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we see a Diversity of Numbers in fome Parts of the Old Tragedy, in order to hinder the Ear from being tired with the fame continued Modulation of Voice. For the fame Reason I do not diflike the Speeches in our English Tragedy that close with an Hemiftick, or half Verfe, notwithstanding the Perfon who fpeaks after it begins a new Verfe, without filling up the preceding one; nor with abrupt Pauses and Breakings off in the Middle of a Verfe, when they humour any Paffion that is expreffed by
SINCE I am upon this Subject, I muft obferve that our English Poets have fucceeded much better in the Stile, than in the Sentiments of their Tragedies. Their Language is very often Noble and Sonorous, but the Senfe either very trifling or very common. On the contrary, in the Ancient Tragedies, and indeed in those of Corneille and Racine, tho' the Expreffions are very great, it is the Thought that bears them up and fwells them. For my own part, I preΙ fer a noble Sentiment that is depressed with homely Language, infinitely before a vulgar one that is blown up with all the Sound and Energy of Expreffion.
Whether this Defect in our Tragedies may rife from want of Genius, Knowledge, or Experience in the Writers, or from their Compliance with the vicious Tafte of their Readers, who are better Judges of the Language than of the Sentiments, and confequently relish the one more than the other, I cannot determine. But I believe it might rectifie the Conduct both of the one and of the other, if the Writer laid down the whole Contexture of his Dialogue in plain English, before he turned it into Blank Verfe; and if the Reader, after the Perufal of a Scene, would confider the naked Thought of every Speech in it, when divefted of all its Tragick Ornaments; by this means, without being impofed upon by Words, we may judge impartially of the Thought, and confider whether it be natural or great enough for the Perfon that utters it, whether it deferves to fhine in fuch á Blaze of Eloquence, or fhew it felf in fuch a Variety of Lights as are generally made ufe of by the Writers of our English Tragedy.
I must in the next place obferve, that when our Thoughts are great and juft, they are often obfcured by the founding
Phrafes, chard Metaphors, and forced Expreffions in which they are cloathed. Shakefpear is often very faulty in this Particular. There is a fine Obfervation in Ariftotle to this purpose, which I have never feen quoted. The Expreffi ons, fays he, ought to be very much laboured in the unactive Parts of the Fable, as in Defcriptions, Similitudes, Narrations, and the like; in which the Opinions, Manners and Paffions of Men are not reprefented; for thefe (namely the Opinions, Manners and Paffions) are apt to be obfcured by Pompous Phrafes, and Elaborate Expreffions. Horace, who copied moft of his Criticifins after Ariftotle, feems to have had his Eyefon the foregoing Rule, in the following Verfes:
Et Tragicus plerumque dolet Sermone pedeftri,
Tragoedians too lay by their State, to Grieve.
AMONG our Modern English Po ets, there is none who was better turned for Tragedy than Lee if instead of favouring the Impetuofity of his Ge nius, he had reftrained it, and kept it within its proper Bounds. His Thoughts are wonderfully fuited to Tragedy, but frequently loft in fuch a Cloud of Words, that it is hard to fee the Beau
of them: There is an infinite Fire in his Works, but fo involved in Smoak, that it does not appear in half its Luftre. He frequently fucceeds, in the Paffionate Parts of the Tragedy, but more particularly where he flackens his Efforts, and cafes the Stile of thofe Epithets and Metaphors, in which he fo much abounds. What can be more Natural, more Soft, or more Paffionate, than that Line in Statira's Speech, where the describes the Charms of 4lexander's Converfation?
Then he would talk: Good Gods! how he would talk!
THAT unexpected Break in the Line, and turning the Defcription of his manner of Talking into an Admiration of it, is inexpreffibly Beautiful, and
wonderfully fuited to the fond Character of the Perfon that fpeaks it. There is a Simplicity in the Words, that outfhines the utmost Pride of Expreffion.
OTWAY has followed Nature in the, Language of his Tragedy, and therefore fhines in the Paffionate Parts, more than any of our English Poets. As there is fomething Familiar and Domestick in the Fable of his Tragedy, more than in thofe of any other Poet, he has little Pomp, but great Force in his Expreffions. For which Reafon, tho' he has admirably fucceeded in the tender and melting Part of his Tragedies, he fometimes falls into too great a Familiarity of Phrase in thofe Parts, which, by 4riftotle's Rule, ought to have been railed and fupported by the Dignity of Expreffion.
IT has been obferved by others, that this Poet has founded his Tragedy of Venice Preferved on fo wrong a Plot,
that the greatest Characters in lot,
it are thofe of Rebels and Traitors. Had the Hero of his Play difcovered the fame good Qualities in the Defence of his Country, that he fhewed for its Ruin and Subverfion, the Audience could not enough pity and admire him: But as he