Page images

“ knew they the best common place of pity, « which is love.

" He therefore unjustly blames us for not

building on what the ancients left us ; for “ it seems, upon consideration of the pre« mises, that we have wholly finished what o they began.

“My judgement on this piece is this : that “ it is extremely learned; but that the au. “ thor of it is better read in the Greek than “ in the English poets; that all writers

ought to study this critique, as the best “ account I have ever seen of the antients; " that the model of tragedy, he has here

given, is excellent, and extremely cor“ reet; but that it is not the only model of “ all tragedy, because it is too much cir“ cumscribed in plot, characters, &c. and,

lastly, that we may be taught here justly “ to admire and imitate the ancients, with“out giving them the preference with this “ author, in prejudice to our own country.

" Want of method in this excellent trea“ tise makes the thoughts of the author 66 sometimes obscure.

36 His meaning, that pity and terror are s to be moved, is, that they are to be “ moved as the means conducing to the ends “ of tragedy, which are pleasure and instruc« tion.

“ And these two ends may be thus distin . guished. The chief end of the poet is to

please ; for his immediate reputation de“pends on it.

- The great end of the poem is to instruct, “ which is performed by making pleasure " the vehicle of that instruction ; for poesy “ is an art, and all arts are made to profit.


“ The pity, which the poet is to labour 6 for, is for the criminal, not for those or s him whom he has murdered, or who s have been the occasion of the tragedy. “ The terror is likewise in the punishment o of the same criminal; who, if he be re

presented too great an offender, will not “ be pitied; if altogether innocent, his

punishment will be unjust.



6 A00

“ Another obscurity is, where he says So

phocles perfected tragedy by introducing - the third actor : that is, he meant three o kinds of action ; one company singing, or “ another playing on the musick; a third


“ To make a true judgement in this competition betwixt the Greek poets and the English, in tragedy :

“ Consider, first, how Aristotle had de “fined a tragedy. Secondly, what he af

fignis the end of it to be. Thirdly, what " he thinks the beauties of it. Fourthly, “ the means to attain the end proposed.

“ Compare the Greek and English tragick,

poets justly, and without partiality, ac« cording to those rules.

" Then, secondly, consider whether Ari“ stotle has made a just definition of tra“ gedy ; of its parts, of its ends, and of its “ beauties; and whether he, having not “ seen others but those of Sophocles, Eu“ ripides, &c. had or truly could determine

66 what

të what all the excellences of tragedy are, 6 and wherein they consist.

" Next, shew in what ancient tragedy was i deficient: for example, in the narrowness

of its plots, and fewness of persons; and try

whether that be not a fault in the ** Greek poets; and whether their excellency *6 was so great, when the variety was visibly s6 so little ; or whether what they did was < not very easy to do.

« Then make a judgement on what the śEnglish have added to their beauties : as, “ for example, not only more plot, but also “ new passions: as, namely, that of love, << scarcely touched on by the ancients, except “ in this one example of Phædra, cited by 66 Mr. Rymer ; and in that how short they 66 were of Fletcher !

“ Prove also that lové, being an heroick

paffion, is fit for tragedy, which cannot « be denied, because of the example alledged 56 of Phædra ; and how far Shakspeare has 66 outdone them in friendship, &c.

[blocks in formation]

“ To return to the beginning of this en

quiry; consider if pity and terror be “ enough for tragedy to move : and, I be“ lieve, upon a true definition of tragedy, it 66 will be found that its work exteuds faro ther, and that it is to reforin manners,

by a delightful representation of human - life in great perfous, 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 vs to virtue, and hatred to vice; by Thewing “ the rewards of one, and punishments of " the other ; at least, by rendering virtue 66 always arniable, tho’ it be shewn unfor“ tunate ; and vice detestable, though it be - Thewn triumphant.

“ If, then, the encouragement of virtue “6 and discouragement of vice be the proper “ ends of poetry in tragedy, pity and terror, “ though good means, are not the only. “ For all the passions, in their turns, are " to be set in a ferment; as joy, anger, love, “ fear, are to be used as the poet's common“ places; and a general concernment for

" the

« PreviousContinue »