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DRA M A.
HOSE dramas of Shakespear, which he distinguishes by the name of his hiftories, being of an original kind and peculiar construction, cannot come within any rules which are prior to their existence. The office of the critic, in regard to poetry, is like that of the grammarian and rhetorician in refpect to language: it is their business to shew why fuch and such modes of speech are proper and graceful, others improper and ungraceful: but they pronounce only on fuch words and expreffions as are actually extant.
The rules of Ariftotle were drawn from D 4 the
the tragedies of Æschylus, Sophocles, &c. Had that great critic feen a play fo fashioned on the chronicles of his country, thus repre fentative of the manners of the times, and characters of the moft illuftrious perfons concerned in a series of important events, perhaps he would have efteemed fuch a fort of drama well worth his attention, as very peculiarly adapted to thofe ends which the Grecian philofophers propofed in popular entertainments. If it be the chief ufe of history, that it teaches philofophy by experience, this fpecies of history must be allowed to be the best preceptor. The catastrophe of these plays is not derived from a vain and idle fable of the wrath of Juno, or the revenge of flighted Bacchus; nor is a man represented entangled in the web of fate, from which his virtues and his deities cannot extricate him: but here we are admonished to observe the confequences of pride and ambition, the tyrant's dangers and the traitor's fate. The fentiments and the manners, the paffions and their confequences, are openly expofed and immediately united: