Skip to main content

Full text of "European theories of the drama, an anthology of dramatic theory and criticism from Aristotle to the present day, and a series of selected texts; with commentaries, biographies, and bibliographies"

See other formats

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 

Books by Barrett H. Clark 

Contemporary French Dramatists. 2nd edition. Stewart 

& Kidd Co., Cincinnati. 
The Continental Drama of To-day. 3rd printing. Henry 

Holt, New York. 
The British and American Drama of To-day. Henry Holt, 

New York. 
How to Produce Amateur Plays. 2nd edition. Little, 

Brown, Boston. 


Four Plays of the Free Theater, with a Preface by Brieux. 

Stewart & Kidd Co., Cincinnati. 
Three Modern Plays from the French, with a Preface by 

Clayton Hamilton. Henry Holt, New York. 
Lovers, The Free Woman, They! by Maurice Donnay. 

Little, Brown, Boston. 
Four Plays by Emile Augier, with a Preface by Brieux. 

Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 
Two Belgian Plays, by Gustave Vanzype. Little, Brown, 

The World's Best Plays for Amateurs. (46 volumes.) 

Samuel French, New York. 
The Labyrinth, by Paul Hervieu (in collaboration with 

L. MacClintock). B. W. Huebsch, New York. 
Patriel by Victorien Sardou. 2nd printing. Doubleday, 

Page, New York. 
The Apostle, by P. H. Loyson. Doubleday, Page, New 

A False Saint, by Francois de Curel. Doubleday, Page, 

New York. 
Artists' Families, by Brieux. Doubleday, Page, New York. 
The Fourteenth of July and Danton, by Romain Rolland. 

Henry Holt, New York. 


Plays and Players, by Walter Prichard Eaton, with a 

Preface by Barrett H. Clark. Stewart & Kidd Co., 

Masterpieces of Modern Spanish Drama, edited with an 

Introduction by Barrett H. Clark. Duffield & Co., 

New York. 


European Theories 
of the drama 












Copyright, 1918, by 


All Rights Reserved 

Copyright in England 









European Theories of the Drama is an attempt to set before the reader the devel- 
opment of the theory of dramatic technique in Europe from Aristotle to the present 
time. It has been my purpose to select such texts and parts of texts as have been 
influential in shaping the technical form of plays. Sometimes this doctrine appears 
as criticism of particular works, sometimes as the playwright's own theory of his 
art, and sometimes as a history, a summing up of the dramatic products of a par- 
ticular epoch. 

The texts I have selected are arranged according to countries, and generally in 
:hronological order, so that the whole volume, texts and preliminary historical re- 
marks taken together, will furnish the reader an idea of the changes in dramatic 
technique as they were gradually introduced from country to country, and century 
to century. 

It was no easy task to choose from the vast amount of material exactly what 
iheories were most important, and reject what were foreign to my pre-conceived idea, 
for I have ttied to include only the theories of dramatic form, and not venture into 
the fields of ethics and esthetics. This was, of course, an impossible task, because 
the technique of no true art is separable from ethical and esthetic considerations. It 
was inevitable that in the greater part of the writings I was called upon to consider, 
there should be constant reference to the purely psychological side of dramatic art, 
and to the moral intent and influence. However, as it was out of the question to 
give space in a book the size of the present one, to any of the exclusively esthetic or 
moral disquisitions on the subject, I have contented myselt with including theories 
dealing primarily with dramatic structure. But it will be seen that even in these, 
there is a constant tendency on the part of theorists to enter into the moral side of 
the drama: from Aristotle to Bernard Shaw there is a "school" of dramatic critics 
which demands that the drama shall shape the morals and manners of men; to these 
critics, morality is itself a part of their theory of the form. To Dumas fils, for 
instance, it is the end of the drama, its excuse for existence. I have naturally allowed 
these critics to speak for themselves, and not attempted to select from among their 
utterances the passages dealing exclusively with dramatic form in itself. On the 
3ther hand, the estheticians — like Hegel and Croce — have no place in my scheme, 
for to include them meant the inclusion of the psychologists: it is only a step from 
esthetics to psychology, and it would be necessary to add the interesting, but — from 
ny point of view hardly pertinent — books of Gustave Le Bon and Henri Bergson, 
:o mention but two modern writers. 

The texts in the present collection are culled from many sources. First is the work 
)f the critics pure and simple. Lessing, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Sarcey, are typical critics 
)f this class. Then there are the more philosophical critics who have attempted to 
compile more or less formal treatises: Aristotle, Horace, Scaliger, the Abbe d'Aubig- 


nac, Boileau, Freytag. In a third class are the dramatists themselves, who tell how 
they write plays, or how plays ought to be written: Lope de Vega, Corneille, Moliere, 
Farquhar, Goldoni, Diderot, Zola, Bernard Shaw. The fourth class consists of 
more or less general matter contributed by dramatists, dramatic critics, or men of 
letters generally who have turned their attention to dramatic theory — as for instance, 
Sebillet, Cervantes, Sir Philip Sidney, Saint-Evremond, Rymer, Samuel Johnson, 
Addison, Goethe, Wagner, Charles Lamb, and Brunetiere. 

Why European theories? I had at first intended to use the title World Theories 
of the Drama, but I freely confess that a remark of Mr. Joel Elias Spingarn's dis- 
suaded me. He said that World Theories might do very well for a while, but that 
probably in a few years, when we shall know more about the drama of the world 
than we now do, the title would be misleading. European Theories of the Drama is, 
however, a collection of the most significant theories that have influenced the drama 
of our own civilization. In a volume of this sort I did not think it necessary to 
consider the dramas of the East, of Russia, of the Scandinavian nations, of the 
United States, or of South America. The drama of Japan and China, and that of 
India, has exerted no influence at all upon that of Europe; the Russian drama — 
originally an off -shoot of French drama — is only beginning to be known abroad. 
Ibsen and Strindberg are of course imposing figures, and Ibsen in particular has 
put his impress upon European drama, but the movement, school, or tradition, in 
which he is a link, is not of sufficient importance to warrant the inclusion here of any 
theory of his art, especially as he himself was little inclined to formulate such a theory. 

Possibly a few words of justification for not including American dramatic theories 
may not be amiss. The principal reason for this is that — until recent years, at 
least — there has been no consistently developed American drama. The American 
theater has been dominated from the first by English and French plays, and were I 
to introduce the few American theories of the drama, I should have to place them 
under France and England. There has been much good dramatic criticism in this 
country: Poe, Lowell, and Irving, wrote with discernment on the subject, but it can- 
not be said that they contributed to the development of the native drama ; the drama- 
tists — Boucicault, Bronson Howard, and later Augustus Thomas, William Gillette, 
and Clyde Fitch — have chatted interestingly about their art; and the dramatic 
critics — Brander Matthews, William Winter, Henry Austin Clapp, and others — 
have contributed intelligent and valuable matter to the subject; but in spite of this 
activity, I do not feel justified in devoting part of this volume to America. 

My acknowledgments for aid in compiling European Theories of the Drama are 
numerous. It was inevitable that I should enlist the services of publishers, trans- 
lators, and others in the rather formidable task I had undertaken. Among the many 
who have offered helpful advice, I must mention Mr. Montrose J. Moses, Mr. Clayton 
Hamilton, Professor Brander Matthews, Mr. Archibald Henderson, Mr. Joel Elias 
Spingarn, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, Sir Arthur Pinero, and Mr. Lander MacClintock. 
My translators have considerably lightened the burden I had at first imposed upon 
myself; I am glad to acknowledge the assistance given me by Miss Mildred Rogers, 
Mr. Lander MacClintock, Mrs. Ida Treat O'Neil, Mr. Hatcher H. Hughes, Mrs. 
Winifred Ayres Hope, Mr. August Odebrecht, Mrs. Beatrice Stewart MacClintock, 


Mr. Hobart C, Chatfield-Taylor, Mr. Philip M. Hayden, Mr. William T. Brewster. 
For permission to re-print matter from books and articles, I wish to thank Messrs. 
Macniillan of London and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and Co., Little, Brown and 
Co., The Yale University Press, Longmans Green and Co., Professor Brander 
Matthews, Duffield & Co., Mr. Paul H. Reynolds, Dodd, Mead & Co., Small, Maynard 
& Co., and Brentano's. 

In almost every case I have been able to secure the best published translations of 
standard and classic works, but when this was out of the question I have had to 
resort to the expedient of using the next best, and I have not scrupled to modify 
them after referring to the original, and in exceptional instances, to make use — with 
full permission — of a phrase from the unobtainable standard translation. 

For convenience' sake I have modernized the spelling throughout and at least at- 
tempted to standardize such matters as punctuation, paragraphing, and capitalization. 
I have thought it well to use in most cases the original titles of plays and books. 

In brief, it is my intention to set before the reader not an absolutely literal re- 
print of texts, no matter how corrupt or incomprehensible they may be, but, while 
preserving the thought of the writer intact — so far as it is strictly germane to the 
subject — to present it in the most interesting form possible. 

Bahrett H. Clark. 
March 28, 1918. 
Xew York City. 



Preface . vii 

Greek Dramatic Criticism • . . . 3 

/ Aristotle 4 

— ^ The Poetic 5 

Latin Dramatic Criticism 27 

. Horace 28 

-^The Art of Poetry 29 

Dramatic Criticism of the Middle Ages 41 

Donatus 42 

^On Comedy and Tragedy 43 

^ Dante 45 

Epistle to Can Grande 47 

— Dramatic Criticism of the Italian Renaissance 51 

Daniello 54 

Poetics 54 

Minturno 55 

^>The Art of Poetry 56 

Scaliger 60 

^Poetics 61 

Castelvetro 63 

XPoetics 64 

Miscellaneous Critical Works 64 

b Dramatic Criticism of the French Renaissance 69 

e Sebillet 73 

The Art of Poetry 74 

De la Taille 75 

The Art of Tragedy 76 

Spanish Dramatic Criticism of the Golden Age 81 



Spanish Dramatic Criticism of the Eighteenth Century ... 82 

Spanish Dramatic Criticism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth 

Centuries , • • 83 

Cervantes 85 

Don Quixote 86 

Lope de Vega 88 

The New Art of Making Plays . . 89 

Tirso de Molina 98 

The Orchards of Toledo 94 

Elizabethan Dramatic Criticism 99 

Sidney 108 

An Apologie for Poetry 104 

Jonson 106 

Timber; or, Discoveries, etc 108 

To the Readers (Preface to Sejanus) Ill 

Dedication to Volpone Ill 

French Dramatic Criticism of the Seventeenth Century . . .115 

Ogier 117 

Preface to Tyre and Sidon 118 

Chapelain 123 

Opinions of the French Academy 125 

Summary of a Poetic of the Drama 127 

Abbe d'Aubignac 128 

The Whole Art of the Stage 129 

Corneille 136 

Discourse on the Uses and Elements of Dramatic Poetry . . .139 

Moliere 148 

School for Wives Criticized 150 

Preface to Tartufe 152 

Racine 152 

First Preface to The Thebdid 154 

First Preface to Andromache 154 

First Preface to Britannicus 155 

Preface to Berenice 156 

Preface to Phaedra 157 

^Boileau 157 



—£*The Art of Poetry 158 

Saint-Evremond 162 

Of Ancient and Modern Tragedy 164 

Restoration and Eighteenth Century English Dramatic Criticism ^71 

Dryden 174 

An Essay of Dramatick Poesie 176 

Preface to Troilus and Cressida 193 

Milton 202 

Preface to Samson Agonistes 203 

Rymer 204 

A Short View of Tragedy 205 

Congreve 210 

+ Concerning Humour in Comedy 211 

Farquhar 216 

xA Discourse upon Comedy 217 

Addison 226 

The Spectator 227 

Johnson 228 

The Rambler 230 

Goldsmith 235 

An Essay on the Theatre 236 

Italian Dramatic Criticism of the Seventeenth Century . . .241 

Italian Dramatic Criticism of the Eighteenth Century . . . 241 

Italian Dramatic Criticism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth 

Centuries 242 

Goldoni 244 

* The Comic Theater 246 

Memoirs 247 

German Dramatic Criticism from the Beginnings to Lessing . . 253 

^ Lessing 255 

Hamburg Dramaturgy 256 

French Dramatic Criticism of the Eighteenth Century . . 271 

*-^^Voltaire ...,...,..„,» 273 




Preface to Herod and Mariamne 277 

Letter to Father Poree (Preface to CEdipus) 279 

A Discourse on Tragedy (Preface to Brutus) 282 

Diderot 284 

On Dramatic Poetry 286 

Beaumarchais 299 

Essay on the Serious Drama ' 301 

Dedicatory Letter to The Barber of Seville 308 

Modern German Dramatic Criticism 313 

Schiller 316 

Preface to The Robbers 318 

On Tragic Art 320 

Goethe 322 

Conversations 325 

Epic and Dramatic Poetry 337 

Schlegel 339 

Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature 340 

Wagner . 345 

The Purpose of the Opera 346 

Freytag 353 

The Technique of the Drama 354 

French Dramatic Criticism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth 

Centuries 363 

Hugo 367 

Preface to Cromwell 368 

Dumas fils 382 

Preface to A Prodigal Father . . . 383 

Sarcey 388 

A Theory of the Theater 389 

Zola 399 

Preface to Therese Raquin 400 

runetiere 402 

The Law of the Drama 404 

Maeterlinck 411 

The Tragical in Daily Life 412 

Preface to the Plays . . ....... . , 414 



English Dramatic Criticism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth 

Centuries 419 

Coleridge 422 

Greek Drama 423 

The Progress of the Drama 425 

The Drama Generally, and Public Taste 427 

Notes on the Tempest 429 

Shakespeare's English Historical Plays 432 

Notes on Othello 433 

Lamb 434 

* On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century 435 

Hazlitt 440 

4 On the Comic Writers of the Last Century 441 

i Pinero 453 

Robert Louis Stevenson: The Dramatist 454 

Jones 458 

Introduction to Brunetiere's Law of the Drama 460 

Shaw 471 

The Author's Apology 472 

Letter on the Principles that Govern the Dramatist, etc. . . . 475 

Archer 476 

Playmaking 477 

Index 483 


Greek Dramatic Criticism 3 

Bibliography 3 

Aristotle 4 

Bibliography 5 

The Poetic [HEPI IIOIHTIKH5] translated by Theodore Buckley 

[with slight omissions] (4th Century B.C.) 5 



With the exception of the more or less 
fragmentary Poetics of Aristotle there is 
very little in Greek literature touching 
upon the subject of dramatic theory. 
What we possess are (1) quotations from 
Greek writers like Tneophrastus (in the 
Ars Grammatica of Diomedes), and from 
Greek dramatists (in The Deipnosaphists 
of Athenaeus); (2) passages from Aris- 
tophanes; and (3) works or fragments of 
a more general character, of such writers 
as Plato and Dionysius of Halicarnassus ; 
and (4) the Scholia, or commentaries on 
the dramatists. 

Of dramatic criticism proper there is 
nothing either in Plato or Aristophanes; 
Plato's Republic, Phcedrus, Ion, Laws, 
and other dialogues contain a good deal 
on the subject of poetry, and much on 
dramatic poetry, but, as might be ex- 
pected, the philosopher is concerned 
rather with the moral and philosophic 
than the purely literary and dramatic as- 
pects. Aristophanes' Frogs in particu- 
lar, is full of dramatic criticism of an 
indirect kind, but is neither so objective 
nor so organized as to entitle it to seri- 
ous consideration as a distinct theory of 
the drama. It is only by inference that 
the student may form any definite idea 
of Aristophanes' esthetic ideals. In M. 
Egger's indispensable Histoire de la 
Critique chez les Orecs there is quoted a 
passage attributed to Antiphanes on 
tragedy and comedy. Another short pas- 

sage, attributed to Simylus, practically 
completes the list. 

It was impossible to formulate any 
considerable body of dramatic theory be- 
fore the close of the great dramatic 
epoch ushered in by ^Eschylus, so that 
the absence of any such work as the 
Poetics during that period is not sur- 
prising, Aristotle had before him the 
masterpieces of his country and was able 
to formulate a complete body of doctrine. 
While it has been pointed out that he 
was at a decided disadvantage in not 
knowing the literature of at least one 
other nation besides his own, it is doubly 
fortunate that so well-balanced a philos- 
opher should have happened at the right 
time to sum up the dramatic theory of 
the age which immediately preceded him. 

Of the rhetoricians and grammarians 
who followed Aristotle, of the great 
mass of Scholia on the tragedians and 
Aristophanes, there is very little to be 
said. Most of the commentators were 
concerned almost altogether with ques- 
tions of philology, grammar, and the 
more formal aspects of the drama. 
Much later, Plutarch — in his Compari- 
son of Aristophanes and Mrnander — 
turns to the drama, but his remarks are 
applicable mainly to the moral and stylis- 
tic side. Athenaeus (in the third century 
a. d.) did no more than collect passages 
from earlier writers, some few of which 
are concerned with the drama. 

General works on Greek literature, 
criticism and critics: 

Paul Masqueray, Bibliographic pratique 
de la Litterature grecque, des origines 
a la fin de la periods romain* (Paris, 

W. Christ, Geschichte der grieschischen 
Literatur (in Midler's Handbuch der 
klassischen Altertumsicissenschaft. Bd. 
VII, Munchen, 1890). 

