Imatges de pÓgina


With shallow jesters, and rash þavin wits,
Soon kindled, and soon burnt ; 'scarded his state,
Mingled his royalty with carping fools ;
Had his great name profaned with their scoins;

gave his countenance, against his name,
To laugh at gybing boys, and stand the push
Of every beardless, vain comparative;
Grew a companion to the common streets,
Enfeoffed himself to popularity.
That, being daily swallow'd by men's eyes,
They surfeited with honey, and began
To loath a taste of sweetness; whereof a little
More than a little, is by much too much.
So when he had occasion to be seen,
He was but as the cuckow is in June,
Heard, nor regarded; seen but with such eyes,
As, sick and blunted with community,
Afford no extraordinary gaze;
Such, as is bent on sún-like majesty,
When it shines seldom in admiring eyes :
But rather drowz’d, and hung their eye-lids down,
Slept in his face, and render'd such aspect
As cloudy men use to their adversaries,
Being with his presence glutted, gorg’d and full.
And in that very line, Harry, stand'st thou ;



For thou hast lost thy princely privilege
With vile participation ; not an eye,
But is a-weary of thy common sight,
Save mine, which hath desir'd to see thee more:
Which now doth, what I would not have it do,
Make blind itself with foolish tenderness.

Our author is so little under the discipline of art, that we are apt to ascribe his happiest successes, as well as his most unfortunate failings, to chance. But I cannot help thinking, there is more of contri- . vance and care in his execution of this play, than in almost any he has written. It is a more regular drama than his other historical plays, less charged with absurdities, and less involved in confusion. It is indeed liable to those objections, which are made to Tragi-comedy. But if the pedantry of learning could ever recede from its dogmatical rules, I think that this play,

, instead of being condemned for being of that species, would obtain favour for the species itself, though perhaps correct tasté may be offended with the transitions G


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from grave and important, to light and ludicrous subjects: and more still with those from great and illustrious, to low and mean persons. Foreigners, unused to these conpositions, will be much disgusted at them. The vulgar call all animals that are not natives of their own country, monsters, however beautiful they may be in their form, or wisely adapted to their climate, and natural destination. The prejudices of pride are as violent and unreasonable, as the superstitions of ignorance. On the French Parnassus, a tragi-comedy of this kind will be deemed a monster fitter to be shewn to the people at a fair, than exhibited to circles of the learned and polite. From some peculiar circumstances relating to the characters in this piece, we may, perhaps, find a sort of apology for the motley mixture thrown into it. We cannot but suppose, that at the time it was written, many stories yet subsisted of the wild adventures of this Prince of Wales, and his idle companions. His subsequent reformation, and his conquests in France, rendered him

a very

a very popular character. It was a delicate affair to expose the follies of Henry V. before a people proud of his victories, and tender of his fame, at the same time so informed of the extravagancies, and excesses of his youth, that he could not appear divested of them with any degree of historical probability. Their enormity would have been greatly heightened, if they had appeared in a piece entirely serious, and full of dignity and decorum. How happily therefore was the character of Falstaffe introduced, whose wit and festivity in some measure excuse the Prince for admitting him into his familiarity, and suffering himself to be led by him into some irregularities. There is hardly a young hero, full of gaiety and spirit, who, if he had once fallen into the society of so pleasant a companion, could have the severity to discard him, or would not say, as the Prince does,

He could better spare a better man..

How skilfully does our author follow the tradition of the Prince's having been engaged G 2



in a robbery, yet make his part in it a mere frolic to play on the cowardly and braggart temper of Falstaffe! The whole conduct of that incident is very artful: he rejects the proposal of the robbery, and only complies with the playing a trick on the robbers ; and care is taken to inform you, that the money is returned to its owners. There is great propriety likewise in the behaviour of Prince Henry, when he supposes Falstaffe to lie dead before him: to have expressed no concern, would have appeared unfeeling; to have lamented such a companion too seriously, ungraceful: with a suitable mixture of tenderness and contempt he thus addresses the body:

What! old acquaintance ! could not all this flesh
Keep in a little life? Poor Jack ! farewell !
I could have better spar'd a better man.


The Prince seems always diverted, rather than seduced by Falstaffe; he despises his vices while he is entertained by his humour; and though Falstaffe is for a while a


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