Page images

eyes are caught with the gawdy dress of a Trojan; she eagerly persues the glittering spoils, and loses her life in the attempt.

How conformable to their characters are the ambitious Macbeth, and the jealous Othello ? Tho' Falstaff is a fardle of low vices, a lyar, a coward, a thief ; yet his good-humour makes him a pleasant companion. If you laugh at the oddness of Fluellin, yet his bravery and


served their country from fire and fword, and the resentment of that proud patrician. How could the fenate reward them proportionably to their desert? Why, as Valerius Maximus tells us, 1. 5. C. 2. Sanxit uti faeminis semitâ viri cederent-permifit quoque his purpurea veste et aureis uti segmentis. Which we may translate, The Senate ordered that the men should give the women the upper-hand, and allowed them to wear fane cloaths, and ornaments of gold. However old Cato some time after, assisted by the tribunes, was resolved to repeal this order, but the clamours, and uproars of the ladies were so great, that he was forced to defift. Livy's account (L. 34.] of this female commotion is admirable. If we look into Milton, we shall there find this vanity in Eve, when in her innocent state ; that Narciffus-like admiration of herself, which the poet paints, B. IV. 8.449, &c. far exceeds any thing in Ovid : and the glozing tempter at length catches her with flattery. B. IX, 3. 532. &c. What shall we think after this of such unpoetical characters, as Marcia and Lucia in Addison's Cato ? But the less that women appear on the ftage, ge


honesty claim a laugh of love, rather than of contempt. These manners, and most others which the poet has painted, are agreeable to the character, and suitable to his design.

III. The poet should give his manners that resemblance which history, or common report has published of them. This is to be underftood of known " characters. Shakespeare very strictly observes this rule, and if ever he varies from it, 'tis with great art ; as in the character of Banquo, mention'd above. Of those characters, which he has taken from the English chronicles, as king John, Henry VIII, cardinal Wolsey, &c. the manners and qualities are like to what history reports of them. " Breval, in

nerally the better is the story : and unmarried women are left entirely out in Shakespeare's þest plays, as in Macbeth, Othello, Julius Cæsar ; in Hamlet, Ophelia is necessary to carry on the plot of the pretended madness. After the Restoration women were suffered to act on the stage, and stories were formed for them, wherein they acted the principal parts. Hence the stage began to be corrupted ; and at the same time sprung up, love, honour, gallantry, and such like Gothic ornamental parts of poetry ; and Shakespeare, and Johnson in proportion were despised.

11 Αriftot. κεφ. ιε. τρίτον δε, το όμοιον. 1. e. this likenets must be drawn from history, or common report. Aut famam fequere. Horat. art. poet. 119. 12 Breval's travels, p. 104.

his account of Verona, introducing the story of Romeo and Juliet, has the following remark. ço Shakespeare, as I have found upon a strict « search into the histories of Verona, has va" ried very little either in his names, characters, 6 or other circumstances from truth, and mat« ter of fact. He observed this rule indeed in “ most of his tragedies, which are so much the “ more moving, as they are not only grounded

upon nature, and history, but likewise as he “i keeps closer to both than any dramatic writer

we ever had besides himself.”

To consider in this view some of the characters in Julius Caesar. M. Junius Brutus was a Stoic philofopher ; the Stoics were of all sects the most humane and mild, and all professedly commonwealthsmen. They made every thing submit to honesty, but that they submitted to nothing. 'Twas therefore the tyrant Caesar, the subverter of his country and the constitution, that Brutus killed, not the friendly Caesar.

Can we stand by, and see
Our mother robb’d and bound and ravisb'd be,
Yet not to ber asistance stir,
Pleas'd with the strength and beauty of the ravisher ?
Or shall we fear to kill him, if before
The cancelld name of friend be bore ?


Ingrateful Brusus do they call ?
Ingrateful Caefar, who could Rome enthral!

C. Caffius was more of an Epicurean by name, than principle. He was of an impetuous temper,

could not brook the thoughts of a master, and was beside of a severe life, and manners. Seneca says of him, Ep. 547. Caffius totâ vitâ

aquam bibit.

Cicero was by nature timorous, and "3 vainglorious. An improper person to be trusted with so great an enterprize. He had beside been a flatterer of Caesar.

The characters of the 14 conspirators were in after ages all abused, when historians and

poets turn'd court-flatterers. And even the proscriptions of those three successful villains, the false and cruel Octavius, the wild and profligate An

13 This


of Cicero's character Brutus touches on.

" O namo him not ; let us not break with him :
• For he will never follow any thing,

That other men begin.

14 Even Brutus they belied at his death ; for he never was so little of a philosopher as to call virtue an empty name, and no folid good, because he missed his aim to restore the Roman liberty.

Nunquam fuccelu crescit honeftum,


tony, the stupid Lepidus, were either palliated or excused. The cruelty of Octavius is particularly mention’d by Suetonius, Reftitit aliquandiu collegis, ne qua fieret profcriptio, fed inceptam utroque acerbius exercuit. But with these and other vices he still preserved great dignity, and, what we moderns call, good-breeding; a fort of mock-virtues of a very low class. And this character of Octavius Shakespeare has very juftly preserved in his play.

IV. The manners ought to be 's uniform and consistent: and, whenever a change of manners is made, care should be taken that there

appear proper motives for such a change ; and the audience are to be prepared before hand. There is a very fine instance of this consistent change in Terence. Demea begins to find that all his peevish severity avail'd nothing ; no reformation

15 Τέταρλον δε το ομαλόν: καν γας ανώμαλός τις ή και την μίμησιν παρέχων, και τοι8τον ήθG. υπολιθείς, όμως ομαλώς dvúuchon des sive.. The fourth is that the manners be equal : and should the person, who is the subject of imitation, be unequal in his manners, yet we ought to make them equally unequal. 'Omanūs drupador: as the manners of Tigellius in Horace, conftans in levitate.

Servetur ad imum
Qualis ab incepto procefferit, et fibi conftet,

Hor. art. poet. :26.


« PreviousContinue »