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all the scenes that bring the family of the Wrongheads into action, being ludicrous and farcical are in a very different tone from the principal scenes, displaying severe and bitter expostulations between Lord Townley and his lady. The same objection touches not the double plot of the Careless husband; the different subjects being sweetly connected, and having only so much variety as to resemble shades of colours harmoniously mixed. But this is not all. The under-plot ought to be connected with that which is principal, so much at least as to employ the same persons: the under-plot ought to occupy the intervals or pauses of the principal action ; and both ought to be concluded together. This is the case of the Merry Wives of Windsor.

Violent action ought never to be represented on the stage. While the dialogue goes on, a thousand particulars concur to delude us into an impression of reality ; genuine sentiments, passionate language, and persuasive gesture : the spectator once engaged, is willing to be deceived, lofes fight of himself, and without fcruple enjoys the spectacle as a reality. From this absent state, he is roused by violent action, he awakes as from a pleasing dream, and gathering his senses about him, finds all to be a fiction. Horace delivers the same rule, and founds it upon the fanie reason :

Ne pueros coram populo Medea trucidet ;
Aut humana palam coquat exta nefarius Atreus ;
Aut in avem Progne vertatur, Cadmus in aguem :

Quodcumque oftendis mihi fic, incredulus odi. The French critics join with Horace in excluding blood from the stage ; but overlooking the most subItantial objection, they urge only, that it is barbarous, and shocking to a polite audience. The Greeks had

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no notion of such delicacy, or rather effeminacy: witness the murder of Clytemnestra by her son Orestes, passing behind the scene as represented by Sophocles : her voice is heard calling out for mercy, bitter expostulations on his part, loud fhrieks upon her being stabb’d, and then a deep silence. I appeal to every person of feeling, whether this scene be not more horrible than if the deed had been committed in sight of the spectators upon a sudden gust of palfion. If Corneille, in representing the affair between Horatius and his fifter, upon which murder ensues behind the scene, had no other view but to remove from the fpectators a shocking action, he was guilty of a capital mistake : for murder in cold blood, which in some measure was the case as repreiented, is more shocking to a polite audience, even where the conclufive stab is not feen, than the fame act performed in their presence by violent and unpremeditated paffion, as suddenly repented of as committed. I heartily agree with Addison, * that no part of this incident ought to have been represented, but reserved for a narrative, with every alleviating circumstance in favour of the hero.

A few words upon the dialogue; which ought to be so conducted as to be a true representation of nature. I talk not here of the sentiments, nor of the language ; for these come under different heads : I talk of what properly belongs to dialogue-writing : where every iingle speech, short or long, ought to arise from what is said by the former speaker, and furnish matter for what comes aftcr, till the end of the scene. In this view, all the speeches, from first to last, represent so many links of one continued chain. No author, ancient or modern, poffefses the art of di, alogue cqual to Shakcipcar. Dryden, in that particu

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* Speator, No. 44.

lar, may jusly be placed as his opposite : he frea quently introduces three or four persons speaking upon the same fubjea, each throwing out his own notions separately, without regarding what is said by the rest : take for an example the first scene of Aurenzebe. Sometimes he makes a number club in relat. ing an event, not to a stranger, supposed ignorant of it; but to one another, for the fake merely of speaking: of which notable fort of dialogue, we have a specimen in the first scene of the first part of the Conquest of Granada. In the second part of the fame tragedy, scene fecond, the King, Abenamar, and Zulema, make their feparate observations, like so many soliloquies, upon the fluctuating temper of the mob. A dialogue so uncouth, puts one in mind of two shepherds in a pastoral, excited by a prize to pronounce verses alternately, each in praise of his own mistress.

This manner of dialogue-writing, beside an un. natural air, has another bad effect : it stays the course of the action, because it is not productive of any consequence. In Congreve's comedies, the action is often suspended to make way for a play of wit. But of this more particularly in the chapter immediately following:

No fault is more common among writers, than to prolong a speech after the impatience of the person to whom it is addressed ought to prompt him or her to break in. Consider only how the impatient actor is to behave in the mean time. To express his impatience in violent action without interrupting, would be unnatural ; and yet to dissemble his impatience, by appearing cool where hc ought to be highly inflamed, would be no less fo.

Rhyme being unnatural and disguftful in dialogue, is happily banished from our theatre : the only

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wonder is that it ever found admittance, especially among a people accustomed to the more manly free dom of Shakespear's dialogue. By banishing rhyme, we have gained so much, as never once to dream of any further improvement. And yet, however suitable blank verse may be to elevated characters and warm paffions, it must appear improper and affected in the mouths of the lower fort. Why then should it be a rule, That every scene in tragedy must be in blank verse ? Shakespear, with great judgment, has followed a different raie ; which is, to intermix profe with verse, and only to employ the latter where it is required by the importance or dignity of the subject. Familiar thoughts and ordinary facts ought to be expressed in plain language : to hear, for example, a footman deliver a limple message in blank verse, must appear ridiculous to every one who is not biaffed by custom. In short, that variety of characters and of situations, which is the life of a play, requires not only a suitable variety in the sentiments, but also in the diction,

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CH A P. XXIII.

The Tbrce Unities.

In the firt chapter is explained the pleasure we have in a chain of connected facts. In histories of the world, of a country, of a people, this pleasure is faint ; because the connections are slight or obscure. We find more entertaiment in biography ; because the incidents are connected by their relation to a person who makes a figure, and commands our attention. But the greatest entertainment is in the history of a single event, supposing it interesting ; and the reason is, that the facts and circumstances are connected by the strongest of all relations, that of cause and effect : a number of facts that give birth to each other form a delightful train ; and we have great mental enjoyment in our progress from the beginning to the end.

But this subject merits a more particular discusfion. When we consider the chain of causes and effects in the material world, independent of purpose, design, or thought, we find a number of incidents in succession, without beginning, middle or end : every thing that happens is both a cause and an effect; being the effect of what goes before, and the cause of what follows : one incident may affect us more, another lefs ; but all of them are links in the universal chain : the mind, in viewing these incidents, cannot rest or fettle ultimately upon any one ; but is carried along in the train without any close.

But when the intellectual world is taken under view, in conjunction with the material, the scene is varied. Man acts with deliberation, will, and choice :

he

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