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H shall take notice, in this and in other following
thoughts are great and just, they are often obscured by the sounding phrases, hard metaphors, and forced expressions in which they are clothed. Shakspeare is often very faulty in this particular. There is a fine observation in Aristotle to this pur. pose, which I have never seen quoted. , ‘The expression,’ says he, “ought to be very much laboured in the unactive parts of the fable, as in descrip. tions, similitudes, narrations, and the like; in which the opinions, manners, and passions of men are not represented for these (namely, the opinions, manners, and passions) are apt to be obscured by pompous phrases and elaborate expressicos’ Ho. v. race, who copied most of his criticisms after Aristotle, seems to have had his eye on the foregoing rule, in the following verses:
Among our modern English poets, there is none who was better turned for trogedy than Lee, if instead of favouring the impetuosity of his genius, he had restrained it, and kept it within its proper bounds. His thoughts are wonderfully suited to tragedy, but frequently lost in such a cloud of words, that it is hard to see the beauty of them. There is an infinite fire in his works, but so in: volved in smoke, that it does not appear in half a. ** its lustre. He frequently succeeds in the passionate parts of the tragedy, but more particularly where he slackens his efforts, and eases the style of those epithets and metaphors, in which he so much abounds. What can be more natural, more soft, or . more passionate, than that line in Statira's speech, where she describes the charms of Alexander's conversation ?
“Then he would talk—Good gods! how he would talk"
That unexpected break in the line, and turning * the description of his manner of talking into * admiration of it, is inexpressibly beautiful." wonderfully suited to the fond character of the person that speaks it. There is a simplicity in the words, that outshines the utmost pride of ex . pression. Otway has followed nature in the language of his tragedy, and therefore shines in the passional parts, more than any of our English poets. As there is something familiar and domestic in the fable of his tragedy, more than in those of any other poet, he has little pomp, but great force in his expressions. For which reason, though heh" admirably succeeded in the tender and melting part of his tragedies, he sometimes fal's into, to great a familiarity of phrase in those parts, which by Aristotle's rule ought to have been raised an supported by the dignity of expression. . . it has been observed by others, that this Ros' has founded his Tragedy of venice Preserved". so wrong a plot, that the greatest characters in it are those of rebels and traitors. Had the hero." his play discovered the same good qualities in to defence of his country, that he showed for its roo and subversion, the audience could not enough.P". and admire him; but as he is now represented, ""
I must in the next place observe, that when our
can only say of him what the Roman historian ***
of Catline, that his fall would have been glorious a populiásic concidisset) had he so fallen in the service of his country,
so English writers of tragedy are possessed with tion, that when they represent a virtuous or cent person in distress, they ought not to leave o, till they have delivered him out of his trouto or made him triumph over his enemies. This of they have been led into by a ridiculous doc. * in modern criticism, that they are obliged to onal distribution of rewards and punishments, an impartial execution of poetical justice. 10 were the first that established this rule I ow not; but I am sure it has no foundation in o, in reason, or in the practice of the ancients. find that good and evil happen alike to all non this side the grave; and as the principal on of tragedy is to raise commiseration and on the minds of the audience, we shall defeat great end, if we always make virtue and in
ce happy and successful. Whatever crosses sappointments a good man suffers in the of the tragedy, they will make but a small **on on our minds, when we know that in ** he is to arrive at the end of his wishes sites. When we see him engaged in the of his afflictions, we are apt to comfort our. to because we are sure he will find his way "them; and that his grief, how great soever o be at present, will soon terminate in glad. For this reason the ancient writers of tratreated men in their plays, as they are dealt in the world, by making virtue sometimes sid sometimes miserable, as they found it sole which they made choice of, or as it otect their audience in the most agreeable * Aristotle considers the tragedies that oftenin either of these kinds, and observes, ** which ended unhappily, had always of the people, and carried away the prize in olic disputes of the stage, from those that *ppily. Terror and commiseration leave a sanguish in the mind; and fix the audience ** serious composure of thought, as is much *ing and delightful than any little transient "Joy and satisfaction. Accordingly we find, * of our English tragedies have succeedwhich the favourites of the audience sink or calamities, than those in which they "hemselves out of them. The best plays of