Emile Egger, Essai sur Vhistoire de la 
Critique chez les Grecs (Paris, 3rd ed., 

Gilbert Murray, A History of Ancient 
Greek Literature (New York, new ed., 

L. D. Barnett, Greek Drama, (London, 

Lewis Campbell, A Guide to Greek Trag- 
edy, etc. (London, 1891). 

A. et M. Croiset, Histoire de la Littera- 


ture grecque. (Abridged ed., Paris, 
1900. Translated as An Abridged His- 
tory of Greek Literature, by George 
F. Heffelbower, (New York, 190-4). 

A. E. Haigh, The Attic Theater (Oxford, 
1898). The Tragic Drama of the 
Greeks (Oxford, i896). 

C.-A.-N. Maignien, Du Thi&tre tragique 
des Grecs, etc. (Lyon, 1839). 

R. G. Moulton, The Ancient Classical 
Drama (Oxford, 1898). 

Patin, E tndes sur les tragiques grecs, 4 
vols. (Paris, 1841). 

L. M. Watt, Attic and Elizabethan Trag- 
edy (London, 1908). 

H. Weil, Etudes sur le drame antique 
(Paris, 1897). 

F. C. Welcker, Die grieschischen Tragb- 
dien, 3 vols. (Bonn, 1839.) 

Artaud, Fragments pour servir a Vhis- 
toire de la comedie attique (Paris, 

William Wilson Baker, De Comicis 
grcecis litterarum judicibus (Harvard 
Studies in Class. Phil., vol. 15, pp. 121- 
240. Cambridge, 1904). 

Faustin Colin, Clef de Vllistoire de la 
Comedie grecque (Paris, 1856). 

F. M. Cornford, The Origin of Attic 
Comedy (London, 1914). 

Demetrius Detscheff, De Tragcediarum 
Grcpcarum conformatione scwnica ac 
dramatica (Gottingen, 1904). 

M.-G. Guizot, Mdnandre; Uude historique 
et litteraire sur la comedie et la societe 
grecque (Paris, 1855). 

Jose Hillebrand, Esthetica Litteraria 
Antiqua Classica, etc. (Maguntiae, 

A. Thery, Histoire des opinions litteraires 
(2nd ed., Paris, 1849). 

Ernst Howald, Die Anfdnge der literar- 
ischen Kritik bei den Grieschen (Kircb- 
hain, 1910). 

Abbe Jacquet, Parallele des tragiques 
grecs et franqois (Lille et Lyon, 1760). 

Ph. E. Legrand, Pour Vllistoire de la 
Comedie nouvelle (Rev. des Etudes 
grecques, vol. XV, Paris, 1902). 

E. du Meril, Histoire de la Comedie an- 
cienne, 2 vols. (Paris, 1864-69). 

E. Miiller, Geschichte der Theorie der 
Kunst bei den Alten, 2 vols. (Breslau, 

J.-J. Rousseau, De limitation thi&trale, 
essai tir4 des Dialogues de Platon 
(Amsterdam, 1764). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 1 (2nd ed., New York, 1902). 

Ad. Trendelemburg, Grammaticorum 
Grcecorum de arte tragica judiciorum 
reliquup (Bonn, 1867). 

Leslie Morton Turner, Du Con/lit trag- 
ique chez les Grecs et dans Shakes- 
peare (Paris, 1913). 


Aristotle was born at Stagira in the 
year 384 b. c. The most trustworthy 
biographical account of his life is by 
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his Epistle 
on Demosthenes and Aristotle: "Aris- 
totle was the son of Nichomachus, who 
traced back his descent and his art to 
Machaon, son of Esculapius; his mother 
being Phasstis, a descendant of one of 
those who carried the colony from Chal- 
cis to Stagira. He was born in the 
99th Olympiad in the archonship at 
Athens of Diotrephes (384-383), three 
years before Demosthenes. In the ar- 
chonship of Polyzelus (367-366), after 
the death of his father, in his eighteenth 
year, he came to Athens, and having 

joined Plato, spent twenty years with 
him. On the death of Plato (May 
347), in the archonship of Theopti- 
ilus (348-347) he departed to Her- 
mias, tyrant of Atarneus and, after three 
years' stay, during the archonship 
of Eubulus (345-344) he moved to 
Mitylene, whence he went to Philip of 
Macedon in the archonship of Pythodntus 
(343-342), and spent eight years with 
him as tutor of Alexander. After the 
death of Philip (336), in the archonship 
of Euaenetus (335-334), he returned to 
Athens and kept a school in the Lyceum 
for twelve years. In the thirteenth, after 
the death of Alexander (June 323), in the 
archonship of Cephisodorus (323-322), 


having departed to Chalcis, he died of 
disease (322), after a life of three-and- 
sixty years." 

The Poetics (or, The Poetic, according 
to the translation of the present version) 
of Aristotle is the earliest critical trea- 
tise extant dealing with dramatic prac- 
tice and theory. Besides being a sum- 
ming-up of the first great age of dra- 
matic activity, it lias exercised incalcul- 
able influence over the dramatists of all 
European and many other nations. 
There are few if any important contri- 
butions to dramatic theory and criticism 
which fail to take account of the work, 
but owing to its obviously incomplete 
form, the many corrupt portions of the 
text, its compact and elliptical style, it 
has been constantly misinterpreted, mis- 
quoted, and misunderstood. The famous 
Unities, the terms " Imitation " and 
"Purgation," have in particular proved 
troublesome to the Italian critics of the 
Renaissance and to their followers in 
France. Of late years, however, a num- 
ber of valuable annotated editions, with 
copious notes and explanatory matter, 
have gone far to clear up the misunder- 
standing. Among the recent English edi- 
tions, the most significant is S. H. Butch- 
er's Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and 
Fine Art, containing the original text, a 
translation, and a commentary. 

While Aristotle based his treatise upon 
the Greek poets with whose work he was 
acquainted, his general premises and his 
conclusions are in the main applicable to 
drama in general. Although there was 
an abridged version of the Poetics extant 
in the late Middle Ages, it cannot prop- 
erly be maintained to have made its ap- 
pearance until 1499, when Giorgio Valla 
published at Venice a Latin translation of 
it. This was followed by the Greek text, 
in the Aldine Rhetore's Gr&ci (150S). 

From that time forward, the text was 
translated into the vernacular, com- 
mented upon, and criticized; its influence 
was soon to become of the greatest im- 
portance, not only in Italy, but in 
France, Germany, and England. 

Editions : 

Among the many hundred editions of 
Aristotle, it is necessary to mention only 
a few. Practically all the emendations, 
commentary, and theory of earlier edi- 
tions are to be found in I. Bywaur's 
Aristotle on the Art of Poetry (text, 
translation, and notes, Oxford, 1909), and 
in S. H. Butcher's Aristotle's Theory of 
Poetry and Fine Art (with text of the 
Poetics, translation, bibliography, and 
commentary, 4th edition, revised, Lon- 
don, 1911). Briefer editions — transla- 
tion and notes only — are Aristotle's 
Treatise on Rhetoric and Poetic, trans- 
lated, with analysis and examination 
questions, by Theodore Buckley (Bohn 
ed., London, 1914); A. O. Prickard, 
Aristotle on the Art of Poetry (London, 
1891) ; and Lane Cooper, Aristotle on the 
Art of Poetry (Boston, 1913). 

On Aristotle and his works: 
Notes, etc. in above editions. 

Andre Dacier, La Poe'tique traduite en 
Francois, avec des remarques critiques 
(Paris, 1(392). 

Charles Batteux, Les Quatre PoUiques 
d'Aristote, d' Horace, de Yida, de Des- 
preaux, avec les traductions et des re- 
marques (Paris, 1771). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 1 (New York, 1900). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 
New York. 1908). 

Moise Schwab, Bibliographie d'Aristote 
(Paris, 1896). 

[360-32-2 b. c] 


Let us speak concerning poetry itself, 
and its [different] species; what power 
each possesses, and how fables must be 

1 The present translation, bv Theodore 
Buckley, is reprinted from the Bohn edition 

composed, in order that poetry may be 
such as is fitting: further still, [let us 
show] of how many and what kind of 

(London and New York, late ed., 1914). The 
fcot-notes. unless otherwise designated and 
signed " Ed." are from that edition. Those 
parts of the text enclosed in brackets (by the 


parts it consists; and in like manner [let 
us treat] concerning such other things as 
pertain to this method, beginning, con- 
formably to nature, first from such things 
as are first. 

The epic, therefore, and tragic poetry, 
and moreover comedy, and dithyrambic 
poetry, and the greatest part of the art 
pertaining to the flute and the lyre,2 are 
all entirely imitations. They differ, how- 
ever, in three things; for [they differ] 
either by imitating through means differ- 
ent in kind, or by imitating different ob- 
jects, or in a different, and not after the 
same manner. For as certain persons as- 
similating, imitate many things by colors 
and figures, some indeed through art, 
but others through custom, [and others 
through voice] ; thus also in the afore- 
mentioned arts, all of them indeed pro- 
duce imitation in rhythm, words, and har- 
mony; and in these, either distinctly, or 
mingled together, as, for instance, the 
arts of the flute and the lyre alone em- 
ploy harmony and rhythm; and this will 
also be the case with any other arts which 
possess a power of this kind, such as the 
art of playing on reed-pipes. But the 
arts pertaining to dancing imitate by 
rhythm, without harmony; for dancers, 
through figured rhythms, imitate man- 
ners, and passions, and actions. But the 
epic alone imitates by mere words 3 or 
meters, and by these either mingling 
them with each other, or employing one 
certain kind of meters, which method has 
been adopted up to the present time. 
For otherwise we should have no common 
name by which we could denominate the 
Mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus, and 

editor of the Bohn edition) are considered 
either by him or by some other editor either ms 
of doubtful authenticity or else are merely aids 
to render the sense clearer. Sections XX, 
XXI, and XXII are omitted. They deal with 
diction, language, grammar, and the like. 
Section XX is, according to Butcher " prob- 
ably interpolated " ; also a passage in section 
XXI. Section XXII is for the most part au 
thentic. but is concerned with minor points of 
language. Section XXV is also omitted, as it 
deals mainly with objections, or " Problems." — 

2 Cithern-playing was one of the favorite 
accomplishments of the Athenian youth. 

3 There is much difficulty about this defini- 
tion of iiroirotta, as Koyois i/aXois is supposed 
by some to mean prose (see Robortello, p. 14). 
by others, verse without music. The sense is. 
therefore, " by prose or by meter, but unac- 
companied by song." 

the dialogues of Socrates; or those who 
imitate by trimeters, or elegies, or cer- 
tain other things of this kind; except 
that men joining with meter the verb to 
make,* call some of these makers of ele- 
gies, but others epic makers, not as poets 
according to imitation, but denominating 
them in common according to measure. 
For they are accustomed thus to denomi- 
nate them, if they write anything medical 
or musical in verse. There is, however, 
nothing common to Homer and Empedo- 
cles except the measure; on which ac- 
count, it is right indeed to call the former 
a poet; but the latter a physiologist 
rather than a poet. In like manner, 
though some one mingling all the meas- 
ures, should produce imitation, as Chaere- 
mon has done in his Centaur, a mixed 
rhapsody of all the meters, yet he must 
not be called a poet. Let it then be thus 
laid down concerning these particulars. 
But there are some kinds of poetry 
which employ all the before-mentioned 
means, I mean, rhythm, melody and 
measure, such as dithyrambic poetry and 
the Nomes,^ and also tragedy and com- 
edy. But these differ, because some of 
them use all these at once, but others 
partially. I speak, therefore, of these 
differences of the arts in respect to the 
means by which they produce imitation. 



But since imitators imitate those who 
do something, and it is necessary that 
these should either be worthy or de- 
praved persons (for manners nearly al- 

4 It may be necessary to observe, that the 
Greek word {irotvrvs — poUtes) whence porta, 
and poet, is, literally, maker; and maker, it is 
well known, was once the current term for 
poet in our language; and to write verses, was. 
to make. Sir Philip Sidney, speaking of the 
Greek word, says. " wherein, I know not 
whether by luck or wisdom, we Englishmen 
have met with the Greeks, in tailing him 
maker." Defense of Poesy. — Twining. 

s In dithyrambic or Bacchic hymns, and in 
the Nomes, which were also a species of hymns 
to Apollo and other deities, all the means of 
imitation were employed together, and through- 
out : in tragedy and comedy, separately ; some 
of them in one part of the drama, and some in 
another. In the choral part, however, at least, 
if nowhere else. all. melody, rhythm, and words, 
must probably have been used at once, as in 
the hymns. — Twining. 


ways depend on these alone, since all men 
differ in their manners by vice and vir- 
tue) ; it is necessary either [to imitate] 
those who are better than we are, or 
thoi>e who are worse, or such as are like 
ourselves.'^ in the same manner as paint- 
ers do. For Polygnotus, indeed, painted 
men more beautiful than they are, but 
Pauson less so, and Dionysius painted 
them as they are." But it is evident that 
each of the before-mentioned imitations 
will have these differences; and imita- 
tion is different, by imitating different 
things after this manner. For there may 
be differences of this kind in dancing, in 
playing on the flute, on the lyre, and also 
in orations and mere measure. Thus 
Homer imitates better men 8 [than exist], 
but Cleophon men as they are; and Heg- 
emon the Thasian, who first made paro- 
dies, and Nicochares, who wrote the 
Deliad, imitate worse characters. In 
like manner in dithyrambics and the 
N'omi, [as Timotheus and Philoxenus 
have imitated the Persians and the Cy- 
clops,] one may imitate. By this very 
same difference, also, tragedy differs 
from comedy. For the one seeks to imi- 
tate worse, but the other better men than 

CHAP. Ill 


There is also a third difference of 
these, consisting in the manner in which 
one may imitate each of them. For by 
the same instruments the same things 
may be imitated, the poet sometimes 
himself narrating, and sometimes assum- 
ing another person [as Homer does *] ; 
or speaking as the same person without 
any change; or as all imitate [who do so] 
by deed and action. But imitation con- 

8 Or, " those who are commonly found." 

7 Polygnotus and Dionvsius lived about 
01. 80: Pauson about 01. 90. 

8 Superior, that is. in courage, strength, ■wis- 
dom, prudence, etc. — in any laudable, useful, 
or admirable quality, whether such as we de- 
nominate moral, or not. If superiority of 
moral character only were meant, the assertion 
would be false. — It is necessary to remember 
here, the vide sense in which the ancients used 
the terms virtue, rice — good, bad, etc. — 

» But this assertion is not correct and Ritter 
shows that the words are spurious. 

sists in these three differences, as we said 
in the beginning; viz. in the means, the 
objects, or the manner. Hence, Soph- 
ocles will in one respect be the same imi- 
tator as Homer, for both of them imitate 
elevated characters; and in another the 
same as Aristophanes, for both of them 
imitate persons engaged in acting; 
[io whence also it is said that certain 
persons call their works dramas, because 
they imitate those who are engaged in 
doing something. On this account the 
Dorians lay claim to the invention of 
tragedy and comedy; of comedy indeed 
the Megarians, as well those who are na- 
tives of Greece, as being invented by 
them at the time when their government 
was a democracy, as those of Sicily. For 
thence was the poet Epicharmus, who 
was much prior to Chonides and Magnes. 
But some of those Dorians who inhabit 
Peloponnesus lay claim to tragedy, mak- 
ing names an evidence. For they allege 
that they call their villages komai, but 
the Athenians demoi; as if comedians 
were not so denominated from komazein, 
[i. e. to rtvel] but from their wandering 
through villages, being ignominiously ex- 
pelled from the cities. The verb poiein 
also, or to make, is by the Dorians de- 
nominated dran, but by the Athenians 
praltein.] And thus much concerning 
the differences of imitation, as to their 
number and quality. 



