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« English language in them arrived to its highest " perfection; what words have fince been taken ~ in, being rather superfluous, than necessary.".
Philaster has always been esteemed one of the best productions of Beaumont and Fletcher; and; we are told by Dryden, was the first play that brought them into great reputation. The beauties of it are indeed so striking and fo various, that our autbors might in this play almost be said to rival Shakespeare, were it not for the many evident marks of imitation of his manner. The late editors of Beaumont and Fletcher conceive, that the poets meant to delineate, in the character of Philaster, a Hamlet racked with the jealoufy of Othello; and there are several passages, in this play, where the authors have manifestly taken fire from similar circumstances and expressions in Shakespeare, para ticularly fome, that will readily occur to the reader as he goes along, from Othello, Hamlet, Cymbea line, and Lear.
To remove the objections to the performance of this excellent play on the modern stage, has been the chief labour, and fole ambition, of the present editor. It may be remembered, that the Spanish Curate, the Little French Lawyer, and Scornful Lady of our authors, as well as the Silent Woman
of Jonson, all favourite entertainments of our predeceffors, have, within these few years, encountered the severity of the pit, and received sentence of condemnation. That the uncommon merit of such a play as Philafter might be universally acknowledged and received, it appeared necefsary to clear it of ribaldry and obscenity, and to amend a grofs indecency in the original constitution of the fable, which must have checked the success due to the rest of the piece, nay, indeed, was an ina fuperable obstacle to its representation.
But though the inaccuracies and licentiousness of the piece were inducements (according to the incudi reddere of Horace) to put it on the anvil again, yet nothing has been added more than was absolutely necessary, to make it move easily on the new hinge, whereon it now turns : Nor has any thing been omitted, except what was supposed to have been likely to obscure its merit, or injure its success. The pen was drawn, without the least hesitation, over every scene now expunged, except the first scene of the third act, as it stands in the original; in regard to which, the part, that Philafter sustains in it, occafioned fome pause : Buty on examination, it seemed that Dion's falsification of facts in that scene was inconsistent with the rest
of his character, though very natural in such a person as Megra: And though we have in our times seen the sudden and instantaneous transitions from one passion to another remarkably well represented on the stage, yet Philaster's emotions appeared impossible to be exhibited with any conformity to truth or nature. Įt was therefore thought advisable to omit the whole scene : and it is hoped, that this omission will not be disapproved; and that it will not appear to have left any void or chasm in the action ; fince the imputed fallhood of Arethusa, after being fo industriously made publick to the whole court, might very naturally be imagined to come to the knowledge of Philaster, in much shorter interval than is often supposed to elapse between the acts, or even between the scenes of fome of our old plays.
The scenes in the fourth act, wherein Philafter, according to the original play, wounds Arcthusa and Bellario, and from which the piece took its second title of Love Lies A-bleeding, have always been censured by the criticks. They breathe too much of that spirit of blood, and cruelty, and horror, of which the Englih Tragedy hath often been accused. The hero's wounding his mistress hurt the delicacy of most; and his maiming Bellario
sleeping, in order to save himfelf from his pursuers,
The rest of the additions or alterations may be
There is extant in the works of the duke of Buckingham, who wrote the Rehearsal, and altered the Chances, an alteration of this play, under the title of the Restoration, or Right will take place. .The duke feems to have been very studious to disguise the piece, the names of the dramatis perfone, as well as the title, being entirely changed; and the whole piece, together with the prologue and epilogue, seeming intended to carry the air of an oblique political satire on his own times. However that may be, the duke's play is as little (if not less) calculated for the present stage, as the origi
nal of our authors." The character of Thrasomond (for fo the duke calls the Spanish Prince) is much more ludicrous than the Pharamond of Beaumont and Fletcher. Few of the indecencies or obscenities in the original are removed, and with what delicacy the adventure of Megra is managed, may be determined from the following specimen of his grace's alteration of that circumstance, scarce a word of the following extract being to be found in Beaumont and Fletcher.
Enter the guard, bringing in Thrafomond, in drawers,
muffled up in a cloak, Guard. Sir, in obedience to your commands, We stopt this fellow stealing out of doors.
[They pull off his cloak. Agremont. Who's this? the prince | Cleon. Yes; he is incognito.
King. Sir; I must chide you for this loofeness : You've wrong'd a worthy lady; but no more..?!
Thras. Sir, I came hither but to take the air. Cleon. A witty rogue, I warrant him... ;": Agremont. Ay, he's a devil at his answers, 1 King. Conduct him to his lodgings.
If to move the passions of pity and terror are the two chief ends of Tragedy, there needs no apology