English Shakesperian Criticism in the Eighteenth Century

By Herbert Spencer Robinson | Go to book overview

PREFATORY NOTE

The purpose of this study is to present a survey of English Shakesperian criticism in the Eighteenth Century, from Nicholas Rowe Account to Richard Cumberland's essays on the characters of Macbeth, Richard III, and Falstaff. It offers the contention that there is no real basis for the view, which is, happily, losing ground, that the Eighteenth Century was deficient in the appreciation of Shakespeare, and it seeks to show that it is rich in anticipations of Nineteenth Century thought and feeling. A review of the Eighteenth Century criticism will show, it is hoped, that the unfavorable view is largely a subjective prejudice, and that there is little or no objective evidence to support it.

The judgments expressed are based on the critical works of the writers who are here discussed, and, as a result, the sources are, for the most part, primary rather than secondary. In cases where books have been consulted for special aspects of a particular topic, they have been indicated in the notes at the point to which they refer.

By the term criticism, as here used, is meant that type of criticism which is concerned with the merits and defects of Shakespeare as poet and playwright; in other words, literary and esthetic appreciation, as opposed to textual criticism. For this reason, there is no discussion of the works of Francis Peck ( 1740), John Upton ( 1746), Zachary Grey ( 1754), Benjamin Heath ( 1765), Thomas Tyrwhitt ( 1766), Joseph Ritson ( 1783, 1792), John Monck Mason ( 1785), Ambrose Eccles ( 1792), Walter Whiter ( 1794) and others. Similarly, the scholarly editors, Edward Capell, George Steevens, and Edmund Malone do not come under review. Their valuable contributions are in the field of Shakesperian

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