Dryden on Shakespeare

A bit zonked from a two show Saturday, but wanted to share this little nugget:

To begin, then, with Shakespeare. He was the man who of all modern and perhaps ancient poets had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously but luckily; when he describes anything, you more than see it, you feel it too…he was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards and found her there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can ever say he ever had a fit subject for his wit and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of the poets. (176*)

“largest and most comprehensive soul”–that’s fun.

*Theatre/Theory/Theatre ed. Daniel Gerould.

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