Two causes, however, and these physi- 
cal, appear to have produced poetry in 
general. For to imitate is congenial to 
men from childhood. And in this they 
differ from other animals, that they are 
most imitative, and acquire the first dis- 
ciplines through imitation; and that all 
men delight in imitations. But an evi- 
dence of this is that which happens in 
the works [of artists]. For we are de- 
lighted on surveying very accurate im- 
ages, the realities of which are painful 
to the view; such as the forms of the 
most contemptible animals, and dead 
bodies. The cause, however, of this is 
that learning is not only most delightful 

10 The learned note of Ritter seems to con- 
demn the whole of this passage as spurious. 



to philosophers, but in like manner to 
other persons, though they partake of it 
but in a small degree. For on this ac- 
count, men are delighted on surveying 
images, because it happens that by sur- 
veying they learn and infer what each 
particular is; as, that this is an image 
of that man; since, unless one happen 
to have seen [the reality], it is not the 
imitation that pleases, but [it is through] 
either the workmanship, or the color, or 
some other cause of the like kind. But 
imitation, harmony, and rhythm being 
natural to us, (for it is evident that 
measures or meters are parts of 
rhythms 11), the earliest among mankind, 
making a gradual progress in these 
things from the beginning, produced 
poetry from extemporaneous efforts. 
But poetry was divided according to 
appropriate, manners. For men of a 
more venerable character imitated beau- 
tiful actions, and the actions of such 
men; but the more ignoble imitated the 
actions of depraved characters, first com- 
posing vituperative verses, in the same 
manner as the others composed hymns 
and encomiums. Of the authors, there- 
fore, before Homer, we cannot mention 
any poem of this kind; though it is prob- 
able that there were many such writers. 
But if we begin from Homer, there are 
such for instance as his Margites, and 
some others, in which, as being suited, 
the measure is Iambic. Hence, also, the 
Iambic verse is now called, because in 
this meter they used to Iambize (i. e. 
defame) each other. Of ancient poets, 
likewise, some composed heroic poems, 
and others Iambic. But as Homer was 
the. greatest of poets on serious subjects, 
(and this not only because he alone imi- 
tated well, but also because he made dra- 
matic imitations), thus too he first dem- 
onstrated the figures of comedy, not 

it '' Rhythm differs from meter, inasmuch 
as rhythm is proportion, applied to any mo- 
tion whatever; meter is proportion, applied to' 
the motion of words svoken. Thus, in the* 
drumming of a march, or the dancing of a 
hornpipe, there is rhythm, though no meter; 
in Dryden's celebrated Ode there is meter as 
well as rhythm, because the poet with the 
rhythm lias associated certain words. And 
hence it follows, that, though Ai.tu meter is 


Harris's Philol. Inquiries, p. 67, — where it is 
also observed, very truly, that " no English 
word expresses rhythmus better than the word 
time." P. 69, note. — Twining. 

dramatically exhibiting invective, but 
ridicule. For the Margites bears the 
same analogy to comedy, as the Iliad and 
Odyssey to tragedy. But when tragedy 
and comedy had appeared, those poets 
who were naturally impelled to each kind 
of poetry, some, instead of writing Iam- 
bics, became comic poets, but others, in- 
stead of [writing] epic poems, became 
the authors of tragedies, because these 
forms [of poetry] are greater and more 
esteemed than those. To consider, there- 
fore, whether tragedy is now perfect in 
its species or not, regarded as well with 
reference to itself as to the theaters, is 
the business of another treatise. Both 
tragedy and comedy, therefore, at first 
originated from extemporaneous efforts. 
And tragedy, indeed, originated from 
those who led the dithyramb, but com- 
edy from those who sung the Phallic 
verses, which even now in many cities 
remain in use; and it gradually increased 
as obvious improvements became known. 
And tragedy, having experienced many 
changes, rested when it had arrived at its 
proper nature. ./Eschylus, also, first in- 
creased the number of players from one 
to two, abridged the functions of the 
chorus, and made one of the players act 
the chief part. But Sophocles introduced 
three players into the scene, and added 
scenic painting. Further still, the mag- 
nitude [of tragedy increased] from small 
fables and ridiculous diction, in conse- 
quence of having been changed from 
satyric 12 composition, it was late be tore 
it acquired dignity. The meter also of 
tragedy, from tetrameter, became Iam- 
bic (for at first they used tetrameter in 
tragedy, because poetry was then satyri- 
cal, and more adapted to the dance, but 
dialogue being adopted, nature herself 
discovered a suitable meter; for the 
Iambic measure is most of all adapted 
to conversation. And as an evidence of 
this, we most frequently speak in Iam- 
bics in familiar discourse with each 

1- Satyric, from the share which those fan- 
tastic beings called Satyrs, the. companions and 
play-fellows of Bacchus, had in the earliest 
Tragedy, of which they formed the chorus. 
Joking and dancing were essential attributes 
of these rustic semi-deities. Hence the " In 
dicrous language " and the " dancing genius " 
of the old Tragedy, to which the trochaic; or 
running meter here spoken of was peculiarly 
adapted. — Twining. 


ether; but we seldom speak in hexa- 
meters, and then only when we depart 
from that harmony which is adapted to 
conversation). Again, tragedy is said to 
have been further adorned, with a multi- 
tude of episodes, and other particulars. 
Let, therefore, thus much said suffice 
concerning things; for it would per- 
haps l»e a great toll to discuss every 




But comedy is, as we have said, an 
imitation indeed of bad characters, yet it 
does not imitate them according to every 
vice, [but the ridiculous only]; since the 
ridiculous is a portion of turpitude. For 
the ridiculous is a certain error, and 
turpitude unattended tcith pain, and not 
destructive. Thus, for instance, a ridic- 
ulous face is something deformed and 
distorted without pain. The transitions, 
therefore, of tragedy, and the causes 
through which they are produced, are not 
unknown; but [those of] comedy have 
escaped our knowledge, because it was 
not at first an object of attention. For 
it was late before the magistrate gave a 
chorus to comedians i3; but prior to that 
period, the choruses were voluntary. 
Comedy, however, at length having ob- 
tained a certain form, those who are said 
to have been poets therein are commemo- 
rated. But it is unknown who it was 
that introduced masks or prologues, or a 
multitude of players, and such like par- 
ticulars. But Epicharmus and Phormis 
[were the first] to compose fables; which, 
therefore, originated from Sicily. But 
among the Athenians, Crates, rejecting 
the Iambic form, first began generally to 
compose speeches and fables. The epic, 
therefore, is an attendant on tragedy, 
[with the exception of the long meter,] 
since through this it is an imitation of 
worthy characters and actions. But it 
differs from tragedy in that it has a 
simple meter, and is a narration. It also 
[differs from it] in length. For tragedy 
is especially limited by one period of 
the sun, or admits but a small variation 

13 This was almost equivalent to the modern 
** licensing " of plays, but was probably con- 
ducted with mpre taste and less absurdity. 

from this period; but the epic is not de- 
fined within a certain time, and in this 
it differs; though at first they observed 
the same conduct with tragedy, no less 
than epic poetry. With respect to the 
parts, however, [of the epic and tragedy,] 
some are the same in both, but others are 
peculiar to tragedy. Hence he who 
knows what is a good or bad tragedy, 
knows the same in respect to epic poetry. 
For those things which the epic pos- 
sesses are to be found in tragedy; but 
everything which tragedy contains is not 
in the epic 





Concerning, therefore, imitative poetry 
in hexameters, and comedy, we shall 
s|>eak hereafter. Let us now, however, 
speak concerning tragedy, assuming the 
definition of its essence as arising from 
what has been already said.i* Tragedy, 
therefore, is an imitation of a worthy or 
illustrious and perfect action, possessing 
magnitude, in pleasing language, using 
separately the several species of imita- 
tion in its parts, by men acting, and not 
through narration, through pity and fear 
effecting a purification from such like 
passions. But by pleasing language, I 
mean language possessing rhythm, har- 
mony, and melody. And it uses separ- 
ately the several species [of imitation], 
because some parts of the tragedy are 
alone perfected through meters, and 
others again through melody. But since 
they produce imitation by acting, in the 
first place the ornament of the spec- 
tacle is will be a certain part of the trag- 

H This much discussed definition of tragedy 
is thus rendered by Butcher : " Tragedy, then, 
is an imitation of an action that is serious, 
complete, and of a certain magnitude; in lan- 
guage embellished with each kind of artistic 
ornament, the several kinds being found in 
separate parts of the play; in the form of 
action, not of narrative; through pity and fear 
effecting the proi>er purgation of these emo- 
tions." — Ed. 

15 " Deeo ration — literally, the decoration of 
the spectacle, or ityiht. In other places it is 
caDed the rpecta/ie, or givht only — 6\btf It 
comprehends scenrry, dre**e* — the whole visi 
ble apparatus of the theater I do not know 
any single English word that answers fully. to 
the Greek word" — .Twining. 



edy, and in the next place the melopwia is 
and the diction. For by these they pro- 
duce imitation. But I call diction, in- 
deed, the composition of the meters; and 
melopceia that, the whole power of which 
is apparent. Since, however, [tragedy] 
is an imitation of action, and action is 
effected by certain agents, who must 
needs be persons of a certain description 
both as to their manners and their senti- 
ments, (for from these we say that ac- 
tions derive their quality), hence there 
are naturally two causes of actions, sen- 
timents and moral habit, and through 
these actions all men obtain or fail of the 
object of their wishes. But a fable, in- 
deed, is an imitation of action; for I 
mean by a fable here, the composition of 
incidents. By manners, I mean those 
things according to which we say that 
agents are persons of a certain charac- 
ter; and by sentiment, that through 
which those who speak demonstrate any 
thing, or explain their meaning. It is 
necessary, therefore, that the parts of 
every tragedy should be six, from which 
the tragedy derives its quality. But 
these are, fable and manners, diction and 
sentiment, spectacle and melopwia. Of 
these parts, however, two pertain to the 
means by which they imitate; one, to the 
manner; and three, to the objects. And 
besides these, there are no other. [Not 
a few [tragic poets], therefore, as I may 
say, use all these parts.] For every 
tragedy has scenic apparatus, manners, 
and a fable, and melody, and, in a similar 
manner, sentiment. But the greatest of 
these is the combination of the incidents. 
For tragedy is an imitation not of men, 
but of actions, [of life, and of felicity. 
For infelicity consists in action, and the 
end is a certain action, and not a qual- 
ity]. Men, however, are persons of a 
certain character, according to their 
manners; but according to their actions, 
they are happy, or the contrary. The 
end of tragedy, therefore, does not con- 
sist in imitating manners, but it embraces 

16 M elopceia — literally, the making, or the 
composition, of the Music; as we use Epopocia, 
or according to the French termination, which 
we have naturalized. Epopee, to signify epic 
poetry, or epic-making , in general. — I might 
have rendered it, at once, the music: but that 
it would have appeared ridiculous to observe, 
of a word so familiar to us, even that " its 
meaning is obvious." — Twining. 

manners on account of actions; so that i 
the action and the fable are the end of J 
tragedy. But the end is the greatest of I 
all things. Moreover, without action, 
tragedy cannot exist; but it may exist 
without manners. For most modern 
tragedies are without manners; and in 
short, many poets are such as among 
painters Zeuxis is when compared 
with Polygnotus. For Polygnotus, in- 
deed, painted the manners of the good; 
but the pictures of Zeuxis are without 
manners. Further still, if any one place 
in a continued series moral speeches, say- 
ings, and sentiments well framed, he will 
not produce that which is the work of 
tragedy; but that will be much more a 
tragedy which uses these things as sub- 
ordinate, and which contains a fable and 
combination of incidents. Add to this, 
that the greatest parts by which fable 
allures the soul, are the revolutions and 
discoveries. Again, it is likewise an evi- 
dence of this, that those who attempt 
to write tragedies acquire the power of 
expressing a thing in tragic diction and 
manners accurately, before they can com- 
pose a fable, as was the case with nearly 
all the first poets. The fable, therefore, 
is the principal part, and as it were the 
soul of tragedy; but the manners are 
next in rank. [Just as in painting, if 
any one were to spread the most beauti- 
ful pigments on promiscuously, he would 
not please the view so much as by out- 
lining an image with white color only. 
Tragedy also is an imitation of action, 
and on this account, especially, [an imi- 
tation] of agents. But the sentiments 
rank third. And by them [ I mean] the 
power of explaining what in inherent in 
the subject, and adapted to it, which is 
the peculiar province of politics 17 and 
rhetoric. For the ancient poets repre- 
sent those whom they introduce as speak- 
ing politically; but those of the present 
day, rhetorically. But the manners are 
whatever shows what the deliberate 
choice is. Hence those speeches are 
without manners, in which there is alto- 
gether nothing that the speaker may 

17 The reader here must not think of our 
modern politics. — The political, or civil art, or 
science, was, in Aristotle's view, of wide extent 
and high importance. It comprehended ethics 
and eloquence, or the art of public speaking; 
everything, in short, that concerned the well- 
being of a state. — Twining. 



choose or avoid. But sentiment is that 
through which they show that a certain 
thing in, or is not, or by which they uni- 
versally enunciate something. And the 
fourth part of tragedy is diction. But 
I say, as was before observed, that dic- 
tion is interpretation by the means of 
•words, and which also has the same 
power in verse and prose. But of the 
remaining five, the melopoeia is the great- 
est of the embellishments. But the 
scenic decoration is alluring indeed; yet 
it is most inartificial, and is in the small- 
est degree akin to poetry. For the 
power of tragedy remains, even when un- 
accompanied with scenic apparatus and 
players. And further still, the art of the 
mechanic possesses more power in con- 
structing the scenic apparatus than that 
of the poet] 



These things being defined, let us in 
the next place show what the combina- 
tion of the incidents ought to be, since 
this is the first and greatest part of 
tragedy. But it is granted to us that 
tragedy is the imitation of a perfect and 
whole action, and of one which possesses 
a certain magnitude; for there may be a 
whole which has no magnitude. But a 
whole is that which has a beginning, mid- 
dle, and end. And the beginning is that 
which necessarily is not itself posterior 
to another thing; but another thing is 
naturally expected to follow it. On the 
contrary, the end is that which is itself 
naturally adapted to be posterior to an- 
other thing, either from necessity, or for 
the most part ; but after this there is 
nothing else. But the middle is that 
which is itself after another thing, and 
after which there is something else. 
Hence, it is necessary that those who 
compose fables properly, should neither 
begin them casually, nor end them cas- 
ually, but should employ the above-men- 
tioned forms [of beginning, middle, and 
end]. Further still, since that which is 
beautiful, whether it be an animal, or 
any thing else which is composed from 
certain parts, ought not only to have 
these parts arranged, but a magnitude 
also which is not casual. For the beau- 

tiful consists in magnitude and order. 
Hence, neither can any very small ani- 
mal be beautiful; for the survey of it is 
confused, since it is effected in a time 
nearly insensible. Nor yet a very large 
animal; for it is not surveyed at once, 
but its subsistence as one and a whole 
escapes the view of the spectators; such 
as if, for instance, it should be an animal 
of ten thousand stadia in length. Hence, 
as in bodies and in animals it is necessary 
there should be magnitude; but such as 
can easily be seen; thus also in fables, 
there should be length, but this such as 
can easily be The defini- 
tion, however, of the length with refer- 
ence to contests is and the senses, does 
not fall under the consideration of art. 
For if it were requisite to perform a 
hundred tragedies, [as is said to have 
been the case more than once], the per- 
formance ought to be regulated by a 
clepsydra. But the definition [of the 
length of the fable] according to the 
nature of the thing, is this, that the fable 
is always more beautiful the greater it is, 
if at the same time it is perspicuous. 
Simply defining the thing, however, we 
may say, [that a fable has an appropri- 
ate magnitude], when the time of its 
duration is such as to render it probable 
that there can be a transition from pros- 
perous to adverse, or from adverse to 
prosperous fortune, according to the 
necessary or probable order of things as 
they take place. This is a sufficient defi- 
nition of magnitude. 



The fable, however, is one, not as some 
suppose, if one person is the subject of 
it; for many things which are infinite in 
kind happen [to one man], from a cer- 
tain number of which no one event arises. 
Thus, also, there are many actions of 

18 The unity here spoken of, it must be re- 
membered, is not absolute and simple, but 
relative and compound, unity; a unity con- 
sisting of different parts, the relation of which 
to each other and to the whole, is easily per- 
ceived at one view. On this depends the per- 
ception of beauty in form. — In objects too 
extended, you may be said to have parts, but 
no whole : in very minute objects the whole, 
but no parts. — Twining. 

19 i. e. to its representation at the dramatic 



one man, from which no one action is 
produced. Hence all those poets appear 
to have erred who have written the tler- 
acleid, and These id, and such like poems. 
For they suppose that because Hercules 
was one person, it was fit that the fable 
should be one. Homer, however, as he 
excelled in other things, appears like- 
wise to have seen this clearly, whether 
from art, or from nature. For in com- 
posing the Odyssey, he has not related 
every thing which happened to Ulysses; 
such as the being wounded in Parnas- 
sus,-o and pretending to be insane 21 at 
the muster of the Greeks; one of which 
taking place, it was not necessary or 
probable that the other should happen; 
but he composed the Odyssey, as also his 
Hind, upon one action. It is requisite, 
therefore, that as in other imitative arts 
one imitation is the imitation of one 
thing, thus, also, [in tragedy], the fable, 
since it is an imitation of action, should 
' be the imitation of one action, and of 
' the whole of this, and that the parts of 
the transactions should be so arranged, 
that any one of them being transposed, 
or taken away, the whole would become 
different and changed. For that which 
when present or not present produces no 
sensible [difference], is not a part of the 





But it is evident from what has been 
said, that it is not the province of a 
poet to relate things which have hap- 
pened, but such as might have happened, 
and such things as are possible accord- 
ing to probability, or which would neces- 
sarily have happened. For an historian 
and a poet do not differ from each other 

20 This incident is, however, related, and at 
considerable length, in the xixth book of the 
Odyssey (v. 563 of Pope's translation), but 
digressively. and incidentally; it made no es- 
sential part of his general plan. — Twining. 

