Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

which opinion throws round the persons of princes, make us esteem the very same event in their fortunes, as more august and emphatical, than in the fortunes of private men. In the one, it is ordinary and familiar to our conceptions; it is singular and surprizing, in the other. The fall of a cottage, by the accidents of time and weather, is almost unheeded; while the ruin of a tower, which the neighbourhood hath gazed at for ages with admiration, strikes all observers with concern. So that if we chuse to continue the absurdity, taken notice of in the last article of planning animportant action in our tragedy, we should, at least, take care to give it this foreign and extrinsic importance of great actors : Yet our passion for the familiar goes so far, that we have tragedies, not only of private action, but of private persons; and so have well nigh annihilated the noblest of the two dramas amongst us. On the whole it appears, that as the proper object of tragedy is action, so it is important action, and therefore more especially the action of great and illustrious men. Each of these conclusions is the direct consequence of our idea of its end.

The reverse of all this holds true of COMEDY.

For,

. 1. Comedy, by the very terms of the definition, is conversant about characters. And if we observe, that which creates the pleasure we find in contemplating the lives of men, considered as distinct from the interest we take in their fortunes, is the contemplation of their manners and humours. Their actions, when they are not of that sort, which seizes our admiration, or catches the affections, are no otherwise considered by us, than as they are sensible indications of the internal sentiment and disposition. Our intimate consciousness of the several turns and windings of our nature, makes us attend to these pictures of human life with an incredible curiosity. And herein the proper entertainment, which comic representation, as such, administers to the mind, consists. By turning the thought on event and action, this entertainment is proportionably lessened ; that is, the end of comedy is less perfectly attained d.

d Aristotle was of the same mind, as appears from his definition of comedy, 'which, says he, is: MIMHEIE QAYAOTEPSIN ; [x. c.] that is, the imitation of characters, whatever be the distinct meaning of the term φαυλότεροι. It is true, this critic, in his account of the origin of tragedy and comedy, makes them both the imitations of acTIẾNs. Đi Hàn Quốc tạo TAY KAAAE = u1uZy1o IPAEE12, of di RÚTENÉs Epos TAC Two Qatawy. [x.d.] Yet, even here, the But here, again, though action be pot the main object of comedy, yet it is not to be neglected, any more than character in tragedy, but comes in as an useful accessary, or assistant to it. For the manners of men only shew themselves, or shew themselves inost usually, in action. It is this, which fetches out the latent strokes of character, and renders the inward temper and disposition the object of sense. Probable circumstances are then imą- ' gined, and a certain train of action contrived, to evidence the internal qualities. There is no other, or no probable way, but this, of bringing us acquainted with them. : Again ; by engaging his characters in a course of action and the pursuit of some end, the comic poet leaves them to express themselves undisguisedly, and without design; in which the essence of humour consists. ..

Add to this, that when the fable is so contrived as to attach the mind, we very naturally fancy ourselyes present at a course of living action. And this illusion quickens our atten

expression is so put, as if he had been conscious that persons, not actions, were the direct object of comedy, And the quotation, now alledged from another place, where a definition is given more in form, shews, that this was, in effect, his sentiment. itd. i

DRAMA

tion to the characters, which no longer appear to us creatures of the poet's fiction, but actors in real life.

These observations concerning the moderated use of action in comedy, instruct us what to think “ of those intricate Spanish plots, 66 which have been in use, and have taken both 56 with us, and some French writers for the “ stage. The truth is, they have hindered “ very much the main end of comedy. For 56 when these unnatural plots are used, the “ mind is not only entirely drawn off from “ the characters by those surprizing turns and “ revolutions; but characters have no oppor“tunity even of being called out and displaying 56 themselves. For the actors of all characters “ succeed and are embarrassed alike, when the “instruments for carrying on designs are only s perplexed apartments, dark entries, disguised habits, and ladders of ropes. The “ comic plot is, and must, indeed, be carried 3 on by deceipt. The Spanish scene does it “ hy deceiving the man through his senses: Te“ rence and Moliere, by deceiving him through his passions and affections. This is the “ right method: for the character is not called ." out under the first species of deceipt: under .ff the second, the character does all,

2. As character, not action, is the object of comedy; so the characters it paints must not be of singular and illustrious note, either for their virtues or vices. The reason is, that such characters take too fast hold of the affections, and so call off the mind from adverting to the truth of the manners; that is, from receiving the pleasure, which this poem intends. Our sense of imitation is that to which the comic poet addresses himself; but such pictures of eminent worth or villainy seize upon the moral sense; and by raising the strong correspondent passions of admiration and aba horrence, turn us aside from contemplating the imitation itself. And,

3. For a like cause, comedy confines its views to the characters of private und inferior persons. For tlie truth of character, which is the spring of humour, being necessarily, as was observed, to be shewn through the medium of action, and the actions of the great being usually such as excite the pathos, it follows of course, that these cannot, with propriety, be made the actors in comedy. Persons of bigh and public life, if they are drawn agreeably to our accustomed ideas of them, must be employed in such a course of action, as arrests the attention, or interests the passions; and

« VorigeDoorgaan »