« PreviousContinue »
III.-FROM SCHLEGEL'S LECTURES ON THE DRAMA.
ON THE ORIGIN OF DRAMATIC EXHIBITIONS IN GENERAL.
ου γάρ τι νυν γε καχθες, αλλ' αεί ποτε
We cannot assign any historical origin to the Drama. Resulting as it did from the constitutional tendencies of the inhabitants of those countries in which it sprung up, it necessarily existed, in some form or other, long before the age of history; consequently we cannot determine the time when it first made its appearance, and must therefore be content to ascertain in what principle of the human mind it originated. This we shall be able to do without much difficulty. In fact the solution of the problem is included in the answer to a question often proposed, —“how are we to account for the great prevalence of idol worship in ancient times ?" for, strange as it may appear, it is nevertheless most true, that not only the Drama, (the most perfect form of poetry,) but all poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture, and whatever else is beautiful in art, are the results of that very principle which degraded men, the gods of the earth, into grovelling worshippers of wood and stone, which made them kneel and bow down before the works of their own hands. This principle is that which is generally called the love of imitation, a definition, however, which is rather ambiguous, and has been productive of much misunderstanding! We would rather state this principle to be that desire to express the abstract in the concrete, that
1. The German reader would do well to consult on this subject Von Raumer's Essay on the Poetry of Aristotle, (Abhandl. der Hist. Philologischen Klasse der Kön. Akad. der Wissensch. 1828). We do not think Dr Copleston's view of this subject (Prælectiones Academicæ, p. 28, seqq.) sufficiently comprehensive.
“striving after objectivity,” as it has been termed by a modern writer', that wish to render the conceivable perceivable, which is the ordinary characteristic of an uneducated mind.
The inhabitants of southern Europe, in particular, have in all ages shewn a singular impatience of pure thought, and have been continually endeavouring to represent under the human form, either allegorically or absolutely, the subjects of their contemplations. Now the first abstract idea which presented itself to the minds of these rude but imaginative men was the idea of God, conceived in some one or other of his attributes. Unable to entertain the abstract notion of divinity, they called in the aid of art to bring under the controul of their senses the object of their thoughts, and willingly rendered to the visible and perishable, the homage which they felt to be due to the invisible and eternal. By an extension of the same associations, their anthropomorphized divinity was supposed to need a dwelling place; hence the early improvements of architecture in these countries. His worshippers would then attempt some outward expression of their gratitude and veneration :— to meet this need, poetry arose
The same feelings would suggest an imitation of the imagined sufferings or gladness of their deity; and to this we owe the mimic dances of ancient Hellas, and the first beginnings of the Drama.
Since, therefore, the fine arts and idolatry have had in some measure a common origin, we should expect to find that
1. Wachsmuth Hell. Alterth. II. 2, 113.
3. Thus Strabo says, that “the whole art of poetry is the praise of the gods," η ποιητική πάσα υμνητική. Χ. p. 468, (the word oύσα, which is found in all the editions at the end of this sentence, has evidently arisen from a repetition of the first two syllables of the following word woaútws, and must be struck out. For the sense of the word vuuntii, comp. Plat. Legg. p. 700, A.), and Plato, Legg. vii. 799. A. would have all music and dancing consecrated to religion. When Herder says, (Werke z. Schön. Lit. und Kunst. ii. p. 82.) “Poetry arose not at the altars, but in wild merry dances; and as violence was restrained by the severest laws, an attempt was in like manner made to lay hold, by means of religion, on those drunken inclinations of men which escaped the controul of the laws." he does not seem to deny the fact on which we have insisted, that religion and poetry are contemporaneous effects of the same cause ; at all events he allows that poetry was at first merely the organ of religion. And although V. Cousin endeavours to prove that religion and poetry were the results of different necessities of the human mind, he also contends that they were analogous in their origin. “Le triomphe de l'intuition religieuse est dans la creation du culte, comme le triomphe de l'idee du beau est dans la creation de l'art &c." (Cours de Philosophie, p. 21, 2.)
the former attained to the highest degree of excellence in those countries in which idolatry and polytheism have been most prevalent: and, on the other hand, that they were generally neglected by those nations of antiquity, whose established religion was monotheism: and this has been the case; so much so, that when Solomon wished to build a temple to the true God, he was obliged to call in the aid of his idolatrous neighbours: (1 Kings vii. 13.) and may there not have been some connexion between Solomon's patronage of the arts and his subsequent idolatry? The Dramatic art especially, wherever it has existed, has always been connected in its origin with the religious rites of a polytheism, and generally with those of an elementary worship? That such was the case with the Greek Drama we shall see presently: the same is stated of the Indian plays”, and the mummeries and mysteries of the middle ages were not very different either in their origin or in their character
1. In connexion with the phallic rites of Hindostan and Greece, we may mention that in the South-sea Islands, at the time of Cook's second voyage, a birth was represented on the stage. See Süvern über Aristoph. Wolken. p. 63, note 6.
2. “Like that of the Greeks, the Hindu Drama was derived from, and formed a part of, their religious ceremonies.” Quarterly Rev. No. 89. p. 39.
3. See Malone's Shakspeare, vol. III. p. 8. foll. Lessing's Geschichte der Engl. Schaubühne (Werke, xv. 209). It has indeed been supposed that the Hebrew poem called Solomon's Song is a Dramatic composition, and it certainly had no religious reference ; but Herder has, we think, satisfactorily shewn, (Werke zur Relig. und Theolog. 4ter Theil. p. 81.) that the Drama did not exist among the Arabs and the Hebrews, so that no argument against our position can be derived from that poem.
The view which we have taken in the text of the origin of the fine arts, is, we conceive, nearly the same as that of Aristotle ; for it appears to us pretty obvious that his treatise on poetry was, like many of his other writings, composed expressly to confute the opinions of Plato, who taking the word viunous, in its narrowest sense, to signify the imperfect counterfeiting, the servile and pedantic copying of an individual object, argued against miunois in general as useless for moral purposes. Whereas Aristotle shews that if the word mijnors be not taken in this confined sense, but as equivalent to “representation," as implying the outward realization of something in the mind, it does then include not only poetry, but, properly speaking, all the fine arts : and miunois is therefore useful, in a moral relation, if art in general is of any moral use. It was, however, as Schleiermacher justly observes, (Anmerkungen zu Platon's Staat. p. 543.) not of art absolutely that Plato was speaking, but only of its moral effects; for doubtless Plato himself would have been most willing to assent to a definition of art which made it an approximation to, or copy of, the idea of the beautiful, (Comp. Plat. Rep. vi. p. 484. C.) and this is only Aristotle's opinion expressed in other words. Von Raumer justly remarks in the essay above quoted, p. 118. “The hapcoelypa (Poet. xv. ll. xxvi. 28.) which Aristotle often de. signates as the object to be aimed at, is nothing but that which is now-a-days called the “ideal,' and by which is understood the most utter opposite of a pedantic imitation.” Herder also was fully aware that although Plato says quite the contrary of Aristotle in regard to the Dithyramb, he was speaking in quite
a different connection, “in ganz anderer Verbindung." (Werke z. Schön. Lit. u. Kunst. ii. p. 86.)
We may add, that our definition of pinnois as a synonym for “art," which has also A 2