William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

305.

Wolstenholme Parr, on Coriolanus and Othello

1795

From The Story of the Moor of Venice. Translated from the Italian. With two Essays on Shakespeare, and Preliminary Observations. (1795).

Wolstenholme Parr (1752-1845) was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and held a fellowship there from 1789 to 1791. The ‘Story’ of Othello is a translation from Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi.

[From ‘On the Tragedy of Coriolanus’]

It is the duty of the historian to record the transactions of which he undertakes to treat with such scrupulous and impartial fidelity that the imagination should never be suffered to exercise its powers to amplify or diminish them. The love of truth is the only passion which history should ever attempt to gratify; and this gratification is always impaired by any mixture of observation which lessens or destroys the simplicity of facts. (19)

If then the object of History be to inform the mind, and that of Poetry to rouse the sensibility, as the most philosophical critics have long ago determined, it is evident that these two classes of composition will require to be governed by very different laws and regulations. The page of the historian will be loaded with a minute detail of various particulars, which by the poet must be moulded into one general mass of interesting and important action. To facilitate this great and necessary operation he is not only permitted to change the real succession of events, but allowed to invent and substitute others more affecting when those which have actually happened are too mean or trivial for his purpose. (20-1)

We must suppose that the reader has already been apprized of some observations made by his commentators on the historical plays of Shakespeare. They are there considered as a new and

-614-

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