« PreviousContinue »
4. Nor faild'tbey to express bow much they prais'd,
Tbat for the general Safety be despis’d
His own. So that the Devil's character has every thing agreeable to the modern notions of a hero; but nothing of those christian characters, humility and resignation to the will of God ; the great and characteristic virtues of christianity, which our divine epic poet would chiefly inculcate.
But what shall we say then of such characters, as a Polyphemus, Cacus, Caliban, the Harpyes, and the like monstrous, and out of nature productions ? They seem to be in the poetical world, what in the natural are called lufus naturae ; so these are lufus poetici, the sportive creations of a fertil imagination, introduced, by the bye, to raise the passions of admiration and abhorrence ; and indeed they are so far under-parts, as to be lost in the grand action.
Upon these principles I cannot defend such a character as Richard III. as proper for the stage. But much more faulty is the Jew's character, in The Merchant of Venice; who is cruel without necessity. These are not pictures of human creatures, and are beheld with horror and detestation.
4 Milt. II. 480.
In this poetical painting of the manners of men, it ought to be remember'd, that 'tis the human creature in general should be drawn, not any one in particular. Now man is of a mixed nature, virtue and vice alternately prevailing ; it being as difficult to find a person thoroughly vitious, 'as thoroughly virtuous. Thus Philosophers, who make human nature their study, speak of it ; and thus the s greatest of all philosophers, having touched upon the character of the mifanthrope, adds, Δήλου ότι άνευ ΤΕΧΝΗΣ της σερί τα ανθρώπεια και τοιέτω χρησθαι επιχειρεί τους ανθρωπείοις" ει γάρ σε μεία τέχνης έχρητο, ώσπερ έχει, έτως αν ηγήσαίο, τες μεν χρησες και πονηρες σφόδρα ολίγες είναι εκαλέρες, τες δε μέlαξύ πλείσες. Those who profess a hatred of mankind and society, and would paint human nature ill, want art, and are but bunglers in the science they profess. For it must be by long habit, and unnatural practice, that a man can become void of humanity and human affections : since, as our • masters in this man-science have observed, even
public Socrates in Plato's Phaedo. p. 89, 90. edit. H. Steph. . Plato in rep. l. 1. p. 3; 1. cdit. Steph. Aoxeos äv in σόλιν, η τραθύπεδον, ή λησας, ή κλέπας, ή άλλο τι εθν@, όσα κοινή επί τι έρχεται αδίκως, πραξαι άν τι δύνασθαι, ει άδιxotiv zarys; Cicero in Of. II. 11. Cujus (juftitiae] tanta
public robbers are not often without social and generous principles. Whenever, therefore, a human creature is made to deviate from what is fair and good, the poet is unpardonable if he does not shew the motives which led him astray, and dazled his judgment with false appearances of happiness. Mean while how beautiful is it to see the struggles of the mind, and the passions at variance ; which are wanting in the steady villain, or steady philosopher ? and these are characters that seldom appear on the stage of the world. But what is tragic poctry without passion? In a word, 'tis ourselves, and our own passions, that we love to see pictured ; and in these representations we seek for delight and instruction.
II. The manners ought to be ? suitable. When the poet has formed his character, the person is to act up to it. And here the age, the fex, and
vis eft, ut nec illi quidem, qui malificio et ficlere pofiuntur, poflint fine ulla particulâ jusitiue vivere. Epict. I. 2. C. 20. Ούτως ισχυρόν τι και αντικίνητών έσιν ή φύσις η ανθρωπική. Πώς γαρ δύναται άμπιλφ. μη αμπελικώς κινείσθαι, αλλ' ιλαϊκώς και η έλαία τάλιν μή έλαικώς, αλλ' αμπελικώς ; αμη. χανον, αδιανοηθικών. Ου τοίνυν δ' άνθρωπον οιον τι ααντιλω; απολέσαι τας κινήσεις τας ανθρωπικάς. .
7 Δεύτερον δε, τα αρμότθονία. Αrill. περί ποιητ. κεφ. ιι. Reddere perfonae srit convenientia cuique. Hor. poet. X. 316.
condition, are to be considered : thus what is commendable in one, may be faulty in another. An instance of the suitableness of character we have in Milton, where Eve withdraws when she finds her husband and the angel entring on ftudious thoughts abstruse.
8 Her husband the relater se prefer'd
Before the angel ; and of bim to ask
Witb conjugal caresses. When he gave these suitable manners to Eve, he had in his mind Plato's great art, so much commended by ' Cicero, in making old Cephalus withdraw in the first book of his republic on the pretence of a sacrifice.
8 Par. lot. VIII, 40. 9
Cic. ad Att. 1. IV. ep. 16. Quod in iis libris, quos laudas, perfonam defideras scaevolae, non eam temere dimori : fed feci idem, quod in wohileige, deus ille nofter, Plato : cum in Piraeeum Socrates veniffet ad Cephalum, locupletem et festivum senem ; quoad primus ille fermo haberetur, adeft. in disputando fenex : deinde cum ipfe quoque commodiffime locutus eßet, ad rem divinam dicit se velle discedere ; neque poftea revertitur. Credo Platonem vix putaffe confonum fore, li hominem id aetatis in tam longo fermone diutius retinuisset.
Shakespeare seems to me not to have known such a character as a fine lady ; nor does he ever recognize their dignity. What tramontanes in love are his Hamlets, the young Percy, and Henry the Fifth ? Instead of the lady Bettys, and lady Fannys, who shine so much in modern comedies, he brings you on the stage plain Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, two honest good-humoured wives of two plain country gentlemen. His tragic ladies are rather seen, than heard ; such as Miranda, Defdemona, Ophelia, and Portia. So Lavinia is just shewn in Virgil, innocent and quiet. And the poet is so far from intermixing in his divine poem any thing of that kind, which we moderns term gallantry ; that Juno is drawn a meer Fury : Dido and her sister Anna plot together to debauch the pious prince of the Trojans : On this side they set the fleet on fire ; on that, they blow the trumpet to fedition : and even a heroine cannot forget the inconstancy of the sex, as Boffu ingeniously observes ; her
10 See Boflu of the epic poem. IV, 11. Camilla's character, the heroine, Virgil has artfully dashed with this tincture of vanity, and love of finery ; he knew their natural inclination from stories of his own country. The mother of Coriolanus, with other Roman women, had pre