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and to conclude by that which does him most honour, but still falls short of justification, the strong and sprightly eloquence of St Chrysostom drew its support from the masculine and vigorous atticism of this sarcastie comedian, to whom the father paid the same regard as Alexander to Homer, that of putting his works under his pillow, that he might read them at night before he slept, and in the morning as soon as he awaked.

GENERAL CONCLUSION

то

BRUMOY'S GREEK THEATRE.

Course.

THUS I have given a faithful extract, of the remains of Summary of the

four articles treata Aristophanes. That I have not

ed of in this disshewn them in their true form, I am not afraid that any body will complain. I have given an account of every thing as far as it was consistent with moral decency. No pen, however cynical or heathenish, would venture to produce in open day the horrid passages which I have put out of sight; and instead of regretting any part that I have suppressed, the very suppression will easily shew to what degree the Athenians were infected with licentiousness of imagination and corruption of principles. If the taste of antiquity allows us to preserve what time and barbarity have hitherto spared, religion and virtue at least oblige us not to spread it before the eyes of mankind. To end this work in an useful manner, let us examine in a few words the four particulars which are most striking in the eleven pieces of Aristophanes. II. The first is the character

Character of an of the ancient comedy, which has

cient comedy no likeness to any thing in na

a

ture. Its genius is so wild and strange, that it scarce admits a definition. In what class of co medy must we place it? It appears to me to be a species of writing by itself. If we had Phrynicus, Plato, Eupolis, Critinus, Ameipsias, and so many other celebrated rivals of Aristophanes, of whom all that we can find are a few fragments scattered in Plutarch, Athenias, and Suidas, we might compare them with our poet, settle the general scheme, observe the minuter differences, and form a complete notion of their comick stage. But for want of all this we can fix only on

Aristophanes, and it is true that he may be in some measure sufficient to furnish a tolerable judgment of the old comedy;

а for if we believe him, and who can be better credited? he was the most daring of all his brethren the poets, who practised the same kind of writing. Upon this supposition we may conclude, that the comedy of those days consisted in an allegory drawn out and continued ; an allegory never very regular, but often ingenious, and almost always carried beyond strict propriety, of satire keen and biting, but diversified, sprightly and unexpected ; so that the wound was given before it was perceived. Their points of satire were thunderbolts, and their wild figures, with their variety and quickness,' had the effect of lightning. Their imitation was carried even to resemblance of persons, and their common entertainments was a parody of rival poets joined, if I may so express it, with à parody of manners and habits.

But it would be tedious to draw out to the read. er that which he will already have perceived better than myself. I have no design to anticipate his

a

reflections: and therefore shall only sketch the picture, which he must finish by himself; he will pursue the subject farther, and form to himself a view of the common and domestic life of the Athenians, of which this kind of comedy was a picture, with: some aggravation of the features: he will bring within his viéw all the customs, manners, and vices, and the whole character of the people of Athens By bringing all these together he will fix in his mind an indelible idea of a people in whom so many contrarieties were united, and who in a manner that can scarce be expressed, connected nobility with the cast of Athens, wisdom with madness, rage for novelty with a bigotry for antiquity, the polite. ness of a monarchy with the roughness of a republick, refinement with coarseness, independence with slavery, laughtiness with servile compliance, severity of manners with debauchery, a kind of irreligion with piety. We shall do this in reading; as in travelling through different nations we make ourselves masters of their characters by combining their different appearances, and reflecting upon what we see. 111. The government of Athens The

governmakes a fine part of the ancient come

ment of the

Athenians. dy. In most states the mystery of government is confined within the walls of the cabinets; even in commonwealths it does not pass, but through five or six heads, who rule those that think themselves the rulers. Oratory dares not touch it, and comedy still less. Cicero himself did not speak freely upon so nice a subject as the Roman commonwealth; but the Athenian eloquence was informed of the whole secret, and searches the

a

recesses of the human mind, to fetch it out and expose it to the people. Demosthenes, and his contemporaries, speak with a freedom at which we are astonished, notwithstanding the notion we have of a popular goverment, yet at what time but this did comedy adventure to claim the same rights with civil eloquence ? The Italian comedy of the last

age, all daring as it was, could for its boldness come into no competition with the ancient. It was limited to general satire, which was sometimes carried so far, that the malignity was overlooked in an attention to the wild exaggeration, the unexpected strokes, the pungent wit, and the malignity concealed under such wild flights as became the character of Harlequin. But though it so far resembled Aristophanes, our age is yet at a great distance from his, and the Italian comedy from his

But with respect to the liberty of censuring the government, there can be no comparison made of one age or comedy with another. · Aristophanes is the only writer of his kind, and is for that reason of the highest value. A powerful state set at the head of Greece, is the subject of his merriment, and that merriment is allowed by the state itself. This appears to us an inconsistency; but it is true that it was the interest of the state to allow it, though not 'always witho inconveniency. It was a restraint

upon

the ambition and tyranny of single men, a matter of great importance to a people so very jealous of their liberty. Cleon, Alcibiades, Lamachus, and many other generals and magistrates, were kept under by fear of the comick strokes of a poet so little cautious as Aristophanes. He was once indeed in danger of

scenes.

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