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the true relish and solid improvement derivable from them is loft, and often changes the theatre from what it literally may be, a profitable school of moral instruction, to the sphere of useless or prejudicial diffipation.
This consideration has given rise to the folJowing work, in which the various opinions are diffidently submitted to, not dogmatically obtruded upon our several readers ; where we strike out new and useful lights, we doubt not being allowed some credit for them ; where we appear fallible, indulgence is hoped for ; since however we may err in the extensive scene before us,
our warmest wishes are to be right.
The hallowed shrine of Shakespeare every friend of intrinsic merit must approach with reverence ; yet why, amidst the meridian blaze of his brightness, should we decline discovering and pointing out those dark spots which his genius shares in common with the sun; Implicit admiration, as well as implicit faith, argues a narrowness or sycophancy of mind, which we hope ourselves free from ; and shall as much as poflible follow that excellent maxim, to extenuate nothing, nor to set down aught in malice.
To pursue all the nice and intricate distinctions of classical criticism, would occasion prolixity ; appeal only to the judments of learned readers, and therefore be totally incompatible with our design ; which is merely to try cach drama as
a picture of nature at the bar of nature ; and the manners of those nations where the scene of cach is laid,
Well knowing how insipid prefatory matter generally is, thus much only is offered by way of Introduction; and we hope the candid reader will from hence suggest whatever else may seem effential.
Of all those various subjects which have engaged the Tragic Muse, none are of equal force and dignity to historical ones; from a multiplicity of great and interesting events, they rouse and command more passions than any other ; of this Shakespeare was a most competent judge, and happily availed himself; I say happily, because he not only thereby gained a wide fruitful field for the exertion of his amaz. ing talents ; buc in a political sense did honour to his country, by delivering faithfully maný memorable events, in a much more striking manner than any historian could poflibly do ; he has also thereby indulged that commendable national vanity which makes Britons fond of lees ing Britons distinguished on the theatre of life.
RICHARD THE THIRD, as acted, tho' effentially Shakespeare's, is much indebted for its variety, compactness and spirit, to the late Colley Cibbes, whose thorough acquaintance
with the Stage, well qualified him for regulating a plot, and arranging of scenes, which is
indeed no more than a kind of dramatic mecha: nism, yet indispensibly requisite.
The laureat has been blamed for mutilating other plays of beautiful passages to enrich this ; but, tho I admit it to be literary depradation, I must rather vindicate than censure him ; there is litile, if any dishonesty in stealing jewels merely to ornament the just owner ; besides it shews what Cibber was never accused of, modesty, - by avoiding studioully the insertion of his own inadequate stuff.
This play opens with well-imagined propriety, as a plain, simple introduction is the best preparative to a succession and climax of interesting events; expectation strained at the beginning most commonly produces a faint unaffecting catastrophe; the previous character of Henry, and the mode of his introduction, pre. judice us in his favour; his philosophical reflections are suitable to his depressed situation, as well as his turn of mind; and Treffel's pathetic narration not only ferves to raise our tenderest concern for an unhappy king and father, but prepares us with great judgment for what we must expect to find in Glofter, which description naturally arising out of the circumstance, has far greater merit than thofe lugged in headlong merely for fake of explanation.
Notwithstanding fome good critics have condemned soliloquies in general as unnatural ; yet
we must venture to contend for their propriety ; fince nothing is commoner than for people in private life, warmly poffefled of any subject, to talk as if in conversation, tho' alone: in this light, Gloster is very justly brought to view, and I doubt if by any other means so striking and copious a picture could have been given of his whole heart in a first appearance ; nor could any other character have given so happy a delineation of him as he does of himfelf.
The first act concludes properly with putting a period to Henry's life, which indeed could not have been preserved any longer with suitable importance ; and Richard gives an extended idea of bis ambitious remorseless principles in a very characteristic foliloquy.
The fhort scene with which the second act begins is a juft preparation for the funeral of Henry ; and those obsequies being partly shewn, keep the unfortunate monarch in our remembrance till more bustling events supersede him Lady Ann's introduction is affecting, but her yielding to him whofe hands are ftill red with the blood of her husband and father ; renders her future misfortunes rather just punishment than motives for pity; however, the scene is wrought up in a very masterly manner ; and in the performance gives fcope for capital acting ; the concluding part of this act introduces the duke of Buckingham, the Queen-dowager, and acquaints us with king Edward's death ; RIchard also unveils part of his design relative to prince Edward, whose approach and destination to the tower he announces.
The young King and his brother, the duke of York, make a most pleasing appearance in the first scene of the third act; that folid good sense discoverable in one, and the shrewd, pregnant fimplicity of the other, are admirably struck off; after their departure for the tower, Richard's earneft disclosure of his views to Buckingham opens a wider field for expectation ; and his method of fecuring his cousin to his interest shews Glofter an able politician, fit to avail himself of Buckkingham's weak, venal disposition.
Lady Ann's treatment in the succeeding scenc manifests her husband's brutality more strongly; yet, as I have alreedy hinted, feems no more than a just consequence of that unpardonable vanity which led her into such an unnatural connection.
Buckingham's illustration of the method ufed by him to work on the citizens, and his treatment of them when they enter, show him verfed in court chicanery ; particularly chrowing in a remark, 'cis hard—Ibe mayor should lofe bis tille with bis office. Richard's hypocrisy is here painted in a capital manner ; and is most admirably affifted by the assumed passion of his coufin on one side, with the fycophantic credulity of the citizens on the other; his reluctance and their persuasions, like well-adapted lights and shades, engage and please the attention; which