תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

* may be raised too, and that doubly; either by seeing a wicked man punished, “or'a good man at last fortunate; or perhaps indignation, to see wickedness “ prosperous, and goodness depressed: both these may be profitable to the end " of a tragedy, reformation of manners; but the last i'm properly, only as it "begets pity, in the audience: though Aristotle, I confess, places tragedies of " this kind in the second form.

" He who undertakes to answer this excellent critique of Mr. Rymer, in be

half of our English poets against the Greek, ought to do it in this manner. " Either by yielding to him the greatest part of what he contends for, which “consists in this, that the púbas, i. e. the design and conduct of it, is more “ conducing in the Greeks to those ends of tragedy, which Aristotle and he “ propose, namely, to cause terror and pity : yet the granting this does not " set the Greek above the English poets, .“ But the answerer ought to prove two things : first, that the fable is not " the greatest master-piece of a tragedy, though it be the foundation of it.

“ Secondly, That other ends as suitable to the nature of tragedy may be « found in the English, which were not in the Greek,

“ Aristotle places the fable first; not quoad dignitatem, sed quoad fundamerstum : for a fable, ever so movingly contrived to those ends of his, pity and “ terror, will operate nothing on our affections, except the characters, mans " ners, thoughts, and words, are suitable.

“ So that it remains for Mr, Rymer to prove, that in all those, or the * greatest part of them, we are inferior to Sophocles and Euripides: and this “ he has offered at, in some measure ; but, I think, a little partially to the “ ancients.

“For the fable itself, 'tis in the English more adorned with Episodes, and “ larger than in the Greek poets; consequently more diverting. For, “ if the action be but one, and that plain, without any counterțurn of “ design or episode, i. e. under plot, how can it be so pleasing as the English, “ which have both under-plot and a turned design, which keeps the audience « in expectation of the catastrophe? whereas in the Greek poets we scethrough fr the whole design at first.

“For the characters, they are neither so many nor so various in Sophocles " and Euripides, as in Shakspeare and Fletcher; only they are more adapted " to those ends of tragedy with Aristotle commends to us, pity and terror.

“The manners flow from the characters, and consequently must partake " of their advantages and disadvantages. .

« The thoughts and words, which are the fourth and fifth beauties of tra"gedy, are certainly more noble and more poetical in the English than in the Greek, which must be proved by comparing them, somewhat more equita64 bly than Mr Rymer has done,

“ After

“ After all, we need not yield that the English way is not less conducing to " move pity and terror, because they often shew virtue oppressed and vice pu“ nished ; where they do not both, or either, they are not to be defended."

“ And if we should grant that the Greeks performed this better, perhaps it “ may admit of dispute, whether pity and rerror are either the prime, or at “ feast the only end of tragedy.

“ 'Tis not enough that Aristotle has said so; for Aristotle drew his models " of tragedy from Sophocles and Euripides; and, if he had seen oors, might “ have changed his mind. And chiefly we have to say (what I hinted on pity " and terror, in the last paragraph save one), that the punishment of vice and “ reward of virtue are the inost adequate ends of tragedy, because most condu“cing to good example of life. Now, pity is not so easily raised for a criminal “ (and the ancient tragedy alırays represents its chief person such,) as it is for “ an innocent man; and the suffering of innocence and punishment of the of“ fender is of the nature of English tragedy, contrarily, in the Greek, inno“ cence is unhappy cíten, and the offender escapes. Then weere not touched “ with the sufferings of any sort of men so much as of lovers; and this was “ almost unknown to the ancients ; so that they neither administered poetical “ justice, of which Mr. Rymer boasts, so well as we : neither knew they “the best common place of pity, which is love.

