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For the succeeding line plainly shews this must be the sense; it also accords with Franklin's translation.
Beyond the reach of fate, and is immortal.
O warto answ dioxşa xj awßni' n.
Ακεσομαι μεν ως εφυν οίκτο πλεοσ.
Jane Pater, seu ta Quirine libentius audis.
G. K. R.
THE DRAMATIC ESSAYIST.
ON TRAGEDY. BY DR. BLAIR.
[Continued from p. 269.)
ENGLISH TRAGEDY. It only now remains to speak of the state of tragedy in Great Britain; the general character of which is, that it is more animated and passionate than French tragedy, but more irregular and incorrect, and less attentive to decorum and to elegance. The pathetic, it must always be remembered, is the soul of tragedy. The English, therefore, must be allowed to have aimed at the highest species of excellence; though, in the execution, they have not always joined the other beauties that ought to accompany the pathetic.
The first object which presents itself to us on the English theatre, is the great Shakespeare. Great he may be justly called, as the extent and force of his natural genius, both for tragedy and comedy, are altogether unrivalled.* But, at the same time, it is
* The character which Dryden has drawn of Shakespeare is not only just, but uncommonly elegant and happy. - He was the man who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not labouriously, but luckily. When he describes any thing, you more than see it; you feel it too. They who accuse him of waiting learning, give him the greate:t
genius shooting wild; deficient in just taste, and altogether unassisted by knowledge or art. Long has he been idolized by the British nation; much has been said, and much has been written con cerning him; criticism has been drawn to the very dregs, in commentaries upon his words and witticisins; and yet it remains, to this day, in doubt, whether his beauties, or his faults, be greatest.Admirable scenes, and passages, without number, there are in his plays; passages beyond what are to be found in any other dramatic writer; but there is hardly any one of his plays which can be called altogether a good one, or which can be read with uninterrupted pleasure from beginning to end. Besides extreme irregularities in conduct, and grotesque mixtures of serious and comic in one piece, we are often interrupted by unnatural thoughts, harsh expressions, a certain obscure bombast, and a play upon words, which he is fond of pursuing; and these interruptions to our pleasure too frequently occur, on occasions when we would least wish to meet with them. All these faults, however, Shakespeare redeems, by two of the greatest excellencies which any tragic poet can possess; his lively and diversified paintings of character; his strong and natural expressions of passion. These are his two chief virtues ; on these his merit rests. Not:vithstanding his many absurdities, all the while we are reading his plays, we find ourselves in the midst of our fellows; we meet with men, vulgar perhaps in their manners, coarse or harsh in their sentiments, but still they are men; they speak with human voices, and are actuated by human passions; we are interested in what they say or do, because we feel that they are of the same nature with ourselves. It is therefore no matter of wonder, that, from the more polished and regular, but more cold and artificial performances of other poets, the public should return with pleasure to such warm and genuine representations of human nature. Shakespeare possesses, likewise, the merit of having created, for himself, a sort of world of præter-natural beings. His witches, ghosts, fairies, and spirits of all kinds, are described with such circumstances of aweful and mysterious solemnity, and speak commendation. He was naturally learned. He needed not the spectacles of books to read nature. He looked inward, and found her there. I cannot say he is every where alike. Were he so, I should do him injury to compare him to the greatest of mankind. He is many times fat and insipid ; his comic wit degenerating into clenches; his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great, when some great occasion is presented to him." Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poetry
a language so peculiar to themselves, as strongly to affect the imagination. His two master-pieces, and in which, in my opinion, the strength of his genius chiefly appears, are Othello and Macbeth. With regard to his historical plays, they are, properly speaking, neither tragedies nor comedies; but a peculiar species of dramatic entertainment, calculated to describe the manners of the times of which he treats, to exhibit the principal characters, and to fix our imagination on the most interesting events and revolutions of our own country. *
After the age of Shakespeare, we can produce, in the English language, several detached tragedies of considerable merit. But we have not many dramatic writers, whose whole works are entitled either to particular criticism, or very high praise. In the tragedies of Dryden and Lee, there is much fire, but mixed with much fustian and rant. Lee's “ Theodosius, or the Force of Love," is the best of his pieces, and, in some of the scenes, does not want tenderness and warmth; though romantic in the plan, and extravagant in the sentiments. Otway was endowed with a high portion of the tragic spirit; which appears to great advantage in his two principal tragedies, “ The Orphan,” and “Venice Preserved.” In these he is, perhaps, too tragic, the distresses being so deep as to tear and overwhelm the mind. He is a writer, doubtless, of genius and strong passion; but, at the same time, exceedingly gross and indelicate. No tragedies are less moral than those of Otway. There are no generous or noble sentiments in them; but a licentious spirit often discovers itself. He is the very opposite of the French decorum; and has contrived to introduce obscenity and indecent allusions, into the midst of deep tragedy.
