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the fucceffive evolutions of the defign, fometimes produce seriousness and forrow, and fometimes levity and laughter.
nerva and Ulysses, in the first scene of the Ajax, from v. 74 to 88, is perfectly ludicrous. The cowardice of Ulyffes is almoft as comick as the cowardice of Falftaff. In fpite of the prefence of Minerva, and her previous affurance that the would effectually guard him from all danger by rendering him invifible, when the calls Ajax out, Ulyffes, in the utmost trepidation, exclaims· Τι δρας, Αθανα; μηδαμως σφ' εξω καλει.
• What are you about, Minerva?-by no means call him out." Minerva answers
· Ου σιγ' άνεξη, μηδε δειλίαν αρεις ;
Will you not be filent, and lay afide your fears?' But Ulyffes cannot conquer his fears:
ΜΗ, ΠΡΟΣ ΘΕΩΝ-----ἀλλ' ἐνδον ἀρκείτω μένων. 'Don't call him out, for heaven's fake :-let him stay within." And in this tone the converfation continues; till, upon Minerva's repeating her promife that Ajax fhould not fee him, he confents to ftay; but in a line of moft comical reluctance, and with an afide, that is in the true fpirit of Sancho Pança :
• Μενοιμ ̓ ἀν' ΗΘΕΛΟΝ Δ' ΑΝ ΕΚΤΟΣ ΩΝ ΤΥΧΕΙΝ. I'll ftay-(afde) but I wish I was not here.'
J'avoue, fays Brumoy, que ce trait n'eft pas à la louange d'Ulyffe, ni de Sophocle.'
"No unprejudiced perfon, I think, can read this scene without being convinced, not only, that it must actually have produced, but that it must have been intended to produce, the effect of comedy.
"It appears indeed to me, that we may plainly trace in the Greek tragedy, with all its improvements, and all its beauties, pretty strong marks of its popular and tragi-comick origin. For Tpaywdia, we are told, was, originally, the only dramatick appellation; and when, afterwards, the ludicrous was separated from the ferious, and diftinguifhed by its appropriated name of Comedy, the feparation feems to have been imperfectly made, and Tragedy, distinctively so called, ftill feems to have retained a tincture of its original merriment. Nor will this appear ftrange, if we confider the popular nature of the Greek fpectacles. The people, it is probable, would ftill require, even in the midst of their tragick emotion, a little dash of their old fatyrick fun, and poets were obliged to comply, in fome degree, with their tafte." Twining's Notes, pp. 202, 203, 204, 205, 206.
That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily allowed; but there is always an appeal open from criticifm to nature. The end of writing is to inftruct; the end of poetry is to inftruct by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the inftruction of tragedy or comedy cannot be denied, because it includes both in its alternations of exhibition, and approaches nearer than either to the appearance of life, by fhowing how great machinations and flender defigns may promote or obviate one another, and the high and the low co-operate in the general fyf tem by unavoidable concatenation.
It is objected, that by this change of scenes the paffions are interrupted in their progreffion, and that the principal event, being not advanced by a due gradation of preparatory incidents, wants at laft the power to move, which conftitutes the perfection of dramatick poetry. This reafoning is fo fpecious, that it is received as true even by those who in daily experience feel it to be falfe. The interchanges of mingled fcenes feldom fail to produce the intended viciffitudes of paffion. Fiction cannot move fo much, but that the attention may be easily transferred; and though it must be allowed that pleafing melancholy be fometimes interrupted by unwelcome levity, yet let it be confidered likewife, that melancholy is often not pleafing, and that the difturbance of one man may be the relief of another; that different auditors have different habitudes; and that, upon the whole, all pleafure confifts in variety.
The players, who in their edition divided our author's works into comedies, hiftories, and tragedies, seem not to have diftinguifhed the three kinds, by any very exact or definite ideas.
