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code of the Boileaus and Rapins. His perception of the merit of 'Chevy Chase' shows him nullius addictum,' and not content to dwell in decencies for ever. Of the quality of Pope's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare we have spoken already: in his other writings we have few tokens of acquaintance with Shakspeare's plays. We know, indeed, that both he and Addison frequented the theatres. But the 'Spectator' lavishes as much praise on The Distrest Mother' as on Hamlet' or 'Othello;' and although Pope set his seal on Macklin's restoration of Shylock,' and hailed with applause the dawn of Garrick, he seems to have regarded 'Cato 'Cato' as a drama composed on orthodox principles.
We have now reached again the era of the commentators, and may therefore turn from them to the uncritical public. What was Shakspeare's reception among those who listened to his words in faith, and who, unpreoccupied by rules or odious comparisons,' felt the full power of the mighty master?' Until the theatres were closed we have seen him reigning supreme. His plays seriously affected the profits of the beargarden and the wrestlers on Bankside: they paid for the seacoal fire and door-keepers,' and left a good balance in hand for their author and his partners. The commendatory verses on 'worthy Master Shakspeare and his Poems' are not frigid compliments, however indifferent some of them are as poetry: and all traditions concur as to the homage paid to him in life, and the regret and reverence which attended him to the grave. His plays were in constant demand: their frequent performance and the authorised, or more probably the surreptitious, publication of many of them, shows that they took with the people, and we have Ben Jonson's testimony that they took with the
'Sweet swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear;
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
The account-books of the revels at court between the years 1588 and 1604, which would vouch to Shakspeare's attractions for Eliza,' are unfortunately lost: but concerning our James we are not left in the dark. It appears,' says that learned and honest chronicler' of the poet, Mr. Charles Knight, from the Revels Book that, from Hallowmas-day 1604 to the following Shrove Tuesday, there were thirteen plays performed before the king, eight of which were Shakspeare's.' In 1611, at the same period of the year, of five plays performed by the king's players at Whitehall and Greenwich, two, The Tempest'
and The Winter's Tale,' are Shakspeare's. When we recollect the number and the fecundity of the dramatic writers of that age, these proportions are significant. The popularity of Shakspeare moulted no feather under Charles. Fletcher, Massinger, and Shirley found good acceptance for their new pieces, but he was not forgotten. Two folio editions of his plays show that he had readers as well as spectators: and Prynne, in his 'Histriomastix,' is indignant that these playbooks bear so good a price and sale that they are now new printed on far better paper than most octavo or quarto Bibles, which hardly find such vent as they.'
Prynne doubtless counted the loss of his ears a light matter in comparison with the recompense he obtained for this curtailment in the closing of the theatres for ten years. Scourge of the Players,' however, prevailed but for a season; and at the Restoration, in Mr. Too-bad's phrase, which Prynne would have echoed, The devil returned, having great wrath.' Of the rapid decline of dramatic poetry, and the increased popularity of the theatre, at this period, we are not now to speak. It is material, however, for our purpose, to note that Shakspeare's popularity bated no jot, in spite of many influences 'malignant' to the higher order of drama in all aspects.' And we are now arrived at an epoch when it is possible to learn something of the acting, as well as of the contents of Shakspeare's plays. Burbage, Lowine, Underwood, the original Hamlet, Richard, and Falstaff, are scarcely better known to us than are the first impersonators of Orestes, Medea, and Iphigenia. How Burbage identified himself with Richard of Gloucester is told by the facetious bishop Corbett. The innkeeper of Bosworth
'When he would have said King Richard died
And called, "A horse! a horse!" he Burbage cried.'
But beyond this allusion and one or two apocryphal anecdotes as little is known of the actors before the Restoration (Kempe and his nine days' wonder excepted) as of the popular amusements before the Flood. Now we have an historian incomparable in his way as Herodotus himself-garrulous, inquisitive, observant Colley Cibber. He who played Lord Foppington at seventy-three,' came upon the stage in 1690, and was writing 'de rebus scenicis,' in 1740. In that half century all the material accessories of the theatre were invented and employed. A baize curtain with a printed label no longer told the audience to imagine themselves at Padua or Verona: boys no longer squeaked Cleopatra,' nor did the players—
'With three rusty swords,
And help of some few foot and half-foot words,
But there were moveable scenes, women-players, and a numerous troop of performers and supernumeraries. In the shoes of Burbage there now stood William Betterton; and whenever Cibber speaks of that admirable actor, it is always in connection with Shakspeare. Hart,' he says, was famous for Othello; Betterton had no less a reputation for Hamlet.' Should I tell you,' he proceeds, 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.' Here is a tolerable commodity of Shaksperian characters presented to the public, more than fifty years before Steevens, Reed, and Malone had made him popular.'
Our nearly exhausted space forbids us to attempt giving any account of the various phases in the representation of Shakspeare. How far both scenery and costume lagged behind or went astray from accuracy, propriety, and taste, may be estimated by the efforts made by the Kembles, Messrs. Macready, Phelps, and Charles Kean, to revive and represent his dramas in accordance with the joint demands of truth and art. Gorgeous scenery long took precedence of appropriate costume. The numerous theatres-the Globe, the Fortune, the Red Bull, the Curtain, &c. —which existed before the Restoration, disappeared after it; and, after much controversy between the Master of the Revels, and the royal patentees, Killigrew and Davenant, were replaced by two principal houses. Killigrew's house in Drury Lane had the stronger company: Davenant's company in Covent Garden was therefore compelled to attract the public by superb appointments, and by adding spectacle and music to action. The innovation was destined to materially affect Shakspeare's plays.
