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hours, produced two tragedies, 'Philotas' and Cleopatra,' to serve as patterns of a purer style. Both, in the opinion of impartial critics, are apparent failures. They resemble a dilettante's disquisitions upon tragic fables rather than tragedies for action. Daniel, in his determination not to violate the unities, confines himself to the last hours of Cleopatra's life; and rather than disturb the ceremonious decorum of his art, he introduces a Messenger who relates in polished phrases how she died. A better instance could not be chosen than this Cleopatra,' to prove the impotence in England of the pseudo-classic style. Daniel's tragedy bore points of strong resemblance to the work of contemporary French playwrights. But it hardly needed the fierce light from Cleopatra's dying hours in Shakspere's play to pale its ineffectual fires. Where Italian and French poets attained to moderate success in their imitation of antique art, English dramatists invariably failed. Their failure was due in no small measure, doubtless, to the fact that their attempt revealed an undramatic turn of mind. In the age of Elizabeth and James the born playwright felt instinctively, felt truly, that the path of Shakspere and the people was the only path to walk in. Daniel's Cleopatra' met with the lukewarm approval of a lettered audience. His · Philotas' was badly received, not on account of its artistic faults apparently, but because the audience recognised in its catastrophe allusions to the fate of Essex.
Daniel, in sympathy with the French authors whom probably he had in view, adhered to rhyme The Countess of Pembroke, who translated Garnier's
'Antony' into English as early as 1590, made some use of blank verse-a somewhat noticeable fact, since Marlowe's 'Tamburlaine,' which heralded the triumph of that metre, was first printed in the same year. Another tragedy of Garnier's, the ‘Cornelia,' was translated by Thomas Kyd, and dedicated in 1594 to the Countess of Sussex. It is also in blank verse, of vigorous quality. It would serve no purpose to enlarge upon these essays in translation, or to do more than mention Brandon's Virtuous Octavia.' They are only interesting as indicating a continuous revolt among the literary folk in England against the prevalent and overwhelming influence of the romantic or the native English drama. Doomed to failure, buried beneath the magna moles of the work of mightier poets, the historian of literature regards them only as exceptions and abortions, indicating by their very failure the organic strength and soundness of the growth which they attempted to displace.
The same judgment may be passed on numerous tragedies in the Latin tongue, and performed at Universities before a courtly audience. The titles and dates of these productions are in some cases curious. Thus we find a “Jephtha' by George Christopherson, dedicated in 1546 to Henry VIII. It preceded George Buchanan's “Jephtha' by eight years. A Dido,' by John Rightwise, was exhibited in King's College Chapel at Cambridge in 1564 before Queen Elizabeth. Another Dido,' by William Gager, entertained a Polish prince in Christ Church Hall at Oxford in 1583. An Ajax Flagellifer,' adapted probably from Sophocles, was written and got
up for Queen Elizabeth's amusement at Cambridge in 1564. For some reason, its performance had then to be abandoned; but it was played at Oxford in 1605. The · Roxana' of William Alabaster, which acted in Trinity College Hall, at Cambridge, about 1592, and printed in 1632, deserves notice for the praise conferred upon its author by Fuller ; also for an anecdote which relates that during one of its performances a gentlewoman went mad on hearing the words sequar, sequar, uttered in a tone of tragic horror. The following titles, chosen pretty much at random
Adrastus Parentans, Machiavellus,' 'Lælia,' *Leander,' 'Fatum Vortigerni,' Æmilia,' Sapientia Salomonis'--prove that the Latin playwrights went far and wide afield for subjects. Should any
student have the patience to search our libraries for the MSS. of these compositions, many of which are known to be still extant, it is probable that he would find the influence of Seneca ascendant in them. What the scholars of the sixteenth century seem to have understood by classical dramatic theory, was a deduction from the practice of the Roman rhetorician, with the further application of imperfectly apprehended canons of unity derived from Italian commentaries on Aristotle's 'Poetics.' Gian Giorgio Trissino has more than any single man to answer for the growth of that quaint formalism which imposed itself on the Italian theatre, and found illustrious expression in the work of Racine and his followers. A more intelligent and sympathetic study of the Attic tragedians on the part of the Italian humanists might have saved modern Europe from a mass of errors which crept into that pedantic system.
Unluckily, Seneca ranked first in the appreciation of the critics, partly because he was easier to read, but chiefly because he was easier to imitate. Even Milton, both in his practice as the author of 'Samson Agonistes’ and in his judgment of the Attic stage, shows that h was infected with the same original misapprehension of Greek art. The following verses from · Paradise Regained,' sublime and beautiful as they may be, betray a want of insight into the essence of the drama as a fable put in action :
Thence what the lofty grave tragedians taught,
The qualities on which Milton here insists gave weight and dignity indeed to the Attic drama. They may be even singled out for admiration also in the monologues of Seneca. But the romantic, as opposed to the classical, school of dramatists, were right in their perception that not ethical wisdom and not description, but action, was the one thing needful to their art. They saw that the Drama, as it differs from didactic poetry, must present human life in all possible fullness, vigour, and variety; must portray and develop character; must delineate the conflict of personalities and passions, the collision of human wills with circumstance ; must combine events into a single movement with a climax and catastrophe. Finally, they knew well that in a drama the doing is the whole matter. Reflection upon action is extraneous to the essence of a play. It forms, no
doubt, an ornament of meditated art. But the object of tragedy is not to teach by precept. If he teaches, the tragic playwright teaches by example. With this just instinct the romantic poets applied all their energies to action, allowing the conclusions, moral and sententious, to be drawn by the spectators of that action. Working thus upon a sound method, in spite of formal differences, due for the most part to the altered conditions of the theatre itself in modern times, they shared the spirit of the Greeks more fully than the pseudoclassics. Of brief sententious precepts,' capable of isolation from the dramatic context, Æschylus has hardly any, Sophocles but few. Euripides, the least to be commended of the Attic tragedians, abounds in them. Seneca's plays are made up of such passages. It might almost be laid down that in proportion as a dramatist lends himself to the compilation of ethical anthologies, in that very measure is he an inferior master of his craft.
These remarks have led by a circuitous and discursive path to the two English tragedies which, emanating from the school of Seneca in England, still deserve particular attention. They are ‘Ferrex and Porrex,' or, as the play is also called, 'Gorboduc,' and · The Misfortunes of Arthur. Though intended to be strictly classical, and written by Senecasters of the purest water, both are founded upon ancient English fables. This fact is not without significance. It indicates that even in the limbo of pseudo-classic imitation, the national spirit was alive and stirring,