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beauties of our English tragedy: I mean those par- No. 41.) TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 1711. ticular speeches which are commonly known by the
Tu non inventa reperta es.-Ovid. Met. i. 654. name of Rants. The warm and passionate parts of
So found, is worse than lost-ADDISON. a tragedy are always the most taking with the au. dience; for which reason we often see the players COMPASSION for the gentleman who writes the pronouncing, in all the violence of action, several following letter should not prevail upon me to fall parts of the tragedy which the author writ with great upon the fair sex, if it were not that I find they are temper, and designed that they should have been so frequently fairer than they ought to be. Such imacted. I have seen Powell very often raise himself postures are not to be tolerated in civil society, and a loud clap by this artifice. The poets that were ac- I think his misfortune ought to be made public, as quainted with this secret, have given frequent occa- a warning for other men to examine into what they sion for such emotions in the actor, by adding vehe- admire. mence to words where there was no passion, or “Sir, iniaming a real passion into fustian. This hath filled the mouths of our heroes with bombast; and ledge, I make my application to you on a very par:
Supposing you to be a person of general knowgiven them such sentiments as proceed rather from ticular occasion. I have a great mind to be rid of a swelling than a greatness of mind. Unnatural ex. my wife, and hope, when you consider my case, you clamations, curses, vows, blasphemies, a defiance of will be of opinion 'I have very just pretensions to a mankind, and an outraying of the gods, frequently divorce. I am a mere man of the town, and have pass upon the audience for towering thoughts
, and very little improvement but what I have got from have accordingly met with infinite applause.
plays. I remember in the Silent Woman, the learned I shall here add a remark, which I am afraid our Dr. Cutberd, or Dr. Otter (I forget which), makes tragic writers may make an ill use of. As our heroes one of the causes of separation to be Error Personæ are generally lovers, their swelling and blustering when a man marries a woman, and finds her not to upon the stage very much recommends them to the be the same woman whom he intended to marry, fair part of the audience. The ladies are wonder- but another. If that be law, it is, I presume, exfully pleased to see a man insulting kings, or affront
actly my case. For you are to know, Mr. Specing the gods, in one scene, and throwing himself at tator, that there are women who do not let their husthe feet of his mistress in another. Let
him behave bands see their faces till they are married. himself insolently towards the men, and abjectly to
“Not to keep you in suspense, I mean plainly wards the fair one, and it is ten to one but he proves that part of the sex who paint. They are some of a favourite with the boxes. Dryden and Lee, in se-them so exquisitely skilful in this way, that give veral of their tragedies, have practised this seeret them but a tolerable pair of eyes to set up with, and with good success. But to show how a rant pleases beyond the most by their own industry. As for my dear, never was
they will make bosom, lips, cheeks, and eyebrows, just and natural thought that is not pronounced with a man so enamoured as I was of her fair forehead, vebemence, I would desire the reader, when he sees the tragedy of Edipus, to observe how quietly the but to my great astonishment I find they were all
neck, and arms, as well as the bright jet of her hair; hero is dismissed at the end of the third act, after the effect of art. Her skin is so tarnished with this baving pronounced the following lines, in which the practice, that when she first wakes in a morning, she thought is very natural, and apt to move compassion : scarce seems young enough to be the mother of her To you, good gods, I make my last appeai;
whom I carried to bed the night before. I shall Or clear my virtues, or my crimes reveal.
take the liberty to part with her by the first opporif in the maze of sale I blindly run, And backward tread those paths I sought to shun;
tunity, unless her father will make her portion Impate my errors to your own decree
suitable to her real, not her assumed, countenance. My hands are guilty, but my heart is free.
