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his plays are divided between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive evolutions of the design, sometimes pro
si burlesque, qu'on diroit d'un crocheteur qui est de confrairie.” A censure somewhat justified by Euripides himself, who makes the servant take Hercules for a thief:
πανέργον ΚΛΩΠΑ και ΛΗΙΣΤΗΝ τινα.
“The speech of Hercules, Φιλοσοφωντος ἐν μέθη, as the scholiast observes (v. 776) ‘philosophizing in his cups,” is still more curious. It is, indeed, full of the φλοξ οιν8, and completely justifies the attendant's description. Nothing can be more jolly. It is the true spirit of a modern drinking song; recommending it to the servant to uncloud his brow, enjoy the present hour, think nothing of the morrow, and drown his cares in love and wine: ‘ ̔ΟΥΤΟΣ· - τι σεμνον και πεφροντικο βλέπεις ; 6 Ου χρη σκυθρωπον, κ. τ. αλ.
· ΔΕΥΡ', ΕΛΘ', όπως ἂν και σοφώτερος γενη.
‘Τα θνητα πραγματ ̓ ὀιδας ἦν ἔχει φυσιν ;
“ Ευφραινε σαυτον ̇ ΠΙΝΕ!-
"If any man can read this, without supposing it to have set the audience in a roar, I certainly cannot demonstrate that he is mistaken. I can only say, that I think he must be a very grave man himself, and must forget that the Athenians were not a very grave people. The zeal of Pere Brumoy in defending this tragedy, betrays him into a little indiscretion. He says, 'tout cela à fait penser à quelques critiques modernes que cette piece etoit une tragi-comedie; chimere inconnu aux anciens. Cette piece est du gout des autres tragedies antiques.' Indeed they, who call this play a tragi-comedy, give it rather a favourable name; for, in the scenes alluded to, it is, in fact, of a lower species than our tragi-comedy: it is rather burlesque tragedy; what Demetrius calls τραγωδία παίζεσα. Much of the comick cast prevails in other scenes; though mixed with those genuine strokes of simple and universal nature, which abound in this poet, and which I should be sorry to exchange for that monotonous and unaffecting level of tragick dignity, which never falls, and never rises.
"I will only mention one more instance of this tragi-comick
duce seriousness and sorrow, and sometimes levity and laugh
That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily allowed; but there is always an appeal open from
mixture, and that from Sophocles. The dialogue between Minerva and Ulysses, in the first scene of the Ajax, from v. 74 to 88, is perfectly ludicrous. The cowardice of Ulysses is almost as comick as the cowardice of Falstaff. In spite of the presence of Minerva, and her previous assurance that she would effectually guard him from all danger by rendering him invisible, when she calls Ajax out, Ulysses, in the utmost trepidation, exclaims
Τι δρας, Αθανα ; μηδαμως σφ' εξω καλει.
'What are you about, Minerva?-by no means call him out.' Minerva answers
σου σιγ' άνεξη, μηδε δειλίαν αρεις ;
.. Will you not be silent, and lay aside your fears? But Ulysses cannot conquer his fears:
‘ΜΗ, ΠΡΟΣ ΘΕΩΝ
ἀλλ ̓ ἐνδον ἀρκεῖτω μενων. 'Don't call him out, for heaven's sake:-let him stay within.' And in this tone the conversation continues; till, upon Minerva's repeating her promise that Ajax should not see him, he consents to stay; but in a line of most comical reluctance, and with an a side, that is in the true spirit of Sancho Panca:
Μενοιμ' ἀν· ΗΘΕΛΟΝ Δ' ΑΝ ΕΚΤΟΣ ΩΝ ΤΥΧΕΙΝ.
'I'll stay-(aside) but I wish I was not here.'
'J'avoue,' says Brumoy, 'que ce trait n'est pas á la louange d' Ulysse, ni de Sophocle.'
"No unprejudiced person, I think, can read this scene without being convinced, not only, that it must actually have produced, but that it must have been intended to produce, the effect of comedy.
"It appears indeed to me, that we may plainly trace in the Greek tragedy, with all its improvements, and all its beauties, pretty strong marks of its popular and tragi-comick origin. For Tpayadia, we are told, was, originally, the only dramatick appellation; and when, afterwards, the ludicrous was separated from the serious, and distinguished by its appropriated name of comedy, the separation seems to have been imperfectly made, and tragedy, disitnctively so called, still seems to have retained a tincture of its original merriment. Nor will this appear strange, if we consider the popular nature of the Greek spectacles. The people, it is probable, would still require, even in the midst of their tragick emotion, a little dash of their old satyrick fun, and poets were obliged to comply, in some degree, with their taste." Twining's Notes, pp. 202, 203, 204, 205, 206.
criticism to nature. The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry to instruct by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the instruction of tragedy or comedy cannot be denied, because it includes both in its alterations of exhibition, and ap proaches nearer than either to the appearance of life, by shewing how great machinations and slender designs may promote or obviate one another, and the high and the low co-operate in the general system by unavoidable concatenation.
It is objected, that by this change of scenes the passions are interrupted in their progression, and that the principal event, being not advanced by a due gradation of preparatory incidents, wants at last the power to move, which constitutes the perfection of dramatick poetry. This reasoning is so specious, that it is received as true even by those who in daily experience feel it to be false. The interchanges of mingled scenes seldom fail to produce the intended vicissitudes of passion. Fiction cannot move so much, but that the attention may be easily transferred; and though it must be allowed that pleasing melancholy be sometimes interrupted by unwelcome levity, yet let it be consi dered likewise, that melancholy is often not pleasing, and that the disturbance of one man may be the relief of another; that different auditors have different habitudes; and that, upon the whole, all pleasure consists in variety.
