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either way it diverts the mind from observing the truth of manners, that is, it prevents the attainment of the specific end, which comedy designs.
And if the reason, here given, be sufficient to exclude the higher characters in life from this drama, even where the representation is intended to be serious, we shall find it still more improper to expose them in any pleasant or ridiculous light. 'Tis true, the follies and foibles of the great will apparently take an easier ridicule by representation, than those of their inferiors. And this it was, which misled the celebrated P. CORNEILLE into the opinion, that the actions of the great, and even of kings themselves, provided they be of the ridiculous kind, are as fit objects of comedy, as any other. But he did not reflect, that the actions of the great being usually such, as interest, the intire community, at least scarcely any other falling beneath vulgar notice; and the higher characters being rarely seen or contemplated by the people but with reverence, hence it is, that in fact, the representation of high life cannot, without offence to probability, be made ridiculous, or consequently be admitted into comedy under this view. And therefore PLAUTUS, when he thought fit to
introduce these reverend personages on the comic stage in his AMPULITRUO, though he employed them in no very serious matters, was yet obliged to apologize for this impropriety in calling his play a Tragicomedy. What he says upon the occasion, though delivered with an air of pleasantry, is according to the laws of just criticism. i Faciam ut commista sit TRAGICOCOMOEDIA. Nam me perpetuo facere, ut sit Comoedia REGES QUO VENIANT ET Dii, non par arbitror, Quid igitur? Quoniam hic SERVOS QUOQUE
PARTES HABET, Faciam sit, proinde ut dixi, TraGICOCOMOEDIA.
PROL. IN AMPHIT. And now, taking the idea of the two dramas, as here opened, along with us, we shall be able to give an account of several attributes, common to both, or which further characterize each of them. And,
1. A plot will be required in both. For the end of tragedy being to excite the affections by action, and the end of comedy, to manifest the truth of character through it, an artful constitution of the Fable is required to do justice both to the one and the other. It serves to bring out the pathos, and to produce humoun. And thus the general form or structure of the two dramas will be one and the same.
. 2. More particularly, an unity and even simplicity in the conduct of the fablee is a perfection in each. For the course of the affections is diverted and weakened by the in- . . tervention of what we call a double plot; and , even by a multiplicity of subordinate events, though tending to a common end; and, of persons, though all of them, some way, concerned in promoting it. The like consideration shews the observance of this rule to be essen
The neglect of this is one of the greatest defects in the modern drama; which in nothing falls so much short of the perfection of the Greek scene as in this want of simplicity in the construction of its fable. The good sense of the author of the History of the Italian Theatre (who, though a mere player, appears to have had juster notions of the drama, than the generality of even professed critics) was sensibly struck with this difference in tragedy. “ Quant à l'unité d'action, says he, je trouve un grande
“ difference entre les tragedies Grecques et les tragedies .“ Françoises ; j'apperçois toujours aisément l'action des
" tragedies Grecques, et je ne la perds point de vûe; mais “ dans les tragedies Françoises, j'avoue, que j'ai souvent “ bien de la peine à demêler l'action des episodes, dont
elle est chargée." (Hist. du Theatre Italien, par Louis V RICCOBONI, P. 293. Paris 1728.] .
tial to just comedy. For when the attention is split on so many interfering objects, we are not at leisure to observe, nor do we so fully enter into, the truth of representation in any of them; the sense of humour, as of the pathos, depending very much on the continued and undiverted operation of its object upon us.
3. The two dramas agree, also, in this circumstance; that the manners of the persons exhibited should be imperfect. An absolutely good, or an absolutely bad, character is foreign to the purpose of each. And the reason is, 1, That such a representation is improbable. And probability constitutes, as we have seen, the very essence of comedy; and is the medium, through which tragedy is enabled most powerfully to affect us. 2. Such characters are improper to comedy, because, as was hinted above, they turn the attention aside from contemplating the expression of them, which we call humour. And they are not less unsuited to tragedy, because though they make a forci-. ble impression on the mind, yet, as Aristotle well observes, they do not produce the passions of pity and terror ; that is, their impressions are not of the nature of that pathos, by which tragedy works its purpose. [x. by.]
There are, likewise, some peculiarities, which distinguish the two dramas. And
. 1. Though a plot be necessary to produce humour, as well as the pathos, yet a good plot is not so essential to comedy, as tragedy. For the pathos is the result of the entire action; that is, of all the circumstances of the story taken together, and conspiring by a probable tendency, to a completion in the event. A failure in the just arrangement and disposition of the parts may, then, affect what is of the essence of this drama. On the contrary, humour, though brought out by action, is not the effect of the whole, but may be distinctly evidenced in a single scene; as may be eminently illustrated in the two comedies of Fletcher, called The Little French Lawyer, ". and The Spanish Curate. The nice contexture of the fable therefore, though it may give a pleasure of another kind, is not so immediately required to the production of that pleasure, which the nature of comedy demands. Much less is there occasion for that labour and ingenuity of contrivance, which is seen in the intricacy of the Spanish fable. Yet this is the taste of our comedy. Our writers are all for plot and intrigue; and never appear so well satisfied with themselves as when, to