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Viola appears very interesting and very it must embody great character or deep innocent, when, in boy's clothes, she wan- feeling, - that it must express not only ders about in pursuit of a lover. Is not the individuality, but the strength of the Sarah equally interesting and equally in- passions. nocent, when, under cover of an assumed Observing this criticism, we think we name, and that a sister's, she would pre- may find any quantity of dramatic diaserve the love of one who has worthily logue in Scripture. The story of Joseph, won it ?
the march in the wilderness, the history Will it be said that the dialogue of the of David, are full of it. Bible lacks the charm of poetry ? that There are not only dramatic dialogue its action and sentiment, its love and its and movement, but dramatic monologue sorrow, are not heightened by those efforts and episode. For illustration, we might of the fancy which delight us in dramatic refer to Hagar in the wilderness. Her authors ? — that its simplicity is bald, and tragic loneliness and shuddering despair its naturalness rough?—that its excessive alight upon the page of Scripture with familiarity repels taste and disturbs cul- the interest that attends the introduction ture? If we may trust Wordsworth, sim- of the veiled Niobe with her children into plicity is not inconsistent with the pleas- the Grecian theatre. ures of the imagination. The style of the There are those who say, that the truth Bible is not redundant,—there is little of particular events, so far as we are conextravagance in it, and it has no trickery scious of it, is a drawback on the pleasure of words. Yet this does not prevent its as well as the dignity of the drama,- in being deep in sentiment, brilliant with in- other words, that the Bible is too true to trinsic thought or powerful effect. afford what is called dramatic delight,
In the “ Two Gentlemen of Verona," while the semblance of truth in ShakValentine thus utters himself touching speare is exactly graduated to this parhis betrothed :
ticular affection. Between the advocates
of this theory, and those who say that “What light is light, if Sylvia be not seen?
Shakspeare is true as truth itself, we can What joy is joy, if Sylvia be not by? Except I see my Sylvia in the night,
safely leave the point. There is no music in the nightingale.
The subject has another aspect, which Unless I look on Sylvia in the day, appears in the inquiry, What is the true There is no day for me to look upon. object of the drama ? If, as has been She is my essence; and I cease to be,
asserted, the object of the drama be the If I be not by her fair influence Fostered, illumined, cherished, kept alive.”
exhibition of the human character, - if,
agreeably to Aristotle, tragedy purifies Compare with this the language of the affections by terror and pity, - or if, Abraham. " Thou art fair, my wife. according to a recent writer, it interests Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister; us through the moral and religious printhat it may be well with me for thy sake, ciples of our nature, or even if, accordand my soul shall live because of thee." ing to Dr. Johnson, it be the province of The first is an instance of poetic am- comedy to bring into view the customs, plification and abandon ; we should con- manners, vices, and the whole character tend, for the last, that it expresses poetic of a people, - it is obvious that the Bible tenderness and delicacy. In the one case, and the drama have some correspondpassion is diffuse, - in the other,
ence. If, in the somewhat heated lantrated. Which is the more natural, oth- guage of Mrs. Jameson, “whatever in ers must judge.
religion is holy and sublime, in virtue Euthanasy,”
,” “ Theron and Aspasio," amiable and grave, whatever hath pasthe “ Phædon” of Plato are dialogues, but sion or admiration in the changes of forthey are not dramatic. It may be, that, tune or the refluxes of feeling, whatever for a composition to claim this distinction, is pitiful in the weakness, grand in the
strength, or terrible in the perversion of nations, was a religious observance. It the human intellect," be the domain of came in with the chorus and the ode. tragedy, this correspondence increases up- The chorus, or, as we now say, choir, was on us.
a company of persons who on stated ocIf, however, it be the object of the casions sang sacred songs, accompanying drama to divert, then it occupies a whol- their music with significant gesture, and ly different ground from the Bible. If an harmonious pulsation of the feet, or the it merely gratifies curiosity or enlivens more deliberate march. The ode or song pastime, if it awakens emotion without they sang was of an elevated structure directing it to useful ends, if it rallies and impassioned tone, and was commonthe infirmities of human nature with no ly addressed to the Divinity. Instances other design than to provoke our deris- of the ode are the lyrics of Pindar and ion or increase our conceit, it shoots very, David. The chorus was also divided into very wide of the object which the sacred parts, to each of which was assigned a writers propose.
