People had deserted the City, and sat down upon the sacred Mountain,
he was the chief of the Delegates whom the Senate deputed to them, as
being look’d upon to be the Person who would be most agreeable to them. In
short, this very _Menenius_ both liv’d and dy’d so very much their
Favourite, that dying poor he had pompous Funerals at the Expence of the
_Roman_ People.

Had _Shakespear_ read either _Sallust_ or _Cicero_, how could he have made
so very little of the first and greatest of Men, as that _Cæsar_ should be
but a Fourth-rate Actor in his own Tragedy? How could it have been that,
seeing _Cæsar_, we should ask for _Cæsar_? That we should ask, where is
his unequall’d Greatness of Mind, his unbounded Thirst of Glory, and that
victorious Eloquence, with which he triumph’d over the Souls of both
Friends and Enemies, and with which he rivall’d _Cicero_ in Genius as he
did _Pompey_ in Power? How fair an Occasion was there to open the
Character of _Cæsar_ in the first Scene between _Brutus_ and _Cassius_?
For when _Cassius_ tells _Brutus_ that _Cæsar_ was but a Man like them,
and had the same natural Imperfections which they had, how natural had it
been for _Brutus_ to reply, that _Cæsar_ indeed had their Imperfections of
Nature, but neither he nor _Cassius_ had by any means the great Qualities
of _Cæsar_: neither his Military Virtue, nor Science, nor his matchless
Renown, nor his unparallell’d Victories, his unwearied Bounty to his
Friends, nor his Godlike Clemency to his Foes, his Beneficence, his
Munificence, his Easiness of Access to the meanest _Roman_, his
indefatigable Labours, his incredible Celerity, the Plausibleness if not
Justness of his Ambition, that knowing himself to be the greatest of Men,
he only sought occasion to make the World confess him such. In short, if
_Brutus_, after enumerating all the wonderful Qualities of _Cæsar_, had
resolv’d in spight of them all to sacrifice him to publick Liberty, how
had such a Proceeding heighten’d the Virtue and the Character of _Brutus_?
But then indeed it would have been requisite that _Cæsar_ upon his
Appearance should have made all this good. And as we know no Principle of
human Action but human Sentiment only, _Cæsar_, who did greater Things,
and had greater Designs than the rest of the _Romans_, ought certainly to
have outshin’d by many Degrees all the other Characters of his Tragedy.
_Cæsar_ ought particularly to have justified his Actions, and to have
heighten’d his Character, by shewing that what he had done, he had done by
Necessity; that the _Romans_ had lost their _Agrarian_, lost their
Rotation of Magistracy, and that consequently nothing but an empty Shadow
of publick Liberty remain’d; that the _Gracchi_ had made the last noble
but unsuccessful Efforts for the restoring the Commonwealth, that they had
fail’d for want of arbitrary irresistible Power, the Restoration of the
_Agrarian_ requiring too vast a Retrospect to be done without it; that the
Government, when _Cæsar_ came to publick Affairs, was got into the Hands
of a few, and that those few were factious, and were contending among
themselves, and, if you will pardon so mean an Expression, scrambling as
it were for Power; that _Cæsar_ was reduc’d to the Necessity of ruling, or
himself obeying a Master; and that apprehending that another would
exercise the supreme Command without that Clemency and Moderation which he
did, he had rather chosen to rule than to obey. So that _Cæsar_ was faulty
not so much in seizing upon the Sovereignty, which was become in a manner
necessary, as in not re-establishing the Commonwealth, by restoring the
_Agrarian_ and the Rotation of Magistracies, after he had got absolute and
uncontroulable Power. And if _Cæsar_ had seiz’d upon the Sovereignty only
with a View of re-establishing Liberty, he had surpass’d all Mortals in
Godlike Goodness as much as he did in the rest of his astonishing
Qualities. I must confess, I do not remember that we have any Authority
from the _Roman_ Historians which may induce us to believe that _Cæsar_
had any such Design. Nor if he had had any such View, could he, who was
the most secret, the most prudent, and the most discerning of Men, have
discover’d it before his _Parthian_ Expedition was over, for fear of
utterly disobliging his Veterans. And _Cæsar_ believ’d that Expedition
necessary for the Honour and Interest of the State, and for his own Glory.

But of this we may be sure, that two of the most discerning of all the
_Romans_, and who had the deepest Insight into the Soul of _Cæsar_,
_Sallust_ and _Cicero_, were not without Hopes that _Cæsar_ would really
re-establish Liberty, or else they would not have attack’d him upon it;
the one in his Oration for _Marcus Marcellus_, the other in the Second
Part of that little Treatise _De Republica ordinanda_, which is address’d
to _Cæsar_. _Hæc igitur tibi reliqua pars, says Cicero, Hic restat Actus,
in hoc elaborandum est, ut Rempublicam constituas, eaque tu in primis
composita, summa Tranquillitate & otio perfruare. Cicero_ therefore was
not without Hope that _Cæsar_ would re-establish the Commonwealth; and any
one who attentively peruses that Oration of _Cicero_, will find that that
Hope was reasonably grounded upon his knowledge of the great Qualities of
_Cæsar_, his Clemency, his Beneficence, his admirable Discernment; and
that avoidless Ruine in which the whole Empire would be soon involv’d, if
_Cæsar_ did not effect this. _Sallust_ urges it still more home to him and
with greater vehemence; he has recourse to every Motive that may be
thought to be powerful over so great a Soul. He exhorts him by the Memory
of his matchless Conquests, not to suffer the invincible Empire of the
_Roman_ People to be devour’d by Time, or to be torn in pieces by Discord;
one of which would soon and infallibly happen, if Liberty was not

He introduces his Country and his Progenitors urging him in a noble
Prosopopeia, by all the mighty Benefits which they had conferr’d upon him,
with so little Pains of his own, not to deny them that just and easy
Request of the Restoration of Liberty. He adjures him by those Furies
which will eternally haunt his Soul upon his impious Refusal: He implores
him by the foresight of those dismal Calamities, that horrible Slaughter,
those endless Wars, and that unbounded Devastation, which will certainly
fall upon Mankind, if the Restoration of Liberty is prevented by his
Death, or his incurable Sickness: And lastly, he entreats him by his
Thirst of immortal Glory, that Glory in which he now has Rivals, if he has
not Equals; but which, if he re-establishes Liberty, will be acknowledg’d
by consenting Nations to have neither Equal nor Second.

I am apt to believe that if _Shakespear_ had been acquainted with all
this, we had had from him quite another Character of _Cæsar_ than that
which we now find in him. He might then have given us a Scene something
like that which _Corneille_ has so happily us’d in his Cinna; something
like that which really happen’d between _Augustus_, _Mecænas_, and
_Agrippa_. He might then have introduc’d _Cæsar_ consulting _Cicero_ on
the one side, and on the other _Anthony_, whether he should retain that
absolute Sovereignty which he had acquir’d by his Victory, or whether he
should re-establish and immortalize Liberty. That would have been a Scene
which might have employ’d the finest Art and the utmost force of a Writer.
That had been a Scene in which all the great Qualities of _Cæsar_ might
have been display’d. I will not pretend to determine here how that Scene
might have been turn’d; and what I have already said on this Subject, has
been spoke with the utmost Caution and Diffidence. But this I will venture
to say, that if that Scene had been manag’d so, as, by the powerful
Motives employ’d in it, to have shaken the Soul of _Cæsar_, and to have
left room for the least Hope, for the least Doubt, that _Cæsar_ would have
re-establish’d Liberty, after his _Parthian_ Expedition; and if this
Conversation had been kept secret till the Death of _Cæsar_, and then had
been discover’d by _Anthony_; then had _Cæsar_ fall’n, so belov’d and
lamented by the _Roman_ People, so pitied and so bewail’d even by the
Conspirators themselves, as never Man fell. Then there would have been a
Catastrophe the most dreadful and the most deplorable that ever was beheld
upon the Tragick Stage. Then had we seen the noblest of the Conspirators
cursing their temerarious Act, and the most apprehensive of them in
dreadful expectation of those horrible Calamities which fell upon the
_Romans_ after the Death of _Cæsar_. But, Sir, when I write this to you, I
write it with the utmost Deference to the extraordinary Judgment of that
great Man who some Years ago, I hear, alter’d the _Julius Cæsar_. And I
make no doubt but that his fine Discernment and the rest of his great
Qualities have amply supply’d the Defects which are found in the Character
of _Shakespear_’s _Cæsar_.

I should here answer an Argument, by which some People pretend to prove,
and especially those with whom I lately convers’d, that _Shakespear_ was
conversant with the Ancients. But besides that the Post is about to be
gone, I am heartily tir’d with what I have already writ, and so doubtless
are you; I shall therefore defer the rest to the next opportunity, and

Your, _&c_.

Letter III.

_Sir_, Feb. 8.

I come now to the main Argument, which some People urge to prove that
_Shakespear_ was conversant with the Ancients. For there is, say they,
among _Shakespear_’s Plays, one call’d _The Comedy of Errors_, which is
undeniably an Imitation of the _Menechmi_ of _Plautus_. Now _Shakespear_,
say they, being conversant with _Plautus_, it undeniably follows that he
was acquainted with the Ancients; because no _Roman_ Author could be hard
to him who had conquer’d _Plautus_. To which I answer, that the Errors
which we have mention’d above are to be accounted for no other way but by
the want of knowing the Ancients, or by downright want of Capacity. But
nothing can be more absurd or more unjust than to impute it to want of
Capacity. For the very Sentiments of _Shakespear_ alone are sufficient to
shew that he had a great Understanding: And therefore we must account some
other way for his Imitation of the _Menechmi_. I remember to have seen,
among the Translations of _Ovid_’s Epistles printed by Mr. _Tonson_, an
Imitation of that from _Œnone_ to _Paris_, which Mr. _Dryden_ tells us in
his Preface to those Epistles was imitated by one of the Fair Sex who
understood no _Latin_, but that she had done enough to make those blush
who understood it the best. There are at this day several Translators,
who, as _Hudibrass_ has it,

    Translate from Languages of which
    They understand no part of Speech.

I will not affirm that of _Shakespear_; I believe he was able to do what
Pedants call construe, but that he was able to read _Plautus_ without Pain
and Difficulty I can never believe. Now I appeal to you, Sir, what time he
had between his Writing and his Acting, to read any thing that could not
be read with Ease and Pleasure. We see that our Adversaries themselves
acknowledge, that if _Shakespear_ was able to read _Plautus_ with Ease,
nothing in Latinity could be hard to him. How comes it to pass then, that
he has given us no Proofs of his familiar Acquaintance with the Ancients,
but this Imitation of the _Menechmi_, and a Version of two Epistles of
_Ovid_? How comes it that he had never read _Horace_, of a superiour Merit
to either, and particularly his Epistle to the _Piso’s_, which so much
concern’d his Art? Or if he had read that Epistle, how comes it that in
his _Troylus_ and _Cressida_ [we must observe by the way, that when
_Shakespear_ wrote that Play, _Ben Johnson_ had not as yet translated that
Epistle] he runs counter to the Instructions which _Horace_ has given for
the forming the Character of _Achilles_?

    Scriptor: Honoratum si forte reponis Achillem,
    Impiger, Iracundus, Inexorabilis, Acer,
    Jura neget sibi nata.

Where is the _Impiger_, the _Iracundus_, or the _Acer_, in the Character
of _Shakespear_’s _Achilles_? who is nothing but a drolling, lazy,
conceited, overlooking Coxcomb; so far from being the honoured _Achilles_,
the Epithet that _Homer_ and _Horace_ after him give him, that he is
deservedly the Scorn and the Jest of the rest of the Characters, even to
that Buffoon _Thersites_.

Tho’ _Shakespear_ succeeded very well in Comedy, yet his principal Talent
and his chief Delight was Tragedy. If then _Shakespear_ was qualify’d to
read _Plautus_ with Ease, he could read with a great deal more Ease the
Translations of _Sophocles_ and _Euripides_. And tho’ by these
Translations he would not have been able to have seen the charming
colouring of those great Masters, yet would he have seen all the Harmony
and the Beauty of their great and their just Designs. He would have seen
enough to have stirr’d up a noble Emulation in so exalted a Soul as his.
How comes it then that we hear nothing from him of the _Œdipus_, the
_Electra_, the _Antigone_ of _Sophocles_, of the _Iphigenia_’s, the
_Orestes_, the _Medea_, the _Hecuba_ of _Euripides_? How comes it that we
see nothing in the Conduct of his Pieces, that shews us that he had the
least Acquaintance with any of these great Masterpieces? Did _Shakespear_
appear to be so nearly touch’d with the Affliction of _Hecuba_ for the
Death of _Priam_, which was but daub’d and bungled by one of his
Countrymen, that he could not forbear introducing it as it were by
Violence into his own _Hamlet_, and would he make no Imitation, no
Commendation, not the least Mention of the unparallell’d and inimitable
Grief of the _Hecuba_ of _Euripides_? How comes it that we find no
Imitation of any ancient Play in Him but the _Menechmi_ of _Plautus_? How
came he to chuse a Comick preferably to the Tragick Poets? Or how comes he
to chuse _Plautus_ preferably to _Terence_, who is so much more just, more
graceful, more regular, and more natural? Or how comes he to chuse the
_Menechmi_ of _Plautus_, which is by no means his Master-piece, before all
his other Comedies? I vehemently suspect that this Imitation of the
_Menechmi_ was either from a printed Translation of that Comedy which is
lost, or some Version in Manuscript brought him by a Friend, or sent him
perhaps by a Stranger, or from the original Play it self recommended to
him, and read to him by some learned Friend. In short, I had rather
account for this by what is not absurd than by what is, or by a less
Absurdity than by a greater. For nothing can be more wrong than to
conclude from this that _Shakespear_ was conversant with the Ancients;
which contradicts the Testimony of his Contemporary and his familiar
Acquaintance _Ben Johnson_, and of his Successor _Milton_;

    Lo _Shakespear_, Fancy’s sweetest Child,
    Warbles his native Wood-notes wild;

and of Mr. _Dryden_ after them both; and which destroys the most glorious
Part of _Shakespear_’s Merit immediately. For how can he be esteem’d equal
by Nature or superior to the Ancients, when he falls so far short of them
in Art, tho’ he had the Advantage of knowing all that they did before him?
Nay it debases him below those of common Capacity, by reason of the Errors
which we mention’d above. Therefore he who allows that _Shakespear_ had
Learning and a familiar Acquaintance with the Ancients, ought to be look’d
upon as a Detractor from his extraordinary Merit, and from the Glory of
_Great Britain_. For whether is it more honourable for this Island to have
produc’d a Man who, without having any Acquaintance with the Ancients, or
any but a slender and a superficial one, appears to be their Equal or
their Superiour by the Force of Genius and Nature, or to have bred one
who, knowing the Ancients, falls infinitely short of them in Art, and
consequently in Nature it self? _Great Britain_ has but little Reason to
boast of its Natives Education, since the same that they had here, they
might have had in another place. But it may justly claim a very great
share in their Nature and Genius, since these depend in a great measure on
the Climate; and therefore _Horace_, in the Instruction which he gives for
the forming the Characters, advises the noble _Romans_ for whose
Instruction he chiefly writes to consider whether the Dramatick Person
whom they introduce is

“ Colchus an Assyrius, Thebis nutritus an Argis. ”

Thus, Sir, I have endeavour’d to shew under what great Disadvantages
_Shakespear_ lay, for want of the Poetical Art, and for want of being
conversant with the Ancients.

But besides this, he lay under other very great Inconveniencies. For he
was neither Master of Time enough to consider, correct, and polish what he
wrote, to alter it, to add to it, and to retrench from it, nor had he
Friends to consult upon whose Capacity and Integrity he could depend. And
tho’ a Person of very good Judgment may succeed very well without
consulting his Friends, if he takes time enough to correct what he writes;
yet even the greatest Man that Nature and Art can conspire to accomplish,
can never attain to Perfection, without either employing a great deal of
time, or taking the Advice of judicious Friends. Nay, ’tis the Opinion of
_Horace_ that he ought to do both.

                        Siquid tamen olim
    Scripseris, in Metii descendat Judicis aures,
    Et Patris, & nostras; nonumque prematur in Annum.

Now we know very well that _Shakespear_ was an Actor, at a time when there
were seven or eight Companies of Players in the Town together, who each of
them did their utmost Endeavours to get the Audiences from the rest, and
consequently that our Author was perpetually call’d upon, by those who had
the Direction and Management of the Company to which he belong’d, for new
Pieces which might be able to support them, and give them some Advantage
over the rest. And ’tis easie to judge what Time he was Master of, between
his laborious Employment of Acting and his continual Hurry of Writing. As
for Friends, they whom in all likelihood _Shakespear_ consulted most were
two or three of his Fellow-Actors, because they had the Care of publishing
his Works committed to them. Now they, as we are told by _Ben Johnson_ in
his _Discoveries_, were extremely pleas’d with their Friend for scarce
ever making a Blot; and were very angry with _Ben_ for saying he wish’d
that he had made a thousand. The Misfortune of it is that _Horace_ was
perfectly of _Ben_’s, mind.

                                  ——Vos, O
    Pompilius sanguis, carmen reprehendite, quod non
    Multa dies & multa litura coercuit, atque
    Præsectum decies non castigavit ad unguem.

And so was my Lord _Roscommon_.

    Poets lose half the Praise they should have got,
    Could it be known what they discreetly blot.

These Friends then of _Shakespear_ were not qualify’d to advise him. As
for _Ben Johnson_, besides that _Shakespear_ began to know him late, and
that _Ben_ was not the most communicative Person in the World of the
Secrets of his Art, he seems to me to have had no right Notion of Tragedy.
Nay, so far from it, that he who was indeed a very great Man, and who has
writ Comedies, by which he has born away the Prize of Comedy both from
Ancients and Moderns, and been an Honour to _Great Britain_; and who has
done this without any Rules to guide him, except what his own incomparable
Talent dictated to him; This extraordinary Man has err’d so grossly in
Tragedy, of which there were not only stated Rules, but Rules which he
himself had often read, and had even translated, that he has chosen two
Subjects, which, according to those very Rules, were utterly incapable of
exciting either Compassion or Terror for the principal Characters, which
yet are the chief Passions that a Tragick Poet ought to endeavour to
excite. So that _Shakespear_ having neither had Time to correct, nor
Friends to consult, must necessarily have frequently left such faults in
his Writings, for the Correction of which either a great deal of Time or a
judicious and a well-natur’d Friend is indispensably necessary.

    Vir bonus & prudens versus reprehendet inertes,
    Culpabit duros, incomptis allinet atrum
    Transverso calamo signum, ambitiosa recidet
    Ornamenta, parum claris lucem dare coget,
    Arguet ambigue dictum, mutanda notabit.

There is more than one Example of every kind of these Faults in the
Tragedies of _Shakespear_, and even in the _Coriolanus_. There are Lines
that are utterly void of that celestial Fire of which _Shakespear_ is
sometimes Master in so great a Degree. And consequently there are Lines
that are stiff and forc’d, and harsh and unmusical, tho’ _Shakespear_ had
naturally an admirable Ear for the Numbers. But no Man ever was very
musical who did not write with Fire, and no Man can always write with
Fire, unless he is so far Master of his Time, as to expect those Hours
when his Spirits are warm and volatile. _Shakespear_ must therefore
sometimes have Lines which are neither strong nor graceful: For who ever
had Force or Grace that had not Spirit? There are in his _Coriolanus_,
among a great many natural and admirable Beauties, three or four of those
Ornaments which _Horace_ would term ambitious; and which we in _English_
are apt to call Fustian or Bombast. There are Lines in some Places which
are very obscure, and whole Scenes which ought to be alter’d.

I have, Sir, employ’d some Time and Pains, and that little Judgment which
I have acquir’d in these Matters by a long and a faithful reading both of
Ancients and Moderns, in adding, retrenching, and altering several Things
in the _Coriolanus_ of _Shakespear_, but with what Success I must leave to
be determin’d by you. I know very well that you will be surpriz’d to find,
that after all that I have said in the former Part of this Letter against
_Shakespear_’s introducing the Rabble into _Coriolanus_, I have not only
retain’d in the second Act of the following Tragedy the Rabble which is in
the Original, but deviated more from the _Roman_ Customs than _Shakespear_
had done before me. I desire you to look upon it as a voluntary Fault and
a Trespass against Conviction: ’Tis one of those Things which are _ad
Populum Phaleræ_, and by no means inserted to please such Men as you.

Thus, Sir, have I laid before you a short but impartial Account of the
Beauties and Defects of _Shakespear_, with an Intention to make these
Letters publick if they are approv’d by you; to teach some People to
distinguish between his Beauties and his Defects, that while they imitate
the one, they may with Caution avoid the other [there being nothing of
more dangerous Contagion to Writers, and especially to young ones, than
the Faults of great Masters], and while with _Milton_ they applaud the
great Qualities which _Shakespear_ had by Nature, they may follow his wise
Example, and form themselves as he assures us that he himself did, upon
the Rules and Writings of the Ancients.

Sir, if so candid and able a Judge as your self shall happen to approve of
this Essay in the main, and to excuse and correct my Errors, that
Indulgence and that Correction will not only encourage me to make these
Letters publick, but will enable me to bear the Reproach of those who
would fix a Brand even upon the justest Criticism, as the Effect of Envy
and Ill-nature; as if there could possibly be any Ill-nature in the doing
Justice, or in the endeavouring to advance a very noble and a very useful
Art, and consequently to prove beneficent to Mankind. As for those who may
accuse me of the want of a due Veneration for the Merit of an Author of so
establish’d a Reputation as _Shakespear_, I shall beg leave to tell them,
that they chuse the wrongest time that they could possibly take for such
an Accusation as that. For I appeal to you, Sir, who shews most Veneration
for the Memory of _Shakespear_, he who loves and admires his Charms and
makes them one of his chief Delights, who sees him and reads him over and
over and still remains unsatiated, and who mentions his Faults for no
other Reason but to make his Excellency the more conspicuous, or he who,
pretending to be his blind Admirer, shews in Effect the utmost Contempt
for him, preferring empty effeminate Sound to his solid Beauties and manly
Graces, and deserting him every Night for an execrable _Italian_ Ballad,
so vile that a Boy who should write such lamentable Dogrel would be turn’d
out of _Westminster_-School for a desperate Blockhead, too stupid to be
corrected and amended by the harshest Discipline of the Place?

_I am_,
_Yours, &c._


It is not my design to enter into a Criticism upon this Author; tho’ to do
it effectually and not superficially would be the best occasion that any
just Writer could take, to form the judgment and taste of our nation. For
of all _English_ Poets _Shakespear_ must be confessed to be the fairest
and fullest subject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous as well
as most conspicuous instances, both of Beauties and Faults of all sorts.
But this far exceeds the bounds of a Preface, the business of which is
only to give an account of the fate of his Works, and the disadvantages
under which they have been transmitted to us. We shall hereby extenuate
many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which
are not: A design, which, tho’ it can be no guide to future Criticks to do
him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing
him an injustice in the other.

I cannot however but mention some of his principal and characteristic
Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly and
universally elevated above all other Dramatic Writers. Not that this is
the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any
occasion of doing it.

If ever any Author deserved the name of an _Original_, it was
_Shakespear_. _Homer_ himself drew not his art so immediately from the
fountains of Nature; it proceeded thro’ _Ægyptian_ strainers and channels,
and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of
the models, of those before him. The Poetry of _Shakespear_ was
Inspiration indeed: he is not so much an Imitator, as an Instrument, of
Nature; and ’tis not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she
speaks thro’ him.

His _Characters_ are so much Nature her self, that ’tis a sort of injury
to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her. Those of other Poets
have a constant resemblance, which shews that they receiv’d them from one
another, and were but multiplyers of the same image: each picture, like a
mock-rainbow, is but the reflexion of a reflexion. But every single
character in _Shakespear_ is as much an Individual as those in Life
itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their
relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be Twins, will upon
comparison be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of
Character, we must add the wonderful Preservation of it; which is such
throughout his plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the
very names of the Persons, I believe one might have apply’d them with
certainty to every speaker.

The _Power_ over our _Passions_ was never possess’d in a more eminent
degree, or display’d in so different instances. Yet all along, there is
seen no labour, no pains to raise them; no preparation to guide our guess
to the effect, or be perceiv’d to lead toward it: But the heart swells,
and the tears burst out, just at the proper places: We are surpriz’d, the
moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the passion so just, that we
shou’d be surpriz’d if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.

How astonishing is it again, that the passions directly opposite to these,
Laughter and Spleen, are no less at his command! that he is not more a
master of the _Great_, than of the _Ridiculous_ in human nature; of our
noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest
emotions, than of our idlest sensations!

Nor does he only excel in the Passions: In the coolness of Reflection and
Reasoning he is full as admirable. His _Sentiments_ are not only in
general the most pertinent and judicious upon every subject; but by a
talent very peculiar, something between Penetration and Felicity, he hits
upon that particular point on which the bent of each argument turns, or
the force of each motive depends. This is perfectly amazing, from a man of
no education or experience in those great and publick scenes of life which
are usually the subject of his thoughts: So that he seems to have known
the world by Intuition, to have look’d thro’ humane nature at one glance,
and to be the only Author that gives ground for a very new opinion, That
the Philosopher, and even the Man of the world, may be _Born_, as well as
the Poet.

It must be own’d that with all these great excellencies he has almost as
great defects; and that as he has certainly written better, so he has
perhaps written worse, than any other. But I think I can in some measure
account for these defects, from several causes and accidents; without
which it is hard to imagine that so large and so enlighten’d a mind could
ever have been susceptible of them. That all these Contingencies should
unite to his disadvantage seems to me almost as singularly unlucky, as
that so many various (nay contrary) Talents should meet in one man, was
happy and extraordinary.

It must be allowed that Stage-Poetry of all other is more particularly
levell’d to please the _Populace_, and its success more immediately
depending upon the _Common Suffrage_. One cannot therefore wonder, if
_Shakespear_, having at his first appearance no other aim in his writings
than to procure a subsistance, directed his endeavours solely to hit the
taste and humour that then prevailed. The Audience was generally composed
of the meaner sort of people; and therefore the Images of Life were to be
drawn from those of their own rank: accordingly we find that not our
Author’s only but almost all the old Comedies have their Scene among
_Tradesmen_ and _Mechanicks_: And even their Historical Plays strictly
follow the common _Old Stories_ or _Vulgar Traditions_ of that kind of
people. In Tragedy, nothing was so sure to _Surprize_ and cause
_Admiration_, as the most strange, unexpected, and consequently most
unnatural, Events and Incidents; the most exaggerated Thoughts; the most
verbose and bombast Expression; the most pompous Rhymes, and thundering
Versification. In Comedy, nothing was so sure to _please_, as mean
buffoonry, vile ribaldry, and unmannerly jests of fools and clowns. Yet
even in these our Author’s Wit buoys up, and is born above his subject:
his Genius in those low parts is like some Prince of a Romance in the
disguise of a Shepherd or Peasant; a certain Greatness and Spirit now and
then break out, which manifest his higher extraction and qualities.

It may be added, that not only the common Audience had no notion of the
rules of writing, but few even of the better sort piqu’d themselves upon
any great degree of knowledge or nicety that way, till _Ben Johnson_
getting possession of the Stage brought critical learning into vogue: And
that this was not done without difficulty, may appear from those frequent
lessons (and indeed almost Declamations) which he was forced to prefix to
his first plays, and put into the mouth of his Actors, the _Grex_,
_Chorus_, &c. to remove the prejudices, and inform the judgment of his
hearers. Till then, our Authors had no thoughts of writing on the model of
the Ancients: their Tragedies were only Histories in Dialogue; and their
Comedies follow’d the thread of any Novel as they found it, no less
implicitly than if it had been true History.

To judge therefore of _Shakespear_ by _Aristotle_’s rules, is like trying
a man by the Laws of one Country, who acted under those of another. He
writ to the _People_; and writ at first without patronage from the better
sort, and therefore without aims of pleasing them: without assistance or
advice from the Learned, as without the advantage of education or
acquaintance among them: without that knowledge of the best models, the
Ancients, to inspire him with an emulation of them; in a word, without any
views of Reputation, and of what Poets are pleas’d to call Immortality:
Some or all of which have encourag’d the vanity, or animated the ambition,
of other writers.

Yet it must be observ’d, that when his performances had merited the
protection of his Prince, and when the encouragement of the Court had
succeeded to that of the Town, the works of his riper years are manifestly
raised above those of his former. The Dates of his plays sufficiently
evidence that his productions improved, in proportion to the respect he
had for his auditors. And I make no doubt this observation will be found
true in every instance, were but Editions extant from which we might learn
the exact time when every piece was composed, and whether writ for the
Town or the Court.

Another Cause (and no less strong than the former) may be deduced from our
Author’s being a _Player_, and forming himself first upon the judgments of
that body of men whereof he was a member. They have ever had a Standard to
themselves, upon other principles than those of _Aristotle_. As they live
by the Majority, they know no rule but that of pleasing the present
humour, and complying with the wit in fashion; a consideration which
brings all their judgment to a short point. Players are just such judges
of what is _right_, as Taylors are of what is _graceful_. And in this view
it will be but fair to allow, that most of our Author’s faults are less to
be ascribed to his wrong judgment as a Poet, than to his right judgment as
a Player.

By these men it was thought a praise to _Shakespear_, that he scarce ever
_blotted a line_. This they industriously propagated, as appears from what
we are told by _Ben Johnson_ in his _Discoveries_, and from the preface of
_Heminges_ and _Condell_ to the first folio Edition. But in reality
(however it has prevailed) there never was a more groundless report, or to
the contrary of which there are more undeniable evidences: As, the Comedy
of the _Merry Wives_ of _Windsor_, which he entirely new writ; the
_History of_ Henry _the 6th_, which was first published under the Title of
the _Contention of_ York _and_ Lancaster; and that of Henry _the 5th_,
extreamly improved; that of _Hamlet_ enlarged to almost as much again as
at first, and many others. I believe the common opinion of his want of
Learning proceeded from no better ground. This too might be thought a
Praise by some; and to this his Errors have as injudiciously been ascribed
by others. For ’tis certain, were it true, it would concern but a small
part of them; the most are such as are not properly Defects, but
Superfœtations: and arise not from want of learning or reading, but from
want of thinking or judging: or rather (to be more just to our Author)
from a compliance to those wants in others. As to a wrong choice of the
subject, a wrong conduct of the incidents, false thoughts, forc’d
expressions, &c. if these are not to be ascrib’d to the foresaid
accidental reasons, they must be charg’d upon the Poet himself, and there
is no help for it. But I think the two Disadvantages which I have
mentioned (to be obliged to please the lowest of the people, and to keep
the worst of company), if the consideration be extended as far as it
reasonably may, will appear sufficient to mis-lead and depress the
greatest Genius upon earth. Nay the more modesty with which such a one is
endued, the more he is in danger of submitting and conforming to others,
against his own better judgment.

But as to his _Want of Learning_, it may be necessary to say something
more: There is certainly a vast difference between _Learning_ and
_Languages_. How far he was ignorant of the latter, I cannot determine;
but ’tis 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 language or from another. Nothing is more evident than
that he had a taste of natural Philosophy, Mechanicks, ancient and modern
History, Poetical learning, and Mythology: We find him very knowing in the
customs, rites, and manners of Antiquity. In _Coriolanus_ and _Julius
Cæsar_, not only the Spirit, but Manners, of the _Romans_ are exactly
drawn; and still a nicer distinction is shewn, between the manners of the
_Romans_ in the time of the former and of the latter. His reading in the
ancient Historians is no less conspicuous, in many references to
particular passages: and the speeches copy’d from _Plutarch_ in
_Coriolanus_ may, I think, as well be made an instance of his learning, as
those copy’d from _Cicero_ in _Catiline_, of _Ben Johnson_’s. The manners
of other nations in general, the _Egyptians_, _Venetians_, _French_, &c.,
are drawn with equal propriety. Whatever object of nature, or branch of
science, he either speaks of or describes, it is always with competent, if
not extensive knowledge: his descriptions are still exact; all his
metaphors appropriated, and remarkably drawn from the true nature and
inherent qualities of each subject. When he treats of Ethic or Politic, we
may constantly observe a wonderful justness of distinction, as well as
extent of comprehension. No one is more a master of the Poetical story, or
has more frequent allusions to the various parts of it: Mr. _Waller_ (who
has been celebrated for this last particular) has not shown more learning
this way than _Shakespear_. We have Translations from _Ovid_ published in
his name, among those Poems which pass for his, and for some of which we
have undoubted authority (being published by himself, and dedicated to his
noble Patron the Earl of _Southampton_). He appears also to have been
conversant in _Plautus_, from whom he has taken the plot of one of his
plays: he follows the _Greek_ Authors, and particularly _Dares Phrygius_,
in another (altho’ I will not pretend to say in what language he read
them). The modern _Italian_ writers of Novels he was manifestly acquainted
with; and we may conclude him to be no less conversant with the Ancients
of his own country, from the use he has made of _Chaucer_ in _Troilus_ and
_Cressida_, and in the _Two Noble Kinsmen_, if that Play be his, as there
goes a Tradition it was (and indeed it has little resemblance of
_Fletcher_, and more of our Author than some of those which have been
received as genuine).

I am inclined to think, this opinion proceeded originally from the zeal of
the Partizans of our Author and _Ben Johnson_; as they endeavoured to
exalt the one at the expence of the other. It is ever the nature of
Parties to be in extremes; and nothing is so probable, as that because
_Ben Johnson_ had much the more learning, it was said on the one hand that
_Shakespear_ had none at all; and because _Shakespear_ had much the most
wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that _Johnson_ wanted both.
Because _Shakespear_ borrowed nothing, it was said that _Ben Johnson_
borrowed every thing. Because _Johnson_ did not write extempore, he was
reproached with being a year about every piece; and because _Shakespear_
wrote with ease and rapidity, they cryed, he never once made a blot. Nay
the spirit of opposition ran so high, that whatever those of the one side
objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned into Praises;
as injudiciously as their antagonists before had made them Objections.

Poets are always afraid of Envy; but sure they have as much reason to be
afraid of Admiration. They are the _Scylla_ and _Charybdis_ of Authors;
those who escape one, often fall by the other. _Pessimum genus inimicorum
Laudantes_, says _Tacitus_: and _Virgil_ desires to wear a charm against
those who praise a Poet without rule or reason.

    ——Si ultra placitum laudarit, baccare frontem
    Cingito, ne Vati noceat——.

But however this contention might be carried on by the Partizans on either
side, I cannot help thinking these two great Poets were good friends, and
lived on amicable terms and in offices of society with each other. It is
an acknowledged fact, that _Ben Johnson_ was introduced upon the Stage,
and his first works encouraged, by _Shakespear_. And after his death, that
Author writes _To the memory of __ his beloved Mr._ William Shakespear,
which shows as if the friendship had continued thro’ life. I cannot for my
own part find any thing _Invidious_ or _Sparing_ in those verses, but
wonder Mr. _Dryden_ was of that opinion. He exalts him not only above all
his Contemporaries, but above _Chaucer_ and _Spenser_, whom he will not
allow to be great enough to be rank’d with him; and challenges the names
of _Sophocles_, _Euripides_, and _Æschylus_, nay all _Greece_ and _Rome_
at once, to equal him: And (which is very particular) expressly vindicates
him from the imputation of wanting _Art_, not enduring that all his
excellencies shou’d be attributed to _Nature_. It is remarkable too, that
the praise he gives him in his _Discoveries_ seems to proceed from a
_personal kindness_; he tells us that he lov’d the man, as well as
honoured his memory; celebrates the honesty, openness, and frankness of
his temper; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought, between the
real merit of the Author, and the silly and derogatory applauses of the
Players. _Ben Johnson_ might indeed be sparing in his Commendations (tho’
certainly he is not so in this instance) partly from his own nature, and
partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more
service in praising him justly, than lavishly. I say, I would fain believe
they were Friends, tho’ the violence and ill-breeding of their Followers
and Flatterers were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I would
hope that it may be with _Parties_, both in Wit and State, as with those
Monsters described by the Poets; and that their _Heads_ at least may have
something humane, tho’ their _Bodies_ and _Tails_ are wild beasts and

As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rise to the opinion of
_Shakespear_’s want of learning; so what has continued it down to us may
have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first Publishers of
his works. In these Editions their ignorance shines almost in every page;
nothing is more common than _Actus tertia_, _Exit Omnes_, _Enter three
Witches solus_. Their French is as bad as their _Latin_, both in
construction and spelling: Their very _Welsh_ is false. Nothing is more
likely than that those palpable blunders of _Hector_’s quoting
_Aristotle_, with others of that gross kind, sprung from the same root: It
not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who
had the least tincture of a School, or the least conversation with such as
had. _Ben Johnson_ (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at
least to have had _some Latin_; which is utterly inconsistent with
mistakes like these. Nay the constant blunders in proper names of persons
and places, are such as must have proceeded from a man who had not so much
as read any history, in any language: so could not be _Shakespear_’s.

I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost innumerable Errors
which have risen from one source, the ignorance of the Players, both as
his actors, and as his editors. When the nature and kinds of these are
enumerated and considered, I dare to say that not _Shakespear_ only, but
_Aristotle_ or _Cicero_, had their works undergone the same fate, might
have appear’d to want sense as well as learning.

It is not certain that any one of his Plays was published by himself.
During the time of his employment in the Theatre, several of his pieces
were printed separately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these
were not publish’d by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press:
every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned
and unusual words so intolerably mangled, that it’s plain there either was
no Correcter to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were
supervised by himself, I should fancy the two parts of _Henry the 4th_ and
_Midsummer-Night’s Dream_ might have been so: because I find no other
printed with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) there is very
little variation in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant
two Prefaces, to the first quarto edition of _Troilus_ and _Cressida_ in
1609, and to that of _Othello_; by which it appears, that the first was
publish’d without his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted,
so late as seven or eight years before he died: and that the latter was
not printed till after his death. The whole number of genuine plays which
we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven.
And of some of these, we meet with two or more editions by different
printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash different from the other:
which I should fancy was occasion’d by their being taken from different
copies, belonging to different Playhouses.

The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his were first
collected) was published by two Players, _Heming_ and _Condell_, in 1623,
seven years after his decease. They declare that all the other editions
were stolen and surreptitious, and affirm theirs to be purged from the
errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other;
for in all respects else it is far worse than the Quarto’s:

First, because the additions of trifling and bombast passages are in this
edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, since those
Quarto’s, by the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written
parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand
charged upon the Author. He himself complained of this usage in _Hamlet_,
where he wishes that _those who play the Clowns wou’d speak no more than
is set down for them_ (Act 3. Sc. 4.). But as a proof that he could not
escape it, in the old editions of _Romeo_ and _Juliet_ there is no hint of
a great number of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found there.
In others, the low scenes of Mobs, Plebeians, and Clowns, are vastly
shorter than at present: And I have seen one in particular (which seems to
have belonged to the Playhouse, by having the parts divided with lines,
and the Actors names in the margin) where several of those very passages
were added in a written hand, which are since to be found in the folio.

In the next place, a number of beautiful passages which are extant in the
first single editions, are omitted in this: as it seems, without any other
reason than their willingness to shorten some scenes: These men (as it was
said of _Procrustes_) either lopping or stretching an Author, to make him
just fit for their Stage.

This edition is said to be printed from the _Original Copies_; I believe
they meant those which had lain ever since the Author’s days in the
playhouse, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily.
It appears that this edition, as well as the Quarto’s, was printed (at
least partly) from no better copies than the _Prompter’s Book_ or
_Piece-meal Parts_ written out for the use of the actors: For in some
places their very(38) names are thro’ carelessness set down instead of the
_Personæ Dramatis_: And in others the notes of direction to the
_Property-men_ for their _Moveables_, and to the _Players_ for their
_Entries_,(39) are inserted into the Text, thro’ the ignorance of the

The Plays not having been before so much as distinguish’d by _Acts_ and
_Scenes_, they are in this edition divided according as they play’d them;
often when there is no pause in the action, or where they thought fit to
make a breach in it, for the sake of Musick, Masques, or Monsters.

Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward; a
thing which could no otherwise happen, but by their being taken from
separate and piece-meal-written parts.

Many verses are omitted intirely, and others transposed; from whence
invincible obscurities have arisen, past the guess of any Commentator to
clear up, but just where the accidental glympse of an old edition
enlightens us.

Some Characters were confounded and mix’d, or two put into one, for want
of a competent number of actors. Thus in the Quarto edition of
_Midsummer-Night’s Dream_, Act 5, _Shakespear_ introduces a kind of Master
of the Revels called _Philostratus_: all whose part is given to another
character (that of _Ægeus_) in the subsequent editions: So also in
_Hamlet_ and _King Lear_. This too makes it probable that the Prompter’s
Books were what they call’d the Original Copies.

From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths
of wrong persons, where the Author now seems chargeable with making them
speak out of character: Or sometimes perhaps for no better reason than
that a governing Player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech
himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an Underling.

Prose from verse they did not know, and they accordingly printed one for
the other throughout the volume.

Having been forced to say so much of the Players, I think I ought in
justice to remark, that the Judgment, as well as Condition, of that class
of people was then far inferior to what it is in our days. As then the
best Playhouses were Inns and Taverns (the _Globe_, the _Hope_, the _Red
Bull_, the _Fortune_, &c.), so the top of the profession were then meer
Players, not Gentlemen of the stage: They were led into the Buttery by the
Steward, not plac’d at the Lord’s table, or Lady’s toilette: and
consequently were intirely depriv’d of those advantages they now enjoy, in
the familiar conversation of our Nobility, and an intimacy (not to say
dearness) with people of the first condition.

From what has been said, there can be no question but had _Shakespear_
published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his
retreat from the stage) we should not only be certain which are genuine;
but should find in those that are, the errors lessened by some thousands.
If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his style, and his
manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those
wretched plays, _Pericles_, _Locrine_, _Sir John Oldcastle_, _Yorkshire
Tragedy_, _Lord Cromwell_, _The Puritan_, and _London Prodigal_, cannot be
admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others
(particularly _Love’s Labour’s Lost_, _The Winter’s Tale_, and _Titus
Andronicus_), that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few
particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occasion’d
some Plays to be supposed _Shakespear_’s was only this; that they were
pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the Theatre while it
was under his administration: and no owner claiming them, they were
adjudged to him, as they give Strays to the Lord of the Manor: A mistake
which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the House to
remove. Yet the Players themselves, _Hemings_ and _Condell_, afterwards
did _Shakespear_ the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition;
tho’ they were then printed in his name, in every body’s hands, and acted
with some applause (as we learn from what _Ben Johnson_ says of _Pericles_
in his Ode on the _New Inn_). That _Titus Andronicus_ is one of this class
I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same Author openly
express his contempt of it in the _Induction_ to _Bartholomew-Fair_, in
the year 1614, when _Shakespear_ was yet living. And there is no better
authority for these latter sort, than for the former, which were equally
published in his lifetime.

If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages
might no longer reflect upon this great Genius, but appear unworthily
charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults
may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary Additions,
Expunctions, Transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of Characters
and Persons, wrong application of Speeches, corruptions of innumerable
Passages by the Ignorance, and wrong Corrections of ’em again by the
Impertinence, of his first Editors? From one or other of these
considerations, I am verily perswaded, that the greatest and the grossest
part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character
in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now
appears to us.

This is the state in which _Shakespear_’s, writings lye at present; for
since the above-mentioned Folio Edition, all the rest have implicitly
followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making
the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the Injuries
already done him; too much time has elaps’d, and the materials are too
few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and
desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharg’d the dull
duty of an Editor to my best judgment, with more labour than I expect
thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all Innovation, and without any
indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this
Edition will show it self. The various Readings are fairly put in the
margin, so that every one may compare ’em; and those I have prefer’d into
the Text are constantly _ex fide Codicum_, upon authority. The Alterations
or Additions which _Shakespear_ himself made, are taken notice of as they
occur. Some suspected passages which are excessively bad (and which seem
Interpolations by being so inserted that one can intirely omit them
without any chasm or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom
of the page; with an Asterisk referring to the places of their insertion.
The Scenes are mark’d so distinctly that every removal of place is
specify’d; which is more necessary in this Author than any other, since he
shifts them more frequently: and sometimes, without attending to this
particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obsolete
or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are
distinguish’d by comma’s in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in
particulars but in the whole, a star is prefix’d to the scene. This seems
to me a shorter and less ostentatious method of performing the better half
of Criticism (namely the pointing out an Author’s excellencies) than to
fill a whole paper with citations of fine passages, with _general
Applauses_, or _empty Exclamations_ at the tail of them. There is also
subjoin’d a Catalogue of those first Editions by which the greater part of
the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorised (most of
which are such as carry their own evidence along with them). These
Editions now hold the place of Originals, and are the only materials left
to repair the deficiences or restore the corrupted sense of the Author: I
can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever
published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for
the better accomplishment of this end.

I will conclude by saying of _Shakespear_, that with all his faults, and
with all the irregularity of his _Drama_, one may look upon his works, in
comparison of those that are more finish’d and regular, as upon an ancient
majestick piece of _Gothick_ Architecture, compar’d with a neat Modern
building: The latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more
strong and more solemn. It must be allow’d that in one of these there are
materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater
variety, and much the nobler apartments; tho’ we are often conducted to
them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the Whole fail to strike
us with greater reverence, tho’ many of the Parts are childish,
ill-plac’d, and unequal to its grandeur.


The Attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is like going into a large, a
spacious, and a splendid Dome thro’ the Conveyance of a narrow and obscure
Entry. A Glare of Light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the Avenue at
first promis’d: and a thousand Beauties of Genius and Character, like so
many gaudy Apartments pouring at once upon the Eye, diffuse and throw
themselves out to the Mind. The Prospect is too wide to come within the
Compass of a single View: ’tis a gay Confusion of pleasing Objects, too
various to be enjoyed but in a general Admiration; and they must be
separated, and ey’d distinctly, in order to give the proper Entertainment.

And as in great Piles of Building, some Parts are often finish’d up to hit
the Taste of the _Connoisseur_; others more negligently put together, to
strike the Fancy of a common and unlearned Beholder: Some Parts are made
stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast Design and
Execution of the Architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his
Neatness and Elegance in little. So, in _Shakespeare_, we may find
_Traits_ that will stand the Test of the severest Judgment; and Strokes as
carelessly hit off, to the Level of the more ordinary Capacities: Some
Descriptions rais’d to that Pitch of Grandeur, as to astonish you with the
Compass and Elevation of his Thought; and others copying Nature within so
narrow, so confined a Circle, as if the Author’s Talent lay only at
drawing in Miniature.

In how many points of Light must we be obliged to gaze at this great Poet!
In how many Branches of Excellence to consider and admire him! Whether we
view him on the Side of Art or Nature, he ought equally to engage our
Attention: Whether we respect the Force and Greatness of his Genius, the
Extent of his Knowledge and Reading, the Power and Address with which he
throws out and applies either Nature or Learning, there is ample scope
both for our Wonder and Pleasure. If his Diction and the cloathing of his
Thoughts attract us, how much more must we be charm’d with the Richness
and Variety of his Images and Ideas! If his Images and Ideas steal into
our Souls, and strike upon our Fancy, how much are they improv’d in Price,
when we come to reflect with what Propriety and Justness they are apply’d
to Character! If we look into his Characters, and how they are furnish’d
and proportion’d to the Employment he cuts out for them, how are we taken
up with the Mastery of his Portraits! What Draughts of Nature! What
Variety of Originals, and how differing each from the other! How are they
dress’d from the Stores of his own luxurious Imagination; without being
the Apes of Mode, or borrowing from any foreign Wardrobe! Each of them are
the standards of Fashion for themselves: like Gentlemen that are above the
Direction of their Tailors, and can adorn themselves without the aid of
Imitation. If other Poets draw more than one Fool or Coxcomb, there is the
same Resemblance in them as in that Painter’s Draughts, who was happy only
at forming a Rose: you find them all younger Brothers of the same Family,
and all of them have a Pretence to give the same Crest: But
_Shakespeare_’s Clowns and Fops come all of a different House; they are no
farther allied to one another than as Man to Man, Members of the same
Species: but as different in Features and Lineaments of Character, as we
are from one another in Face or Complexion. But I am unawares lanching
into his Character as a Writer, before I have said what I intended of him
as a private Member of the Republick.

Mr. _Rowe_ has very justly observ’d, that People are fond of discovering
any little personal Story of the Great Men of Antiquity; and that the
common Accidents of their Lives naturally become the Subject of our
critical Enquiries: That however trifling such a Curiosity at the first
View may appear, yet, as for what relates to Men of Letters, the Knowledge
of an Author may, perhaps, sometimes conduce to the better understanding
his Works: And, indeed, this Author’s Works, from the bad Treatment he has
met with from Copyists and Editors, have so long wanted a Comment, that
one would zealously embrace every Method of Information that could
contribute to recover them from the injuries with which they have so long
lain o’erwhelm’d.

’Tis certain that if we have first admir’d the Man in his Writings, his
Case is so circumstanc’d that we must naturally admire the Writings in the
Man: That if we go back to take a View of his Education, and the
Employment in Life which Fortune had cut out for him, we shall retain the
stronger Ideas of his extensive Genius.

His Father, we are told, was a considerable Dealer in Wool; but having no
fewer than ten Children, of whom our _Shakespeare_ was the eldest, the
best education he could afford him was no better than to qualify him for
his own Business and Employment. I cannot affirm with any Certainty how
long his Father liv’d; but I take him to be the same Mr. _John
Shakespeare_ who was living in the Year 1599, and who then, in Honour of
his Son, took out an Extract of his Family Arms from the Herald’s Office;
by which it appears, that he had been Officer and Bailiff of _Stratford_
upon _Avon_ in _Warwickshire_; and that he enjoy’d some hereditary Lands
and Tenements, the Reward of his Great Grandfather’s faithful and approved
Service to King _Henry_ VII.

Be this as it will, our _Shakespeare_, it seems, was bred for some Time at
a Free-School; the very Free-School, I presume, founded at _Stratford_:
where, we are told, he acquired what _Latin_ he was master of: but that
his Father being oblig’d, thro’ Narrowness of Circumstance, to withdraw
him too soon from thence, he was thereby unhappily prevented from making
any Proficiency in the Dead Languages: A Point that will deserve some
little Discussion in the Sequel of this Dissertation.

How long he continued in his Father’s Way of Business, either as an
Assistant to him, or on his own proper Account, no Notices are left to
inform us: nor have I been able to learn precisely at what Period of Life
he quitted his native _Stratford_, and began his Acquaintance with
_London_ and the _Stage_.

In order to settle in the World after a Family-manner, he thought fit, Mr.
_Rowe_ acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain
he did so: for by the Monument in _Stratford_ Church, erected to the
Memory of his Daughter _Susanna_, the Wife of _John Hall_, Gentleman, it
appears that she died on the 2d Day of _July_, in the Year 1649, aged 66.
So that she was born in 1583, when her Father could not be full 19 Years
old; who was himself born in the Year 1564. Nor was she his eldest Child,
for he had another Daughter, _Judith_, who was born before her, and who
was married to one Mr. _Thomas Quiney_. So that _Shakespeare_ must have
entred into Wedlock by that Time he was turn’d of seventeen Years.

Whether the Force of Inclination merely, or some concurring Circumstances
of Convenience in the Match, prompted him to marry so early, is not easy
to be determin’d at this Distance: but ’tis probable, a View of Interest
might partly sway his Conduct on this Point: for he married the Daughter
of one _Hathaway_, a substantial Yeoman in his Neighbourhood, and she had
the Start of him in Age no less than eight Years. She surviv’d him,
notwithstanding, seven Seasons, and dy’d that very Year in which the
_Players_ publish’d the first Edition of his Works in _Folio_, Anno Dom.
1623, at the Age of 67 Years, as we likewise learn from her Monument in
_Stratford_ Church.

How long he continued in this kind of Settlement, upon his own Native
Spot, is not more easily to be determin’d. But if the Tradition be true of
that Extravagance which forc’d him both to quit his Country and Way of
Living; to wit, his being engag’d, with a Knot of young Deer-stealers, to
rob the Park of Sir _Thomas Lucy_ of _Cherlecot_ near _Stratford_: the
Enterprize favours so much of Youth and Levity, we may reasonably suppose
it was before he could write full Man. Besides, considering he has left us
six and thirty Plays, at least, avow’d to be genuine; and considering too,
that he had retir’d from the Stage, to spend the latter Part of his Days
at his own Native _Stratford_; the Interval of Time, necessarily required
for the finishing so many Dramatic Pieces, obliges us to suppose he threw
himself very early upon the Playhouse. And as he could, probably, contract
no Acquaintance with the Drama, while he was driving on the Affair of Wool
at home; some Time must be lost, even after he had commenc’d Player,
before he could attain Knowledge enough in the Science to qualify himself
for turning Author.

It has been observ’d by Mr. _Rowe_, that amongst other Extravagancies
which our Author has given to his Sir _John Falstaffe_, in the _Merry
Wives_ of _Windsor_, he has made him a Deer-stealer; and that he might at
the same Time remember his _Warwickshire_ Prosecutor, under the Name of
_Justice Shallow_, he has given him very near the same Coat of Arms, which
_Dugdale_, in his Antiquities of that County, describes for a Family
there. There are two Coats, I observe, in _Dugdale_, where three Silver
Fishes are borne in the Name of _Lucy_; and another Coat, to the Monument
of _Thomas Lucy_, Son of Sir _William Lucy_, in which are quarter’d in
four several Divisions twelve little Fishes, three in each Division,
probably _Luces_. This very Coat, indeed, seems alluded to in _Shallow’s_
giving the _dozen_ White _Luces_, and in _Slender_ saying _he may
quarter_. When I consider the exceeding Candour and Good-nature of our
Author (which inclin’d all the gentler Part of the World to love him; as
the Power of his Wit obliged the Men of the most delicate Knowledge and
polite Learning to admire him); and that he should throw this humorous
Piece of Satire at his Prosecutor, at least twenty Years after the
Provocation given; I am confidently persuaded it must be owing to an
unforgiving Rancour on the Prosecutor’s Side: and if This was the Case, it
were Pity but the Disgrace of such an Inveteracy should remain as a
lasting Reproach, and _Shallow_ stand as a Mark of Ridicule to stigmatize
his Malice.

It is said, our Author spent some Years before his Death, in Ease,
Retirement, and the Conversation of his Friends, at his Native
_Stratford_. I could never pick up any certain Intelligence, when he
relinquish’d the Stage. I know, it has been mistakenly thought by some,
that _Spenser_’s _Thalia_, in his _Tears of the Muses_, where she laments
the Loss of her _Willy_ in the Comic Scene, has been apply’d to our
Author’s quitting the Stage. But _Spenser_ himself, ’tis well known,
quitted the Stage of Life in the Year 1598; and, five Years after this, we
find _Shakespeare_’s Name among the Actors in _Ben Jonson_’s _Sejanus_,
which first made its Appearance in the Year 1603. Nor, surely, could he
then have any Thoughts of retiring, since, that very Year, a Licence under
the Privy-Seal was granted by K. _James_ I. to him and _Fletcher_,
_Burbage_, _Phillippes_, _Hemings_, _Condel_, &c. authorizing them to
exercise the Art of playing Comedies, Tragedies, &c. as well at their
usual House call’d the _Globe_ on the other Side of the Water, as in any
other Parts of the Kingdom, during his Majesty’s Pleasure (A Copy of which
Licence is preserv’d in _Rymer’s Fœdera_). Again, ’tis certain that
_Shakespeare_ did not exhibit his _Macbeth_ till after the Union was
brought about, and till after King _James_ I. had begun to touch for the
_Evil_: for ’tis plain, he has inserted Compliments, on both those
Accounts, upon his Royal Master in that Tragedy. Nor, indeed, could the
Number of the Dramatic Pieces he produced admit of his retiring near so
early as that Period. So that what _Spenser_ there says, if it relate at
all to _Shakespeare_, must hint at some occasional Recess he made for a
time upon a Disgust taken: or the _Willy_, there mention’d, must relate to
some other favourite Poet. I believe, we may safely determine that he had
not quitted in the Year 1610. For in his _Tempest_, our Author makes
mention of the _Bermuda_ Islands, which were unknown to the _English_,
till, in 1609, Sir _John Summers_ made a Voyage to _North-America_, and
discover’d them: and afterwards invited some of his Countrymen to settle a
Plantation there. That he became the private Gentleman, at least three
Years before his Decease, is pretty obvious from another Circumstance: I
mean, from that remarkable and well-known Story, which Mr. _Rowe_ has
given us of our Author’s Intimacy with Mr. _John Combe_, an old Gentleman
noted thereabouts for his Wealth and Usury: and upon whom _Shakespeare_
made the following facetious Epitaph:

    Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav’d,
    ’Tis a hundred to ten his Soul is not sav’d;
    If any Man ask who lies in this Tomb,
    Oh! oh! quoth the Devil, ’tis my _John-a-Combe_.

This sarcastical Piece of Wit was, at the Gentleman’s own Request, thrown
out extemporally in his Company. And this Mr. _John Combe_ I take to be
the same, who, by _Dugdale_ in his Antiquities of _Warwickshire_, is said
to have dy’d in the Year 1614, and for whom, at the upper end of the Quire
of the Guild of the Holy Cross at _Stratford_, a fair Monument is erected,
having a Statue thereon cut in Alabaster, and in a Gown, with this
Epitaph. “Here lyeth interr’d the Body of _John Combe_, Esq; who dy’d the
10th of _July_, 1614, who bequeathed several Annual Charities to the
Parish of _Stratford_, and 100_l._ to be lent to fifteen poor Tradesmen
from three years to three years, changing the Parties every third Year, at
the Rate of fifty Shillings _per Annum_, the Increase to be distributed to
the Almes-poor there.”—The Donation has all the Air of a rich and
sagacious Usurer.

_Shakespeare_ himself did not survive Mr. _Combe_ long, for he dy’d in the
Year 1616, the 53d of his Age. He lies buried on the North Side of the
Chancel in the great Church at _Stratford_; where a Monument, decent
enough for the Time, is erected to him, and plac’d against the Wall. He is
represented under an Arch in a sitting posture, a Cushion spread before
him, with a Pen in his Right Hand, and his Left rested on a Scrowl of
Paper. The _Latin_ Distich, which is placed under the Cushion, has been
given us by Mr. _Pope_, or his Graver, in this Manner.

    INGENIO _Pylium_, Genio _Socratem_, Arte _Maronem_,
    Terra tegit, Populus mœret, Olympus habet.

I confess, I don’t conceive the Difference betwixt _Ingenio_ and _Genio_
in the first Verse. They seem to me intirely synonymous Terms; nor was the
_Pylian_ sage _Nestor_ celebrated for his Ingenuity, but for an Experience
and Judgment owing to his long Age. _Dugdale_, in his Antiquities of
_Warwickshire_, has copied this Distich with a Distinction which Mr.
_Rowe_ has follow’d, and which certainly restores us the true Meaning of
this Epitaph.

    JUDICIO Pylium, _Genio_ Socratem, &c.

In 1614, the greater Part of the Town of _Stratford_ was consumed by Fire;
but our _Shakespeare_’s House, among some others, escap’d the Flames. This
House was first built by Sir _Hugh Clopton_, a younger Brother of an
ancient Family in that Neighbourhood, who took their Name from the Manor
of _Clopton_. Sir _Hugh_ was Sheriff of _London_ in the Reign of _Richard_
III. and Lord Mayor in the Reign of King _Henry_ VII. To this Gentleman
the Town of _Stratford_ is indebted for the fine Stonebridge, consisting
of fourteen Arches, which at an extraordinary Expence he built over the
_Avon_, together with a Cause-way running at the West-end thereof; as also
for rebuilding the Chapel adjoining to his House, and the Cross-Isle in
the Church there. It is remarkable of him, that, tho’ he liv’d and dy’d a
Bachelor, among the other extensive Charities which he left both to the
City of _London_ and Town of _Stratford_, he bequeath’d considerable
Legacies for the Marriage of poor Maidens of good Name and Fame both in
_London_ and at _Stratford_. Notwithstanding which large Donations in his
Life, and Bequests at his Death, as he had purchased the Manor of
_Clopton_, and all the Estate of the Family, so he left the same again to
his elder Brother’s Son with a very great Addition (a Proof how well
Beneficence and Œconomy may walk hand in hand in wise Families): Good Part
of which Estate is yet in the Possession of _Edward Clopton_, Esq. and Sir
_Hugh Clopton_, Knt. lineally descended from the elder Brother of the
first Sir _Hugh_: Who particularly bequeathed to his Nephew, by his Will,
his House, by the Name of his _Great-House_ in _Stratford_.

The Estate had now been sold out of the _Clopton_ Family for above a
Century, at the time when _Shakespeare_ became the Purchaser: who, having
repair’d and modell’d it to his own Mind, chang’d the Name to _New-place_;
which the Mansion-house, since erected upon the same Spot, at this day
retains. The House and Lands, which attended it, continued in
_Shakespeare_’s Descendants to the Time of the _Restoration_: when they
were repurchased by the _Clopton_ Family, and the Mansion now belongs to
Sir _Hugh Clopton_, Knt. To the Favour of this worthy Gentleman I owe the
Knowledge of one Particular, in Honour of our Poet’s once Dwelling-house,
of which, I presume, Mr. ROWE never was appriz’d. When the Civil War raged
in _England_, and K. _Charles_ the _First_’s Queen was driven by the
Necessity of Affairs to make a Recess in _Warwickshire_, she kept her
Court for three Weeks in _New-place_. We may reasonably suppose it then
the best private House in the Town; and her Majesty preferr’d it to the
_College_, which was in the Possession of the _Combe_ Family, who did not
so strongly favour the King’s Party.

How much our Author employ’d himself in Poetry, after his Retirement from
the Stage, does not so evidently appear: Very few posthumous Sketches of
his Pen have been recover’d to ascertain that Point. We have been told,
indeed, in Print, but not till very lately, That two large Chests full of
this Great Man’s loose Papers and Manuscripts, in the Hands of an ignorant
Baker of _Warwick_ (who married one of the Descendants from our
_Shakespeare_), were carelessly scatter’d and thrown about, as
Garret-Lumber and Litter, to the particular Knowledge of the late Sir
_William Bishop_, till they were all consumed in the general Fire and
Destruction of that Town. I cannot help being a little apt to distrust the
Authority of this Tradition; because as his Wife survived him seven Years,
and as his Favourite Daughter _Susanna_ surviv’d her twenty-six Years,
’tis very improbable they should suffer such a Treasure to be remov’d, and
translated into a remoter Branch of the Family, without a Scrutiny first
made into the Value of it. This, I say, inclines me to distrust the
Authority of the Relation: but, notwithstanding such an apparent
Improbability, if we really lost such a Treasure, by whatever Fatality or
Caprice of Fortune they came into such ignorant and neglectful Hands, I
agree with the _Relater_, the Misfortune is wholly irreparable.

To these Particulars, which regard his Person and private Life, some few
more are to be glean’d from Mr. ROWE’S Account of his _Life_ and
_Writings_: Let us now take a short View of him in his publick Capacity,
as a _Writer_: and, from thence, the Transition will be easy to the
_State_ in which his _Writings_ have been handed down to us.

No Age, perhaps, can produce an Author more various from himself than
_Shakespeare_ has been universally acknowledged to be. The Diversity in
Stile, and other Parts of Composition, so obvious in him, is as variously
to be accounted for. His Education, we find, was at best but begun: and he
started early into a Science from the Force of Genius, unequally assisted
by acquir’d Improvements. His Fire, Spirit, and Exuberance of Imagination
gave an impetuosity to his Pen: His Ideas flow’d from him in a Stream
rapid, but not turbulent; copious, but not ever over-bearing its Shores.
The Ease and Sweetness of his Temper might not a little contribute to his
Facility in Writing: as his Employment, as a _Player_, gave him an
Advantage and Habit of fancying himself the very Character he meant to
delineate. He used the Helps of his Function in forming himself to create
and express that _Sublime_ which other Actors can only copy, and throw
out, in Action and graceful Attitude. But _Nullum sine Venia placuit
Ingenium_, says _Seneca_. The Genius that gives us the greatest Pleasure,
sometimes stands in Need of our Indulgence. Whenever this happens with
regard to _Shakespeare_ I would willingly impute it to a Vice of _his
Times_. We see Complaisance enough, in our Days, paid to a _bad Taste_. So
that his _Clinches_, _false Wit_, and descending beneath himself, may have
proceeded from a Deference paid to the then _reigning Barbarism_.

I have not thought it out of my Province, whenever Occasion offer’d, to
take notice of some of our Poet’s grand Touches of Nature: Some that do
not appear superficially such; but in which he seems the most deeply
instructed; and to which, no doubt, he has so much ow’d that happy
Preservation of his _Characters_, for which he is justly celebrated. Great
Genius’s, like his, naturally unambitious, are satisfy’d to conceal their
Art in these Points. ’Tis the Foible of your worser Poets to make a Parade
and Ostentation of that little Science they have; and to throw it out in
the most ambitious Colours. And whenever a Writer of this Class shall
attempt to copy these artful Concealments of our Author, and shall either
think them easy, or practised by a Writer for his Ease, he will soon be
convinced of his Mistake by the Difficulty of reaching the Imitation of

    Speret idem, sudet multum, frustraque laboret,
    Ausus idem:——

Indeed, to point out, and exclaim upon, all the Beauties of _Shakespeare_,
as they come singly in Review, would be as insipid, as endless; as
tedious, as unnecessary: But the Explanation of those Beauties that are
less obvious to common Readers, and whose Illustration depends on the
Rules of just Criticism, and an exact knowledge of human Life, should
deservedly have a Share in a general Critic upon the Author. But, to pass
over at once to another Subject:——

It has been allow’d on all hands, how far our Author was indebted to
_Nature_; it is not so well agreed, how much he ow’d to _Languages_ and
acquired _Learning_. The Decisions on this Subject were certainly set on
Foot by the Hint from _Ben Jonson_, that he had small _Latin_ and less
_Greek_: And from this Tradition, as it were, Mr. _Rowe_ has thought fit
peremptorily to declare, that, “It is without Controversy, he had no
Knowledge of the Writings of the ancient Poets, for that in his Works we
find no Traces of any thing which looks like an imitation of the Ancients.
For the Delicacy of his Taste (_continues He_) and the natural Bent of his
own great Genius (equal, if not superior, to some of the Best of theirs),
would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much Pleasure,
that some of their fine Images would naturally have insinuated themselves
into, and been mix’d with his own Writings: and so his not copying at
least something from them, may be an Argument of his never having read
them.” I shall leave it to the Determination of my Learned Readers, from
the numerous Passages, which I have occasionally quoted in my Notes, in
which our Poet seems closely to have imitated the Classics, whether Mr.
_Rowe_’s Assertion be so absolutely to be depended on. The Result of the
Controversy must certainly, either way, terminate to our Author’s Honour:
how happily he could imitate them, if that Point be allowed; or how
gloriously he could think like them, without owing any thing to Imitation.

Tho’ I should be very unwilling to allow _Shakespeare_ so poor a Scholar
as Many have labour’d to represent him, yet I shall be very cautious of
declaring too positively on the other side of the Question: that is, with
regard to my Opinion of his Knowledge in the dead languages. And therefore
the Passages, that I occasionally quote from the _Classics_, shall not be
urged as Proofs that he knowingly imitated those Originals; but brought to
shew how happily he has express’d himself upon the same Topicks. A very
learned Critick of our own Nation has declar’d, that a Sameness of Thought
and Sameness of Expression too, in Two Writers of a different Age, can
hardly happen, without a violent Suspicion of the latter copying from his
Predecessor. I shall not therefore run any great Risque of a Censure, tho’
I should venture to hint, that the Resemblances in Thought and Expression
of our Author and an Ancient (which we should allow to be Imitation in the
One whose learning was not question’d) may sometimes take its Rise from
Strength of Memory, and those Impressions which he owed to the School. And
if we may allow a Possibility of This, considering that, when he quitted
the School he gave into his Father’s Profession and way of Living, and
had, ’tis likely, but a slender Library of Classical Learning; and
considering what a Number of Translations, Romances, and Legends, started
about his Time, and a little before (most of which, ’tis very evident, he
read); I think, it may easily be reconciled why he rather schemed his
_Plots_ and _Characters_ from these more latter Informations, than went
back to those Fountains, for which he might entertain a sincere
Veneration, but to which he could not have so ready a Recourse.

In touching on another Part of his Learning, as it related to the
Knowledge of _History_ and _Books_, I shall advance something that, at
first sight, will very much wear the Appearance of a Paradox. For I shall
find it no hard Matter to prove, that, from the grossest Blunders in
History, we are not to infer his real Ignorance of it: Nor from a greater
Use of _Latin_ Words, than ever any other _English_ Author used, must we
infer his intimate Acquaintance with that Language.

A Reader of Taste may easily observe, that tho’ _Shakespeare_, almost in
every Scene of his historical Plays, commits the grossest Offences against
Chronology, History, and Ancient Politicks; yet This was not thro’
Ignorance, as is generally supposed, but thro’ the too powerful Blaze of
his Imagination; which, when once raised, made all acquired Knowledge
vanish and disappear before it. But this Licence in him, as I have said,
must not be imputed to Ignorance: since as often we may find him, when
Occasion serves, reasoning up to the Truth of History; and throwing out
Sentiments as justly adapted to the Circumstances of his Subject, as to
the Dignity of his Characters, or Dictates of Nature in general.

Then to come to his Knowledge of the _Latin_ Tongue, ’tis certain there is
a surprising Effusion of _Latin_ Words made _English_, far more than in
any one _English_ Author I have seen; but we must be cautious to imagine
this was of his own doing. For the _English_ Tongue, in this Age, began
extremely to suffer by an inundation of _Latin_: And this, to be sure, was
occasion’d by the Pedantry of those two Monarchs, _Elizabeth_ and _James_,
Both great _Latinists_. For it is not to be wonder’d at, if both the Court
and Schools, equal Flatterers of Power, should adapt themselves to the
Royal Taste.

But now I am touching on the Question (which has been so frequently
agitated, yet so entirely undecided) of his Learning and Acquaintance with
the Languages; an additional Word or two naturally falls in here upon the
Genius of our Author, as compared with that of _Jonson_ his Contemporary.
They are confessedly the greatest Writers our Nation could ever boast of
in the _Drama_. The first, we say, owed all to his prodigious natural
Genius; and the other a great deal to his Art and Learning. This, if
attended to, will explain a very remarkable Appearance in their Writings.
Besides those wonderful Masterpieces of Art and Genius, which each has
given us, They are the Authors of other Works very unworthy of them: But
with this Difference, that in _Jonson_’s bad Pieces we don’t discover one
single Trace of the Author of the _Fox_ and _Alchemist_: but in the wild
extravagant Notes of _Shakespeare_, you every now and then encounter
Strains that recognize the divine Composer. This Difference may be thus
accounted for. _Jonson_, as we said before, owing all his Excellence to
his Art, by which he sometimes strain’d himself to an uncommon Pitch, when
at other times he unbent and play’d with his Subject, having nothing then
to support him, it is no wonder he wrote so far beneath himself. But
_Shakespeare_, indebted more largely to Nature than the Other to acquired
Talents, in his most negligent Hours could never so totally divest himself
of his Genius, but that it would frequently break out with astonishing
Force and Splendor.

As I have never propos’d to dilate farther on the Character of my Author
than was necessary to explain the Nature and Use of this Edition, I shall
proceed to consider him as a Genius in Possession of an everlasting Name.
And how great that Merit must be, which could gain it against all the
Disadvantages of the horrid Condition in which he had hitherto appear’d!
Had _Homer_, or any other admir’d Author, first started into Publick so
maim’d and deform’d, we cannot determine whether they had not sunk for
ever under the Ignominy of such an ill Appearance. The mangled Condition
of _Shakespeare_ has been acknowledg’d by Mr. _Rowe_, who published him
indeed, but neither corrected his Text, nor collated the old Copies. This
Gentleman had Abilities, and a sufficient Knowledge of his Author, had but
his Industry been equal to his Talents. The same mangled Condition has
been acknowledg’d too by Mr. _Pope_, who publish’d him likewise, pretended
to have collated the old Copies, and yet seldom has corrected the Text but
to its Injury. I congratulate with the _Manes_ of our Poet, that this
Gentleman has been sparing in _indulging his private Sense_, as he phrases
it; for He who tampers with an Author whom he does not understand, must do
it at the Expence of his Subject. I have made it evident throughout my
Remarks, that he has frequently inflicted a Wound where he intended a
Cure. He has acted with regard to our Author, as an Editor, whom LIPSIUS
mentions, did with regard to MARTIAL; _Inventus est nescio quis_ Popa,
_qui non_ vitia _ejus_, _sed_ ipsum _excidit_. He has attack’d him like an
unhandy _Slaughterman_; and not lopp’d off the _Errors_, but the _Poet_.

When this is found to be Fact, how absurd must appear the Praises of such
an Editor! It seems a moot Point, whether Mr. _Pope_ has done most Injury
to _Shakespeare_ as his Editor and Encomiast, or Mr. _Rymer_ done him
Service as his Rival and Censurer. They have Both shewn themselves in an
equal _Impuissance_ of suspecting, or amending, the corrupted Passages:
and tho’ it be neither Prudence to censure, or commend, what one does not
understand; yet if a man must do one when he plays the Critick, the latter
is the more ridiculous Office: And by that _Shakespeare_ suffers most. For
the natural Veneration which we have for him, makes us apt to swallow
whatever is given us as _his_, and set off with Encomiums; and hence we
quit all suspicions of Depravity: On the contrary, the Censure of so
divine an Author sets us upon his Defence; and this produces an exact
Scrutiny and Examination, which ends in finding out and discriminating the
true from the spurious.

It is not with any secret Pleasure that I so frequently animadvert on Mr.
_Pope_ as a Critick; but there are Provocations which a Man can never
quite forget. His Libels have been thrown out with so much Inveteracy,
that, not to dispute whether they _should_ come from a _Christian_, they
leave it a Question whether they _could_ come from a _Man_. I should be
loth to doubt, as _Quintus Serenus_ did in a like Case,

    Sive homo, seu similis turpissima bestia nobis,
    Vulnera dente dedit.

The Indignation, perhaps, for being represented a _Block-head_, may be as
strong in us as it is in the Ladies for a Reflexion on their _Beauties_.
It is certain, I am indebted to Him for some _flagrant Civilities_; and I
shall willingly devote a Part of my Life to the honest Endeavour of
quitting Scores: with this Exception however, that I will not return those
Civilities in his _peculiar_ Strain, but confine myself, at least, to the
Limits of _common Decency_. I shall ever think it better to want _Wit_,
than to want _Humanity_: and impartial Posterity may, perhaps, be of my

But, to return to my Subject; which now calls upon me to inquire into
those Causes, to which the Depravations of my Author originally may be
assign’d. We are to consider him as a Writer, of whom no authentic
Manuscript was left extant; as a Writer, whose Pieces were dispersedly
perform’d on the several _Stages_ then in Being. And it was the Custom of
those Days for the Poets to take a Price of the _Players_ for the Pieces
They from time to time furnish’d; and thereupon it was suppos’d, they had
no farther Right to print them without the Consent of the _Players_. As it
was the Interest of the _Companies_ to keep their Plays unpublish’d, when
any one succeeded, there was a Contest betwixt the Curiosity of the Town,
who demanded to see it in Print, and the Policy of the _Stagers_, who
wish’d to secrete it within their own Walls. Hence, many Pieces were taken
down in Short-hand, and imperfectly copied by Ear, from a
_Representation_: Others were printed from piece-meal Parts
surreptitiously obtain’d from the Theatres, uncorrect, and without the
Poet’s Knowledge. To some of these Causes we owe the Train of Blemishes
that deform those Pieces which stole singly into the World in our Author’s

There are still other Reasons which may be suppos’d to have affected the
whole Set. When the _Players_ took upon them to publish his Works intire,
every Theatre was ransack’d to supply the Copy; and _Parts_ collected,
which had gone thro’ as many Changes as Performers, either from
Mutilations or Additions made to them. Hence we derive many Chasms and
Incoherences in the Sense and Matter. Scenes were frequently transposed,
and shuffled out of their true Place, to humour the Caprice, or suppos’d
Convenience, of some particular Actor. Hence much Confusion and
Impropriety has attended and embarrass’d the Business and Fable. To these
obvious Causes of Corruption it must be added, That our Author has lain
under the Disadvantage of having his Errors propagated and multiplied by
Time: because, for near a Century, his Works were publish’d from the
faulty Copies, without the Assistance of any intelligent Editor: which has
been the Case likewise of many a _Classic_ Writer.