ander the Great, Theodosius, All for Love, Oedipus, Oroonoko, Othello, &c. King Lear is an admirable tragedy of the same kind, as Shakspeare wrote it; but as it is reformed according to the chimerical notion of poetical justice, in my humble opinion it has lost half its beauty. At the same time I must allow, that there are very noble tragedies, which have been framed upon the other plan, and have ended happily; as indeed most of the good tragedies, which have been written since the starting of the above-mentioned criticism, have taken this turn: as The Mourning Bride, Tamerlane, Ulysses, Phaedra and Hippolitus, with most of Mr. Dryden's. I must also allow, that many of Shakspeare's, and several of the celebrated tragedies of antiquity, are cast in the same form. I do not therefore dispute against this way of writing tragedies, but against the criticism that would establish this as the only method; and by that means would very much cramp the Fnglish tragedy, and perhaps give a wrong bent to the genius of writers. The tragi-comedy, which is the product of the English theatre, is one of the most monstrous inventions that ever entered into a poet’s thoughts. An author might as well think of weaving the adventures of Eneas and Hudibras into one poem, as of writing such a motley piece of mirth and sorrow. But the absurdity of these performances is so very visible, that I shall not insist upon it. The same objections which are made to tragicomedy, may in some, measure be applied to all, tragedies that have a double plot in them; which are likewise more frequent upon the English stage than upon any other: for though the grief of the audience, in such performances, be not changed into another passion, as in tragi-comedies, it is diverted upon another object, which weakens their concern for the "... action, and breaks the tide of sorrow, by throwing it into different channels. This inconvenience, however, may in a great measure be cured, if not wholly removed, by the skilful choice of an under-plot, which may bear such a near relation to the principal design, as to
concluded by the same catastrophe.
date The Orphan, Venice Preserved, Alex.
contribute towards the completion of it, and be
wonderfully pleased to see a man insulting kings, or affronting the gods, in one scene, and throwing himself at the feet of his mistress in another. Let him behave himself insolently towards the men, and abjectly towards the fair one, and it is ten to one but he proves a favourite of the boxes. Dryden and Lee, in several of their tragedies, have practised this secret with good success.
But to show how a rant pleases beyond the most just and natural thought that is not pronounced with vehemence, I would desire the reader, when he sees the tragedy of Oedipus, to observe how quietly the hero is dismissed at the end of the third act, after having pronounced the following lines, in which the thought is very natural, and apt to move compassion:
* siR, • Supposing you to be a person of general knowledge, I make my application to you on a very par. ticular occasion. I have a great mind to be rid of my wife, and hope, when you consider my case, you will be of opinion I have very just pretensions to a divorce. . I am a mere man of the town, and have very little improvement, but what I have got from plays. I remember in the Silent woman, the learned Dr. Cutberd, or Dr. Otter, (I forget which) makes one of the causes of separation to be Erros,
personae, when a mall marries a woman, and finds
her not to be the same woman whom he intended to marry, but another. If that be law, it is, I presume, exactly my case. For you are to know, Mr. Spectator, that there are women who do not let their husbands see their faces till they are married.
“Not to keep you in suspense, I mean plainly that part of the sex who paint. They are some of them so exquisitely skilful this way, that give them but a tolerable pair of eyes to set up with, and they will make bosom, lips, cheeks, and eye-brows, by their own industry. As for my dear, never was man so enamoured as I was of her fair forehead, neck, and arms, as well as the bright jet of her hair; but to my great astonishment I find they were all the effect of art. Her skin is so tarnished with this practice, that when she first wakes in a morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the mother of her whom I carried to bed the night before. I shall take the liberty to part with her by the first opportunity, unless her father will make her por. tion suitable to her real, not her assumed counte. nance. This I thought fit to let him and her know by your means.
