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The bare name of the dramatic unities is apt to excite revolting ideas of pedantry, arts of poetry, and French criticism. With none of these do I wish to annoy the reader. I conceive that it may be said of those unities as of fire and water, that they are good servants but bad masters. In perfect rigour they were never imposed by the Greeks, and they would be still heavier shackles if they were closely riveted on our own drama. It would be worse than useless to confine dramatic action literally and immoveably to one spot, or its imaginary time to the time in which it is represented. On the other hand, dramatic time and place cannot surely admit of indefinite expansion. It would be better, for the sake of illusion and probability*, to change the scene from Windsor to London, than from London to Pekin; it would look more like reality if a messenger, who went and returned in the course of the play, told us of having performed a journey of ten or twenty, rather than of a thousand miles; and if the spectator had neither that nor any other circumstance to make him ask how so much could be performed in so short a time.

In an abstract view of dramatic art, its principles must appear to lie nearer to unity than to the opposite extreme of disunion, in our conceptions of time and place. Giving up the law of unity in its literal rigour, there is still a latitude of its application which may preserve proportion and harmony in the drama +.

The brilliant and able Schlegel has traced the principles of what he denominates the ro

An eye like Mars to threaten and command;
A station like the herald Mercury,
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill-

Who can read these lines without perceiving that Shakspeare had imbibed a deeper feeling of the beauty of Pagan mythology than a thousand pedants could have imbibed in their whole lives?"-Life of Shakspeare, p. xvi.]

* Dr. Johnson has said, with regard to local unity in the drama, that we can as easily imagine ourselves in one place as another. So we can, at the beginning of a play; but having taken our imaginary station with the poet in one country, I do not believe with Dr. Johnson, that we change into a different one with perfect facility to the imagination. Lay the first act in Europe, and we surely do not naturally expect to find the second in America.

[ For some admirable remarks on dramatic unities, see Scott's Essay on the Drama (Misc. Pr. Works, vol vi. p. 298-321). Dr. Johnson has numerous obligations to an excellent paper of Farquhar's; a fact not generally enough known.]

==

mantic, in opposition to the classical drama; and conceives that Shakspeare's theatre, when tried by those principles, will be found not to have violated any of the unities, if they are largely and liberally understood. I have no doubt that Mr. Schlegel's criticism will be found to have proved this point in a considerable number of the works of our mighty poet. There are traits, however, in Shakspeare, which, I must own, appear to my humble judgment incapable of being illustrated by any system or principles of art. I do not allude to his historical plays, which, expressly from being historical, may be called a privileged class. But in those of purer fiction, it strikes me that there are licences conceded indeed to imagination's "chartered libertine,” but anomalous with regard to anything which can be recognised as principles in dramatic art. When Perdita, for instance, grows from the cradle to the marriage altar in the course of the play, I can perceive no unity in the design of the piece, and take refuge in the supposition of Shakspeare's genius triumphing and trampling over art. Yet Mr. Schlegel, as far as I have observed, makes no exception to this breach of temporal unity; nor, in proving Shakspeare a regular artist on a mighty scale, does he deign to notice this circumstance, even as the ultima Thule of his licence +. If a man contends that dramatic laws are all idle restrictions, I can understand him; or if he says that Perdita's growth on the stage is a trespass on art, but that Shakspeare's fascination over and over again redeems it, I can both understand and agree with him. But when I am left to infer that all this is right on romantic principles, I confess that those principles become too romantic for my conception. If Perdita may be born and married on the stage, why may not

[ Mitis. How comes it that in some one play we see so many seas, countries, and kingdoms, passed over with such admirable dexterity?

Cordatus. O, that but shows how well the authors can travel in their vocation, and outrun the apprehension of their auditory-Every Man out of his Humour.

This was said in 1599, and at The Globe when Shak speare, that very year, perhaps the performance before, had crossed the seas in his chorus from England to France and from France to England, with admirable dexterity. Jonson wrote to recommend his own unities, and to instruct his audience; not,as the Shakspeare commentators would have us believe, to abuse Shakspeare, if not in his own house, in the very theatre in which he was a large sharer, and unquestionably the main-stay.]