The Nature of any Distemper once found has generally been the immediate
Step to a Cure. _Shakespeare_’s Case has in a great Measure resembled That
of a corrupt _Classic_; and, consequently, the Method of Cure was likewise
to bear a Resemblance. By what Means, and with what Success, this Cure has
been effected on ancient Writers, is too well known, and needs no formal
Illustration. The Reputation, consequent on Tasks of that Nature, invited
me to attempt the Method here; with this view, the Hopes of restoring to
the Publick their greatest Poet in his original Purity: after having so
long lain in a Condition that was a Disgrace to common Sense. To this end
I have ventur’d on a Labour, that is the first Assay of the kind on any
modern Author whatsoever.

For the late Edition of _Milton_ by the Learned Dr. _Bentley_ is, in the
main, a Performance of another Species. It is plain, it was the Intention
of that Great Man rather to correct and pare off the Excrescencies of the
_Paradise Lost_, in the Manner that _Tucca_ and _Varius_ were employ’d to
criticize the _Æneis_ of _Virgil_, than to restore corrupted Passages.
Hence, therefore, may be seen either the Iniquity or Ignorance of his
Censurers, who, from some Expressions, would make us believe, the _Doctor_
every where gives us his Corrections as the original Text of the Author;
whereas the chief Turn of his Criticism is plainly to shew the World, that
if _Milton_ did not write as He would have him, he ought to have wrote so.

I thought proper to premise this Observation to the Readers, as it will
shew that the Critic on _Shakespeare_ is of a quite different Kind. His
genuine Text is for the most part religiously adhered to, and the numerous
Faults and Blemishes, purely his own, are left as they were found. Nothing
is alter’d, but what by the clearest Reasoning can be proved a Corruption
of the true Text; and the Alteration, a real Restoration of the genuine
Reading. Nay, so strictly have I strove to give the true Reading, tho’
sometimes not to the Advantage of my Author, that I have been ridiculously
ridicul’d for it by Those, who either were iniquitously for turning every
thing to my Disadvantage, or else were totally ignorant of the true Duty
of an Editor.

The Science of Criticism, as far as it effects an Editor, seems to be
reduced to these three Classes; the Emendation of corrupt Passages; the
Explanation of obscure and difficult ones; and an Inquiry into the
Beauties and Defects of Composition. This Work is principally confin’d to
the two former Parts: tho’ there are some Specimens interspers’d of the
latter Kind, as several of the Emendations were best supported, and
several of the Difficulties best explain’d, by taking notice of the
Beauties and Defects of the Composition peculiar to this Immortal Poet.
But this was but occasional, and for the sake only of perfecting the two
other Parts, which were the proper Objects of the Editor’s Labour. The
third lies open for every willing Undertaker: and I shall be pleas’d to
see it the Employment of a masterly Pen.

It must necessarily happen, as I have formerly observ’d, that where the
Assistance of Manuscripts is wanting to set an Author’s Meaning right, and
rescue him from those Errors which have been transmitted down thro’ a
series of incorrect Editions, and a long Intervention of Time, many
Passages must be desperate, and past a Cure; and their true Sense
irretrievable either to Care or the Sagacity of Conjecture. But is there
any Reason therefore to say, That because All cannot be retriev’d, All
ought to be left desperate? We should shew very little Honesty, or Wisdom,
to play the Tyrants with an Author’s Text; to raze, alter, innovate, and
overturn, at all Adventures, and to the utter Detriment of his Sense and
Meaning: But to be so very reserved and cautious, as to interpose no
Relief or Conjecture, where it manifestly labours and cries out for
Assistance, seems, on the other hand, an indolent Absurdity.

As there are very few pages in _Shakespeare_, upon which some Suspicions
of Depravity do not reasonably arise; I have thought it my Duty, in the
first place, by a diligent and laborious Collation to take in the
Assistances of all the older Copies.

In his _Historical Plays_, whenever our _English_ Chronicles, and in his
Tragedies when _Greek_ or _Roman_ Story, could give any Light; no Pains
have been omitted to set Passages right by comparing my Author with his
Originals; for as I have frequently observed, he was a close and accurate
Copier where-ever his _Fable_ was founded on _History_.

Where-ever the Author’s Sense is clear and discoverable (tho’, perchance,
low and trivial), I have not by any Innovation tamper’d with his Text, out
of an Ostentation of endeavouring to make him speak better than the old
Copies have done.

Where, thro’ all the former Editions, a Passage has labour’d under flat
Nonsense and invincible Darkness, if, by the Addition or Alteration of a
Letter or two, or a Transposition in the Pointing, I have restored to Him
both Sense and Sentiment; such Corrections, I am persuaded, will need no

And whenever I have taken a greater Latitude and Liberty in amending, I
have constantly endeavour’d to support my Corrections and Conjectures by
parallel Passages and Authorities from himself, the surest Means of
expounding any Author whatsoever. _Cette voïe d’interpreter un Autheur par
lui-même est plus sure que tous les Commentaires_, says a very learned
_French_ Critick.

As to my _Notes_ (from which the common and learned Readers of our Author,
I hope, will derive some Satisfaction), I have endeavour’d to give them a
Variety in some Proportion to their Number. Where-ever I have ventur’d at
an Emendation, a _Note_ is constantly subjoin’d to justify and assert the
Reason of it. Where I only offer a Conjecture, and do not disturb the
Text, I fairly set forth my Grounds for such Conjecture, and submit it to
Judgment. Some Remarks are spent in explaining Passages, where the Wit or
Satire depends on an obscure Point of History: Others, where Allusions are
to Divinity, Philosophy, or other Branches of Science. Some are added to
shew where there is a Suspicion of our Author having borrow’d from the
Ancients: Others, to shew where he is rallying his Contemporaries; or
where He himself is rallied by them. And some are necessarily thrown in,
to explain an obscure and obsolete _Term_, _Phrase_, or _Idea_. I once
intended to have added a complete and copious _Glossary_; but as I have
been importun’d, and am prepar’d, to give a correct Edition of our
Author’s POEMS (in which many Terms occur that are not to be met with in
his _Plays_), I thought a _Glossary_ to all _Shakespeare_’s Works more
proper to attend that Volume.

In reforming an infinite Number of Passages in the _Pointing_, where the
Sense was before quite lost, I have frequently subjoin’d Notes to shew the
_deprav’d_, and to prove the _reform’d_, Pointing: a Part of Labour in
this Work which I could very willingly have spar’d myself. May it not be
objected, why then have you burden’d us with these Notes? The Answer is
obvious, and, if I mistake not, very material. Without such Notes, these
Passages in subsequent Editions would be liable, thro’ the Ignorance of
Printers and Correctors, to fall into the old Confusion: Whereas, a Note
on every one hinders all possible Return to Depravity, and for ever
secures them in a State of Purity and Integrity not to be lost or

Again, as some Notes have been necessary to point out the Detection of the
corrupted Text, and establish the Restoration of the genuine Readings;
some others have been as necessary for the Explanation of Passages obscure
and difficult. To understand the Necessity and Use of this Part of my
Task, some Particulars of my Author’s Character are previously to be
explain’d. There are _Obscurities_ in him, which are common to him with
all Poets of the same Species; there are Others, the Issue of the Times he
liv’d in; and there are others, again, peculiar to himself. The Nature of
Comic Poetry being entirely satirical, it busies itself more in exposing
what we call Caprice and Humour, than Vices cognizable to the Laws. The
_English_, from the Happiness of a free Constitution, and a Turn of Mind
peculiarly speculative and inquisitive, are observ’d to produce more
_Humourists_ and a greater Variety of original _Characters_, than any
other People whatsoever: And These owing their immediate Birth to the
peculiar Genius of each Age, an infinite Number of Things alluded to,
glanced at, and expos’d, must needs become obscure, as the _Characters_
themselves are antiquated and disused. An Editor therefore should be well
vers’d in the History and Manners of his Author’s Age, if he aims at doing
him a Service in this Respect.

Besides, _Wit_ lying mostly in the Assemblage of _Ideas_, and in the
putting Those together with Quickness and Variety, wherein can be found
any Resemblance, or Congruity, to make up pleasant Pictures, and agreeable
Visions in the Fancy; the Writer, who aims at Wit, must of course range
far and wide for Materials. Now, the Age in which _Shakespeare_ liv’d,
having, above all others, a wonderful Affection to appear Learned, They
declined vulgar Images, such as are immediately fetch’d from Nature, and
rang’d thro’ the Circle of the Sciences to fetch their Ideas from thence.
But as the Resemblances of such Ideas to the Subject must necessarily lie
very much out of the common Way, and every Piece of Wit appear a Riddle to
the Vulgar; This, that should have taught them the forced, quaint,
unnatural Tract they were in (and induce them to follow a more natural
One), was the very Thing that kept them attach’d to it. The ostentatious
Affectation of abstruse Learning, peculiar to that Time, the Love that Men
naturally have to every Thing that looks like Mystery, fixed them down to
this Habit of Obscurity. Thus became the Poetry of DONNE (tho’ the
wittiest Man of that Age) nothing but a continued Heap of Riddles. And our
_Shakespeare_, with all his easy Nature about him, for want of the
Knowledge of the true Rules of Art, falls frequently into this vicious

The third Species of _Obscurities_ which deform our Author, as the Effects
of his own Genius and Character, are Those that proceed from his peculiar
Manner of _Thinking_, and as peculiar a Manner of _cloathing_ those
_Thoughts_. With regard to his _Thinking_, it is certain that he had a
general Knowledge of all the Sciences: But his Acquaintance was rather
That of a Traveller, than a Native. Nothing in Philosophy was unknown to
him; but every Thing in it had the Grace and Force of Novelty. And as
Novelty is one main Source of Admiration, we are not to wonder that He has
perpetual Allusions to the most recondite Parts of the Sciences: and This
was done not so much out of Affectation, as the Effect of Admiration begot
by Novelty. Then, as to his _Style_ and _Diction_, we may much more justly
apply to SHAKESPEARE what a celebrated Writer has said of MILTON; _Our
Language sunk under him, and was unequal to that Greatness of Soul which
furnish’d him with such glorious Conceptions._ He therefore frequently
uses old Words, to give his Diction an Air of Solemnity; as he coins
others, to express the Novelty and Variety of his Ideas.

Upon every distinct Species of these _Obscurities_ I have thought it my
Province to employ a Note, for the Service of my Author, and the
Entertainment of my Readers. A few transient Remarks too I have not
scrupled to intermix, upon the Poet’s _Negligences_ and _Omissions_ in
point of Art; but I have done it always in such a Manner as will testify
my Deference and Veneration for the immortal Author. Some Censurers of
_Shakespeare_, and particularly Mr. _Rymer_, have taught me to distinguish
betwixt the _Railer_ and _Critick_. The Outrage of his Quotations is so
remarkably violent, so push’d beyond all bounds of Decency and Sober
Reasoning, that it quite carries over the Mark at which it was levell’d.
Extravagant Abuse throws off the Edge of the intended Disparagement, and
turns the Madman’s Weapon into his own Bosom. In short, as to _Rymer_,
This is my Opinion of him from his _Criticisms_ on the _Tragedies_ of the
Last Age. He writes with great Vivacity, and appears to have been a
Scholar: but, as for his Knowledge of the Art of Poetry, I can’t perceive
it was any deeper than his Acquaintance with _Bossu_ and _Dacier_, from
whom he has transcrib’d many of his best Reflexions. The late Mr. _Gildon_
was one attached to _Rymer_ by a similar way of Thinking and Studies. They
were both of that Species of Criticks, who are desirous of displaying
their Powers rather in finding Faults, than in consulting the Improvement
of the World: the _hypercritical_ Part of the Science of _Criticism_.

I had not mentioned the modest Liberty I have here and there taken of
animadverting on my Author, but that I was willing to obviate in time the
splenetick Exaggerations of my Adversaries on this Head. From past
Experiments I have reason to be conscious in what Light this Attempt may
be placed: and that what I call a _modest Liberty_, will, by a little of
their Dexterity, be inverted into downright _Impudence_. From a hundred
mean and dishonest Artifices employ’d to discredit this Edition, and to
cry down its Editor, I have all the Grounds in nature to beware of
Attacks. But tho’ the Malice of Wit, join’d to the Smoothness of
Versification, may furnish some Ridicule; Fact, I hope, will be able to
stand its Ground against Banter and Gaiety.

It has been my Fate, it seems, as I thought it my Duty, to discover some
_Anachronisms_ in our Author; which might have slept in Obscurity but for
_this Restorer_, as Mr. _Pope_ is pleas’d affectionately to stile me: as,
for Instance, where _Aristotle_ is mentioned by _Hector_ in _Troilus_ and
_Cressida_: and _Galen_, _Cato_, and _Alexander_ the Great, in
_Coriolanus_. These, in Mr. _Pope_’s Opinion, are Blunders, which the
Illiteracy of the first Publishers of his Works has father’d upon the
Poet’s Memory: _it not being at all credible, that These could be the
Errors of any Man who had the least Tincture of a School, or the least
Conversation with Such as had._ But I have sufficiently proved, in the
course of my _Notes_, that such _Anachronisms_ were the Effect of Poetic
Licence, rather than of Ignorance in our Poet. And if I may be permitted
to ask a modest Question by the way, Why may not I restore an
_Anachronism_ really made by our Author, as well as Mr. _Pope_ take the
Privilege to fix others upon him, which he never had it in his Head to
make; as I may venture to affirm he had not, in the Instance of Sir
_Francis Drake_, to which I have spoke in the proper Place?

But who shall dare make any Words about this Freedom of Mr. _Pope_’s
towards _Shakespeare_, if it can be prov’d, that, in his Fits of
Criticism, he makes no more Ceremony with good _Homer_ himself? To try,
then, a Criticism of his own advancing; In the 8th Book of the _Odyssey_,
where _Demodocus_ sings the Episode of the Loves of _Mars_ and _Venus_;
and that, upon their being taken in the Net by _Vulcan_,

    ——The God of Arms
    Must pay the Penalty for lawless Charms;

Mr. _Pope_ is so kind gravely to inform us, “That _Homer_ in This, as in
many other Places, seems to allude to the Laws of _Athens_, where Death
was the Punishment of Adultery.” But how is this significant Observation
made out? Why, who can possibly object any Thing to the contrary?—_Does
not _PAUSANIAS_ relate that _DRACO_ the Lawgiver to the _ATHENIANS_
granted Impunity to any Person that took Revenge upon an Adulterer? And
was it not also the Institution of _SOLON_, that if Any One took an
Adulterer in the Fact, he might use him as he pleas’d?_ These Things are
very true: and to see what a good Memory, and sound Judgment in
Conjunction can atchieve! Tho’ _Homer_’s Date is not determin’d down to a
single Year, yet ’tis pretty generally agreed that he liv’d above 300
Years before _Draco_ and _Solon_: And That, it seems, has made him _seem_
to allude to the very Laws which these Two Legislators propounded about
300 Years after. If this Inference be not something like an _Anachronism_
or _Prolepsis_, I’ll look once more into my Lexicons for the true Meaning
of the Words. It appears to me that somebody besides _Mars_ and _Venus_
has been caught in a Net by this Episode: and I could call in other
Instances to confirm what treacherous Tackle this Net-work is, if not
cautiously handled.

How just, notwithstanding, I have been in detecting the _Anachronisms_ of
my Author, and in defending him for the Use of them, our late Editor seems
to think, they should rather have slept in Obscurity: and the having
discovered them is sneer’d at, as a sort of wrong-headed Sagacity.

The numerous Corrections which I have made of the Poet’s Text in my
_Shakespeare Restor’d_, and which the Publick have been so kind to think
well of, are, in the Appendix of Mr. _Pope_’s last Edition, slightingly
call’d _Various Readings, Guesses_, &c. He confesses to have inserted as
many of them as he judg’d of any the least Advantage to the Poet; but
says, that the whole amounted to about 25 Words: and pretends to have
annexed a compleat List of the rest, which were not worth his embracing.
Whoever has read my Book, will at one Glance see, how in both these Points
Veracity is strain’d, so an Injury might but be done. _Malus, etsi obesse
non potest, tamen cogitat._

Another Expedient, to make my Work appear of a trifling Nature, has been
an Attempt to depreciate _Literal Criticism_. To this end, and to pay a
servile Compliment to Mr. _Pope_, an _Anonymous_ Writer has, like a
_Scotch_ Pedlar in Wit, unbraced his Pack on the Subject. But, that his
Virulence might not seem to be levelled singly at me, he has done me the
Honour to join Dr. _Bentley_ in the Libel. I was in hopes, we should have
been both abused with Smartness of Satire at least, tho’ not with Solidity
of Argument; that it might have been worth some Reply in Defence of the
Science attacked. But I may fairly say of this Author, as _Falstaffe_ does
of _Poins_;—_Hang him, Baboon! his Wit is as thick as _TEWKSBURY_ Mustard;
there is no more Conceit in him, than is in a _MALLET. If it be not
Prophanation to set the Opinion of the divine _Longinus_ against such a
Scribler, he tells us expressly, “That to make a Judgment upon _Words_
(and _Writings_) is the most consummate Fruit of much Experience.” ἡ γὰρ
τῶν λόγων κρίσις πολλῆς ἔστι πείρας τελευταῖον ἐπιγέννημα. Whenever Words
are depraved, the Sense of course must be corrupted; and thence the
Reader’s betray’d into a false Meaning.

If the _Latin_ and _Greek_ Languages have receiv’d the greatest Advantages
imaginable from the Labours of the Editors and Criticks of the two last
Ages; by whose Aid and Assistance the Grammarians have been enabled to
write infinitely better in that Art than even the preceding Grammarians,
who wrote when those Tongues flourish’d as living Languages: I should
account it a peculiar Happiness, that, by the faint Assay I have made in
this Work, a Path might be chalk’d out, for abler Hands, by which to
derive the same Advantages to our own Tongue: a Tongue, which, tho’ it
wants none of the fundamental Qualities of an universal Language, yet, as
a _noble Writer_ says, lisps and stammers as in its Cradle; and has
produced little more towards its polishing than Complaints of its

Having now run thro’ all those Points which I intended should make any
Part of this Dissertation, and having in my _former_ Edition made publick
Acknowledgments of the Assistances lent me, I shall conclude with a brief
Account of the Methods taken in _This_.

It was thought proper, in order to reduce the Bulk and Price of the
Impression, that the Notes, where-ever they would admit of it, might be
abridg’d: for which Reason I have curtail’d a great Quantity of Such, in
which Explanations were too prolix, or Authorities in Support of an
Emendation too numerous: and Many I have entirely expung’d, which were
judg’d rather Verbose and Declamatory (and, so, Notes merely of
Ostentation), than necessary or instructive.

The few literal Errors which had escap’d Notice, for want of Revisals, in
the former Edition, are here reform’d: and the Pointing of innumerable
Passages is regulated, with all the Accuracy I am capable of.

I shall decline making any farther Declaration of the Pains I have taken
upon my Author, because it was my Duty, as his Editor, to publish him with
my best Care and Judgment: and because I am sensible, all such
Declarations are construed to be laying a sort of a Debt on the Publick.
As the former Edition has been received with much Indulgence, I ought to
make my Acknowledgments to the Town for their favourable Opinion of it:
and I shall always be proud to think That Encouragement the best Payment I
can hope to receive from my poor Studies.


What the Publick is here to expect is a true and correct Edition of
_Shakespear_’s works cleared from the corruptions with which they have
hitherto abounded. One of the great Admirers of this incomparable Author
hath made it the amusement of his leisure hours for many years past to
look over his writings with a careful eye, to note the obscurities and
absurdities introduced into the text, and according to the best of his
judgment to restore the genuine sense and purity of it. In this he
proposed nothing to himself but his private satisfaction in making his own
copy as perfect as he could: but as the emendations multiplied upon his
hands, other Gentlemen equally fond of the Author desired to see them, and
some were so kind as to give their assistance by communicating their
observations and conjectures upon difficult passages which had occurred to
them. Thus by degrees the work growing more considerable than was at first
expected, they who had the opportunity of looking into it, too partial
perhaps in their judgment, thought it worth being made publick; and he,
who hath with difficulty yielded to their perswasions, is far from
desiring to reflect upon the late Editors for the omissions and defects
which they left to be supplied by others who should follow them in the
same province. On the contrary, he thinks the world much obliged to them
for the progress they made in weeding out so great a number of blunders
and mistakes as they have done, and probably he who hath carried on the
work might never have thought of such an undertaking if he had not found a
considerable part so done to his hands.

From what causes it proceeded that the works of this Author in the first
publication of them were more injured and abused than perhaps any that
ever pass’d the Press, hath been sufficiently explained in the Preface to
Mr. _Pope_’s Edition which is here subjoined, and there needs no more to
be said upon that subject. This only the Reader is desired to bear in
mind, that as the corruptions are more numerous and of a grosser kind than
can well be conceived but by those who have looked nearly into them; so in
the correcting them this rule hath been most strictly observed, not to
give a loose to fancy, or indulge a licentious spirit of criticism, as if
it were fit for any one to presume to judge what _Shakespear_ ought to
have written, instead of endeavouring to discover truly and retrieve what
he did write: and so great caution hath been used in this respect, that no
alterations have been made but what the sense necessarily required, what
the measure of the verse often helped to point out, and what the
similitude of words in the false reading and in the true, generally
speaking, appeared very well to justify.

Most of those passages are here thrown to the bottom of the page and
rejected as spurious, which were stigmatized as such in Mr. _Pope_’s
Edition; and it were to be wished that more had then undergone the same
sentence. The promoter of the present Edition hath ventured to discard but
few more upon his own judgment, the most considerable of which is that
wretched piece of ribaldry in King _Henry V._ put into the mouths of the
_French_ Princess and an old Gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in
_French_ and not intelligible to an _English_ audience, and yet that
perhaps is the best thing that can be said of it. There can be no doubt
but a great deal more of that low stuff which disgraces the works of this
great Author, was foisted in by the Players after his death, to please the
vulgar audiences by which they subsisted: and though some of the poor
witticisms and conceits must be supposed to have fallen from his pen, yet
as he hath put them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people,
so it is to be remember’d that he wrote for the Stage, rude and unpolished
as it then was; and the vicious taste of the age must stand condemned for
them, since he hath left upon record a signal proof how much he despised
them. In his Play of _The Merchant of Venice_ a Clown is introduced
quibbling in a miserable manner, upon which one who bears the character of
a man of sense makes the following reflection: _How every fool can play
upon a word! I think the best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence,
and discourse grow commendable in none but parrots._ He could hardly have
found stronger words to express his indignation at those false pretences
to wit then in vogue; and therefore though such trash is frequently
interspersed in his writings, it would be unjust to cast it as an
imputation upon his taste and judgment and character as a Writer.

There being many words in _Shakespear_ which are grown out of use and
obsolete, and many borrowed from other languages which are not enough
naturalized or known among us, a Glossary is added at the end of the work,
for the explanation of all those terms which have hitherto been so many
stumbling-blocks to the generality of Readers; and where there is any
obscurity in the text not arising from the words but from a reference to
some antiquated customs now forgotten, or other causes of that kind, a
note is put at the bottom of the page to clear up the difficulty.

With these several helps if that rich vein of sense which runs through the
works of this Author can be retrieved in every part and brought to appear
in its true light, and if it may be hoped without presumption that this is
here effected; they who love and admire him will receive a new pleasure,
and all probably will be more ready to join in doing him justice, who does
great honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a singular Genius: one
who hath attained an high degree of perfection in those two great branches
of Poetry, Tragedy and Comedy, different as they are in their natures from
each other; and who may be said without partiality to have equalled, if
not excelled, in both kinds, the best writers of any age or country who
have thought it glory enough to distinguish themselves in either.

Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of
their most celebrated Poets with the fairest impressions beautified with
the ornaments of sculpture, well may our _Shakespear_ be thought to
deserve no less consideration: and as a fresh acknowledgment hath lately
been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by
erecting his Statue at a publick expence; so it is desired that this new
Edition of his works, which hath cost some attention and care, may be
looked upon as another small monument designed and dedicated to his


It hath been no unusual thing for Writers, when dissatisfied with the
Patronage or Judgment of their own Times, to appeal to Posterity for a
fair Hearing. Some have even thought fit to apply to it in the first
Instance; and to decline Acquaintance with the Public till Envy and
Prejudice had quite subsided. But, of all the Trusters to Futurity,
commend me to the Author of the following Poems, who not only left it to
Time to do him Justice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For,
what between too great Attention to his Profit as a Player, and too little
to his Reputation as a Poet, his Works, left to the Care of Door-keepers
and Prompters, hardly escaped the common Fate of those Writings, how good
soever, which are abandon’d to their own Fortune, and unprotected by Party
or Cabal. At length, indeed, they struggled into Light; but so disguised
and travested, that no classic Author, after having run ten secular Stages
thro’ the blind Cloisters of Monks and Canons, ever came out in half so
maimed and mangled a Condition. But for a full Account of his Disorders, I
refer the Reader to the excellent Discourse which follows, and turn myself
to consider the Remedies that have been applied to them.

_Shakespear_’s Works, when they escaped the Players, did not fall into
much better Hands when they came amongst Printers and Booksellers: who, to
say the Truth, had, at first, but small Encouragement for putting him into
a better Condition. The stubborn Nonsense, with which he was incrusted,
occasioned his lying long neglected amongst the common Lumber of the
Stage. And when that resistless Splendor, which now shoots all around him,
had, by degrees, broke thro’ the Shell of those Impurities, his dazzled
Admirers became as suddenly insensible to the extraneous Scurf that still
stuck upon him, as they had been before to the native Beauties that lay
under it. So that, as then he was thought not to deserve a Cure, he was
now supposed not to need any.

His growing Eminence, however, required that he should be used with
Ceremony: And he soon had his Appointment of an _Editor_ in form. But the
Bookseller, whose dealing was with Wits, having learnt of them, I know not
what silly Maxim, that _none but a Poet should presume to meddle with a
Poet_, engaged the ingenious Mr. _Rowe_ to undertake this Employment. A
Wit indeed he was; but so utterly unacquainted with the whole Business of
Criticism, that he did not even collate or consult the first Editions of
the Work he undertook to publish; but contented himself with giving us a
meagre Account of the Author’s Life, interlarded with some common-place
Scraps from his Writings. The Truth is, _Shakespear_’s Condition was yet
but ill understood. The Nonsense, now, by consent, received for his own,
was held in a kind of Reverence for its Age and Author: and thus it
continued, till another great _Poet_ broke the Charm; by shewing us, that
the higher we went, the less of it was still to be found.

For the Proprietors, not discouraged by their first unsuccessful Effort,
in due time made a second; and, tho’ they still stuck to their Poets, with
infinitely more Success in their Choice of Mr. POPE. Who, by the mere
force of an uncommon Genius, without any particular Study or Profession of
this Art, discharged the great Parts of it so well as to make his Edition
the best Foundation for all further Improvements. He separated the genuine
from the spurious Plays: And, with equal Judgment, tho’ not always with
the same Success, attempted to clear the genuine Plays from the
interpolated Scenes: He then consulted the old Editions; and, by a careful
Collation of them, rectified the faulty, and supplied the imperfect
Reading, in a great number of places: And lastly, in an admirable Preface,
hath drawn a general, but very lively, Sketch of _Shakespear_’s poetic
Character; and, in the corrected Text, marked out those peculiar Strokes
of Genius which were most proper to support and illustrate that Character.
Thus far Mr. POPE. And altho’ much more was to be done before _Shakespear_
could be restored to himself (such as amending the corrupted Text where
the printed Books afford no Assistance; explaining his licentious
Phraseology and obscure Allusions; and illustrating the Beauties of his
Poetry); yet, with great Modesty and Prudence, our illustrious Editor left
this to the Critic by Profession.

But nothing will give the common Reader a better idea of the Value of Mr.
_Pope_’s Edition, than the two Attempts which have been since made, by Mr.
_Theobald_ and Sir _Thomas Hanmer_, in Opposition to it. Who, altho’ they
concerned themselves only in the _first_ of these three Parts of
Criticism, the _restoring the Text_ (without any Conception of the
_second_, or venturing even to touch upon the _third_), yet succeeded so
very ill in it, that they left their Author in ten times a worse Condition
than they found him. But, as it was my ill Fortune to have some accidental
Connexions with these two _Gentlemen_, it will be incumbent on me to be a
little more particular concerning them.

The One was recommended to me as a poor Man; the Other as a poor Critic:
and to each of them, at different times, I communicated a great number of
Observations, which they managed, as they saw fit, to the Relief of their
several Distresses. As to Mr. _Theobald_, who wanted Money, I allowed him
to print what I gave him for his own Advantage: and he allowed himself in
the Liberty of taking one Part for his own, and sequestering another for
the Benefit, as I supposed, of some future Edition. But, as to the _Oxford
Editor_, who wanted nothing but what he might very well be without, the
Reputation of a Critic, I could not so easily forgive him for trafficking
with my Papers without my Knowledge; and, when that Project fail’d, for
employing a number of my Conjectures in his Edition against my express
Desire not to have that Honour done unto me.

Mr. _Theobald_ was naturally turned to Industry and Labour. What he read
he could transcribe: but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he
could but ill express, so he read on; and by that means got a Character of
Learning, without risquing, to every Observer, the Imputation of wanting a
better Talent. By a punctilious Collation of the old Books, he corrected
what was manifestly wrong in the _latter_ Editions, by what was manifestly
right in the _earlier_. And this is his real merit; and the whole of it.
For where the Phrase was very obsolete or licentious in the _common_
Books, or only slightly corrupted in the _other_, he wanted sufficient
Knowledge of the Progress and various Stages of the _English_ Tongue, as
well as Acquaintance with the Peculiarity of _Shakespear_’s Language, to
understand what was right; nor had he either common Judgment to see, or
critical Sagacity to amend, what was manifestly faulty. Hence he generally
exerts his conjectural Talent in the wrong Place: He tampers with what is
found in the _common_ Books; and, in the _old_ ones, omits all Notice of
_Variations_ the Sense of which he did not understand.

How the _Oxford Editor_ came to think himself qualified for this Office,
from which his whole Course of Life had been so remote, is still more
difficult to conceive. For whatever Parts he might have either of Genius
or Erudition, he was absolutely ignorant of the Art of Criticism, as well
as the Poetry of that Time, and the Language of his Author: And so far
from a Thought of examining the _first_ Editions, that he even neglected
to compare Mr. _Pope_’s, from which he printed his own, with Mr.
_Theobald_’s; whereby he lost the Advantage of many fine Lines which the
other had recovered from the old Quartos. Where he trusts to his own
Sagacity, in what affects the Sense, his Conjectures are generally absurd
and extravagant, and violating every Rule of Criticism. Tho’, in this Rage
of Correcting, he was not absolutely destitute of all _Art_. For, having a
Number of my Conjectures before him, he took as many of them as he saw
fit, to work upon; and by changing them to something, he thought,
synonymous or similar, he made them his own; and so became a Critic at a
cheap Expence. But how well he hath succeeded in this, as likewise in his
Conjectures which are properly his own, will be seen in the course of my
Remarks: Tho’, as he hath declined to give the Reasons for his
Interpolations, he hath not afforded me so fair a hold of him as Mr.
_Theobald_ hath done, who was less cautious. But his principal Object was
to reform his Author’s Numbers; and this, which he hath done, on every
Occasion, by the Insertion or Omission of a set of harmless unconcerning
Expletives, makes up the gross Body of his innocent Corrections. And so,
in spite of that extreme Negligence in Numbers which distinguishes the
first Dramatic Writers, he hath tricked up the old Bard, from Head to
Foot, in all the finical Exactness of a modern Measurer of Syllables.

For the rest, all the Corrections which these two Editors have made on any
_reasonable_ Foundation, are here admitted into the Text, and carefully
assigned to their respective Authors: A piece of Justice which the _Oxford
Editor_ never did; and which the _Other_ was not always scrupulous in
observing towards me. To conclude with them in a word, They separately
possessed those two Qualities which, more than any other, have contributed
to bring the Art of Criticism into disrepute, _Dulness of Apprehension_,
and _Extravagance of Conjecture_.

I am now to give some Account of the present Undertaking. For as to all
those Things which have been published under the titles of _Essays_,
_Remarks_, _Observations_, &c. on _Shakespear_, (if you except some
critical Notes on _Macbeth_, given as a Specimen of a projected Edition,
and written, as appears, by a Man of Parts and Genius) the rest are
absolutely below a serious Notice.

The whole a Critic can do for an Author who deserves his Service, is to
correct the faulty Text; to remark the Peculiarities of Language; to
illustrate the obscure Allusions; and to explain the Beauties and Defects
of Sentiment or Composition. And surely, if ever Author had a Claim to
this Service, it was our _Shakespear_: Who, widely excelling in the
Knowledge of Human Nature, hath given to his infinitely varied Pictures of
it, such Truth of Design, such Force of Drawing, such Beauty of Colouring,
as was hardly ever equalled by any Writer, whether his Aim was the Use, or
only the Entertainment of Mankind. The Notes in this Edition, therefore,
take in the whole Compass of Criticism.

I. The first sort is employed in restoring the Poet’s genuine Text; but in
those Places only where it labours with inextricable Nonsense. In which,
how much soever I may have given Scope to critical Conjecture, where the
old Copies failed me, I have indulged nothing to Fancy or Imagination; but
have religiously observed the severe Canons of literal Criticism; as may
be seen from the Reasons accompanying every Alteration of the common Text.
Nor would a different Conduct have become a Critic whose greatest
Attention, in this part, was to vindicate the established Reading from
Interpolations occasioned by the fanciful Extravagancies of others. I once
intended to have given the Reader a _body of Canons_, for literal
Criticism, drawn out in form; as well such as concern the Art in general,
as those that arise from the Nature and Circumstances of our Author’s
Works in particular. And this for two Reasons. First, To give the
_unlearned Reader_ a just Idea, and consequently a better Opinion of the
Art of Criticism, now sunk very low in the popular Esteem, by the Attempts
of some who would needs exercise it without either natural or acquired
Talents; and by the ill Success of others, who seemed to have lost both,
when they came to try them upon _English_ Authors. Secondly, To deter the
_unlearned Writer_ from wantonly trifling with an Art he is a Stranger to,
at the Expence of his own Reputation, and the Integrity of the Text of
established Authors. But these Uses may be well supplied by what is
occasionally said upon the Subject, in the Course of the following

II. The second sort of Notes consists in an Explanation of the Author’s
Meaning, when, by one or more of these Causes, it becomes obscure; either
from a _licentious Use of Terms_; or a _hard or ungrammatical
Construction_; or lastly, from _far-fetch’d or quaint Allusions_.

1. This licentious Use of Words is almost peculiar to the Language of
_Shakespear_. To common Terms he hath affixed Meanings of his own,
unauthorised by Use, and not to be justified by Analogy. And this Liberty
he hath taken with the noblest Parts of Speech, such as _Mixed-modes_;
which, as they are most susceptible of Abuse, so their Abuse most hurts
the Clearness of the Discourse. The Critics (to whom _Shakespear_’s
Licence was still as much a Secret as his Meaning, which that Licence had
obscured) fell into two contrary Mistakes; but equally injurious to his
Reputation and his Writings. For some of them, observing a Darkness that
pervaded his whole Expression, have censured him for Confusion of Ideas
and Inaccuracy of reasoning. _In the Neighing of a Horse (__SAYS__ Rymer),
or in the Growling of a Mastiff, there is a Meaning, there is a lively
Expression, and, may I say, more Humanity than many times in the tragical
Flights of __SHAKESPEAR__._ The Ignorance of which Censure is of a Piece
with its Brutality. The Truth is, no one thought clearer, or argued more
closely than this immortal Bard. But his Superiority of Genius less
needing the Intervention of Words in the Act of Thinking, when he came to
draw out his Contemplations into Discourse, he took up (as he was hurried
on by the Torrent of his Matter) with the first Words that lay in his Way;
and if, amongst these, there were two _Mixed-modes_ that had but a
principal Idea in common, it was enough for him; he regarded them as
synonymous, and would use the one for the other without Fear or
Scruple.—Again, there have been others, such as the two last Editors, who
have fallen into a contrary Extreme, and regarded _Shakespear_’s Anomalies
(as we may call them) amongst the Corruptions of his Text; which,
therefore, they have cashiered in great Numbers, to make room for a Jargon
of their own. This hath put me to additional Trouble; for I had not only
their Interpolations to throw out again, but the genuine Text to replace,
and establish in its stead; which, in many Cases, could not be done
without shewing the peculiar Sense of the Terms, and explaining the Causes
which led the Poet to so perverse a use of them. I had it once, indeed, in
my Design, to give a general alphabetic _Glossary_ of these Terms; but as
each of them is explained in its proper Place, there seemed the less
Occasion for such an Index.

2. The Poet’s hard and unnatural Construction had a different Original.
This was the Effect of mistaken Art and Design. The Public Taste was in
its Infancy; and delighted (as it always does during that State) in the
high and turgid; which leads the Writer to disguise a vulgar expression
with hard and forced construction, whereby the Sentence frequently becomes
cloudy and dark. Here, his Critics shew their modesty, and leave him to
himself. For the arbitrary change of a Word doth little towards dispelling
an obscurity that ariseth, not from the licentious use of a single Term,
but from the unnatural arrangement of a whole Sentence. And they risqued
nothing by their silence. For _Shakespear_ was too clear in Fame to be
suspected of a want of Meaning; and too high in Fashion for any one to own
he needed a Critic to find it out. Not but, in his best works, we must
allow, he is often so natural and flowing, so pure and correct, that he is
even a model for stile and language.

3. As to his far-fetched and quaint Allusions, these are often a cover to
common thoughts; just as his hard construction is to common expression.
When they are not so, the Explanation of them has this further advantage,
that, in clearing the Obscurity, you frequently discover some latent
conceit not unworthy of his Genius.

III. The third and last sort of Notes is concerned in a critical
explanation of the Author’s Beauties and Defects; but chiefly of his
Beauties, whether in Stile, Thought, Sentiment, Character, or Composition.
An odd humour of finding fault hath long prevailed amongst the Critics; as
if nothing were worth _remarking_ that did not, at the same time, deserve
to be reproved. Whereas the public Judgment hath less need to be assisted
in what it shall reject, than in what it ought to prize; Men being
generally more ready at spying Faults than in discovering Beauties. Nor is
the value they set upon a Work, a certain proof that they understand it.
For ’tis ever seen, that half a dozen Voices of credit give the lead: And
if the Publick chance to be in good humour, or the Author much in their
favour, the People are sure to follow. Hence it is that the true Critic
hath so frequently attached himself to Works of established reputation;
not to teach the World to _admire_, which, in those circumstances, to say
the truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how
_with reason to admire_: No easy matter, I will assure you, on the subject
in question: For tho’ it be very true, as Mr. _Pope_ hath observed, that
_Shakespear is the fairest and fullest subject for criticism_, yet it is
not such a sort of criticism as may be raised mechanically on the Rules
which _Dacier_, _Rapin_, and _Bossu_ have collected from Antiquity; and of
which such kind of Writers as _Rymer_, _Gildon_, _Dennis_, and _Oldmixon_,
have only gathered and chewed the Husks: nor on the other hand is it to be
formed on the plan of those crude and superficial Judgments, on books and
things, with which a certain celebrated Paper so much abounds; too good
indeed to be named with the Writers last mentioned, but being unluckily
mistaken for a _Model_, because it was an _Original_, it hath given rise
to a deluge of the worst sort of critical Jargon; I mean that which looks
most like sense. But the kind of criticism here required is such as
judgeth our Author by those only Laws and Principles on which he wrote,

Our Observations, therefore, being thus extensive, will, I presume, enable
the Reader to form a right judgment of this favourite Poet, without
drawing out his Character, as was once intended, in a continued discourse.

These, such as they are, were amongst my younger amusements, when, many
years ago, I used to turn over these sort of Writers to unbend myself from
more serious applications: And what, certainly, the Public, at this time
of day, had never been troubled with, but for the conduct of the two last
Editors, and the persuasions of dear Mr. POPE; whose memory and name,

    ——semper acerbum,
    Semper honoratum (sic Di voluistis) habebo.

He was desirous I should give a new Edition of this Poet, as he thought it
might contribute to put a stop to a prevailing folly of altering the Text
of celebrated Authors without Talents or Judgment. And he was willing that
_his_ Edition should be melted down into _mine_, as it would, he said,
afford him (so great is the modesty of an ingenuous temper) a fit
opportunity of confessing his Mistakes.(40) In memory of our Friendship, I
have, therefore, made it our joint Edition. His admirable Preface is here
added; all his Notes are given, with his name annexed; the Scenes are
divided according to his regulation; and the most beautiful passages
distinguished, as in his book, with inverted commas. In imitation of him,
I have done the same by as many others as I thought most deserving of the
Reader’s attention, and have marked them with _double_ commas.

If, from all this, _Shakespear_ or good Letters have received any
advantage, and the Public any benefit or entertainment, the thanks are due
to the _Proprietors_, who have been at the expence of procuring this
Edition. And I should be unjust to several deserving Men of a reputable
and useful Profession, if I did not, on this occasion, acknowledge the
fair dealing I have always found amongst them; and profess my sense of the
unjust Prejudice which lies against them; whereby they have been,
hitherto, unable to procure that security for their Property, which they
see the rest of their Fellow-Citizens enjoy: A prejudice in part arising
from the frequent _Piracies_ (as they are called) committed by Members of
their own Body. But such kind of Members no Body is without. And it would
be hard that this should be turned to the discredit of the honest part of
the Profession, who suffer more from such Injuries than any other men. It
hath, in part too, arisen from the clamours of profligate Scriblers, ever
ready, for a piece of Money, to prostitute their bad sense for or against
any Cause prophane or sacred; or in any Scandal public or private: These
meeting with little encouragement from Men of account in the Trade (who
even in this enlightened Age are not the very worst Judges or Rewarders of
merit), apply themselves to People of Condition; and support their
importunities by false complaints against _Booksellers_.

But I should now, perhaps, rather think of my own Apology, than busy
myself in the defence of others. I shall have some _Tartuffe_ ready, on
the first appearance of this Edition, to call out again, and tell me, that
_I suffer myself to be wholly diverted from my purpose by these matters
less suitable to my clerical Profession_. “Well, but,” says a friend, “why
not take so candid an intimation in good part? Withdraw yourself, again,
as you are bid, into the clerical Pale; examine the Records of sacred and
profane Antiquity; and, on them, erect a Work to the confusion of
Infidelity.” Why, I have done all this, and more: And hear now what the
same Men have said to it. They tell me, _I have wrote to the wrong and
injury of Religion, and furnished out more handles for Unbelievers_. “Oh
now the secret’s out; and you may have your pardon, I find, upon easier
terms. ’Tis only, to write no more.”—Good Gentlemen! and shall I not
oblige them? They would gladly _obstruct_ my way to those things which
every Man, who _endeavours well_ in his Profession, must needs think he
has some claim to, when he sees them given to those who never did
_endeavour_; at the same time that they would _deter_ me from taking those
advantages which Letters enable me to procure for myself. If then I am to
write no more (tho’ as much out of my Profession as they may please to
represent this Work, I suspect their modesty would not insist on a
scrutiny of our several applications of this profane profit and their
purer gains); if, I say, I am to write no more, let me at least give the
Public, who have a better pretence to demand it of me, some reason for my
presenting them with these amusements. Which, if I am not much mistaken,
may be excused by the best and fairest _Examples_; and, what is more, may
be justified on the surer _reason of things_.

The great Saint CHRYSOSTOM, a name consecrated to immortality by his
Virtue and Eloquence, is known to have been so fond of _Aristophanes_ as
to wake with him at his studies, and to sleep with him under his pillow:
and I never heard that this was objected either to his Piety or his
Preaching, not even in those times of pure Zeal and primitive Religion.
Yet, in respect of _Shakespear_’s great sense, _Aristophanes_’s best wit
is but buffoonry; and, in comparison of _Aristophanes_’s Freedoms,
_Shakespear_ writes with the purity of a Vestal. But they will say, St.
_Chrysostom_ contracted a fondness for the comic Poet _for the sake of his
Greek_. To this, indeed, I have nothing to reply. Far be it from me to
insinuate so unscholarlike a thing, as if We had the same Use for good
_English_ that a _Greek_ had for his _Attic_ elegance. Critic _Kuster_, in
a taste and language peculiar to Grammarians of a certain order, hath
decreed, that _the History and Chronology of __GREEK__ Words is the most
SOLID entertainment of a Man of Letters_.

I fly, then, to a higher Example, much nearer home, and still more in
point, The famous University of OXFORD. This illustrious Body, which hath
long so justly held, and, with such equity, dispensed, the chief honours
of the learned World, thought good Letters so much interested in correct
Editions of the best _English_ Writers, that they, very lately, in their
publick Capacity, undertook _one_, of this very Author, by subscription.
And if the Editor hath not discharged his Task with suitable abilities for
one so much honoured by them, this was not their fault but his, who thrust
himself into the employment. After such an Example, it would be weakening
any defence to seek further for Authorities. All that can be now decently
urged is the _reason of the thing_; and this I shall do, more for the sake
of that truly venerable Body than my own.

Of all the literary exercitations of speculative Men, whether designed for
the use or entertainment of the World, there are none of so much
importance, or what are more our immediate concern, than those which let
us into the knowledge of our Nature. Others may exercise the Reason, or
amuse the Imagination; but these only can improve the Heart, and form the
human Mind to Wisdom. Now, in this Science, our _Shakespear_ is confessed
to occupy the foremost place; whether we consider the amazing sagacity
with which he investigates every hidden spring and wheel of human Action;
or his happy manner of communicating this knowledge, in the just and
living paintings which he has given us of all our Passions, Appetites, and
Pursuits. These afford a lesson which can never be too often repeated, or
too constantly inculcated; And, to engage the Reader’s due attention to
it, hath been one of the principal objects of this Edition.

As this Science (whatever profound Philosophers may think) is, to the
rest, _in Things_; so, _in Words_ (whatever supercilious Pedants may
talk), every one’s mother tongue is to all other Languages. This hath
still been the Sentiment of Nature and true Wisdom. Hence, the greatest
men of Antiquity never thought themselves better employed than in
cultivating their own country idiom. So _Lycurgus_ did honour to _Sparta_,
in giving the first compleat Edition of _Homer_; and _Cicero_, to _Rome_,
in correcting the Works of _Lucretius_. Nor do we want Examples of the
same good sense in modern Times, even amidst the cruel inrodes that Art
and Fashion have made upon Nature and the simplicity of Wisdom. _Ménage_,
the greatest name in _France_ for all kind of philologic Learning, prided
himself in writing critical Notes on their best lyric Poet, _Malherbe_:
And our greater _Selden_, when he thought it might reflect credit on his
Country, did not disdain even to comment a very ordinary Poet, one
_Michael Drayton_. But the _English_ tongue, at this Juncture, deserves
and demands our particular regard. It hath, by means of the many excellent
Works of different kinds composed in it, engaged the notice, and become
the study, of almost every curious and learned Foreigner, so as to be
thought even a part of literary accomplishment. This must needs make it
deserving of a critical attention: And its being yet destitute of a Test
or Standard to apply to, in cases of doubt or difficulty, shews how much
it wants that attention. For we have neither GRAMMAR nor DICTIONARY,
neither Chart nor Compass, to guide us through this wide sea of Words. And
indeed how should we? since both are to be composed and finished on the
Authority of our best established Writers. But their Authority can be of
little use till the Text hath been correctly settled, and the Phraseology
critically examined. As, then, by these aids, a _Grammar_ and
_Dictionary_, planned upon the best rules of Logic and Philosophy (and
none but such will deserve the name), are to be procured; the forwarding
of this will be a general concern: For, as _Quintilian_ observes,
“Verborum _proprietas_ ac _differentia_ omnibus, qui sermonem curæ habent,
debet esse communis.” By this way, the _Italians_ have brought their
tongue to a degree of Purity and Stability which no living Language ever
attained unto before. It is with pleasure I observe, that these things now
begin to be understood amongst ourselves; and that I can acquaint the
Public, we may soon expect very elegant Editions of _Fletcher_ and
_Milton_’s _Paradise Lost_ from Gentlemen of distinguished Abilities and
Learning. But this interval of good sense, as it may be short, is indeed
but new. For I remember to have heard of a very learned Man, who, not long
since, formed a design of giving a more correct Edition of _Spenser_; and,
without doubt, would have performed it well; but he was dissuaded from his
purpose by his Friends, as beneath the dignity of a Professor of the
occult Sciences. Yet these very Friends, I suppose, would have thought it
had added lustre to his high Station, to have new-furbished out some dull
northern Chronicle, or dark Sibylline Ænigma. But let it not be thought
that what is here said insinuates any thing to the discredit of _Greek_
and _Latin_ criticism. If the follies of particular Men were sufficient to
bring any branch of Learning into disrepute, I don’t know any that would
stand in a worse situation than that for which I now apologize. For I
hardly think there ever appeared, in any _learned_ Language, so execrable
a heap of nonsense, under the name of Commentaries, as hath been lately
given us on a certain satyric Poet, of the last Age, by his Editor and

I am sensible how unjustly the very best _classical_ Critics have been
treated. It is said that our great Philosopher spoke with much contempt of
the two finest Scholars of this Age, Dr. _Bentley_ and Bishop _Hare_, for
squabbling, as he expressed it, about an old Play-book; meaning, I
suppose, _Terence_’s Comedies. But this Story is unworthy of him; tho’
well enough suiting the fanatic turn of the wild Writer that relates it;
such censures are amongst the follies of men immoderately given over to
one Science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the rest. Those learned
Critics might, and perhaps did, laugh in their turn (tho’ still, sure,
with the same indecency and indiscretion) at that incomparable Man, for
wearing out a long Life in poring through a Telescope. Indeed, the
weaknesses of Such are to be mentioned with reverence. But who can bear,
without indignation, the fashionable cant of every trifling Writer, whose
insipidity passes, with himself, for politeness, for pretending to be
shocked, forsooth, with the rude and savage air of _vulgar_ Critics;
meaning such as _Muretus_, _Scaliger_, _Casaubon_, _Salmasius_,
_Spanheim_, _Bentley_. When, had it not been for the deathless labours of
such as these, the western World, at the revival of Letters, had soon
fallen back again into a state of ignorance and barbarity as deplorable as
that from which Providence had just redeemed it.

To conclude with an observation of a fine Writer and great Philosopher of
our own; which I would gladly bind, tho’ with all honour, as a Phylactery,
on the Brow of every awful Grammarian, to teach him at once the _Use_ and


That praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours
due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be
always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope
for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by
disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from
posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the
regard which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time.

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind,
has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but from
prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long
preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with
chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present
excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as
the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention
of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the
ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his
worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.

To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite,
but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles
demonstrative and scientifick, but appealing wholly to observation and
experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and
continuance of esteem. What mankind have long possessed they have often
examined and compared, and if they persist to value the possession, it is
because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As
among the works of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a
mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains, and many rivers;
so in the production of genius, nothing can be stiled excellent till it
has been compared with other works of the same kind. Demonstration
immediately displays its power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the
flux of years; but works tentative and experimental must be estimated by
their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is
discovered in a long succession of endeavours. Of the first building that
was raised, it might be with certainty determined that it was round or
square; but whether it was spacious or lofty must have been referred to
time. The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once discovered to be
perfect; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common
limits of human intelligence, but by remarking that nation after nation,
and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose
his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.

The reverence due to writings that have long subsisted arises therefore
not from any credulous confidence in the superior wisdom of past ages, or
gloomy persuasion of the degeneracy of mankind, but is the consequence of
acknowledged and indubitable positions, that what has been longest known
has been most considered, and what is most considered is best understood.

The poet, of whose works I have undertaken the revision, may now begin to
assume the dignity of an ancient, and claim the privilege of an
established fame and prescriptive veneration. He has long outlived his
century, the term commonly fixed as the test of literary merit. Whatever
advantages he might once derive from personal allusions, local customs, or
temporary opinions, have for many years been lost; and every topick of
merriment or motive of sorrow, which the modes of artificial life afforded
him, now only obscure the scenes which they once illuminated. The effects
of favour and competition are at an end; the tradition of his friendships
and his enmities has perished; his works support no opinion with
arguments, nor supply any faction with invectives; they can neither
indulge vanity, nor gratify malignity; but are read without any other
reason than the desire of pleasure, and are therefore praised only as
pleasure is obtained; yet, thus unassisted by interest or passion, they
have past through variations of taste and changes of manners, and, as they
devolved from one generation to another, have received new honours at
every transmission.

But because human judgment, though it be gradually gaining upon certainty,
never becomes infallible; and approbation, though long continued, may yet
be only the approbation of prejudice or fashion; it is proper to inquire,
by what peculiarities of excellence Shakespeare has gained and kept the
favour of his countrymen.

Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of
general nature. Particular manners can be known to few, and therefore few
only can judge how nearly they are copied. The irregular combinations of
fanciful invention may delight awhile, by that novelty of which the common
satiety of life sends us all in quest; but the pleasures of sudden wonder
are soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose on the stability of

Shakespeare is above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the
poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of
manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of
particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world; by the
peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate but upon small
numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions:
they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will
always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak
by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all
minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion.
In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual; in
those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species.

It is from this wide extension of design that so much instruction is
derived. It is this which fills the plays of Shakespeare with practical
axioms and domestick wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse
was a precept; and it may be said of Shakespeare, that from his works may
be collected a system of civil and œconomical prudence. Yet his real power
is not shewn in the splendor of particular passages, but by the progress
of his fable, and the tenor of his dialogue; and he that tries to
recommend him by select quotations, will succeed like the pedant in
Heirocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his
pocket as a specimen.

It will not easily be imagined how much Shakespeare excels in
accommodating his sentiments to real life, but by comparing him with other
authors. It was observed of the ancient schools of declamation, that the
more diligently they were frequented, the more was the student
disqualified for the world, because he found nothing there which he should
ever meet in any other place. The same remark may be applied to every
stage but that of Shakespeare. The theatre, when it is under any other
direction, is peopled by such characters as were never seen, conversing in
a language which was never heard, upon topicks which will never arise in
the commerce of mankind. But the dialogue of this author is often so
evidently determined by the incident which produces it, and is pursued
with so much ease and simplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the
merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of
common conversation, and common occurrences.

Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by whose power all
good and evil is distributed, and every action quickened or retarded. To
bring a lover, a lady, and a rival into the fable; to entangle them in
contradictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of interest, and
harrass them with violence of desires inconsistent with each other; to
make them meet in rapture, and part in agony; to fill their mouths with
hyperbolical joy and outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing human
ever was distressed; to deliver them as nothing human ever was delivered,
is the business of a modern dramatist. For this, probability is violated,
life is misrepresented, and language is depraved. But love is only one of
many passions, and as it has no great influence upon the sum of life, it
has little operation in the dramas of a poet who caught his ideas from the
living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He knew that any
other passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a cause of happiness
or calamity.

Characters thus ample and general were not easily discriminated and
preserved, yet perhaps no poet ever kept his personages more distinct from
each other. I will not say with Pope, that every speech may be assigned to
the proper speaker, because many speeches there are which have nothing
characteristical; but, perhaps, though some may be equally adapted to
every person, it will be difficult to find any that can be properly
transferred from the present possessor to another claimant. The choice is
right, when there is reason for choice.

Other dramatists can only gain attention by hyperbolical or aggravated
characters, by fabulous and unexampled excellence or depravity, as the
writers of barbarous romances invigorated the reader by a giant and a
dwarf; and he that should form his expectation of human affairs from the
play, or from the tale, would be equally deceived. Shakespeare has no
heroes; his scenes are occupied only by men, who act and speak as the
reader thinks that he should himself have spoken or acted on the same
occasion: even where the agency is super-natural, the dialogue is level
with life. Other writers disguise the most natural passions and most
frequent incidents; so that he who contemplates them in the book will not
know them in the world: Shakespeare approximates the remote, and
familiarizes the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen,
but if it were possible, its effects would probably be such as he has
assigned; and it may be said that he has not only shewn human nature as it
acts in real exigences, but as it would be found in trials to which it
cannot be exposed.

This therefore is the praise of Shakespeare, that his drama is the mirror
of life; that he who has mazed his imagination, in following the phantoms
which other writers raise up before him, may here be cured of his
delirious ecstasies, by reading human sentiments in human language; by
scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and
a confessor predict the progress of the passions.

His adherence to general nature has exposed him to the censure of
criticks, who form their judgments upon narrower principles. Dennis and
Rhymer think his Romans not sufficiently Roman; and Voltaire censures his
kings as not completely royal. Dennis is offended that Menenius, a senator
of Rome, should play the buffoon; and Voltaire perhaps thinks decency
violated when the Danish usurper is represented as a drunkard. But
Shakespeare always makes nature predominate over accident; and if he
preserves the essential character, is not very careful of distinctions
superinduced and adventitious. His story requires Romans or kings, but he
thinks only on men. He knew that Rome, like every other city, had men of
all dispositions; and wanting a buffoon, he went into the senate-house for
that which the senate-house would certainly have afforded him. He was
inclined to shew an usurper and a murderer not only odious, but
despicable; he therefore added drunkenness to his other qualities, knowing
that kings love wine like other men, and that wine exerts its natural
power upon kings. These are the petty cavils of petty minds; a poet
overlooks the casual distinction of country and condition, as a painter,
satisfied with the figure, neglects the drapery.

The censure which he has incurred by mixing comick and tragick scenes, as
it extends to all his works, deserves more consideration. Let the fact be
first stated, and then examined.

Shakespeare’s plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either
tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the
real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and
sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes
of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss
of one is the gain of another; in which, at the same time, the reveller is
hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend; in which the
malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the frolick of another; and many
mischiefs and many benefits are done and hindered without design.

Out of this chaos of mingled purposes and casualties, the ancient poets,
according to the laws which custom had prescribed, selected some the
crimes of men, and some their absurdities; some the momentous vicissitudes
of life, and some the lighter occurrences; some the terrors of distress,
and some the gaieties of prosperity. Thus rose the two modes of imitation,
known by the names of _tragedy_ and _comedy_, compositions intended to
promote different ends by contrary means, and considered as so little
allied, that I do not recollect among the Greeks or Romans a single writer
who attempted both.

Shakespeare has united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only
in one mind, but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided
between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive
evolutions of the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, and
sometimes levity and laughter.

That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily
allowed; but there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature. The
end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by
pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the instruction of tragedy
or comedy cannot be denied, because it includes both in its alternations
of exhibition, and approaches nearer than either to the appearance of
life, by shewing how great machinations and slender designs may promote or
obviate one another, and the high and the low co-operate in the general
system by unavoidable concatenation.

It is objected that by this change of scenes the passions are interrupted
in their progression, and that the principal event, being not advanced by
a due gradation of preparatory incidents, wants at last the power to move,
which constitutes the perfection of dramatick poetry. This reasoning is so
specious, that it is received as true even by those who in daily
experience feel it to be false. The interchanges of mingled scenes seldom
fail to produce the intended vicissitudes of passion. Fiction cannot move
so much, but that the attention may be easily transferred; and though it
must be allowed that pleasing melancholy be sometimes interrupted by
unwelcome levity, yet let it be considered likewise, that melancholy is
often not pleasing, and that the disturbance of one man may be the relief
of another; that different auditors have different habitudes; and that,
upon the whole, all pleasure consists in variety.

The players, who in their edition divided our author’s works into
comedies, histories, and tragedies, seem not to have distinguished the
three kinds, by any very exact or definite ideas.

An action which ended happily to the principal persons, however serious or
distressful through its intermediate incidents, in their opinion
constituted a comedy. This idea of a comedy continued long amongst us, and
plays were written, which, by changing the catastrophe, were tragedies
to-day, and comedies to-morrow.

Tragedy was not in those times a poem of more general dignity or elevation
than comedy; it required only a calamitous conclusion, with which the
common criticism of that age was satisfied, whatever lighter pleasure it
afforded in its progress.

History was a series of actions, with no other than chronological
succession, independent on each other, and without any tendency to
introduce and regulate the conclusion. It is not always very nicely
distinguished from tragedy. There is not much nearer approach to unity of
action in the tragedy of _Antony and Cleopatra_, than in the history of
_Richard the Second_. But a history might be continued through many plays;
as it had no plan, it had no limits.

Through all these denominations of the drama, Shakespeare’s mode of
composition is the same; an interchange of seriousness and merriment, by
which the mind is softened at one time, and exhilarated at another. But
whatever be his purpose, whether to gladden or depress, or to conduct the
story, without vehemence or emotion, through tracts of easy and familiar
dialogue, he never fails to attain his purpose; as he commands us, we
laugh or mourn, or sit silent with quiet expectation, in tranquillity
without indifference.

When Shakespeare’s plan is understood, most of the criticisms of Rhymer
and Voltaire vanish away. The play of _Hamlet_ is opened, without
impropriety, by two centinels; Iago bellows at Brabantio’s window, without
injury to the scheme of the play, though in terms which a modern audience
would not easily endure; the character of Polonius is seasonable and
useful, and the Grave-diggers themselves may be heard with applause.

Shakespeare engaged in dramatick poetry with the world open before him;
the rules of the ancients were yet known to few; the publick judgment was
unformed; he had no example of such fame as might force him upon
imitation, nor criticks of such authority as might restrain his
extravagance: he therefore indulged his natural disposition, and his
disposition, as Rhymer has remarked, led him to comedy. In tragedy he
often writes with great appearance of toil and study, what is written at
last with little felicity; but in his comick scenes, he seems to produce
without labour, what no labour can improve. In tragedy he is always
struggling after some occasion to be comick, but in comedy he seems to
repose, or to luxuriate, as in a mode of thinking congenial to his nature.
In his tragick scenes there is always something wanting, but his comedy
often surpasses expectation or desire. His comedy pleases by the thoughts
and the language, and his tragedy for the greater part by incident and
action. His tragedy seems to be skill, his comedy to be instinct.

The force of his comick scenes has suffered little diminution from the
changes made by a century and a half, in manners or in words. As his
personages act upon principles arising from genuine passion, very little
modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexations are
communicable to all times and to all places; they are natural, and
therefore durable; the adventitious peculiarities of personal habits are
only superficial dies, bright and pleasing for a little while, yet soon
fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former lustre; but the
discriminations of true passion are the colours of nature; they pervade
the whole mass, and can only perish with the body that exhibits them. The
accidental compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by the chance
which combined them; but the uniform simplicity of primitive qualities
neither admits increase, nor suffers decay. The sand heaped by one flood
is scattered by another, but the rock always continues in its place. The
stream of time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabricks of
other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakespeare.

If there be, what I believe there is, in every nation, a stile which never
becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial
to the analogy and principles of its respective language, as to remain
settled and unaltered; this stile is probably to be sought in the common
intercourse of life, among those who speak only to be understood, without
ambition of elegance. The polite are always catching modish innovations,
and the learned depart from established forms of speech, in hope of
finding or making better; those who wish for distinction forsake the
vulgar, when the vulgar is right; but there is a conversation above
grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where this
poet seems to have gathered his comick dialogue. He is therefore more
agreeable to the ears of the present age than any other author equally
remote, and among his other excellencies deserves to be studied as one of
the original masters of our language.

These observations are to be considered not as unexceptionably constant,
but as containing general and predominant truth. Shakespeare’s familiar
dialogue is affirmed to be smooth and clear, yet not wholly without
ruggedness or difficulty; as a country may be eminently fruitful, though
it has spots unfit for cultivation: his characters are praised as natural,
though their sentiments are sometimes forced, and their actions
improbable; as the earth upon the whole is spherical, though its surface
is varied with protuberances and cavities.

Shakespeare with his excellencies has likewise faults, and faults
sufficient to obscure and overwhelm any other merit. I shall shew them in
the proportion in which they appear to me, without envious malignity or
superstitious veneration. No question can be more innocently discussed
than a dead poet’s pretensions to renown; and little regard is due to that
bigotry which sets candour higher than truth.

His first defect is that to which may be imputed most of the evil in books
or in men. He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more
careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write without any
moral purpose. From his writings indeed a system of social duty may be
selected, for he that thinks reasonably must think morally; but his
precepts and axioms drop casually from him; he makes no just distribution
of good or evil, nor is always careful to shew in the virtuous a
disapprobation of the wicked; he carries his persons indifferently through
right and wrong, and at the close dismisses them without further care, and
leaves their examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of
his age cannot extenuate; for it is always a writer’s duty to make the
world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time or place.

The plots are often so loosely formed, that a very slight consideration
may improve them, and so carelessly pursued, that he seems not always
fully to comprehend his own design. He omits opportunities of instructing
or delighting, which the train of his story seems to force upon him, and
apparently rejects those exhibitions which would be more affecting, for
the sake of those which are more easy.

It may be observed that in many of his plays the latter part is evidently
neglected. When he found himself near the end of his work, and in view of
his reward, he shortened the labour to snatch the profit. He therefore
remits his efforts where he should most vigorously exert them, and his
catastrophe is improbably produced or imperfectly represented.

He had no regard to distinction of time or place, but gives to one age or
nation, without scruple, the customs, institutions, and opinions of
another, at the expence not only of likelihood, but of possibility. These
faults Pope has endeavoured, with more zeal than judgment, to transfer to
his imagined interpolators. We need not wonder to find Hector quoting
Aristotle, when we see the loves of Theseus and Hippolyta combined with
the Gothick mythology of fairies. Shakespeare, indeed, was not the only
violator of chronology, for in the same age Sidney, who wanted not the
advantages of learning, has, in his _Arcadia_, confounded the pastoral
with the feudal times, the days of innocence, quiet, and security, with
those of turbulence, violence, and adventure.

In his comick scenes he is seldom very successful, when he engages his
characters in reciprocations of smartness and contests of sarcasm; their
jests are commonly gross, and their pleasantry licentious; neither his
gentlemen nor his ladies have much delicacy, nor are sufficiently
distinguished from his clowns by any appearance of refined manners.
Whether he represented the real conversation of his time is not easy to
determine; the reign of Elizabeth is commonly supposed to have been a time
of stateliness, formality, and reserve, yet perhaps the relaxations of
that severity were not very elegant. There must, however, have been always
some modes of gaiety preferable to others, and a writer ought to chuse the

In tragedy his performance seems constantly to be worse, as his labour is
more. The effusions of passion, which exigence forces out, are for the
most part striking and energetick; but whenever he solicits his invention,
or strains his faculties, the offspring of his throes is tumour, meanness,
tediousness, and obscurity.

In narration he affects a disproportionate pomp of diction and a wearisome
train of circumlocution, and tells the incident imperfectly in many words,
which might have been more plainly delivered in few. Narration in
dramatick poetry is naturally tedious, as it is unanimated and inactive,
and obstructs the progress of the action; it should therefore always be
rapid, and enlivened by frequent interruption. Shakespeare found it an
encumbrance, and instead of lightening it by brevity, endeavoured to
recommend it by dignity and splendor.

His declamations or set speeches are commonly cold and weak, for his power
was the power of nature; when he endeavoured, like other tragick writers,
to catch opportunities of amplification, and instead of inquiring what the
occasion demanded, to shew how much his stores of knowledge could supply,
he seldom escapes without the pity or resentment of his reader.

It is incident to him to be now and then entangled with an unwieldy
sentiment, which he cannot well express, and will not reject; he struggles
with it a while, and if it continues stubborn, comprises it in words such
as occur, and leaves it to be disentangled and evolved by those who have
more leisure to bestow upon it.

Not that always where the language is intricate the thought is subtle, or
the image always great where the line is bulky; the equality of words to
things is very often neglected, and trivial sentiments and vulgar ideas
disappoint the attention, to which they are recommended by sonorous
epithets and swelling figures.

But the admirers of this great poet have most reason to complain when he
approaches nearest to his highest excellence, and seems fully resolved to
sink them in dejection, and mollify them with tender emotions by the fall
of greatness, the danger of innocence, or the crosses of love. What he
does best, he soon ceases to do. He is not long soft and pathetick without
some idle conceit, or contemptible equivocation. He no sooner begins to
move, than he counteracts himself; and terror and pity, as they are rising
in the mind, are checked and blasted by sudden frigidity.

A quibble is to Shakespeare what luminous vapours are to the traveller: he
follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and
sure to engulf him in the mire. It has some malignant power over his mind,
and its fascinations are irresistible. Whatever be the dignity or
profundity of his disquisition, whether he be enlarging knowledge or
exalting affection, whether he be amusing attention with incidents, or
enchaining it in suspense, let but a quibble spring up before him, and he
leaves his work unfinished. A quibble is the golden apple for which he
will always turn aside from his career, or stoop from his elevation. A
quibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such delight, that he was
content to purchase it by the sacrifice of reason, propriety, and truth. A
quibble was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and
was content to lose it.

It will be thought strange, that, in enumerating the defects of this
writer, I have not yet mentioned his neglect of the unities; his violation
of those laws which have been instituted and established by the joint
authority of poets and of criticks.

For his other deviations from the art of writing, I resign him to critical
justice, without making any other demand in his favour, than that which
must be indulged to all human excellence; that his virtues be rated with
his failings: but, from the censure which this irregularity may bring upon
him, I shall, with due reverence to that learning which I must oppose,
adventure to try how I can defend him.

His histories, being neither tragedies nor comedies, are not subject to
any of their laws; nothing more is necessary to all the praise which they
expect, than that the changes of action be so prepared as to be
understood, that the incidents be various and affecting, and the
characters consistent, natural, and distinct. No other unity is intended,
and therefore none is to be sought.

In his other works he has well enough preserved the unity of action. He
has not, indeed, an intrigue regularly perplexed and regularly unravelled;
he does not endeavour to hide his design only to discover it, for this is
seldom the order of real events, and Shakespeare is the poet of nature:
but his plan has commonly what Aristotle requires, a beginning, a middle,
and an end; one event is concatenated with another, and the conclusion
follows by easy consequence. There are perhaps some incidents that might
be spared, as in other poets there is much talk that only fills up time
upon the stage; but the general system makes gradual advances, and the end
of the play is the end of expectation.

To the unities of time and place he has shewn no regard; and perhaps a
nearer view of the principles on which they stand will diminish their
value, and withdraw from them the veneration which, from the time of
Corneille, they have very generally received, by discovering that they
have given more trouble to the poet, than pleasure to the auditor.

The necessity of observing the unities of time and place arises from the
supposed necessity of making the drama credible. The criticks hold it
impossible that an action of months or years can be possibly believed to
pass in three hours; or that the spectator can suppose himself to sit in
the theatre, while ambassadors go and return between distant kings, while
armies are levied and towns besieged, while an exile wanders and returns,
or till he whom they saw courting his mistress, shall lament the untimely
fall of his son. The mind revolts from evident falsehood, and fiction
loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality.

From the narrow limitation of time necessarily arises the contraction of
place. The spectator, who knows that he saw the first act at Alexandria,
cannot suppose that he sees the next at Rome, at a distance to which not
the dragons of Medea could, in so short a time, have transported him; he
knows with certainty that he has not changed his place; and he knows that
place cannot change itself; that what was a house cannot become a plain;
that what was Thebes can never be Persepolis.

Such is the triumphant language with which a critick exults over the
misery of an irregular poet, and exults commonly without resistance or
reply. It is time therefore to tell him, by the authority of Shakespeare,
that he assumes, as an unquestionable principle, a position, which, while
his breath is forming it into words, his understanding pronounces to be
false. It is false that any representation is mistaken for reality; that
any dramatick fable in its materiality was ever credible, or, for a single
moment, was ever credited.

The objection arising from the impossibility of passing the first hour at
Alexandria, and the next at Rome, supposes that when the play opens the
spectator really imagines himself at Alexandria, and believes that his
walk to the theatre has been a voyage to Egypt, and that he lives in the
days of Antony and Cleopatra. Surely he that imagines this may imagine
more. He that can take the stage at one time for the palace of the
Ptolemies, may take it in half an hour for the promontory of Actium.
Delusion, if delusion be admitted, has no certain limitation; if the
spectator can be once persuaded that his old acquaintance are Alexander
and Cæsar, that a room illuminated with candles is the plain of Pharsalia,
or the bank of Granicus, he is in a state of elevation above the reach of
reason, or of truth, and from the heights of empyrean poetry may despise
the circumscriptions of terrestrial nature. There is no reason why a mind
thus wandering in ecstasy should count the clock, or why an hour should
not be a century in that calenture of the brains that can make the stage a

The truth is that the spectators are always in their senses, and know,
from the first act to the last, that the stage is only a stage, and that
the players are only players. They come to hear a certain number of lines
recited with just gesture and elegant modulation. The lines relate to some
action, and an action must be in some place; but the different actions
that complete a story may be in places very remote from each other; and
where is the absurdity of allowing that space to represent first Athens,
and then Sicily, which was always known to be neither Sicily nor Athens,
but a modern theatre.

By supposition, as place is introduced, time may be extended; the time
required by the fable elapses for the most part between the acts; for, of
so much of the action as is represented, the real and poetical duration is
the same. If, in the first act, preparations for war against Mithridates
are represented to be made in Rome, the event of the war may, without
absurdity, be represented, in the catastrophe, as happening in Pontus; we
know that there is neither war, nor preparation for war; we know that we
are neither in Rome nor Pontus; that neither Mithridates nor Lucullus are
before us. The drama exhibits successive imitations of successive actions,
and why may not the second imitation represent an action that happened
years after the first; if it be so connected with it, that nothing but
time can be supposed to intervene. Time is, of all modes of existence,
most obsequious to the imagination; a lapse of years is as easily
conceived as a passage of hours. In contemplation we easily contract the
time of real actions, and therefore willingly permit it to be contracted
when we only see their imitation.

It will be asked how the drama moves, if it is not credited. It is
credited with all the credit due to a drama. It is credited, whenever it
moves, as a just picture of a real original; as representing to the
auditor what he would himself feel, if he were to do or suffer what is
there feigned to be suffered or to be done. The reflection that strikes
the heart is not that the evils before us are real evils, but that they
are evils to which we ourselves may be exposed. If there be any fallacy,
it is not that we fancy the players, but that we fancy ourselves unhappy
for a moment; but we rather lament the possibility than suppose the
presence of misery, as a mother weeps over her babe, when she remembers
that death may take it from her. The delight of tragedy proceeds from our
consciousness of fiction; if we thought murders and treasons real, they
would please no more.

Imitations produce pain or pleasure, not because they are mistaken for
realities, but because they bring realities to mind. When the imagination
is recreated by a painted landscape, the trees are not supposed capable to
give us shade, or the fountains coolness; but we consider how we should be
pleased with such fountains playing beside us, and such woods waving over
us. We are agitated in reading the history of _Henry the Fifth_, yet no
man takes his book for the field of Agincourt. A dramatick exhibition is a
book recited with concomitants that increase or diminish its effect.
Familiar comedy is often more powerful in the theatre, than on the page;
imperial tragedy is always less. The humour of Petruchio may be heightened
by grimace; but what voice or what gesture can hope to add dignity or
force to the soliloquy of Cato?