21 A ridiculous story. — " To avoid going to 
the Trojan war. Ulysses pretended to be mad; 
and, to prove his insanity, went to plow with 
an ox and a horse; but Palamedes, in order to 
detect him. laid his infant son. Telemachus, in 
the way of the plow; upon which Ulysses im- 
mediately stopped, and thereby proved himself 

Jo be in his right senses.'" — Twining. 

because the one writes in verse and the 
other in prose; for the history of Hero- 
dotus might be written in verse, and yet 
it would be no less a history with meter 
than without meter. But they differ in 
this, that the one speaks of things which 
have happened, and the other of such as 
might have happened. Hence, poetry is 
more philosophic, and more deserving 
of attention, than history. For poetry 
speaks more of universals, but history 
of particulars. But universal consists 
indeed in relating or performing certain 
things which happen to a man of a cer- 
tain description, either probably or nec- 
essarily, [to which the aim of poetry is 
directed in giving names 22] ; but 'partic- 
ular consists in narrating what, [for ex- 
ample], Alcibiades did, or what he suf- 
fered. In comedy, therefore, this is now 
become evident. For [comic poets] hav- 
ing composed a fable through things of a 
probable nature, they thus give what- 
ever names they please 23 to their char- 
acters, and do not, like Iambic poets, 
write poems about particular persons. 
But in tragedy they cling to real names. 
The cause, however, of this is that the 
possible is credible. Things, therefore, 
which have not yet been done, we do not 
yet believe to be possible; but it is evi- 
dent that things which have been done 
are possible; for they would not have 
been done if they were impossible. Not, 
indeed, but that in some tragedies there 
are one or two of known names, and the 
rest are feigned; but in others there is 
no known name; as, for instance, in The 
Flower of Agatho. For in this tragedy, 
the things and the names are alike 
feigned, and yet it delights no less. 
Hence, one must not seek to adhere en- 
tirely to traditional fables, which are the 
subjects of tragedy. For it is ridiculous 
to make this the object of search, because 
even known subjects are known but to a 
few, though at the same time they de- 
light all men. From these things, there- 
fore, it is evident that a poet ought 
rather to be the author of fables than of 

22 Ritter well observes that the perspicuity 
of this otherwise clear passage is destroyed by 
this absurd interpolation. 

31 Thus nearly all the names in the comedies 
of Terence and Plautus, thus Dromo and Sosia 
are applied to slaves, PampFiilus to a lover, 
Glycerium or Philumena to a lady, Pyrgopoli- 
nices or Thraso to soldiers. 



meters, inasmuch as be is a poet from im- 
itation, and he imitates actions. Hence, 
though it should happen that he relates 
things which have happened, he is no 
less a poet. For nothing hinders but 
that some actions which have happened 
are such as might both probably ** and 
possibly have happened, and by [the nar- 
ration of J such he is a poet. 

But of simple plots and actions, the 
episodic are the worst. But I call the 
plot episodic, in which it is neither prob- 
able nor necessary that the episodes fol- 
low each other. Such plots, however, are 
composed by bad poets indeed, through 
their own want of ability; but by good 
poets, on account of the players. For, 
introducing [dramatic] contests, and ex- 
tending the plot beyond its capabilities, 
they are frequently compelled to distort 
the connexion of the parts. But, since 
tragedy is not only an imitation of a per- 
fect action, but also of actions which are 
terrible and piteous, and actions princi- 
pally become such, [and in a greater de- 
gree, when they happen contrary to opin- 
ion], on account of each other.-. . . For 
thus they will possess more of the mar- 
velous, than if they happened from 
chance and fortune; since, also, of things 
which are from fortune, those appear to 
be most admirable, which seem to hap- 
pen as it were by design. Thus the 
statue of Mityus at Argos killed him 
who was the cause of the death of Mityus 

24 It may appear to the reader to be a 
strange observation, that " some true events 
Kay be probable." But he will recollect what 
sort of ccrnts, and what sort of probability. 
Aristotle here speaks of: i.e. of extraordinary 
ectntg, such as Poetry requires, and of that 
more strict and perfect probability, that closer 
connection and visible dependence of circum- 
stances, which are always required from the 
poet, though in such events, not often to be 
found in fart, and real life, and therefore not 
exjtected from the historian. 

This general, and. if I may call it so. possi- 
ble sort of probability, may be termed, the 
piobahility of romance; and these lines of 
Agatho furnish a good apologetical motto for 
the novel writer. It might be prefixed, per- 
haps, without impropriety, even to the best 
productions of the kind — to a Clarissa or a 
Cecilia. Nothing is so commonly complained 
of in snch works, as their improbability .- and 
often, no doubt, the complaint is well-founded: 
often, however, the criticism means nothing 
more than that the events are uncommon, and 
proves nothing more than the want of fancy, 
and an extended view of human life in the 
reader. If the events were not uncommon, 
where wpuld the book find readers ! — Twining. 

by falling as he was surveying it. For 
such events as these seem not to take 
place casually. Hence it is necessary 
that fables of this kind should be more 



Of fables, however, some are simple, 
and others complex; for so also are the 
actions of which fables are the imita- 
tions. But I call the action simple, from 
which taking place, as it has l»een de- 
fined, with continuity and unity, there is 
a transition without either revolution or 
discovery; but complex, from which there 
is a transition, together with discovery, 
or revolution, or both. It is necessary, 
however, that these should be effected 
from the composition itself of the fable, 
so that from what has formerly happened 
it may come to pass that the same things 
take place either necessarily or probably. 
For it makes a great difference whether* 
these things are effected on account of | 
these, or after these. ' 


Now, revolution is a mutation, as has 
been stated, of actions into a contrary 
condition; and this, as we say, according 
to the probable, or the necessary. Thus 
in the (Edipus the messenger who comes 
with an intention of delighting CFdipis 
and liberating him from his fear respect- 
ing his mother, when he makes himself 
known, produces a contrary effect. 
Thus, too, in the Lyncevs, he indeed is, 
introduced as one who is to die, and 
Danaus follows with an intention of kill- 
ing him; but it happens from the course 
of incidents, that Lynceus is saved, and 
Danaus is slain. And discovery is, as 
the name signifies, a change from igno- 
rance to knowledge, or into the friend- 
ship or hatred of those who are destined 
to prosperous or adverse fortune. The 
discovery, however, is most beautiful, 
when at the same time there are, as in 
the (Edipun. revolutions. There are, 
therefore, other discoveries also. For 
sometimes it happens, as has been before 
observed, that there are discoveries of 
things inanimate and casual; or if some 
one has performed, or has not performed, 



a thing, there is a recognition of it; but 
the discovery which especially pertains to 
/the fable and the action is that before 
1 mentioned. For a discovery and revo- 
lution of this kind will excite either pity 
or fear; and tragedy is supposed to be 
an imitation of such actions [as excite 
fear and pity J. Again, it will happen 
that infelicity and felicity will be in such 
like discoveries. But since discovery is 
a discovery of certain persons, some [dis- 
coveries] are of one person only with 
reference to another, when it is evident 
who the other person is, but sometimes it 
is necessary to discover both persons. 
/i Thus Iphigenia was recognized by Ores- 
/ tes through the sending of an epistle; but 
another discovery was requisite to his 
being known by Iphigenia. [Two parts 
of the fable, therefore, viz. revolution 
and discovery, are conversant with these 
things; but the third part is pathos. 
And of these, revolution and discovery 
have been already discussed. Pathos, 
however, is an action destructive, or la- 
mentable; such as death when it is obvi- 
ous, grievous pains, wounds, and such 
like particulars.] 



[But we have before spoken of the 
parts of tragedy which are requisite to 
constitute its quality. The parts of trag- 
edy, however, according to quantity, and 
into which it is separately divided, are 
as follows: prologue,25 episode,26 exode,27 
and chorus, of the parts of which one is 
the parados ,28 but the other is the sta- 
simon.-* These [five] parts, therefore, 

25 Prologue — This may be compared to our 
first act. — Twining. 

26 Episode — i. e. a part introduced, in- 
serted, etc., as all the dialogue was, originally, 
between the choral odes. — Twining. 

27 Exode — i.e. the going out, or exit; the 
concluding act, as we should term it. The 
Greek tragedies never finished with a choral 
ode. — Twining. 

28 Parade — i. e. entry of the chorus upon 
the stage: and hence the term was applied to 
u-hat they first sung, upon their entry. — Twin- 

29 Stasimon — i.e. stable; because, as it is 
explained, these odes were sung by the choral 
troop when fixed on the stage, and at rest: 
whereas the parode is said to have been sung 
as they came on. Hence, the trochaic and 
anaposstic measures, being lively and full of 

are common to all [tragedies] ; but the 
peculiar parts are [the songs] from the 
scene and the kommoi. And the pro- 
logue, indeed, is the whole part of the 
tragedy, prior to the entrance of the 
chorus. The episode is the whole part 
of the tragedy between two complete 
odes of the chorus. The exode is the 
whole part of the tragedy, after which 
there is no further melody of the chorus. 
And of the chorus, the parados, indeed, 
is the first speech of the whole chorus; 
but the stasimon is the melody of the 
chorus, without anapaest and trochee: 
and the commos so is the common lamen- 
tation of the chorus and from the scene. 
But we have before shown what the parts 
of tragedy are which must necessarily be 
used; but the parts of it according to 
quantity, and into which it is separately 
divided, are these.31] 



In the next place we must show, as 
consequent to what has been said, what 
those who compose fables ought to aim 
at, and beware of, and whence the pur- 
pose of tragedy is effected. Since, there- 
fore, it is necessary that the composition 
of the most beautiful tragedy should not 
be simple, but complex, and that it should 
be imitative of fearful and piteous ac- 
tions — (for this is the peculiarity of 
such imitation) — in the first place "it is 
evident that it is not proper that worthy 
men should be represented as changed 
from prosperity to adversity, (for this is 
neither a subject of terror nor commis- 
eration, but is impious,) nor should de- 
praved characters [be represented as 
changed] from adversity to prosperity; 
for this is the most foreign from tragedy 
of all things, since it possesses nothing 
which is proper; for it neither appeals to 
moral sense, nor is piteous, nor fearful. 
Nor, again, must a very depraved man 
be represented as having fallen from 
prosperity into adversity. For such a 
composition will indeed possess moral 

motion, were adapted to the parode, but not to 
the stasimon. — Twining. 

30 From a verb signifying to beat or strike; 
alluding to the gestures of violent grief. 

si Ritter, who has illustrated this whole 
chapter with great learning and taste, allows 



(tendency, but not pity or fear. For the 
one is conversant with a character which 
does not deserve to be unfortunate; but 
the other, with a character similar [to 
one's own]. [And pity, indeed, is ex- 
cited for one who does not deserve to be 
unfortunate; but fear, for one who re- 
sembles oneself] ; so that the event will 
neither appear to be commiserable, nor 
terrible. There remains therefore the 
character between these. But a charac- 
ter of this kind is one who neither excels 
n virtue and justice, nor is changed 
through vice and depravity, into misfor- 
tune, from a state of great renown and 
rosperity, but has experienced this 
change through some [human] error; 
iuch as (Edipus and Thyestes, and other 
illustrious men of this kind. Hence it 

necessary that a plot which is well con- 
structed, should be rather single 32 than 

ofold, (though some say it should be 
the latter,) and that the change should 

t be into prosperity from adversity, 
jut on the contrary into adversity from 
prosperity, not through depravity, but 
through some great error, either of such 
* character [as we have mentioned], or > 
oetter rather than worse. But the proof 
if this is what has taken place. For of 
jld the poets adopted any casual fables; 
jut now the most beautiful tragedies are t 
composed about a few families; as for 
nstance, about Alcmaeon, CEdipus, Ores- 
res, Meleager, Thyestes, and Telephus, 
ind such other persons as happen either 
:o have suffered or done things of a 
Ireadful nature. The tragedy, there- 
'ore, which is most beautiful according to 
irt, is of this construction. Hence they 
rroneously blame Euripides, who accuse 
lim of having done this in his tragedies, 
ind for making many of them terminate 
n misfortune. For this method, as we 
lave said, is right; of which this is the 
greatest evidence, that in the scenes, and 
rontests of the players, simple fables 
vhich terminate unhappily appear to be 
nost tragical, if they are properly acted. 

ta utility, but doubts that it is the work of 

32 What is here meant by a tingle fable, 
rill appear presently from the account of its 
•pposite — the double fable. It must not be 
onfounded with the simple fable, though in 
he original both are expressed by the same 
cord. The simple fable is only a fable without 
evolution, or discovery. — Twining. 

And Euripides, though he does not man- 
age other things well, yet appears to be 
the most tragic of poets.3* The fable, 
however, ranks in the second place, 
though by some it is said to be the first 
composition, which has a twofold con- 
struction, such as the Odyssey, and which 
terminates in a contrary fortune, both to 
the better and worse characters. It ap- 
pears, however, to rank in the first place, 
through the imbecility of the specta- 
tors^* For the poets, in composing their 
plots, accommodate themselves to the 
wish of the spectators. This pleasure, 
however, is not [properly] derived from 
tragedy, but is rather suited to comedy. 
For there, though the greatest enemies 
be introduced, as Orestes and /Egisthus, 
yet in the end they depart friends and 
no one falls by the hand of the other. 



Terror and pity, therefore, may be pro- 
duced from the sight But they may 
also arise from the combination of the 
incidents, which is preferable, and the 
province of a better poet. For it is nec- 
essary that the fable should be so com- 
posed that he who hears the things which 
are transacted, may be seized with hor- 
ror, and feel pity, from the events, with- 
out the assistance of the sight; and in 
this manner any one who hears the fable 
of CEdipus is affected. But to effect this 
through spectacle is more inartificial, and 
requires great expense. But they who 
produce not the terrible, but the mon- 
strous alone, through scenic representa- 
tion, have nothing in common with trag- 
edy. For it is not proper to expect 
every kind of pleasure from tragedy, but 
that which is appropriate. Since, how- 

33 But below, xv. 5. Euripides is justly 
charged with the improper introduction of 
comic characters and language. The praise 
applies only to the catastrophe. 

3* That weakness which cannot bear strong 
emotions, even from fictitious distress. To 
some minds, everything that is not cheerful is 
shocking. — But, might not the preference here 
attributed to weakness, be attributed to better 
causes — the gratification of philanthropy, the 
love of justice, order, etc. ! — the same causes 
which, just before, induced AristoUe himself to 
condemn as shocking and disgusting, those 
fables which involve the virtuous in calamity. — 



ever, it is necessary that the poet should 
procure pleasure from pity and fear 
through imitation, it is evident that this 
must be effected by the circumstances. 
Let us, then, ascertain what kind of 
events appear to be dreadful or lament- 
able. But it is necessary that actions 
of this kind should either be those of 
friends towards each other, or of ene- 
mies, or of neither. If, therefore, an 
enemy kills an enemy, he does not show- 
any thing which is an object of pity, 
neither while he does the deed, nor when 
he is about to do it, except what arises 
from the deed itself. And this will be 
the case when one of those who are 
neither friends nor enemies do the same. 
But when these things happen in friend- 
ships, as when a brother kills a brother, 
or a son his father, or a mother her son, 
or a son his mother, or intends to do it, 
or does any thing else of the like kind — 
such subjects are to be sought for. One 
must not, therefore, [completely] alter 
the received fables. I mean, for in- 
stance, such as the fable of Clytemnestra 
being slain by Orestes, and of Eriphyle 
by Alcmaeon. But it is necessary that 
the poet should invent the plot, and use 
in a becoming manner those fables which 
are handed down. What, however, we 
mean by [using fables] in a becoming 
manner, let us explain more clearly. 
Now, the action mav take place in such 
a way as the ancients have represented it, 
viz. knowingly with intent; as Euripides 
represents Medea killing her children. 
Men may also do an action, who are igno- 
rant of, and afterwards discover their 
connexion [with, the injured party,] as 
in the (Edipus of Sophocles. This, 
therefore, is extraneous to the drama,3& 
but is in the tragedy itself; as in the 
Alcmaeon of Astvdamas, or Telegonus in 
the Ulysses Wounded.™ Further still, 

35 The murder of Laius by CEdipus, his son, 
is supposed to have happened a considerable 
time before the beginning of the action.— 

36 Of these two dramas nothing more is 
known than the little that Aristotle here t*>lls 
us. In the first, the poet adhered so far to 
historv. as to make Alcmaeon kill his mother 
EriphVle. but with the improvement (accord- 
ing to Aristotle's idea), of making him do it 
ianorantly. The story of Telegonus is, that 
he was a son of Ulysses by Circe; was sent by 
her in quest of his father, whom he wounded 
without knowing him, in a skirmish relative 

besides these there is a third mode, when 
some one is about to perpetrate, through 
ignorance, an atrocious deed, but makes 
the discovery before he does it. And be- 
sides these there is no other mode. For 
it is necessary to act, or not; and that 
knowing, or not knowing. But of these, 
to intend to perpetrate the deed know- 
ingly, and not to perpetrate it, is the 
worst; for it is wicked and not tragical; 
because it is void of pathos. [Hence, no 
poet introduces a character of this kind 
except rarely; as in the Antigone, in 
which Haemon [endeavors to kill his fa- 
ther] Creon, [but does not effect his pur- 
pose.] 37] For the action here ranks in 
the second place. But it is better to 
perpetrate the deed ignorantly, and hav- 
ing perpetrated to discover; for then it 
is not attended with wickedness, and the 
discovery excites horror. The last mode, 
however, is the best; I mean, as in the 
Cresphontes, in which Merope is about to 
kill her son, but does not, in consequence 
of discovering that he was her son. 
Thus, too, in the Iphiyenia in Tauris, in 
which the sister is going to kill the 
brother, [but recognizes him] ; and in the 
HeUe, the son is about to betray his 
mother, but is prevented by recognizing 
her. Hence, as has been formerly ob- 
served, tragedies are not conversant withj 
manv families; for poets were enabled to 
discover incident of this kind in fables, 
not from art, but from fortune^ They 
were compelled, therefore, to direct their 
attention to those families in which ca- 
lamities of this kind happened. 

And thus we have spoken sufficiently 
concerning the combination of the inci- 
dents, and have shown what kind ol 
fables ought to be employed. 

With respect to manners, however 
there are four things to which one ough 
to direct attention: one, indeed, and th 
first, th at theyj ae^aod- But the traged; 
will indeed possess manners, if, as wa 
said, the words or the action render an; 
deliberate intention apparent; contamin 
good manners, if the deliberate intentic 

to some sheep, that he attempted to carry o 
from the island of Ithaca.— Twining. 

