Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the board was not immediately discontinued, but was used to denote, that the painting exhibited represented such a particular city, house, or wood.

It was long before the Theatres became rich enough to afford a change of scenery for every change of place throughout a play, so that it was frequently the lot of one painting, in the space of a few hours, to represent the metropolis of several different countries. Temporary erections for the purposes of the scene were, however, not uncommon: the tomb, in the last act of "Romeo and Juliet ;" and, in the early historical plays, the frequent recurrence of the walls of towns, attacks upon the gates, the appearance

of the citizens and others, on the battlements, &c., rendered some representation of these places indispensable. A very rude contrivance in front of the balcony would, however, generally be sufficient for the purpose. Very complicated machinery was also necessary in the representation of many of the old dramas. In proof of this, we need only refer to two or three stage directions, in Shakspeare. In the " Tempest," Ariel enters like a harpy, claps his wings on the table, and, with a quaint device, the banquet vanishes."-In "Cymbeline," Jupiter descends in thunder and

lightning, sitting upon an Eagle.—The caldron sinks, and apparitions rise, at the bidding of the witches, in" Macbeth," &c. &c.

ADDISON'S "CATO."

ADDISON planned this tragedy during his travels, and wrote the first four acts many years before it was produced. These were shown to such as were likely to spread their admiration, although it was much doubted if he would ever have sufficient courage to subject the play to the criticism of a British audience.

The time, however, arrived, when those who affected to think liberty in danger, imagined that a play might preserve it; and Addison was importuned, in the name of the tutelary deities of Britain, to show his courage and his zeal, by finishing his design. To resume his work, he seemed perversely and unaccountably unwilling; he, at length, wrote the fifth act, like a task performed with reluctance, and hurried to its conclusion.

Dennis attacked the tragedy with great severity; and charged him with raising prejudices in his favour, by false positions of preparatory criticism, and with poisoning the town, by contra

dicting, in the "Spectator," the established rules of poetical justice; because his own hero, with all his virtues, was to fall before a tyrant.

At length," the great, the important day," when Addison was to stand the hazard of the Theatre, arrived. That there might, however, be as little hazard as possible, Steele undertook to pack an audience. This, says Pope, had been tried, for the first time, in favour of the "Distressed Mother," and was now, with more efficacy, practised for "Cato." The danger was soon over; the whole nation was, at that time, on fire with faction. The Whigs applauded every line in which liberty was mentioned, as a satire on the Tories; and the Tories echoed every cheer, to shew that the satire was not felt. Bolingbroke called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas, for defending the cause of liberty against a perpetual Dictator. The play, thus supported by the emulation of factious praise, was acted, night after night, for a longer time than the public had allowed to any preceding drama; and the author displayed, through the whole exhibition, a restless and unappeasable solicitude.

1

The thought with which" Cato" opens, appears to have been borrowed from Lee's " Alexander.” "The dawn is overcast, the morning lours, And heavily in clouds brings on the day."

CATO.
"The morning rises black; the louring sun,
As if the dreadful business he foreknew,
Drives heavily his sable chariot on."

ALEXANDER THE GREAT.

MR. AND MRS. BARTLEY, AND THE AMERICAN

PURITANS.

A CURIOUS instance of the laudable spirit which governs some of the Puritans in America occurred at Hertford, (the capital of the state of Connecticut,) during the visit of Mr. and Mrs. Bartley. It happened, as they were going their first journey from New York to Boston, that they halted to breakfast at the principal hotel in Hertford. It was soon known that they were in the city, and before Mr. Bartley had finished his meal, the landlord informed him that several gentlemen were in an adjoining room, and requested to speak with him. Mr. Bartley waited upon them, and they explained to him that the fame which had attended Mrs. Bartley in New York, made them most anxious to have an opportunity

C

1

of witnessing her talents in Hertford; that they had no Theatre, but a tolerably large Assemblyroom, which they would fill, if she would engage to give readings or recitations. It was soon agreed that she should do so, on her return from Boston.

The night was fixed, and the room crowded to excess her readings from Milton and Shakspeare were highly approved of; and she promised to repeat them on her way to Boston, at her next visit. The inhabitants of Hertford apprised themselves of the period of her next engagement at Boston, and wrote to Mr. Bartley, requesting him to lend his quota to the promised evening's entertainment at Hertford. This was acceded to; but, no sooner was the announcement made, than the rigid and puritanical part of the community set up an outcry against these repeated innovations; and Mr. Ebenezer Huntingdon, (the Attorney-General of the State,) resolved to put into execution a dormant act of the legislature, against the performance. In the mean time, Mr. and Mrs. Bartley (wholly unconscious of what had been threatened) arrived, and were received as warmly as ever. The hour of performance having approached, the room was again crowd

« НазадПродовжити »