A play read affects the mind like a play acted. It is therefore evident
that the action is not supposed to be real; and it follows that between
the acts a longer or shorter time may be allowed to pass, and that no more
account of space or duration is to be taken by the auditor of a drama,
than by the reader of a narrative, before whom may pass in an hour the
life of a hero, or the revolutions of an empire.

Whether Shakespeare knew the unities, and rejected them by design, or
deviated from them by happy ignorance, it is, I think, impossible to
decide, and useless to enquire. We may reasonably suppose that, when he
rose to notice, he did not want the counsels and admonitions of scholars
and criticks, and that he at last deliberately persisted in a practice,
which he might have begun by chance. As nothing is essential to the fable
but unity of action, and as the unities of time and place arise evidently
from false assumptions, and, by circumscribing the extent of the drama,
lessen its variety, I cannot think it much to be lamented that they were
not known by him, or not observed: nor, if such another poet could arise,
should I very vehemently reproach him, that his first act passed at
Venice, and his next in Cyprus. Such violations of rules merely positive
become the comprehensive genius of Shakespeare, and such censures are
suitable to the minute and slender criticism of Voltaire:

    Non usque adeo permiscuit imis
    Longus summa dies, ut non, si voce Metelli
    Serventur leges, malint a Cæsare tolli.

Yet when I speak thus slightly of dramatick rules, I cannot but recollect
how much wit and learning may be produced against me; before such
authorities I am afraid to stand, not that I think the present question
one of those that are to be decided by mere authority, but because it is
to be suspected that these precepts have not been so easily received but
for better reasons than I have yet been able to find. The result of my
enquiries, in which it would be ludicrous to boast of impartiality, is
that the unities of time and place are not essential to a just drama, that
though they may sometimes conduce to pleasure, they are always to be
sacrificed to the nobler beauties of variety and instruction; and that a
play, written with nice observation of critical rules, is to be
contemplated as an elaborate curiosity, as the product of superfluous and
ostentatious art, by which is shewn, rather what is possible, than what is

He that, without diminution of any other excellence, shall preserve all
the unities unbroken, deserves the like applause with the architect who
shall display all the orders of architecture in a citadel, without any
deduction from its strength; but the principal beauty of a citadel is to
exclude the enemy; and the greatest graces of a play are to copy nature,
and instruct life.

Perhaps what I have here not dogmatically but deliberately written, may
recall the principles of the drama to a new examination. I am almost
frighted at my own temerity; and when I estimate the fame and the strength
of those that maintain the contrary opinion, am ready to sink down in
reverential silence; as Æneas withdrew from the defence of Troy, when he
saw Neptune shaking the wall, and Juno heading the besiegers.

Those whom my arguments cannot persuade to give their approbation to the
judgment of Shakespeare, will easily, if they consider the condition of
his life, make some allowance for his ignorance.

Every man’s performances, to be rightly estimated, must be compared with
the state of the age in which he lived, and with his own particular
opportunities; and though to a reader a book be not worse or better for
the circumstances of the author, yet as there is always a silent reference
of human works to human abilities, and as the enquiry, how far man may
extend his designs, or how high he may rate his native force, is of far
greater dignity than in what rank we shall place any particular
performance, curiosity is always busy to discover the instruments, as well
as to survey the workmanship, to know how much is to be ascribed to
original powers, and how much to casual and adventitious help. The palaces
of Peru or Mexico were certainly mean and incommodious habitations, if
compared to the houses of European monarchs; yet who could forbear to view
them with astonishment, who remembered that they were built without the
use of iron?

The English nation, in the time of Shakespeare, was yet struggling to
emerge from barbarity. The philology of Italy had been transplanted hither
in the reign of Henry the Eighth; and the learned languages had been
successfully cultivated by Lilly, Linacre, and More; by Pole, Cheke, and
Gardiner; and afterwards by Smith, Clerk, Haddon, and Ascham. Greek was
now taught to boys in the principal schools; and those who united elegance
with learning, read, with great diligence, the Italian and Spanish poets.
But literature was yet confined to professed scholars, or to men and women
of high rank. The publick was gross and dark; and to be able to read and
write, was an accomplishment still valued for its rarity.

Nations, like individuals, have their infancy. A people newly awakened to
literary curiosity, being yet unacquainted with the true state of things,
knows not how to judge of that which is proposed as its resemblance.
Whatever is remote from common appearances is always welcome to vulgar, as
to childish credulity; and of a country unenlightened by learning, the
whole people is the vulgar. The study of those who then aspired to
plebeian learning was then laid out upon adventures, giants, dragons, and
enchantments. _The Death of Arthur_ was the favourite volume.

The mind which has feasted on the luxurious wonders of fiction, has no
taste of the insipidity of truth. A play which imitated only the common
occurrences of the world, would, upon the admirers of _Palmerin_ and _Guy
of Warwick_, have made little impression; he that wrote for such an
audience was under the necessity of looking round for strange events and
fabulous transactions, and that incredibility, by which maturer knowledge
is offended, was the chief recommendation of writings, to unskilful

Our author’s plots are generally borrowed from novels; and it is
reasonable to suppose that he chose the most popular, such as were read by
many, and related by more; for his audience could not have followed him
through the intricacies of the drama, had they not held the thread of the
story in their hands.

The stories which we now find only in remoter authors, were in his time
accessible and familiar. The fable of _As you like it_, which is supposed
to be copied from Chaucer’s _Gamelyn_, was a little pamphlet of those
times; and old Mr. Cibber remembered the tale of _Hamlet_ in plain English
prose, which the criticks have now to seek in _Saxo Grammaticus_.

His English histories he took from English chronicles and English ballads;
and as the ancient writers were made known to his countrymen by versions,
they supplied him with new subjects; he dilated some of Plutarch’s lives
into plays, when they had been translated by North.

His plots, whether historical or fabulous, are always crouded with
incidents, by which the attention of a rude people was more easily caught
than by sentiment or argumentation; and such is the power of the
marvellous, even over those who despise it, that every man finds his mind
more strongly seized by the tragedies of Shakespeare than of any other
writer; others please us by particular speeches, but he always makes us
anxious for the event, and has perhaps excelled all but Homer in securing
the first purpose of a writer, by exciting restless and unquenchable
curiosity, and compelling him that reads his work to read it through.

The shows and bustle with which his plays abound have the same original.
As knowledge advances, pleasure passes from the eye to the ear, but
returns, as it declines, from the ear to the eye. Those to whom our
author’s labours were exhibited had more skill in pomps or processions
than in poetical language, and perhaps wanted some visible and
discriminated events, as comments on the dialogue. He knew how he should
most please; and whether his practice is more agreeable to nature, or
whether his example has prejudiced the nation, we still find that on our
stage something must be done as well as said, and inactive declamation is
very coldly heard, however musical or elegant, passionate or sublime.

Voltaire expresses his wonder, that our author’s extravagancies are
endured by a nation which has seen the tragedy of _Cato_. Let him be
answered, that Addison speaks the language of poets, and Shakespeare, of
men. We find in _Cato_ innumerable beauties which enamour us of its
author, but we see nothing that acquaints us with human sentiments or
human actions; we place it with the fairest and the noblest progeny which
judgment propagates by conjunction with learning; but _Othello_ is the
vigorous and vivacious offspring of observation impregnated by genius.
_Cato_ affords a splendid exhibition of artificial and fictitious manners,
and delivers just and noble sentiments, in diction easy, elevated, and
harmonious, but its hopes and fears communicate no vibration to the heart;
the composition refers us only to the writer; we pronounce the name of
_Cato_, but we think on _Addison_.

The work of a correct and regular writer is a garden accurately formed and
diligently planted, varied with shades, and scented with flowers; the
composition of Shakespeare is a forest, in which oaks extend their
branches, and pines tower in the air, interspersed sometimes with weeds
and brambles, and sometimes giving shelter to myrtles and to roses;
filling the eye with awful pomp, and gratifying the mind with endless
diversity. Other poets display cabinets of precious rarities, minutely
finished, wrought into shape, and polished into brightness. Shakespeare
opens a mine which contains gold and diamonds in unexhaustible plenty,
though clouded by incrustations, debased by impurities, and mingled with a
mass of meaner minerals.

It has been much disputed, whether Shakespeare owed his excellence to his
own native force, or whether he had the common helps of scholastick
education, the precepts of critical science, and the examples of ancient

There has always prevailed a tradition, that Shakespeare wanted learning,
that he had no regular education, nor much skill in the dead languages.
Jonson, his friend, affirms that _he had small Latin, and less Greek_;
who, besides that he had no imaginable temptation to falsehood, wrote at a
time when the character and acquisitions of Shakespeare were known to
multitudes. His evidence ought therefore to decide the controversy, unless
some testimony of equal force could be opposed.

Some have imagined that they have discovered deep learning in many
imitations of old writers; but the examples which I have known urged, were
drawn from books translated in his time; or were such easy coincidences of
thought, as will happen to all who consider the same subjects; or such
remarks on life or axioms of morality as float in conversation, and are
transmitted through the world in proverbial sentences.

I have found it remarked that, in this important sentence, _Go before,
I’ll follow_, we read a translation of, _I prae, sequar_. I have been told
that when Caliban, after a pleasing dream, says, _I cry’d to sleep again_,
the author imitates Anacreon, who had, like every other man, the same wish
on the same occasion.

There are a few passages which may pass for imitations, but so few, that
the exception only confirms the rule; he obtained them from accidental
quotations, or by oral communication, and as he used what he had, would
have used more if he had obtained it.

The _Comedy of Errors_ is confessedly taken from the _Menæchmi_ of
Plautus; from the only play of Plautus which was then in English. What can
be more probable, than that he who copied that, would have copied more,
but that those which were not translated were inaccessible?

Whether he knew the modern languages is uncertain. That his plays have
some French scenes proves but little; he might easily procure them to be
written, and probably, even though he had known the language in the common
degree, he could not have written it without assistance. In the story of
_Romeo and Juliet_ he is observed to have followed the English
translation, where it deviates from the Italian; but this on the other
part proves nothing against his knowledge of the original. He was to copy,
not what he knew himself, but what was known to his audience.

It is most likely that he had learned Latin sufficiently to make him
acquainted with construction, but that he never advanced to an easy
perusal of the Roman authors. Concerning his skill in modern languages, I
can find no sufficient ground of determination; but as no imitations of
French or Italian authors have been discovered, though the Italian poetry
was then in high esteem, I am inclined to believe that he read little more
than English, and chose for his fables only such tales as he found

That much knowledge is scattered over his works is very justly observed by
Pope, but it is often such knowledge as books did not supply. He that will
understand Shakespeare, must not be content to study him in the closet, he
must look for his meaning sometimes among the sports of the field, and
sometimes among the manufactures of the shop.

There is however proof enough that he was a very diligent reader, nor was
our language then so indigent of books, but that he might very liberally
indulge his curiosity without excursion into foreign literature. Many of
the Roman authors were translated, and some of the Greek; the Reformation
had filled the kingdom with theological learning; most of the topicks of
human disquisition had found English writers; and poetry had been
cultivated, not only with diligence, but success. This was a stock of
knowledge sufficient for a mind so capable of appropriating and improving

But the greater part of his excellence was the product of his own genius.
He found the English stage in a state of the utmost rudeness; no essays
either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from which it could be
discovered to what degree of delight either one or other might be carried.
Neither character nor dialogue were yet understood. Shakespeare may be
truly said to have introduced them both amongst us, and in some of his
happier scenes to have carried them both to the utmost height.

By what gradations of improvement he proceeded, is not easily known; for
the chronology of his works is yet unsettled. Rowe is of opinion that
_perhaps we are not to look for his beginning, like those of other
writers, in his least perfect works; art had so little, and nature so
large a share in what he did, that for ought I know, __SAYS HE__, the
performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, were the best._
But the power of nature is only the power of using to any certain purpose
the materials which diligence procures, or opportunity supplies. Nature
gives no man knowledge, and when images are collected by study and
experience, can only assist in combining or applying them. Shakespeare,
however favoured by nature, could impart only what he had learned; and as
he must increase his ideas, like other mortals, by gradual acquisition,
he, like them, grew wiser as he grew older, could display life better, as
he knew it more, and instruct with more efficacy, as he was himself more
amply instructed.

There is a vigilance of observation and accuracy of distinction which
books and precepts cannot confer; from this almost all original and native
excellence proceeds. Shakespeare must have looked upon mankind with
perspicacity, in the highest degree curious and attentive. Other writers
borrow their characters from preceding writers, and diversify them only by
the accidental appendages of present manners; the dress is a little
varied, but the body is the same. Our author had both matter and form to
provide; for, except the characters of Chaucer, to whom I think he is not
much indebted, there were no writers in English, and perhaps not many in
other modern languages, which shewed life in its native colours.

The contest about the original benevolence or malignity of man had not yet
commenced. Speculation had not yet attempted to analyse the mind, to trace
the passions to their sources, to unfold the seminal principles of vice
and virtue, or sound the depths of the heart for the motives of action.
All those enquiries, which from that time that human nature became the
fashionable study have been made sometimes with nice discernment, but
often with idle subtilty, were yet unattempted. The tales with which the
infancy of learning was satisfied, exhibited only the superficial
appearances of action, related the events, but omitted the causes, and
were formed for such as delighted in wonders rather than in truth. Mankind
was not then to be studied in the closet; he that would know the world,
was under the necessity of gleaning his own remarks, by mingling as he
could in its business and amusements.

Boyle congratulated himself upon his high birth, because it favoured his
curiosity, by facilitating his access. Shakespeare had no such advantage;
he came to London a needy adventurer, and lived for a time by very mean
employments. Many works of genius and learning have been performed in
states of life that appear very little favourable to thought or to
enquiry; so many, that he who considers them is inclined to think that he
sees enterprize and perseverance predominating over all external agency,
and bidding help and hindrance vanish before them. The genius of
Shakespeare was not to be depressed by the weight of poverty, nor limited
by the narrow conversation to which men in want are inevitably condemned;
the incumbrances of his fortune were shaken from his mind, _as dew-drops
from a lion’s mane_.

Though he had so many difficulties to encounter, and so little assistance
to surmount them, he has been able to obtain an exact knowledge of many
modes of life, and many casts of native dispositions; to vary them with
great multiplicity; to mark them by nice distinctions; and to shew them in
full view by proper combinations. In this part of his performances he had
none to imitate, but has himself been imitated by all succeeding writers;
and it may be doubted, whether from all his successors more maxims of
theoretical knowledge, or more rules of practical prudence, can be
collected, than he alone has given to his country.

Nor was his attention confined to the actions of men; he was an exact
surveyor of the inanimate world; his descriptions have always some
peculiarities, gathered by contemplating things as they really exist. It
may be observed that the oldest poets of many nations preserve their
reputation, and that the following generations of wit, after a short
celebrity, sink into oblivion. The first, whoever they be, must take their
sentiments and descriptions immediately from knowledge; the resemblance is
therefore just, their descriptions are verified by every eye, and their
sentiments acknowledged by every breast. Those whom their fame invites to
the same studies, copy partly them, and partly nature, till the books of
one age gain such authority, as to stand in the place of nature to
another, and imitation, always deviating a little, becomes at last
capricious and casual. Shakespeare, whether life or nature be his subject,
shews plainly that he has seen with his own eyes; he gives the image which
he receives, not weakened or distorted by the intervention of any other
mind; the ignorant feel his representations to be just, and the learned
see that they are complete.

Perhaps it would not be easy to find any author, except Homer, who
invented so much as Shakespeare, who so much advanced the studies which he
cultivated, or effused so much novelty upon his age or country. The form,
the characters, the language, and the shows of the English drama are his.
_He seems, __SAYS DENNIS__, to have been the very original of our English
tragical harmony, that is, the harmony of blank verse, diversified often
by dissyllable and trissyllable terminations. For the diversity
distinguishes it from heroick harmony, and by bringing it nearer to common
use makes it more proper to gain attention, and more fit for action and
dialogue. Such verse we make when we are writing prose; we make such verse
in common conversation._

I know not whether this praise is rigorously just. The dissyllable
termination, which the critick rightly appropriates to the drama, is to be
found, though, I think, not in _Gorboduc_, which is confessedly before our
author, yet in _Hieronymo_, of which the date is not certain, but which
there is reason to believe at least as old as his earliest plays. This
however is certain, that he is the first who taught either tragedy or
comedy to please, there being no theatrical piece of any older writer, of
which the name is known, except to antiquaries and collectors of books,
which are sought because they are scarce, and would not have been scarce,
had they been much esteemed.

To him we must ascribe the praise, unless Spenser may divide it with him,
of having first discovered to how much smoothness and harmony the English
language could be softened. He has speeches, perhaps sometimes scenes,
which have all the delicacy of Rowe, without his effeminacy. He endeavours
indeed commonly to strike by the force and vigour of his dialogue, but he
never executes his purpose better, than when he tries to sooth by

Yet it must be at last confessed that as we owe every thing to him, he
owes something to us; that, if much of his praise is paid by perception
and judgment, much is likewise given by custom and veneration. We fix our
eyes upon his graces, and turn them from his deformities, and endure in
him what we should in another loath or despise. If we endured without
praising, respect for the father of our drama might excuse us; but I have
seen, in the book of some modern critick, a collection of anomalies which
shew that he has corrupted language by every mode of depravation, but
which his admirer has accumulated as a monument of honour.

He has scenes of undoubted and perpetual excellence, but perhaps not one
play, which, if it were now exhibited as the work of a contemporary
writer, would be heard to the conclusion. I am indeed far from thinking
that his works were wrought to his own ideas of perfection; when they were
such as would satisfy the audience, they satisfied the writer. It is
seldom that authors, though more studious of fame than Shakespeare, rise
much above the standard of their own age; to add a little to what is best
will always be sufficient for present praise, and those who find
themselves exalted into fame, are willing to credit their encomiasts, and
to spare the labour of contending with themselves.

It does not appear that Shakespeare thought his works worthy of posterity,
that he levied any ideal tribute upon future times, or had any further
prospect than of present popularity and present profit. When his plays had
been acted, his hope was at an end; he solicited no addition of honour
from the reader. He therefore made no scruple to repeat the same jests in
many dialogues, or to entangle different plots by the same knot of
perplexity, which may be at least forgiven him, by those who recollect,
that of Congreve’s four comedies two are concluded by a marriage in a
mask, by a deception which perhaps never happened, and which, whether
likely or not, he did not invent.

So careless was this great poet of future fame, that, though he retired to
ease and plenty, while he was yet little _declined into the vale of
years_, before he could be disgusted with fatigue, or disabled by
infirmity, he made no collection of his works, nor desired to rescue those
that had been already published from the depravations that obscured them,
or secure to the rest a better destiny, by giving them to the world in
their genuine state.

Of the plays which bear the name of Shakespeare in the late editions, the
greater part were not published till about seven years after his death,
and the few which appeared in his life are apparently thrust into the
world without the care of the author, and therefore probably without his

Of all the publishers, clandestine or professed, their negligence and
unskilfulness has by the late revisers been sufficiently shewn. The faults
of all are indeed numerous and gross, and have not only corrupted many
passages perhaps beyond recovery, but have brought others into suspicion,
which are only obscured by obsolete phraseology, or by the writer’s
unskilfulness and affectation. To alter is more easy than to explain, and
temerity is a more common quality than diligence. Those who saw that they
must employ conjecture to a certain degree, were willing to indulge it a
little further. Had the author published his own works, we should have sat
quietly down to disentangle his intricacies, and clear his obscurities;
but now we tear what we cannot loose, and eject what we happen not to

The faults are more than could have happened without the concurrence of
many causes. The stile of Shakespeare was in itself ungrammatical,
perplexed, and obscure; his works were transcribed for the players by
those who may be supposed to have seldom understood them; they were
transmitted by copiers equally unskilful, who still multiplied errors;
they were perhaps sometimes mutilated by the actors, for the sake of
shortening the speeches; and were at last printed without correction of
the press.

In this state they remained, not, as Dr. Warburton supposes, because they
were unregarded, but because the editor’s art was not yet applied to
modern languages, and our ancestors were accustomed to so much negligence
of English printers, that they could very patiently endure it. At last an
edition was undertaken by Rowe; not because a poet was to be published by
a poet, for Rowe seems to have thought very little on correction or
explanation, but that our author’s works might appear like those of his
fraternity, with the appendages of a life and recommendatory preface. Rowe
has been clamorously blamed for not performing what he did not undertake,
and it is time that justice be done him, by confessing that though he
seems to have had no thought of corruption beyond the printer’s errors,
yet he has made many emendations, if they were not made before, which his
successors have received without acknowledgment, and which, if they had
produced them, would have filled pages and pages with censures of the
stupidity by which the faults were committed, with displays of the
absurdities which they involved, with ostentatious expositions of the new
reading, and self-congratulations on the happiness of discovering it.

As of the other editors I have preserved the prefaces, I have likewise
borrowed the author’s life from Rowe, though not written with much
elegance or spirit; it relates however what is now to be known, and
therefore deserves to pass through all succeeding publications.

The nation had been for many years content enough with Mr. Rowe’s
performance, when Mr. Pope made them acquainted with the true state of
Shakespeare’s text, shewed that it was extremely corrupt, and gave reason
to hope that there were means of reforming it. He collated the old copies,
which none had thought to examine before, and restored many lines to their
integrity; but, by a very compendious criticism, he rejected whatever he
disliked, and thought more of amputation than of cure.

I know not why he is commended by Dr. Warburton for distinguishing the
genuine from the spurious plays. In this choice he exerted no judgment of
his own; the plays which he received were given by Hemings and Condel, the
first editors; and those which he rejected, though, according to the
licentiousness of the press in those times, they were printed during
Shakespeare’s life, with his name, had been omitted by his friends, and
were never added to his works before the edition of 1664, from which they
were copied by the later printers.

This was a work which Pope seems to have thought unworthy of his
abilities, being not able to suppress his contempt of _the dull duty of an
editor_. He understood but half his undertaking. The duty of a collator is
indeed dull, yet, like other tedious tasks, is very necessary; but an
emendatory critick would ill discharge his duty, without qualities very
different from dulness. In perusing a corrupted piece, he must have before
him all possibilities of meaning, with all possibilities of expression.
Such must be his comprehension of thought, and such his copiousness of
language. Out of many readings possible, he must be able to select that
which best suits with the state, opinions, and modes of language
prevailing in every age, and with his author’s particular cast of thought,
and turn of expression. Such must be his knowledge, and such his taste.
Conjectural criticism demands more than humanity possesses, and he that
exercises it with most praise, has very frequent need of indulgence. Let
us now be told no more of the dull duty of an editor.

Confidence is the common consequence of success. They whose excellence of
any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to conclude that their
powers are universal. Pope’s edition fell below his own expectations, and
he was so much offended, when he was found to have left any thing for
others to do, that he passed the latter part of his life in a state of
hostility with verbal criticism.

I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of so great a writer may
be lost; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of composition and
justness of remark, and containing a general criticism on his author, so
extensive that little can be added, and so exact, that little can be
disputed, every editor has an interest to suppress, but that every reader
would demand its insertion.

Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehension and small
acquisitions, with no native and intrinsick splendor of genius, with
little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute
accuracy, and not negligent in pursuing it. He collated the ancient
copies, and rectified many errors. A man so anxiously scrupulous might
have been expected to do more, but what little he did was commonly right.

In his reports of copies and editions he is not to be trusted without
examination. He speaks sometimes indefinitely of copies, when he has only
one. In his enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as
of high, and the third folio as of middle authority; but the truth is that
the first is equivalent to all others, and that the rest only deviate from
it by the printer’s negligence. Whoever has any of the folios has all,
excepting those diversities which mere reiteration of editions will
produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only
the first.

Of his notes I have generally retained those which he retained himself in
his second edition, except when they were confuted by subsequent
annotators, or were too minute to merit preservation. I have sometimes
adopted his restoration of a comma, without inserting the panegyrick in
which he celebrated himself for his achievement. The exuberant excrescence
of his diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope
and Rowe I have sometimes suppressed, and his contemptible ostentation I
have frequently concealed; but I have in some places shewn him as he would
have shewn himself, for the reader’s diversion, that the inflated
emptiness of some notes may justify or excuse the contraction of the rest.

Theobald, thus weak and ignorant, thus mean and faithless, thus petulant
and ostentatious, by the good luck of having Pope for his enemy, has
escaped, and escaped alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. So
willingly does the world support those who solicit favour, against those
who command reverence; and so easily is he praised, whom no man can envy.

Our author fell then into the hands of Sir Thomas Hanmer, the Oxford
editor, a man, in my opinion, eminently qualified by nature for such
studies. He had, what is the first requisite to emendatory criticism, that
intuition by which the poet’s intention is immediately discovered, and
that dexterity of intellect which dispatches its work by the easiest
means. He had undoubtedly read much; his acquaintance with customs,
opinions, and traditions, seems to have been large; and he is often
learned without shew. He seldom passes what he does not understand,
without an attempt to find or to make a meaning, and sometimes hastily
makes what a little more attention would have found. He is solicitous to
reduce to grammar what he could not be sure that his author intended to be
grammatical. Shakespeare regarded more the series of ideas, than of words;
and his language, not being designed for the reader’s desk, was all that
he desired it to be, if it conveyed his meaning to the audience.

Hanmer’s care of the metre has been too violently censured. He found the
measure reformed in so many passages, by the silent labours of some
editors, with the silent acquiescence of the rest, that he thought himself
allowed to extend a little further the licence which had already been
carried so far without reprehension; and of his corrections in general, it
must be confessed that they are often just, and made commonly with the
least possible violation of the text.

But, by inserting his emendations, whether invented or borrowed, into the
page, without any notice of varying copies, he has appropriated the labour
of his predecessors, and made his own edition of little authority. His
confidence indeed, both in himself and others, was too great; he supposes
all to be right that was done by Pope and Theobald; he seems not to
suspect a critick of fallibility, and it was but reasonable that he should
claim what he so liberally granted.

As he never writes without careful enquiry and diligent consideration, I
have received all his notes, and believe that every reader will wish for

Of the last editor it is more difficult to speak. Respect is due to high
place, tenderness to living reputation, and veneration to genius and
learning; but he cannot be justly offended at that liberty of which he has
himself so frequently given an example, nor very solicitous what is
thought of notes, which he ought never to have considered as part of his
serious employments, and which, I suppose, since the ardour of composition
is remitted, he no longer numbers among his happy effusions.

The original and predominant error of his commentary is acquiescence in
his first thoughts; that precipitation which is produced by consciousness
of quick discernment; and that confidence which presumes to do, by
surveying the surface, what labour only can perform, by penetrating the
bottom. His notes exhibit sometimes perverse interpretations, and
sometimes improbable conjectures; he at one time gives the author more
profundity of meaning than the sentence admits, and at another discovers
absurdities, where the sense is plain to every other reader. But his
emendations are likewise often happy and just; and his interpretation of
obscure passages learned and sagacious.

Of his notes, I have commonly rejected those against which the general
voice of the publick has exclaimed, or which their own incongruity
immediately condemns, and which, I suppose, the author himself would
desire to be forgotten. Of the rest, to part I have given the highest
approbation, by inserting the offered reading in the text; part I have
left to the judgment of the reader, as doubtful, though specious; and part
I have censured without reserve, but I am sure without bitterness of
malice, and, I hope, without wantonness of insult.

It is no pleasure to me, in revising my volumes, to observe how much paper
is wasted in confutation. Whoever considers the revolutions of learning,
and the various questions of greater or less importance, upon which wit
and reason have exercised their powers, must lament the unsuccessfulness
of enquiry, and the slow advances of truth, when he reflects, that great
part of the labour of every writer is only the destruction of those that
went before him. The first care of the builder of a new system, is to
demolish the fabricks which are standing. The chief desire of him that
comments an author, is to shew how much other commentators have corrupted
and obscured him. The opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the
reach of controversy, are confuted and rejected in another, and rise again
to reception in remoter times. Thus the human mind is kept in motion
without progress. Thus sometimes truth and error, and sometimes
contrarieties of error, take each other’s place by reciprocal invasion.
The tide of seeming knowledge which is poured over one generation, retires
and leaves another naked and barren; the sudden meteors of intelligence,
which for a while appear to shoot their beams into the regions of
obscurity, on a sudden withdraw their lustre, and leave mortals again to
grope their way.

These elevations and depressions of renown, and the contradictions to
which all improvers of knowledge must for ever be exposed, since they are
not escaped by the highest and brightest of mankind, may surely be endured
with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themselves but as
the satellites of their authors. How canst thou beg for life, says Homer’s
hero to his captive, when thou knowest that thou art now to suffer only
what must another day be suffered by Achilles?

Dr. Warburton had a name sufficient to confer celebrity on those who could
exalt themselves into antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too
loud to be distinct. His chief assailants are the authors of _The canons
of criticism_, and of _The revisal of Shakespeare’s text_; of whom one
ridicules his errors with airy petulance, suitable enough to the levity of
the controversy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he
were dragging to justice an assassin or incendiary. The one stings like a
fly, sucks a little blood, takes a gay flutter, and returns for more; the
other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammations and
gangrene behind him. When I think on one, with his confederates, I
remember the danger of Coriolanus, who was afraid that _girls with spits,
and boys with stones, should slay him in puny battle_; when the other
crosses my imagination, I remember the prodigy in _Macbeth_:

    A falcon tow’ring in his pride of place,
    Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d.

Let me however do them justice. One is a wit, and one a scholar. They have
both shewn acuteness sufficient in the discovery of faults, and have both
advanced some probable interpretations of obscure passages; but when they
aspire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falsely we all
estimate our own abilities, and the little which they have been able to
perform might have taught them more candour to the endeavours of others.

Before Dr. Warburton’s edition, _Critical observations on Shakespeare_ had
been published by Mr. Upton, a man skilled in languages, and acquainted
with books, but who seems to have had no great vigour of genius or nicety
of taste. Many of his explanations are curious and useful, but he
likewise, though he professed to oppose the licentious confidence of
editors, and adhere to the old copies, is unable to restrain the rage of
emendation, though his ardour is ill seconded by his skill. Every cold
empirick, when his heart is expanded by a successful experiment, swells
into a theorist, and the laborious collator at some unlucky moment
frolicks in conjecture.

_Critical, historical, and explanatory notes_ have been likewise published
upon Shakespeare by Dr. Grey, whose diligent perusal of the old English
writers has enabled him to make some useful observations. What he
undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts
judicial nor emendatory criticism, he employs rather his memory than his
sagacity. It were to be wished that all would endeavour to imitate his
modesty, who have not been able to surpass his knowledge.

I can say with great sincerity of all my predecessors, what I hope will
hereafter be said of me, that not one has left Shakespeare without
improvement, nor is there one to whom I have not been indebted for
assistance and information. Whatever I have taken from them, it was my
intention to refer to its original author, and it is certain, that what I
have not given to another, I believed when I wrote it to be my own. In
some perhaps I have been anticipated; but if I am ever found to encroach
upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am willing that the honour,
be it more or less, should be transferred to the first claimant, for his
right, and his alone, stands above dispute; the second can prove his
pretensions only to himself, nor can himself always distinguish invention,
with sufficient certainty, from recollection.

They have all been treated by me with candour, which they have not been
careful of observing to one another. It is not easy to discover from what
cause the acrimony of a scholiast can naturally proceed. The subjects to
be discussed by him are of very small importance; they involve neither
property nor liberty; nor favour the interest of sect or party. The
various readings of copies, and different interpretations of a passage,
seem to be questions that might exercise the wit, without engaging the
passions. But whether it be that _small things make __ mean men proud_,
and vanity catches small occasions; or that all contrariety of opinion,
even in those that can defend it no longer, makes proud men angry; there
is often found in commentaries a spontaneous strain of invective and
contempt, more eager and venomous than is vented by the most furious
controvertist in politicks against those whom he is hired to defame.

Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to the vehemence of the
agency; when the truth to be investigated is so near to inexistence, as to
escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation: that
to which all would be indifferent in its original state, may attract
notice when the fate of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed
great temptations to supply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to
beat his little gold to a spacious surface, to work that to foam which no
art or diligence can exalt to spirit.

The notes which I have borrowed or written are either illustrative, by
which difficulties are explained; or judicial, by which faults and
beauties are remarked; or emendatory, by which depravations are corrected.

The explanations transcribed from others, if I do not subjoin any other
interpretation, I suppose commonly to be right, at least I intend by
acquiescence to confess that I have nothing better to propose.

After the labours of all the editors, I found many passages which appeared
to me likely to obstruct the greater number of readers, and thought it my
duty to facilitate their passage. It is impossible for an expositor not to
write too little for some, and too much for others. He can only judge what
is necessary by his own experience; and how long soever he may deliberate,
will at last explain many lines which the learned will think impossible to
be mistaken, and omit many for which the ignorant will want his help.
These are censures merely relative, and must be quietly endured. I have
endeavoured to be neither superfluously copious, nor scrupulously
reserved, and hope that I have made my author’s meaning accessible to many
who before were frighted from perusing him, and contributed something to
the publick, by diffusing innocent and rational pleasure.

The complete explanation of an author not systematick and consequential,
but desultory and vagrant, abounding in casual allusions and light hints,
is not to be expected from any single scholiast. All personal reflections,
when names are suppressed, must be in a few years irrecoverably
obliterated; and customs, too minute to attract the notice of law, such as
modes of dress, formalities of conversation, rules of visits, disposition
of furniture, and practices of ceremony, which naturally find places in
familiar dialogue, are so fugitive and unsubstantial, that they are not
easily retained or recovered. What can be known will be collected by
chance, from the recesses of obscure and obsolete papers, perused commonly
with some other view. Of this knowledge every man has some, and none has
much; but when an author has engaged the publick attention, those who can
add any thing to his illustration, communicate their discoveries, and time
produces what had eluded diligence.

To time I have been obliged to resign many passages, which, though I did
not understand them, will perhaps hereafter be explained, having, I hope,
illustrated some, which others have neglected or mistaken, sometimes by
short remarks, or marginal directions, such as every editor has added at
his will, and often by comments more laborious than the matter will seem
to deserve; but that which is most difficult is not always most important,
and to an editor nothing is a trifle by which his author is obscured.

The poetical beauties or defects I have not been very diligent to observe.
Some plays have more, and some fewer judicial observations, not in
proportion to their difference of merit, but because I gave this part of
my design to chance and to caprice. The reader, I believe, is seldom
pleased to find his opinion anticipated; it is natural to delight more in
what we find or make, than in what we receive. Judgment, like other
faculties, is improved by practice, and its advancement is hindered by
submission to dictatorial decisions, as the memory grows torpid by the use
of a table-book. Some initiation is however necessary; of all skill, part
is infused by precept, and part is obtained by habit; I have therefore
shewn so much as may enable the candidate of criticism to discover the

To the end of most plays I have added short strictures, containing a
general censure of faults, or praise of excellence; in which I know not
how much I have concurred with the current opinion; but I have not, by any
affectation of singularity, deviated from it. Nothing is minutely and
particularly examined, and therefore it is to be supposed that in the
plays which are condemned there is much to be praised, and in these which
are praised much to be condemned.

The part of criticism in which the whole succession of editors has
laboured with the greatest diligence, which has occasioned the most
arrogant ostentation, and excited the keenest acrimony, is the emendation
of corrupted passages, to which the publick attention having been first
drawn by the violence of the contention between Pope and Theobald, has
been continued by the persecution, which, with a kind of conspiracy, has
been since raised against all the publishers of Shakespeare.

That many passages have passed in a state of depravation through all the
editions is indubitably certain; of these the restoration is only to be
attempted by collation of copies, or sagacity of conjecture. The
collator’s province is safe and easy, the conjecturer’s perilous and
difficult. Yet as the greater part of the plays are extant only in one
copy, the peril must not be avoided, nor the difficulty refused.

Of the readings which this emulation of amendment has hitherto produced,
some from the labours of every publisher I have advanced into the text;
those are to be considered as in my opinion sufficiently supported; some I
have rejected without mention, as evidently erroneous; some I have left in
the notes without censure or approbation, as resting in equipoise between
objection and defence; and some, which seemed specious but not right, I
have inserted with a subsequent animadversion.

Having classed the observations of others, I was at last to try what I
could substitute for their mistakes, and how I could supply their
omissions. I collated such copies as I could procure, and wished for more,
but have not found the collectors of these rarities very communicative. Of
the editions which chance or kindness put into my hands I have given an
enumeration, that I may not be blamed for neglecting what I had not the
power to do.

By examining the old copies, I soon found that the later publishers, with
all their boasts of diligence, suffered many passages to stand
unauthorized, and contented themselves with Rowe’s regulation of the text,
even where they knew it to be arbitrary, and with a little consideration
might have found it to be wrong. Some of these alterations are only the
ejection of a word for one that appeared to him more elegant or more
intelligible. These corruptions I have often silently rectified; for the
history of our language, and the true force of our words, can only be
preserved, by keeping the text of authors free from adulteration. Others,
and those very frequent, smoothed the cadence, or regulated the measure;
on these I have not exercised the same rigour; if only a word was
transposed, or a particle inserted or omitted, I have sometimes suffered
the line to stand; for the inconstancy of the copies is such, as that some
liberties may be easily permitted. But this practice I have not suffered
to proceed far, having restored the primitive diction wherever it could
for any reason be preferred.

The emendations which comparison of copies supplied, I have inserted in
the text; sometimes, where the improvement was slight, without notice, and
sometimes with an account of the reasons of the change.

Conjecture, though it be sometimes unavoidable, I have not wantonly nor
licentiously indulged. It has been my settled principle, that the reading
of the ancient books is probably true, and therefore is not to be
disturbed for the sake of elegance, perspicuity, or mere improvement of
the sense. For though much credit is not due to the fidelity, nor any to
the judgment of the first publishers, yet they who had the copy before
their eyes were more likely to read it right, than we who read it only by
imagination. But it is evident that they have often made strange mistakes
by ignorance or negligence, and that therefore something may be properly
attempted by criticism, keeping the middle way between presumption and

Such criticism I have attempted to practise, and, where any passage
appeared inextricably perplexed, have endeavoured to discover how it may
be recalled to sense, with least violence. But my first labour is, always
to turn the old text on every side, and try if there be any interstice,
through which light can find its way; nor would Huetius himself condemn
me, as refusing the trouble of research, for the ambition of alteration.
In this modest industry I have not been unsuccessful. I have rescued many
lines from the violations of temerity, and secured many scenes from the
inroads of correction. I have adopted the Roman sentiment, that it is more
honourable to save a citizen, than to kill an enemy, and have been more
careful to protect than to attack.

I have preserved the common distribution of the plays into acts, though I
believe it to be in almost all the plays void of authority. Some of those
which are divided in the later editions have no division in the first
folio, and some that are divided in the folio have no division in the
preceding copies. The settled mode of the theatre requires four intervals
in the play, but few, if any, of our author’s compositions can be properly
distributed in that manner. An act is so much of the drama as passes
without intervention of time, or change of place. A pause makes a new act.
In every real, and therefore in every imitative action, the intervals may
be more or fewer, the restriction of five acts being accidental and
arbitrary. This Shakespeare knew, and this he practised; his plays were
written, and at first printed in one unbroken continuity, and ought now to
be exhibited with short pauses, interposed as often as the scene is
changed, or any considerable time is required to pass. This method would
at once quell a thousand absurdities.

In restoring the author’s works to their integrity, I have considered the
punctuation as wholly in my power; for what could be their care of colons
and commas, who corrupted words and sentences. Whatever could be done by
adjusting points is therefore silently performed, in some plays with much
diligence, in others with less; it is hard to keep a busy eye steadily
fixed upon evanescent atoms, or a discursive mind upon evanescent truth.

The same liberty has been taken with a few particles, or other words of
slight effect. I have sometimes inserted or omitted them without notice. I
have done that sometimes which the other editors have done always, and
which indeed the state of the text may sufficiently justify.

The greater part of readers, instead of blaming us for passing trifles,
will wonder that on mere trifles so much labour is expended, with such
importance of debate, and such solemnity of diction. To these I answer
with confidence, that they are judging of an art which they do not
understand; yet cannot much reproach them with their ignorance, nor
promise that they would become in general, by learning criticism, more
useful, happier, or wiser.

As I practised conjecture more, I learned to trust it less; and after I
had printed a few plays, resolved to insert none of my own readings in the
text. Upon this caution I now congratulate myself, for every day encreases
my doubt of my emendations.

Since I have confined my imagination to the margin, it must not be
considered as very reprehensible, if I have suffered it to play some
freaks in its own dominion. There is no danger in conjecture, if it be
proposed as conjecture; and while the text remains uninjured, those
changes may be safely offered, which are not considered even by him that
offers them as necessary or safe.

If my readings are of little value, they have not been ostentatiously
displayed or importunately obtruded. I could have written longer notes,
for the art of writing notes is not of difficult attainment. The work is
performed, first by railing at the stupidity, negligence, ignorance, and
asinine tastelessness of the former editors, and shewing, from all that
goes before and all that follows, the inelegance and absurdity of the old
reading; then by proposing something, which to superficial readers would
seem specious, but which the editor rejects with indignation; then by
producing the true reading, with a long paraphrase, and concluding with
loud acclamations on the discovery, and a sober wish for the advancement
and prosperity of genuine criticism.

All this may be done, and perhaps done sometimes without impropriety. But
I have always suspected that the reading is right, which requires many
words to prove it wrong; and the emendation wrong, that cannot without so
much labour appear to be right. The justness of a happy restoration
strikes at once, and the moral precept may be well applied to criticism,
_quod dubitas ne feceris_.

To dread the shore which he sees spread with wrecks, is natural to the
sailor. I had before my eye so many critical adventures ended in
miscarriage, that caution was forced upon me. I encountered in every page
wit struggling with its own sophistry, and learning confused by the
multiplicity of its views. I was forced to censure those whom I admired,
and could not but reflect, while I was dispossessing their emendations,
how soon the same fate might happen to my own, and how many of the
readings which I have corrected may be by some other editor defended and

    Criticks I saw, that other’s names efface,
    And fix their own, with labour, in the place;
    Their own, like others, soon their place resign’d,
    Or disappear’d, and left the first behind.—POPE.

That a conjectural critick should often be mistaken, cannot be wonderful,
either to others or himself, if it be considered, that in his art there is
no system, no principal and axiomatical truth that regulates subordinate
positions. His chance of error is renewed at every attempt; an oblique
view of the passage, a slight misapprehension of a phrase, a casual
inattention to the parts connected, is sufficient to make him not only
fail, but fail ridiculously; and when he succeeds best, he produces
perhaps but one reading of many probable, and he that suggests another
will always be able to dispute his claims.

It is an unhappy state in which danger is hid under pleasure. The
allurements of emendation are scarcely resistible. Conjecture has all the
joy and all the pride of invention, and he that has once started a happy
change, is too much delighted to consider what objections may rise against

Yet conjectural criticism has been of great use in the learned world; nor
is it my intention to depreciate a study that has exercised so many mighty
minds, from the revival of learning to our own age, from the bishop of
Aleria to English Bentley. The criticks on ancient authors have, in the
exercise of their sagacity, many assistances, which the editor of
Shakespeare is condemned to want. They are employed upon grammatical and
settled languages, whose construction contributes so much to perspicuity,
that Homer has fewer passages unintelligible than Chaucer. The words have
not only a known regimen, but invariable quantities, which direct and
confine the choice. There are commonly more manuscripts than one; and they
do not often conspire in the same mistakes. Yet Scaliger could confess to
Salmasius how little satisfaction his emendations gave him. _Illudunt
nobis conjecturæ nostræ, quarum nos pudet, posteaquam in meliores codices
incidimus._ And Lipsius could complain that criticks were making faults by
trying to remove them, _Ut olim vitiis, ita nunc remediis laboratur._ And
indeed, when mere conjecture is to be used, the emendations of Scaliger
and Lipsius, notwithstanding their wonderful sagacity and erudition, are
often vague and disputable, like mine or Theobald’s.

Perhaps I may not be more censured for doing wrong, than for doing little;
for raising in the publick expectations, which at last I have not
answered. The expectation of ignorance is indefinite, and that of
knowledge is often tyrannical. It is hard to satisfy those who know not
what to demand, or those who demand by design what they think impossible
to be done. I have indeed disappointed no opinion more than my own; yet I
have endeavoured to perform my task with no slight solicitude. Not a
single passage in the whole work has appeared to me corrupt, which I have
not attempted to restore; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to
illustrate. In many I have failed like others; and from many, after all my
efforts, I have retreated, and confessed the repulse. I have not passed
over, with affected superiority, what is equally difficult to the reader
and to myself, but where I could not instruct him, have owned my
ignorance. I might easily have accumulated a mass of seeming learning upon
easy scenes; but it ought not to be imputed to negligence, that, where
nothing was necessary, nothing has been done, or that, where others have
said enough, I have said no more.

Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him that is
yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel
the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play, from the
first scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators.
When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or
explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike
to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him read on through
brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him
preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable.
And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness,
and read the commentators.

Particular passages are cleared by notes, but the general effect of the
work is weakened. The mind is refrigerated by interruption; the thoughts
are diverted from the principal subject; the reader is weary, he suspects
not why; and at last throws away the book which he has too diligently

Parts are not to be examined till the whole has been surveyed; there is a
kind of intellectual remoteness necessary for the comprehension of any
great work in its full design and in its true proportions; a close
approach shews the smaller niceties, but the beauty of the whole is
discerned no longer.

It is not very grateful to consider how little the succession of editors
has added to this author’s power of pleasing. He was read, admired,
studied, and imitated, while he was yet deformed with all the
improprieties which ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon him; while
the reading was yet not rectified, nor his allusions understood; yet then
did Dryden pronounce, “that Shakespeare was the man, who, of all modern
and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul.”
All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not
laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see
it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give
him the greater commendation: he was naturally learned: he needed not the
spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her
there. I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him
injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat
and insipid; his comick wit degenerating into clenches, his serious
swelling into bombast. But he is always great, when some great occasion is
presented to him: no man can say, he ever had a fit subject for his wit,
and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of poets,

    Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.

It is to be lamented that such a writer should want a commentary; that his
language should become obsolete, or his sentiments obscure. But it is vain
to carry wishes beyond the condition of human things; that which must
happen to all, has happened to Shakespeare, by accident and time: and more
than has been suffered by any other writer since the use of types, has
been suffered by him through his own negligence of fame, or perhaps by
that superiority of mind, which despised its own performances, when it
compared them with its powers, and judged those works unworthy to be
preserved, which the criticks of following ages were to contend for the
fame of restoring and explaining.

Among these candidates of inferior fame, I am now to stand the judgment of
the publick; and wish that I could confidently produce my commentary as
equal to the encouragement which I have had the honour of receiving. Every
work of this kind is by its nature deficient, and I should feel little
solicitude about the sentence, were it to be pronounced only by the
skilful and the learned.


Preface to the Second Edition, 1767.

THE AUTHOR of the following ESSAY was solicitous only for the honour of
Shakespeare: he hath however, in _his own_ capacity, little reason to
complain of _occasional_ Criticks, or Criticks _by profession_. The very
_Few_, who have been pleased to controvert any part of his Doctrine, have
favoured him with better manners than arguments; and claim his thanks for
a further opportunity of demonstrating the futility of _Theoretick_
reasoning against _Matter of Fact_. It is indeed strange that any _real_
Friends of our immortal POET should be still willing to force him into a
situation which is not tenable: treat him as a _learned_ Man, and what
shall excuse the most gross violations of History, Chronology, and

Οὐ πείσεις οὐδ᾽ ἤν πείσῃς is the Motto of every _Polemick_: like his
Brethren at the _Amphitheatre_, he holds it a merit to _die hard_; and
will not say, _Enough_, though the Battle be decided. “Were it shewn,”
says some one, “that the old Bard borrowed _all_ his allusions from
_English_ books then published, our _Essayist_ might have possibly
established his System.”—In good time!—This had scarcely been attempted by
Peter Burman himself, with the Library of Shakespeare before him.—“Truly,”
as Mr. Dogberry says, “for _mine own_ part, if I were as tedious as a
King, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this Subject”: but
where should I meet with a Reader?—When the main Pillars are taken away,
the whole Building falls in course: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed
out, which is not easily removed; or rather, which was not _virtually_
removed before: a very little _Analogy_ will do the business. I shall
therefore have no occasion to trouble myself any further; and may venture
to call my Pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant Declaimer against _Sermons
on the thirtieth of January_, “an Answer to every thing that shall
hereafter be written on the Subject.”

But “this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the
Languages, who hath written when Translations were extant.”—Shade of
Burgersdicius!—does it follow, because Shakespeare’s early life was
incompatible with a course of Education—whose Contemporaries, Friends and
Foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually
called _Literature_—whose mistakes from equivocal Translations, and even
typographical Errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise,—that
Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no
Greek?—I suspect, Rollin’s Opinion of our Philosopher was not founded on
this argument.

Shakespeare wanted not the Stilts of Languages to raise him above all
other men. The quotation from Lilly in the _Taming of the Shrew_, if
indeed it be his, strongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known
Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously from his _Grammar_. Every
one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of
the _Water-poet_, “got only from _Possum_ to _Posset_,” and yet will throw
out a line occasionally from their _Accidence_ or their _Cato de Moribus_
with tolerable propriety.—If, however, the old Editions be trusted in this
passage, our Author’s memory somewhat failed him in point of _Concord_.

The rage of _Parallelisms_ is almost over, and in truth nothing can be
more absurd. “THIS was stolen from _one_ Classick,—THAT from
_another_”;—and had I not stept in to his rescue, poor Shakespeare had
been stript as naked of ornament, as when he first _held Horses_ at the
door of the Playhouse.

The late ingenious and modest Mr. Dodsley declared himself

    Untutor’d in the lore of Greece or Rome:

Yet let us take a passage at a venture from any of his performances, and a
thousand to one, it is stolen. Suppose it be his celebrated Compliment to
the _Ladies_, in one of his earliest pieces, _The Toy-shop_: “A good Wife
makes the cares of the World sit easy, and adds a sweetness to its
pleasures; she is a Man’s best Companion in Prosperity, and his only
Friend in Adversity; the carefullest preserver of his Health, and the
kindest Attendant in his Sickness; a faithful Adviser in Distress, a
Comforter in Affliction, and a prudent Manager in all his domestic
Affairs.”—_Plainly_, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobæus.

    Γυνὴ γὰρ ἐν κακοῖσι καὶ νόσοις πόσει
    Ἥδιστόν ἐστι, δώματ᾽ ἤν οἰκῇ καλῶς,
    Ὀργήν τε πραύνουσα, καὶ δυσθυμίας
    Ψυχὴν μεθιστᾶσ᾽!—_Par._ 4to. 1623.

Malvolio in the _Twelfth-Night_ of Shakespeare hath some expressions very
similar to Alnaschar in the _Arabian Tales_: which perhaps may be
sufficient for _some_ Criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic!

It seems however, at last, that “_Taste_ should determine the matter.”
This, as Bardolph expresses it, is a _word of exceeding good command_: but
I am willing that the Standard itself be somewhat better ascertained
before it be opposed to demonstrative Evidence.—Upon the whole, I may
consider myself as the _Pioneer_ of the _Commentators_:

I have removed a deal of _learned Rubbish_, and pointed out to them
Shakespeare’s track in the ever-pleasing _Paths of Nature_. This was
necessarily a previous Inquiry; and I hope I may assume with some
confidence, what one of the first Criticks of the Age was pleased to
declare on reading the former Edition, that “The Question is _now_ for
ever decided.”

An Essay On The Learning Of Shakespeare: Addressed To Joseph Cradock, Esq.

“Shakespeare,” says a Brother of the _Craft_, “is a vast garden of
criticism”: and certainly no one can be favoured with more weeders

But how often, my dear Sir, are weeds and flowers torn up
indiscriminately?—the ravaged spot is re-planted in a moment, and a
profusion of critical thorns thrown over it for security.

“A prudent man, therefore, would not venture his fingers amongst them.”

Be, however, in little pain for your friend, who regards himself
sufficiently to be cautious:—yet he asserts with confidence, that no
improvement can be expected, whilst the natural soil is mistaken for a
hot-bed, and the Natives of the banks of _Avon_ are scientifically choked
with the culture of exoticks.

Thus much for metaphor; it is contrary to the _Statute_ to fly out so
early: but who can tell, whether it may not be demonstrated by some
critick or other, that a deviation from rule is peculiarly happy in an
Essay on Shakespeare!

You have long known my opinion concerning the literary acquisitions of our
immortal Dramatist; and remember how I congratulated myself on my
coincidence with the last and best of his Editors. I told you, however,
that his _small Latin and less Greek_ would still be litigated, and you
see very assuredly that I was not mistaken. The trumpet hath been sounded
against “the darling project of representing Shakespeare as one of the
illiterate vulgar”; and indeed to so good purpose, that I would by all
means recommend the performer to the army of the _braying Faction_,
recorded by Cervantes. The testimony of his contemporaries is again
disputed; constant tradition is opposed by flimsy arguments; and nothing
is heard but confusion and nonsense. One could scarcely imagine this a
topick very likely to inflame the passions: it is asserted by Dryden, that
“those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greatest
commendation”; yet an attack upon an article of faith hath been usually
received with more temper and complacence, than the unfortunate opinion
which I am about to defend.

But let us previously lament, with every lover of Shakespeare, that the
Question was not fully discussed by Mr. Johnson himself: what he sees
intuitively, others must arrive at by a series of proofs; and I have not
time to _teach_ with precision: be contented therefore with a few cursory
observations, as they may happen to arise from the Chaos of Papers you
have so often laughed at, “a stock sufficient to set up an _Editor in
form_.” I am convinced of the strength of my cause, and superior to any
little advantage from sophistical arrangements.

General positions without proofs will probably have no great weight on
either side, yet it may not seem fair to suppress them: take them
therefore as their authors occur to me, and we will afterward proceed to

The testimony of Ben stands foremost; and some have held it sufficient to
decide the controversy: in the warmest Panegyrick that ever was written,
he apologizes for what _he_ supposed the only defect in his “beloved

                            ——Soul of the age!
    Th’ applause! delight! the wonder of our stage!—

whose memory he honoured almost to idolatry”: and conscious of the worth
of ancient literature, like any other man on the same occasion, he rather
carries his acquirements _above_ than _below_ the truth. “Jealousy!” cries
Mr. Upton; “People will allow others any qualities, but those upon which
they highly value _themselves_.” Yes, where there _is_ a competition, and
the competitor formidable: but, I think, this Critick himself hath
scarcely set in opposition the learning of Shakespeare and Jonson. When a
superiority is universally granted, it by no means appears a man’s
literary interest to depress the reputation of his Antagonist.

In truth the received opinion of the pride and malignity of Jonson, at
least in the earlier part of life, is absolutely groundless: at this time
scarce a play or a poem appeared without Ben’s encomium, from the original
Shakespeare to the translator of Du Bartas.

But Jonson is by no means our only authority. Drayton, the countryman and
acquaintance of Shakespeare, determines his excellence to the _naturall
Braine_ only. Digges, a wit of the town before our Poet left the stage, is
very strong to the purpose,

    ——Nature only helpt him, for looke thorow
    This whole book, thou shalt find he doth not borow
    One phrase from Greekes, nor Latines imitate,
    Nor once from vulgar languages translate.

Suckling opposes his _easier strain_ to the _sweat of learned Jonson_.
Denham assures us that all he had was from _old Mother-wit_. _His native
wood-notes wild_, every one remembers to be celebrated by Milton. Dryden
observes prettily enough, that “he wanted not the spectacles of books to
read Nature.” He came out of her hand, as some one else expresses it, like
Pallas out of Jove’s head, at full growth and mature.

The ever memorable Hales of Eton (who, notwithstanding his Epithet, is, I
fear, almost forgotten) had too great a knowledge both of Shakespeare and
the Ancients to allow much acquaintance between them: and urged very
justly on the part of Genius in opposition to Pedantry, That “if he had
not _read_ the Classicks, he had likewise not _stolen_ from them; and if
any Topick was produced from a Poet of antiquity, he would undertake to
shew somewhat on the same subject, at least as well written by

Fuller, a diligent and equal searcher after truth and quibbles, declares
positively that “his learning was very little,—_Nature_ was all the _Art_
used upon him, as _he himself_, if alive, would confess.” And may we not
say he did confess it, when he apologized for his _untutored lines_ to his
noble patron the Earl of Southampton?—this list of witnesses might be
easily enlarged; but I flatter myself, I shall stand in no need of such

One of the first and most vehement assertors of the learning of
Shakespeare was the Editor of his Poems, the well-known Mr. Gildon; and
his steps were most punctually taken by a subsequent labourer in the same
department, Dr. Sewel.

Mr. Pope supposed “little ground for the common opinion of his want of
learning”: once indeed he made a proper distinction between _learning_ and
_languages_, as I would be understood to do in my Title-page; but
unfortunately he forgot it in the course of his disquisition, and
endeavoured to persuade himself that Shakespeare’s acquaintance with the
Ancients might be actually proved by the same medium as Jonson’s.

Mr. Theobald is “very unwilling to allow him so poor a scholar as many
have laboured to represent him”; and yet is “cautious of declaring too
positively on the other side of the question.”

Dr. Warburton hath exposed the weakness of some arguments from _suspected_
imitations; and yet offers others, which, I doubt not, he could as easily
have refuted.

Mr. Upton wonders “with what kind of reasoning any one could be so far
imposed upon, as to imagine that Shakespeare had no learning”; and lashes
with much zeal and satisfaction “the pride and pertness of dunces, who,
under such a name, would gladly shelter their own idleness and ignorance.”

He, like the learned Knight, at every anomaly in grammar or metre,

    Hath hard words ready to shew why,
    And tell what _Rule_ he did it by.

How would the old Bard have been astonished to have found that he had very
skilfully given the _trochaic dimeter brachycatalectic_, COMMONLY called
the _ithyphallic_ measure, to the Witches in _Macbeth_! and that now and
then a halting Verse afforded a most beautiful instance of the _Pes

“But,” continues Mr. Upton, “it was a learned age; Roger Ascham assures us
that Queen Elizabeth read more Greek every day, than some _Dignitaries_ of
the Church did Latin in a whole week.” This appears very probable; and a
pleasant proof it is of the general learning of the times, and of
Shakespeare in particular. I wonder he did not corroborate it with an
extract from her injunctions to her Clergy, that “such as were but _mean
Readers_ should peruse over before, once or twice, the Chapters and
Homilies, to the intent they might read to the better understanding of the

Dr. Grey declares that Shakespeare’s knowledge in the Greek and Latin
tongues cannot _reasonably_ be called in question. Dr. Dodd supposes it
_proved_, that he was not such a novice in learning and antiquity as _some
people_ would pretend. And to close the whole, for I suspect you to be
tired of quotation, Mr. Whalley, the ingenious Editor of Jonson, hath
written a piece expressly on this side the question: perhaps from a very
excusable partiality, he was willing to draw Shakespeare from the field of
Nature to classick ground, where alone, he knew, his Author could possibly
cope with him.

These criticks, and many others their coadjutors, have supposed themselves
able to trace Shakespeare in the writings of the Ancients; and have
sometimes persuaded us of their own learning, whatever became of their
Author’s. Plagiarisms have been discovered in every natural description
and every moral sentiment. Indeed by the kind assistance of the various
_Excerpta_, _Sententiæ_, and _Flores_, this business may be effected with
very little expense of time or sagacity; as Addison hath demonstrated in
his Comment on _Chevy-chase_, and Wagstaff on _Tom Thumb_; and I myself
will engage to give you quotations from the elder _English_ writers (for,
to own the truth, I was once idle enough to collect such) which shall
carry with them at least an equal degree of similarity. But there can be
no occasion of wasting any future time in this department: the world is
now in possession of the _Marks of Imitation_.

“Shakespeare, however, hath frequent allusions to the _facts_ and _fables_
of antiquity.” Granted:—and, as Mat. Prior says, to save the effusion of
more Christian ink, I will endeavour to shew how they came to his

It is notorious that much of his _matter of fact_ knowledge is deduced
from Plutarch: but in what language he read him, hath yet been the
question. Mr. Upton is pretty confident of his skill in the Original, and
corrects accordingly the _Errors of his Copyists_ by the Greek standard.
Take a few instances, which will elucidate this matter sufficiently.

In the third act of _Anthony and Cleopatra_, Octavius represents to his
Courtiers the imperial pomp of those illustrious lovers, and the
arrangement of their dominion,

         ——Unto her
    He gave the ’stablishment of Egypt, made her
    Of lower Syria, Cyprus, _Lydia_,
    Absolute Queen.

Read _Libya_, says the critick _authoritatively_, as is plain from
Plutarch, Πρώτην μὲν ἀπέφηνε Κλεοπάτραν βασίλισσαν Αἰγύπτου καὶ Κύπρου καὶ
ΛΙΒΥΗΣ, καὶ κοίλης Συρίας.

This is very true: Mr. Heath accedes to the correction, and Mr. Johnson
admits it into the Text: but turn to the translation, from the French of
Amyot, by Thomas North, in _Folio_, 1579; and you will at once see the
origin of the mistake.

“First of all he did establish Cleopatra Queene of Ægypt, of Cyprus, of
_Lydia_, and the lower Syria.”

Again in the Fourth Act,

    ——My messenger
    He hath whipt with rods, dares me to personal combat,
    Cæsar to Anthony. Let th’ old Ruffian know
    I have many other ways to die; mean time
    Laugh at his challenge.——

“What a reply is this?” cries Mr. Upton, “’tis acknowledging he should
fall under the unequal combat. But if we read,

    ——Let the old Ruffian know
    _He_ hath many other ways to die; mean time
    _I_ laugh at his challenge——

we have the poignancy and the very repartee of Cæsar in Plutarch.”

This correction was first made by Sir Thomas Hanmer, and Mr. Johnson hath
received it. Most indisputably it is the sense of Plutarch, and given so
in the modern translations: but Shakespeare was misled by the ambiguity of
the old one, “Antonius sent again to challenge Cæsar to fight him: Cæsar
answered, That _he_ had many other ways to die than so.”

In the Third Act of _Julius Cæsar_, Anthony in his well-known harangue to
the people, repeats a part of the Emperor’s will,

    ——To every Roman citizen he gives,
    To every sev’ral man, seventy-five drachmas——
    Moreover he hath left you all his walks,
    His private arbours, and new-planted orchards,
    On _this_ side Tyber.——

“Our Author certainly wrote,” says Mr. Theobald, “On _that_ side Tyber—

    _Trans_ Tiberim—prope Cæsaris hortos.

And Plutarch, whom Shakespeare very diligently _studied_, expressly
declares that he left the publick his gardens and walks, πέραν τοῦ
Ποταμοῦ, _beyond_ the _Tyber_.”

This emendation likewise hath been adopted by the subsequent Editors; but
hear again the old Translation, where Shakespeare’s _study_ lay: “He
bequeathed unto every citizen of Rome seventy-five drachmas a man, and he
left his gardens and arbours unto the people, which he had on _this_ side
of the river of Tyber.” I could furnish you with many more instances, but
these are as good as a thousand.

Hence had our author his characteristick knowledge of Brutus and Anthony,
upon which much argumentation for his learning hath been founded: and
hence _literatim_ the Epitaph on Timon, which, it was once presumed, he
had corrected from the blunders of the Latin version, by his own superior
knowledge of the Original.

I cannot, however, omit a passage of Mr. Pope. “The _speeches_ copy’d from
Plutarch in _Coriolanus_ may, I think, be as well made an instance of the
learning of Shakespeare, as those copy’d from Cicero in _Catiline_, of
Ben. Jonson’s.” Let us inquire into this matter, and transcribe a _speech_
for a specimen. Take the famous one of Volumnia:

    Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
    And state of bodies would bewray what life
    We’ve led since thy Exile. Think with thyself,
    How more unfortunate than all living women
    Are we come hither; since thy sight, which should
    Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts,
    Constrains them weep, and shake with fear and sorrow;
    Making the mother, wife, and child to see
    The son, the husband, and the father tearing
    His Country’s bowels out: and to poor we
    Thy enmity’s most capital; thou barr’st us
    Our prayers to the Gods, which is a comfort
    That all but we enjoy. For how can we,
    Alas! how can we, for our Country pray,
    Whereto we’re bound, together with thy Victory,
    Whereto we’re bound? Alack! or we must lose
    The Country, our dear nurse; or else thy Person,
    Our comfort in the Country. We must find
    An eminent calamity, though we had
    Our wish, which side shou’d win. For either thou
    Must, as a foreign Recreant, be led
    With manacles thorough our streets; or else
    Triumphantly tread on thy Country’s ruin,
    And bear the palm, for having bravely shed
    Thy wife and children’s blood. For myself, son,
    I purpose not to wait on Fortune, ’till
    These wars determine: if I can’t persuade thee
    Rather to shew a noble grace to both parts,
    Than seek the end of one; thou shalt no sooner
    March to assault thy Country, than to tread
    (Trust to’t, thou shalt not) on thy mother’s womb,
    That brought thee to this world.

I will now give you the old Translation, which shall effectually confute
Mr. Pope: for our Author hath done little more than throw the very words
of North into blank verse.

“If we helde our peace (my sonne) and determined not to speake, the state
of our poore bodies, and present sight of our rayment, would easely bewray
to thee what life we haue led at home, since thy exile and abode abroad.
But thinke now with thy selfe, howe much more unfortunately then all the
women liuinge we are come hether, considering that the sight which should
be most pleasaunt to all other to beholde, spitefull fortune hath made
most fearfull to us: making my selfe to see my sonne, and my daughter
here, her husband, besieging the walles of his natiue countrie. So as that
which is the only comfort to all other in their adversitie and miserie, to
pray unto the goddes, and to call to them for aide, is the onely thinge
which plongeth us into most deepe perplexitie. For we cannot (alas)
together pray, both for victorie, for our countrie, and for safety of thy
life also: but a worlde of grievous curses, yea more than any mortall
enemie can heappe uppon us, are forcibly wrapt up in our prayers. For the
bitter soppe of most harde choyce is offered thy wife and children, to
foregoe the one of the two: either to lose the persone of thy selfe, or
the nurse of their natiue contrie. For my selfe (my sonne) I am determined
not to tarrie, till fortune in my life time doe make an ende of this
warre. For if I cannot persuade thee, rather to doe good unto both
parties, then to ouerthrowe and destroye the one, preferring loue and
nature before the malice and calamitie of warres: thou shalt see, my
sonne, and trust unto it, thou shalt no soner marche forward to assault
thy countrie, but thy foote shall tread upon thy mother’s wombe, that
brought thee first into this world.”

The length of this quotation will be excused for its curiosity; and it
happily wants not the assistance of a Comment. But matters may not always
be so easily managed:—a plagiarism from Anacreon hath been detected:

    The Sun’s a thief, and with his great attraction
    Robs the vast Sea. The Moon’s an arrant thief,
    And her pale fire she snatches from the Sun.
    The Sea’s a thief, whose liquid surge resolves
    The Moon into salt tears. The Earth’s a thief,
    That feeds and breeds by a composture stol’n
    From gen’ral excrements: each thing’s a thief.

“This,” says Dr. Dodd, “is a good deal in the manner of the celebrated
_drinking Ode_, too well known to be inserted.” Yet it may be alleged by
those who imagine Shakespeare to have been generally able to think for
himself, that the topicks are obvious, and their application is
different.—But for argument’s sake, let the Parody be granted; and “our
Author,” says some one, “may be puzzled to prove that there was a Latin
translation of Anacreon at the time Shakespeare wrote his _Timon of
Athens_.” This challenge is peculiarly unhappy: for I do not at present
recollect any _other Classick_ (if indeed, with great deference to Mynheer
De Pauw, Anacreon may be numbered amongst them) that was _originally_
published with _two_ Latin translations.

But this is not all. Puttenham in his _Arte of English Poesie_, 1589,
quotes some one of a “reasonable good facilitie in translation, who
finding _certaine_ of Anacreon’s Odes very well translated by Ronsard the
French poet—comes our Minion, and translates the same out of French into
English”: and his strictures upon him evince the publication. Now this
identical Ode is to be met with in Ronsard! and as his works are in few
hands, I will take the liberty of transcribing it:

    La terre les eaux va boivant,
    L’arbre la boit par sa racine,
    La mer salee boit le vent,
    Et le Soleil boit la marine.
    Le Soleil est beu de la Lune,
    Tout boit soit en haut ou en bas:
    Suivant ceste reigle commune,
    Pourquoy donc ne boirons-nous pas?—Edit. Fol. p. 507.

I know not whether an observation or two relative to our Author’s
acquaintance with Homer be worth our investigation. The ingenious Mrs.
Lenox observes on a passage of _Troilus and Cressida_, where Achilles is
roused to battle by the death of Patroclus, that Shakespeare must _here_
have had the _Iliad_ in view, as “the old Story, which in many places he
hath faithfully copied, is absolutely silent with respect to this

And Mr. Upton is positive that the _sweet oblivious Antidote_, inquired
after by Macbeth, could be nothing but the _Nepenthe_ described in the

    Νηπενθές τ᾽ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων.

I will not insist upon the Translations by Chapman; as the first Editions
are without date, and it may be difficult to ascertain the exact time of
their publication. But the _former_ circumstance might have been learned
from Alexander Barclay; and the _latter_ more fully from Spenser than from
Homer himself.

“But Shakespeare,” persists Mr. Upton, “hath some _Greek Expressions_.”
Indeed!—“We have one in _Coriolanus_,

    ——It is held
    That valour is the chiefest Virtue, and
    Most dignifies the _Haver_;——

and another in _Macbeth_, where Banquo addresses the _Weïrd-Sisters_,

    ——My noble Partner
    You greet with present grace, and great prediction
    Of noble _Having_.——

    Gr. Ἔχεια,—and πρὸς τὸν Ἔχοντα, to the _Haver_.

This was the common language of Shakespeare’s time. “Lye in a
water-bearer’s house!” says Master Mathew of Bobadil, “a Gentleman of his

Thus likewise John Davies in his _Pleasant Descant upon English Proverbs_,
printed with his _Scourge of Folly_, about 1612:

    _Do well and have well!_—neyther so still:
    For some are good _Doers_, whose _Havings_ are ill;

and Daniel the Historian uses it frequently. _Having_ seems to be
synonymous with _Behaviour_ in Gawin Douglas and the elder Scotch writers.

_Haver_, in the sense of _Possessor_, is every where met with: tho’
unfortunately the πρὸς τὸν Ἔχοντα of Sophocles, produced as an authority
for it, is suspected by Kuster, as good a critick in these matters, to
have absolutely a different meaning.

But what shall we say to the learning of the Clown in _Hamlet_, “Ay, tell
me that, and _unyoke_”? alluding to the Βουλυτὸς of the Greeks: and Homer
and his Scholiast are quoted accordingly!

If it be not sufficient to say, with Dr. Warburton, that the phrase might
be taken from Husbandry, without much depth of reading; we may produce it
from a _Dittie_ of the workmen of Dover, preserved in the additions to
Holingshed, p. 1546.

    My bow is broke, I would _unyoke_,
    My foot is sore, I can worke no more.

An expression of my Dame Quickly is next fastened upon, which you may look
for in vain in the modern text; she calls some of the pretended Fairies in
the _Merry Wives of Windsor_,

    ——_Orphan_ Heirs of fixed Destiny;

“and how elegant is this!” quoth Mr. Upton, supposing the word to be used,
as a Grecian would have used it, “ὀρφανὸς ab ὀρφνὸς—acting in darkness and

Mr. Heath assures us that the bare mention of such an interpretation is a
sufficient refutation of it: and his critical word will be rather taken in
Greek than in English: in the same hands therefore I will venture to leave
all our author’s knowledge of the _Old Comedy_, and his etymological
learning in the word, _Desdemona_.

Surely poor Mr. Upton was very little acquainted with _Fairies_,
notwithstanding his laborious study of Spenser. The last authentick
account of them is from our countryman William Lilly; and it by no means
agrees with the _learned_ interpretation: for the _angelical Creatures_
appeared in his _Hurst_ wood in a _most illustrious Glory_,—“and indeed,”
says the Sage, “it is not given to very many persons to endure their
_glorious aspects_.”

The only use of transcribing these things is to shew what absurdities men
for ever run into, when they lay down an Hypothesis, and afterward seek
for arguments in the support of it. What else could induce this man, by no
means a bad scholar, to doubt whether _Truepenny_ might not be derived
from Τρύπανον; and quote upon us with much parade an old Scholiast on
Aristophanes?—I will not stop to confute him: nor take any notice of two
or three more Expressions, in which he was pleased to suppose some learned
meaning or other; all which he might have found in every Writer of the
time, or still more easily in the vulgar Translation of the Bible, by
consulting the Concordance of Alexander Cruden.

But whence have we the Plot of _Timon_, except from the Greek of
Lucian?—The Editors and Criticks have been never at a greater loss than in
their inquiries of this sort; and the source of a Tale hath been often in
vain sought abroad, which might easily have been found at home: My good
friend, the very ingenious Editor of the _Reliques of ancient English
Poetry_, hath shewn our Author to have been sometimes contented with a
legendary _Ballad_.

The Story of the _Misanthrope_ is told in almost every Collection of the
time; and particularly in two books, with which Shakespeare was intimately
acquainted; the _Palace of Pleasure_, and the _English Plutarch_. Indeed
from a passage in an old Play, called _Jack Drum’s Entertainment_, I
conjecture that he had before made his appearance on the Stage.

Were this a proper place for such a disquisition, I could give you many
cases of this kind. We are sent for instance to Cinthio for the Plot of
_Measure for Measure_, and Shakespeare’s judgement hath been attacked for
some deviations from him in the conduct of it: when probably all he knew
of the matter was from Madam Isabella in the _Heptameron_ of Whetstone.
Ariosto is continually quoted for the Fable of _Much ado about Nothing_;
but I suspect our Poet to have been satisfied with the _Geneura_ of
Turberville. _As you like it_ was _certainly borrowed_, if we believe Dr.
Grey, and Mr. Upton, from the _Coke’s Tale of Gamelyn_; which by the way
was not _printed_ ’till a century afterward: when in truth the old Bard,
who was no hunter of MSS., contented himself solely with Lodge’s
_Rosalynd_ or Euphues’ _Golden Legacye_. 4to. 1590. The Story of _All’s
well that ends well_, or, as I suppose it to have been sometimes called,
_Love’s labour wonne_, is originally indeed the property of Boccace, but
it came immediately to Shakespeare from Painter’s _Giletta of Narbon_. Mr.
Langbaine could not conceive whence the Story of _Pericles_ could be
taken, “not meeting in History with any such _Prince of Tyre_”; yet his
legend may be found at large in old Gower, under the name of _Appolynus_.

_Pericles_ is one of the Plays omitted in the later Editions, as well as
the early Folios, and not improperly; tho’ it was published many years
before the death of Shakespeare, with his name in the Title-page. Aulus
Gellius informs us that some Plays are ascribed absolutely to Plautus,
which he only _re-touched_ and _polished_; and this is undoubtedly the
case with our Author likewise. The revival of this performance, which Ben
Jonson calls _stale_ and _mouldy_, was probably his earliest attempt in
the Drama. I know that another of these discarded pieces, the _Yorkshire
Tragedy_, had been frequently called so; but most certainly it was not
written by our Poet at all: nor indeed was it printed in his life-time.
The Fact on which it is built was perpetrated no sooner than 1604: much
too late for so mean a performance from the hand of Shakespeare.

Sometimes a very little matter detects a forgery. You may remember a Play
called the _Double Falshood_, which Mr. Theobald was desirous of palming
upon the world for a posthumous one of Shakespeare: and I see it is
classed as such in the last Edition of the Bodleian Catalogue. Mr. Pope
himself, after all the strictures of Scriblerus, in a Letter to Aaron
Hill, supposes it of that age; but a mistaken accent determines it to have
been written since the middle of the last century:

         ——This late example
    Of base Henriquez, bleeding in me now,
    From each good _Aspect_ takes away my trust.