‘I am, sin,
I cannot tell what the law, or the parents of the lody will do for this injured gentleman, but must allow be has very much justice on his side. I have indeed very long observed this evil, and dis. tinguished those of our women who wear their own, from those in borrowed complexions, by the Picts and the British. There does not need any great discernment to judge which are which. The British have a lively animated aspect; the Picts, though never so beautiful, have dead uninformed countenances. The muscles of a real face some. ... times swell with soft passion, sudden surprise, and . are flushed with agreeable confusions, according as the objects before them, or the ideas presented to them, affect their imagination. But the Picts behold all things with the same air, whether they are joyful or sad; the same fixed insensibility ap. pears upon all occasions. A Pict, though she takes all that pains to invite the approach of . lovers, is obliged to keep them at a certain dis. . tance; a sigh in a languishing lover, if fetched too near her, would dissolve a feature; and a kiss snatched by a forward one, might transfer the complexion of the mistress to the admirer. It is hard to speak of these false fair ones, without say. ing something uncomplaisant, but I would only recommend to them to consider how they like com’ ing into a room new painted; they may assure themselves, the near approach of a lady who uses this practice is much more offensive. **
Will Honeycomb told us one day an adventure o he once had with a Pict. This lady had wit, as well as beauty, at will; and made it her business to gain hearts, for no other reason but to rally the torments of her lovers. She would make grea' -advances to insnare men, but without any manne" of scruple break off when there was no provoco, tion. Her ill-nature and vanity made my friend very easily proof against the charms of her wit on conversation; but her beauteous form, instead." being blemished by her falsehood and inconstano every day increased upon him, and she had no" attractions every time ie saw her, when she wo served Will irrevocably her slave, she began o' use him as such, and after many ..i. towards so a cruelty, she at last utterly banished him. The unhappy lover strove in vain, by servile episto; to revoke his doom; till at length he was fort"
Allistotle has observed, that ordinary writers in tragedy endeavour to raise terror and pity in their audience, not by proper sentiments and expressions, but by the dresses and decorations of the stage. There is something of this kind very ridiculous in
ol. I would therefore exhort all the British la-
the English theatre. When the author has a mind to terrify us, it thunders; when he would make us melancholy, the stage is darkened. But among all our tragic artifices, I am the most offended at those which are made use of to inspire us with magnificent ideas of the persons that speak. The ordinary method of making an hero, is to clap a huge plume of feathers upon his head, which rises so very high, that there is often a greater length from his chin to the top of his head, than to the sole of his foot. One would believe, that we thought a great man and a tall man the same thing. This very much embarrasses the actor, who is forced to hold his neck extremely stiff and steady all the while he speaks; and notwithstanding any anxieties which he pretends for his mistress, his country, or his friends, one may see by his action, that his greatest care and concern is to keep the plume of feathers from falling off his head. For my own part, when I see a man uttering his complaints under such a mountain of feathers, I am apt to look upon him rather as an unfortunate lunatic, than a distressed hero. As these superfluous ornaments upon the head make a great man, a princess generally receives her grandeur from those additional encumbrances that fall into her tail: I mean the broad sweeping train that follows her in all her motions, and finds constant employment for a boy who stands behind her to open and spread it to advantage. I do not know how others are affected at this sight, but I must confess my eyes are wholly taken up with the page’s part; and, as for the queen, I am not so attentive to any thing she speaks, as to the right adjusting of her train, Test it should chance to trip up her heels, or incommode her, as she walks to and fro upon the stage. It is, in my opinion, a very odd spectacle, to see a queen venting her passion in a disordered motion, and a
little boy taking care all the while that they do.
