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neglect into which Shakspere had fallen as a popular dramatist, may be opposed the most distinct testimony of one, especially, who was a most accurate and minute chronicler of the public taste. COLLEY CIBBER, who himself became an actor, in 1690, in the one privileged company of London, of which Betterton was the head-a company formed out of the united strength of the two companies which had been established at the Restoration-describes the state of the stage at the period of the first revival of dramatic performances: "Besides their being thorough masters of their art, these actors set forward with two critical advantages, which perhaps may never happen again in many ages." One of the advantages he mentions, but a secondary one, was, "that before the Restoration no actresses had ever been seen upon the English stage." But the chief advantage was, "their immediate opening after the so long interdiction of plays during the civil war and the anarchy that followed it." He then goes on to say, "What eager appetites from so long a fast must the guests of those times have had to that high and fresh variety of entertainments!" Provided by whom? By the combined variety of Jonson, and Fletcher, and Massinger, and Ford, and Shirley, and a host of other writers, whose attactive fare was to be presented to the eager guests after so long a fast? No. The high entertainment and the fresh variety was to be provided by one man alone,—the man who we are told was neglected in his own age, and forgotten in that which came after him. "What eager appetites from so long a fast must the guests of those times have had to that high and fresh variety of entertainments which Shakespeare had left prepared for them! Never was a stage so provided. A hundred years are wasted, and another silent century well advanced*, and yet what unborn age shall say Shakespeare has his equal! How many shining actors have the warm scenes of his genius given to posterity!" Betterton is idolized as an actor, as much as the old man venerates Shakspere: "Betterton was an actor, as Shakespeare was an author, both without

*Cibber is writing as late as 1740.

competitors; formed for the mutual assistance and illustration of each other's genius. How Shakespeare wrote, all men who have a taste for nature may read, and know; but with what higher rapture would he still be read, could they conceive how Betterton played him!" Whenever Cibber speaks of Betterton's wondrous excellence, it is always in connection with Shakspere: "Should I tell you that all the Othellos, Hamlets, Hotspurs, Macbeths, and Brutuses whom you may have seen since his time, have fallen far short of him, this still should give you no idea of his particular excellence." For some years after the Restoration it seems to have been difficult to satiate the people with the repetition of Shakspere's great characters and leading plays, in company with some of the plays of Jonson and Fletcher. The two companies had an agreement as to their performances: "All the capital plays of Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Ben Jonson were divided between them by the approbation of the court, and their own alternate choice. So that, when Hart was famous for Othello, Betterton had no less a reputation for Hamlet." Still, the test of histrionic excellence was Shakspere. So far from Shakspere being neglected at this period, it is almost evident that the performance of him was overdone; for every one knows that a theatrical audience, even in the largest city, is, in a considerable degree, composed of regular frequenters of the theatre, and that novelty is therefore an indispensable requisite to continued success. The plays of Shakspere were better acted by the company of which Betterton was the head, than by the rival company; and this, according to Cibber, led to the introduction of a new taste:- "These two excellent companies were both prosperous for some few years, till their variety of plays began to be exhausted. Then, of course, the better actors (which the King's seem to have been allowed) could not fail of drawing the greater audiences. Sir William Davenant, therefore, master of the Duke's company, to make head against their success, was forced to add spectacle and music to action, and to introduce a new species of plays, since called dramatic operas, of which kind were 'The

Tempest,' 'Psyche,' 'Circe,' and others, all set off with the most expensive decorations of scenes and habits, with the best voices and dancers.

"This sensual supply of sight and sound coming into the assistance of the weaker party, it was no wonder they should grow too hard for sense and simple nature, when it is considered how many more people there are that can see and hear than think and judge. So wanton a change of the public taste, therefore, began to fall as heavy upon the King's company as their greater excellence in action had before fallen upon their competitors. Of which encroachment upon wit several good prologues in those days frequently complained."