And in another place,

    You have an _Aspect_, Sir, of wondrous wisdom.

The word _Aspect_, you perceive, is here accented on the _first_ Syllable,
which, I am confident, in _any_ sense of it, was never the case in the
time of Shakespeare; though it may sometimes appear to be so, when we do
not observe a preceding _Elision_.

Some of the professed Imitators of our old Poets have not attended to this
and many other _Minutiæ_: I could point out to you several performances in
the respective Styles of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare, which the
_imitated_ Bard could not possibly have either read or construed.

This very accent hath troubled the Annotators on Milton. Dr. Bentley
observes it to be “a _tone_ different from the present use.” Mr.
Manwaring, in his _Treatise of Harmony and Numbers_, very solemnly informs
us that “this Verse is defective both in Accent and Quantity, B. 3. V.

    His words here ended, but his meek _Aspéct_
    Silent yet spake.——

Here,” says he, “a syllable is _acuted_ and _long_, whereas it should be
_short_ and _graved_”!

And a still more extraordinary Gentleman, one Green, who published a
Specimen of a _new Version_ of the _Paradise Lost_, into BLANK verse, “by
which that amazing Work is brought somewhat nearer the Summit of
Perfection,” begins with correcting a blunder in the fourth book, V. 540:

         ——The setting Sun
    Slowly descended, and with right _Aspéct_—
    Levell’d his evening rays.——

_Not so_ in the _New Version_:

    Meanwhile the setting Sun descending slow—
    Level’d with _áspect_ right his ev’ning rays.

Enough of such Commentators.—The celebrated Dr. Dee had a _Spirit_, who
would sometimes condescend to correct him, when peccant in _Quantity_: and
it had been kind of him to have a little assisted the _Wights_
above-mentioned.—Milton affected the _Antique_; but it may seem more
extraordinary that the old Accent should be adopted in _Hudibras_.

After all, the _Double Falshood_ is superior to Theobald. One passage, and
one only in the whole Play, he pretended to have written:

         ——Strike up, my Masters;
    But touch the Strings with a religious softness:
    Teach sound to languish thro’ the Night’s dull Ear,
    Till Melancholy start from her lazy Couch,
    And Carelessness grow Convert to Attention.

These lines were particularly admired; and his vanity could not resist the
opportunity of claiming them: but his claim had been more easily allowed
to _any other_ part of the performance.

To whom then shall we ascribe it?—Somebody hath told us, who should seem
to be a _Nostrum-monger_ by his argument, that, let _Accents_ be how they
will, it is called _an original Play of William Shakespeare_ in the _Kings
Patent_, prefixed to Mr. Theobald’s Edition, 1728, and consequently there
_could_ be no fraud in the matter. Whilst, on the contrary, the _Irish_
Laureat, Mr. Victor, remarks (and were it true, it would be certainly
decisive) that the Plot is borrowed from a Novel of Cervantes, not
published ’till the year after Shakespeare’s death. But unluckily the same
Novel appears in a part of _Don Quixote_, which was printed in Spanish,
1605, and in English by Shelton, 1612.—The same reasoning, however, which
exculpated our Author from the _Yorkshire Tragedy_, may be applied on the
present occasion.

But you want _my_ opinion:—and from every mark of Style and Manner, I make
no doubt of ascribing it to Shirley. Mr. Langbaine informs us that he left
some Plays in MS.—These were written about the time of the _Restoration_,
when the _Accent_ in question was more generally altered.

Perhaps the mistake arose from an _abbreviation_ of the name. Mr. Dodsley
knew not that the Tragedy of _Andromana_ was Shirley’s, from the very same
cause. Thus a whole stream of Biographers tell us that Marston’s Plays
were printed at London, 1633, “by the care of _William Shakespeare_, the
famous Comedian.”—Here again I suppose, in some Transcript, the real
Publisher’s name, _William Sheares_, was _abbreviated_. No one hath
protracted the life of Shakespeare beyond 1616, except Mr. Hume; who is
pleased to add a year to it, in contradiction to all manner of evidence.

Shirley is spoken of with contempt in _Mac Flecknoe_; but his Imagination
is sometimes fine to an extraordinary degree. I recollect a passage in the
fourth book of the _Paradise Lost_, which hath been suspected of
_Imitation_, as a _prettiness_ below the Genius of Milton: I mean, where
_Uriel_ glides _backward and forward_ to Heaven on a _Sunbeam_. Dr. Newton
informs us that this might possibly be hinted by a Picture of Annibal
Caracci in the King of France’s Cabinet: but I am apt to believe that
Milton had been struck with a Portrait in Shirley. Fernando, in the Comedy
of the _Brothers_, 1652, describes Jacinta at _Vespers_:

    Her eye did seem to labour with a tear,
    Which suddenly took birth, but overweigh’d
    With it’s own swelling, drop’d upon her bosome;
    Which, by reflexion of her light, appear’d
    As nature meant her sorrow for an ornament:
    After, her looks grew chearfull, and I saw
    A smile shoot gracefull upward from her eyes,
    As if they had gain’d a victory o’er grief,
    And with it many _beams_ twisted themselves,
    Upon whose _golden threads_ the _Angels_ walk
    _To and again from Heaven_.——

You must not think me infected with the spirit of Lauder, if I give you
another of Milton’s Imitations:

         ——The Swan _with arched neck_
    Between her white wings mantling proudly, rows
    Her state with oary feet.—B. 7. V. 438, &c.

“The ancient Poets,” says Mr. Richardson, “have not hit upon this beauty;
so lavish as they have been in their descriptions of the _Swan_. Homer
calls the Swan _long-necked_, δουλιχοδείρον; but how much more
_pittoresque_, if he had _arched_ this length of neck?”

For _this beauty_, however, Milton was beholden to Donne; whose name, I
believe, at present is better known than his writings:

         ——Like a Ship in her full trim,
    A _Swan_, so white that you may unto him
      Compare all whitenesse, but himselfe to none,
    Glided along, and as he glided watch’d,
    And with his _arched neck_ this poore fish catch’d.—_Progresse of
                the Soul_, St. 24.

Those highly finished Landscapes, the _Seasons_, are indeed copied from
Nature: but Thomson sometimes recollected the hand of his Master:

         ——The stately-sailing Swan
    Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale;
    _And, arching proud his neck, with oary feet_
    Bears forward fierce, and guards his osier Isle,
    Protective of his young.——

But _to return_, as we say on other occasions—Perhaps the Advocates for
Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Latin language may be more successful. Mr.
Gildon takes the Van. “It is plain that He was acquainted with the Fables
of antiquity very well: that some of the Arrows of Cupid are pointed with
Lead, and others with Gold, he found in Ovid; and what he speaks of Dido,
in Virgil: nor do I know any translation of these Poets so ancient as
Shakespeare’s time.” The passages on which these sagacious remarks are
made occur in the _Midsummer Night’s Dream_; and exhibit, we see, a clear
proof of acquaintance with the Latin Classicks. But we are not answerable
for Mr. Gildon’s ignorance; he might have been told of Caxton and Douglas,
of Surrey and Stanyhurst, of Phaer and Twyne, of Fleming and Golding, of
Turberville and Churchyard! but these Fables were easily known without the
help of either the originals or the translations. The Fate of Dido had
been sung very early by Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate; Marloe had even
already introduced her to the Stage: and Cupid’s arrows appear with their
characteristick differences in Surrey, in Sidney, in Spenser, and every
Sonnetteer of the time. Nay, their very names were exhibited long before
in the _Romaunt of the Rose_: a work you may venture to look into,
notwithstanding Master Prynne hath so positively assured us, on the word
of John Gerson, that the Author is most certainly damned, if he did not
care for a serious repentance.

Mr. Whalley argues in the same manner, and with the same success. He
thinks a passage in the _Tempest_,

         —— High Queen of State,
    Great Juno comes; I know her by her _Gait_,

a remarkable instance of Shakespeare’s knowledge of ancient Poetick story;
and that the hint was furnished by the _Divum incedo Regina_ of Virgil.

You know, honest John Taylor, the _Water-poet_, declares that _he never
learned his Accidence_, and that _Latin and French_ were to him
_Heathen-Greek_; yet, by the help of Mr. Whalley’s argument, I will prove
him a _learned_ Man, in spite of every thing he may say to the contrary:
for thus he makes a _Gallant_ address his _Lady_,

“Most inestimable Magazine of Beauty—in whom _the Port and Majesty of
Juno_, the Wisdom of Jove’s braine-bred Girle, and the Feature of
Cytherea, have their domestical habitation.”

In the _Merchant of Venice_, we have an oath “By _two-headed Janus_”; and
here, says Dr. Warburton, Shakespeare shews his knowledge in the Antique:
and so again does the _Water-poet_, who describes Fortune,

    Like a _Janus_ with a _double-face_.

But Shakespeare hath somewhere a _Latin Motto_, quoth Dr. Sewel; and so
hath John Taylor, and a whole Poem upon it into the bargain.

You perceive, my dear Sir, how vague and indeterminate such arguments must
be: for in fact this _sweet Swan of Thames_, as Mr. Pope calls him, hath
more scraps of Latin, and allusions to antiquity, than are any where to be
met with in the writings of Shakespeare. I am sorry to trouble you with
trifles, yet what must be done, when grave men insist upon them?

It should seem to be the opinion of some modern criticks, that the
personages of classick land began only to be known in England in the time
of Shakespeare; or rather, that he particularly had the honour of
introducing them to the notice of his countrymen.

For instance,—_Rumour painted full of tongues_ gives us a Prologue to one
of the parts of _Henry the fourth_; and, says Dr. Dodd, Shakespeare had
doubtless a view to either Virgil or Ovid in their description of Fame.

But why so? Stephen Hawes, in his _Pastime of Pleasure_, had long before
exhibited her in the same manner,

    A goodly Lady envyroned about
    With _tongues_ of fyre;——

and so had Sir Thomas More in one of his _Pageants_,

    _Fame_ I am called, mervayle you nothing
    Though with _tonges_ I am compassed all rounde;

not to mention her elaborate Portrait by Chaucer, in the _Boke of Fame_;
and by John Higgins, one of the Assistants in the _Mirour for
Magistrates_, in his Legend of King Albanacte.

A very liberal Writer on the _Beauties of Poetry_, who hath been more
conversant in the ancient Literature of other Countries than his own,
“cannot but wonder that a Poet, whose classical Images are composed of the
finest parts, and breath the very spirit of ancient Mythology, should pass
for being illiterate:

    See, what a grace was seated on his brow!
    Hyperion’s curls: the front of Jove himself:
    An eye like Mars to threaten and command:
    A station like the herald Mercury,
    New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill.—_Hamlet._”

_Illiterate_ is an ambiguous term: the question is, whether Poetick
History could be only known by an Adept in _Languages_. It is no
reflection on this ingenious Gentleman, when I say that I use on this
occasion the words of a _better_ Critick, who yet was not willing to carry
the _illiteracy_ of our Poet _too far_:—“They who are in such astonishment
at the _learning_ of Shakespeare, forget that the Pagan Imagery was
familiar to all the Poets of his time; and that abundance of this sort of
learning was to be picked up from almost every English book that he could
take into his hands.” For not to insist upon Stephen Bateman’s _Golden
booke of the leaden Goddes_, 1577, and several other laborious
compilations on the subject, all this and much more Mythology might as
perfectly have been learned from the _Testament of Creseide_, and the
_Fairy Queen_, as from a regular Pantheon, or Polymetis himself.

Mr. Upton, not contented with _Heathen_ learning, when he finds it in the
text, must necessarily superadd it, when it appears to be wanting; because
Shakespeare most certainly hath lost it by accident!

In _Much ado about Nothing_, Don Pedro says of the insensible Benedict,
“He hath twice or thrice cut Cupid’s bow-string, and the little _Hangman_
dare not shoot at him.”

This mythology is not recollected in the Ancients, and therefore the
critick hath no doubt but his Author wrote “_Henchman,—a Page, Pusio_: and
_this_ word seeming too hard for the Printer, he translated the little
Urchin into a _Hangman_, a character no way belonging to him.”

But this character was not borrowed from the Ancients;—it came from the
_Arcadia_ of Sir Philip Sidney:

    Millions of yeares this old drivell Cupid lives;
    While still more wretch, more wicked he doth prove:
    Till now at length that Jove an office gives,
    (At Juno’s suite who much did Argus love)
      In this our world a _Hangman_ for to be
      Of all those fooles that will have all they see.—B. 2. Ch. 14.

I know it may be objected on the authority of such Biographers as
Theophilus Cibber, and the Writer of the Life of Sir Philip, prefixed to
the modern Editions, that the _Arcadia_ was not published before 1613, and
consequently too late for this imitation: but I have a Copy in my own
possession, printed for W. Ponsonbie, 1590, 4to. which hath escaped the
notice of the industrious Ames, and the rest of our typographical

Thus likewise every word of antiquity is to be cut down to the classical

In a Note on the Prologue to _Troilus and Cressida_ (which, by the way, is
not met with in the _Quarto_), Mr. Theobald informs us that the very
_names_ of the gates of Troy have been barbarously demolished by the
Editors: and a deal of learned dust he makes in setting them right again;
much however to Mr. Heath’s satisfaction. Indeed the learning is modestly
withdrawn from the later Editions, and we are quietly instructed to read,

    Dardan, and Thymbria, Ilia, Scæa, Troian,
    And Antenorides.

But had he looked into the _Troy boke_ of Lydgate, instead of puzzling
himself with Dares Phrygius, he would have found the horrid demolition to
have been neither the work of Shakespeare nor his Editors.

    Therto his cyte | compassed enuyrowne
    Hadde gates VI to entre into the towne:
    The firste of all | and strengest eke with all,
    Largest also | and moste pryncypall,
    Of myghty byldyng | alone pereless,
    Was by the kynge called | Dardanydes;
    And in storye | lyke as it is founde,
    Tymbria | was named the seconde;
    And the thyrde | called Helyas,
    The fourthe gate | hyghte also Cetheas;
    The fyfthe Trojana, | the syxth Anthonydes,
    Stronge and myghty | both in werre and pes.—Lond. empr. by R.
                Pynson, 1513. Fol. B. 2. Ch. 11.

Our excellent friend Mr. Hurd hath born a noble testimony on our side of
the question. “Shakespeare,” says this true Critick, “owed the felicity of
freedom from the bondage of classical superstition to the _want_ of what
is called the _advantage_ of a learned Education.—This, as well as a vast
superiority of Genius, hath contributed to lift this astonishing man to
the glory of being esteemed the most original _thinker_ and _speaker_,
since the times of Homer.” And hence indisputably the amazing Variety of
Style and Manner, unknown to all other Writers: an argument of _itself_
sufficient to emancipate Shakespeare from the supposition of a _Classical
training_. Yet, to be honest, _one_ Imitation is _fastened_ on our Poet:
which hath been insisted upon likewise by Mr. Upton and Mr. Whalley. You
remember it in the famous Speech of Claudio in _Measure for Measure_:

    Ay, but to die and go we know not where! &c.

Most certainly the Ideas of a “Spirit bathing in fiery floods,” of
residing “in thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice,” or of being
“imprisoned in the viewless winds,” are not _original_ in our Author; but
I am not sure that they came from the _Platonick Hell_ of Virgil. The
Monks also had their hot and their cold Hell, “The fyrste is fyre that
ever brenneth, and never gyveth lighte,” says an old Homily:—“The seconde
is passyng colde, that yf a grete hylle of fyre were casten therin, it
sholde torne to yce.” One of their Legends, well remembered in the time of
Shakespeare, gives us a Dialogue between a Bishop and a Soul tormented in
a piece of ice, which was brought to cure _a grete brenning heate_ in his
foot: take care you do not interpret this the _Gout_, for I remember M.
Menage quotes a _Canon_ upon us,

    Si quis dixerit Episcopum PODAGRA laborare, Anathema sit.

Another tells us of the Soul of a Monk fastened to a Rock, which the winds
were to blow about for a twelve-month, and purge of it’s Enormities.
Indeed this doctrine was before now introduced into poetick fiction, as
you may see in a Poem, “where the Lover declareth his pains to exceed far
the pains of Hell,” among the many miscellaneous ones subjoined to the
Works of Surrey. Nay, a very learned and inquisitive Brother-Antiquary,
our Greek Professor, hath observed to me on the authority of Blefkenius,
that this was the ancient opinion of the inhabitants of Iceland; who were
certainly very little read either in the _Poet_ or the _Philosopher_.

After all, Shakespeare’s curiosity might lead him to _Translations_. Gawin
Douglas really changes the _Platonick Hell_ into the “punytion of Saulis
in Purgatory”: and it is observable that when the Ghost informs Hamlet of
his Doom there,

    Till the foul crimes done in his days of nature
    Are _burnt and purg’d away_,——

the Expression is very similar to the Bishop’s: I will give you his
Version as concisely as I can; “It is a nedeful thyng to suffer panis and
torment—Sum in the wyndis, Sum under the watter, and in the fire uthir
Sum:—thus the mony Vices—

    Contrakkit in the corpis be _done away_
    _And purgit_.——_Sixte Booke of Eneados._ Fol. p. 191.

It seems, however, “that Shakespeare _himself_ in the _Tempest_ hath
translated some expressions of _Virgil_: witness the _O Dea certe_.” I
presume we are here directed to the passage where Ferdinand says of
Miranda, after hearing the Songs of Ariel,

         ——Most sure, the Goddess
    On whom these airs attend;

and so _very small Latin_ is sufficient for this formidable translation,
that if it be thought any honour to our Poet, I am loth to deprive him of
it; but his honour is not built on such a sandy foundation. Let us turn to
a _real Translator_, and examine whether the Idea might not be fully
comprehended by an English reader; _supposing_ it necessarily borrowed
from Virgil. Hexameters in our own language are almost forgotten; we will
quote therefore this time from Stanyhurst:

    O to thee, fayre Virgin, what terme may rightly be fitted?
    Thy tongue, thy visage no mortal frayltie resembleth.
    ——_No doubt, a Godesse_!—Edit. 1583.

Gabriel Harvey desired only to be “_Epitaph’d_, the Inventor of the
_English Hexameter_,” and for a while every one would be _halting on Roman
feet_; but the ridicule of our Fellow-Collegian Hall, in one of his
_Satires_, and the reasoning of Daniel, in his _Defence of Rhyme_ against
Campion, presently reduced us to our original Gothic.

But to come nearer the purpose, what will you say if I can shew you that
Shakespeare, when, in the favourite phrase, he had a Latin Poet _in his
Eye_, most assuredly made use of a Translation?

Prospero in the _Tempest_ begins the Address to his attendant _Spirits_,

    Ye Elves of Hills, of standing Lakes, and Groves.

This speech Dr. Warburton rightly observes to be borrowed from Medea in
Ovid: and “it proves,” says Mr. Holt, “beyond contradiction, that
Shakespeare was perfectly acquainted with the Sentiments of the Ancients
on the Subject of Inchantments.” The original lines are these,

    Auræque, & venti, montesque, amnesque, lacusque,
    Diique omnes nemorum, diique omnes noctis adeste.

It happens, however, that the translation by Arthur Golding is by no means
literal, and Shakespeare hath closely followed it;

    Ye Ayres and Winds; _Ye Elves of Hills_, of Brookes, of Woods
    _Of standing Lakes_, and of the Night, approche ye everych one.

I think it is unnecessary to pursue this any further; especially as more
powerful arguments await us.

In the _Merchant of Venice_, the Jew, as an apology for his cruelty to
Anthonio, rehearses many _Sympathies_ and _Antipathies_ for which _no
reason can be rendered_,

    Some love not a gaping Pig——
    And others when a _Bagpipe_ sings i’ th’ nose
    Cannot contain their urine for _affection_.

This incident Dr. Warburton supposes to be taken from a passage in
Scaliger’s _Exercitations against Cardan_, “Narrabo tibi jocosam
Sympathiam Reguli Vasconis Equitis: Is dum viveret, audito _Phormingis_
sono, urinam illico facere cogebatur.” “And,” proceeds the Doctor, “to
make this jocular story still more ridiculous, Shakespeare, I suppose,
translated _Phorminx_ by _Bagpipes_.”

Here we seem fairly caught;—for Scaliger’s work was never, as the term
goes, _done into English_. But luckily in an old translation from the
French of Peter le Loier, entitled, _A treatise of Specters, or straunge
Sights, Visions and Apparitions appearing sensibly unto men_, we have this
identical Story from Scaliger: and what is still more, a marginal Note
gives us in all probability the very fact alluded to, as well as the word
of Shakespeare, “Another Gentleman of this quality liued of late in Deuon
neere Excester, who could not endure the playing on a _Bagpipe_.”

We may just add, as some observation hath been made upon it, that
_Affection_ in the sense of _Sympathy_ was formerly _technical_; and so
used by Lord Bacon, Sir Kenelm Digby, and many other Writers.

A single word in Queen Catherine’s Character of Wolsey, in _Henry the
eighth_, is brought by the Doctor as another argument for the learning of

         ——He was a man
    Of an unbounded Stomach, ever ranking
    Himself with Princes; one that by _Suggestion_
    Ty’d all the kingdom. Simony was fair play.
    His own opinion was his law, i’ th’ presence
    He would say untruths, and be ever double
    Both in his words and meaning. He was never,
    But where he meant to ruin, pitiful.
    His promises were, as he then was, mighty;
    But his performance, as he now is, nothing.
    Of his own body he was ill, and gave
    The Clergy ill example.

“The word _Suggestion_,” says the Critick, “is here used with great
propriety, and _seeming_ knowledge of the Latin tongue”: and he proceeds
to settle the sense of it from _the late Roman writers and their
glossers_. But Shakespeare’s knowledge was from Holingshed, whom he
follows _verbatim_:

“This Cardinal was of a great stomach, for he compted himself equal with
princes, and by craftie _Suggestion_ got into his hands innumerable
treasure: he forced little on simonie, and was not pitifull, and stood
affectionate in his own opinion: in open presence he would lie and saie
untruth, and was double both in speech and meaning: he would promise much
and performe little: he was vicious of his bodie, and gaue the clergie
euil example.” Edit. 1587. p. 922.

Perhaps after this quotation you may not think that Sir Thomas Hanmer, who
reads _Tyth’d_ instead of _Ty’d all the kingdom_, deserves quite so much
of Dr. Warburton’s severity.—Indisputably the passage, like every other in
the Speech, is intended to express the meaning of the parallel one in the
Chronicle: it cannot therefore be credited that any man, when the
_Original_ was produced, should still chuse to defend a _cant_
acceptation; and inform us, perhaps, _seriously_, that in _gaming_
language, from I know not what practice, to _tye_ is to _equal_! A sense
of the word, as far as I have yet found, _unknown_ to our old Writers;
and, if _known_, would not surely have been used in _this_ place by our

But let us turn from conjecture to Shakespeare’s authorities. Hall, from
whom the above description is copied by Holingshed, is very explicit in
the demands of the Cardinal: who, having insolently told the Lord Mayor
and Aldermen, “For sothe I thinke that _halfe_ your substaunce were to
litle,” assures them by way of comfort at the end of his harangue, that
_upon an average_ the _tythe_ should be sufficient; “Sers, speake not to
breake that thyng that is concluded, for _some_ shal not paie the _tenth_
parte, and _some_ more.”—And again; “Thei saied, the Cardinall by
Visitacions, makyng of Abbottes, probates of testamentes, graunting of
faculties, licences, and other pollyngs in his Courtes legantines, had
made his _threasore egall with the kynges_.” Edit. 1548. p. 138. and 143.

Skelton, in his _Why come ye not to Court_, gives us, after his rambling
manner, a curious character of Wolsey:

         ——By and by
    He will drynke us so dry
    And sucke us so nye
    That men shall scantly
    Haue penny or halpennye
    God saue hys noble grace
    And graunt him a place
    Endlesse to dwel
    With the deuill of hel
    For and he were there
    We nead neuer feare
    Of the feendes blacke
    For I undertake
    He wold so brag and crake
    That he wold than make
    The deuils to quake
    To shudder and to shake
    Lyke a fier drake
    And with a cole rake
    Bruse them on a brake
    And binde them to a stake
    And set hel on fyre
    At his own desire
    He is such a grym syre!—Edit. 1568.

Mr. Upton and some other Criticks have thought it very _scholar-like_ in
Hamlet to swear the Centinels on a _Sword_: but this is for ever met with.
For instance, in the _Passus primus_ of _Pierce Plowman_,

    Dauid in his daies dubbed knightes,
    And did hem _swere on her sword_ to serue truth euer.

And in _Hieronymo_, the common Butt of our Author, and the Wits of the
time, says Lorenzo to Pedringano,

    Swear on this cross, that what thou sayst is true—
    But if I prove thee perjured and unjust,
    This very _sword_, whereon thou took’st thine oath,
    Shall be the worker of thy Tragedy!

We have therefore no occasion to go with Mr. Garrick as far as the French
of Brantôme to illustrate this ceremony: a _Gentleman_ who will be always
allowed the _first Commentator_ on Shakespeare, when he does not carry us
beyond _himself_.

Mr. Upton, however, in the next place, produces a passage from _Henry the
sixth_, whence he argues it to be very plain that our Author had not only
_read_ Cicero’s _Offices_, but even more _critically_ than many of the

         ——This Villain here,
    Being Captain of a _Pinnace_, threatens more
    Than Bargulus, the strong Illyrian Pirate.

So the _Wight_, he observes with great exultation, is named by Cicero in
the Editions of Shakespeare’s time, “Bargulus Illyrius latro”; tho’ the
modern Editors have chosen to call him Bardylis:—“and _thus_ I found it in
_two_ MSS.”—And _thus_ he might have found it in _two_ Translations,
before Shakespeare was born. Robert Whytinton, 1533, calls him, “Bargulus
a Pirate upon the see of Illiry”; and Nicholas Grimald, about twenty years
afterward, “Bargulus the Illyrian Robber.”

But it had been easy to have checked Mr. Upton’s exultation, by observing
that Bargulus does not appear in the _Quarto_.—Which also is the case with
some fragments of Latin verses, in the different _Parts_ of this
_doubtful_ performance.

It is scarcely worth mentioning that two or three more Latin passages,
which are met with in our Author, are immediately transcribed from the
Story or Chronicle before him. Thus in _Henry the fifth_, whose right to
the kingdom of France is copiously demonstrated by the Archbishop:

         ——There is no bar
    To make against your Highness’ claim to France,
    But this which they produce from Pharamond:
    In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant;
    No Woman shall succeed in Salike land:
    Which Salike land the French unjustly gloze
    To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
    The founder of this law and female bar.
    Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
    That the land Salike lies in Germany,
    Between the floods of Sala and of Elve, &c.

Archbishop Chichelie, says Holingshed, “did much inueie against the
surmised and false fained law Salike, which the Frenchmen alledge euer
against the kings of England in barre of their just title to the crowne of
France. The very words of that supposed law are these, In terram Salicam
mulieres ne succedant, that is to saie, Into the Salike land let not women
succeed; which the French glossers expound to be the realm of France, and
that this law was made by King Pharamond: whereas yet their owne authors
affirme that the land Salike is in Germanie, between the rivers of Elbe
and Sala,” &c. p. 545.

It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie’s _Essay upon English
Tragedy_, that the _Portrait_ of Macbeth’s _Wife_ is copied from Buchanan,
“whose spirit, as well as words, is translated into the Play of
Shakespeare: and it had signified nothing to have pored only on Holingshed
for _Facts_.”—“Animus etiam, per se ferox, prope quotidianis conviciis
uxoris (quæ omnium consiliorum ei erat conscia) stimulabatur.”—This is the
whole that Buchanan says of the _Lady_; and truly I see no more _spirit_
in the Scotch than in the English Chronicler. “The wordes of the three
weird Sisters also greatly encouraged him [to the Murder of Duncan], but
specially his wife lay sore upon him to attempt the thing, as she that was
very ambitious, brenning in unquenchable desire to beare the name of a
Queene.” Edit. 1577. p. 244.

This part of Holingshed is an Abridgment of Johne Bellenden’s translation
of the _noble clerk_, Hector Boece, imprinted at Edinburgh, in Fol. 1541.
I will give the passage as it is found there. “His wyfe impacient of lang
tary (_as all wemen are_) specially quhare they ar desirus of ony purpos,
gaif hym gret artation to pursew the thrid weird, that sche micht be ane
quene, calland hym oft tymis febyl cowart and nocht desyrus of honouris,
sen he durst not assailze the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is
offerit to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit sindry otheris hes
assailzeit sic thinges afore with maist terribyl jeopardyis, quhen they
had not sic sickernes to succeid in the end of thair laubouris as he had.”
p. 173.

But we can _demonstrate_ that Shakespeare had not the Story from Buchanan.
According to _him_, the Weïrd-Sisters salute Macbeth, “Una Angusiæ Thamum,
altera Moraviæ, tertia _Regem_.”—Thane of Angus, and of Murray, &c., but
according to Holingshed, immediately from Bellenden, as it stands in
Shakespeare: “The first of them spake and sayde, All hayle Makbeth, Thane
of Glammis,—the second of them said, Hayle Makbeth, Thane of Cawder; but
the third sayde, All hayle Makbeth, that hereafter shall be _king of
Scotland_.” p. 243.

    _1 Witch_. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!

    _2 Witch_. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!

    _3 Witch_. All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be King hereafter!

Here too our Poet found the equivocal Predictions, on which his Hero so
fatally depended. “He had learned of certain wysards, how that he ought to
take heede of Macduffe;—and surely hereupon had he put Macduffe to death,
but a certaine witch, whom he had in great trust, had tolde that he should
neuer be slain with _man borne of any woman_, nor vanquished till the Wood
of Bernane came to the Castell of Dunsinane.” p. 244. And the Scene
between Malcolm and Macduff in the fourth act is almost literally taken
from the Chronicle.

Macbeth was certainly one of Shakespeare’s latest Productions, and it
might possibly have been suggested to him by a little performance on the
same subject at Oxford, before King James, 1605. I will transcribe my
notice of it from Wake’s _Rex Platonicus_: “Fabulæ ansam dedit antiqua de
Regia prosapia historiola apud Scoto-Britannos celebrata, quæ narrat tres
olim Sibyllas occurrisse duobus Scotiæ proceribus, Macbetho & Banchoni, &
illum prædixisse Regem futurum, sed Regem nullum geniturum; hunc Regem non
futurum, sed Reges geniturum multos. Vaticinii veritatem rerum eventus
comprobavit. Banchonis enim e stirpe Potentissimus Jacobus oriundus.” p.

A stronger argument hath been brought from the Plot of _Hamlet_. Dr. Grey
and Mr. Whalley assure us that for _this_ Shakespeare _must_ have read
_Saxo Grammaticus_ in Latin, for no translation hath been made into any
modern Language. But the truth is, he did not take it from _Saxo_ at all;
a Novel called the _Hystorie of Hamblet_ was his original: a fragment of
which, in _black Letter_, I have been favoured with by a very curious and
intelligent Gentleman, to whom the lovers of Shakespeare will some time or
other owe great obligations.

It hath indeed been said that, “IF _such an history exists_, it is almost
impossible that any poet unacquainted with the Latin language (supposing
his perceptive faculties to have been ever so acute) could have caught the
characteristical madness of Hamlet, described by _Saxo Grammaticus_, so
happily as it is delineated by Shakespeare.”

Very luckily, our Fragment gives us a part of Hamlet’s Speech to his
_Mother_, which sufficiently replies to this observation:—“It was not
without cause, and juste occasion, that my gestures, countenances, and
words seeme to proceed from a madman, and that I desire to haue all men
esteeme mee wholy depriued of sence and, reasonable understanding, bycause
I am well assured that he that hath made no conscience to kill his owne
brother (accustomed to murthers, and allured with desire of gouernement
without controll in his treasons) will not spare to saue himselfe with the
like crueltie, in the blood and flesh of the loyns of his brother, by him
massacred: and therefore it is better for me to fayne madnesse then to use
my right sences as nature hath bestowed them upon me. The bright shining
clearnes therof I am forced to hide vnder this shadow of dissimulation, as
the sun doth hir beams vnder some great cloud, when the wether in summer
time ouercasteth: the face of a mad man serueth to couer my gallant
countenance, and the gestures of a fool are fit for me, to the end that,
guiding my self wisely therin, I may preserue my life for the Danes and
the memory of my late deceased father, for that the desire of reuenging
his death is so ingrauen in my heart, that if I dye not shortly, I hope to
take such and so great vengeance, that these Countryes shall for euer
speake thereof. Neuerthelesse I must stay the time, meanes, and occasion,
lest by making ouer great hast I be now the cause of mine owne sodaine
ruine and ouerthrow, and by that meanes end, before I beginne to effect my
hearts desire: hee that hath to doe with a wicked, disloyall, cruell, and
discourteous man, must vse craft, and politike inuentions, such as a fine
witte can best imagine, not to discouer his interprise: for seeing that by
force I cannot effect my desire, reason alloweth me by dissimulation,
subtiltie, and secret practises to proceed therein.”

But to put the matter out of all question, my communicative Friend
above-mentioned, Mr. Capell (for why should I not give myself the credit
of his name?), hath been fortunate enough to procure from the Collection
of the Duke of Newcastle a _complete_ Copy of the _Hystorie of Hamblet_,
which proves to be a translation from the French of Belleforest; and he
tells me that “all the chief incidents of the Play, and all the capital
Characters, are there in _embryo_, after a rude and barbarous manner:
sentiments indeed there are none that Shakespeare could borrow; nor any
expression but _one_, which is, where Hamlet kills Polonius behind the
arras: in doing which he is made to cry out, as in the Play, ‘_a rat, a
rat!_’ ”—So much for _Saxo Grammaticus_!

It is scarcely conceivable how industriously the puritanical Zeal of the
last age exerted itself in destroying, amongst better things, the innocent
amusements of the former. Numberless _Tales_ and _Poems_ are alluded to in
old Books, which are now perhaps no where to be found. Mr. Capell informs
me (and he is in these matters the most able of all men to give
information) that our Author appears to have been beholden to some Novels
which he hath yet only seen in French or Italian: but he adds, “to say
they are not in some English dress, prosaic or metrical, and perhaps with
circumstances nearer to his stories, is what I will not take upon me to
do: nor indeed is it what I believe; but rather the contrary, and that
time and accident will bring some of them to light, if not all.”——

W. Painter, at the conclusion of the second _Tome_ of his _Palace of
Pleasure_, 1567, _advertises_ the Reader, “bicause sodaynly (contrary to
expectation) this Volume is risen to greater heape of leaues, I doe omit
for this present time _sundry Nouels_ of mery deuise, reseruing the same
to be joyned with the rest of an other part, wherein shall succeede the
remnant of Bandello, specially sutch (suffrable) as the learned French man
François de Belleforrest hath selected, and the choysest done in the
Italian. Some also out of Erizzo, Ser Giouanni Florentino, Parabosco,
Cynthio, Straparole, Sansouino, and the best liked out of the Queene of
Nauarre, and other Authors. Take these in good part, with those that haue
and shall come forth.”—But I am not able to find that a _third Tome_ was
ever published: and it is very probable that the Interest of his
Booksellers, and more especially the prevailing Mode of the time, might
lead him afterward to print his _sundry Novels_ separately. If this were
the case, it is no wonder that such _fugitive Pieces_ are recovered with
difficulty; when the _two Tomes_, which Tom. Rawlinson would have called
_justa Volumina_, are almost annihilated. Mr. Ames, who searched after
books of this sort with the utmost avidity, most certainly had not seen
them when he published his _Typographical Antiquities_; as appears from
his blunders about them: and possibly I myself might have remained in the
same predicament, had I not been favoured with a Copy by my generous
Friend, Mr. Lort.

Mr. Colman, in the Preface to his elegant Translation of Terence, hath
offered some arguments for the Learning of Shakespeare, which have been
retailed with much confidence, since the appearance of Mr. Johnson’s

“Besides the resemblance of particular passages scattered up and down in
different plays, it is well known that the _Comedy of Errors_ is in great
measure founded on the _Menæchmi_ of Plautus; but I do not recollect ever
to have seen it observed that the disguise of the _Pedant_ in the _Taming
of the Shrew_, and his assuming the name and character of _Vincentio_,
seem to be evidently taken from the disguise of the _Sycophanta_ in the
_Trinummus_ of the said Author; and there is a quotation from the _Eunuch_
of Terence also, so familiarly introduced into the Dialogue of the _Taming
of the Shrew_, that I think it puts the question of Shakespeare’s having
read the Roman Comick Poets in the _original_ language out of all doubt,

    Redime te captum, quam queas, minimo.”

With respect to _resemblances_, I shall not trouble you any further.—That
the _Comedy of Errors_ is founded on the _Menæchmi_, it is notorious: nor
is it less so, that a Translation of it by W. W., perhaps William Warner,
the Author of _Albion’s England_, was extant in the time of Shakespeare;
tho’ Mr. Upton, and some other advocates for his learning, have cautiously
dropt the mention of it. Besides this (if indeed it were different), in
the _Gesta Grayorum_, the Christmas Revels of the Gray’s-Inn Gentlemen,
1594, “a _Comedy of Errors_ like to Plautus his _Menechmus_ was played by
the Players.” And the same hath been suspected to be the Subject of the
_goodlie Comedie of Plautus_ acted at Greenwich before the King and Queen
in 1520; as we learn from Hall and Holingshed:—Riccoboni highly
compliments the English on opening their stage so well; but unfortunately
Cavendish, in his _Life of Wolsey_, calls it an _excellent Interlude in
Latine_. About the same time it was exhibited in German at Nuremburgh, by
the celebrated _Hanssach_, the _Shoemaker_.

“But a character in the _Taming of the Shrew_ is borrowed from the
_Trinummus_, and no translation of _that_ was extant.”

Mr. Colman indeed hath been better employ’d: but if he had met with an old
Comedy, called _Supposes_, translated from Ariosto by George Gascoigne, he
certainly would not have appealed to Plautus. Thence Shakespeare borrowed
this part of the Plot (as well as some of the phraseology), though
Theobald pronounces it his own invention: there likewise he found the
quaint name of _Petruchio_. My young Master and his Man exchange habits
and characters, and persuade a Scenæse, as he is called, to personate the
Father, exactly as in the _Taming of the Shrew_, by the pretended danger
of his coming from Sienna to Ferrara, contrary to the order of the

Still, Shakespeare quotes a line from the _Eunuch_ of Terence: by memory
too, and, what is more, “purposely alters it, in order to bring the sense
within the compass of one line.”—This remark was previous to Mr.
Johnson’s; or indisputably it would not have been made at all.—“Our
Authour had this line from Lilly; which I mention that it may not be
brought as an argument of his learning.”

But how, cries an unprovoked Antagonist, can you take upon you to say that
he had it from Lilly, and not from Terence? I will answer for Mr. Johnson,
who is above answering for himself.—Because it is quoted as it appears in
the _Grammarian_, and not as it appears in the _Poet_.—And thus we have
done with the _purposed_ alteration. Udall likewise in his _Floures for
Latine speakyng, gathered oute of Terence_, 1560, reduces the passage to a
single line, and subjoins a Translation.

We have hitherto supposed Shakespeare the Author of the _Taming of the
Shrew_, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give you my
opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the
present Play not _originally_ the work of Shakespeare, but restored by him
to the Stage, with the whole Induction of the Tinker, and some other
occasional improvements; especially in the Character of Petruchio. It is
very obvious that the _Induction_ and the _Play_ were either the works of
different hands, or written at a great interval of time: the former is in
our Author’s _best_ manner, and the greater part of the _latter_ in his
_worst_, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be _certainly_
spurious: and without doubt, _supposing_ it to have been written by
Shakespeare, it must have been one of his _earliest_ productions; yet it
is not mentioned in the List of his Works by Meres in 1598.

I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington, printed in 1596
(and possibly there may be an earlier Edition), called, _The Metamorphosis
of Ajax_, where I suspect an allusion to the old Play: “Read the _booke_
of _Taming a Shrew_, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that _now_
every one can rule a Shrew in our Countrey, save he that hath hir.”—I am
aware, a _modern_ Linguist may object that the word _Book_ does not at
present seem _dramatick_, but it was once almost _technically_ so: Gosson
in his _Schoole of Abuse, contayning a pleasaunt inuective against Poets,
Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like Caterpillars of a Common-wealth_,
1579, mentions “twoo prose _Bookes_ plaied at the Belsauage”; and Hearne
tells us, in a Note at the end of _William of Worcester_, that he had seen
“a MS. in the nature of a _Play_ or _Interlude_, intitled, the _Booke_ of
Sir _Thomas Moore_.”

And in fact there is such an old _anonymous_ Play in Mr. Pope’s List: “A
pleasant conceited History, called, _The Taming of a Shrew_—sundry times
acted by the Earl of Pembroke his Servants.” Which seems to have been
republished by the Remains of that Company in 1607, when Shakespeare’s
copy appeared at the Black-Friars or the Globe.—Nor let this seem
derogatory from the character of our Poet. There is no reason to believe
that he wanted to claim the Play as his own; it was not even printed ’till
some years after his death: but he merely revived it on his Stage as a
_Manager_.—Ravenscroft assures us that this was really the case with
_Titus Andronicus_; which, it may be observed, hath not Shakespeare’s name
on the Title-page of the only Edition published in his life-time. Indeed,
from every internal mark, I have not the least doubt but this _horrible_
Piece was originally written by the Author of the _Lines_ thrown into the
mouth of the _Player_ in _Hamlet_, and of the Tragedy of _Locrine_: which
likewise, from some assistance perhaps given to his Friend, hath been
unjustly and ignorantly charged upon Shakespeare.

But the _sheet-anchor_ holds fast: Shakespeare himself hath left some
Translations from Ovid. The Epistles, says One, of Paris and Helen give a
sufficient proof of his acquaintance with _that_ poet; and it may be
concluded, says Another, that he was a competent judge of _other_ Authors
who wrote in the same language.

This hath been the universal cry, from Mr. Pope himself to the Criticks of
yesterday. Possibly, however, the Gentlemen will hesitate a moment, if we
tell them that Shakespeare was _not_ the Author of these Translations. Let
them turn to a forgotten book, by Thomas Heywood, called _Britaines Troy_,
printed by W. Jaggard in 1609, Fol. and they will find these identical
Epistles, “which being so pertinent to our Historie,” says Heywood, “_I_
thought necessarie to translate.”—How then came they ascribed to
Shakespeare? We will tell them that likewise. The same voluminous Writer
published an _Apology for Actors_, 4to. 1612, and in an Appendix directed
to his new Printer, Nic. Okes, he accuses his old One, Jaggard, of “taking
the two Epistles of _Paris to Helen_ and _Helen to Paris_, and printing
them in a less volume and under the name of _Another_:—but _he_ was much
offended with Master Jaggard, that, altogether unknowne to him, he had
presumed to make so bold with his Name.” In the same work of Heywood are
all the other Translations which have been printed in the modern Editions
of the Poems of Shakespeare.

You now hope for land: We have seen through little matters, but what must
be done with a whole book?—In 1751 was reprinted “A compendious or briefe
examination of certayne ordinary complaints of diuers of our Countrymen in
these our days: which although they are in some parte unjust and
friuolous, yet are they all by way of Dialogue throughly debated and
discussed by William Shakespeare, Gentleman.” 8vo.

This extraordinary piece was originally published in 4to. 1581, and
dedicated by the Author, “To the most vertuous and learned Lady, his most
deare and soveraigne Princesse, Elizabeth; being inforced by her Majesties
late and singular clemency in pardoning certayne his unduetifull
misdemeanour.” And by the modern Editors, to the late King; as “a Treatise
composed by the most extensive and fertile Genius that ever any age or
nation produced.”

Here we join issue with the Writers of that excellent tho’ very unequal
work, the _Biographia Britannica_: “If,” say they, “this piece could be
written by our Poet, it would be absolutely decisive in the dispute about
his learning; for many quotations appear in it from the Greek and Latin

The concurring circumstances of the _Name_ and the _Misdemeanor_, which is
supposed to be the old Story of _Deer-stealing_, seem fairly to challenge
our Poet for the Author: but they hesitate.—His claim may appear to be
confuted by the date 1581, when Shakespeare was only _Seventeen_, and the
_long_ experience which the Writer talks of.—But I will not keep you in
suspense: the book was _not_ written by Shakespeare.

Strype, in his _Annals_, calls the Author SOME _learned Man_, and this
gave me the first suspicion. I knew very well that honest John (to use the
language of Sir Thomas Bodley) did not waste his time with such _baggage
books_ as _Plays_ and _Poems_; yet I must suppose that he had heard of the
name of Shakespeare. After a while I met with the original Edition. Here
in the Title-page, and at the end of the Dedication, appear only the
Initials, W. S. Gent., and presently I was informed by Anthony Wood, that
the book in question was written, not by William Shakespeare, but by
William Stafford, Gentleman: which at once accounted for the
_Misdemeanour_ in the Dedication. For Stafford had been concerned at that
time, and was indeed afterward, as Camden and the other Annalists inform
us, with some of the conspirators against Elizabeth; which he properly
calls his _unduetifull_ behaviour.

I hope by this time that any One open to conviction may be nearly
satisfied; and I will promise to give you on this head very little more

The justly celebrated Mr. Warton hath favoured us, in his _Life of Dr.
Bathurst_, with some _hearsay_ particulars concerning Shakespeare from the
papers of Aubrey, which had been in the hands of Wood; and I ought not to
suppress them, as the _last_ seems to make against my doctrine. They came
originally, I find, on consulting the MS., from one Mr. Beeston: and I am
sure Mr. Warton, whom I have the honour to call my Friend, and an
Associate in the question, will be in no pain about their credit.

“William Shakespeare’s Father was a Butcher,—while he was a Boy he
exercised his Father’s trade, but when he killed a Calf, he would do it in
a high stile, and make a speech. This William being inclined _naturally_
to Poetry and Acting, came to London, I guess, about _eighteen_, and was
an Actor in one of the Playhouses, and did act _exceedingly well_. He
began _early_ to make Essays in dramatique Poetry.—The humour of the
Constable in the _Midsummer Night’s Dream_ he happened to take at Crendon
in Bucks.—I think I have been told that he left near three hundred pounds
to a _Sister_.—_He understood Latin pretty well, _FOR_ he had been in his
younger yeares a Schoolmaster in the Country._”

I will be short in my animadversions; and take them in their order.

The account of the _Trade_ of the Family is not only contrary to all other
Tradition, but, as it may seem, to the instrument from the Herald’s
office, so frequently reprinted.—Shakespeare most certainly went to
London, and commenced Actor thro’ necessity, not natural inclination.—Nor
have we any reason to suppose that he did act _exceedingly well_. Rowe
tells us from the information of Betterton, who was inquisitive into this
point, and had very early opportunities of Inquiry from Sir W. Davenant,
that he was no _extraordinary Actor_; and that the top of his performance
was the Ghost in his own _Hamlet_. Yet this _Chef d’Oeuvre_ did not
please: I will give you an original stroke at it. Dr. Lodge, who was for
ever pestering the town with Pamphlets, published in the year 1596 _Wits
miserie, and the Worlds madnesse, discovering the Devils incarnat of this
Age._ 4to. One of these Devils is _Hate-virtue_, or _Sorrow for another
mans good successe_, who, says the Doctor, is “_a foule lubber_, and looks
as pale as the Visard of the Ghost, which cried so miserably at the
Theatre, like an Oister-wife, _Hamlet revenge_.” Thus you see Mr. Holt’s
supposed _proof_, in the Appendix to the late Edition, that _Hamlet_ was
written after 1597, or perhaps 1602, will by no means hold good; whatever
might be the case of the particular passage on which it is founded.

Nor does it appear that Shakespeare did begin _early_ to make _Essays in
Dramatique Poetry_: the _Arraignment of Paris_, 1584, which hath so often
been ascribed to him on the credit of Kirkman and Winstanley, was written
by George Peele; and Shakespeare is not met with, even as an Assistant,
’till at least seven years afterward.—Nash, in his Epistle to the
Gentlemen Students of both Universities, prefixed to Greene’s _Arcadia_,
4to. _black Letter_, recommends his Friend, Peele, “as the chiefe
supporter of pleasance now living, the Atlas of Poetrie, and _primus
Verborum Artifex_: whose first increase, the _Arraignment of Paris_, might
plead to their opinions his pregnant dexteritie of wit, and manifold
varietie of inuention.”

In the next place, unfortunately, there is neither such a Character as a
Constable in the _Midsummer Night’s Dream_: nor was the _three hundred
pounds_ Legacy to a Sister, but a Daughter.

And to close the whole, it is not possible, according to Aubrey himself,
that Shakespeare could have been some _years a Schoolmaster in the
Country_: on which circumstance only the supposition of his learning is
professedly founded. He was not surely _very_ young, when he was employed
to _kill Calves_, and he commenced Player about _Eighteen_!—The truth is
that he left his Father, for a Wife, a year sooner; and had at least two
Children born at Stratford before he retired from thence to London. It is
therefore sufficiently clear that poor Anthony had too much reason for his
character of Aubrey: You will find it in his own Account of his Life,
published by Hearne, which I would earnestly recommend to any

“A pretender to Antiquities, roving, magotie-headed, and sometimes little
better than crased: and being exceedingly credulous, would stuff his many
Letters sent to A.W. with _folliries_ and misinformations.” p. 577.

Thus much for the Learning of Shakespeare with respect to the ancient
languages: indulge me with an observation or two on his supposed knowledge
of the modern ones, and I will promise to release you.

“It is _evident_” we have been told, “that he was not unacquainted with
the Italian”: but let us inquire into the _Evidence_.

Certainly some Italian words and phrases appear in the Works of
Shakespeare; yet if we had nothing else to observe, their Orthography
might lead us to suspect them to be not of the Writer’s importation. But
we can go further, and prove this.

When Pistol “cheers up himself with ends of verse,” he is only a copy of
Hanniball Gonsaga, who ranted on yielding himself a Prisoner to an English
Captain in the Low Countries, as you may read in an old Collection of
Tales, called _Wits, Fits, and Fancies_,

    Si Fortuna me tormenta,
    Il speranza me contenta.

And Sir Richard Hawkins, in his Voyage to the South-Sea, 1593, throws out
the same jingling Distich on the loss of his Pinnace.

“Master Page, sit; good Master Page, sit; _Proface._ What you want in
meat, we’ll have in drink,” says Justice Shallow’s _Fac totum_, Davy, in
the 2d Part of _Henry the fourth_.

_Proface_, Sir Thomas Hanmer observes to be Italian, from _profaccia, much
good may it do you_. Mr. Johnson rather thinks it a mistake for
_perforce_. Sir Thomas however is right; yet it is no argument for his
Author’s Italian knowledge.

Old Heywood, the Epigrammatist, addressed his Readers long before,

    Readers, reade this thus: for Preface, _Proface_,
    Much good do it you, the poore repast here, &c.—_Woorkes._ Lond.
                4to. 1562.

And Dekker in his Play, _If it be not good, the Diuel is in it_ (which is
certainly true, for it is full of Devils), makes Shackle-soule, in the
character of Friar Rush, tempt his Brethren with “choice of dishes,”

    To which _proface_; with blythe lookes sit yee.

Nor hath it escaped the quibbling manner of the _Water-poet_, in the title
of a Poem prefixed to his _Praise of Hempseed_: “A Preamble, Preatrot,
Preagallop, Preapace, or Preface; and _Proface_, my Masters, if your
Stomacks serve.”

But the Editors are not contented without coining Italian. “_Rivo, says
the Drunkard_,” is an Expression of the _madcap_ Prince of Wales; which
Sir Thomas Hanmer corrects to _Ribi, Drink away_, or _again_, as it should
rather be translated. Dr. Warburton accedes to this; and Mr. Johnson hath
admitted it into his Text; but with an observation, that _Rivo_ might
possibly be the cant of English Taverns. And so indeed it was: it occurs
frequently in Marston. Take a quotation from his Comedy of _What you
will_, 1607:

    Musicke, Tobacco, Sacke, and Sleepe,
    The Tide of Sorrow backward keep:
    If thou art sad at others fate,
    _Rivo_ drink deep, give care the mate.

In _Love’s Labour Lost_, Boyet calls Don Armado,

    ——A Spaniard that keeps here in Court,
    A Phantasme, a _Monarcho_.——

Here too Sir Thomas is willing to palm Italian upon us. We should read, it
seems, _Mammuccio_, a Mammet, or Puppet: Ital. _Mammuccia_. But the
allusion is to a fantastical _Character_ of the time.—“Popular applause,”
says Meres, “dooth nourish some, neither do they gape after any other
thing, but vaine praise and glorie,—as in our age Peter Shakerlye of
Paules, and MONARCHO that liued about the Court.” p. 178.

I fancy you will be satisfied with one more instance.

“_Baccare_, You are marvellous forward,” quoth Gremio to Petruchio in the
_Taming of the Shrew_.

“But not so _forward_,” says Mr. Theobald, “as our Editors are _indolent_.
This is a stupid corruption of the press, that none of them have dived
into. We must read _Baccalare_, as Mr. Warburton acutely observed to me,
by which the Italians mean, Thou ignorant, presumptuous Man.”—“Properly
indeed,” adds Mr. Heath, “a _graduated_ Scholar, but ironically and
sarcastically a _pretender_ to Scholarship.”

This is admitted by the Editors and Criticks of every Denomination. Yet
the word is neither wrong, nor Italian: it was an old proverbial one, used
frequently by John Heywood; who hath made, what he pleases to call,
_Epigrams_ upon it.

Take two of them, such as they are,

    _Backare_, quoth Mortimer to his Sow:
    Went that Sow _backe_ at that biddyng trowe you?

    _Backare_, quoth Mortimer to his sow: se
    Mortimers sow speakth as good _latin_ as he.

Howel takes this from Heywood, in his _Old Sawes and Adages_: and Philpot
introduces it into the Proverbs collected by Camden.

We have but few observations concerning Shakespeare’s knowledge of the
Spanish tongue. Dr. Grey indeed is willing to suppose that the plot of
_Romeo and Juliet_ may be borrowed from a COMEDY of Lopes de Vega. But the
Spaniard, who was certainly acquainted with Bandello, hath not only
changed the Catastrophe, but the names of the Characters. Neither Romeo
nor Juliet, neither Montague nor Capulet, appears in this performance: and
how came they to the knowledge of Shakespeare?—Nothing is more certain
than that he chiefly followed the Translation by Painter from the French
of Boisteau, and hence arise the Deviations from Bandello’s original
Italian. It seems, however, from a passage in Ames’s _Typographical
Antiquities_, that Painter was not the only Translator of this popular
Story: and it is possible, therefore, that Shakespeare might have other

In the Induction to the _Taming of the Shrew_, the Tinker attempts to talk
Spanish: and _consequently_ the Author himself was acquainted with it.

    _Paucas pallabris_, let the World slide, _Sessa_.

But this is a burlesque on _Hieronymo_; the piece of Bombast that I have
mentioned to you before:

    What new device have they devised, trow?
    _Pocas pallabras_, &c.——

Mr. Whalley tells us, “the Author of this piece hath the happiness to be
at this time unknown, the remembrance of him having perished with
himself”: Philips and others ascribe it to one William Smith: but I take
this opportunity of informing him that it was written by Thomas Kyd; if he
will accept the authority of his Contemporary, Heywood.

More hath been said concerning Shakespeare’s acquaintance with the French
language. In the Play of _Henry the fifth_, we have a whole Scene in it,
and in other places it occurs familiarly in the Dialogue.

We may observe in general, that the early Editions have not half the
quantity; and every sentence, or rather every word, most ridiculously
blundered. These, for several reasons, could not possibly be published by
the Author; and it is extremely probable that the French ribaldry was at
first inserted by a different hand, as the many additions most certainly
were after he had left the Stage.—Indeed, every friend to his memory will
not easily believe that he was acquainted with the Scene between Catharine
and the old Gentlewoman; or surely he would not have admitted such
obscenity and nonsense.

Mr. Hawkins, in the Appendix to Mr. Johnson’s Edition, hath an ingenious
observation to prove that Shakespeare, supposing the French to be his, had
very little knowledge of the language.

“Est-il impossible d’eschapper la force de ton _Bras_?” says a
Frenchman.—“_Brass_, cur?” replies Pistol.

“Almost any one knows that the French word _Bras_ is pronounced _Brau_;
and what resemblance of sound does this bear to _Brass_?”

Mr. Johnson makes a doubt whether the pronunciation of the French language
may not be changed since Shakespeare’s time; “if not,” says he, “it may be
suspected that some other man wrote the French scenes”: but this does not
appear to be the case, at least in this termination, from the rules of the
Grammarians, or the practice of the Poets. I am certain of the former from
the _French Alphabet_ of De la Mothe, and the _Orthoepia Gallica_ of John
Eliot; and of the latter from the Rhymes of Marot, Ronsard, and Du
Bartas.—Connections of this kind were very common. Shakespeare himself
assisted Ben. Jonson in his _Sejanus_, as it was originally written; and
Fletcher in his _Two noble Kinsmen_.

But what if the French scene were occasionally introduced into every Play
on this Subject? and perhaps there were more than one before our
Poet’s.—In _Pierce __ Penilesse his Supplication to the Diuell_, 4to. 1592
(which, it seems, from the Epistle to the Printer, was not the first
Edition), the Author, Nash, exclaims, “What a glorious thing it is to have
_Henry the fifth_ represented on the Stage leading the French King
prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dolphin to sweare fealty!”—And it
appears from the Jests of the famous Comedian, Tarlton, 4to. 1611, that he
had been particularly celebrated in the Part of the Clown in _Henry the
fifth_; but no such Character exists in the Play of Shakespeare.—_Henry
the sixth_ hath ever been doubted; and a passage in the above-quoted piece
of Nash may give us reason to believe it was previous to our Author. “How
would it have joyed braue Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that
after he had lyen two hundred yeare in his Toomb, he should triumph again
on the Stage; and haue his bones new embalmed with the teares of ten
thousand spectators at least (at severall times) who, in the Tragedian
that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.”—I
have no doubt but _Henry the sixth_ had the same Author with _Edward the
third_, which hath been recovered to the world in Mr. Capell’s

It hath been observed that the Giant of Rabelais is sometimes alluded to
by Shakespeare: and in _his_ time no translation was extant.—But the Story
was in every one’s hand.

In a Letter by one Laneham, or Langham, for the name is written
differently, concerning the Entertainment at Killingwoorth Castle, printed
1575, we have a list of the vulgar Romances of the age, “King Arthurz
book, Huon of Burdeaus, Friar Rous, Howleglass, and GARGANTUA.” Meres
mentions him as equally hurtful to young minds with the _Four Sons of
Aymon_, and the _Seven Champions_. And John Taylor hath him likewise in
his catalogue of _Authors_, prefixed to Sir _Gregory Nonsence_.

But to come to a conclusion, I will give you an irrefragable argument that
Shakespeare did _not_ understand _two_ very common words in the French and
Latin languages.

According to the Articles of agreement between the Conqueror Henry and the
King of France, the latter was to stile the former (in the corrected
French of the modern Editions) “Nostre _tres cher_ filz Henry Roy
d’Angleterre; and in Latin, _Præclarissimus_ Filius, &c.” “What,” says Dr.
Warburton, “is _tres cher_ in French _præclarissimus_ in Latin! we should
read _præcarissimus_.”—This appears to be exceedingly true; but how came
the blunder? It is a typographical one in Holingshed, which Shakespeare
copied; but must indisputably have corrected, had he been acquainted with
the languages.—“Our said Father, during his life, shall name, call, and
write us in French in this maner: Nostre _tres chier_ filz, Henry Roy
d’Engleterre—and in Latine in this maner: _Præclarissimus_ filius noster.”
Edit. 1587, p. 574.

To corroborate this instance, let me observe to you, though it be nothing
further to the purpose, that another error of the same kind hath been the
source of a mistake in an historical passage of our Author; which hath
ridiculously troubled the Criticks.

Richard the third harangues his army before the Battle of Bosworth:

    Remember whom ye are to cope withal,
    A sort of vagabonds, of rascals, runaways—
    And who doth lead them but a paltry fellow,
    Long kept in _Britaine_ at _our Mother’s_ cost,
    A milksop, &c.—

“_Our_ Mother,” Mr. Theobald perceives to be wrong, and Henry was
somewhere secreted on the _Continent_: he reads therefore, and all the
Editors after him,

    Long kept in _Bretagne_ at _his_ mother’s cost.

But give me leave to transcribe a few more lines from Holingshed, and you
will find at once that Shakespeare had been there before me:—“Ye see
further, how a companie of traitors, theeves, outlaws, and runnagates be
aiders and partakers of his feat and enterprise.—And to begin with the
erle of Richmond, captaine of this rebellion, he is a Welsh
milksop—brought up by _my Moother’s_ meanes and mine, like a captive in a
close cage, in the court of Francis duke of _Britaine_.” p. 756.

Holingshed copies this _verbatim_ from his brother chronicler Hall, Edit.
1548, fol. 54; but his Printer hath given us by accident the word
_Moother_ instead of _Brother_; as it is in the Original, and ought to be
in Shakespeare.

I hope, my good Friend, you have by this time acquitted our great Poet of
all piratical depredations on the Ancients, and are ready to receive my
_Conclusion_.—He remembered perhaps enough of his _school-boy_ learning to
put the _Hig_, _hag_, _hog_, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans; and might
pick up in the Writers of the time, or the course of his conversation, a
familiar phrase or two of French or Italian: but his _Studies_ were most
demonstratively confined to _Nature_ and _his own Language_.

In the course of this disquisition, you have often smiled at “all such
reading as was never read”: and possibly I may have indulged it too far:
but it is the reading necessary for a Comment on Shakespeare. Those who
apply solely to the Ancients for this purpose, may with equal wisdom study
the TALMUD for an Exposition of TRISTRAM SHANDY. Nothing but an intimate
acquaintance with the Writers of the time, who are frequently of no other
value, can point out his allusions, and ascertain his Phraseology. The
Reformers of his Text are for ever equally positive, and equally wrong.
The Cant of the Age, a provincial Expression, an obscure Proverb, an
obsolete Custom, a Hint at a Person or a Fact no longer remembered, hath
continually defeated the best of our _Guessers_: You must not suppose me
to speak at random, when I assure you that, from some forgotten book or
other, I can demonstrate this to you in many hundred Places; and I almost
wish that I had not been persuaded into a different Employment.

Tho’ I have as much of the _Natale Solum_ about me as any man whatsoever;
yet, I own, the _Primrose Path_ is still more pleasing than the _Fosse_ or
the _Watling Street_:

    Age cannot wither it, nor custom stale
    It’s infinite variety.——

And when I am fairly rid of the Dust of topographical Antiquity, which
hath continued much longer about me than I expected, you may very probably
be troubled again with the ever fruitful Subject of SHAKESPEARE and his



The following sheets were written in consequence of a friendly
conversation, turning by some chance upon the Character of FALSTAFF,
wherein the Writer, maintaining, contrary to the general Opinion, that
this Character was not intended to be shewn as a Coward, he was challenged
to deliver and support that Opinion from the Press, with an engagement,
now he fears forgotten, for it was three years ago, that he should be
answered thro’ the same channel: Thus stimulated, these papers were almost
wholly written in a very short time, but not without those attentions,
whether successful or not, which seemed necessary to carry them beyond the
Press into the hands of the Public. From the influence of the foregoing
circumstances it is, that the Writer has generally assumed rather the
character and tone of an Advocate than of an Inquirer;—though if he had
not first _inquired_ and been _convinced_, he should never have attempted
to have amused either himself or others with the subject.—The impulse of
the occasion, however, being passed, the papers were thrown by, and almost
forgotten: But having been looked into of late by some friends, who,
observing that the Writer had not enlarged so far for the sake of FALSTAFF
alone, but that the Argument was made subservient to Critical amusement,
persuaded him to revise and convey it to the Press. This has been
accordingly done, though he fears something too hastily, as he found it
proper to add, while the papers were in the course of printing, some
considerations on the _Whole_ Character of FALSTAFF; which ought to have
been accompanied by a slight reform of a few preceding passages, which may
seem, in consequence of this addition, to contain too favourable a
representation of his Morals.

The vindication of FALSTAFF’S Courage is truly no otherwise the object
than some old fantastic Oak, or grotesque Rock, may be the object of a
morning’s ride; yet being proposed as such, may serve to limit the
distance, and shape the course: The real object is Exercise, and the
Delight which a rich, beautiful, picturesque, and perhaps unknown Country,
may excite from every side. Such an Exercise may admit of some little
excursion, keeping however the Road in view; but seems to exclude every
appearance of labour and of toil.—Under the impression of such Feelings,
the Writer has endeavoured to preserve to his Text a certain lightness of
air, and chearfulness of tone; but is sensible, however, that the manner
of discussion does not _every where_, particularly near the commencement,
sufficiently correspond with his design.—If the Book shall be fortunate
enough to obtain another Impression, a separation may be made; and such of
the heavier parts as cannot be wholly dispensed with, sink to their more
proper station,—a Note.

He is fearful likewise that he may have erred in the other extreme; and
that having thought himself intitled, even in argument, to a certain
degree of playful discussion, may have pushed it, in a few places, even to
levity. This error might be yet more easily reformed than the other.—The
Book is perhaps, as it stands, too bulky for the subject; but if the
Reader knew how many pressing considerations, as it grew into size, the
Author resisted, which yet seemed intitled to be heard, he would the more
readily excuse him.

The whole is a mere Experiment, and the Writer considers it as such: It
may have the advantages, but it is likewise attended with all the
difficulties and dangers, of _Novelty_.

On The Dramatic Character Of Sir John Falstaff.

The ideas which I have formed concerning the Courage and Military
Character of the Dramatic Sir _John Falstaff_ are so different from those
which I find generally to prevail in the world, that I shall take the
liberty of stating my sentiments on the subject; in hope that some person,
as unengaged as myself, will either correct and reform my error in this
respect; or, joining himself to my opinion, redeem me from, what I may
call, the reproach of singularity.

I am to avow, then, that I do not clearly discern that Sir _John Falstaff_
deserves to bear the character so generally given him of an absolute
Coward; or, in other words, that I do not conceive _Shakespeare_ ever
meant to make Cowardice an essential part of his constitution.

I know how universally the contrary opinion prevails; and I know what
respect and deference are due to the public voice. But if to the avowal of
this singularity I add all the reasons that have led me to it, and
acknowledge myself to be wholly in the judgment of the public, I shall
hope to avoid the censure of too much forwardness or indecorum.

It must, in the first place, be admitted that the appearances in this case
are singularly strong and striking; and so they had need be, to become the
ground of so general a censure. We see this extraordinary Character,
almost in the first moment of our acquaintance with him, involved in
circumstances of apparent dishonour; and we hear him familiarly called
_Coward_ by his most intimate companions. We see him, on occasion of the
robbery at _Gads-Hill_, in the very act of running away from the Prince
and _Poins_; and we behold him, on another of more honourable obligation,
in open day light, in battle, and acting in his profession as a Soldier,
escaping from _Douglas_ even out of the world as it were; counterfeiting
death, and deserting his very existence; and we find him, on the former
occasion, betrayed into those _lies_ and _braggadocioes_ which are the
usual concomitants of Cowardice in Military men, and pretenders to valour.
These are not only in themselves strong circumstances, but they are
moreover thrust forward, prest upon our notice as the subject of our
mirth, as the great business of the scene: No wonder, therefore, that the
word should go forth that _Falstaff_ exhibited as a character of Cowardice
and dishonour.

What there is to the contrary of this, it is my business to discover.
Much, I think, will presently appear; but it lies so dispersed, is so
latent, and so purposely obscured, that the reader must have some patience
whilst I collect it into one body, and make it the object of a steady and
regular contemplation.

But what have we to do, may my readers exclaim, with principles _so
latent_, _so obscured_? In Dramatic composition the _Impression_ is the
_Fact_; and the Writer, who, meaning to impress one thing, has impressed
another, is unworthy of observation.

It is a very unpleasant thing to have, in the first setting out, so many
and so strong prejudices to contend with. All that one can do in such
case, is, to pray the reader to have a little patience in the
commencement; and to reserve his censure, if it must pass, for the
conclusion. Under his gracious allowance, therefore, I presume to declare
it as my opinion, that Cowardice _is not_ the _Impression_ which the
_whole_ character of _Falstaff_ is calculated to make on the minds of an
unprejudiced audience; tho’ there be, I confess, a great deal of something
in the _composition_ likely enough to puzzle, and consequently to mislead
the Understanding.—The reader will perceive that I distinguish between
_mental Impressions_ and the _Understanding_.—I wish to avoid every thing
that looks like subtlety and refinement; but this is a distinction which
we all comprehend.—There are none of us unconscious of certain feelings or
sensations of mind which do not seem to have passed thro’ the
Understanding; the effects, I suppose, of some secret influences from
without, acting upon a certain mental sense, and producing feelings and
passions in just correspondence to the force and variety of those
influences on the one hand, and to the quickness of our sensibility on the
other. Be the cause, however, what it may, the fact is undoubtedly so;
which is all I am concerned in. And it is equally a fact, which every
man’s experience may avouch, that the Understanding and those feelings are
frequently at variance. The latter often arise from the most minute
circumstances, and frequently from such as the Understanding cannot
estimate, or even recognize; whereas the Understanding delights in
abstraction, and in general propositions; which, however true considered
as such, are very seldom, I had like to have said _never_, perfectly
applicable to any particular case. And hence, among other causes, it is,
that we often condemn or applaud characters and actions on the credit of
some logical process, while our hearts revolt, and would fain lead us to a
very different conclusion.

The Understanding seems for the most part to take cognizance of _actions_
only, and from these to infer _motives_ and _character_; but the sense we
have been speaking of proceeds in a contrary course; and determines of
_actions_ from certain _first principles of character_, which seem wholly
out of the reach of the Understanding. We cannot indeed do otherwise than
admit that there must be distinct principles of character in every
distinct individual: The manifest variety even in the minds of infants
will oblige us to this. But what _are_ these first principles of
character? Not the objects, I am persuaded, of the Understanding; and yet
we take as strong Impressions of them as if we could compare and assort
them in a syllogism. We often love or hate at first sight; and indeed, in
general, dislike or approve by some secret reference to these
_principles_; and we judge even of conduct, not from any idea of abstract
good or evil in the nature of actions, but by referring those actions to a
supposed original character in the man himself. I do not mean that we
_talk_ thus; we could not indeed, if we would, explain ourselves in detail
on this head; we can neither account for Impressions and passions, nor
communicate them to others by _words_: Tones and looks will sometimes
convey the _passion_ strangely, but the _Impression_ is incommunicable.
The same causes may produce it indeed at the same time in many, but it is
the separate possession of each, and not in its nature transferable: It is
an imperfect sort of instinct, and proportionably dumb.—We might indeed,
if we chose it, candidly confess to one another that we are greatly swayed
by these feelings, and are by no means so _rational_ in all points as we
could wish; but this would be a betraying of the interests of that high
faculty, the Understanding, which we so value ourselves upon, and which we
more peculiarly call our own. This, we think, must not be; and so we
huddle up the matter, concealing it as much as possible, both from
ourselves and others. In Books indeed, wherein character, motive, and
action, are all alike subjected to the Understanding, it is generally a
very clear case; and we make decisions compounded of them all: And thus we
are willing to approve of _Candide_, tho’ he kills my Lord the Inquisitor,
and runs thro’ the body the Baron of _Thunder-ten-tronckh_, the son of his
patron, and the brother of his beloved _Cunégonde_: But in real life, I
believe, _my Lords the Judges_ would be apt to inform the _Gentlemen of
the Jury_ that my _Lord the Inquisitor_ was _ill killed_; as _Candide_ did
not proceed on the urgency of the moment, but on the speculation only of
future evil. And indeed this clear perception, in Novels and Plays, of the
union of character and action not seen in nature, is the principal defect
of such compositions, and what renders them but ill pictures of human
life, and wretched guides of conduct.

But if there was _one man_ in the world who could make a more perfect
draught of real nature, and steal such Impressions on his audience,
without their special notice, as should keep their hold in spite of any
error of their Understanding, and should thereupon venture to introduce an
apparent incongruity of character and action, for ends which I shall
presently endeavour to explain; such an imitation would be worth our
nicest curiosity and attention. But in such a case as this, the reader
might expect that he should find us all talking the language of the
Understanding only; that is, censuring the action with very little
conscientious investigation even of _that_; and transferring the censure,
in every odious colour, to the actor himself; how much soever our hearts
and affections might secretly revolt: For as to the _Impression_, we have
already observed that it has no tongue; nor is its operation and influence
likely to be made the subject of conference and communication.

It is not to the _Courage_ only of _Falstaff_ that we think these
observations will apply: No part whatever of his character seems to be
fully settled in our minds; at least there is something strangely
incongruous in our discourse and affections concerning him. We all like
_Old Jack_; yet, by some strange perverse fate, we all abuse him, and deny
him the possession of any one single good or respectable quality. There is
something extraordinary in this: It must be a strange art in _Shakespeare_
which can draw our liking and good will towards so offensive an object. He
has wit, it will be said; chearfulness and humour of the most
characteristic and captivating sort. And is this enough? Is the humour and
gaiety of vice so very captivating? Is the wit, characteristic of baseness
and every ill quality, capable of attaching the heart and winning the
affections? Or does not the apparency of such humour, and the flashes of
such wit, by more strongly disclosing the deformity of character, but the
more effectually excite our hatred and contempt of the man? And yet this
is not our _feeling_ of _Falstaff_’s character. When he has ceased to
amuse us, we find no emotions of disgust; we can scarcely forgive the
ingratitude of the Prince in the new-born virtue of the King, and we curse
the severity of that poetic justice which consigns our old good-natured
companion to the custody of the _warden_, and the dishonours of the

I am willing, however, to admit that if a Dramatic writer will but
preserve to any character the qualities of a strong mind, particularly
Courage and ability, that it will be afterwards no very difficult task (as
I may have occasion to explain) to discharge that _disgust_ which arises
from vicious manners; and even to attach us (if such character should
contain any quality productive of chearfulness and laughter) to the cause
and subject of our mirth with some degree of affection.

But the question which I am to consider is of a very different nature: It
is a question of fact, and concerning a quality which forms the basis of
every respectable character; a quality which is the very essence of a
Military man; and which is held up to us, in almost every Comic incident
of the Play, as the subject of our observation. It is strange then that it
should now be a question, whether _Falstaff_ is or is not a man of
Courage; and whether we do in fact contemn him for the want, or respect
him for the possession of that quality: And yet I believe the reader will
find that he has by no means decided this question, even for himself.—If
then it should turn out that this difficulty has arisen out of the Art of
_Shakespeare_, who has contrived to make secret Impressions upon us of
Courage, and to preserve those Impressions in favour of a character which
was to be held up for sport and laughter on account of actions of apparent
Cowardice and dishonour, we shall have less occasion to wonder, as
_Shakespeare_ is a Name which contains All of Dramatic artifice and

If in this place the reader shall peevishly and prematurely object that
the observations and distinctions I have laboured to establish are wholly
unapplicable; he being himself unconscious of ever having received any
such Impression; what can be done in so nice a case, but to refer him to
the following pages; by the number of which he may judge how very much I
respect his objection, and by the variety of those proofs which I shall
employ to induce him to part with it; and to recognize in its stead
certain feelings, concealed and covered over perhaps, but not erazed, by
time, reasoning, and authority?

