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Othello, &c. King Lear is an admirable | very often raise himself a loud clap by this tragedy of the same kind, as Shakspeare artifice. The poets that were acquainted wrote it; but as it is reformed, according with this secret, have given frequent octo the chimerical notion of poetical justice, casion for such emotions in the actor, by in my humble opinion it has lost half its adding vehemence to words where there beauty. At the same time I must allow, was no passion, or inflaming a real passion that there are very noble tragedies, which into fustian. This hath filled the mouths have been framed upon the other plan, and of our heroes with bombast; and given have ended happily; as indeed most of the them such sentiments, as proceed rather good tragedies, which have been written from a swelling than a greatness of mind. since the starting of the above criticism, Unnatural exclamations, curses, vows, have taken this turn; as The Mourning blasphemies, a defiance of mankind, and Bride; Tamerlane, Ulysses, Phædra and an outraging of the gods, frequently pass Hippolitus, with most of Mr. Dryden's. I upon the audience for towering thoughts, must also allow that many of Shakspeare's, and have accordingly met with infinite apand several of the celebrated tragedies of plause. antiquity, are cast in the same form. I do not therefore dispute against this way of writing tragedies, but against the criticism that would establish this as the only method; and by that means would very much cramp the English tragedy, and perhaps give a wrong bent to the genius of
I shall here add a remark, which I am afraid our tragic writers may make an ill use of. As our heroes are generally lovers, their swelling and blustering upon the stage very much recommends them to the fair part of their audience. The ladies are wonderfully pleased to see a man insulting kings, or affronting the gods in one scene, and throwing himself at the feet of his mistress in another. Let him behave himself insolently towards the men, and abjectly towards the fair one, and it is ten to one but he proves a favourite with the boxes. Dryden and Lee, in several of their tragedies, have practised this secret with good success.
The tragi-comedy, which is the product of the English theatre, is one of the most monstrous inventions that ever entered into a poet's thoughts. An author might as well think of weaving the adventures of Æneas and Hudibras into one poem, as of writing such a motley piece of mirth and sorrow. But the absurdity of these performances is so very visible, that I shall not insist upon it.
The same objections which are made to tragi-comedy, may in some measure be applied to all tragedies that have a double plot in them; which are likewise more frequent upon the English stage, than upon any other; for though the grief of the audience, in such performances, be not changed into another passion, as in tragicomedies; it is diverted upon another object, which weakens their concern for the principal action, and breaks the tide of sorrow, by throwing it into different channels. This inconvenience, however, may, in a great measure be cured, if not wholly removed, by the skilful choice of an underplot, which may bear such a near relation to the principal design as to contribute to wards the completion of it, and be concluded by the same catastrophe.
There is also another particular, which may be reckoned among the blemishes, or rather the false beauties of our English tragedy: I mean those particular speeches which are commonly known by the name of rants. The warm and passionate parts of a tragedy, are always the most taking with the audience; for which reason we often see the players pronouncing, in all the violence of action, several parts of the tragedy which the author writ with great temper, and designed that they should have been so acted. I have seen Powell
* Mr. George Powell, though moving in the same sphere with Betterton, Booth, Wilkes, &c. maintained no inconsiderable rank in the public estimation: un
But to show how a rant pleases beyond the most just and natural thought that is not pronounced with vehemence, I would desire the reader when he sees the tragedy of Edipus, to observe how quietly the hero is dismissed at the end of the third act, after having pronounced the following lines, in which the thought is very natural, and apt to move compassion:
To you good gods, I make my last appeal.'
And backward tread those paths I sought to shun; Impute my errors to your own decree: My hands are guilty, but my heart is free.' Let us then observe with what thunder claps of applause he leaves the stage, after the impieties and execrations at the end of the fourth act; and you will wonder to see an audience so cursed and so pleased at the same time.
'O that, as oft I have at Athens seen,
[Where by the way, there was no stage till many years after Edipus.]
The stage arise, and the big clouds descend;
This pond'rous globe, and all yon marble roof,
Having spoken of Mr. Powell, as sometimes raising himself applause from the ill taste of an audience, must do him the justice to own, that he is excellently fortunately, however, in his latter days, the love of the bottle weaned him from his attachment to the stage, and he declined greatly from that reputation which he had acquired. He was author of five Plays, all of which he brought on the stage with good success. He died in 1714.
