Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

be interesting, the spectator can be exceed as little as possible the actual beguiled into the belief that one day period of the representation. In an inhas passed over his head since he en- teresting scene, perhaps, some hours tered the theatre and it would re- may be supposed to have passed away quire very great artifice in the poet, without any very bad effect, at the or, indeed, would rather be quite irn- same time, there must be attention possible, on many occasions, to reduce paid, that no very distinct marks of the series of events into a shorter pe- the time should betray the deception; riod. Perhaps some such rule as this it would be improper, for instance, in might be necessary in the ancient dra. the course of the same scene, to speak ma,- in the course of which the stage of the sun rising and the sun setting. was never allowed to be empty,--and Some time may be allowed to pass bethe attention of the spectator was, ac- tween the shifting of the scenes, but cordingly, always brought back to the it would be proper, perhaps, to susconsideration of the time in which the pend the action, and make in fact a performance took place. There would greater number of acts whenever any have been something, indeel, ex- considerable portion of time is retremely absurd, had the Chorus been quired to be slurred over on these ocsupposed to walk, and moralize, and casions. When there is an entire sing from one end of the stage to ano- suspension of the action, I do not see ther for the course of a year together, any bounds which I should put to the and even Shakespeare, I suppose, if licence of the poet in this particular. he had had a chorus to manage, would Every act then seems to stand, as far not have been inconsiderate enough to as time is concerned, in the place of a lead them such a dance.

distinct drama, and the poet may take According to the system of the mo- it up at any point at which the chain of dern drama, greater licence in this the fable will permit him. particular may, I imagine, be safely I t is quite impracticable in a motaken, and, if an ancient audience dern drama to observe the strict unity with a chorus constantly in their eyes, of time, if our system of dividing the could be seduced into the belief, that play into acts be retained, which supa few hours occupied the space of a poses both a suspension of the action day-I see no reason why we, before itself, and of the time, consequently, whom the action is so frequently sus- which the chain of events occupies. pended entirely, should not be led in- It is possible in our drama to preserve to a much greater delusion. The fact strictly the unity of place, but that is, that the time of a drama is never is very useless, if the other cannot at all attended to, unless the poet be preserved. When the course of chooses to point it out by some cir- the action, as in the ancient drama, cumstances which naturally call the was never suspended, it was absolute attention of his audience to this ob- ly impossible to shift the scene. ject,--and if he will make the di- What would have been more absurd, visions of time in the course of one than, while the stage was never unocday very striking and prominent, the cupied, to have made any such alabsurdity of the supposition that they teration ? When we see an actor on have been accomplished in the short the stage, we suppose that he cannot period which is occupied in the re- get into any other place than that in presentation of a drama, will strike which he is, unless he chooses to go the spectator as completely, as if a to it, -30 that it would be perfectly much longer time were expressed. If absurd to change the scene in his prehe will place a clock in the view of sence. The utmost licence as to place, the audience, he must regulate his fa- therefore, must be allowed in the moble accordingly. The chorus was a dern drama, since the only reason why kind of clock, and, accordingly, while none was allowed in the ancient was it was fashionable, it was necessary to the impossibility of the thing. It is confine the time of the dramatic ac- strange enough, however, that some tion within very narrow bounds. modern dramatists are extremely scruSince the clock has been removed, the pulous as to this unity, while their spectator is left in all that inattention adherence to the common practice of to the course of time which is natu- dividing the play into acts obliges ral to him. Through the course of them, in a certain degree, to deviate every act, indeed, the poet ought to from the other. They are, in this way, frequently led into very unnatu- ages bound to our hearts by the strong ral situations; and, by crowding every ties of humanity, and made in some event into one place, they make the sort to participate in the reality of our same scene very unusually fertile in own existence when all at once you striking occurrences. Dennis ridicules break the talisman, and the fairy pawith some effect this particular in Mr laces crumble about our heads. The Addison's Cato, all the events of which, forms which we had begun to consithough of a very different kind, take der as brothers and fellow-creatures place in a large hall in Cato's house, vanish from our eyes; the strong curand matters of the most secret and rent of our affections is at once vioimportant nature are transacted in a lently stopped ; and, after doing us all place in which they were exposed to this injury, you leave us to solace ourevery accidental or designing intrud- selves with the scraping and fiddling er. Any farther question concerning of the orchestra. It is in vain that these unities will involve the discuss you would afterwards make us amends sion, whether the system of the an- by raising once more the works you cient or the modern drama be the have destroyed; we no longer give up more perfect.