Webster's Duchess of Malfi lie-in between the acts, and produce a fine family of tragic children? Her Grace actually does so in Webster's drama, and he is a poet of some genius, though it is not quite so sufficient as Shakspeare's, to give a "sweet oblivious antidote" to such "perilous stuff." It is not, however, either in favour of Shakspeare's or of Webster's genius that we shall be called on to make allowance, if we justify in the drama the lapse of such a number of years as may change the apparent identity of an individual. If romantic unity is to be so largely interpreted, the old Spanish dramas, where youths grow greybeards upon the stage, the mysteries and moralities, and productions teeming with the wildest anachronism, might all come in with their grave or laughable claims to romantic legitimacy.

against the too abstract conceptī racters, pronouncing them rathe humours than natural beings, die theless, the justice to quote ox lovely passage from one of his the beauty of that passage probal attention of many readers to his t compositions +. It is indeed bu many beauties which justify all t said of Jonson's lyrical powers. ciful region of the drama (the stands as pre-eminent as in come can be said to be rivalled, it is on And our surprise at the wildness ness of his fancy in one walk of c increased by the stern and rigi rugged) air of truth which he the other. In the regular drama holds up no romantic mirror to object was to exhibit human c once strongly comic and severely tively true; to nourish the un while he feasted the sense of ridi more anxious for verisimilitude t comic effect. He understood the E peculiarities of his species scient brought them forward in their g trasts and subtlest modifications speare carelessly scattered illus skilfully prepared it. This is spea son in his happiest manner. Ther deal of harsh and sour fruit in neous poetry. It is acknowledged drama he frequently overlabours tion of character, and wastes it ted uninteresting humours and peculi

Nam sic

Et Laberi mimos ut pulchra poemata mirer.-HOR. On a general view, I conceive it may be said, that Shakspeare nobly and legitimately enlarged the boundaries of time and place in the drama; but in extreme cases, I would rather agree with Cumberland, to waive all mention of his name in speaking of dramatic laws, than accept of those licences for art which are not art, and designate irregularity by the name of order.

There were other poets who started nearly coeval with Ben Jonson in the attempt to give a classical form to our drama. Daniel, for instance, brought out his tragedy of Cleopatra in 1594; but his elegant genius wanted the strength requisite for great dramatic efforts. Still more unequal to the task was the Earl of Sterline, who published his cold "monarchic tragedies," in 1604. The triumph of founding English classical comedy belonged exclusively to Jonson. In his tragedies it is remarkable that he freely dispenses with the unities, though in those tragedies he brings classical antiquity in the most distinct and learnedly authenticated traits before our eyes. The vindication of his great poetic memory forms an agreeable and interludes, his fancy has a wildness an

"Break, Phant'sie, from thy cave of cloue [His lyrical poetry forms, perhaps, the r In songs part of his poetical character.

contrast in modern criticism with the bold bad things which used to be said of him in a former period; as when Young compared him to a blind Samson, who pulled down the ruins of antiquity on his head and buried his genius beneath them*. Hurd, though he inveighed

that we should not expect from the severity tic taste. It cannot be said, indeed, that he from metaphysical conceit, but his langua with thought, and polished with elegancwhole, his merits, after every fair deductic in possession of a high niche in our literatu him to be ranked (next to Shakspeare) as th tant benefactor of our early drama.-CAM Jonson in Brewster's Encyclopædia.]

[*" If the ancients," says Headley, "were to reclaim

their

own,

Jonson would not have a rag to c

ness: "a remark that called a taunting rep in one of his most bitter moods. Dryden E

said of Jonson that you may track him eve snow of the ancients.]

Namely, the song of Night, in the ma Vision of Delight."

is a moral painter, who delights over much to show his knowledge of moral anatomy. Beyond the pale of his three great dramas, "The Fox," "The Epicene, or Silent Woman," and "The Alchemist," it would not be difficult to find many striking exceptions to that love of truth and probability, which, in a general view, may be regarded as one of his best characteristics. Even within that pale, namely, in his masterly character of Volpone, one is struck with what, if it be not an absolute breach, is at least a very bold stretch, of probability. It is true that Volpone is altogether a being daringly conceived; and those who think that art spoiled the originality of Jon-sualist Sir Epicure Mammon, who deserves his

son, may well rectify their opinion by consi-
dering the force of imagination which it re-
quired to concentrate the traits of such a cha-
racter as "The Fox;" not to speak of his
Mosca, who is the phoenix of all parasites.
Volpone himself is not like the common misers
of comedy, a mere money-loving dotard- -a
hard shrivelled old mummy, with no other
spice than his avarice to preserve him; he is
a happy villain, a jolly misanthrope-a little
god in his own selfishness, and Mosca is his
priest and prophet. Vigorous and healthy,
though past the prime of life, he hugs himself
in his arch humour, his successful knavery and
imposture, his sensuality and his wealth, with
an unhallowed relish of selfish existence. His
passion for wealth seems not to be so great as
his delight in gulling the human “vultures and
gorecrows" who flock round him at the ima-
gined approach of his dissolution; the specu-
lators who put their gold, as they conceive,
into his dying gripe, to be returned to them a
thousand-fold in his will. Yet still, after this
exquisite rogue has stood his trial in a sweat
of agony at the scrutineum, and blest his stars at
having narrowly escaped being put to the tor-
ture, there is something (one would think) a
little too strong for probability, in that mis-
chievous mirth and love of tormenting his
own dupes, which bring him, by his own folly,
a second time within the fangs of justice.
"The Fox" and "The Alchemist" seem to have
divided Jonson's admirers as to which of them
may be considered his masterpiece. In con-
fessing my partiality to the prose comedy of
"The Silent Woman," considered merely as a
comedy, I am by no means forgetful of the

