William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

250.

William Cooke, Shakespeare’s language

1775

From The Elements of Dramatic Criticism (1775).

William Cooke, or Cook (d. 1824), born and educated in Ireland, having married at 19 and soon squandered his wife’s fortune, came to London in 1766, entered the Middle Temple in 1770, and was called to the bar in 1775. He was a lifelong friend of Goldsmith, and a member of Johnson’s club. Cooke adapted Beaumont’s The Capricious Lady (1783), published Memoirs of Charles Macklin (1802, 1804), Memoirs of Samuel Foote (3 vols, 1805), and achieved some fame with Conversation: a didactic poem (1796), which included ‘characters’ of Johnson’s club (he was afterwards known as ‘Conversation Cooke’). Also ascribed to him are a life of Johnson and some satirical poetry. His Elements were translated into French and German.

…A person sometimes is agitated at once by different passions; and the mind, in that case, vibrating like a pendulum, vents itself in sentiments that partake of the same vibration, as in the three following instances: [Quotes Henry VIII, 3.1.143ff.; Othello, 4.1.240-57; 4.1.166-86.] (59-61)

As imagery and figurative expression are discordant in the highest degree with the agony of a mother who is deprived of two hopeful sons by a brutal murder; therefore the following passage is a specimen of diction too light and airy for so intense a passion. [Quotes Richard III, 4.4.9-14.] A thought that turns upon the expression instead of the subject, commonly called a play of words, is unworthy of that composition which pretends to any degree of elevation; yet Shakespeare has made this sacrifice to the age he lived in in many instances, particularly in the following: [Quotes

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