our minds to your delusions; or, if I know the sticklers for antiquity we do, it is only that we may again will at once endeavour to put an end meet with a similar return. Such are to the dispute, by maintaining that the disadvantages of suspending the there is a gross absurdity in adopting course of the action by the modern inany other system than that which pre- vention of acts. We call it modern, vails in the ancient drama. They because, though, in the ancient drawill say, that, “ to suspend the action ma, the business of the play did not after it has begun, is totally inconsis- always proceed with equal impetuotent with the dramatic effect, and that sity, and the songs and reflections of it is nothing else than to recal the the chorus gave the spectators full opminds of the spectators from the dream portunity to look back on the inteof reality into which they have been resting occurrences which had passed, brought, and to give them occasion a- and to form awful conjectures congain and again to recollect that the 'cerning what should follow; though whole representation is merely ficti- this kind of remission in the action tious. It is the tenet of some phi- very properly was admitted, yet cerlosophers, that the whole scene of tainly it was never entirely allowed to creation is a mere picture which be suspended. The name acts was beguiles our senses ; but, be it so or applied to the intermediate dialogue no, certainly the great Author of the parts between the songs of the chorus, drama of Nature at no time suspends and, as the moderns have thought fit that agency by which the notions of to retain these merely, and to throw real existence are impressed upon our out the chorus altogether, while, at minds; and although, at times, in a the same cime, they suspend the acphilosophical humour, we may turn tion entirely, which the chorus only our eyes aside, and endeavour to be- had the effect of making a little less lieve that all is delusion and decep« impetuous, they have materially altertion, yet the enchanted scene is ever ed the dramatic system. If they will before us, and constantly intrudes it- not allow any chorus, they ought, at self on our perceptions.”

least, to adopt the spirit of the ancient Now, it will be maintained, that drama rather than the form ; and, if “ the dramatist ought, in a similar they think it fit to put away the odes manner, to carry on the impressions which divided, and yet connected, the which he has begun ; and that it is acts together, they ought to have no but a bungling kind of creation to separation of acts at all. But it is give birth merely to a series of de- plain that the dramatic system of the tached dreams, from which we are moderns is founded on a misapprehen. every moment awaking. You begin sion of the ancient plan, and they have to interest us in certain events, and to forgot the rule of Horace, that the make us look with impatience for their chorus should always bear a character catastrophe. 'We have seen certain in the drama,-a rule which is exemcharacters, and our sympathies have plified in the best of the compositions been strongly called out, and we have for the ancient stage. They seem to begun to have those fictitious person- have conceived, as some of the infe

rior dramatists of antiquity appear to greater tendency to destroy the effect have done, that the chorus, in fact, of the representation, than if it were formed no part of the dramatis per- suspended altogether. By the latter sonæ ; and we fancy they imagined means, the mind, to be sure, does reit was a very fine improvement to cover entirely from the dream with take them off the stage where they which it was fascinated, but it is quite seemed to fill up an unnecessary por- in the humour for yielding instantly tion of room, and to embarrass the per again to the spell when it is renewed. formers, and they, no doubt, looked By the former method it is prevented upon it as sufficiently good treatment from recovering entirely, but yet it for them if they put them in an orches- must begin to doubt, and be kept in tra below, with fiddles in their hands, a disagreeable state, betwixt sleeping with which they might amuse them. and waking; for let the ancient critics, selves and their audience during the and Horace among the rest, say what division of the acts. We suppose our they please, I think it evident that refined moderns conceived, that the the chorus must have occupied in the usage of retaining the chorus on the eyes of the spectators a situation somestage was one of the barbarities which what different from the actual perstuck to the ancient drama from its formers in the drama. Take them at first appearance in Thespis's cart, in the best, there is still a want of intewhich actors and musicians would be rest, and an indifference in their chaobliged to huddle together the best racter, which is not at all suitable to way they could ; and they thought the spectators of such scenes as they certainly that it would be quite as be- are witnesses to. The observation of coming to paint the cheeks of their the most violent cruelties, and the actors with the lees of wine, because most unheard of misfortunes, has no the strolling company of Thespis had other effect upon them, than to prodone so, as to allow the chorus or mu- duce some exclamations of grief at the sicians to retain their place on the most, and generally nothing more stage. From some such mistaken no- than some moral reflections. They tion it was, that the ancient chorus are represented, indeed, in general, as was converted into a set of fiddlers, people of no power, and who are unand that the modern drama is chop. able, by any effort, to change the torped and divided into so many detach- rent of fortune, yet it would be naed bits and corners.”

