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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 criticism, have taken this turn; as The Mournin Bride; Tamerlane, Ulysses, Phaedra an 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 English tragedy, and perhaps give a wrong . to the genius of our writers. The tragi-comedy, which is the product of the English theatre, is one of the most monstrous inventions that ever entered into al t’s thoughts. An author might as well think of weaving the adventures of AEneas 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 shals not insist upon it. The same objections which are made to tragi-comedy, may in some measure be a plied 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 o: comedies; it is diverted upon another object, which weakens their concern for the principal 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 underplot, which may bear such a near relation to the principal design as to contribute towards the completion of it, and be concluded by the same catastrophe. There is also another particular, which may be reckoned among the blemishes, or *... the false beauties of our English tragedy: I mean those particular speeches which are commonly known by the name of rants. The warm and passionate parts of a tragedy, are always the most taking with the audience; for which reason we often see the players pronouncing, in all the violence of action, several parts of the tragedy which the author writ with great temper, and designed that they should have been so acted. I have seen Powell*
very often raise himself a loud clap by this artifice. The poets that were acquainted with this secret, have given frequent occasion for such emotions in the actor, by adding vehemence to words where there was no passion, or inflaming a real passion into fustian. This hath filled the mouths of our heroes with bombast; and given them such sentiments, as proceed rather from a swelling than a greatness of mind. Unnatural exclamations, curses, vows, blasphemies, a defiance of mankind, and an outraging of the gods, frequently pass upon the audience for towering thoughts, and have accordingly met with infinite applause. I shall here add a remark, which I am afraid our tragic writers may make an ill use of. As our heroes are generally lovers, their swelling and blustering upon the stage very much recommends them to the fair part of their audience. The ladies are 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 with 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 tra of QEdipus, 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: "To you good gods, I make my last appeal." Or clear my virtues, or my crimes reveal. If in the maze of sate I blindly run, And backward tread those paths I sought to shun; Impute my errors to your own decree: My hands are guilty, but my heart is free." Let us then observe with what thunder claps of applause he leaves the stage, after the impieties and execrations at the end of the fourth act; and you will wonder to see an audience so cursed and so pleased at the same time. “O that, as oft I have at Athens seen,
[Where by the way, there was no stage till many years after GEdipus.]
* Mr. George Powell, though moving in the same sphere with Betterton, Booth, Wilkes, &c. maintained no inconsiderable rank in the public estimation: un
The stage arise, and the big clouds descend;
Having spoken of Mr. Powell, as sometimes raising himself applause from the ill taste of an audience, I must do him the justice to own, that he is excellently
fortunately, however, in his latter days, the love of the bottle weaned him from his attachment to the stage, and he declined greatly from that reputation which he had acquired. He was author of five Plays, all of which he brought on the stage with good success. He died in 1714. o
formed for a tragedian, and, when he pleases, deserves the admiration of the best judges: as I doubt not but he will in the Conquest of Mexico, which is acted for his own benefit, to-iuorrow night. C.
No. 41.] Tuesday, .4/ril 17, 1711.
- orid. Met. i. 654. So found, is worse than lost. ./fddison.
CoM Passion for the gentleman who writes the following letter, should not prevail upon me to fall upon the fair-sex, if it were not that I find they are frequently fairer than they ought to be. Such impostures are not to be tolerated in civil society, and I think his misfortune ought to be made public, as a warning for other men always to examine into what they admire.
‘SIR,-Supposing you to be a person of general knowledge, I make my application to you on a very particular 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 Error Personae, when a man 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 Holy that part of the sex who paint.
hey 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 a 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 portion suitable to her real, nother assumed countenance. This I thought fit to let him and her know by your means. I am, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant.”
I cannot tell what the law, or the parents
* Epicoene, or The Silent Woman, a comedy by Ben Jonson.—It is much to be regretted that this fine comedy has for several years been totally neglected by the managers of our theatres. Unless the public taste has greatly declined from what it was, this excellent performance would certainly be more acceptable than the flippant vulgar nonsense with which we are so often annoyed from the pens of some of our modern dramatists.
