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John Dryden (1631-1700)

Of Dramatic Poesie (1668)

OF
Dramatick Poesie ,
AN
ESSAY.
By JOHN DRYDEN |Esq;|
Fungar vice cotis, acutum
Reddere quæ ferrum valet, exors ipsa secandi.

Horat. De Arte Poet.
LONDON,
Printed for Henry Herringman, at the Sign of the
Anchor, on the Lower-walk of the New-
Exchange.1668.

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To the Right Honourable

CHARLES LORD BUCKHURST.

My Lord,

AS I was lately reviewing my loose Papers,
amongst the rest I found this Essay, the
writing of which in this rude and indi-
gested manner wherein your Lordship
now sees it, serv'd as an amusement to me
in the Country, when the violence of the
last Plague had driven me from the
Town. Seeing then our Theaters shut up, I was engag'd in these kind of
thoughts with the same delight with which men think upon their ab-
sent Mistresses: I confess I find many things in this discourse which I
do not now approve; my judgment being a little alter'd since the writing
of it, but whither for the better or the worse I know not: Neither indeed
is it much material in an Essay, where all I have said is problema-
tical. For the way of writing Playes in verse, which I have seemed
to favour, I have since that time laid the Practice of it aside, till I
have more leisure, because I find it troublesome and slow. But I am
no way alter'd from my opinion of it, at least with any reasons which


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have oppos'd it. For your Lordship may easily observe that none are
very violent against it, but those who either have not attempted it,
or who have succeeded ill in their attempt. 'Tis enough for me to
have your Lordships example for my excuse in that little which I have
done in it; and I am sure my Adversaries can bring no such Argu-
ments against Verse, as the fourth Act of
Pompey will furnish me
with, in its defence. Yet, my Lord, you must suffer me a little to
complain of you, that you too soon withdraw from us a contentment,
of which we expected the continuance, because you gave it us so early.
'Tis a revolt without occasion from your Party, where your merits had
already rais'd you to the highest commands, and where you have not
the excuse of other men that you have been ill us'd, and therefore laid
down Armes. I know no other quarrel you can have to Verse, then
that which
Spurina had to his beauty, when he tore and mangled the
features of his Face, onely because they pleas'd too well the lookers
on. It was an honour which seem'd to wait for you, to lead out a
new Colony of Writers from the Mother Nation: and upon the first
spreading of your Ensignes there had been many in a readiness to have
follow'd so fortunate a Leader; if not all, yet the better part of Wri-
ters.


Pars, indocili melior grege; mollis |&| expes
Inominata perprimat cubila.

I am almost of opinion, that we should force you to accept of the

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command, as sometimes the Prætorian Bands have compell'd their
Captains to receive the Empire. The Court, which is the best and
surest judge of writing, has generally allow'd of Verse; and in the
Town it has found favourers of Wit and Quality. As for your own
particular, My Lord, you have yet youth, and time enough to give part
of it to the divertisement of the Publick, before you enter into the se-
rious and more unpleasant business of the world. That which the French
Poet said of the Temple of Love, may be as well apply'd to the Temple
of the Muses. The words, as near as I can remember them, were these:



La jeunesse a mauvaise grace.
N' ayant pas adoré dans le temple d'Amour :
Il faut qu'il entre, |&| pour le sage
Si ce nest son vray sejour
Ce'st un giste sur son passage.


I leave the words to work their effect upon your Lordship in their
own Language, because no other can so well express the nobleness of
the thought; And wish you may be soon call'd to bear a part in the affairs
of the Nation, where I know the world expects you , and wonders
why you have been so long forgotten; there being no person amongst
our young Nobility, on whom the eyes of all men are so much bent.
But in the mean time your Lordship may imitate the course of Nature,
who gives us the flower before the fruit: that I may speak to you
in the language of the Muses, which I have taken from an excellent
Poem to the King.

{{Page vi}}



As Nature, when she fruit designes, thinks fit
By beauteous blossoms to proceed to it;
And while she does accomplish all the Spring,
Birds to her secret operations sing.


I confess I have no greater reason, in addressing this Essay to your
Lordship, then that it might awaken in you the desire of writing
something, in whatever kind it be, which might be an honour to our
Age and Country. And me thinks it might have the same effect upon
you, which
Homer tells us the sight of the Greeks and Trojans be-
fore the Fleet, had on the spirit of
Achilles, who though he
had resolved not to ingage, yet found a martial warmth to steal
upon him, at the sight of Blows, the sound of Trumpets, and the
cries of fighting Men. For my own part, if in treating of this sub-
ject I sometimes dissent from the opinion of better Wits, I declare it
is not so much to combat their opinions, as to defend my own, which
were first made publick. Sometimes, like a Schollar in an Fencing-
School I put forth my self, and show my own ill play, on purpose to be
better taught. Sometimes I stand desperately to my Armes, like the
Foot when deserted by their Horse, not in hope to overcome, but onely
to yield on more honourable termes. And yet, my Lord, this war of
opinions, you well know, has fallen out among the Writers of all Ages,
and sometimes betwixt Friends. Onely it has been prosecuted by some,
like Pedants, with violence of words, and manag'd by others like

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Gentlemen, with candour and ciuility. Even
Tully had a Controversie
with his dear
Atticus; and in one of his Dialogues makes him sustain
the part of an Enemy of Philosophy, who in his Letters is his confi-
dent of State, and made privy to the most weighty affairs of the Ro-
man Senate. And the same respect which was paid by
Tully to At-
ticus, we find return'd to him afterwards by Cæsar on a like occa-
sion, who answering his Book in praise of
Cato, made it not so
much his business to condemn
Cato, as to praise Cicero. But that
I may decline some part of the encounter with my Adversaries, whom
I am neither willing to combate, nor well able to resist; I will give
your Lordship the Relation of a Dispute betwixt some of our Wits
upon this subject, in which they did not onely speak to Playes in Verse,
but mingled, in the freedom of Discourse, some thing of the An-
cient, many of the Modern wayes of writing, comparing those with
these, and the Wits of our Nation with those of others: 'tis true they
differ'd in their opinions, as 'tis probable they would: neither do I
take upon me to reconcile, but to relate them: and that as
Tacitus
professes of himself,
Sine studio partium aut ira:: without Passion
or Interest; leaving your Lordship to decide it in favour of which part
you shall judge most reasonable, and withall, to pardon the many er-
rours of,

Your Lordships most obedient humble Servant,

JOHN DRYDEN.

{{Page viii}}


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TO THE
READER.

THe drift of the ensuing Discourse was chiefly to vindicate the
honour of our English Writers, from the censure of those who
unjustly prefer the French before them. This I intimate, least
any should think me so exceeding vain, as to teach others an
Art which they understand much better than my self. But if this incorrect
Essay, written in the Country without the help of Books, or advice of Friends,
shall find any acceptance in the world, I promise to my self a better success of the
second port, wherein the Vertues and Faults of the English Poets, who have writ-
ten either in this, the Epique, or the Lyrique way, will be more fully treated of,
and their several styles impartially imitated.

{{Page 1}}

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AN
ESSAY
OF
Dramatick Poesie.

¶1
1   IT was that memorable day, in the first Summer of
2   the late War, when our Navy ingag'd the Dutch :
3   a day wherein the two most mighty and best appoin-
4   ted Fleets which any age had ever seen, disputed the
5   command of the greater half of the Globe, the com-
6   merce of Nations, and the riches of the Universe. While these vast float-
7   ing bodies, on either side, mov'd against each other in parallel lines, and
8   our Country men, under the happy conduct of his Royal Highness, went
9   breaking, by little and little, into the line of the Enemies; the noise of the
10 Cannon from both Navies reach'd our ears about the City : so that al
11 men, being alarm'd with it, and in a dreadful suspence of the event, which
12 we knew was then deciding, every one went following the sound as his fancy
13 led him ; and leaving the Town almost empty, some took towards the

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14 Park, some cross the River, others down it; all seeking the noise in the
15 depth of silence.

¶2
16 Amongst the rest, it was the fortune of Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius
17 and Neander, to be in company together: three of them persons whom
18 their witt and Quality have made known to all the Town: and whom I
19 have chose to hide under these borrowed names, that they may not suf-
20 fer by so ill a relation as I am going to make of their discourse.

¶3
21 Taking then a Barge which a servant of Lisideus had provided for
22 them, they made haste to shoot the Bridge, and left behind them that
23 great fall of waters which hindred them from hearing what they desired:
24 after which, having disiingag'd themselves from many Vessels which rode at
25 Anchor in the Thames, and almost blockt up the passage towards Green-
26 wich, they order'd the Watermen to let fall their Oares more gently; and
27 then every one favouring his own curiosity with a strict silence, it was
28 not long ere they perceiv'd the Air break about them like the noise of
29 distant Thunder, or of Swallows in a Chimney: those little undulations of
30 sound, though almost vanishing before they reach'd them, yet still seeming
31 to retain somewhat of their first horrour which they had betwixt the Fleets:
32 after they had attentively listned till such time as the sound by little and
33 little went from them; Eugenius lifting up his head, and taking notice of it,
34 was the first who congratulated to the rest that happy Omen of our Nations
35 Victory: adding, we had but this to desire in confirmation of it, that we
36 might hear no more of that noise which was now leaving the English Coast.
37 When the rest had concur'd in the same opinion, Crites, a person of a sharp
38 judgment, and somewhat too delicate a taste in wit, which the world have mi-
39 staken in him for ill nature, said, smiling to us, that if the concernment of this
40 battel had not been so exceeding great, he could scarce have wish'd the Vi-
41 ctory at the price he knew must pay for it, in being subject to the reading and

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42 hearing of so many ill verses as he was sure would be made upon it; adding,
43 that no Argument could scape some of those eternal Rhimers, who watch a
44 Battel with more diligence then the Ravens and birds of Prey; and the
45 worst of them surest to be first in upon the quarry, while the better able,
46 either out of modesty writ not at all, or set that due value upon their Po-
47 ems, as to let them be often call'd for and long expected ! there are some of
48 those impertinent people you speak of, answer'd Lisideius, who to my
49 knowledg, are already so provided, either way, that they can produce
50 not onely a Panegirick upon the Victory, but, if need be, a funeral elegy
51 upon the Duke: and after they have crown'd his valour with many Law-
52 rels, at last deplore the odds under which he fell, concluding that his cou-
53 rage deserv'd a better destiny. All the company smil'd at the conceipt of
54 Lisideius, but Crites, more eager then before, began to make particular
55 exceptions against some Writers, and said the publick Magistrate ought
56 to send betimes to forbid them; and that it concern'd the peace and quiet
57 of all honest people, that ill Poets should be as well silenc'd as seditious
58 Preachers. In my opinion, replyed Eugenius, you pursue your point too
59 far; for as to my own particular, I am so great a lover of Poesie, that I could
60 wish them all rewarded who attempt but to do well; at least I would not
61 have them worse us'd then Sylla the Dictator did one of their brethren
62 heretofore: Quem in concione vidimus (says Tully speaking of him) cum ei
63 libellum malus poeta de populo subjecisset, quod epigramma in eum fecisset tan-
64 tummodo alternis versibus longiuculis, statim ex iis rebus quæ tunc vendebat
65 jubere ei præmium tribui, sub ea conditione ne quid postea scriberet. I could
66 wish with all my heart, replied Crites, that many whom we know were as
67 bountifully thank'd upon the same condition, that they would never trou-
68 ble us again. For amongst others, I have a mortal apprehension of two
69 Poets, whom this victory with the help of both her wings will never be able

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70 to escape; 'tis easie to guess whom you intend, said Lisideius; and with-
71 out naming them, I ask you if one of them does not perpetually pay us with
72 clenches upon words and a certain clownish kind of raillery? if now and then
73 he does not offer at a Catecresis or Clevelandism, wresting and torturing a
74 word into another meaning: In fine, if he be not one of those whom the
75 French would call un mauvais buffon; one that is so much a well-willer to
76 the Satire, that he spares no man; and though he cannot strike a blow to
77 hurt any, yet ought to be punish'd for the malice of the acttion, as our
78 Witches are justly hang'd because they think themselves so; and suffer de-
79 servedly for believing they did mischief, because they meant it. You
80 have described him, said Crites, so exactly, that I am affraid to come after
81 you with my other extremity of Poetry: He is one of those who having
82 had some advantage of education and converse, knows better then the other
83 what a Poet should be, but puts it into practice more unluckily then any
84 man; his stile and matter are every where alike; he is the most calm,
85 peaceable Writer you ever read : he never disquiets your passions with the
86 least concernment, but still leaves you in as even a temper as he found you;
87 he is a very Leveller in Poetry , he creeps along with ten little words in
88 every line, and helps out his Numbers with For to, and Vnto, and all the
89 pretty Expletives he can find, till he draggs them to the end of another
90 line; while the Sense is left tir'd half way behind it; he doubly starves all
91 his Verses, first for want of thought, and then of expression; his Poetry
92 neither has wit in it, nor seems to have it; like him in Martiall:

93 Pauper videri Cinna vult, |&| est pauper:

¶4
94 He affects plainness, to cover his want of imagination: when he writes
95 the serious way, the highest flight of his fancy is some miserable Anti-

{{Page 5}}

96 thesis, or seeming contradiction; and in the Comick he is still reaching at
97 some thin conceit, the ghost of a Jest, and that too flies before him, ne-
98 ver to be caught; these Swallows which we see before us on the Thames,
99 are just resemblance of his wit: you may observe how near the water
100 they stoop, how many proffers they make to dip, and yet how seldome
101 they touch it: and when they do, 'tis but the surface: they skim over it
102 but to catch a gnat, and then mount into the ayr and leave it. Well Gentle-
103 men, said Eugenius, you may speak your pleasure of these Authors; but
104 though I and some few more about the Town may give you a peaceable
105 hearing, yet, assure your selves, there are multitudes who would think
106 you malicious and them injur'd : especially him who you first described;
107 he is the very Withers of the City: they have bought more Editions of his
108 Works then would serve to lay under all the Pies at the Lord Mayor's
109 Christmass. When his famous Poem first came out in the year 1660, I
110 have seen them reading it in the midst of Change-time; many so vehement
111 they were at it, that they lost their bargain by the Candles ends: but what
112 will you say, if he has been received amongst the great Ones? I can
113 assure you he is, this day, the envy of a great person, who is Lord in the
114 Art of Quibbling; and who does not take it well, that any man should in-
115 trude so far into his Province. All I would wish replied Crites, is , that
116 they who love his Writings, may still admire him, and his fellow Poet: qui
117 Bavium non odit, |&c.| is curse sufficient. And farther, added Lisideius, I
118 believe there is no man who writes well, but would think himself very
119 hardly dealt with, if their Admirers should praise any thing of his: Nam
120 quos contemnimus eorum quoque laudes contemnimus. There are so few who
121 write well in this Age, said Crites, that me-thinks any praises should be
122 wellcome; then neither rise to the dignity of the last Age, nor to any of
123 the Ancients; and we may cry out of the Writers of this time, with more

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124 reason than Petronius of his, Pace vestra liceat dixisse, primi omnium elo-
125 quentiam perdidistis: you have debauched the true old Poetry so far, that
126 Nature, which is the soul of it, is not in any of your Writings.

¶5
127 If your quarrel (said Eugenius) to those who now write, be grounded
128 onely upon your reverence to Antiquity, there is no man more ready to
129 adore those great Greeks and Romans than I am: but on the other side, I
130 cannot think so contemptibly of the Age I live in, or so dishonourably of
131 my own Countrey, as not to judge we equal the Ancients in most kinds of
132 Poesie, and in some surpass them; neither know I any reason why I may
133 not be as zealous for the Reputation of our Age, as we find the Ancients
134 themselves in reference to those who lived before them. For you hear your Horace saying,

135 Indignor quidquam reprehendi, non quia crassé
136 Compositum, illepidève putetur, sed quia nuper.

137 And after,

138 Si meliora dies, ut vina, poemata reddit,
139 Scire velim pretium chartis quotus arroget annus?

¶6
140 But I see I am ingaging in a wide dispute, where the arguments are not
141 like to reach close on either side; for Poesie is of so large extent, and so
142 many both of the Ancients and Moderns have done well in all kinds of it,
143 that, in citing one against the other, we shall take up more time this Even-
144 ing, than each mans occasions will allow him: therefore I would ask Crites
145 to what part of Poesie he would confine his Arguments, and whether he
146 would defend the general cause of the Ancients against the Moderns, or
147 oppose any Age of the Moderns against this of ours?

¶7
148 Crites a little while considering upon this Demand, told Eugenius he

{{Page 7}}

149 approv'd his Propositions, and, if he pleased, he would limit their Dis-
150 pute to Dramatique Poesie; in which he thought it not difficult to prove,
151 either that the Antients were superiour to the Moderns, or the last Age to
152 this of ours.

¶8
153 Eugenius was somewhat surpriz'd, when he heard Crites make choice of
154 that Subject; For ought I see, said he, I have undertaken a harder Pro-
155 vince than I imagin'd; for though I never judg'd the Plays of the Greek
156 or Roman Poets comparable to ours; yet on the other side those we now
157 see acted, come short of many which were written in the last Age: but
158 my comfort is if we are orecome, it will be onely by our own Countrey-
159 men: and if we yield to them in this one part of Poesie, we more surpass
160 them in all the other; for in the Epique or Lyrique way it will be hard for
161 them to show us one such amongst them, as we have many now living, or
162 who lately were so. They can produce nothing so courtly writ, or which
163 expresses so much the Conversation of a Gentleman, as Sir John Suckling;
164 nothing so even, sweet, and flowing as Mr. Waller; nothing so Majestique,
165 so correct as Sir John Denham; nothing so elevated, so copious, and full of
166 spirit, as Mr Cowley; as for the Italian, French, and Spanish Plays, I can
167 make it evident that those who now write, surpass them; and that the
168 Drama is wholly ours.

