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very little of the pleasant in bis drama. Nay, one of the most admired of his comedies hath the gravity, and, in some places, almost the solemnity of tragedy itself. But this idea of .comedy is not peculiar to the more polite and liberal ancients. Some of the best modern comedies are fashioned in agreement to it. And an instance or two, which I am going to produce from the stage of simple nature, may seem to shiew it the plain suggestion of com mon sense.
66 The Amautas (says the author of the “ Royal Commentaries of Peru), who were 6 men of the best ingenuity amongst them, in“ vented COMEDIES and TRAGEDIES; which, 165 on their solemn festivals, they represented 6 before the King and the Lords of his court. - The plot or argument of their tragedies was 16 to represent their military exploits, and the
“ triumphs, victories, and heroic actions of .“ their renowned men. And the subject or - design of their comedies was, to demonstrate “ the manner of good husbandry in cultivating 6 and manuring their fields, and to shew the 6 management of domestic affairs, with other “ familiar inatters. These plays, continues “ he, were not made up of obscene and dis“ honest farces, but such as were of serious "entertainment, composed of grave and acute 5 sentences, &c.”
Two things are observable in this brief account of the Peruvian drama. First, that its species had respect to the very different objects of the higher or lower stations. For the great and powerful were occupied in war : and agriculture was the chief employment of private and ordinary life. And, in this distinction, these Indian, perfectly agreed with the old Roman poets; whose PRAETEXTATA and TOGATA shew, that they had precisely the same ideas of the drama. Secondly, we do not learn only, what difference there was betwixt their tragedy and comedy, but we are also told, what difference there was not. It was not, that one was sérious, and the other pleasant. For we find it expressly asserted of both, that they were of grave and serious entertainment.
And this last will explain a similar observation on the Chinese, who, as P. de PREMERE acquaints us, make no distinction betwixt tragedies and comedies. That is, no distinction, but what the different subjects of each make necessary. They do not, as our European dramas, differ in this, that the one is intended
to make us weep, and the other to make us laugh.
. These are full and precise testimonies. For
I lay no stress on what the Historian of Peru tells us, that there were no obscenities in their comedy, nor on what an encoiniast of China pretends, that there is not so much as un obscene word in all their languages: as being sensible, that though indeed these must needs be considerable abatements to the humour of their comic scenes, yet, their ingenuity might possibly find means to remedy these defects by the invention and dextrous application of the double entendre, which, on our stage, is found to supply the place of rank obscenity, and, indeed, to do its office of exciting laughter almost as well.
But, as I said, there is no occasion for this argument. We may venture, without the help of it, to join these authorities to that of Terence; which, together, enable us to conclude very fully, in opposition to the general sentiment, that ridicule is not of the essence of comedyh.
5 P. Alvarez SEMEDO, speaking of their poetry, says, “ Le plus grand advantage et la plus grande utilité qu'en “ ont tiré les Chinois, est cette grande modestie et re" tenuë incomparable, qui se voit en leurs ecrits, n'ayant “ pas meme une lettre en tous leurs livres, ni en toutes leurs “ ecritures, pour exprimer les parties honteuses de la nature." [Hist. UNIV. DE LA CHINE, p. 82. à Lyon 1667. 4to.]
But, because the general practice of the Greek and Roman theatres, which strongly countenance the other opinion, may still be thought to outweigh this single Latin poet, together with all the eastern and western barbarians, that can be thrown into the balance, let me go one step further, and, by explaining the rise and occasion of this practice, demonstrate, that, in the present case, their authority is, in fact, of no moment.
The form of the Greek, from whence the Roman and our drama is taken, though generally improved by reflexion and just criticism, yet, like so many other great inventions, was, in its original, the product of pure chance. Each of its species had sprung out of a chorussong, which was afterwards incorporated into the legitimate drama, and found essential to its true form. But reason, which saw to
h LE RIDICULE EST CE QU'IL Y A DE PLUS ESSENTIEL A LA COMEDIE. (P. RAPIN, REFLEX. SUR LA POIS. p. 154. PARIS 1684.]
establish what was right in this fortuitous conformation of the drama, did not equally succeed in detecting and separating what was wrong.. For the occasion of this chorus-song, in their religious festivities, was widely different: the business at one time, being to express their gratitude, in celebrating the praises of their gods and heroes; at another, to indulge their mirth, in jesting and sporting among themselves. The character of their drama, which had its rise from hence, iconformed exactly to the difference of these occa
1 οι μεν ζεμνότεροι τας καλάς εμιμένο τράξες, και τας των τοιέτων τυχας: οι δε ευτελέςεροι, τώς των φαυλων, ΠΡΩΤΟΝ ΨΟΓΟΥΣ ΠΟΙOΥΝΤΕΣ, ΩΣΠΕΡ ΕΤΕΡΟΙ ΥΜΝΟΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΓKSMIA. (11CP. IOIHT. xd.] This is Aristotle's account of the origin of the different species of POETRY. They were occasioned, he says, by the different and even opposite tempers and dispositions of men: those of a loftier spirit delighiing in the encomiustic poetry, while the humbler sort betook themselves to satire. But this, also, is the just account of the rise and character of the different species of the DRAMA. For they grevy. up, he tells us in this very chapter, from the DITHYRAMBIC, and PHALLIC songs. And who were the men, who chaunted these, but the EEMNOTEPOI, and EYTEAEETEPOI, before-mentioned ? And how were they employed in them, but the former, in hyinning the praises of Bacchus; the latter, in dealing about obscene jokes and taunting inveciives on each other ? So that the characters of the men, and their subjects, being exactly