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Tragedia est imitatio actionis seriæ, &c. per miferi
cordiam et metum perficiens talium affectuum lustrationem.
Of that sort of Dramatic Poem which is called Tragedy.
RAGEDY, as it was anciently compos'd, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most
profitable of all other poems: therefore said by Aristotle to be of power by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of thofe 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 affertion : for so in physic things of melancholic hue and quality are us'd against melancholy, four against four, salt to remove falt humors. Hence philosophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their discourse. The Apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to infert * 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 philosopher is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) thac go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Facher of the Church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his
* a verse of Euripides] The verse en from the Thais of Menander, and here quoted is Evil communications it is extant among the fragments of corrupt good manners : but I am in- Menander. p. 79. Le Clerk's Edit. clin'd to think that Milton is mis. taken in calling it a verse of Euri
Φθειρεσιν ηθη χρησ9' ομιλιαι κακαι. . pides; for Jerome and Grotius (who Such flips of memory may be found publith'd the fragments of Menan- sometimes in the best writers. As we der) and the best commentators, an observed before, Diodorus iculus cient and modern, fay that it is tak- cites Eupolisinstead of Aristophanes.
person to write a tragedy, which is intitled Christ suffering. This is mention’d to vindicate tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes ; hap’ning through the poet's error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic sadness and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd ; and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defense, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epistle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us paffes for best, thus much beforehand
may be epistled; that chorus is here introduc'd after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modeling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the Ancients and Italians are rather follow'd, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse us'd in the chorus is of all sorts, calld by the Greeks Monoftropic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epod, which were a kind of stanzas fram'd only for the music, then us'd with the chorus that sung; not essential to the poem, and therefore not material ; or being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be callid Allæostropha. Divifion into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produc'd beyond the fifth act. Of the stile and uniformity, and thatcommonly call'd the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such ceconomy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with versimilitude and decorum; they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets unequal'd yet by any, and the best rule to all who endevor to write tragedy. The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends, is according to ancient rule, and best example, within the space of 24 hours.
Samson inade captive, blind, and now in the prison
at Gaza, there to labor as in a cominon workhouse, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labor, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigh, somewhat retir’d, there to fit a while and bemoan his condition. Where he happens at length to be visited by certain friends and equals of his tribe, which make the Chorus, who seek to comfort him what they can ; then by his old father Manoah, who endevors the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure his liberty by ransom; lastly, that this feast was proclam'd by the Philistines as a day of thanksgiving for their deliverance from the hands of Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endevor with the Philistine lords for Samson's redemption ; who in the mean while is visited by other persons; and lastly by a public officer to require his coming to the feast before the lords and people, to play or show his strength in their presence; he at first refuses, dismisling the public officer with absolute denial to come; at length persuaded inwardly that this was from God, he yields to go along with him, who came · now the second time with great threatnings to fetch him: The Chorus yet remaining on the place Manoah returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son's deliverance : in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedły at first; and afterward more distinctly relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends. VOL. I.