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to the dramatic form by its originators," for exceeding the period of twenty-four hours, and for ignoring the unity of place. Then arises another character, the mighty Don Alejo, who vigorously defends Tirso's procedure and points to the great Lope de Vega (1562-1635) as a conscious sinner against the canons of the ancients and as "el reformador de la commedia nueva." This was twelve years prior to the quarrel concerning Le Cid. Lope himself, whose critical acumen was in inverse ratio to his dramatic fertility, protested his admiration of the Aristotelian unities, but he continued to write plays that flouted them. And as for Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681), in the very year, 1636, in which Corneille's masterpiece was produced and traduced in France, the Spanish genius presented at the Boun Retiro a play called Los tres mayores Prodigios, of which the three acts were each produced on a separate stage and by a distinct company of players. It approximated to the "classical" unities about as closely as would a present day three-ringed circus.
The first recognition of the unities we meet with in English criticism occurs in the dedication of a play by George Whetstone (1544?-1587?). The work bore the title: The right excellent and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra: divided into two Commicall Discourses, and was published in London in 1578. The plot, taken fron Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi, was utilized by Shakespeare in Measure for Measure. The author, about to depart on a voyage of discovery with Sir Humphrey Gilbert, dedicates his play "To his worshipful Friende and Kinseman, William Fleetewoode, Esquier, Recorder of London." Like all the scholars of his time, Whetstone worships at classical shrines. He paraphrases Plato and eulogizes Menander, Plautus, and Terence; but he falls decidedly foul of the contemporary drama which he dismisses as consisting of "tryfels of yonge, unadvised, and rashe witted wryters." He condemns the French, Italian, and Spanish drama for being lascivious, and the German for being "too holye;" then he takes his own countrymen to task for their sins against the unities:
"The Englishman in this qualitie, is most vaine, indiscreete, and out of order: he first groundes his worke on impossibilities: then, in three howers ronnes he throwe the world: marryes, gets children, makes children men, men to conquer kingdomes, murder
monsters, and bringeth Gods from Heaven, and fetcheth divels from Hel."
"The right noble, vertuous, and learned Sir Phillip Sidney Knight,' as he was described, not fulsomely, by Olney, the publisher of the Apologie in 1595, is commonly regarded as the first English writer to advocate the unities. The fact that Whetstone preceded him in recognizing the unities does not take from the interest of Sidney's reference to the classical rules, written about 1580. Sidney (1554-1586) complains that the drama of his day observes the rules "neyther of honest ciuilitie, nor of skilful Poetrie." He pays a tribute to the excellence of Gorboduc, but grieves that Sackville's is not a model tragedy. "For it is faulty both in place, and time, the two necessary companions of all corporall actions. For where the stage should alwaies represent but one place, and the vttermost time presupposed in it, should be, both by Aristotle's precept, and common reason, but one day: there is both many dayes, and many places, inartificially imagined.” And he further protests against the violations of the unity of place by pointing to other dramas wherein are depicted "Asia of the one side, and Africk of the other, and so many other underkingdoms, that the Player, when he cometh in, must ever begin with telling where he is."
The most distinguished defender of the unities in England was Ben Jonson (1573-1637) whose reverence for classical precedents so influenced him both in theory and practice as to set him against the English genre of drama as exemplified by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Beaumont and Fletcher. Thus, in the Prologue to Every Man in His Humour (the prologue did not appear until 1616, though the play had been presented as early as 1598), he indulges in a fling at violations of the unity of time that half a century later was to find an echo in Boileau:
"To make a child, now swaddled, to proceed
Man, and then shoot up, in one beard, and weed,
Such absurdities, we are told, the author of the present play will not be guilty of, but
"He rather prays you will be pleased to see
Nor creaking throne comes down, the boys to please;
But deed, and language, such as men do use:
Jonson defended the unities; but in England as in Spain the unities were beyond defence. Alaham and Mustafa, by Sidney's friend, Fulke Greville Lord Brooke, were stillborn. It but remained for John Dryden (1631-1700), at a time when the unities were revered in France, to cast the last stone at them in England; "It is not enough that Aristotle has said so, for Aristotle drew his models of tragedy from Sophocles and Euripides; and, if he had seen ours, might have changed his mind."
Thus, the procedure of playwrights and the findings of critics are agreed in regarding the so-called "classical" unities as not essential to the notion of the dramatic. All three unities may, indeed, exist in a play, but a play may exist without the unities. This applies especially to the un-Aristotelian unities of time and place. Dryden, in his Essay of Dramatic Poesy, has in his usual straightforward and common-sense fashion set down the elastic limits under which the unity of time can be practically effective: "In few words, my opinion is this... that the imaginary time of every play ought to be contrived in as narrow a compass as the nature of the plot, the quality of the persons, and variety of accidents will allow." This is something very different from the cast-iron conception of dramatic unity entertained by Cinthio and Castelvetro and Boileau; it is merely a tentative application of the general principle of economy to the art of playwriting, the principle which Shakespeare, despite his indifference to the unities, employed frequently-for instance, in Julius Caesar where he marks no appreciable interval between the two battles of Philippi and where he has Caesar assasinated, buried, and twice eulogized all in one day.