Tu non inventa reperta es.
of the lady will do for this injured gentleman, but must allow he has very much justice on his side. I have indeed very long observed this evil, and distinguished those of our women who wear their own, from those in borrowed complexions, by the Picts and the British. There does not need any great discernment to judge which are which. The British have a lively animated COMPASSION for the gentleman who aspect; the Picts, though never so beautiful, writes the following letter, should not pre- have dead uninformed countenances. The vail upon me to fall upon the fair-sex, if it muscles of a real face sometimes swell with were not that I find they are frequently soft passion, sudden surprise, and are flushfairer than they ought to be. Such impos-ed with agreeable confusions, according as tures are not to be tolerated in civil society, the objects before them, or the ideas preand I think his misfortune ought to be made sented to them, affect their imagination. public, as a warning for other men always But the Picts behold all things with the to examine into what they admire. same air, whether they are joyful or sad; the same fixed insensibility appears upon all occasions. A Pict, though she takes all that pains to invite the approach of lovers, is obliged to keep them at a certain distance; a sigh in a languishing lover, if fetched too near her, would dissolve a feature; and a kiss snatched by a forward one, might transfer the complexion of the mistress to the admirer. It is hard to speak of these false fair ones, without saying something uncomplaisant, but I would only recommend to them to consider how they like coming into a room new painted; they may assure themselves the near approach of a lady who uses this practice is much more
formed for a tragedian, and, when he pleases, deserves the admiration of the best judges: as I doubt not but he
will in the Conquest of Mexico, which is acted for his
own benefit, to-morrow night.
No. 41.] Tuesday, April 17, 1711.
SIR,-Supposing you to be a person of general knowledge, I make my application to you on a very particular occasion. I have a great mind to be rid of my wife, and hope, when you consider my case, you will be of opinion I have very just pretensions to a divorce. I am a mere man of the town, and have very little improvement, but what I have got from plays. I remember in The Silent Woman, the learned Dr. Cutberd, or Dr. Otter, (I forget which) makes one of the causes of separation to be Error
Personæ, when a man marries a woman, and finds her not to be the same woman
whom he intended to marry, but another. If that be law, it is, I presume, exactly my Will Honeycomb told us, one day, an adcase. For you are to know, Mr. Spectator, that there are women who do not let their venture he once had with a Pict. This lady had wit, as well as beauty, at will; and husbands see their faces till they are mar-made it her business to gain hearts, for no
this practice, that when she first wakes in a morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the mother of her whom I carried to bed the night before. I shall take the liberty to part with her by the first opportunity, unless her father will make her portion suitable to her real, not her assumed countenance. This I thought fit to let him and her know by your means. I am, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant.'
other reason but to rally the torments of Not to keep you in suspense, I mean her lovers. She would make great adplainly that part of the sex who paint. They are some of them so exquisitely skil-vances to ensnare men, but without any ful this way, that give them but a tolerable manner of scruple break off when there was pair of eyes to set up with, and they will no provocation. Her ill nature and vanity made my friend very easily proof against make bosom, lips, cheeks, and eye-brows, the charms of her wit and conversation; but by their own industry. As for my dear, her beauteous form, instead of being blemnever was a man so enamoured as I was of her fair forehead, neck, and arms, as well ished by her falsehood and inconstancy, as the bright jet of her hair; but, to my every day increased upon him, and she had new attractions every time he saw her. great astonishment, I find they were all the When she observed Will irrevocably her effect of art. Her skin is so tarnished with slave, she began to use him as such, and after many steps towards such a cruelty, she at last utterly banished him. The unhappy lover strove in vain, by servile epistles, to revoke his doom, till at length he was forced to the last refuge, a round sum of money to her maid. This corrupt attendant placed him early in the morning behind the hangings in her mistress's dressing-room. He stood very conveniently to observe, without being seen. The Pict begins the face she designed to wear that day, and I have heard him protest she had worked a full half hour before he knew her to be the same woman. As soon as he saw the dawn of that complexion for which he had so long languished, he thought fit to break from his concealment, repeating that verse of Cowley:
I cannot tell what the law, or the parents
* Epicone, or The Silent Woman, a comedy by Ben Jonson.-It is much to be regretted that this fine comedy has for several years been totally neglected by the managers of our theatres. Unless the public taste has greatly declined from what it was, this excellent performance would certainly be more acceptable than the flippant vulgar nonsense with which we are so often annoyed from the pens of some of our modern dramatists.
The Pict stood before him in the utmost confusion with the prettiest smirk imaginable on the finished side of her face, pale as ashes on the other. Honeycomb seized all her galley-pots and washes, and carried off his handkerchief full of brushes, scraps of Spanish wool, and phials of unguents. The lady went into the country: the lover was cured.
Such is the shout, the long applauding note,
It is certain no faith ought to be kept
mind to terrify us, it thunders; when he
with cheats, and an oath made to a Pict is
In the mean time, as a pattern for improving their charms, let the sex study the agreeable Statira. Her features are enlivened with the cheerfulness of her mind, and good humour gives an alacrity to her eyes. She is graceful without affecting an air, and unconcerned without appearing careless. Her having no manner of art in her mind, makes her want none in her person.