In the mean while, it may not perhaps be easy for him to resolve how it
comes about, that, whilst we look upon _Falstaff_ as a character of the
like nature with that of _Parolles_ or of _Bobadil_, we should preserve
for him a great degree of respect and good-will, and yet feel the highest
disdain and contempt of the others, tho’ they are all involved in similar
situations. The reader, I believe, would wonder extremely to find either
_Parolles_ or _Bobadil_ possess himself in danger: What then can be the
cause that we are not at all surprized at the gaiety and ease of
_Falstaff_ under the most trying circumstances; and that we never think of
charging _Shakespeare_ with departing, on this account, from the truth and
coherence of character? Perhaps, after all, the _real_ character of
_Falstaff_ may be different from his _apparent_ one; and possibly this
difference between reality and appearance, whilst it accounts at once for
our liking and our censure, may be the true point of humour in the
character, and the source of all our laughter and delight. We may chance
to find, if we will but examine a little into the nature of those
circumstances which have accidentally involved him, that he was intended
to be drawn as a character of much Natural courage and resolution; and be
obliged thereupon to repeal those decisions which may have been made upon
the credit of some general tho’ unapplicable propositions; the common
source of error in other and higher matters. A little reflection may
perhaps bring us round again to the point of our departure, and unite our
Understandings to our instinct.—Let us then for a moment _suspend_ at
least our decisions, and candidly and coolly inquire if Sir _John
Falstaff_ be, indeed, what he has so often been called by critic and
commentator, male and female,—a _Constitutional Coward_.

It will scarcely be possible to consider the Courage of _Falstaff_ as
wholly detached from his other qualities: But I write not professedly of
any part of his character, but what is included under the term, _Courage_;
however, I may incidentally throw some lights on the whole.—The reader
will not need to be told that this Inquiry will resolve itself of course
into a Critique on the genius, the arts, and the conduct of _Shakespeare_:
For what is _Falstaff_, what _Lear_, what _Hamlet_, or _Othello_, but
different modifications of _Shakespeare_’s thought? It is true that this
Inquiry is narrowed almost to a single point: But general criticism is as
uninstructive as it is easy: _Shakespeare_ deserves to be considered in
detail;—a task hitherto unattempted.

It may be proper, in the first place, to take a short view of all the
parts of _Falstaff_’s Character, and then proceed to discover, if we can,
what _Impressions_, as to Courage or Cowardice, he had made on the persons
of the Drama: After which we will examine, in course, such evidence,
either of _persons_ or _facts_, as are relative to the matter; and account
as we may for those appearances which seem to have led to the opinion of
his Constitutional Cowardice.

The scene of the robbery, and the disgraces attending it, which stand
first in the Play, and introduce us to the knowledge of _Falstaff_, I
shall beg leave (as I think this scene to have been the source of much
unreasonable prejudice) to _reserve_ till we are more fully acquainted
with the whole character of _Falstaff_; and I shall therefore hope that
the reader will not for a time advert to it, or to the jests of the Prince
or of _Poins_ in consequence of that unlucky adventure.

In drawing out the parts of _Falstaff_’s character, with which I shall
begin this Inquiry, I shall take the liberty of putting Constitutional
bravery into his composition; but the reader will be pleased to consider
what I shall say in that respect as spoken hypothetically for the present,
to be retained, or discharged out of it, as he shall finally determine.

To me then it appears that the leading quality in _Falstaff_’s character,
and that from which all the rest take their colour, is a high degree of
wit and humour, accompanied with great natural vigour and alacrity of
mind. This quality, so accompanied, led him probably very early into life,
and made him highly acceptable to society; so acceptable, as to make it
seem unnecessary for him to acquire any other virtue. Hence, perhaps, his
continued debaucheries and dissipations of every kind.—He seems, by
nature, to have had a mind free of malice or any evil principle; but he
never took the trouble of acquiring any good one. He found himself
esteemed and beloved with all his faults; nay _for_ his faults, which were
all connected with humour, and for the most part grew out of it. As he
had, possibly, no vices but such as he thought might be openly professed,
so he appeared more dissolute thro’ ostentation. To the character of wit
and humour, to which all his other qualities seem to have conformed
themselves, he appears to have added a very necessary support, _that_ of
the profession of a _Soldier_. He had from nature, as I presume to say, a
spirit of boldness and enterprise; which in a Military age, tho’
employment was only occasional, kept him always above contempt, secured
him an honourable reception among the Great, and suited best both his
particular mode of humour and of vice. Thus living continually in society,
nay even in Taverns, and indulging himself, and being indulged by others,
in every debauchery; drinking, whoring, gluttony, and ease; assuming a
liberty of fiction, necessary perhaps to his wit, and often falling into
falsity and lies, he seems to have set, by degrees, all sober reputation
at defiance; and finding eternal resources in his wit, he borrows, shifts,
defrauds, and even robs, without dishonour.—Laughter and approbation
attend his greatest excesses; and being governed visibly by no settled bad
principle or ill design, fun and humour account for and cover all. By
degrees, however, and thro’ indulgence, he acquires bad habits, becomes an
humourist, grows enormously corpulent, and falls into the infirmities of
age; yet never quits, all the time, one single levity or vice of youth, or
loses any of that chearfulness of mind which had enabled him to pass thro’
this course with ease to himself and delight to others; and thus, at last,
mixing youth and age, enterprize and corpulency, wit and folly, poverty
and expence, title and buffoonery, innocence as to purpose, and wickedness
as to practice; neither incurring hatred by bad principle, or contempt by
Cowardice, yet involved in circumstances productive of imputation in both;
a butt and a wit, a humourist and a man of humour, a touchstone and a
laughing stock, a jester and a jest, has Sir _John Falstaff_, taken at
that period of his life in which we see him, become the most perfect Comic
character that perhaps ever was exhibited.

It may not possibly be wholly amiss to remark in this place, that if Sir
_John Falstaff_ had possessed any of that Cardinal quality, Prudence,
alike the guardian of virtue and the protector of vice; that quality, from
the possession or the absence of which, the character and fate of men in
this life take, I think, their colour, and not from real vice or virtue;
if he had considered his wit not as _principal_ but _accessary_ only; as
the instrument of power, and not as power itself; if he had had much
baseness to hide, if he had had less of what may be called mellowness or
good humour, or less of health and spirit; if he had spurred and rode the
world with his wit, instead of suffering the world, boys and all, to ride
him;—he might, without any other essential change, have been the
admiration and not the jest of mankind:—Or if he had lived in our day, and
instead of attaching himself to one Prince, had renounced _all_ friendship
and _all_ attachment, and had let himself out as the ready instrument and
Zany of every successive Minister, he might possibly have acquired the
high honour of marking his shroud or decorating his coffin with the living
rays of an Irish at least, if not a British Coronet: Instead of which,
tho’ enforcing laughter from every disposition, he appears, now, as such a
character which every wise man will pity and avoid, every knave will
censure, and every fool will fear: And accordingly _Shakespeare_, ever
true to nature, has made _Harry_ desert, and _Lancaster_ censure him:—He
dies where he lived, in a Tavern, broken-hearted, without a friend; and
his final exit is given up to the derision of fools. Nor has his
misfortunes ended here; the scandal arising from the misapplication of his
wit and talents seems immortal. He has met with as little justice or mercy
from his final judges the critics, as from his companions of the Drama.
With our cheeks still red with laughter, we ungratefully as unjustly
censure him as a coward by nature, and a rascal upon principle: Tho’, if
this were so, it might be hoped, for our own credit, that we should behold
him rather with disgust and disapprobation than with pleasure and delight.

But to remember our question—_Is Falstaff a constitutional coward?_

With respect to every infirmity, except that of Cowardice, we must take
him as at the period in which he is represented to us. If we see him
dissipated, fat,—it is enough;—we have nothing to do with his youth, when
he might perhaps have been modest, chaste, “_and not an Eagle’s talon in
the waist_.” But _Constitutional __ Courage_ extends to a man’s whole
life, makes a part of his nature, and is not to be taken up or deserted
like a mere Moral quality. It is true, there is a Courage founded upon
_principle_, or rather a principle independent of Courage, which will
sometimes operate in spite of nature; a principle which prefers death to
shame, but which always refers itself, in conformity to its own nature, to
the prevailing modes of honour, and the fashions of the age.—But Natural
courage is another thing: It is independent of opinion; It adapts itself
to occasions, preserves itself under every shape, and can avail itself of
flight as well as of action.—In the last war, some Indians of America
perceiving a line of Highlanders to keep their station under every
disadvantage, and under a fire which they could not effectually return,
were so miserably mistaken in our points of honour as to conjecture, from
observation on the habit and stability of those troops, that they were
indeed the women of England, who wanted courage to run away.—That Courage
which is founded in nature and constitution, _Falstaff_, as I presume to
say, possessed;—but I am ready to allow that the principle already
mentioned, so far as it refers to reputation only, began with every other
Moral quality to lose its hold on him in his old age; that is, at the time
of life in which he is represented to us; a period, as it should seem,
approaching to _seventy_.—The truth is that he had drollery enough to
support himself in credit without the point of honour, and had address
enough to make even the preservation of his life a point of drollery. The
reader knows I allude, tho’ something prematurely, to his fictitious death
in the battle of Shrewsbury. This incident is generally construed to the
disadvantage of _Falstaff_: It is a transaction which bears the external
marks of Cowardice: It is also aggravated to the spectators by the idle
tricks of the Player, who practises on this occasion all the attitudes and
wild apprehensions of fear; more ambitious, as it should seem, of
representing a _Caliban_ than a _Falstaff_; or indeed rather a poor
unwieldy miserable Tortoise than either.—The painful Comedian lies spread
out on his belly, and not only covers himself all over with his robe as
with a shell, but forms a kind of round Tortoise-back by I know not what
stuffing or contrivance; in addition to which, he alternately lifts up,
and depresses, and dodges his head, and looks to the one side and to the
other, so much with the piteous aspect of that animal, that one would not
be sorry to see the ambitious imitator calipashed in his robe, and served
up for the entertainment of the gallery.—There is no hint for this mummery
in the Play: Whatever there may be of dishonour in _Falstaff_’s conduct,
he neither does or says any thing on this occasion which indicates terror
or disorder of mind: On the contrary, this very act is a proof of his
having all his wits about him, and is a stratagem, such as it is, not
improper for a buffoon, whose fate would be singularly hard, if he should
not be allowed to avail himself of his Character when it might serve him
in most stead. We must remember, in extenuation, that the executive, the
destroying hand of _Douglas_ was over him: “_It was time to counterfeit,
or that hot termagant Scot had paid him scot and lot too._” He had but one
choice; he was obliged to pass thro’ the ceremony of dying either in jest
or in earnest; and we shall not be surprized at the event, when we
remember his propensities to the former.—Life (and especially the life of
_Falstaff_) might be a jest; but he could see no joke whatever in dying:
To be chopfallen was, with him, to lose both life and character together:
He saw the point of honour, as well as every thing else, in ridiculous
lights, and began to renounce its tyranny.

But I am too much in advance, and must retreat for more advantage. I
should not forget how much opinion is against me, and that I am to make my
way by the mere force and weight of evidence; without which I must not
hope to possess myself of the reader: No address, no insinuation will
avail. To this evidence, then, I now resort. The Courage of _Falstaff_ is
my Theme: And no passage will I spare from which any thing can be inferred
as relative to this point. It would be as vain as injudicious to attempt
concealment: How could I escape detection? The Play is in every one’s
memory, and a single passage remembered in detection would tell, in the
mind of the partial observer, for fifty times its real weight. Indeed this
argument would be void of all excuse if it declined any difficulty; if it
did not meet, if it did not challenge opposition. Every passage then shall
be produced from which, in my opinion, any inference, favourable or
unfavourable, has or can be drawn;—but not methodically, not formally, as
texts for comment, but as chance or convenience shall lead the way; but in
what shape soever, they shall be always distinguishingly marked for
notice. And so with that attention to truth and candour which ought to
accompany even our lightest amusements I proceed to offer such proof as
the case will admit, that _Courage_ is a part of _Falstaff_’s _Character_,
that it belonged to his constitution, and was manifest in the conduct and
practice of his whole life.

Let us then examine, as a source of very authentic information, what
Impressions _Sir John Falstaff_ had made on the characters of the Drama;
and in what estimation he is supposed to stand with mankind in general as
to the point of Personal Courage. But the quotations we make for this or
other purposes, must, it is confessed, be lightly touched, and no
particular passage strongly relied on, either in his favour or against
him. Every thing which he himself says, or is said of him, is so
phantastically discoloured by humour, or folly, or jest, that we must for
the most part look to the spirit rather than the letter of what is
uttered, and rely at last only on a combination of the whole.

We will begin then, if the reader pleases, by inquiring what Impression
the very Vulgar had taken of _Falstaff_. If it is not that of Cowardice,
be it what else it may, that of a man of violence, or _a Ruffian in
years_, as _Harry_ calls him, or any thing else, it answers my purpose;
how insignificant soever the characters or incidents to be first produced
may otherwise appear;—for these Impressions must have been taken either
from personal knowledge and observation; or, what will do better for my
purpose, from common fame. Altho’ I must admit some part of this evidence
will appear so weak and trifling that it certainly ought not to be
produced but in proof Impression only.

The _Hostess Quickly_ employs two officers to arrest _Falstaff_: On the
mention of his name, one of them immediately observes, “_that it may
chance to cost some of them their lives, for that he will stab._”—“_Alas a
day,_” says the hostess, “_take heed of him, he cares not what mischief he
doth; if his weapon be out, he will foin like any devil; He will spare
neither man, woman, or child._” Accordingly, we find that when they lay
hold on him he resists to the utmost of his power, and calls upon
_Bardolph_, whose arms are at liberty, to draw. “_Away, varlets, draw
Bardolph, cut me off the villain’s head, throw the quean in the kennel._”
The officers cry, _a rescue, a rescue!_ But the Chief Justice comes in and
the scuffle ceases. In another scene, his wench _Doll Tearsheet_ asks him
“_when he will leave fighting ... and patch up his old body for heaven._”
This is occasioned by his drawing his rapier, on great provocation, and
driving _Pistol_, who is drawn likewise, down stairs, and hurting him in
the shoulder. To drive _Pistol_ was no great feat; nor do I mention it as
such; but upon this occasion it was necessary. “_A Rascal bragging
slave,_” says he, “_the rogue fled from me like quicksilver_”: Expressions
which, as they remember the cowardice of _Pistol_, seem to prove that
_Falstaff_ did not value himself on the adventure. Even something may be
drawn from _Davy, Shallow_’s serving man, who calls _Falstaff_, in
ignorant admiration, the _man of war_. I must observe here, and I beg the
reader will notice it, that there is not a single expression dropt by
these people, or either of _Falstaff_’s followers, from which may be
inferred the least suspicion of Cowardice in his character; and this is I
think such an _implied negation_ as deserves considerable weight.

But to go a little higher, if, indeed, to consider _Shallow_’s opinion be
to go _higher_: It is from him, however, that we get the earliest account
of _Falstaff_. He _remembers him a Page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of
Norfolk_: “_He broke,_” says he, “_Schoggan’s head at the Court-Gate when
he was but a crack thus high._” _Shallow_, throughout, considers him as a
great Leader and Soldier, and relates this fact as an early indication
only of his future Prowess. _Shallow_, it is true, is a very ridiculous
character; but he picked up these Impressions somewhere; and he picked up
none of a contrary tendency.—I want at present only to prove that
_Falstaff_ stood well in the report of common fame as to this point; and
he was now near seventy years of age, and had passed in a Military line
thro’ the active part of his life. At this period common fame may be well
considered as the _seal_ of his character; a seal which ought not perhaps
to be broke open on the evidence of any future transaction.

But to proceed. _Lord Bardolph_ was a man of the world, and of sense and
observation. He informs _Northumberland_, erroneously indeed, that _Percy_
had beaten the King at Shrewsbury. “_The King,_” according to him, “_was
wounded; the Prince of Wales and the two Blunts slain, certain Nobles_,
whom he names, _had escaped by flight, and the Brawn Sir John Falstaff was
taken prisoner._” But how came _Falstaff_ into this list? Common fame had
put him there. He is singularly obliged to Common fame.—But if he had not
been a Soldier of repute, if he had not been brave as well as fat, if he
had been _mere brawn_, it would have been more germane to the matter if
this lord had put him down among the baggage or the provender. The fact
seems to be that there is a real consequence about Sir _John Falstaff_
which is not brought forward: We see him only in his familiar hours; we
enter the tavern with _Hal_ and _Poins_; we join in the laugh and _take a
pride to gird at him_: But there may be a great deal of truth in what he
himself writes to the Prince, that tho’ he be “_Jack Falstaff with his
Familiars, he is __SIR JOHN__ with the rest of Europe._” It has been
remarked, and very truly I believe, that no man is a hero in the eye of
his valet-de-chambre; and _thus_ it is, we are witnesses only of
_Falstaff_’s weakness and buffoonery; our acquaintance is with _Jack
Falstaff_, _Plump Jack_, and _Sir John Paunch_; but if we would look for
_Sir John Falstaff_, we must put on, as _Bunyan_ would have expressed it,
the spectacles of observation. With respect, for instance, to his Military
command at Shrewsbury, nothing appears on the surface but the Prince’s
familiarly saying, in the tone usually assumed when speaking of
_Falstaff_, “_I will procure this fat rogue a Charge of foot_”; and in
another place, “_I will procure thee Jack a Charge of foot; meet me
to-morrow in the Temple Hall._” Indeed we might venture to infer from
this, that a Prince of so great ability, whose wildness was only external
and assumed, would not have procured, in so nice and critical a
conjuncture, a Charge of foot for a known Coward. But there was more it
seems in the case: We now find from this report, to which _Lord Bardolph_
had given full credit, that the world had its eye upon _Falstaff_ as an
officer of merit, whom it expected to find in the field, and whose fate in
the battle was an object of Public concern: His life was, it seems, very
material indeed; a thread of so much dependence, that _fiction_, weaving
the fates of Princes, did not think it unworthy, how coarse soever, of
being made a part of the tissue.

We shall next produce the evidence of the Chief Justice of England. He
inquires of his attendant, “_if the man who was then passing him was
__FALSTAFF__; he who was in question for the robbery._” The attendant
answers affirmatively, but reminds his lord “_that he had since done good
service at Shrewsbury_”; and the Chief Justice, on this occasion, rating
him for his debaucheries, tells him “_that his day’s service at Shrewsbury
had gilded over his night’s exploit at Gads Hill._” This is surely more
than Common fame: _The Chief Justice_ must have known his whole character
taken together, and must have received the most authentic information, and
in the truest colours, of his behaviour in that action.

But, perhaps, after all, the Military men may be esteemed the best judges
in points of this nature. Let us hear then _Coleville_ of the dale, _a
Soldier, in degree a Knight, a famous rebel, and_ “_whose betters, had
they been ruled by him, would have sold themselves dearer_”: A man who is
of consequence enough to be guarded by _Blunt_ and _led to present
execution_. This man yields himself up even to the very Name and
Reputation of _Falstaff_. “_I think_,” says he, “_you are Sir John
Falstaff, and in that thought yield me._” But this is but one only among
the men of the sword; and they shall be produced then by _dozens_, if that
will satisfy. Upon the return of the King and Prince Henry from Wales, the
Prince seeks out and finds _Falstaff_ debauching in a tavern; where _Peto_
presently brings an account of ill news from the North; and adds, “_that
as he came along he met or overtook a dozen Captains, bare-headed,
sweating, knocking at the taverns, and asking every one for __SIR JOHN
FALSTAFF__._” He is followed by _Bardolph_, who informs _Falstaff_ that
“_He must away to the Court immediately; a dozen Captains stay at door for
him._” Here is Military evidence in abundance, and _Court evidence_ too;
for what are we to infer from _Falstaff_’s being sent for to Court on this
ill news, but that his opinion was to be asked, as a Military man of skill
and experience, concerning the defences necessary to be taken. Nor is
_Shakespeare_ content, here, with leaving us to gather up _Falstaff_’s
_better character_ from inference and deduction: He comments on the fact
by making _Falstaff_ observe that “_Men of merit are sought after: The
undeserver may sleep when the man of action is called on._” I do not wish
to draw _Falstaff_’s character out of his own mouth; but this observation
refers to the fact, and is founded in reason. Nor ought we to reject what
in another place he says to the Chief Justice, as it is in the nature of
an appeal to his knowledge. “_There is not a dangerous action_,” says he,
“_can peep out his head but I am thrust upon it._” The Chief Justice seems
by his answer to admit the fact. “_Well, be honest, be honest, and heaven
bless your expedition._” But the whole passage may deserve transcribing.

    Ch. Just. “_Well, the King has served you and Prince Henry. I hear
    you are going with Lord John of Lancaster against the Archbishop
    and the Earl of Northumberland._”

    Fals. “_Yes, I thank your pretty sweet wit for it; but look you
    pray, all you that kiss my lady peace at home, that our armies
    join not in a hot day; for I take but two shirts out with me, and
    I mean not to sweat extraordinarily: If it be a hot day, if I
    brandish any thing but a bottle, would I might never spit white
    again. There is not a dangerous action can peep out his head but I
    am thrust upon it. Well I cannot last for ever.—But it was always
    the trick of our English nation, if they have a good thing to make
    it too common. If you will needs say I am an old man you should
    give me rest: I would to God my name were not so terrible to the
    enemy as it is. I were better to be eaten to death with a rust
    than to be scour’d to nothing with perpetual motion._”

    Ch. Just. “_Well be honest, be honest, and heaven bless your

_Falstaff_ indulges himself here in humourous exaggeration;—these passages
are not meant to be taken, nor are we to suppose that they were taken,
literally;—but if there was not a ground of truth, if _Falstaff_ had not
had such a degree of Military reputation as was capable of being thus
humourously amplified and exaggerated, the whole dialogue would have been
highly preposterous and absurd, and the acquiescing answer of the _Lord
Chief Justice_ singularly improper.—But upon the supposition of
_Falstaff_’s being considered, upon the whole, as a good and gallant
Officer, the answer is just, and corresponds with the acknowledgment which
had a little before been made, “_that his days service at Shrewsbury had
gilded over his night’s exploit at Gads Hill.—You may thank the unquiet
time,_” says the Chief Justice, “_for your quiet o’erposting of that
action_”; agreeing with what _Falstaff_ says in another place;—“_Well, God
be thanked for these Rebels, they offend none but the virtuous; I laud
them, I praise them._”—Whether this be said in the true spirit of a
Soldier or not, I do not determine; it is surely not in that of a mere
Coward and Poltroon.

It will be needless to shew, which might be done from a variety of
particulars, that _Falstaff_ was known and had consideration at Court.
_Shallow_ cultivates him in the idea that _a friend at Court is better
than a penny in purse_: _Westmorland_ speaks to him in the tone of an
equal: Upon _Falstaff_’s telling him that he thought his lordship had been
already at Shrewsbury, _Westmorland_ replies,—“_Faith Sir John, ’tis more
than time that I were there, and you too; the King I can tell you looks
for us all; we must away all to night._”—“_Tut,_” says Falstaff, “_never
fear me, I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream._”—He desires, in
another place, of my lord John of Lancaster, “_that when he goes to Court,
he may stand in his good report._” His intercourse and correspondence with
both these lords seem easy and familiar. “_Go,_” says he to the page,
“_bear this to my Lord of Lancaster, this to the Prince, this to the Earl
of Westmorland, and this_ (for he extended himself on all sides) _to old
Mrs. Ursula_,” whom, it seems, the rogue ought to have married many years
before.—But these intimations are needless: We see him ourselves in the
_Royal Presence_; where, certainly, his buffooneries never brought him;
never was the Prince of a character to commit so high an indecorum, as to
thrust, upon a solemn occasion, a mere Tavern companion into his father’s
Presence, especially in a moment when he himself deserts his looser
character, and takes up that of _a Prince indeed_.—In a very important
scene, where _Worcester_ is expected with proposals from _Percy_, and
wherein he is received, is treated with, and carries back offers of
accommodation from the King, the King’s attendants upon the occasion are
_the Prince of Wales, Lord John of Lancaster, the Earl of Westmorland, Sir
Walter Blunt, and Sir John Falstaff_.—What shall be said to this?
_Falstaff_ is not surely introduced here in vicious indulgence to a mob
audience;—he utters but one word, a buffoon one indeed, but aside, and to
the Prince only. Nothing, it should seem, is wanting, if decorum would
here have permitted, but that he should have spoken one sober sentence in
the Presence (which yet we are to suppose him ready and able to do if
occasion should have required; or his wit was given him to little purpose)
and Sir _John Falstaff_ might be allowed to pass for an established
Courtier and counsellor of state. “_If I do grow great,_” says he, “_I’ll
grow less, purge and leave sack, and live as a nobleman should do._”
Nobility did not then appear to him at an unmeasurable distance; it was,
it seems, in his idea, the very next link in the chain.

But to return. I would now demand what could bring _Falstaff_ into the
Royal Presence upon such an occasion, or justify the Prince’s so public
acknowledgment of him, but an established fame and reputation of Military
merit? In short, just the like merit as brought Sir _Walter Blunt_ into
the same circumstances of honour.

But it may be objected that his introduction into this scene is a piece of
indecorum in the author. But upon what ground are we to suppose this? Upon
the ground of his being a notorious Coward? Why, this is the very point in
question, and cannot be granted: Even the direct contrary I have affirmed,
and am endeavouring to support. But if it be supposed upon any other
ground, it does not concern me; I have nothing to do with _Shakespeare_’s
indecorums in general. That there are indecorums in the Play I have no
doubt: The indecent treatment of _Percy_’s dead body is the greatest;—the
familiarity of the significant, rude, and even ill disposed _Poins_ with
the Prince, is another;—but the admission of _Falstaff_ into the Royal
Presence (supposing, which I have a right to suppose, that his Military
character was unimpeached) does not seem to be in any respect among the
number. In camps there is but one virtue and one vice; Military merit
swallows up or covers all. But, after all, what have we to do with
indecorums? Indecorums respect the propriety or impropriety of exhibiting
certain actions;—not their _truth_ or _falshood_ when exhibited.
_Shakespeare_ stands to us in the place of _truth_ and _nature_: If we
desert this principle, we cut the turf from under us; I may then object to
the robbery and other passages as indecorums, and as contrary to the truth
of character. In short we may rend and tear the Play to pieces, and every
man carry off what sentences he likes best.—But why this inveterate malice
against poor _Falstaff_? He has faults enough in conscience without
loading him with the infamy of Cowardice; a charge, which, if true, would,
if I am not greatly mistaken, spoil all our mirth.—But of that hereafter.

It seems to me that, in our hasty judgment of some particular
transactions, we forget the circumstances and condition of his whole life
and character, which yet deserve our very particular attention. The
author, it is true, has thrown the most advantageous of these
circumstances into the _back ground_, as it were, and has brought nothing
_out of the canvass_ but his follies and buffoonery. We discover, however,
that in a very early period of his life he was familiar with _John_ of
_Gaunt_; which could hardly be, unless he had possessed much personal
gallantry and accomplishment, and had derived his birth from a
distinguished at least, if not from a Noble family.

It may seem very extravagant to insist upon _Falstaff_’s birth as a ground
from which, by any inference, Personal courage may be derived, especially
after having acknowledged that he seemed to have deserted those points of
honour which are more peculiarly the accompanyments of rank. But it may be
observed that in the Feudal ages rank and wealth were not only connected
with the point of honour, but with personal strength and natural courage.
It is observable that Courage is a quality which is at least as
transmissible to one’s posterity as features and complexion. In these
periods men acquired and maintained their rank and possessions by personal
prowess and gallantry; and their marriage alliances were made, of course,
in families of the same character: And from hence, and from the exercises
of their youth, we must account for the distinguished force and bravery of
our antient Barons. It is not therefore beside my purpose to inquire what
hints of the origin and birth of _Falstaff_, _Shakespeare_ may have
dropped in different parts of the Play; for tho’ we may be disposed to
allow that _Falstaff_ in his old age might, under particular influences,
desert the point of honour, we cannot give up that unalienable possession
of Courage, which might have been derived to him from a noble or
distinguished stock.

But it may be said that _Falstaff_ was in truth the child of invention
only, and that a reference to the Feudal accidents of birth serves only to
confound fiction with reality: Not altogether so. If the ideas of courage
and _birth_ were strongly associated in the days of _Shakespeare_, then
would the assignment of high birth to _Falstaff_ carry, and be intended to
carry along with it, to the minds of the audience the associated idea of
Courage, if nothing should be specially interposed to dissolve the
connection;—and the question is as concerning this intention, and this

I shall proceed yet farther to make a few very minute observations of the
same nature: But if _Shakespeare_ meant sometimes rather to _impress_ than
explain, no circumstances calculated to this end, either directly or by
association, are too minute for notice. But however this may be, a more
conciliating reason still remains: The argument itself, like the tales of
our Novelists, is a _vehicle_ only; _theirs_, as they profess, of moral
instruction; and _mine_ of critical amusement. The vindication of
_Falstaff_’s Courage deserves not for its own sake the least sober
discussion; _Falstaff_ is the word only, _Shakespeare_ is the _Theme_: And
if thro’ this channel I can furnish no irrational amusement, the reader
will not, perhaps, every where expect from me the strict severity of
logical investigation.

_Falstaff_, then, it may be observed, was introduced into the world,—(at
least we are told so) by the name of _Oldcastle_.(41) This was assigning
him an origin of nobility; but the family of that name disclaiming any
kindred with his vices, he was thereupon, as it is said, ingrafted into
another stock(42) scarcely less distinguished, tho’ fallen into indelible
disgraces; and by this means he has been made, if the conjectures of
certain critics are well founded, the Dramatic successor, tho’, having
respect to chronology, the natural _proavus_ of another Sir _John_, who
was no less than a Knight of the most noble order of the Garter, but a
name for ever dishonoured by a frequent exposure in that Drum-and-trumpet
Thing called _The first part of Henry_ VI., written doubtless, or rather
exhibited, long before _Shakespeare_ was born,(43) tho’ afterwards
repaired, I think, and furbished up by him with here and there a little
sentiment and diction. This family, if any branch of it remained in
_Shakespeare_’s time, might have been proud of their Dramatic ally, if
indeed they could have any fair pretence to claim as such _him_ whom
_Shakespeare_, perhaps in contempt of Cowardice, wrote _Falstaff_, not
_Fastolfe_, the true Historic name of the Gartered Craven.

In the age of Henry IV. a Family crest and arms were authentic proofs of
gentility; and this proof, among others, _Shakespeare_ has furnished us
with: _Falstaff_ always carried about him, it seems, _a Seal ring of his
Grandfather’s, worth_, as he says, _forty marks_: The Prince indeed
affirms, but not seriously I think, that this ring was _copper_. As to the
existence of the _bonds_, which were I suppose the negotiable securities
or paper-money of the time, and which he pretended to have lost, I have
nothing to say; but the ring, I believe, was really gold; tho’ probably a
little too much alloyed with baser metal. But this is not the point: The
_arms_ were doubtless genuine; they were borne by his Grandfather, and are
proofs of an antient gentility; a gentility doubtless, in former periods,
connected with wealth and possessions, tho’ the gold of the family might
have been transmuting by degrees, and perhaps, in the hands of _Falstaff_,
converted into little better than copper. This observation is made on the
supposition of _Falstaff_’s being considered as the head of the family,
which I think however he ought not to be. It appears rather as if he ought
to be taken in the light of a cadet or younger brother; which the familiar
appellation of _John_, “the only one (as he says) given him by his
brothers and sisters,” seems to indicate. Be this as it may, we find he is
able, in spite of dissipation, to keep up a certain _state_ and _dignity_
of appearance; retaining no less than four, if not five, followers or men
servants in his train. He appears also to have had apartments in town,
and, by his invitations of _Master Gower_ to dinner and to supper, a
regular table: And one may infer farther from the Prince’s question, on
his return from Wales, to _Bardolph_, “_Is your master_ here _in London_,”
that he had likewise a house in the country. Slight proofs it must be
confessed, yet the inferences are so probable, so buoyant, in their own
nature, that they may well rest on them. That he did not lodge at the
Tavern is clear from the circumstances of the arrest. These various
occasions of expence,—servants, taverns, houses, and whores,—necessarily
imply that _Falstaff_ must have had some funds which are not brought
immediately under our notice. That these funds were not however adequate
to his style of living is plain: Perhaps his train may be considered only
as incumbrances, which the pride of family and the habit of former
opulence might have brought upon his present poverty: I do not mean
absolute poverty, but call it so as relative to his expence. To have “_but
seven groats and two-pence in his purse_” and a page to bear it, is truly
ridiculous; and it is for that reason we become so familiar with its
contents, “_He can find_,” he says, “_no remedy for this consumption of
the purse, borrowing does but linger and linger it out; but the disease is
incurable_.” It might well be deemed so in his course of dissipation: But
I shall presently suggest one source at least of his supply much more
constant and honourable than that of borrowing. But the condition of
_Falstaff_ as to opulence or poverty is not very material to my purpose:
It is enough if his birth was distinguished, and his youth noted for
gallantry and accomplishments. To the first I have spoken, and as for the
latter we shall not be at a loss when we remember that “_he was in his
youth a page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk_”; a situation at that
time sought for by young men of the best families and first fortune. The
house of every great noble was at that period a kind of Military school;
and it is probable that _Falstaff_ was singularly adroit at his exercises:
“_He broke Schoggan’s head_,” (some boisterous fencer I suppose) “_when he
was but a crack thus high_.” _Shallow_ remembers him _as notedly skilful
at backsword_; and he was at that period, according to his own humourous
account, “_scarcely an eagle’s talon in the waist, and could have crept
thro’ an alderman’s thumb ring_.” Even at the age at which he is exhibited
to us, we find him _foundering_, as he calls it, _nine score and odd
miles_, with wonderful expedition, to join the army of Prince _John_ of
_Lancaster_; and declaring, after the surrender of _Coleville_, that “_had
he but a belly of any indifferency, he were simply the most active fellow
in Europe_.” Nor ought we here to pass over his Knighthood without notice.
It was, I grant, intended by the author as a dignity which, like his
Courage and his wit, was to be debased; his knighthood by low situations,
his Courage by circumstances and imputations of cowardice, and his wit by
buffoonery. But how are we to suppose this honour was acquired? By that
very Courage, it should seem, which we so obstinately deny him. It was not
certainly given him, like a modern City Knighthood, for his wealth or
gravity: It was in these days a Military honour, and an authentic badge of
Military merit.

But _Falstaff_ was not only a Military Knight, he possess’d an honourable
_pension_ into the bargain; the reward as well as retainer of service, and
which seems (besides the favours perhaps of Mrs. _Ursula_) to be the
principal and only solid support of his present expences. But let us refer
to the passage. “_A pox of this gout, or a gout of this pox; for one or
the other plays the rogue with my great toe: It is no matter if I do halt,
I have the wars for my colour, and my pension shall seem the more
reasonable._” The mention _Falstaff_ here makes of a pension, has I
believe been generally construed to refer rather to _hope_ than
_possession_, yet I know not why: For the possessive MY, _my pension_,
(not _a_ pension) requires a different construction. Is it that we cannot
enjoy a wit till we have stript him of every worldly advantage, and
reduced him below the level of our envy? It may be perhaps for this reason
among others that _Shakespeare_ has so obscured the better parts of
_Falstaff_ and stolen them secretly out of our feelings, instead of
opening them fairly to the notice of our understandings. How carelessly,
and thro’ what bye-paths, as it were, of casual inference, is this fact of
a pension introduced! And how has he associated it with misfortune and
infirmity! Yet I question, however, if, in this one place, the
_Impression_ which was intended be well and effectually made. It must be
left to the reader to determine if, in that mass of things out of which
_Falstaff_ is compounded, he ever considered a pension as any part of the
composition: A pension however he appears to have had, one that halting
could only seem to make more reasonable, not more honourable. The
inference arising from the fact, I shall leave to the reader. It is surely
a circumstance highly advantageous to _Falstaff_ (I speak of the pensions
of former days), whether he be considered in the light of a soldier or a

I cannot foresee the temper of the reader, nor whether he be content to go
along with me in these kind of observations. Some of the incidents which I
have drawn out of the Play may appear too minute, whilst yet they refer to
principles which may seem too general. Many points require explanation;
something should be said of the nature of _Shakespeare_’s Dramatic
characters;(44) by what arts they were formed, and wherein they differ
from those of other writers; something likewise more professedly of
_Shakespeare_ himself, and of the peculiar character of his genius. After
such a review we may not perhaps think any consideration arising out of
the Play, or out of general nature, either as too minute or too extensive.

_Shakespeare_ is, in truth, an author whose mimic creation agrees in
general so perfectly with that of nature, that it is not only wonderful in
the great, but opens another scene of amazement to the discoveries of the
microscope. We have been charged indeed by a Foreign writer with an
overmuch admiring of this _Barbarian_: Whether we have admired with
knowledge, or have blindly followed those feelings of affection which we
could not resist, I cannot tell; but certain it is, that to the labours of
his Editors he has not been overmuch obliged. They are however for the
most part of the first rank in literary fame; but some of them had
possessions of their own in Parnassus, of an extent too great and
important to allow of a very diligent attention to the interests of
others; and among those Critics more professionally so, the ablest and the
best has unfortunately looked more to the praise of ingenious than of just
conjecture. The character of his emendations are not so much that of
_right_ or _wrong_, as that, being in the extreme, they are always
_Warburtonian_. Another has since undertaken the custody of our author,
whom he seems to consider as a sort of wild Proteus or madman, and
accordingly knocks him down with the butt-end of his critical staff, as
often as he exceeds that line of sober discretion, which this learned
Editor appears to have chalked out for him: Yet is this Editor
notwithstanding “a man, take him for all in all,” very highly respectable
for his genius and his learning. What however may be chiefly complained of
in these gentlemen is, that having erected themselves into the condition,
as it were, of guardians and trustees of _Shakespeare_, they have never
undertaken to discharge the disgraceful incumbrances of some wretched
productions which have long hung heavy on his fame. Besides the evidence
of taste, which indeed is not communicable, there are yet other and more
general proofs that these incumbrances were not incurred by _Shakespeare_:
The _Latin_ sentences dispersed thro’ the imputed trash is, I think, of
itself a decisive one. _Love’s Labour lost_ contains a very conclusive one
of another kind; tho’ the very last Editor has, I believe, in his critical
sagacity, suppressed the evidence, and withdrawn the record.

Yet whatever may be the neglect of some, or the censure of others, there
are those who firmly believe that this wild, this uncultivated Barbarian
has not yet obtained one half of his fame; and who trust that some new
Stagyrite will arise, who instead of pecking at the surface of things will
enter into the inward soul of his compositions, and expel, by the force of
congenial feelings, those foreign impurities which have stained and
disgraced his page. And as to those _spots_ which will still remain, they
may perhaps become invisible to those who shall seek them thro’ the medium
of his beauties, instead of looking for those beauties, as is too
frequently done, thro’ the smoke of some real or imputed obscurity. When
the hand of time shall have brushed off his present Editors and
Commentators, and when the very name of _Voltaire_, and even the memory of
the language in which he has written, shall be no more, the _Apalachian_
mountains, the banks of the _Ohio_, and the plains of _Sciota_ shall
resound with the accents of this Barbarian: In his native tongue he shall
roll the genuine passions of nature; nor shall the griefs of _Lear_ be
alleviated, or the charms and wit of _Rosalind_ be abated by time. There
is indeed nothing perishable about him, except that very learning which he
is said so much to want. He had not, it is true, enough for the demands of
the age in which he lived, but he had perhaps too much for the reach of
his genius, and the interest of his fame. _Milton_ and he will carry the
decayed remnants and fripperies of antient mythology into more distant
ages than they are by their own force intitled to extend; and the
_Metamorphoses_ of _Ovid_, upheld by them, lay in a new claim to unmerited

_Shakespeare_ is a name so interesting, that it is excusable to stop a
moment, nay it would be indecent to pass him without the tribute of some
admiration. He differs essentially from all other writers: Him we may
profess rather to feel than to understand; and it is safer to say, on many
occasions, that we are possessed by him, than that we possess him. And no
wonder;—He scatters the seeds of things, the principles of character and
action, with so cunning a hand, yet with so careless an air, and, master
of our feelings, submits himself so little to our judgment, that every
thing seems superior. We discern not his course, we see no connection of
cause and effect, we are rapt in ignorant admiration, and claim no kindred
with his abilities. All the incidents, all the parts, look like chance,
whilst we feel and are sensible that the whole is design. His Characters
not only act and speak in strict conformity to nature, but in strict
relation to us; just so much is shewn as is requisite, just so much is
impressed; he commands every passage to our heads and to our hearts, and
moulds us as he pleases, and that with so much ease, that he never betrays
his own exertions. We see these Characters act from the mingled motives of
passion, reason, interest, habit, and complection, in all their
proportions, when they are supposed to know it not themselves; and we are
made to acknowledge that their actions and sentiments are, from those
motives, the necessary result. He at once blends and distinguishes every
thing;—every thing is complicated, every thing is plain. I restrain the
further expressions of my admiration lest they should not seem applicable
to man; but it is really astonishing that a mere human being, a part of
humanity only, should so perfectly comprehend the whole; and that he
should possess such exquisite art, that whilst every woman and every child
shall feel the whole effect, his learned Editors and Commentators should
yet so very frequently mistake or seem ignorant of the cause. A sceptre or
a straw are in his hands of equal efficacy; he needs no selection; he
converts every thing into excellence; nothing is too great, nothing is too
base. Is a character efficient like _Richard_, it is every thing we can
wish: Is it otherwise, like _Hamlet_, it is productive of equal
admiration: Action produces one mode of excellence, and inaction another:
The Chronicle, the Novel, or the Ballad; the king, or the beggar, the
hero, the madman, the sot, or the fool; it is all one;—nothing is worse,
nothing is better: The same genius pervades and is equally admirable in
all. Or, is a character to be shewn in progressive change, and the events
of years comprized within the hour;—with what a Magic hand does he prepare
and scatter his spells! The Understanding must, in the first place, be
subdued; and lo! how the rooted prejudices of the child spring up to
confound the man! The Weird sisters rise, and order is extinguished. The
laws of nature give way, and leave nothing in our minds but wildness and
horror. No pause is allowed us for reflection: Horrid sentiment, furious
guilt and compunction, air-drawn daggers, murders, ghosts, and
inchantment, shake and _possess us wholly_. In the mean time the _process_
is completed. _Macbeth_ changes under our eye, _the milk of human kindness
is converted to gall; he has supped full of horrors_, and his _May of life
is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf_; whilst we, the fools of
amazement, are insensible to the shifting of place and the lapse of time,
and, till the curtain drops, never once wake to the truth of things, or
recognize the laws of existence.—On such an occasion, a fellow, like
_Rymer_, waking from his trance, shall lift up his Constable’s staff, and
charge this great Magician, this daring _practicer of arts inhibited_, in
the name of _Aristotle_, to surrender; whilst _Aristotle_ himself,
disowning his wretched Officer, would fall prostrate at his feet and
acknowledge his supremacy.—O supreme of Dramatic excellence! (_might he
say_) not to me be imputed the insolence of fools. The bards of _Greece_
were confined within the narrow circle of the Chorus, and hence they found
themselves constrained to practice, for the most part, the precision, and
copy the details of nature. I followed them, and knew not that a larger
circle might be drawn, and the Drama extended to the whole reach of human
genius. Convinced, I see that a more compendious _nature_ may be obtained;
a nature of _effects_ only, to which neither the relations of place, or
continuity of time, are always essential. Nature, condescending to the
faculties and apprehensions of man, has drawn through human life a regular
chain of visible causes and effects: But Poetry delights in surprise,
conceals her steps, seizes at once upon the heart, and obtains the Sublime
of things without betraying the rounds of her ascent: True Poesy is
_magic_, not _nature_; an effect from causes hidden or unknown. To the
Magician I prescribed no laws; his law and his power are one; his power is
his law. Him, who neither imitates, nor is within the reach of imitation,
no precedent can or ought to bind, no limits to contain. If his end is
obtained, who shall question his course? Means, whether apparent or
hidden, are justified in Poesy by success; but then most perfect and most
admirable when most concealed.(45) But whither am I going! This copious
and delightful topic has drawn me far beyond my design; I hasten back to
my subject, and am guarded, for a time at least, against any further
temptation to digress.

I was considering the dignity of _Falstaff_ so far as it might seem
connected with or productive of military merit, and I have assigned him
_reputation_ at least, if not _fame_, noble connection, birth, attendants,
title, and an honourable pension; every one of them presumptive proofs of
Military merit, and motives of action. What deduction is to be made on
these articles, and why they are so much obscured may, perhaps, hereafter

I have now gone through the examination of all the Persons of the Drama
from whose mouths any thing can be drawn relative to the Courage of
_Falstaff_, excepting the Prince and _Poins_, whose evidence I have begged
leave to _reserve_, and excepting a very severe censure passed on him by
Lord _John_ of _Lancaster_, which I shall presently consider: But I must
first observe that, setting aside the jests of the Prince and _Poins_, and
this censure of _Lancaster_, there is not one expression uttered by any
character in the Drama that can be construed into any impeachment of
_Falstaff_’s Courage;—an observation made before as respecting some of the
Witnesses;—it is now extended to all: And though this silence be a
negative proof only, it cannot, in my opinion, under the circumstances of
the case, and whilst uncontradicted by facts, be too much relied on. If
_Falstaff_ had been intended for the character of a _Miles Gloriosus_, his
behaviour ought and therefore would have been commented upon by others.
_Shakespeare_ seldom trusts to the apprehensions of his audience; his
characters interpret for one another continually, and when we least
suspect such artful and secret management: The conduct of _Shakespeare_ in
this respect is admirable, and I could point out a thousand passages which
might put to shame the advocates of a formal Chorus, and prove that there
is as little of necessity as grace in so mechanic a contrivance.(46) But I
confine my censure of the Chorus to its supposed use of comment and
interpretation only.

_Falstaff_ is, indeed, so far from appearing to my eye in the light of a
_Miles Gloriosus_, that, in the best of my taste and judgment, he does not
discover, except in consequence of the robbery, the least _trait_ of such
a character. All his boasting speeches are humour, mere humour, and
carefully spoken to persons who cannot misapprehend them, who cannot be
imposed on: They contain indeed, for the most part, an unreasonable and
imprudent ridicule of himself, the usual subject of his good humoured
merriment; but in the company of ignorant people, such as the Justices, or
his own followers, he is remarkably reserved, and does not hazard any
thing, even in the way of humour, that may be subject to mistake: Indeed
he no where seems to suspect that his character is open to censure on this
side, or that he needs the arts of imposition.—“_Turk Gregory never did
such deeds in arms as I have done this day_” is spoken, whilst he breathes
from action, to the Prince in a tone of jolly humour, and contains nothing
but a light ridicule of his own inactivity: This is as far from real
boasting as his saying before the battle, “_Wou’d it were bed-time,
__HAL__, and all were well_,” is from meanness or depression. This
articulated wish is not the fearful outcry of a _Coward_, but the frank
and honest breathing of a _generous fellow_, who does not expect to be
seriously reproached with the character. Instead, indeed, of deserving the
name of a vain glorious _Coward_, his modesty perhaps on his head, and
whimsical ridicule of himself, have been a principal source of the

But to come to the very serious reproach thrown upon him by that _cold
blooded_ boy, as he calls him, _Lancaster_.—_Lancaster_ makes a solemn
treaty of peace with the _Archbishop of York, Mowbray_, &c. upon the faith
of which they disperse their troops; which is no sooner done than
_Lancaster_ arrests the Principals, and pursues the _scattered stray_: A
transaction, by the bye, so singularly perfidious, that I wish
_Shakespeare_, for his own credit, had not suffered it to pass under his
pen without marking it with the blackest strokes of Infamy.—During this
transaction, _Falstaff_ arrives, joins in the pursuit, and takes Sir _John
Coleville_ prisoner. Upon being seen by _Lancaster_ he is thus addressed:—

    “Now, Falstaff, where have you been all this while?
    When every thing is over, then you come:
    These tardy tricks of yours will, on my life,
    One time or other break some gallows’ back.”

This may appear to many a very formidable passage. It is spoken, as we may
say, in the hearing of the army, and by one intitled as it were by his
station to decide on military conduct; and if no punishment immediately
follows, the forbearance may be imputed to a regard for the Prince of
Wales, whose favour the delinquent was known so unworthily to possess. But
this reasoning will by no means apply to the real circumstances of the
case. The effect of this passage will depend on the credit we shall be
inclined to give to _Lancaster_ for integrity and candour, and still more
upon the facts which are the ground of this censure, and which are fairly
offered by _Shakespeare_ to our notice.

We will examine the evidence arising from both; and to this end we must in
the first place a little unfold the character of this young Commander in
chief;—from a review of which we may more clearly discern the general
impulses and secret motives of his conduct: And this is a proceeding which
I think the peculiar character of _Shakespeare_’s Drama will very well

We are already well prepared what to think of this young man:—We have just
seen a very pretty manœuvre of his in a matter of the highest moment, and
have therefore the less reason to be surprized if we find him practising a
more petty fraud with suitable skill and address. He appears in truth to
have been what _Falstaff_ calls him, _a cold, reserved, sober-blooded
boy_; a politician, as it should seem, by nature; bred up moreover in the
school of _Bolingbroke_ his father, and tutored to betray: With sufficient
courage and ability perhaps, but with too much of the knave in his
composition, and too little of enthusiasm, ever to be a great and superior
character. That such a youth as this should, even from the propensities of
character alone, take any plausible occasion to injure a frank unguarded
man of wit and pleasure, will not appear unnatural. But he had other
inducements. _Falstaff_ had given very general scandal by his
distinguished wit and noted poverty, insomuch that a little cruelty and
injustice towards him was likely to pass, in the eye of the grave and
prudent part of mankind, as a very creditable piece of fraud, and to be
accounted to _Lancaster_ for virtue and good service. But _Lancaster_ had
motives yet more prevailing; _Falstaff_ was a Favourite, without the power
which belongs to that character; and the tone of the Court was strongly
against him, as the misleader and corrupter of the Prince; who was now at
too great a distance to afford him immediate countenance and protection. A
scratch then, between jest and earnest as it were, something that would
not too much offend the prince, yet would leave behind a disgraceful scar
upon _Falstaff_, was very suitable to the temper and situation of parties
and affairs. With these observations in our thought, let us return to the
passage: It is plainly intended for disgrace, but how artful, how
cautious, how insidious is the manner! It may pass for sheer pleasantry
and humour: _Lancaster_ assumes the familiar phrase and _girding_ tone of
_Harry_; and the gallows, as he words it, appears to be in the most danger
from an encounter with _Falstaff_.—With respect to the matter, ’tis a kind
of _miching malicho_; it means mischief indeed, but there is not precision
enough in it to intitle it to the appellation of a formal charge, or to
give to _Falstaff_ any certain and determined ground of defence. _Tardy
tricks_ may mean not Cowardice but neglect only, though the _manner_ may
seem to carry the imputation to both.—The reply of _Falstaff_ is exactly
suited to the qualities of the speech;—for _Falstaff_ never wants ability,
but conduct only. He answers the general effect of this speech by a
feeling and serious complaint of injustice; he then goes on to apply his
defence to the vindication both of his diligence and courage; but he
deserts by degrees his serious tone, and taking the handle of pleasantry
which _Lancaster_ had held forth to him, he is prudently content, as being
sensible of _Lancaster_’s high rank and station, to let the whole pass off
in buffoonery and humour. But the question is, however, not concerning the
adroitness and management of either party: Our business is, after putting
the credit of _Lancaster_ out of the question, to discover what there may
be of truth and of fact either in the charge of the one, or the defence of
the other. From this only, we shall be able to draw our inferences with
fairness and with candour. The charge against _Falstaff_ is already in the
possession of the reader: The defence follows.—

Fals. “_I would be sorry, my lord, but it should be thus: I never knew yet
but that rebuke and check were the reward of valour. Do you think me a
swallow, an arrow, or a bullet? Have I in my poor and old motion the
expedition of thought? I speeded hither within the very extremest inch of
possibility. I have foundered ninescore and odd posts_ (deserting by
degrees his serious tone, for _one_ of more address and advantage), _and
here, travel-tainted as I am, have I in my pure and immaculate valour
taken Sir John Coleville of the dale, a most furious Knight and valorous

_Falstaff_’s answer then is that he used all possible expedition to join
the army; the not doing of which, with an implication of Cowardice as the
cause, is the utmost extent of the charge against him; and to take off
this implication he refers to the evidence of a fact present and
manifest,—the surrender of _Coleville_; in whose hearing he speaks, and to
whom therefore he is supposed to appeal. Nothing then remains but that we
should inquire if _Falstaff_’s answer was really founded in truth; “_I
speeded hither_” says he, “_within the extremest inch of possibility_”: If
it be so, he is justified: But I am afraid, for we must not conceal any
thing, that _Falstaff_ was really detained too long by his debaucheries in
London; at least, if we take the Chief Justice’s words very strictly.

“Ch. Just. _How now, Sir John? What are you brawling here? Doth this
become your __PLACE__, your __TIME__, your __BUSINESS__? You should have
been well on your way to York._”

Here then seems to be a delay worthy perhaps of rebuke; and if we could
suppose _Lancaster_ to mean nothing more by _tardy tricks_ than idleness
and debauch, I should not possibly think myself much concerned to
vindicate _Falstaff_ from the charge; but the words imply, to my
apprehension, a designed and deliberate avoidance of danger. Yet to the
contrary of this we are furnished with very full and complete evidence.
_Falstaff_, the moment he quits London, discovers the utmost eagerness and
impatience to join the army; he gives up his gluttony, his mirth, and his
ease. We see him take up in his passage some recruits at _Shallow_’s
house; and tho’ he has pecuniary views upon _Shallow_, no inducement stops
him; he takes no refreshment, he cannot _tarry dinner_, he hurries off;
“_I will not_,” says he to the Justices, “_use many words with you. Fare
ye well, Gentlemen both; I thank ye, I must a dozen miles to night._”—He
misuses, it is true, at this time the _King’s Press damnably_; but that
does not concern me, at least not for the present; it belongs to other
parts of his character.—It appears then manifestly that _Shakespeare_
meant to shew _Falstaff_ as really using the utmost speed in his power; he
arrives almost literally _within the extremest inch of possibility_; and
if _Lancaster_ had not accelerated the event by a stroke of perfidy much
more subject to the imputation of Cowardice than the _Debauch_ of
_Falstaff_, he would have been time enough to have shared in the danger of
a fair and honest decision. But great men have, it seems, a privilege;
“_that in the __GENERAL’S__ but a choleric word, which in the __SOLDIER
WERE__ flat blasphemy._” Yet after all, _Falstaff_ did really come time
enough, as it appears, to join in the villainous triumphs of the day, to
take prisoner _Coleville of the dale, a most furious Knight and valorous
enemy_.—Let us look to the fact. If this incident should be found to
contain any striking proof of _Falstaff_’s Courage and Military fame, his
defence against _Lancaster_ will be stronger than the reader has even a
right to demand. _Falstaff_ encounters _Coleville_ in the field, and,
having demanded his name, is ready to assail him; but _Coleville_ asks him
if he is not Sir _John Falstaff_; thereby implying a purpose of surrender.
_Falstaff_ will not so much as furnish him with a pretence, and answers
only, that _he is as good a man_. “_Do you yield Sir, or shall I sweat for
you?_” “_I think_,” says Coleville, “_you are Sir John Falstaff, and in
that thought yield me._” This fact, and the incidents with which it is
accompanied, speak loudly; it seems to have been contrived by the author
on purpose to take off a rebuke so authoritatively made by _Lancaster_.
The fact is set before our eyes to confute the censure: _Lancaster_
himself seems to give up his charge, tho’ not his ill will; for upon
_Falstaff_’s asking leave to pass through Glostershire, and artfully
desiring that, upon _Lancaster_’s return to Court, _he might stand well in
his report, Lancaster_ seems in his answer to mingle malice and acquittal.
“_Fare ye well, Falstaff, I in my condition shall better speak of you than
you deserve._” “_I would_,” says _Falstaff_, who is left behind in the
scene, “_You had but the wit; ’twere better than your Dukedom._” He
continues on the stage some time chewing the cud of dishonour, which, with
all his facility, he cannot well swallow. “_Good faith_” says he,
accounting to himself as well as he could for the injurious conduct of
_Lancaster_, “_this sober-blooded boy does not love me._” This he might
well believe. “_A man_,” says he, “_cannot make him laugh; there’s none of
these demure boys come to any proof; but that’s no marvel, they drink no
sack._”—_Falstaff_ then it seems knew no drinker of sack who was a Coward;
at least the instance was not home and familiar to him.—“_They all_,” says
he, “_fall into a kind of Male green sickness, and are generally fools and
Cowards._” Anger has a privilege, and I think _Falstaff_ has a right to
turn the tables upon _Lancaster_ if he can; but _Lancaster_ was certainly
no fool, and I think upon the whole no Coward; yet the Male green sickness
which _Falstaff_ talks of seems to have infected his manners and aspect,
and taken from him all external indication of gallantry and courage. He
behaves in the battle of Shrewsbury beyond the promise of his complexion
and deportment: “_By heaven thou hast deceived me Lancaster_,” says Harry,
“_I did not think thee Lord of such a spirit!_” Nor was his father less
surprized “_at his holding Lord Percy at the point with lustier
maintenance than he did look for from such an unripe warrior._” But how
well and unexpectedly soever he might have behaved upon that occasion, he
does not seem to have been of a temper to trust fortune too much or too
often with his safety; therefore it is that, in order to keep the event in
his own hands, he loads the Die, in the present case, with villainy and
deceit: The event however he piously ascribes, like a wise and prudent
youth as he is, without paying that worship to himself which he so justly
merits, to the special favour and interposition of Heaven.

    “Strike up your drums, pursue the scattered stray.
    Heaven, and not we, have safely fought to-day.”

But the profane _Falstaff_, on the contrary, less informed and less
studious of supernatural things, imputes the whole of this conduct to thin
potations, and the not drinking largely of good and excellent _sherris_;
and so little doubt does he seem to entertain of the Cowardice and ill
disposition of this youth, that he stands devising causes, and casting
about for an hypothesis on which the whole may be physically explained and
accounted for;—but I shall leave him and Doctor _Cadogan_ to settle that
point as they may.

The only serious charge against _Falstaff_’s Courage, we have now at large
examined; it came from great authority, from the Commander in chief, and
was meant as chastisement and rebuke; but it appears to have been founded
in ill-will, in the particular character of _Lancaster_, and in the
wantonness and insolence of power; and the author has placed near, and
under our notice, full and ample proofs of its injustice.—And thus the
deeper we look unto _Falstaff_’s character, the stronger is our conviction
that he was not intended to be shewn as a Constitutional coward: Censure
cannot lay sufficient hold on him,—and even malice turns away, and more
than half pronounces his acquittal.

But as yet we have dealt principally in parole and circumstantial
evidence, and have referred to _Fact_ only incidentally. But _Facts_ have
a much more operative influence: They may be produced, not as arguments
only, but Records; not to dispute alone, but to decide.—It is time then to
behold _Falstaff_ in actual service as a soldier, in danger, and in
battle. We have already displayed one fact in his defence against the
censure of _Lancaster_; a fact extremely unequivocal and decisive. But the
reader knows I have others, and doubtless goes before me to the action at
_Shrewsbury_. In the midst and in the heat of battle we see him come
forwards;—what are his words? “_I have led my Rag-o-muffians where they
are peppered; there’s not three of my hundred and fifty left alive._” But
to _whom_ does he say this? To himself only; he speaks _in soliloquy_.
There is no questioning the fact, _he had_ led _them_; _they were
peppered_; _there were not __THREE__ left alive._ He was in luck, being in
bulk equal to any two of them, to escape unhurt. Let the author answer for
that, I have nothing to do with it: He was the Poetic maker of the whole
_Corps_, and he might dispose of them as he pleased. Well might the Chief
justice, as we now find, acknowledge _Falstaff_’s services in this day’s
battle; an acknowledgment which amply confirms the fact. A Modern officer,
who had performed a feat of this kind, would expect, not only the praise
of having done his duty, but the appellation of a hero. But poor
_Falstaff_ has too much wit to thrive: In spite of probability, in spite
of inference, in spite of fact, he must be a Coward still. He happens
unfortunately to have more Wit than Courage, and therefore we are
maliciously determined that he shall have no Courage at all. But let us
suppose that his modes of expression, even _in soliloquy_, will admit of
some abatement;—how much shall we abate? Say that he brought off _fifty_
instead of _three_; yet a Modern captain would be apt to look big after an
action with two thirds of his men, as it were, in his belly. Surely
_Shakespeare_ never meant to exhibit this man as a Constitutional coward;
if he did, his means were sadly destructive of his end. We see him, after
he had expended his Rag-o-muffians, with sword and target in the midst of
battle, in perfect possession of himself, and replete with humour and
jocularity. He was, I presume, in some immediate personal danger, in
danger also of a general defeat; too corpulent for flight; and to be led a
prisoner was probably to be led to execution; yet we see him laughing and
easy, offering a bottle of sack to the Prince instead of a pistol,
punning, and telling him, “_there was that which would __SACK__ a
city._”—“_What, is it a time_,” says the Prince “_to jest and dally now?_”
No, a sober character would not jest on such an occasion, but a Coward
could not; he would neither have the inclination, or the power. And what
could support _Falstaff_ in such a situation? Not principle; he is not
suspected of the Point of honour; he seems indeed fairly to renounce it.
“_Honour cannot set a leg or an arm; it has no skill in surgery:—What is
it? a word only; meer air. It is insensible to the dead; and detraction
will not let __ it live with the living._” What then but a strong natural
constitutional Courage, which nothing could extinguish or dismay?—In the
following passages the true character of _Falstaff_ as to Courage and
Principle is finely touched, and the different colours at once nicely
blended and distinguished. “_If Percy be alive, I’ll __PIERCE__ him. If he
do come in my way, __SO__:—If he do not, if I come in __HIS__ willingly,
let him make a Carbonado of me. I like not such grinning honour as Sir
Walter hath; give me life; which if I can save, __SO__; if not, honour
comes unlook’d for, and there’s an end._” One cannot say which prevails
most here, profligacy or courage; they are both tinged alike by the same
humour, and mingled in one common mass; yet when we consider the superior
force of _Percy_, as we must presently also that of _Douglas_, we shall be
apt, I believe, in our secret heart, to forgive him. These passages are
spoken in soliloquy and in battle: If every soliloquy made under similar
circumstances were as audible as _Falstaff_’s, the imputation might
perhaps be found too general for censure. These are among the passages
that have impressed on the world an idea of Cowardice in _Falstaff_;—yet
why? He is resolute to take his fate: If _Percy_ do come in his way,
_so_;—if not, he will not seek inevitable destruction; he is willing to
save his life, but if that cannot be, why,—“honour comes unlook’d for, and
there’s an end.” This surely is not the language of Cowardice: It contains
neither the Bounce or Whine of the character; he derides, it is true, and
seems to renounce that grinning idol of Military zealots, _Honour_. But
_Falstaff_ has a kind of Military free-thinker, and has accordingly
incurred the obloquy of his condition. He stands upon the ground of
natural Courage only and common sense, and has, it seems, too much wit for
a hero.—But let me be well understood;—I do not justify _Falstaff_ for
renouncing the point of honour; it proceeded doubtless from a general
relaxation of mind, and profligacy of temper. Honour is calculated to aid
and strengthen natural courage, and lift it up to heroism; but natural
courage, which can act as such without honour, is natural courage still;
the very quality I wish to maintain to _Falstaff_. And if, without the aid
of honour, he can act with firmness, his portion is only the more eminent
and distinguished. In such a character, it is to his actions, not his
sentiments, that we are to look for conviction. But it may be still
further urged in behalf of _Falstaff_, that there may be false honour as
well as false religion. It is true; yet even in that case candour obliges
me to confess that the best men are most disposed to conform, and most
likely to become the dupes of their own virtue. But it may however be more
reasonably urged that there are particular tenets both in honour and
religion, which it is the grossness of folly not to question. To seek out,
to court assured destruction, without leaving a single benefit behind, may
be well reckoned in the number: And this is precisely the very folly which
_Falstaff_ seems to abjure;—nor are we, perhaps, intitled to say more, in
the way of censure, than that he had not virtue enough to become the dupe
of honour, nor prudence enough to hold his tongue. I am willing however,
if the reader pleases, to compound this matter, and acknowledge, on my
part, that _Falstaff_ was in all respects the _old soldier_; that he had
put himself under the sober discipline of discretion, and renounced, in a
great degree at least, what he might call the Vanities and Superstitions
of honour; if the reader will, on his part, admit that this might well be,
without his renouncing, at the same time, the natural firmness and
resolution he was born to.

But there is a formidable objection behind. _Falstaff_ counterfeits basely
on being attacked by _Douglas_; he assumes, in a cowardly spirit, the
appearance of death to avoid the reality. But there was no equality of
force; not the least chance for victory, or life. And is it the duty then,
_think we still_, of true Courage, to meet, without benefit to society,
_certain death_? Or is it only the phantasy of honour?—But such a fiction
is highly disgraceful;—true, and a man of nice honour might perhaps have
_grinned_ for it. But we must remember that _Falstaff_ had a double
character; he was a _wit_ as well as a _soldier_; and his Courage, however
eminent, was but the _accessary_; his wit was the _principal_; and the
part, which, if they should come in competition, he had the greatest
interest in maintaining. Vain indeed were the licentiousness of his
principles, if he should seek death like a bigot, yet without the meed of
honour; when he might live by wit, and encrease the reputation of that wit
by living. But why do I labour this point? It has been already
anticipated, and our improved acquaintance with _Falstaff_ will now
require no more than a short narrative of the fact.

Whilst in the battle of _Shrewsbury_ he is exhorting and encouraging the
Prince who is engaged with the _Spirit Percy_—“_Well said Hal, to him
Hal_,”—he is himself attacked by the _Fiend Douglas_. There was no match;
nothing remained but death or stratagem; grinning honour, or laughing
life. But an expedient offers, a mirthful one,—Take your choice
_Falstaff_, a point of honour, or a point of drollery.—It could not be a
question;—_Falstaff_ falls, _Douglas_ is cheated, and the world laughs.
But does he fall like a Coward? No, like a buffoon only; the superior
principle prevails, and _Falstaff_ lives by a stratagem growing out of his
character, to prove himself _no counterfeit_, to jest, to be employed, and
to fight again. That _Falstaff_ valued himself, and expected to be valued
by others, upon this piece of saving wit, is plain. It was a stratagem, it
is true; it argued presence of mind; but it was moreover, what he most
liked, a very laughable joke; and as such he considers it; for he
continues to counterfeit after the danger is over, that he may also
deceive the Prince, and improve the event into more laughter. He might,
for ought that appears, have concealed the transaction; the Prince was too
earnestly engaged for observation; he might have formed a thousand excuses
for his fall; but he lies still and listens to the pronouncing of his
epitaph by the Prince with all the waggish glee and levity of his
character. The circumstance of his wounding _Percy_ in the thigh, and
carrying the dead body on his back like luggage, is _indecent_ but not
cowardly. The declaring, though in jest, that he killed _Percy_, seems to
me _idle_, but it is not meant or calculated for _imposition_; it is
spoken to the _Prince himself_, the man in the world who could not be, or
be supposed to be, imposed on. But we must hear, whether to the purpose or
not, what it is that _Harry_ has to say over the remains of his old

    _P. Hen._ What, old acquaintance! could not all this flesh
    Keep in a little life? Poor _Jack_, farewell!
    I could have better spared a better man.
    Oh! I shou’d have a heavy miss of thee,
    If I were much in love with vanity.
    Death hath not struck so fat a _deer_ to-day,
    Tho’ many a _dearer_ in this bloody fray;
    Imbowelled will I see thee by and by;
    Till then, in blood by noble _Percy_ lye.

This is wonderfully proper for the occasion; it is affectionate, it is
pathetic, yet it remembers his vanities, and, with a faint gleam of
recollected mirth, even his plumpness and corpulency; but it is a
pleasantry softned and rendered even vapid by tenderness, and it goes off
in the sickly effort of a miserable pun.(47)—But to our immediate
purpose,—why is not his Cowardice remembered too? what, no surprize that
_Falstaff_ should lye by the side of the noble _Percy_ in the bed of
honour! No reflection that flight, though unfettered by disease, could not
avail; that fear could not find a subterfuge from death? Shall his
corpulency and his vanities be recorded, and his more characteristic
quality of Cowardice, even in the moment that it particularly demanded
notice and reflection, be forgotten? If by sparing a better man be here
meant a _better soldier_, there is no doubt but there were better Soldiers
in the army, more active, more young, more principled, more knowing; but
none, it seems, taken for all in all, more acceptable. The comparative
_better_ used here leaves to _Falstaff_ the praise at least of _good_; and
to be a good soldier, is to be a great way from Coward. But _Falstaff_’s
goodness, in this sort, appears to have been not only enough to redeem him
from disgrace, but to mark him with reputation; if I was to add with
_eminence_ and _distinction_, the funeral honours which are intended his
obsequies, and his being bid, till then, _to lye in blood by the noble
Percy_, would fairly bear me out.

Upon the whole of the passages yet before us, why may I not reasonably
hope that the good natured reader (and I write to no other), not offended
at the levity of this exercise, may join with me in thinking that the
character of _Falstaff_, as to valour, may be fairly and honestly summed
up in the very words which he himself uses to _Harry_; and which seem, as
to this point, to be intended by _Shakespeare_ as a _Compendium_ of his
character. “_What_,” says the Prince, “_a Coward, Sir John Paunch!_”
_Falstaff_ replies, “_Indeed I am not __JOHN OF GAUNT__ your grandfather,
but yet __NO COWARD__, Hal._”

The robbery at _Gads-Hill_ comes now to be considered. But _here_, after
such long argumentation, we may be allowed to breath a little.

I know not what Impression has been made on the reader; a good deal of
evidence has been produced, and much more remains to be offered. But how
many sorts of men are there whom no evidence can persuade! How many, who,
ignorant of _Shakespeare_, or forgetful of the text, may as well read
heathen Greek, or the laws of the land, as this unfortunate Commentary?
How many, who, proud and pedantic, hate all novelty, and damn it without
mercy under one compendious word, Paradox? How many more, who, not
deriving their opinions immediately from the sovereignty of reason, hold
at the will of some superior lord, to whom accident or inclination has
attached them, and who, true to their vassalage, are resolute not to
surrender, without express permission, their base and ill-gotten
possessions. These, however habited, are the mob of mankind, who hoot and
holla, hiss or huzza, just as their various leaders may direct. I
_challenge_ the whole Pannel as not holding by free tenure, and therefore
not competent to the purpose either of condemnation or acquittal. But to
the men of very nice honour what shall be said? I speak not of your men of
good service, but such as Mr. —— “_Souls made of fire_, and _children of
the sun_.” These gentlemen, I am sadly afraid, cannot in honour or
prudence admit of any composition in the very nice article of Courage;
_suspicion_ is _disgrace_, and they cannot stay to parley with dishonour.
The misfortune in cases of this kind is that it is not easy to obtain a
fair and impartial Jury: When we censure others with an eye to our own
applause, we are as seldom sparing of reproach, as inquisitive into
circumstance; and bold is the man who, tenacious of justice, shall venture
to weigh circumstances, or draw lines of distinction between Cowardice and
any apparently similar or neighbour quality: As well may a lady, virgin or
matron, of immaculate honour, presume to pity or palliate the soft failing
of some unguarded friend, and thereby confess, as it were, those
sympathetic feelings which it behoves her to conceal under the most
contemptuous disdain; a disdain, always proportioned, I believe, to a
certain consciousness which we must not explain. I am afraid that poor
_Falstaff_ has suffered not a little, and may yet suffer by this
fastidiousness of temper. But though we may find these classes of men
rather unfavourable to our wishes, the Ladies, one may hope, whose smiles
are most worth our ambition, may be found more propitious; yet they too,
through a generous conformity to the _brave_, are apt to take up the high
tone of honour. Heroism is an idea perfectly conformable to the natural
delicacy and elevation of their minds. Should we be fortunate enough
therefore to redeem _Falstaff_ from the imputations of Cowardice, yet
plain Courage, I am afraid, will not serve the turn: Even their heroes, I
think, must be for the most part in the bloom of youth, or _just where
youth ends, in manhood’s freshest prime_; but to be “_Old, cold, and of
intolerable entrails; to be fat and greasy; as poor as Job, and as
slanderous as Satan_”;—Take him away, he merits not a fair trial; he is
too offensive to be turned, too odious to be touched. I grant, indeed,
that the subject of our lecture is not without his infirmity; “_He cuts
three inches on the ribs, he was short-winded_,” and his breath possibly
not of the sweetest. “_He had the gout_,” or something worse, “_which
played the rogue with his great toe._”—But these considerations are not to
the point; we shall conceal, as much as may be, these offences; our
business is with his _heart_ only, which, as we shall endeavour to
demonstrate, lies in the right place, and is firm and sound,
notwithstanding a few indications to the contrary.—As for you, _Mrs._
MONTAGUE, I am grieved to find that _you_ have been involved in a popular
error; so much you must allow me to say;—for the rest, I bow to your
genius and your virtues: You have given to the world a very elegant
composition; and I am told your manners and your mind are yet more pure,
more elegant than your book. _Falstaff_ was too gross, too infirm, for
your inspection; but if you durst have looked nearer, you would not have
found Cowardice in the number of his infirmities.—We will try if we cannot
redeem him from this universal censure.—Let the venal corporation of
authors duck _to the golden fool_, let them shape their sordid quills to
the mercenary ends of unmerited praise, or of baser detraction;—_old
Jack_, though deserted by princes, though censured by an ungrateful world,
and persecuted from age to age by Critic and Commentator, and though never
rich enough to hire one literary prostitute, shall find a Voluntary
defender; and that too at a time when the whole body of the _Nabobry_
demands and requires defence; whilst their ill-gotten and almost untold
gold feels loose in their unassured grasp, and whilst they are ready to
shake off portions of the enormous heap, that they may the more securely
clasp the remainder.—But not to digress without end,—to the candid, to the
chearful, to the elegant reader we appeal; our exercise is much too light
for the sour eye of strict severity; it professes amusement only, but we
hope of a kind more rational than the History of Miss _Betsy_, eked out
with the Story of Miss _Lucy_, and the Tale of Mr. _Twankum_: And so, in a
leisure hour, and with the good natured reader, it may be hoped, to
friend, we return, with an air as busy and important as if we were engaged
in the grave office of measuring the _Pyramids_, or settling the antiquity
of _Stonehenge_, to converse with this jovial, this fat, this roguish,
this frail, but, I think, _not cowardly_ companion.

Though the robbery at _Gads-Hill_, and the supposed Cowardice of
_Falstaff_ on that occasion, are next to be considered, yet I must
previously declare, that I think the discussion of this matter to be _now_
unessential to the reestablishment of _Falstaff_’s reputation as a man of
Courage. For suppose we should grant, in form, that _Falstaff_ was
surprized with fear in this single instance, that he was off his guard,
and even acted like a Coward; what will follow, but that _Falstaff_, like
greater heroes, had his weak moment, and was not exempted from panic and
surprize? If a single exception can destroy a general character, _Hector_
was a _Coward_, and _Anthony_ a _Poltroon_. But for these seeming
contradictions of Character we shall seldom be at a loss to account, if we
carefully refer to circumstance and situation.—In the present instance,
_Falstaff_ had done an illegal act; the exertion was over; and he had
unbent his mind in security. The spirit of enterprize, and the animating
principle of hope, were withdrawn:—In this situation, he is unexpectedly
attacked; he has no time to recall his thoughts, or bend his mind to
action. He is not now acting in the Profession and in the Habits of a
Soldier; he is associated with known Cowards; his assailants are vigorous,
sudden, and bold; he is conscious of guilt; he has dangers to dread of
every form, present and future; prisons and gibbets, as well as sword and
fire; he is surrounded with darkness, and the Sheriff, the Hangman, and
the whole _Posse Commitatus_ may be at his heels:—Without a moment for
reflection, is it wonderful that, under these circumstances, “_he should
run and roar, and carry his guts away with as much dexterity as

But though I might well rest the question on this ground, yet as there
remains many good topics of vindication, and as I think a more minute
inquiry into this matter will only bring out more evidence in support of
_Falstaff_’s constitutional Courage, I will not decline the discussion. I
beg permission therefore to state fully, as well as fairly, the whole of
this obnoxious transaction, this unfortunate robbery at _Gads-Hill_.