¶9
169 All of them were thus far of Eugenius his opinion, that the sweetness
170 of English Verse was never understood or practis'd by our Fathers; even
171 Crites himself did not much oppose it: and every one was willing to ac-
172 knowledge how much our Poesie is improv'd, by the happiness of some
173 Writers yet living; who first taught us to mould our thoughts into easie
174 and significant words; to retrench the superfluities of expression, and to
175 make our Rime so properly a part of the Verse, that it should never
176 mis-lead the sence, but if self be led and govern'd by it.

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177 Eugenius was going to continue this Discourse, when Lisideius told him
178 it was necessary, before they proceeded further, to take a standing mea-
179 sure of their Controversie; for how was it possible to be decided who writ
180 the best Plays, before we know what a Play should be? but, this once a-
181 greed on by both Parties, each might have recourse to it, either to prove
182 his own advantages, or discover the failings of his Adversary.

¶10
183 He had no sooner said this, but all desir'd the favour of him to give the
184 definition of a Play; and they were the more importunate, because nei-
185 ther Aristotle, nor Horace, nor any other, who writ of that Subject, had
186 ever done it.

¶11
187 Lisideius, after some modest denials, at last confess'd he had a rude No-
188 tion of it; indeed rather a Description then a Definition: but which serv'd
189 to guide him in his private thoughts, when he was to make a judgment of
190 what others writ: that he conceiv'd a Play ought to be, A just and lively
191 Image of Humane Nature, representing its Passions and Humours, and the
192 Changes of Fortune to which it is subject; for the Delight and Instructi-
193 on of Mankind.

¶12
194 This Definition, though Crites rais'd a Logical Objection against it;
195 that it was onely a genre |&| fine, and so not altogether perfect; was yet
196 well received by the rest: and after they had given order to the Water-men
197 to turn their Barge, and row softly, that they might take the cool of the
198 Evening in their return; Crites, being desired by the Company to begin,
199 spoke on behalf of the Ancients, in this manner:

¶13
200 If Confidence presage a Victory, Eugenius, in his own opinion, has alrea-
201 dy triumphed over the Ancients; nothing seems more easie to him, than to o-
202 vercome those whom it is our greatest praise to have imitated well: for we do
203 not onely build upon their foundation; but by their modells. Dramatique
204 Poesie had time enough, reckoning from Thespis (who first invented it) to

{{Page 9}}

205 Aristophanes, to be born, to grow up, and to flourish in Maturity. It has
206 been observed of Ants and Sciences, that in one and the same Century they
207 have arriv'd to a great perfection; and no wonder, since every Age has a
208 kind of Universal Genius, which inclines those that live in it to some par-
209 ticular Studies: the Work then being push'd on by many hands, must of ne-
210 cessity go forward.

¶14
211 Is it not evident, in these last hundred years (when the Study of Philo-
212 sophy has been the business of all the Virtuosi in Christendome) that almost
213 a new Nature has been revealed to us? that more errours of the School have
214 been detected, more useful Experiments in Philosophy have been made,
215 more Noble Secrets in Opticks, Medicine, Anatomy, Astronomy, disco-
216 ver'd, than in all those credulous and doting Ages from Aristotle to us?
217 so true it is that nothing spreads more fast than Science, when rightly and generally cultivated.

¶15
218 Add to this the more than common emulation that was in those times of
219 writing well; which though it be found in all Ages and all Persons that
220 pretend to the same Reputation; yet Poesie being then in more esteem
221 than now it is, had greater Honours decreed to the Professors of it; and
222 consequently the Rivalship was more high between them; they had Judges
223 ordain'd to decide their Merit, and Prizes to reward it: and Historians
224 have been diligent to record of Eschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Lycophron,
225 and the rest of them, both who they were that vanquish'd in these Wars of
226 the Theater, and how often they were crown'd: while the Asian Kings,
227 and Grecian Common-wealths scarce afforded them a Nobler Subject then
228 the unmanly Luxuries of a Debauch'd Court, or giddy Intrigues of a Fa-
229 ctious City. Alit æmulatio ingenia (says Paterculus) |&| nunc invidia, nunc
230 admiratio incitationem accendit: Emulation is the Spur of Wit, and some-
231 times Envy, sometimes Admiration quickens our Endeavours.

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¶16
232 But now since the Rewards of Honour are taken away, that Vertuous
233 Emulation is turn'd into direct Malice; yet so slothful, that it contents it self
234 to condemn and cry down others, without attempting to do better: 'Tis a
235 Reputation too unprofitable, to take the necessary pains for it; yet wishing
236 they had it, is incitement enough to hinder others from it. And this,
237 in short, Eugenius, is the reason, why you have now so few good Poets;
238 and so many severe Judges: Certainly, to imitate the Antients well, much
239 labour and long study is required: which pains, I have already shown, our
240 Poets would want incouragement to take, if yet they had ability to go
241 through with it. Those Ancients have been faithful Imitators and wise
242 Observers of that Nature, which is so torn and ill represented in our Plays,
243 they have handed down to us a perfect resemblance of her; which we, like
244 ill Copyers, neglecting to look on, have rendred monstrous and disfigur'd.
245 But, that you may know how much you are indebted to those your Masters,
246 and be ashamed to have so ill requited them: I must remember you that
247 all the Rules by which we practise the Drama at this day, either such as
248 relate to the justness and symmetry of the Plot; or the Episodical Orna-
249 ments, such as Descriptions, Narrations, and other Beauties, which are
250 not essential to the Play; were delivered to us from the Observations that
251 Aristotle made, of those Poets, which either liv'd before him, or were his
252 Contemporaries: we have added nothing of our own, except we have the
253 confidence to say our wit is better; which none boast of in our Age, but
254 such as understand not theirs. Of that Book which Aristotle has left us
255 peri t{ee}s Poi{ee}ik{ee}s, Horace his Art of Poetry is an excellent Comment,
256 and, I believe, restores to us that Second Book of his concerning Comedy,
257 which is wanting in him.

¶17
258 Out of these two has been extracted the Famous Rules which the
259 French call, Des Trois Vnitez, or, The Three Unities, which ought

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260 to be observ'd in every Regular Play; namely, of Time, Place, and
261 Action.

¶18
262 The unity of Time they comprehend in 24 hours, the compass of a
263 Natural Day; or as near it as can be contriv'd: and the reason of it is ob-
264 vious to every one, that the time of the feigned action, or fable of the
265 Play, should be proportion'd as near as can be to the duration of that
266 time in which it is represented; since therefore all Playes are acted on the
267 Theater in a space of time much within the compass of 24 hours, that
268 Play is to be thought the nearest imitation of Nature, whose Plot or
269 Action is confin'd within that time; and, by the same Rule which
270 concludes this general proportion of time, it follows, that all the
271 parts of it are to be equally subdivided; as namely, that one act
272 take not up the suppos'd time of half a day; which is out of propor-
273 tion to the rest: since the other four are then to be straightned within
274 the compas of the remaining half; for it is unnatural that one Act, which
275 being spoke or written, is not longer than the rest, should be suppos'd lon-
276 ger by the Audience; 'tis therefore the Poets duty, to take care that no Act
277 should be imagin'd to exceed the time in which it is represented on the
278 Stage, and that the intervalls and inequalities of time be suppos'd to fall
279 out between the Acts.

¶19
280 This Rule of Time how well it has been observ'd by the Antients, most
281 of their Playes will witness; you see them in their Tragedies (wherein to
282 follow this Rule,' is certainly most difficult) from the very beginning
283 of their Playes, falling close into that part of the Story which they
284 intend for the action or principal object of it; leaving the former part
285 to be delivered by Narration: so that they set the Audience, as it were,
286 at the Post where the Race is to be concluded: and , saving them the te-
287 dious expectation of seeing the Poet set out and ride the beginning of

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288 the Course) you behold him not, till he is in sight of the Goal, and just
289 upon you.

¶20
290 For the Second Unity, which is that of place, the Antients meant by it,
291 That the Scene ought to be continu'd through the Play, in the same place
292 where it was laid in the beginning: for the Stage, on which it is represented,
293 being but one and the same place, it is unnatural to conceive it many; and
294 those far distant from one another. I will not deny but by the variation of
295 painted Scenes, the Fancy (which in these cases will contribute to its own de-
296 ceit) may sometimes imagine it several places, with some appearance of pro-
297 bability; yet it still carries the greater likelihood of truth, if those places be
298 suppos'd so near each other, as in the same Town or City; which may all
299 be comprehended under the larger Denomination of one place: for a grea-
300 ter distance will bear no proportion to the shortness of time, which is al-
301 lotted in the acting, to pass from one of them to another; for the Obser-
302 vation of this, next to the Antients, the French are to be most commended.
303 They tie themselves so strictly to the unity of place, that you never see in
304 any of their Plays a Scene chang'd in the middle of the Act: if the Act be-
305 gins in a Garden, a Street, or Chamber, 'tis ended in the same place; and
306 that you may know it to be the same, the Stage is so supplied with persons
307 that it is never empty all the time: he that enters the second has business
308 with him who was on before; and before the second quits the Stage, a third
309 appears who has business with him.

¶21
310 This Corneil calls La Liaison des Scenes, the continuity or joyning of the
311 Scenes; and 'tis a good mark of a well contriv'd Play when all the Persons
312 are known to each other, and every one of them has some affairs with all the rest.

¶22
313 As for the third Unity which is that of Action, the Ancients meant no o-
314 ther by it then what the Logicians do by their Finis, the end or scope of

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315 an action: that which is the first in Intention, and last in Execution:
316 now the Poet is no aim at one great and compleat action, to the carrying on
317 of which all things in his Play, even the very obstacles, are to be subservient;
318 and the reason of this is as evident as any of the former.

¶23
319 For two Actions equally labour'd and driven on by the Writer, would
320 destroy the unity of the Poem; it would be no longer one Play, but two:
321 not but that there may be many actions in a Play, as Ben. Johnson has ob-
322 serv'd in his discoveries; but they must be all subservient to the great one,
323 which our language happily expresses in the name of under-plots: such as
324 in Terences Eunuch is the difference and reconcilement of Thais and Phæ-
325 dria, which is not the chief business of the Play, but promotes; the marriage
326 of Chærea and Chreme's Sifter, principally intended by the Poet. There
327 ought to be one action, sayes Corneile, that is one compleat action
328 which leaves the mind of the Audience in a full repose: But this cannot be
329 brought to pas but by many other imperfect ones which conduce to it, and
330 hold the Audience in a delightful suspence of what will be.

¶24
331 If by these Rules (to omit many other drawn from the Precepts and Pra-
332 ctice of the Ancients) we should judge our modern Playes; 'tis probable,
333 that few of them would endure the tryal: that which should be the business
334 of a day, takes up in some of them an age; instead of one action they are
335 the Epitomes of a mans life,; and for one spot of ground (which the Stage
336 should represent) we are sometimes in more Countries then the Map can
337 show us.

¶25
338 But if we will allow the Ancients to have contriv'd well, we must acknow-
339 ledge them to have writ better; questionless we are depriv'd of a great stock
340 of wit in the loss of Meander among the Greek Poets, and of Caei-
341 lius, Affranius and Varius, among the Romans: we may guess of Me-
342 nanders Excellency by the Plays of Terence, who translated some of his,

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343 and yet wanted so much of him that he was call'dC. Cæsar the Half-
344 Mennder, and of Varius, by the Testimonies of Horace Martial, and
345 Velleus Paterculus: 'Tis probable that these, could they be recover'd, would
346 decide the controversie; but so long as Aristophanes in the old Comedy,
347 and Plaus in the new are extant; while the Tragedies of Eurypides, So-
348 phocles, and Seneca are to be had, I can never see one of those Plays which
349 are now written, but it encreases my admiration of the Ancients; and yet I
350 must acknowledge further, that to admire them as we ought, we should un-
351 derstand them better than we do. Doubtless many things appear flat to us,
352 whose wit depended upon some custome or story which never came to our
353 knowledge, or perhaps upon some Criticism in their language, which be-
354 ing so long dead, and onely remaining in their Books, 'tis not possible
355 they should make us know it perfectly. To read Macrobius, explaining
356 the propriety and elegancy of many words in Virgil, which I had before
357 pass'd over without consideration, as common things, is enough to assure me
358 that I ought to think the same of Terence; and that in the purity of his style
359 (which Tully so much valued that he ever carried his works about him)
360 there is yet left in him great room for admiration, if I knew but where to
361 place it. In the mean time I must desire you to take notice, that the greatest
362 man of the last age (Ben. Johnson) was willing to give place to them in all
363 things: He was not onely a professed Imitator of Horace, but a learned Pla-
364 giary of all the others; you track him every where in their Snow: If Ho-
365 race, Lucan, Petronius Arbiter, Seneca, and Juvenal, had their own from
366 him, there are few serious thoughts which are new in him; you will par-
367 don me therefore if I presume he lov'd their fashion when he wore their
368 cloaths. But since I have otherwise a great veneration for him, and you,
369 Eugenius, prefer him above all other Poets, I will use no farther argument
370 to you then his example: I will produce Father Ben. to you, dress'd in all

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371 the ornaments and colours of the Ancients, you will need no other guide
372 to our Party if you follow him; and whether you consider the bad Plays
373 of our Age, or regard the good ones of the last, both the best and worst
374 of the Modern Poets will equally instruct you to esteem the Ancients.

¶26
375 Crites had no sooner left speaking, but Eugenius who waited with some
376 impatience for it, thus began:

¶27
377 I have observ'd in your Speech that the former part of it is convincing as
378 to what the Moderns have profitted by the rules of the Ancients, but in the
379 latter you are careful to conceal how much they have excell'd them: we own
380 all the helps we have from them, and want neither veneration nor gratitude
381 while we acknowledge that to overcome them we must make use of the ad-
382 vantages we have receiv'd from them; but to these assistances we have
383 joyned our own industry; for (had we sate down with a dull imitation of
384 them) we might then have lost somewhat of the old perfection, but never
385 acquir'd any that was new. We draw not therefore after their lines, but
386 those of Nature; and having the life before us, besides the experience of all
387 they knew, it is no wonder if we hit some airs and features which they have
388 miss'd: I deny not what you urge of Arts and Sciences, that they have
389 flourish'd in some ages more then others; but your instance in Philosophy
390 makes for me: for if Natural Causes be more known now then in the time
391 of Aristotle, because more studied, it follows that Poesie and other Arts
392 may with the same pains arrive still neerer to perfection, and, that granted,
393 it will rest for you to prove that they wrought more perfect images of hu-
394 mane life then we; which, seeing in your Discourse you have avoided to
395 make good, it shall now be my task to show you some part of their defects,
396 and some few Excellencies of the Moderns; and I think there is none among
397 us can imagine I do it enviously, or with purpose to detract from them; for
398 what interest of Fame or Profit can the living lose by the reputation of the

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399 dead ? on the other side, it is a great truth which Velleius Paterculus affirms,
400 Audita visis libentius laudemus; |&| præsentia invidia, præterita admiratione
401 prosequimur; |&| his nos obrui, illis instrui credimus : That praise or censure
402 is certainly the most sincere which unbrib'd posterity shall give us.

¶28
403 Be pleased then in the first place to take notice, that the Greek Poesie,
404 which Crites has affirm'd to have arriv'd to perfection in the Reign of the
405 old Comedy, was so far from it, that the distinction of it into Acts was not
406 known to them; or if it were, it is yet so darkly deliver'd to us that we can-
407 not make it out.

¶29
408 All we know of it is from the singing of their Chorus, and that too is so
409 uncertain that in some of their Playes we have reason to conjecture they sung
410 more then five times: Aristotle indeed divides the integral parts of a Play
411 into four: First, The Protasis or entrance, which gives light onely to
412 the Characters of the persons, and proceeds very little into any part of the
413 action: 2ly, The Epitasis, or working up of the Plot where the Play grows
414 warmer: the design or action of it is drawing on, and you see something
415 promising that it will come to pass: Thirdly, the Catastasis, or Counter-
416 turn, which destroys that expectation, imbroyles the action in new diffi-
417 culties, and leaves you far distant from that hope in which it found you, as
418 you may have observ'd in a violent stream resisted by a narrow passage; it
419 runs round to an eddy, and carries back the waters with more swiftness then
420 it brought them on: Lastly, the Catastrophe, which the Grecians call'd
421 lusis, the French le denouement, and we the discovery or unravelling of the
422 Plot: there you see all things setling again upon their first foundations, and
423 the obstacles which hindred the design or action of the Play once remov'd,
424 it ends with that resemblance of truth and nature, that the audience are
425 satisfied with the conduct of it. Thus this great man deliver'd to us the
426 image of a Play, and I must confess it is so lively that from thence much light

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427 has been deriv'd to the forming it more perfectly into Acts and Scenes;
428 but what Poet first limited to five the number of the Acts I know not;
429 onely we see it so firmly establish'd in the time of Horace, that he
430 gives it for a rule in Comedy; Neu brevior quinto, neu sit productior actu:
431 So that you see the Grecians cannot be said to have consummated this Art;
432 writing rather by Entrances then by Acts, and having rather a general indi-
433 gested notion of a Play, then knowing how and where to bestow the parti-
434 cular graces of it.