A young gentlewoman of about nineteen years of age (bred in the family of a person of quality, lately de-so attentive to any thing she speaks, as to ceased) who paints the finest flesh-colour, wants a place, and is to be heard of at the house of Mynheer Grotesque,
a Dutch painter in Barbican.
N. B. She is also well skilled in the drapery part, and puts on hoods, and mixes ribands so as to suit the colours of the face with great art and success.
the right adjusting of her train, lest it should
very different. The princess is afraid lest
We are told, that an ancient tragic poet,
Th' adorning thee with so much art,
"Tis like the pois'ning of a dart, Too apt before to kill.'
How like is this lady, and how unlike is a Pict, to that description Dr. Donne gives
of his mistress?
-Her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,
No. 42.] Wednesday, April 18, 1711.
Garganum mugire putes nemus, aut mare Tuscum;
Hor. Lib. 2. Ep. i. 202.
make the actors represent them in dresses and clothes that were thread-bare and decayed. This artifice for moving pity, seems
A good poet will give the reader a more lively idea of an army or a battle in a description, than if he actually saw them
as ill-contrived as that we have been speak-drawn up in squadrons and battalions, or engaged in the confusion of a fight. Our minds should be opened to great conceptions, and inflamed with glorious sentiments by what the actor speaks more than by what he appears. Can all the trappings or equipage of a king or hero, give Brutus half that pomp and majesty which he receives from a few lines in Shakspeare?
ing of, to inspire us with a great idea of the persons introduced upon the stage. In short, I would have our conceptions raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity of expression, rather than by a train of robes or a plume of feathers.
Another mechanical method of making great men, and adding dignity to kings and queens, is to accompany them with halberds and battle-axes. Two or three shifters of scenes, with the two candle-snuffers, make
up a complete body of guards upon the En-No. 43.] Thursday, April 19, 1711.
glish stage; and by the addition of a few porters dressed in red coats, can represent above a dozen legions. I have sometimes seen a couple of armies drawn up together upon the stage, when the poet has been disposed to do honour to his generals. It is impossible for the reader's imagination to multiply twenty men into such prodigious multitudes, or to fancy that two or three hundred thousand soldiers are fighting in a room of forty or fifty yards in compass. Incidents of such a nature should be told, not represented.
Non tamen intus
I should, therefore, in this particular, recommend to my countrymen the example of the French stage, where the kings and queens always appear unattended, and leave their guards behind the scenes. should likewise be glad if we imitated the French in banishing from our stage the noise of drums, trumpets, and huzzas; which is sometimes so very great, that when there is a battle in the Haymarket theatre, one may hear it as far as Charing
Hæ tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
I have here only touched upon those particulars which are made use of to raise and aggrandize the persons of a tragedy; and shall show, in another paper, the several expedients which are practised by authors of a vulgar genius to move terror, pity, or admiration, in their hearers.
Virg. Æn. vi. 853. Be these thy arts, to bid contention cease, Chain up stern war, and give the nations peace; O'er subject lands extend thy gentle sway, And teach with iron rod the haughty to obey. THERE are crowds of men whose great misfortune it is that they were not bound to mechanic arts or trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be led by some contínual task or employment. These are such as we commonly call dull fellows; persons, who for want of something to do, out of a certain vacancy of thought, rather than curiosity, are ever meddling with things for which they are unfit. I cannot give you a notion of them better, than by presenting you with a letter from a gentleman, who belongs to a society of this order of men, residing at Oxford.
'Oxford, April 13, 1711, 4 o'clock in the morning. 'SIR,-In some of your late speculations, I find some sketches towards a history of clubs; but you seem to me to show them in somewhat too ludicrous a light. I have well weighed that matter, and think, that the most important negociations may best be carried on in such assemblies. I shall, therefore, for the good of mankind (which I trust you and I are equally concerned for) propose an institution of that nature for example sake.