tural sometimes for them, in the vioI am so much of a modern, how. lence of sympathy, to make some such ever, I confess, that I have no very attempt; or allowing them to act progreat taste for the ancient chorus con- perly, yet we have no satisfaction in sidered in their active capacity, and seeing persons introduced who are so though a finer entertainment might insignificant in point of action. I be substituted in their place than our must therefore think that a kind of modern orchestras, yet it appears to torpor is thrown over the whole play, me, that the fine specimens of Lyric by the use of a chorus; that the poetry which they have left behind want of emotion which they display them, are what recommend them on many occasions is communicated chiefly to our admiration. Take the to the spectator, and through the odes out of the Greek dramas, and whole course of the exhibition, from string them together, and they will the equivocal character which they no doubt make a fine collection of hold in his eyes, he must often be odes, but the excellence of their ef- kept in a state of doubt as to the reafect in their native dramas, even I lity of the whole representation. mean when they relate sufficiently to But besides this effect, which I conthe subject of the drama, is to me by ceive to be a general one, it appears no means very apparent. For inde- to me that the chorus has a tendency pendent of the unnatural effect of to circumscribe very much the limits singing when people are expected to of the drama. Lay it down as a rule speak, (an observation which has oft- of art, that every play must have a en been applied to the modern opera,) chorus, who are to remain on the independently of this, I cannot help stage from the beginning to the end, thinking, that the insertion of long how many scenes of secret passion pieces of poetry into the midst of ani- must be withdrawn entirely from remated and natural dialogue, had a presentation ! Not to mention those bursts of agony which nature prompts as public events occupied most of the an unfortunate sufferer to vent when attention, and excited the interest he has no witnesses to his conduct more than any other of the members which the dignity of his character of the ancient republics, that, theremight prevent him from giving way fore, such representations were, of all to, when he is under the observation others, most suited to the taste of a of a fellow-creature; not to mention Greek or a Roman audience. But to these which constitute our modern us there is not, in any degree, an insoliloquies, and which form in Shake discriminate satisfaction in those pubspeare, particularly, some of the finest lic changes of fortune; and our poets passages in the play, how many exhi- are obliged to take upon themselves a bitions of passion are there, likewise, much more difficult task, and to exin which two or three people only amine the appearances of passion in may be concerned, and which it would all its stages, as well in its first and be quite absurd to introiluce to the most secret beginnings, as in the unobservation of a multitude of gaping restrained fury of its full-grown spectators ! Secrecy, indeed, of some strength. sort or other, is necessary for the full I cannot, then, at all subscribe to display of passion, and it is very tlie opinion that a chorus is by any seldom that persons of any dig- means a part of the drama which nity of character allow the intemper- ought, on all, or on most occasions, to ance of their passions to be displayed be adopted. Whether or not, on some to the multitude. Were it not for occasions, in the case, for instance, this notorious fact in the human con- of public events, which we may nastitution, what need would there have turally suppose will call together many been for the Devil Asmodeus to have eager spectators to witness their catasa pointed out to his disciple the retire- trophe, whether something similar ment and secret actions of the citizens to the ancient chorus may not then of Madrid ? A dramatic poet should have a good effect, I will not positive perform, in fact, the part of this amus- ly determine. I am in doubts about ing lame devil, and we scarcely thank the musical part, and am afraid the him for the view of those representa- odes of the chorus are at all times untions, which pass in broad day, and natural, (there may, however, even before all the world.

here, be exceptions, but that a set of The ancient poets, it is true, ma- spectators interested in the events naged their department with great may be supposed to look eagerly on, skill, and though the range of their sometimes bear a part in the representations was, from the reasons dialogue and when the principal just stated, more limited than with characters withdraw, make natural reus, yet they made the most of the nar- marks on what they have seen and row bounds within which they were what they expect; that some such confined. Although the scenes of dis- plan as this might occasionally be at. tress and passion which they exhibit- tended with a happy effect, I am raed were necessarily of a public nature, ther inclined to believe. We should, yet they always laid hold of those perhaps, feel ourselves interested in a fables into which some sudden and more lively way in the fortunes of the unexpected change of fortune was in- principal characters, if we saw men troduced, so that the leading person, who were little more connected with ages of the poem were taken at un- them than ourselves, yet appearing to awares, and off their guard, and might feel a lively interest in them, and exthus, without any violation of pro- pressing, in an apposite manner, what priety, be supposed to express them- may naturally be the feelings of our selves, even in public, with great de- own hearts. And if the unities be a monstrations of passion and emotion. matter of such importance, they might But even thus, the passions they pro- be preserved still, on some occasions, duced were all brought forward at the by this method. same point of excitation; and except But they appear to me to be cirin that high key, when it is not in cumstances of very little moment. I human nature to resist the display of will not argue against them, by saying them, it was not in the power of an that, in fact, the deception of the ancient dramatist to present them to theatre is very incomplete, and lays his audience. I have no doubt that, but a very feeble hold upon the mind. It will still be maintained, that it is MR BOWDICH'S REPLY TO THE QUARthe intention of the dramatist to ren

