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are events; the watery palace of the Nereids, the cavern of Proteus, and the scene of the infernal regions, are places; Aristæus, old Proteus, Orpheus, Eurydice, Cyllene and her nymphs, are personages; all great, all striking, all sublime.
Let us view these epilogues in the poet's order: 1. Civil horrors; 2. Rural tranquillity; 3. Nature laid waste; 4. Nature restored. Here, as we have said already, different passions are, by the subjects being alternate, alternately excited; and yet withal excited so judiciously, that, when the poem concludes, and all is at an end, the reader leaves off with tranquillity and joy.
From the Georgies of Virgil we proceed to the Menexenus of Plato; the first being the most finished form of a didactic poem, the latter, the most consummate model of a panegyrical oration.
The Menexenus is a funeral oration in praise of those brave Athenians who had fallen in battle by generously asserting the cause of their country. Like the Georgics, and every other just composition, this oration has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The beginning is a solemn account of the deceased having received all the legitimate rights of burial, and of the propriety of doing them honour not only by deeds, but by words; that is, not only by funeral ceremonies, but by a speech, to perpetuate the memory of their magnanimity, and to recommend it to their posterity as an object of imitation.
As the deceased were brave and gallant men, we are shewn by what means they came to possess their character, and what noble exploits they performed in consequence.
Hence the middle of the oration contains, first, their origin; next, their education and form of government; and last of all, the consequence of such an origin and education; their heroic achievements from the earliest days to the time then present.
The middle part being thus complete, we come to the conclusion; which is, perhaps, the most sublime piece of oratory, both for the plan and execution, which is extant of any age, or in any language.
By an awful prosopopoeia, the deceased are called up to address the living; the fathers, slain in battle, to exhort their living children; the children, slain in battle, to console their living fathers; and this with every idea of manly consolation, and with every generous incentive to a contempt of death, and a love of their country, that the powers of nature or of art could suggest.
It is here this oration concludes, being (as we have shewn) a
9 See before, p. 423.
r See Dr. Bentham's elegant edition of this oration, in his Aóyou 'Emiraplo, printed at Oxford, 1746, from p. 21 to p. 40.
See the same edition, from the words *Ω παῖδες, ὅτι μέν ἐστε πατέρων ἀγαθῶν, p. 41, to the conclusion of the oration, p.
perfect whole, executed with all the strength of a sublime language, under the management of a great and sublime genius.
If these speculations appear too dry, they may be rendered more pleasing, if the reader would peruse the two pieces criticised. His labour, he might be assured, would not be lost, as he would peruse two of the finest pieces, which the two finest ages of antiquity produced.
We cannot however quit this theory concerning whole and parts, without observing, that it regards alike both small works and great; and that it descends even to an essay, to a sonnet, to an ode. These minuter efforts of genius, unless, they possess (if I may be pardoned the expression) a certain character of totality, lose a capital pleasure derived from their union; from a union which, collected in a few pertinent ideas, combines them all happily, under one amicable form. Without this union, the production is no better than a sort of vague effusion, where sentences follow sentences, and stanzas follow stanzas, with no apparent reason why they should be two rather than twenty, or twenty rather than two.
If we want another argument for this minuter totality, we may refer to nature, which art is said to imitate. Not only this universe is one stupendous whole, but such also is a tree, a shrub, a flower; such those beings which, without the aid of glasses, even escape our perception. And so much for totality, (I venture to familiarize the term,) that common and essential character to every legitimate composition.
There is another character left, which, though foreign to the present purpose, I venture to mention, and that is the character of accuracy. Every work ought to be as accurate as possible. And yet, though this apply to works of every kind, there is a difference whether the work be great or small. In greater works, (such as histories, epic poems, and the like,) their very magnitude excuses incidental defects, and their authors, according to Horace, may be allowed to slumber. It is otherwise in smaller works, for the very reason that they are smaller. Such, through every part, both in sentiment and diction, should be perspicuous, pure, simple, and precise.
As examples often illustrate better than theory, the following short piece is subjoined for perusal. The reader may be assured, it comes not from the author; and yet, though not his own, he cannot help feeling a paternal solicitude for it; a wish for indulgence to a juvenile genius, that never meant a private essay for public inspection.
PERDITA TO FLORIZEL.
"Several ladies in the country having acted a dramatic pastoral, in which one of them, under the name of Florizel, a shep
herd, makes love to another, under the name of Perdita, a shepherdess; their acting being finished, and they returned to their proper characters, one of them addresses the other in the following lines:
"No more shall we with trembling hear that bell,t
The author, in his own works, as far as his genius would assist, has endeavoured to give them a just totality. He has endeavoured that each of them should exhibit a real beginning, middle, and end, and these properly adapted to the places which they possess, and incapable of transposition, without detriment or confusion. He does not, however, venture upon a detail, because he does not think it worthy to follow the detail of productions, like the Georgics or the Menexenus.
So much, therefore, for the speculation concerning whole and parts, and such matters relative to it, as have incidentally arisen.
We are now to say something upon the theory of sentiment; and as sentiment and manners are intimately connected, and in a drama both of them naturally rise out of the fable, it seems also proper to say something upon dramatic speculation in general, beginning, according to order, first from the first.
DRAMATIC SPECULATIONS-THE CONSTITUTIVE PARTS OF EVERY DRAMA -SIX IN NUMBER-WHICH OF THESE BELONG TO OTHER ARTISTSWHICH TO THE POET-TRANSITION TO THOSE WHICH APPERTAIN TO THE POET.
