Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare

By D. Nichol Smith | Go to book overview

LEWIS THEOBALD


Preface to Edition of Shakespeare 1773

THE Attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is like going into a large, a spacious, and a splendid Dome thro' the Conveyance of a narrow and obscure Entry. A Glare of Light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the Avenue at first promis'd: and a thousand Beauties of Genius and Character, like so many gaudy Apartments pouring at once upon the Eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the Mind. The Prospect is too wide to come within the Compass of a single View: 'tis a gay Confusion of pleasing Objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general Admiration; and they must be separated, and ey'd distinctly, in order to give the proper Entertainment.

And as in great Piles of Building, some Parts are often finish'd up to hit the Taste of the Connoisseur; others more negligently put together, to strike the Fancy of a common and unlearned Beholder: Some Parts are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast Design and Execution of the Architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his Neatness and Elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find Traits that will stand the Test of the severest Judgment; and Strokes as carelessly hit off, to the Level of the more ordinary Capacities: Some Descriptions rais'd to that Pitch of

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