תמונות בעמוד

Plautus, or any other in that kind; but expressed all the moods and figures of what is ridiculous, oddly. In short, as vinegar is not accounted good until the wine be corrupted; so jests that are true and natural seldom raise laughter with the beast the multitude. They love nothing that is right and proper. The farther it runs from reason, or possibility with them, the better it is.

[ocr errors]

Socrates.—Theatrical wit.—What could have made them laugh, like to see Socrates presented, that example of all good life, honesty, and virtue, to have him hoisted up with a pully, and there play the philosopher in a basket; measure how many foot a flea could skip geometrically, by a just scale, and edify the people from the engine. This was theatrical wit, right stage jesting, and relishing a play-house, invented for scorn and laughter; whereas, if it had savoured of equity, truth, perspicuity, and candour, to have tasten a wise, or a learned palate, spit it out presently this is bitter and profitable; this instructs and would inform us : what need we know any thing that are nobly born, more than a horserace, or a hunting-match, our day to break with citizens, and such innate mysteries 2


The cart.—This is truly leaping from the stage to

the tumbril again, reducing all wit to the original dung-cart.

[ocr errors]

Of the magnitude and compass of any fable, epic or dramatic. What the measure of a fable is.-The fable or plot of a poem defined.—The epic fable, differing from the

[ocr errors]

dramatic.—To the r ing of this question, we
must first agree in the definition of the fable. The
fable is called the itnitation of 9ne entire and perfect
action, whose parts o joined and knit together,
as nothing in the structure can be changed, or taken
away, without impairing or troubling the whole, of .
which there is a proportionable magnitude in the
members. As for example: if a man would build a
house, he would first appoint a place to build it in,
which he would define within certain bounds: so in
the constitution of a poem, the action is aimed at by
the poet, which answers place in a building, and that
action hath his largeness, compass and proportion.
But as a court or king's palace requires other dimen-
sions than a private house; so the epic asks a mag-
nitude from other poems: since what is place in the
one, is action in the other, the difference is in space.
So that by this definition we conclude the fable to be
o of one perfect and entire action, as one
perfect and entire place is required to a building.
By perfect, we understand that to which nothing is
wanting; as place to the building that is raised, and
action to the fable that is formed. It is perfect per-
haps not for a court, or king's palace, which requires
a greater ground, but for the structure he would
raise; so the space of the action may not prove large
enough for the epic fable, yet be perfect for the
dramatic, and whole.

[ocr errors]

What we understand by whole.—Whole we call that, and perfect, which hath a beginning, a midst, and an end. So the place of any building may be whole and entire for that work, though too little for a palace. As to a tragedy or a comedy, the action may be convenient and perfect, that would not fit an epic poem in magnitude. So a lion is a perfect

creature in himself, though it be less than that of a buffalo, or a rhinocerote. They differ but in specie: either in the kind is absolute; both have their parts, and either the whole. Therefore, as in every body, so in every action, which is the subject of a just work, there is required a certain proportionable greatness, .#.".”. *For—that which happens to the eyes when we behold a body, the same happens to the memory, when we contemplate an action. I look upon a monstrous giant, as Tityus, whose body covered nine acres of land, and mine eye sticks upon every part: the whole that consists of those parts will never be taken in at one entire view. So in a fable, if the action be too great, we can never comprehend the whole together in our imagination. Again, if it be too little, there ariseth no pleasure out of the object; it affords the view no stay; it is beheld, and vanisheth at once. As if we should look upon an ant or pismire, the parts fly the sight, and the whole considered is almost nothing. The same happens in action, which is the object of memory, as the body is of sight. Too vast oppresSeth the eyes, and exceeds the memory; too little, scarce admits either.

CLXVII. What is the utmost bounds of a fable.—Now in every action it behoves the o know which is

his utmost bound, how far with fitness and a necessary proportion he may produce and determine it; that is, till either good fortune change into the worse, or the worse into the better. For as a body without proportion cannot be goodly, no more can the action, either in comedy or tragedy, without his fit bounds: and every bound, for the nature of the subject, is esteemed the best that is largest, till it can increase no more: so it behoves the action in tragedy or comedy to be let grow, till the necessity ask a conclusion; wherein two things are to be considered; first, that it exceed not the compass of one day; next, that there be place left for digression and art. For the episodes and digressions in a fable are the same that household stuff and other furniture are in a house. And so far from the measure and extent of a fable dramatic.


What by one and entire.—Now that it should be one, and entire. One is considerable two ways; either as it is only separate, and by itself, or as

being ol.o.o.” One, as those parts grow, or are wrought together. That it should be one the first way alone, and by itself, no man that hath tasted letters ever would say, especially having required before a just magnitude, and equal proportion of the parts in themselves. Neither of which can possibly be, if the action be single and separate, not composed of parts, which laid together in themselves, with an equal and fitting proportion, tend to the same end; which thing out of antiquity itself hath deceived many, and more this day it doth deceive.

[ocr errors]

Hercules.—Theseus.—Achilles.—Ulysses.—Homer and Virgil.—Ameas.-Venus.—So many there be of old, that have thought the action of one man to be one; as of Hercules, Theseus, Achilles, Ulysses, and other heroes; which is both foolish and false, since by one and the same person many things may be severally done, which cannot fitly be referred or joined to the same end : which not only the excellent tragic poets, but the best masters of the epic, Homer and Virgil saw. For though the argument of an epic poem be far more diffused, and poured out than that of tragedy; yet Virgil writing of AEneas, hath pretermitted many things. He neither tells how he was born, how brought up, how he fought with Achilles, how he was snatched out of the battle by Venus; but that one thing, how he came into Italy, he prosecutes in twelve books. The rest of his journey, his error by sea, the sack of Troy, are put not as the argument of the work, but episodes of the argument. So Homer laid by many things of Ulysses, and handled no more than he saw tended to one and the same end.

[ocr errors]

Theseus.-Hercules.—% uvenal.—Codrus.-Sophocles.—Ajax.- Ulysses.—Contrary to which, and foolishly, those poets did, whom the philosopher taxeth, of whom one gathered all the actions of Theseus, another put all the labours of Hercules in one work. So did he whom Juvenal mentions in the beginning, “hoarse Codrus,” that recited a volume compiled, which he called his Theseide, not yet finished, to the great trouble both of his hearers and himself; amongst which there were many parts had no coherence nor kindred one with another, so far they were from being one action, one fable. For as a house, consisting of divers materials, becomes one structure, and one dwelling; so an action, composed of divers parts, may become one fable, epic or dramatic. For example, in a tragedy, look upon Sophocles his Ajax: Ajax, deprived of Achilles' armour, which he hoped from the suffrage of the Greeks, disdains; and growing impatient of the injury, rageth, and runs mad. In that humour he doth many senseless things, and at last falls upon the Grecian flock, and kills a great ram for Ulysses: returning to his senses, he grows ashamed of the scorn, and kills

« הקודםהמשך »