In the scene wherein we become first acquainted with _Falstaff_, his
character is opened in a manner worthy of _Shakespeare_: We see him in a
green old age, mellow, frank, gay, easy, corpulent, loose, unprincipled,
and luxurious; a _Robber_, as he says, _by his vocation_; yet not
altogether so:—There was much, it seems, of mirth and _recreation_ in the
case: “_The poor abuses of the times_,” he wantonly and humourously tells
the Prince, “_want countenance; and he hates to see resolution fobbed off,
as it is, by the rusty curb of old father antic, the law_.”—When he quits
the scene, we are acquainted that he is only passing to the Tavern:
“_Farewell,_” says he, with an air of careless jollity and gay content,
“_You will find me in East-Cheap._” “_Farewell,_” says the Prince, “_thou
latter __ spring; farewell, all-hallown summer._” But though all this is
excellent for _Shakespeare_’s purposes, we find, as yet at least, no hint
of _Falstaff_’s Cowardice, no appearance of Braggadocio, or any
preparation whatever for laughter under this head.—The instant _Falstaff_
is withdrawn, _Poins_ opens to the Prince his meditated scheme of a double
robbery; and here then we may reasonably expect to be let into these parts
of _Falstaff_’s character.—We shall see.

Poins. “_Now my good sweet lord, ride with us tomorrow; I have a jest to
execute that I cannot manage alone. __FALSTAFF__, __BARDOLPH__, __PETO__,
and __GADSHILL__ shall rob those men that we have already waylaid;
yourself and I will not be there; and when they have the booty, if you and
I do not rob them, cut this head from off my shoulders._”

This is giving strong surety for his words; perhaps he thought the case
required it: “_But how_,” says the Prince, “_shall we part with them in
setting forth?_” _Poins_ is ready with his answer; he had matured the
thought, and could solve every difficulty:—“_They could set out before, or
after; their horses might be tied in the wood; they could change their
visors; and he had already procured cases of __BUCKRAM__ to inmask their
outward garments._” This was going far; it was doing business in good
earnest. But if we look into the Play we shall be better able to account
for this activity; we shall find that there was at least as much malice as
jest in _Poins_’s intention. The rival situations of _Poins_ and
_Falstaff_ had produced on both sides much jealousy and ill will, which
occasionally appears, in _Shakespeare_’s manner, by side lights, without
confounding the main action; and by the little we see of this _Poins_, he
appears to be an unamiable, if not a very brutish and bad, character.—But
to pass this;—the Prince next says, with a deliberate and wholesome
caution, “_I doubt they will be too hard for us._” _Poins_’s reply is
remarkable; “_Well, for __TWO__ of them, I know them to be as true bred
Cowards as ever turned back; and for the __THIRD__, if he fights longer
than he sees cause, I will forswear arms._” There is in this reply a great
deal of management: There were _four_ persons in all, as _Poins_ well
knew, and he had himself, but a little before, named them,—_Falstaff_,
_Bardolph_, _Peto_, and _Gadshill_; but now he omits one of the number,
which must be either _Falstaff_, as not subject to any imputation in point
of Courage; and in that case _Peto_ will be the _third_;—or, as I rather
think, in order to diminish the force of the Prince’s objection, he
artfully drops _Gadshill_, who was then out of town, and might therefore
be supposed to be less in the Prince’s notice; and upon this supposition
_Falstaff_ will be the _third, who will not fight longer than he sees
reason_. But on either supposition, what evidence is there of a
pre-supposed Cowardice in _Falstaff_? On the contrary, what stronger
evidence can we require that the Courage of _Falstaff_ had to this hour,
through various trials, stood wholly unimpeached, than that _Poins_, the
ill-disposed _Poins_, who ventures, for his own purposes, to steal, as it
were, _one_ of the _four_ from the notice and memory of the Prince, and
who shews himself, from worse motives, as skilfull in _diminishing_ as
_Falstaff_ appears afterwards to be in _increasing_ of numbers, than that
this very _Poins_ should not venture to put down _Falstaff_ in the list of
Cowards; though the occasion so strongly required that he should be
degraded. What _Poins_ dares do however in this sort, he _does_. “_As to
the third_,” for so he describes _Falstaff_ (as if the name of this
Veteran would have excited too strongly the ideas of Courage and
resistance), “_if he fights longer than he sees reason, I will forswear
arms._” This is the old trick of cautious and artful malice: The turn of
expression, or the tone of voice does all; for as to the words themselves,
simply considered, they might be now truly spoken of almost any man who
ever lived, except the iron-headed hero of _Sweden_.—But _Poins_ however
adds something, which may appear more decisive; “_The virtue of this jest
will be the incomprehensible lyes which this fat rogue will tell when we
meet at supper; how thirty at least he fought with; and what wards, what
blows, what extremities, he endured: And in the reproof of this lies the
jest_”:—Yes, and the _malice_ too.—This prediction was unfortunately
fulfilled, even beyond the letter of it; a completion more incident,
perhaps, to the predictions of malice than of affection. But we shall
presently see how far either the prediction, or the event, will go to the
impeachment of _Falstaff_’s Courage.—The Prince, who is never duped,
comprehends the whole of _Poins_’s views. But let that pass.

In the next scene we behold all the parties at _Gads-Hill_ in preparation
for the robbery. Let us carefully examine if it contains any intimation of
Cowardice in _Falstaff_. He is shewn under a very ridiculous vexation
about his horse, which is hid from him; but this is nothing to the
purpose, or only proves that _Falstaff_ knew no terror equal to that of
walking _eight yards of uneven ground_. But on occasion of _Gadshill_’s
being asked concerning the number of the travellers, and having reported
that they were eight or ten, _Falstaff_ exclaims, “_Zounds! will they not
rob us!_” If he had said more seriously, “_I doubt they will be too hard
for us_,”—he would then have only used the Prince’s own words upon a less
alarming occasion. This cannot need defence. But the Prince, in his usual
stile of mirth, replies, “_What a Coward, Sir John Paunch!_” To this one
would naturally expect from _Falstaff_ some light answer; but we are
surprized with a very serious one;—“_I am not indeed __JOHN OF GAUNT__
your grandfather, but yet no __COWARD__, __HAL__._” This is singular: It
contains, I think, the true character of _Falstaff_; and it seems to be
thrown out _here_, at a very critical conjuncture, as a caution to the
audience not to take too sadly what was intended only (to use the Prince’s
words) “_as argument for a week, laughter for a month, and a good jest for
ever after_.” The whole of _Falstaff_’s past life could not, it should
seem, furnish the Prince with a reply, and he is, therefore, obliged to
draw upon the coming hope. “_Well_,” says he, _mysteriously_, “_let the
event try_”; meaning the event of the concerted attack on _Falstaff_; an
event so probable, that he might indeed venture to rely on it.—But the
travellers approach: The Prince hastily proposes a division of strength;
that he with _Poins_ should take a station separate from the rest, so that
if the travellers should escape one party, they might light on the other:
_Falstaff_ does not object, though he supposes the travellers to be eight
or ten in number. We next see _Falstaff_ attack these travellers with
alacrity, using the accustomed words of threat and terror;—they make no
resistance, and he binds and robs them.

Hitherto I think there has not appeared the least _trait_ either of boast
or fear in _Falstaff_. But now comes on the concerted transaction, which
has been the source of so much dishonour. _As they are sharing the booty_
(says the stage direction) _the Prince and __POINS__ set upon them, they
all run away; and __FALSTAFF__ after a blow or two runs away too, leaving
the booty behind them._—“_Got with much ease,_” says the Prince, as an
event beyond expectation, “_Now merrily to horse._”—Poins adds, as they
are going off, “_How the rogue roared!_” This observation is afterwards
remembered by the Prince, who, urging the jest to _Falstaff_, says,
doubtless with all the licence of exaggeration,—“_And you, __FALSTAFF__,
carried your guts away as nimbly, with as quick dexterity, and roared for
mercy, and still ran and roared, as I ever heard bull-calf._” If he did
roar for mercy, it must have been a very inarticulate sort of roaring; for
there is not a single word set down for _Falstaff_ from which this roaring
may be inferred, or any stage direction to the actor for that purpose:
But, in the spirit of mirth and derision, the lightest exclamation might
be easily converted into the roar of a bull-calf.

We have now gone through this transaction considered simply on its own
circumstances, and without reference to any future boast or imputation. It
is upon these circumstances the case must be tried, and every colour
subsequently thrown upon it, either by wit or folly, ought to be
discharged. Take it, then, as it stands hitherto, with reference only to
its own preceding and concomitant circumstances, and to the unbounded
ability of _Shakespeare_ to obtain his own ends, and we must, I think, be
compelled to confess that this transaction was never intended by
_Shakespeare_ to detect and expose the false pretences of a real Coward;
but, on the contrary, to involve a man of allowed Courage, though in other
respects of a very peculiar character, in such circumstances and
suspicions of Cowardice as might, by the operation of those peculiarities,
produce afterwards much temporary mirth among his familiar and intimate
companions: Of this we cannot require a stronger proof than the great
attention which is paid to the decorum and truth of character in the stage
direction already quoted: It appears, from thence, that it was not thought
_decent_ that _Falstaff_ should run at all, until he had been deserted by
his companions, and had even afterwards exchanged blows with his
assailants;—and thus, a just distinction is kept up between the natural
Cowardice of the three associates and the accidental Terror of _Falstaff_.

Hitherto, then, I think it is very clear that no laughter either is, or is
intended to be, raised upon the score of _Falstaff_’s Cowardice. For after
all, it is not singularly ridiculous that an old inactive man of no boast,
as far as appears, or extraordinary pretensions to valour, should
endeavour to save himself by flight from the assault of two bold and
vigorous assailants. The very Players, who are, I think, the very worst
judges of _Shakespeare_, have been made sensible, I suppose from long
experience, that there is nothing in this transaction to excite any
extraordinary laughter; but this they take to be a defect in the
management of their author, and therefore I imagine it is, that they hold
themselves obliged to supply the vacancy, and fill it up with some low
buffoonery of their own. Instead of the dispatch necessary on this
occasion, they bring _Falstaff_, _stuffing and all_, to the very front of
the stage; where, with much mummery and grimace, he seats himself down,
with a canvas money-bag in his hand, to divide the spoil. In this
situation he is attacked by the Prince and _Poins_, whose tin swords hang
idly in the air and delay to strike till the _Player Falstaff_, who seems
more troubled with flatulence than fear, is able to rise: which is not
till after some ineffectual efforts, and with the assistance (to the best
of my memory) of one of the thieves, who lingers behind, in spite of
terror, for this friendly purpose; after which, without any resistance on
his part, he is goaded off the stage like a fat ox for slaughter by these
_stony-hearted_ drivers in _buckram_. I think he does not _roar_;—perhaps
the player had never perfected himself in the tones of a bull-calf. This
whole transaction should be shewn between the interstices of a back scene:
The less we see in such cases, the better we conceive. Something of
resistance and afterwards of celerity in flight we should be made
witnesses of; the _roar_ we should take on the credit of _Poins_. Nor is
there any occasion for all that bolstering with which they fill up the
figure of _Falstaff_; they do not distinguish betwixt humourous
exaggeration and necessary truth. The Prince is called _starveling_,
_dried neat’s tongue_, _stock-fish_, and other names of the same nature.
They might with almost as good reason search the glass-houses for some
exhausted stoker to furnish out a Prince of _Wales_ of sufficient
correspondence to this picture.

We next come to the scene of _Falstaff_’s braggadocioes. I have already
wandered too much into details; yet I must, however, bring _Falstaff_
forward to this last scene of trial in all his proper colouring and
proportions. The progressive discovery of _Falstaff_’s character is
excellently managed.—In the first scene we become acquainted with his
figure, which we must in some degree consider as a part of his character;
we hear of his gluttony and his debaucheries, and become witnesses of that
indistinguishable mixture of humour and licentiousness which runs through
his whole character; but what we are principally struck with, is the ease
of his manners and deportment, and the unaffected freedom and wonderful
pregnancy of his wit and humour. We see him, in the next scene, agitated
with vexation: His horse is concealed from him, and he gives on this
occasion so striking a description of his distress, and his words so
labour and are so loaded with heat and vapour, that, but for laughing, we
should pity him; laugh, however, we must at the extreme incongruity of a
man, at once corpulent and old, associating with youth in an enterprize
demanding the utmost extravagance of spirit, and all the wildness of
activity: And this it is which make his complaints so truly ridiculous.
“_Give me my horse!_” says he, in another spirit than that of _Richard_;
“_Eight yards of uneven ground_,” adds this _Forrester of Diana_, this
_enterprising gentleman of the shade_, “_is threescore and ten miles
__A-FOOT__ with me._”—In the heat and agitation of the robbery, out comes
more and more extravagant instances of incongruity. Though he is most
probably older and much fatter than either of the travellers, yet he calls
them, _Bacons, Bacon-fed, and gorbellied knaves_: “_Hang them_,” says he,
“_fat chuffs, they hate us youth: What! young men, must live:—You are
grand Jurors, are ye? We’ll jure ye, i’ faith._” But, as yet, we do not
see the whole length and breadth of him: This is reserved for the
braggadocio scene. We expect entertainment, but we don’t well know of what
kind. _Poins_, by his prediction, has given us a hint: But we do not see
or feel _Falstaff_ to be a Coward, much less a boaster; without which even
Cowardice is not sufficiently ridiculous; and therefore it is, that on the
stage we find them always connected. In this uncertainty on our part, he
is, with much artful preparation, produced.—His entrance is delayed to
stimulate our expectation; and, at last, to take off the dullness of
anticipation, and to add surprize to pleasure, he is called in, as if for
another purpose of mirth than what we are furnished with: We now behold
him, fluctuating with fiction, and labouring with dissembled passion and
chagrin: Too full for utterance, _Poins_ provokes him by a few simple
words, containing a fine contrast of affected ease,—“_Welcome, __JACK__,
where hast thou been?_” But when we hear him burst forth, “_A plague on
all Cowards! Give me a cup of sack. Is there no virtue extant!_”—We are at
once in possession of the whole man, and are ready to hug him, guts, lyes
and all, as an inexhaustible fund of pleasantry and humour. _Cowardice_, I
apprehend, is out of our thought; it does not, I think, mingle in our
mirth. As to this point, I have presumed to say already, and I repeat it,
that we are, in my opinion, the dupes of our own wisdom, of systematic
reasoning, of second thought, and after reflection. The first spectators,
I believe, thought of nothing but the laughable scrape which so singular a
character was falling into, and were delighted to see a humourous and
unprincipled wit so happily taken in his own inventions, precluded from
all rational defence, and driven to the necessity of crying out, after a
few ludicrous evasions, “_No more of that, __HAL__, if thou lov’st me._”

I do not conceive myself obliged to enter into a consideration of
_Falstaff_’s lyes concerning the transaction at _Gad’s-Hill_. I have
considered his conduct as independent of those lyes; I have examined the
whole of it apart, and found it free of Cowardice or fear, except in one
instance, which I have endeavoured to account for and excuse. I have
therefore a right to infer that those lyes are to be derived, not from
Cowardice, but from some other part of his character, which it does not
concern me to examine: But I have not contented myself hitherto with this
sort of negative defence; and the reader I believe is aware that I am
resolute (though I confess not untired) to carry this fat rogue out of the
reach of every imputation which affects, or may seem to affect, his
natural Courage.

The first observation then which strikes us, as to his braggadocioes, is,
that they are braggadocioes _after the fact_. In other cases we see the
Coward of the Play bluster and boast for a time, talk of distant wars, and
private duels, out of the reach of knowledge and of evidence; of storms
and stratagems, and of falling in upon the enemy pell-mell and putting
thousands to the sword; till, at length, on the proof of some present and
apparent fact, he is brought to open and _lasting_ shame; to shame I mean
as a _Coward_; for as to what there is of _lyar_ in the case, it is
considered only as accessory, and scarcely reckoned into the account of
dishonour.—But in the instance before us, every thing is reversed: The
Play opens with the _Fact_; a Fact, from its circumstances as well as from
the age and inactivity of the man, very excusable and capable of much
apology, if not of defence. This Fact is preceded by no bluster or
pretence whatever;—the lyes and braggadocioes follow; but they are not
_general_; they are confined and have reference to this one Fact only; the
detection is _immediate_; and after some accompanying mirth and laughter,
the shame of that detection ends; it has no _duration_, as in other cases;
and, for the rest of the Play, the character stands just where it did
before, _without any punishment or degradation whatever_.

To account for all this, let us only suppose that _Falstaff_ was a man of
natural Courage, though in all respects unprincipled; but that he was
surprized in one single instance into an act of real terror; which,
instead of excusing upon circumstances, he endeavours to cover by lyes and
braggadocio; and that these lyes become thereupon the subject, in this
place, of detection. Upon these suppositions the whole difficulty will
vanish at once, and every thing be natural, common, and plain. The _Fact_
itself will be of course _excusable_; that is, it will arise out of a
combination of such circumstances as, being applicable to one case only,
will not destroy the general character: It will not be _preceded_ by any
braggadocio, containing any fair indication of Cowardice; as real
Cowardice is not supposed to exist in the character. But the first act of
real or apparent Cowardice would naturally throw a vain unprincipled man
into the use of lyes and braggadocio; but these would have reference only
to the _Fact in question_, and not apply to other cases or infect his
general character, which is not supposed to stand in need of imposition.
Again,—the detection of Cowardice, as such, is more diverting after a long
and various course of Pretence, where the lye of character is preserved,
as it were, whole, and brought into sufficient magnitude for a burst of
discovery; yet, mere occasional lyes, such as _Falstaff_ is hereby
supposed to utter, are, for the purpose of sport, best detected in the
telling; because, indeed, they cannot be preserved for a future time; the
exigence and the humour will be past: But the _shame_ arising to
_Falstaff_ from the detection of _mere lyes_ would be _temporary only_;
his character as to this point, being already known, and _tolerated for
the humour_. Nothing, therefore, could follow but mirth and laughter, and
the temporary triumph of baffling a wit at his own weapons, and reducing
him to an absolute surrender: After which, we ought not to be surprized if
we see him rise again, like a boy from play, and run another race with as
little dishonour as before.

What then can we say, but that it is clearly the lyes only, not the
_Cowardice_, of _Falstaff_ which are here detected: _Lyes_, to which what
there may be of Cowardice is incidental only, improving indeed the Jest,
but by no means the real Business of the scene.—And now also we may more
clearly discern the true force and meaning of _Poin_’s prediction. “_The
Jest will be_,” says he, “_the incomprehensible Lyes that this fat rogue
will tell us: How thirty at least he fought with:—and in the reproof of
this lyes the jest_”; That is, in the detection of these lyes _simply_;
for as to _Courage_, he had never ventured to insinuate more than that
_Falstaff_ would not fight longer than he saw cause: _Poins_ was in
expectation indeed that _Falstaff_ would fall into some dishonour on this
occasion; an event highly probable: But this was not, it seems, to be the
principal ground of their mirth, but the detection of those
_incomprehensible lyes_, which he boldly predicts, upon his knowledge of
_Falstaff_’s character, this _fat rogue_, not _Coward_, would tell them.
This prediction therefore, and the completion of it, go only to the
impeachment of _Falstaff’s veracity_, and not of his _Courage_. “_These
lyes_,” says the Prince, “_are like the father of them, gross as a
mountain, open, palpable.—Why, thou clay-brained gutts, thou knotty-pated
fool; how couldst thou know these men in Kendal Green, when it was so __
dark thou couldst not see thy hand? Come, tell us your reason._”

“Poins. _Come, your reason, __JACK__, your reason._”

Again, says the Prince, “_Hear how a plain Tale shall put you down—What
trick, what device, what starting hole canst thou now find out to hide
thee from this open and apparent shame?_”

“Poins. _Come, let’s hear, __JACK__, what trick hast thou now?_”

All this clearly refers to _Falstaff_’s lyes only _as such_; and the
objection seems to be, that he had not told them well, and with sufficient
skill and probability. Indeed nothing seems to have been required of
_Falstaff_ at any period of time but a good evasion. The truth is, that
there is so much mirth, and so little of malice or imposition in his
fictions, that they may for the most part be considered as mere strains of
humour and exercises of wit, impeachable only for defect, when that
happens, of the quality from which they are principally derived. Upon this
occasion _Falstaff_’s evasions fail him; he is at the end of his
invention; and it seems fair that, in defect of wit, the law should pass
upon him, and that he should undergo the temporary censure of that
Cowardice which he could not pass off by any evasion whatever. The best he
could think of, was _instinct_: He was indeed a _Coward upon instinct_; in
that respect _like a valiant lion, who would not touch the true Prince_.
It would have been a vain attempt, the reader will easily perceive, in
_Falstaff_, to have gone upon other ground, and to have aimed at
justifying his Courage by a serious vindication: This would have been to
have mistaken the true point of argument: It was his _lyes_, not his
_Courage_, which was really in question. There was besides no getting out
of the toils in which he had entangled himself: If he was not, he ought at
least, by his own shewing, to have _been at half-sword with a dozen of
them two hours together_; whereas, it unfortunately appears, and that too
evidently to be evaded, that he had run with singular celerity from _two_,
after the exchange of _a few __ blows_ only. This precluded _Falstaff_
from all rational defence in his own person;—but it has not precluded me,
who am not the advocate of his _lyes_, but of his _Courage_.

But there are other singularities in _Falstaff_’s lyes, which go more
directly to his vindication.—That they are confined to one scene and one
occasion only, we are not _now_ at a loss to account for;—but what shall
we say to their extravagance? The lyes of _Parolles_ and _Bobadill_ are
brought into some shape; but the fictions of _Falstaff_ are so
preposterous and _incomprehensible_, that one may fairly doubt if they
ever were intended for credit; and therefore, if they ought to be called
_lyes_, and not rather _humour_; or, to compound the matter, _humourous
rhodomontades_. Certain it is, that they destroy their own purpose, and
are clearly not the effect, in this respect, of a regulated practice, and
a habit of imposition. The real truth seems to be, that had _Falstaff_,
loose and unprincipled as he is, been born a Coward and bred a Soldier, he
must, naturally, have been a great _Braggadocio_, a true _miles
gloriosus_. But in such case he should have been exhibited active and
young; for it is plain that age and corpulency are an excuse for
Cowardice, which ought not to be afforded him. In the present case,
wherein he was not only involved in suspicious circumstances, but wherein
he seems to have felt some conscious touch of infirmity, and having no
candid construction to expect from his laughing companions, he bursts at
once, and with all his might, into the most unweighed and preposterous
fictions, determined to put to proof on this occasion his boasted talent
of _swearing truth out of England_. He tried it here, to its utmost
extent, and was unfortunately routed on his own ground; which indeed, with
such a mine beneath his feet, could not be otherwise. But without this, he
had mingled in his deceits so much whimsical humour and fantastic
exaggeration that he must have been detected; and herein appears the
admirable address of _Shakespeare_, who can shew us _Falstaff_ in the
various light, not only of what he is, but what he would have been under
one single variation of character,—the want of natural Courage; whilst
with an art not enough understood, he most effectually preserves the real
character of _Falstaff_ even in the moment he seems to depart from it, by
making his lyes too extravagant for practised imposition; by grounding
them more upon humour than deceit; and turning them, as we shall next see,
into a fair and honest proof of general Courage, by appropriating them to
the concealment only of a single exception. And hence it is, that we see
him draw so deeply and so confidently upon his former credit for Courage
and atchievment: “_I never dealt better in my life,—thou know’st my old
ward, Hal_,” are expressions which clearly refer to some known feats and
defences of his former life. His exclamations against Cowardice, his
reference to his own manhood, “_Die when thou wilt, old __JACK__, if
manhood, good manhood, be not forgot upon the face of the earth, then am I
a shotten herring_”: These, and various expressions such as these, would
be absurdities not impositions, Farce not Comedy, if not calculated to
conceal some defect supposed unknown to the hearers; and these hearers
were, in the present case, his constant companions, and the daily
witnesses of his conduct. If before this period he had been a known and
detected Coward, and was conscious that he had no credit to lose, I see no
reason why he should fly so violently from a familiar ignominy which had
often before attacked him; or why falshoods, seemingly in such a case
neither calculated for or expecting credit, should be censured, or
detected, as lyes or imposition.

That the whole transaction was considered as a mere jest, and as carrying
with it no serious imputation on the Courage of _Falstaff_, is manifest,
not only from his being allowed, when the laugh was past, to call himself,
without contradiction in the personated character of _Hal_ himself,
“valiant _Jack Falstaff, and the more __VALIANT__ being, as he is_, old
Jack Falstaff,” but from various other particulars, and, above all, from
the declaration, which the Prince makes on that very night, of his
intention of procuring this _fat rogue a Charge of foot_;—a circumstance,
doubtless, contrived by _Shakespeare_ to wipe off the seeming dishonour of
the day: And from this time forward we hear of no imputation arising from
this transaction; it is born and dies in a convivial hour; it leaves no
trace behind, nor do we see any longer in the character of _Falstaff_ the
boasting or braggadocio of a Coward.

Tho’ I have considered _Falstaff_’s character as relative only to one
single quality, yet so much has been said, that it cannot escape the
reader’s notice that he is a character made up by _Shakespeare_ wholly of
incongruities;—a man at once young and old, enterprizing and fat, a dupe
and a wit, harmless and wicked, weak in principle and resolute by
constitution, cowardly in appearance and brave in reality; a knave without
malice, a lyar without deceit; and a knight, a gentleman, and a soldier,
without either dignity, decency, or honour: This is a character, which,
though it may be de-compounded, could not, I believe, have been formed,
nor the ingredients of it duly mingled, upon any receipt whatever: It
required the hand of _Shakespeare_ himself to give to every particular
part a relish of the whole, and of the whole to every particular
part;—alike the same incongruous, identical _Falstaff_, whether to the
grave Chief Justice he vainly talks of his youth, and offers to _caper for
a thousand_; or cries to Mrs. _Doll_, “_I am old, I am old_,” though she
is seated on his lap, and he is courting her for busses. How _Shakespeare_
could furnish out sentiment of so extraordinary a composition, and supply
it with such appropriated and characteristic language, humour and wit, I
cannot tell; but I may, however, venture to infer, and that confidently,
that he who so well understood the uses of incongruity, and that laughter
was to be raised by the opposition of qualities in the same man, and not
by their agreement or conformity, would never have attempted to raise
mirth by shewing us Cowardice in a Coward unattended by Pretence, and
softened by every excuse of age, corpulence, and infirmity: And of this we
cannot have a more striking proof than his furnishing this very character,
on one instance of real terror, however excusable, with boast,
braggadocio, and pretence, exceeding that of all other stage Cowards the
whole length of his superior wit, humour, and invention.

What then upon the whole shall be said but that _Shakespeare_ has made
certain Impressions, or produced certain effects, of which he has thought
fit to conceal or obscure the cause? How he has done this, and for what
special ends, we shall now presume to guess.—Before the period in which
_Shakespeare_ wrote, the fools and Zanys of the stage were drawn out of
the coarsest and cheapest materials: Some essential folly, with a dash of
knave and coxcomb, did the feat. But _Shakespeare_, who delighted in
difficulties, was resolved to furnish a richer repast, and to give to one
eminent buffoon the high relish of wit, humour, birth, dignity, and
Courage. But this was a process which required the nicest hand, and the
utmost management and address: These enumerated qualities are, in their
own nature, productive of _respect_; an Impression the most opposite to
laughter that can be. This Impression then, it was, at all adventures,
necessary to with-hold; which could not perhaps well be without dressing
up these qualities in fantastic forms, and colours not their own; and
thereby cheating the eye with shews of baseness and of folly, whilst he
stole as it were upon the palate a richer and a fuller _goût_. To this
end, what arts, what contrivances, has he not practised! How has he
steeped this singular character in bad habits for fifty years together,
and brought him forth saturated with every folly and with every vice not
destructive of his essential character, or incompatible with his own
primary design! For this end, he has deprived _Falstaff_ of every good
principle; and for another, which will be presently mentioned, he has
concealed every bad one. He has given him also every infirmity of body
that is not likely to awaken our compassion, and which is most proper to
render both his better qualities and his vices ridiculous: he has
associated levity and debauch with _age_, corpulence and inactivity with
_courage_, and has roguishly coupled the gout with _Military honours_, and
a _pension_ with the _pox_. He has likewise involved this character in
situations, out of which neither wit nor Courage can extricate him with
honour. The surprize at _Gads-Hill_ might have betrayed a hero into
flight, and the encounter with _Douglas_ left him no choice but death or
stratagem. If he plays an after-game, and endeavours to redeem his ill
fortune by lies and braggadocio, his ground fails him; no wit, no evasion
will avail: Or is he likely to appear respectable in his person, rank, and
demeanor, how is that respect abated or discharged! _Shakespeare_ has
given him a kind of state indeed; but of what is it composed? Of that
fustian cowardly rascal _Pistol_, and his yoke-fellow of few words, the
equally deed-less _Nym_; of his cup-bearer the fiery _Trigon_, whose zeal
burns in his nose, _Bardolph_; and of the boy, who bears the purse with
_seven groats and two-pence_;—a boy who was given him on purpose to set
him off, and whom he walks _before_, according to his own description,
“_like a sow that had overwhelmed all her litter but one_.”

But it was not enough to render _Falstaff_ ridiculous in his figure,
situations, and equipage; _still_ his respectable qualities would have
come forth, at least occasionally, to spoil our mirth; or they might have
burst the intervention of such slight impediments, and have every where
shone through: It was necessary then to go farther, and throw on him that
substantial ridicule, which only the incongruities of real vice can
furnish; of vice, which was to be so mixed and blended with his frame as
to give a durable character and colour to the whole.

But it may here be necessary to detain the reader a moment in order to
apprize him of my further intention; without which, I might hazard that
good understanding, which I hope has hitherto been preserved between us.

I have ’till now looked only to the Courage of _Falstaff_, a quality
which, having been denied, in terms, to belong to his constitution, I have
endeavoured to vindicate to the Understandings of my readers; the
Impression on their Feelings (in which all Dramatic truth consists) being
already, as I have supposed, in favour of the character. In the pursuit of
this subject I have taken the general Impression of the whole character
pretty much, I suppose, like other men; and, when occasion has required,
have so transmitted it to the reader; joining in the common Feeling of
_Falstaff_’s pleasantry, his apparent freedom from ill principle, and his
companionable wit and good humour: With a stage character, in the article
of exhibition, we have nothing more to do; for in fact what is it but an
Impression; an appearance, which we are to consider as a reality, and
which we may venture to applaud or condemn as such, without further
inquiry or investigation? But if we would account for our Impressions, or
for certain sentiments or actions in a character, not derived from its
apparent principles, yet appearing, we know not why, natural, we are then
compelled to look farther, and examine if there be not something more in
the character than is _shewn_; something inferred, which is not brought
under our special notice: In short, we must look to the art of the writer,
and to the principles of human nature, to discover the hidden causes of
such effects.—Now this is a very different matter.—The former
considerations respected the Impression only, without regard to the
Understanding; but this question relates to the Understanding alone. It is
true that there are but few Dramatic characters which will bear this kind
of investigation, as not being drawn in exact conformity to those
principles of general nature to which we must refer. But this is not the
case with regard to the characters of _Shakespeare_; they are struck out
_whole_, by some happy art which I cannot clearly comprehend, out of the
general mass of things, from the block as it were of nature: And it is, I
think, an easier thing to give a just draught of man from these Theatric
forms, which I cannot help considering as originals, than by drawing from
real life, amidst so much intricacy, obliquity, and disguise. If
therefore, for further proofs of _Falstaff_’s Courage, or for the sake of
curious speculation, or for both, I change my position, and look to causes
instead of effects, the reader must not be surprized if he finds the
former _Falstaff_ vanish like a dream, and another, of more disgustful
form, presented to his view; one whose final punishment we shall be so far
from regretting, that we ourselves shall be ready to consign him to a
severer doom.

The reader will very easily apprehend that a character, which we might
wholly disapprove of, considered as existing in human life, may yet be
thrown on the stage into certain peculiar situations, and be compressed by
external influences into such temporary appearances, as may render such
character for a time highly acceptable and entertaining, and even more
distinguished for qualities, which on this supposition would be accidents
only, than another character really possessing those qualities, but which,
under the pressure of the same situation and influences, would be
distorted into a different form, or totally left in timidity and weakness.
If therefore the character before us will admit of this kind of
investigation, our Inquiry will not be without some dignity, considered as
extending to the principles of human nature, and to the genius and arts of
Him, who has best caught every various form of the human mind, and
transmitted them with the greatest happiness and fidelity.

To return then to the vices of _Falstaff_.—We have frequently referred to
them under the name of ill habits;—but perhaps the reader is not fully
aware how very vicious he indeed is;—he is a robber, a glutton, a cheat, a
drunkard, and a lyar; lascivious, vain, insolent, profligate, and
profane:—A fine infusion this, and such as without very excellent cookery
must have thrown into the dish a great deal too much of the _fumet_. It
was a nice operation;—these vices were not only to be of a particular
sort, but it was also necessary to guard them at both ends; on the _one_,
from all appearance of malicious motive, and indeed from the manifestation
of any ill principle whatever, which must have produced _disgust_,—a
sensation no less opposite to laughter than is _respect_;—and, on the
_other_, from the notice, or even apprehension, in the spectators, of
_pernicious effect_; which produces _grief_ and _terror_, and is the
proper province of Tragedy alone.

_Actions_ cannot with strict propriety be said to be either virtuous or
vicious. These qualities, or attributes, belong to _agents_ only; and are
derived, even in respect to _them_, from intention alone. The abstracting
of qualities, and considering them as independent of any _subject_, and
the applying of them afterwards to actions independent of the agent, is a
double operation which I do not pretend, thro’ any part of it, to
understand. All actions may most properly, in their own nature, I think,
be called _neutral_; tho’ in common discourse, and in writing where
perfection is not requisite, we often term them _vicious_, transferring on
these occasions the attributive from the _agent_ to the _action_; and
sometimes we call them _evil_, or of pernicious effect, by transferring,
in like manner, the injuries incidentally arising from certain actions to
the life, happiness, or interest of human beings, to the natural
operation, whether moral or physical, of the _actions_ themselves: _One_
is a colour thrown on them by the _intention_, in which I think consists
all moral turpitude, and the _other_ by effect: If therefore a Dramatic
writer will use certain managements to keep vicious intention as much as
possible from our notice, and make us sensible that no evil effect
follows, he may pass off actions of very vicious motive, without much ill
impression, as mere _incongruities_, and the effect of _humour_
only;—_words these_, which, as applied to human conduct, are employed, I
believe, to cover a great deal of what may deserve much harder

The _difference_ between suffering an evil effect to take place, and of
preventing such effect, from actions precisely of the same nature, is so
great, that it is often _all the difference_ between Tragedy and Comedy.
The Fine gentleman of the Comic scene, who so promptly draws his sword,
and wounds, without killing, some other gentleman of the same sort; and
_He_ of Tragedy, whose stabs are mortal, differ very frequently in no
other point whatever. If our _Falstaff_ had really _peppered_ (as he calls
it) _two rogues in buckram suits_, we must have looked for a very
different conclusion, and have expected to have found _Falstaff_’s
Essential prose converted into blank verse, and to have seen him move off,
in slow and measured paces, like the City Prentice to the tolling of a
Passing bell;—“_he would have become a cart as well as another, or a
plague on his bringing up._”

Every incongruity in a rational being is a source of laughter, whether it
respects manners, sentiments, conduct, or even dress, or situation;—but
the greatest of all possible incongruity is vice, whether in the intention
itself, or as transferred to, and becoming more manifest in action;—it is
inconsistent with moral agency, nay, with rationality itself, and all the
ends and purposes of our being.—Our author describes the natural ridicule
of vice in his MEASURE _for_ MEASURE in the strongest terms, where, after
having made the angels weep over the vices of men, he adds, that _with_
our spleens _they might laugh themselves quite mortal_. Indeed if we had a
perfect discernment of the ends of this life only, and could preserve
ourselves from sympathy, disgust, and terror, the vices of mankind would
be a source of perpetual entertainment. The great difference between
_Heraclitus_ and _Democritus_ lay, it seems, in their spleen only;—for a
wise and good man must either laugh or cry without ceasing. Nor indeed is
it easy to conceive (to instance in one case only) a more laughable, or a
more melancholy object, than a human being, his nature and duration
considered, earnestly and anxiously exchanging peace of mind and conscious
integrity for gold; and for gold too, which he has often no occasion for,
or dares not employ:—But _Voltaire_ has by one Publication rendered all
_arguments_ superfluous: He has told us, in his _Candide_, the merriest
and most diverting tale of frauds, murders, massacres, rapes, rapine,
desolation, and destruction, that I think it possible on any other plan to
invent; and he has given us _motive_ and _effect_, with every possible
aggravation, to improve the sport. One would think it difficult to
preserve the point of ridicule, in such a case, unabated by contrary
emotions; but now that the feat is performed it appears of easy imitation,
and I am amazed that our race of imitators have made no efforts in this
sort: It would answer I should think in the way of profit, not to mention
the moral uses to which it might be applied. The managements of _Voltaire_
consists in this, that he assumes a gay, easy, and light tone himself;
that he never excites the reflections of his readers by making any of his
own; that he hurries us on with such a rapidity of narration as prevents
our emotions from resting on any particular point; and to gain this end,
he has interwoven the conclusion of one fact so into the commencement of
another, that we find ourselves engaged in new matter before we are
sensible that we had finished the old; he has likewise made his crimes so
enormous, that we do not sadden on any sympathy, or find ourselves
partakers in the guilt.—But what is truly singular as to this book, is,
that it does not appear to have been written for any moral purpose, but
for That only (if I do not err) of satyrising Providence itself; a design
so enormously profane, that it may well pass for the most ridiculous part
of the whole composition.

But if vice, divested of disgust and terror, is thus in its own nature
ridiculous, we ought not to be surprized if the very same vices which
spread horror and desolation thro’ the Tragic scene should yet furnish the
Comic with its highest laughter and delight, and that tears, and mirth,
and even humour and wit itself, should grow from the same root of
incongruity: For what is humour in the humourist, but incongruity, whether
of sentiment, conduct, or manners? What in the man of humour, but a quick
discernment and keen sensibility of these incongruities? And what is wit
itself, without presuming however to give a complete definition where so
many have failed, but a talent, for the most part, of marking with force
and vivacity unexpected points of likeness in things supposed incongruous,
and points of incongruity in things supposed alike: And hence it is that
wit and humour, tho’ always distinguished, are so often coupled together;
it being very possible, I suppose, to be a man of humour without wit; but
I think not a man of wit without humour.

But I have here raised so much new matter, that the reader may be out of
hope of seeing this argument, any more than the tale of _Tristram_,
brought to a conclusion: He may suppose me now prepared to turn my pen to
a moral, or to a dramatic Essay, or ready to draw the line between vice
and virtue, or Comedy and Tragedy, as fancy shall lead the way;—But he is
happily mistaken; I am pressing earnestly, and not without some
impatience, to a conclusion. The principles I have now opened are
necessary to be considered for the purpose of estimating the character of
_Falstaff_, considered as relatively to human nature: I shall then reduce
him with all possible dispatch to his Theatric condition, and restore him,
I hope, without injury, to the stage.

There is indeed a vein or two of argument running through the matter that
now surrounds me, which I might open for my own more peculiar purposes;
but which, having resisted much greater temptations, I shall wholly
desert. It ought not, however, to be forgotten, that if _Shakespeare_ has
used arts to abate our respect of _Falstaff_, it should follow by just
inference, that, without such arts, his character would have grown into a
_respect_ inconsistent with laughter; and that yet, without Courage, he
could not have been respectable at all;—that it required nothing less than
the union of ability and Courage to support his other more accidental
qualities with any tolerable coherence. Courage and Ability are first
principles of Character, and not to be destroyed whilst the united frame
of body and mind continues whole and unimpaired; they are the pillars on
which he stands firm in spight of all his vices and disgraces;—but if we
should take Courage away, and reckon Cowardice among his other defects,
all the intelligence and wit in the world could not support him through a
single Play.

The effect of taking away the influence of this quality upon the manners
of a character, tho’ the quality and the influence be assumed only, is
evident in the cases of _Parolles_ and _Bobadil_. _Parolles_, at least,
did not seem to want wit; but both these characters are reduced almost to
non-entity, and, after their disgraces, walk only thro’ a scene or two,
the mere mockery of their former existence. _Parolles_ was so changed,
that neither the _fool_, nor the old lord _Le-feu_, could readily
recollect his person; and his wit seemed to be annihilated with his

Let it not be here objected that _Falstaff_ is universally considered as a
Coward;—we do indeed call him so; but that is nothing, if the character
itself does not act from any consciousness of this kind, and if our
Feelings take his part, and revolt against our understanding.

As to the arts by which _Shakespeare_ has contrived to obscure the vices
of _Falstaff_, they are such as, being subservient only to the mirth of
the Play, I do not feel myself obliged to detail.

But it may be well worth our curiosity to inquire into the composition of
_Falstaff_’s character.—Every man we may observe has two characters; that
is, every man may be seen externally, and from without;—or a section may
be made of him, and he may be illuminated from within.

Of the external character of _Falstaff_, we can scarcely be said to have
any steady view. _Jack Falstaff_ we are familiar with, but _Sir John_ was
better known, it seems, _to the rest of Europe_, than to his intimate
companions; yet we have so many glimpses of him, and he is opened to us
occasionally in such various points of view, that we cannot be mistaken in
describing him as a man of birth and fashion, bred up in all the learning
and accomplishments of the times;—of ability and Courage equal to any
situation, and capable by nature of the highest affairs; trained to arms,
and possessing the tone, the deportment, and the manners of a
gentleman;—but yet these accomplishments and advantages seem to hang loose
on him, and to be worn with a slovenly carelessness and inattention: A too
great indulgence of the qualities of humour and wit seems to draw him too
much one way, and to destroy the grace and orderly arrangement of his
other accomplishments;—and hence he becomes strongly marked for one
advantage, to the injury, and almost forgetfulness in the beholder, of all
the rest. Some of his vices likewise strike through, and stain his
Exterior;—his modes of speech betray a certain licentiousness of mind; and
that high Aristocratic tone which belonged to his situation was pushed on,
and aggravated into unfeeling insolence and oppression. “_It is not a
confirmed brow_,” says the Chief Justice, “_nor the throng of words that
come with such more than impudent sauciness from you, can thrust me from a
level consideration_”: “_My lord_,” answers _Falstaff_, “_you call
honourable boldness impudent sauciness. If a man will court’sie and say
nothing, he is virtuous: No, my lord, my humble duty remembered, I will
not be your suitor. I say to you I desire deliverance from these officers,
being upon hasty employment in the King’s affairs._” “_You speak_,”
replies the Chief Justice, “_as having power to do wrong._”—His whole
behaviour to the Chief Justice, whom he despairs of winning by flattery,
is singularly insolent; and the reader will remember many instances of his
insolence to others: Nor are his manners always free from the taint of
vulgar society;—“_This is the right fencing grace, my lord_,” says he to
the Chief Justice, with great impropriety of manners, “_tap for tap, and
so part fair_”: “_Now the lord lighten thee,_” is the reflection of the
Chief Justice, “_thou art a very great fool._”—Such a character as I have
here described, strengthened with that vigour, force, and alacrity of
mind, of which he is possessed, must have spread terror and dismay thro’
the ignorant, the timid, the modest, and the weak: Yet is he however, when
occasion requires, capable of much accommodation and flattery;—and in
order to obtain the protection and patronage of the great, so convenient
to his vices and his poverty, he was put under the daily necessity of
practising and improving these arts; a baseness which he compensates to
himself, like other unprincipled men, by an increase of insolence towards
his inferiors.—There is also a natural activity about _Falstaff_ which,
for want of proper employment, shews itself in a kind of swell or bustle,
which seems to correspond with his bulk, as if his mind had inflated his
body, and demanded a habitation of no less circumference: Thus conditioned
he rolls (in the language of _Ossian_) like a _Whale of Ocean_, scattering
the smaller fry; but affording, in his turn, noble contention to _Hal_ and
_Poins_; who, to keep up the allusion, I may be allowed on this occasion
to compare to the Thresher and the Sword-fish.

To this part of _Falstaff_’s character, many things which he does and
says, and which appear unaccountably natural, are to be referred.

We are next to see him _from within_: And here we shall behold him most
villainously unprincipled and debauched; possessing indeed the same
Courage and ability, yet stained with numerous vices, unsuited not only to
his primary qualities, but to his age, corpulency, rank, and
profession;—reduced by these vices to a state of dependence, yet
resolutely bent to indulge them at any price. These vices have been
already enumerated; they are many, and become still more intolerable by an
excess of unfeeling insolence on one hand, and of base accommodation on
the other.

But what then, after all, is become of _old Jack_? Is this the jovial
delightful companion—_Falstaff_, the favourite and the boast of the
Stage?—by no means. But it is, I think however, the _Falstaff_ of Nature;
the very stuff out of which the _Stage Falstaff_ is composed; nor was it
possible, I believe, out of any other materials he could have been formed.
From this disagreeable draught we shall be able, I trust, by a proper
disposition of light and shade, and from the influence of compression of
external things, to produce _plump Jack_, the life of humour, the spirit
of pleasantry, and the soul of mirth.

To this end, _Falstaff_ must no longer be considered as a single
independent character, but grouped, as we find him shewn to us in the
Play;—his ability must be disgraced by buffoonery, and his Courage by
circumstances of imputation; and those qualities be thereupon reduced into
subjects of mirth and laughter:—His vices must be concealed at each end
from vicious design and evil effect, and must thereupon be turned into
incongruities, and assume the name of humour only;—his insolence must be
repressed by the superior tone of _Hal_ and _Poins_, and take the softer
name of spirit only, or alacrity of mind;—his state of dependence, his
temper of accommodation, and his activity, must fall in precisely with the
indulgence of his humours; that is, he must thrive best and flatter most,
by being extravagantly incongruous; and his own tendency, impelled by so
much activity, will carry him with perfect ease and freedom to all the
necessary excesses. But why, it may be asked, should incongruities
recommend _Falstaff_ to the favour of the Prince?—Because the Prince is
supposed to possess a high relish of humour and to have a temper and a
force about him, which, whatever was his pursuit, delighted in excess.
This, _Falstaff_ is supposed perfectly to comprehend; and thereupon not
only to indulge himself in all kinds of incongruity, but to lend out his
own superior wit and humour against himself, and to heighten the ridicule
by all the tricks and arts of buffoonery for which his corpulence, his
age, and situation, furnish such excellent materials. This compleats the
Dramatic character of _Falstaff_, and gives him that appearance of perfect
good-nature, pleasantry, mellowness, and hilarity of mind, for which we
admire and almost love him, tho’ we feel certain reserves which forbid our
going that length; the true reason of which is, that there will be always
found a difference between mere appearances and reality: Nor are we, nor
can we be, insensible that whenever the action of external influence upon
him is in whole or in part relaxed, the character restores itself
proportionably to its more unpleasing condition.

A character really possessing the qualities which are on the stage imputed
to _Falstaff_, would be best shewn by its own natural energy; the least
compression would disorder it, and make us feel for it all the pain of
sympathy: It is the artificial condition of _Falstaff_ which is the source
of our delight; we enjoy his distresses, we _gird at him_ ourselves, and
urge the sport without the least alloy of compassion; and we give him,
when the laugh is over, undeserved credit for the pleasure we enjoyed. If
any one thinks that these observations are the effect of too much
refinement, and that there was in truth more of chance in the case than of
management or design, let him try his own luck;—perhaps he may draw out of
the wheel of fortune a _Macbeth_, an _Othello_, a _Benedict_, or a

Such, I think, is the true character of this extraordinary buffoon; and
from hence we may discern for what special purposes _Shakespeare_ has
given him talents and qualities, which were to be afterwards obscured, and
perverted to ends opposite to their nature; it was clearly to furnish out
a Stage buffoon of a peculiar sort; a kind of Game-bull which would stand
the baiting thro’ a hundred Plays, and produce equal sport, whether he is
pinned down occasionally by _Hal_ or _Poins_, or tosses such mongrils as
_Bardolph_, or the Justices, sprawling in the air. There is in truth no
such thing as totally demolishing _Falstaff_; he has so much of the
invulnerable in his frame that no ridicule can destroy him; he is safe
even in defeat, and seems to rise, like another _Antæus_, with recruited
vigour from every fall; in this, as in every other respect, unlike
_Parolles_ or _Bobadil_: They fall by the first shaft of ridicule, but
_Falstaff_ is a butt on which we may empty the whole quiver, whilst the
substance of his character remains unimpaired. His ill habits, and the
accidents of age and corpulence, are no part of his essential
constitution; they come forward indeed on our eye, and solicit our notice,
but they are second natures, not _first_; mere shadows, we pursue them in
vain; _Falstaff_ himself has a distinct and separate subsistence; he
laughs at the chace, and when the sport is over, gathers them with
unruffled feather under his wing: And hence it is that he is made to
undergo not one detection only, but a series of detections; that he is not
formed for one Play only, but was intended originally at least for two;
and the author, we are told, was doubtful if he should not extend him yet
farther, and engage him in the wars with _France_. This he might well have
done, for there is nothing perishable in the nature of _Falstaff_: He
might have involved him, by the vicious part of his character, in new
difficulties and unlucky situations, and have enabled him, by the better
part, to have scrambled through, abiding and retorting the jests and
laughter of every beholder.

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 IV. for his disgrace: The disguise is
taken off, and he begins openly to pander to the excesses of the Prince,
intitling 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 shewing himself abominably dissolute: The
laborious arts of fraud, which he practises on _Shallow_ to induce the
loan of a thousand pound, 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__, chuse 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.

But it is remarkable that, during this process, we are not acquainted with
the success of _Falstaff_’s designs upon _Shallow_ ’till the moment of his
disgrace. “_If I had had time_,” says he to _Shallow_, as the King is
approaching, “_to have made new liveries, I would have bestowed the
thousand pounds I borrowed of you_”;—and the first word he utters after
this period is, “_Master __SHALLOW__, I owe you a thousand pounds_”: We
may from hence very reasonably presume, that _Shakespeare_ meant to
connect this fraud with the punishment of _Falstaff_, as a more avowed
ground of censure and dishonour: Nor ought the consideration that this
passage contains the most exquisite comic humour and propriety in another
view, to diminish the truth of this observation.

But however just it might be to demolish _Falstaff_ in this way, by
opening to us his bad principles, it was by no means _convenient_. If we
had been to have seen a single representation of him only, it might have
been proper enough; but as he was to be shewn from night to night, and
from age to age, the disgust arising from the _close_ would by degrees
have spread itself over the whole character; reference would be had
throughout to his bad principles, and he would have become less acceptable
as he was more known: And yet it was necessary to bring him, like all
other stage characters, to some conclusion. Every play must be wound up by
some event, which may shut in the characters and the action. If some
_hero_ obtains a crown, or a mistress, involving therein the fortune of
others, we are satisfied;—we do not desire to be afterwards admitted of
his council, or his bed-chamber: Or if through jealousy, causeless or well
founded, _another_ kills a beloved wife, and himself after,—there is no
more to be said;—they are dead, and there an end; Or if in the scenes of
Comedy, parties are engaged, and plots formed, for the furthering or
preventing the completion of that great article Cuckoldom, we expect to be
satisfied in the point as far as the nature of so nice a case will permit,
or at least to see such a manifest _disposition_ as will leave us in no
doubt of the event. By the bye, I cannot but think that the Comic writers
of the last age treated this matter as of more importance, and made more
bustle about it, than the temper of the present times will well bear; and
it is therefore to be hoped that the Dramatic authors of the present day,
some of whom, to the best of my judgment, are deserving of great praise,
will consider and treat this business, rather as a common and natural
incident arising out of modern manners, than as worthy to be held forth as
the great object and sole end of the Play.

But whatever be the question, or whatever the character, the curtain must
not only be dropt before the eyes, but over the minds of the spectators,
and nothing left for further examination and curiosity.—But how was this
to be done in regard to _Falstaff_? He was not involved in the fortune of
the Play; he was engaged in no action which, as to him, was to be
compleated; he had reference to no system, he was attracted to no center;
he passes thro’ the Play as a lawless meteor, and we wish to know what
course he is afterwards likely to take: He is detected and disgraced, it
is true; but he lives by detection, and thrives on disgrace; and we are
desirous to see him detected and disgraced again. The _Fleet_ might be no
bad scene of further amusement;—he carries _all_ within him, _and what
matter_ where, _if he be still the same_, possessing the same force of
mind, the same wit, and the same incongruity. This, _Shakespeare_ was
fully sensible of, and knew that this character could not be compleatly
dismissed but by death.—“Our author,” says the Epilogue to the Second Part
of Henry IV., “will continue the story with Sir _John_ in it, and make you
merry with fair _Catherine_ of _France_; where, for any thing I know,
_Falstaff_ shall dye of a sweat, unless already he be killed with your
hard opinions.” If it had been prudent in _Shakespeare_ to have killed
_Falstaff_ with _hard opinion_, he had the means in his hand to effect
it;—but dye, it seems, he must, in one form or another, and a _sweat_
would have been no unsuitable catastrophe. However we have reason to be
satisfied as it is;—his death was worthy of his birth and of his life:
“_He was born_,” he says, “_about three o’clock in the afternoon, with a
white head, and something a round belly._” But if he came into the world
in the evening with these marks of age, he departs out of it in the
morning in all the follies and vanities of youth;—“_He was shaked_” (we
are told) “_of a burning quotidian tertian;—the young King had run bad
humours on the knight;—his heart was fracted and corroborate; and a’
parted just between twelve and one, even at the turning of the tide,
yielding the crow a pudding, and passing directly into __ARTHUR’S BOSOM__,
if ever man went into the bosom of __ARTHUR__._”—So ended this singular
buffoon; and with him ends an Essay, on which the reader is left to bestow
what character he pleases: An Essay professing to treat of the Courage of
_Falstaff_, but extending itself to his Whole character; to the arts and
genius of his Poetic-Maker, SHAKESPEARE; and thro’ him sometimes, with
ambitious aim, even to the principles of human nature itself.


Nicholas Rowe.

2. _Some Latin without question_, etc. This passage, down to the reference
to the scene in _Henry V._, is omitted by Pope. _Love’s Labour’s Lost_,
iv. 2, 95; _Titus Andronicus_, iv. 2, 20; _Henry V._, iii. 4.

3. _Deer-stealing._ This tradition—which was first recorded in print by
Rowe—has often been doubted. See, however, Halliwell-Phillipps’s _Outlines
of the Life of Shakespeare_, 1886, ii., p. 71, and Mr. Sidney Lee’s _Life
of Shakespeare_, pp. 27, etc.

4. _the first Play he wrote._ Pope inserted here the following note: “The
highest date of any I can yet find is _Romeo and Juliet_ in 1597, when the
author was 33 years old, and _Richard the 2d_ and _3d_ in the next year,
viz. the 34th of his age.” The two last had been printed in 1597.

_Mr. Dryden seems to think that Pericles_, etc. This sentence was omitted
by Pope.

5. _the best conversations_, etc. Rowe here controverts the opinion
expressed by Dryden in his _Essay on the Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age_:
“I cannot find that any of them had been conversant in courts, except Ben
Johnson; and his genius lay not so much that way as to make an improvement
by it. Greatness was not then so easy of access, nor conversation so free,
as now it is” (_Essays_, ed. W. P. Ker, i., p. 175).

_A fair Vestal._ _Midsummer Night’s Dream_, ii. 1, 158. In the original
Rowe adds to his quotations from Shakespeare the page references to his
own edition.

_The Merry Wives._ The tradition that the _Merry Wives_ was written at the
command of Elizabeth had been recorded already by Dennis in the preface to
his version of the play,—_The Comical Gallant, or the Amours of Sir John
Falstaffe_ (1702): “This Comedy was written at her command, and by her
direction, and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to
be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards, as Tradition tells us,
very well pleas’d at the Representation.” Cf. Dennis’s _Defence of a
Regulated Stage_: “she not only commanded Shakespear to write the comedy
of the _Merry Wives_, and to write it in ten day’s time,” etc. (_Original
Letters_, 1721, i., p. 232).

_this part of Falstaff._ Rowe is here indebted apparently to the account
of John Fastolfe in Fuller’s _Worthies of England_ (1662). But neither in
it, nor in the similar passage on Oldcastle in the _Church History of
Britain_ (1655, Bk. IV., Cent, XV., p. 168), does Fuller say that the name
was altered at the command of the queen, on objection being made by
Oldcastle’s descendants. This may have been a tradition at Rowe’s time, as
there was then apparently no printed authority for it, but, as
Halliwell-Phillips showed in his _Character of Sir John Falstaff_, 1841,
it is confirmed by a manuscript of about 1625, preserved in the Bodleian.
Cf. also Halliwell-Phillips’s _Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare_, 1886,
ii., pp. 351, etc.; Richard James’s _Iter Lancastrense_ (Chetham Society,
1845, p. lxv.); and Ingleby’s _Shakespeare’s Centurie of Prayse_, 1879,
pp. 164-5.

_name of Oldcastle._ Pope added in a footnote, “_See the Epilogue to_
Henry 4th.”

6. _Venus and Adonis._ The portion of the sentence following this title
was omitted by Pope because it is inaccurate. _The Rape of Lucrece_ also
was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. The error is alluded to in
Sewell’s preface to the seventh volume of Pope’s Shakespeare, 1725.

_Eunuchs._ Pope reads “Singers.”

The passage dealing with Spenser (p. 6, l. 34, to p. 7, l. 36) was omitted
by Pope. But it is interesting to know Dryden’s opinion, even though it is
probably erroneous. _Willy_ has not yet been identified.

8. _After this they were professed friends_, etc. This description of Ben
Jonson, down to the words “with infinite labour and study could but hardly
attain to,” was omitted by Pope, for reasons which appear in his Preface.
See pp. 54, 55.

_Ben was naturally proud and insolent_, etc. Rowe here paraphrases and
expands Dryden’s description in his _Discourse concerning Satire_ of
Jonson’s verses to the memory of Shakespeare,—“an insolent, sparing, and
invidious panegyric” (ed. W. P. Ker, ii., p. 18).

_In a conversation_, etc. The authority for this conversation is Dryden,
who had recorded it as early as 1668 in his _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, at
the conclusion of the magnificent eulogy of Shakespeare. He had also
spoken of it to Charles Gildon, who, in his _Reflections on Mr. Rymer’s
Short View of Tragedy_ (1694), had given it with greater fulness of
detail. Each of the three accounts contains certain particulars lacking in
the other two, but they have unmistakably a common source. Dryden probably
told the story to Rowe, as he had already told it to Gildon. The chief
difficulty is the source, not of Rowe’s information, but of Dryden’s. As
Jonson was present at the discussion, it must have taken place by 1637. It
is such a discussion as prompted Suckling’s _Session of the Poets_ (1637),
wherein Hales and Falkland figure. It cannot be dated “before 1633” (as in
Ingleby’s _Centurie of Prayse_, pp. 198-9). The Lord Falkland mentioned in
Gildon’s account is undoubtedly the _second_ lord, who succeeded in 1633,
and died in 1643. Dryden may have got his information from Davenant.

8. Pope condensed the passage thus: “Mr. _Hales_, who had sat still for
some time, told ’em, That if _Shakespear_ had not read the Ancients, he
had likewise not stollen anything from ’em; and that if he would produce,”

9. _Johnson did indeed take a large liberty._ The concluding portion of
this paragraph from these words is omitted by Pope.

The _Menaechmi_ was translated by “W. W.,” probably William Warner. It was
licensed in June, 1594, and published in 1595, but, as the preface states,
it had been circulated in manuscript before it was printed. The _Comedy of
Errors_, which was acted by 1594, may have been founded on the _Historie
of Error_, which was given at Hampton Court in 1576-7, and probably also
at Windsor in 1582-3. See Farmer’s _Essay_, p. 200,

This passage dealing with Rymer is omitted by Pope. He retains of this
paragraph only the first two lines ( ... “Shakespear’s Works”) and the
last three (“so I will only take,” etc.).

Thomas Rymer, the editor of the _Fœdera_, published his _Short View of
Tragedy_ in 1693. The criticism of _Othello_ and _Julius Caesar_ contained
therein he had promised as early as 1678 in his _Tragedies of the Last
Age_. His “sample of Tragedy,” _Edgar or the British Monarch_, appeared in

11. _Falstaff’s Billet-Doux ... expressions of love in their way_, omitted
by Pope.

12. _The Merchant of Venice_ was turned into a comedy, with the title the
_Jew of Venice_, by George Granville, Pope’s “Granville the polite,”
afterwards Lord Lansdowne. It was acted at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1701.
The part of the Jew was performed by Dogget. Betterton played Bassanio.
See Genest’s _English Stage_, ii. 243, etc.

_is a little too much_ (line 13). Pope reads _is too much_.

_Difficile est_, etc. Horace, _Ars poetica_, 128.

_All the world_, etc. _As you like it_, ii. 7. 139.

13. _She never told her love_, etc. _Twelfth Night_, ii. 4. 113-118: line
116, “And with a green and yellow melancholy” is omitted.

Pope omits _a passage or two in_ (line 34).

_ornament to the Sermons_. Cf. Addison, _Spectator_, No. 61: “The greatest
authors, in their most serious works, made frequent use of punns. The
Sermons of Bishop Andrews, and the Tragedies of Shakespear, are full of

14. Pope omits _former_ (line 5).

_Caliban._ Cf. Dryden’s Preface to _Troilus and Cressida_ (ed. W. P. Ker.,
i., p. 219) and the _Spectator_, Nos. 279 and 419. Johnson criticised the
remark in his notes on the _Tempest_ (ed. 1765, i., p. 21).

Note. _Ld. Falkland_, Lucius Gary (1610-1643), second Viscount Falkland;
_Ld. C. J. Vaughan_, Sir John Vaughan (1603-1674), Lord Chief Justice of
the Common Pleas; _John Selden_ (1584-1654), the jurist.

_Among the particular beauties_, etc. This passage, to the end of the
quotation from Dryden’s Prologue, is omitted by Pope.

16. _Dorastus and Faunia_, the alternative title of Robert Greene’s
_Pandosto, or the Triumph of Time_, 1588.

17. Pope omits _tyrannical, cruel, and_ (line 36).

18. _Plutarch._ Rowe’s statement that Shakespeare “copied” his Roman
characters from Plutarch is—as it stands—inconsistent with the previous
argument as to his want of learning. His use of North’s translation was
not established till the days of Johnson and Farmer.

_André Dacier_ (1651-1722) was best known in England by his _Essay on
Satire_, which was included in his edition of Horace (1681, etc.), and by
his edition of the _Poetics_ of Aristotle (1692). The former was used by
Dryden in his _Discourse concerning Satire_, and appeared in English in
1692 and 1695; the latter was translated in 1705. In 1692 he brought out a
prose translation, “with remarks,” of the _Oedipus_ and _Electra_ of
Sophocles. Rowe’s reference is to Dacier’s preface to the latter play, pp.
253, 254. Cf. his _Poetics_, notes to ch. xv., and the _Spectator_, No.

19. _But howsoever_, etc. _Hamlet_, i. 5. 84.

20. _Betterton’s_ contemporaries unite in praise of his performance of
Hamlet. Downes has an interesting note in his _Roscius Anglicanus_ showing
how, in the acting of this part, Betterton benefited by Shakespeare’s
coaching: “Sir William _Davenant_ (having seen Mr. Taylor, of the Black
Fryars Company, act it; who being instructed by the author, Mr.
Shakespear) taught Mr. Betterton in every particle of it, gained him
esteem and reputation superlative to all other plays” (1789, p. 29). But
cf. the _Rise and Progress of the English Theatre_, appended to Colley
Cibber’s _Apology_, 1750, p. 516.

The epilogue for Betterton’s “benefit” in 1709 was written by Rowe.
Betterton died in 1710.

_Since I had at first resolv’d ... said of him made good._ This second
criticism of Rymer is also omitted by Pope.

21. _Ten in the hundred_, etc. Reed, Steevens, and Malone have proved
conclusively, if somewhat laboriously, that these wretched verses are not
by Shakespeare. See also Halliwell-Phillips’s _Outlines_, i., p. 326. It
may be noted that ten per cent. was the regular rate of interest at this

21. _as engrav’d in the plate._ A poor full-page engraving of the
Stratford monument faces this statement in Rowe’s edition.

_He had three daughters._ Rowe is in error. Shakespeare had two daughters,
and a son named Hamnet. Susannah was the _elder_ daughter.

22. Pope omits _tho’ as I ... friendship_ and _venture to_ (lines 10-12).

_Caesar did never wrong_, etc. Cf. _Julius Caesar_, iii. 1. 47, 48, when
the lines read:

    Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause
    Will he be satisfied.

23. Gerard Langbaine in his _Account of the English Dramatick Poets_
(1691) ascribes to Shakespeare “about forty-six plays, all which except
three are bound in one volume in Fol., printed London, 1685” (p. 454). The
three plays not printed in the fourth folio are the _Birth of Merlin, or
the Child has lost his Father_, a tragi-comedy, said by Langbaine to be by
Shakespeare and Rowley; _John King of England his troublesome Reign_; and
the _Death of King John at Swinstead Abbey_. Langbaine thinks that the
last two “were first writ by our Author, and afterwards revised and
reduced into one Play by him: that in the Folio being far the better.” He
mentions also the _Arraignment of Paris_, but does not ascribe it to
Shakespeare, as he has not seen it.

_a late collection of poems_,—_Poems on Affairs of State, from the year
1620 to the year 1707_, vol. iv.

_Natura sublimis_, etc. Horace, _Epistles_, ii. 1. 165.

The concluding paragraph is omitted by Pope.

John Dennis.

24. _Shakespear ... Tragick Stage._ Contrast Rymer’s _Short View_, p. 156:
“Shakespear’s genius lay for Comedy and Humour. In Tragedy he appears
quite out of his element.” Cf. Dennis’s later statement, p. 40.

25. _the very Original of our English Tragical Harmony._ Cf. Dryden,
Epistle Dedicatory of the _Rival Ladies_, ed. W. P. Ker, i., p. 6, and
Bysshe, _Art of English Poetry_, 1702, p. 36. See Johnson’s criticism of
this passage, Preface, p. 140.

_Such verse we make_, etc. Dennis makes these two lines illustrate

26. _Jack-Pudding._ See the _Spectator_, No. 47. The term was very common
at this time for a “merry wag.” It had also the more special sense of “one
attending on a mountebank,” as in Etherege’s _Comical Revenge_, iii. 4.

_Coriolanus._ Contrast Dennis’s opinion of _Coriolanus_ in his letter to
Steele of 26th March, 1719: “Mr. Dryden has more than once declared to me
that there was something in this very tragedy of _Coriolanus_, as it was
writ by Shakespear, that is truly great and truly Roman; and I more than
once answered him that it had always been my own opinion.”

29. _Poetical Justice._ Dennis defended the doctrine of poetical justice
in the first of the two additional letters published with the letters on
Shakespeare. Addison had examined this “ridiculous doctrine in modern
criticism” in the _Spectator_, No. 40 (April 16, 1711). Cf. Pope’s account
of Dennis’s “deplorable frenzy” in the _Narrative of Dr. Robert Norris_
(Pope’s _Works_, ed. Elwin and Courthope, x. 459).

30. _Natura fieret._ Horace, _Ars poetica_, 408.

_a circular poet_, _i.e._ a cyclic poet. This is the only example of this
sense of _circular_ in the _New English Dictionary_.

32. _Hector speaking of Aristotle_,—_Troilis and Cressida_, ii. 2. 166;
_Milo_, _id._ ii. 3. 258; _Alexander_, _Coriolanus_ v. 4. 23.

_Plutarch._ Though Dennis is right in his conjecture that Shakespeare used
a translation, the absence of any allusion to North’s Plutarch would show
that he did not know of it. He is in error about Livy. Philemon Holland’s
translation had appeared in 1600.

33. _Offenduntur enim_, etc. _Ars poetica_, 248.

34. _Caesar._ Cf. the criticism of _Julius Caesar_ in Sewell’s preface to
the seventh volume of Pope’s Shakespeare, 1725.

36. _Haec igitur_, etc. Cicero, _Pro M. Marcello_, ix.

38. _Julius Caesar._ Dennis alludes to the version of _Julius Caesar_ by
John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, published in 1722. In the altered
form a chorus is introduced between the acts, and the “play begins the day
before Caesar’s death, and ends within an hour after it.” Buckinghamshire
wrote also the _Tragedy of Marcus Brutus_.

39. _Dryden_, Preface to the Translation of Ovid’s _Epistles_ (1680) _ad
fin._: “That of _Œnone to Paris_ is in Mr. Cowley’s way of imitation only.
I was desired to say that the author, who is of the fair sex, understood
not Latin. But if she does not, I am afraid she has given us occasion to
be ashamed who do” (Ed. W. P. Ker, i., p. 243). The author was Mrs. Behn.

_Hudibras_, i. 1, 661. But _Hudibras_ has it slightly differently,—“Though
out of languages in which,” etc.

39. _a Version of two Epistles of Ovid._ The poems in the seventh volume
of Rowe’s edition of Shakespeare include Thomas Heywood’s _Amorous Epistle
of Paris to Helen_ and _Helen to Paris_. They were attributed to
Shakespeare, till Farmer proved their authorship (p. 203). Cf. Gildon,
_Essay on the Stage_, 1710, p. vi.

40. _Scriptor_, etc. _Ars poetica_, 120.

41. _The Menechmi._ Dennis’s “vehement suspicion” is justified. See above,
note on p. 9.

_Ben Johnson_, “small Latin and less Greek” (_Verses to the Memory of

_Milton_, _L’Allegro_, 133: “Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child.” The
same misquotation occurs in Sewell’s preface, 1725.

_Dryden_, _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_: “Those who accuse him to have wanted
learning give him the greater commendation” (ed. W. P. Ker, i., p. 80).

42. _Colchus_, etc. _Ars poetica_, 118.

_Siquid tamen_, etc. _Id._ 386. The form _Maeci_ was restored about this
time by Bentley.

43. _Companies of Players._ See Mr. Sidney Lee’s _Life of Shakespeare_, p.

_we are told by Ben Johnson._ See p. 22. But Heminge and Condell tell us
so themselves in the preface to the Folio: “His mind and hand went
together: and what he thought he uttered with that easinesse, that wee
have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.”

_Vos, O._ _Ars poetica_, 291.

_Poets lose half the Praise_, etc. These lines are not by the Earl of
Roscommon, but by Edmund Waller. They occur in Waller’s prefatory verses
to Roscommon’s translation of Horace’s _Ars poetica_.

Dennis’s criticism of Jonson is apparently inspired by Rymer’s remarks on
_Catiline_ (_Short View_, pp. 159-163). “In short,” says Rymer, “it is
strange that Ben, who understood the turn of Comedy so well, and had found
the success, should thus grope in the dark and jumble things together
without head or tail, without rule or proportion, without any reason or

44. _Vir bonus_, etc. Horace, _Ars poetica_, 445.

45. _ad Populum Phalerae._ Persius, iii. 30.

_Milton._ See Milton’s prefatory note to _Samson Agonistes_.

46. _Veneration for Shakespear._ Cf. Dennis’s letter to Steele, 26th
March, 1719: “Ever since I was capable of reading Shakespear, I have
always had, and have always expressed, that veneration for him which is
justly his due; of which I believe no one can doubt who has read the Essay
which I published some years ago upon his Genius and Writings.”

_Italian Ballad._ Cf. Dennis’s _Essay on the Operas after the Italian
Manner_, 1706.

Alexander Pope.

48. _His Characters._ The same idea had been expressed by Gildon in his
_Essay on the Stage_, 1710, p. li.: “He has not only distinguish’d his
principal persons, but there is scarce a messenger comes in but is visibly
different from all the rest of the persons in the play. So that you need
not to mention the name of the person that speaks, when you read the play,
the manners of the persons will sufficiently inform you who it is speaks.”
Cf. also Addison’s criticism of Homer, _Spectator_, No. 273: “There is
scarce a speech or action in the _Iliad_, which the reader may not ascribe
to the person that speaks or acts, without seeing his name at the head of

50. _To judge of Shakespear by Aristotle’s rules._ This comparison had
appeared in Farquhar’s _Discourse upon Comedy_: “The rules of English
Comedy don’t lie in the compass of Aristotle, or his followers, but in the
Pit, Box, and Galleries. And to examine into the humour of an English
audience, let us see by what means our own English poets have succeeded in
this point. To determine a suit at law we don’t look into the archives of
Greece or Rome, but inspect the reports of our own lawyers, and the acts
and statutes of our Parliaments; and by the same rule we have nothing to
do with the models of Menander or Plautus, but must consult Shakespear,
Johnson, Fletcher, and others, who by methods much different from the
Ancients have supported the English Stage, and made themselves famous to
posterity.” Cf. also Rowe, p. 15: “it would be hard to judge him by a law
he knew nothing of.”—Is it unnecessary to point out that there are no
“rules” in Aristotle? The term “Aristotle’s rules” was commonly used to
denote the “rules of the classical drama,” which, though based on the
_Poetics_, were formulated by Italian and French critics of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries.

51. _The Dates of his plays._ Pope here controverts Rowe’s statement, p.

_blotted a line._ See note, p. 43. Though Pope here controverts the
traditional opinion, he found it to his purpose to accept it in the
_Epistle to Augustus_, ll. 279-281:

    And fluent Shakespear scarce effac’d a line.
    Ev’n copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,
    The last and greatest art, the art to blot.

52. Pope’s references to the early editions of the _Merry Wives_ and other
plays do not prove his assertions. Though an imperfect edition of the
_Merry Wives_ appeared in 1602, it does not follow that this was “entirely
new writ” and transformed into the play in the Folio of 1623. The same
criticism applies to what he says of _Henry V._, of which pirated copies
appeared in 1600, 1602, and 1608. And he is apparently under the
impression that the _Contention of York and Lancaster_ and the early play
of _Hamlet_ were Shakespeare’s own work.

53. _Coriolanus and Julius Caesar._ Pope replies tacitly to Dennis’s
criticism of these plays.

_those Poems which pass for his._ The seventh or supplementary volume of
Rowe’s and Pope’s editions contained, in addition to some poems by
Marlowe, translations of Ovid by Thomas Heywood. Like Rowe, Pope has some
doubt as to the authorship of the poems, but on the score of the
dedications he attributes to him _Venus and Adonis_ and the _Rape of
Lucrece_. Both editors ignored the Sonnets. It is doubtful how far
Shakespeare was indebted to Ovid in his _Venus and Adonis_. He knew
Golding’s translation of the _Metamorphoses_ (1565-67); but _Venus and
Adonis_ has many points in common with Lodge’s _Scillaes Metamorphosis_
which appeared in 1589. See, however, J. P. Reardon’s paper in the
“Shakespeare Society’s Papers,” 1847, iii. 143-6, where it is held that
Lodge is indebted to Shakespeare.