37 Ritter condemns this passage. 

38 i. e. to history or tradition. 



is pood. But manners are to be found 
in each genus; for both a woman and a 
slave may be good; though perhaps of 
these, the one is less good, and the other 
is wholly bad.39 In the second place, the 
manners must be adapted to the person s. 
For there are manners which are charac- 
terized by fortitude, but it is not suited 
to a woman to be either brave or terrible. 
In the third place, the manners must be 
similar. For this, as was before ob- 
served, differs from making the manners 
to be good and adapted. In the fourth 
place, they must be uniform; for if he 
is anomalous who exhibits the imitation, 
and expresses such like manners, at the 
same time it is necessary that he should 
be uniformly unequal. The example, 
however, of depraved manners is indeed 
not necessary; such, for instance, as that 
of Menelaus in the Orestes, but an exam- 
ple of unbecoming and unappropriate 
manners is, the lamentation of L'lysses in 
the tragedy of StjfttmJ* and the speech 
of Menalippe; and the example of anom- 
alous manners in the Iphigenia in Aulis. 
j For Iphigenia supplicating does not at all 
! resemble the Iphigenia in the latter part 
' of the tragedy. It is requisite, however, 
in the manners as well as in the combina- 
tion of the incidents, always to investi- 
gate, either the necessary or the prob- 
able; so that such a person should say or 
do such things, either necessarily or prob- 
ably; and that it be necessary or prob- 
able that this thing should be done after 
that. It is evident, therefore, that the 
solutions of fables ought to happen from 
the fable itself, and not as in the 
IMm^I from the machinery, and in the 
tragedy called the Iliad, from the par- 
ticulars respecting the sailing away 

39 This is observed, to show the consistence 
of this first precept with the next. The man- 
ners must be drawn as good as may be, con- 
sistently with the observance of propriety, with 
respect to the general character of different 
sexes, ages, conditions, etc. It might have 
been objected — " You say the character must 
be good. But suppose the poet has to repre- 
sent, for instance, a slave* — the character'of 
slaves in general is notoriously both" — The 
answer • is — anything may bv good in its 
kind. — Twining. 

40 Of the Scylla nothing is known. — Some 
fragments remain of Menalippe the Wise (for 
this was the title), a tragedy of Euripides, the 
subject of which is a curiosity. 

41 Of Euripides. Medea is carried off, at 
the end of the tragedy, in a chariot drawn by 
flying dragons. — Twining. 

[from Troy]. But we must employ ma- 
chinery in things which are external to 
the drama, which either happened before, 
and which it is not possible for men to 
know, or which happened afterwards, and 
require to be previously foretold and an- 
nounced. For we ascribe to the gods the 
power of seeing all things, but we do not 
admit the introduction of anything ab- 
surd in the incidents,-^ but if it is intro- 
duced it must be external to the tragedy ; 
as in the (Edipus of Sophocles. Since, 
however, tragedy is an imitation of bet- 
ter things, it is necessary that we should 
imitate good painters. For these, in giv- 
ing an appropriate form to the image, 
depict the" similitude, but increase the 
beauty." "Thus, also, it is requisite that 
the poet, "in imitating the wrathful and 
the indolent, arid those who are similarly 
affected in their manners, should form an 
example of equity, as. asperity; such as 
Agatho and Homer have represented 
Achilles. These things, indeed, it is nec- 
essary to observe; and besides these, such 
perceptions of the senses as are attend- 
ant upon poetry, besides the necessary 
ones.44 For in these, errors are fre- 
quently committed. But concerning 
these things enough has been said in the 
treatises already published. 


[* 5 What discovery, however, is, has 
been before stated. "But with respect to 
the species of recognition, the first indeed 
is the most inartificial, and that which 
most poets use through being at a loss, 
and is effected through signs. But of 

« By incidents of the fable. Aristotle here 
plainly means all those actions or events which 
are essential parts of the subject or story, 
whether previous to the action, and necessary 
to be known, or included in it, and actually 
represented in the drama. 

■«3 This seems intended to explain his third 
precept, of resemblance in the manners ; to 
reconcile it with his first, and to show what 
sort of likeness the nature of tragic imitation 
requires. — Twining. 

44 i. e. to the sight, and the hearing; in other 
words, to actual representation. 

45 The reader, who recollects the conclusion 
of Sect. 14. where the author took a formal 
leave of the " fable and its requisites ." and 
proceeded to the second essential part of trag- 
edy, the manners, will hardly be of Dacier's 
opinion, who contends that this section is 
rightly placed. His reasons are perfectly un- 
satisfactory . — Twining. 



these, some are natural, such as the 
" lance with which the earth-born 40 race 
are marked," or the stars [on the bodies 
of the sons] in the Thyestes of Carcinus. 
Others are adventitious, and of these 
some are in the body, as scars; but others 
are external, such as necklaces; and such 
as [the discovery] through a small boat, 
in the Tyro.n These signs also may be 
used in a better or worse manner. Thus 
Ulysses, through his scar, is in one way 
known by his nurse, and in another by 
the swineherds. For the discoveries 
which are for the sake of credibility, 
are more inartificial, and all of them are 
of this kind; but those which are from 
revolution, as in the " Washing of Ulys- 
ses," *8 are better. And those recogni- 
tions rank in the second place, which are 
invented by the poet, on which account 
they are inartificial. Thus Orestes in the 
Iphigenia discovers that he is Orestes.49 
For she indeed recognizes her brother 
through a letter, but Orestes himself 
speaks what the poet designs, but not 
what the fable requires; on which ac- 
count it is near to the above-mentioned 
error; since he might have introduced 
some [of the real things as signs]. Thus, 
too, in the Tereus of Sophocles, the 
" voice of the shuttle [produced a rec- 
ognition]." But the third mode of dis- 
covery is through memory, from the sen- 
sible perception of something by sight, 
as in the Cyprii of Dicaeogenes; for on 

46 The descendants of the original Thebans, 
who, according to the fabulous history, sprung 
from the earth when Cadmus sowed the 
dragon's teeth, etc. — This noble race are said 
to have been distinguished by the natural mark 
of a lance upon their bodies. 

47 Sophocles wrote two tragedies of this 
name, neither of them preserved. — The story 
of Tyro leads us to suppose, that Aristotle 
means the little boat, trough, or, as some ren- 
der it, cradle, in which Tyro had exposed her 
children, on, or near, the river: the particular 
manner of the discovery it would be in vain 
to guess. 

4sThe ancients distinguished the different 
parts of Homer's poems by different titles ac- 
commodated to the different subjects, or epi- 
sodes; and, in referring to him, they made uso 
of these, not of the division into books. Thus, 
the part of the xixth book of the Odyssey above 
referred to, was called The Washing. The 
Tale of Alcinous was another title, which will 
presently be mentioned. — Twining. 

•4fl I follow Ritter, who supplies " to Iphi- 
grnia." The older editors interpolated the 

seeing the picture a certain person weeps. 
And in the Tale of Alcinous; for Ulysses, 
on hearing the lyrist, and recollecting the 
story, weeps; whence also [all these] 
were recognized. The fourth mode of 
discovery is derived from syllogism, 50 as 
in the Choephorce — a person like me is 
arrived — there is no person like me but 
Orestes. — i Orestes, therefore, is arrived. 
Thus too in the Iphigenia 5 * of Polyides 
the sophist. For it was probable that 
Orestes would syllogistically conclude 
that because his sister had been immo- 
lated, it would likewise happen to him to 
be sacrificed. Thus also in the Tydeus ** 
of Theodectes, a certain person comes to 
discover his son, and himself perishes.53 
Another example also is in the Phinida;. 
For the women, on seeing the place, in- 
ferred what their fate would be, viz. that 
they must needs perish in this place; for 
they were exposed in it from their in- 
fancy. There is also a certain compound 
[discovery], which is produced from the 
false inference of the spectator, as in the 
Ulysses the False Messenger. For he 
says he should know the bow, which he 
had not seen; but the [audience], as if 
he must be known through this, on this 
account infer falsely. The best recogni- 
tion, however, of all, is that which arises 
from the things themselves, astonishment 
being excited through the probable cir- 
cumstances; as in the (E dip us of Sopho- 
cles and the Iphigenia; (for it is prob- 
able that she would be willing to send 
letters) ; since such things alone are with- 
out fictitious signs and necklaces.' 5 * But 
the recognitions which rank in the second 
place, are those which are derived from 

w Occasioned by reasoning; — i.e. by rea- 
soning (or rather, inference, or conclusion), 
in the person discovered. 

■ r .i The subject appears to have been the same 
as that of the Iphigenia in Tauris of Euripides. 
We are to suppose, that Orestes was discovered 
to his sister by this natural exclamation, at the 
moment when he was led to the altar of Diana 
to be sacrificed. — Twining. 

r.2 Of this and the preceding tragedy, we 
know nothing but what wo learn here: i.e. 
that in the one, a father, and in the other, the 
daughters of Phineus, were discovered, and, 
probably, saved, by those exclamations. — 

r>3 Nothing of thiR play is known. 

B4 All this passage is hopelessly corrupt. 




It is necessary, however, that the poet 
should form the plots, and elaborate his 
diction, in such a manner that he may as 
much as possible place the thing before 
his own eyes.- 55 For thus the poet per- 
ceiving most acutely, as if present with 
the transactions themselves, will discover 
what is becoming, and whatever is re- 
pugnant will be least concealed from his 
view. An evidence of this is the fault 
with which Carcinus is reproached. For 
Amphiaraus had left the temple, which 
was concealed from the spectator, who 
did not perceive it, and the piece was 
driven from the stage in consequence of 
the indignation of the spectators. For 
the poet as much as possible should co- 
operate with the gestures [of the actor] ; 
since those are naturally most adapted 
to persuade who are themselves under 
the influence of passion. Hence, also, he 
agitates others who is himself agitated, 
and he excites others to anger who is 
himself most truly enraged. Hence, 
poetry is the province either of one who 
is naturally clever, or of one who is in- 
sane. For these characters, the one is 
easily fashioned, but the other is prone 
to ecstasy. It is likewise necessary that 
the poet should in a general way lay 
down the fables composed by others, and 
those which he composes himself, and 
afterwards introduce episodes and 
lengthen out [the play]. But I say that 
he should give a general sketch after this 
manner. Thus, for instance, in the Iphi- 
qenia, a certain virgin on the point of 
being sacrificed, and vanishing from the 
view of those who were to sacrifice her, 
and being brought to another country in 
which it was a law to sacrifice strangers 
to a certain goddess, she is appointed the 
priestess of these rites. Some time after, 
it happened that the brother of the 
priestess came to this place; [but on 
what account? Because some god had 
ordered him, for a certain reason which 
does not pertain to the general view of 
the tragedy,] to come thither, [but why 
he did so is foreign to the fable]. The 
brother, therefore, coming, and being 
made captive, discovered [his sister [, 
when he is going to be sacrificed ; wheth- 

5" i. e. place himself in the position of a spec- 

er, as Euripides says, [by an epistle,] or, 
as Polyides feigns, speaking according to 
probability, because he said, it was not 
only requisite that the sister, but that 
he also should be sacrificed: — and hence 
safety arises. After these things, the 
poet having given names to the persons, 
should insert the episodes; and he must 
be careful that the episodes be appropri- 
ate ; as that of the insanity through which 
Orestes was taken captive, and his being 
saved through expiation. In dramas, 
therefore, the episodes are short, but by 
these the epopee is lengthened. For the 
fable of the Odyssey is short, viz. a cer- 
tain man wandering for many years, and 
persecuted by Neptune, and left alone. 
And besides this, his domestic affairs 
being so circumstanced, that his wealth 
is consumed by suitors, and stratagems 
are plotted against his son. But driven 
by a tempest, he returns, and making 
himself known to certain persons, he 
attacks the suitors, and is himself saved, 
but destroys his enemies. This, there- 
fore, is the peculiarity of the fable, but 
the rest is episode. 


[In every tragedy, however, there is a 
complication and development.^ And 
external circumstances indeed, and some 
of those that are internal, frequently 
form the complication; but the rest the 
development. I call, however, the com- 
plication, the whole of that which extends 
from the beginning to the last part, from 
which there is a transition to good for- 
tune; but I call the development that 
part which extends from the beginning of 
the transition to the end. Thus in the 
Lynceus of Theodectes, the past transac- 
tions, and the capture of the son, are the 
complication; but the part which extends 
from the charge of murder to the end, is 
the development. But of tragedy there 
are four species; for so many parts of it 
have also been enumerated. And one 
species is the complicated, of which the 

56 Literally, the tying and untying. With 
the French. Sa-ud and Denouement are con- 
venient and established terms. I hope I shall 
be pardoned for avoiding our awkward expres- 
sions of th»* imti tutu and unraveling of a plot, 
etc. I could find no terms less exceptionable 
than those I have used. — Twining. 



whole is revolution and discovery; an- 
other, the pathetic, such as the tragedies 
of Ajax and lxion; another, the moral," 
such as the Phthiotides and the Peleus; 
hut the fourth is another such as the 
Phorckh-s &« and the Prometheus, and 
tragedies which represent what passes in 
Hades. It is especially necessary, there- 
fore, that the poet should endeavor to 
have all these species; or at least that 
he should have the greatest and most of 
them, especially since men of the present 
age calumniate the poets. For as there 
have been good poets in each part of 
tragedy, they now expect one poet to ex- 
cel in all the parts. But it is right to 
call tragedy different and the same, 
though not perhaps with any reference to 
the fable; but this [may be the case with 
those] of which there is the same plot 
and solution. But many poets compli- 
cate well, and develop badly. r >9 But 
both these should always be applauded.^ 
But it is necessary to recollect, as has 
been often observed, that we must not 
make tragedy an epic system. Now, I 
call that tragedy an epic system, which 
consists of many fables; as if some one 
should compose a tragedy from the whole 
fable of the Iliad. For in the Iliad, on 
account of its length, the parts receive 
an appropriate magnitude. But in 
dramas, the effect produced would be 
very contrary to expectation. The truth 

B7 i. e. in which the delineation of manners 
or character is predominant. Our language, I 
think, wants a word to express this sense of 
the Greek riOinbv, and the Latin, moratum. 
Mannered has, I believe, sometimes been used 
in this sense; but so seldom, as to sound awk- 
wardly. We know nothing of the subjects here 
given as examples. — Twining. 

M JKschylus wrote a tragedy so named. It 
is difficult to imagine what he could make of 
these three curious personages, who were born 
old women, lived underground, and had but 
one eye among them, which they used by turns; 
carrying it, I suppose, in a case, like a pair of 
spectacles. Such is the tale ! — Twining. 

B9 No fault so common. It was with the 
Greek tragedians, probably, as with Shaks- 
peare. — " In many of his plays the lat- 
ter part is evidently neglected. When he found 
himself near the end of his work, and in view 
of his reward, he shortened the labor, to 
snatch the profit. He therefore remits his ef- 
forts where he should most vigorously exert 
them and Ins catastrophe is improbably pro- 
duced, or imperfectly represented." Johnson's 
Pref. to Rhakspeare. — Twining. 

oo This passage is contradictory and unin- 
telligible. Ritter condemns the whole as 

of this is indicated by such as have rep- 
resented [in one tragedy] the whole de- 
struction of Troy, and not some part of 
it, as the Niobe or Medea of Euripides, 
and who have not acted like .^schylus; 
for these have either been condemned, or 
contend without success; since Agatho 
also failed in this alone. But in revolu- 
tions, and in simple actions, those poets 
admirably effect their aim. For this is 
tragical, and has a moral tendency. 
This, however, takes place when a wise 
but a depraved man, such as Sisyphus, is 
deceived; and a brave but unjust man is 
vanquished. But this is probable, as 
Agatho says. For it is probable that 
many things may take place contrary to 
probability. It is necessary likewise to 
conceive the chorus to be one of the 
players and a part of the whole, and that 
it cooperates with the players, not as in 
Euripides,«i but as in Sophocles. But 
with other tragedians, the choral songs 
do not more belong to that fable, than 
to any other tragedy; on which account 
the chorus sing detached pieces, inserted 
at pleasure,^ of which Agatho was the 
inventor. What difference, however, does 
it make, to sing inserted pieces, or to 
adapt the diction of one drama to an- 
other, or the whole episode? 


Of the other parts of tragedy enough 
has now been said. But it remains that 
we should speak concerning the diction 
and the sentiments. The particulars, 

61 This expression does not, I think, neces- 
sarily imply any stronger censure of Euripides, 
than that the choral odes of his tragedies were, 
in general, more loosely connected with the 
subject than those of Sophocles; which, on 
examination, would, 1 believe, be found true. 
For that this is the fault here meant, not the 
improper " choice of the persons who compose 
the chorus," as the ingenious translator of 
Euripides understands, is, I think, plain from 
what immediately follows ; the connection be- 
ing this: — "Sophocles is, in this respect, most 
perfect ; Euripides less so ; as to the others, 
their choral songs are totally foreign to the 
subject of their tragedies." 

