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The loud demand from year to rear the same,
Of all the amusements invented by the ingenuity of man, a theatric representation of human manners and passions is the most interesting anal instructive. When the energy of sentiment, and the pathos of the noblest feelings of our nature, are combined with the dignified action of the tragic muse, we sympathize with suffering virtue, and we are warned against the practice of vice, which is productive of the most calamitous events.
The mirthful sallies of Thalia are still more pleasing; by holding, as it were, the mirror up to maturc, she satirises our follies in so agreeable a manner, that in the disguise of mn:rth we embrace wisdom. TRAGEDY
be termed the sublime, and CoMEDY the beautiful, of the drama. The former rouses the passions by an irresistible appeal to the heart; the latter, by exhibiting a lively portrait of whatever is ridiculous or censurable in public marners, at once corrects the foible and enforces propriety of conduc.
Theatric exhibitions present so many gratifications to the mind, that they will ever be favourites with a polished people. The eye is delighted with a variety of graceful forms, decorated in characteristic dresses, and displaying the affecting gestures of passion, or the more pleasing agility and grace of motion in the sprig tly dance; the ear is charmed with the harmony of vocal and instrumental music; the magic influence of sympathy pervades the mind in unison with the dignified woe of the tragic muse, or the animating sallies of Thalia provoke irresistible mirth. To these charms may be superadded the interesting variety of graceful forms and aniinated countenances of the audience, while appropriate scenery and the splendour of taper-lights give tho whole an air of gaiety and pleasure.
With all these attractions, however, it is questionable whether the stage has not contributed to immorality. Under proper regulations it would, as the
poet has described it, be a powerful monitor,
The earliest account we have of the Englisla drama is recorded by Haywood, who informs us, that in the reign of Henry 11, the Mysteries, a kind of representation of the miracles and select passages from the Scriptures, were exhibited by the monks in London. This theatric representation Was succeeded by the Moralities, in which the virtues and vices were personified.
Interludes tvere first written and performed in the reign of Henry VIII.; and soon afterwards dramatic compositions, under the denomination of Tragedies and Comedies, were represented and published.
During the short reign of the superstitious and cruel Mary, taste was repressed by bigotry, and theatrical amusements suspended. On the accession of Elizabeth, however, the elegant entertainments of the stage were revived and cherished with renovated vigour. The Tragic Muse now visited Albion, and inspired her favourite Shakespeare, whose just delineation of characters and manners, and affecting expression of the passions, have never been equalled.
“ Each form of many-coloured life he drew,
Ben Jonson, the contemporary of Shakespeare, also contributed to the improvement of the English drama.—His comedy of Every Man in his lhumour has often been revived; and several of his pieces, notwithstanding obsolete phrases and the quaintness of the language, abound with lively characteristics of human nature, and spirited satire against vice and folly.
Since that period our drama has been gradually refined. The pathetic Otway and the elegant Rowe have been favoured with the inspirations of Melpomene; while Thalia bestowed her mirth-inspiring smiles on Cibber, Vanburgh, Farquhar, Congrove and Steele.
Our comic writers, however, were rather the abettors of licentiousness than the correctors of folly; insomuch that a French author ascribes the depravity of public manners in this capital to the pernicious influence of our coinedies.
Sentimental comedy deserves an exemption from this charge. Steele's Conscious Lovers, and several dramatic pieces of a similar nature, have contributed to polish and improve society; and our modern comedies, though feeble and uninteresting, are more consistent with decorum, than the lively productions of our early comic writers.
The West Indian, the School for Scandal, and 2 few good comedies, have rescued this are from the condemnation of stupidity; but, with the exception of a few dramatic pieces, the puerile and vulgar productions of the present race of dramatists, together with the ghostly abortions of M. G. Lewis's inonstrous muse, are too conteinptible even to deserve the chastisement of satire.
Our modern comedies are, in general, flippant and uninteresting, abounding with a repetition of cant phrases, puns, and pert dialogue.
Pantomimic gesticulation and outrageous rant, intermingled with impious execrations, constitute the very spirit of modern tragedy : such is Pizarrro. Indeed the radical defect of the modern drama is the insignificance of the subject chosen by the writer,
A candid enquiry will convince us that our most popular plays have a pernicious efect on the mind. Shakespeare's best tragedies, Othello, Hamlet, and Richard the Third, contain several indecent passages and allusions, at once puerile and obscene.
Those dictates of lewd wit were written to gratify the intant taste of the English nation; but now, when it has confessedly attained maturity, let us reject such passages, which have a much greater atiinity to dulness, than the idolizers of the Avonian bard would admit,
Whatever benefit may be received at the theatres, by the auditory in general, certain it is that the youthfol part of the fair sex undergo a severe ordeal. When we behold beautiful young ladies at church, adorned with the elegant robe of modesty, and afterwardsview the same lovely beings in the boxes at the play house, sitting hall naked, as if in imitation of women of the town, we can scarcely believe our eyes, or reconcile to reason such a claring inconsistency, such a preposterous violation of decorum.
What! are the amiable daughters of Britain to exhibit themselves to the intrusive gaze of the world !---forbid it propriety, decency, and virtue.
Theatre Royal, Drury-Lanc.—This elegant place of public amusement contains four tiers of boxes, a spacious pit, and two galleries. The prices of admission are, Boxes 6s; Pit 3s. 6d; first gallery 2s. and second gallery 1s.
Theatre Royal, Corent-Garden, is elegant, though not so magnificent or extensive as that of DruryLane. The price of admission is the same.
Theatre Royal, Haymarket. This is the principal summer theatre, besides which, there are, Sadlers Wells; the Amphitheatre of Arts; the New Royal