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Roman theatre. Native kinds : Attellanic Fables, Mimi, Comedia Togata.
Greek tragedy transplanted to Rome. Tragic authors of a former epoch, and
of the Augustan age.
Idea of a national Roman tragedy. Causes of the want
of success of the Romans in tragedy. Seneca. The Italians. Pastoral dra-
mas of Tasso and Guarino. Small progress in tragedy. Metastasio and Alfi-
Introduction-Spirit of true criticism-Difference of taste between the ancients
and moderns-Classical and romantic poetry and art-Division of dramatic literature: the ancients, their imitators, and the romantic poets-Definition of the drama View of the theatres of all nations.
The object which we propose to ourselves in these Lectures is to investigate the principles of dramatic literature, and to consider whatever is connected with the fable, composition, and representation, of theatrical productions. We have selected the drama in preference to every other department of poetry. It will not be expected of us that we should enter scientifically into the first principles of theory. Poetry is in general closely connected with the other fine arts; and, in some degree, the eldest sister and guide of the rest. The necessity for the fine arts, and the pleasure derivable from them, originate in a principle of our nature, which it is the business of the philosopher to investigate and to classify. This object has given rise to many profound disquisitions, especially in Germany; and the name of aesthetic* (perceptive) has, with no great degree of propriety, been conferred on this department of philosophy. Aesthetics, or the philosophical theory of beauty and art, is of the utmost importance in its connexion with other inquiries into the human mind; but, considered by itself, it is not of sufficient practical instruction; and it can only become so by its union with the history of the arts. We give the appellation of criticism to the intermediate
• From Alointixo, sentiendi vim habens.—TRANS.
province between general theory and experience or history. The comparing together and judging the existing productions of the human mind must supply us with a knowledge of the means which are requisite for the conception and execution of masterly works of art.
We will therefore endeavour to throw light on the history of the dramatic art by the torch of criticism. In the course of this attempt it will be necessary to adopt many a proposition, without proof, from general theory; but I hope that the manner in which this shall be done will not be considered as objectionable.
Before I proceed farther, I wish to say a few words respecting the spirit of my criticism, a study to which I have devoted a great part of my life. We see numbers of men, and even whole nations, so much fettered by the habits of their education and modes of living, that they cannot shake themselves free from them, even in the enjoyment of the fine arts. Nothing to them appears natural, proper, or beautiful, which is foreign to their language, their manners, or their social relations. In this exclusive mode of seeing and feeling, it is no doubt possible, by means of cultivation, to attain a great nicety of discrimination in the narrow circle within which they are limited and circumscribed. But no man can be a true critic or connoisseur who does not possess a universality of mind, who does not possess the flexibility, which, throwing aside all personal predilections and blind habits, enables him to transport himself into the peculiarities of other ages and nations, to feel them as it were from their proper central point; and, what ennobles human nature, to recognize and respect whatever is beautiful and grand under those external modifications which are necessary to their existence, and which sometimes even seem to disguise them. There is no monopoly of poetry for certain ages and nations, and consequently that despotism in taste, by which it is attempted to make those rules universal which were at first perhaps arbitrarily established, is a pretension which ought never to be allowed. Poetry, taken in its widest acceptation, as the power of creating what is beautiful, and representing it to the eye or the ear, is a universal gift of Heaven, which is even shared to a certain extent by those whom we call barbarians and savages. Internal excellence is alone decisive, and where this exists we must not allow ourselves to be repelled by external appearances. Everything must be traced up to the root of our existence: if it has sprung from thence, it must possess an undoubted worth; but if, without possessing a living germ, it is merely an external appendage, it can never thrive nor acquire a proper growth. Many productions which appear at first sight dazzling phenomena in the province of the fine arts, and which