This I thought fit to let him and her know by your Let us then observe with what thunder-claps of
“ I am, Sir,
applause he leaves the stage, after the impieties and
"Your most obedient humble servant. execrations at the end of the fourth act; and you I cannot tell what the law or the parents of the will wonder to see an audience so cursed and so lady will do for this injured gentleman, but must alpleased at the same time.
low he has very much justice on his side. I have O that, as oft I have at Athens seen
indeed very long observed this evil, and distingnished
those of our women who wear their own, from those [Where, by the way, there was no stage till many in borrowed complexions, by the Picts and the years after Edipus.)
British. There does not need any great discernThe stage arise, and the big clouds descend;
ment to judge which are which. The British have So now, in very deed, I might behold This pon'drous globe, and all yon marble roof,
a lively animated aspect; the Picts, though never Meet, like the hands of Jove, and crush mankind
so beau:iful, have dead uninformed countenances. For all the elements, &c.
The muscles of a real face sometimes swell with ADVERTISEMENT.
soft passion, sudden surprise, and are flushed with
agreeable confusions, according as the objects before Having spoken of Mr. Powell, as sometimes rais-them, or the ideas presented to them, affect their ing himself applause from the ill taste of an audience, imagination. But the Picts behold all things with I must do him the justice to own, that he is excel the same air, whether they are joyful or sad; the lently formed for a tragedian, and, when he pleases, same fixed insensibility appears upon all occasions. deserves the admiration of the best judges; as 1 A Pict, though she takes all that pains to invite the doubt not but he will in the Conquest of Mexico, approach of lovers, is obliged to keep them at a cerwhich is acted for his own benefit to-morrow night. tain distance; a sigh in a languishing lover, if
C. fetched too near her, would dissolve a feature; and
a kiss snatched by a forward one, might transfer the
complexion of the mistress to the admirer. It is SPECTATOR-Nos. 7 & 8.
hard to speak of these false fair ones, without saying How like is this lady, and how unlike is a Pict, something uncomplaisant, but I would only recom- to that description Dr. Donne gives of his mistress mend to them to consider how they like to come
- Her pure and eloquent blood into a room new painted; they may assure themselves Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought, the near approach of a lady who uses this practice
That one would alniost say ber body thought. is much more offensive.
ADVERTISEMENT. Will Honeycomb told us one day, an adventure be once had with a Pict. This lady had wit, as well
A young gentlewoman of about nineteen years of as beauty, at will; and made it her business to gain age (bred in the
family of a person of quality, lately
deceased), who paints the finest flesh-colour, wants hearts, for no other reason but to rally the torments a place, and is to be heard of at the house of Myn of ber lovers. She would make great advances to heer Grotesque, a Dutch painter in Barbican. insnare men, but without any manner of scruple break off when there was no provocation. Her ill
N.B. She is also well skilled in the drapery part, nature and vanity made my friend very easily proof and puts on hoods, and mixes ribands so as to suit against the charms of her wit and conversation; the colours of the face, with great art and success. but her beauteous form, instead of being blemished
R. by her falsehood and inconstancy, every day increased upon him, and she had new attractions every No. 42.) WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 1711. time he saw her. When she observed Will irrevocably her slave, she began to use bim as such, and
Garganum mugire putes nemus, aut mare Thuscum:
Tantum cum strepitu ludi spectantur, et artes, after many steps towards such a cruelty, she at last
Divitiæque peregrinæ: quibus oblitus actor utterly banished him. The unhappy lover strove in Cum steut in scena, concurrit dextera lævæ vain, by servile epistles, to revoke his doom; till at
Dixit adhuc aliquid ? Nil sane. Quid placet ergo ! length he was forced to the last refuge, a round sum
Lana Tarentino violas imitata veneno.- Hor. 2 Ep. i. 202. of money to her maid. This corrupt attendant placed him early in the morning behind the hangings
Loua as the wolves on Orca's stormy steep. in her mistress's dressing-room. He stood very
Howl to the roarings of the northern deep:
Such is the shout, the long applauding note, conveniently to observe, without being seen.
At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat: Pict begins the face she designed to wear that day, Or when from court a birth-day suit bestow'd and I have heard him protest she had worked a full
Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.