separate portion of the song, and which It is worthy to be remarked, that the answered one another in alternate measJews had no drama, or nothing that an
A good instance of the chorus and swers to our idea of that term at the its movement appears after the deliverpresent time; they had no theatres, no ance of the Jews from the dangers of the writers of tragedy or comedy. Neither Red Sea. “ Then sang Moses and the are there any traces of the dramatic art children of Israel this song unto the Lord: among the Egyptians, among whom the ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath Jews sojourned four hundred years, nor triumphed gloriously,'” etc. "And Miriamong the Arabs or the Persians, who are am the prophetess took a timbrel in her of kindred stock with this people. On the hand, and all the women went out after other hand, by the Hindoos and Chinese, her with timbrels and with dances; and the Greeks and Romans, histrionic repre- Miriam answered them, 'Sing ye to the sentation was cultivated with assiduity. Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.'”
How shall we explain this national pe- At a later period, in Jewish as in Greek culiarity ? Was it because the religion history, choral exercises became a proof the Jews forbade creative imitation ?fession, and the choir constituted a deIs it to be found in the letter or the spir- tached portion of men and women. it of the second commandment, which + Those who have studied the history interdiits the making of graven images of Grecian antiquities," says Archbishof any pattern in earth or heaven? We op Potter, “and collected the fragments should hardly think so, since the object which remain of the most ancient auof this prohibition is rather to prevent thors, have all concurred in the opinion, idolatry than to discourage the gratifica- that poetry was first employed in celetion of taste.“ Thou shalt not bow down brating the praises of the gods. The to them nor serve them.” The Jews did fragments of the Orphic hymns, and have emblematic observances, costume, those of Linus and Musæus, show these and works of art. Yet, on the other poets entertained sounder notions of the hand, the Jews possessed something re- Supreme Being than many philosophers sembling the drama, and that out of of a later date. There are lyric fragwhich the dramatic institutions of all na- ments yet remaining that bear striking tions have sprung. The question, then, resemblance to Scripture.” why the Jews had no drama proper, and So, says Bishop Horne, " The poetry still preserved the semblance and germ of the Jews is clearly traceable to the thereof, will be partially elucidated by a service of religion. To celebrate the reference to the early history of dramatic praises of God, to decorate his worship, art.
and give force to devout sentiments, was In its inception, the drama, among all the employment of the Hebrew Muse.”
The choral song, that is, a sacred tral water; they burn incense; they diode united with appropriate action, dis- vide into antiphonal bands, and sing altinguished the Jews and Greeks alike. ternate stanzas of their sacred songs. At a later period of Jewish history, the So, in their religious festivals, the Jewchorus became perfected, yet without re- ish chorus surrounded the high altar of ceiving any organic change. Among the their worship, gorgeously dressed, and Greeks, however, the chorus passed by with an harmonious tread; they mounted degrees into the drama. To simple sing- and remounted the steps; they offered ing and dancing they added a variety of sacrifices; they bore branches of trees imitative action ; from celebrating the in their hands; they scattered the lustral praises of the Divinity, they proceeded water ; they burnt incense; they pealed to represent the deeds of men, and their the responsive anthem. orchestras were enlarged to theatres. But while we follow down the stream They retained the chorus, but subordi- of resemblance to a certain point, it dinated it to the action. The Jews, on vides at last : on the Greek side, it is dithe other hand, did no more than dram- verted into the lighter practice of the atize the chorus. So, Bishop Horsley theatre; on the Jewish side, it seems to says, the greater part of the Psalms are deepen itself in the religious feeling of a sort of dramatic ode, consisting of dia- the nation. logues between certain persons sustain- Æschylus, the father of tragedy, seizing certain characters. In these psalms, ing upon the chorus, elaborated it into the persons are the writer himself and the drama. The religious idea, indeed, a band of Levites, - or sometimes the seems never to have deserted the gentile Supreme Being, or a personation of the drama ; for, at a later period, we find the Messiah.
Romans appointing theatrical performanWe find, then, the Jews and the ces with the special design of averting Greeks running parallel in respect of the anger of the gods. A religious spirit, the drama, or that out of which the also, pervades all the writings of the andrama sprung, the chorus, for a long cient dramatists ; they bring the gods to series of years.