TERLY REVIEW. der it as complete as he can.-I will

A FRIEND of Mr Bowdich, the rather say, on the other side, that it African traveller, having requestis a kind of deception into which, at ei our attention to a pamphlet unonce, we are disposed to enter, and der this title, which has been late. with very little preparation on the ly printed in Lithography, and circupart of the poet, to give into with all lated at Paris, we have been much inour soul and interest. All we look terested by some parts of it, which we for in the poet, is a picture of nature shall take the liberty of laying before when he presents any thing to us at our readers. Unwilling as we are all ;-he may break off the represen

to enter, ourselves, on a controversy tation as often as he finds it conve- with any of our contemporaries, yet nient. I think it was the common when a man of merit appears to be usage in the ancient theatres to have wronged by any one of them, we are two or three plays performed in suc- ready to assist in procaring him a fair cession. Here was an evident proof hearing, that the audience could very speedily In the present case, this seems the restore their interest, not merely to more necessary, as the general intellithe continuation of the same fiction, gence and information displayed in but to an entire new series of events. the Quarterly Review, in regard to Every act in a modern play ought to voyages and travels, have rendered it be looked upon in the light of a little with mar

with many persons an authority aldrama in itself-an incomplete one most without appeal in regard to the to be sure-but yet such a series of characters of travellers. events as it is very natural to think The Quarterly Reviewers, it will might be subjected to our observation, be remembered, at one time entertains without our being witness either to ed a very good opinion of Mr Bows any thing which preceded or was to dich, as the following sentences from follow. Is it not, indeed, the com- their account of the Congo expedimon case in real life, of which the tion (in their Number for June 1818) drama is supposed to be a copy, that will shew : we are spectators only of some de- In the course of last year, a mission tached part of a series of events, and

from the Governor of Cape Coast Castle that it is a mere chance that we shall

was sent to Zey Tootoo Quamina, King of ever be acquainted either with the Ashantee, consisting of Mr Bowdich, Mr causes of what we see, or shall have Hutchison, and Mr Tedlie, For some any opportunity of witnessing the time after their arrival in the capital, they consequences ? Every act of a drama, were kept in close confinement, owing to then, is itself a picture of as much of the jealousy instilled into the King's mind real life as we have generally any op- by some Moorish merchants, assisted by the portunity of witnessing in the course intrigues of the notorious Daendels, once of any one train of events, and no the servile tool of Buonaparte, and now the

ihon representative of his Netherlandish Majes. thing is more natural, therefore, than

o ty on this part of the coast of Africa. Their to find the whole scene vanish just

u good conduct, however, enabled them to when we are getting most warmly in

• overcome all difficulties; and the King was terested in its progress. It is a natu- $0 well satisfied of the sincerity of their ral disappointment, and we can easily views and declarations, that he concluded a acquiesce in the common accidents of treaty with them, and consented to send his humanity. We are delighted, how- children to be educated at Cape Coast Casever, when it is again presented to tle. us,—and the greater our interest was, “ Mr Bowdich has been indefatigable in and the more our uneasiness from sus- his endeavours to procure information repense--the more satisfaction do we specting Ashantee and the countries beyond feel when the whole interesting pic

esting pic. it."-Quar. Rev. June 1818. ture is renewed. So that, according Mr Bowdich adds, in the paper beto the modern method, while nothing fore us, “ Mr Murray told me, at the takes place that is not quite natural, moment of the publication of my an additional source of enjoyment work, that the two principal contrilikewise is afforded us.

butors to the Quarterly Review (men

Thespis. tioning their names) had declared to (To be continued.)

him, that nothing could be more inVOL. VII.

3 u

« НазадПродовжити »