of the lady will do for this injured gentleman, but must allow he has very much justice on his side. I have indeed very long observed this evil, and distinguished 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 sometimes 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 appears u all occasions. A Pict, though she takes all that pains to invite the approach of lovers, is obliged to keep them at a certain distance; 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 saying something uncomplaisant, but I would only recommend to them to consider how they like coming 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 ad
venture 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 great advances to ensnare men, but without any manner of scruple break off when there was no provocation. Her ill nature and vanity made my friend very easily proof against the charms of her wit and conversation; but her beauteous form, instead of being blemished by her falsehood and inconstancy, every day increased upon him, and she had new attractions every time he saw her. When she observed Will irrevocably her slave, she began to use him as such, and after many steps towards, such a cruelty, she at last utterly banished him. The unhappy lover strove in vain, by servile epistles, to revoke his doom, till at length he was forced to the last refuge, a round sum of money to her maid. . This corrupt attendant placed him early in the morning behind the hangings in her mistress's dressing-room. He stood very conveniently, to observe, without being seen. The Pictobegins the face she designed to wear that day; and I have heard him test she had worked a full half hour before he knew her to be the same woman. As soon as he saw the dawn of that complexion for which he had so long languished, he thought fit to break from his concealment, repeating that verse of Cowley:
"Th' nilorning thee with so much art,
The Pict stood before him in the utmost confusion with the prettiest smirk imaginable on the finished side of her face, pale as ashes on the other. Honeycomb seized all her galley-pots and washes, and carried off his #. full of brushes, scraps of Spanish wool, and phials of unguents. The lady went into the country: the lover was cured.
It is certain no faith ought to be kept with cheats, and an oath made to a Pict is of itself void. I would therefore exhort all the British ladies to single them out, nor do I know any but Lindamira who should be exempt from discovery; for her own complexion is so delicate that she ought to be allowed the covering it with paint, as a punishment for choosing to be the worst piece of art extant, instead of the masterpiece of nature. As for my part, who have no expectations from women, and consider them only as they are part of the species, I do not half so much fear offending a beauty as a woman of sense; I shall therefore produce several faces which have been in public these many years, and never appeared. It will be a very pretty entertainment in the playhouse, (when I have abolished this custom) to see so many ladies, when they first le, it down, incog, in their own faces.
n the mean time, as a pattern for im
proving their charms, let the sex study the agreeable Statira. Her features are enlivened with the cheerfulness of her mind, and good humour gives an alacrity to her eyes. She is graceful without affecting an air, and unconcerned without appearing careless. Her having no manner of art in her mind, makes her want none in her person.
How like is this lady, and how unlike is a Pict, to that description Dr. Donne gives of his mistress?
- Her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought, tone would almost say her body thought."
Such is the shout, the long o note, At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat: Or when from court a birth-day suit bestow'd Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load. Booth enters—hark! the universal peal!But has he spoken—Not a syllable— What shook the stage, and made the people stare? Cato's long wig, flowr'd gown, and lackerd *},e AR1stotle 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 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 a 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 t 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 retends for his mistress, his country, or is 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 F. generally receives her grandeur rom those additional incumbrances 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 anything she speaks, as to the right adjusting of her train, lest 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 should incur the displeasure of the king her father, or lose the hero her lover, whilst her attendant is only concerned lest she should entangle her feet in her petticoat. We are told, that an ancient tragic poet, to move the pity of his audience for his exiled kings 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 speaking of, to inspire us with a great idea of the rsonsintroduced upon the stage. In short, 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 makin great men, and adding dignity to kings . queens, is to accompany them with halberds and battle-axes. Two or three shifters of scenes, with the two candle-snuffers, make .# 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 disto do honour to his generals. It is impossible for the reader's imagination 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. *— Non tamen intus Dignageri promes in scenam: multaque tolles
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 s hes; and our actors are very sensible, that a well-dressed play has sometimes brought them as full audiences 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 ‘Fourberia 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 immediately 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 trappings or equipage of a king or hero, give Brutus half that pomp and majesty o he receives from a few lines in Shakspeare?
No. 43.] Thursday, Ahril 19, 1711.
Hae tibierunt nrtes; pacisque imponere morem,
Be these thy arts, to bid contention cease, Chain up stern war, and give the nations peace; O'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 fellows; 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 gentleman, who belongs to a society of this order of men, residing at Oxford.
