confused, dark suggestion of it. When she does put it in execution, her thirst of revenge on Jason might, we shouid have thought, have been sufficiently slaked by the horrible death of his young wife and her father; and the new motive, namely, that Jason, as she pretends, would infallibly murder the children, and therefore she must anticipate him, will by no means bear examination. For she could as easily have saved the living children with herself, as have carried off their dead bodies in the dragon-chariot. Still this may, perhaps, be justified by the perturbation of mind into wbich she was plunged by the crime she had perpetrated.

Perhaps it was such pictures of universal sorrow, of the fall of flourishing families and states from the greatest glory to the lowest misery, pay, to entire annihilation, as Euripides lias sketched in the Troades, that gained for him, from Aristotle, the title of the most tragic of poets. The concluding scene, where the captive ladies, allotted as slaves to different masters, leave Troy in flames behind them, and proceed towards the ships, is truly grand. It is impossible, however, for a piece to have less action, in the energetical sense of the word: it is a series of situations and events, which have no other connexion than that of a common origin in the capture of Troy, but in no respect have they a common aim. The accumulation of helpless suffering, against which the will and sentiment even are not allowed to revolt, at last wearies us, and exhausts our compassion. The greater the struggle to avert a calamity, the deeper the impression it makes when it bursts forth after all. But when so little concern is shown, as is here the case with Astyanax, for the speech of Talthybius prevents even the slightest attempt to save him, the spectator soon acquiesces in the result. In this way Euripides frequently fails. In the ceaseless demands which this play makes on our compassion, the pathos is not duly economized and brought to a climax: for instance, Andromache's lament over her living son is much more heart-rending than that of Hecuba for her dead one. The effect of the latter is, however, aided by the sight of the little corpse lying on Hector's shield. Indeed, in the composition of this piece the poet has evidently reckoned much on ocular effect: thus, for the sake of contrast with the captive ladies, Helen appears splendidly dressed, Andromache is mounted on a car laden with spoils; and I



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doubt not but that at the conclusion the entire scene was in flames. The trial of Helen painfully interrupts the train of our sympathies, by an idle altercation which ends in nothing; for in spite of the accusations of Hecuba, Menelaus abides by the resolution which he had previously formed. The defence of Helen is about as entertaining as Isocrates' sophistical eulogium of her.

Euripides was not content with making Hecuba roll in the dust with covered head, and whine a whole piece through; he has also introduced her in another tragedy wbich bears her name, as the standing representative of suffering and woe. The two actions of this piece, the sacrifice of Polyxena, and the revenge on Polymestor, on account of the murder of Polydorus, have nothing in common with each other but their connexion with Hecuba. The first half possesses great beauties of that particular kind in which Euripides is pre-eminently successful: pictures of tender youth, female innocence, and noble resignation to an early and violent death. A human sacrifice, that triumph of barbarian superstition, is represented us executed, suffered, and looked upon, with that Hellenism of feeling which so early effected the abolition of such sacrifices among the Greeks. But the second half most revoltingly effaces these soft impressions. It is made up of the revenge ful artifices of Hecuba, the blind avarice of Polymestor, and the paltry policy of Agamemnon, who, not daring himself to call the Thracian king to account, nevertheless beguiles him into the hands of the captive women. Neither is it very consistent that Hecuba, advanced in years, bereft of strength, and overwhelmed with sorrow, should nevertheless display so much presence of mind in the execution of revenge, and such a command of tongue in her accusation and derision of Polymestor.

We have another example of two distinct and separate actions in the same tragedy, the Mad Hercules. The first is the distress of his family during his absence, and their deliverance by his return; the second, his remorse at having in a sudden frenzy murdered his wife and children. The one action follows, but by no means arises out of the other.

The Phoenisse is rich in tragic incidents, in the common acceptation of the word: the son of Creon, to save his native city, precipitates himself from the walls; Eteocles and Poly



proper action.

nices perish by each other's hands; over their dead bodios Jocasta falls by her own hand; the Argives who have made war upon Thebes are destroyed in battle; Polynices remains uninterred; and lastly, (Edipus and Antigone are driven into exile.

After this enumeration of the incidents, the Scholiast aptly notices the arbitrary manner in which the poet has proceeded. “This drama,” says he, “ is beautiful in theatrical effect, even because it is full of incidents totally foreign to the

Antigone looking down from the walls has nothing to do with the action, and Polynices enters the town under the safe-conduct of a truce, without any effect being thereby produced. After all the rest the banished Edipns and a wordy ode are tacked on, being equally to no purpose." This is a severe criticism, but it is just.