The players, who in their edition divided our author's works into comedies, histories, and tragedies, seem not to have dis. tinguished the three kinds, by any very exact or definite ideas.
An action, which ended happily to the principal persons, however serious or distressful through its intermediate incidents, in their opinion constituted a comedy. This idea of a comedy continued long amongst us, and plays were written, which, by changing the catastrophe, were tragedies to-day, and comedies to-morrow.*
Tragedy was not in those times a poem of more general dignity or elevation than comedy; it required only a calamitous conclusion, with which the common criticism of that age was satisfied, whatever lighter pleasure it afforded in its progress.
History was a series of actions, with no other than chronological succession, independent on each other, and without any tendency to introduce or regulate the conclusion. It is not always very nicely distinguished from tragedy. There is not much nearer approach to unity of action in the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, than in the history of Richard the Second. But a history might be continued through many plays; as it had no plan, it had no limits.
* Thus, says Downes the Prompter, p. 22: "The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was made some time after  into a tragi. comedy, by Mr. James Howard, he preserving Romeo and Juliet alive; so that when the tragedy was revived again, 'twas play'd alternately, tragical one day, and tragi-comical another, for several days together." Steevens.
Through all these denominations of the drama, Shakspeare's mode of composition is the same; an interchange of seriousness and merriment, by which the mind is softened at one time, and exhilarated at another. But whatever be his purpose, whether to gladden or depress, or to conduct the story, without vehemence or emotion, through tracts of easy and familiar dialogue, he never fails to attain his purpose; as he commands us, we laugh or mourn, or sit silent with quiet expectation, in tranquility without indifference.
When Shakspeare's plan is understood, most of the criticisms of Rymer and Voltaire vanish away. The play of Hamlet is opened, without impropriety, by two centinels; lago bellows at Brabantio's window, without injury to the scheme of the play, though in terms which a modein audience would not easily endure; the character of Polonius is seasonable and useful; and the Gravediggers themselves may be heard with applause.
Shakspeare engaged in dramatick poetry with the world open before him; the rules of the ancients were yet known to few; the publick judgment was unformed; he had no example of such fame as might force him upon imitation, nor criticks of such authority as might restrain his extravagance: he therefore indulged his natural disposition, and his disposition, as Rymer has remarked, led him to comedy. In tragedy he often writes with great appearance of toil and study, what is written at last with little felicity; but in his comick scenes, he seems to produce without labour, what no labour can improve. In tragedy he is always struggling after some occasion to be comick, but in comedy he seems to repose, or to luxuriate, as in a mode of thinking congenial to his nature. In his tragick scenes there is always something wanting, but his comedy often surpasses expectation or desire. His comedy pleases by the thoughts and the language, and his tragedy for the greater part by incident and action. His tragedy seems to be skill, his comedy to be instinct.*
The force of his comick scenes has suffered little diminution from the changes made by a century and a half, in manners or in words. As his personages act upon principles arising from genuine passion, very little modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexations are communicable to all times and to all places; they are natural, and therefore durable; the adventitious peculiaritics of personal habits, are only superficial dies, bright and pleasing for a little while, yet soon fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former lustre; but the discriminations of true passion are the colours of nature; they pervade
* In the rank and order of genuises it must, I think, be al lowed, that the writer of good tragedy is superior. And therefore, I think the opinion, which I am sorry to perceive gains ground, that Shakspeare's chief and predominant talent lay in comedy, tends to lessen the unrivalled excellence of our divine bard. J. Warton.
the whole mass, and can only perish with the body that exhibits them. The accidental compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by the chance that combined them; but the uniform simplicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase, nor suffers decay. The sand heaped by one flood is scattered by another, but the rock always continues in its place. The stream of time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabricks of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakspeare.
If there be, what I believe there is, in every nation, a style which never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial to the analogy and principles of its respective language, as to remain settled and unaltered; this style is probably to be sought in the common intercourse of life, among those who speak only to be understood, without ambition of elegance. The polite are always catching modish innovations, and the learned depart from established forms of speech, in hope of finding or making better; those who wish for distinction forsake the vulgar, when the vulgar is right; but there is a conversation above grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where this poet seems to have gathered his comick dialogue. He is therefore more agreeable to the ears of the present age than any other author equally remote, and among his other excellencies deserves to be studied as one of the original masters of our language.
These observations are to be considered not as unexceptionably constant, but as containing general and predominant truth. Shakspeare's familiar dialogue is affirmed to be smooth and clear, yet not wholly without ruggedness or difficulty; as a country may be eminently fruitful, though it has spots unfit for cultivation: his characters are praised as natural, though their sentiments are sometimes forced, and their actions improbable; as the earth upon the whole is spherical, though its surface is varied with protuberances and cavities.
Shakspeare with his excellencies has likewise faults, and faults sufficient to obscure and overwhelm any other merit. I shall shew them in the proportion in which they appear to me, without envious malignity or superstitious veneration. No question can be more innocently discussed than a dead poet's pretensions to renown; and little regard is due to that bigotry which sets candour higher than truth.
His first defect is that to which may be imputed most of the evil in books or in men. He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral purpose. From his writings indeed a system of social duty may be selected, for he that thinks reasonably must think morally; but his precepts and axioms drop casually from him; he makes no just distribution of good or evil, nor is always careful to show in the virtuous a disapprobation of the wicked; he carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong, and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of his age cannot extenuate;