Imágenes de páginas

Rowe's tragedies make a contrast to those of Oiway. He is sull of elevated and moral sentiments. The poetry is often good, and the language always pure and elegant; but in most of his plays, he is too cold and uninteresting; and flowery rather than tragic. Two, however, he has produced, which deserve to be exempted from this censure, Jane Shore and the Fair Penitent; in both of which there are so many tender and truly pathetic scenes, as to render them justly favourites of the public.

Dr. Young's Revenge, is a play which discovers genius and fire; but wants tenderness, and turns too much upon the shocking and direful passions. In Congreve's Mourning Bride, there are some fine situations, and much good poetry. The two first acts are admirable. The meeting of Almeria with her husband Osmyn, in the tomb of Adselmo, is one of the most solemn and striking situations to be found in any tragedy. The defects in the catastrophe, I pointed out in the last lecture. Mr. Thomson's tragedies are too full of stiff morality, which renders them dull and formal. Tancred and Sigismunda, far excels the rest; and for the plot, the characters, and sentiments, justly deserves a place among the best English tragedies. Of later pieces, and of living authors, it is not my purpose to treat.

Upon the whole; reviewing the tragic compositions of different nations, the following conclusions arise. A Greek tragedy is the relation of any distressful or melancholy incident; sometimes the effect of passion or crime, oftener of the decree of the gods, simply exposed; without much variety of parts or events, but naturally and beautifully set before us; heightened by the poetry of the chorus. A French tragedy, is a series of artful and refined conversations, founded upon a variety of tragical and interesting situations ; carried on with little action and vehemence; but with much poetical beauty, and high propriety and decorum. An English tragedy is the combat of strong passions, set before us in all their violence; producing deep disasters; often irregularly conducted; abounding in action; and filling the spectators with grief. The ancient tragedies were more natural and simple; the modern are more artful and complex. Among the French, there is more correctness; among the English more fire. Andromaque and Zayre, soften; Othello and Venice Preserved, rend the heart. It deserves remark, that three of the greatest masterpieces of the French tragic theatre, turn wholly upon religious subjects: the Athalie of Racine, the Polyeucte of Corneille, and the Žayre of Voltaire. The first is founded upon a historical passage of the Old Testament; in the other two, the distress arises from the zeal and attachment of the principal personages to the Christain faith; and in all the three, the authors have, with much propriety, availed themselves of the majesty which may be derived from religious ideas.

QUESTIONS. HAVING treated of the dramatic ac- not? As tragedy is the region of past tion in tragedy, to treat of what does sion, what follows? What is a prerogaour author next proceed? What has tive of genius given to few? What does been thought by some critics? From it require ; and why? How is this rewhat does it appear that this is more i mark illustrated? Of a person in what specious than solid ? What does the situation, is this the language? Yet dignity of tragedy, indeed, require? what remark follows ? What instance What effect may their high rank pro- have we of it? Repeat the passage. Of duce; but to what does it conduce very lit, what is observed ? How does the little; and why? What illustration of person who is himself concerned, speak this remark follows? Of the moral cha- on such an occasion? Such representaracters of the persons represented, what tions of passion in poetry, are no better is observed ? "What, in the conduct of than what ? On some other occasions, tragedy, demands the poet's greatest into what are poets too apt to run; and attention ? For this end, what is not why? By what examples is this renecessary; and why? But, withal, of mack illustrated ; and in such passages, what must the author beware; and for what do we see? What is the characwhat reason? How must the stings of ter of language spoken under the inthe remorse of guilt, ever be represent-fluence of real passion ? In the sentied? What is Aristotle's opinion on the ments of real passion, with what do we characters proper for tragedy; and never meet; and why? Of passion, why? Of mixed characters, what is what is farther observed ? When we observed ? Of such persons, what is far- examine the French tragedians by ther remarked; but when is it always these principles, what do we find; and more instructive; and why? Upon what remark follows? How is this ilthese principles, at what is our author|lustrated ? Of Sophocles and Euripides, surprised ? What is the subject of the what is here observed; and also of

