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But, on the contrary, tragic characters are without number, though of them the general out-lines are limited; but diffimulation, jealousy, policy, ambition, desire of dominion, and other interests and passions, are various without end, and take a thousand different forms in different situations of history; so that as long as there is tragedy, there may be always novelty. Thus the jealous and dissembling Mithridates, so happily painted by Racine, will not stand in the way of a poet who shall attempt a jealous and dissembling Tiberius. The stormy violence of an Achilles will always leave room for the stormy violence of Alexander.
But the case is very different with avarice, trifling vanity, hypocrisy, and other vices, considered as ridiculous. It would be safer to double and treble all the tragedies of our greatest poets, and use all their subjects over and over, as has been done with Oedipus and Sophonisba, than to bring again upon the stage in five acts a Miser, a Citizen turned Gentleman, a Tartufè, and other subjects fufficiently known. Not that these popular vices are less capable of diversification, or are less varied by different circumstances, than the vices and passions of heroes; but that if they were to be brought over again in comedies, they would be less distinct, less exact, less forcible, and, consequently, less applauded. Pleasantry and ridicule must be more strongly marked than heroism and pathos, which support themselves by their own force. Besides, though these two things of fo different natures could support themselves equally in equal variety, which is
very far from being the case ; yet comedy, as it now stands, consists not in incidents, but in characters. Now
it is by incidents only that characters are diversified, as 'well upon the stage of comedy, as upon the stage of life. Comedy, as Moliere has left it, resembles the pictures of manners drawn by the celebrated La Bruyere. Would any man after him venture to draw them over again, he would expose himself to the fate of those who have ventured to continue them. For instance, what could we add to his character of the Absent Man? Shall we put him in other circumstances? The principal strokes of absence of mind will always be the same; and there are only those striking touches which are fit for a comedy, of which the end is painting after nature, but with strength and sprightliness like the designs of Callot. If comedy were among us what it is in Spain, a kind of romance, consisting of many circumstances and intrigues, perplexed and disentangled, so as to surprise ; if it was nearly the same with that which Corneille practised in his time ; if, like that of Terence, it went no farther than to draw the common portraits of simple nature, and thew us fathers, sons, and rivals ; notwithstanding the uniformity, which would always prevail as in the plays of Terence, and probably in those of Menander, whom he imitated in his four first pieces, there would always be 루 resource found either in variety of incidents, like those of the Spaniards, or in the repetition of the same cha. racters in the way of Terence: but the case is now very different, the public calls for new characters and nothing else. Multiplicity of accidents, and the laborious contrivance of an intrigue, are not now allowed to fhelfer a weak genius that would find great conveniences in that way of writing. Nor does it suit the taste of comedy, 5
which requires an air less constrained, and such freedom and ease of manners as admits nothing of the romantic. She leaves all the pomp of sudden events to the novels, or little romances, which were the diversion of the last age. She allows nothing but a succession of characters resembling nature, and falling in without any apparent contrivance. Racine has likewise taught us to give to tragedy the same simplicity of air and action; he has endeavoured to disentangle it from that great number of incidents, which made it rather a study than diversion to the audience, and which shew the poet not so much
abound in invention, as to be deficient in taste. But, notwithstanding all that he has done, or that we can do, to make it simple, it will always have the advantage over comedy in the number of its subjects, because it admits more variety of situations and events, which give variety and novelty to the characters. A miser, copied after nature, will always be the miser of Plautus or Moliere ; but a Nero, or a prince like Nero, will not always be the hero of Racine. Comedy admits of so little intrigue, that the miser cannot be shewn in any
position as will make his picture new; but the great events of tragedy may put Nero in such circumstances as to make him wholly another character.
But, in the second place, over and above the subjects, may we not say something concerning the final purpose of comedy and tragedy ? The purpose of the one is to divert, and the other to move; and of these two, which is the easier ? To go to the bottom of those purposes; to move is to strike those strings of the heart which is most natural, terror and pity: to divert is to make one
laugh, a thing which indeed is natural enough, but more delicate. The gentleman and the rustic have both sensibility and tenderness of heart, perhaps in greater or less degree'; but as they are men alike, the heart is moved by the same touches. They both love likewise to send their thoughts abroad, and to expand themselves in merriment; but the springs which must be touched for this purpose, are not the same in the gentleman and the rustic. The passions depend on nature, and merriment upon education. The clown will laugh at a waggery, and the gentleman only at a stroke of delicate conceit. The spectators of a tragedy, if they have but a little knowledge, are almost all on a level; but with respect to comedy, we have three classes, if not more, the people, the learned, and the court. If there are certain cases in which all may be comprehended in the term people, this is not one of those cases. Whatever father Rapin may say about it, we are more willing even to admire than to laugh. Every man that has any power of distinction, laughs as rarely as the philosopher admires; for we are not to reckon those fits of laughter which are not incited by nature, and which are given merely to complaisance, to respect, Aattery, and good humour; such as break out at sayings which pretend to smartness in assemblies. The laughter of the theatre is of another stamp. Every reader and spectator judges of wit by his own standard, and measures it by his capacity, or by his condition : the different capacities and conditions of men make them diverted on very different occasions. If, therefore, we consider the end of the tragic and comic poet, the comedian must be involved
in much more difficulties, without taking in the obstructions to be encountered equally by both, in' an art which consists in raising the passions, or the mirth of a great multitude. The tragedian has little to do but to reflect upon his own thoughts, and draw from his heart those sentiments which will certainly make their way to the hearts of others, if he found them in his own. The other must take many forms, and change himself almost into as many persons, as he undertakes to satisfy and divert.
It may be said, that, if genius be supposed equal, and success fupposed to depend upon ģenius, the business will be equally easy and difficult to one author and to the other. This objection is of no weight; for the same question still recurs, which is, whether of these two kinds of genius is more valuable or more rare. ceed' by example, and not by reasoning, we shall decide I think in favour of comedy.
It may be said, that, if merely art be considered, it will require deeper thoughts to form a plan just and simple'; to produce happy surprises without apparent contrivance ; to carry a passion skilfully through its gradations to its height; to arrive happily to the end by always moving from it, as Ithaca seemed to fly Ulysses; to unite the acts and scenes ; and to raise by insensible degrees a' striking edifice, of which the least merit shall be exactness of proportion. It may be added, that in comedy this art is infinitely less, for there the characters come upon the stage with very' little artifice or plot: the whole scheme is so connected that we see it at once, and the plan and disposicion of the parts make a small X 2
If we pro