02 It is curious to trace the gradual extinc- 
tion of the chorus. At first, it was all; then, 
relieved by the intermixture of dialogue, but 
still principal: then, subordinate to the dia- 
logue; then, digressive, and ill connected with 
the piece; then, borrowed from other pieces at 
pleasure — and so on, to the fiddles and the 
act-tunes. The performers in the orchestra of 
a modern theater are little, I believe, aware, 



therefore, respecting the sentiments, are 
unfolded in the treatise on Rhetoric, to 
which it more properly belongs. But 
those things pertain to the sentiments, 
which it is requisite to procure by a 
reasoning process. And the parts of 
these are, to demonstrate, to refute, and 
to excite the passions; such as pity, or 
fear, or anger, and such like; and besides 
these, to amplify and extenuate. It is 
evident, however, that in things, also, it 
is requisite to derive what is useful from 
the same fornix, when it is necessary to 
procure objects of pity, or things that are 
dreadful, or great, or probable. Except 
that there is this difference, that things 
in tragedy ought to be rendered appar- 
ent without teaching, but in an oration 
they are to be shown by the speaker, and 
in consequence of the speech. For what 
employment would there be for the ora- 
tor, if the things should appear [of them- 
selves] pleasing, and not through the 
speech? But of things pertaining to dic- 
tion, there is one species of theory re- 
specting the forms of speech, which it is 
the province of the actor to know, and 
of him who is a master artist in this 
profession. Thus, for instance, [it is 
requisite he should know,] what a man- 
date is, what a prayer, narration, threats, 
interrogation and answer are, and what- 
ever else there may be of this kind. 
For from the knowledge or ignorance of 
these, the poetic art incurs no blame of 
any moment. For who would think that 
Homer errs in what he is reproved for 
by Protagoras? viz. that while he fancies 
he prays, he commands, when he says, 
" The wrath, O goddess, sing." For, says 
he, to order a thing to be done, or not to 
be done, is a mandate. Hence, this must 
be omitted as a theorem pertaining to 
another art, and not to poetry. 



Concerning the poetry, however, which 
is narrative and imitative in meter, it is 
evident that it ought to have dramatic 

that they occupy the place, and may consider 
themselves as the lineal descendants, of the 
ancient chorus. Orchestra was the name of 
that part of the ancient theater which was ap- 
propriated to the chorus. 

fables, in the same manner as tragedy, 
and should be conversant with one whole 
and perfect action, which has a begin- 
ning, middle, and end, in order that, like 
one whole animal, it may produce its 
appropriate pleasure ;«3 and that it may 
not be like the custom of histories, in 
which it is not necessary to treat of one 
action, but of one time, viz. of such things 
as have happened in that time, respecting 
one or more persons, the relation of each 
of which things to the other is just as it 
may happen. For as the sea-fight at 
Salamis, and the battle with the Cartha- 
ginians in Sicily, though they happened 
at the same time, tend nothing to the 
same end; thus also in successive times, 
one thing may sometimes be connected 
with another, from which no one end is 
produced. But nearly all poets do this. 
Hence, as we have before observed, in 
this respect also Homer will appear to 
be divine, when compared with other 
poets, because he did not attempt to sing 
of the whole of the Trojan war, though 
it had a beginning and an end. For if 
he had, it would have been very great, 
and not sufficiently conspicuous; or if it 
had been of a moderate size, it would 
have been intricate through the variety 
of incidents.^* But now, having selected 
one part of the war, he has made use of 
many episodes; such as the catalogue of 
the ships, and other episodes, with which 
he has adorned his poem. Other poets, 
however, have composed a fable about 
one man, and one time, and one action, 
consisting of many parts; as the authors 
of the Cyprias, and the Lesser Iliad. 
[With respect to the Iliad and Odyssey, 
therefore, one or two tragedies only 
could be made from each. But many 
might be made from the Cypriacs; and 
from the Lesser Iliad more than eight; 
such as the Judgment of the Arms, Phi- 
loctetes, Neoptolemus, Eurypylus, The 
Begging [of Ulysses], the Laccence, the 

63 i. e. opposed (as appears from what fol- 
lows) to that which history gives. Unity of 
interest is essential to the. pleasure we expect 
from the epic poem; and this cannot exist, at 
least in the degree required, without unity of 
action. — Twining. 

64 Because " the length of the whole would " 
then " not admit of a proper magnitude in the 
parts " ; and thus an epic poem, constructed 
upon an historical plan, would be exactly in 
the same case with a tragedy " constructed on 
an epic plan." — Twining. 



Destruction of Troy, the Return of the 
Greeks, Sinon, and the Troades. 



Again, it is requisite that the epic 
should have the same species as tragedy. 
[For it is necessary that it should be 
either simple, or complex, or ethical, or 
pathetic] The parts also are the same, 
except the music and the scenery. For 
it requires revolutions, discoveries, and 
disasters; and besides these, the senti- 
ments and the diction should be well 
formed; all which were first used by 
Homer, and are used by him fitly. For 
of his two poems, the Iliad indeed con- 
tains the simple and pathetic; but the 
Odyssey, the complex; for through the 
whole of it there is discovery 65 and 
moral. And besides these things, he 
excelled all poets in diction and senti- 
ment. The epic, however, differs from 
tragedy in the length of the composition, 
and in the meter. But the proper boun- 
dary of its length has been before de- 
scribed; for it should be such that the 
beginning and the end may be seen at 
one view. [And this will be effected if 
the compositions are shorter than those 
of the ancient poets, and brought to the 
same length with the multitude of trage- 
dies that are recited at one hearing.60] 
But it is the peculiarity of the epic to 
possess abundantly the power of extend- 
ing its magnitude; for tragedy is not 
capable of imitating many actions that 
are performed at the same time, but that 
part only which is represented in the 
scene, and acted by the players. But in 
the epic, in consequence of its being a 
narration, many events may be intro- 
duced which have happened at the same 
time, which are properly connected with 
the subject, and from which the bulk of 
the poem is increased. Hence, this con- 

W See Pope's translation, xvi. 206, etc., 
where Ulysses discovers himself to Telemachus 
— xxi. 212, to the shepherds — xxiii. 211, to 
Penelope — xxiv. 875, to his father — ix. 17, 
to Aleinous — iv. 150. etc., Telemachus is dis- 
covered to Menelaus by his tears — v. 189, to 
Helen, by his resemblance to his father — xix. 
545, Ulysses is discovered to the old nurse, by 
the kcpt. — Twining. 

66 This is quite contrary to Aristotle's own 

tributes to its magnificence, transports 
the hearer to different places, and adorns 
the poem with dissimilar episodes. For 
similitude of events rapidly produces sa- 
tiety, and causes tragedies to fail. But 
heroic meter is established by experience 
as adapted to the epic. For if any one 
should attempt narrative imitation in 
any other meter, or in many meters min- 
gled together, the unfitness of it would 
be apparent. For heroic meter is of 
all others the most stable and ample. 
[Hence it especially receives foreign 
words and metaphors. For narrative 
imitation excels all others.] But Iambics 
and tetrameters have more motion; the 
one being adapted to dancing, but the 
other to acting. It would, however, be 
still more absurd, to mingle them to- 
gether, as Chaeremon did. Hence, no one 
has composed a long poem in any other 
measure than the heroic; but, as we 
have said, Nature herself teaches us to 
distinguish the measure best suited. 
Homer, indeed, deserves to be praised 
for many other things, and also because 
he is the only poet who was not ignorant 
what he ought to do himself. For it is 
requisite that the poet should speak in 
his own person as little as possible; for 
so far as he does so he is not an imitator. 
Other poets, therefore, take an active 
part through the whole poem, and they 
only imitate a few things, and seldom. 
But Homer, after a short preface, imme- 
diately introduces a man or a woman, or 
something else that has manners; for 
there is nothing in his poem unattended 
with manners. It is necessary, therefore, 
in tragedies to produce the wonderful; 
but that which is contrary to reason 
(whence the wonderful is best produced) 
is best suited to the epopee, from the 
agent not being seen. In the next place, 
the particulars respecting the pursuit of 
Hector would appear ridiculous in the 
scene; the Greeks indeed standing still, 
and not pursuing, and Achilles making 
3igns to them, by the motion of his 
head, not to engage.67 But in the epic 
this is concealed. Now, the wonder- 
ful pleases; of which this is an indica- 

67 Pope's Iliad, xxii. 267. — Perhaps the idea 
of stopping a whole army by a nod, or shake 
of the head (a circumstance distinctly men- 
tioned by Homer, but sunk in Mr. Pope's ver- 
sion), was the absurdity here principally meant. 
If this whole Homeric scene were represented 



tion, that all men, when they wish to 
gratify their hearers, add something to 
what they relate. Homer also in the 
highest degree taught others how to feign 
in a proper manner. But this is a para- 
logism. For men fancy that when the 
consequent followers or results from the 
antecedent, the consequent may be con- 
verted, and that the antecedent will fol- 
low from the consequent. This, how- 
ever, is false. [But why, if the ante- 
cedent be false, so long as this other be 
otherwise, should the consequent neces- 
sarily follow? For through knowing the 
consequent to be true, our soul paralo- 
gizes, and concludes that the antecedent 
also is true. And there is an example 
of this in The Washing.] Again, one 
should prefer things which are impos- 
sible but probable, to such as are possible 
but improbable. Fables also should not 
be composed from irrational parts, [but 
as much as possible, indeed, they should 
have nothing irrational in them: if, how- 
ever, this is impossible, care should be 
taken that the irrational circumstance 
does not pertain to the fable, as in the 
case of CEdipus not knowing how Laius 
died. For it must not be brought into 
the drama, like the narration of the Pyth- 
ian games in the Electro, or him who, in 
the tragedy of the Mysians, comes from 
Tegea to Mysia without speaking.] It is 
ridiculous, therefore, to say, that other- 
wise the fable would be destroyed; for 
such fables should not at first be com- 
posed. But if they are composed, and 
it appears more reasonable that they 
should be, the absurdity also must be 
admitted; since the irrational circum- 
stances in the Odyssey, such as Ulysses 
being left [on the shore of Ithaca by 
the Phoeacians], would evidently have 
been intolerable, if they had been fabri- 
cated by a bad poet. But now the poet 
conceals the absurdity, and renders it 
pleasing by the addition of other beau- 
ties. The diction, likewise, should be 
labored in the sluggish parts of the poem, 
and which exhibit neither manners nor 
sentiment. For a very splendid diction 
conceals the manners and the reasoning. 

on our stage, in the best manner possible, there 
can be no doubt that the effect would justify 
Aristotle's observation. It would certainly set 
the audience in a roar. — Twining. 


One may, however, question whether 
epic or tragic imitation is the more ex- 
cellent. For if that imitation is the 
better which is less troublesome to the 
spectator, and such an imitation pertains 
to better spectators, that which imitates 
every thing is evidently attended with 
molestation. For, as if the spectators 
will not perceive what is acted without 
the addition of much movement, they 
make great gesticulations; just as bad 
players on the flute turn themselves 
round, when it is requisite to imitate the 
action of the discus, or when they sing 
of Scylla, draw to themselves the cory- 
phaeus, or leader of the band. Such, 
then, is tragedy, as the modern actors 
are in the estimation of their predeces- 
sors. Hence, Myniscus called Callipides 
an ape, in consequence of carrying his 
imitation to a great excess. And there 
was also a similar opinion respecting 
Pindar [the player]. But as these lat- 
ter actors are to the former, so is the 
whole art of tragedy to the epopee. 
They say, therefore, that the epopee is 
calculated for hearers of the better sort, 
on which account it does not require 
scenery; but that tragedy is calculated 
for the vulgar. Hence, tragic imitation, 
which is troublesome to the spectator, 
will evidently be inferior to epic imita- 

In the first place, however, this accusa- 
tion does not pertain to the poet, but the 
actor; since it is possible in reciting epic 
poetry to overdo action, as Sosistratus 
did, and singing likewise, as Mnastheus 
of Opus did. In the next place, neither 
is all motion to be despised, since neither 
is every kind of dancing, but only that 
which is bad; and hence Callipedes was 
blamed, as others now are for imitating 
light women. Further still, tragedy, in 
the same manner as the epopee, may ful- 
fil its purpose without gesture; for by 
reading, it is manifest what kind of thing 
it is. If, therefore, it is in other re- 
spects better, it is not necessary that it 
should be accompanied [by motion and 
gesture]. In v e next place, tragedy has 
every thing which the epic possesses. 
For it may use meter, and it has also 
music and scenery, as no small parts, 
through which the pleasure it produces 
is most apparent. To which may be 



added, that it possesses perspicuity, both 
when it is read, and when it is acted. 
The end, too, of its imitation is con- 
fined in less extended limits. For being 
crowded into a narrower compass, it be- 
comes more pleasing than if it were dif- 
fused through a long period of time. 
Thus, for instance, if one were to put the 
(Edipus of Sophocles into as many verses 
as the Iliad, [it would be less pleasing]. 
Again, the imitation of the epic has 
less unity [than tragic imitation] ; of 
which this is an indication, that from 
any kind of [epic] imitation, many trage- 
dies may be produced. Hence, if he who 
writes an epic poem should choose a 
fable perfectly one, the poem would 
necessarily either appear short, as if cur- 
tailed, or if it should be accompanied 
with length of meter, it would seem to 
be languid. But if he should compose 
one fable from many fables, I mean, if 
the poem should consist of many actions, 

it would not possess unity. Thus, the 
Iliad and Odyssey contain many such 
parts, which of themselves possess mag- 
nitude, though these poems are composed, 
as much as possible, in the most excellent 
manner, and are most eminently the imi- 
tation of one action. If, therefore, trag- 
edy excels in all these particulars, and 
besides this, in the work of art, (for 
neither tragic nor epic imitation ought 
• to produce a casual pleasure, but that 
which has been stated), it is evident that 
it will be more excellent than the epopee, 
in consequence of attaining its end in a 
greater degree. And thus much concern- 
ing tragedy, and the epic, as to them- 
selves, their species, and their parts, their 
number, and their difference, what the 
causes are of their being good or bad, 
and also concerning the objections which 
may be made to them, and the solutions 
of the objections. 


Latin Dramatic Criticism 27 

Bibliography 27 

Horace 28 

Bibliography ii'j 

The Art of Poetry [Ars Poetica, or Epistola ad Pisones] translated by 

C. Smart. Complete text. (24-20 B. C.) 29 


Latin literature yields little more ma- 
terial in dramatic criticism and theory 
than Greek. As is pointed out in another 
place, there is but one complete treatise 
extant — the Art Poetica of Horace — 
and that is far from satisfactory as a uni- 
fied and clear statement of the aims or 
achievements of the Latin drama. From 
the beginnings of Latin literary criticism 
with Cicero, to the time of Horace, there 
is practically nothing relating to the sub- 
ject. Cicero himself, in his Letters, Ora- 
tions, and various treatises, evolves inter- 
esting ideas on the drama, but nowhere 
sums up any sort of complete theory of 
body of doctrine. If the works of Varro 
and Lucilius had been preserved, it is 
doubtful whether Horace would have oc- 
cupied his present position of solitary 
grandeur and importance, but in the ab- 
sence of anything but fragments from 
these authors and from the numerous 
other critics of his time and anterior to 
him, we must assign to him a place of the 
first importance. Mention ought per- 

haps be made of a few paragraphs on 
the rise of comedy in Livy's history, Ab 
urbe condita Libri (vii, ii, iv, and follow- 
ing), written about the time of Christ. 
Not until Quintilian is there anything 
approaching a systematic study of dram- 
atists, while Quintilian himself — in the 
Institutiones Oratoriae, Books VI and X 
— adopts an historical rather than theo- 
retical method, and passes brief judg- 
ments on Greek and Latin authors. The 
Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius is the 
last of the Latin writings with any pre- 
tension to originality concerned with our 

A careful study of Henry Nettleship's 
second series of Lectures and Essays — 
chapter on Latin Criticism — , and of 
Saintsbury's History of Criticism — first 
volume — will enlighten the student as to 
the details of the subject, but he will 
find little other than fragments and titles 
of lost works if he goes to original 

References on Latin Criticism and 
Latin Literature in General: 

E. Hiibner, Bibliographic der klassischen 
Altertumicissenschaft; Grundriss zu 
Vorlesungen iiber die Geschichte und 
Enctfklopadie der klassischen Philologie 
(Berlin, 2nd ed„ 1889). 

J. C. F. Baehr, Geschichte der romischen 
Literatur, 4 vols. (Karlsruhe, 2d ed., 

G. Bernhardy, Grundriss der romischen 
Literatur (Braunschweig, 5th ed., 
187. 1 ). 

R. W. Browne, A History of Roman 
Classical Literature (London 1853). 

M. S. Dimsdale, A History of Latin Lit- 
erature (London & Xew York, 1915). 

J. Wight Duff, A Literary History of 
Rome (Xew York, 1909). 

H. Joachim, Geschichte der romischen 
Literatur (Leipzig, 1896). 


J. W. Mackail, Latin Literature (New 

York, 1895). 
Henrv Nettleship, Lectures and Essays 

(Oxford, 1885). 
Henry Nettleship, Lectures and Essays 

(2d" series, Oxford, 1895). 
George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 1, (New York, 1900). 
J. E. Sandvs, A History of Classical 

Scholarship, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1903). 
M. Schanz, Geschichte der romischen 

Literature, 3 parts (Miinchen, 1890- 

W. S. TeuffeL Geschichte der romischen 

Literatur (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1872. 

Eng. tr. from revised and enlarged 

ed. bv L. Schwabe bv G. C. W. Warr, 

2 vols., London, 1891-92). 
Gaston Boissier, Le Poete Attius. Etude 

sur la Tragedie latine pendant la R4- 

publique (Paris, 1857). 
Philippe Fabia, Les Theatres de Rome au 



temps de Plaute et de Terence (Rev. 
de Phil, XXI, Paris, 1897). 
J. F. D' Alton, Horace and His Age 
(London, 1917. See especially chap- 
ter on Literary Criticism). 