¶30
435 But since the Spaniards at this day allow but three Acts, which they call
436 Tornadas, to a Play; and the Italians in many of theirs follow them , when
437 I condemn the Antients, I declare it is not altogether because they have not
438 five Acts to every Play , but because they have not confin'd themselves to
439 one certain number; 'tis building an House without a Modell: and when
440 the succeeded in such undertakings, they ought to have sacrific'd to For-
441 tune, not to the Muses.

¶31
442 Next, for the Plot, which Aristotle call'd to muthos and often T{o}n
443 pragmat{o}n sunthesis, and from him the Romans Fabula, it has already been
444 judiciously observ'd by a late Writer, that in their Tragedies it was
445 onely some Tale deriv'd from Thebes or Troy, or at lest some thing that
446 happen'd in those two Ages; which was worn so thred bare by the Pens of
447 all the Epique Poets, and even by Tradition it self of the Talkative Greek-
448 lings (as Ben Jhonson calls them) that before it came upon the Stage, it was
449 already known to all the Audience: and the people so soon as ever they
450 heard the Name of Oedipus, knew as well as the Poet, that he had kill'd
451 his Father by mistake, and committed Incest with his Mother, before the
452 Play; that they were now to hear of a great Plague, an Oracle, and the
453 Ghost of Laius: so that they sate with a yawning kind of expectation,
454 till he was to come with his eyes pull'd out, and speak a hundred or two

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455 of Verses in a Tragick tone, in complaint of his misfortunes. But
456 one Oedipus, Hercules, or Medea, had been tollerable; poor people
457 they scap'd not so good cheap: they had still the Chapon Bouillé set before
458 them, till their appetites were cloy'd with the same dish, and the Novelty
459 being gone, the pleasure vanish'd: so that one main end of Dramatique Poesie
460 in its Definition, which was to cause Delight, as of consequence de-
461 stroy'd.

¶32
462 In their Comedies, the Romans generally borrow'd their Plots from the
463 Greek Poets; and theirs was commonly a little Girle stollen or wandred
464 from her Parents, brought back unknown to the same City, there got with
465 child by some lewd young fellow; who, by the help of his servant, cheats
466 his father, and when her time comes, to cry Juno Lucina fer opem; one or
467 other sees a little Box or Cabinet which was carried away with her, and so
468 discovers her to her friends, if some God do not prevent it, by coming down
469 in a Machine, and take the thanks of it to himself.

¶33
470 By the Plot you may gues much of the Characters of the Persons. An
471 Old Father that would willingly before he dies, see his Son well married;
472 his Debauch'd Son, kind in his Nature to his Wench, but miserably in
473 want of Money; a Servant or Slave, who has so much wit to strike in with
474 him, and help to dupe his Father, a Braggadochio Captain, a Parasite,
475 and a Lady of Pleasure.

¶34
476 As for the poor honest Maid, whom all the Story is built upon, and who
477 ought to be one of the principal Actors in the Play, she is commonly a Mute
478 in it: She has the breeding of the Old Elizabeth way, for Maids to be
479 seen and not to be heard; and it is enough you know she is willing to be
480 married, when the Fifth Act requires it.

¶35
481 These are Plots built after the Italian Mode of Houses, you see
482 thorow them all at once; the Characters are indeed the Imitations of

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483 Nature, but so narrow as if they had imitated onely an Eye or an Hand,
484 and did not dare to venture on the lines of a Face, or the Proportion
485 of a Body.

¶36
486 But in how straight a compass soever they have bounded their Plots
487 and Characters, we will pass in by, if they have regularly pursued them,
488 and perfectly observ'd those three Unities of Time, Place, and Action: the
489 knowledge of which you say is deriv'd to us from them. But in the first
490 place give me leave to tell you, that the Unity of Place, how ever it might
491 be practised by them, was never any of their Rules: We neither find it in
492 Aristotle, Horace, of any who have written of it, till in our age the French
493 Poets first made it a Precept of the Stage. The unity of time, even
494 Terence himself (who was the best and the most regular of them) has neglected:
495 His Heautontimoroumenos or Self-Punisher takes up visibly two dayes; there-
496 fore sayes Scaliger, the two first Acts concluding the first day, were acted
497 over-night; the three last on the ensuing day: and Eurypides, in trying
498 himself to one day, has committed an absurdity never to be forgiven him:
499 for in one of his Tragedies he has made Theseus go from Athens to Thebes,
500 which was about 40 English miles, under the walls of it to give battel, and
501 appear victorious in the next Act; and yet from the time of his depar-
502 ture to the return of the Nuntius, who gives the relation of his Victory,
503 æthra and the Chorus have but 36 Verses; that in not for every Mile a
504 Verse.

¶37
505 The like errour is as evident in Terence his Eunuch, when Laches, the old
506 man, enters in a mistake the house of Thais, where betwixt his Exit and
507 the entrance of Pythias, who comes to give an ample relation of the Gar-
508 boyles he has rais'd within, Parmeno who was left upon the Stage, has not
509 above five lines to speak: C'est bien employé un temps si court, sayes the
510 French Poet, who furnish'd me with one of the observations; And

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511 almost all their Tragedies will afford us examples of the like nature.

¶38
512 'Tis true, they have kept the continuity, or as you call'd it Liaison des
513 Scenes somewhat better: two do not perpetually come in together, talk,
514 and go out together; and other two succeed them, and do the same through-
515 out the Act, which the English call by the name of single Scenes; but the
516 reason is, because they have seldom above two or three Scenes, properly
517 so call'd, in every act; for it is to be accounted a new Scene, not every
518 time the Stage is empty, but every person who enters, though to others, makes
519 it so: because he introduces a new business: Now the Plots of their Plays
520 being narrow, and the persons few, one of their Acts was written in a less
521 compass then one of our well wrought Scenes, and yet they are often defi-
522 cient even in this: To go no further then Terence, you find in the Eunuch
523 Antipho entring single in the midst of the third Act, after Chremes and Py-
524 thias were gone off: In the same Play you have likewise Dorias beginning
525 the fourth Act alone; and after she has made a relation of what was done at
526 the Souldiers entertainment (which by the way was very inartificial to do,
527 because she was presum'd to speak directly to the Audience, and to acquaint
528 them with what was necessary to be known, but yet should have been so
529 contriv'd by the Poet as to have been told by persons of the Drama to one
530 another, and so by them to have come to the knowledge of the people) she
531 quits the Stage, and Phœdria enters next, alone likewise: He also gives you
532 an account of himself, and of his returning from the Country in Monologue,
533 his Adelphi or Brothers, Syrus and Demea enter; after the Scene was broken
534 by the departure of Sostrata, Geta and Cathara; and indeed you can scarce
535 look into any of his Comedies, where you will not presently discover the
536 same interruption.

¶39
537 But as they have fail'd both in laying of their Plots, and managing of them,

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538 swerving from the Rules of their own Art, by mis-representing Nature to
539 us, in which they have ill satified one intention of a Play, which was de-
540 light, so in the instructive part they have err'd worse: instead of punishing
541 Vice and rewarding Virtue, they have often shown a Prosperous Wicked-
542 ness, and Unhappy Piety: They have set before us a bloudy image of
543 revenge in Medea, and given her Dragons to convey her safe from punish-
544 ment. A Priam and Astyanax murder'd, and Cassandra ravish'd, and the
545 lust and murder ending in the victory of him that acted them: In short,
546 there is no indecorum in any of our modern Playes, which if I would ex-
547 cuse, I could not shaddow with some Authority from the Ancients.

¶40
548 And one farther note of them let me leave you: Tragedies and
549 Comedies were not writ then as they are now, promiscuously, by
550 the same person; but he who found his genius bending to the one,
551 never attempted the other way. This is so plain, that I need not in-
552 stance to you, that Aristophanes, Plautus, Terence, never any of them writ
553 a Tragedy; æschylus, Eurypides, Sophocles and Seneca, never medled
554 with Comedy; the Sock and Buskin were not worn by the same Poet: ha-
555 ving then so much care to excel in one kind, very little is to be pardon'd
556 them if they miscarried in it; and this would lead me to the consideration
557 of their wit, had not Crites given me sufficient warning not to be too bold
558 in my judgment of it; because the languages being dead, and many of
559 the Customes and little accidents on which it depended , lost to us, we are
560 not competent judges of it. But though I grant that here and there we
561 may miss the application of a Proverb or a Custom, yet a thing well said
562 will be wit in all Languages; and though it may lose something in the
563 Translation, yet, to him who reads it in the Original, 'tis still the same;
564 He has an Idea of its excellency, though it cannot pass from his mind into
565 any other expression or words then those in which he finds it. When Phœ-

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566 dria--in the Eunuch had a command from his Mistress to be absent two
567 dayes; and encouraging himself to go through with it, said; Tandem ego
568 non illa caream, si opus sit, vel totum triduum? Parmeno to mock the softness
569 of his Master, lifting up his hands and eyes, cryes out as it were in admi-
570 ration; Hui! universum triduum! the elegancy of which universum, though
571 it cannot be rendred in our language, yet leaves an impression of the wit up-
572 on our souls: but this happens seldom in him, in Plautus oftner; who is
573 infinitely too bold in his Metaphors and coyning words; out of which many
574 times his wit is nothing, which questionless was one reason why Horace falls
575 upon him so severely in those Verses:

576 Sed Proavi nostri Plautinos |&| numeros, |&|
577 Laudavere sales, nimium patienter utrumque
578 Ne dicam stolidè.

¶41
579 For Horace himself was cautious to obtrude a new word upon his Rea-
580 ders, and makes custom and common use the best measure of receiving it
581 into our writings.

582 Multa renascentur quæ nunc cecidere, cadent|que|
583 Quæ nunc sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus,
584 Quem penes, arbitrium est, |&| jus, |&| norma loquendi

¶42
585 The not observing this Rule is that which the world has blam'd in our Sa-
586 tyrist Cleveland; to express a thing hard and unnaturally, is his new way
587 of Elocution: 'Tis true, no Poet but may sometimes use a Catachresis;
588 Virgil does it;

589 Mistaque ridenti Colocasia fundet Acantho.

¶43
590 In his Eclogue of Pollio, and in his 7th Æneid.

591 --Miratur |&| undæ,
592 Miratur nemus, insuetum fulgentia longe,
593 Scuta virum fiuvio, pictas|que| innare carinas.

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594 And Ovid once so modestly, that he askes leave to do it:

595 Si verbo audacia detur
596 Haud metuam summi dixisse Palatia cœli.

¶44
597 Calling the Court of Jupiter by the name of Augustus his Pallace, though
598 in another place he is more bold, where he sayes, Et longas visent Capitolia
599 pompas. But to do this alwayes, and never be able to write a line without
600 it, though it may be admir'd by some few Pedants, will not pass upon those
601 who know that wit is best convey'd to us in the most easie language; and is
602 most to be admir'd when a great thought comes drest in words so com-
603 monly receiv'd that it is understood by the meanest}apprehensiions, as the best
604 meat is the most easily digested: but we cannot read a verse of Cleveland's
605 without making a face at it, as if every word were a Pill to swallow: he
606 gives us many times a hard Nut to break our Teeth, without a Kernel for
607 our pains. So that there is this difference betwixt his Satyres and Doctor
608 Donns, That the one gives us deep thought in common language,
609 though rough cadence; the other gives us common thoughts in abstruse
610 words: 'tis true, in some places his wit is independent of his words, as in that
611 of the Rebel Scot:

612 Had Cain been Scot God would have chang'd his doom;
613 Not forc'd him wander, but confin'd him home.

¶45
614 Si sic, omnia dixisset! This is wit in all languages: 'tis like Mercury, ne-
615 ver to be lost or kill'd; and so that other;

616 For Beauty like White-powder makes no noise,
617 And yet the silent Hypocrite destroyes.

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¶46
618 You see the last line is highly Metaphorical, but it is so soft and gentle,
619 that it does not shock us as we read it.

¶47
620 But, to return from whence I have digress'd, to the consideration of the
621 Ancients Writing and their Wit, (of which by this time you will grant us in
622 some measure to be fit judges,) Though I see many excellent thoughts in
623 Seneca, yet he, of them who had a Genius most proper for the Stage, was
624 Ovid; he had a way of writing so fit to stir up a pleasing admiration and
625 concernment, which are the objects of a Tragedy, and to show the vari-
626 ous movements of a Soul combating betwixt two different Passions, that,
627 had he live'd in our age, or in his own could have writ with our advan-
628 tages, no man but must have yielded to him; and therefore I am confident
629 the Medea is none of his: for, though I esteem it for the gravity and senti-
630 ousness of it, which he himself concludes to be suitable to a Tragedy, Om-
631 me geuns scripti gravitate Tragædia vincit, yet it moves not my soul enough
632 to judge that he, who in the Epique way wrote things so near the Drama,
633 as the Story of Myrrha, of Caunus and Biblis, and the rest, should stir
634 up no more concernment where he most endeavour'd it. The Master piece
635 of Seneca I hold to be that Scene in the Troades, where Vlysses is seeking
636 for Astyanax to kill him; There you see the tenderness of a Mother, so re-
637 presented in Andromache, that it raises compassion to a high degree in the
638 Reader, and bears the nearest resemblance of any thing in their Tragedies
639 to the excellent Scenes of Passion in Shakespeare, or in Fletcher: for Love-
640 Scenes you will find few among them, their Tragique Poets dealt not with
641 that soft passion, but with Lust, Cruelty, Revenge, Ambition, and those
642 bloody actions they produc'd; which were more capable of raising hor-
643 rour then compassion in an audience: leaving love untoucht, whose gen-
644 tleness would have temper'd them, which is the most frequent of all the
645 passions, and which being the private concernment of every person, is

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646 sooth'd by viewing its own image in a publick entertainment.

¶48
647 Among their Comedies, we find a Scene or two of tenderness, and that
648 where you would least expect it, in Plautus; but to speak generally, their
649 Lovers say little, when they see each other, but anima mea, vita mea;
650 z{o}{ee} kai psuch{ee}, as the women in Juvenal's time us'd to cry out in the fury
651 of their kindness: then indeed to speak sense were an offence. Any sudden
652 gust of passion (as an extasie of love in an unexpected meeting) cannot
653 better be express'd than in a word and a sigh, breaking one another. Na-
654 ture is dumb on such occasions, and to make her speak, would be to repre-
655 sent her unlike her self. But there are a thousand other concernments of
656 Lovers, as jealousies, complaints, contrivances and the like, where not
657 to open their minds at large to each other, were to be wanting to their own
658 love, and to the expectation of the Audience, who watch the movements of
659 their minds, as much as the changes of their fortunes. For the imaging of the
660 first is properly the work of a Poet, the latter he borrows of the Historian.

¶49
661 Eugenius was proceeding in that part of his Discourse, when Crites in-
662 terrupted him. I see, said he, Eugenius and I are never like to have this
663 Question decided betwixt us; for he maintains the Moderns have acquir'd
664 a new perfection in writing, I can onely grant they have alter'd the mode
665 of it. Homer describ'd his Heroes men of great appetites, lovers of beef
666 broild upon the coals, and good fellows; contrary to the practice of the
667 French Romances, whose Heroes neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, for
668 love. Virgil makes æneas a bold Avower of his own virtues ,

669 Sum pius æneas fama super athera notus;

670 which in the civility of our Poets is the Character of a Panafaron
671 or Hector: for with us the Knight takes occasion to walk out,
672 or sleep, to avoid the vanity of telling his own Story, which the
673 trusty Squire is ever to perform for him. So in their Love Scenes, of

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674 which Eugenius spoke last, the Ancients were more hearty; we more talka-
675 tive: they writ love as it was then the mode to make it, and I will grant thus
676 much to Eugenius, that perhaps one of their Poets, had he liv'd in our Age,

677 Si foret hoc nostrum fato delapsus in avum (as Horace says of Lucilius)

678 he had alter'd many things; not that they were not as natural before,
679 but that he might accommodate himself to the Age he liv'd in: yet in the
680 mean time we are not to conclude any thing rashly against those great
681 men; but preserve to them the dignity of Masters, and give that honour to
682 their memories, (Quos libitina sacravit;) part of which we expect may be
683 paid to us in future times.

¶50
684 This moderation of Crites, as it was pleasing to all the company, so it
685 put an end to that dispute; which, Eugenius, who seem'd to have the
686 better of the Argument, would urge no farther: but Lisideius after he had
687 acknowledg'd himself of Eugenius his opinion concerning the Ancients;
688 yet told him he had forborn, till his Discourse were ended, to ask him why
689 he prefer'd the English Plays above those of other Nations? and whe-
690 ther we ought not to submit our Stage to the exactness of our next Neigh-
691 bours?

¶51
692 Though, said Eugenius, I am at all times ready to defend the honour of
693 my Countrey against the French, and to maintain, we are as well able to
694 vanquish them with our Pens as our Ancestors have been with their swords;
695 yet, if you please, added he, looking upon Neander, I will commit this
696 cause to my friend's management; his opinion of our Plays is the same
697 with mine: and besides, there is no reason, that Crites and I, who have
698 now left the Stage, should re-enter so suddenly upon it; which is against
699 the Laws of Comedie.

