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by absenting himself from the theatre, except when the moral dramas of his friend Euripides were represented.* We find that the same views of the stage were entertained by reflecting Romans. Tacitus ascribes the virtue of the German women to the absence of theatrical excitements : Ergo, septa pudicitia agunt, nullis spectaculorum illecebris corruptae ;t “ They are characterized by inviolable chastity, being uncorrupted by the seductive influence of public spectacles.” Seneca is still more pointed and emphatic in bis reprobation of these amusements : Nibil, vero, est tam damnosum bonis moribus, quam in ullo spectaculo desidere. Tunc, enim, per voluptatem, facilius vitia surrepunt. Quid me existimas dicere ? Avarior redeo, ambitiosior, luxuriosior; “Nothing is so pernicious to good morals as to be present at any of these spectacles. Vice easily finds its way into the heart, through the pleasurable emotions which they excite. From such scenes I depart more avaricious, more ambitious, more luxurious than before." I
Were such the undisputed effects of theatrical exhibitions on the ancient Greeks, and such the sentiments with which they were regarded by the best and wisest who had an opportunity of observing their influence ? The lesson taught by this fact is a very distinct and impressive one ;-and it is the more so, when we reflect on the wide difference between the Greek theatre and that of modern times. There, these entertainments were only permitted during a few days of the year; they were arranged and superintended by the magistrates; the actors did pot form a large and distinct and, we may add, degraded class;
Plato quoted by Rousseau: Lettre à d'Alembert sur son article Genève. This treatise contains soine admirable views on the subject of the theatre, and exposes with great eloquence, its pernicious influence: “Des spectacles et des moeurs! Voila qui formeroit vraiment un spectacle à voir; d'autant plus, que ce seroit la premiére fois ! etc.
| De Mor. Ger. c. 19.
| Sen. Ep. 7.-To these testimonies may be added one from an enlightened and patriotic American citizen, one whose eloquent writings, contributed not a little to the revolution which gave birth to our liberties: “As a citizen and friend to the morals and happiness of society, I should strive bard against the admission and much more the establishment of a theatre in any state of wbich I was a member. ... I am satisfied that the stage is the nursery of vice, and disseminates the seeds of it far and wide with an amazing and baneful success.”. Memoirs of Josiah Quincy, jun., Diary.
above all, females were, in no case, permitted to appear on the stage, and, at the representation of coinedy, do not appear even to have been present at the theatre. Yet even when thus restricted and qualified, this amusement was condemned and avoided by good men. What are we, then, to think of its tendency in our own times, when these checks are removed, when these compensating circumstances no longer exist,—when it is given up to the license of daily exbibition, dependent on popular patronage, and, of course, graduated to popular taste ? The result is, as might have been anticipated. The stage has become, not only the school, but we might even say, the empire of vice. Vice presides over its decorations and animates too often its most admired performances; and no man, who has a just value of moral purity, and a just fear of the power of temptation, will venture himself, (much less expose the tender and unguarded heart of youth,) in a region so thoroughly imbued with all the influences most hostile to virtue.
The merits of the drama, however, as a subject of solitary study, present quite a different question. And while we maintain that scenic representation has, in all ages, been an engine of moral evil, and will never be otherwise, we yet feel that there is no hazard, but on the contrary, great advantage from directing the attention of youth to the study of the ancient drama. Each branch is attended with its peculiar advantages.
Ancient comedy is a picture of ancient life ;—the only picture, of its kind, which we now possess. History presents only an outline of its form ;-epic and lyric poetry a selection of its more beautiful and commanding features. But comedy presents it as it lived and moved. After the lapse of ages and of centuries, it stands an imperishable transcript of the intrigues, the passions, the follies, and, in some instances, of the purer and nobler qualities of those who have long since vanished from the earth. It is, therefore, nearly the only means we now possess of attaining a minute and familiar knowledge of the domestic and social habits of the ancients. . And those who love to study human nature in all attitudes and under all circumstances will not be disposed to undervalue this quality. In fact, it must be impossible to appreciate or even understand the works of the ancients, much less to form a just estimate of their moral condition, without this kind of knowledge.
As a means of attaining a thorough mastery of ancient languages, the study of comedy will be found no less important. SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. II.
The genius of every language is to be sought in its colloquial idioms. Without a familiarity with these, its graver and more elaborate authors can never be read with facility and pleasure. The colloquial idioms of a dead language are principally preserved in iis comedy. For this plain reason, no course of classic instruction can be considered as complete which does not include portions, at least, of the comic writers. We hazard little in affirming that no student ever found himself at home either in Latin or Greek, without an acquaintance with them.
