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That wretched, fumbling age of poetry,
'T will be high time to bid his Muse adieu : Success, which can no more than beauty Well he may please himself, but never you. last,
Till then, he'll do as well as he began, Makes our sad poet mourn your favors And hopes you will not find him less a man. past:
Think him not duller for this year's deFor, since without desert he got a name, He fears to lose it now with greater shame. He was prepared, the women were away; Fame, like a little mistress of the town, And men, without their parts, can hardly Is gained with ease, but then she's lost as play.
If they, through sickness, seldom did apFor, as those tawdry misses, soon or late,
pear, Jilt such as keep 'em at the highest rate; Pity the virgins of each theatre: (And oft the lacquey, or the brawny clown, For at both houses 't was a sickly year! Gets what is hid in the loose-bodied And pity us, your servants, to whose cost, gown),
In one such sickness, nine whole months So, Fame is false to all that keep her long; are lost. And turns up to the fop that's brisk and Their stay, he fears, has ruined what he young
writ: Some wiser poet now would leave Fame Long waiting both disables love and wit. first;
They thought they gave him leisure to do But elder wits are, like old lovers, cursed:
well; Who, when the vigor of their youth is But, when they forced him to attend, he spent,
fell! Still grow more fond, as they grow impo- Yet, though he much has failed, he begs, tent.
to-day, This, some years hence, our poet's case may You will excuse his unperforming play: prove:
Weakness sometimes great passion does exBut yet, he hopes, he's young enough to press; love.
He had pleased better, had he loved you When forty comes, if e'er he live to see
less. 28 "This apparently alludes to the lapse of a year since the production of Dryden's last play." (Noyes.)
Nell Gwyn, who played Almahide, had borne a son to Charles II in May, 1670.
VENICE PRESERVED, OR, A PLOT DISCOVERED
Thomas Otway (1652–1685) led a chec- Elizabethans. In this soft emotionality we quered and stormy life. Rejected by an act- may perhaps see something characteristic of ress whom he long loved, he fought in the the age. This play, like The Conquest of Low Countries in 1678-9. After failing as Granada, sets at nought the feeling of patrian actor, he had taken to writing plays with otism, and reminds us that it was written in remarkable fertility, at first in the manner of an age when England was full of discord, Dryden and the seventeenth-century French and when the very sovereign had sold himself dramatists. His comedies are not highly and was ready to sell his country to a foreign thought of; but two of his tragedies, The prince. Orphan (1680), and the present one (first The sentimentalism is not in what is said, acted in 1682), rise to the highest excellence. its vehicle in the later comedy, but is perhaps
Venice Preserved is of a style less pe- only half conscious, springing from Otway's culiar to the Restoration period than The own gentle soul, and appearing in the sort Conquest of Granada, is a more normal and of characters with whom he felt sympathy. to us more interesting play, and nearer the
The characterization is at once a source of regular line of dramatic development. It is strength and weakness in the play. Jaffeir, at once more Elizabethan and more modern. structurally the hero, excites pity abundantly, The student can hardly overlook certain but little respect and no admiration. A Shakespearean reminiscences, or the influence private wrong, inflicted by an individual senaof Fletcher, especially on the characteriza- tor, makes him join a band of irresponsible tion and the verse. The chief sign that it traitors, largely foreigners at that (we are dates from the Restoration period is that the nowhere told that he was a foreigner). His dramatist observes the three unities, of own trustful carelessness for bis wife puts action, time, and place. Accordingly, the him in a position where he betrays their seaction is single, admitting no side-issue or cret to her. And he makes haste to justify
sub-plot,” and takes place within twenty- the worst suspicions of the hateful Renault four hours, and within the limits of one city. Another private wrong, threatened by an inThese rules were partly drawn from Aris- dividual conspirator, and his first realization totle's Poetics and from the practice of the of the horrors which would follow the sucancients, but were first laid down as a strict cess of the plot, lead him to betray them to law (as stated earlier) by Castelvetro in the Council of Ten, with the childish ex1570. Founded on an error as to the na- pectation that their lives will be spared. ture of dramatic illusion, they hampered the He is a lifelike but unattractive figure of a drama for centuries, and exacted heavy sac- weak emotional character at the mercy of rifices from freedom and naturalness. In circumstance, of his own feelings, and even this play, however, as occasionally else- of every last speaker, capable of instantaneous where, there is no conspicuous loss in their but not of sustained courage and resolution. observance, and they may even be thought He excites, not terror like a tragic hero, but to have heightened the intensity.
