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intuitions of the infinite, in types and emblems derived from the phenomena of the visible world.

In Grecian art and poetry there is an original unconscious unity of form and matter; the modern, so far as it has remained faithful to its own proper spirit, attempts to bring about a more thorough interpenetration of both, considered as two opposites. The former solved its problem to perfection, the latter can satisfy its ad infinitum endeavour only in a way of approximation, and by reason of a certain semblance of incompleteness, is the rather in danger of being misappreciated.

* * * * * What is dramatic? To many the answer may seem obvious : “Where different persons are introduced speaking, but the poet himself does not speak in his own proper person.” But this is no more than the exterior pre-requisite of the form; the form is that of dialogue. But the persons of a dialogue may express thoughts and sentiments without operating a change on each other, and so may leave off at last each in the same mind as at the beginning; in such a case, however interesting the matter of the discussion may be, it cannot be said to excite any dramatic interest. I will exemplify this in the philosophic dialogue, a quiet species of discussion not intended for the stage. In Plato, Socrates asks the inflated sophist Hippias, " What is the beautiful ?” He is forthwith prepared with his shallowanswer, but presently finds himself compelled by Socrates’ ironical objections to abandon his first definition, and stumble about clutching after other ideas, and finally to quit the field, shamed by the exposure of his ignorance, and out of temper at finding more than his match in the philosopher. Now, this dialogue is not merely instructive in a philosophical point of view, but entertaining as a drama in miniature. And justly has this lively progress in the thoughts, this stretch of expectation for the issue, in one word, this dramatic character, been extolled in the dialogues of Plato.

Hence already we are in a condition to apprehend wherein the great charm of dramatic poetry consists. Activity is the true enjoyment of life, nay more, is life itself. Mere passive enjoyments may lull into a listless complacency, which however, if there be any stirrings of interior sensibility, cannot long be free from the inroad of ennui. Now, most people by their position in life, or, it may be, from incapacity for extraordinary exertions, are tethered within a narrow round of insignificant engagements. Day follows day, one like another, under the sleepy rule of custom; life progresses without perceptible motion, the rushing stream of the youthful passions stagnating into a morass. From the self-dissatisfaction which this occasions, they seek to make their escape in all kinds of games, which always consist in some occupation, some self-imposed task, in which there are difficulties to be overcome, but withal not troublesome. Now, of all games, the play is unquestionably the most entertaining. We see others act, if we cannot act to any great purpose ourselves. The highest subject of human activity is man, and in the play we see men measuring their powers upon each other as friends or foes; influencing each other in their capacity of rational and moral beings, through the medium of opinion, sentiment, and passion; definitively ascertaining their mutual relations, and bringing them to a decisive position. By abstraction and pretermission of all that is not essential to the matter in hand, namely, of all those daily wants and consequent petty distractions which in real life break in upon the progress of essential actions, the poet contrives to condense within small compass much that excites attention and expectation. Thus he gives us a picture of life that resuscitates the days of youth, an extract of what is moving and progressive in human existence.

But this is not all. Even in lively oral narration it is common to introduce the persons speaking, and to vary tone and expression accordingly. But the gaps which these speeches would leave in the hearers' mental picture of the story, the narrator fills up by a description of the concomitant actions or other incidents, in his own name. The dramatic poet foregoes this assistance, but finds abundant compensation in the following invention. He requ that each of the characters of his story should be personated by a living individual; that this individual should, in sex, age, and form, come as near as may be to the fictitious individual of the story, nay, should assume his entire personality ; that he should accompany every speech with the appropriate expression of voice, mien, and gesture, and moreover annex thereto those visible actions, of which otherwise the audience would need to be apprised by narrative. Still further : these vicegerents of the creatures of his imagination are required to appear in the costume belonging to their assumed rank, and to the times and country in which they lived : partly for the sake of closer resemblance; partly, because even in dress there is something characteristic. Lastly, he requires that they should be environed by a locality in some measure similar to that in which he makes the incidents to have taken place, because this also helps to realize the fiction; that is to say, he will have scenery. Now here is a theatre complete. It is plain that the very form of dramatic poetry, that is, the exhibition of an action by dialogue without the aid of narrative, implies the theatre as the necessary complement. We grant, there are dramatic works not originally designed for the stage, and indeed not likely to be particularly effective there, which nevertheless read excellently. But I very greatly question whether they would make the same vivid impression upon a reader who had never witnessed a play nor heard one described. We are habituated, in reading dramatic compositions, to fancy to ourselves the acting.

