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licences of poetical expression, which are indispensable in other kinds of poetry, are forbidden here. The versification, without injuring the natural, unconstrained, and even careless tone of common conversation, must seem to present itself spontaneously. The emphasis it gives is not to contribute to the elevation of the persons as in Tragedy, where it, along with the unusual sublimity of language, makes a sort of spiritual cothurnus for them. In Comedy the verse must only serve to produce greater ease, aptness, and gracefulness in the dialogue. Whether, therefore, it is more advantageous to versify a comedy or not, will depend upon this consideration-whether it is more suitable to the particular subject in hand, to give the dialogue those perfections of form, or to adopt into the imitation all rhetorical, grammatical, and even physical imperfections in people's manner of expressing themselves.
As we have explained the New Comedy to be a composite species formed out of comic and tragic, poetic and prosaic elements, it is evident that this species may include a variety of subordinate species, according as one or the other element preponderates. If the poet plays in sportive humour with his own inventions, the result is a farce; if he confines himself to the ludicrous in situations and characters, avoiding as much as possible all admixture of serious matter, we have a pure comedy; in proportion as the earnest tone prevails in the scope of the entire composition, and in the sympathy and the moral judgment which are called forth, it assumes the character of the instructive or affecting comedy; and from this but a step remains to the tragedy of common life. About these last-mentioned species a great stir has often been made, as if they were quite new and important inventions; specific theories have been constructed for them, &c. Thus Diderot with his “ lachrymose drama," which has since been so much decried: there was nothing new in it but just what was a failure,-the far-fetched affectation of nature, the pedantry of family life, the lavishment of pathos. Did we still possess all the comic literature of the Greeks, we should undoubtedly find there the types of all these species, except that the serene Grecian spirit never fell into a fatal contractedness, but arranged and tempered all in wise proportions. Have we not, even among the few that remain to us, Plautus' Captives, which may be called a pathetic drama; Terence's Hecyra, a true family-picture, while Amphitryo borders upon the bold caprice of the Old Comedy, and the Menachmi is a wild play of intrigue? Do we not find in all Terence's plays serious, passionate, nay touching passages ? Only recollect the first scene of Heautontimorumenos. From our point of view, we hope to find a suitable place for all. We see here no separate species, but merely a graduated scale, marked by transitions more or less observable, in the tone of the representation.
Nor can we suffer the current distinction between Plays of Character, and Plays of Intrigue, to pass without limitation. A good Comedy must always be both, otherwise it will want either body or life; only, to be sure, sometimes the one may preponderate, sometimes the other. The development of the comic characters requires situations that bring them into contrast, and these result from nothing else but the cross-purposes and accidents, according to the explanation I have already given of intrigue in the dramatic sense. What is meant by intrigue in common life, every one knows, namely, the leading others, by cunning and dissimulation, to one's own under-hand purposes, without their knowledge, and against their will. In the drama, both these significations coincide, for the cunning of the one becomes a cross-accident for the other.
When the characters are only slightly indicated, no more than is just necessary to form a ground for the actions of the persons in this or that case; when, also, the incidents are so accumulated that they leave little room for display of character; when the plot is so drawn out to a point, that the motley tangle of misunderstandings and embarrassments seems as if it must be loosened every moment, and yet the knot is every moment drawn tighter : such a composition may well be called a play of intrigue. The French critics have made it the fashion to rank this kind of play much below what they call the play of character, perhaps because they make it too much of a consideration, how much of a play the play-goer may retain in his memory and carry home with him. It is true, the play of intrigue does in a manner resolve itself at last into nothing; but why should not one be allowed sometimes just to divert one's self ingeniously without any ulterior object in view ? Much inventive wit is certainly requisite for a good comedy of this kind; besides the entertainment derived from the ingenuity laid out upon it, the strange legerdemain also may have a great charm for the fancy, as many Spanish comedies prove. .
It is objected to the play of intrigue, that it deviates from the natural course of things; that it is improbable. Surely the former may be admitted without the latter. The unexpected, the extraordinary, the singular even to incredibility, all this indeed the poet brings before us; he often allows himself even to premise a huge improbability, such as the resemblance of two persons, or a disguise which is not seen through; but then all the incidents that subsequently arise must have the appearance of truth, there must be a satisfactory account given of the circumstances through which the affair takes so marvellous a turn. As in respect of that which takes place, the poet gives only a light play of wit, we take him the more strictly to task as to the How.
