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Bapt. This is more
Math. There's no Language
The Fiction of the Picture being first allowed, the most rigid Critick will, I doubt not, conless, that the Workings of the human Heart are accurately set down in the above Scene. The Play is not without many others, equally excellent, both before and after it ; nor in those Days, when the Power of Magick was so generally believed, thai the feverest Laws were folemnly enacted against Witches and Witchcraft, was the Fiction bold and extravagant, as it may seem at present Hoping that the Reader may, by this Time, be fomewhat reconciled to the Story, or even interested in it, I will venture to subjoin to the long Extracts I have already made from this Play one more Speech, where the PICTURE is mentioned vory beautifully. Mathias addresses himfelf to the Queen in these Words.
Math. To flip once
While we run
Tedious, and sweet Temptations in the Way,
These several Passages will, I hope, be thought by the judicious Reader to be written in the free Vein of a true Poet, as well as by the exact Hand of a faithful Disciple of Nature. If any of the above Arguments, or, rather, the uncommon Excellence of the great Writers themselves, can induce the Critic to allow the Excursions of Fancy on the Theatre, let him not suppose that he is here advised to submit to the Perversion of Nature, or to admire those who over-leap the modeft Bounds, which she has prescribed to the Drama. I will agree with him, that Plays, wherein the Truth of Dramatick Character is violated, can convey neither Instruction nor Delight, Shakespeare, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Maslinger, &c. are guilty of no such Violation. Indeed the Heroick Nonienfe, which overruns the Theatrical Productions of Dryden
Nobody can have a truer Venerasjon for the Poetical Genius of Dryden, than the Writer ot these Reflections; but surely that Genius is no where so much obscured, notwithstanding some transient Gleams, as in his Plays; of which He had Himself no great Opinion, smce the only Plea He ever urgel, in their Favour, was, that the Town had received with Applaufe Plays equally bad. Noihing, perhaps, but the abfurd Notion of Heroick Plays, could have carried the immediate Succellors to the Old Class of Wrisers into such ridi. culous Coniradictions to Nature. l har! may not appear singular in my Opinion of Dryden's Drama!ick Pieces, 1 mult beg Leave to refer the Reader to the Ramblır, No. 125, where that judicious Writer
Howard, and the other illustrious Prototypes of Bayes in the Rehearsal, must nauseate the most indulgent Spectator. The temporary Rage of false laste may perhaps betray the Injudicious into a foolish Admiration of such Extravagance for a short Period : But how will these Plays stand the Brunt of critical Indignation, when the Personages of the Drama are found to resemble no Characters in Nature, except, perhaps, the disordered Inhabitants of Bedlam?
If then it must be confessed, both from Reason and Experience, that we cannot only endure, but attend with Pleasure to Plays, which are almost merely Dramatick Representations of romantick Novels; it will surely be a further Inducement to recur to the Works of our old Writers, when we find among them
many Pieces written on a feverer Plan ; a Plan more accommodated to real Life, and approaching more nearly to the modern Usage. The Merry Wives of Windsor, of Shakespeare; the Fox, the
Alchymist, the Silent Woman, Every Man in his Humour of Jonson ; the New Way to pay Old Debts, the City Madam, of Mafinger, &c. &c. all urge their Claim for a Rank in the ordinary Course of our Winter-Evening Entertainments, not only clear of every Objection made to the above-mentioned Species of Dramatick Composition, but adhering more strictly to ancient Rules, than most of our later Comedies.
In Point of Character (perhaps the most essential Part of the Drama) our Old Writers far transcend the Moderns. It is surely needless, in Support of this Opinion, to recite a long List of Names, when the Memory of every Reader must suggest them to himself. The Manners of many of them, it is true, do not prevail at present. What then? Is it dif
has produced divers Instances from Dryden's Plays, fufficien: (to use ebe Rambler's own Language) to awaken the most terpiš Risibility.
pleasing or uninstructive to see the Manners of a former Age pass in Review before us? Or is the Mind undelighted at recalling the Characters of our Anceitors, while the Eye is confcfTedly gratified at the Sight of the Actors drest in their Antique Habits ? Moreover, Fashion and Custom are so perpetually fluctuatng, that it must be a very accurate Piece indeed, and one quite new and warm from the Anvil, that catches the Damon or Cynihia of this Minute. Some Plays of our latest and most fashionable Authors are grown as obsolete in this Particular, as those of the first Writers, and it may with Safety be affirmed, that Bobadil is not more remote from modern Character, than the ever-admired and everywhere-to-be-met with Lord Foppingion. It may, also, be further considered, that most of the best Characters in our old Plays are not merely fugitive and temporary. They are vot the sudden Growth of Yesterday or To-day, lure of fading or withering To-morrow; but they were the Delight of past Ages, still continue the Admiration of the present, and to use the Language of true 'oetry)
To Ages yet unborn appeal,
The ACTOR. There is one Circumstance peculiar to the Dramatick Tales, and to many of the more regular Comedies of our old Writers, of which it is too little to fay, that it demands no Apology. It deferves the highest Commendation ; since it hath been the Means of introducing the most capital Beauties into their Compositions, while the fame Species of Excellence could not posibly enter into those of a later Period. I mean the ioetical stile of their Dialogue. Most Nations, except our own, have imagined inere Profe, which, with Michere's Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the meanest of us have talked from our Cradle, too little elevated for the Language of the Theatre. Our Neighbours, the French, at this Day write most of their Plays, Comedies as well as Tragedies, in Rbinie; a Gothick Practice, which our own Stage once admitted, but long ago wisely rejected. The Grecian lambick was more happily conceived in the true Spirit of that elegant and magnificent Simplicity, which characterized the Taste of that Nation. Such a Measure was well accommodated to the Expressions of the Mind; and though it refined indeed on Nature, it did not contradict it.
In this, as well as in all other Matters of Literature, the Usage of Greece was religiously observed at Rome. Plautus, in his richest Vein of Humour, is numerous and poetical. The Comedies of Terence, though we callnot agree to read them after Bishop Hare, were evidently not written without Regard to Measure ; which is the invincible Reason, why all Atten.pts to render them into downright Profchave always prored, and ever must prove, unsuccessful; and if a faint Effort, now under Contemplation, to give a Version of them in familiar Biank Verse (after the Manner of our old Writers, but without a servile Imitation of them) should fail, it muft, I am confident, be owing to the Lameness of the Execution. The English Heroick Measure, or, as it is commonly called, Blank Verse, is perhaps of a more happy Construction even than the Grecian lambick; elevated equally, but approaching nearer to the Language of Nature, and as well adapted to the Expression of Comick Humour, as to the Pathos of Tragedy.
The mere modern Critick, whose Idea of Blank Verse is perhaps attached to that empty Swell of Phraseology, so frequent in our late Tragedies, may consider these Notions as the Effect of Bigotry to our old Authors, rather than the Result of impartial Criticism. Let such an one carefully read over the Works of those Writers, for whom I am an Advo.