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Except in one particular Rowe has been perfectly historical in this play.
Jane Shore was, as he has represented, accused of witchcraft; and proof of her guilt, in that instance, having failed, she was next charged with the crime of adultery; an accusation it was in vain to deny; and by sentence of the ecclesiastical court, she was made to perform penance in St. Paul's church, and then to walk barefooted through some of the adjoining streets.
But Jane Shore, perishing for hunger, is the fiction of an old ballad, and no intelligence from history; or, if she did expire for want of food, it was not in consequence of any judgment passed upon her, as she lived to an advanced age before the event took place: for Sir Thomas More assures his readers, that, in the reign of Henry VIII. forty years after her humiliating punishment was inflicted, he has frequently seen her gathering herbs, in a field near the city, for her nightly repast.--She was now, he adds,“ extremely old and shrivelled ; without one trace of her former beauty.”.
Rowe has produced, from the incidents of her singular life this favourite play.—The wife of a goldsmith of Lombard Street, has drawn tears from the
rich and the poor, for these hundred years past; and will never cease having power over the hearts of an audience, whilst an actress can be found to represent her, and her sorrows, with apparent truth.
Of the other characters of this tragedy, little can be said in praise, except of Alicia--and it is curious to observe, how widely two learned critics have differed in their opinion respecting the merit of this part.-Dr. Johnson says, “ Alicia is a character of empty noise, with no resemblance to real sorrow, or natural madness.”
Whilst Dr. Warton has said, “ The interview between Jane Shore and Alicia, in the fifth act, is very affecting, where the madness of Alicia is well painted."
To reconcile these two opposite criticisms, it may be supposed—that those great critics spoke as spectators, not as readers : and the one had seen a good, and the other a bad actress, perform the part.
Alicia can surely be rendered as pathetic as Jane Shore, provided the character is acted with equal skill: for, though Jane has the advantage of her friend, in being the personage whom the auditors have come purposely to see, and of whom they have heard speak from their childhood, yet Alicia's calamities are far more heavy than those of the famished Shore.
The former is tortured by the most poignant remorse that human nature can sustain-her conscience is loaded with a fellow-creature's death-nor has she the enjoyment of malice, to diminish her
sense of guilt; as she became a murderer through the wild extravagance of love, not hate.
The parting scene between her and the condemned Hastings, where he forgives her as the cause of his immediate execution, has something more affecting, than the last scene of the drama, where Shore forgives his dying wife. The husband's pardon comes, after time has softened, and penitence mitigated, his wrongs— the lover forgives a more fatal injury, and its consequences that moment impending.
Duke or GLOSTER
Mr. Kemble. Mr. C. Kemble. Mr. Davenport. Mr. Klanert. Mr. Creswell. Mr. Cooke. Mr. Claremont. Mr. Lee. Mr. Field. Mr. Atkins.
Mrs. Litchfield. Mrs. Siddons.