" He therefore unjustly blames us for not building on what the ancients left Cus; for it seems, upon consideration of the premises, that we have wholly " finished what tliey began,

“My judgment on this piece is this, that it is extremely learned ; but that of the author of it is better read in the Greek than in the English poets : " that all wiiters ought to study this critique, as the best account I have ever " scen ofthe ancients; that the model of tragedy, he has here given, is excellent, " and extremely correct : but that it is not the only model of all tragedy, because “it is too much circumscribed in plot, characters, &c.; and, lastly, that we may « be taught here justly to admire and imitate the ancients, without giving theme " the preference with this author, in prejudice to our own country is

“ Want of method in this excellent treatise makes the thoughts of the author sometimes obscure.

“ His meaning, that pity and terror are to be moved, is, that they are to be " moved as the means conducing to the ends of tragedy, which are pleasure · and instruction.

" And these two ends may be thus distinguished. The chief end of the “ poet is to please ; for his immediate reputation depends on it. .

“ The great end of the poem is to instruct, which is performed by making pleasure the vehicle of that instruction ; for poesy is an art, and all arts are s made to profit Rapin.

[ocr errors]

“ The pity, which the poet is to labour for, is for the criminal, not for those « or him whom he has murdered, or who have been the occasion of the tragedy. “ The terror is likewise in the punishment of the same criminal; who, if “ he be represented too great an offender, will not be pitied: if altogether “ innocent, his punishment will be unjust.

" Another obscurity is, where he says Sophocles perfected tragedy by intro“ ducing the third actor: that is, he meant three kinds of action; one com“ pany singing, or another playing on the musick; a third dancing.

“ To make a true judgment in this competition betwixt the Greek poets " and the English, in tragedy:

“ Consider, first, how Aristotle had defined a tragedy. Secondly, what he cc assigns the end of it to be. Thirdly, what he thinks the beauties of it. Fourthly, the means to attain the end proposed.

“ Compare the Greek and English tragick poets justly, and without partia“ lity, according to those rules.

“ Then, secondly, consider whether Aristotle has made a just definition of " tragedy; of its parts, of its ends, and of its beauties; and whether he, hav« ing not seen any others but those of Sophocles, Euripides, &c. had or truly “ could determine what all the excellences of tragedy are, and wherein they “ consist.

“Next, shew in what ancient tragedy was deficients for example, in the “ narrowness of its plots, and fewness of persons, and try whether that be not “ a fault in the Greek poets; and whether their excellence was so great, when " the variety was visibly so little; or whether what they did was not very “ easy to do. ..“ Then make a judgment on what the English have added to their beauties; “ as, for example, not only more plot, but also new passions: as, namely, that “ of love, scarce touched on by the ancients, except in this one example of “ Phædra, cited by Mr. Rymer; and in that how short they were of Fletcher !

“ Prove also thet love, being an heroic passion, is fit for tragedy, which “ cannot be denied, because of the example alledged of Phædra; and how " far Shakspeare has outdone them in friendship, &c.

" To return to the beginning of this enquiry ; consider if pity and terror be ," enough for tragedy to move: and I believe, upon a true definition of tragedy,

“ it will be found, that its work extends farther, and that it is to reform man“ ners, by a delightful representation of human life in great persons, by way of “ dialogue. If this be true, then not only pity and terror are to be moved, as “the only means to bring us to virtue, but generally love to virtue, and " hatred to vice: by shewing the rewards of one, and punishments of the other; “ at least, by rendering virtue always amiable, tho' it be shewn unfortunate; “ and vice-detestable, though it be shewn triumphant. “If, then, the encouragement of virtue and discouragement of vice be the

proper

& proper ends of poetry in tragedy, pity and terror, though good means, äre not the only. For all the passions, in their turns, are to be set in a ferment: as joy, anger, love, fear, are to be used as the poet's common-places; and a i general concernment for the principal actors is to be raised, by making them It appear such in the characters, their words, and actions, as will interest “ the audience in their fortunes. · “ And, if, after all, in a larger sense, pity comprehends this concernment " for the good, and terror includes detestation for the bad, then let us consider whether the English have not answered this end of tragedy, as well as “ the ancients, or perhaps better.

