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voices with instrumental music. The subject prescribed to them was the eulogy of Harmodius, Aristogeitofi, and Thrasybulus, who had rescued the republic from the yoke of tyranny; for among the Athenians these institutions served to commemorate the patriots who had benefited their country, as well as to excite the spectators to an imitation of their virtues. Poets also contended for the theatrical prize, each being allowed to produce four pieces: the prize, in this instance, was an olive crown, and a vessel of the finest oil, which the victors, by a special privilege, might export whithersoever they pleased beyond the Athenian territory. Crowns were afterward conferred on other individuals, who appeared to the people to have merited that mark of honour.

The procession to the temple of the Pythian Apollo, which formed part of the ceremony, was composed of different classes of citizens, crowned with garlands, among whom were seen old men of a majestic and venerable appearance, bearing branches of olive; others of middle age, armed with lances and bucklers as if ready to engage in war; youths, from eighteen to twenty, who sang hymns in honour of the goddess Minerva ; beautiful boys, clad in a simple tunic; and lastly girls selected from the first families in Athens, and attracting every eye by their features, shape, and deportment. With their hands they held baskets on their heads, which, under a rich veil, contained sacred utensils, cakes, and every thing necessary for the sacrifices : they were attended by females, holding over them an umbrella with one hand, and carrying a folding chair in the other, a species of servitude imposed on the daughters of all foreigners settled at Athens. Next followed musicians, playing on the flute and the lyre; rhapsodists, singing the poems of Homer; and armed dancers, who in their occasional attacks upon each other represented, to the sound of the flute, the battle of Minerva with the Titans.

But the most attractive part of the spectacle was a stately ship, impelled by concealed machinery, though it appeared to glide over the ground by the power of the wind and the efforts of numerous rowers. On its sail, which represented the peplus or white sleeveless robe of Minerva, the inventress of the useful art of spinning, were embroidered not only the memorable actions of that goddess,

but those of Jupiter, and of the Athenian heroes and patriots. This procession, attended by the magistrates and a numerous suite, all bearing olive-branches, advanced with solenın steps through an immense crowd, mostly placed on scaffolds erected for the occasion, or thronging the terraced roofs of the houses, to the temple of the Pythian Apollo, where the sail was taken down and deposited in the citadel.

At night there was a torch-race of nimble-footed young men, stationed at equal distances, the first of whom, on a signal given by the shout of the multitude, lighted his flambeau at the altar of Prometheus, and running with it handed it to the second, who transmitted it in the same manner to the third, and so on in succession. He who suffered it to be extinguished was excluded from the lists, and they who slackened in their pace were exposed to the railleries and even blows of the populace. None could gain the prize without having passed through all the stations with success. *

The candidates who had been crowned, together with their friends, partook of sumptuous repasts which lasted all night; while the people, among whom the immolated victims were distributed, spread tables on every side, and gave a loose to their lively and tumultuous mirth.t

CHAPTER IV.

Ancient Greek and Roman Drama.

“Hæc de comædis te consulit; illa tragedum.”

Juven. 595

In the festivals and sports of which we have thus attempted a brief outline, originated the drama ; too prominent in the list of Grecian amusements to be passed over unnoticed, although we are compelled to treat it in a cur

* Which was probably an arduous task, for Aristophanes, in “The Frogs," taunting the Athenians with their effeminacy, says, that few were left who had sufficient strength to run in the torch-race.

† Anacharsis, cap. 24.

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sory and superficial manner, as it is our purpose to give a fuller history of the theatre in connexion with the more interesting subject of the English stage. The performers in the different Grecian games being compelled by law to represent the life and exploits of the deity or hero in whose honour they were instituted, had already laid the basis of the drama, long before Thespis, improving upon the hint thus afforded, conceived the idea of introducing other actors to relieve the chorus, and render the progress of the story more intelligible and vivid. This founder of the stage, who flourished about 536 years before Christ, took for his subjects the historical traditions of Greece, which he embellished by appropriate fictions, an innovation highly displeasing to Solon the legislator of Athens. “ If we applaud falsehood in our public exhibitions,” said he to Thespis, "we shall soon find that it will insinuate itself into our most sacred engagements.” Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides not only increased the number of characters, one of which became the hero of the piece, but perfected the dresses and scenic illusions, banished murders from the stage, and restricted the functions of the chorus, which now only occupied a subordinate station. The first of these writers has been censured for having admitted mute characters into his drama. " Achilles after the death of his friend, and Niobe after the destruction of her children, appear on the stage, and remain during several scenes motionless, their heads covered with a veil and without uttering a word ; but if their eyes had overflown with tears, and they had poured forth the bitterest lamentations, could they have produced an effect so terrible as this veil, this silence, and this abandonment to grief?"*

