William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

placed. If placed in a ridiculous light, we must then despise the author and pity the character. Should he be placed in merely a risible light he then becomes an innocent uninjured character to enliven the scene. Ridicule is Satire seated in the vehicle of Mirth. Risibility is Innocence seated in the vehicle of Humour. Shakespeare’s Slender is not a character of ridicule, but of risibility; but Jonson’s Stephen, being ridiculous, blends our contempt with our laughter. (30)


272.

Hugh Blair, lectures on Shakespeare

1783

From Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters. This text is from ‘the Second Edition, Corrected’ (3 vols, 1785).

Hugh Blair (1718-1800) was a distinguished preacher (several volumes of his sermons being issued in many editions), and from 1760 to 1783 was professor of rhetoric and belles lettres at Edinburgh University. These lectures were given there in 1760, and he acknowledges a debt to the manuscript of a series of lectures given in that university by Adam Smith in 1748-51: these have been recently discovered, and edited by J.M. Lothian under the title Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1963). Blair was awarded a pension of £200 in 1780. He was a member of the Poker Club in Edinburgh, associating with Hume, A. Carlyle, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, Thomas Robertson, and Lord Kames; Johnson thought highly of him.

Instances I admit there are of some works that contain gross transgressions of the laws of Criticism, acquiring nevertheless a general and even a lasting admiration. Such are the plays of Shakespeare, which, considered as dramatic poems are irregular in

-328-

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