Booth enters-hark! the universal peal half hour before he knew her to be the same woman.
But has he spoken ?-Not a syllable As soon as he saw the dawn of that complexion, for What shook the stage. and made the people stare? which he had so long languished, he thought fit to
Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacker'd chair.-POPL break from his concealment, repeating that verse of ARISTOTLE has observed, that ordinary writers in Cowley:
tragedy endeavour to raise terror and pity in their Th' adorning thee with so much art
audience, not by proper sentiments and expressions, Is but a barbarous skill ;
but by the dresses and decorations of the stage. 'Tis like the pois'ning of a dart,
There is something of this kind very ridiculous in Too apt before to kill.
the English theatre. When the author has a mind The Pict stood before him in the utmost confu- to terrify us, it thunders; when he would make us sion, with the prettiest smirk imaginable on the fi- melancholy, the stage is darkened. But among all nished side of her face, pale as ashes on the other. our tragic artifices, I am the most offended at those Honeycomb seized all her gallipots and washes, and which are made use of to inspire us with magnificent carried off his handkerchief full of brushes, scraps ideas of the persons that speak. The ordinary meof Spanish wool, and phials of unguents. The lady thod of making a hero, is to clap a huge plume of went into the country, the lover was cured. feathers upon his head, which rises so very high that
It is certain no faith ought to be kept with cheats, there is often a greater length from his chin to the and an oath made to a Pict is of itself void. i top of his head than to the sole of his foot. One would therefore exhort all the British ladies sin- would believe that we thought a great man and a gle them out, nor do I know any but Lindamira tall man the same thing. This very much embarwho should be exempt from discovery: for her own rasses the actor, who is forced to hold his neck excomplexion is so delicate, that she ought to be al tremely stiff and steady all the while he speaks; and lowed the covering it with paint, as a punishment notwithstanding any anxieties which he pretends for for choosing to be the worst piece of art extant, in his mistress, his country, or his friends, one may see stead of the master-piece of pature. As for my by his action that his greatest care and concern is to part, who have no expectations from women, and keep the plume of feathers from falling off his head. consider them only as they are part of the species, For my own part, when I see a man uttering his 1.do not half so much fear offending a beauty, as a complaints under such a mountain of feathers, I am woman of sense; I shall therefore produce several apt to look upon him rather as an unfortunate lunafaces which have been in public these many years, tic than a distressed hero. As these superfluous orand never appeared. It will be a very pretty en- naments upon the bead make a great man, a princess tertainment in the play-house (when I have abo- generally receives her grandeur from those additional lished this custom) to see so many ladies, when they encumbrances that fall into her tail-I mean the first lay it down, incog. in their own faces. broad sweeping train that follows her in all her mo.
In the meantime, as a pattern for improving their tions, and finds constant employment for a boy who charms, let the sex study the agreeable Statira. stands behind her to open and spread it to advanHer features are enlivened with the cheerfulness of tage. I do not know how others are affected at this her mind, and good-humour gives an alacrity to sight, but I must confess my eyes are wholly taken her eyes. She is graceful without affecting an air
, up with the page's part; and, as for the queen, I and unconcerned without appearing careless. Her am not so attentive to any thing she speaks, as to having no manner of art in her mind, makes her the right adjusting of her train, lest it should chanco want none in her person.
I to trip up her heels, or incommode her, as she walks
to and fro upon the stage. It is, in my opinion, a of an army or a battle, in a description, than if he very odd spectacle, to see a queen venting her pas-actually saw them drawn up in squadrons and bat. sions in a disordered motion, and a little boy taking talions, or engaged in the confusion of a fight. Our care all the while that they do not ruffle the tail of minds should be opened to great conceptions, and her gown. The parts that the two persons act on inflamed with glorious sentiments by what the actor the stage at the same time are very different. The speaks, more than by what he appears. Can all the princess is afraid lest she should incur the displeasure trappings or equipage of a king or hero, give Brutus of the king her father, or lose the hero her lover, half that pomp and majesty which he receives from whilst her attendant is only concerned lest she should a few lines in Shakspeare 2-0. entangle her feet in her petticoat. We are told, that an ancient tragic poet, to move
No. 43.] THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 1711. the pity of his audience for his exiled kings and distressed heroes, used to make the actors represent Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbog.–Virg. Æn. vi. 854.