The practice of the view, and the terrors of the next world, two nations in this respect exhibits a on their stage, are seen crowding upon striking coincidence. Indeed, Lowth con- the sins of this. ceives that the Song of Solomon bears a On the other hand, David, who may strong resemblance to the Greek drama. be denominated the Alfred of the Jews, “ The chorus of virgins," he says,
seems to have contented himself with the in every respect congenial to the tragic chorus; he allotted its members, discichorus of the Greeks. They are con- plined its ranks, heightened its effect, and stantly present, and prepared to fulfil supplied new lyrics for its use. all the duties of advice and consolation; Another exemplification of singular they converse frequently with the dif- coincidence and diversity between the ferent characters; they take part in the two nations appears in this, that the goat whole business of the poem.” They ful- was common in the religious observances filled, in a word, all the purpose of the of both ; a similar ritual required the Greek chorus on the Greek stage. sacrifice of this animal : but with the
On certain occasions, the Greek chorus Jews the creature was an emblem of celebrated divine worship in the vicinity solemnity, while with the Greeks he was of the great altar of their god. Clad in significant of joy; the Jews sacrificed magnificent vestments, they move to sol- him on their fasts,—the Greeks in their emn measures about it; they ascend and feasts. And here we may observe, that descend the steps that lead to it; they tragedy, the most dignified and the primoffer sacrifices upon it; they carry in their itive form of the drama, deduces its orihands lighted torches; they pour out lus- gin from the goat,-being, literally, the
song of the goat, that is, the song accom- grave and the gay, the penitential and panying the sacrifice of the goat. the jubilant, had a religious design, and
Let us now endeavor to answer the were suggested by a religious feeling. question, Why, since the drama was gen- We think the peculiar cast of the Judaic erally introduced among surrounding na- faith would hardly embody itself in such tions, and Jewish customs and life com- a mode of expression. Moreover, tragedy prised so many initial dramatic materialswas the parent of comedy, — and since this art was not known among that peo- the Jews had not the first, we should ple?
hardly expect them to produce the last. It was owing to the earnestness and It is not difficult to perceive how the solemnity of their religious faith. We Greeks could convert their goat to drafind the cause in the simple, exalted, and matic, or even to comic purposes; but comparatively spiritual ideas they had of the Jews could not deal so with theirs. the Supreme Being; in a word, we shall We approach another observation, that state the whole ground to be this,— that there is no comedy in the Bible. There the Greeks were polytheists, and the is tragedy there, - not in the sense in Jews monotheists.
which we have just denied that the Jews Let us bear in mind that the chorus, had tragedy, but in the obvious sense of and the drama that was built upon it, tragic elements
, tragic scenes, tragic feelhad a religious association, and were em- ings. In the same sense, we say, there ployed in religious devotion. We may are no comic elements, or scenes, or feeladd, moreover, that the Greeks intro- ings. There is that in the Bible to make duced their gods upon the stage ; this you weep, but nothing to move you to the Jews could not do. The Greeks, of laughter. Why is this? Are there not course, had a great deal of religious feel- smiles as well as tears in life ? Have we ing, but they could not cherish that pro- not a deep, joyous nature, as well as asfound reverence for the object of their piration, reverence, awe? Is there not worship which the Jews entertained to a free-and-easy side of existence, as well wards theirs. The Jews accompanied the as vexation and sorrow? We assent that Greeks in the use of the chorus, but they these things are so. could not go with them any farther. They But comedy implies ridicule, sharp, both united in employing music and the corroding ridicule. The comedy of the dance, and all the pomp of procession Greeks ridiculed everything, - persons, and charm of ceremony, in divine wor- characters, opinions, customs, and someship; but when it came to displaying the times philosophy and religion. Comedy object of their adoration in personal form became, therefore, a sort of consecrated to the popular eye, and making him an slander, lyric spite, æsthetical buffoonery. actor on the stage, however dignified that Comedy makes you laugh at somebody's stage might be, the Jews could not con- expense; it brings multitudes together to sent.
