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strained it, and kept it within its proper Bounds. His 'Thoughts are wonderfully fuited to Tragedy, but frequently lost in such a Cloud of Words, that it is hard to see the Beauty of them: There is an infinite Fire in his Works, but so involved in Smoak, that it does not appear in half its Lustre. He frequently fucceeds in the Pala Lonate Parts of the Tragedy, but more particularly where he Nackens his Effores, and eases the Style of those Epithers and Metaphors, in which he so much abounds. What can be more Natural, more Soft, or more Passio. nate, than that Line in Statira's Speech, where she de. scribes the Charms of Alexander's Conversation ?
Then he would talk: Good Gods! how be would talk!
THAT unexpected Break in the Line, and turning the Description of his manner of Talking into an Admiration of it, is inexpreslibly Beautiful, and wonderfully suited to the fond Character of the Person that speaks it. There is a Simplicity in the Words, that out-shines the utmost Pride of Expression.
OTW AT has followed Nature in the Language his Tragedy, and therefore shines in the Passionate Parts, more than any of our English Poets. As there is something Familiar and Domestick in the Fable of his Tragedy, more than in those of any other Poet, he has little Pomp, but great Force in his Expressions. For which Realon, tho he has admirably succeeded in the tender and melting Part of his Tragedies, he sometimes falls into too great a Familiarity of Phrase in those Parts, which, by Aristotle's Rule, ought to have been raised and supported by the Dignity of Expression.
IT has been obferved by others, that this poet has founded his Tragedy of Venice preserved on so wrong a Plot, that the greatest Characters in it are those of Rebels and Traitors. Had the Hero of his Play discovered the fame good Qualities in the Defence of his Country, that he shewed for its Ruin and Subversion, the Audience could not enough pity and admire him: But as he is now represented, we can only say of him what the Roman Historian fays of Cataline, that his Fall would have been Glorious (fi pro Patria fic concidisset) had he so fallen it she Service of his Country,
Ac ne forte putes me, que facere ipse recusem,
HE English Writers of 'Tragedy are pofseffed with
innocent Person in Distress, they ought not to
it in the Fable which they made choice of, or as it might affect their Audience in the most agreeable Manner. Ariftotle considers the Tragedies that were written in either of these kinds, and obseryes, that those which ended unhappily, had always pleased the People, and carried away the Prize in the publick Disputes of the Stage, from those that ended happily. Terror and Commiseration, leave a pleasing Anguish in the Mind; and fix the Audience in such a serious Composure of Thought, as is much more lafting and delightful than any little tranfient Starts of Joy and Satisfaction. Accordingly, we find, that more of our English Tragedies have succeeded, in which the Favourites of the Audience sink under their Calamities, than those in which they recover themfelves out of them. The best Plays of this kind are the Orphan, Venice preserved, Alexander the Great, Theodofius, All for Love, Cedipus, Oroonoko, Othello, cc. King Lear is an admirable Tragedy of the fame Kind, as Shakespear wrote it but as it is reformed according to the chymnerical Notion of Poetical Justice, in my humble Opinion it has loft 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 abovementioned Criticism, have taken this Turn : As the Mourning Bride, Tamerlane, Ulyes, Phadra and Hippolitus, with most of Mr. Dryden's, I must also allow, that many of ShakeSpear's, and several of the celebrated Tragedies of Antiquity, are cast in the fame 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 Bent 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 a Poet's Thoughts. An Author might as well think of weaving the Adyentures of Æneas and Hudibras into one Poem, as of writing such a motly Piece of Mirth and Sorrow. But the Absurdity of these Performances is so very vi@ble, that I hall not iniuft upon it..
THE fame Objections which are made to Tragi. Comedy, may in some measure be applied to all Trage. dies 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 Pallion, as in Tragi-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 int a great Measure be cured, if not wholly removed, by the skilful Choice of an Under-Plot, 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 rather the false Beauties, of our English Tragedy: I mean those particular Speeches which are commonly known by the Name of Rants. The warm and passjonave 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 lo 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 Bombaft; 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 tow'ring Thoughts, and have accordingly met with infinite Applause.
I shall here add a Remark, which I am afraid our Trai gick Writers may make an ill use of. As our Heroes are generally Lovers, their Swelling and Bluftring 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 Miftress 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 of the Boxes. Dryden and Lee, in several of their Tragedies, have pra. etised this Secret with good Success.
BUT to shew how a Rant pleases beyond the most just and natural Thought that is not pronounced with Vehemence, I would defire the Reader, when he sees the Tra. gedy of Oedipus, to obferve how quietly the Hero is disa missed 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 ;
My Hands are guilty, but my Heart is free.
Years after Oedipus.]
A D V E R TI SE M E N T.
Fustice to own, that he is excellently formed for a Trage-