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T. Campbell

“ Dryden's All for Love was regarded by himself as his masterpiece, and is by no means devoid of merit; but so inferior is it to the prior drama, as to make it disgraceful to British taste for one hundred years that the former absolutely banished the latter from the stage. A French critic calls Great Britain the island of Shakspeare's idolaters; yet so it happens, in this same island, that Dryden's All for Love has been acted ten times oftener than Shakspeare's Antony and Cleopatra.1 Dryden's Mark Antony is a weak voluptuary from first to last. Not a sentence of manly virtue is ever uttered by him that seems to come from himself; and whenever he expresses a moral feeling, it appears not to have grown up in his own nature, but to have been planted there by the influence of his friend Ventidius, like a flower in a child's garden, only to wither and take no root. Shakspeare's Antony is a very different being. When he hears of the death of his first wife, Fulvia, his exclamation ‘There's a great spirit gone!’ and his reflections on his own enthralment by Cleopatra, mark the residue of a noble mind. A queen, a siren, a Shakspeare's Cleopatra alone could have entangled Mark Antony, whilst an ordinary wanton could have enslaved Dryden's hero.

1 It ought to be kept in remembrance, nevertheless, that the inconstant representations of a popular dramatic poet's pieces on the stage is not a proof of his popularity having expired, or being even on the decline. The frequenters of the theatre demand variety. Molière is as much as ever a favourite of France, yet the pieces of other comic writers are oftener represented.

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