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To impose on the audience, with respect to the unity of place, there is an artificial contrivance of scenes. For my own part, I fee no great harm likely to accrue to the understanding, in thus accompanying the poet in his magical operations, and in helping on an innocent deceit ; while he not only raises or fooths the passions, but transports me from place to place, just as it pleases him, and carries on the thread of his story.
This perpetual varying and shifting the scene, is a constant cause of offence to many who set up for admirers of the ancients. ? Johnson, who
3 In his prologue to Every man in his humour. Sir Philip Sydney, in his defence of poesie, has the following no bad remark. “ Our tragedies and comedies, not with“ out cause cried out against, observing rules neither of " honest civilitie, ror skilful poetrie. Excepting Gorbo“ ducke (againe I say of those that I have seene) which " notwithstanding, as it is full of stately speeches, and well “ founding phrases, climing to the height of Seneca his “ stile, and as full of notable moralitie, which it doth most “ delightfully teach, and so obtaine the very end of poesie. “ Yet in truth it is very defectuous in the circumstances, “ which grieves me, because it might not remaine as an “ exact modell of all tragedies. For it is faultie both in “ piace and time, the two neceffarie companions of all cor
poral actions. For where the stage should alway repre
thought it a poetical sin to transgress the rules of the Grecians, and old Romans, has this glance at his friend Shakespeare.
“ sent but one place ; and the uttermost time presupposed " in it should bee, both by Aristotle's precept, and common
reason, but one day ; there are both many days, and “ many places inartificially imagined. But if it be so in “ Gorboducke, how much more in all the rest? where you - shall have Asia of the one side and Affricke on the other, “ and so many other under-kingdoms, that the plaier when “ he comes in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or or else the tale will not be conceived. Now shall you have “ three ladies walke to gather flowers, and then we must " beleeve the stage to bce a garden. By and by we heare
news of shipwracke in the same place, then wee are to • blame if we accept it not for a rocke. Upon the backe of « that comes out a hideous monter with fire and smoke, “ and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for
a cave: while in the mean time two armies fie in, repre“ sented with foure swordes and bucklers, and then what • hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field ? Now of “ time they are much more liberal : for ordinarie it is, that “ two young princes fall in love ; after many traverses thee
is got with childe, delivered of a faire boy, hee is lost,
groweth a man, falleth in love, and is ready to get another “ childe ; and all this in two houres space : which how o abfurd it is in sense, even sense may imagine. *** But - besides these groíle absurdities, how all their playes bee " neither right tragedies, nor right comedies, mingling
kings and clownes, not becauss the matter so carrieth it,
To make a child now swaddled to proceed
Where neither chorus wafts you oʻre the seas &c. And again in his play, Every man out of his humour :
Mit. How comes it then, that in some one play we see so many seas, countryes and kingdoms, past over with such admirable dexteritie ? " but thrust in the clowne by head and shoulders to play a " part in majesticall matters, with neither decency nor difas cretion: so as neither the admiration and commiseration, “ nor the right sportfulnesse, is by their mongrell tragi
comedy obtained. *** I know the ancients have one “ or two examples of tragicomedies, as Plautus hath
Amphitrio. But if we marke them well, we shall finde is that they never, or very daintily match horne-pipes and
funerals. * * * The whole tract of a comedie should be • full of delight, as the tragedie should be still maintained
in a well raised admiration." 4 Sesquipedalia verba. Hor. Art. Poet. ¥. 97. .5 Those three plays relating the history of K. Henry VI. are much the worst of Shakespeare's plays. 6 In Shakespeare's K. Henry V.
Cor. O, that but sbews how well the authours can travaile in their vocation, and out-runne the apprehenfion of their auditory.
Whether the unity of time and place is so necessary to the drama, as some are pleased to require, I cannot determine ; but this is certain, the duration should seem uninterrupted, and the story ought to be one.
S dramatic poetry is the imitation of an
action, and as there can be no action but what proceeds from the manners and the sentiments ; manners and sentiments are its essential parts ; and the former come next to be considered, as the source and cause of action. 'Tis action that makes us happy or miserable; and 'tis manners, whereby the characters, the various inclinations, and genius of the persons are marked and distinguished. There are four things to be observed in manners.
I. That they be 'good. Not only strongly marked and distinguished, but good in a moral sense; as far forth as the character will allow.
1 “Εν μέν και πρώτον όπως χgησα ή. Αriftot. σερί ποιητ. κεφ. ε.
A Thais of Menander was as moral, as you could suppose a courtesan to be ; and so were all Menander's characters, as we may judge from his tranlator Terence. They were good in a moral, common, and ordinary acceptation of the word, not in a high philosophical sense. In Homer, the parent of all poetry, the angry, the inexorable Achilles has valour, friendship, and a contempt of death. In Virgil, the truest of his copyers, even Mezentics, the cruel and atheistical tyrant, finely opposed to the pious Aeneas, when he resolves not to survive his beloved fon Lausus, raises some kind of pity in the reader's breaft,
Aeftuat ingens Imo in corde PUDOR, mistoque infania luctu, Et furiis agitatus AMOR, et consCIA VIRTUS.
Milton would not paint the Devil without some moral virtues ; he has not only valour and conduct, but even compassionate concern, . 3 Tbrice be alsay'd, and thrice in spight of scorn
Tears such as Angels weep, burs? forth.
and prefers the general cause, to his own safety and ease.