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INTRODUCTION.

TH

HE end of tragedy is to please

and instruct; the means, by which that end is to be obtained, are terror and pity : these only are productive of the true pathetic, these only can inspire that sympathetic distress, that delicate melancholy which we feel for the misfortunes of others, more pleasing to a sensible mind than the noisier and more transient joys of mirth. To laugh at the foibles and absurdities of others is common to all mankind but to feel for the woes of others is the glorious prerogative of the humane. To awaken this tender passion, the tragedian must place before

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us the representation of actions, that have, or that might have happened: fiction must put on the air of truth, for to feel we must first believe, and to what we refuse our credit, to that likewise shall we refuse our tears. Improbabilities we can never approve, impossibilities must necessarily offend. It is the duty therefore of the tragic poet to adhere strictly to veresimilitude, not only in the subject of the drama, but in the conduct of it. His characters must be such as exist in nature, or owe their supposed existence to superstition, or fear, or credulity. The action should be one, and such as may be presumed to have happened, if not in the time of the representation, at least in the space of twentyfour hours, that it may have some refemblance to truth.

Ficta voluptatis causà sint proxima veris
Neu quodcunque volet poscat fibi fabula credi.

Hor. de Arte Poet.

The unity of place is to be observed, for the tragic poet and the magician are different; the latter modo me Thebis modo ponat-Athenis, to the former that power is not given.

Qu'en un lieu, qu'en un jour un seul fait

accompli Tienne jusqu'à la fin le theatre rempli.

Boileau.

But from this opinion a certain * critic will be found to dissent, for he affirms that the unities are not effentially necessary. “ Time, says “he, may be extended. If in the “ first act preparations for war are

s made

* Vide Dr. Johnson's preface to Shakespear.

represented.

“ made against Mithridates, the “ event of that war may without

absurdity be represented in the “ catastrophe; for we know that as there is neither war nor prepa“ rations for war.” But the question is not about the reality, but the seeming possibility of the action

Now it is possible that some preparations for war might be made in the space of three hours; but it is not possible that the preparations for war, and that the event of the war fhould take place in fo limited a time. It is possible for me to conceive that a person might appear at this instant with an army on his march to Poland but it is not pofsible for me to conceive that he should return victorious from that country in the space of an hour and a half. He must

;

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