Not more lenient is the Scholiast on Orestes: “ This piece," he

says, " is one of those which produce a great effect on the stage, but with respect to characters it is extremely bad; for, with the exception of Pylades, all the rest are good for nothing." Moreover, "Its catastrophe is more suitable to comedy than tragedy." This drama begins, indeed, in the most agitating manner. Orestes, after the murder of his mother, is represented lying on his bed, afflicted with anguish of soul and madness; Électra sits at his feet, and she and the chorus remain in trembling expectation of his awaking. Afterwards, however, everything takes a perverse turn, and ends with the most violent strokes of stage effect. The Iphigenia in Tauris

, in which the fate of Orestes ie still further followed out, is less wild and extravagant, but in the representation both of character or passion, it seldom rises above mediocrity. The mutual recognition between brother and sister, after such adventures and actions, as that Iphigenia, who had herself once trembled before the bloody altar, was on the point of devoting her brother to a similar fate, produces no more than a transient emotion. The flight of Orestes and his sister is not highly calculated to excite our interest: the artifice by which Iphigenia brings it about is readily credited by Thoas, who does not attempt to make any opposition till both are safe, and then he is appeased by one of the ordinary divine interpositions. This device has been so used and abused by Euripides, that in nine out of his eighteen tragedies, a divinity descends to unravel the complicated knot.



In Andromache Orestes makes his appearance for the fourth time. The Scholiast, in whose opinion we may, we think, generally recognize the sentiments of the most important of ancient critics, declares this to be a very second-rate play, in which single scenes alone are deserving of any praise. Of those on which Racine has based his free imitations, this is unquestionably the very worst, and therefore the French critics have an easy game to play in their endeavours to depreciate the Grecian predecessor, from whom Racine has in fact derived little more than the first suggestion of his tragedy.

The Baccha represents the infectious and tumultuous enthusiasm of the worship of Bacchus, with great sensuous power and vividness of conception. The obstinate unbelief of Pentheus, his infatuation, and terrible punishment by the hands of his own mother, form a bold picture. The effect on the stage must have been extraordinary. Imagine, only, a chorus with flying and dishevelled hair and dress, tambourines, cymbals, &c., in their hands, like the Bacchants we see on bas-reliefs, bursting impetuously into the orchestra, and executing their inspired dances amidst tumultuons music,— circumstance, altogether unusual, as the choral odes were generally sang and danced at a solemn step, and with no other accompaniment than a flute. Here the luxuriance of ornament, which Euripides everywhere affects, was for once appropriate. When, therefore, several of the modern critics assign to this piece a very low rank, they seem to me not to know what they themselves would wish. In the composition of this piece, I cannot help admiring a harmony and unity, which we seldom meet with in Euripides, as well as abstinence from every foreigu matter, so that all the motives and effects flow from one source, and concur towards a common end. After the Hippolytus, I should be inclined to assign to this play the first place among all the extant works of Euripides.

The Heraclido and the Supplices are mere occasional tragedies, i. e., owing their existence to some temporary incident or excitement, and they must have been indebted for their success to nothing else but their flattery of the Athenians. They celebrate two ancient heroic deeds of Athens, on which the paneygrists, amongst the rest Isocrates, who always




mixed up the fabulous witn the historical, lay astonishing stress: the protection they are said to have afforded to the children of Hercules, the ancestors of the Lacedæmonian kings, from the persecution of Eurystheus, and their going to war with Thebes on behalf of Adrastus, king of Argos, and forcing the Thebans to give the rites of burial to the Seven Chieftains and their host. The Supplices was, as we know, represented during the Peloponnesian war, after the conclusion of a treaty between the Argives and the Lacedæmonians; and was intended to remind the Argives of their ancient obligation to Athens, and to show how little they could hope to prosper in the war against the Athenians. The Heraclido was undoubtedly written with a similar view in respect to Lacedæmon. Of the two pieces, however, which are both cast in the same mould, the Female Suppliants, so called from the mothers of the fallen heroes, is by far the richest in poetical merit; the Heraclidæ appears, as it were, but a faint impression of the other. In the former piece, it is true, Theseus appears at first in a somewhat unamiable light, upbraiding, as he does, the unfortunate Adrastus with his errors at such great length, and perhaps with so little justice, before he condescends to assist him; again the disputation between Theseus and the Argive herald, as to the superiority of a monarchical or a democratical constitution, ought in justice to be banished from the stage to the rhetorical schools; while the moral eulogium of Adrastus over the fallen heroes is, at least, very much out of place. I am convinced that Euripides was here drawing the characters of particular Athenian generals, who had fallen in some battle or other. But even in this case the passage cannot be justified in a dramatic point of view; however, without such an object, it would have been silly and ridiculous in describing those heroes of the age of Hercules, (a Capaneus, for instance, who set even heaven itself at defiance,) to have launched out into the praise of their civic virtues. How apt Euripides was to wander from his subject in allusions to perfectly extraneous matters, and sometimes even to himself, we may see from a speech of Adrastus, who most impertinently is made to say, “It is not fair that the poet, while he delights others with his works, should himself suff-r inconvenience.' However, the funeral lamentations and the swan-like song of

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