¶52
700 If the Question had been stated, replied Lysideius, who had writ best,
701 the French or English forty years ago, I should have been of your opinion,

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702 and adjudg'd the honour to our own Nation; but since that time, (said
703 he, (turning towards Neander) we have been so long together bad
704 Englishmen, that we had not leisure to be good Poets; Beaumont,
705 Fletcher, and Johnson (who were onely capable of bringing us to that degree
706 of perfection which we have) were just then leaving the world; as if in an
707 Age of so much horror, wit and those milder studies of humanity, had no far-
708 ther business among us. But the Muses, who ever follow Peace, went to
709 plant in another Countrey; it was then that the great Cardinal of Richlieu
710 began to take them into his protection; and that, by his encouragement,
711 Corneil and some other Frenchmen reform'd their Theatre, (which before
712 was as much below ours as it now surpasses it and the rest of Europe;) but
713 because Crites, in his Discourse for the Ancients, has prevented me, by
714 touching upon many Rules of the Stage, which the Moderns have bor-
715 row'd from them; I shall onely, in short, demand of you, whether you
716 are not convinc'd that of all Nations the French have best observ'd them?
717 In the unity of time you find them so scrupulous, that it yet remains a di-
718 spute among their Poets, whether the artificial day of twelve hours more
719 or less, be not meant by Aristotle, rather than the natural one of twenty
720 four; and consequently whether all Plays ought not to be reduc'd into that
721 compass? This I can testifie, that in all their Drama's writ within these last
722 20 years and upwards, I have not observ'd any that have extended the time
723 to thirty hours: in the unity of place they are full as scrupulous, for many
724 of their Criticks limit it to that very spot of ground where the Play is sup-
725 pos'd to begin; none of them exceed the compass of the same Town or
726 City.

¶53
727 The unity of Action in all their Plays is yet more conspicuous, for they
728 do not burden them with under-plots, as the English do; which is the rea-
729 son why many Scenes of our Tragi-comedies carry on a design that is no-

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730 thing of kinne to the main Plot; and that we see two distinct webbs in a
731 Play; like those in ill wrought stuffs; and two actions, that is, two Plays
732 carried on together, to the confounding of the Audience; who, before
733 they are warm in their concernments for one part, are diverted to ano-
734 ther; and by that means espouse the interest of neither. From hence like-
735 wise it arises that the one half of our Actors are not known to the other.
736 They keep their distances as if they were Mountagues and Capulets, and
737 seldom begin an acquaintance till the last Scene of the Fifth Act, when
738 they are all to meet upon the Stage. There is no Theatre in the world has
739 any thing so absurd as the English Tragi-comedie, 'tis a Drama of our own
740 invention, and the fashion of it is enough to proclaim it so; here a course of
741 mirth, there another of sadness and passion; a third of honour, and
742 fourth a Duel: Thus in two hours and a half we run through all the fits of
743 Bedlam. The French affords you as much variety on the same day, but they
744 do it not so unseasonably, or mal a propos as we: Our Poets present you
745 the Play and the farce together; and our Stages still retain somewhat of
746 the Original civility of the Red-Bull;

747 Atque urfam |&| pugiles media inter carmina poscunt.

¶54
748 The end of Tragedies or serious Playes, sayes Aristotle, is to beget admi-
749 ration, compassion, or concernement; butare not mirth and compassion
750 things incompatible? and is it not evident that the Poet must of necessity
751 destroy the former by intermingling of the latter? that is, he must ruine
752 the sole end and object of his Tragedy to introduce somewhat that is forced
753 in, and is not of the body of it: Would you not think that Physician mad,
754 who having prescribed a Purge, should immediatly order you to take re-
755 stringents upon it?

¶55
756 But to leave our Playes, and return to theirs, I have noted one great ad-
757 vantage they have had in the Plotting of their Tragedies; that is, they

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758 are always grounded upon some known History: accarding to that of Ho-
759 race, Ex noto fictum carmen sequar; and in that they have so imitated the
760 Ancients that they have supass'd them. For the Ancients, as was observ'd
761 before, took for the foundation of their Playes some Poetical Fiction, such
762 as under that consideration could move but little concernment in the Audi-
763 ence, because they already knew the event of it. But the French goes farther;

764 Atque ita mentitur; sic veris falsæ remiscet,
765 Primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum:

¶56
766 He so interweaves Truth with probable Fiction, that he puts a pleasing Fal-
767 lacy upon us; mends the intrigues of Fate, and dispenses with the severity of
768 History, to reward that vertue which has been rendred to us there unfor-
769 tunate. Sometimes the story has left the sucess so doubtful, that the Writer is
770 free, by the priviledge of a Poet, to take that which of two or more relations
771 will best sute with his design: As for example, the death of Cyrus,
772 whom Justin and some others report to have perish'd in the Scythian war,
773 but Xenophon affirms to have died in his bed of extream old age. Nay more,
774 when the event is past dispute, even then we are willing to be deceiv'd,
775 and the Poet, if he contrives it with appearance of truth; has all the au-
776 dience of his Party; at least during the time his Play is acting: so naturally
777 we are kind to vertue, when our own interest is not in question, that we take
778 it up as the general concernment of Mankind. On the other side, if you con-
779 sider the Historical Playes of Shakespeare;, they are rather so many Chro-
780 nicles of Kings, or the business many times of thirty or forty years, crampt
781 into a representation of two hours and a half, which is not to imitate or
782 paint Nature, but rather to draw her in miniature, to take her in little;
783 to look upon her through the wrong end of a Perspective, and receive her
784 Images not onely much less, but infinitely more imperfect then the life: this
785 instead of making a Play delightful, renders it ridiculous.

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786 Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi.

¶57
787 For the Spirit of man cannot be satisfied but with truth , or at least veri-
788 simility; and a Poem is to contain, if not ta etuma, yet etumoisin omoia, as
789 one of the Greek Poets has expres'd it.

¶58
790 Another thing in which the French differ from us and from the Spaniards,
791 is , that they do not embaras, or cumber themselves with too much Plot:
792 they onely represent so much of a Story as will constitute one whole and
793 great action sufficient for a Play; we, who undertake more, do but mul-
794 tiply adventures; which, not being produc'd from one another, as effects
795 from causes, but barely following, constitute many actions in the Drama,
796 and consequently make it many Playes.

¶59
797 But by pursuing close one argument, which is not cloy'd with many turns,
798 the French have gain'd more liberty for verse , in which they write: they
799 have leisure to dwell upon a subject which deserves it; and to represent the
800 passions (which we have acknowledg'd to be the Poets work) without be-
801 ing hurried from one thing to another, as we are in the Playes of Calderon,
802 which we have seen lately upon our Theaters, under the name of Spanish
803 Plotts. I have taken notice but of one Tragedy of ours, whose Plot has that
804 uniformity and unity of design in it which I have commended in the French;
805 and that is Rollo, or rather, under the name of Rollo, The Story of Bassi-
806 anus and Geta in Herodian, there indeed the Plot is neither large nor in-
807 tricate, but just enough to fill the minds of the Audience, not to cloy them.
808 Besides, you see it founded upon the truth of History, onely the time of
809 the action is not reduceable to the strictness of the Rules; and you see in
810 some places a little farce mingled, which is below the dignity of the other
811 parts; and in this all our Poets are extreamly peccant, even Ben Johnson
812 himself in Sejanus and Catiline has given us this Oleo of a Play; this unna-
813 tural mixture of Comedy and Tragedy, which to me sounds just as ridicu-

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814 lously as the History of David with the merry humours of Golias. In
815 Sejanus you may take notice of the Scene betwixt Livia and the Physician,
816 which is a pleasant Satyre upon the artificial helps of beauty: In Catiline you
817 may see the Parliament of Women; the little envies of them to one ano-
818 ther; and all that passes betwixt Curio and Fulvia: Scenes admirable in
819 their kind, but of an ill mingle with the rest.

¶60
820 But I return again to French Writers; who, as I have said, do
821 not burden themselves too much with Plot, which has been reproach'd
822 to them by an ingenious person of our Nation as a fault, for he says they
823 commonly make but one person considerable in a Play; they dwell up-
824 on him, and his concernments, while the rest of the persons are onely subser-
825 vient to set him off. If he intends this by it, that there is one person in the
826 Play who is of greater dignity then the rest, he must tax, not onely theirs, but
827 those of the Ancients, and which he would be loth to do, the best of ours;
828 for 'tis impossible but that one person must be more conspicuous in it
829 then any other, and consequently the greatest share in the action
830 must devolve on him, We see it so in the management of all affairs; even
831 in the most equal Aristocracy, the ballance cannot be so justly poys'd, but
832 some one will be superiour to the rest; either in parts, fortune, interest, or
833 the consideration of some glorious exploit; which will reduce the greatest
834 part of business into his hands.

¶61
835 But, if he would have us to imagine that in exalting of one character the
836 rest of them are neglected, and that all of them have not some share or o-
837 ther in the action of the Play, I desire him to produce any of Corneilles
838 Tragedies, wherein every person (like so many servants in a well govern'd
839 Family) has not some employment, and who is not necessary to the carrying
840 on of the Plot, or at least to your understanding it.

¶62
841 There are indeed some protatick persons in the Ancients, whom they

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842 make use of in their Playes, either to hear, or give the Relation: but the
843 French avoid this with great address, making their narrations onely to, or
844 by such who are some way interested in the main design. And now I am
845 speaking of Relations, I cannot take a fitter opportunity to add this in
846 favour of the French, that they often use them with better judgment and
847 more a propos then the English do. Not that I commend narrations in general,
848 but there are two sorts of them; one of those things which are antecedent
849 to the Play, and are related to make the conduct of it more clear to us, but,
850 'tis a fault to choose such subjects for the Stage which will inforce us upon
851 that Rock; because we see they are seldome listned to by the Audience, and
852 that is many times the ruin of the Play: for, being once let pass without at-
853 tention, the Audience can never recover themselves to understand the
854 Plot; and indeed it is somewhat unreasonable that they should be put to
855 so much trouble, as, that to comprehend what passes in their sight, they
856 must have recourse to what was done, perhaps, ten or twenty years ago.

¶63
857 But there is another sort of Relations, that is, of things hapning in the
858 Action of the Play, and suppos'd to be done behind the Scenes: and this
859 is many times both convenient and beautiful: for, by it, the French avoid
860 the tumult, which we are subject to in England, by representing Duells,
861 Battells, and the like; which renders our Stage too like the Theaters,
862 where they fight Prizes. For what is more ridiculous then to represent an
863 Army with a Drum and five men behind it; all which, the Heroe of the
864 other side is to drive in before him, or to see a Duel fought, and one slain
865 with two or three thrusts of the foyles, which we know are so blunted,
866 that we might give a man an hour to kill another in good earnest with
867 them.

¶64
868 I have observ'd that in all our Tragedies, the Audience cannot forbear laugh-

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869 ing when the Actors are to die; ' tis the most Comick part of the whole Play.
870 All passions may be lively represented on the Stage, if to the well-writing of
871 them the Actor supplies a good commanded voice, and limbs that move ea-
872 sily, and without stifness; but there are many acttions which can never be
873 imitated to a just height: dying especially is a thing which none but a Ro-
874 man Gladiator could naturally perform upon the Stage when he did not
875 imitate or represent, but naturally do it; and therefore it is better to omit the representation of it.

¶65
876 The words of a good Writer which describe it lively, will make a deeper
877 impression of belief in us then all the Actor can perswade us to, when he
878 seems to fall dead before us; as a Poet in the description of a beautiful Gar-
879 den, or a Meadow, will please our imagination more then the place it self
880 can please our sight. When we see death represented we are convinc'd it is
881 but Fiction; but when we hear it related, our eyes (the strongest witnes-
882 ses) are wanting, which might have undeceiv'd us; and we are all willing
883 to favour the sleight when the Poet does not too grosly impose upon us.
884 They therefore who imagine these relations would make no concernment
885 in the Audience, are deceiv'd, by confounding them with the other, which
886 are of things antecedent to the Play; those are made often in cold blood
887 (as I may say) to the audience; but these are warm'd with our concern-
888 ments, which are before awaken'd in the Play. What the Philosophers say
889 of motion, that when it is once begun it continues of it self, and will do so
890 to Eternity without some stop put to it, is clearly true on this occasion; the
891 soul being already mov'd with the Characters and Fortunes of those ima-
892 ginary persons, continues going of its own accord, and we are no more
893 weary to hear what becomes of them when they are not on the Stage, then
894 we are to listen to the news of an absent Mistress. But it is objected, That
895 if one part of the Play may be related, then why not all? I answer, Some

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896 parts of the action are more fit to be represented, some to be related. Cor-
897 neille sayes judiciously, that the Poet is not oblig'd to expose to view all par-
898 ticular actions which conduce to the principal: he ought to select such of
899 them to be seen which will appear with the greatest beauty; either by the
900 magnificence of the show, or the vehemence of passions which they produce,
901 or some other charm which they have in them, and let the rest arrive to the
902 audience by narration. 'Tis a great mistake in us to believe the French present
903 no part of the action upon the Stage: every alteration or crossing of a design,
904 every new sprung passion, and turn of it, is a part of the action, and much
905 the noblest, except we conceive nothing to be action till they come to blows;
906 as if the painting of the Heroes mind were not more properly the Poets
907 work then the strength of his body. Nor does this any thing contradict the
908 opinion of Horace, where he tells us,

909 Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem
910 Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus.--

¶66
911 For he sayes immediately after,

912 -- -- -- Non tamen intus
913 Digna geri promes in scenam, multaq; tolles
914 Ex oculis, quæ mox narret facundia præsens.

¶67
915 Among which many he recounts some.

916 Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet,
917 Aut in avem Progne mutetur, Cadmus in anguem, |&c.|

¶68
918 That is, those actions which by reason of their cruelty will cause aversion
919 in us, or by reason of their impossibility unbelief, ought either wholly to be
920 avoided by a Poet, or onely deliver'd by narration. To which, we may have
921 leave to add such as to avoid tumult, (as was before hinted) or to reduce the
922 Plot into a more reasonable compass of time, or for defect of Beauty in them,
923 are rather to be related then presented to the eye. Examples of all these kinds

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924 are frequent, not onely amond all the Ancients, but in the best receiv'd of
925 our English Poets. We find Ben. Johnson using them in his Magnetick Lady,
926 where one comes out from Dinner, and relates the quarrels and disorders of
927 it to save the undecent appearing of them on the Stage, and to abreviate the
928 Story: and this in express imitation of Terence, who had done the same before
929 him in his Eunuch, where Pythias makes the like relation of what had hap-
930 pen'd within at the Souldiers entertainment. The relations likewise of Seja-
931 mus's death, and the prodigies before it are remakable, the one of which was
932 hid from sight to avoid the horrour and tumult of the representation; the
933 other to shun the introducing of things impossible to be believ'd. In that
934 excellent Play the King and no King, Fletcher goes yet farther; for the
935 whole unravelling of the Plot is done by narration in the fifth Act, after the
936 manner of the Ancients; and it moves great concernment in the Audience,
937 though it be onely a relation of what was done many years before the
938 Play. I could multiply other instances, but these are sufficient to prove
939 that there is no errour in choosiing a subject which requires this sort of
940 narrations; in the ill managing of them, there may.

¶69
941 But I find I have been too long in this discourse since the French have
942 many other excellencies not common to use, as that you never see any of
943 their Playes end with a conversion, or simple change of will, which is the
944 ordinary way our Poets use to end theirs. It shows little art in the conclu-
945 sion of a Dramatick Poem, when they who have hinder'd the felicity during
946 the four Acts, desist from it in the fifth without some powerful cause to take
947 them off; and though I deny not but such reasons may be found, yet it is
948 a path that is cautiously to be trod, and the Poet is to be sure he convinces
949 the Audience that the motive is strong enough. As for example, the con-
950 version of the Usurer in the Scornful Lady, seems to me a little forc'd; for
951 being an Usurer, which implies a lover of Money to the highest degree of

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952 covetousness, (and such the Poet has represented him) the account he gives
953 for the sudden change is, that he has been dup'd by the wilde young fellow,
954 which in reason might render him more wary another time, and make him
955 punish himself with harder fare and courser cloaths to get it up again: but
956 that he should look upon it as a judgment, and so repent, we may expect to
957 hear of in a Sermon, but I should never indure it in a Play.

¶70
958 I pass by this; neither will I insist upon the care they take, that no person
959 after his first entrance shall ever appear, but the business which brings him
960 upon the Stage shall be evident: which, if observ'd, must needs render all
961 the events in the Play more natural; for there you see the probability of
962 every accident,in the cause that produc'd it; and that which appears chance
963 in the Play, will seem so reasonable to you, that you will there find it almost
964 necessary ; so that in the exits of their Actors you have a clear account of
965 their purpose and design in the next entrance: (though, if the Scene be
966 well wrought, the event will commonly deceive you) for there is nothing
967 so absurd, sayes Corneille, as for an Actor to leave the Stage, onely because
968 he has no more to say.