Edipus; what does it excite; and of it, Shakspeare? To what scene does our as it is conducted by Sophocles, what is author refer, in support of this remark? observed? Or the subjects of the an- What is said of it? With regard to cient Greek tragedies, what must be moral sentiments and reflections in traacknowledged ? With what were they gedies, what is observed ; and why? too much mixed ? What instances of With what tragedies is this remarkably this kind are mentioned ? Though ma- the case; and what are they? Of what, ny moral sentiments occurred in the however, is our author not of opinion; course of the drama, yet what remark and why? When do serious and moral follows? How has modern tragedy reflections naturally occur to persons of ained at a higher object? To illus- all descriptions? Why is almost every trate this remark, what instances are human being, then, disposed to be serimentioned, and what is said of them ? ous; and, therefore, what follows ? In tragedy, what passion has most oc- What instance is here given to illuscupied the modern stage? Where was trate this remark; and of Addison's it, in a manner, wholly unknown ? Cato, what is here observed ? What How is this illustrated ? To what was should the style and versification of this owing? What remark follows ; tragedy be? Why is our blank verse and on this subject, what is the opinion happily suited to this purpose? Why of Voltaire ? To what does the mixing should monotony, above all things, be of it perpetually with all the important avoided by a tragic poet? Into what events that belong to the tragic stage, should he not sink ; and what should tend? Of what are the Douglas of Mr. his style always have? What should Ilome, &c. a sufficient proof? On this it assume? What is one of the greatest subject, what seems to be clear? What misfortunes of French tragedy? What sort of love ought it to be; and why? requires this; and why? What is its In what plays are the bad effects of effect? What does Voltaire maintain ? this sufficiently conspicuous ? After the What does he say? Or this idea, what tragic poet has arranged his subject, is observed? With regard to what, need and chosen his personages, what is the nothing be said ; only that they were next thing to which he must attend? what ? or the necessity of observing this gene- Having thus treated of all the differal rule, what is observed; and why'rent kinds of tragedy, with what does

our author conclude the subject? Re-| the musical dramas of Metastasio ! peat the distinguishing characters of For what are they eminent; and in the Greek tragedy, which have been j what do they abound? Of the dialogues, Inentioned. From what were most of what is observed? What remark fültheir plots taken ? What instances are lows? To speak of what do we now pro given? What does Æschylus exhibit ? | ceed; and what is their general chaWhat are his characteristics? Why is racter ? As the pathetic is the soul of he obscure and difficult ? With what tragedy, what follows? What is the does he abound; what does he possess; first object which presents itself to us and in what does he delight? What on the English theatre? What are are beautiful in their kind, and strongly his merits; and what are his fauits? expressive of his genius? What is said What are his two chief virtues? How of Sophocles? What evidence have we is this illustrated ? What, therefore, is ou the eminence of his descriptive ta- no matter of wonder ? What merit lent? How does he compare with Eu- does Shakspeare likewise possess ? ripides? What merits do they both pos- How is this illustrated? Which are his sess, as tragic poets? Or theatrical two masterpieces? Of his historical representation on the stages of Greece plays, what is observed ? After the age and Rome, what is observed? What of Shakspeare, what can we produce; has the Abbé du Bos proved? What but what have we not? Of Dryden and has he farther attempted to prove? Of Lee, and of Lee's Theodosius what is the actors in tragedy, what is obser- observed ? With what was Otway enved? What is said of these masks? dowed, and where does it appear to When different emotions were to ap- great advantage? Of these, what is pear in the same person, how was the farther remarked? What does he poschange expressed ? With what disad- sess? In what does his want of moralivantages was this contrivance attend- ty appear; of what is he the opposite; ed ? In defence of them, what, at the and what has he contrived to do? How same time, must be remembered? In do Rowe's tragedies compare with those whose hands has tragedy appeared of Otway ? To this remark, what two with much lustre and dignity? How exceptions are there; and what is said have they improved upon the ancients? of them? What is said of Dr. Young's In what have they studied to imitate Revenge ; and of Congreve's Mourn them? To what are they attentive? ing Bride ? Of Mr. Thompson's trageIn them, what is an English taste most dies, what is remarked? Which far esapt to censure? How is this defect il-cels the rest, and what is said of it? lustrated? What does Voltaire admit; On reviewing the tragic compositions and what does he very candidly give of different nations, what conclusions as his judgment ? By what is Cor- arise ? In what did the ancients and in neille distinguished ? of his genius, what do the moderns excel? How do what is observed; and why? How does the French and the English compare; he compare with other French trage- and what illustration follows? What dians? What did he write; and in deserves remark; and on what are they what, also, did he resemble them? respectively founded ? What has le composed; and which are his best? How does Racine com- , Trace


e com-1. Tragedy. pare with Corneille? Of his tenderness, A. The characters. what is observed ; and of what per a. Aristotle's observations on them. formances, what is remarked ? What b. The subjects of Greek tragedies. is said of his language and versifica

c. Love predominant on the modern

stage. tion? In what has he excelled all the

1 B. The sentiments. French authors? What evidence of a. The natural language of passion to this is given; and what is said of it?! be observed. Upon whose plans has Racine formed b. Moral reflections considered. two of his plays; and of them, what is! C. The style and versification. remarked? Of Voltaire, what is obser-12. Gre

a. The disadvantages of French rhyme. ved ? In what has he outdone them. A. Æschylus--Sophocles-Euripides. all ? From what is he not exempt; but B. Peculiarities in the representation. how are his characters drawn? Which/3. French tragedy. are four excellent tragedies? In thel A. Corneille-Racine-Voltaire,

4. English tragedy. strains of his sentiments. what do we A. Shakspeare --Dryden-Otway, &c. unexpectedly find ? What is said of|5. The conclusion.