_Plautus._ Cf. Rowe, p. 9. Gildon had claimed for Shakespeare greater
acquaintance with the Ancients than Rowe had admitted, and Pope had both
opinions in view when he wrote the present passage. “I think there are
many arguments to prove,” says Gildon, “that he knew at least some of the
Latin poets, particularly Ovid; two of his Epistles being translated by
him: His motto to _Venus and Adonis_ is another proof. But that he had
read Plautus himself, is plain from his _Comedy of Errors_, which is taken
visibly from the _Menæchmi_ of that poet.... The characters he has in his
plays drawn of the Romans is a proof that he was acquainted with their
historians.... I contend not here to prove that he was a perfect master of
either the Latin or Greek authors; but all that I aim at, is to shew that
as he was capable of reading some of the Romans, so he had actually read
Ovid and Plautus, without spoiling or confining his fancy or genius”
(1710, p. vi).

_Dares Phrygius._ The reference is to the prologue of _Troilus and
Cressida_. See the note in Theobald’s edition, and Farmer, p. 187.

_Chaucer._ See Gildon’s remarks on _Troilus and Cressida_, 1710, p. 358.

54. _Ben Johnson._ Pope is here indebted to Betterton. Cf. his remark as
recorded by Spence, _Anecdotes_, 1820, p. 5. “It was a general opinion
that Ben Jonson and Shakespeare lived in enmity against one another.
Betterton has assured me often that there was nothing in it; and that such
a supposition was founded only on the two parties, which in their lifetime
listed under one, and endeavoured to lessen the character of the other
mutually. Dryden used to think that the verses Jonson made on
Shakespeare’s death had something of satire at the bottom; for my part, I
can’t discover any thing like it in them.”

_Pessimum genus_, etc. Tacitus, _Agricola_, 41.

_Si ultra placitum_, etc. Virgil, _Eclogues_, vii. 27, 28.

55. _Dryden._ _Discourse concerning Satire, ad init._ (ed. W. P. Ker, ii.,
p. 18).

_Enter three Witches solus._ “This blunder appears to be of Mr. Pope’s own
invention. It is not to be found in any one of the four folio copies of
_Macbeth_, and there is no quarto edition of it extant” (Steevens).

56. _Hector’s quoting Aristotle._ _Troilus and Cressida_, ii. 2. 166.

57. _those who play the Clowns._ “Act iii., Sc. 4” in Pope’s edition, but
Act iii., Sc. 2 in modern editions.

58. _Procrustes._ Cf. _Spectator_, No. 58.

_Note 2._ In the edition of 1728, Pope added to this note “which last
words are not in the first quarto edition.”

59. _led into the Buttery of the Steward._ “Mr. Pope probably recollected
the following lines in _The Taming of the Shrew_, spoken by a Lord, who is
giving directions to his servant concerning some players:

    Go, Sirrah, take them to the _buttery_,
    And give them friendly welcome every one.

But he seems not to have observed that the players here introduced were
_strollers_; and there is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge,
Burbage, Lowin, etc., who were licensed by King James, were treated in
this manner” (Malone).

_London Prodigal._ After these seven plays Pope added in the edition of
1728 “and a thing call’d the _Double Falshood_” (see Introduction, p.
xlv). It will be noted that he speaks incorrectly of “eight” plays. In the
same edition he also inserted _The Comedy of Errors_ between _The Winter’s
Tale_ and _Titus Andronicus_ (top of p. 60).

60. _tho’ they were then printed in his name._ His name was given on the
title-page of _Pericles_, _Sir John Oldcastle_, the _Yorkshire Tragedy_,
and the _London Prodigal_.

Lewis Theobald.

64. _above the Direction of their Tailors._ Cf. Pope, p. 51. The
succeeding remarks on the individuality of Shakespeare’s characters also
appear to have been suggested by Pope.

65. _wanted a Comment._ Contrast Rowe, p. 1.

66. _Judith_ was Shakespeare’s younger daughter (cf. Rowe, p. 21). It is
now known that Shakespeare was married at the end of 1582. See Mr. Sidney
Lee’s _Life of Shakespeare_, pp. 18-24.

68. _Spenser’s Thalia._ Cf. Rowe, pp. 6, 7. The original editions read
“_Tears of his Muses_.”

69. _Rymers Fœdera_, vol. xvi., p. 505. _Fletcher_, _i.e._ Lawrence

_the Bermuda Islands._ Cf. Theobald’s note on “the still-vext Bermoothes,”
vol. i., p. 13 (1733). Though Shakespeare is probably indebted to the
account of Sir George Somers’s shipwreck on the Bermudas, Theobald is
wrong, as Farmer pointed out, in saying that the Bermudas were not
discovered till 1609. A description of the islands by Henry May, who was
shipwrecked on them in 1593, is given in Hakluyt, 1600, iii., pp. 573-4.

70. _Mr. Pope, or his Graver._ So the quotation appears in the full-page
illustration facing p. xxxi of Rowe’s Account in Pope’s edition; but the
illustration was not included in all the copies, perhaps because of the
error. The quotation appears correctly in the engraving in Rowe’s edition.

72. _New-place._ Queen Henrietta Maria’s visit was from 11th to 13th July,
1643. Theobald’s “three weeks” should read “three days.” See
Halliwell-Phillips, _Outlines_, 1886, ii., p. 108.

_We have been told in print_, in _An Answer to Mr. Popes Preface to
Shakespear.... By a Stroling Player_ [John Roberts], 1729, p. 45.

73. _Complaisance to a bad Taste._ Cf. Rowe, p. 6, Dennis p. 46, and
Theobald’s dedication to _Shakespeare Restored_; yet Theobald himself had
complied to the bad taste in several pantomimes.

_Nullum sine venia._ Seneca, _Epistles_, 114. 12.

74. _Speret idem._ Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 241.

_Indeed to point out_, etc. In the first edition of the Preface, Theobald
had given “explanations of those beauties that are less obvious to common
readers.” He has unadvisably retained the remark that such explanations
“should deservedly have a share in a general critic upon the author.” The
“explanations” were omitted probably because they were inspired by

75. _And therefore the Passages ... from the Classics._ Cf. the following
passage with Theobald’s letter to Warburton of 17th March, 1729-30 (see
Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii., pp. 564, etc.). The letter throws strong
light on Theobald’s indecision on the question of Shakespeare’s learning.

“The very learned critic of our nation” is Warburton himself. See his
letter to Concanen of 2nd January, 1726 (Malone’s _Shakespeare_, 1821,
xii., p. 158). Cf. Theobald’s Preface to _Richard II._, 1720, and
Whalley’s _Enquiry_, 1748, p. 51.

76. _Effusion of Latin Words._ Theobald has omitted a striking passage in
the original preface. It was shown that Shakespeare’s writings, in
contrast with Milton’s, contain few or no Latin phrases, though they have
many Latin words made English; and this fact was advanced as the truest
criterion of his knowledge of Latin.

The passage is referred to by Hurd in his _Letter to Mr. Mason on the
Marks of Imitation_ (1757, p. 74). Hurd thinks that the observation is too
good to have come from Theobald. His opinion is confirmed by the entire
omission of the passage in the second edition. Warburton himself claimed
it as his own. Though the passage was condensed by Theobald, Warburton’s
claim is still represented by the passage from _For I shall find_ (p. 76,
l. 7) to _Royal Taste_ (l. 36).

77. _Shakespeare ... astonishing force and splendor._ Cf. Pope, p. 50.

_Had Homer_, etc. Cf. Pope, p. 56.

78. _Indulging his private sense._ See p. 61.

_Lipsius_,—_Satyra Menippæa_ (_Opera_, 1611, p. 640).

79. _Sive homo_, etc. Quintus Serenus, _De Medicina_, xlvi., “Hominis ac
simiae morsui.”

80. _Nature of any Distemper ... corrupt Classic._ Cf. _Shakespeare
Restored_, pp. iv, v.

81. Bentley’s edition of _Paradise Lost_ had appeared in 1732.

_the true Duty of an Editor._ A shy hit at Pope’s “dull duty of an
editor,” Preface, p. 61.

82. _as I have formerly observ’d_, in the Introduction to _Shakespeare
Restored_, pp. ii and iv. The paragraph is quoted almost verbatim.

83. _labour’d under flat Nonsense._ Here again Theobald incorporates a
passage from the Introduction to _Shakespeare Restored_, p. vi.

_Corrections and conjectures._ Yet another passage appropriated from his
earlier work. The French quotation, however, is new.

_Edition of our author’s Poems._ Theobald did not carry out his intention
of editing the _Poems_. References to the proposed edition will be found
in Warburton’s letters to him of 17th May and 14th October, 1734 (see
Nichols, _Illustrations_, ii., pp. 634, 654).

The only attempt as yet towards a Shakespearian Glossary is to be found in
the supplementary volumes of Rowe’s and Pope’s editions. It is far from
“copious and complete.”

84. _The English are observ’d to produce more Humourists._ See Congreve’s
letter to Dennis _Concerning Humour in Comedy_, 1695.

_Wit lying mostly in the Assemblage of Ideas_, etc. So Locke, _Essay
concerning the Human Understanding_, Book II., Ch. xi., § 2. The passage
had been popularised by Addison, _Spectator_, No. 62.

85. _Donne._ Cf. Dryden’s criticism of Donne.

86. _a celebrated Writer._ Addison, _Spectator_, No. 297.

_Bossu._ René le Bossu (1631-1680), author of the _Traité du poème épique_
(1675). An English translation by “W. J.” was printed in 1695, and again
in 1719.

_Dacier._ See note, p. 18.

_Gildon_ showed himself to be of the same school as Rymer in his _Essay on
the Art, Rise, and Progress of the Stage_ (1710) and his _Art of Poetry_
(1718); yet his earliest piece of criticism was a vigorous attack on
Rymer. The title reads curiously in the light of his later pronouncements:
_Some Reflections on Mr. Rymer’s Short View of Tragedy, and an Attempt at
a Vindication of Shakespear_. It was printed in a volume of _Miscellaneous
Letters and Essays_ (1694).

87. _Anachronisms._ The passage referred to occurs on pp. 134, 135 of
_Shakespeare Restored_.

_this Restorer._ See the _Dunciad_ (1729), i. 106, note.

_it not being at all credible_, etc. See p. 56.

_Sir Francis Drake._ Pope had suggested in a note that the imperfect line
in _1 Henry VI._, i. 1. 56, might have been completed with the words
“Francis Drake.” He had not, however, incorporated the words in the text.
“I can’t guess,” he says, “the occasion of the Hemystic, and imperfect
sense, in this place; ’tis not impossible it might have been fill’d up
with—Francis Drake—tho’ that were a terrible Anachronism (as bad as
Hector’s quoting Aristotle in Troil. and Cress.); yet perhaps, at the time
that brave Englishman was in his glory, to an English-hearted audience,
and pronounced by some favourite Actor, the thing might be popular, though
not judicious; and therefore by some Critick, in favour of the author,
afterwards struck out. But this is a meer slight conjecture.” Theobald has
a lengthy note on this in his edition. He does not allude to the
suggestion which he had submitted to Warburton. See Introduction, p. xlvi.

88. _Odyssey._ This passage, to the end of the paragraph, appears in
Theobald’s letter to Warburton of March 17, 1729-30 (Nichols, ii., p.
566). In the same letter he had expressed his doubts as to whether he
should include this passage in his proposed pamphlet against Pope, as the
notes to the _Odyssey_ were written by Broome. He had cast aside these
scruples now. The preface does not bear out his profession to Warburton
that he was indifferent to Pope’s treatment.

89. David Mallet had just brought out his poem _Of Verbal Criticism_
(1733) anonymously. It is simply a paraphrase and expansion of Pope’s
statements. “As the design of the following poem is to rally the abuse of
_Verbal Criticism_, the author could not, without manifest partiality,
overlook the Editor of Milton and the Restorer of Shakespear”
(introductory note).

Boswell attributed this “contemptuous mention of Mallet” to Warburton
(Boswell’s Malone, 1821, i., p. 42, n). But it was not claimed by
Warburton, and there is nothing, except perhaps the vigour of the passage,
to support Boswell’s contention. In the same note Boswell points out that
the comparison of Shakespeare and Jonson in Theobald’s Preface reappears
in Warburton’s note on _Love’s Labour’s Lost_, Act i., Sc. 1.

_Hang him, Baboon_, etc. _2 Henry IV._, ii. 4. 261.

_Longinus_, _On the Sublime_, vi.

90. _Noble Writer_,—the Earl of Shaftesbury, in his _Characteristicks_:
“The British Muses, in this Dinn of Arms, may well lie abject and obscure;
especially being as yet in their mere Infant-State. They have hitherto
scarce arriv’d to any thing of Shapeliness or Person. They lisp as in
their Cradles: and their stammering Tongues, which nothing but their Youth
and Rawness can excuse, have hitherto spoken in wretched Pun and Quibble”
(1711, i., p. 217).

_Complaints of its Barbarity_, as in Dryden’s _Discourse concerning
Satire, ad fin_ (ed. W. P. Ker, ii., pp. 110, 113).

Sir Thomas Hanmer.

92. The “other Gentlemen” who communicated their observations to Hanmer
include Warburton (see Introduction), the “Rev. Mr. Smith of Harlestone in
Norfolk” (see Zachary Grey, _Notes on Shakespeare_, Preface), and probably
Thomas Cooke, the editor of Plautus (see _Correspondence of Hanmer_, ed.
Bunbury, p. 229).

93. _much obliged to them._ Amid the quarrels of Pope, Theobald, and
Warburton, it is pleasant to find an editor admitting some merit in his

_what Shakespeare ought to have written._ Cf. the following passage in the
_Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_ attributed to Hanmer: “The former
[Theobald] endeavours to give us an author as he is: the latter [Pope], by
the correctness and excellency of his own genius, is often tempted to give
us an author as he thinks he ought to be.” Theobald, it is said, is
“generally thought to have understood our author best” (p. 4).

_Henry V._, iii. 4.

94. _Merchant of Venice_, iii. 5. 48.

Hanmer’s Glossary, given at the end of vol. vi., shows a distinct advance
in every way on the earlier glossary in the supplementary volume to Rowe’s
and to Pope’s edition. It is much fuller, though it runs only to a dozen
pages, and more scholarly.

95. _fairest impressions_, etc. The edition is indeed a beautiful piece of
printing. Each play is preceded by a full-page plate engraved by Gravelot
from designs by Francis Hayman, or, as in vol. iv., by himself. (See
_Correspondence of Hanmer_, pp. 83-4.)

95. _his Statue._ The statue in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey,
erected by public subscription in 1741. See the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ for
February, 1741, p. 105: “A fine Monument is erected in _Westminster Abbey_
to the Memory of _Shakespear_, by the Direction of the Earl of
_Burlington_, Dr. _Mead_, Mr. _Pope_, and Mr. _Martin_. Mr. _Fleetwood_,
Master of _Drury-Lane_ Theatre, and Mr. _Rich_, of that of
_Covent-Garden_, gave each a Benefit, arising from one of his own Plays,
towards it, and the Dean and Chapter made a present of the Ground. The
Design, by Mr. _Kent_, was executed by Mr. _Scheemaker_.”

William Warburton.

96. _the excellent Discourse which follows_, _i.e._ Pope’s Preface, which
was reprinted by Warburton along with Rowe’s Account of Shakespeare.

101. _Essays, Remarks, Observations_, etc. Warburton apparently refers to
the following works:

_Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, written by Mr.
William Shakespeare._ London, 1736. Perhaps by Sir Thomas Hanmer.

_An Essay towards fixing the true Standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery,
Satire, and Ridicule. To which is added an Analysis of the Characters of
an Humourist, Sir John Falstaff, Sir Roger de Coverley, and Don Quixote._
London, 1744. By Corbyn Morris, who signs the Dedication.

_Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth: with Remarks on Sir
Thomas Hanmer’s Edition of Shakespeare. To which is affixed Proposals for
a new Edition of Skakespear, with a Specimen._ London, 1745. By Samuel
Johnson, though anonymous.

_Critical Observations on Shakespeare._ By John Upton, Prebendary of
Rochester. London, 1746. Second edition, with a preface replying to
Warburton, 1748.

_An Essay upon English Tragedy. With Remarks upon the Abbé de Blanc’s
Observations on the English Stage._ By William Guthrie, Esq. [1747.]

The last of these may not have appeared, however, till after Warburton’s

Johnson is said by Boswell to have ever entertained a grateful remembrance
of this allusion to him “at a time when praise was of value.” But though
the criticism is merited, is it too sinister a suggestion that it was
prompted partly by the reference in Johnson’s pamphlet to “the learned Mr.
Warburton”? When Johnson’s edition appeared in 1765, Warburton expressed a
very different opinion (see Nichols, _Anecdotes_, v., p. 595).

101-105. _whole Compass of Criticism._ Cf. Theobald’s account of the
“Science of Criticism,” pp. 81, etc., which Warburton appears to have

101. _Canons of literal Criticism._ This phrase suggested the title of the
ablest and most damaging attack on Warburton’s edition,—_The Canons of
Criticism, and Glossary, being a Supplement to Mr. Warburton’s Edition of
Shakespear._ The author was Thomas Edwards (1699-1757), a “gentleman of
Lincoln’s Inn,” who accordingly figures in the notes to the _Dunciad_, iv.
568. When the book first appeared in 1748 it was called _A Supplement_,
etc.... _Being the Canons of Criticism_. It reached a seventh edition in

103. _Rymer_, _Short View of Tragedy_ (1693), pp. 95, 6.

105. _as Mr. Pope hath observed._ Preface, p. 47.

_Dacier_, _Bossu._ See notes, pp. 18 and 86.

_René Rapin_ (1621-1687). His fame as a critic rests on his _Réflexions
sur la Poétique d’ Aristote et sur les Ouvrages des Poètes anciens et
modernes_ (1674), which was Englished by Rymer immediately on its
publication. His treatise _De Carmine Pastorali_, of which a translation
is included in Creech’s _Idylliums of Theocritus_ (1684), was used by Pope
for the preface to his _Pastorals_. An edition of _The Whole Critical
Works of Monsieur Rapin ... newly translated into English by several
Hands_, 2 vols., appeared in 1706; it is not, however, complete.

_John Oldmixon_ (1673-1742), who, like Dennis and Gildon, has a place in
the _Dunciad_, was the author of _An Essay on Criticism, as it regards
Design, Thought, and Expression in Prose and Verse_ (1728) and _The Arts
of Logick and Rhetorick, illustrated by examples taken out of the best
authors_ (1728). The latter is based on the _Manière de bien penser_ of

_A certain celebrated Paper_,—_The Spectator_.

_semper acerbum_, etc. Virgil, _Aeneid_, v. 49.

106. _Note_, “See his Letters to me.” These letters are not extant.

108. _Saint Chrysostom ... Aristophanes._ This had been a commonplace in
the discussions at the end of the seventeenth century, in England and
France, on the morality of the drama.

_Ludolf Kuster_ (1670-1716) appears also in the _Dunciad_, iv., l. 237.
His edition of Suidas was published, through Bentley’s influence, by the
University of Cambridge in 1705. He also edited Aristophanes (1710), and
wrote _De vero usu Verborum Mediorum apud Graecos_. Cf. Farmer’s _Essay_,
p. 176.

_who thrust himself into the employment._ Hanmer’s letters to the
University of Oxford do not bear out Warburton’s statement.

109. Gilles Ménage (1613-1692). _Les Poésies de M. de Malherbe avec les
Observations de M. Ménage_ appeared in 1666.

Selden’s “Illustrations” or notes appeared with the first part of
_Polyolbion_ in 1612. This allusion was suggested by a passage in a letter
from Pope of 27th November, 1742: “I have a particular reason to make you
interest yourself in me and my writings. It will cause both them and me to
make the better figure to posterity. A very mediocre poet, one Drayton, is
yet taken some notice of, because Selden writ a few notes on one of his
poems” (ed. Elwin and Courthope, ix., p. 225).

110. _Verborum proprietas_, etc. Quintilian, _Institut. Orat._, Prooem.

Warburton alludes to the edition of Beaumont and Fletcher “by the late Mr.
Theobald, Mr. Seward of Eyam in Derbyshire, and Mr. Sympson of
Gainsborough,” which appeared in ten volumes in 1750. The long and
interesting preface is by Seward. Warburton’s reference would not have
been so favourable could he have known Seward’s opinion of his
Shakespeare. See the letter printed in the _Correspondence of Hanmer_, ed.
Bunbury, pp. 352, etc.

The edition of _Paradise Lost_ is that by Thomas Newton (1704-1782),
afterwards Bishop of Bristol. It appeared in 1749, and a second volume
containing the other poems was added in 1752. In the preface Newton
gratefully acknowledges this recommendation, and alludes with pride to the
assistance he had received from Warburton, who had proved himself to be
“the best editor of Shakespeare.”

_Some dull northern Chronicles_, etc. Cf. the _Dunciad_, iii. 185-194.

111. _a certain satyric Poet._ The reference is to Zachary Grey’s edition
of _Hudibras_ (1744). Yet Warburton had contributed to it. In the preface
“the Rev. and learned Mr. William Warburton” is thanked for his “curious
and critical observations.”

Grey’s “coadjutor” was “the reverend Mr. Smith of Harleston in Norfolk,”
as Grey explains in the preface to the _Notes on Shakespeare_. In his
preface to _Hudibras_, Grey had given Smith no prominence in his long list
of helpers. Smith had also assisted Hanmer.

In 1754 Grey brought out his _Critical, Historical, and Explanatory Notes
on Shakespeare_, and in 1755 retaliated on Warburton in his _Remarks upon
a late edition of Shakespear ... to which is prefixed a defence of the
late Sir Thomas Hanmer_. Grey appears to be the author also of _A word or
two of advice to William Warburton, a dealer in many words_, 1746.

_our great Philosopher_, Sir Isaac Newton. His remark is recorded by
William Whiston in the _Historical Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Samuel
Clarke_ (1730), p. 143: “To observe such laymen as _Grotius_, and
_Newton_, and _Lock_, laying out their noblest Talents in sacred Studies;
while such Clergymen as Dr. _Bentley_ and Bishop _Hare_, to name no others
at present, have been, in the Words of Sir _Isaac Newton_, fighting with
one another _about a Playback_ [_Terence_]: This is a Reproach upon them,
their holy Religion, and holy Function plainly intolerable.” Warburton’s
defence of himself in the previous pages must have been inspired partly by
the “fanatical turn” of this “wild writer.” Whiston would hardly excuse
Clarke for editing Homer till he “perceived that the pains he had taken
about Homer were when he was much younger, and the notes rather
transcrib’d than made new”; and Warburton is careful to state that his
Shakespearian studies were amongst his “younger amusements.” _Francis
Hare_ (1671-1740), successively Dean of Worcester, Dean of St. Paul’s,
Bishop of St. Asaph, and Bishop of Chichester. For his quarrel with
Bentley, see Monk’s _Life of Bentley_, ii., pp. 217, etc. Hare is referred
to favourably in the _Dunciad_ (iii. 204), and was a friend of Warburton.

_Words are the money_, etc. Hobbes, _Leviathan_, Part I., ch. iv.: “For
words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are
the money of fools.”

Samuel Johnson.

113. _the poems of Homer._ Cf. Johnson’s remark recorded in the _Diary of
the Right Hon. William Windham_, August, 1784 (ed. 1866, p. 17): “The
source of everything in or out of nature that can serve the purpose of
poetry to be found in Homer.”

114. _his century._ Cf. Horace, _Epistles_, ii. 1. 39, and Pope, _Epistle
to Augustus_, 55, 56.

_Nothing can please many_, etc. This had been the theme of the 59th number
of the _Idler_.

115. _Hierocles._ See the _Asteia_ attributed to Hierocles, No. 9
(_Hieroclis Commentarius in Aurea Carmina_, ed. Needham, 1709, p. 462).

116. _Pope._ Preface, p. 48.

117. _Dennis._ See pp. 26, etc. In replying to Voltaire, Johnson has in
view, throughout the whole preface, the essay _Du Théâtre anglais, par
Jerome Carré_, 1761 (_Oeuvres_, 1785, vol. 61). He apparently ignores the
earlier _Discours sur la tragédie à Milord Bolingbroke_, 1730, and
_Lettres Philosophiques_ (dix-huitième lettre, “Sur la tragédie”), 1734.
Voltaire replied thus to Johnson in the passage “Du Théâtre anglais” in
the _Dictionnaire philosophique_: “J’ai jeté les yeux sur une édition de
Shakespeare, donnée par le sieur Samuel Johnson. J’y ai vu qu’on y traite
de _petits esprits_ les étrangers qui sont étonnés que, dans les pièces de
ce grand Shakespeare, ‘un senateur romain fasse le bouffon, et qu’un roi
paraisse sur le théâtre en ivrogne.’ Je ne veux point soupçonner le sieur
Johnson d’être un mauvais plaisant, et d’aimer trop le vin; mais je trouve
un peu extraordinaire qu’il compte la bouffonnerie et l’ivrognerie parmi
les beautés du théâtre tragique; la raison qu’il en donne n’est pas moins
singulière. ‘Le poète, dit il, dédaigne ces distinctions accidentelles de
conditions et de pays, comme un peintre qui, content d’avoir peint la
figure, néglige la draperie.’ La comparaison serait plus juste s’il
parlait d’un peintre qui, dans un sujet noble, introduirait des grotesques
ridicules, peindrait dans la bataille d’Arbelles Alexandre-le-Grand monté
sur un âne, et la femme de Darius buvant avec des goujats dans un
cabaret,” etc. (1785, vol. 48, p. 205). On the question of Voltaire’s
attitude to Shakespeare, see Monsieur Jusserand’s _Shakespeare en France_,
1898, and Mr. Lounsbury’s _Shakespeare and Voltaire_, 1902.

118. _comic and tragic scenes._ The ensuing passage gives stronger
expression to what Johnson had said in the _Rambler_, No. 156.

_I do not recollect_, etc. Johnson forgets the _Cyclops_ of Euripides.
Steevens compares the passage in the _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, where
Dryden says that “Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, and Seneca never
meddled with comedy.”

119. _instruct by pleasing._ Cf. Horace, _Ars poetica_, 343-4.

_alternations_ (line 15). The original reads _alterations_.

120. _tragedies to-day and comedies to-morrow._ As the _Aglaura_ of
Suckling and the _Vestal Virgin_ of Sir Robert Howard, which have a double
fifth act. Downes records that about 1662 _Romeo and Juliet_ “was made
into a tragi-comedy by Mr. James Howard, he preserving Romeo and Juliet
alive; so that when the tragedy was reviv’d again, ’twas play’d
alternately, tragically one day and tragi-comical another” (_Roscius
Anglicanus_, ed. 1789, p. 31: cf. Genest, _English Stage_, i., p. 42).

120-1. _Rhymer and Voltaire._ See _Du Théâtre anglais_, _passim_, and
_Short View_, pp. 96, etc. The passage is aimed more directly at Voltaire
than at Rymer. Like Rowe, Johnson misspells Rymer’s name.

122. _Shakespeare has likewise faults._ Cf. Johnson’s letter of 16th
October, 1765, to Charles Burney, quoted by Boswell: “We must confess the
faults of our favourite to gain credit to our praise of his excellences.
He that claims, either in himself or for another, the honours of
perfection, will surely injure the reputation which he designs to assist.”

124. _Pope._ Preface, p. 56.

_In tragedy_, etc. Cf. Pope (Spence’s _Anecdotes_, 1820, p. 173):
“Shakespeare generally used to stiffen his style with high words and
metaphors for the speeches of his kings and great men: he mistook it for a
mark of greatness.”

125. _What he does best, he soon ceases to do._ This sentence first
appears in the edition of 1778.

126. _the unities._ Johnson’s discussion of the three unities is perhaps
the most brilliant passage in the whole preface. Cf. the _Rambler_, No.
156; Farquhar, _Discourse upon Comedy_ (1702); _Some Remarks on the
Tragedy of Hamlet_ (1736); Upton, _Critical Observations_ (1746), 1. ix.;
Fielding, _Tom Jones_, prefatory chapter of Book V.; Alexander Gerard,
_Essay on Taste_ (1758); Daniel Webb, _Remarks on the Beauties of Poetry_
(1762); and Kames, _Elements of Criticism_ (1762). “Attic” Hurd had
defended Gothic “unity of design” in his _Letters on Chivalry_ (1762).

127. _Corneille_ published his _Discours dramatiques_, the second of which
dealt with the three unities, in 1660; but he had observed the unities
since the publication of the _Sentiments de l’Académie sur le Cid_ (1638).

130. _Venice ... Cyprus._ See Voltaire, _Du Théâtre anglais_, vol. 61, p.
377 (ed. 1785), and cf. Rymer’s _Short View_.

131. _Non usque_, etc. Lucan, _Pharsalia_, iii. 138-140.

132. _Every man’s performances_, etc. Cf. Johnson, _Life of Dryden_: “To
judge rightly of an author, we must transport ourselves to his time, and
examine what were the wants of his contemporaries, and what were his means
of supplying them.”

_Nations have their infancy_, etc. Cf. Johnson’s Dedication to Mrs.
Lennox’s _Shakespear Illustrated_, 1753, pp. viii, ix. See note, p. 175.

133. _As you like it._ Theobald, Upton, and Zachary Grey were satisfied
that _As you like it_ was founded on “the _Coke’s Tale of Gamelyn in
Chaucer_.” But Johnson knows that the immediate source of the play is
Thomas Lodge’s _Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie_. The presence of the
_Tale of Gamelyn_ in several MSS. of the _Canterbury Tales_ accounted for
its erroneous ascription to Chaucer. It was still in MS. in Shakespeare’s
days. Cf. Farmer’s _Essay_, p. 178.

_old Mr. Cibber_,—Colley Cibber (1671-1757), actor and poet-laureate.

_English ballads._ Johnson refers to the ballad of _King Leire and his
Three Daughters_. But the ballad is of later date than the play. Cf. p.

134. _Voltaire_, _Du Théâtre anglais_, vol. 61, p. 366 (ed. 1785). Cf.
_Lettres philosophiques, Sur la Tragédie, ad fin._, and _Le Siècle de
Louis XIV._, ch. xxxiv.

Similar comparisons of Shakespeare and Addison occur in William Guthrie’s
_Essay upon English Tragedy_ (1747) and Edward Young’s _Conjectures on
Original Composition_ (1759). The former may have been inspired by
Johnson’s conversation. Cf. also Warburton’s comparison incorporated in
Theobald’s preface of 1733.

135. _A correct and regular writer_, etc. Cf. the comparison of Dryden and
Pope in Johnson’s life of the latter: “Dryden’s page is a natural field,
rising into inequalities and diversified by the varied exuberance of
abundant vegetation; Pope’s is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe and
levelled by the roller.” The “garden-and-forest” comparison had already
appeared, in a versified form, in the _Connoisseur_, No. 125 (17th June,
1756). Cf. also Mrs. Piozzi’s _Anecdotes of Johnson_, p. 59, “Corneille is
to Shakespeare as a clipped hedge is to a forest.”

135. _small Latin and less Greek._ Ben Jonson’s poem _To the Memory of Mr.
William Shakespeare_, l. 31. The first edition of the Preface read by
mistake _no Greek_. Cf. Kenrick’s _Review_, 1765, p. 106, the _London
Magazine_, October, 1765, p. 536, and Farmer’s _Essay_, p. 166, note.

136. _Go before, I’ll follow._ This remark was made by Zachary Grey in his
_Notes on Shakespeare_, vol. ii., p. 53. He says that “Go you before and I
will follow you,” _Richard III._, i. 1. 144, is “in imitation of
_Terence_, ‘I prae, sequar.’ _Terentii Andr._, i., l. 144.”

_The Menaechmi of Plautus._ See note on p. 9, and cf. Farmer, p. 200.

137. _Pope._ Pp. 52, 53.

_Rowe._ P. 4.

138. _Chaucer._ Johnson has probably his eye on Pope’s statement, p. 53.

139. _Boyle._ See Birch’s _Life of Robert Boyle_, 1744, pp. 18, 19.

_Dewdrops from a lion’s mane._ _Troilus and Cressida_, iii. 3. 224.

140. _Dennis._ P. 25.

_Hieronymo._ See Farmer’s _Essay_, p. 210.

_there being no theatrical piece_, etc. “Dr. Johnson said of these writers
generally that ‘they were sought after because they were scarce, and would
not have been scarce had they been much esteemed.’ His decision is neither
true history nor sound criticism. They were esteemed, and they deserved to
be so” (Hazlitt, _Lectures on the Age of Elizabeth_, i.).

141. _the book of some modern critick._ Upton’s _Critical Observations on
Shakespeare_, Book iii. (ed. 1748, pp. 294-365).

_present profit._ Cf. Pope, _Epistle to Augustus_, 69-73.

142. _declined into the vale of years._ _Othello_, iii. 3. 265.

143. _as Dr. Warburton supposes._ P. 96.

_Not because a poet was to be published by a poet_, as Warburton had said.
P. 97.

_As of the other editor’s_, etc. In the first edition of the Preface, this
sentence had read thus: “Of _Rowe_, as of all the editors, I have
preserved the preface, and have likewise retained the authour’s life,
though not written with much elegance or spirit.” This criticism is passed
on Rowe’s Account as emended by Pope, but is more applicable to it in its
original form.

144. The spurious plays were added to the third Folio (1663) when it was
reissued in 1664.

_the dull duty of an editor._ P. 61. Cf. the condensed criticism of Pope’s
edition in the _Life of Pope_.

146. Johnson’s appreciation of Hanmer was shared by Zachary Grey. “Sir
Thomas Hanmer,” says Grey, “has certainly done more towards the emendation
of the text than any one, and as a fine gentleman, good scholar, and (what
was best of all) a good Christian, who has treated every editor with
decency, I think his memory should have been exempt from ill treatment of
every kind, after his death.” Johnson’s earliest criticism of Hanmer’s
edition was unfavourable.

147. Warburton was incensed by this passage and the many criticisms
throughout the edition, but Johnson’s prediction that “he’ll not come out,
he’ll only growl in his den” proved correct. He was content to show his
annoyance in private letters. See note, p. 101.

148. _Homer’s hero._ “Achilles” in the first edition.

149. _The Canons of Criticism._ See note, p. 101. Cf. Johnson’s criticism
of Edwards as recorded by Boswell: “Nay (said Johnson) he has given him
some sharp hits to be sure; but there is no proportion between the two
men; they must not be named together. A fly, Sir, may sting a stately
horse, and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a
horse still” (ed. Birkbeck Hill, i. 263).

_The Revisal of Shakespear’s text_ was published anonymously by Benjamin
Heath (1704-1766) in 1765. According to the preface it had been written
about 1759 and was intended as “a kind of supplement to the _Canons of
Criticism_.” The announcement of Johnson’s edition induced Heath to
publish it: “Notwithstanding the very high opinion the author had ever,
and very deservedly, entertained of the understanding, genius, and very
extensive knowledge of this distinguished writer, he thought he saw
sufficient reason to collect, from the specimen already given on
_Macbeth_, that their critical sentiments on the text of Shakespear would
very frequently, and very widely, differ.” In the first three editions of
the Preface the title is given incorrectly as _The Review_, etc. See note,
p. 171.

_girls with spits._ _Coriolanus_, iv. 4. 5 (iv. 3. 5 in Johnson’s own
edition): “lest that thy wives with spits, and boys with stones, In puny
battle slay me.”

_A falcon tow’ring._ _Macbeth_, ii. 4. 12. The first edition read, “An
eagle tow’ring,” etc.

150. _small things make mean men proud._ _2 Henry VI._, iv. 1. 106.

154. _collectors of these rarities._ This passage is said to have been
aimed specially at Garrick. At least Garrick took offence at it. On 22nd
January, 1766, Joseph Warton writes to his brother that “Garrick is
intirely off from Johnson, and cannot, he says, forgive him his
insinuating that he withheld his old editions, which always were open to
him” (Wooll’s _Biographical Memoirs of Joseph Warton_, 1806, p. 313). Cf.
the _London Magazine_, October, 1765, p. 538.

155. _Huetius._ Pierre Daniel Huet (1630-1721), bishop of Avranches,
author of _De Interpretation libri duo: quorum prior est de optimo genere
interpretandi, alter de claris interpretibus_, 1661. The best known of his
French works is the _Traité de l’origine de romans_. See _Huetiana_, 1722,
and _Memoirs of Huet_, translated by John Aikin, 1810.

_four intervals in the play._ Cf. _Rambler_, No. 156.

157. _by railing at the stupidity_, etc. Johnson has Warburton in his mind
here, though the description is applicable to others.

158. _Criticks, I saw_, etc. Pope, _Temple of Fame_, 37-40.

_the Bishop of Aleria._ Giovanni Antonio Andrea (Joannes Andreas), 1417-c.
1480, successively bishop of Accia and Aleria, librarian and secretary to
Pope Sixtus IV., and editor of Herodotus, Livy, Lucan, Ovid, Quintilian,

160. _Dryden_, in the _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_. In the _Life of Dryden_
Johnson refers to this passage as a “perpetual model of encomiastic
criticism,” adding that the editors and admirers of Shakespeare, in all
their emulation of reverence, cannot “boast of much more than of having
diffused and paraphrased this epitome of excellence.”

_should want a commentary._ Contrast Rowe, Account, _ad init._ In the
editions of 1773 and 1778 Johnson ended the preface with the following
paragraph: “Of what has been performed in this revisal, an account is
given in the following pages by Mr. Steevens, who might have spoken both
of his own diligence and sagacity, in terms of greater self-approbation,
without deviating from modesty or truth.”

Richard Farmer.

_Joseph Cradock_ (1742-1826) had been a student at Emmanuel College,
Cambridge. He left the University without a degree, but in 1765 was
granted the honorary degree of M.A. by the Chancellor, the Duke of
Newcastle. His _Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs_ appeared in 1828.

162. “_Were it shewn_” _says some one._ See the review of Farmer’s _Essay_
in the _Critical Review_ of January, 1767 (vol. xxiii., p. 50).

163. _Peter Burman_ (1668-1741), Professor at Utrecht and at Leyden;
editor of Horace, Ovid, Lucan, Quintilian, and other Latin classics.

“_Truly_,” _as Mr. Dogberry says._ _Much Ado_, iii. 5. 22.

_Burgersdicius_,—Franco Burgersdijck (1590-1629), Dutch logician,
Professor at Leyden. His _Institutionum logicarum libri duo_ was for long
a standard text-book. Cf. Goldsmith, _Life of Parnell, ad init._: “His
progress through the college course of study was probably marked with but
little splendour; his imagination might have been too warm to relish the
cold logic of Burgersdicius.” See also the _Dunciad_, iv. 198.

_Locke._ This paragraph is a reply to an argument in the _Critical Review_
(xxiii., pp. 47, 48).

_Quotation from Lilly._ See p. 201.

_the Water-poet_, John Taylor (1580-1653); cf. Farmer’s note, p. 212.

The quotation is from _Taylor’s Motto_ (Spenser Society Reprint of Folio
of 1630, p. 217):—

    I was well entred (forty Winters since)
    As far as _possum_ in my _Accidence_;
    And reading but from _possum_ to _posset_,
    There I was mir’d, and could no further get.

In his _Thiefe_ he says “all my schollership is schullership” (_id._, p.

164. _held horses at the door of the playhouse._ This anecdote was given
in Theophilus Cibber’s _Lives of the Poets_, 1753, i., p. 130. Johnson
appended it, in his edition, to Rowe’s _Account of Shakespeare_ (ed. 1765,
p. clii), and it was printed in the same year in the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_ (xxxv., p. 475). The story was told to Pope by Rowe, who got it
from Betterton, who in turn had heard it from Davenant; but Rowe wisely
doubted its authenticity and did not insert it in his _Account_ (see the
Variorum edition of 1803, i., pp. 120-122).—Farmer makes fun of it
here,—and uses it to vary the _Critical_ reviewer’s description—“as naked
with respect to all literary merit as he was when he first went under the
ferula” (_Crit. Rev._ xxiii., p. 50).

_Dodsley_, Robert (1703-1764), publisher and author, declared himself
“Untutored by the love of Greece or Rome” in his blank verse poem
_Agriculture_, 1753, canto ii., line 319. His _Toy-Shop, a Dramatick
Satire,_ was acted and printed in 1735. The quotation is not verbally
accurate; see the _New British Theatre_, 1787, xvii., p. 48.

_A word of exceeding good command._ _2 Henry IV._, iii. 2. 84.

165. _learned Rubbish._ Cf. Pope, _Essay on Criticism_, line 613.

_Paths of Nature._ Cf. Prior, _Charity_, line 25.

_one of the first criticks of the age._ Dr. Johnson: see Introduction, p.

_a brother of the craft._ “Mr. Seward, in his Preface to _Beaumont and
Fletcher_, 10 vols. 8vo., 1750” (Farmer). Cf. Theobald, Introduction to
_Shakespeare Restored_: “Shakespeare’s works have always appear’d to me
like what he makes his Hamlet compare the world to, an _unweeded Garden
grown to Seed_.”

_contrary to the statute._ See Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 136, etc.

166. _Small Latin and less Greek._ “This passage of Ben. Jonson, so often
quoted, is given us in the admirable preface to the late edition, with a
various reading, ‘Small Latin and _no_ Greek’; which hath been held up to
the publick as a modern sophistication: yet whether an error or not, it
was adopted above a century ago by W. Towers, in a panegyrick on
Cartwright. His eulogy, with more than fifty others, on this now forgotten
poet, was prefixed to the edit. 1651” (Farmer). Johnson corrected the
error in subsequent editions. See note, p. 135.

“_darling project_,” etc. Kenrick, _Review of Dr. Johnson’s New Edition of
Shakespeare_, 1765, p. 106: “Your darling project ... of invidiously
representing him as a _varlet_, one of the illiterate vulgar.”

166. _braying faction._ See _Don Quixote_, ii. 25 and 27. _those who
accuse him_, etc. Dryden, _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_.

160. “Greatest commendation” should read “greater commendation.”

_editor in form._ See Warburton, p. 97.

_sufficient to decide the controversy._ See Johnson, p. 135.

167. _whose memory he honoured._ Farmer has added to the quotation from
Jonson’s Poem “To the Memory of my Beloved Mr. William Shakespeare” a
phrase from the passage “De Shakespeare Nostrati” in Jonson’s
_Discoveries_: “I loved the man, and do honour his memory on this side
idolatry as much as any.”

_“__Jealousy,__”__ cries Mr. Upton._ In his _Critical Observations_, 1748,
p. 5.

_Drayton_, “In his Elegie on Poets and Poesie, p. 206. Fol., 1627”

_Digges_, Leonard (1588-1635). “From his Poem ‘upon Mister William
Shakespeare,’ intended to have been prefixed, with the other of his
composition, to the folio of 1623: and afterward printed in several
miscellaneous collections: particularly the spurious edition of
Shakespeare’s Poems, 1640. Some account of him may be met with in Wood’s
_Athenae_” (Farmer).

_Suckling._ _Fragmenta Aurea_, 1646, p. 35:

    The sweat of learned _Johnson’s_ brain
    And gentle _Shakespear’s_ easier strain.

_Denham_ “On Mr. Abraham Cowley,” _Poems_, 1671, p. 90:

    Old Mother Wit and Nature gave
    _Shakespear_ and _Fletcher_ all they have.

_Milton._ _L’Allegro_, 134.

_Dryden._ _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_: see p. 160.

_some one else._ Edward Young, the author of _Night Thoughts_, in his
_Conjectures on Original Composition_, 1759, p. 31.

168. _Hales of Eton._ See p. 8.

_Fuller_,—_Worthies of England_, 1662, “Warwickshire,” p. 126: “Indeed his
Learning was very little, so that as _Cornish diamonds_ are not polished
by any Lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out
of the Earth, so _nature_ it self was all the _art_ which was used upon
him.” The concluding phrase of Farmer’s quotation is taken from an earlier
portion of Fuller’s description: “William Shakespeare ... in whom three
eminent Poets may seem in some sort to be compounded, 1. _Martial_ ... 2.
_Ovid_ ... 3. _Plautus_, who was an exact comedian, yet never any scholar,
as our _Shakespeare_ (if alive) would confess himself.”

_untutored lines._ Dedication of the _Rape of Lucrece_.

_Mr. Glldon._ “Hence perhaps the _ill-starr’d rage_ between this critick
and his elder brother, John Dennis, so pathetically lamented in the
_Dunciad_. Whilst the former was persuaded that ‘the man who doubts of the
learning of Shakespeare hath none of his own,’ the latter, above regarding
the attack in his _private_ capacity, declares with great patriotick
vehemence that ‘he who allows Shakespeare had learning, and a familiar
acquaintance with the Ancients, ought to be looked upon as a detractor
from the glory of Great Britain.’ Dennis was expelled his college for
attempting to stab a man in the dark: Pope would have been glad of this
anecdote” (Farmer). Farmer supplied the details in a letter to Isaac Reed
dated Jan. 28, 1794: see the _European Magazine_, June, 1794, pp. 412-3.

_Sewell_, in the preface to the seventh volume of Pope’s Shakespear, 1725.

_Pope._ See p. 52.

_Theobald._ See p. 75.

_Warburton_, in his notes to Shakespeare, _passim_.

169. _Upton_, in his _Critical Observations_, 1748, pp. 3 and 5.

“_Hath hard words_,” etc. _Hudibras_, 1. i. 85-6.

_trochaic dimeter_, etc. See Upton, _Critical Observations_, p. 366, etc.

“_it was a learned age_,” etc. _Id._, p. 5. Cf. Hurd’s _Marks of
Imitation_, 1757, p. 24.

_Grey_, in his _Notes on Shakespeare_, 1754, vol. i., p. vii.

_Dodd_, William (1729-1777), the forger, editor of the _Beauties of
Shakespeare_, 1752.

_Whalley._ Farmer is here unfair to Whalley. The _Enquiry into the
Learning of Shakespeare_ shows plainly that Whalley preferred Shakespeare
to Jonson. Further, his _Enquiry_ was earlier than his edition of Jonson.
In it Whalley expresses the hope “that some Gentleman of Learning would
oblige the Public with a correct Edition” (p. 23).

170. _Addison ... Chevy Chase._ See the _Spectator_, Nos. 70 and 74 (May,

_Wagstaffe_, William (1685-1725), ridiculed Addison’s papers on _Chevy
Chase_ in _A Comment upon the History of Tom Thumb_, 1711.

_Marks of Imitation._ Hurd’s _Letter to Mr. Mason, on the Marks of
Imitation_ was printed in 1757. It was added to his edition of Horace’s
Epistles to the Pisos and Augustus.

_as Mat. Prior says_,—_Alma_, i. 241: “And save much Christian ink’s

_Read Libya._ Upton, _Critical Observations_, p. 255.

171. _Heath._ “It is extraordinary that this Gentleman should attempt so
voluminous a work as the _Revisal of Shakespeare’s Text_, when, he tells
us in his Preface, ‘he was not so fortunate as to be furnished with either
of the Folio editions, much less any of the ancient Quartos’: and even
‘Sir Thomas Hanmer’s performance was known to him only by Mr. Warburton’s
representation’ ” (Farmer).

171. _Thomas North._ “I find the character of this work pretty early

    “’Twas Greek at first, that Greek was Latin made,
    That Latin French, that French to English straid:
    Thus ’twixt one Plutarch there’s more difference,
    Than i’ th’ same Englishman return’d from France.” (Farmer).

“_What a reply is this?_” Upton, _Critical Observations_, p. 249.

“_Our author certainly wrote_,” etc. Theobald, ed. 1733, vi., p. 178.

172. _Epitaph on Timon._ “See Theobald’s Preface to _K. Richard 2d._ 8vo.
1720” (Farmer).

_I cannot however omit_, etc. The following passage, down to “from Homer
himself” (foot of p. 175) was added in the second edition.

“_The speeches copy’d from Plutarch_,” etc. See Pope’s Preface, p. 53.

_Should we be silent._ _Coriolanus_, v. 3. 94, etc.

174. _The Sun’s a thief._ _Timon of Athens_, iv. 3. 439, etc.

_Dodd._ See the _Beauties of Shakespeare_, 1752, iii. 285, n. The remark
was omitted in the edition of 1780.

_“__our Author,__”__ says some one._ This quotation is from the criticism
of Farmer’s _Essay_ in the _Critical Review_ of January, 1767 (vol.
xxiii., p. 50; cf. vol. xxi., p. 21).

_Mynheer De Pauw._ See _Anacreontis Odae et Fragmenta, Graece et Latine
... cum notis Joannis Cornelii de Pauw_, Utrecht, 1732.

_two Latin translations._ “By Henry Stephens and Elias Andreas, Paris,
1554, 4to, ten years before the birth of Shakespeare. The former version
hath been ascribed without reason to John Dorat. Many other translators
appeared before the end of the century: and particularly the Ode in
question was made popular by Buchanan, whose pieces were soon to be met
with in almost every modern language” (Farmer).

_Puttenham._ _Arte of English Poesie_, iii., ch. xxii. (Arber, p. 259;
_Elizabethan Critical Essays_, ed. Gregory Smith, ii., p. 171). The “some
one of a reasonable good facilitie in translation” is John Southern, whose
_Musyque of the Beautie of his Mistresse Diana_, containing translations
from Ronsard, appeared in 1584.

175. _Mrs. Lennox_, Charlotte Ramsay or Lennox (1720-1804), author of
_Shakespear Illustrated: or the Novels and Histories on which the Plays of
Shakespear are founded, collected and translated from the original
Authors, with critical Remarks_, 3 vols., 1753, 54. She is better known by
her _Female Quixote_, 1752.

_the old story._ “It was originally _drawn into Englishe_ by Caxton under
the name of the _Recuyel of the Historyes of Troye_, etc.... Wynken de
Worde printed an edit. Fol. 1503, and there have been several subsequent
ones” (Farmer).

_sweet oblivious antidote._ Upton, p. 42, n.

Νηπενθές. _Odyssey_, iv. 221.

_Chapman’s_ seven books of the _Iliad_ appeared in 1598. The translation
of the _Iliad_ was completed in 1611 and that of the _Odyssey_ in 1614.

_Barclay._ “Who list thistory of Patroclus to reade, etc. _Ship of
Fooles_, 1570, p. 21” (Farmer).

_Spenser._ Farmer quotes in a note from the _Faerie Queene_, iv. iii. 43.

_Greek expressions._ Upton, p. 321.

176. “_Lye in a water-bearer’s house_,” _Every Man in his Humour_, Act i.,
Sc. 3.

176. _Daniel the Historian_, _i.e._ Samuel Daniel the poet (1562-1619),
whose _Collection of the Historie of England_ appeared in 1612 and 1617.
Cf. p. 190.

_Kuster._ See note on p. 108. “Aristophanis Comoediae undecim. Gr. and
Lat. Amst. 1710. Fol., p. 596” (Farmer).

_unyoke_ (_Hamlet_, v. 1. 59). See Upton, pp. 321, 322.

_Orphan heirs_ (_Merry Wives_, v. 5. 43), _id._, p. 322. “Dr. Warburton
corrects _orphan_ to _ouphen_; and not without plausibility, as the word
_ouphes_ occurs both before and afterward. But I fancy, in acquiescence to
the vulgar doctrine, the address in this line is to a part of the _Troop_,
as Mortals by birth, but adopted by the Fairies: _Orphans_ with respect to
their _real_ Parents, but now only dependant on _Destiny_ herself. A few
lines from Spenser will sufficiently illustrate the passage” (Farmer).
Farmer then quotes from the _Faerie Queene_, 111. iii. 26.

177. _Heath._ “_Revisal_, pp. 75, 323, and 561” (Farmer).

_Upton._ His edition of the _Faerie Queene_ appeared in 1758.

_William Lilly_ (1602-1681), astrologer. “_History of his Life and Times_,
p. 102, preserved by his dupe, Mr. Ashmole” (Farmer). _Elias Ashmole_
(1617-1692), who bequeathed his museum and library to the University of

_Truepenny._ Upton, p. 26.

178. _a legendary ballad._ The reference is to _King Lear_. But the ballad
to _King Leire and his Three Daughters_ is of later date than the play.
This error in Percy’s _Reliques_ was for long repeated by editors and

_The Palace of Pleasure_, “beautified, adorned, and well furnished with
pleasaunt Histories and excellent Nouelles, selected out of diuers good
and commendable authors by William Painter, Clarke of the Ordinaunce and
Armarie,” appeared in two volumes in 1566-67; reprinted by Haslewood in
1813 and by Mr. Joseph Jacobs in 1890.

_English Plutarch._ See above.

_Jacke Drum’s Entertainment: or, the Comedie of Pasquill and Katherine_,
4to, London, 1601; reprinted 1616 and 1618.

178. _We are sent to Cinthio_, in Mrs. Lennox’s _Shakespear Illustrated_,
1753, vol. i., pp. 21-37.

_Heptameron of Whetstone._ “Lond., 4to, 1582. She _reports_, in the fourth
dayes exercise, the rare Historie of _Promos and Cassandra_. A marginal
note informs us that Whetstone was the author of the _Commedie_ on that
subject; which likewise might have fallen into the hands of Shakespeare”

_Genevra of Turberville._ “ ‘The tale is a pretie comicall matter, and
hath bin written in English verse some few years past, learnedly and with
good grace, by M. George Turberuil.’ Harrington’s _Ariosto_, Fol. 1591, p.
39” (Farmer).

_Coke’s Tale of Gamelyn._ Cf. Johnson’s Preface, p. 133.

_Love’s Labour Wonne._ “See Meres’s _Wits Treasury_, 1598, p. 282”
(Farmer). Cf. the allusion to it in Tyrwhitt’s _Observations and
Conjectures_, 1766, p. 16. _Love’s Labour Wonne_ has been identified also
with the _Taming of the Shrew_, _Much Ado_, _Midsummer Night’s Dream_, the
_Tempest_, and _Love’s Labour’s Lost_.

_Boccace._ “Our ancient poets are under greater obligation to Boccace than
is generally imagined. Who would suspect that Chaucer hath borrowed from
an Italian the facetious tale of the _Miller of Trumpington_?” etc.

_Painter’s Giletta of Narbon._ “In the first vol. of the _Palace of
Pleasure_, 4to, 1566” (Farmer).

_Langbaine._ _Account of the English Dramatick Poets_, 1691, p. 462.

_Appolynus._ “_Confessio Amantis_, printed by T. Berthelet, Fol. 1532, p.
175, etc.” (Farmer). See G. C. Macaulay’s edition of Gower, Oxford, 1901,
iii. 396 (Bk. VIII., ll. 375, etc.).

_Pericles._ On Farmer’s suggestion, Malone included _Pericles_ in his
edition of Shakespeare, and it has appeared in all subsequent editions
except Keightley’s. See _Cambridge Shakespeare_, vol. ix., p. ix.

_Aulus Gellius_, _Noct. Attic._ iii. 3. 6.

179. _Ben. Jonson._ “Ode on the _New Inn_,” stanza 3.

_The Yorkshire Tragedy._ “ ‘William Caluerley, of Caluerley in Yorkshire,
Esquire, murdered two of his owne children in his owne house, then stabde
his wife into the body with full intent to haue killed her, and then
instantlie with like fury went from his house to haue slaine his yongest
childe at nurse, but was preuented. Hee was prest to death in Yorke the 5
of August, 1604.’ _Edm. Howes’ Continuation of John Stowe’s Summarie_,
8vo, 1607, p. 574. The story appeared before in a 4to pamphlet, 1605. It
is omitted in the Folio chronicle, 1631” (Farmer).

_the strictures of Scriblerus._ “These, however, he assures Mr. Hill, were
the property of Dr. Arbuthnot” (Farmer). See Pope’s _Works_, ed. Elwin &
Courthope, x., p. 53.

_This late example._ _Double Falshood_, ii. 4. 6-8.

_You have an aspect. Id._, iv. 1. 46.

_a preceding elision._ “Thus a line in Hamlet’s description of the Player
should be printed as in the old Folios:

    “Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,”

agreeably to the accent in a hundred other places” (Farmer).

_This very accent_, etc. This passage, down to the end of the quotation
from Thomson (top of p. 183), was added in the second edition.

_Bentley._ Preface to his edition of _Paradise Lost_, 1732.

180. _Manwaring_, Edward. See his treatise _Of Harmony and Numbers in
Latin and English Prose, and in English Poetry_ (1744), p. 49.

_Green._ May this “extraordinary gentleman” be George Smith Green, the
Oxford watchmaker, author of a prose rendering of Milton’s _Paradise
Lost_, 1745; or Edward Burnaby Greene, author of _Poetical Essays_, 1772,
and of translations from the classics? There is no copy of the “Specimen
of a new Version of the _Paradise Lost_ into blank verse” in the Library
of the British Museum, nor in any public collection which the present
editor has consulted.

_Dee_, John (1527-1608), astrologer.

_Strike up, my masters. Double Falshood_, Act i., Sc. 3.

181. _Victor_, Benjamin (died 1778), was made Poet Laureate of Ireland in
1755. He produced in 1761, in two volumes, the _History of the Theatres of
London and Dublin, from the year 1730 to the present time._ A third volume
brought the history of the theatre down to 1771. Farmer refers to vol.
ii., p. 107: “_Double Falshood_, a Tragedy, by Mr. _Theobald_, said by him
to be written by _Shakespear_, which no one credited; and on Enquiry, the
following Contradiction appeared; the Story of the _Double Falshood_ is
taken from the _Spanish_ of _Cervantes_, who printed it in the year after
_Shakespear_ died. This Play was performed twelve Nights.”

_Langbaine informs us._ _English Dramatick Poets_, p. 475.

_Andromana._ “This play hath the letters J.S. in the title page, and was
printed in the year 1660, but who was its author I have not been able to
learn,” Dodsley, _Collection of Old Plays_, 1744, vol. xi. p. 172. In the
second edition (ed. Isaac Reed, 1780) the concluding words are replaced by
a reference to the prologue written in 1671, which says that “’Twas
Shirley’s muse that labour’d for its birth.” But there appears to be no
further evidence that the play was by Shirley.

_Hume._ See the account of Shakespeare in his _History_, reign of James
I., _ad fin._, 1754: “He died in 1617, aged 53 years.” The date of his
death, but not his age, was corrected in the edition of 1770.

_MacFlecknoe_, line 102.

182. _Newton informs us_, in the note on _Paradise Lost_, iv. 556 (ed.
1757, i., p. 202). See note on p. 110.

182. _Her eye did seem to labour._ _The Brothers_, Act i., Sc. 1.
“Middleton, in an obscure play, called _A Game at Chesse_, hath some very
pleasing lines on a similar occasion:

    Upon those lips, the sweete fresh buds of youth,
    The holy dew of prayer lies like pearle,
    Dropt from the opening eye-lids of the morne
    Upon the bashfull Rose” (Farmer).

_Lander_, William (died 1771), author of _An Essay on Milton’s use and
imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost_, 1750.

_Richardson_, Jonathan (1665-1745), portrait painter, joint author with
his son of _Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Milton’s Paradise Lost_,
1734. The quotation is taken from p. 338.

183. _The stately sailing Swan._ Thomson, _Spring_, 778-782.

_Gildon._ See Pope’s Shakespeare, vol. vii., p. 358.

_Master Prynne._ “Had our zealous Puritan been acquainted with the real
crime of De Mehun, he would not have joined in the clamour against him.
Poor Jehan, it seems, had raised the expectations of a monastery in
France, by the legacy of a great chest, and the weighty contents of it;
but it proved to be filled with nothing better than _vetches_. The friars,
enraged at the ridicule and disappointment, would not suffer him to have
Christian burial. See the Hon. Mr. Barrington’s very learned and curious
_Observations on the Statutes_, 4to, 1766, p. 24. From the _Annales
d’Acquytayne, Paris_, 1537.—Our author had his full share in distressing
the spirit of this restless man. ‘Some Play-books are grown from _Quarto_
into _Folio_; which yet bear so good a price and sale, that I cannot but
with griefe relate it.—_Shackspeer’s Plaies_ are printed in the best
Crowne-paper, far better than most _Bibles_!’ ” (Farmer).

_Whalley._ _Enquiry_, pp. 54-5; _Tempest_, iv. 1. 101; _Aeneid_, i. 46.
Farmer added the following note in the second edition: “Others would give
up this passage for the _Vera incessu patuit Dea_; but I am not able to
see any improvement in the matter: even supposing the poet had been
speaking of Juno, and no previous translation were extant.” See the
_Critical Review_, xxiii., p. 52.

184. _John Taylor._ See notes, pp. 163 and 212.

“_Most inestimable Magazine_,” etc. From _A Whore_, Spenser Society
Reprint of Folio of 1630, p. 272.

_By two-headed Janus._ _Merchant of Venice_, i. 1. 50.

_Like a Janus with a double-face_—_Taylor’s Motto_, Spenser Soc. Reprint,
p. 206.

_Sewel._ Apparently a mistake for “Gildon,” whose _Essay on the Stage_ is
preceded immediately, in the edition of 1725, by Sewell’s preface. “His
motto to _Venus and Adonis_ is another proof,” says Gildon, p. iv.

_Taylor ... a whole Poem_,—_Taylor’s Motto_, “Et habeo, et careo, et
curo,” Spenser Soc. Reprint, pp. 204, etc.

_sweet Swan of Thames._ Pope, _Dunciad_, iii. 20:

    Taylor, their better Charon, lends an oar
    (Once Swan of Thames, tho’ now he sings no more).

_Dodd._ _Beauties of Shakespeare_, iii., p. 18 (ed. 1780).

185. _Pastime of Pleasure._ “Cap. i., 4to, 1555” (Farmer).

_Pageants._ “Amongst ‘the things which Mayster More wrote in his youth for
his pastime’ prefixed to his _Workes_, 1557, Fol.” (Farmer).

_a very liberal Writer._ See Daniel Webb’s _Remarks on the Beauties of
Poetry_, 1762, pp. 120, 121.

This passage, to “classical standard” (foot of p. 186), was added in the
second edition.

_See, what a grace._ _Hamlet_, iii. 4. 55.

_the words of a better Critick._ Hurd, _Marks of Imitation_, 1757, p. 24.

186. _Testament of Creseide._ “Printed amongst the works of Chaucer, but
really written by _Robert Henderson_, or _Henryson_, according to other
authorities” (Farmer). It was never _ascribed_ to Chaucer, not even in
Thynne’s edition.

_Fairy Queen._ “It is observable that _Hyperion_ is used by Spenser with
the same error in quantity” (Farmer).

_Upton._ _Critical Observations_, pp. 230, 231. _Much Ado_, iii. 2. 11.

_Theophilus Cibber_ (1703-1758), the actor, put his name on the title page
of the _Lives of the Poets_ (five vols., 1753), which was mainly the work
of Robert Shiels (died 1753); see Johnson’s _Life of Hammond, ad init._,
and Boswell, ed. Birkbeck Hill, iii. 29-31. For the reference to the
_Arcadia_, see “Cibber’s” _Lives_, i. 83.

_Ames_, Joseph (1689-1759), author of _Typographical Antiquities_, 1749.

187. _Lydgate._ Farmer has a long note here on the versification of
Lydgate and Chaucer. “Let me here,” he says, “make an observation for the
benefit of the next editor of Chaucer. Mr. Urry, probably misled by his
predecessor Speght, was determined, Procrustes-like, to force every line
in the _Canterbury Tales_ to the same standard; but a precise number of
syllables was not the object of our old poets,” etc.

_Hurd._ This quotation, which Farmer added in the second edition, is from
Hurd’s Notes to Horace’s _Epistolae ad Pisones et Augustum_, 1757, vol.
i., p. 214. Cf. also his _Discourse on Poetical Imitation_, pp. 125 and
132, and the _Marks of Imitation_, p. 74. The passage in which the “one
imitation is fastened on our Poet” occurs in the _Marks of Imitation_, pp.
19, 20. Cf. note on p. 170.

188. _Upton._ _Critical Observations_, p. 217.

_Whalley._ _Enquiry_, pp. 55, 56.

_Measure for Measure_, iii. 1. 118.

_Platonick Hell of Virgil._ Farmer quotes in a note _Aeneid_, vi. 740-742.

188. _an old Homily._ “At the ende of the _Festyuall_, drawen oute of
_Legenda aurea_, 4to, 1508. It was first printed by Caxton, 1483, ‘in
helpe of such Clerkes who excuse theym for defaute of bokes, and also by
symplenes of connynge’ ” (Farmer).

_brenning heate._ “On all soules daye, p. 152” (Farmer).

_Menage._ Cf. p. 109.

_our Greek Professor._ Michael Lort (1725-1790), Regius Professor in
Cambridge University from 1759 to 1771.

_Blefkenius_,—Dithmar Blefken, who visited Iceland in 1563 and wrote the
first account of the island. “_Islandiae Descript._ Lugd. Bat. 1607, p.
46” (Farmer).

_After all, Shakespeare’s curiosity_, etc.... _original Gothic_ (top of p.
190), added in second edition.

_Douglas._ Farmer has used the 1710 Folio of Gavin Douglas’s _Aeneid_.

189. _Till the foul crimes._ _Hamlet_, i. 5. 12.

“_Shakespeare himself in the Tempest._” Quoted from the _Critical Review_,
xxiii., p. 50; cf. also xix., p. 165.

_Most sure, the Goddess._ _Tempest_, i. 2. 421.

_Epitaphed, the inventor of the English hexameter._ Gabriel Harvey’s _Four
Letters_ (Third Letter). See _Elizabethan Critical Essays_, ed. Gregory
Smith, ii. 230.

_halting on Roman feet._ Pope, _Epistle to Augustus_, 98: “And Sidney’s
verse halts ill on Roman feet.”

_Hall._ Satire i. 6.

190. Daniel’s _Defence of Rhyme_, in answer to Campion’s _Observations on
the Art of English Poesie_, appeared in 1602.

_in his eye._ Cf. Theobald, Preface to _Richard II._, p. 5, and Whalley,
_Enquiry_, p. 54.

_Ye elves of hills._ _Tempest_, v. 1. 33.

_Holt._ “In some remarks on the _Tempest_, published under the quaint
title of _An Attempte to rescue that aunciente English Poet and
Play-wrighte, Maister Williaume Shakespeare, from the many Errours
faulsely charged upon him by certaine new-fangled Wittes_. Lond. 8vo,
1749, p. 81” (Farmer). On the title page Holt signs himself “a gentleman
formerly of Gray’s Inn.” He issued proposals in 1750 for an edition of
Shakespeare. Cf. p. 206.

_Auraeque_, etc. Ovid, _Met._ vii. 197-8.

_Golding._ “His work is dedicated to the Earl of Leicester in a long
epistle in verse, from Berwicke, April 20, 1567” (Farmer). The translation
of the first four books had appeared in 1565.

_Some love not a gaping Pig._ _Merchant of Venice_, iv. 1. 47.

191. _Peter le Loier._ “M. Bayle hath delineated the singular character of
our _fantastical_ author. His work was originally translated by one
Zacharie Jones. My edit. is in 4to, 1605, with an anonymous Dedication to
the King: the Devonshire story was therefore well known in the time of
Shakespeare.—The passage from Scaliger is likewise to be met with in _The
Optick Glasse of Humors_, written, I believe, by T. Wombwell; and in
several other places” (Farmer). Reed quotes a manuscript note by Farmer on
the statement that it was written by Wombwell: “So I imagined from a note
of Mr. Baker’s, but I have since seen a copy in the library of Canterbury
Cathedral, printed 1607, and ascribed to T. Walkington of St. John’s,

_He was a man_, etc. _Henry VIII._, iv. 2. 33.

192. _Holingshed._ Farmer’s quotations from Holinshed are not _literatim_.

_Indisputably the passage_, etc. (to the end of the quotation from
Skelton),—added in the second edition.

Hall’s _Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and
Yorke_ (1548) was freely used by Holinshed, but there is a passage in
_Henry VIII._ which shows that the dramatist knew Hall’s chronicle at
first hand.

193. _Skelton._ “His Poems are printed with the title of _Pithy,
Pleasaunt, and Profitable Workes of Maister Skelton, Poete Laureate_,”
etc. Farmer then explains with his usual learning Skelton’s title of “poet

_Upton._ _Critical Observations_, p. 47, n.

_Pierce Plowman._ This reference was added in the second edition. On the
other hand, the following reference, which was given in the first edition
after the quotation from _Hieronymo_, was omitted: “And in Dekker’s
_Satiro-Mastix, or the Untrussing of the humourous Poet_, Sir Rees ap
Vaughan swears in the same manner.”

_Hieronymo_, ii. 2. 87, 91-93 (_Works of Thomas Kyd_, ed. Boas, p. 24).

_Garrick._ “Mr. Johnson’s edit., vol. viii., p. 171” (Farmer). The
following three pages, from “_a Gentleman_” (foot of p. 193) to the end of
the Latin quotation at the top of p. 197, were added in the second

194. _Upton._ _Critical Observations_, p. 300.

_This villain here._ _2 Henry VI._, iv. 1. 106.

Grimald’s “Three Bookes of Duties, tourned out of Latin into English”
appeared in 1555. “I have met with a writer who tells us that a
translation of the _Offices_ was printed by Caxton in the year 1481: but
such a book never existed. It is a mistake for _Tullius of Old Age_,
printed with the _Boke of Frendshipe_, by John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester.
I believe the former was translated by William Wyrcestre, _alias_ Botoner”

_There is no bar._ _Henry V._, i. 2. 35.

195. _It hath lately been repeated_, etc. In the _Critical Review_,
xxiii., p. 50; cf. p. xxi, p. 21.

_Guthrie_, William (1708-1770), whose reports to the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_ were revised by Johnson. He wrote histories of _England_ (4
vols., 1744, etc.), the _World_ (12 vols., 1764, etc.), and _Scotland_ (10
vols., 1767). His _Essay upon English Tragedy_ had appeared in 1747. See
note, p. 101.

196. _All hail, Macbeth._ 1. iii. 48-50.

_Macbeth._ The probable date of _Macbeth_ is 1606.

_Wake_, Sir Isaac (1580-1632). The _Rex Platonicus_, celebrating the visit
of James I. to Oxford in 1605, appeared in 1607.

197. _Grey._ _Notes on Shakespeare_, p. vii.; cf. vol. ii., p. 289, etc.

_Whalley._ _Enquiry_, p. v.

_a very curious and intelligent gentleman._ Capell: see below.

_It hath indeed been said_, etc. In the _Critical Review_, xxiii., p. 50.
Accordingly the following passage (to “Mr. Lort,” foot of p. 199) was
added in the second edition.

_Saxo Grammaticus._ “ ‘Falsitatis enim (Hamlethus) alienus haberi cupidus,
ita astutiam veriloquio permiscebat, ut nec dictis veracitas deesset, nec
acuminis modus verorum judicio proderetur.’ This is quoted, as it had been
before, in Mr. Guthrie’s _Essay on Tragedy_, with a _small_ variation from
the _Original_. See edit. fol. 1644, p. 50” (Farmer). The quotation was
given in the _Critical Review_, xxiii., p. 50.

198. _The Hystorie of Hamblet._ It is now known that Shakespeare’s
“original” was the early play of _Hamlet_, which was probably written by
Thomas Kyd, towards the end of 1587. See _Works of Kyd_, ed. Boas,
Introduction, iv.

Though Farmer disproves Shakespeare’s use of _Saxo Grammaticus_, he errs
in the importance he gives to the _Hystorie of Hamblet_. No English
“translation from the French of Belleforest” appears to have been issued
before 1608.

_Duke of Newcastle_, Thomas Pelham-Holles (1693-1768), first Lord of the
Treasury, 1754, Lord Privy Seal, 1765-66, Chancellor of Cambridge
University from 1748.

199. _Painter._ See above, p. 178.

_Tom Rawlinson_ (1681-1725), satirised as “Tom Folio” by Addison in the
_Tatler_, No. 158.

_Colman_, George, the elder (1732-1794), brought out the _Comedies of
Terence translated into familiar blank verse_ in 1765. He replied to
Farmer’s _Essay_, the merit of which he admitted, in the appendix to a
later edition. Farmer’s answer is given in the letter which Steevens
printed as an appendix to his edition of Johnson’s Shakespeare, 1773,
viii., App. ii., note on _Love’s Labour’s Lost_, iv. 2. In a long footnote
in the _Essay_, Farmer replies also to an argument advanced by Bonnell
Thornton (1724-1768), Colman’s associate in the _Connoisseur_, in his
translation of the _Trinummus_, 1767.

200. _Redime te captum._ _Eunuchus_, i. 1. 29; _Taming of the Shrew_, i.
1. 167.

_translation of the Menaechmi._ “It was published in 4to, 1595. The
printer of Langbaine, p. 524, hath accidentally given the date 1515, which
hath been copied implicitly by Gildon, Theobald, Cooke, and several
others. Warner is now almost forgotten, yet the old criticks esteemed him
one of ‘our chiefe heroical _makers_.’ Meres informs us that he had ‘heard
him termed of the best wits of both our Universities, our _English
Homer_’ ” (Farmer). See note on p. 9.

_Riccoboni_, Luigi (1674-1753). See his _Réflexions historiques sur les
differens théatres de l’Europe_, 1738, English translation, 1741, p. 163:
“If really that good comedy Plautus was the first that appeared, we must
yield to the English the merit of having opened their stage with a good
prophane piece, whilst the other nations in Europe began theirs with the
most wretched farces.”

_Hanssach_, Hans Sachs (1494-1576).

201. _Gascoigne._ “His works were first collected under the singular title
of ‘A hundreth sundrie Flowres bounde up in one small Poesie. Gathered
partly (by translation) in the fyne outlandish Gardins of _Euripides_,
_Ouid_, _Petrarke_, _Ariosto_, and others: and partly by inuention, out of
our owne fruitefull Orchardes in Englande: yelding sundrie sweete sauours
of tragical, comical, and morall discourses, bothe pleasaunt and
profitable to the well smellyng noses of learned Readers.’ _Black letter_,
4to, no date” (Farmer).

“_Our authour had this line from Lilly._” Johnson, edition of 1765, vol.
iii., p. 20.

_an unprovoked antagonist._ “W. Kenrick’s Review of Dr. Johnson’s edit. of
Shakespeare, 1765, 8vo, p. 105” (Farmer).

_We have hitherto supposed._ The next three paragraphs were added in the
second edition.

202. _Gosson._ See Arber’s reprint, p. 40.

_Hearne_, Thomas (1678-1735) edited William of Worcester’s _Annales Rerum
Anglicarum_ in 1728. “I know indeed there is extant a very old poem, in
_black letter_, to which it might have been supposed Sir John Harrington
alluded, had he not spoken of the discovery as a _new_ one, and
recommended it as worthy the notice of his countrymen: I am persuaded the
method in the old bard will not be thought _either_. At the end of the
sixth volume of Leland’s _Itinerary_, we are _favoured_ by Mr. Hearne with
a Macaronic poem on a battle at Oxford between the scholars and the
townsmen: on a line of which, ‘Invadunt aulas _bycheson cum forth_
geminantes,’ our commentator very wisely and gravely remarks: ‘_Bycheson_,
id est, _son_ of a _byche_, ut e codice Rawlinsoniano edidi. Eo nempe modo
quo et olim _whorson_ dixerunt pro _son of a whore_. Exempla habemus cum
alibi tum in libello quodam lepido & antiquo (inter codices Seldenianos in
Bibl. Bodl.) qui inscribitur: _The Wife lapped in Morel’s Skin: or the
Taming of a Shrew_’ ” (Farmer). Farmer then gives Hearne’s quotation of
two verses from it, pp. 36 and 42.

202. _Pope’s list._ At the end of vol. vi. of his edition.

_Ravenscroft_, Edward, in his _Titus Andronicus, or the Rape of Lavinia_,
1687, “To the Reader”; see Ingleby’s _Centurie of Prayse_, p. 404.

203. _The Epistles, says one, of Paris and Helen._ Sewell, Preface to
Pope’s Shakespeare, vol. vii., 1725, p. 10.

_It may be concluded, says another._ Whalley, _Enquiry_, p. 79.