¶71
969 I should now speak of the beauty of their Rhime, and the just reason I have
970 to prefer that way of writing in the Tragedies before ours in Blanck verfe; but
971 because it is partly receiv'd by us, and therefore not altogether peculiar to
972 them, I will say no more of it in relation to their Playes. For our own
973 I doubt not but it will exceedingly beautifie them, and I can see but one
974 reason why it should not generally obtain, that is, because our Poets
975 write so ill in it. This indeed may prove a more prevailing argument then
976 all others which are us'd to destroy it, and therefore I am onely troubled
977 when great and judicious Poets, and those who acknowledg'd such, have
978 writ or spoke against it; as for others they are to be answer'd by that one
979 sentence of an ancient Authour,

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¶72
980 Sed ut primo ad consequendos eos quos priores ducimus accendimur, ita ubi aut
981præteriri, aut æquari eos posse desperavimus, studium cum spe senescit: quod,
982 scilicet, assequi non potest, sequi desinit; præterito|que|, eo in quo eminere no possu-
983 mus, aliquid in quo nitamur conquirimus.

¶73
984 Lisideius concluded in this manner; and Neander after a little pause thus
985 answer'd him.

¶74
986 I shall grant Lisideius, without much dispute, a great part of what he has
987 urg'd against us, for I acknowledg the French contrive their Plots more
988 regularly, observe the Laws of Comedy, and decorum of the Stage (to
989 speak generally) with more exactness then the English. Farther I deny
990 not but he has tax'd us justly in some irregularities of ours which he has men-
991 tion'd; yet, after all, I am of opinion that neither our faults nor their vir-
992 tues are considerable enough to place them above us.

¶75
993 For the lively imitation of Nature being in the definition of a Play, those
994 which best fulfil that law ought to be esteem'd superiour to the others. 'Tis
995 true, those beauties of the French-poesie are such as will raise perfection
996 higher where it is, but are not sufficient to give it where it is not: they are
997 indeed the Beauties of a Statue, but not of a Man, because not animated
998 with the Soul of Poesie, which is imitation of humour and passions: and
999 this Lisideius himself, or any other, however byassed to their Party, cannot
1000 but acknowledg, if he will either compare the humours of our Comedies, or
1001 the Characters of our serious Playes with theirs. He that will look upon
1002 theirs which have been written till these last ten years or thereabouts, will
1003 find it an hard matter to pick out two or three passable humours amongst
1004 them. Corneille himself, their Arch-Poet, what has he produc'd except
1005 the Lier, and you know how it was cry'd up in France; but when it came
1006 upon the English Stage, though well translated, and that part of Dorant
1007 acted to so much advantage by |Mr.| Hart, as I am confident it never receiv'd

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1008 in its own Country, the most favourable to it would not put in compe-
1009 tition with many of Fletchers or Ben. Johnsons. In the rest of Corneilles
1010 Comedies you have little humour; he tells you himself his way is first to
1011 show two Lovers in good intelligence with each other; in the working up
1012 of the Play to embroyle them by some mistake,and in the latter end to clear
1013 it up.

¶76
1014 But of late years de Moliere, the younger Corneille, Quinault, and
1015 some others, have been imitating of afar off the quick turns and graces of
1016 the English Stage. They have mix'd their serious Playes with mirth, like our
1017 Tragicomedies since the death of Cardinal Richlieu, which Lisideius and
1018 many others not observing, have commended that in them for a virtue
1019 which they themselves no longer practice. Most of their new Playes are
1020 like some of ours, deriv'd from the Spanish Novells. There is scarce one
1021 of them without a vail, and a trusty Diego, who drolls much after the rate
1022 of the Adventures. But their humours, if I may grace them with that name,
1023 are so thin sown that never above one of them come up in any Play : I
1024 dare take upon me to find more variety of them in some one Play of Ben.
1025 Johnsons then in all theirs together : as he who has seen the Alchymist, the
1026 silent Woman, or Bertholmew-Fair, cannot but acknowledge with me.

¶77
1027 I grant the French have performed what was possible on the ground-
1028 work of the Spanish Playes ; what was pleasant before they have made re-
1029 gular ; but there is not above one good Play to be writ upon all those Plots;
1030 they are too much alike to please often, which we need not the experience
1031 of our own Stage to justifie. As for their new way of mingling mirth with
1032 serious Plot I do not with Lysideius condemn the thing, though I cannot ap-
1033 prove their manner of doing it: He tells us we cannot so speedily recollect
1034 our selves after a Scene of great passion and concernment as to pass to ano-
1035 ther of mirth and humour, and to enjoy it with any relish : but why should

{{Page 39}}

1036 he imagine the soul of man more heavy than his Sences? Does not the eye
1037 pass from an unpleasant object to a pleasant in a much shorter time then is
1038 requir'd to this ? and does not the unpleasantness of the first commend the
1039 beauty of the latter ? The old Rule of Logick might have convinc'd him,
1040 that contraries when plac'd near, set off each other. A continued gravity
1041 keeps the spirit too much bent; we must refresh it sometimes, as we bait
1042 upon a journey, that we may go on with greater ease. A Scene of mirth
1043 mix'd with Tragedy has the same effect upon us which our musick has be-
1044 twixt the Acts, and that we find a relief to us from the best Plots and lan-
1045 guage of the Stage, if the discourses have been long. I must therefore
1046 have stronger arguments ere I am convinc'd, that compassion and mirth in
1047 the same subject destroy each other ; and in the mean time cannot but con-
1048 clude, to the honour of our Nation, that we have invented, increas'd and
1049 perfected a more pleasant way of writing for the Stage then was ever known
1050 to the Ancients or Moderns of any Nation, which is Tragicomedie.

¶78
1051 And this leads me to wonder why Lisideius and many others should cry
1052 up the barrenness of the French Plots above the variety and copiousness of
1053 the English. Their Plots are single, they carry on one design which is push'd
1054 forward by all the Actors, every Scene in the Play contributing and moving
1055 towards it: Ours, besides the main design, have under plots or by-concern-
1056 ments, of less considerable Persons, and Intrigues, which are carried on
1057 with the motion of the main Plot: just as they say the Orb of the fix'd Stars,
1058 and those of the Planets, though they have motions of their own, are whirl'd
1059 about by the motion of the primum mobile, in which they are contain'd:
1060 that similitude expresses much of the English Stage: for if contrary mo-
1061 tions may be found in Nature to agree ; if a Planet can go East and West at
1062 the same time ; one way by virtue of his own motion, the other by the
1063 force of the first mover ; it will not be difficult to imagine how the under

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1064 Plot, which is onely different, not contrary to the great design, may na-
1065 turally be conducted along with it.

¶79
1066 Eugenius has already shown us, from the confession of the French Poets,
1067 that the Unity of Action is sufficiently preserv'd if all the imperfect actions
1068 of the Play are conducing to the main design: but when those petty intrigues
1069 of a Play are so ill order'd that they have no coherence with the other, I
1070 must grant Lisideius has reason to tax that want of due connexion ; for Co-
1071 ordination in a Play is as dangerous and unnatural as in a State. In the mean
1072 time he must acknowledge our variety, if well order'd, will afford a greater
1073 pleasure to the audience.

¶80
1074 As for his other argument, that by pursuing one single Theme they gain
1075 an advantage to express and work up the passions, I wish any example he
1076 could bring from them would make it good: for I confess their verses are
1077 to me the coldest I have ever read: Neither indeed is it possible for them,
1078 in the way they take, so to express passion, as that the effects of it should
1079 appear in the concernment of an Audience: their Speeches being so many
1080 declamations, which tire us with length; so that instead of perswading us
1081 to grieve for their imaginary Heroes, we are concern'd for our own trouble,
1082 as we are in the tedious visits of bad company; we are in pain till they are
1083 gone. When the French Stage came to be reform'd by Cardinal Richelieu,
1084 those long Harangues were introduc'd, to comply with the gravity of a
1085 Churchman. Look upon the Cinna and the Pompey, they are not so pro-
1086 perly to be called Playes, as long discourses of reason of State : and Po-
1087 lieucte in matters in Religion is as solemn as the long stops upon our Or-
1088 gans. Since that time it is grown into a custome, and their Actors speak by
1089 the Hour-glass, as our Parsons do ; nay, they account it the grace of their
1090 parts: and think themselves disparag'd by the Poet, if they may not twice
1091 or thrice in a Play entertain the Audience with a Speech of an hundred or

{{Page 41}}

1092 two hundred lines. I deny not but this may sute well enough with the
1093 French ; for as we, who are a more sullen people, come to be diverted at
1094 our Playes; they who are of an ayery and gay temper come thither to
1095 make themselves more serious: And this I conceive to be one reason why
1096 Comedy is more pleasing to us, and Tragedies to them. But to speak ge-
1097 erally, it cannot be deny'd that short Speeches and Replies are more apt
1098 to move the passions, and beget concernment in us then the other : for it is
1099 unnatural for any one in a gust of passion to speak long together, or for a-
1100 nother in the same condition, to suffer him, without interruption. Grief
1101 and Passion are like floods rais'd in little Brooks by a sudden rain; they are
1102 quickly up, and if the concernment be powr'd unexpectedly in upon us, it
1103 overflows us : But a long sober shower gives them leisure to run out as they
1104 came in, without troubling the ordinary current. As for Comedy, Re-
1105 partee is one of its chiefest graces; they greatest pleasure of the Audience is
1106 a chase of wit kept up on both sides, and swiftly manag'd. And this our
1107 forefathers, if not we, have had in Fletchers Playes, to a much higher degree
1108 of perfection then the French Poets can arrive at.

¶81
1109 There is another part of Lisideius his Discourse, in which he has rather
1110 excus'd our neighbours then commended them ; that is, for aiming onely
1111 to make one person considerable in their Playes. 'Tis very true what he has
1112 urged,that one character in all Playes,even without the Poets care, will have
1113 advantage of all the others; and that the design of the whole Drama will
1114 chiefly depend on it. But this hinders not that there may be more shining
1115 characters in the Play: many persons of a second magnitude, nay, some so
1116 very near, so almost equal to the first, that greatness may be oppos'd to
1117 greatness, and all the persons be made considerable, not onely by their
1118 quality, but their action. 'Tis evident that the more the persons are, the
1119 greater will be the variety, of the Plot. If then the parts are manag'd so

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1120 regularly that the beauty of the whole be kept intire, and that the va-
1121 riety become not a perplex'd and confus'd mass of accidents, you will
1122 find it infinitely pleasing to be led in a labyrinth of design, where you
1123 see some of your way before you, yet discern not the end till you ar-
1124 rive at it. And that all this is practicable, I can produce for examples
1125 many of our English Playes : as the Maids Tragedy, the Alchymist, the
1126 Silent Woman ; I was going to have named the Fox, but that the unity
1127 of design seems not exactly observ'd in it ; for there appears two acti-
1128 ons in the Play ; the first naturally ending with the fourth Act; the se-
1129 cond forc'd from it in the fifth : which yet is the less to be condemn'd in
1130 him, because the disguise of Volpone, though it suited not with his character
1131 as a crafty or covetous person, agreed well enough with that of a voluptu-
1132 ary: and by it the Poet gain'd the end he aym'd at, the punishment of Vice,
1133 and the reward of Virtue,which that disguise produc'd. So that to judge e-
1134 qually of it, it was an excellent fifth Act, but not so naturally proceeding
1135 from the former.

¶82
1136 But to leave this, and pass to the latter part of Lisideius his discourse,
1137 which concerns relations, I must acknowledge with him, that the French
1138 have reason when they hide that part of the action which would occasion
1139 too much tumult upon the Stage, and choose rather to have it made known
1140 by the narration to the Audience. Farther I think it very convenient, for the
1141 reasons he has given, that all incredible actions were remov'd ; but, whither
1142 custome has so insinuated it self into our Country-men, or nature has so
1143 form'd them to fierceness, I know not; but they will scarcely suffer combats |&|
1144 other objects of horrour to be taken from them. And indeed, the indecency
1145 of tumults is all which can be objected against fighting : For why may not
1146 our imagination as well suffer it self to be deluded with the probability of it,
1147 as with any other thing in the Play? For my part, I can with as great ease

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1148 perswade my self that the blowes which are struck are given in good ear-
1149 nest, as I can, that they who strike them are Kings or Princes, or those per-
1150 sons which they represent. For objects of incredibility I would be satis-
1151 fied from Lisideius, whether we have any so remov'd from all appearance of
1152 truth as are those of Corneilles Andromede? A Play which has been fre-
1153 quented the most of any he has writ? If the Perseus, or the Son of an
1154 Heathen God, the Pegasus and the Monster were not capable to choak a
1155 strong belief, let him blame any representation of ours hereafter. Those
1156 indeed were objects of delight ; yet the reason is the same as to the proba-
1157 bility: for he makes it not a Balletteor Masque, but a Play, which is to re-
1158 semble truth. But for death, that it ought not to be represented, I have
1159 besides the Arguments alledg'd by Lisideius, the authority of Ben. Johnson,
1160 who has forborn it in his Tragedies; for both the death of Sejanus and Ca-
1161 tiline are related: though in the latter I cannot but observe one irregula-
1162 rity of that great Poet: he has remov'd the Scene in the same Act, from
1163 Rome to Catiline's Army, and from thence again to Rome; and besides
1164 has allow'd a very inconsiderable time, after Catilines Speech, for the stri-
1165 king of the battle, and the return of Petreius, who is to relate the event of
1166 it to the Senate: which I should not animadvert upon him, who was other-
1167 wise a painful observer of tiprepon, or the decorum of the Stage, if he had
1168 not us'd extream severity in his judgment upon the incomparable Shake-
1169 speare for the same fault. To conclude on this subject of Relations, if we
1170 are to be blam'd for showing too much of the action, the French are as faulty
1171 for discovering too little of it : a mean betwixt both should be observed
1172 by every judicious Writer, so as the audience may neither be left unsatis-
1173 fied by not seeing what is beautiful, or shock'd by beholding what is either
1174 incredible or undecent. I hope I have already prov'd in this discourse, that
1175 though we are not altogether so punctual as the French, in observing the

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1176 lawes of Comedy; yet our errours are so few, and little, and those things
1177 wherein we excel them so considerable, that we ought of right to be pre-
1178 fer'd before them. But what will Lisideius say if they themselves acknow-
1179 ledge they are too strictly ti'd up by those lawes, for breaking which he has
1180 blam'd the English? I will alledge Corneille's words, as I find them in the
1181 end of his Discourse of the three Unities ; Il est facile aux speculatifs d'estre
1182 severes, |&c.|" 'Tis easie for speculative persons to judge severely; but if
1183 "they would produce to publick view ten or twelve pieces of this nature,
1184 "they would perhaps give more latitude to the Rules then I have done,
1185 "when by experience they had known how much we are bound up and con-
1186 "strain'd by them, and how many beauties of the Stage they banish'd from
1187 "it. To illustrate a little what he has said, by their servile observations of
1188 the unities of time and place, and integrity of Scenes, they have brought upon
1189 themselves that dearth of Plot, and narrowness of Imagination, which may
1190 be observ'd in all their Playes. How many beautifull accidents might natu-
1191 rally happen in two or three dayes, which cannot arrive with any probabi-
1192 lity in the compass of 24 hours ? There is time to be allowed also for matu-
1193 rity of design, which amongst great and prudent persons, such as are often
1194 represented in Tragedy, cannot, with any likelihood of truth, be brought
1195 to pass at so short a warning. Farther, by tying themselves strictly to the
1196 unity of place, and unbroken Scenes, they are forc'd many times to omit
1197 some beauties which cannot be shown where the Act began ; but might, if
1198 the Scene were interrupted, and the Stage clear'd for the persons to enter in
1199 another place ; and therefore the French Poets are often forc'd upon ab-
1200 surdities: for if the Act begins in a chamber all the persons in the Play must
1201 have some business or other to come thither, or else they are not to be shown
1202 that Act, and sometimes their characters are very unfitting to appear there;
1203 As, suppose it were the Kings Bed-chamber, yet the meanest man in the

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1204 Tragedy must come and dispatch his busines rather then in the Lob-
1205 by or Court-yard (which is fitter for him) for fear the Stage should be clear'd,
1206 and the Scenes broken. Many times they fall by it into a greater inconve-
1207 nience; for they keep their Scenes unbroken, and yet change the place ;
1208 as in one of their newest Playes, where the Act begins in the Street. There
1209 a Gentleman is to meet his Friend; he sees him with his man, coming out
1210 from his Fathers house ; they talk together, and the first goes out: the se-
1211 cond, who is a Lover, has made an appointment with his Mistress ; she ap-
1212 pears at the window, and then we are to imagine the Scene lies under it.
1213 This Gentleman is call'd away, and leaves his servant with his Mistress : pre-
1214 sently her Father is heard from within; the young Lady is affraid the Ser-
1215 vingman should be discover'd, and thrusts him in through a door which is
1216 suppos'd to be her Closet. After this, the Father enters to the Daughter, and
1217 now the Scene is in a House: for he is seeking from one room to another
1218 for this poor Philipin, or French Diego, who is heard from within, drolling
1219 and breaking many a miserable conceit upon his sad condition. In this
1220 ridiculous manner the Play goes on, the Stage being never empty all the
1221 while: so that the Street, the Window, the two Houses, and the Closet,
1222 are made to walk about, and the Persons to stand still. Now what I be-
1223 seech you is more easie than to write a regular French Play, or more difficult
1224 then to write an irregular English one, like those of Fletcher, or of Shake-
1225 speare.

