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DRAMA., 31 The idea of these three species being then proposed, let us now see, what conclusions may be drawn from it. And chiefly in respect of Tragedy and Comedy, which are most important. For as to what concerns the province of Farce, this will be easily understood, when the character of the other two is once settled.
СНА Р. І.
ON THE PROVINCES OF TRAGEDY AND
From the idea of these two species, as given above, the following conclusions, about the natures of each, are immediately deducible.
1. If the proper end of TRAGEDY be to affect, it follows, “ that actions, not characters, « are the chief object of its representations." For that which affects us most in the view of human life is the observation of those signal circumstances of felicity or distress, which occur in the fortunes of men. But felicity and distress, as the great critic takes notice, depend on action; xatà tàs as págeis, sudcípoves, ý tovavríoy. They are then the calamitous events, or fortunate Issues in human action, which stir up the stronger affections, and agitate the heart with Passion. The manners are not, indeed, to be neglected. But they become an inferior consideration in the views of the tragic poet, and are exhibited only for the sake of making the action more proper to interest us. Thus our joy, on the happy
catastrophe of the fable, depends, in a good degree, on the virtuous character of the agent; as on the other hand, we sympathize more strongly with him, on a distressful issue.
The manners of the several persons in the drama must, also, be signified, that the action, which in many cases will be determined. by them, may appear to be carried on with truth and probability. Hence every thing passing before us, as we are accustomed to see it in real life, we enter more warmly into their interests, as forgetting, that we are attentive to a fictitious scene. And, besides, from knowing the personal good, or ill, qualities of the agents, we learn to anticipate their future felicity or misery, which gives increase to the passion in either case. Our acquaintance with Tago's close villainy makes us tremble for Othello and Desdemona beforehand: and Hamlet's filial piety and intrepid daring occasion the audience secretly to exult in the expectation of some successful vengeance to be inflicted on the incestuous murderers.
2. For the same reason as tragedy takes for its object the actions of men, it, also, prefers, or rather confines itself to, such actions, as are most important. Which is only saying, that as it intends to interest, it, of course,
chuses the representation of those events, which are most interesting.
And this shews the defect of modern tragedy, in turning so constantly as it does, on love subjects; the effect of this practice is, that, excepting only the rank of the actors (which indeed, as will be seen presently, is of considerable importance), the rest is below the dignity of this drama. For the action, when stripped of its accidental ornaments and reduced to the essential fact, is nothing more than what might as well have passed in a cottage, as a king's palace. The Greek poets should be our guides here, who take the very grandest events in their story to ennoble their tragedy. Whence it comes to pass that the action, having an essential dignity, is always interesting, and by the simplest management of the poet becomes in a supreme degree, pathetic.
g. On the same account, the persons, whose actions Tragedy would exhibit to us, must be of principal rank and dignity. For the actions of these are, both in themselves and in their consequences, most fitted to excite passion. The distresses of private and inferior persons will, no doubt, affect us greatly ; and
we may give the name of tragedies, if we
Τών γάρ μεγάλων αξιοπενθείς
EURIP. HIPP. v. 1484.
Kings, Heroes, Statesmen, and other persons of great and public authority, influence by their ill-fortune the whole community, to which they belong. The attention is rouzed, and all our faculties take an alarm, at the apprehension of such extensive and important wretchedness. And, besides, if we regard the event itself, without an eye to its effects, there is still the widest difference between the two cases. Those ideas of awe and veneration,