« PreviousContinue »
and sentiments alone give an air of majesty to the poetry, without considering even the lofty expressions and sublimity of the diction. What can be more affecting and passionate than king Lear? How does the ghost in Hamlet raise and terrify the imagination of the audience ?In a word, the sentiments are so agreeable to the characters, so just and natural, yet so animated and transported, that one would think no other could be possibly used, more proper to the ends he proposes, whether it be to approve or disapprove, to magnify or diminish, to ftir or to calm the passions,
Ut fibi quivis
THE last and lowest is the diction or expression, which should indeed be suitable to the subject and character ; and every affection of the human mind ought to speak in its proper tonę and language. Shakespeare's expresfion is so various, so flowing and metaphorical, and has so many peculiarities in it, that a more minute examination must be reserved for ano. ther place. Mean while it may be sufficient to
observe, that for a poet to labour in these mere ornamental parts of poetry ; to make his diction swelling and splendid, so as to overlook his plan, and obscure his manners and sentiments ; is just as absurd, as if a painter should only attend to his colouring and drapery, and never regard the human face divine. 9 Painting and poetry are two sister arts ; each of them has its shades and lights, and each requires its proper points of view : each has it's design, as well as colouring ; if the former is defective, the latter is ridiculous. An ugly woman, tricked out in a tawdry dress, renders herself more notoriously contemptible by her useless ornaments,
Interdum fpeciofa locis, morataque reste
8 Τη δε λέξει δεί διαπονείν εν τοις άρΓούς μέρισι, και μήτε ηθικούς μήτε διανοηθικούς. 'Αποκρύπτει γαρ πάλιν η λίαν λαμπρα λέξις τα ήθη και τας διανοίας. The poet bould labour in bis di&tion in those places where there is no action ; not where there are manners and sentiments ; for both these are obscured where the diction is splendid and glowing. Aristot. augi Φοιητ. κεφ, κδ.
9 Ut pi&tura poesis erit, &c. Hor. art. poet. 361.
F we will consider Shakespeare's tragedies,
as dramatic heroic poems, fome ending with a happy, others with an unhappy catastrophe ; why then, if Homer introduces a buffoon character, both among his gods and heroes in his Iliad, and a ridiculous monster : Polypheme in his Odyssey, might not Shakespeare in his heroic drama exhibit a Falstaff, a Caliban, or clown ? Here is no mixture of various fables : tho' the incidents are many, the story is one. 'Tis true, there is a mixture of characters, not all proper to excite those tragic passions, pity and terror i the serious and comic being so blended, as to form in some measure what Plau
1 A limping Vulcan takes upon him the office of Ganymede. II. á. He advises the gods not to trouble their heads about wretched mortals. I wonder some of the commentators, who are fond of fetching every thing from Homer, never thought of making Epicurus steal his philoJofophy from Vulcan.
2 Therlites. Il. G. Where Euftachius has this remark, « The tragic poets aim at what is grave and serious, and “ treat sublimely the events of things. The comedians on “ the contrary treat things ludicrously, and lessen them. In “ Homer these tragic and comic chara&ters are found mixed ; “ for he plainly a&ts the comedian when he leffens and
brings down from its heroic station, the character of u Therfites."
3 The character of Polyphemus appear'd to Euripides fo proper for farce ; that from hence he form'd his fatyric play, The Cyclops. Ulysses told the monfter his name was Ortle, or Noman. Polyphemus' eye being put out, he calls to his friends,
Ω φίλου ΟΥΤΙΣ με κλείνει δόλω, άδι βίνφι.
In Euripies the scene is as follows,
ΚΥΚ. ΟΥΤΙΣ μ' απώλεσεν,
Cyc. Noman barb killed me.
tus calls + tragicomedy; where, not two different stories, the one tragic, the other comic, are preposterously jumbled together, as in the Spanish Fryar, and Oroonoko : but the unity of the fable being preserved, several ludicrous characters are interspersed, as in a heroic poem. Nor does the mind from hence suffer any violence, being only accidentally called off from the serious story, to which it soon returns again, and perhaps better prepared by this little refreshment. The tragic episode of Dido is followed by the sports in honour of old Anchises. Immediately after the quarrel among the heroes, and the wrathful debates arising in heaven, the deformed Vulcan assumes the office of cupbearer, and raises a laugh among the heavenly synod. Milton has introduced a piece of mirth in his battle of the gods ; where the evil spirits, elevated with a little success, 7 stand scoffing and 4 In his prologue to Amphitryo.
Faciam ut commissa fit tragicomoedia :
Faciam proinde, ut dixi, tragicomoediam..
7 The speeches which Satan and Belial make in derision, are after the cast of Homer, Il. “'. 374. and Il. T'. 745.