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who have robbed the tragic mufe of all her virtue, and divefted her of whatsoever gave her a real intereft in the human heart, require we should adore her for the glitter of a few falfe brilliants, or the nice arrangement of frippery ornaments? If she wears any thing of intrinfic value it has been borrowed from the ancients; but by these artifts it is fo fantastically fashioned to modern modes, as to lofe all its original graces, and even that neceffary qualification of all ornaments, fitness and propriety. A French tragedy is a tiffue of declamations, and fome laboured recitals of the catastrophe, by which the spirit of the drama is greatly weakened and enervated, and the theatrical piece is deprived of that peculiar influence over the mind, which it derives from the vivid force of representation.
Segnius irritant animos demiffa per aurem,
The bufinefs of the drama is to excite
fympathy; and its effect on the fpectator depends on fuch a juftness of imitation, as shall cause, to a certain degree, the fame paffions and affections, as if what was exhibited was real. We have obferved narrative imitation to be too faint and feeble a means to excite paffion declamation, still worse, plays idly on the furface of the subject, and makes the poet, who should be concealed in the action, vifible to the
fpectator. In many works of art, our pleasure arifes from a reflection on the art itself; and in a comparison, drawn by the mind, between the original and the copy before us. But here the art and the artist must not appear; for, as often as we recur to the poet, so often our fympathy with the action on the ftage is fufpended. The pompous declamations of the French theatre are mere rhetorical flourishes, fuch as an uninterested person might make on the state of the perfons in the drama. They affume the office of the fpectator by expreffing his feelings, instead of conveying to us the ftrong emotions and fenfations of the perfons C under
under the preffure of diftrefs. Experience informs us, that even the inarticulate groans, and involuntary convulfions, of a creature in agonies, affect us much more, than the most eloquent and elaborate description of its fituation, delivered in the propereft words, and most fignificant gestures. Our pity is attendant on the paffion of the unhappy perfon, and on his own fenfe of his misfortunes. From description, from the report of a spectator, we may make some conjecture of his internal ftate of mind, and fo far we fhall be moved: but the direct and immediate way to the heart is by the fufferer's expreffion of his paffion. As there may be fome obfcurity in what I have faid on this fubject, I will endeavour to illuftrate the doctrine by examples.
Sophocles, in his admirable tragedy of dipus Coloneus, makes dipus expoftulate with his undutiful fon. The injured parent exposes the enormity of filial difobedience ; fets forth the duties of this relation in a very ftrong and lively manner; but it is only by the
the vehemence with which he speaks of them, and the imprecations he utters against the delinquent fon, that we can guess at the violence of his emotions; therefore he excites more indignation at the conduct of Polynices, than fympathy with his own forrow; of which we can judge only as fpectators; for he has explained to us merely the external duties and relations of parent and child. The pangs of paternal tendernefs, thus wounded, is more pathetically expreffed by King Lear, who leaves out whatever of this enormity is equally fenfible to the fpectator, and immediately expofes to us his own internal feelings, when, in the bitterness of his foul, curfing his daughter's offspring, he adds,
That she may feel,
How sharper than a ferpent's tooth it is,
By this we perceive how deeply paternal affection is wounded by filial ingratitude.
In the play of King John, the legate offers many arguments of confolation to Conftance, on the lofs of Arthur: they appear, to the fpectator, reasonable, till fhe fo ftrongly expreffes the peculiar tenderness of maternal love, by answering,
He speaks to me that never had a fon.
One might be made to conceive, in some degree, the horrors of a murderer, under whose knife the bleeding victim is expiring in agonies, by a description of the unhappy object, but how fully, and how forcibly, is the conscioufnefs of guilt expreffed by Macbeth, when, fpeaking of the grooms who lay near Duncan, he fays!
One cry'd, God bless us! and Amen! the other;