« And here Mr. Rymer's objections against these plays are to be iinpartially "weighed, that we may see whether they are of weight enough to turn the “ balance against our countrymen. . « 'Tis evident those plays, which he arraigns, have moved both those pas " sions in a high degree upon the stage. ..“ To give the glory of this away from the poet, and to place it upon the 6 actors, seems unjust.

* One reason is, because whatever actors they have found, the event has * been the same; that is, the same passions have been always moyed; which « shews that there is something of force and merit in the plays themselves, con

ducing to the design of raising these two passions:' and suppose them ever to .*have been excellently acted, yet action only adds grace, vigour, and more * life npon the stage ; but cannot give it wholly where it is not first. But, “ secondly, I dare appeal to those who have never seen them acted, if they have not found these two passions moved within them : and if the general voice < will carry it, Mr. Rymer's prejudice will take off his single testimony. ." This, being matter of fact, is reasonably to be established by this appeal; " as if one man says 'tis night, the rest of the world conclude it to be day; “there needs no farther argument against him, that it is so.

“ If he urgs, that the general taste is depraved, his arguments to prove of this can at best but evince that our poets took not the best way to raise " those passions; but experierce proves against him, that these means which “ they have used, have been successful, and have produced them.

" And one reason of that success is, in my opinion; this, that Shakspeare " and Fletcher have written to the genius of the age and nation in which they " lived; for though nature, as he objects, is the same in all places, and reason too the same; yet the climate, the age, the disposition of the people, to “ whom a poet writes, may be so different, that what pleased the Greeks “ would not satisfy an English audience. ." And if they proceeded upon a foundation of truer reason to please the « Athenians, than Shakspeare and Fletcher to please the English, it only shews “ that the Athenians were a more judicious people; but the poet's business “ is certainly to please the audience.

" Whe

Whether our English audience have been pleased hitherto with acórns, *c as he calls it, or with bread, is the next question ; that is, whether the & mieans which Shakespeare and Fletcher have used in their plays to raise " those passions before named, be better applied to the ends by the Greek “ poets than by them. And perhaps we shall not grant him this wholly: let « it be granted that a writer is not to run down with the stream, or to < please the people by their usual methods, but rather to reform their judge« ments, it still remains to prove that our théatre needs this total reformation.

“ The faults, which he has found in their designs, are rather wittily ,“ aggravated in many places than reasonably urged ; and as much may be

“ returned on the Greeks, by one who were as witty as himself. . “2. They destroy not, if they are granted, the foundation of the fabrick; “ only take away from the beauty of the symmetry : for example, the faults “ in the character of the King, in King and No-king are not, as he calls " them, such as render him detestable, but only imperfections which accom“pany human nature, and are for the most part excused by the violence of « his love ; so that they destroy nor our pity or concernment for him: this “ answer may be applied to most of his objections of that kind.

And Rollo committing many murders, when he is answerable but for " one, is too severely arraigned by him ; for it adds to our horror and de« testation of the criminal : and poetical justice is not neglected neither; for " we stab him in our minds for every offence which he commits ; and the

point which the poet is to gain on the audience, is not so much in the death " of an offender as the raising an horror of his crimes..

" That the criminal should neither be wholly guilty, nor wholly innocent, “ but so participating of both as to move both pity and terror, is certainly a good rule, but not perpetually to be observed; for that were to make all

tragedies too much alike, which objection he foresaw, but has not fully " answered.

To conclude, therefore: if the plays of the ancients are more correctly 6 plotted, ours are more beautifully written. And if we can raise passions

< as high on worse foundations, it shews our genius in tragedy is greater ; .“ for in all other parts of it the English have manifestly excelled them."

THE original of the following letter is preserved in the Library at Lambeth, and was kindly imparted to the publick by the reverend Dr. Vyse.

Copy of an original Letter from John Dryden, Esq. to his sons in Italy, · from a MS. in the Lambeth Library, marked No 933. p. 56. (Superscribed)

« Al Illustrisssimo Sigre .
“ Carlo Dryden Camariere
“ d'Honore A. S. S.

" In Roma. Vol. I.

1 i :

« Franca

« הקודםהמשך »