miseries much better than the rueful and piti-
able Morose. Yet so it is, that, though the
feelings of pathos and ridicule seem so widely
different, a certain tincture of the pitiable makes
comic distress more irresistible. Poor Morose
suffers what the fancy of Dante could not have
surpassed in description, if he had sketched
out a ludicrous Purgatory. A lover of quiet-
a man exquisitely impatient of rude sounds.
and loquacity, who lived in a retired street—
who barricadoed his doors with mattresses to
prevent disturbance to his ears, and who mar-
ried a wife because he could with difficulty
prevail upon her to speak to him-has hardly
tied the fatal knot when his house is tempested
by female eloquence, and the marriage of him
who had pensioned the city-wakes to keep away
from his neighbourhood, is celebrated by a
concert of trumpets. He repairs to a court of
justice to get his marriage if possible dissolved,
but is driven back in despair by the intolerable
noise of the court. For this marriage how
exquisitely we are prepared by the scene of
courtship! When Morose questions his in-
tended bride about her likings and habits of
life, she plays her part so hypocritically, that
he seems for a moment impatient of her re-
serve, and with the most ludicrous cross feel-
[* The plot of The Fox is admirably conceived; and
that of The Alchemist, though faulty in the conclusion,
is nearly equal to it. In the two comedies of Every Man
in his Humour, and Every Man out of his Humour, the
plot deserves much less praise, and is deficient at once in
interest and unity of action; but in that of The Silent
Woman, nothing can exceed the art with which the cir-
cumstance upon which the conclusion turns is, until the
very last scene, concealed from the knowledge of the
reader, while he is tempted to suppose it constantly within
his reach.-SIR WALTER SCOTT, Misc. Prose Works, vol. vi.
p. 341.]

rich eloquence which poetry imparts to the two others. But "The Epicene," in my humble apprehension, exhibits Jonson's humour in the most exhilarating perfection*. With due admiration for "The Alchemist," I cannot help thinking the jargon of the chemical jugglers, though it displays the learning of the author, to be tediously profuse. "The Fox" rises to something higher than comic effect. It is morally impressive. It detains us at particular points in serious terror and suspense. But "The Epicene" is purely facetious. I know not, indeed, why we should laugh more at the sufferings of Morose than at those of the sen

ings wishes her to speak more loudly, that he may have a proof of her taciturnity from her own lips; but, recollecting himself, he gives way to the rapturous satisfaction of having found a silent woman, and exclaims to Cutbeard, "Go thy ways and get me a clergyman presently, with a soft low voice, to marry us, and pray him he will not be impertinent, but brief as he can."

The art of Jonson was not confined to the cold observation of the unities of place and time, but appears in the whole adaptation of his incidents and characters to the support of each other. Beneath his learning and art he moves with an activity which may be compared to the strength of a man who can leap and bound under the heaviest armour*.

The works of Jonson bring us into the seventeenth century; and early in that century, our language, besides the great names already mentioned, contains many other poets whose works may be read with a pleasure independent of the interest which we take in their antiquity.

Drayton and Daniel, though the most opposite in the cast of their genius, are pre-eminent in the second poetical class of their age, for their common merit of clear and harmonious diction. Drayton is prone to Ovidian conceits, but he plays with them so gaily, that they almost seem to become him as if natural. His feeling is neither deep, nor is the happiness of his fancy of long continuance, but its short April gleams are very beautiful. His Legend of the Duke of Buckingham opens with a fine description. Unfortunately, his descriptions in long poems are, like many fine mornings, succeeded by a cloudy day.

"The lark, that holds observance to the sun,
Quaver'd her clear notes in the quiet air,
And on the river's murmuring base did run,
Whilst the pleased heavens her fairest livery wear;
The place such pleasure gently did prepare,

[* He (Jonson) was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him. With the spoils of these writers he so represented old Rome to us in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his tragedies we had seen less of it than in him.-DRYDEN.]

