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Aristot. Poet. Cap. 6.
Τραγωδια μιμησις πραξεως σεδαιας, &c. Tragedia est imitatio actionis feriæ, &c. per misericordiam et metum
perficiens talium affectuum lustrationem.
Of that sort of Dramatic Poem which is call’d Tragedy.
RAGEDY, as it was anciently compos’d, hath been ever held
the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems :
therefore faid by Aristotle to be of power by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirr'd up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion: for fo in physic things of melancholic hue and quality are us’d against melancholy, four against four, salt to remove falt humors. Hence philofophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their difcourse. The Apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. XV. 33. and Paræus commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguish'd each by a chorus of heavenly harpings and song between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have labor'd not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honor Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also had begun his Ajax, but unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinish'd. Seneca the philofopher is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is intitled Christ suffering. This is mention'd to vindicate tragedy from the small esteem, or
a verse of Euripides] The verse here quoted among the fragments of Menander. p. 79. Le is Evil communications corrupt good manners: Clerc's Edit. but I am inclin'd to think that Milton is mistaken in calling it a verse of Euripides; for
Φθειρoυσιν ηθη χρηθ' ομιλιαι κακαι. Jerome and Grotius (who publish'd the frag- Such nips of memory may be found somements of Menander) and the best commenta. times in the best writers. As we observed betors, ancient and modern, say that it is taken fore, Diodorus Siculus cites Eupolis instead of from the Thais of Menander, and it is extant Aristophanes.