« הקודםהמשך »
· Can any thin? be more preposterous than to behold Cato, Julius Cæsar, and Alexander the Great, strutting upon the stage in the figure of songsters, personated by eunuchs ?
The singing, therefore, should be wholly applied to the lyrical part of the entertainment, which, by being freed from a tiresome; unnatural recitative, must certainly administer more reasonable pleasure.
The several parts of the entertainment should: be so suited to relieve one another as to be tedious in none; and the connexion should be such, that not one should be able to subsist without the other: like embroidery, fo fixed and wrought into the substance,, that no part of the ornament could be removed without tearing the stuff.
To introduce singing and dancing by head and shoulders, no way relative to the action, does not turn a play into an opera, though that title is now promiscuously given to every farce sprinkled here and there with a long and: a: dance.
The richest lace, ridiculously set on, will make but a fool's coat.
I will not take upon me to criticise what has appeared of this kind on the English ftage: we have several poems under the name of Dramatic Operas by the best hands; but, in my opinion, the subjects, for the most part, have been improperly chosen. Mr. Addison's Rosamond, and Mr. Congreve's Semele, though excellent in their kind, are rather masks than operas.
As I cannot help being concerned for the honour of my country, even in the minutest things, I am for endeavouring to outdo our ineighbours in performances of all kinds.
Thus, if the fplendour of the French opera, and the harmony of the Italian, were so skil. fully interwoven with the charms of poetry, upon a regular dramatic botim, as to instruct as well as delight, to improve the mind as well as ravish the sense, there can be no doubt but such an addition would entitle our English opera to the preference of all others. The third part of the encouragement, of which we have been
fo liberal to foreigners for a concert of mylic only, miscalled an opera, would more than effect it.
In the construction of the following Poem the author has endeavoured to set an example to his rules; precepts are best explained by examples; an abler hand might have executed it better :: however, it may serve for a model to be improved upon, when we grow weary of scenes of low life, and return to a taste of more generous pleasures.
We are reproached by foreigners with such unnatural irregularities in our dramatic pieces, as are shocking to all other nations; even a Swiss has played the critic upon us, without confi. dering they are as lit:le approved by the judicious in our own. A stranger who is ignorant of the language, and incapable of judging of the sentiments, condemns by the eye, and concludes what he hears to be as extravagant as what he sees. When Oedipus, breaks his neck out of a balcony, and Jocasta appears in her bed murdering herself and her children, instead of
moving terror or compassion, such spectacles only fill the spectator with horror: no wonder if strangers are shocked at fuch fights, and conclude us a nation hardly yet civilized, that can seem to delight in them. To remove this reproach, it is much to be withed our scenes were less bloody, and the sword and dagger more our of fashion. To make some amends for this exclufion, I would be less severe as to the rigour of some other laws enacted by the masters, though it is always advisable to keep as close to them as possible: but rcformations are not to be brought about all at once.
It may happen that the nature of certain subjects proper for moving the paflions may require a little more latitude, and then, without ofience to the critics, sure there may be room for a; saving in equity from the severity of the common law of Parnassus as well as of the King's Bench. To sacrifice a principal beauty, upon which the success of the whole may depend, is being too strictly tied down; in such a casc suma mum jus may be summa injuria. .
Corneille himself complains of finding his genius often cramped by his own rules: “There is as infinite difference,” says he, “ between specu“ lation and practice : let the severest critic " make the trial, he will be convinced by his 66 own experience, that upon certain occasions 6 too strict an adherence to the letter of the “ law shall exclude a bright opportunity of “ shining, or touching the passions. Where the
breach is of little inument, or can be con“ trived to be as it were imperceptible in the .6 representation, a gentle dispenfation Inight be " allowed.” To those little freedoms he attributes the success of his Cyd: but the rigid legislators of the Academy handled him fo roughly for it, that he never durft make the venture again, nor none who have followed him. Thus pinioned, the French Muse must always flutter like a bird with the wings cut, incapable of a lofty flight.
The dialogue of their tragedies is under the fame constraint as the construction : not a difcourse, but an oration; not speaking, but de