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Daniel is "somewhat a-flat," as on temporaries said of himt, but I sensibility than Drayton, and his tion rises to higher dignity. The of Elizabeth's age runs often i insipidity and fantastic careless there may be found in some of t Sir Philip Sydney, Lodge, Marlowe not only a sweet wild spirit but finish of expression. Of these con ties Marlowe's song, "Come live be my love," is an example. Errand," by whomsoever it was burst of genuine poetry. I kn that short production has ever af readers, but it carries to my ima appeal which I cannot easily acco

[† Bolton in his Hypercritica, + Vide these Selections, p. 57

a few simple rhymes. It places the last and inexpressibly awful hour of existence before my view, and sounds like a sentence of vanity on the things of this world, pronounced by a dying man, whose eye glares on eternity, and whose voice is raised by strength from another world. Raleigh, also (according to Puttenham), had a "lofty and passionate" vein. It is difficult, however, to authenticate his poetical relics. Of the numerous sonnetteers of that time (keeping Shakspeare and Spenser apart), Drummond and Daniel are certainly the best. Hall was the master satirist of the age; obscure and quaint at times, but full of nerve and picturesque illustration. No contemporary satirist has given equal grace and dignity to moral censure. Very unequal to him in style, though often as original in thought, and as graphic in exhibiting manners, is Donne, some of whose satires have been modernized by Popet. Corbet has left some humorous pieces of raillery on the Puritans. Wither, all fierce and fanatic on the opposite side, has nothing more to recommend him in invective, than the sincerity of that zeal for God's house, which ate him up. Marston, better known in the drama than in satire, was characterised by his contemporaries for his ruffian style. He has more will than skill in invective. "He puts in his blows with lore," as the pugilists say of a hard but artless fighter; a degrading image, but on that account not the less applicable to a coarse satirist.

[t Would not Donne's satires, which abound with so much wit, appear more charming if he had taken care of his words and his numbers? *** I may safely say of this present age, that if we are not so great wits as Donne, yet certainly we are better poets-DRYDEN.]

thought which at intervals rises from his chaotic imagination, like the form of Venus smiling on the waters. Giles and Phineas Fletcher possessed harmony and fancy. The simple Warner has left, in his "Argentile and Curan," perhaps the finest pastoral episode in our language. Browne was an elegant describer of rural scenes, though incompetent to fill them with life and manners. Chalkhill § is a writer of pastoral romance, from whose work of Thealma and Clearchus a specimen should have been given in the body of these Selections, but was omitted by an accidental oversight. Chalkhill's numbers are as musical as those of any of his contemporaries, who employ the same form of versification. It was common with the writers of the heroic couplet of that age to bring the sense to a full and frequent pause in the middle of the line. This break, by relieving the uniformity of the couplet measure, sometimes produces a graceful effect and a varied harmony which we miss in the exact and unbroken tune of our later rhyme; a beauty of which the reader will probably be sensible, in perusing such lines of Chalkhill's as these:

This relief, however, is used rather too liberally by the elder rhymists, and is perhaps as often the result of their carelessness as of their Donne was the "best good-natured man, good taste. Nor is it at all times obtained by with the worst-natured Muse." A romantic them without the sacrifice of one of the most and uxorious lover, he addresses the object of important uses of rhyme; namely, the dishis real tenderness with ideas that outrage tinctness of its effect in marking the measure. decorum. He begins his own epithalamium The chief source of the gratification which the with a most indelicate invocation to his bride. ear finds in rhyme is our perceiving the emHis ruggedness and whim are almost prover-phasis of sound coincide with that of sense. bially known ‡. Yet there is a beauty of In other words, the rhyme is best placed on

* Is not the Soul's Errand the same poem with the Soul's Knell, which is always ascribed to Richard

the most emphatic word in the sentence. But it is nothing unusual with the ancient couplet

Edwards? If so, why has it been inserted in Raleigh's writers, by laying the rhyme on unimportant poems by Sir Egerton Brydges? They are distinct poems.]

words, to disappoint the ear of this pleasure, and to exhibit the restraint of rhyme without its emphasis.

[Nothing could have made Donne a poet, unless as great a change had been worked in the internal structure of his cars, as was wrought in elongating those of Midas. SOUTHEY, Specimens, p. xxiv.]

"And ever and anon he might well hear
A sound of music steal in at his ear,

As the wind gave it being. So sweet an air
Would strike a siren mute.”

§ Chalkhill was a gentleman and a scholar, the friend of Spenser. He died before he could finish the fable of his "Thealma and Clearchus," which was published, long after his death, by Isaak Walton. [And has been since reprinted; one of Mr. Singer's numerous contributions to our literature.]

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