This study has also, all the sanction which can be derived from the authority of the highest names in classic learning and education. Melancthon exacted from the instructors of youth “a conscientious diligence"'* in the exposition of certain characters of Terence. Luther did not disapprove even the exhibition of the comedies of Terence in schools, (though we confess ourselves far from prepared 10 go the same length,) and thought that many benefits might be derived from the study of comedy.t Jerome was in the habit of finding relief and exhilaration from severer studies and exercises in the comedies of Plautus,I and Chrysostom is said to have kept under his pillow a copy of Aristophanes.
We would not, however, place ancient comedy, either Greek or Latin, in the bands of youth without first rigidly subjecting it to the process of selection and expurgation. We know of only a single comedy in which even the latter would be unnecessary, the Captives of Plautus.
Tragedy may be read with still less danger and still higher and more important advantages. The old tragedy of Greece is a lofty and stately thing. It is the vehicle of their early history, their philosophy and morality,—it is the development of their intellectual, and to a certain extent, of their social and domestic system. The tragedies of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, though written by payans, and, of course, containing much that is defective and erroneous, yet have by no means, in themselves
Superstitiosam diligentiam. | Memoires de Luther par Michelet, B. IV. ch. 4.
| Post noctium crebras vigilias, post lacrymas, Plautus sumebatur in manus.
§ “ Aristotle has followed in philosophy, the threads of thought spun from the heads of the tragic poets."— Brumoy, Theatre des Grecs, Int.
considered, an immoral tendency. Their authors were enlightened, philanthropic and public-spirited men, far above the vile ambition of corrupting the morals of their countrymen. The moral sentiments, the views of a retributive providence, which they have wrought into their dramas, are often surprisingly high and pure, and betoken an early period, before the minds of men were so extensively pervaded by the multiplying errors and deepening darkness of paganism.* It was not in themselves that these works were considered dangerous by the ancient moralists. It was when acted, when surrounded by the fascinations and excitements of scenic exhibition. The same moralists have made ample use of these works in the philosophy of the human mind. And the great apostle of the Gentiles has repeatedly pointed bis own moral reflections by apt quotations from the dramatists of Greece. In connection with an instance of this kind, Calvin thus observes: “We learn from hence that they are superstitious who are scrupulous of obtaining knowledge from profane authors. For since all truth is from God, if anything has been well and forcibly expressed, even by bad men, it ought not to be rejected, because it originally proceeded from God. And since all things are his, why is it not right to apply to his glory, whatever, from any source, is capable of such an application?”
But it is not enough to say that this study is not unfavorable to morality—it may and ought to be made subservient to it;—and it cannot fail to be thus subservient, if these works are examined in connection with such inquiries as these :-“What evidence do I here discern of moral perceptions of distinctions of right and wrong ?-What traces of that law which is written on the human heart?—What coincidences, either of truth or morality, with the inspired volume ?-What intimations of a belief in the immortality of the soul ?—What views of retributions, present or future?” Studied on such principles as these, the ancient drama will be found invested with a high moral interest and richly fraught with moral instruction and impression. To all, then, who wish to become Greek scholars,—who
Antiquitas-quue, quo propius aberat ab ortu et divina progenie, hoc melius ea fortasse, quae erant vera, cernebat.-Cic. Tusc. Disp. I. 12.
+ The laws of Athens provided that the tragedies of Æschylus, So cles and Euripides should be read in public every year.—Greek Theatre, p. 108. Cambridge, 1830.
wish to imbue their minds with the spirit of the antique, and to penetrate the intellectual and moral system of that extraordinary people, the ancient Greeks ; we would say,—study profoundly th noble remains of their great tragedians ;—but do it in the spirit of an enlightened and firm eclecticism, knowing how to “ refuse the evil and to choose the good.” And, into what department of literature, ancient or modern, can we safely venture without the exercise of this discrimination ?
THE PRESBYTERIAN CONTROVERSY:- Its OccasioNS AND
By Erastus C. Benedict, Counsellor at Law, New-York.
The controversy in the Presbyterian church, in the United States, is one of the most remarkable series of events which the history of religion in our times will present. Its effect upon that church, aside from its general disorganizing and schisinatic
* [As the readers of the Repository are of different denominations, and, to some extent perhaps, of different views in regard to the subject of this Article, it has occurred to us that some may regret to see it introduced upon our pages. But the principles involved in the controversy now pending in the Presbyterian church are too important, and its consequences are already too widely and painfully felt, in their bearings upon other denominations and upon the great religious enterprises of the day, to be regarded with indifference by any. Nor can it be desirable to confine the history of a controversy, so widely extended, to publications which circulate only among the parties primarily interested in its results. In its probable and permanent effects upou the cause of religious liberty and of christian benevolence in our country, generally, it is a topic of universal interest. To meet the expressed wishes of many, therefore, we have thought it proper to solicit the present Article from an able writer, whose opportunities of a thorough acquaintance with the subject, as well as his freedom from any personal interest in the results of the controversy, are such as to inspire confidence in the fairness and candor of his views. The Article presents a compendious and cutive his