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CONCLUDING REVIEW OF HIS WORKS.

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It was a praiseworthy daring (such singular prejudices then prevailed in France) to exhibit French heroes in Zaire. In Alzire Voltaire went still farther, and treated a subject in modern history never yet touched by his countrymen. In the former piece he contrasted the chivalrous and Saracenic way of thinking; in this we have Spaniards opposed to Peruvians. The difference between the old and new world has given rise to descriptions of a truly poetical nature. Though the action is a pure invention, I recognise in this piece more historical and more of what we may call symbolical truth, than in most French tragedies. Zamor is a representation of the savage in his free, and Monteze in his subdued state; Guzman, of the arrogance of the conqueror; and Alvarez, of the mild influence of Christianity. Alzire remains between these conflicting elements in an affecting struggle betwixt attachment to her country, its manners, and

first choice of her heart, on the one part, and new ties of honour and duty on the other. All the human motives speak in favour of Alzire's love, which were against the passion of Zaire. The last scene, where the dying Guzman is dragged in, is beneficently overpowering. The noble lines on the difference of their religions, by which Zamor is converted by Guzman, are borrowed from an event in history: they are the words of the Duke of Guise to a Huguenot who wished to kill him; but the glory of the poet is not therefore less in applying them as he has done. In short, notwithstanding the improbabilities in the plot, which are easily discovered, and have often been censured, Alzire appears to be the most fortunate attempt, and the most finished of all Voltaire's compositions.

In Mahomet, want of true singleness of purpose has fearfully avenged itself on the artist. He may affirm as much as he pleases that his aim was directed solely against fanaticism; there can be no doubt that he wished to overthrow the belief in revelation altogether, and that for that object he considered every means allowable. We have thus a work which is productive of effect; but an alarmingly painful effect, equally repugnant to humanity, philosophy, and religious feeling. The Mahomet of Voltaire makes two innocent young persons, a brother and sister, who, with a childlike reverence, adore him as a messenger from God, unconsciously murder their own father, and this from the motives of a'i 309 THE TRESE TRAGIC THEATRE-FOLTAIRE. ineestures are wel. by his allowance, they had also heerme makry enrungei: the brother. after he has blicly elastal 23 ile mission, he rewards with poison, and the sister bessertes Sve the gratiteation of his owo vile last. This tissue of atre cities, this evid-blooded delight in wiekeices ereceris perhaps the measure of human nature; bat, at all events. i encats the bounds of poetie esh:bition, even thoazh such a measur shcui ever bave appeared in the course of gres Bis. orriaking this. what a distigarement, nay. distortion of kser! He has stripped her. too. of ber Fonderful charms; bot i trace of oriental eoloering is to be found. Vahomet vas a time peopdet. but one certainly under the inspiratie of epoksasm. ethervise he would berez by his doctrine kare rerrianazei che hait of the world What an absurdity to rade kin merely s ecol deceiver! One alone of the eart shine marims of the Kona wc.d be se cient to acea are the wicie of these inevezrices intentiocs.

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CONCLUDING REVIEW OF HIS WORKS.

seek a hero's death, when the unfortunate mistake is cleared up. So far the piece is irreproachable, and deserving of the greatest praise. But it is weakened by other imperfections. It is of great detriment to its perspicuity, that we are not at the very first allowed to hear the letter without superscription which occasions all the embarrassment, and that it is not sent off before our eyes. The political disquisitions in the first act are extremely tedious; Tancred does not appear till the third act, though his presence is impatiently looked for, to give animation to the scene. The furious imprecations of Amenaide, at the conclusion, are not in harmony with the deep but soft emotion with which we are overpowered by the reconciliation of the two lovers, whose hearts, after so long a mutual misunderstanding, are reunited in the moment of separation by death.

In the earlier piece of the Orphelin de la Chine, it might be considered pardonable if Voltaire represented the great Dschingis-kan in love. This drama ought to be entitled The Conquest of China, with the conversion of the cruel Khan of Tartary, &c. Its whole interest is concentrated in two children, who are never once seen.

The Chinese are reprosented as the most wise and virtuous of mankind, and they overflow with philosophical maxims. As Corneille, in his old age, made one and all of his characters politicians, Voltaire in like manner furnished his out with philosophy, and availed himself of them to preach up his favourite opinions. He was not deterred by the example of Corneille, when the power of representing the passions was extinct, from publishing a host of weak and faulty productions.

