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luxuriate through all the possible forms of verse-and the flexibility and "many-sidedness" of their language were peculiarly favorable to the propensity. In fact, all subsequent imitations of the chorus have been comparatively tame and exhibiting a remote and artificial connection with the action—until it has, at last, entirely disappeared from the drama. This may, in part, have proceeded from the conviction that it impairs the probability of the action and its close resemblance to actual life, but the true cause probably lies deeper. Genius loses its juvenile vigor and boldness with the progress of society. It no longer wheels the same bold and airy flights when its wing has been clipped by criticism. As the world grows older, fancy becomes tamed and depressed, in the same proportion as the judgment and the reasoning powers are invigorated and matured. To this cause we are inclined to ascribe it, that the chorus has altogether vanished from the modern drama, and that it has thus become reduced to simple interlocution.
Mr. Schlegel has philosophized on the intellectual character of the chorus in the following characteristic manner. must conceive it as the personification of the thought inspired by the represented action-as the embodiment into the action of the sympathy of the poet, considered as the spokesman of collective humanity. . . . The chorus is, in a word, the idealized spectator. It mitigates the impression of a deeply agitating or deeply touching representation, while it reverberates to the actual spectator, a lyrical and musical expression of his own emotions, and bears him aloft into the region of contemplation."
Horace has given a less ambitious but more intelligible account of the province of the chorus in the following lines:
Actoris partes chorus officiumque virile
Those parts of tragedy which constitute its peculiar character or quality, are divided by Aristotle as follows-the fable (i. e. the action, the plot, the contexture of incidents); the manners, by which is meant the disposition of the speaker, his aversions
SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. II.
or propensities. The sentiments comprehend all that is saidopinions, arguments, general reflections, etc. The diction is the expression of these sentiments by words. The music and decorations were the external accompaniments and embellishments of the exhibition.
The representation of Greek tragedy was managed on a scale of the greatest magnificence. All the arts, which in the most flourishing period of the drama were in their highest perfection, combined to shed attraction and splendor over that which was, not only a favorite national amusement, but an affair of state and a solemnity of religion. The government erected the theatre, educated the chorusses, awarded the crown (by judges appointed for the purpose,) to the successful competitor, furnished the dresses and scenic embellishments, and, in short, defrayed the whole expenses of the exhibition, the magnificence of which was far beyond any private resources.* The theatre at Athens was a noble structure of stone, erected in the age of Eschylus, the previous edifice of wood having fallen beneath. the weight of the crowds assembled at a representation. It contained seats for an audience of thirty thousand persons, range above range, and the whole was surmounted by a lofty portico, adorned with statues. Of its interior arrangements and decorations, our limits will not, of course, permit us to speak minutely. All the resources of art and wealth appear to have been lavished to produce the usual theatrical illusions. The vast Exηvý or stage, presented the appearance of a sea, a forest, a city or a desert, as the occasion required. As the intercourse between heaven and earth is very frequent in the mythological dramas of Greece, the stage-machinery comprehended a great number of aerial contrivances. There was the coloyov, which presented the deities in converse aloft, while the platform which supported them was surrounded and concealed by clouds,—the Mnyavn, which, by means of a sort of crane, was employed suddenly to dart out a god or hero before the spectators and as suddenly to withdraw him when his part was performed,—the Awoai, a set of ropes which enabled him to walk in the air, apparently unsupported, the Tepavos, which caught persons from the stage and bore them aloft to the clouds,-the Boovτti
* Plutarch states that the Athenians had expended more on the representation of their tragedies than on their foreign wars, either of defence or protection.
ov, a contrivance to imitate the rumbling of thunder,*-the Kραυνοσκοπεῖον, whence artificial lightnings were darted along the scenic clouds.
Everything in the actual presentation of the pieces was in a style of extravagance and exaggeration which must have rendered the most consummate art necessary to produce an illusion. It is evident, however, from the effect, that that illusion was perfect. It was, of course, aided by the very circumstance which rendered it necessary, the vast dimensions of the theatre, which removed a portion of the spectators to a distance of three hundred feet from the stage. The person of the actor was raised to heroic stature by the cothurnus, and amplified to heroic dimensions by the Kólnoμa or stuffing, which enveloped his limbs. The masks, which were an invariable appendage of the representation, were formed and painted with exquisite skill, and are said to have expressed, with astonishing accuracy, the peculiarities of age, sex and rank. The voice of the actor was not only brought to the highest pitch of strength and clearness by perpetual exercise and a rigid diet, but was further aided by a mouth-piece inserted in the mask and by brazen vessels fitted in the intervals (or, as Vitruvius affirms,) under the seats of the theatre. The chorus was sung, throughout, with instrumental accompaniment. The scenes appear to have been partly sung and partly declaimed. The singing was accompanied by the flute, the declamation by the lyre; this accompaniment was doubtless of a very simple character, designed, principally, to direct and sustain the voice of the actor.