G. Michaut, Sur les TrUeaux latins 
(Paris, 1912). 

W. R. Hardie, Literary Criticism at 
Rome (In Lectures on Classical Sub- 
jects, London, 1903). 


Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known in 
English as Horace, was born at Venusia, 
near the border of Apulia, in 65 b. c. 
His father, a former slave who had freed 
himself before the birth of his son, sent 
him to school in Rome. As a young man 
Horace went to Athens and studied phil- 
osophy at the famous schools. When 
the Civil War broke out he enlisted in 
the army of Brutus, served at Philippi, 
and came back to Rome not long after. 
Deprived of his property as a result of 
the proscriptions, he began life anew 
at the age of twenty-four as clerk in 
a public office. Not long after, he at- 
tracted the attention of Maecenas, and 
soon became acquainted with Varius and 
Vergil, henceforth devoting himself to lit- 
erary pursuits. His first work, the first 
book of Satires, was published 35 b. c. 
About a year later, Maecenas presented 
him with * the celebrated Sabine Farm, 
and Horace was at liberty to the end of 
his life to do as he liked. Before he died 
he was famous; the Emperor Augustus 
it was who commissioned him to write 
the fourth book of Odes. He died eight 
years before the birth of Christ. 

The Epistle to the Pisos, or Art of 
Poetry, has been assigned by various au- 
thorities to the period between 24 and 7 
B.C. Professor Nettleship (in his Lec- 
tures and Essays) believes it to have been 
written between 24 and 20 b. c. Its 
interest and value are considerably en- 
hanced in view of the fact that it is, in 
Professor Saintsbury's words, " the only 
complete example of literary criticism 
that we have from any Roman." It is 
significant that the greater part of its sub- 
ject-matter is concerned with the drama. 
While it has been clearly substantiated 
that Horace drew upon a non-extant 
treatise by Neoptolemus of Parium, an 
Alexandrian critic of uncertain date, the 

fact that Horace made use of and 
molded the ideas of his predecessor is 
important. The Art of Poetry is on the 
whole a somewhat arbitrary manual; the 
greatest importance must be attached to 
the purely formal side of writing, the 
dramatist must adhere closely to the five 
acts, the chorus, and so on; proportion, 
good sense, decorum, cannot be neglected. 
Of the practical value of the work before 
the Renaissance, it is impossible to know; 
of its influence since that time, it can 
only be said that it was as widespread 
as that of Aristotle. Horace's doctrine 
of " pleasure and profit " was to be re- 
peated innumerable times, and is still a 
criterion of criticism. Mr. Spingarn's 
statement that " critical activity in nearly 
all the countries of western Europe seems 
to have been ushered in by the trans- 
lation of Horace's Ars Poetica into the 
vernacular tongues " is but another proof 
of the popularity of the work. 


Of the numerous Latin texts of Hor- 
ace, that of Bentley is on the whole 
the best, though there are numerous oth- 
ers. This was reedited by Zangemeister 
in 1869. Among modern commentaries 
are that of J. C. Orelli (4th ed. revised 
by O. Hirschfelder and J. Mewes, 1886- 
90), and of A. Kiessling (revised by R. 
Heinze, 1898-1908). The standard Eng- 
lish commentary is the two-volume edi- 
tion of E. C. Wickham (1874-96). 

English translations abound. Among 
the early versions is The Works of Hor- 
ace, translated by several hands [Dry- 
den, Congreve, etc.] 2 vols., London, 
1757-59. See also The Works of Horace, 
translated by C. Smart, revised by T. A. 
Buckley (late Bohn editions, n. d. ; The 
Works of Horace, translated by I. Lons- 
dale and S. Lee (London, 1873); and 



A Poetical Translation of the Works of 
Horace, by P. Francis, 2 vols. (ed. Lon- 
don, 1831). 

On Horace and His Works: 

H. H. Milman, The Works of Horace, 
with English Sotes critical and ex- 
planatory, by C. Anthon. (New edi- 
tion, with Life of Horace, by H. H. 
Milman, New York, ISio.) 

1U\. W. Tuckwell, Horace (London, 
190.)). - 

Gaston Bois;-ier, L'Art poetique <t Hor- 
ace et la Tragcdie romaine {Rev., de 
Philol., Vol. XXII, Paris, 1S98). 

Albert S. Cook, The Art of Poetry. The 
Poetical Treatises of Horace, Vida, 
and Boileau, with the Translations by 
Howes, Pitt, and Soame, (with notes 
and intro., Boston, 189J). 

George Converse Fiske, Lucilius, The Art 
Poetica of Horace, and Persius {Har- 

vard Studies in Class. Philol., Vol. 
XXIV, Cambridge, 1913). 

Paul Lejay, La Date et le but de VArt 
poetique d'Horce {Rev. de I'instruc- 
tion pub. en Belgique, vols. XLV and 
XL VI, Bruxelles, 1902-3). 

Henry Nettleship, Lectures and Essays 
(Oxford, 1885). 

E. Norden, Die Komposition und Litera- 
turgattung der horazischen Epistola ad 
Pisones {Hermes, voL 40, Berlin, 1905). 

Alois Patin, Der Aufbau der Ars poetica 
des Horaz {Studien zur Geschichte und 
Kultur des Altertums, Bd. 4, Heft 1, 
Paderborn, 1910). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 1 (New York, 1900). 

Johann Vahlen, Ueber Horatius 1 Brief 
an die Pisonen {Ki'm.-preuss. Akad. 
d. Wissensch. Sitzungsb., p. 589, Ber- 
lin, 1906). 


{24^20 b.c?) 

If a painter should wish to unite a 
horse's neck to a human head, and spread 
a variety of plumage over limbs [of 
different animals] taken from every part 
[of nature], so that what is a beautiful 
woman in the upper part terminates un- 
sightly in an ugly fish below — could you, 
my friends, refrain from laughter, were 
you admitted to such a sight? Believe, 
ye Pisos, the book will be perfectly like 
such a picture, the ideas of which, like 
a sick man's dreams, are all vain and 
fictitious: so that, neither head nor foot 
can correspond to any one form. " Poets 
and painters [you will say] have ever 
had equal authority for attempting any 
thing.'' We are conscious of this, and 
this privilege we demand and allow in 
turn: but not to such a degree that the 
tame should associate with the savage; 
nor that serpents should be coupled with 
birds, lambs with tigers. 

1 Translated, complete, by C. Smart, from 
The Work.? of Horace literally translated into 
English Prose (New York. n. d.). Unsigned 
footnotes are by the translator. The brackets 
enclose words or phrases by the translator in- 
tended to complete the sense of the original. 

In pompous introductions, and such as 
promise a great deal, it generally hap- 
pens that one or two verses of purple 
patch-work, that may make a great show, 
are tagged on; as when the grove and 
the altar of Diana and the meandering 
of a current hastening through pleasant 
fields, or the river Rhine, or the rainbow, 
is described. But here, there was no 
room for these [fine things] : perhaps, 
too, you know how to draw a cypress: 
but what is that to the purpose, if he 
who is painted for the given price, is 
[to be represented as] swimming hope- 
less out of a shipwreck? A large vase 
at first was designed: why, as the wheel 
revolves, turns out a little pitcher? In 
a word, be your subject what it will, let 
it be merely simple and uniform. 

The great majority of us poets — fa- 
ther, and youths worthy such a father — 
are misled by the appearance of right. 
I labor to be concise, I become obscure: 
nerves and spirit fail him that aims at 
the easy: one, that pretends to be sub- 
lime, proves bombastical: he who is too 
cautious and fearful of the storm, crawls 
along the ground: he who wants to vary 



his subject in a marvelous manner, paints 
the dolphin in the woods, the boar in the 
sea. The avoiding of an error leads to 
a fault, if it lack skill. 

A statuary about the -(Emilian school 
shall of himself, with singular skill, both 
express the nails, and imitate in brass 
the flexible hair; unhappy yet in the 
main, because he knows not how to finish 
a complete piece. I would no more 
choose to be such a one as this, had I 
a mind to compose any thing, than to 
live with a distorted nose, [though] re- 
markable for black eyes and jetty hair. 

Ye who write, make choice of a sub- 
ject suitable to your abilities; and re- 
volve in your thoughts a considerable 
time what your strength declines, and 
what it is able to support. Neither ele- 
gance of style nor a perspicuous dispo- 
sition, shall desert the man by whom the 
subject matter is chosen judiciously. 

This, or I am mistaken, will constitute 
the merit and beauty of arrangement, 
that the poet just now say what ought 
just now to be said, put off most of his 
thoughts, and waive them for the pres- 

In the choice of his words, too, the 
author of the projected poem must be 
delicate and cautious, he must embrace 
one and reject another: you will express 
yourself eminently well, if a dexterous 
combination should give an air of nov- 
elty to a well-known word. If it hap- 
pen to be necessary to explain some 
abstruse subjects by new-invented terms, 
it will follow that you must frame words 
never heard of by the old-fashioned 
Cethegi: and the license will be granted, 
if modestly used: and .new and lately- 
formed words will have authority, if 
they descend from a Greek source, with 
a slight deviation. But why should the 
Romans grant to Plautus and Caecilius 
a privilege denied to Vergil and Varius? 
Why should I be envied, if I have it in 
my power to acquire a few words, when 
the language of Cato and Ennius has 
enriched our native tongue, and pro- 
duced new names of things? It has been, 
and ever will be, allowable to coin a 
word marked with the stamp in present 
request. As leaves in the woods are 
changed with the fleeting years; the 
earliest fall off first: in this manner 
words perish with old age, and those 

lately invented flourish and thrive, like 
men in the time of youth. We and our 
works are doomed to death: whether 
Neptune, admitted into the continent, de- 
fends our fleet from the north winds, 
a kingly work; or the lake, for a long 
time unfertile and fit for oars, now main- 
tains its neighboring cities and feels the 
heavy plow; or the river, taught to run 
in a more convenient channel, has changed 
its course which was so destructive to 
the fruits. Mortal works must perish: 
much less can the honor and elegance of 
language be long-lived. Many words 
shall revive, which now have fallen off; 
and many words are now in esteem 
shall fall off, if it bo the will of custom, 
in whose power is the decision and right 
and standard of language. 

Homer has instructed us in what meas- 
ure the achievements of kings, and chiefs, 
and direful war might be written. 

Plaintive strains originally were ap- 
propriated to the unequal numbers [of 
the elegiac] : afterwards [love and] suc- 
cessful desires were included. Yet what 
author first published humble elegies, the 
critics dispute, and the controversy still 
waits the determination of the judge. 

Rage armed Archilochus with the 
iambic of his own invention. The sock 
and the majestic buskin assumed this 
measure as adapted for dialogue, and 
to silence the noise of the populace, and 
calculated for action. 

To celebrate gods, and the sons of 
gods, and the victorious wrestler, and 
the steed foremost in the race, and the 
inclination of youths, and the free joys 
of wine, the muse has allotted to the 

If I am incapable and unskillful to 
observe the distinction described, and the 
complexions of works [of genius], why 
am I accosted by the name of "Poet"? 
Why, out of false modesty, do I prefer 
being ignorant to being learned? 

A comic subject will not be handled 
in tragic verse: in like manner the ban- 
quet of Thyestes will not bear to be held 
in familiar verses, and such as almost 
suit the sock. Let each peculiar species 
[of writing J fill with decorum its proper 
place. Nevertheless sometimes even 
comedy exalts her voice, and passionate 
Chremes rails in a tumid strain: and a 
tragic writer generally expresses grief 



in a prosaic style. Telephus and Peleus, 
when they are both in poverty and exile, 
throw aside their rants and gigantic 
expressions if they have a mind to move 
the heart of the spectator with their com- 

It is not enough, that poems be beau- 
tiful; let them be tender and affecting, 
and bear away the soul of the auditor 
whithersoever they please. As the hu- 
man countenance smiles on those that 
smile, so does it sympathize with those 
that weep. If you would have me weep 
you must first express the passion of 
grief yourself; then, Telephus or Peleus, 
your misfortunes hurt me: if you pro- 
nounce the parts assigned you ill, I shall 
either fall asleep or laugh. 

Pathetic accents suit a melancholy 
countenance; words full of menace, an 
angry one; wanton expressions, a sport- 
ive look; and serious matter, an austere 
one. For nature forms us first within 
to every modification of circumstances; 
she delights or impels us to anger, or 
depresses us to the earth and afflicts us 
with heavy sorrow: then expresses those 
emotions of the mind by the tongue, its 
interpreter. If the words be discordant 
to the station of the speaker, the Roman 
knights and plebeians will raise an im- 
moderate laugh. It will make a wide 
difference, whether it be Davus that 
speaks, or a hero; a man well-stricken in 
years, or a hot young fellow in his bloom; 
and a matron of distinction, or an offi- 
cious nurse; a roaming merchant, or the 
cultivator of a verdant little farm; a 
Colchian, or an Assyrian; one educated 
at Thebes, or one at Argos. 

You that write, either follow tradi- 
tion, or invent such fables as are con- 
gruous to themselves. If as a poet you 
have to represent the renowned Achilles; 
let him be indefatigable, wrathful, in- 
exorable, courageous, let him deny that 
laws were made for him, let him arro- 
gate everything to force of arms. Let 
Medea be fierce and untractable, Ino an 
object of pity, Ixion perfidious, lo wan- 
dering, Orestes in distress. 

If you offer to the stage anything un- 
attempted, and venture to form a new 
character, let it be preserved to the last 
such as it set out at the be<rinning, and be 
consistent with itself. It" is difficult to 
write with propriety on subjects to 

which all writers have a common claim; 
and you with more prudence will reduce 
the Iliad into acts, than if you first in- 
troduce arguments unknown and never 
treated of before. A public story will 
become your own property, if you do 
not dwell upon the whole circle of events, 
which is paltry and open to every one; 
nor must you be so faithful a translator, 
as to take the pains of rendering [the 
original] word for word; nor by imi- 
tating throw yourself into straits, whence 
either shame or the rules of your work 
may forbid you to retreat. 

Xor must you make such an exordium, 
as the Cyclic writer of old : " I will sing 
the fate of Priam, and the noble war." 
What will this boaster produce worthy 
of all this gaping? The mountains are 
in labor, a ridiculous mouse will be 
brought forth. How much more to the 
purpose he, who attempts nothing im- 
properly? "Sing for me, my muse, the| 
man who, after the time of the destruc- 
tion of Troy, surveyed the manners and 
cities of many men." He meditates not 
[to producej smoke from a flash, but I 
out of smoke to elicit fire, that he may 
thence bring forth his instances of the 
marvelous with beauty, [such as] An- 
tiphates, Scylla, the Cyclops, and Charyb- 
dis. Xor does he date Diomed's re- 
turn from Meleager's death, nor trace 
the rise of the Trojan war from [Leda's] 
eggs: he always hastens on to the event: 
and hurries away his reader into the 
midst of interesting circumstances, no 
otherwise than as if they were [already] 
known; and what he despairs of, as "to 
receiving a polish from his touch, he 
omits; and in such a manner forms his 
fictions, so intermingles the false with 
the true, that the middle is not incon- 
sistent with the beginning, nor the end 
with the middle. 