Since the time of Voltaire the constitution of the French stage has remained nearly the same. No genius has yet arisen sufficiently mighty to advance the art a step farther, and victoriously to refute, by success, their time-strengthened prejudices. Many attempts have been made, but they generally follow in the track of previous essays, without surpassing them. The endeavour to introduce more historical extent into dramatic composition is frustrated by the traditional limitations and restraints. The attacks, both theoretical and practical, which have been made in France itself on the prevailing system of rules, will be most suitably noticed and observed upon when we come to review the present condition of the French stage, after considering this

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SUBSEQUENT CONSTITUTION OF THE FRENCH STAGE.

Comedy and the other secondary kinds of dramatic works, since in these attempts have been made either to found new species, or arbitrarily to overturn the classification hitherto established.

LECTURE XXI.

French Comedy-Molière-Criticism of his Works—Scarron, Boursault,

Regnard; Comedies in the Time of the Regency; Marivaux and Destouches; Piron and Gresset—Later Attempts—The Heroic Opera : Quinault-Operettes and Vaudevilles–Diderot's attempted Change of the Theatre—The Weeping Drama-Beaumarchais-Melo-Dramas Merits and Defects of the Histrionic Art.

The same system of rules and proprieties, which, as I have endeavoured to show, must inevitably have a narrowing influence on Tragedy, has, in France, been applied to Comedy much more advantageously. For this mixed species of composition has, as already seen, an unpoetical side; and some degree of artificial constraint, if not altogether essential to Comedy, is certainly beneficial to it; for if it is treated with too negligent a latitude, it runs a risk, in respect of general structure, of falling into shapelessness, and in the representation of individual peculiarities, of sinking into every-day common-place. In the French, as well as in the Greek, it happens that the same syllabic measure is used in Tragedy and Comedy, which, on a first view, may appear singular. But if the Alexandrine did not appear to us peculiarly adapted to the free imitative expression of pathos, ou the other hand, it must be owned that a comical effect is produced by the application of so symmetrical a measure to the familiar turns of dialogue. Moreover, the grammatical conscientiousness of French poetry, which is so greatly injurious in other species of the drama, is fully suited to Comedy, where the versification is not purchased at the expense of resemblance to the language of conversation, where it is not intended to elevate the dialogue by sublimity and dignity above real life, but merely to communicate to it greater ease and lightness. Hence the opinion of the French, who hold a comedy iu verse in much higher estimation than a comedy iu prose, seems to me to admit fairly, of a justification

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I endeavoured to show that the Unities of Place and Time are inconsistent with the essence of many tragical subjects, because a comprehensive action is frequently carried on in distant places at the same time, and because great determinations can only be slowly prepared. This is not the case in Comedy: here Intrigue ought to prevail, the active spirit of which quickly hurries towards its object; and hence the unity of time may here be almost naturally observed. The domestic and social circles in which Comedy moves are usually assembled in one place, and, consequently, the poet is not under the necessity of sending our imagination abroad: only it might perhaps have been as well not to interpret the unity of place so very strictly as not to allow the transition from one room to another, or to different houses of the same town. The choice of the street for the scene, a practice in which the Latin comic writers were frequently followed in the earlier times of Modern Comedy, is quite irreconcileable with our way of living, and the more deserving of censure, as in the case of the ancients it was an inconvenience which arose from the construction of their theatre.

According to French critics, and the opinion which has become prevalent through them, Molière alone, of all their comic writers, is classical; and all that has been done since his time is merely estimated as it approximates more or less to this supposed pattern of an excellence which can never be surpassed, nor even equalled. Hence we shall first proceed to characterize this founder of the French Comedy, and then give a short sketch of its subsequent progress.

Molière has produced works in so many departments, anıl of such different value, that we are hardly able to recognize the same author in all of them; and yet it is usual, when speaking of his peculiarities and merits, and the advance which he gave to his art, to throw the whole of his labours into one mass together.

Born and educated in an inferior rank of life, he enjoyed the advantage of learning by direct experience the modes of living among the industrious portion of the community—the so-called Bourgeois class--and of acquiring the talent of imitating low modes of expression. At an after period, when Louis XIV. took him into his service, he had opportunities, although from a subordinate station, of narrowly observing the court. He was an actor, and, it would appear, of pecu

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