¶83
1226 If they content themselves as Corneille did, with some flat design, which,
1227 like an ill Riddle, is found out e're if be half propos'd; such Plots we can
1228 make every way regular as easily as they: but when e're they endeavour
1229 to rise up to any quick turns and counterturns of Plot, as some of them have
1230 attempted, since Corneilles Playes have been less in vogue, you see they
1231 write as irregularly as we, though they cover it more speciously, Hence

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1232 the reason is perspicuous, why no French Playes, when translated, have, or
1233 ever can succeed upon the English Stage. For, if you consider the Plots, our
1234 own are fuller of variety, if the writing ours are more quick and fuller of
1235 spirit: and therefore 'tis a strange mistake in those who decry the way of
1236 writing Playes in Verse, as if the English therein imitated the French.
1237 We have borrow'd nothing from them; our Plots are weav'd in English
1238 Loomes: we endeavour therein to follow the variety and greatness of
1239 characters which are deriv'd to us from Shakespeare and Fletcher : the co-
1240 piousness and well-knitting of the intrigues we have from Johnson, and for
1241 the Verse if self we have English Presidents of elder date then any of Cor-
1242 neilles's Playes: (not to name our old Comedies before Shakespeare, which
1243 were all writ in verse of six feet, or Alexandrin's, such as the French now
1244 use) I can show in Shakespeare, many Scenes of rhyme together, and the
1245 like in Ben. Johnsons Tragedies: In Catiline and Sejanus sometimes thirty
1246 or forty lines; I mean besides the Chorus, or the Monologues, which by
1247 the way, show'd Ben. no enemy to this way of writing, especially is you
1248 look upon his sad Shepherd which goes sometimes upon rhyme, sometimes
1249 upon blanck Verse, like an Horse who eases himself upon Trot and Amble.
1250 You find him likewise commending Fletcher's Pastoral of the Faithful She-
1251 pherdess; which is for the most part Rhyme, though not refin'd to that
1252 purity to which it hath since been brought: And these examples are enough
1253 to clear us from a servile imitation of the French.

¶84
1254 But to return from whence I have digress'd, I dare boldly affirm these two
1255 things of the English Drama : First, That we have many Playes of ours as
1256 regular as any of theirs; and which, besides, have more variety of Plot and
1257 Characters: And secondly, that in most of the irregular Playes of Shake-
1258 speare or Fletcher (for Ben. Johnson's are for the most part regular) there
1259 is a more masculine fancy and greater spirit in all the writing, then there is in

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1260 any of the French. I could produce even in Shakespeare's and Fletcher's
1261 Works, some Playes which are almost exactly form'd; as the Merry Wives
1262 of Windsor, and the Scornful Lady: but because (generally speaking) Shake-
1263 speare, who writ first, did not perfectly observe the Laws of Comedy, and
1264 Fletcher, who came nearer to perfection, yet through carelessness made ma-
1265 ny faults; I will take the pattern of a perfect Play from Ben. Johnson, who
1266 was a careful and learned observer of the Dramatique Lawes, and from all
1267 his Comedies I shall select The Silent Woman; of which I will make a short
1268 Examen, according to those Rules which the French observe.

¶85
1269 As Neander was beginning to examine the Silent Woman, Eugenius, look-
1270 ing earnestly upon him; I beseech you Neander, said he, gratifie the com-
1271 pany and me in particular so far, as before you speak of the Play, to give
1272 us a Character of the Authour ; and tell us franckly your opinion, whether
1273 you do not think all Writers, both French and English, ought to give place
1274 to him?

¶86
1275 I fear, replied Neander, That in obeying your commands I shall draw a
1276 little envy upon my self. Besides, in performing them, it will be first neces-
1277 sary to speak somewhat of Shakespeare and Fletcher, his Rivalls in Poesie;
1278 and one of them, in my opinion, at least his equal, perhaps his supe-
1279 riour.

¶87
1280 To begin then with Shakespeare; he was the man who of all Modern,
1281 and perhaps Ancient Poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul.
1282 All the Images of Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not
1283 laboriously, but luckily : when he describes any thing, you more than see
1284 it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give
1285 him the greater commendation: he was naturally learn'd; he needed not
1286 the spectacles of Books to read Nature; he look'd inwards, and found her
1287 there. I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him

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1288 injury to compare him with the greatest of Mankind. He is many times flat,
1289 insipid; his Comick wit degenerating into clenches; his serious swelling into
1290 Bombast. But he is alwayes great, when some great occasion is presented
1291 to him : no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not
1292 then raise himself as high above the rest of the Poets,

1293 Quantum lent a solent,inter viberna cupressi.

¶88
1294 The consideration of this made |Mr.| Hales of Eaton say, That there was
1295 no subject of which any Poet ever writ, but he would produce it much bet-
1296 ter treated of in Shakespeare; and however others are now generally pre-
1297 fer'd before him, yet the Age wherein he liv'd, which had contemporaries
1298 with him, Fletcher and Johnson never equall'd them to him in their esteem :
1299 And in the last Kings Court, when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John
1300 Suckling, and with him the greater part of the Courtiers, set our Shakespeare
1301 far above him.

¶89
1302 Beaumont and Fletcher of whom I am next to speak, had with the advan-
1303 tage of Shakespeare's wit, which was their precedent, great natural gifts,
1304 improv'd by study. Beaumont especially being so accurate a judge of Playes,
1305 that Ben. Johnson while he liv'd, submitted all his Writings to his Censure,
1306 and 'tis thought, us'd his judgement in correcting, if not contriving all his
1307 Plots. What value he had for him, appears by the Verses he writ to him;
1308 and therefore I need speak no farther of it. The first Play which brought
1309 Fletcher and him in esteem was their Philaster: for before that, they had
1310 written two or three very unsuccessfully: as the like is reported of Ben.
1311 Johnson, before he writ Every Man in his Humour. Their Plots were
1312 generally more regular then Shakespeare's, especially those which were
1313 made before Beaumont's death; and they understood and imitated the con-
1314 versation of Gentlemen much better; whose wilde debaucheries, and quick-
1315 ness of wit in reparties, no Poet can ever paint as they have done. This Hu-

{{Page 49}}

1316 mour of which Ben. Johnson deriv'd from particular persons, they made it not
1317 their business to describe: they represented all the passions very lively, but
1318 above all, Love. I am apt to believe the English Language in them arriv'd
1319 to its highest perfection; what words have since been taken in, are rather
1320 superfluous then necessary. Their Playes are now the most pleasant and
1321 frequent entertainments of the Stage ; two of theirs being acted through
1322 the year for one of Shakespeare's or Johnsons: the reason is, because there
1323 is a certain gayety in their Comedies, and Pathos in their more serious Playes,
1324 which suits generally with all mens humours. Shakespeares language is like-
1325 wise a little obsolete, and Ben. Johnson's wit comes short of theirs.

¶90
1326 As for Johnson, to whose Character I am now arriv'd, if we look upon
1327 him while he was himself, (for his last Playes were but his dotages) I think
1328 him the most learned and judicious Writer which any Theater ever had. He
1329 was a most severe Judge of himself as well as others. One cannot say
1330 he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find
1331 little to retrench or alter. Wit and Language, and Humour also in some
1332 measure we had before him ; but something of Art was wanting to the
1333 Drama till he came. He manag'd his strength to more advantage then any
1334 who preceded him. You seldome find him making Love in any of his Scenes,
1335 or endeavouring to move the Passions ; his genius was too sullen and sa-
1336 turnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who
1337 had performed both to such an height. Humour was his proper Sphere,
1338 and in that he delighted most to represent Mechanick people. He was deep-
1339 ly conversant in the Ancients, both Greek and Latine, and he borrow'd
1340 boldly from them: there is scarce a Poet or Historian among the Roman
1341 Authours of those times whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Cati-
1342 line. But he has done his Robberies so openly, that one may see he fears
1343 not to be taxed by any Law. He invades Authours like a Monarch, and

{{Page 50}}

1344 what would be theft in other Poets, is onely victory in him. With the spoils
1345 of these Writers he so represents old Rome to us, in its Rites, Ceremonies and
1346 Customs, that if one of their Poets had written either of his Tragedies, we
1347 had seen less of it then in him. If there was any fault in his Language, 'twas
1348 that he weav'd it too closely and laboriously in his serious Playes; perhaps
1349 too, he did a little to much Romanize our Tongue, leaving the words which
1350 he translated almost as much Latine as he found them : wherein though he
1351 learnedly followed the Idiom of their language, he did not enough comply
1352 with ours. If I would compare him withShakespeare, I must acknowledge
1353 him the more correct Poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit. Shakespeare
1354 was the Homer, or Father of our Dramatick Poets; Johnson was the Virgil,
1355 the pattern of elaborate writing ; I admire him, but I love Shakespeare.
1356 To conclude of him, as he has given us the most correct Playes, so
1357 in the precepts which he has laid down in his Discoveries, we have as ma-
1358 ny and profitable Rules for perfecting the Stage as any wherewith the French
1359 can furnish us.

¶91
1360 Having thus spoken of the Authour, I proceed to the examination of his
1361 Comedy, The Silent Woman.

1362 Examen of the Silent Woman.

¶92
1363 To begin first with the length of the Action, it is so far from exceeding
1364 the compass of a Natural day, that it takes not up an Artificial one. 'Tis
1365 all included in the limits of three hours and an half, which is not more than
1366 is requir'd for the presentment on the Stage. A beauty perhaps not much
1367 observ'd ; if it had, we should not have look'd upon the Spanish Transla-
1368 tion of five hours with so much wonder. The Scene of it is laid in London;
1369 the latitude of place is almost as little as you can imagine : for it lies all

{{Page 51}}

1370 within the compass of two Houses, and after the first Act, in one. The con-
1371 tinuity of Scenes is observ'd more than in any of our Playes, excepting his
1372 own Fox and Alchymist. They are not broken above twice or thrice at
1373 most in the whole Comedy, and in the two best of Corneille's Playes, the Cid
1374 and Cinna, they are interrupted once apiece. The action of the Play is
1375 intirely one; the end or aim of which is the setling of Morose's Estate on Dau-
1376 phine. The Intrigue of it is the greatest and most noble of any pure un-
1377 mix'd Comedy in any Language : you see it in many persons of various
1378 characters and humours, and all delightful : As first, Morose, or an old
1379 Man, to whom all noise but his own talking is offensive. Some who would
1380 be thought Criticks, say this humour of his is forc'd : but to remove that
1381 objection, we may consider him first to be naturally of a delicate hearing, as
1382 many are to whom all sharp sounds are unpleasant ; and secondly, we may
1383 attribute much of it to the peevishness of his Age, or the wayward autho-
1384 rity of an old man in his own house, where he may make himself obeyed;
1385 and this the Poet seems to allude to in his name Morose. Besides this, I am
1386 assur'd from diverse persons, that Ben. Johnson was actually acquainted with
1387 such a man, one altogether as ridiculous as he is here represented. Others
1388 say it is not enough to find one man of such an humour; it must be common
1389 to more, and the more common the more natural. To prove this, they in-
1390 stance in the best of Comical Characters, Falstaff : There are many men re-
1391 sembling him; Old, Fat, Merry, Cowardly, Drunken, Amorous, Vain,
1392 and Lying: But to convince these people, I need but tell them, that humour
1393 is the ridiculous extravagance of conversation, wherein one man differs from
1394 all others. If then it be common, or communicated to many, how differs
1395 it from other mens? or what indeed causes it to be ridiculous so much as the
1396 singularity of it? As for Falstaffe, he is not properly one humour, but a
1397 Miscellany of Humours or Images, drawn from so many several men; that

{{Page 52}}

1398 wherein he is singular in his wit, or those things he sayes, præter expectatum,
1399 unexpected by the Audience; his quick evasions when you imagine him
1400 surpriz'd, which as they are extreamly diverting of themselves, so receive a
1401 great addition from his person ; for the very sight of such an unwieldy old
1402 debauch'd fellow is a Comedy alone. And here having a place so proper for
1403 it I cannot but enlarge somewhat upon this subject of humour into which I
1404 am fallen. The Ancients had little of it in their Comedies; for the to geloion,
1405 of the Old Comedy, of which Aristophanes was chief, was not so much to
1406 imitate a man, as to make the people laugh at some odd conceit, which had
1407 commonly somewhat of unnatural or obscene in it. Thus when you see So-
1408 crates brought upon the Stage, you are not to imagine him made ridiculous
1409 by the imitation of his actions, but rather by making him perform some-
1410 thing very unlike himself: something so childish and absurd, as by compa-
1411 ring it with the gravity of the true Socrates, makes a ridiculous object for the
1412 Spectators. In their new Comedy which succeeded, the Poets fought in-
1413 deed to express the {ee}thos, as in their Tragedies the pathos of Mankind. But
1414 this {ee}thos contain'd onely the general Characters of men and manners ; as
1415 old men, Lovers, Servingmen, Courtizans, Parasites, and such other per-
1416 sons as we see in their Comedies; all which they made alike: that is, one
1417 old man or Father; one Lover, one Courtizan so like another, as if the
1418 first of them had begot the rest of every sort: Ex homine hunc natum dicas.
1419 The same custome they observ'd likewise in their Tragedies. As for the
1420 French, though they have the word humeur among them, yet they have
1421 small use of it in their Comedies, or Farces; they being but ill imitations
1422 of the ridiculum, or that which stirr'd up laughter in the old Comedy. But
1423 among the English 'tis otherwise: where by humour is meant some ex-
1424 travagant habit, passion, or affection; particular (as I said before) to some
1425 one person : by the oddness of which, he is immediately distinguish'd

{{Page 53}}

1426 from the rest of men; which being lively and naturally represented, most
1427 frequently begets that malicious pleasure in the Audience which is testified
1428 by laughter: as all things which are deviations from common customes are
1429 ever the aptest to produce it: though by the way this laughter is onely acci-
1430 dental, as the person represented is Fantastick or Bizarre; but pleasure is essen-
1431 tial to it, as the imitation of what is natural. The description of these hu-
1432 mours, drawn from the knowledge and observation of particular persons,
1433 was the peculiar genius and talent of Ben. Johnson; To whose Play I now
1434 return.

¶93
1435 Besides Morose, there are at least 9 or 10 different Characters and hu-
1436 mours in the Silent Woman, all which persons have several concernments
1437 of their own, yet are all us'd by the Poet, to the conducting of the main
1438 design to perfection. I shall not waste time in commending the writing of
1439 this Play, but I will give you my opinion, that there is more wit and acute-
1440 ness of Fancy in it then in any of Ben. Johnson's. Besides, that he has here
1441 describ'd the conversation of Gentlemen in the persons of True-Wit, and
1442 his Friends, with more gayety, ayre and freedom, then in the rest of his
1443 Comedies. For the contrivance of the Plot 'tis extream elaborate, and
1444 yet withal easie; for the lusis, or untying of it, 'tis so admirable, that when
1445 it is done, no one of the Audience would think the Poet could have miss'd
1446 it; and yet it was conceald so much before the last Scene, that any other
1447 way would sooner have enter'd into your thoughts. But I dare not take up-
1448 on me to commend the Fabrick of it, because it is altogether so full of Art,
1449 that I must unravel every Scene in it to commend it as I ought. And this
1450 excellent contrivance is still the more to be admir'd, because 'tis Comedy
1451 where the persons are onely of common rank, and their business private,
1452 not elevated by passions or high concernments as in serious Playes. Here
1453 every one is a proper Judge of all he sees ; nothing is represented but that

{{Page 54}}

1454 with which he daily converses : so that by consequence all faults lie open to
1455 discovery, and few are pardonable. 'Tis this which Horace has judiciously
1456 observed:

1457 Creditur ex medio quia res arcessit habere
1458 Sudoris minimum, sed habet Comedia tanto
1459 Plus oneris, quanto veniæ minus. ------

¶94
1460 But our Poet, who was not ignorant of these difficulties, had preail'd
1461 himself of all advantages ; as he who designes a large leap takes his rise
1462 from the highest ground. One of these advantages is that which Corneille
1463 has laid down as the greatest which can arrive to any Poem, and which he
1464 himself could never compass above thrice in all his Playes, viz. the making
1465 choice of some signal and long expected day, whereon the action of the
1466 Play is to depend. This day was that design'd by Dauphine for the setling
1467 of his Uncles Estate upon him ; which to compass he contrives to marry
1468 him : that the marriage had been plotted by him long beforehand is made
1469 evident by what he tells Truwit in the second Act, that in one moment he
1470 had destroy' what he had been raising many months.

¶95
1471 There is another artifice of the Poet, which I cannot here omit, because
1472 by the frequent practice of it in his Comedies, he has left it to us almost as
1473 a Rule, that is, when he has any Character or humour wherein he would
1474 show a Coup de Maistre, or his highest skill; he recommends it to your
1475 observation by a pleasant description of it before the person first appears.
1476 Thus, in Bartholomew Fair he gives you the Pictures of Numps and Cokes,
1477 and in this those of Daw, Lasocle, Morose, and the Collegiate Ladies;
1478 all which you hear describ'd before you see them. So that before they come
1479 upon the Stage you have a longing expectation of them, which prepares you

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1480 to receive them favourably ; and when they are there, even from their
1481 first appearance you are so far acquainted with them, that nothing of their
1482 humour is lost to you.