The histrionic profession was amply rewarded and held in high honor at Athens, and was not attended with degradation in any respect. On the contrary, distinguished actors were sometimes sent as ambassadors to foreign states. The professional actors appear, however, to have been regarded as a licentious and dissipated class by the philosophers and moralists of the age.
The moral tendency of the Greek drama opens to us a vast field of thought. That its moral influence was extensive and powerful beyond that of any other mental production of the age, cannot be doubted, when we reflect that Athens, its favorite seat, was the intellectual centre of the world-that the festivals, at which dramatic pieces were presented, were attended by a concourse of foreigners of the highest rank and character, from all
* This was effected by dropping stones from a great height into a vast brazen vessel, rolling them along plates of copper, etc.
the civilized nations-that the drama was often attended by an auditory of thirty thousand, and was impressed on this vast mass of mind by a representation of unparalleled vividness and magnificence.
A single incident related by Plutarch may give us some idea of the extent to which the great dramatists of Greece were known and their influence felt, even during their own age. We quote his own words, which occur near the end of the life of Nicias, after his description of the disastrous defeat and capture of the Athenian army in Sicily:
"Some of the prisoners owed their preservation to Euripides. Of all the Grecians, his was the muse with whom the Sicilians were most in love. From every stranger that landed in their island, they gleaned every small specimen or portion of his works and communicated it with pleasure to each other. It is said that, on this occasion, a number of Athenians, upon their return home, went to Euripides, and thanked him in the most respectful manner for their obligations to his pen; some having been enfranchised for teaching their masters what they remembered of his poems, and others having got refreshments when they were wandering about after the battle, for singing a few of his verses. Nor is this to be wondered at, since they tell us that when a ship from Caunus, which happened to be pursued by pirates, was going to take shelter in one of their ports, the Sicilians at first refused to admit her; upon asking the crew whether they knew any verses of Euripides, and being answered in the affirmative, they received both them and their vessel."
Such was the power of a living Athenian dramatist over the rude mariners and common people of Sicily! Plutarch also relates in his life of Lysander, that when that general with the confederate Greeks, had taken and was about to sack the city of Athens, a few verses of a chorus of Euripides, sung by a minstrel, so affected himself and his associates, that they determined to spare it. Such facts as these suggest that we may easily underrate the influence of literary works before the discovery of the art of printing. Though they were not multiplied by the prodigious fecundity of the press, they were dif fused by the living voice and preserved in the living memory, and their influence on this very account, was probably deeper and more pervading.
Of the moral character and tendency of Greek comedy, enough was said in the course of our sketch of the history of
that branch of the drama. Our present remarks will therefore have reference principally to tragedy.
How evident, from the most superficial view, that its whole power was concentrated upon those already too active and inflammatory elements of our being-the passions! Here, in fact, lies the secret of its tremendous danger, its invariable perversion. Good men have thought that the stage might be made a school of virtue; though no one has gone so far as to assert that it is, or ever has been so. But we venture to assert, that from the very nature of the case, and for the above mentioned reason, the acted drama never can become so. Accompanied by those associations which have ever clustered around it, it gives a dangerous preponderance to sense and passion;-divest it of these, and you strip it of its attractions. The mask, the dance, the song, farces, and pantomimes have formed the cortége of the tragic muse-and what was the end of all this apparatus of exciting decoration, but to dazzle the senses and inflame the passions?
If we examine all the tragedies which have been written. from the age of Eschylus to the present time, we cannot avoid the conclusion that their object is not instruction, not reformation, but effect. For this purpose, the subjects of ancient tragedy were selected from those who had occupied an almost superbuman elevation, whose downfall therefore, would afford the most terrible catastrophe.
Τῶν γὰρ μεγάλων ἀξιοπενθεῖς
Φῆμαι μᾶλλον κατέχουσιν.—Eurip. Hippol. 1455.
Μείζους δ ̓ ἄτας ὅταν ὀργισθῇ
Δαίμων, οἴκοις ἀπέδωκεν.—Id. Med. 127-130.
So established was this principle that Aristotle lays it down as an example, which has the force of a rule that "the subjects of the best tragedies are confined to a few families,-to Alcmaeon, Orestes, Edipus, Meleager, Thyestes, Telephus, and others of the like rank." Jeremy Taylor has somewhere in his moral works, assigned as the reason of this, that the ordinary lot of mortals was not liable to those terrible vicissitudes which are necessary to form the catastrophes of tragedy. It was sometimes objected, even by ancient critics, that if tragedy would serve the purpose of instruction, its scenes must be laid, occasionally at least, in the ordinary walks of life, and must exhibit