The invention of the theatre and theatrical art seems a very obvious and natural one.

Man has a great turn for mimic imitation ; in all lively transposing of himself into the situation, sentiments, and passions of others, he assimilates himself to them in his exterior, whether he will or no. Children are perpetually going out of themselves; it is one of their favourite sports to copy the grown people they have opportunity of observing, or indeed whatever else comes into their heads; and with their happy pliancy of imagination, they can make all alike serve their turn, to furnish them with the insignia of the assumed dignity, be it that of a father, a schoolmaster, or a king. There remains but one step more to the invention of the Drama; namely, to draw the mimic elements and fragments clear off from real life, and confront the latter with these collectively in one mass; yet in many nations this step never was taken. In the very copious description of ancient Egypt in Herodotus and others, I do not recollect any indication of this. The Etruscans on the contrary, so like the Egyptians in many other particulars, had their theatrical games, and, singular enough, the Etruscan term for actor,histrio, has survived in living languages even to the most recent times. The whole of Western Asia, the Arabians and Persians, rich as their poetical literature is in other departments, know not the Drama. Neither did Europe in the middle ages : upon the introduction of Christianity the old dramas of the Greeks and Romans were


set aside, partly because they had reference to heathen ideas, partly because they had degenerated into shameless immorality; nor did they revive until nearly a thousand years later. So late as the fourteenth century we find, in that very complete picture which Boccaccio has given of the then existing frame of society, no trace whatever of plays. Instead of them they had simply their Conteurs, Menestriers, and Jongleurs. On the other hand it must by no means be supposed that the invention of the Drama was made only once in the world, and was passed along from one nation to another. The English circumnavigators found among the islanders of the Southern Ocean (a people occupying so low a grade in point of intellectual capacity and civilization) a rude kind of drama, in which a common incident of life was imitated well enough to be diverting. To pass to the other extremity of the world: that nation from which perhaps all the civilization of the human race emanated, I mean the Indians, had their dramas for ages before that country was subjected to any foreign influence. They possess a copious dramatic literature, the age of which ascends backward nearly two thousand years. Of their plays (Nataks) we are at present acquainted with one specimen only, the charming Sacontala, which, with all the foreign colouring of its native climate, in its general structure bears such striking resemblance to our romantic drama, that we might suspect the translator, Sir William Jones, of having laboured to produce the resemblance, out of his partiality for Shakspeare, were not the fidelity of his translation attested by other scholars. In the golden times of India the exhibition of these Nataks delighted the splendid imperial court at Delhi; but under the misery of their many oppressions, dramatic art in that country seems at present to lie extinct. The Chinese, on the contrary, have their standing national theatre: standing indeed, it may be conjectured, in every sense: I make no question but in the establishment of arbitrary rules and nice observance of unimportant conventionalities they leave the most correct of the Europeans far behind them.

With all this extensive diffusion of theatrical entertainments, it is surprising to find what a difference there exists in point of dramatic talent between nations equally favoured in other respects. The talent for the Drama would seem to be a peculiar quality, essentially distinct from the gift of poetry in general. The contrast between the Greeks and Romans in this respect is not to be wondered at ; for the Greeks were quite a nation of artists, the Romans a practical people. Among the latter, the fine arts were introduced only as a corrupting article of luxury, both betokening and accelerating the degeneracy of the times. This luxury they carried out on so large a scale, in respect of the theatre, that perfection in essentials must have been neglected in the rage for meretricious accessories. Even among the Greeks dramatic talent was any thing but universal: in Athens the Theatre was invented, in Athens it was exclusively brought to perfection. The Doric dramas of Epicharmus form but an inconsiderable exception to this remark. All the great dramatic geniuses of Greece were born in Attica, and formed their style at Athens. Widely as the Grecian race diffused itself, felicitously as it cultivated the fine arts almost wherever it came, yet beyond the bounds of Attica it was fain to admire, without being able to compete with, the productions of the Attic stage.

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