Imatges de pÓgina
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THE

SECOND PART

OF

HENRY IV.

IT

T is uncommon to find the fame spirit and interest diffused through the fequel, as in the first part of a play: but the fertile and happy mind of Shakespear could create or diverfify 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 fuftaining the fpirit, and preserving unimpaired, through various circumstances and fituations, what his invention had originally produced. H

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 himself like all other dramatic writers to a certain theatrical character; which, formed entirely of one paffion, presents to us always the Patriot, the Lover, or the Conqueror. These, ftill turning on the same 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 controlledand 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 reprefentation of the limbs and

and features which compose the human form. He first had the skill to give it gefture, attitude, the eafy graces of real life, and to exhibit its powers in a variety of exertions.

We shall again fee Northumberland timid and wavering, forward in confpiracy, yet hesitating to join in an action of doubtful iffue.

King Henry is as prudent a politician on his death-bed, as at council; his eye, just before it closed for ever, ftretching itself beyond the hour of death, to the view of those dangers, which from the temper of the Prince of Wales, and the condition of the times, threatened his Throne and Family. I cannot help taking notice of the remarkable attention of the poet, to the cautious and politic temper of Henry, when he makes him, even in speaking to his friends and partisans, diffemble fo far, in relating Richard's prophecy, that Northumberland,

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who

who helped him to the throne, would one day revolt from him, as to add,

Though then, heaven knows, I had no fuch in

tent;

But that neceffity fo bow'd the ftate,

That I and Greatnefs were compell'd to kifs.

To his fucceffor he expreffes himself very differently, when he says,

Heaven knows, my son,

By what by-paths and indirect crook'd ways
I met this crown.

Thefe delicacies of conduct lie hardly within the poet's province, but have their fource in that great and universal capacity, which the attentive reader will find to belong to our author, beyond any other writer. He alone, perhaps, would have perceived the decorum and fitness of making so wise a man reserved even with his friends, and trust a confeffion of the iniquities, by which he obtained

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obtained the crown, only to his fucceffor, whose interest it was not to disgrace whatever could authorize his attainment of it. Let tragedy-writers who make princes prate with pages and waiting-women of their murders and treafons, learn for once, from rude and illiterate Shakespear, how averse pride is coolly to confess, and prudence to betray, what the fever and deliriums of ambition have prompted us to do.

Falstaffe appears with his former difpofitions, but in new fituations: and entertains us in a variety of scenes.

Hotspur is as it were revived to the spectator, in the following character given of him by his lady, when she diffuades Northumberland from joining the forces of the archbishop.

Lady PERCY.

Oh, yet for heav'n's fake, go not to these wars.
The time was, father, that you broke your word,
When you were more endear'd to it than now;
When your own Percy, when my heart-dear Harry,

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Threw

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