There can be no doubt that most of the original performances of Shakspere, immediately after the Restoration, were given from his unsophisticated text. The first improvements that were perpetrated upon this text resulted from the cause which Cibber has so accurately described. Davenant, to make head against the success of the King's company "was forced to add spectacle and music to action." What importance Davenant attached to these novelties, we may learn from the description of the opening scene of "The Enchanted Island;' that alteration of 'The Tempest,' by himself and Dryden, to which Cibber refers :-"The front of the stage is opened, and the band of twenty-four violins, with the harpsicals and theorbos which accompany the voices, are placed between the pit and the stage. While the overture is playing, the curtain rises, and discovers a new frontispiece joined to the great pilasters on each side of the stage. This frontispiece is a noble arch, supported by large wreathed columns of the Corinthian order; the wreathings of the columns are beautified with roses wound round them, and several Cupids flying about them. On the cornice, just over the capitals, sits on either side a figure, with a trumpet in one hand and a palm in the other, representing Fame. A little farther on the same cornice, on each side of a compass pediment, lie a lion and a unicorn, the supporters of the royal arms of England. In the middle of the arch are

| several angels holding the King's arms, as if they were placing them in the midst of that compass-pediment. Behind this is the scene, which represents a thick cloudy sky, a very rocky coast, and a tempestuous sea in perpetual agitation. This tempest (supposed to be raised by magic) has many dreadful objects in it, as several spirits in horrid shapes flying down amongst the sailors, then rising in the air. And, when the ship is sinking, the whole house is darkened, and a shower of fire falls upon 'em. This is accompanied with lightning, and several claps of thunder, to the end of the storm."

In the alterations of this play, which were made in 1669, and which continued to possess the English stage for nearly a century and a half, it is impossible now not to feel how false was the taste upon which they were built. Dryden says of this play, that Davenant, to put the last hand to it, "designed the counterpart to Shakespeare's plot, namely, that of a man who had never seen a woman; that by this means those two characters of innocence and love might the more illustrate and commend each other." Nothing can be weaker and falser in art than this mere duplication of an idea. But still it was not done irreverently. The prologue to this altered Tempest (of his own part of which Dryden says, "I never writ anything with more delight") is of itself an answer to the asinine assertion that Dryden, in common with the public of his day, was indifferent to the memory of Shakspere

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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 Shakespeare's pen.

The storm which vanish'd on the neighb'ring


Was taught by Shakespear's Tempest first to


That innocence and beauty which did smile
In Fletcher, grew on this Enchanted Isle.
But Shakespear's magic could not copied be,
Within that circle none durst walk but he.
I must confess 'twas bold, nor would you


That liberty to vulgar wits allow,

Which works by magic supernatural things: But Shakespear's power is sacred as a king's. Those legends from old priesthood were receiv'd,

And he then writ, as people then believ'd.

Of DRYDEN's personal admiration of Shakspere, of his profound veneration for Shakspere, there is abundant proof. He belonged to the transition period of English poetry. His better judgment was sometimes held in subjection to the false taste that prevailed around him. He attempted to found a school of criticism, which should establish rules of art differing from those which produced the drama of Shakspere, and yet not acknowledging the supremacy of the tame and formal school of the French tragedians. He did not perfectly understand the real nature of the romantic drama. He did not see that, as in all other high poetry, simplicity was one of its great elements. He was of those who would "gild refined gold." But for genial hearty admiration of the great master of the romantic drama no one ever went beyond him. Take, for example, the conclusion of his preface to 'All for Love :' "In my style I have professed to imitate the divine Shakespear; which that I might perform more freely, I have disencumbered myself from rhyme. Not that I condemn my former way, but that this is more proper to my present purpose. I hope I need not to explain myself that I have not copied my author servilely. Words and phrases must of necessity receive a change in succeeding

ages. But 'tis almost a miracle that much of his language remains so pure; and that he who began dramatic poetry amongst us, untaught by any, and, as Ben Jonson tells us, without learning, should, by the force of his own genius, perform so much, that in a manner he has left no praise for any who came after him."