not ruffle the tail of her gown. The parts that the two persons act on the stage at the same time are very different. The princess is afraid lest she
o should incur the displeasure of the king her father,
or lose the hero her lover, whilst her attendant is
and distressed heroes,used to make the actors represent them in dresses and clothes that were thread. bare and decayed. This artifice for moving pity, seems as ill contrived as that we have been speak. ing of to inspire us with a great idea of the persons introduced upon the stage. In short, I would have our conceptions raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity of expression, rather than by a train of robes or a plume of feathers. . Another mechanical method of making great men, and adding dignity to kings and queens, is to accompany them with halberts and ‘. Two or three shifters of scenes, with the two can. dle-snuffers, make up a complete body of guards upon the English stage; and by the addition of a few porters dressed in red coats, can represent above a dozen legions. I have sometimes seen a couple of armies drawn up together upon the stage, when the poet has been disposed to do honour to his generals. It is impossible for the reader's ima. gination to multiply twenty men into such prodigious multitudes, or to fancy that two or three hundred thousand soldiers are fighting in a room of forty or fifty yards in compass, incidents of such a nature should be told, not represented.
o Non tamen intur
Dignageri promes in scenam: multaque tolles
‘Yet there are things improper for a scene, Which men of judgment only will relate." ROSCOMMON.
Ishould, therefore, in this particular, recommend to my countrymen the example of the French stage, where the kings and queens always appear unattended, and leave their guards behind the scenes. I should likewise be glad if we imitated the French in banishing from our stage the noise of drums, trumpets, and huzzas; which is sometimes so very great, that when there is a battle in the Haymarket theatre, one may hear it as far as Charing-cross.
I have here only touched upon those particulars which are made use of to raise and aggrandize the persons of a tragedy; and shall show in another paper the several, expedients which are practised by authors of a vulgar genius to move terror, pity, or admiration, in their hearers.
The tailor and the painter often contribute to the success of a tragedy more than the poet. Scenes affect ordinary minds as much as speeches; and our actors are very sensible, that a well dressed play has sometimes brought them as full au. diences as a well-written one. The Italians have a very good phrase to express this art of imposing upon the spectators by appearances; they call it the ‘Fourberie della scena,” “The knavery, or trickish part of the drama.' But however the show and outside of the tragedy may work upon the vulgar, the more understanding part of the audience linmediately see through it, and despise it.
A good poet will give the reader a more lively idea of an army or a battle in a description, than if he actually saw them drawn up in squadrons and battalions, or engaged in the confusion of a fight. our minds should be opened to great conceptions, and inflamed with glorious sentiments, by what the actor speaks, more than by what he appears. , Can all the trapping: of equipage of a king or hero,
ive Brutus half that pomp and majesty which he ioceives from a few lines in Shakspeare
or ADplSQN. C.
N° 43. THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 1711,
Hae tibierunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
Be these thy arts; to bid contention cease, Chain up stern wars, and give the nations peace; Q'er subject lands extend thy gentle sway, And teach with iron rod the haughty to obey. THERE are crowds of men, whose great misfortune it is that they were not bound to mechanic arts or trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be led by some continual task or employment. These are such as we commonly call dull fellews; Persons, who, for want of something to do, out of a certain vacancy of thought, rather than curiosity, are ever meddling with things for which they are unfit. ... I cannot give you a notion of them better, than by presenting you with a letter from a gen. . tlemuan, who belongs to a society of this order of. men, residing at Oxford.
“Oxford, April 13, 1711. Four o'clock in the morning.
“sist, ‘IN some of your late speculations, I found some sketches towards an history of clubs: but you seem to me to show them in somewhat too ludicrous a light. I have well weighed that matter, and think, that the most important negotiations may be best carried on in such assemblies. I shall therefore, for the good of mankind, (which, I trust, you and I are equally concerned for) propose an institution . of that nature for example sake.
“I must confess the design and transactions of too many clubs are trifling, and manifestly of no consequence to the nation or public weal. Those I will give you up. But you must do me then the justice to own, that nothing can be more useful of laudable, than the scheme we go upon. To avoid ..." nicknames and witticisms, we call ourselves The o Hebdomadal Meeting Our president continues to for a year at least, and sometimes four or five; we are io, serious, designing men in our way, we think it our duty, as far as in us lies, to take care the constitution receives no harm—We quid detri. mentires capiat publica—To censure doctrines or ...” facts, persons or things, which we do not like : to . . ." settle the nation at home, and carry on the was “o abroad, where and in what manner we see fit. If “o
other people are not of our opinion, we cannot o