'I must confess that the design and transactions of too many clubs are trifling, and manifestly of no consequence to the nation or public weal. Those I will give you up. But you must do me then the justice to own, that nothing can be more useful or laudable, than the scheme we go upon. To avoid nicknames and witticisms, we call ourselves the Hebdomadal Meeting. Our president continues for a year at least, and sometimes four or five; we are all grave,
The tailor and the painter often contribute to the success of a tragedy more than the poet. Scenes affect ordinary minds as much as speeches; and our actors are very sensible, that a well-dressed play has sometimes brought them as full audiences as a well-written one. The Italians have a very good phrase to express this art of imposing serious, designing men, in our way: we upon the spectators by appearances; they think it our duty, as far as in us lies, to call it theFourberia della scena.' The take care the constitution receives no harm knavery or trickish part of the drama.' But-Ne quid detrimenti res capiat publica.— however the show and outside of the tragedy To censure doctrines or facts, persons or may work upon the vulgar, the more un- things, which we do not like; to settle the derstanding part of the audience immedi- nation at home, and carry on the war ately see through it, and despise it. abroad, where and in what manner we see
fit. If other people are not of our opinion, | to their inquiries, which dull fellows do not we cannot help that. It were better they make for information, but for exercise. I were. Moreover, we now and then con- do not know but this may be a very good descend to direct, in some measure, the way of accounting for what we frequently little affairs of our own university. see, to wit, that dull fellows prove very good men of business. Business relieves them from their own natural heaviness, by furnishing them with what to do; whereas business to mercurial men, is an interruption from their real existence and happiness. Though the dull part of mankind are harmless in their amusements, it were to be wished they had no vacant time, because they usually undertake something that makes their wants conspicuous, by their manner of supplying them. You shall seldom find a dull fellow of good education, but if he happens to have any leisure upon his hands, will turn his head to one of those two amusements for all fools of eminence, politics or poetry. The former of these arts is the study of all dull people in general; but when dulness is lodged in a person of a quick animal life, it generally exerts itself in poetry. One might here mention a few military writers, who give great entertainment to the age, by reason that the stupidity of their heads is quickened
What the neutrality army is to do, or what the army in Flanders, and what two or three other princes, is not yet fully determined among us; and we wait impatiently for the coming in of the next Dyer, who you must know is our authentic intelligence, our Aristotle in politics. And, indeed, it is but fit there should be some dernier resort, the absolute decider of all controversies.
We think we have at least done the bu-by the alacrity of their hearts. This consiness with the malcontents in Hungary, stitution in a dull fellow, gives vigour to and shall clap up a peace there. nonsense, and makes the puddle boil, which would otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that celebrated poem, which was written in the reign of King Charles the Second, and deservedly called by the wits of that age incomparable, was the effect of such a happy genius as we are speaking of. From among many other distichs no less to be quoted on this account, I cannot but recite the two following lines:
Verily, Mr. Spectator, we are much offended at the act for importing French wines. A bottle or two of good solid edifying port at honest George's, made a night cheerful, and threw off reserve. But this plaguy French claret will not only cost us more money, but do us less good. Had we been aware of it before it had gone too far, I must tell you, we would have petitioned to be heard upon that subject. But let that pass.
'I must let you know likewise, good sir, that we look upon a certain northern prince's march, in conjunction with infidels, to be palpably against our good-will and liking; and, for all monsieur Palmquist, a most dangerous innovation: and we are by no means yet sure, that some people are not at the bottom of it. At least my own private letters leave room for a politician, well versed in matters of this nature, to suspect as much, as a penetrating friend of mine tells me.
'We were lately informed that the gallant trained-bands had patrolled all night long about the streets of London. We indeed could not imagine any occasion for it, we guessed not a tittle on it aforehand, we were in nothing of the secret; and that city tradesmen, or their apprentices, should do duty or work through the holidays, we thought absolutely impossible. But Dyer being positive in it, and some letters from other people, who had talked with some who had it from those who should know, giving some countenance to it, the chairman reported from the committee appointed to examine into that affair, that it was possible there might be something in it. I have much more to say to you, but my two good friends and neighbours, Dominic and Slyboots, are just come in, and the coffee is ready. I am, in the meantime, Mr. Spectator, your admirer and humble servant, ABRAHAM FROTH.'
You may observe the turn of their minds tends only to novelty, and not satisfaction in any thing. It would be disappointment to them, to come to certainty in any thing, for that would gravel them, and put an end
A painted vest Prince Voltager had on, Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won.* Here, if the poet had not been vivacious, as well as stupid, he could not, in the warmth and hurry of nonsense, hav capable of forgetting that neither Prince Voltager, nor his grandfather, could strip a naked man of his doublet; but a fool of a colder constitution would have stayed to have flayed the Pict, and made buff of his skin, for the wearing of the conqueror.
To bring these observations to some use
*Absurd as these lines are, they found an apologist
in the late Edward King, esq. who, in his Munimenta Antiqua, after alluding to the practice of tattooing being prevalent amongst the Britons, Picts, and other northern nations, continues-" The figures thus marked, however, were as indelible as they were honourable; and they were even badges of their chieftains; insomuch that it is not quite impossible to make sense of their burlesque nonsense:
those lines, so elegantly censured in the Spectator, for