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It may now appear, that critics who put the unities of place and of time upon the fame footing with the unity of action, making them all equally essential, have not attended to the nature and constitution of the modern drama. If they admit an interrupted representation, with which no writer finds fault, it is plainly absurd to condemn the greatest advantage it procures us, that of representing many interesting subjects excluded from the Grecian stage. If there needs must be i reformation, why not restore the ancient chorus and the ancient continuity of action? There is certainly no medium: for to admit an interruption without relaxing from the strict unities of place and of time, is in effect to load us with all the inconveniencies of the ancient drama, and at the fame time to with-hold from us its advantages.
And therefore the only proper question is, Whether our model be or be not a real improvement? This indeed may fairly be called in question; and in order to a comparative trial, some particulars must be premised. When a play begins, we have no difficulty to accommodate our minds to the scene of action, however distant it be in time or in place: we know that the play it a representation only; and the imagination, with facility, adapts itself to every circumstance. Our situation is very different after we are engaged: it is the perfection of representation to hide itself, tq impose upon the spectator, and to produce. duce in him • an impression of reality, as if he were spectator of a real event *; but any interruption annihilates this impression, by rousing him out of his waking dream, and unhappily restoring him to his fenses. So difficult it is to support this impression of reality, that much slighter interruptions than the interval between two acts are sufficient to dissolve the charm: in the 5th act of the Mourning Bride, the three first scenes are in a room of state, the fourth in a prison; and the change is operated by shifting the scene, which is done in a trice: but however quick the transition may be, it is impracticable to impose upon the spectators so far as to make them conceive that they are actually carried from the palace to the prison: they immediately reflect, that the palace and prison are imaginary, and that the whole is a fiction.
From these premisses one will be naturally led, at first view, to pronounce the frequent interruptions in the modern drama to be an imperfection. It will occur, "That every interruption *' must have the effect to banish the dream of rea*' lity, and with it to banish our concern, which •* cannot subsist while we are conscious that all is "a fiction; and therefore, that in the modern *' drama sufficient time is not afforded for the •* fluctuation and swelling of passion, like what •« is afforded in the Grecian drama, where there
Chap. 2. part I. sect. 6.
"is no interruption." This reasoning, it must be owned, has a specious appearance: but we must not become faint-hearted upon the first repulse; let us rally our troops for a second engagement.
Considering attentively the ancient drama, we find, that though the representation is never interrupted, the action is suspended not less frequently than in the modern drama: there are five acts in each; and the only difference is, that in the former, when the action is suspended, as it is at the end of every act, opportunity is taken of the interval to employ the chorus in singing. Hence it appears, that the Grecian continuity of representation cannot have the effect to prolong the impression of reality: to banish this impression, a suspension of the action while the chorus is employ'd in singing, is not less operative than a total suspension of the representation.
But to open a larger view, I am ready to show, that a continued representation, without a single pause even in the principal action, so far from an advantage, would be an imperfection; and that a representation with proper pauses, is better calculated for moving the audience, and making the deepest impressions. This will be evident from the following considerations. Representation cannot very long support an impression of reality; for when the spirits are exhausted by close attention, and by the agitation of passion, an uneasiness ensues, which never fails to banish
the waking dream. Now supposing an act to employ as much time as can easily be given with itrict attention to any incident, a supposition that cannot be far from the truth; it follows, that the impression of reality would not be prolonged beyond the time of an act, even supposing a continued representation. If so, a continued representation of longer endurance than an act, must - have a bad effect, by overstraining the attention and producing a total absence of mind. In this respect, the four pauses have a fine effect: for by affording to the audience a seasonable respite when the impression of reality is gone, and while nothing material is in agitation, they relieve the mind from its fatigue; and consequently prevent a wandering of thought at the very time possibly of the most interesting scenes.
In one article indeed, the Grecian model has greatly the advantage: its chorus, during an interval, not only preserves alive the impressions made upon the audience, but also prepares their hearts finely for new impressions. In our theatres, on the contrary, the audience, at the end of every act, are in a manner solicited to withdraw their thoughts from what has been passing, and to trifle away time the best way they can. Thus in the intervals between the acts, every warm impression is banished; and the spectators begin the next act cool and indifferent, as at the commencement of the play. This is a gross malady in our theatrical representations; but a. malady that
luckily luckily is not incurable: to revive the Grecian chorus, would be to revive the Grecian slavery of place and time; but I can figure a detached chorus coinciding with a pause in the representation, as the ancient chorus did with a pause in the principal action. What objection, for example, can there lie against music between the acts, vocal and instrumental, adapted to the subject? Such detached chords, beside putting us under no limitation as to time and place, would have more than one happy effect: it would recruit the spirits; and it would preserve entire, the tone, if not the tide, of passion: the music should begin with a strain in the tone of the passion represented in the preceding act, and be gradually varied till it accord with the tone of the passion that is to succeed in the next act. The music and the representation woUld both of them be gamers by their conjunction; which will thus appear. Music that accords with the present tone of mind, is, upon that account, doubly agreeable; and accordingly, though music singly hath not great power to raise a passion, it tends greatly to support a passion already raised. Further, music prepares us for the passion that follows, by making chearful, tender, melancholy, or animated impressions^ as the subject requiresTake for an example the first scene of the Mourning Bride, where soft music in a'melancholy strain, prepares us finely for entering into Almeria's deep distress. In this manner, music and