only pity, like a sentimental one. We toler With this classical body, a body at least ate him for the sake of his friend and his which a classicist could hardly censure, the wife. Pierre is admirably contrasted with spirit of the play is thoroughly romantic. Jafleir, a fine example of cheerful devil-mayWe have not only such imposing circum- care generosity and loyalty. “ Revenge! stances as the tolling bell, the rising ghosts, cries Jaffeir, when he has joined the conthe madness of Belvidera, the violent action spirators. and bloodshed on the stage; the emotional Pierre. And liberty! pitch of the play is soft, pathetic, and almost Jaff. Revenge! revenge!
[Ereunt. sentimental. Except in the figure of Pierre, Few heroines surpass Belvidera, unintelleet. there is nothing sturdy about it. It strives ual, but courageous, tender, with an infinite to melt us. The sentimental tragedy for capacity for strong love, and a woman's conwhich Otway is known has its analogues in servatism and dread of sedition, privy conthe Elizabethan drama (as in that of Fletcher spiracy, and rebellion. Otway's women are and Ford); it also looks forward to the senti- always better done than his men; with good mentalism of the eighteenth century, as in reason Collins in his Ode to Pity pays a the comedies of Steele and Cumberland. We tribute to “gentlest Otway," who miss the strong, truer emotions of the greater female heart." It is notable, however, that
the emotional interest has no aid from the uncertainties of a romantic love-affair; the love is either married or bought love.
Well done as they are, Otway's strength is less in his characters than in the situations and the action. In this play the construction is admirable. Clear as crystal, simple and single, with no assistance from a subaction to maintain the interest, and with no cheap devices, the play holds the reader, still more the spectator, without slackening. A most notable means is the skillful use of sus. pense. In the fourth act the conspiracy is betrayed and the plotters all seized; no visible hope remains for either it or them. As in the fourth act of Jonson's Alchemist, we wonder what can remain for a fifth. But presently the only two senators whom we know are won over to mercy, the one by his daughter, the other by his self-sacrificing mistress. In the following scene of poignant pathos between the married lovers, broken in upon by the gloomy tolling bell, we begin to fear ali is in vain, but are not sure of it till the end. Even the silly and distasteful scenes between the senator Antonio (a repulsive portrait of the Earl of Shaftsbury) and his " Nacky," poorly done as they are, and indeed disproportionate and needless, have prepared for this moment of hope. Nothing could surpass the death-scene of Jaffeir and Pierre, completely surprising yet completely satisfying.
For all the intensity of interest in the play, the power of holding us, and the compassion we feel for the characters, there is a certain aloofness in the emotion it excites. This is because we cannot perfectly give our sympathy to either side. On the one hand, our human feelings are all for the conspirators. Yet, unlovely as are the two officials whom
we see, Priuli with his cowardice and hardness, Antonio with his impotent senility, our indignation goes out against the attempt by a gang of foreigners to wreck a great historic state. The very title of the play bespeaks our support for this side. At the moment when he is about to join the conspirators,
Hell! hell! why sleepest thou ? cries the desperate Jaffeir, and then with great dramatic effectiveness enters the unconscious Pierre muttering,
Sure I have stayed too long! The plotters liave not been injured enough to win even our temporary approval. There results a state of mind somewhat like that excited by Macbeth, in which we feel deeply for persons who we know shou
and will be punished. With all our painful interest, we look down with certain intellectual serenity. A tragedy of this sort has a fine and unusual character of its own.
The play is founded on the Abbé St. Réal's Conjuration des espagnols contre la Venise en 1618, probably through an English translation (1675). The groundwork therefore is historical, but Otway has made great changes, raising Jaffeir and Pierre to importance and introducing the character of Belvidera. It has been one of the most popular of postElizabethan tragedies, having been translated and acted in various European languages, and having held the English stage until well into the nineteenth century (revived in 1904), with the help of such actors as Betterton, Garrick, J. P. Kemble, and Macready, and of such actresses as Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Siddons, and Miss O'Neill.
