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'These lights and shades (as the poet finely calls the intermixture of many passions, which, with the leading or principal one, form the human character) must be blended together in every picture of dramatic manners; because the avowed business of the drama is to image real life. Yet the draught of the leading passion must be as general as this strife in nature permits, in order to express the intended character more perfectly.
All which again is easily illustrated in the instance of painting. In portraits of character, as we may call those that give a picture of the manners, the artist, if he be of real ability, will not go to work on the possibility of an abstract idea. All he intends, is to shew that some one quality predominates : and this he images strongly, and by such signatures as are most conspicuous in the operation of the leading passion.) And when he hath done this, we may, in common speech or in compliment, if we please, to his art, say of such a portrait that it images to us not the man but the passion ; just as the ancients observed of the famous statue of Apollodorus by Silarion, that it expressed not the angry Apollodorus, but his passion of angerf. But by this must
f Non hominem ex ære fecit, sed iracundiam. Plin. xxxiv. 8. be understood only that he has well expressed the leading parts of the designed character. For the rest he treats his subject as he would any other ; that is, he represents the concomitant affections, or considers merely that general symmetry and proportion which are expeeted in a human figure. And this is to copy nature, which affords no specimen of a man turned all into a single passion. No metamorphosis could be more strange or incredible. Yet portraits of this vicious taste are the adiniration of common starers, who, if they find a picture of a miser for instance (as there is no commoner subject of moral portraits) in a collection, where every muscle is strained, and feature hardened into the expression of this idea, never fail to profess their wonder and approbation of it. On this idea of excellence Le Brun's book of the Passions must be said to contain a set of the justest moral portraits : And the CHARACTERS of Theophrastus might be recommended, in a dramatic view, as preferable to those of Terence.
The virtuosi in the fine arts would certainly laugh at the former of these judgments. But the latter, I suspect, will not be thought so extraordinary. At least if one may guess from the practice of some of our best comic writers,
and the success which such plays have commonly met with. It were easy to instance in almost all plays of character. But if the reader would see the extravagance of building dramatic manners on abstract ideas, in its full light, he needs only 'turn to B. Jonson's Every man out of his humour; which under the name of a play of character is in fact, an unnatural, and, as the painters call it, hard delineation of a group of simply existing passions, wholly chimerical, and unlike to any . thing we observe in the commerce of real life. Yet this comedy has always had its admirers. And Randolph, in particular, was so taken v with the design, that he seems to have formed his muse's looking-glass in express imitation of it.
Shakespeare, we may observe, is in this as in all the other more essential beauties of the v drama, a perfect model. If the discerning reader peruse attentively his comedies with this view, he will find his best-marked characters discoursing through a great deal of their parts, just like any other, and only expressing their essential and leading qualities occasionally, and as circumstances concur to give an easy exposition to them. This singular excellence of his comedy, was the effect of his copying
faithfully after' nature, and of the force and vivacity of his genius, which made him attentive to what the progress of the scene successively presented to him: whilst imitation and inferior talents occasion little writers to wind themselves up into the habit of attending perpetually to their main view, and a solicitude to keep their favourite characters in constant play and agitation. Though in this illiberal exercise of their wit, they may be said to use the persons of the drama as a certain facetious sort do their acquaintance, whom they urge and teize with their civilities, not to give them a reasonable share in the conversation, but to force them to play tricks for the diversion of the company
I have been the longer on this argument, to prevent the reader's carrying what I say of the superiority of plays of character to plays of intrigue into an extreme; a mistake, into which some good writers have been unsuspectingly betrayed by the acknowledged truth of the general principle. It is so natural for men on all occasions, to fly out into extremes, that too much care cannot be had to retain them in a due medium. - But to return from this digression to the consideration of the difference of the two dramas.
3. A sameness of character is not usually objected to in tragedy: in comedy, it would not be endured. The passion of avarice, to resume the instance given above, being the main object, we find nothing hut a disgustful repetition in a second attempt to delineate that character. A particular cruel man only engrossing our regard in Nero, when the train of events evidencing such cruelty is changed, we have all the novelty we look for, and can contemplate, with pleasure, the very same character, set forth by a different course of action, or displayed in some other person.
4. Comedy succeeds best when the scene is laid at home, tragedy for the most part when abroad. “ This appears at first sight whim- sical and capricious, but has its foundation “ in nature. What we chiefly seek in comedy “ is a true image of life and manners, but we " are not easily brought to think we have it 6 given us, when dressed in foreign modes and “ fashions. And yet a good writer must follow “his scene, and observe decorum. On the “contrary, 'tis the action in tragedy which “ most engages our attention. But to fit a “ domestic occurrence for the stage, we must " take greater liberties with the action than a