_Jaggard._ “It may seem little matter of wonder that the name of
Shakespeare should be borrowed for the benefit of the bookseller; and by
the way, as probably for a _play_ as a _poem_: but modern criticks may be
surprised perhaps at the complaint of John Hall, that ‘certayne chapters
of the _Proverbes_, translated by him into English metre, 1550, had before
been untruely _entituled_ to be the doyngs of Mayster Thomas Sternhold’ ”

204. _Biographica Britannica_, 1763, vol. vi. Farmer has a note at this
passage correcting a remark in the life of Spenser and showing by a
quotation from Browne’s _Britannia’s Pastorals_, that the _Faerie Queene_
was left unfinished,—not that part of it had been lost.

205. _Anthony Wood._ “_Fasti_, 2d. Edit., v. 1. 208.—It will be seen on
turning to the former edition, that the latter part of the paragraph
belongs to another _Stafford_. I have since observed that Wood is not the
first who hath given us the true author of the pamphlet” (Fanner).
_Fasti_, ed. Bliss, i. 378. But Stafford’s authorship of this pamphlet has
now been disproved: see the _English Historical Review_, vi. 284-305.

_Warton_, Thomas. _Life of Ralph Bathurst_, 2 vols., 1761.

_Aubrey._ See _Brief Lives_, ed. Andrew Clark, 1898, vol. ii., pp.
225-227. For _Beeston_, see vol. i., pp. 96-7.

_Crendon._ “It was observed in the former edition that this place is not
met with in Spelman’s _Villare_, or in Adams’s _Index_; nor, it might have
been added, in the _first_ and the _last_ performance of this sort,
Speed’s _Tables_ and Whatley’s _Gazetteer_: perhaps, however, it may be
meant under the name of _Crandon_; but the inquiry is of no importance. It
should, I think, be written _Credendon_; tho’ better antiquaries than
Aubrey have acquiesced in the vulgar corruption” (Farmer). But _Crendon_
is only a misprint for _Grendon_.

206. _Rowe tells us._ See p. 4.

_Hamlet revenge._ Steevens and Malone “confirm” Farmer’s observation by
references to Dekker’s _Satiromastix_, 1602, and an anonymous play called
_A Warning for Faire Women_, 1599. Farmer is again out in his chronology.

_Holt._ See above, p. 190. Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare, vol. viii.,
Appendix, note on viii. 194.

_Kirkman_, Francis, bookseller, published his _Exact Catalogue of all the
English Stage Plays_ in 1671.

_Winstanley_, William (1628-1698), compiler of _Lives of the most famous
English Poets_, 1687. “These people, who were the Curls of the last age,
ascribe likewise to our author those miserable performances _Mucidorous_
and the _Merry Devil of Edmonton_” (Farmer).

_seven years afterward._ “Mr. Pope asserts ‘The troublesome Raigne of
_King John_,’ in two parts, 1611, to have been written by Shakespeare and
Rowley: which edition is a mere copy of another in black letter, 1591. But
I find his assertion is somewhat to be doubted: for the old edition hath
no name of _author_ at all; and that of 1611, the initials only, _W. Sh._,
in the title-page” (Farmer).

_Nash._ This reference was added in the second edition. See Arber’s
reprint of Greene’s _Menaphon_, p. 17, or Gregory Smith, _Elizabethan
Critical Essays_, i. 307, etc.

“Peele seems to have been taken into the patronage of the Earl of
Northumberland about 1593, to whom he dedicates in that year, ‘_The Honour
of the Garter_, a poem gratulatorie—the _firstling_ consecrated to his
noble name.’—‘He was esteemed,’ says Anthony Wood, ‘a most noted poet,
1579; but when or where he died, I cannot tell, for _so it is_, and always
_always hath been_, that most Poets die _poor_, and consequently
obscurely, and a hard matter it is to trace them to their graves.
_Claruit_, 1599.’ _Ath. Oxon._, vol. i., p. 300.—We had lately in a
periodical pamphlet, called _The Theatrical Review_, a very _curious_
letter, under the name of George Peele, to one Master Henrie Marle,
relative to a dispute between Shakespeare and Alleyn, which was
compromised by Ben. Jonson.—‘I never longed for thy companye more than
last night; we were all verie merrie at the Globe, when Ned Alleyn did not
scruple to affyrme pleasauntly to thy friende Will, that he had stolen hys
speeche about the excellencie of acting in _Hamlet_ hys tragedye, from
conversaytions manifold, whych had passed between them, and opinions gyven
by Alleyn touchyng that subjecte. Shakespeare did not take this talk in
good sorte; but Jonson did put an end to the stryfe wyth wittielie saying,
thys affaire needeth no contentione; you stole it from Ned no doubte: do
not marvel: haue you not seene hym acte tymes out of number?’—This is
pretended to be printed from the original MS. dated 1600; which agrees
well enough with Wood’s _Claruit_: but unluckily Peele was dead at least
two years before. ‘As Anacreon died by the _pot_,’ says Meres, ‘so George
Peele by the _pox_,’ _Wit’s Treasury_, 1598, p. 286” (Farmer).

_Constable in Midsummer Night’s Dream._ Apparently a mistake for _Much

207. _two children._ Susannah, Judith, and Hamnet were all born at
Stratford. Judith and Hamnet were twins. Cf. p. 21 and note.

“_cheers up himself with ends of verse._” Butler, _Hudibras_, i. 3. 1011.

_Wits, Fits, and Fancies._ “By one Anthony Copley, 4to, black letter; it
seems to have had many editions: perhaps the last was in 1614.—The first
piece of this sort that I have met with was printed by T. Berthelet, tho’
not mentioned by Ames, called ‘Tales, and quicke answeres very mery and
pleasant to rede.’ 4to, no date.” (Farmer).

208. _Master Page, sit._ _2 Henry IV._, v. 3. 30.

_Heywood._ In the “To the Reader” prefixed to his _Sixt Hundred of
Epigrammes_ (Spenser Society reprint, 1867, p. 198).

_Dekker._ Vol. iii., p. 281 (ed. 1873).

_Water-poet._ See the Spenser Society reprint of the folio of 1630, p.

_Rivo, says the Drunkard._ _1 Henry IV._, ii. 4. 124.

209. _What you will._ Act ii., Sc. 1 (vol. i., p. 224, ed. 1856).

_Love’s Labour Lost_, iv. 1. 100. This paragraph was added in the second

_Taming of the Shrew_, ii. 1. 73.

_Heath._ _Revisal of Shakespear’s Text_, p. 159. This quotation was added
in the second edition.

_Heywood._ _Epigrammes upon prouerbes_, 194 (Spenser Soc. reprint, p.

210. _Howell_, James (1594-1666), Historiographer, author of the
_Epistolae Ho-Elianae._ _Proverbs or old sayed Saws and Adages in English
or the Saxon Tongue_ formed an appendix to his _Lexicon Tetraglotton_
(1659-60). The allusion to Howell was added in the second edition.

_Philpot_, John (1589-1645). See Camden’s _Remains concerning Britain_,
1674, “Much amended, with many rare Antiquities never before Imprinted, by
the industry and care of John Philipot, Somerset Herald, and W. D. Gent”:
1870 reprint, p. 319.

_Grey._ _Notes on Shakespeare_, ii., p. 249.

_Romeo._ “It is remarked that ‘Paris, tho’ in one place called _Earl_, is
most commonly stiled the _Countie_ in this play. Shakespeare seems to have
preferred, for some reason or other, the Italian _Conte_ to our
_Count_:—perhaps he took it from the old English novel, from which he is
said to have taken his plot.’—He certainly did so: Paris is there first
stiled _a young Earle_, and afterward _Counte_, _Countee_, and _County_,
according to the unsettled orthography of the time. The word, however, is
frequently met with in other writers, particularly in Fairfax,” etc.

_Painter_, vol. ii. 1567, 25th novel. Arthur Broke’s verse rendering,
founded on Boaistuau’s (or Boisteau’s) French version of Bandello,
appeared in 1562; and it was to Broke, rather than to Painter, that
Shakespeare was indebted. See P. A. Daniel’s _Originals and Analogues_,
Part I. (New Shakspere Society, 1875).

_Taming of the Shrew._ Induction, i. 5.

_Hieronymo_, iii. 14, 117, 118 (ed. Boas, p. 78); cf. p. 193.

_Whalley._ _Enquiry._ p. 48.

_Philips_,—Edward Phillips (1630-1696), Milton’s nephew. See his _Theatrum
Poetarum, or a Compleat Collection of the Poets_, 1675, ii. p. 195. Cf.
also Winstanley’s _English Poets_, p. 218.

_Heywood_, in the _Apology for Actors_, 1612, alluded to above; see
Hawkins’s _Origin of the English Drama_, 1773, ii., p. 3, and Boas’s
_Works of Kyd_, 1901, pp. xiii, civ, and 411. Mr. Boas gives Hawkins the
credit of discovering the authorship of _The Spanish Tragedy_ “some time
before 1773,” but the credit is Farmer’s. Hawkins was undoubtedly indebted
to Farmer’s _Essay_.

211. _Henry the fifth_, Act iii., Sc. 4.

_not published by the author._ “Every writer on Shakespeare hath expressed
his astonishment that his author was not solicitous to secure his fame by
a correct edition of his performances. This matter is not understood. When
a poet was connected with a particular playhouse, he constantly sold his
works to the _Company_, and it was their interest to keep them from a
number of rivals. A favourite piece, as Heywood informs us, only got into
print when it was copied _by the ear_, ‘for a double sale would bring on a
suspicion of honestie.’ Shakespeare therefore himself published nothing in
the drama: when he left the stage, his copies remained with his
fellow-managers, Heminge and Condell; who at their own retirement, about
seven years after the death of their author, gave the world the edition
now known by the name of the _first Folio_, and call the previous
publications ‘stolne and surreptitious, maimed and deformed by the frauds
and stealths of injurious impostors.’ But _this_ was printed from the
playhouse copies; which in a series of years had been frequently altered,
thro’ convenience, caprice, or ignorance. We have a sufficient instance of
the liberties taken by the actors, in an old pamphlet by Nash, called
_Lenten Stuff, with the Prayse of the red Herring_, 4to, 1599, where he
assures us that in a play of his, called the _Isle of Dogs_, ‘_foure
acts_, without his consent, or the least guesse of his drift or scope,
were supplied by the players.’—This, however, was not his first quarrel
with them. In the Epistle prefixed to Greene’s _Arcadia_, which I have
quoted before, Tom hath a lash at some ‘vaine glorious tragedians,’ and
very plainly at Shakespeare in particular; which will serve for an answer
to an observation of Mr. Pope, that had almost been forgotten: ‘It was
thought a praise to Shakespeare that he scarce ever blotted a line. I
believe the common opinion of his want of learning proceeded from no
better ground. This, too, might be thought a praise by some.’ But hear
Nash, who was far from _praising_: ‘I leaue all these to the mercy of
their _mother-tongue_, that feed on nought but the crums that fall from
the _translator’s_ trencher,—that could scarcely _Latinize_ their neck
verse if they should haue neede; yet _English Seneca_, read by
candle-light, yeelds many good sentences—hee will affoord you whole
_Hamlets_, I should say, _handfuls_ of tragicall speeches.’ I cannot
determine exactly when this _Epistle_ was first published; but, I fancy,
it will carry the original _Hamlet_ somewhat further back than we have
hitherto done; and it may be observed that the oldest copy now extant is
said to be ‘enlarged to almost as much againe as it was.’ Gabriel Harvey
printed at the end of the year 1592 _Foure Letters and certaine Sonnetts,
especially touching Robert Greene_: in one of which his _Arcadia_ is
mentioned. Now Nash’s Epistle must have been previous to these, as Gabriel
is quoted in it with applause; and the _Foure Letters_ were the beginning
of a quarrel. Nash replied in _Strange Newes of the intercepting certaine
Letters, and a Convoy of Verses, as they were going_ privilie _to victual
the Low Countries_, 1593. Harvey rejoined the same year in _Pierce’s
Supererogation, or a new Praise of the old Asse_; and Nash again, in _Have
with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey’s Hunt is up; containing a
full Answer to the eldest Sonne of the Halter-maker_, 1596.—Dr. Lodge
calls Nash our _true English Aretine_: and John Taylor, in his
_Kicksey-Winsey, or a Lerry Come-twang_, even makes an oath ‘by sweet
satyricke Nash his urne.’—He died before 1606, as appears from an old
comedy called _The Return from Parnassus_” (Farmer). See Gregory Smith,
_Elizabethan Critical Essays_, especially i. 424-5.

211. _Hawkins._ Johnson’s Shakespeare, vol. viii., Appendix, note on iv.,
p. 454. The quotation from Johnson, and the references to Eliot and Du
Bartas, were added in the second edition.

_Est-il impossible._ _Henry V._, iv. 4. 17.

_French Alphabet of De la Mothe._ “Lond., 1592, 8vo.” (Farmer).

_Orthoepia of John Eliot._ “Lond., 1593, 4to. Eliot is almost the only
_witty_ grammarian that I have had the fortune to meet with. In his
Epistle prefatory to the _Gentle Doctors of Gaule_, he cries out for
persecution, very like Jack in that most poignant of all Satires, the
_Tale of a Tub_, ‘I pray you be readie quicklie to cauill at my booke, I
beseech you heartily calumniate my doings with speede, I request you
humbly controll my method as soone as you may, I earnestly entreat you
hisse at my inventions,’ ” etc. (Farmer).

_Sejanus._ See Jonson’s “To the Readers”: “Lastly, I would inform you that
this book, in all numbers, is not the same with that which was acted on
the public stage; wherein a second pen had good share: in place of which,
I have rather chosen to put weaker, and, no doubt, less pleasing, of mine
own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed
usurpation.” Jonson is supposed to refer here to Shakespeare.

_But what if ... Capell’s Prolusions_, added in the second edition.

_Pierce Penilesse_, ed. J. P. Collier (Shakespeare Society, 1842), p. 60.

212. _Tarlton_, Richard (d. 1588),—_Jests, drawn into three parts_, ed.
Halliwell (Shakespeare Society, 1844), pp. 24, 25: _Old English Jest
Books_, ed. W. C. Hazlitt (1864), pp. 218, 219.

_Capell._ Cf. pp. 197 and 198. He describes _Edward III._ on the title
page of his _Prolusions or Select Pieces of Antient Poetry_, 1760, as
“thought to be writ by Shakespeare.”

_Laneham_, Robert, who appears in Scott’s _Kenilworth_. The letter has
been reprinted by the Ballad Society (1871), and the New Shakspere Society
(1890). Referring to the spelling of the name, Farmer says in a note, “It
is indeed of no importance, but I suspect the former to be right, as I
find it corrupted afterward to _Lanam_ and _Lanum_.”

_Meres._ “This author by a pleasant mistake in some sensible _Conjectures
on Shakespeare_, lately printed at Oxford, is quoted by the name of
_Maister_. Perhaps the title-page was imperfect; it runs thus: ‘Palladis
Tamia. Wits Treasury. Being the second part of Wits Commonwealth, By
_Francis Meres Maister_ of Artes of both Universities.’ I am glad out of
gratitude to this man, who hath been of frequent service to me, that I am
enabled to perfect Wood’s account of him; from the assistance of our
_Master’s_ very accurate list of graduates (which it would do honour to
the university to print at the publick expense) and the kind information
of a friend from the register of his parish:—He was originally of
Pembroke-Hall, B.A. in 1587, and M.A. 1591. About 1602 he became rector of
Wing in Rutland; and died there, 1646, in the 81st year of his age”
(Farmer). See Ingleby’s _Shakspere Allusion-Books_ or Gregory Smith’s
_Elizabethan Critical Essays_. The reference at the beginning of Farmer’s
note is to Tyrwhitt’s _Observations and Conjectures upon some passages of
Shakespeare_, 1766.

_the Giant of Rabelais._ See _As You Like It_, iii. 2. 238, and _King
Lear_, iii. 6. 7, 8.

_John Taylor._ See note, p. 163. “I have quoted many pieces of John
Taylor, but it was impossible to give their original dates. He may be
traced as an author for more than half a century. His works were collected
in folio, 1630, but many were printed afterward,” etc. (Farmer). The
reference to Gargantua will be found on p. 160 of the Spenser Society
Reprint of the Folio. Taylor refers to Rabelais also in his _Dogge of
Warre_, _id._, p. 364.

213. _Richard the third._ “Some inquiry hath been made for the first
performers of the capital characters in Shakespeare. We learn that
Burbage, the _alter Roscius_ of Camden, was the original Richard, from a
passage in the poems of Bishop Corbet; who introduces his host at Bosworth
describing the battle:

    “But when he would have said King Richard died,
    And call’d _a horse_, _a horse_, he _Burbage_ cried.”

The play on this subject mentioned by Sir John Harrington in his _Apologie
for Poetrie_, 1591, and sometimes mistaken for Shakespeare’s, was a Latin
one, written by Dr. Legge, and acted at St. John’s in our University, some
years before 1588, the date of the copy in the Museum. This appears from a
better MS. in our library at Emmanuel, with the names of the original

It is evident from a passage in Camden’s _Annals_ that there was an old
play likewise on the subject of _Richard the Second_; but I know not in
what language. Sir Gelley Merrick, who was concerned in the hare-brained
business of the Earl of Essex, and was hanged for it with the ingenious
Cuffe in 1601, is accused, amongst other things, “quod _exoletam_
Tragœdiam de tragica abdicatione Regis Ricardi Secundi in publico theatro
coram conjuratis data pecunia agi curasset” (Farmer).

213. _Remember whom ye are_, etc. _Richard III._, v. 3. 315.

_Holingshed._ “I cannot take my leave of Holingshed without clearing up a
difficulty which hath puzzled his biographers. Nicholson and others have
_supposed_ him a _clergyman_. Tanner goes further and tells us that he was
educated at Cambridge and actually took the degree of M.A. in 1544.—Yet it
appears by his will, printed by Hearne, that at the end of life he was
only a _steward_, or a _servant_ in some capacity or other, to Thomas
Burdett, Esq. of Bromcote, in Warwickshire.—These things Dr. Campbell
could not reconcile. The truth is we have no claim to the education of the
_Chronicler_: the M.A. in 1544 was not _Raphael_, but one _Ottiwell
Holingshed_, who was afterward named by the founder one of the first
Fellows of Trinity College” (Farmer).

214. _Hig, hag, hog._ _Merry Wives_, iv. 1. 44.

_writers of the time._ “Ascham, in the Epistle prefixed to his
_Toxophilus_, 1571, observes of them that ‘Manye Englishe writers, usinge
straunge wordes, as _Lattine_, _Frenche_, and _Italian_, do make all
thinges darke and harde,’ ” etc. (Farmer).

_all such reading as was never read._ _Dunciad_, i., line 156, first
edition (see Introduction, p. xliv.; iv., line 250, edition of 1742).

_Natale solum._ “This alludes to an intended publication of the
_Antiquities of the Town of Leicester_. The work was just begun at the
press, when the writer was called to the principal tuition of a large
college, and was obliged to decline the undertaking. The plates, however,
and some of the materials have been long ago put into the hands of a
gentleman who is every way qualified to make a proper use of them”
(Farmer). This gentleman was John Nichols, the printer, whose _History and
Antiquities of the County of Leicester_ appeared from 1795 to 1815.

215. _primrose path._ _Hamlet_, i. 3. 50; cf. _Macbeth_, ii. 3. 21.

_Age cannot wither._ _Antony and Cleopatra_, ii. 2. 240.

Maurice Morgann.

221. _Candide_, chapters 9 and 15.

225. _general criticism is uninstructive._ Cf. Joseph Warton,
_Adventurer_, No. 116: “General criticism is on all subjects useless and
unentertaining; but it is more than commonly absurd with respect to
Shakespeare, who must be accompanied step by step, and scene by scene, in
his gradual developments of characters and passions,” etc.

239. line 28. _which._ The original has _who._

241. _Oldcastle._ See Rowe, p. 5, and note.

247. note. _Be thus when thou art dead._ _Othello_, v. 2. 18.

248. _Barbarian._ See notes on Voltaire, pp. 117, etc.

_Love’s Labour lost._ In his edition of _L.L.L._ (1768), Capell omitted
fifteen lines from Biron’s speech in Act iv., Sc. 3 (iv. 1 in his own
edition, p. 54). He did not record the omission.

249. _Nothing perishable about him except that very learning_, etc. Cf.
Edward Young, _Conjectures on Original Composition_, 1759, p. 81, and
Hurd, Notes on Horace’s _Art of Poetry_, line 286 (1757, i., pp. 213, 4):
“Our Shakespear was, I think, the first that broke through this bondage of
classical superstition. And he owed this felicity, as he did some others,
to his want of what is called the advantage of a learned education.”

251. _Macbeth_, i. 5. 18, 49; v. 5. 13; v. 3. 23.

_practicer of arts inhibited._ _Othello_, i. 2. 78.

254. note. _Shakespeare’s magic_, etc. Dryden, Prologue to the _Tempest_,
1667, lines 19, 20.

258. _miching malicho._ _Hamlet_, iii. 2. 147.

260. _but a choleric word._ _Measure for Measure_, ii. 2. 130.

262. _Cadogan_, William (1711-1797), a fashionable London doctor, who
published in 1771 a _Dissertation on the Gout and on all Chronic
Diseases_, in which he held that gout is “a disease of our own acquiring”
and “the necessary effect of intemperance.”

267, note. _For if the Jew._ _Merchant of Venice_, iv. 1. 280.

269. _Souls made of fire and children of the sun._ Edward Young, _The
Revenge_, v. 2.

270. _just where youth ends._ Cf. _Paradise Lost_, xi. 245, 246.

270. _Old, cold, and of intolerable entrails._ _Merry Wives_, v. 5. 161.

_Mrs. Montague._ Two chapters in Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu’s _Essay on the
Writings and Genius of Shakespear_ (1769) deal with the first and second
parts of _Henry IV._ She speaks of “the cowardly and braggart temper of
Falstaffe” (p. 103), and says that “gluttony, corpulency, and cowardice
are the peculiarities of Falstaffe’s composition” (p. 107).

271. _golden fool._ _Timon of Athens_, iv. 3. 18.

277. _Players ... the worst judges of Shakespeare._ Cf. Pope, Preface, p.

285. line 27. _attacked._ The original has _attached_. The reprints of
1820 and 1825 read _attached to_.

303. _He was shaked of a burning quotidian tertian._ _Henry V._, ii. 1.
124, 91; ii. 3. 10.


Addison, Joseph, xix, 86, 134, 170, 306, 311, 315, 316, 329.
  See _Spectator_.

_Adventurer, The_, xix, xxxii, 347.

Aeschylus, 55.

Akenside, Mark, lv.

Aleria, Bishop of, 158, 326.

Alleyn, Edward, 341.

Ames, Joseph, 186, 199, 210, 335.

Anacreon, 136, 174, 330.

_Andromana_, 181, 333.

_Annual Register, The_, lx.

Ariosto, 178, 201.

Aristophanes, 108, 319, 331.

Aristotle, 32, 50, 51, 56, 251, 311.

_Arraignment of Paris_, 206, 308.

_Arthur, Death of_, 133.

Ascham, Roger, 132, 346.

Ashmole, Elias, 331.

Atterbury, Francis, xxxiv, xl.

Aubrey, John, 205, 207, 340.

Ayre, William, xxix.

Bacon, Francis, Lord, 191.

Bandello, 199, 210, 342.

Barclay, Alexander, 175, 331.

Barclay, James, lx.

Bateman, Stephen, 185.

Beattie, James, xx.

_Beauties of Poetry_, 185.

Beeston, William, 205, 340.

Belleforest, 198, 199, 338.

Bellenden, John, 195.

Bentley, Richard, 81, 111, 158, 179, 315, 320.

Bermuda Islands, 69, 314.

Bernard, Sir John, of Abington, 22.

Betterton, Thomas, xii, xiv, xxxviii, 20, 206, 306, 307, 312, 327.

_Biographia Britannica_, xix, lvi, lxii, 204, 340.

Birch, Thomas, xlviii, lvii, 324.

Bishop, Hawley, l.

Bishop, Sir William, 72.

Blair, Hugh, xxxv.

Blefkenius, 188, 336.

Blount, Pope, xxxviii.

Boccaccio, 178, 332.

Bodley, Sir Thomas, 204.

Boece, Hector, 195.

Boisteau (Boaistuau), 210, 342.

Boswell, James, xx, lx, 318, 322, 325, 335

Boswell, James, the younger, 316.

Boyle, Robert, 139, 324.

Brantôme, 193.

Broke, Arthur, 342.

Broome, William, xli, 316.

Browne, William, 340.

Buchanan, George, 195, 196.

Buckinghamshire, Duke of, xvi, 38, 309.

Bunbury, Sir Henry. See Hanmer, _Correspondence_.

Burbage, Richard, 68, 313, 345.

Burgersdicius, 163, 326.

Burmann, Peter, 163, 326.

Butler, Samuel, 39, 169, 180, 309, 320, 342.

Bysshe, Edward, 308.

Cadogan, William, 262, 347.

Camden, William, 205, 210, 342, 345, 346.

Campion, Thomas, 190, 336.

_Candide._ See Voltaire.

Capell, Edward, xxviii, 197, 198, 212, 248, 338, 345, 347.

Casaubon, 111.

“Cassiopeia” (Theobald’s proposed reading in _1 Henry VI._), xlvi.

_Catiline._ See Jonson.

_Cato._ See Addison.

Cavendish, George, 200.

Caxton, William, 183, 330, 336, 337.

_Censor, The_, xi.

Cervantes, 166, 181, 328.

Chapman, George, 175, 331.

Chaucer, 53, 133, 138, 158, 183, 185, 324, 332, 335.

Cheke, Sir John, 132.

Chrysostom, Saint, 108, 319.

Churchill, Charles, lix.

Churchyard, Thomas, 183.

Cibber, Colley, 133, 307, 323.

Cibber, Theophilus, xiii, 186, 327, 335.

Cicero, 34, 36, 53, 109, 194, 337.

Cinthio, 178.

Clarke, Samuel, 320.

Clerk, John, 132.

Clopton, Family of, 70, 71.

Collier, Jeremy, _Historical and Poetical Dictionary_, xxxviii.

Colman, George, 199-201, 338.

Combe, John, 21, 69, 70.

_Comical Gallant._ See Dennis.

Concanen, Matthew, xlviii.

Condell, Henry, 51, 57, 60, 68, 144, 310.

Congreve, William, 315.

_Connoisseur, The_, 323, 339.

Cooke, Thomas, 317.

Cooke, William, xxi.

Copley, Anthony, 342.

Corbet, Richard, 345.

Corneille, Pierre, 37, 127, 322.

Cradock, Joseph, 162, 326.

Crendon. See Grendon.

_Critical Review, The_, lx, lxi, 326, 327, 334, 336, 338.

_Criticism, Science of_ (Theobald’s Preface), 81, etc.
  (Warburton’s Preface), 101, etc.;
  uninstructive if general, 225, 347.
  _Canons of Criticism_, see Edwards.

Cruden, Alexander, 177.

Cumberland, Richard, lxiii.

_Cursory Remarks on Tragedy_, xxi.

Dacier, André, 18, 86, 105, 307.

_Daily Journal, The_, xliv, xlvi.

Daniel, Samuel, 176, 190, 331, 336.

Davies, John, 176.

Dares Phrygius, 53, 187, 312.

Davenant, Sir William, 6, 8, 14, 206, 307, 327.

Dee, John, 180, 333.

Dekker, Thomas, 208, 337, 340.

Denham, Sir John, 167, 328.

Dennis, John, _On the Genius and Writings of Shakespeare_, xvii, xxii,
            xxxix, xl, 24-46;
  veneration for Shakespeare, xi, 46, 310;
  attitude to the dramatic rules, xvi, etc.;
  attitude to Rymer, xvi, xl;
  view on Shakespeare’s learning, xxii, 31-46;
  doctrine of “poetical justice,” 27-29, 309;
  _Letters to the Spectator_, xxxix;
  _Impartial Critick_, xvi, xxxix;
  _Comical Gallant_, xvii, xl, 304;
  _Invader of his Country_, xl, 24;
  _Letter to Steele_, xl, 309, 310;
  _Characters of Sir John Edgar_, xl;
  _Defence of a regulated Stage_, 304;
  _Essay on the Operas_, 311;
  criticised by Warburton, 105;
  criticised by Johnson, 117, 140;
  “attempted to stab a man in the dark,” 329.

De Quincey, Thomas, xix.

_Dictionary, General_ (1739-40), lvii.

Digby, Sir Kenelm, 191.

Digges, Leonard, 167, 328.

Dilworth, W. H., xxix.

Dodd, William, 169, 174, 184, 329.

Dodsley, Robert, 164, 327;
  _Old Plays_, 181, 333.

Dogget, Thomas, 306.

Donne, John, 85, 182.

_Dorastus and Faunia._ See Greene.

_Double Falshood._ See Theobald.

Douglas, Gawin, 176, 183, 188, 189, 336.

Downes, John, _Roscius Anglicanus_, 307, 322.

“Drake, Francis” (Pope’s suggested reading in _1 Henry VI._), xlvi, 87,

Drayton, Michael, 109, 167, 320, 328.

Dryden, John, xiii, etc.;
  opinion on Shakespeare’s learning, xxii, 41, 166, 167;
  opinion on _Pericles_, 4;
  identified Spenser’s “Willy” as Shakespeare, 7;
  view on Jonson’s attitude to Shakespeare, 55, 305, 312;
  _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, xiv, 160, 161, 166, 167, 305, 310, 322, 326;
  version of the _Tempest_, 14;
  prologue to the _Tempest_, 15, 254;
  Epistle Dedicatory of the _Rival Ladies_, 308;
  Preface to _Troilus and Cressida_, 307;
  Preface to _Ovid’s Epistles_, 39, 309;
  _Defence of the Epilogue, etc._, 304;
  _Discourse concerning Satire_, 305, 307, 313, 317;
  _MacFlecknoe_, 181.

Du Bartas, 167, 211.

Dugdale, Sir William, 11, 67-70.

_Edward III._, 212.

Edwards, Thomas, 149, 319, 325.

Eliot, John, 211, 344.

_English Historical Review, The_, 340.

_Esmond_, x.

Euripides, 40, 55, 164.

_European Magazine, The_, 329.

Falkland, Lord, 14, 305, 306, 307.

_Faerie Queen._ See Spenser.

Falstaff, 5, 10, 11, 67;
  Morgann’s _Essay_, _passim_; 305.

Farmer, Richard, _Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare_, xxvi, xxvii, xlv,
            lxi, 162-215;
  _Antiquities of Leicester_, lxi, 346;
  _Letter to Steevens_, lxi;
  “Pioneer of the commentators,” 164.

Farquhar, George, xv, 311, 322.

Fenton, Elijah, xli.

Fielding, Henry, xii, xxix, 322.

Fleming, Abraham, 183.

Fletcher, John, 15, 54, 110, 211, 320.

Fletcher, Lawrence, 68, 314.

Fuller, Thomas, xxxviii, 168, 305, 328.

_Gamelyn, Tale of_, xxv, 133, 178, 323, 332.

Gardiner, Stephen, 132.

Garrick, David, xii, xiii, 193, 325.

Gascoigne, George, 201, 339.

Gay, John, xli.

Gellius, Aulus, 178, 332.

Genest, John, _English Stage_, xl, 322.

_Gentleman’s Magazine, The_, xxi, lx, 318, 327.

Gerard, Alexander, 322.

Gerson, Jean, 183.

_Gesta Grayorum_, 200.

Gibbon, Edward, xii.

Gildon, Charles, attitude to the dramatic rules, xv, etc.;
  opinion on Shakespeare’s learning, xxii, 168, 183, 334;
  relations with Dennis, xvi, 328;
  criticised by Theobald, 86;
  by Warburton, 105;
  _Reflections on Rymer’s Short __ View_, xvi, 305, 316;
  supplementary volume of Rowe’s edition, xxxix, and of Pope’s, xli;
  _Essay on the Stage_, xv, xxii, xxxix, 310, 311, 312, 316, 334;
  _Remarks on Shakespeare_, xxxix, 312;
  _Art of Poetry_, xvi, xli.

_Golden Booke of the leaden Goddes_, 185.

Golding, Arthur, 183, 190, 312, 336.

Goldsmith, Oliver, xii, xiii, 326.

Gonsaga, Hanniball, 207.

_Gorboduc_, 140.

Gosson, Stephen, 202.

Gower, John, 178, 183, 332.

Granville, George, Lord Lansdowne, xxxix, 306.

Gravelot, Hubert Francois, 318.

Gray, Thomas, xxxiv.

Green, ?, author of “Specimen of a new version of the _Paradise Lost_ into
            blank verse,” 180, 333.

Greene, Robert, 16, 206, 307, 343, 344.

Grendon, 205, 340.

Grey, Zachary, _Notes on Shakespeare_, xxv, 150, 169, 178, 197, 210, 317,
  _edition of Hudibras_, 111, 320;
  other works, 320;
  letter from Hanmer, lii.

Grimald, Nicholas, 194, 337.

_Guardian, The_, xi.

Guthrie, William, xx, 195, 318, 323, 338.

_Guy of Warwick_, 133.

Haddon, Walter, 132.

Hakluyt, Richard, 314.

Hales, John, of Eton, 8, 168, 305.

Hall, Edward, 192, 214, 337.

Hall, Dr. John (Shakespeare’s son-in-law), 22, 66.

Hall, John, 340.

Hall, Joseph, 189, 336.

_Hamblet, Hystorie of_, 197, 338.

_Hamlet, Miscellaneous Observations on_ (1752), xx.

_Hamlet, Some Remarks on the Tragedy of_, xx, liii, 317, 318, 322.

Hanmer, Sir Thomas, Edition of Shakespeare, xxix, lii-liv;
  Preface, 92-95;
  readings or notes, 171, 192, 208, 209;
  _Correspondence_, liv, 317, 318, 320;
  relations with Warburton, li, 98-101, 192;
  criticised by Johnson, lix, 146, 147, 325;
    by Grey, 324, 325.
  See _Hamlet, Some Remarks on_.

Hare, Francis, 111, 320, 321.

Harington, Sir John, 202, 332, 339, 346.

Harris, James, xx.

Harvey, Gabriel, 189, 336, 344.

Hawes, Stephen, 185.

Hawkins, Sir Richard, 208.

Hawkins, Sir John (1719-1789), 211, 343, 344.

Hayman, Francis, 318.

Hazlitt, William, x, xxxvii, 324.

Hearne, Thomas, 202, 207, 339.

Heath, Benjamin, xxxiii, 149, 171, 177, 209, 325, 329.

Heminge, John, 51, 57, 60, 68, 144, 310, 313.

Henryson, Robert, 335.

Heywood, John, 208, 209, 210.

Heywood, Thomas, 203, 210, 310, 312, 343.

Hierocles, 115, 321.

_Hieronymo_. See Kyd.

Higgins, John, 185.

_History of the Works of the Learned_, lvii.

Hobbes, Thomas, 111, 321.

Holinshed, Raphael, 176, 192, 195, 213, 214, 337, 346.

Holt, John, 190, 206, 336, 341.

Homer, 24, 40, 48, 77, 88, 109, 113, 158, 175, 187, 311.

Horace, 3, 23, 30, 33, 40, 42, 43, 44, 74;
  notes _passim_.

Howard, James, 322.

Howard, Sir Robert, 322.

Howell, James, 210, 342.

_Hudibras._ See Butler.

Huetius, D. P., 155, 325.

Hughes, John, xi.

Hume, David, xxxv, 181, 333.

Hurd, Richard, 170, 185, 187, 315, 322, 329, 335, 347.

_Idler, The_, lix, 321.

_Invader of his Country._ See Dennis.

_Jack Drum’s Entertainment_, 178, 331.

Jaggard, William, 203, 340.

James, Richard, 305.

_Jew of Venice._ See Granville.

Johnson, Samuel, Edition of Shakespeare, xxix-xxxi, lix, lx;
  Preface, 112-161;
  account of his own edition, 150, etc.;
  account of earlier editors, xxx, xliv, 143, etc.;
  examination of the dramatic rules, xix, etc.;
    of tragi-comedy, 118, etc.;
    of the unities, 126, etc.;
  opinion on Shakespeare’s learning, xxv, 135, etc.;
  opinion of Farmer’s essay, xxvii;
  _Observations on Macbeth_, lix, 318;
  Dedication to _Shakespear Illustrated_, lix, 323;
  _Lives of the Poets_, xi, 323, 335;
  Mrs. Piozzi’s _Anecdotes_, 323;
  allusions by Farmer to edition of Shakespeare, 166, 171, 201, 208, 211.
  See _Idler_ and _Rambler_.

Jonson, Ben, Relations with Shakespeare, 7-9, 54, 55;
  compared with Shakespeare, 77;
  “brought critical learning into vogue,” 50;
  “small Latin and less Greek,” xxii, 41, 74, 135, 166, 167, 323, 327;
  _Discoveries_, 22, 43, 51, 167, 328;
  _Every Man in his Humour_, 176;
  _Catiline_, 53, 310;
  _Sejanus_,68, 211, 344;
  _Bartholomew Fair_, 60;
  _Ode on the New Inn_, 60, 179, 332.

_Julius Caesar_ (alteration by the Duke of Buckinghamshire), 38, 309.

Kames, Henry Home, Lord, xxxiii, xxxiv, xxxv, 322.

Kemble, J. P., xxxvii.

Kenrick, William, lx, lxiii, 323, 327, 339.

_King Leire_, ballad, 323, 331.

Kirkman, Francis, 206, 341.

Kuster, Ludolf, 108, 176, 319, 331.

Kyd, Thomas, 140, 193, 210, 338, 343.

Laneham, Robert, 212, 345.

Langbaine, Gerard, xxxviii, 23, 178, 181, 308, 339.

Langland, William, 193.

La Mothe, N.G. De, 211.

Lauder, William, 182, 334.

Le Bossu, xviii, 86, 105, 316.

Le Loyer, Pierre, 191, 337.

Lennox, Charlotte, lix, 175, 323, 330, 332.

Lilly, William, astrologer, 177, 331.

Lily, William, grammarian, 132, 163, 201.

Linacre, Thomas, 132.

Lipsius, Justus, 78, 159.

Livy, 32, 309.

Locke, John, 163, 315, 326.

_Locrine_, 59, 203.
  See Shakespeare, spurious plays.

Lodge, Thomas, 178, 206, 312, 344.

_London Magazine, The_, lx, 323, 325.

_London Review, The_, lxiii.

Longinus, 89, 317.

Lope de Vega, 210.

Lort, Michael, 188, 199, 336.

_Lounger, The_, xxxiii, lxiii.

_Love’s Labour Wonne_, 178, 332.

Lowin, John, 313.

Lucan, 131, 323.

Lucretius, 109.

Lucy, Sir Thomas, 3, 67.

Lycurgus, 109.

Lydgate, John, 183, 187, 335.

Lyttelton, George, Lord, xii, xxxiv.

Macaulay, Thomas Babington, Lord, xxx, xxxi.

Maginn, William, xxvi, xxvii.

Malherbe, François de, 109.

Mallet, David, 89, 316.

Malone, Edmund, xxvii, xxxviii, 313, 340.

Mantuanus, Baptista, 3.

Manwaring, Edward, 180, 333.

_Marks of Imitation_. See Hurd.

Marlowe, Christopher, 183.

Marot, Clément, 211.

Marston, John, 181, 209.

Martial, 328.

Mason, George, xxxvii.

_Menaechmi._ See Plautus.

Ménage, Gilles, 109, 188, 319.

Meres, Francis, 202, 212, 339, 341, 345.

Merrick, Sir Gelley, 346.

Middleton, Thomas, 334.

Milton, John, 86, 249;
  _Paradise Lost_, 110, 179, 180, 182, 320;
  _L’Allegro_, 41, 167, 310, 328;
  _Samson Agonistes_, 45, 310.

_Mirror, The_, xxxiii.

_Mirror for Magistrates, The_, 185.

_Mist’s Journal_, xliv.

Montagu, Mrs. Elizabeth, xx, lxii, 270, 347.

_Monthly Review, The_, lx.

More, Sir Thomas, 132, 185, 335.

Morgann, Maurice, _Essay on Falstaff_, xxxiii, xxxvii, lxii, lxiii,
  object of the _Essay_, 217;
  its “novelty,” 218;
  his opinion of Warburton, 248;
  of Johnson, xxxviii, 248;
  of Rymer, 251.

Morris, Corbyn, lxii, 318.

Muretus, 111.

Nash, Thomas, 206, 212, 341, 343, 344.

Nash, Thomas (husband of Shakespeare’s grand-daughter), 22.

Newcastle, Duke of, 198, 338.

New-place, Stratford, 71, 72, 314.

Newton, Sir Isaac, 111, 320.

Newton, Thomas, 182, 320, 333.

Nichols, John, xlii, etc., 314, 315, 316, 318, 346.

North, Sir Thomas, xxv, 133, 171-174, 178, 330

Northcote, James, xxvii.

_Observer, The_, lxiii.

Oldcastle, Sir John, 5, 241, 305.

Oldmixon, John, 105, 319.

Ovid, xxii, 39, 53, 184, 190, 203, 249, 312, 328, 336.

Painter, William, 178, 199, 210, 331, 332, 342.

_Palace of Pleasure._ See Painter.

_Palmerin_, 133.

Pauw, J. C. De, 174, 330.

Peele, George, 206, 341.

Percy, Thomas, 177, 331.

Phaer, Thomas, 183.

Phillippes, Augustine, 68.

Phillips, Edward, xxxviii, 210, 343.

Philpot, John, 210, 342.

_Piers Plowman_, 193.

Plautus, xxii, xxv, 9, 11, 38, 41, 53, 136, 200, 306, 310, 312, 324, 328,

Players, social position in Shakespeare’s time, 59, 313;
  bad taste, 51;
  “the very worst judges of Shakespeare,” 277.

Plutarch, xxv, 32, 53, 133, 170-174, 178, 307, 309.

_Poems on Affairs of State_, 308.

Pole, Reginald, 132.

Pope, Alexander, Edition of Shakespeare, xxviii, xl, xlv;
  Preface, xviii, xxiii, xxxiv, xl, 47-62;
  alterations in Rowe’s _Account of Shakespeare_, xiv, xxxviii;
  attitude to the dramatic rules, xviii;
  opinion on Shakespeare’s learning, xxiii, 52-55, 168;
  debt to Betterton, 312;
  error in Latin inscription, 70, 314;
  relations with Theobald, xlii, etc., 78, 79;
  attitude to Hanmer, liii;
  criticised by Johnson, 143-145;
  by Farmer, 172;
  _Dunciad_, xviii, xl, etc., 184, 214, 316, 319, 320, 346;
  _Homer_, xviii;
  _Essay on Criticism_, 327;
  _Temple of Fame_, 158, 326;
  _Epistle to Augustus_, 311, 321, 324, 336;
  “Scriblerus,” 179, 332.

Porter, Endymion, 8.

Prior, Matthew, 170, 327, 329.

Prynne, William, 183, 334.

Puttenham, Richard, 174, 330.

Quiney, Thomas (Shakespeare’s son-in-law), 21, 66.

Quintilian, 110, 320.

Rabelais, 212, 345.

_Rambler, The_, lix, 322, 325.

Rapin, René, 105, 319.

Ravenscroft, Edward, 202, 340.

Rawlinson, Tom, 199, 338.

Reed, Isaac, xxi, xxxviii, xli, 329.

_Reliques of Ancient English Poetry._ See Percy.

_Rex Platonicus._ See Wake.

Riccoboni, Luigi, 200, 339.

Rich, John, xliv, 318.

_Richard II._, old play, 346;
  adaptation, see Theobald.

_Richard III._, Latin play by Dr. Legge, 346.

Richardson, Jonathan, 182, 334.

Richardson, William, xxi, xxxv, lxiii.

Roberts, John, _Answer to Mr. Pope’s Preface_, xli, 72, 314.

Rollin, Charles, 163.

_Romaunt of the Rose_, 183.

Ronsard, Pierre de, 175, 211, 330.

Roscommon, Earl of, 43, 310.

Rowe, Nicholas, Edition of Shakespeare, xi, xxviii, xxxviii;
  _Account of Shakespeare_, xiv, etc., xxii, etc., xxxviii, xxxix, 1-23;
  Pope’s version of the _Account of Shakespeare_, xiv, xxxviii;
  attitude to the dramatic rules, xiv, etc., 10, 14, 16;
  opinion on Shakespeare’s learning, xxii, 2;
  allusions by later editors, 66, etc., 97, 137, 143;
    by Farmer, 206;
  _Jane Shore_, xiv;
  his “delicacy,” 141.

Rowley, William, 308, 341.

Rymer, Thomas, xiv, etc., xl, 306, 308, 310;
  criticised by Rowe, 9, 10, 20;
    by Theobald, 78, 86;
    by Warburton, 103, 105;
    by Johnson, 117, 120;
    by Morgann, 251;
  _Foedera_, 69, 314.

Sachs, Hans, 200, 339.

Sallust, 34, 36.

Salmasius, 111, 159.

Saxo Grammaticus, 133, 197, 198, 338.

Scaliger, J. C., 190, 337.

Scaliger, J. J., 111;
  quoted, 159.

Schlegel, A. W. von, x.

Selden, John, 14, 109, 307, 319.

Seneca, 73.

Serenus, Quintus, 79.

Seward, Thomas, 320, 327.

Sewell, George, xxiii, xxviii, xli, 168, 184, 305, 309, 310, 329, 334,

Shaftesbury, Earl of, xxxiv, 90, 317.

Shakespeare, Rowe’s biography, 1-23;
  Theobald’s account of his life, 65-72;
  story of deer-stealing, 3, 67, 204, 304;
  his father “a butcher,” 205;
  said to have been a “schoolmaster,” 205, 207;
  said to have “held horses,” 164, 327;
  acted the Ghost in _Hamlet_, 4, 206;
  acted in _Sejanus_, 68;
  story of dispute with Alleyn, 341;
  popularity in eighteenth century, ix-xiii;
  adaptations of his plays, xii-xiii;
  his neglect of the dramatic rules, xiv-xxi, 10, 14, 16, 118, etc., 126,
  his learning, xxi-xxvii, 2, 31-46, 52-55, 74-76, 135, etc., 162-215,
  eighteenth century editions, xxvii-xxxi, 143, etc.;
  his characters, xxxii-xxxviii, 48, 64, 116, 117, 247;
  his power over the passions, 48;
  his sentiments, 49;
  attention to prevailing taste, 49, 73, 103, 104;
  plays upon words, 13, 73, 125, 126, 267;
  bombast, 45, 124;
  anachronisms, 32, 56, 87, 124, 316;
  his “magic,” 14, 15, 252-254;
  the “original of our English tragical harmony,” 25, 140;
  spurious plays, 59, 308, 313;
  corruption of text, 51, 93, 248, 343;
  sonnets neglected during eighteenth century, 312;
  glossary, 83, 315, 317;
  compared with Jonson, 77;
  with Addison, 134, 323;
  statue, 95, 318.

“Shakespeare, William,” _Compendious or Briefe Examination_, (1751), 204,

Sheares, William, 181.

Shelton, Thomas, 181.

Shiels, Robert, 335.

Shippen, Robert, liii.

Shirley, James, xlv, 181, 182, 333.

Sidney, Sir Philip, xvi, 124, 183, 186.

Skelton, John, 193, 337.

Smith, Adam, xxxv.

Smith, Joseph, liii, lvi.

Smith, Sir Thomas, 132.

Smith, William, 210.

Smith, William, “of Harlestone in Norfolk,” 317, 320.

Somers, Sir George, 69, 314.

Sophocles, 18, 40, 55, 176.

Southern, John, 330.

Spanheim, 111.

_Spectator, The_, xi, 105, 307, 308, 309, 313, 319;
  Dennis’s Letters to, xxxix, xl, 309.

Speght, Thomas, 335.

Spence, Joseph, _Anecdotes_, 312, 322.

Spenser, Edmund, 6, 7, 68, 69, 110, 140, 175, 183, 186, 314, 331, 335,

Stafford, William, 205, 340.

Stanyhurst, Richard, 183, 189.

Steele, Richard, x, xl.

Steevens, George, xxvii, xxxviii, 313, 326, 340.

Strype, John, 204.

Suckling, Sir John, 8, 167, 305, 328.

Summers. See Somers.

Surrey, Earl of, 183.

Sylvester, Joshua. See Du Bartas.

Tacitus, 54.

Tarlton, Richard, 212, 345.

_Tatler, The_, x, xi.

Taylor, Edward, xxi.

Taylor, John, the Water-Poet, 163, 184, 208, 212, 326, 334, 344, 345.

_Tempest_ (alteration by Dryden and Davenant), 14.

Terence, 11, 200, 201, 320, 338, 339.

_Testament of Creseide_, 186, 335.

Thackeray, W. M., x.

Theobald, Lewis, Edition of Shakespeare, xxix, xxx, xli-li;
  Preface, xlvii, etc., 63-91;
  account of his own edition, 80, etc.;
  attitude to the dramatic rules, xvii;
  views on Shakespeare’s learning, xxiii, 74-76, 168, 314, 315;
  relations with Pope, xlii-xlvi;
  connection with Warburton, xlv-l, 314-317;
  acknowledgment of Warburton’s assistance, l, li;
  debt to Warburton in Preface, xlvii-l;
  criticised by Warburton, 98-101;
  by Johnson, xxx, xliv, 145;
  by Farmer, 171, 187, 201, 209, 213;
  _Cave of Poverty_, xlii;
  essays in _Censor_, xi, xvii;
  _Richard II._, xviii, xxiv, xlii, 314, 330, 336;
  _Shakespeare Restored_, xi, xxx, xlii-xliv, 314, 316, 327;
  _Double Falshood_, xli, xlv, 179-181, 313;
  proposed _Remarks on Shakespeare_, xlv;
  proposed _Essay upon Mr. Pope’s Judgment_, xlvi;
  _Miscellany on Taste_, xlvi;
  proposed edition of Poems, 83;
  proposed Glossary, 83;
  edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, 320;
  “a’ babbled of green fields,” xliii.

Thirlby, Styan, l.

Thomson, James, 183.

Thornton, Bonnell, 339.

Tiptoft, John, Earl of Worcester, 337.

Towers, William, 327.

Trapp, Joseph, xx.

_Tristram Shandy_, 214.

Turberville, George, 178, 183, 332.

_Two Noble Kinsmen_, 54, 211.

Twyne, Lawrence, 183.

Tyrwhitt, Thomas, lx, 332, 345.

Udall, Nicholas, 201.

Upton, John, xxiv, 149, 165, 167, 169, 170, 171, 175, 177, 178, 186, 188,
            193, 194, 200, 318, 322, 324, 331.

Urry, John, 335.

Vaughan, Sir John, 14, 307.

Victor, Benjamin, 181, 333.

Virgil, 30, 54, 105, 184, 188, 189, 335.

Voltaire, xx, 117, 131, 134, 221, 248, 249, 321, 323.

Wagstaffe, William, 170, 329.

Wake, Sir Isaac, 196, 338.

Walkington, Thomas, 337.

Waller, Edmund, 53, 310.

Warburton, William, Edition of Shakespeare, xxix, liv-lix;
  Preface, 96-111;
  opinion on Shakespeare’s learning, xxiv, 168, 315;
  connection with Theobald, xxiii, xxiv, xxx, xlv, etc., lv, lvi, 98-101;
  connection with Hanmer, li, lvi, lvii, 98-101;
  early attacks on Pope, xlix, lv, lvi;
  friendship with Pope, lviii, 97, 98;
  references to Johnson, 101, 325;
  criticised by Johnson, 147-149;
    by Farmer, 184, 190, 202, 208, 209, 213;
    by Morgann, 248;
  letter to Concanen, xlviii, lv.

Warner, William, 200, 306, 339.

Warton, Joseph, xix, xxxii, xxxiii, 325, 347.

Warton, Thomas, 205, 340.

Water-Poet. See Taylor.

Webb, Daniel, 185, 322, 335.

Whalley, Peter, xxv, xxxii, 169, 183, 184, 188, 197, 210, 314, 329, 336,

Whately, Thomas, xxxvi.

Whetstone, George, 178, 332.

Whiston, William, 320.

White, James, lxiii.

Whytinton, Robert, 194.

Windham, William, _Diary of_, 321.

Winstanley, William, xxxviii, 206, 341, 343.

_Wits, Fits, and Fancies_, 207, 342.

Wood, Anthony, 205, 207, 340, 341.

Wooll, John, _Memoirs of Joseph Warton_, 325.

Worcester (or Botoner), William, 202, 337, 339.

Wordsworth, William, xxxv.

_Yorkshire Tragedy, The_, 181, 332.
  See Shakespeare, spurious plays.

Young, Edward, 323, 328, 347.


_    1 Esmond_, ii. 10. Thackeray was probably recalling a passage in the
      eighth _Tatler_.

    2 In the _Life of Pope_.

_    3 Guardian_, No. 37 (23rd April, 1713). The paper was written by John
      Hughes (1677-1720), who had assisted Rowe in his edition of
      Shakespeare (see Reed’s Variorum edition, 1803, ii. p. 149).

    4 Introduction to _Shakespeare Restored_.

_    5 Dialogues of the Dead_, xiv., Boileau and Pope.

_    6 Memoirs_, ed. Birkbeck Hill, 1900, p. 105.

    7 Chap. xviii. That the passage is animated by pique and that amusing
      jealousy which Goldsmith showed on unexpected occasions is evident
      from the _Present State of Polite Learning_, Ch. xi.

    8 Cf. Theophilus Cibber’s attack on Garrick’s adaptations in his _Two
      Dissertations on the Theatres_, 1756.

    9 See the Prologue to _Jane Shore_:

      “In such an age, immortal Shakespeare wrote,
      By no quaint rules, nor hampering critics taught;
      With rough majestic force he mov’d the heart,
      And strength and nature made amends for art.
      Our humble author does his steps pursue,
      He owns he had the mighty bard in view;
      And in these scenes has made it more his care
      To rouse the passions than to charm the ear.”

   10 The note has reference to Biron’s remark, towards the end of the
      last scene, that a “twelvemonth and a day” is “too long for a play”
      (ed. 1733, ii., p. 181). In Mr. Lounsbury’s _Shakespeare as a
      Dramatic Artist_, 1901—which I regret I did not see before the
      present Introduction was in type—it is urged as “demonstration” of
      Theobald’s _sagacity_ that he had the insight to see that
      Shakespeare’s disregard of the unities was owing not to ignorance
      but to intention. Theobald’s note, however, has a suspicious
      similarity to what Gildon had said in his _Art of Poetry_, 1718, i.,
      p. 99. It is, says Gildon, “plain from his [Shakespeare’s] own words
      he saw the _absurdities_ of his own conduct. And I must confess that
      when I find that ... he himself has written one or two plays very
      near a _regularity_, I am the less apt to pardon his errors that
      seem of choice, as agreeable to his lazyness and easie gain.”

   11 Cf. the _Dunciad_, i. 69-72, where the inducements of satire make
      him adopt a decided attitude in favour of the dramatic rules.

   12 No. 592. The quotation will prove the injustice of De Quincey’s
      attitude to Addison in his Essay on Shakespeare. De Quincey even
      makes the strange statement that “by express examination, we
      ascertained the curious fact that Addison has never in one instance
      quoted or made any reference to Shakespeare” (_Works_, ed. Masson,
      iv., p. 24).

   13 It must be noted that some of Johnson’s arguments had themselves
      been anticipated in _Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_, 1736.
      The volume is anonymous, but has been ascribed to Sir Thomas Hanmer
      (see below, p. liii). It examines the play “according to the rules
      of reason and nature, without having any regard to those rules
      established by arbitrary dogmatising critics,” and shows “the
      absurdity of such arbitrary rules” as the unities of time and place.
      It is a well-written, interesting book, and is greatly superior to
      the _Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Hamlet_, which
      appeared, likewise anonymously, in 1752.

      For references to other works previous to Johnson’s Preface which
      dispute the authority of the classical rules, see note on p. 126.

   14 Johnson’s opinion of Mrs. Montagu’s _Essay_ has been recorded by
      Boswell (ed. Birkbeck Hill, ii., p. 88). But the book was well
      received. It went into a fourth edition in 1777, in which year it
      was translated into French. It is praised by such writers as Beattie
      and James Harris. Cf. Morgann, p. 270.

   15 See Monsieur Jusserand’s _Shakespeare en France_, 1898, and Mr.
      Lounsbury’s _Shakespeare and Voltaire_, 1902.

   16 This book is ascribed in Charles Knight’s untrustworthy _Studies of
      Shakspere_, Book XI., to William Richardson (1743-1814), Professor
      of Humanity in the University of Glasgow. Unfortunately the British
      Museum Catalogue lends some support to this injustice by giving it
      either to him or to Edward Taylor of Noan, Tipperary. The error is
      emphasised in the _Dictionary of National Biography_. Though
      Richardson upholds some of the more rigid classical doctrines, his
      work is of a much higher order. The book is attributed to Richardson
      in Watt’s _Bibliotheca Britannica_, 1824, but it had been assigned
      to Taylor in Isaac Reed’s “List of Detached Pieces of Criticism on
      Shakespeare,” 1803. From the evidence of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_
      for 1797 (Vol. 67, Part II., p. 1076) it would appear that the
      author was Edward Taylor (1741-1797) of Steeple-Aston, Oxfordshire.

   17 The only extant Elizabethan translation of the _Menaechmi_, however,
      is of later date than the _Comedy of Errors_. See note on p. 9.

   18 It is to be noted that the three points above mentioned are dealt
      with at considerable length in Farmer’s _Essay_.

_   19 Fraser’s Magazine_, Sept., Oct., and Dec., 1837; reprinted in
      _Miscellanies, Prose and Verse, by William Maginn_, 1885, vol. ii.

   20 Recorded in Northcote’s _Memoirs of Sir Joshua Reynolds_, 1813, p.
      90. An attempt to reopen the question has recently been made by Mr.
      Churton Collins in three articles in the _Fortnightly Review_
      (April, May, and July, 1903). Mr. Churton Collins believes that
      Shakespeare had a first-hand knowledge of Ovid, Plautus, Seneca,
      Horace, Lucretius, Cicero, Terence, and Virgil, and that he was more
      or less familiar with the Greek dramatists through the medium of the
      Latin language.

_   21 Journey from this World to the Next_, ch. viii.

_   22 The Life of Alexander Pope, Esq._, by W. H. Dilworth, 1759, pp.
      83-4. Cf. William Ayre’s _Memoirs of Pope_, 1745 (on which
      Dilworth’s _Life_ is founded), vol. i., p. 273.

   23 It should be noted that Theobald had said that the _second_ Folio
      “in the generality is esteemed as the best impression of
      Shakespeare” (_Shakespeare Restored_, p. 70).

   24 See the “Life of Johnson” contributed to the eighth edition of the
      _Encyclopaedia Britannica_, and reprinted in the ninth.

   25 This had been recognised also by Whalley (_Enquiry_, 1748, p. 17).

   26 See the Dedication of the _Revisal of Shakespeare’s Text_.

_   27 Characteristicks_, 1711, i., p. 275.

   28 See Pope’s _Works_, ed. Elwin and Courthope, ix., p. 26.

   29 From a letter to Richard West, written apparently in 1742: see
      _Works_, ed. Gosse, ii., p. 109.

   30 Richardson believed that the greatest blemishes in Shakespeare
      “proceeded from his want of consummate taste.” The same idea had
      been expressed more forcibly by Hume in his Appendix to the Reign of
      James I.: “His total ignorance of all theatrical art and conduct,
      however material a defect, yet, as it affects the spectator rather
      than the reader, we can more easily excuse than that want of taste
      which often prevails in his productions, and which gives way only by
      intervals to the irradiations of genius.” Hugh Blair, whose name is
      associated with the Edinburgh edition of 1753, had said in his
      lectures on rhetoric in the University of Edinburgh that Shakespeare
      was “deficient in just taste, and altogether unassisted by knowledge
      or art.” And Adam Smith believed so strongly in the French doctrines
      that Wordsworth could call him “the worst critic, David Hume not
      excepted, that Scotland, a soil to which this sort of weed seems
      natural, has produced.” Kames, however, was a Scot.

   31 Hazlitt confounds Whately with George Mason, author of _An Essay on
      Design in Gardening_, 1768. Whately’s book was published as “by the
      author of _Observations on Modern Gardening_.” His name was given in
      the second edition, 1808.

      J. P. Kemble replied to Whately’s _Remarks_ in _Macbeth
      re-considered_ (1786; republished in 1817 with the title _Macbeth
      and King Richard the Third_).

   32 Morgann’s kinship with the romantic critics is seen even in so minor
      a matter as his criticism of Johnson; see p. 248.

   33 Essay on “The Person of Shakspearian Criticism,” _Essays and
      Studies_, 1895, p. 270.

   34 I am indebted to Dr. Aldis Wright for procuring for me the details
      of Warburton’s claims. As a few of the passages were omitted by
      Theobald in the second edition, the following page references are to
      the edition of 1733:

      (1) P. xix, _This Similitude_, to _Nature and Science_, p. xx.
      (2) P. xxi, _Servetur ad imum_, to _the more wonder’d at_, p. xxii.
      (3) P. xxv, _That nice Critick_, to _Truth and Nature_, p. xxvii.
      (4) P. xxx, _For I shall find_, to _this long agitated Question_, p.
      xxxii. (p. 76).
      (5) P. xxxiii, _They are confessedly_, to _Force and Splendor_, p.
      xxxiv. (p. 77).
      (6) P. xxxiv, _And how great that Merit_, to _ill Appearance_ (p.
      (7) P. xxxv, _It seems a moot Point_, to _from the spurious_, p.
      xxxvi. (p. 78).
      (8) P. xxxix, _For the late Edition_, to _have wrote so_, p. xl. (p.
      (9) P. xl, _The Science of Criticism_, to _Editor’s Labour_, p. xli.
      (pp. 81, 82).
      (10) P. xlv, _There are Obscurities_, to _antiquated and disused_
      (p. 84).
      (11) P. xlvi, _Wit lying mostly_, to _Variety of his Ideas_, p.
      xlvii. (pp. 84-86).
      (12) P. xlviii, _as to Rymer_, to _his best Reflexions_ (p. 86).
      (13) P. lxii, _If the Latin_, to _Complaints of its Barbarity_ (pp.
      89, 90).

      The passages which were retained are printed in the present text at
      the pages indicated above within brackets. Cf. Notes, p. 89.

   35 Mr. Lounsbury has said that Hanmer’s authorship of this pamphlet “is
      so improbable that it may be called impossible. The sentiments
      expressed in it are not Hanmer’s sentiments” (_Shakespeare as a
      Dramatic Artist_, p. 60). But he has omitted to tell us how he knows
      what Hanmer’s sentiments are.

_   36 Ld._ Falkland, _Ld. C. J._ Vaughan, _and Mr._ Selden.

   37 Alluding to the Sea-Voyage of _Fletcher_.

   38 Much ado about nothing, _Act 2_. _Enter_ Prince, Leonato, Claudio,
      _and_ Jack Wilson, _instead of_ Balthasar. _And in Act 4._ Cowley,
      _and_ Kemp, _constantly thro’ a whole Scene_. Edit. Fol. of 1623,
      and 1632.

_   39 Such as,_

      —My Queen is murder’d! _Ring the little Bell_—
      —His nose grew as sharp as a pen, and _a table of Greenfield’s_, &c.

   40 See his Letters to me.

   41 I believe the stage was in possession of some rude outline of
      _Falstaff_ before the time of _Shakespeare_, under the name of _Sir
      John Oldcastle_; and I think it probable that this name was retained
      for a period in _Shakespeare_’s Hen. 4th. but changed to _Falstaff_
      before the play was printed. The expression of “_Old Lad of the
      Castle_,” used by the Prince, does not however decidedly prove this;
      as it might have been only some known and familiar appellation too
      carelessly transferred from the old Play.

   42 I doubt if _Shakespeare_ had Sir _John Fastolfe_ in his memory when
      he called the character under consideration _Falstaff_. The title
      and name of _Sir John_ were transferred from _Oldcastle_ not
      _Fastolfe_, and there is no kind of similarity in the characters. If
      he had _Fastolfe_ in his thought at all, it was that, while he
      approached the name, he might make such a departure from it as the
      difference of character seemed to require.

   43 It would be no difficult matter, I think, to prove that all those
      Plays taken from the English chronicle, which are ascribed to
      _Shakespeare_, were on the stage before his time, and that he was
      employed by the Players only to refit and repair; taking due care to
      retain the names of the characters and to preserve all those
      incidents which were the most popular. Some of these Plays,
      particularly the two parts of Hen. IV., have certainly received what
      may be called a _thorough repair_; that is, _Shakespeare_ new-wrote
      them to the old names. In the latter part of Hen. V. some of the old
      materials remain; and in the Play which I have here censured (Hen.
      VI.) we see very little of the new. I should conceive it would not
      be very difficult to feel one’s way thro’ these Plays, and
      distinguish every where the metal from the clay. Of the two Plays of
      Hen. IV. there has been, I have admitted, a complete transmutation,
      preserving the old forms; but in the others, there is often no union
      or coalescence of parts, nor are any of them equal in merit to those
      Plays more peculiarly and emphatically _Shakespeare_’s _own_. The
      reader will be pleased to think that I do not reckon into the works
      of _Shakespeare_ certain absurd productions which his editors have
      been so good as to compliment him with. I object, and strenuously
      too, even to _The Taming of the Shrew_; not that it wants merit, but
      that it does not bear the peculiar features and stamp of

      The rhyming parts of the Historic plays are all, I think, of an
      older date than the times of _Shakespeare_.—There was a Play, I
      believe, of _the Acts of King John_, of which the bastard
      _Falconbridge_ seems to have been the hero and the fool: He appears
      to have spoken altogether in rhyme. _Shakespeare_ shews him to us in
      the latter part of the second scene in the first act of _King John_
      in this condition; tho’ he afterwards, in the course of the Play,
      thought fit to adopt him, to give him language and manners, and to
      make him his own.

   44 The reader must be sensible of something in the composition of
      _Shakespeare_’s characters, which renders them essentially different
      from those drawn by other writers. The characters of every Drama
      must indeed be grouped; but in the groupes of other poets the parts
      which are not seen do not in fact exist. But there is a certain
      roundness and integrity in the forms of _Shakespeare_, which give
      them an independence as well as a relation, insomuch that we often
      meet with passages which, tho’ perfectly felt, cannot be
      sufficiently explained in words, without unfolding the whole
      character of the speaker: And this I may be obliged to do in respect
      to that of _Lancaster_, in order to account for some words spoken by
      him in censure of _Falstaff_.—Something which may be thought too
      heavy for the _text_, I shall add _here_, as a conjecture concerning
      the composition of _Shakespeare_’s characters: Not that they were
      the effect, I believe, so much of a minute and laborious attention,
      as of a certain comprehensive energy of mind, involving within
      itself all the effects of system and of labour.

      Bodies of all kinds, whether of metals, plants, or animals, are
      supposed to possess certain first principles of _being_, and to have
      an existence independent of the accidents which form their magnitude
      or growth: Those accidents are supposed to be drawn in from the
      surrounding elements, but not indiscriminately; each plant and each
      animal imbibes those things only which are proper to its own
      distinct nature, and which have besides such a secret relation to
      each other as to be capable of forming a perfect union and
      coalescence: But so variously are the surrounding elements mingled
      and disposed, that each particular body, even of those under the
      same species, has yet some _peculiar_ of its own. _Shakespeare_
      appears to have considered the being and growth of the human mind as
      analogous to this system: There are certain qualities and capacities
      which he seems to have considered as first principles; the chief of
      which are certain energies of courage and activity, according to
      their degrees; together with different degrees and sorts of
      sensibilities, and a capacity, varying likewise in _degree_, of
      discernment and intelligence. The rest of the composition is drawn
      in from an atmosphere of surrounding things; that is, from the
      various influences of the different laws, religions and governments
      in the world; and from those of the different ranks and inequalities
      in society; and from the different professions of men, encouraging
      or repressing passions of particular sorts, and inducing different
      modes of thinking and habits of life; and he seems to have known
      intuitively what those influences in particular were which this or
      that original constitution would most freely imbibe and which would
      most easily associate and coalesce. But all these things being, in
      different situations, very differently disposed, and those
      differences exactly discerned by him, he found no difficulty in
      marking every individual, even among characters of the same sort,
      with something peculiar and distinct.—Climate and complexion demand
      their influence; “_Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
      and love thee after_,” is a sentiment characteristic of, and fit
      only to be uttered by a _Moor_.

      But it was not enough for _Shakespeare_ to have formed his
      characters with the most perfect truth and coherence; it was further
      necessary that he should possess a wonderful facility of
      compressing, as it were, his own spirit into these images, and of
      giving alternate animation to the forms. This was not to be done
      _from without_; he must have _felt_ every varied situation, and have
      spoken thro’ the organ he had formed. Such an intuitive
      comprehension of things and such a facility must unite to produce a
      _Shakespeare_. The reader will not now be surprised if I affirm that
      those characters in _Shakespeare_, which are seen only in part, are
      yet capable of being unfolded and understood in the whole; every
      part being in fact relative, and inferring all the rest. It is true
      that the point of action or sentiment, which we are most concerned
      in, is always held out for our special notice. But who does not
      perceive that there is a peculiarity about it, which conveys a
      relish of the whole? And very frequently, when no particular point
      presses, he boldly makes a character act and speak from those parts
      of the composition which are _inferred_ only, and not distinctly
      shewn. This produces a wonderful effect; it seems to carry us beyond
      the poet to nature itself, and gives an integrity and truth to facts
      and character, which they could not otherwise obtain: And this is in
      reality that art in _Shakespeare_ which, being withdrawn from our
      notice, we more emphatically call _nature_. A felt propriety and
      truth from causes unseen, I take to be the highest point of Poetic
      composition. If the characters of _Shakespeare_ are thus _whole_,
      and as it were original, while those of almost all other writers are
      mere imitation, it may be fit to consider them rather as Historic
      than Dramatic beings; and, when occasion requires, to account for
      their conduct from the _whole_ of character, from general
      principles, from latent motives, and from policies not avowed.

   45 These observations have brought me so near to the regions of Poetic
      _magic_ (using the word here in its strict and proper sense, and not
      loosely as in the _text_), that, tho’ they lie not directly in my
      course, I yet may be allowed in this place to point the reader that
      way. A felt propriety, or truth of art, from an unseen, tho’
      supposed adequate cause, we call _nature_. A like feeling of
      propriety and truth, supposed without a cause, or as seeming to be
      derived from causes inadequate, fantastic, and absurd,—such as
      wands, circles, incantations, and so forth,—we call by the general
      name _magic_, including all the train of superstition, witches,
      ghosts, fairies, and the rest.—_Reason_ is confined to the line of
      visible existence; our _passions_ and our _fancy_ extend far beyond
      into the _obscure_; but however lawless their operations may seem,
      the images they so wildly form have yet a relation to truth, and are
      the shadows at least, however fantastic, of _reality_. I am not
      investigating but passing this subject, and must therefore leave
      behind me much curious speculation. Of Personifications however we
      should observe that those which are made out of abstract ideas are
      the creatures of the Understanding only: Thus, of the mixed modes,
      virtue, beauty, wisdom and others,—what are they but very obscure
      ideas of _qualities_ considered as abstracted from any _subject_
      whatever? The mind cannot steadily contemplate such an abstraction:
      What then does it do?—Invent or imagine a subject in order to
      support these qualities; and hence we get the Nymphs or Goddesses of
      virtue, of beauty, or of wisdom; the very obscurity of the ideas
      being the cause of their conversion into sensible objects, with
      precision both of feature and of form. But as reason has its
      personifications, so has _passion_.—Every passion has its Object,
      tho’ often distant and obscure;—to be brought nearer then, and
      rendered more distinct, it is personified; and Fancy fantastically
      decks, or aggravates the _form_, and adds “a local habitation and a

      But passion is the _dupe_ of its own artifice and _realises_ the
      image it had formed. The Grecian theology was mixed of both these
      kinds of personification. Of the images produced by passion it must
      be observed that they are the images, for the most part, not of the
      passions themselves, but of their remote effects. _Guilt_ looks
      through the medium, and beholds a devil; _fear_, spectres of every
      sort; _hope_, a smiling cherub; _malice_ and _envy_ see hags, and
      witches, and inchanters dire; whilst the innocent and the young
      behold with fearful delight the tripping fairy, whose shadowy form
      the moon gilds with its softest beams.—Extravagant as all this
      appears, it has its laws so precise that we are sensible both of a
      local and temporary and of an universal magic; the first derived
      from the general nature of the human mind, influenced by particular
      habits, institutions, and climate; and the latter from the same
      general nature abstracted from those considerations: Of the first
      sort the _machinery_ in _Macbeth_ is a very striking instance; a
      machinery, which, however exquisite at the time, has already lost
      more than half its force; and the Gallery now laughs in some places
      where it ought to shudder:—But the magic of the _Tempest_ is lasting
      and universal.

      There is besides a species of writing for which we have no term of
      art, and which holds a middle place between nature and magic; I mean
      where fancy either alone, or mingled with reason, or reason assuming
      the appearance of fancy, governs some real existence; but the whole
      of this art is pourtrayed in a single Play; in the real madness of
      _Lear_, in the assumed wildness of _Edgar_, and in the Professional
      _Fantasque_ of the _Fool_, all operating to contrast and heighten
      each other. There is yet another feat in this kind, which
      _Shakespeare_ has performed;—he has personified _malice_ in his
      _Caliban_; a character kneaded up of three distinct natures, the
      diabolical, the human, and the brute. The rest of his preternatural
      beings are images of _effects_ only, and cannot subsist but in a
      surrounding atmosphere of those passions from which they are
      derived. _Caliban_ is the passion itself, or rather a compound of
      malice, servility, and lust, _substantiated_; and therefore best
      shewn in contrast with the lightness of _Ariel_ and the innocence of
      _Miranda_.—_Witches_ are sometimes substantial existences, supposed
      to be possessed by, or allyed to the unsubstantial: but the Witches
      in _Macbeth_ are a gross sort of shadows, “bubbles of the earth,” as
      they are finely called by _Banquo_.—_Ghosts_ differ from other
      imaginery beings in this, that they belong to no element, have no
      specific nature or character, and are effects, however harsh the
      expression, supposed without a cause; the reason of which is that
      they are not the creation of the poet, but the servile copies or
      transcripts of popular imagination, connected with supposed reality
      and religion. Should the poet assign the true cause, and call them
      the mere painting or _coinage of the brain_, he would disappoint his
      own end, and destroy the being he had raised. Should he assign
      fictitious causes, and add a specific nature, and a local
      habitation, it would not be endured; or the effect would be lost by
      the conversion of one being into another. The approach to reality in
      this case defeats all the arts and managements of fiction.—The whole
      play of the _Tempest_ is of so high and superior a nature that
      _Dryden_, who had attempted to imitate in vain, might well exclaim

      “——_Shakespeare_’s _magic_ could not copied be,
      Within that circle none durst walk but He.”

   46 Ænobarbus, in Anthony and Cleopatra, is in effect the Chorus of the
      Play; as Menenius Agrippa is of Coriolanus.

   47 The censure commonly passed on _Shakespeare’s puns_, is, I think,
      not well founded. I remember but very few, which are undoubtedly
      his, that may not be justifyed; and if _so_, a greater instance
      cannot be given of the art which he so peculiarly possessed of
      converting base things into excellence.

      “For if the Jew doth cut but deep enough,
      I’ll pay the forfeiture _with all my heart_.”

      A play upon words is the most that can be expected from one who
      affects gaiety under the pressure of severe misfortunes; but so
      imperfect, so broken a gleam, can only serve more plainly to
      disclose the gloom and darkness of the mind; it is an effort of
      fortitude, which, failing in its operation, becomes the truest,
      because the most unaffected _pathos_; and a skilful actor, well
      managing his tone and action, might with this miserable pun steep a
      whole audience suddenly in tears.

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