Hæ tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem, them in dresses and clothes that were thread-bare
Be these thy arts; to bid contention cease, and decayed. This artifice for moving pity seems Chain up stern wars, and give the nations peace; as ill contrived as that we have been speaking of to
O'er subject lands extend thy gentle sway,
And teach with iron rod the haughty to obey. inspire us with a great idea of the persons introduced upoo the stage. In short, I would have our concep- THERE are crowds of men, whose great misfortune tions raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity it is that they were not bound to mechanic arts or of expression, rather than by a train of robes or a trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be plume of feathers.
laid by some continual task or employment. These Another mechanical method of making great men, are such as we commonly call dull fellows; persons and adding dignity to kings and queens, is to accom- who for want of something to do, out a certain pany them with halberts and battle-axes. Two or vacancy of thought rather than curiosity, are ever three shifters of scenes, with the two candle-snuffers, meddling with things for which they are unfit. I make up a complete body of guards upon the En cannot give you a notion of them better, than by glish stage; and by the addition of a few porters presenting you with a letter from a gentleman, who dressed in red coats, can represent above a dozen belongs to a society of this order of men, residing legions. I have sometimes seen a couple of armies at Oxford. drawn up together upon the stage, when the poet
“ SIR, has been disposed to do honour to his generals. It
“ Oxford, April 13, 1711.
Four o'clock in the morning. is impossible for the reader's imagination to multiply “ In some of your late speculations, I find some twenty men into such prodigious multitudes, or to sketches towards a history of clubs; but you seem fancy that two or three hundred thousand soldiers to me to shew them in somewhat too ludicrous a are fighting in a room of forty or fifty yards in com: light. I have well weighed that matter, and think, pass. Incidents of such nature should be told, not that the most important negociations may be best represented.
carried on in such assemblies. I shall, therefore, Non tamen intus
for the good of mankind (which I trust you and I Dipa geri promes in scenam: multaque tolles
are equally concerned for,) propose an institution of Ex oculis, quæ mox narret facundia presans.
that nature for example sake. Yet there are things improper for a scene,
“ I must confess the design and transactions of too Which men of judgment only will relate -Roscommon.
many clubs are trifling, and manifestly of no con.
sequence to the nation or public weal. Those I will I should, therefore, in this particular, recommend give you up. But you must do me then the justice to my countrymen the example of the French stage, to own, that nothing can be more useful or laudable, where the kings and queens always appear unat. than the scheme we go upon. To avoid nick-names tended, and leave their guards behind the scenes. I and witticisms, we call ourselves The Hebdomadal should likewise be glad if we imitated the French in Meeting. Our president continues for a year at banishing from our stage the noise of drums, trum- least, and sometimes for four or five; we are all pets, and huzzas, which is sometimes so very great, grave, serious, designing men in our way; we think that when there is a battle in the Haymarket theatre, it our duty, as far as in us lies, to take care the one may hear it as far as Charing-cross.
constitution receives no harm-Ne quid detrimenti I have bere only touched upon those particulars res capiat publica-To censure doctrines or facts, perwhich are made use of to raise and aggrandize the sons or things, which we do not like; to settle the persons of a tragedy; and shall show, in another nation at home, and to carry on the war abroad, paper, the several expedients which are practised by where and in what manner we think tit. If other authors of a vulgar genius to move terror, pity, or people are not of our opinion, we cannot help that. admiration in their hearers.