Rowe's tragedies make a contrast to those of Otway. He is full of elevated and moral sentiments. The poetry is often good, and the language always pure and elegant; but in most of his plays he is too cold and uninteresting; and flowery rather than tragic. Two, however, he has produced, which deserve to be exempted from this censure, Jane Shore and the Fair Penitent; in both of which, there are so many tender and truly pathetic scenes, as to render them justly favourites of the public.
Dr. Young's Revenge, is a play which discovers genius and fire;
* See an excellent defence of Shakespeare's Historical Plays, and several just observations on his peculiar excellencies as a tragic poet, in Mrs. Montague's Essay on the writings and genius of Shakespeare.
but wants tenderness, and turns too much upon the shocking and direful passions. In Congreve's Mourning Bride there are soine fine situations, and much good poetry. The two first acts are admirable. The meeting of Almeria with her husband Osmyn, in the tomb of Anselmo, is one of the most solemn and striking situations to be found in any tragedy. The defects in the catastrophe I pointed out in the last lecture. Mr. Thompson's tragedies are too full of a stiff morality, which renders them dull and formal. Tancred and Sagismunda far excel the rest ; and for the plot, the characters, and sentiments, justly deserve a place among the best English tragedies. Of later pieces, and of living authors, it is not my purpose to treat.
Upon the whole, reviewing the tragic compositions of different nations, the following conclusions arise. A Greek tragedy is the relation of any distressful or melancholy incident; sometimes the effect of passion or crime; oftener of the decree of the gods simply exposed; without much variety of parts or events, but naturally and beautifully set before us; heightened by the poetry of the chorus. A French tragedy is a series of artful and refined conversations, founded upon a variety of tragical and interesting situations; carried on with little action and vehemence; but with much poetical beauty, and high propriety and decorum. An English tragedy is the combat of strong passions, set before us in all their violence; producing deep disasters, often irregularly conducted, abounding in action, and filling the spectators with grief. The ancient tragedies were more natural and simple; the modern are more artful and complex. Among the French there is more correctness, among the English more fire. Andromaque and Zayre soften; Othello and Venice Preserved rend the heart. It deserves remark, that three of the greatest master-pieces of the French tragic theatre turn wholly upon religious subjects : the Athalia of Racine, the Polyeucte of Corneille, and the Zayre of Voltaire. The first is founded upon an historical passage of the Old Testament; in the other two, the distress arises from the zeal and attachment of the principal personages to the christian faith; and in all the three, the authors have, with much propriety, availed themselves of the majesty which may be derived from religious ideas.
BY J. H. L. HUNT.
Sperar non lice più per questo bosco,
Ricominciate, O Muse, il vostro pianto!
E voi cave spelonche, e grotte oscure
Ululando venite a pianger nosco!
D'ogni dolcezza, e voi fontane, e rivi
Sannaz. Eclog. Undecim. 0. 1.
Adieu, wi' a' thy wood-notes wild,
In Sorrow's breast;
Thou’rt gane to rest !
Thy honour'd tomb;
Breathe on thy grave;
The dark trees wave.
* An acquaintance of Burns thus describes a ramble he took with the poet through the grounds that surround the seat of the Duke of Atholl :---" It was atready growing dark; yet the softened, though faint and uncertain view of their beauties, which the moon-light afforded us, seemed exactly suited to the