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second natures, not first; mere shadows, we pursue them in vain ; Falstaff himself has a distinct and separate subsistence; he laughs at the chace, and when the sport is over, gathers them with unruffled feather under his wing : And hence it is that he is made to undergo not one detection only, but a series of detections ; that he is not formed for one Play only, but was intended originally at least for two; and the author, we are told, was doubtful if he should not extend him yet farther, and engage him in the wars with France. This he might well have done, for there is nothing perishable in the nature of Falstaff : He might have involved him, by the vicious part of his character, in new difficulties and unlucky situations, and have enabled him, by the better part, to have scrambled through, abiding and retorting the jests and laughter of
beholder. But whatever we may be told concerning the intention of Shakespeare to extend this character farther, there is a manifest preparation near the end of the second part of Henry IV. for his disgrace : The disguise is taken off, and he begins openly to pander to the excesses of the Prince, intitling himself to the character afterwards given him of being the tutor and the feeder of his riots. “ I will fetch off," says he, “ these Justices.—I will devise matter enough out of
this Shallow to keep the Prince in continual laughter the
wearing out of six fashions.—If the young dace be a bait for “ the old pike,” (speaking with reference to his own designs upon Shallow) “ I see no reason in the law of nature “but I may snap at him.”—This is shewing himself abominably dissolute : The laborious arts of fraud, which he practises on Shallow to induce the loan of a thousand pound, create disgust; and the more, as we are sensible this money was never likely to be paid back, as we are told that was, of which the travellers had been robbed. It is true we feel no pain for Shallow, he being a very
bad character, as would fully appear, if he were unfolded; but
1 Falstaff's deliberation in fraud is not on that account more excusable.—The event of the old King's death draws him
out almost into detestation.“ Master Robert Shallow, “chuse what office thou wilt in the land,—'tis thine.—1 am fortune's steward.—Let us take any man's horses.—The laws " of England are at my commandment.—Happy are they who “have been my friends ;—and woe
to my Lord Chief “ Justice.”----After this we ought not to complain if we see Poetic justice duly executed upon him, and that he is finally given up to shame and dishonour.
But it is remarkable that, during this process, we are not acquainted with the success of Falstaff's designs upon Shallow 'till the moment of his disgrace. If I had had "time,” says he to Shallow, as the King is approaching, "to have made new liveries, I would have bestowed the
thousand pounds I borrowed of you”;--and the first word he utters after this period is, “ Master Shallow, I owe you a " thousand pounds”: We may from hence very reasonably presume, that Shakespeare meant to connect this fraud with the punishment of Falstaff, as a more avowed ground of
censure and dishonour : Nor ought the consideration that ; this
passage contains the most exquisite comic humour and propriety in another view, to diminish the truth of this observation.
But however just it might be to demolish Falstaff in this way, by opening to us his bad principles, it was by no means convenient. If we had been to have seen a single representation of him only, it might have been proper enough; but as he was to be shewn from night to night, and from age to age, the disgust arising from the close would by degrees have spread itself over the whole character; reference would be had throughout to his bad principles, and he would have become less acceptable as he was more known : And yet it was necessary to bring him, like all other stage characters, to some conclusion. Every play must be wound up by some event, which may shut in the characters and the action. If some hero obtains a crown, or a mistress, involving therein the fortune of others, we are satisfied ;-we do not desire to be afterwards admitted of his council, or his bed-chamber : Or if through jealousy, causeless or well founded, another kills a beloved wife, and himself after,—there is no more to be said ;—they are dead, and there an end; Or if in the scenes of Comedy, parties are engaged, and plots formed, for the furthering or preventing the completion of that great article Cuckoldom, we expect to be satisfied in the point as far as the nature of so nice a case will permit, or at least to see such a manifest disposition as will leave us in no doubt of the event. By the bye, I cannot but think that the Comic writers of the last age treated this matter as of more importance, and made more bustle about it, than the temper of the present times will well bear; and it is therefore to be hoped that the Dramatic authors of the present day, some of whom, to the best of my judgment, are deserving of great praise, will consider and treat this business, rather as a common and natural incident arising out of modern manners, than as worthy to be held forth as the great object and sole end of the Play.