Dryden had the notion, in which Shaftesbury followed him, that the style of Shakspere was obsolete, although we have just seen that he says, ""Tis almost a miracle that much of his language remains so pure." Yet with this notion, which he puts forward as an apology for tampering with Shakspere, he never ceases to express his admiration of him; and, what is of more importance, to show how general was the same feeling. The preface to Troilus and Cressida' thus begins" The poet Eschylus was held in the same veneration by the Athenians of after-ages as Shakspeare is by us." In this preface is introduced the 'Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy,' in which the critic applies a variety of tests to the art of Shakspere, which only show that he did not understand the principles upon which Shakspere worked: but still there is everywhere the most unqualified admiration; and in the prologue to the altered play, which, being addressed to the people, could scarcely deal with such rules and exceptions for the formation of a judgment, we have again the most positive testimony to the public sense of Shakspere. This prologue is "spoken by Mr. Betterton, representing the ghost of Shakspeare.”

"See, my lov'd Britons, see your Shakespear rise,

An awful ghost confess'd to human eyes!
Unnam'd, methinks, distinguish'd I had been
From other shades, by this eternal green,
Above whose wreaths the vulgar poets strive,
And with a touch their wither'd bays re-

Untaught, unpractis'd, in a barbarous age,
I found not, but created first, the stage.
And, if I drain'd no Greek or Latin store,
"Twas, that my own abundance gave me


On foreign trade I needed not rely,
Like fruitful Britain, rich without supply.

In this my rough-drawn play you shall be- | box.


Some master-strokes, so manly and so bold,
That he, who meant to alter, found 'em such,
He shook; and thought it sacrilege to

Now, where are the successors to my name?
What bring they to fill out a poet's fame?
Weak, short-liv'd issues of a feeble age;
Scarce living to be christen'd on the stage !"

With these repeated acknowledgments of
Shakspere's supremacy, it is at first difficult
to understand how, in 1665, Dryden should
have written, "others are now generally pre-
ferred before him." The age, as he himself
tells us, differed in this respect from that of
Shakspere's own age, and also from that of
Charles I. He says, in the same ‘Essay on
Dramatic Poesy,' speaking of Beaumont and
Fletcher, "Their plays are now the most
pleasant and frequent entertainments of the
stage, two of theirs being acted through the
year for one of Shakespear's or Jonson's."
But this is not neglect or oblivion of
spere. We learn pretty clearly from Dryden,
though he does not care to say so, for that
would have been self-condemnation, that a


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One thing is perfectly clear: that, when Dryden is addressing the people, he speaks of Shakspere as their especial favourite. He is then "your Shakspere." The crafty and prosaic Pepys, on the contrary, no doubt expressed many a courtier's sentiment about Shakspere. In the entry of his Diary of August 20th, 1666, we have, "To Deptford by water, reading 'Othello, Moor of Venice,' which I ever heretofore esteemed a mighty good play; but, having so lately read The Adventures of Five Hours,' it seems a mean thing." "The Adventures of Five Hours,' a tragi-comedy, by Sir Samuel Tuke, was a translation from the Spanish, which Echard commends for its variety of plots and intrigues. We can easily understand how Pepys, and "my wife's maid," counted 'Othello' a mean thing in comparison with it. Pepys shows us pretty clearly the sort of audience that in that day was called fashionable, and the mode in which they displayed their interest in a theatrical entertainment : Shak-"My wife and I to the King's playhouse, and there saw "The Island Princess,' the first time I ever saw it; and it is a pretty good play, many good things being in it, and a good scene of a town on fire. We sat in an upper box, and the jade Nell came and sat in the next box; a bold, merry slut, who lay laughing there upon people." Again : "To the King's house to 'The Maid's Tragedy;' but vexed all the while with two talking ladies and Sir Charles Sedley; yet pleased to hear their discourse, he being a stranger." We can easily imagine that the "jade Nell,” and the "talking ladies,” were the representatives of a very large class, who preferred "other plays" to those of Shakspere.

licentiousness which was not found in Shakspere was an agreeable thing to a licentious audience: "They" (Beaumont and Fletcher) "understood and imitated the conversation of gentlemen much better, whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of wit in repartees, no poet before them could paint as they have done. . . . They represented all the passions very lively, but, above all, love." The highest things in Shakspere can only be fitly appreciated by a people amongst whom there is a high moral tone, capable of understanding and of originating the highest poetical things. With all their faults, the ages of Elizabeth and James possessed this tone; and it is impossible now to estimate how greatly Shakspere contributed to its preservation. But nine years after the Restoration there was no public principle in England, and little private honour. The keenest relish for Shakspere most probably existed out of the Court; and Betterton, in all likelihood, felt the applause of the pit more truly valuable than that of the king's