¶96
1483 I will observe yet one thing further of this admirable Plot ; the business
1484 of it rises in every Act. The second is greater then the first; the third
1485 then the second, and so forward to the fifth. There too you see, till the
1486 very last Scene, new difficulties arising to obstruct the action of the Play;
1487 and when the Audience is brought into despair that the business can natu-
1488 rally be effected, then, and not before, the discovery is made. But that
1489 the Poet might entertain you with more variety all this whille, he reserves
1490 some new Characters to show you, which he opens not till the second and
1491 third Act. In the second, Morose, Daw, the Barber and Otter ; in the
1492 third the Collegiat Ladies : All which he moves afterwards in by-walks, or
1493 under-Plots, as diversions to the main design, least it should grow tedious,
1494 though they are still naturally joyn'd with it, and somewhere or other sub-
1495 servient to it. Thus, like a skilful Chest-player, by little and little he draws
1496 out his men, and makes his pawns of use to his greater persons.

¶97
1497 If this Comedy, and some others of his, were translated into French
1498 Prose (which would now be no wonder to them, since Moliere has lately
1499 given them Playes out of Verse which have not displeas'd them) I believe
1500 the controversie would soon be decided betwixt the two Nations, even ma-
1501 king them the Judges. But we need not call our Hero's to our ayde;
1502 Be it spoken to the honour of the English, our Nation can never want in
1503 any Age such who are able to dispute the Empire of Wit with any people
1504 in the Universe. And though the fury of a Civil War, and Power, for
1505 twenty years together, abandon'd to a barbarous race of men, Enemies of
1506 all good Learning, had buried the Muses under the ruines of Monarchy ;
1507 yet with the restoration of our happiness, we see reviv'd Poesie lifting up

{{Page 56}}

1508 its head, |&| already shaking off the rubbish which lay so heavy on it. We have
1509 seen since His Majesties return, many Dramatick Poems which yield not to
1510 those of any forreign Nation, and which deserve all Lawrels but the English.
1511 I will set aside Flattery and Envy : it cannot be deny'd but we have had some
1512 little blemish either in the Plot or writing of all those Playes which have
1513 been made within these seven years : (and perhaps there is no Nation in
1514 the world so quick to discern them, or so difficult to pardon them, as ours:)
1515 yet if we can perswade our selves to use the candour of that Poet, who
1516 (though the most severe of Criticks) has left us this caution by which to
1517 moderate our censures ;

1518 -------------- Vbi plura nitent in carmine non ego paucis
1519 offendar maculis.

¶98
1520 If in consideration of their many and great beauties, we can wink at
1521 some slight, and little imperfections ; if we, I say, can be thus equal to our
1522 selves, I ask no favour from the French. And if I do not venture upon any
1523 particular judgment of our late Playes,'tis out of the consideration which an
1524 Ancient Writer gives me; Vivorum,ut magna admiratio ita censura difficilis:
1525 betwixt the extreams of admiration and malice, 'tis hard to judge upright-
1526 ly of the living. Onely I think it may be permitted me to say, that as it is
1527 no less'ning to us to yield to some Playes, and those not many of our own
1528 Nation in the last Age, so can it be no addition to pronounce of our present
1529 Poets that they have far surpass'd all the Ancients, and the Modern Writers
1530 of other Countreys.

¶99
1531 This, my Lord, was the substance of what was then spoke on that occa-
1532 sion ; and Lisideius, I think was going to reply, when he was prevented
1533 thus by Crites : I am confident, said he, the most material things that can
1534 be said, have been already urg'd on either side; if they have not, I must

{{Page 57}}

1535 beg of Lisideius that he will defer his answer till another time : for I con-
1536 fess I have a joynt quarrel to you both, because you have concluded, with-
1537 out any reason given for it, that Rhyme is proper for the Stage. I will not
1538 dispute how ancient it hath been among us to write this way ; perhaps our
1539 Ancestours knew no better till Shakespeare's time. I will grant it was not alto-
1540 gether left by him, and that Fletcher and Ben. Johnson us'd it frequently in
1541 their Pastorals, and sometimes in other Playes. Farther, I will not argue
1542 whether we receiv'd it originally from our own Countrymen, or from
1543 the French ; for that is an inquiry of as little benefit, as theirs who in the
1544 midst of the great Plague were not so sollicitous to provide against it, as to
1545 know whether we had it from the malignity of our own air, or by transpor-
1546 tation from Holland. I have therefore onely to affirm, that it is not allowable
1547 in serious Playes; for Comedies I find you already concluding with me. To
1548 prove this, I might satisfie my self to tell you, how much in vain it is for
1549 you to strive against the stream of the peoples inclination ; the greatest part
1550 of which are prepossess'd so much with those excellent Playes of Shakespeare,
1551 Fletcher, and Ben. Johnson, (which have been written out of Rhyme) that
1552 except you could bring them such as were written better in it, and those too
1553 by persons of equal reputation with them, it will be impossible for you to
1554 gain your cause with them, who will still be judges. This it is to
1555 which in fine all your reasons must submit. The unanimous consent of an
1556 Audience is so powerful, That even Julius Cæsar (as Macrobius reports of
1557 him) when he was perpetual Dictator, was not able to ballance it on the
1558 other side. But when Laberius, a Roman Knight, at his request contended
1559 in the Mime with another Poet, he was forc'd to cry out, Etiam favente me
1560 victus es Liberi. But I will not on this occasion, take the advantage of the
1561 greater number, but onely urge such reasons against Rhyme, as I find in
1562 the Writings of those who have argu'd for the other way. First then I am

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1563 of opinion, that Rhyme is unnatural in a Play, because Dialogue
1564 there is presented as the effect of sudden thought. For a Play is the
1565 imitation of Nature; and since no man, without premeditation speaks
1566 in Rhyme, neither ought he to do it on the Stage ; this hinders not
1567 but the Fancy may be there elevated to a higher pitch of thought
1568 then it is in ordinary discourse: for there is a probability that men of
1569 excellent and quick parts may speak noble things ex tempore: but those
1570 thoughts are never fetter'd with the numbers or sound of Verse with-
1571 out study, and therefore it cannot be but unnatural to present the
1572 most free way of speaking, in that which is the most constrain'd. For
1573 this Reason, sayes Aristotle, 'Tis best to write Tragedy in that kind of
1574 Verse which is the least such, or which is nearest Prose: and this amongst
1575 the Ancients was the Iambique, and with us is blank verse, or the mea-
1576 sure of verse, kept exactly without rhyme. These numbers therefore are
1577 fittest for a Play; the others for a paper of Verses, or a Poem. Blank verse
1578 being as much below them as rhyme is improper for the Drama. And if it
1579 be objected that neither are blank verses made ex tempore, yet as nearest
1580 Nature, they are still to be preferr'd. But there are two particular excep-
1581 tions which many besides my self have had to verse ; by which it will ap-
1582 pear yet more plainly, how improper it is in Playes. And the first of
1583 them is grounded upon that very reason for which some have commended
1584 Rhyme: they say the quickness of repartees in argumentative Scenes receives
1585 an ornament from verse. Now what is more unreasonable then to imagine
1586 that a man should not onely light upon the Wit, but the Rhyme too upon
1587 the sudden? This nicking of him who spoke before both in sound and
1588 measure, is so great an happiness, that you must at least suppose the persons
1589 of your Play to be born Poets, Arcades omnes |&| cantare pares |&| respondere
1590 parati: they must have arriv'd to the degree of quicquid conabar dicere: to

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1591 make Verses almost whether they will or no : if they are any thing be-
1592 low this, it will look rather like the design of two then the answer of one:
1593 it will appear that your Actors hold intelligence together, that they per-
1594 form their tricks like Fortune-tellers, by confederacy. The hand of Art
1595 will be too visible in it against that maxime of all Professions; Ars est celare
1596 artem. That it is the greatest perfection of Art to keep it self undiscover'd.
1597 Nor will it serve you to object, that however you manage it, 'tis still known
1598 to be a Play; and consequently the Dialogue of two persons understood to
1599 be the labour of one Poet. For a Play is still an imitation of Nature ; we
1600 know we are to be deceiv'd, and we desire to be so ; but no man ever was
1601 deceiv'd but with a probability of truth, for who will suffer a grose lie to be
1602 fasten'd on him? Thus we sufficiently understand that the Scenes which re-
1603 present Cities and Countries to us, are not really such, but onely painted on
1604 boards and Canvass : But shall that excuse the ill Painture or designment
1605 of them ; Nay rather ought they not to be labour'd with so much the more
1606 diligence and exactness to help the imagination? since the mind of man doe
1607 naturally tend to, and seek after Truth; and therefore the nearer any thing
1608 comes to the imitation of it, the more it pleases.

¶100
1609 Thus, you see, your Rhyme is uncapable of expressing the greatest
1610 thoughts naturally, and the lowest it cannot with any grace : for what
1611 is more unbefitting the Majesty of Verse, then to call a Servant, or bid a
1612 door be shut in Rhime? And yet this miserable necessity you are forc'd
1613 upon. But Verse, you say, circumscribes a quick and luxuriant fancy,
1614 which would extend it self too far on every subject, did not the labour which
1615 is requir'd to well turn'd and polish'd Rhyme, set bounds to it. Yet this
1616 Argument, if granted, would onely prove that we may write better in
1617 Verse, but not more naturally. Neither is it able to evince that; for
1618 he who wants judgment to confine his fancy in blank Verse, may want it

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1619 as much in Rhyme; and he who has it will avoid errours in both kinds.
1620 Latine verse was as great a confinement to the imagination of those Poets,
1621 as Rhime to ours: and yet you find Ovid saying too much on every subject.
1622 Nescivit (sayes Seneca) quod bene cessit relinquere : of which he gives you
1623 one famous instance in his Discription of the Deluge.

1624 Omnia pontus erat, deerant quoque Litora Ponto.

¶101
1625 Now all was Sea, Nor had that Sea a shore. Thus Ovid's fancy was not
1626 limited by verse, and Virgil needed not verse to have bounded his.

¶102
1627 In our own language we see Ben. Johnson confining himself to what ought
1628 to be said, even in the liberty of blank Verse; and yet Corneille, the most
1629 judicious of the French Poets, is still varying the same sence an hundred
1630 wayes, and dwelling eternally upon the same subject, though confin'd by
1631 Rhyme. Some other exceptions I have to Verse, but being these I have
1632 nam'd are for the most part already publick; I conceive it reasonable they
1633 should first be answer'd.

¶103
1634 It concerns me less then any, said Neander, (seeing he had ended) to re-
1635 ply to this Discourse; because when I should have prov'd that Verse may
1636 be natural in Playes, yet I should alwayes be ready to confess, that
1637 those which I have written in this kind come short of that perfection
1638 which is requir'd. Yet since you are pleas'd I should undertake this
1639 Province, I will do it, though with all imaginable respect and deference
1640 both to that person from whom you have borrow'd your strongesst Argu-
1641 ments, and to whose judgment when I have said all, I finally submit. But
1642 before I proceed to answer your objections, I must first remember you,
1643 that I exclude all Comedy from my defence ; and next that I deny not but
1644 blank verse may be also us'd, and content my self onely to assert, that in
1645 serious Playes where the subject and characters are great, and the Plot un-
1646 mix'd with mirth, which might allay or divert these concernments which

{{Page 61}}

1647 are produc'd, Rhyme is there as natural, and more effectual then blank Verse.

¶104
1648 And now having laid down this as a foundation, to begin with Cri-
1649 tes, I must crave leave to tell him, that some of his Arguments against
1650 rhyme reach no farther then from the faults or defects of ill rhime, to
1651 conclude against the use of it in general. May not I conclude against
1652 blank verse by the same reason? If the words of some Poets who write
1653 in it, are either ill chosen, or ill placed (which makes not onely
1654 rhime, but all kind of verse in any language unnatural;) Shall I, for
1655 their vitious affection condemn those excellent lines of Fletcher, which
1656 are written in that kind? Is there any thing in rhyme more constrain'd
1657 than this line in blank verse? I Heav'n invoke, and strong resistance
1658 make, where you see both the clauses are plac'd unnaturally ; that is, con-
1659 trary to the common way of speaking, and that without the excuse of a
1660 rhyme to cause it : yet you would think me very ridiculous, if I should ac-
1661 cuse the stubbornness of blank Verse for this, and not rather the stifness of
1662 the Poet. Therefore, Crites, you must either prove that words, though
1663 well chosen, and duly plac'd, yet render not Rhyme natural in it self; or,
1664 that however natural and easie the rhyme may be, yet it is not proper for
1665 a Play. If you insist upon the former part, I would ask you what other
1666 conditions are requir'd to make Rhyme natural in it self, besides an election
1667 of apt words, and a right disposing of them? For the due choice of your
1668 words expresses your sence naturally, and the due placing them adapts the
1669 rhyme to it. If you object that one verse may be made for the sake of ano-
1670 ther, though both the words and rhyme be apt; I answer it cannot pos-
1671 sibly so fall out ; for either there is a dependance of sence betwixt the first
1672 line and the second, or there is none : if there be that connection, then in
1673 the natural position of the words, the latter line must of necessity flow from
1674 the former: if there be no dependance, yet still the due ordering of words

{{Page 62}}

1675 makes the last line as natural in itself as the other : so that the necessity of
1676 a rhime never forces any but bad or lazy Writers to say what they would
1677 not otherwise. 'Tis true, there is both care and Art requir'd to write in
1678 Verse; A good Poet never concludes upon the first line, till he has sought
1679 out such a rhime as may fit the sense, already prepar'd to heighten the se-
1680 cond: many times the close of the sense falls into the middle of the next
1681 verse, or farther of, and he may often prevail himself of the same advan-
1682 tages in English which Virgil had in Latine. He may break off in the Hemy-
1683 stich, and begin another line: indeed, the not observing these two last
1684 things, makes Playes which are writ in verse so tedious: for though, most
1685 commonly, the sence is to be confin'd to the Couplet, yet nothing that does
1686 perpetuo tenore fluere}, run in the same channel, can please alwayes. 'Tis
1687 like the murmuring of a stream, which not varying in the fall, causes at first
1688 attention, at last drowsiness. Variety of cadences is the best rule, the greatest
1689 help to the Actors, and refreshment to the Audience.

¶105
1690 If then Verse may be made natural in it self, how becomes it im-
1691 proper to a Play? You say the Stage is the representation of Nature,
1692 and no man in ordinary conversation speaks in rhime. But you foresaw
1693 when you said this, that it might be answer'd; neither does any man speak
1694 in blank verse, or in measure without rhime. Therefore you concluded,
1695 that which is nearest Nature is still to be preferr'd. But you took no notice
1696 that rhime might be made as natural as blank verse, by the well placing of
1697 the words,|&c.| all the difference between them when they are both correct,
1698 is the sound in one, which the other wants; and if so, the sweetness of it,
1699 and all the advantage resulting from it, which are handled in the Preface to
1700 the Rival Ladies, will yet stand good. As for that place of Aristotle, where
1701 he sayes Playes should be writ in that kind of Verse which is nearest Prose;
1702 it makes little for you, blank verse being properly but measur'd Prose. Now

{{Page 63}}

1703 measure alone in any modern Language, does not constitute verse; those
1704 of the Ancients in Greek and Latine, consisted in quantity of words, and
1705 a determinate number of feet. But when, by the inundation of the Goths
1706 and Vandals into Italy new Languages were brought in, and barbarously
1707 mingled with the Latine (of which the Italian, Spanish, French, and ours,
1708 (made out of them and the Teutonick) are Dialects :) a new way of Poesie
1709 was practis'd ; new, I say in those Countries, for in all probability it was
1710 that of the Conquerours in their own Nations. This new way consisted in
1711 measure or number of feet and rhyme. The sweetness of Rhyme, and ob-
1712 servation of Accent, supplying the place of quantity in words, which could
1713 neither exactly be observ'd by those Barbarians who knew not the Rules of
1714 it, neither was it suitable to their tongues as it had been to the Greek and
1715 Latine. No man is tied in modern Poesie to observe any farther rule in the
1716 feet of his verse, but that they be dissylables; whether Spondee, Trochee,
1717 or Iambique, it matters not ; onely he is obliged to rhyme: Neither do
1718 the Spanish, French, Italian or Germans acknowledge at all, or very rare-
1719 ly any such kind of Poesie as blank verse amongst them. Therefore at most
1720 'tis but a Poetick Prose, a Sermo pedestris,, and as such most fit for Come-
1721 dies, where I acknowledge Rhyme to be improper. Farther, as to that
1722 quotation of Aristotle, our Couplet Verses may be rendred as near Prose
1723 as blank verse it self, by using those advantages I lately nam'd, as breaks in
1724 a Hemistick, or running the sence into another line, thereby making Art
1725 and Order appear as loose and free as Nature: or not tying our selves to
1726 Couplets strictly, we may use the benefit of the Pindarique way, practis'd
1727 in the Siege of Rhodes; where the numbers vary and the rhyme is dispos'd
1728 carelesly, and far from often chymeing. Neither is that other advantage
1729 of the Ancients to be despis'd, of changing the kind of verse when they
1730 please with the change of the Scene, or some new entrance : for they con-

{{Page 64}}

1731 fine not themselves alwayes to Iambiques, but extend their liberty to all
1732 Lyrique numbers, and sometimes, even to Hexameter. But I need not go
1733 so far to prove that Rhyme, as it succeeds to all other offices of Greek and
1734 Latine Verse, so especially to this of Playes, since the custome of all Nations
1735 at this day confirms it: All the French, Italian and Spanish Tragedies are
1736 generally writ in it, and sure the Universal consent of the most civiliz'd parts
1737 of the world, ought in this, as it doth in other customs, include the rest.