‘Oxford, April 13, 1711, 4 o'clock in the morning. ‘SIR,-In some of your late speculations, I find some sketches towards a 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 negociations may best be 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 that 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 dome then the justice to own, that nothing can be more useful or laudable, than the scheme we go upon. To avoid nicknames and witticisms, we call ourselves the Hebdomadal Meeting. Our president continues for a year at least, and sometimes four or five; we are all grave, 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 –Ne quid detrimentires cafiat fublica.— To censure doctrines or facts, persons or things, which we do not like; to settle the nation at home, and carry on the war abroad, where and in what manner we see fit. If other people are not of our opinion, we cannot help that. It were better they were. Moreover, we now and then condescend to direct, in some measure, the little affairs of our own university. ‘Verily, Mr. Spectator, we are much offended at the act for importing French wines. A bottle or two of good solid edifyingğ." at honest George's, made a night §. ul, and threw off reserve. But this plaguy French claret will not only cost us more money, but do us less good. Had we been aware of it before it had gone too far, I must tell you, we would have petitioned to be heard upon that subject. But let that pass. “I must let you know likewise, good sir, that we look upon a certain northern prince's march, in conjunction with infidels, to be palpably against our good-will and liking; and, for monsieur Palmquist, a most dangerous innovation: and we are by no means yet sure, that some people are not at the bottom of it. At least my own private letters leave room for a politician, well versed in matters of this nature, to suspect as much, as a penetrating friend of mine tells me. “We think we have at least done the business with the malcontents in Hungary, and shall clap up a peace there. “What the neutrality army is to do, or what the army in Flanders, and what two or three other princes, is not yet fully determined among us; and we wait impatiently for the coming in of the next Dyer, who you must know is our authentic intelligence, our Aristotle in politics. And, indeed, it is but fit there should be some dernier resort, the absolute decider of all controversies. “We were lately informed that the gallant trained-bands had patrolled all night long about the streets of London. We indeed could not imagine any occasion for it, we guessed not a tittle on it aforehand, we were in nothing of the secret; and that city tradesmen, or their apprentices, should do duty or work through the holidays, we thought absolutely impossible. But Dyer being positive in it, and some letters from other people, who had talked with some who had it from those who should know, giving some countenance to it, the chairman reported from the committee appointed to examine into that affair, that it was possible there might be something in it. I have much more to say to you, but my two good friends and neighbours, Dominic and Slyboots, are just come in, and the coffee is ready. I am, in the meantime, Mr. Spectator, your admirer and humble servant, • ABRAHAM FROTH."
You may observe the turn of their minds tends only to novelty, and not satisfaction in any thing. It would be disappointment to them, to come to certainty in anything, for that would gravel them, and put an end
to their inquiries, which dull fellows do not make for information, but for exercise. I do not know but this may be a very good way of accounting for what we frequently see, to wit, that dull fellows prove very good men of business. Business relieves them from their own natural heaviness, by furnishing them with what to do; whereas business to mercurial men, is an interruption from their real existence and happiness. Though the dull part of mankind are harmless in their amusements, it were to be wished they had no vacant time, because they usually undertake something that makes their wants conspicuous, by their manner of supplying them. You shall seldom find a dull fellow of good education, but if he happens to have any leisure upon his hands, will turn his head to one of those two amusements for all fools of eminence, politics or poetry. The former of these arts is the study of all dull people in general; but when dulness is lodged in a person of a quick animal life, it generally exerts itself in poetry. One might here mention a few military writers, who give great entertainment to the age, by reason that the stupidity of their heads is quickened by the alacrity of their hearts. This constitution in a dull fellow, gives vigour to nonsense, and makes the puddle boil, which would otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that celebrated poem, which was written in the reign of King Charles the Second, and deservedly called by the wits of that age incomparable, was the effect of such a happy genius as we are speaking of. From among many other distichs no less to be quoted on this account, I cannot but recite the two following lines: “A painted vest Prince Voltager had on, Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won.” Here, if the poet had not been vivacious, as well as stupid, he could not, in the warmth and hurry of nonsense, have been capable of forgetting that neither Prince Voltager, nor his grandfather, could strip a naked man of his doublet; but a fool of a colder, constitution would have stayed to have flayed the Pict, and made buff of his skin, for the wearing of the conqueror. To bring these observations to some use
*Absurd as these lines are, they found an apologist in the late Edward King, esq. who, in his Munimenta Antiqua, after alluding to the practice of tattooing being prevalent amongst the Britons, Picts, and other |...}. nations, continues—“The figures thus marked, however, were as indelible as they were honourable; and they were even badges of their chieftains; insoinuch that it is not quite impossible to make sense of those lines, so elegantly censured in the Spectator, for their burlesque housense:
• A painted rest Prince Voltager had on,
For amongst a people, such as the ancient Britons, who