Imatges de pàgina

placed character and passion before our eyes, instead of describing the one weakening the other.

Afable that is compofed on the rules of criticism, can admit of little or no variety of action, few incidents, and consequently few of those situatiors which give rise to quick and passionate dialogue ; which introduce naturally those sudden strokes and turns of passion, which can only deJipeate truth of character. When the action of the tragedy passes before our eyes ; when a variety of striking incidents set the characters of the piece in their full light; when we hear only the language of passion varying through all the personages ; in such a piece our terror and pity will be moved to the greatest degree : but this cannot be where theunities are observed. Let us confider


celte original of these unities ; Brumoy gives us the following account of them.

“ The Iliad, says he, and good sense, ought by the same motive to have determined Eschylus to chuse for the subject of a. tragedy one great action, in itself, illustrious and interesting. An action perfect and entire, where the parts made a whole. A. singular action ; without a mixture of independent actions. An action which contained one single truth, hid in a circle of events united one to another, and all tending at once to de: monstrate the plot to the understanding, in proportion as they howed it to the eyes. It is easy to see that tragedy is: only the epic poem abridged, for the action, the chain of events, the fable (as: Aristotle calls it) have in Homer that unicy, that simplicity, that nobleness,



that interest, that whole, that connection, that innocence, that perfection; in short, all those qualities which the Greeks took care to introduce into their plays.-From the unity of action proceeded the unity of place : Nature only, which Eschylus in his views of Homer studied, could have made him perceive, that the specta. tors being placed in a pit, or in a circus, it was necessary that the action, in order to make it carry the resemblance of truth, should pass under their eyes, consequently in one and the same place. Homer being but a narrator, might make the narration cake voyages without his heroes, and might change the scene without carrying his readers into another country. Nothing had been more easy to the tragic poets, and to Eschylus, who was their model, to follow a hero fome. cimes into his closet, where he planned his. 6

enterprizes, enterprizes, and sometimes into the plain where he fought his battles. But would that have been in nature ? Certainly not. The spectator may help to deceive himself upon the duration of an action, be it more or less, provided that that action does not go beyond certain bounds, and that the intervals are dextrously managed; but he cannot deceive himself so grofly in the scenery part, as to imagine that it passes from a palace to a plain, and from one city to another, while he sees himself shut up in a bounded situation *

This passage I think proves the futility of the arguments which have so often been produced in favour of the unities. Elchylus we will suppose took the hint. from Homer; Sophocles and Euripides followed the example; Aristotle and other critics pointed out the practice of these Grecians, and from them drew up rules for tragic composition. Such then is the authority in question. But can it be thought that all succeeding writers are to tread in the same paths as the Greeks? Why have we dropped their chorus ? None but the most bigoted sticklers to antiquity pretend that the modern invention of acts is a vast improvement in tragedy; the chorus was a perpetual cramp on the poet, but our acts allow a much greater latitude. My Lord Kaimes has a very sensible observation on this subject, which I shall quote. “By dropping the chorus, says he, an opportunity is afforded to split our drama into parts or acts, which in the representation are distinguished by intervals of time, and

Theatre des Grecs.


« AnteriorContinua »