THE laws and principles of dramatic poetry among the Greeks, whether it was from the excellence of their pieces, or of their language, or of both, were treated with attention even by their ablest philosophers.
We shall endeavour to give a sketch of their ideas; and, if it shall appear that we illustrate by instances chiefly modern, we have so done, because we believe that it demonstrates the universality of the precepts.
A dramatic piece, or (in more common language) a play, is the detail or exhibition of a certain action: not, however, an action, like one in history, which is supposed actually to have happened, but, though taken from history, a fiction or imitation, in various particulars derived from invention. It is by this that Sophocles and Shakspeare differ from Thucydides and Clarendon. It is invention makes them poets, and not metre; for had Coke or Newton written in verse, they could not, for that reason, have been called poets."
Again, a dramatic piece, or play, is the exhibition of an action; not simply related, as the Æneid or Paradise Lost, but where the parties concerned are made to appear in person, and personally to converse and act their own story. It is by this that the Samson Agonistes differs from the Paradise Lost, though both of them poems from the same sublime author.
Now such dramatic piece, or play, in order to make it pleasing, (and, surely, to please is an essential to the drama,) must have a beginning, middle, and end; that is, as far as possible, be a perfect whole, having parts. If it be defective here, it will be hardly comprehensible; and if hardly comprehensible, it is not possible that it should please.
But upon whole and parts, as we have spoken already,* we speak not now. At present we remark, that such an action, as here described, makes in every play what we call the story, or (to use a term more technical) the fable; and that this story or fable is, and has been justly called, the very soul of the drama, since from this it derives its very existence.
We proceed this drama, then, being an action, and that not rehearsed like an epopee or history, but actually transacted by certain present living agents, it becomes necessary that these agents should mutually converse, and that they should have too a certain place where to hold their conversation. Hence we perceive that in every dramatic piece, not only the fable is a requisite, but the scenery, and the stage, and, more than these, a proper diction. Indeed, the scenery and stage are not in the poet's department: they belong at best to the painter, and after him to inferior artists. The diction is the poet's, and this indeed is important, since the whole of his performance is conveyed through the dialogue.
But diction being admitted, we are still to observe, that there are other things wanting, of no less importance. In the various
· Δῆλον οὖν ἐκ τούτων ὅτι τὸν ποιητὴν μᾶλλον τῶν μύθων εἶναι δεῖ ποιητὴν, ἢ τῶν μέτρων, ὅσω ποιητὴς κατὰ τὴν μίμησίν ἐστι· μιμεῖται δὲ τᾶς πράξεις. "It is therefore evident hence, that a poet, or maker, ought rather to be a maker of fables than of verses, inasmuch as he is a poet, or maker, in virtue of his imitation,
and as the objects he imitates are human actions.” Arist. de Poet. cap. 9. p. 234. edit. Sylb.
* Sup. chap. v.
γ ̓Αρχὴ μὲν οὖν καὶ οἶον ψυχὴ ὁ μῦθος Ts тpay días. Arist. Poet. c. 6. p. 231. edit. Sylb.
transactions of real life, every person does not simply speak, but some way or other speaks his mind, and discovers by his behaviour certain traces of character. Now it is in these almost inseparable accidents to human conduct, that we perceive the rise of sentiment and manners. And hence it follows, that as dramatic fiction copies real life, not only diction is a necessary part of it, but manners also, and sentiment.
We may subjoin one part more, and that is music. The ancient choruses between the acts were probably sung, and perhaps the rest was delivered in a species of recitative. Our modern theatres have a band of music; and have music often introduced where there is no opera. In this last, (I mean the opera,) music seems to claim precedence.
From these speculations it appears, that the constitutive parts of the drama are six; that is to say, the fable, the manners, the ›entiment, the diction, the scenery, and the music.2
But then, as out of these six the scenery and the music appear to appertain to other artists, and the play (as far as respects the poet) is complete without them; it remains that its four primary and capital parts are the fable, the manners, the sentiment, and the diction.
These, by way of sketch, we shall successively consider, commencing from the fable, as the first in dignity and rank.
IN THE CONSTITUTIVE PARTS OF A DRAMA, THE FABLE CONSIDERED FIRST-ITS DIFFERENT SPECIES-WHICH FIT FOR COMEDY, WHICH FOR TRAGEDY-ILLUSTRATIONS BY EXAMPLES-REVOLUTIONSDISCOVERIES TRAGIC PASSIONS-LILLO'S FATAL CURIOSITY-COMPARED WITH THE EDIPUS TYRANNUS OF SOPHOCLES-IMPORTANCE OF FABLES, BOTH TRAGIC AND COMIC-HOW THEY DIFFER-BAD FABLES, WHENCE OTHER DRAMATIC REQUISITES, WITHOUT THE FABLE, MAY BE EXCELLENT-FIFTH ACTS, HOW CHARACTERIZED BY SOME DRAMATIC WRITERS.
If we treat of dramatic fables or stories, we must first inquire how many are their species; and these we endeavour to arrange, as follows.
One species is, when the several events flow in a similar succession, and calmly maintain that equal course, till the succession stops, and the fable is at an end. Such is the story of a simple
They are thus enumerated by Aristotle : Μῦθος, καὶ ἤθη, καὶ λέξις, καὶ διάνοια, καὶ Ŏvis, kal μeλotolia. De Poet. c. 6. p. 230. edit. Sylb.
The doctrines of Aristotle, in this and the following chapters, may be said to contain in a manner the whole dramatic art.