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THE Tempest and The Midsummer-Night's Dream are the noblest efforts of that sublime and amazing imagination peculiar to Shakspeare, which soars above the bounds of nature, without forsaking sense ; or, more properly, carries nature along with him beyond her established limits. Fletcher seems particularly to have admired these two plays, and hath wrote two in imitation of them, The Sea Voyage and The Faithful Shepherdess. But when he presumes to break a lance with Shakspeare, and write in emulation of him, as he does in The False One, which is the rival of Antony and Cleopatra, he is not so successful. After him, Sir John Suckling and Milton catched the brightest fire of their imagination from these two plays ; which shines fantastically indeed in The Goblins, but much more nobly and serenely in The Mask at Ludlow Castle. WARBURTON.
No one has hitherto been lucky enough to discover the romance on which Shakspeare may be supposed to have founded this play, the beauties of which could not secure it from the criticism of Ben Jonson, whose malignity appears to have been more than equal to his wit. In the introduction to Bartholomew Fair, he says : “ If there be never a servant monster in the fair, who can help it, he says, nor a nest of antiques? He is loth to make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries.” Steevens.
I was informed by the late Mr. Collins of Chichester, that Shakspeare's Tempest, for which no origin is yet assigned, was formed on a romance called Aurelio and Isabella, printed in Italian, Spanish, French, and English, in 1588. But though this information has not proved true on examination, an useful conclusion
be drawn from it, that Shakspeare's story is somewhere to be found in an Italian novel, at least that the story preceded Shakspeare. Mr. Collins had searched this subject with no less fidelity than judgement and industry ; but his memory failing in his last calamitous indisposition, he probably gave me the name of one novel for another. I remember he added a circumstance, which may lead to a discovery,—that the principal character of the romance, answering to Shakspeare's Prospero, was a chemical necromancer, who had bound a spirit like Ariel to obey his call, and perform his services. It was a common pretence of dealers in the occult sciences to have a demon at command. At least Aurelio, or Orelio, was probably one of the names of this romance, the production and multiplicity of gold being the grand object of alchemy. Taken at large, the magical