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action," and might involve a transition from calamity to prosperity, as well as from prosperity to calamity.* By a comedy was meant a representation, tending to excite laughter, of mean and ridiculous actions. Thus the Eumenides of Eschylus, the Philoctetes of Sophocles, and the Alcestis, Helena, and others of Euripides, though called tragedies, do not end tragically in the modern sense, but the reverse. But by degrees it came to be considered that every tragedy must have a disastrous catastrophe, so that a new term tragi-comedy — which seems to have first arisen in Spain, was invented to suit those dramas in which, though the main action was serious, the conclusion was happy. As Tragedy assumed a narrower meaning, Comedy obtained one proportionably more extensive. Of this a notable illustration is found in Dante, who named his great poem La Commedia, to mark his feeling that it was in a style lower than the epic, and yet not a tragedy, because it ended happily. In England, the term Comedy was used all through the Elizabethan age in a loose sense, which would embrace anything between a tragi-comedy and a farce. Thus the Merchant of Venice is reckoned among the comedies of Shakspeare, though, except for the admixture of comic matter in the minor characters, it is, in the Greek sense, just as much a tragedy as the Alcestis. In the seventeenth century, the term began to be restricted to plays in which comic or satirical matter preponderated. A shorter and more unpretending species, in one or at most two acts, in which any sort of contrivance or trick was permissible in order to raise a laugh, so that the action were not taken out of the sphere of real life, was invented under the name of Farce in the eighteenth century.

The best and most characteristic of English plays belong to what is called the Romantic drama. The Classical and the Romantic drama represent two prevalent modes of thought, or streams of opinion, which, parting

*Aristot. Poet. 6.

from each other and becoming strongly contrasted soon after the revival of letters, have ever since contended for the empire of the human mind in Europe. The readers of Mr. Ruskin's striking books will have learnt a great deal about these modes of thought, and will, perhaps, have imbibed too unqualified a dislike for the one, and reverence for the other. Referring those who desire a full exposition to the pages of that eloquent writer, we must be content with saying here, that the Classical drama was cast in the Græco-Roman mould, and subjected to the rules of construction (the dramatic unities) which the ancient dramatists observed; its authors being generally men who were deeply imbued with the classical spirit, to a degree which made them recoil with aversion and contempt from the spirit and the products of the ages that had intervened between themselves and the antiquity which they loved. On the other hand, the Romantic drama, though it borrowed much of its formal part (e. g. the division into acts, the prologue and epilogue, the occasional choruses, &c.) from the ancients, was founded upon and grew out of the Romance literature of the middle ages, its authors being generally imbued with the spirit of Christian Europe, such as the mingled influences of Christianity and feudalism had formed it. National before all, writing for audiences in whom taste and fine intelligence were scantily developed, but in whom imagination and feeling were strong, and faith habitual, the dramatists of this school were led to reject the strict rules of which Athenian culture exacted the observance. To gratify the national pride of their hearers, they dramatised large portions of their past history, and in so doing scrupled not to violate the unity of action. They observed, indeed, this rule in their tragedies—at least in the best of them - but utterly disregarded the minor unities of time and place, because they knew that they could trust to the imagination of their hearers to supply any shortcomings in the external illusion. In the play

of Macbeth many years elapse, and the scene is shifted from Scotland to England and back again without the smallest hesitation. The result is, that Art gains in one way and loses in another. We are spared the tedious narratives which are rendered necessary in the classical drama by the strict limits of time within which the action is bounded. On the other hand, the impression produced, being less concentrated, is usually feebler and less determinate.

It would be a waste of time to enter here, in that cursory way which alone our limits would allow, into any critical discussion of the dramatic genius of Shakspeare. The greatest modern critics in all countries have undertaken the task, a fact sufficient of itself to dispense us from the attempt. Among the numerous treatises, large and small by Coleridge, Hazlitt, Mrs. Jameson, Guizot, Tieck, Schlegel, Ulrici, &c.—each containing much that is valuable, we would single out Guizot's as embodying, in the most compact and convenient form, the results of the highest criticism on Shakspeare himself, on his time, and on his work.

[At this point the student is recommended to read King Lear, or some other of the great tragedies; Richard III. or Henry V. as a specimen of the Histories, and As You Like It, or the Midsummer Night's Dream, as a specimen of the Comedies.*]

Our literature possesses but few dramas of the Classical school, and those not of the highest order. The most celebrated specimen, perhaps, is Addison's Cato. But weak and prosaic lines abound in it, such as


"Cato, I've orders to expostulate;"

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'Why will you rive my heart with such expressions?"

It is intended to bring out shortly an edition, with notes by the author, of the three plays, King Lear, Henry V., and As You Like It.

and the scenes between the lovers are stiff and frigid. Yet the play is not without fine passages; as when the noble Roman, who has borne unmoved the tidings of the death of his son, weeps over the anticipated ruin of his country:

""Tis Rome requires our tears;

The mistress of the world, the seat of empire,
The nurse of heroes, the delight of gods,
That humbled the proud tyrants of the earth,
And set the nations free,-Rome is no more!"


On the whole, Cato's character is finely drawn, and well adapted to call forth the powers of a first-rate actor. soliloquy at the end, beginning

"It must be so; -Plato, thou reasonest well," &c.,

has been justly praised.

The plays of Ben Jonson belong in form to the classical school, since, as he likes to boast, the unities are preserved in them. But his acquaintance with antiquity simply made him a pedant; no man had ever less of the classical spirit.

Milton's Samson Agonistes is constructed upon the model of a Greek tragedy. The choral parts are written in an irregular metre, which, however, is full of harmony. Though not suited for representation before an average audience, and though the laboured, compressed diction, while it everywhere recalls the great mind of Milton, deviates from any objective standard of beautiful expression, this play is one of those which continually rise upon our judgment. In it the genius of Handel has inseparably linked itself in our conceptions with the verse of Milton.

Heroic Poetry: "The Bruce;" "The Mirrour for Magistrates;" "The Campaign.”

As the unity of the epic poem is derived from its being the evolution of one great, complex action, so the unity of the heroic poem proceeds from its being the record of all or some of the great actions of an individual hero. Like the epic, it requires a serious and dignified form of expression; and consequently, in English, employs nearly always, either the heroic couplet, or a stanza of not less than seven lines. Heroic poetry has produced no works of extraordinary merit in any literature. When the hero is living, the registration of his exploits is apt to become fulsome; when dead, tedious. Boileau has perhaps succeeded best; the heroic poems which Addison produced in honour of Marlborough and William III., in hope to emulate the author of the Epitre au Roi, are mere rant and fustian in comparison. Our earliest heroic poem- The Bruce of Barbour*- is, perhaps, the best; but the short romance metre in which it is written much

injures its effect. A better specimen of Barbour's style cannot be selected than the often-quoted passage on Freedom:

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"A! fredome is a noble thing!

Fredome mayss man to have liking:
Fredome all solace to man givis;
He livys at ease, that frely livys!
A noble hart may have none ease,
Na ellys nocht that may him please,
Gif fredome failyhe; for fre liking
Is yharnytt ower all other thing.
Na he, that aye has livyt fre,
May nocht knaw weill the propyrtė,
The angyr, na the wrechyt dome‡,
That is couplyt to foul thyrldome.§
Bat gif he had assayit it,

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