VENICE PRESERVED, OR, A PLOT DISCOVERED
By THOMAS OTWAY
And name of plot, his trifling play might
take? In these distracted times, when each man For there's not in 't one inch-board evidreads
dence. The bloody stratagems of busy heads; But 't is, he says, to reason plain and sense,3 When we have feared three years we know And that he thinks a plausible defence. not what,
Were truth by sense and reason to be Till witnesses begin to die o' th’ rot,
tried, What made our poet meddle with a plot ? Sure, all our swearers might be laid aside: Was't that he fancied, for the very sake No, of such tools our author has no need, 1 Otway, a strong Popish plot of
allusions 2 imaginary evi- through a board Tory, ridicules the 1678. The later contemporary in. dence (such
an inch thick). Whig excitement part of the pro
cidents and per- would be got by 3 perception. over the supposed logue makes vari
pretending to see
To make his plot, or [make] his play suc
ceed; He, of black bills, has no prodigious tales, Or Spanish pilgrims cast ashore in Wales; Here's not one murthered magistrate at
least, Kept rank like ven’son for a city feast, Grown four days stiff, the better to pre
pare And fit his pliant limbs to ride in chair: Yet here's an army raised, though under
ground, But no
man seen, nor one commission found; Here is a traitor too, that's very old, Turbulent, subtle, mischievous, and bold, Bloody, revengeful, and to crown his
Have brooked injustice or the doing
wrongs, I need not now thus low have bent my
self To gain a hearing from a cruel father!
in the nicest point: The honor of my house; you have done
me wrong; You may remember (for I now will
speak, And urge its baseness) : when you first
came home From travel, with such hopes as made
you looked on By all men's eyes, a youth of expecta
My lord, my lord! I'm not that abject
wretch You think me: patience! where's the dis
tance throws Me back so far, but I may boldly speak In right, though proud oppression will
not hear me! Priu. Have you not wronged me? Jaff.
Could my nature e'or
4 Antonio is a fero
cious portrait of
schemed to secure
century a part of
the Venetian ma.
dicial, and in the
to err in making
Pleased with your growing virtue, I re- May all your joys in her prove false like
mine; Courted, and sought to raise you to your A sterile fortune, and a barren bed, merits:
Attend you both; continual discord make My house, my table, nay my fortune too, Your days and nights bitter and grievMy very self, was yours; you might have
ous: still used me
May the hard hand of a vexatious need To your best service; like an open friend, Oppress, and grind you; till at last you I treated, trusted you, and thought you
The curse of disobedience all your porWhen, in requital of my best endeavors,
tion. You treacherously practised R to undo Jaff. Half of your curse you have beme,
stowed in vain; Seduced the weakness of my age's Heaven has already crowned our faithful darling,
loves My only child, and stole her from my With a young boy, sweet as his mother's bosom:
beauty. Oh Belvidera !
May he live to prove more gentle than Jaff.
'T is to me you owe her, his grandsire, Childless you had been else, and in the And happier than his father! grave
Rather live Your name extinct, nor no more Priuli To bait thee for his bread, and din your
heard of. You may remember, scarce five years are With hungry cries; whilst his unhappy past,
mother Since in your brigandine you sailed to see Sits down and weeps in bitterness of The Adriatic wedded by our Duke,
want. And I was with you: your unskilful pilot Jaff. You talk as if it would please you. Dashed us upon a rock; when to your Priu.
'T would, by Heaven. boat
Once she was dear indeed; the drops that You made for safety; entered first your
From my sad heart, when she forgot her The affrighted Belvidera following next, duty, As she stood trembling on the vessel side, The fountain of my life was not so preWas by a wave washed off into the deep,
cious: When instantly I plunged into the sea, But she is gone, and if I am a man And buffeting the billows to her rescue, I will forget her. Redeemed her life with half the loss of Jaff. Would I were in my grave! mine;
And she too with thee; Like a rich conquest in one hand I bore For, living here, you're but my curst her,
remembrancers And with the other dashed the saucy I once was happy. waves,
Jaff. You use me thus, because you know That thronged and pressed to rob me of my prize:
Is fond of Belvidera: you perceive I brought her, gave her to your despair- My life feeds on her, therefore thus you ing arms:
treat me; Indeed you thanked me; but a nobler Oh! could my soul ever have known gratitude
satiety, Rose in her soul: for from that hour she Were I that thief, the doer of such
wrongs Till for her life she paid me with her- As you upbraid me with, what hinders self.
me, Priu. You stole her from me; like a thief But I might send her back to you with you stole her,
contumely, At dead of night; that cursed hour you And court my fortune where she would chose
be kinder! To rifle me of all my heart held dear. Priu. You dare not do't e plotted. 7 The Doge annually "wedded" the Adriatic by dropping a ring into it, in token of dominion.