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THE

FALSE ONE.

VOL. V.

| THE FALSE ONE.

This Tragedy first appeared in the folio collection of 1647. We have no dată whatever to determine the period of its first performance with any degree of certainty, nor to decide whether Beaumont had any share in the composition. Gardiner ascribes it to Fletcher in his commendatory verses ; but the prologue and epilogue, which are far better evidence, speak decidedly of more than one author, and as the former directly alludes to Shakspeare's Antony and Cleopatra, the production of which Mr Malone and Mr Chalmers agree in placing in the year 1608, we might suppose that our tragedy was performed at no great distance of time from that period. There is, however, a circumstance which may stagger our belief in Beaumont's coalition with Fletcher. Amongst the actors' names enumerated in the second folio, that of Burbage is not to be found ; and as that first-rate tragedian is known to have acted in most of these plays which appeared before his death, and as the latter is known to have happened in 1618-9, we might, with some probability, conclude that the drama was produced between that year and 1622, when Sir H. Herbert's office-books, so often quoted in this work, commence. It has occurred to the editor, as a doubt, whether the coadjutor of Fletcher, alluded to in the prologue and epilogue, was not another than Beaumont, and whether this may not be one of the plays in which, according to the testimony of Sir A. Cockayne, Fletcher was assisted by Massinger. In several scenes it is presumed that poet's stately and nervous versification may be discovered. The plot too is conducted with greater regularity than most of Fletcher's can boast of. This supposition is however hazarded as a mere conjecture, which must be discarded, if the circumstance mentioned above, of the probability of the play being produced within a short time of Shakspeare's Antony and Cleopatra, is supposed to have more weight.

Whoever were the associate authors, this tragedy has such sterling merit, that its utter neglect for many years past must be deplored as another instance of the little attention at present paid to these invaluable treasures of dramatic excellence. The particular beauties of it seem to have struck Seward, who, in this play, as in The Faithful Shepherdess, left his usual track of annotation to point out the chief excellencies, and to compare them to those exhibited in its original, the immortal poem of Lucan, and in its respectable rival, the Pompée of Corneille. Notwithstanding Bishop Warburton's great, but perhaps weakly-founded, celebrity as a critic, his supposition that the authors of The False One meant to break a lance with Shakspeare, is fully refuted by the prologue, which he never can have read, for it completely denies any rivalship, and distinctly points out the difference : and though the case were reversed, and a comparison instituted, where such comparison is directly deprecated, the present tragedy, while it cannot bring forward passages of excellence equal to Shakspeare's, may yet claim a rank not far inferior to it in point of interest, while it undoubtedly excels in point of unity of action and regularity of plot. But our authors disclaimed comparison, and let us not insult them by obtruding what they deprecated. The characters are painted with great force and precision, and are excellently contrasted. The heroism of Cæsar, and the majestic debauchery of Cleopatra, are equally well pourtrayed ; and the different shades of villainy displayed in the characters of Photinus, Achillas, and Septimius, admirably discriminated. The vacillations which are continually going on in the mind of the latter, the utter contempt with which he is treated by the Roman captains, by the three lame soldiers, and even by the wanton Eros, are introduced and conducted with consummate skill; while at the same time the treatment he receives throughout, and his final fate, are an admirable instance of poetical justice. The character of this infamous villain is well contrasted with that of the honest, blunt, and valiant warrior Sceva. The versification of the tragedy is remarkably regular and harmonious; and as to the different scenes, while some of them, such as the narration of Labienus, are fine specimens of declamatory eloquence, others assume a higher degree of dramatic excellence, particularly the first scene of the second act, and the second of the fourth.

Mr M. Mason makes the following observations on the impropriety of the title: “I cannot comprehend from what character or incident in this play it has obtained the name of The False Ona It cannot be from the character of Cleopatra ; for though haughty, ambitious, and unchaste, in consequence of that ambition she is free from falseness, and even above disguise. To denominate the

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