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not to fix too precisely the instane in which the action begins. This innocent artifice is generally agreeable to us, and we even owe them thanks for it, fince by this means they conceal a defect in the action, which, if discovered, would take from our pleasure. But if the place was changed, and this change made without alcering the scenery, and by this means a confusion introduced into the representation, the place, action, and discourses, would no longer have any connection. The actor would say, What a superb temple is this! How delicious is obis garden! and we are still in a closer, where the former acts placed us. If the scenes are shifted, the charms of the illusion are broken. Is there any appearance of probability, that the place we behold should be changed into a defart, a forest, or a palace ? In nacure, if
chę the scene changes, it is because we ourselves change place. But here it is the reverse. The point of light changes its place, and we remain where we were before.” Batteux Princip. of Lit. vol, ii. p. 244.
CHAKESPEAR never observed the uni. N ties. I have often wondered how Mr. Upon could write so much to display that immortal man's imaginary learning, when 'tis much more to his credit not to have had a grain. We freely pardon the blemishes and absurdities that escape a rude uncultivated genius, but we expect more order and more decency from one who possessed as large a share of learning, as that gentleman supposes Shakespear did. Not content with enVol. III.
deavouring to prove tăis, he ridiculoully imagines himself able to display an adherence to the unities in some of his plays. He says " There are many, who never having read one word of Ariftotte, gravely cite his rules, and talk of the unities of time and place, at the very mentioning Shakespear's name; they don't seem ever to have given themselves the trouble of conlidering, whether or no his story does not hang together, and the incident's follow each other naturally and in order; in short, whether or no he has not a beginning, middle and end. If you will not allow that he wrote strictly tragedies; yet it may be granted that he wrote dramatic heroic poems; in which is there not an imitation of one actïon, serious, entire, and of a just length, and which, without the help of narration, raises pity and terror in the beholder's
breast, and refines the perturbed palfions *
A few night remarks will display the falsity of this affertion. I say nothing of time and place, as it is very well known Shakespear never regarded them ; but are the tragedies of Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet, (which he particularly cites as examples) Imitations of single action's ? The unity of action cannot be observed, if the episodes in the play are not so clofely connected with the action, as to be absolutely necessary towards bringing on the catastrophe. Let me aik Mr. Upton, whether the death of Banquo in Macbeth is not a distinct and separate action ? It may be extracted from the fable, which will remain just as complete without, as with it. It di. vides the attention of the audience, and * Critical Observations on Shakespear, p. 42.
ni;-.-.( 36 ) sering calls off our pity and terror from the heroes of the piece : The death of lady Macduff is of the same nature, both being action's of two distinct tragedies; and which do not affift the denouement of Macbeth. I could name other extremely vicious episodes in this play, but the two I have mentioned quite destroy the unity of action : The whole plan of the tragedy is wrong; for the death of Duncan is one, and too considerable a one to be made only ap inferior one to bring about the grand event of the plot.
The fable of Othello is much more regular than was customary with Shake. spear. The episodes are fewer, and the incidents much better connected; yet, in
this tragedy there are many superfiuous ...scenes, which might be retrenched without the fable’s suffering: the first scene,