¶106
1738 But perhaps you may tell me I have propos'd such a way to make rhyme
1739 natural, and consequently proper to Playes,as is unpracticable, and that I shall
1740 scarce find six or eight lines together in any Play, where the words are so
1741 plac'd and chosen as is requir'd to make it natural. I answer, no Poet need
1742 constrain himself at all times to it. It is enough he makes it his general Rule;
1743 for I deny not but sometimes there may be a greatness in placing the words
1744 otherwise; and sometimes they may sound better,sometimes also the variety
1745 it self is excuse enough. But if, for the most part, the words be plac'd as
1746 they are in the negligence of Prose, it is sufficient to denominate the way
1747 practicable; for we esteem that to be such, which in the Tryal oftner
1748 succeeds then misses. And thus far you may find the practice made good in
1749 many Playes; where you do not, remember still, that if you cannot find six
1750 natural Rhymes together, it will be as hard for you to produce as many lines
1751 in blank Verse, even among the greatest of our Poets, against which I cannot
1752 make some reasonable exception.

¶107
1753 And this, Sir, calls to my remembrance the beginning of your discourse,
1754 where you told us we should never find the Audience favourable to this kind
1755 of writing, till we could produce as good Playes in Rhyme, as Ben. Johnson,
1756 Fletcher, and Shakespeare, had writ out of it. But it is to raise envy to the
1757 living, to compare them with the dead. They are honour'd, and almost
1758 ador'd by us, as they deserve; neither do I know any so presumptuous of

{{Page 65}}

1759 themselves as to contend with them. Yet give me leave to say thus much
1760 without injury to their Ashes, that not onely we shall never equal them,
1761 but they could never equal themselves, were they to rise and write again.
1762 We acknowledge them our Fathers in wit, but they have ruin'd their Estates
1763 themselves before they came to their childrens hands. There is scarce an
1764 Humour, a Character, or any kind of Plot, which they have not blown
1765 upon: all comes sullied or wasted to us: and were they to entertain this
1766 Age, they could not make so plenteous treatments out of such decay'd For-
1767 tunes. This therefore will be a good Argument to us either not to write
1768 at all, or to attempt some other way. There is no bayes to be expected
1769 in their Walks; Tentanda via est qu{`a} me quoque possum tollere humo.

¶108
1770 This way of writing in Verse, they have onely left free to us; our age
1771 is arriv'd to a perfection in it, which they never knew; and which (if we
1772 may guess by what of theirs we have seen in Verse (as in the Faithful She-
1773 pherdess, and Sad Shepherd:) 'tis probable they never could have reach'd.
1774 For the Genius of every Age is different; and though ours excel in this, I deny
1775 not but that to imitate Nature in that perfection which they did in Prose, is a
1776 greater commendation then to write in verse exactly. As for what you have
1777 added, that the people are not generally inclin'd to like this way; if it were
1778 true, it would be no wonder, that betwixt the shaking off an old habit, and
1779 the introducing of a new, there should be difficulty. Do we not see them stick
1780 to Hopkins and Sternholds Psalmes, and forsake those of David, I mean
1781 Sandys his Translation of them? If by the people you understand the
1782 multitude, the oi polloi. 'Tis no matter what they think; they are some-
1783 times in the right, sometimes in the wrong ; their judgment is a meer Lot-
1784 tery. Est ubi plebs rectè putat, est ubi peccat. Horace sayes it of the vul-
1785 gar, judging Poesie. But if you mean the mix'd audience of the populace,
1786 and the Noblesse, I dare confidently affirm that a great part of the latter

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1787 sort are already favourable to verse; and that no serious Playes written
1788 since the Kings return have been more kindly receiv'd by them, then the
1789 Seige of Rhodes, the Mustapha, the IndianQueen, and IndianEmperour.

¶109
1790 But I come now to the inference of your first Argument. You said the
1791 Dialogue of Playes is presented as the effect of sudden thought, but no man
1792 speaks suddenly, or ex tempore in Rhyme: And you inferr'd from thence,
1793 that Rhyme, which you acknowledge to be proper to Epique Poesie cannot
1794 equally be proper to Dramatick, unless we could suppose all men born so
1795 much more then Poets, that verses should be made in them, not by them.

¶110
1796 It has been formerly urg'd by you, and confess'd by me, that since no
1797 man spoke any kind of verse ex tempore, that which was nearest Nature was
1798 to be preferr'd. I answer you therefore, by distinguishing betwixt what is
1799 nearest to the nature of Comedy, which is the imitation of common persons
1800 and ordinary speaking, and what is nearest the nature of a serious Play:
1801 this last is indeed the representation of Nature, but 'tis Nature wrought up
1802 to an higher pitch. The Plot, the Characters, the Wit, the Passions, the
1803 Descriptions, are all exalted above the level of common converse, as high
1804 as the imagination of the Poet can carry them, with proportion to verisimi-
1805 lity. Tragedy we know is wont to image to us the minds and fortunes of
1806 noble persons, and to portray these exactly, Heroick Rhime is nearest Na-
1807 ture, as being the noblest kind of modern verse.

1808 Indignatur enim privatis, |&| prope socco.
1809 Dignis carminibus narrari cœna Thyestæ. (Sayes Horace.)

¶111
1810 And in another place,

1811 Essutire leveis indigna tragædia versus.

¶112
1812 Blank Verse is acknowledg'd to be too low for a Poem, nay more,
1813 for a paper of verses; but if too low for an ordinary Sonnet, how
1814 much more for Tragedy, which is by Aristotle in the dispute betwixt the

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1815 Epique Poesie and the Dramatick; for many reasons he there alledges
1816 ranck'd above it.

¶113
1817 But setting this defence aside, your Argument is almost as strong against
1818 the use of Rhyme in Poems as in Playes; for the Epique way is every where
1819 interlac'd with Dialogue, or discoursive Scenes; and therefore you must
1820 either grant Rhyme to be improper there, which is contrary to your asser-
1821 tion, or admit it into Playes by the same title which you have given it to
1822 Poems. For though Tragedy be justly preferr'd above the other, yet there
1823 is a great affinity between them as may easily be discover'd in that definition
1824 of a Play which Lisideius gave us. The Genus of them is the same, a just
1825 and lively Image of human nature, in its Actions, Passions, and traverses of
1826 Fortune: so is the end, namely for the delight and benefit of Mankind. The
1827 Characters and Persons are still the same, viz. the greatest of both sorts,
1828 onely the manner of acquainting us with those Actions, Passions and For-
1829 tunes is different. Tragedy performs it viva voce, or by action, in Dialogue,
1830 wherein it excels the Epique Poem which does it chiefly by narration, and
1831 therefore is not so lively an Image of Humane Nature. However, the agree-
1832 ment betwixt them is such, that if Rhyme be proper for one, it must be for
1833 the other. Verse 'tis true is not the effect of sudden thought; but this
1834 hinders not that sudden thought may be represented in verse, since those
1835 thoughts are such as must be higher then Nature can raise them without
1836 premeditation, especially to a continuance of them even out of verse, and
1837 consequently you cannot imagine them to have been sudden either in the
1838 Poet, or the Actors. A Play, as I had said to be like Nature, is to be
1839 set above it; as Statues which are plac'd on high are made greater then the
1840 life, that they may descend to the sight in their just proportion.

¶114
1841 Perhaps I have insisted too long upon this objection; but the clearing
1842 of it will make my stay shorter on the rest. You tell us Crites, that rhyme

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1843 appears most unnatural in repartees, or short replyes: when he who an-
1844 swers, (it being presum'd he knew not what the other would say, yet) makes
1845 up that part of the verse which was left incompleat, and supplies both the
1846 sound and measure of it. This you say looks rather like the confederacy of
1847 two, then the answer of one.

¶115
1848 This, I confess, is an objection which is in every ones mouth who loves
1849 not rhyme : but suppose, I beseech you, the repartee were made onely in
1850 blank verse, might not part of the same argument be turn'd against you? for
1851 the measure is as often supply'd there as it is in Rhyme. The latter half of
1852 the Hemystich as commonly made up, or a second line subjoyn'd as a
1853 reply to the former; which any one leaf in Johnson's Playes will suffici-
1854 ently clear to you. You will often find in the Greek Tragedians, and in
1855 Seneca, that when a Scene grows up in the warmth of repartees (which
1856 is the close sighting of it) the latter part of the Trimeter is supply'd by him
1857 who answers; and yet it was never observ'd as a fault in them by any of
1858 the Ancient or Modern Criticks. The case is the same in our verse as it was
1859 in theirs; Rhyme to us being in lieu of quantity to them. But if no lati-
1860 tude is to be allow'd a Poet, you take from him not onely his license of quid-
1861 libet audendi, but you tie him up in a straighter compass then you would
1862 a Philosopher. This is indeed Musas colere severiores: You would have
1863 him follow Nature, but he must follow her on foot: you have dismounted
1864 him from his Pegasus. But you tell us this supplying the last half of a verse,
1865 or adjoyning a whole second to the former, looks more like the design of two
1866 then the answer of one. Suppose we acknowledge it: how comes this
1867 confederacy to be more displeasing to you then in a Dance which is well
1868 contriv'd? You see there the united design of many persons to make up one
1869 Figure: after they have seperated themselves in many petty divisions, they
1870 rejoyn one by one into a gross: the confederacy is plain amongst them;

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1871 for chance could never produce any thing so beautiful, and yet there is
1872 nothing in it that shocks your sight. I acknowledg the hand of Art appears
1873 in repartee, as of necessity it must in all kind of verse. But there is also the
1874 quick and poynant brevity of it (which is an high imitation of Nature in
1875 those sudden gusts of passion) to mingle with it: and this joyn'd with the
1876 cadency and sweetness of the Rhyme, leaves nothing in the soul of the
1877 hearer to desire. 'Tis an Art which appears ; but it appears onely like
1878 the shadowings of Painture, which being to cause the rounding of it, cannot
1879 be absent; but while that is consider'd they are lost: so while we attend to
1880 the other beauties of the matter, the care and labour of the Rhyme is carry'd
1881 from us, or at least drown'd in its own sweetness, as Bees are sometimes
1882 bury'd in their Honey. When a Poet has found the repartee, the last per-
1883 fection he can add to it, is to put it into verse. However good the thought
1884 may be; however apt the words in which 'tis couch'd, yet he finds himself
1885 at a little unrest while Rhyme is wanting: he cannot leave it till that comes
1886 naturally, and then is at ease, and sits down contented.

¶116
1887 From Replies, which are the most elevated thoughts of Verse, you pass
1888 to the most mean ones; those which are common with the lowest of houshold
1889 conversation. In these, you say, the Majesty of Verse suffers. You in-
1890 stance in the calling of a servant, or commanding a door to be shut in rhyme.
1891 This, Crites, is a good observation of yours, but no argument : for it
1892 proves no more but that such thoughts should be wav'd, as often as may be,
1893 by the address of the Poet. But suppose they are necessary in the places
1894 where he uses them, yet there is no need to put them into rhime. He may
1895 place them in the beginning of a Verse, and break it off, as unfit, when so
1896 debas'd for any other use: or granting the worst, that they require more
1897 room then the Hemystich will allow; yet still there is a choice to be made
1898 of the best words, and least vulgar (provided they be apt) to express such

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1899 thoughts. Many have blam'd Rhyme in general, for this fault, when the
1900 Poet, with a little care, might have redress'd it. But they do it with no more
1901 justice, then if English Poesie should be made ridiculous for the sake of
1902 the Water Poet's Rhymes. Our language is noble, full and significant; and
1903 I know not why he who is Master of it may not cloath ordinary things in it
1904 as decently as the Latine; if he use the same diligence in his choice of words.

1905 Delectus verborum Origo est Eloquentiæ.

¶117
1906 It was the saying of Julius Cæsar, one so curious in his, that none of them
1907 can be chang'd but for a worse. One would think unlock the door was a
1908 thing as vulgar as could be spoken; and yet Seneca could make it sound high
1909 and lofty in his Latine.----

1910 Reserate clusos Regii postes Laris.

¶118
1911 But I turn from this exception, both because it happens not above twice
1912 or thrice in any Play that those vulgar thoughts are us'd; and then too(were
1913 there no other Apology to be made, yet) the necessity of them (which is
1914 alike in all kind of writing) may excuse them. Besides that the great eager-
1915 ness and præcipitation with which they are spoken makes us rather mind the
1916 substance then the dress; that for which they are spoken, rather then what
1917 is spoke. For they are alwayes the effect of some hasty concernment, and
1918 something of consequence depends upon them.

¶119
1919 Thus, Crites, I have endeavour'd to answer your objections; it remains
1920 onely that I should vindicate an Argument for Verse, which you have gone
1921 about to overthrow. It had formerly been said, that the easiness of blank verse,
1922 renders the Poet too luxuriant; but that the labour of Rhyme bounds and
1923 circumscribes an over-fruitful fancy, The sence there being commonly
1924 confin'd to the couplet, and the words so order'd that the Rhyme naturally
1925 follows them, not they the Rhyme. To this you answer'd, that it was no
1926 Argument to the question in hand, for the dispute was not which way a man

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1927 may write best: but which is most proper for the subject on which he
1928 writes.

¶120
1929 First, give me leave, Sir, to remember you that the Argument against
1930 which you rais'd this objection, was onely secondary: it was built upon
1931 this Hypothesis, that to write in verse was proper for serious Playes. Which
1932 supposition being granted (as it was briefly made out in that discourse, by
1933 showing how verse might be made natural) it asserted, that this way of wri-
1934 ting was an help to the Poets judgment, by putting bounds to a wilde over-
1935 flowing Fancy. I think therefore it will not be hard for me to make good
1936 what it was to prove: But you add, that were this let pass, yet he who
1937 wants judgment in the liberty of his fancy, may as well show the defect of
1938 it when he is confin'd to verse: for he who has judgment will avoid er-
1939 rours, and he who has it not, will commit them in all kinds of writing.

¶121
1940 This Argument, as you have taken it from a most acute person, so I con-
1941 fess it carries much weight in it. But by using the word Judgment here in-
1942 definitely, you seem to have put a fallacy upon us: I grant he who has
1943 Judgment, that is, so profound, so strong, so infallible a judgment, that he
1944 needs no helps to keep it alwayes pois'd and upright, will commit no faults
1945 either in rhyme or out of it. And on the other extream, he who has a judg-
1946 ment so weak and craz'd that no helps can correct or amend it, shall write
1947 scurvily out of Rhyme, and worse in it. But the first of these judgments is
1948 no where to be found, and the latter is not fit to write at all. To speak
1949 therefore of judgment as it is in the best Poets; they who have the greatest
1950 proportion of it, want other helps than from it within. As for example,
1951 you would be loth to say, that he who was indued with a sound judgment
1952 had no need of History, Geography, or Moral Philosophy, to write cor-
1953 rectly. Judgment is indeed the Master-workman in a Play: but he requires
1954 many subordinate hands, many tools to his assistance. And Verse I affirm

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1955 to be one of these: 'Tis a Rule and line by which he keeps his building com-
1956 pact and even, which otherwise lawless imagination would raise either ir-
1957 regularly or loosly. At least if the Poet commits errours with this help, he
1958 would make greater and more without it: 'tis (in short) a slow and pain-
1959 full, but the surest kind of working. Ovid whom you accuse for luxuriancy
1960 in Verse, had perhaps been farther guilty of it had he writ in Prose. And
1961 for your instance of Ben. Johnson, who you say, writ exactly without the
1962 help of Rhyme; you are to remember 'tis onely an aid to a luxuriant Fan-
1963 cy, which his was not: As he did not want imagination, so none ever said
1964 he had much to spare. Neither was verse then refin'd so much to be an
1965 help to that Age as it is to ours. Thus then the second thoughts being usu-
1966 ally the best, as receiving the maturest digestion from judgment, and the last
1967 and most mature product of those thoughts being artful and labour'd verse,
1968 it may well be inferr'd, that verse is a great help to a luxuriant Fancy, and
1969 this is what that Argument which you oppos'd was to evince.

¶122
1970 Neander was pursuing this Discourse so eagerly, that Eugenius had call'd
1971 to him twice or thrice ere he took notice that the Barge stood still, and that
1972 they were at the foot of Somerset-Stairs, where they had appointed it to land.
1973 The company were all sorry to separate so soon, though a great part of the
1974 evening was already spent; and stood a while looking back upon the wa-
1975 ter, which the Moon-beams play'd upon, and made it appear like floating
1976 quick-silver: at last they went up through a crowd of French people who
1977 were merrily dancing in the open air, and nothing concern'd for the noise of
1978 Guns which had allarm'd the Town that afternoon. Walking thence toge-
1979 ther to th Piazze they parted there; Eugenius and Lysideius to some plea-
1980 sant appointment they had made, and Crites and Neander to their several
1981 Lodgings.

FINIS.


Copytext: Dryden 1668.
Source: John Dryden. Of Dramatick Poesie, An Essay. London: Henry Herringman, 1668. British Library C.59.ff.19
Ed. (text): Ian Lancashire, Rep. Criticism On-line (1996).
Data-entry Assistance: Lawrence Barichello and Patricia Meehan

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