Shakspeare's unsophisticated text and original plots contented his own age and theatrical audiences immediately after the Restoration. The enthusiasm of the people at the moment of the birth or reproduction of his plays absolved managers and critics from the supposed necessity of adapting them to modern palates. What eager appetites from so long a fast,' writes Cibber, must the guests of those times have had to that high and fresh variety of entertainments which Shakspeare had prepared for them! Never was a stage so provided.' Yet the man who could write thus genially was among the foremost culprits in the work of alteration. It was discovered that decoration would cover the faults of inferior acting, and Davenant's
theatre with its operas, its scenic pictures, and its machinery, thinned the pit and boxes of Killigrew's even when Betterton and Hart were performing. The Tempest' became The Enchanted Island: Lear recovered his kingdom and his wits, and, in good time, closed his business with a couplet from Pope's Essay on Man,' and Edgar married Cordelia. Richard III., the Machiavel of the historical tragedy, was turned into a brutal ruffian, who so abuses Anne his wife, that we expect him to beat her. Richard II. was metamorphosed into The Sicilian Usurper' by Nahum Tate-the same who translated Lear' and the Psalms-but this, and a second equally monstrous transfiguration not being successful, a third version was produced at Covent Garden Theatre in 1738, which was chiefly remarkable for the choice of the representative for John o-Gaunt. Because Shakspeare had punned on his name—
'Old Gaunt, indeed, and gaunt in being old—'
it was conceived that the Duke of Lancaster was a giant O'Brien, and, accordingly, the part was intrusted to an actor called 'Tall Johnson,' because he had the merits of being bony and burly and was nearly seven feet high. With one instance more we will conclude our account of these perversions, although, in fact, not one of the acting plays of Shakspeare escaped the shears and paste-brush. Of all his creations The Midsummer Night's Dream' is the most ethereal. Wherever you tread is fairyground. Yet this delicate vision of delight was subjected to worse tortures than Ariel endured in the riven oak. The earliest Sycorax who imprisoned its poetry was one Cox, a comic actor, in 1661. He produced it, as a fitting vehicle for buffoonery, under the title of 'The Humours of Bottom the Weaver.' In 1692 it became the opera of The Fairy Queen.' In 1716 a drunken singer named Leveridge changed it into a masque entitled 'Pyramus and Thisbe:' then it was degraded into an Opera bouffé,' and ten years later Garrick brought it out as the musical entertainment of The Fairies' with Italian singers. The provinces were not less zealous than their metropolis in improving Shakspeare. We have seen in a country newspaper, 1757, the following advice to the public.' 'As it has been remarked by some persons that the favourite play of "Romeo and Juliet" would give much more satisfaction to the audience in general if it ended happily, accordingly it has been entirely altered; the fifth act made almost a new one, saving their lives and the life of every virtuous, unoffending character (except Mercutio) and rewarded. All this, too, is brought about by nothing even bordering on the miraculous, but by plain,
natural, and far from improbable means. A similar act of poetical justice was done to the lovers of Verona by London managers. The tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet," says Downes, the prompter, was made some time after (1662) into a tragicomedy, by Mr. James Howard, he preserving Romeo and Juliet alive; so that when the tragedy was revived again it was played alternately, tragical one day and tragico-comical another for several days together.' Verily, seeing these things, we have reason to temper our national indignation against Voltaire and his 'ce bouffon de Shakspeare.'
Voltaire, indeed, and the French critics of the last century have, as Mr. Charles Knight some years ago remarked, been much too roughly handled on this side of the channel for their misapprehensions of Shakspeare. That France knew his name and reputation was a step towards breaking down the partition wall between French and English literature, and for this knowledge it was mainly indebted to Voltaire's residence, as an exile, in London. The Revolution of 1688, which effected so much for English liberty, contributed to isolate her more than ever from the Continent. To arrest and permanently curtail the predominance of France was the ruling passion of William of Orange. He aspired, like the great Gustavus, to be the head of a Protestant league, and to annex his adopted kingdom to the Northern States, whom fear and jealousy alike arrayed against 'the most Christian' Louis. The Stuarts had courted the friendship and pocketed the salaries of the Catholic powers: their court was half French: their tastes in literature and art were exotic: and if they confessed the masculine energy of the Elizabethan age, they also deplored its barbaric ignorance of the laws of polite writing. The wits of Anne's reign, though they rejoiced that their sovereign was no longer a pensioner of brother-France, that mass was no longer sung at Whitehall, that the Bill of Rights had superseded Right Divine, that Habeas Corpus was respected and the Five-mile Act abolished, retained most of the literary predilections of the Stuart era. They generally preferred Virgil to Homer, rated Tasso as highly as Milton, and while they admitted the majesty of Shakspeare, they bowed to the authority of Corneille and Racine. William and his Dutch favourites, Anne and her Whig ministers, kept armed France at bay, but they did not question the intellectual superiority of their common enemy. By a most unwarrantable license, Pope ascribed to vanquished France, in relation to England, the same influence which conquered Greece had really exercised over victorious Rome.