It were better they were. Moreover, we now and The tailor and the painter often contribute to the then condescend to direct in some measure the little success of a tragedy more than the poet. Scenes affairs of our own university. affect ordinary minds as much as speeches; and our “ Verily, Mr. Spectator, we are much offended at actors are very sensible that a well dressed play bas the act for importing French wines. A bottle or sometimes brought them as full audiences as a well- two of good solid edifying port at honest George's, written one.
The Italians have a very good phrase made a night cheerful, and threw off reserve. But to express this art of imposing upon the spectators this plaguy French claret will not only cost us more by appearances: they call it the “ Fourberia della money, but do us less good. Had we been aware scena," "The knavery, or trickish part of the of it before it had gone too far, I must tell you, we drama.” But however the show and outside of the would have petitioned to be heard upon that subject. tragedy may work upon the vulgar, the more under But let that pass. standing part of the audience immediately see through
“ I must let you know likewise, good Sir, that we it, and despise it.
look upon a certain northern prince's march, in conA good poet will give the reader a more lively idea junction with infidels, to be palpably against our
Hor. Ars. Poet. ver. 182.
good-will and liking; and for ail Monsieur Palm- many other distichs no less to be quoted on this acquist, a most dangerous innovation; and we are by count, I cannot but recite the two following lines : no means yet sure, that some people are not at the A painted vest Prince Voltiger had on, bottom of it. At least, my own private letters leave
which from a naked Pict his grandsire won. room for a politician, well versed in matters of this Here, if the poet had not been vivacious as well nature, to suspect as much, as a penetrating friend as stupid, he could not, in the warmth and hurry of of mine tells me.
nonsense, have been capable of forgetting that nei“We think we have at last done the business with ther Prince Voltiger nor his grandfather could strip the malcontents in Hungary, and shall clap up a a naked man of his doublet; but a fool of a colder
constitution would have staid to have flayed the Pict, “What the neutrality army is to do, or what the and made buff of his skin, for the wearing of the army in Flanders, and what two or three other conqueror. princes, is not yet fully determined among us; and To bring these observations to some useful purwe wait impatiently for the coming in of the next poses of life—what I would propose should be, that Dyer's, who you must know is our authentic intel- we imitated those wise nations, wherein every man ligence, our Aristotle in politics. And, indeed, it is learns some handicraft-work. Would it not employ but fit there should be some dernier resort, the abso- a beau prettily enough, if, instead of eternally playlute decider of controversies.
ing with a snuff-box, he spent some part of his time “ We were lately informed, that the gallant in making one? Such a method as this would very trained-bands had patrolled all night long about the much conduce to the public emolument, by making streets of London. We indeed could not imagine every man living good for something; for there any occasion for it, we guessed not a tittle on it would then be no one member of human society but aforehand, we were in nothing of the secret; and would have some little pretension for some degree in that city tradesmen, or their apprentices, should do it: like him who came to Will's coffee-house, upon duty or work during the holidays, we thought abso- the merit of having writ a posy of a ring.-R. lutely impossible. But Dyer being positive in it, and some letters from other people, who had talked
No. 44.] FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 1711. with some who had it from those who should know, giving some countenance to it, the chairman reported Tu, quid ego et populus mecum desideret, audi. from the committee appointed to examine into that
Hor. Ars. Poet ver. 123. affair, that it was possible there might be something Now hear what every auclitor expects.-Roscommon. in it. I have much more to say to you, but my two Among the several artifices which are put in good friends and neighbours Dominic and Slyboots practice by the poets to till the minds of an auare just come in, and the coffee is ready. I an, in dience with terror, the first place is due to thunder the meantime, “ Mr. Spectator,
and lightning, which are often made use of at the “ Your admirer and humble servant, descending of a god, or the rising of a ghost, at the
