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the latter no degree for moral instruction. The fecond proposition is, That the history of a wicked person in a change from misery to happiness, ought not to be represented. It excites neither terror nor compassion, nor is agreeable in any respect. The third is, That the misfortunes of a wicked person ought not to be represented. Such representation may be agreeable in some measure upon a principle of justice : but it will not move our pity; nor any degree of terror, except in those of the fame vicious disposition with the person represented. The last
proposition is, That the only character fit for representation lies in the middle, neither eminently good nor eminently bad ; where the misfortune is not the effect of deliberate vice, but of some involuntary fault, as our author expresses it.* The only objection I find to Aristotle's account of tragedy, is, that he confines it within too narrow bounds, by refusing admittance to the pathetic kind : for if terror be effential to tragedy, no representation deserves that name but the moral kind, where the misfortunes exhibited are caused by a wrong balance of mind, or fome disorder in the internal constitution : such misfortunes always fuggelt moral instruction ; and by fuch misfortunes only, can terror be excited for our improvement.
Thus Aristotle's four propositions above mentioned, relate folely to tragedies of the moral kind. Those of the pathetic kind, are not confined within so narrow limits : subjects fitted for the theatre, are not in such plenty as to make us reject innocent inisfortunes which rouse our fympathy, though they inculcate no nioral. With resped indeed to subjects of that kind,
* If any one can be amused with a grare discourfe which promise the much and performs nothing, I refer to Brumoy in his Theatre Grec, Prelimilary discourse on the origin of tragedy,
it may be doubted, whether the conclusion ought not always to be fortunate. Where a person of integrity is represented as suffering to the end under misfortunes purely accidental, we depart discontented, and with some obscure sense of injustice : for seldom is man fo fubmislive to Providence, as not to revolt against the tyranny and vexations of blind chance ; he will be tempted to say, This ought not to be. Chance, giving an impression of anarchy and misrule, produces always a damp upon the mind. I give for an example the Romeo and Juliet of Shakespear, where the fatal catastrophe is occasioned by Friar Laurence's coming to the monument a minute too late : we are vexed at the unlucky chance, and go
Such impressions, which ought not to be cherished, are a sufficient reason for excluding stories of that kind from the theatre. The misfortunes of a virtuous person, arising from necessary causes or from a chain of unavoidable circumstances, are considered in a different light. A regular chain of causes and effects directed by the general laws of nature, never fails to fuggest the hand of Providence ; to which we submit without resentment, being conscious that submission is our duty.* For that reason, we are not disgusted with the distresses of Voltaire's Marianilie, though redoubled on her till her death, without the least fault or failing on her part : her misfortunes are owing to a cause extremely natural, and not unfrequent, the jealousy of a barbarous bulband. The fate of Desdemona, in the Moor of lenice, a Teets us in the same manner, We are not lo calily reconciled to the fate of Cordelia in King Lear: the causes of her misfortune are by no means so evident, as to exclude the gloomy notion of chance, In short, a perfect character suffering under misfors
* See Emys on the Principles of Morality, edit. 2. p. 8914
tunes, is qualified for being the subject of a pathetic tragedy, provided chance be excluded. Nor is a perfect character altogether inconsistent with a moral tragedy: it may successfully be introduced in an under-part, if the chief place be occupied by an imperfect character, from which a moral can be drawn. This is the case of Desdemona and Mariamne just mentioned ; and it is the case of Monimia and Belvidera, in Otway's two tragedies, The Orphan, and Venice Preserv’d.
