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The Plutus now in our hands (which is the second he wrote of that title) has been twice published in our language by two different tranflators; one of thefe I have feen, which was jointly executed by the celtbrated Henry Fielding and the Rev. Mr. Young: There is an English translation, as I am told, of The Clouds, but this has never been in my hands, and also a very late one of The Frogs in metre, which I have perused. Much praise is due to the labours of learned men, who thus endeavour to make his wit current amongst us; and every man who knows the difficulties of their tafk, will find his candour ftrongly called upon to excufe any errors or inequalities, that may appear in their performances.
SAID in my former Paper that Plutarch had made a comparison between Ariftophanes and Menander, and given his decided judgment for the latter. It might well be expected, that a Greek of the lower ages, living in the time of Trajan, and in court-favour with that emperor, fhould prefer a polished elegant author like Menander to one fo bold, perfonal and farcaftic as the poet he compares with him. Horace even in the time of Auguftus had begun to decry the Plautinos Sales, and the manners were much more refined in Plutarch's time than in his. As we can take little estimate of Menander from the fragments only of his comedies which now remain, we cannot fee what general reafons Plutarch, or any other critic of his time, might have for preferring him; but as far as he has entered into ftrictures and objections in his examination of Arifto phanes, fo far we can follow him; this part at leaft of his criticism is ftill open to be contro verted, and if it fhall appear that he has condemned one party without reafon, it may be prefumed he has preferred the other without juftice.
Plutarch afferts that Ariftophanes is a punfter, a quibbler upon words, and ridiculously given to parody. It is unfortunate for this charge that he follows it up with quotations, in every one of which Ariftophanes is not only to be defended but applauded; he could not have felected paffages lefs to the purpose; and the accufation has accordingly been turned against him by Frifchlinus and other advocates of the poet.
He arraigns the ftile of Ariftophanes on account of its inequalities and variations, obferving that it is fometimes high and sometimes , low, now turgid and inflated, now grovelling and depreffed -as if he had not been aware that the great variety of characters, which his comedy exhibits, naturally demands as great a variety of ftile: He applauds Menander for the uniform and equal tenor of his ftile, not feeming to recollect that his comedy on the contrary had one uniform complexion, contained no choruffes and introduced no living characters; whereas Ariftophanes, according to the fpirit of the old comedy, makes ufe of choruffes, many of which are of fo fanciful and imaginary a nature, that it is neceflary to Employ all the powers of poetry in their dif play, and in fome cafes even to create a new
ftile (and almoft language) for the occafion : He alfo introduces gods, heroes, poets, orators, philofophers, ambaffadors, priests on his fcene; fome of thefe profeffedly demand a fwelling tragic pomp of words, for inftance. Æfchylus, Sophocles and Euripides: In fhort, the very excellence of Ariftophanes is difcrimination of ftile and character. Should Socrates and a flave speak in the fame phrafe? Should Lamachus (a mere miles gloriofus) talk in the tone of a beggarly Megarenfian pedlar? Certainly not; nor is there any need to dwell longer on this criticifm of Plutarch's, in which the ingenious author has fhewn little of his ufual candour or judgment. That he should be prepoffeffed in favour of the new comedy is very natural; elegant and moral fictions are both more pleafing and more proper fubjects for the drama, than bold and coarse truths and living realities: The even fuavity of Menander's stile might be more to his tafte than the irregular fublimity of Ariftophanes's; but when I see him manage the argument in a manner fo much below his ufual fagacity, I cannot help fuspecting there might be fome other befides general prejudice in his mind against Ariftophanes, and I make no doubt he had foftered ftrong refentments against him for his attacks upon Socrates; L 2 I alfo
I alfa fee fome grounds for believing that he had been oppofed by Pliny in his partiality for Menander, whom that author calls omnis luxuria interpres; a charge which was refented by Plutarch, who nevertheless was compelled to admit it: It is not improbable therefore that this might have given fome occafion to him for entering into a more formal comparison between the two authors, and for publishing his strictures upon Ariftophanes. Upon looking over the titles of the comedies of the laft-named author, which are loft, I find one intitled Baotia, which play was tranflated and brought upon the Roman ftage by Plautus, as it is generally thought, though we are told that M. Varro gave it to one Aquilius; be this as it may, the comedy was produced by one or the other, and there is a fragment of it in proof, which will be found in Pareus's edition of Plautus: Here is fresh reason for Plutarch (who, was a Baotian) to take up a refentment against Ariftophanes; and, if it were
fubject worth following, I could fhew that Plutarch's national prejudices were uncommonly trong The comedy indeed is not in existence, both original and tranflation being perifhed; but we can easily believe that Boeotia did not efcape out of Ariftophanes's, hands without a pretty finart flagellation; and this was the more