Lending himself to the popular belief that the ancient heroes had a more lofty and majestic stature than ordinary mortals, Æschylus raised his actors on high stilts or buskins, covering their features with a mask suitable to the characters they performed, and clothing them in flowing and mag. nificent robes. The inferior actors were also provided with appropriate masks and dresses. He obtained a handsome theatre, furnished with machines and embellished with decorations. “ Here the sound of the trumpet was rever.

a

* Anacharsis, cap. 69

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berated, incense was seen to burn on the altars, the shades of the dead to arise from the tomb, and the fiends to rush from the gulf of Tartarus. In one of his pieces these infernal divinities appeared for the first time with masks of a horrid paleness, torches in their hands, serpents entwined in their hairs, and followed by a numerous retinue of dreadful spectres. It is said that at the sight of them, and the sound of their terrific howlings, terror seized on the whole assembly, women miscarried, and children expired with fear, and that the magistrates, to prevent similar accidents in future, commanded that the chorus should consist only of fifteen actors instead of fifty."

“By reducing heroism to its just standard, Sophocles lowered the style of tragedy, and banished those expres sions which a wild imagination had dictated to Æschylus, and which diffused terror through the souls of the spectators. Æschylus painted men greater than they can be, Sophocles as they ought to be, and Euripides as they are. By forcibly insisting on the important doctrines of morality, the latter was placed among the number of the sages, and will for ever be regarded as the philosopher of the stage."*

Modern writers may well be astonished at the great fertility of these ancient dramatists, especially as they were contemporaries, or nearly so. Although we only possess seven of the tragedies of Æschylus, he wrote ninety, of which forty were rewarded with the public prize. of the one hundred and twenty composed by his pupil Sophocles, seven only have come down to us; and nineteen are extant of the seventy-five ascribed to Euripides. None of their successors ever attained the talent or rivalled the fame of these three illustrious fathers of tragedy.

The comedy of the same era, as conducted by Aristophanes and his contemporaries, was infinitely below our modern farces, and indeed hardly upon a par with our an cient mysteries and moralities, abounding as it did in vulgar indecent reflections and illiberal satire, and employing by turns parody, allegorical images, buffoonery, and travesties, in which the gods and heroes were rendered ridiculous by the contrast between their mean disguise and their real dig. nity. It appears as if the Athenians were jealous of their

* Anacharsis, cap. 69

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deities in proportion to their contemptible character and utter worthlessness; for though they resented with a fierce intolerance any real or imaginary affront directed against them in the form of serious argument, they delighted in seeing them lampooned and burlesqued, indulging in immoderate laughter when the irreverent farces that bore the names of Bacchus and Hercules exposed the excessive poltroonery of the former, and the enormous voracity of the latter. To pander to the taste of the vulgar, the most celebrated authors sometimes furnished their actors with indecorous dresses and expressions, and sometimes put into their mouths virulent invectives against individuals, not only mentioning their names, but imitating their features on the actor's mask. Thus were Euripides, Socrates, and others persecuted by Aristophanes, the same audiences crowning the tragedies of the former, and the farcical burlesques into which they were turned by the latter.

Attempts were made to repress these gross abuses of the stage by various decrees, which, however, being found inconsistent with the nature of the government, or the genius of the people, were either forgotten or repealed ; until at length a new enactment permitted persons attacked or ridiculed by the dramatists to prosecute them in a court of justice. By this measure, and some examples of its severe enforcement, the licentiousness of the stage was effectually checked, and the reform thus accomplished gradually extended itself to the accompaniments and composition of the drama, the extravagance of which had been unbounded. Fantastical and preposterous subjects no longer brought on the stage choruses of birds, wasps, frogs, and other animals, habited in a grotesque resemblance to the forms of these animals, and even attempting to imitate their inarticulate noises.* Human nature became a greater object

As a sample of this extravaganza, we subjoin a translation of the opening chant of the chorus of frogs, in Aristophanes's comedy of that name.

Chorus.
“ Brekeke-kesh-Koash! Koash!

Shall the choral choristers of the marsh
Be censur'd and rejected as hoarse and harsh,
And their chromatic essays depriv'd of praise ?
No, let us raise afresh
Our obstreperous Brekeke-kesh ;

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