" ABRAHAM Froth.” vanishing of a devil, or at the death of a tyrant. You may observe the turn of their minds tends I have known a bell introduced into several trageonly to novelty, and not satisfaction in any thing. dies with good effect; and have seen the whole asIt would be disappointment to them to come to cer- sembly in a very great alarm all the while it has tainty in any thing, for that would gravel them, and been ringing. But there is nothing which delights put an end to their inquiries, which dull fellows dc and territies our English theatre so much as a ghost, not make for information, but for exercise. I do not especially when he appears in a bloody shirt. A know but this may be a very good way of accounting spectre has very often saved a play, though -he bas for what we frequently see-to wit, that dull fellows done ncthing but stalked across the stage, or rose prove very good men of business. Business relieves through a cleft of it, and sunk again without speakthem from their own natural heaviness, by furnishing one word. There may be a proper season for ing them with what to do; whereas business to mer- these several terrors; and when they only come in curial men is an interruption from their real exist- as aids and assistances to the poet. they are uot euce and happiness. Though the dull part of man- only to be excused, but to be applauded. Thus the kind are harmless in their amusements, it were to sounding of the clock in Venice Preserved makes be wished they had no vacant time, because they the hearis of the whole audience quake; and cofiusually undertake something that makes their wants veys a stronger terror to the mind than it is possible conspicuous, by their manner of supplying them. for words to do. The appearance of the ghost in You shall seldom find a dull fellow of good educa- Hamlet is a master-piece in its kind, and wrought up tion, but, if he happens to have any leisure upon with all the circumstances that can create either his hands, will turn his head to one of those two attention or horror. The mind of the reader is amusements for all fools of eminence, politics or wonderfully prepared for his reception by the dispoetry. The former of these arts is the study of all courses that precede it. His dumb behaviour at his dull people in general; but when dulness is lodged first entrance strikes the imagination very strongly; in a person of a quick animal life, it generally ex- but every time he enters, he is still more terrifying. erts itself in poetry. One might here mention a Who can read the speech with which young Hamlet few military writers, who give great entertainment accosts him without trembling? to the age, by reason that the stupidity of their heads is quickened by the alacrity of their hearts.
Hor. Look, my lord, it comes !
HAM. Angels and ministers of grace defena as ! This constitution in a dull fellow, gives vigour to Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn'd: nonsense, and makes the puddle boil which would Bring'st with thee airs from heav'n, or blasts from hell; otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that cele
Be thy events* wicked or charitable;
Thou com'st in such a questionable shape brated poem, which was written in the reign of King That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet, Charles the Second, and deservedly called by the wits of that age incomparable, was the effect of such
• Events for advents, comings, or visits. We read in other a happy genius as we are speaking of. From among copies, intents.
King, Father, Royal Dane. Oh! answer me.
being upbraided by her for having slain her lover), Let me not burst in ignorance ; but tell
in the height of his passion and resentment kills Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cerements? Why the sepulchre
her. If any thing could extenuate so brutal an acWherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
tion, it would be the doing of it on a sudden, before Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws
the sentiments of nature, reason, or manhood, could To cast thee up again? What may this mean? That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
take place in him. However, to avoid public bloodRevisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon,
shed, as soon as his passion is wrought to its height, Making night hideous ?
he follows his sister the whole length of the stage,
and forbears killing her till they are both withI do not therefore find fault with the artifices above drawn behind the scenes. I must confess, had he mentioned, when they are introduced with skill, and murdered her before the audience, the indecency accompanied by proportionable sentiments and ex. might have been greater ; but as it is, it appears pressions in the writing.