But whatever be the question, or whatever the character, the curtain must not only be dropt before the eyes, but over the minds of the spectators, and nothing left for further examination and curiosity.—But how was this to be done in regard to Falstaff? He was not involved in the fortune of the Play ; he was engaged in no action which, as to him, was to be compleated; he had reference to no system, he was attracted to no center ; he passes thro' the Play as a lawless meteor, and we wish to know what course he is afterwards likely to take : He is detected and disgraced, it is true ; but he lives by detection, and thrives on disgrace ; and we are desirous to see him detected and disgraced again. The Fleet might be no bad scene of further amusement ;-he carries all within him, and what matter where, if he be still the same, possessing the same force of mind, the same wit, and the same incongruity. This, Shakespeare was fully sensible of, and knew that this character could not be compleatly dismissed but by death.—“ Our author,” says the Epilogue to the Second Part of Henry IV., “ will continue the
story with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair “ Catherine of France; where, for any thing I know,
Falstaff shall dye of a sweat, unless already he be killed “with your hard opinions.” If it had been prudent in Shakespeare to have killed Falstaff with hard opinion, he had the means in his hand to effect it ;—but dye, it seems, he must, in one form or another, and a sweat would have been no unsuitable catastrophe. However we have reason to be satisfied as it is ;-his death was worthy of his birth and of
;his life : “ He was born,” he says, “about three o'clock in the “afternoon, with a white head, and something a round belly.” But if he came into the world in the evening with these marks of age, he departs out of it in the morning in all the follies and vanities of youth ;—“ He was shaked” (we are told) “ of a burning quotidian tertian ;—the young King had “run bad humours on the knight ;—his heart was fracted and “corroborate ; and a' parted just between twelve and one, even
at the turning of the tide, yielding the crow a pudding, and “passing directly into Arthur's bosom, if ever man went into “the bosom of Arthur.”—So ended this singular buffoon ; and with him ends an Essay, on which the reader is left to bestow what character he pleases : An Essay professing to treat of the Courage of Falstaff, but extending itself to his Whole character ; to the arts and genius of his PoeticMaker, SHAKESPEARE ; and thro' him sometimes, with ambitious aim, even to the principles of human nature itself.
2. Some Latin without question, etc. This passage, down reference to the scene in Henry V., is omitted by Pope. Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 2,95; Titus Andronicus, iv. 2, 20; Henry V., iii. 4.
. 3. Deer-stealing. This tradition—which was first recorded in print by Rowe—has often been doubted. See, however, Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, 1886, ii., p. 71, and Mr. Sidney Lee's Life of Shakespeare, pp. 27, etc.
4. the first Play he wrote. Pope inserted here the following note: “ The highest date of any I can yet find is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author vas 33 years old, and Richard the 2d and 3d in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age.” The two last had been printed in 1597.
Mr. Dryden seems to think that Pericles, etc. This sentence was omitted by Pope.
5. the best conversations, etc. Rowe here controverts the opinion expressed by Dryden in his Essay on the Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age : “I cannot find that any of them had been conversant in courts, except Ben Johnson ; and his genius lay not so much that way as to make an improvement by it. Greatness was not then so easy of access, nor conversation so free, as now it is” (Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, i., p. 175).
A fair Vestal. Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. I, 158. In the original Rowe adds to his quotations from Shakespeare the page references to his own edition.
The Merry Wives. The tradition that the Merry Wives was written at the command of Elizabeth had been recorded already by Dennis in the preface to his version of the play,—The Comical Gallant, or the Amours of Sir John Falstaffe (1702): “This Comedy was written at her command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days ; and was afterwards, as Tradition tells us, very well pleas'd at the Representation.' Cf. Dennis's Defence of a Regulated Stage : “she not only commanded