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that amount. 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 translators; one of these I have seen, 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 task, will find his candour strongly called upon to excuse any errors or inequalities, that may appear in their performances.
SAID in my former Paper that Plutarch
had made a comparison between Aristophanes 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, should prefer a polished elegant author like Menander to one so bold, personal and sarcastic as the poet he compares with him. Horace even in the time of Augustus had begun to decry the Plautinos Sales, and the manners were much more refined in Plutarch's time than in hís. As we can take little estimate of Menander from the fragments only of his comedies which now remain, we cannot see what general reasons Plutarch, or any other critic of his time, might have for preferring him; but as far as he has entered into strictures and objections in his examination of Aristophanes, so far we can follow him; this part at Jeast of his criticism is still open to be contra verted, and if it shall appear that he has condemned one party without reafon, it may be presumed he has preferred the other without justice. VOL. III.
Plutarch asserts that Aristophanes 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 Aristophanes is not only to be defended but applauded; he could not have selected passages less to the purpose; and the accusation has accordingly been turned against him by Frischlinus and other advocates of the poct.
He arraigns the stile of Aristophanes on account of its inequalities and variations, observing that it is sometimes high and sometimes low, now turgid and inflated, now grovelling and depressed as if he had not been aware that the great variety of characters, which his comedy exhibits, naturally demands as great a variety of stile : He applauds Menander for the uniform and equal tenor of his ftile, not seeming to recollect that his comedy on the contrary had one uniform complexion, contained no chorusses and introduced no living characters; whereas Aristophanes, according to the spirit of the old comedy, makes use of chorusles, many of which are of fo fanciful and imaginary a nature, that it is necessary to *mploy all the powers of poetry in their difplay, and in some cases even to create a new stile and almost language) for the occasion : He also introduces gods, heroes, poets, orators, philosophers, ambassadors, priests on his scene į some of these professedly demand a swelling tragic pomp of words, for instance Æschylus, Sophocles and Euripides : In short, the very excellence of Aristophanes is discrimination of stile and character. Should Socrates and a slave speak in the same phrase ? Should Lamachus (à mere miles gloriosus) talk in the tone of a beggarly Megarensian pedlar? Certainly not; nor is there any need to dwell longer on this criticism of Plutarch's, in which the ingenious author has shewn little of his usual candour or judgment. That he should be prepossessed in favour of the new comedy is very natural; elegant and moral' fictions are both more pleasing and more proper subjects for the drama, than bold and coarse truths and living realities : The even suavity of Menander's stile might be more to his taste than the irregular fublimity of Aristophanes's; but when I see him manage
the argument in a manner so much below his usual' sagacity, I cannot help fuspecting there might be some other besides general prejudice in his mind against Aristophanes, and I make no doubt he had foftered strong resents' ments against him for his attacks upon Socrates ;
I also see some grounds for believing that he had been opposed by Pliny in his partiality, for Me nander, whom that author calls omnis luxuria interpres; a charge which was resented by Plutarch, who nevertheless was compelled to admit it: It is not improbable therefore that this might have given some occasion to him for entering into a more formal comparison between the two authors, and for publishing his strictures upon Aristophanes. Upon looking over the titles of the comedies of the last-named author, which are loft, I find one intitled Bæotia, which play was translated and brought upon the Roman stage 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 Bæotian) to take up a refentment against Aristophanes; and, if it were a subject worth following, I could few that Plutarch’s national prejudices were uncommonly Itrong : The comedy indeed is not in existence, both original and translation being perished ; but we can easily believe that Bæotia did not escape out of Aristophanes's hands without a pretty linart Nagellation, and this was the more