I had an early opportunity to unfold a curious doctrine, That fable operates on our passions, by representing its events as passing in our sight, and by deluding us into a conviction of reality.* Hence, in epic and dramatic compositions, every circumstance ought to be employ'd that may promote the delufion ; such as the borrowing from history fome noted event, with the addition of circumstances that may answer the author's purpose : the principal facts are known to be true; and we are disposed to extend our belief to every circumstance. But in choosing a subject that makes a figure in history, greater precaution is necessary than where the whole is a fiction. In the latter cafe there is full scope for invention : the author is under no restraint other than that the characters and incidents be just copies of nature. But where the story is founded on truth, no circumstances must be added, but such as connect naturally with what are known to be true ; history may be supplied, but must not be contradicted : further, the subject chosen must be distant in time, or at least in place ; for the familiarity of recent persons and events ought to be avoided. Familiarity ought more especially to be avoided in an cpic poem, the peculiar
# Chap. 2. part 1. fe&. 7.
character of which is dignity and elevation : modern manners make no figure in such a poem.
After Voltaire, no writer, it is probable, will think of rearing an epic poem upon a recent event in the history of his own country,
But an event of that kind is perhaps not altogether unqualified for tragedy: it was admitted in Greece ; and Shakespear has cinploy'd it successfully in several of his pieces. One advantage it possesses above fi&ion, that of more readily engaging our belief, which tends above any other circumstance to raise our fympathy. The scene of comedy is generally laid at home : familiarity is no objection ; and we are peculiarly fensible of the ridicule of our own manners.
After a proper subject is chosen, the dividing it in to paits requires some art. The conclusion of a · book in an epic poem, or of an act in a play, cannot be altogether arbitrary; nor be intended for fo flight a purpose as to make the parts of equal length. The supposed pause at the end of every book, and the real pause at the end of every act, ought always to coincide with some pause in the action. In this respect, a dramatic or epic poem ought to resemble a sentence or period in language divided into members that are distinguished from each other by proper pauses; or it ought to relemble a piece of music, having a full close at the end, preceded by imperfect closes that contribute to the melody. Every act in a dramatic poem ought therefore to close with some incident that makes a paufe in the action ; for other
* I would not from this observation be thought to undervalue modern
The roughness and impetuofity of ancient manners, may be berter fitted for an epic poem, without being better fitted for fociety. But without regard to that circumstance, it is the fasiliarity of modern manners that unqualifies them for a lofty subject. The dignity of our present manners, will be better understood in future ages, when they are no longer familiar.
wise there can be no pretext for interrupting the repa Tesentation : it would be absurd to break off in the very heat of action ; against which every one would exclaim : the absurdity still remains where the action relents, if it be not actually faspended for some time. This rule is also applicable to an epic poem : though in it a deviation from the rule is less remarkable
3 because it is in the reader's power to hide the absurdity, by proceeding instantly to another book. The first book of Paradise Lost ends without any close, perfect or imperfect : it breaks off abruptly, where Satan, seated on his throne, is prepared to harangue the convocated host of the fallen angels ; and the second book begins with the speech. Milton seems to have copied the Aneid, of which the two first books are divided much in the same manner. Neither is there any proper pause at the end of the fifth book of the Aneid. There is no proper pause at the end of the seventh book of Paradife Loft, nor at the end of the eleventh. In the Iliad little attention is given to this rule.
This branch of the subject fhall be closed with a general rule, That action being the fundamental part of every composition whether epic or dramatic, she sentiments and tone of language ought to be fubservient to the action, so as to appear natural, and proper for the occasion. The application of this rule to our modern plays, would reduce the bulk of them to a skeleton. *
* En général il y a beaucoup de discours et neu d'action sur la scene Françoife. Quelqu'un disoit'en sortant d'une piece de Denis le Tiran, Je n'ai rien vu, mais j'ai entendu force paroles. Voila ce qu'on peut dire en forrant des pieces Françoises. Racine et Corneille avec tout leur génie ne font eux-mêmes que des par leurs ; et leur fucceffour est le preinier qui, à l'imitation des Anglois ait olé metre quelquefois la fine en représentacion. Conmuniinent tout se passe en beaux di i'ogues bien agencés, bien ronflans, où l'on voit d'abord que le premier foin de