An action which ended happily to the principal persons, however serious or diftressful through its intermediate incidents, in their opinion conftituted a comedy. This idea of a comedy continued long amongst us, and plays were written, which, by changing the catastrophe, were tragedies to-day, and comedies to-morrow.9
Tragedy was not in thofe times a poem of more general dignity or elevation than comedy; it required only a calamitous conclufion, with which the common criticism of that age was fatisfied, whatever lighter pleasure it afforded in its progrefs.
History was a series of actions, with no other than chronological fucceffion, independent on each other, and without any tendency to introduce and regulate the conclufion. It is not always very nicely diftinguished from tragedy. There is not much nearer approach to unity of action in the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, than in the hiftory of Richard the Second. But a history might be continued through many plays; as it had no plan, it had no limits.
Through all these denominations of the drama, Shakspeare's mode of compofition is the fame; an interchange of seriousness and merriment, by which the mind is foftened at one time, and exhilarated at another. But whatever be his purpose, whether to gladden or deprefs, or to conduct the ftory, without vehemence or emotion, through tracts of eafy and familiar dialogue, he never fails to attain his
9 Thus, fays Downes the Prompter, p. 22: "The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was made fome time after  into a tragicomedy, by Mr. James Howard, he preferving Romeo and Juliet alive; fo that when the tragedy was revived again, 'twas play'd alternately, tragical one day, and tragi-comical another, for feveral days together." STEEVENS.
purpose; as he commands us, we laugh or mourn, or fit filent with quiet expectation, in tranquillity without indifference.
When Shakspeare's plan is understood, most of the criticisms of Rymer and Voltaire vanish away. The play of Hamlet is opened, without impropriety, by two centinels; Iago bellows at Brabantio's window, without injury to the scheme of the play, though in terms which a modern audience would not easily endure; the character of Polonius is feafonable and ufeful; and the Gravediggers themfelves may be heard with applause.
Shakspeare engaged in dramatick poetry with the world open before him; the rules of the ancients were yet known to few; the publick judgment was unformed; he had no example of fuch fame as might force him upon imitation, nor criticks of fuch authority as might reftrain his extravagance : he therefore indulged his natural difpofition, and his difpofition, as Rymer has remarked, led him to comedy. In tragedy he often writes with great appearance of toil and study, what is written at last with little felicity; but in his comick fcenes, he feems to produce without labour, what no labour can improve. In tragedy he is always ftruggling after fome occafion to be comick, but in comedy he feems to repofe, or to luxuriate, as in a mode of thinking congenial to his nature. In his tragick fcenes there is always fomething wanting, but his comedy often furpaffes expectation or defire. His comedy pleases by the thoughts and the language, and his tragedy for the greater part by incident and action. His tragedy feems to be fkill, his comedy
to be inftinct.'
In the rank and order of geniufes it muft, I think, be allowed, that the writer of good tragedy is fuperior. And there
The force of his comick scenes has fuffered little diminution from the changes made by a century and a half, in manners or in words. As his perfonages act upon principles arifing from genuine paffion, very little modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexations are communicable to all times and to all places; they are natural, and therefore durable; the adventitious peculiarities of perfonal habits, are only fuperficial dies, bright and pleafing for a little while, yet foon fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former luftre; and the difcrimination of true paffion are the colours of nature; they pervade the whole mafs, and can only perifh with the body that exhibits them. The accidental compofitions of heterogeneous modes are diffolved by the chance that combined them; but the uniform fimplicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase, nor fuffers decay. The fand heaped by one flood is fcattered by another, but the rock always continues in its place. The ftream of time, which is continually wafhing the diffoluble fabricks of other poets, paffes without injury by the adamant of Shakspeare.
If there be, what I believe there is, in every nation, a ftyle which never becomes obfolete, a certain mode of phrafeology fo confonant and congenial to the analogy and principles of its respective language, as to remain fettled and unaltered: this ftyle is probably to be fought in the common intercourfe of life, among those who speak only to be understood, without ambition of elegance.
fore, I think the opinion, which I am forry to perceive gains ground, that Shakspeare's chief and predominant talent lay in comedy, tends to leffen the unrivalled excellence of our divine bard. J. WARTON.
See Vol. XIX. p. 529, for Philips's remark on this fubject.