And so it is with the unity of place. There are plays in which it can with profit be introduced-in Ibsen's Pillars of Society, for example, and Mr. John Galsworthy's The Pigeon-but there are other plays which have flouted it, with manifest advantage. Thus, an ignoring of the unity of place in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice gives us in the first half of the play those remarkably effective alternations of Venice and Belmont, each place representing a distinct strand of the plot, the strands being twisted together
about the middle of the play. Calderon employs the same device in an almost similar way in La Vida es Sueño.
Though more nearly essential than the satellite unities of time and place, the unity of action has been at times-though by no means at all times-disregarded by successful dramatists. A modern instance is afforded in Milestones, a drama of exceptional force and charm by Mr. Arnold Bennett and Mr. Edward Knoblauch. It has no appreciable plot, but furnishes instead three pictures of the same family, each picture representing a different generation. The lover and his lass of the first act are the grandparents sitting by the fire in the last act. Each act yields a completeness of impression and constitutes in reality a one-act drama. Here there is not one dramatic action, but three, all equally prominent.
And so, while the so-called "classical” unities of action, place, and time warrant the attention of both playwright and critic, while they possess for us more than a mere historic interest, while they find acceptance in certain species of the drama, they are far from constituting the fundamental laws of the dramatic art. As Dryden has well said: "If by these rules (to omit many others drawn from the precepts and practice of the ancients) we should judge our modern plays, 'tis probable that few of them would endure the trial: that which should be the business of a day, takes up in some of them an age; instead of one action, they are the epitomes of a man's life; and for one spot of ground, which the stage should represent, we are sometimes in more countries than the map can show us."
We must perforce admit that the drama cannot be confined within the boundaries of the unities, unless we adopt the ultraAristotelian attitude of the diverting critic, Mr. Trotter, in Bernard Shaw's Fanny's First Play, and dismiss all the dramatic masterpieces not in conformity with the unities by dogmatically damning them: "They are not plays."
Let us now consider three other attempts to answer the question: What is the underlying and essential constituent of the dramatic? One answer comes out of Germany. After Lessing (1729– 1781), by means of his own plays and by means of his commentaries on the plays of others in the Hamburgische Dramaturgie, had in a measure succeeded in the dual task of restoring the German stage to power and delivering it from the thraldom of "classical"
precepts, there came the famous and fertile "Sturm und Drang" period-which gave us Goethe and Schiller-in the second half of the eighteenth century. We have called the "Sturm und Drang" period fertile; in the fact of its fertility lay its strength and its weakness. Early in the nineteenth century its strength was evident; some years later thoughtful critics were aware of its weakness. Among them was Gustav Freytag (1816–1895), a successful playwright whose many-sided mind and manifold activities as editor, novelist, critic, soldier, philologist, and statesman enabled him to unite to his knowledge of stagecraft an outlook upon the course of dramatic history in his own and in other countries.
Freytag was not long in perceiving that while at one time the German drama had been crippled by excessive formality, it was now ailing for lack of definite constructive rules. "We suffer," he writes in the introduction to his Technik des Dramas (1863), "from the opposite of narrow limitations; we lack salutary restraint, form, a popular style, sureness of touch, a definite range of dramatic material; our work has become at all points haphazard and uncertain. And so it is that today, eighty years after Schiller, the young poet finds it difficult to make himself at home on the stage."
Accordingly, Freytag sought to formulate certain rules whereby the art of playwriting might be subjected to salutary limitations both as regards choice of subject and treatment of material. He did this with full knowledge that his work must necessarily be both tentative and temporary; and furthermore he strove, not to spin theories a priori and apply them in a dogmatic way, but to examine the great plays of the world and seek to find in them those principles of sound construction which the dramatists of his own time so sorely needed to apply in their work. The result is his book, Die Technik des Dramas.
First of all, Freytag asks himself, What is the dramatic? He replies that the dramatic includes those emotions of the soul which manifest themselves by means of external action. "Action, in itself, is not dramatic; passionate feeling, in itself, is not dramatic. Not the presentation of a passion for itself, but of a passion which leads to action, is the business of dramatic art." (“. der Leidenschaft, welche zu einen Thun leitet, ist die Aufgabe der dramatischen Kunst.") Action he defines as