very unnatural, and looks like killing in cold blood. For the moving of pity, our principal machine is to give my opinion upon this case, the fact ought the handkerchief; and indeed, in our common tra- not to have been represented, but to have been told, gedies, we should not know very often that the per if there was any occasion for it. sons are in distress by any thing they say, if they
It may not be unacceptable to the reader to see did not from time to time apply their handkerchiefs how Sophocles has conducted a tragedy under the to their eyes. Far be it from me to think of banish-like delicate circunstances. Orestes was under the ing this instrument of sorrow from the stage; I same condition with Hamlet in Shakspeare, his know a tragedy could not subsist without it; all that mother having murdered his father, and taken posI would contend for, is to keep it from being mis- session of his kingdom in conspiracy with her adulapplied. In a word, I would have the actor's tongue terer. That young prince, therefore, being detersympathise with his eyes,
mined to revenge his father's death upon those who A disconsnlate mother, with a child in her hand, filled his throne, conveys hiinself by a beautiful has frequently drawn compassion from the audience, stratagem into his mother's apartment, with a resoand has therefore gained a place in several trage- lution to kill her. But because such a spectacle dies. A modern writer, that observed how this had would have been too shocking to the audience, this took in other plays, being resolved to double the dreadful resolution is executed behind the scenes : distress, and meli his audience twice as much as the mother is heard calling out to her son for mercy; those before him had done, brought a princess upon and the son answering her, that she showed no the stage with a little boy in one hand, and a girl mercy to his father; after which she shrieks out in the other. This too had a very good effect. A that she is wounded, and by what follows we find third poet being resolved to outwrite au his prede- that she is slain. I do not remember that in any of cessors, a few years ago introduced three children our plays there are speeches made behind the with great success : and as I am informed, a young scenes, though there are other instances of this nagentleman, who is fully determined to break the ture to be met with in those of the ancients: and I most obdurate hearts, has a tragedy by him, where believe my reader will agree with me, that there is the first person that appears upon the stage is an something infinitely more affecting in this dreadful afiieted widow in her mourning weeds, with half-a-dialogue between the mother and her son behind the dozen fatherless children attending her, like those scenes, than could have been in any thing transthat usually hang about the figure of Charity: acted before the audience. Orestes immediately Thus several incidents that are beautiful in a good after meets-the usurper at the entrance of his palace; writer, become ridiculous by falling into the hands and by a very happy thought of the poet, avoids of a bad one.
killing him before the audience, by telling him that But among all our methods of moving pity or he should live some time in his present bitterness of terror, there is none so absurd and barbarous, and soul before he would dispatch him, and by ordering which more exposes us to the contempt and ridicule him to retire into that part of the palace where he of our neighbours, than that dreadful butchering of had slain his father, whose murder he would revenge one another, which is so very frequent upon the in the very same place where it was committed. English stage. To delight in seeing men stabbed, By this means the poet observes that decency, poisoned, racked, or impaled, is certainly the sign which Horace afterward established by a rule, of of a cruel temper: and as this is often practised forbearing to commit parricides or unnatural musbefore the British audience, several French eritics, ders before the audience. who think these are grateful spectacles to us, take
Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet. occasion from them to represent us as a people that
ARS POET. ver. 185 delight in blood. It is indeed very odd, to see our Let not Medea draw her murd'ring knife, stage strewed with carcases in the last scenes of a And spill her children's blood upon the stage. tragedy, and to observe in the wardrobe of the playhouse several daggers, poniards, wheels, bowls for The French have therefore refined too much upon poison, and many other instruments of death. Mur- Horace's rule, who never designed to banish all ders and executions are always transacted behind kinds of death from the stage; but only such as the scenes in the French theatre ; which in general had too much horror in them, and which would have is very agreeable to the manners of a polite and ci- a better effect upon the audience when transacted vilised people: but as there are no exceptions to this behind the scenes. I would therefore recommend rule on the French stage, it leads them into absurdi- to my countrymen the practice of the ancient poets, ties almost as ridiculous as that which falls under who were very sparing of their public executions, our present censure. I remember in the famous and rather chose to perform them behind the scenes, play of Corneille, written upon the subject of the if it could be done with as great an effect upon the Horatii and Curiatii; the fierce young hero who audience. At the same time I must observe, that had overcome the Curiatii one after another (instead though the devoted persons of the tragedy were of being congratulated by his sister for his victory, I seldom slain before the audience, which has gene