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find his reward in the plaudit of an upper gallery; but the other ought to have some regard to the cooler judgment of the closet: for I will be bold to say, that if Shakspeare himself had not written a multitude of passages which please there as much as they do on the stage, his reputation would not stand so universally high as it does at present. Many of these passages, to the shame of our theatrical taste, are omitted constantly in the representation: but I say not this from conviction that the mode of writing, which Mr. Gray pursued, is the best for dramatic purposes. I think myself, what I have asserted elsewhere, that a medium between the French and English taste would be preferable to either; and yet this medium, if hit with the greatest nicety, would fail of success on our theatre, and that for a very obvious reason. Actors (I speak of the troop collectively) must all learn to speak as well as act, in order to do justice to such a drama. "But let me hasten to give the reader what little insight I can into Mr. Gray's plan, as I find and select it from two detached papers. The Title and Dramatis Personæ are as follow:"




AGRIPPINA, the Empress-mother.

NERO, the Emperor.

POPPEA, believed to be in love with Oгно.

OTHо, a young man of quality, in love with POPPA.
SENECA, the Emperor's Preceptor.

ANICETUS, Captain of the Guards.

DEMETRIUS, the Cynic, friend to SENECA.


SCENE, the Emperor's villa at Baiæ.

"The argument drawn out by him, in these two papers, under the idea of a plot and under-plot, I shall here unite; as it will tend to show that the action itself was possessed of sufficient unity.

"The drama opens with the indignation of Agrippina, at re

ceiving her son's orders, from Anicetus to remove from Baiæ, and to have her guard taken from her. At this time Otho having conveyed Poppaa from the house of her husband Rufus Crispinus, brings her to Baix, where he means to conceal her among the crowd; or, if his fraud is discovered, to have recourse to the Emperor's authority; but, knowing the lawless temper of Nero, he determines not to have re

course to that expedient but on the utmost necessity. In the mean time he commits her to the care of Anicetus, whom he takes to be his friend, and in whose age he thinks he may safely confide. Nero is not yet come to Baia: but Seneca, whom he sends before him, informs Agrippina of the accusation concerning Rubellius Plancus, and desires her to clear herself, which she does briefly: but demands to see her son, who, on his arrival, acquits her of all suspicion, and restores her to honours. In the meanwhile, Anicetus, to whose care Poppea had been entrusted by Otho, contrives the following plot to ruin Agrippina: he betrays his trust to Otho, and brings Nero, as it were by chance, to the sight of the beautiful Poppaa; the Emperor is immediately struck with her charms, and she, by a feigned resistance, increases his passion: though, in reality, she is from the first dazzled with the prospect of empire, and forgets Otho: she therefore joins with Anicetus in his design of ruining Agrippina, soon perceiving that it will be for her interest. Otho hearing that the Emperor had seen Poppæa, is much enraged; but not knowing that this interview was obtained through the treachery of Anicetus, is readily persuaded by him to see Agrippina in secret, and acquaint her with his fears that her son Nero would marry Poppaa. Agrippina, to support her own power, and to wean the Emperor from the love of Poppaa, gives Otho encouragement, and promises to support him. Anicetus secretly introduces Nero to hear their discourse; who resolves immediately on his mother's death, and, by Anicetus's means, to destroy her by drowning. A solemn feast, in honour of their reconciliation, is to be made; after which she being to go by sea to Bauli, the ship is so contrived as to sink or crush her; she escapes by accident, and returns to Baiæ. In this interval Otho has an interview with Poppaa; and being duped a second time by Anicetus and her, determines to fly with her into Greece, by means of a vessel which is to be furnished by Anicetus; but he, pretending to remove Poppea on board in the night, conveys her to Nero's apartment: she then encourages and determines Nero

to banish Otho, and finish the horrid deed he had attempted on his mother. Anicetus undertakes to execute his resolves; and, under pretence of a plot upon the Emperor's life, is sent with a guard to murder Agrippina, who is still at Baiæ in imminent fear, and irresolute how to conduct herself. The account of her death, and the Emperor's horror and fruitless remorse, finishes the drama." MASON,




"TIs well, begone! your errand is perform'd:

[Speaks as to Anicetus entering. The message needs no comment. Tell your master, His mother shall obey him. Say you saw her Yielding due reverence to his high command: Alone, unguarded and without a lictor,

As fits the daughter of Germanicus.

Say, she retired to Antium; there to tend

Her household cares, a woman's best employment.
What if you add, how she turn'd pale and trembled ;
You think, you spied a tear stand in her eye,
And would have dropp'd, but that her pride restrain'd


(Go! you can paint it well) 'twill profit you,

And please the stripling. Yet 'twould dash his joy To hear the spirit of Britannicus

Yet walks on earth: at least there are who know Without a spell to raise, and bid it fire

A thousand haughty hearts, unus'd to shake
When a boy frowns, nor to be lur'd with smiles
To taste of hollow kindness, or partake
His hospitable board: they are aware

Of th' unpledg'd bowl, they love not aconite.


He's gone and much I hope these walls alone
And the mute air are privy to your passion.
Forgive your servant's fears, who sees the danger
Which fierce resentment cannot fail to raise
In haughty youth, and irritated power.


And dost thou talk to me, to me, of danger,
Of haughty youth and irritated power,
To her that gave it being, her that arm'd
This painted Jove, and taught his novice hand
To aim the forked bolt; while he stood trembling,
Scar'd at the sound, and dazzled with its brightness?
'Tis like thou hast forgot, when yet a stranger
To adoration, to the grateful steam

Of flattery's incense, and obsequious vows
From voluntary realms, a puny boy,

Deck'd with no other lustre than the blood
Of Agrippina's race, he liv'd unknown
To fame, or fortune; haply eyed at distance
Some edileship, ambitious of the power

To judge of weights and measures; scarcely dar'd
On expectation's strongest wing to soar

High as the consulate, that empty shade

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