We select a few passages from 'The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy,' which contains a more condensed view of Dryden's opinions of Shakspere than any other of his prefaces. It is the summary of the judgment of the highest critical authority of this period,-when the public taste had been corrupted with music and spectacle, and comedies of licentious intrigue abounded, in company with the rhyming tragedies of Dryden himself, and the ranting bombast of

his inferior rivals. This essay first appeared in 1679:

"How defective Shakespear and Fletcher have been in all their plots, Mr. Rymer has discovered in his 'Criticisms: neither can we, who follow them, be excused from the same or greater errors; which are the more unpardonable in us, because we want their beauty to countervail our faults. . . . .

"The difference between Shakespear and Fletcher, in their plotting, seems to be thisthat Shakespear generally moves more terror, and Fletcher more compassion. For the first had a more masculine, a bolder, and more fiery genius; the second, a more soft and womanish. In the mechanic beauties of the plot, which are the observation of the three unities-time, place, and action-they are both deficient; but Shakespear most. Ben Jonson reformed those errors in his comedies, yet one of Shakespear's was regular before him; which is, "The Merry Wives of Windsor.' . .

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"After the plot, which is the foundation of the play, the next thing to which we ought to apply our judgment is the manners; for now the poet comes to work above ground. The groundwork indeed is that which is most necessary, as that upon which depends the firmness of the whole fabric; yet it strikes not the eye so much as the beauties or imperfections of the manners, the thoughts, and the expressions. .

"From the manners the characters of persons are derived; for indeed the characters are no other than the inclinations, as they appear in the several persons of the poem. A character, or that which distinguishes one man from all others, cannot be supposed to consist of one particular virtue, or vice, or passion only; but it is a composition of qualities which are not contrary to one another in the same person. Thus, the same man may be liberal and valiant, but not liberal and covetous; so in a comical character, or humour, (which is an inclination to this or that particular folly,) Falstaff is a liar and a coward, a glutton and a buffoon, because all these qualities may agree in the same man; yet it is still to be observed that one virtue, vice, and passion,

ought to be shown in every man, as predominant over all the rest; as covetousness in Crassus, love of his country in Brutus ; and the same in characters which are feigned. . . .

"The present French poets are generally accused, that, wheresoever they lay the scene, or in whatsoever age, the manners of their heroes are wholly French. Racine's Bajazet is bred at Constantinople, but his civilities are conveyed to him by some secret passage from Versailles into the Seraglio. But our Shakespear, having ascribed to Henry the Fourth the character of a king and of a father, gives him the perfect manners of each relation, when either he transacts with his son or with his subjects. Fletcher, on the other side, gives neither to Arbaces, nor to his king in 'The Maid's Tragedy,' the qualities which are suitable to a monarch. To return once more to Shakespear: no man ever drew so many characters, or generally distinguished them better from one another, excepting only Jonson. I will instance but in one, to show the copiousness of his invention; it is that of Caliban, or the monster, in 'The Tempest.' He seems there to have created a person which was not in nature—a boldness which at first sight would appear intolerable; for he makes him a species of himself, begotten by an incubus on a witch; but this, as I have elsewhere proved, is not wholly beyond the bounds of credibility,—at least the vulgar still believe it. We have the separated notions of a spirit and of a witch-(and spirits, according to Plato, are vested with a subtle body; according to some of his followers, have different sexes) ;-therefore, as from the distinct apprehensions of a horse and of a man, imagination has formed a Centaur, so from those of an incubus and a sorceress Shakespear has produced his monster. Whether or no his generation can be defended I leave to philosophy; but of this I am certain, that the poet has most judiciously furnished him with a person, a language, and a character which will suit him, both by father's and mother's side: he has all the discontents and malice of a witch and of a devil, besides a convenient proportion of the deadly

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