In comedies which aim more at delineation of character, the characters must be artfully grouped so as to bring the one to light by means of the other. This is apt to degenerate into a too systematic regularity, where each character is symmetrically matched with its opposite, and the whole receives an unnatural appearance. Nor are those comedies much to be praised, in which all the rest of the characters are introduced only to put one principal character to the full extent of his probation, as it were ; above all, when what they are pleased to call the character consists of nothing but an opinion or a habit (for instance, L'Optimiste, Le Distrait), as if an individual could subsist thus in a single quality, and must not of necessity be defined on all sides.
What the mirthful ideal of human nature is in Old Comedy I have already explained. But as the representation given by New Comedy is required to resemble a definite truth, it cannot, as a general rule, allow itself the studied and capricious exaggeration of the Old Comedy. It must therefore seek other sources of comic amusement, which lie nearer the serious province, and these it finds in a more thorough-going delineation of character.
In the characters of Comedy, there is either the Comic of observation, or the knowingly and confessedly Comic. The former has place in the finer Comedy, the latter in low Comedy or Farce. I will explain myself more clearly.
The confessedly Comic.—The Comic of Caprice.
There are ludicrous qualities, follies, obliquities, which the possessor himself is not aware of, or if he at all remarks, is anxious to conceal, because they might injure him in the opinion of others. Such people therefore do not give themselves out for what they are; their secret only gives them the slip, either unawares or against their will, and if the poet depicts such persons, he must lend us his own excellent talent for observation, that we may understand them properly. His art consists in making the character appear through slight hints and stolen glimpses, and yet so placing the spectator that he cannot fail to make the remark, however fine it may be.
There are other moral faults which the person that labours under them notes in himself with a kind of complacency, nay, perhaps even makes it a principle not to rid himself of them, but to nourish and cherish them. Of this kind is all, that, without selfish pretensions or hostile inclinations, arises merely from the preponderance of the animal being. With this there certainly may be connected a high degree of understanding, and if the person turns this against himself, makes merry at his own cost, avows his faults, but seeks to reconcile other people to them by putting them into mirthful garb, the result is the knowingly and avowedly Comic. This species always presupposes a sort of inward duality in the person, and the superior half, which exposes and makes fun of the other half, has in its tone and occupation a near affinity to the comic poet himself. He sometimes altogether transfers his office to this representative, by making him industriously overcharge the exposure he makes of himself, and come to an understanding with the audience, that he and they are to turn the other characters into ridicule. In this case there results the Comic of caprice, which generally produces a great effect, however much the critics may depreciate it. Here the spirit of Old Comedy is at work; the privileged merrymaker of almost all stages under different names, who fills his part at one time in a fine and ingenious, at another in a coarse and clownish manner, has inherited somewhat of the licentious enthusiasm and therewithal of the privileges of the free Old Comedian; a certain proof that the Old Comedy, which we have described as the original species, was not a Grecian peculiarity, but that its very being is grounded in the nature of the thing itself.
To keep the audience in a mirthful tone of mind, the comic representation must hold them as much as possible aloof from all moral appreciation of the persons, and all true interest in what befalls them, for together with both these earnestness infallibly comes in. But how does the poet contrive to steer clear of all excitement of the moral sense, when the actions exhibited are certainly such as cannot but call forth sometimes indignation and contempt, sometimes veneration and affection? He transfers all into the province of the understanding. He confronts men with each other, merely as physical beings, just to measure their powers on each other, of course their intellectual powers as well, nay, these especially. In this respect, Comedy is most nearly allied to Fable: as Fable introduces us to rational beasts, so Comedy to human beings serving the animal instincts with their understanding. By the animal instincts, I mean sensuality: or still more generally expressed, self-love. As heroism and devotion exalt into the tragic character, so the comic persons are finished egotists. Let this be taken with the proper limitation : not that Comedy does not also delineate the social propensities, but that it represents them as arising from the natural endeavour after our own happiness. When once the poet gets beyond this, he falls out of the comic tone. He does not direct our feelings to observe how noble or ignoble, innocent or corrupt, good or vile, the acting persons are; but whether they are dull or clever, dexterous or clumsy, foolish or sensible.
Examples will set the matter in the clearest light. We have an involuntary and immediate veneration for truth, and this belongs to the innermost motions of the moral sense. A malignant lie, which threatens to do mischief, fills us with the highest indignation, and belongs to Tragedy. But why are cunning and deceit allowed to be so excellent a comic motive, provided they do not serve a malicious purpose, but merely selflove, just to extricate one's self from a difficulty, or to gain a certain object, and no dangerous consequences are to be apprehended? The deceiver has already quite left the sphere of morality, truth and untruth are in themselves indifferent to him, he regards them only as means; and so we entertain ourselves only with observing what amount of shrewdness is necessary to serve the turn of so unexalted a character. Still more pleasant