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But in known images of life, I guess
The labour greater, 'as the indulgence less.
And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws,
fable to be brought about, but by agents, that are compelled to act in such or such a manner, by their particular propensities and passions, which constitute character? Are not Electra and Medea as strong characters as Lady Townly and Millamant? and Othello and Macbeth as Thraso or Menedemus? In short, in a good tragedy, there must be an union both of character and action. But it is said that a good plot is not so essential to comedy as to tragedy if so, the superior difficulty of writing the former disappears. In the rank and order of geniuses it must, I think, be allowed, that the writer of good tragedy is superior. And, therefore, I think the opinion, which I am sorry to perceive gains ground, that Shakespear's chief and predominant talent lay in comedy, tends to lessen the unrivalled excellence of our divine bard.
There still remains another remark to be made on this passage of Horace: How were the Romans to judge of the truth and nature of the characters in their comedies, when these characters were those of another nation, and their comedies being chiefly mere translations from the Greek, and therefore to them not "known images of life!" Warton.
Ver. 287. Congreve] He alludes to the characters of Brisk and Witwood. Dr. Johnson says, rather strangely, "his comedies have the operation of tragedies."
Ver. 290. Astrea] A name taken by Mrs. Behn, authoress of several obscene Plays, &c.
Gestit enim nummum in loculos demittere; post
Securus, cadat, an recto stet fabula talo.
Quem tulit ad scenam 'ventoso gloria curru, Exanimat lentus spectator, sedulus inflat:
Sic leve, sic parvum est, animum quod laudis ava
Subruit ac reficit: "Valeat res ludicra, si me
Palma negata macrum, donata reducit opimum. Sæpe etiam audacem fugat hoc terretque po
Quòd numero plures, virtute et honore minores, Indocti, stolidique, et 'depugnare parati,
Si discordet eques, media inter carmina poscunt Aut ursum aut pugiles: his nam plebecula gaudet. Verùm equitis quoque jam migravit ab aure voluptas
Omnis, ad incertos oculos et gaudia vana.
Quatuor aut plures aulæa premuntur in horas; Dum fugiunt equitum turmæ, peditumque catervæ:
Ver. 291. Who fairly puts] How came Mrs. Behn's name to be inserted among the best writers that have not succeeded?
Ver. 296. O you! whom vanity's light bark conveys] The metaphor is fine; but inferior to the original, in many respects. "Ventoso gloria curru,"
has a happy air of ridicule, heightened by its allusion to the Roman triumph. Warburton.
Dr. Hurd imagines these lines are not spoken by the poet in his own person, but are the sentiments of an objector, whom, according to his manner, Horace suddenly introduces as urging them. Pope, we see, did not consider the passage in this light. Warton.
But fill their purse, our poets' work is done,
O you! whom 'vanity's light bark conveys
Who pants for glory finds but short repose,
aThere still remains, to mortify a wit, The many-headed monster of the pit: A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd; Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud, Clattering their sticks before ten lines are spoke, Call for the farce, the Bear, or the Black-joke. What dear delight to Britons farce affords! Ever the taste of mobs, but now of Lords:
Taste, that eternal wanderer, which flies
Ver. 305. The many-headed monster] This epithet Warton says is taken from Ben Jonson; I rather think, from Shakespear.
Ver. 310. What dear delight] In former editions:
For farce the people true delight affords,
Farce, long the taste of mobs, but now of lords. Warton. Ver. 313. From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes.] From plays to operas, and from operas to pantomimes.
Mox trahitur manibus regum fortuna retortis ;
Ver. 316. Pageants on pageants,] Long before Horace wrote, Tully, in an Epistle to Marius, book 7, had ridiculed these absurd shews, spectacles, and processions on the stage. "Quid enim delectationis habent sexcenti muli in Clytemnestra? aut in equo Trojano craterarum tria millia? aut armatura varia, peditatûs et equitatûs, ut in aliquâ pugnâ? quæ popularem admirationem habuerunt, delectationem tibi nullam attulissent." Warton.
Ver. 319. Old Edward's armour beams on Cibber's breast.] The coronation of Henry VIII. and Queen Anne Boleyn, in which the playhouses vied with each other to represent all the pomp of a coronation. In this noble contention the armour of one of the kings of England was borrowed from the Tower, to dress the champion.
Of late years, and since this was written, these extravagancies have been carried to a greater length of folly and absurdity, which have nearly ruined the stage, and extinguished a taste for true dramatic poetry.
Yet let this verse (" and long may it remain !") shew there was
Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn,
one who held it in disdain long before our author; Rowe thus complains, in the Epilogue to his first play:
Must Shakespear, Fletcher, and laborious Ben,
Ver. 328. Orcas' stormy steep,] The farthest Northern Promontory of Scotland, opposite to the Orcades. Pope.
Ver. 331. At Quin's high plume,] More celebrated for acting inimitably well the characters of Zanga and Falstaff, than that of Cato. But still more justly celebrated for his original wit, his generosity and friendship for Thomson, whose distresses he once relieved in the most liberal and delicate manner. Warton.
Ver. 335. "But has he spoken ?"] Esopus, says Tully, lost his