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amusement, and become subservient to the improvement of morals; but in licentious hands it may be, as it too frequently is, made an instrument of corruption.

In writing comedy, as well as tragedy, the first object should be to find a really interesting story or plot, not too intricate, but such as will engage the audience, and keep attention alive. The next is to fill the drama with such an exhi. bition of characters, as will at once interest and amuse. Much has been said about contrasting the characters, but this is reducing genius to line and rule. The characters should naturally emanate out of the plot or story, and not be formed upon any mechanical or technical principles. They should be rather diversified than contrasted. To step 6 from grave to gay, from lively to severe," is a good rule, and where a contrast naturally presents itself, it will contribute to enliven the scene; but probability should never be sacrificed to it.

In comedy something of exaggeration may be permitted. It is indeed a picture of life, but it is a picture in caricature. I believe, in truth, that any exact picture of life would tire or disgust on the stage, where we expect to see

something different from what we are every day accustomed to ; and for this reason such plays as are the most exact copies of life ; such as the Careless Husband, and the Jealous Wife, are the least interesting. Yet nature and probability must not be violated too far, for then it ceases to be a representation. The illusion must be kept up to the spectator; he must for the instant believe it real, or the effect is lost. Nothing of a horrid or disgusting nature should be introduced into comedy, for then the cheerfulness and hilarity it is intended to excite would be destroyed. It is needless almost to add, that a comedy should always (for the same reason) have a fortunate conclusion: yet I must remark that, to achieve the end, in many modern comedies all probability is violated. The spendthrift is made frugal, the miser becomes generous; and the greatest contrast is exhibited in the same personage, who is often the complete opposite at the end of the play to what he was in the beginning. The consistency of character is most ably maintained by Shakspeare and Moliere.

The language in comedy should be always adapted to the respective characters. In the, mouth of a clown, or a very low person, even vulgar language may be admitted ; but the style should in no case be too highly polished or refined, like the language of books. As the piece is a representation of life, so the language should be that of conversation; and any thing above it is only natural in the mouth of a pedant or very affected person, a Malvolio, a Vellum, or a Malaprop.

The first writers of comedy introduced living characters, and sometimes the most virtuous persons of the age, upon the stage, Socrates himself not excepted. This was, however, attended with great evils and disturbances, and at length they were prohibited by law from the exhibition of any living characters. Ariston pbanes is the principal author of this description now extant. The wit of these writers was, as I before hinted, of the lowest kind, and their discourses often obscene. What is called the middle comedy was an elusion of the laws, by introducing real characters under feigned names; but we have no author of this kind now remaining. The new comedy consists in drawing pictures and characters, but not living ones.

Plautus and Terence were the most popular

comic writers among the Romans. Plautus has more of the truly comic; his characters are drawn with strong features, bis language is also strong, but coarse. Terence is a strict observer of rules, but fails in strength; and what detracts from his merit is, that he is a constant imitator of the Greeks.

A considerable difference is to be observed between the French and the English comedy. The French_are more regular, perhaps more tame; the English are irregular, but interest ing and full of plot: I am afraid I must add, that the French are more decoronis and chaste. If, indeed, I gave little praise to the French tragic writers, I cannot in justice be equally niggardly of applause to their comie drama. Moliere is himself an host: he abounds in character, wit and humour; his plots are ingenious, lively, and interesting ; and in his plays in general we find little to offend a modest ear, or throw ridicule upon virtue. It must be ale lowed, however, that some of Moliee's plays (the much admired Misanthrope, for instance) are heavy and spiritless. Indeed, the French. plays have in general less variety than the Eng. lish ; and perhaps this might in some measure

be accounted for from the nature of their despotic government, which had a tendency to spread a greater uniformity over their beha. viour: but it is strange that the French, who are remarkable for their levity, and certainly. not praise-worthy for their morals, should so far exceed the English in the decency and decorum of their comedies.

Since the time of Moliere, the French have invented a 'new kind of comedy, called Lara moyante. In this kind of writing, sentiment is more studied than plot or character; the plots chiefly turn on the discovery of some person, 2 woman, for instance, in mean circumstances, found to be the daughter of some rich man; or a wife finds her husband, whom she imagined lost or dead. This style of writing has also been introduced in England, under the name of sentimental comedy; but the humour of Goldsmith, and the wit of Sheridan, haye laughed it off the stage. ;

In taking a short view of the English comic . writers, Shakspeare must occupy not only the first, but the highest place. His dramas, after a lapse of two centuries, are still gazed at with unabated ardour by the populace, are still read

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