Imatges de pÓgina
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tion that might be caught in his fociety, fo it was very fkilful to make him as ridiculous as witty, and as contemptible as entertaining. The admirable fpeech upon honour would have been both indecent and dangerous from any other perfon. We must allow his wit is every where juft, his humour genuine, his character perfectly original, and sustained through every scene, in every play, in which it appears.

As Falstaffe, whom the author certainly intended to be perfectly witty, is lefs addicted to quibble and play on words, than any of his comic characters, I think we may fairly conclude, our author was fenfible that it was but a falfe kind of wit, which he practifed from the hard neceffity of the times for in that age, the Profeffor quibbled in his chair, the Judge quibbled on the bench, the Prelate quibbled in the pulpit, the Statesman quibbled at the council-board; nay, even Majefty quibbled on the Throne.

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THE

SECOND PART

O F

HENRY IV.

IT

T is uncommon to find the fame spirit and interest diffused through the sequel, as in the first part of a play: but the fertile and happy mind of Shakespear could create or diversify at pleasure; could produce new characters, or vary the attitudes of those before exhibited, according to the occafion. He leaves us in doubt, whether most to admire the fecundity of his imagination in the variety of its productions; or the strength and steadiness of his genius in sustaining the fpirit, and preserving unimpaired, through various circumstances and fituations, what his invention had originally produced.

We

We shall hardly find any man to-day more like to what he was yesterday, than the perfons here are like to what they were in the first part of Henry IV. This is the more astonishing as the author has not confined himfelf like all other dramatic writers to a certain theatrical character; which, formed entirely of one paffion, prefents to us always the Patriot, the Lover, or the Conqueror. Thefe, ftill turning on the fame hinge, defcribe, like a piece of clock-work, a regular circle of movements. In human nature, of which Shakespear's characters are a juft imitation, every paffion is controlled and forced into many deviations by various incidental difpofitions and humours. The operations of this complicated machine are far more difficult to trace, than the steady undeviating line of the artificial character formed on one fimple principle. Our poet feems to have as great an advantage over ordinary dramatic poets, as Dædalus had above his predeceffors in fculpture. They could make a representation of the limbs

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