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“ passions; as, namely, that of love, scarce “ touched on by the ancients, except in this “ one example of Phædra, cited by Mr. Ry“ mer; and in that how short they were of " Fletcher!
« Prove also that love, being an heroick “ passion, is fit for tragedy, which cannot be “ denied, because of the example alledged of “ Phædra; and how far Shakespeare has out« done them in friend
“ To return to the beginning of this enquis ry; consider if pity and terror be enough “ for tragedy to move; and I believe, upon a « true definition of tragedy, it will be found “ that its work extends farther; and that it is " to reform manners, by a delightful repre“ sentation of human life in great persons, by
way of dialogue. If this be true, then not “ only pity and terror are to be moved, as “ the only means to bring us to virtue, but “ generally love to virtue and hatred to vice; “ by shewing the rewards of one, and punish“ ments of the other; at least, by rendering “ virtue always amiable, tho'it be shewn un“i fortunate ; and vice detestable, tho' it be 6 shewn triumphant.
" If, then, the encouragement of virtue and “ discouragement of vice be the proper ends of “ poetry in tragedy, pity and terror, tho' good “ means, are not the only. For all the pas“ fions, in their turns, are to be set in a fer“ ment: as joy, anger, love, fear, are to be “ used as the poet's common-places; and a “ general concernment for the principal actors " is to be raised, by making them appear such “ in their characters, their words, and acti
“ ons, as will interest the audience in their "s fortunes.
“ And if, after all, in a larger sense, pity “ comprehends this concernment for the good, “ and terror includes detestation for the bad, “ then let us consider whether the English “ have not answered this end of tragedy, as “ well as the ancients, or perhaps better.
“ And here Mr. Rymer's objections against “ these plays are to be impartially weighed, “ that we may see whether they are of weight “ enough to turn the balance against our “ countrymen.
“ 'Tis evident those plays, which he ar“ raigns, have moved both those passions in a “ high degree upon the stage.
“ To give the glory of this away from the “ poet, and to place it upon the actors, seems « unjuft.
“One reason is, because whatever actors " they have found, the event has been the “ same; that is, the same passions have been “ always moved; which shews, that there is “ something of force and merit in the plays “ themselves, conducing to the design of rai"sing these two passions: and suppose them “ ever to have been excellently acted, yet " action only adds grace, vigour, and more “ life, upon the stage; but cannot give it “ wholly where it is not first. But, secondly, I “ dare appeal to those who have never seen “ them acted, if they have not found these " two passions moved within them; and if the “ general voice will carry it, Mr. Rymer's pre“ judice will take off his single testimony.
“ This, being matter of fact, is reasonably “to be established by this appeal: as if one “ man says 'tis night, the rest of the world “ conclude it to be day; there needs no far“ther argument against him, that it is fo.
" If he urge, that the general talte is de. " praved, his arguments to prove this can at " best but evince that our poets took not the “ best way to raise those passions ; but expe“ rience proves against him, that these means, “ which they have used, have been successful, " and have produced them.
« And one reason of that success is, in my “ opinion, this, that Shakespeare and Flet“cher have written to the genius of the age " and nation in which they lived; for though “ nature, as he objects, is the same in all places, " and reason too the same; yet the climate, “ the age, the disposition of the people, to “ whom a poet writes, may be so different, " that what pleased the Greeks would not là. ” tisfy an English audience.
“ And if they proceeded upon a foundation ” of truer reason to please the Athenians than " Shakespeare and Fletcher to please the Eng. “ lith, it only shew that the Athenians were “ a more judicious people; but the poet's bu. "siness is certainly to please the audience.
“ Whether our English audience have been « pleased hitherto with acorns, as he calls it, " or with bread, is the next question ; that is, “ whether the means which Shakespeare and "? Fletcher have used in their plays to raite " thole passions before named, be better ap" plied to the ends by the Greek poetş than ! by them. And perhaps we shall not grant
him this wholly: let it be granted that “ a writer is not to run down with the “ stream, or to please the people by their own “ usual methods, but rather to reform their “ judgements, it still remains to prove that « our theatre needs this total reformation.
“ The faults, which he has found in their Śc designs, are rather wittily aggravated in ma" ny places than reasonably urged; and as "much may be returned on the Greeks, by “ one who were as witty as himself. .
“ 2. They destroy not, if they are granted, “ the foundation of the fabrick; only take a“ way from the beauty of the symmetry: for “ example, the faults in the character of the “ King and No-king are not as he makes “ then, such as render him detestable, but on“ ly imperfections which accompany human “ nature, and are for the most part excused “ by the violence of his love; so that they def“ troy not our pity or concernment for him : “ this answer may be applied to most of his " objections of that kind.
“ And Rollo committing many murders, 5c when he is answerable but for one, is too « severely arraigned by him ; for it adds to our “ horror and detestation of the criminal : and « poetick justice is not neglected neither ; for “ we stab him in our minds for every offence « which he commits; and the point, which “ the poet is to gain on the audience, is not “ so much in the death of an o “ raising an horror of his crimes.
" That the criminal should neither be whol“ ly guilty, nor wholly innocent, but so par“ ticipating of both as to move both pity and " terrar, is certainly a good rule, but not
perpetually to be observed; for that were to make all tragedies too much alike, which
objection he foresaw, but has not fully “ answered.
" To conclude, therefore; if the plays of the “ ancients are more correctly plotted, ours are “ more beautifully written. And if we can raise “ passions as high on worse foundations, it “ Thews our genius in tragedy is greater ; for, “ in all other parts of it, the English have “ manifestly excelled them.”
THE original of the following letter is preserved in the library at Lambeth, and was kindly imparted to the publick by the reverend Dr. Vyse. Copy of an original Letter from John Dry
den, Esq; to his sons in Italy, From a MS in the Lambeth Library, marked No.
933. P. 56.
Al Illustrissimo Signe Carlo Dryden Camariere d'Honore A. S. S.
In Roma. Franca per Mantoua.
“ Sept. the 3d, our stile. " Dear Sons, “ Being now at Sir William Bowyer's in " the country, I cannot write at large, because “ I find myself somewhat indisposed with a “cold, and am thick of hearing, rather worfe " than I was in town. I am glad to find, by “ your letter of July 26th, your stile, that