COMEDY is sufficiently discriminated from tragedy, by its general spirit and strain. While pity and terror, and the other strong passions, form the province of the latter, the chief or rather sole instrument of the former is ridicule. Comedy proposes for its object neither the great sufferings nor the great crimes of men ; but their follies and slighter vices, those parts of their character which raise in beholders a sense of impropriety, which expose them to be censured and laughed at by others, or which render them troublesome in civil society.

This general idea of comedy, as a satirical exhibition of the improprieties and follies of mankind, is an idea very moral and useful. There is nothing in the nature, or general plan of this kind of composition, that renders it liable to censure. To polish the manners of men, to promote attention to the proper decorums of social behaviour, and above all, to render vice ridiculous, is doing real service to the world. Many vices might be more successfully exploded, by employing ridicule against them, than by serious attacks and arguments. At the same time it must be confessed, that ridicule is an instrument of such a nature, that when managed by unskilful, or improper hands, there is hazard of its doing mischief, instead of good, to society. For ridicule is far from being, as some have maintained it to be, a proper test of truth. On the contrary, it is apt to mislead, and seduce, by the colours which it throws upon its objects; and it is often more difficult to judge, whether these colours be natural and proper, than it is to distinguish between simple truth and error. Licentious writers, therefore, of the comic class, have too often had it in their power to cast a ridicule upon characters and objects which did not deserve it. But this is a fault, not owing to the nature of comedy, but to the genius and turn of the writers of it. In the hands of a loose, immoral author, comedy will mislead and corrupt; while, in those of a virtuous and well-intentioned one, it will be not only a gay and innocent, but a laudable and useful entertainment. French comedy is an excellent school of manners; while English comedy has been too often the school of vice.

The rules respecting the dramatic action, which I delivered in the first lecture upon tragedy, belong equally to comedy; and hence, of course, our disquisitions concerning it are shortened. It is equally necessary to both these forms of dramatic composition, that there be a proper unity of action and subject, that the unities of time and place be, as much as possible, preserved; that is, that the time of the action be brought within reasonable bounds; and the place of the action never changed, at least, not during the course of each

act; that the several scenes or successive conversations be properly linked together; that the stage be never totally evacuated till the act closes; and that the reason should appear to us, why the per. sonages who fill up the different scenes, enter and go off the stage, at the time when they are made to do so. The scope of all these rules, I showed, was to bring the imitation as near as possible to probability; which is always necessary, in order to any imitation giving us pleasure. This reason requires, perhaps, a stricter observance of the dramatic rules in comedy, than in tragedy. For the action of comedy being more familiar to us than that of tragedy, more like what we are accustomed to see in common life, we judge more easily of what is probable, and are more hurt by the want of it. The probable and the natural, both in the conduct of the story, and in the characters and sentiments of the persons who are introduced, are the great foundation, it must always be remembered, of the whole beauty of comedy.

The subjects of tragedy are not limited to any country, or to any age. The tragic poet may lay his scene in whatever region he pleases. He may form his subject upon the history, either of his own, or of a foreign country; and he may take it from any period that is agreeable to him, however remote in time. The reverse of this holds in comedy, for a clear and obvious reason. In the great vices, great virtues, and high passions, men of all countries and ages resemble one another; and are therefore equally subjects for the tragic muse. But those decorums of behaviour, those lesser discrimi. nations of character, which afford subject for comedy, change with the differences of countries and times; and can never be so well understood by foreigners, as by natives. We weep for the heroes of Greece and Rome, as freely as we do for those of our own country; but we are touched with the ridicule of such manners and such characters only, as we see and know; and therefore the scene and subject of comedy, should always be laid in our own country, and in our own times. The comic poet who aims at correcting improprieties and follies of behaviour, should study to catch the manners living as they rise. It is not his business to amuse us with a tale of the last age, or with a Spanish or a French intrigue, but to give us pictures taken from among ourselves; to satirize reigning and present vices; to exhibit to the age a faithful copy of itself, with its humours, its follies, and its extravagances. It is only by laying nis plan in this manner, that he can add weight and dignity to the entertainment which he gives us. Plautus, it is true, and Terence, did not follow this rule. They laid the scene of their comedies in Greece, and adopted the Greek laws and customs. But it must be remembered, that comedy was, in their age, but a new entertainment in Rome; and that then they contented themselves with imitating, often with translating merely, the comedies of Menander, and cther Greek writers. In after times, it is known that the Romans had the Comædia Togata,' or what was founded on their own manners, as well as the ‘Comedia Palliata,' or what was taken from the Greeks.

Comedy may be divided into two kinds; comedy of character,

« AnteriorContinuar »