see it inflict death on some reputation ; This, we think, will explain, in part, it assails private feeling with all the pubwhy others of the ancient nations, the licity and powers of the stage. Arabs and Persians, rich as they were Now we doubt if the Jewish faith or in every species of literature, had no taste would tolerate this. The Jews were theatre ; they were monotheists. commanded to love their neighbor. We
But there is the department of comedy, grant, their idea of neighbor was excesof a lighter sort, which does not converse sively narrow and partial; but still it was with serious subjects, or necessarily in their neighbor. They were commanded clude reference to Deity; why do we find not to bear false witness against their no trace of this among the Jews? We neighbor, and he was pronounced acmay remember, that all festivals, in very cursed who should smite his neighbor ancient time, of every description, the secretly. It might appear that comedy would violate each of these statutes. But Carpzov, Bishops Warburton, Percy, the Jews had their delights, their indul- Lowth, Bossuet. gences, their transports, notwithstanding The Book of Job has a prose prologue the inperfection of their benevolence, the and epilogue, the intermediate portions meagreness of their truth, and the cum- being poetic dialogue. The characters bersomeness of their ceremonials. The are discriminated and well supported. It Feast of Tabernacles, for instance, was does not preserve the unities of Aristotle, liberal and happy, bright and smiling; which, indeed, are found neither in the it was the enthusiasm of pastime, the Bible nor in Nature,—which Shakspeare psalm of delectableness. They did not neglects, and which are to be met with laugh at the exposure of another's foi- only in the crystalline artificialness of the bles, but out of their own merry hearts. French stage. “ It has no plot, not even
Will it be said, the Bible is not true to of the simplest kind,” says Dr. Lowth. Nature, if it does not represent the com- It has a plot, - not an external and visiical side of life, as well as Shakspeare ble one, but an internal and spiritual one; does? We think the comical parts of its incidents are its feelings, its progress Shakspeare, his extreme comical parts, is the successive conditions of mind, and are rather an exaggeration of individual it terminates with the triumph of virtue. qualities than a fair portraiture of the If it be not a record of actual conversawhole species. There is no Falstaff in tion, it is an embodiment of a most wonthe Bible, yet the qualities of Falstaff derful ideality. The eternity of God, the exist in the Bible and in Nature, but in grandeur of Nature, the profundity of the combination, and this combination modi- soul, move in silent panorama before you. fies their aspect and effect.
The great and agitating problems of huThere is laughter in the Bible, but it man existence are depicted with astonis not uttered to make you laugh. There ishing energy and precision, and marvelare also events recorded, which, at the lous is the conduct of the piece to us who time, may have produced effects analo- behold it as a painting away back on the gous to comedy. The approach of the dark canvas of antiquity. Gibeonites to the camp of Israel in their We said the Jews had no drama, no mock-beggarly costume might be men- theatre, because they would not introtioned. Shimei’s cursing David has al- duce the Divinity upon the stage. Yet ways seemed to us to border on the ludi- God appears speaking in the Book of
Job, not bodily, but ideally, and herein is But to leave these matters and return all difference. This drama addresses the to the general thread of thought. Dra- imagination, not the eye. The Greeks mas have been formed on the Bible. We brought their divinities into sight, stood hardly need name
“ Paradise Lost," or them on the stage, - or clothed a man “ Samson Agonistes,” or the “Cain” of with an enormous mask, and raised him Byron, the “ Hadad” of Hillhouse, or on a pedestal, giving him also correspondMrs. More's “ David and Goliah.” “ Pil- ing apparel, to represent their god. The grim's Progress" has a Scriptural ba- Hebrew stage, if we may share the ordisis.
nary indulgence of language in using that Moreover, if we may trust the best term, with an awe and delicacy suitable critics, certain portions of the sacred vol- to the dignity of the subject, permits the ume are conceived in a dramatic spirit, Divinity to speak, but does not presume and are propounded to a dramatic inter- to employ his person ; the majesty of Inpretation. These are the Book of Job, finitude utters itself, but no robe-maker the Song of Solomon, and, possibly, the undertakes to dress it for the occasion. Apocalypse of St. John. If we were dis- In the present instance, how exalted, posed to contend for this view, we need how inspiring, is the appearance of God! but mention such authorities as Calmet, how free from offensive diminution and