Do you attend to what I, and the pub- 
lic in my opinion, expect from you [as 
a dramatic writer]. If you are desirous 
of an applauding spectator, who will 
wait for [the falling of] the curtain, and 
till the chorus calls out ■ your plaudits " ; 
the manners of every age must be marked j 
by you, and a pr oper d ecorum assigned ; 
to men's varying dispositions and years. '< '' 
The boy, who is just able to pronounce 
his words, and prints the ground with 
a firm tread, delights to play with his 



fellows, and contracts and lays aside 
anger without reason, and is subject to 
change every hour. The beardless youth, 
his guardian being at length discharged, 
joys in horses, and dogs, and the ver- 
dure of the sunny Campus Martius; pli- 
able as wax to the bent of vice, rough 
to advisers, a slow provider of useful 
things, prodigal of his money, high-spir- 
ited, and amorous, and hasty in desert- 
ing the objects of his passion. [After 
this,] our inclinations being changed, the 
age and spirit of manhood seeks after 
wealth, and [high] connections, is sub- 
servient to points of honor; and is cau- 
tious of committing any action which 
he would subsequently be industrious to 
correct. Many inconveniences encompass 
a man in years; either because he seeks 
[eagerly] for gain, and abstains from 
what he has gotten and is afraid to 
make use of it: or because he transacts 
every thing in a timorous and dispas- 
sionate manner, dilatory, slow in hope, 
remiss, and greedy of futurity. Peevish, 
querulous, a panegyrist of former times 
when he was a boy, and chastiser and 
censurer of his juniors. Our advancing 
years bring many advantages along with 
them. Many our declining ones take 
away. That the parts [therefore] be- 
longing to age may not be given to a 
youth, and those of a man to a boy, we 
must dwell upon those qualities which 
are joined and adapted to each person's 

| An action is either represented on the 
stage, or, being done elsewhere, is there 
related. The things which enter by the 
ear affect the mind more languidly, than 
such as are submitted to the faithful 
eyes, and what a spectator presents to 
himself. You must not, however, bring 
upon the stage things fit only to be acted 
behind the scenes: and you must take 
away from view many actions, which 
elegant description may soon after de- 
liver in presence [of the spectators]. 
Let not Medea murder her sons before 
the people; nor the execrable Atreus 
openly dress human entrails; nor let 
Progne be metamorphosed into a bird, 
Cadmus into a serpent. Whatever you 
show to me in this manner, not able to 
give credit to, I detest. 

let a play which would be inquired 
after, and though seen, represented 

anew, be neither shorter nor longer than j 
the, fifth act. Neither let a god inter- I 
fere, unless a difficulty worthy a god's J 
unraveling should happen; nor let ai 
fourth person be officious to speak.2 

Let the chorus 3 sustain the part and 
manly character of an actor: nor let 
them sing anything between the acts 
which is not conducive to, and fitly co- 
herent with, the main design. Let them 
both patronize the good,* and give them 
friendly advice, and regulate the pas- 
sionate, and love to appease those who 
swell [with rage] : let them praise the 
repast of a short meal, the salutary 
effects of justice, laws, and peace with 
her open gates: let them conceal what 
is told to them in confidence, and sup- 
plicate and implore the gods that pros- 
perity may return to the wretched, and 
abandon the haughty. The flute (not as 
now, begirt with brass and emulous of 
the trumpet, but), slender and of sim- 
ple form, with few stops, was of service 
to accompany and assist the chorus, and 
with its tone was sufficient to fill the 
rows that were not as yet too crowded, 
where an audience, easily numbered, as 
being small and sober, chaste and mod- 
est, met together. But when the vic- 
torious Romans began to extend their 
territories, and an ampler wall encom- ; 
passed the city, and their genius was i 
indulged on festivals by drinking wine 
in the day-time without censure; a 
greater freedom arose both to the num- I 
bers [of poetry], and the measure [of I 
music]. For what taste could an unlet- I 
tered clown and one just dismissed from 
labors have, when in company with the 

2 The poet does not forbid a fourth person I 
to speak, but would have him say very little, jj 
ae the Scholiast understands the precept. Xri- 81 
deed, a conversation of three people is mostlj 
agreeable, because it is less confused and less! 
divides the attention of an audience. — Rodell.J 

3 The chorus was not introduced between 
the acts, merely to relieve the audience, bill 
had a part in the play, and concurred with the 
other actors to carry on the plot, and support 
the probability of it. The Choriphteus, or 
first person of the chorus, entPred in the acts, 
and spoke for all those of whom the chorus 
was composed; " officiumque virile defendat." 
The chorus filled up the intervals of the MM 
with their songs, which were composed of re-' 
flections upon what was past, or their iippre- 
hensions of what mipht happen. — Francis. 

4 The chorus, says the poet, is to take the 
side of the good and virtuous ; i. e. is always 
to sustain a moral character. 



polite; the base, with the man of honor? 
Thus the musician added new movements 
and a luxuriance to the ancient art, and 
strutting backward and forward, drew 
a length of train over the stage: thus 
likewise new notes were added to the 
severity of the lyre, and precipitate elo- 
quence produced an unusual language 
lin the theater] : and the sentiments [of 
the chorus, then] expert in teaching use- 
ful things and prescient of futurity, differ 
hardly from the oracular Delphi. 

The poet who first tried his skill in 
tragic verse for the paltry [prize of a] 
goat, soon after exposed to view wild 
satyrs naked, and attempted raillery with 
severity, still preserving the gravity [of 
tragedy] : because the spectator on fes- 
tivals, when heated with wine and dis- 
orderly, was to be amused with capti- 
vating shows and agreeable novelty. 
But it will be expedient so to recom- 
mend the bantering, so the rallying 
satyrs, so to turn earnest into jest; that 
none who shall be exhibited as a god, 
none who is introduced as a hero lately 
conspicuous in regal purple and gold, 
may deviate into the low style of obscure, 
mechanical shops; or, [on the contrary] 
while he avoids the ground, affect cloudy 
mist and empty jargon. Tragedy, dis- 
daining to prate forth trivial verses, like 
a matron commanded to dance on fes- 
tival days, will assume an air of modesty, 
even in the midst of wanton satyrs. As 
a writer of satire, ye Pisos, I shall never 
be fond of unornamented and reigning 
terms: nor shall I labor to differ so 
widely from the complexion of tragedy, 
as to n\ake no distinction, whether Davus 
be the speaker. And the bold Pythias, 
who gained a talent by gulling Simo; 
or Silenus, the guardian and attendant 
of his pupil-god [Bacchus]. I would 
so execute a fiction taken from a well- 
known story, that anybody might enter- 
tain hopes of doing the same thing; but, 
on trial, should sweat and labor in vain. 
Such power has a just arrangement and 
connection of the parts: such grace may 
be added to subjects merely common. 
In my judgment, the Fauns, that are 
brought out of the woods, should not be 
too gamesome with their tender strains, 
as if they were educated in the city, and 
almost at the bar ; nor, on the " other 
hand, should blunder out their obscene 

and scandalous speeches. For [at such 
stuff J all are offended, who have a horse, 
a father, or an estate: nor will they re- 
ceive with approbation, nor give* the 
laurel crown, as the purchasers of 
parched peas and nuts are delighted 

A long syllable put after a short one 
is terqaed an iambus, a lively measure, 
whence also it commanded the name of 
trimeters to be added to iambics, though 
it yielded six beats of time, being simi- 
lar to itself from first to last. Xot long 
ago, that it might come somewhat slower 
and with more majesty to the ear, it 
obligingly and contentedly admitted into 
its paternal heritage the steadfast spon- 
dees; agreeing, however, by social league, 
that it was not to depart from the sec- 
ond s and fourth place. But this [kind 
of measure] rarely makes its appearance 
in the notable f - trimeters of Accius, and 
brands the verse of Ennius brought upon 
the stage with a clumsy weight of spon- 
dees, with the imputation of being too 
precipitate and careless, or disgracefully 
accuses him of ignorance in his art 

It is not every judge that discerns 
inharmonious verses, and an undeserved 
indulgence is [in this case] granted to 
the Roman poets. But shall I on this 
account run riot and write licentiously? 
Or should not I rather suppose, that all 
the world are to see my faults; secure, 
and cautious [never to err] but with 
hope of being pardoned? Though, per- 
haps, I have merited no praise, I have 
escaped censure. 

Ye [who are desirous to excel], turn 
over the Grecian models by night, turn 
them by day. But our ancestors com- 
mended both the numbers of Plautus, 
and his strokes of pleasantry; too tamely, 
I will not say foolishly, admiring each of 
them; if you and I but know how to 
distinguish a coarse joke from a smart 
repartee, and understand the proper 
cadence, by [using] our fingers and ears. 

5 The iambic yields only the odd places to 
tho spondee, the first, third, and fifth, but pre- 
serves the second, fourth, and sixth for itself. 
This mixture renders the verse more noble, 
and it may be still trimeter, the second foot 
being iambic. The comic poets, better to dis- 
guise their verse, and make it appear more 
like common conversation, inverted the tragic 
order, and pat spondees in the even places. — 

6 Ironically spoken. 



Thespis t is said to have invented a 
new kind of tragedy, and to have car- 
ried his pieces about in carts, which 
[certain strollers] who had their faces 
besmeared with lees of wine, sang and 
acted. After him ^Eschylus, the inventor 
of the vizard mask and decent robe, 
laid the stage over with boards of a 
tolerable size, and taught to speak in 
lofty tone, and strut in the buskin. To 
these succeeded the old comedy, not 
without considerable praise: but its per- 
sonal freedom degenerated into excess 
and violence, worthy to be regarded by 
law; a law was made accordingly, and 
the chorus, the right of abusing being 
taken away, disgracefully became silent. 

Our poets have left no species of the 
art unattempted; nor have those of them 
merited the least honor, who dared to 
forsake the footsteps of the Greeks, and 
celebrate domestic facts; whether they 
have instructed us in tragedy, or in com- 
edy. Nor would Italy be raised higher 
by valor and feats of arms, than by its 
language, did not the fatigue and te- 
diousness of using the file disgust every 
one of our poets. Do you, the descend- 
ants of Pompilius, reject that poem, 
which many days and many a blot have 
not ten times subdued to the most per- 
fect accuracy. Because Democritus be- 
lieves that genius is more successful than 
wretched art, and excludes from Heli- 
con all poets who are in their senses, a 
great number do not care to part with 
their nails or beard, frequent places of 
solitude, shun the baths. For he will 
acquire, [he thinks,] the esteem and title 
of a poet, if he neither submits his head, 
which is not to be cured by even three 
Anticyras, to Licinius the barber. What 
an unlucky fellow am I, who am purged 
for the bile in spring-time ! Else nobody 
would compose better poems; but the 
purchase is not worth the expense. 
Therefore I will serve instead of a whet- 
stone, which though not able of itself to 
cut, can make steel sharp: so I, who can 

7 Thespis. A native of Icarius, a village in 
Attica, to whom the invention of the drama 
has been ascribed. Before his time there were 
no performers except the chorus. He led the 
way to the formation of a dramatic plot and 
language, by directing a pause in the perform- 
ance of the chorus, during which he came for- 
ward and recited with gesticulation a very 
theological story. — Wheeler. 

write no poetry myself, will teach the 
duty and business [of an author] ; 
whence he may be stocked with rich 
materials; what nourishes and forms the 
poet; what gives grace, what not; what 
is the tendency of excellence, what that 
of error. 

To have good sense, is the first prin-ij 
ciple and fountain of writing well. The] 
Socratic papers will direct you in the' 
choice of your subjects; and words will 
spontaneously accompany the subject, 
when it is well conceived. He who has 
learned what he owes to his country, and 
what to his friends; with what affection 
a parent, a brother, and a stranger, are 
to be loved; what is the duty of a sen- 
ator, what of a judge; what the duties 
of a general sent out to war; he, [I say,] 
certainly knows how to give suitable 
attributes to every character. I should 
direct the learned imitator to have a re- 
gard to the mode of nature and manners, ( 
and thence draw his expressions to the { 
life.s Sometimes a play, that is showy 
with common-places, and where the man- 
ners are well marked, though of no ele- 
gance, without force or art, gives the 
people much higher delight and more . 
effectually commands their attention, , 
than verse void of matter, and tuneful : 

To the Greeks, covetous of nothing 
but praise, the muse gave genius; to the 
Greeks the power of expressing them- 
selves in round periods. The Roman 
youth learn by long computation to sub- 
divide a pound into an hundred parts. 
Let the son of Albinus tell me, if from 
five ounces one be subtracted, what re- 
mains? He would have said the third 
of a pound. — Bravely done ! you will be 
able to take care of your own affairs. 
An ounce is added: what will that be? 
Half a pound. When this sordid rust 
and hankering after wealth has once 
tainted their minds, can we expect that 
such verses should be made as are 
worthy of being anointed with the oil 
of cedar, and kept in the well-polished 
cypress? » 

8 Truth, in poetry, means such an expres- 
sion, ns conforms to the general nature of 
things ; falsehood, that which, however suitable 
to the particular instance in view, doth yet not 
correspond to such general nature. — Tr. 

9 To preserve their books, the ancients 
rubbed them with oil of cedar, and kept them 



Poets wish either to profit or to de- 
light; or to deliver at once both the 
pleasures and the necessaries of life. 
Whatever precepts you give, be concise, 
that docile minds may soon comprehend 
what is said, and faithfully retain it. 
All superfluous instructions flow from 
the too full memory. Let whatever is 
imagined for the sake of entertainment, 
have as much likeness to truth as pos- 
sible; let not your play demand belief 
for whatever [absurdities] it is inclin- 
able [to exhibit]: nor take out of a 
witch's belly a living child, that she had 
dined upon. The tribes of the seniors 
rail against everything that is void of 
edification: the exalted knights disregard 
poems which are austere. He who joins 
the instructive with the agreeable, car- 
ries off every vote,™ by delighting and 
at the same time admonishing the reader. 
This book gains money for the Sosii; 
this crosses the sea, and continues to its 
renowned author a lasting duration. 

Yet there are faults, which we should 
be ready to pardon: for neither does the 
string [always] form the sound which 
the hand and conception [of the per- 
former] intends, but very often returns 
a sharp note when he demands a flat ; nor 
will the bow always hit whatever mark 
it threatens. But when there is a great 
majority of beauties in a poem, I will 
not be offended with a few blemishes, 
which either inattention has dropped, or 
human nature lias not sufficiently pro- 
vided against. What therefore [is to 
be determined in this matterj ? As a 
transcriber, if he still commits the same 
fault though he has been reproved, is 
without excuse; and the harper who al- 
ways blunders on the same string, is 
sure to be laughed at; so he who is 
excessively deficient becomes another 
Choerilus; whom, when I find him toler- 
able in two or three places, I wonder at 
with laughter; and at the same time am 
I grieved whenever honest Homer grows 
drowsy? But it is allowable, that sleep 
should steal upon [the progress ofj a 
long work. 

As is painting, so is poetry: some 
pieces will strike you more if you stand 

in cases of cypress, because these kinds of 
wood were not liable to corruption. 

10 Omne tulit punctum. Alluding to the 
manner of voting at the comma by putting a 
point over the name of a candidate. — Tr. 

near, and some if you are at a greater 
distance: one loves the dark; another, 
which is not afraid of the critic's subtile 
judgment, chooses to be seen in the light; 
the one has pleased once; the other will 
give pleasure if ten times repeated. 

O you elder of the youths, though you 
are framed to a right judgment by your 
father's instructions, and are wise in 
yourself, yet take this truth along with 
you, [and J remember it; that in cer- 
tain things a medium and tolerable de- 
gree of eminence may be admitted: a 
counselor and pleader" at the bar of the 
middle rate is far removed from the 
merit of eloquent Messala, nor has so 
much knowledge of the law as Cassellius 
Aulus, but yet he is in request; [but] 
a mediocrity in poets neither gods, nor 
men, nor [even] the booksellers' shops 
have endured. As at an agreeable en- . 
tertainment discordant music, and muddy 
perfume, and poppies mixed with Sar- 
dinian u honey give offense, because the 
supper might have passed without them; 
so poetry, created and invented for the 
delight of our souls, if it comes short 
ever so little of the summit, sinks to the 

He who does not understand the game, 
abstains from the weapons of the Cam- 
pus Martius: and the unskillful in the 
tennis ball, the quoit, and the troques, 
keeps himself quiet; lest the crowded 
ring should raise a laugh at his expense: 
notwithstanding this, he who knows noth- 
ing of verses presumes to compose. Why 
not! He is free-born, of a good family; 
above all, he is registered at an eques- 
trian sum of monies, and clear from 
every vice. You, [I am persuaded,] will 
neither say nor do anything in opposi- 
tion to Minerva: such is your judgment, 
such your disposition. But if ever you 
shall write anything, let it be submitted 
to the ears of Metius [Tarpa], who is a 
judge, and your father's, and mine; and 
let it be suppressed till the ninth year, 
your papers being laid up within your 
own custody. You will have it in your 
power to blot out what you have not 
made public: a word once sent abroad 
can never return. 

11 Sardinia was full of bitter herbs, from 
v hence the honey was bitter. White poppy 
st ed, roasted, was mingled with honey by the 



Orpheus, the priest and interpreter of 
the gods, deterred the savage race of 
men from slaughters and inhuman diet; 
hence said to tame tigers and furious 
lions. Amphion, too, the builder of the 
Theban wall, was said to give the stones 
motion with the sound of his lyre, and 
to lead them whithersoever he would, by 
, engaging persuasion. This was deemed 
wisdom of yore, to distinguish the pub- 
lic from private weal; things sacred 
from things profane; to prohibit a pro- 
miscuous commerce between the sexes; 
ito give laws to married people; to plan 
out cities; to engrave laws on [tables of] 
wood. This honor accrued to divine 
poets, and their songs. After these, ex- 
cellent Homer and Tyrtaeus animated 
the manly mind to martial achievements 
with their verses. Oracles were deliv- 
ered in poetry, and the economy of life 
pointed out, and the favor of sovereign 
princes was solicited by Pierian strains, 
games were instituted, and a [cheerful] 
period put to the tedious labors of the 
day; [this I remind you of,] lest haply 
you should be ashamed of the lyric muse, 
and Apollo the god of song. 

It has been made a question, whether 
good poetry be derived from nature or 
from art. For my part, I can neither 
conceive what study can do without a 
rich natural vein, nor what rude genius 
can avail of itself: so much does the 
one require the assistance of the other, 
and so amicably do they conspire [to 
produce the same effect]. He who is 
industrious to reach the wished-for goal, 
has done and suffered much when a boy; 
he has sweated, and shivered with cold; 
he has abstained from love and wine; 
he who sings the Pythian strains, was 
first a learner, and in awe of a master. 
But [in poetry] it is now enough for a 
man to say to himself: " I make ad- 
mirable verses: a murrain seize the hind- 
most: it is scandalous for me to be out- 
stripped, and fairly to acknowledge that 
I am ignorant of that which I never 

As a crier who collects the crowd to- 
gether to buy his goods, so a poet rich 
in land, rich in money put out at inter- 
est, invites flatterers to come [and praise 
his works] for a reward. But if he be 
one who is well able to set out an ele- 
gant table, and give security for a poor 

man, and relieve him when entangled 
in gloomy lawsuits; I shall wonder if 
with his wealth he can distinguish a true 
friend from a false one. You, whether 
you have made, or intend to make, a 
present to any one, do not bring him 
full of joy directly to your finished 
verses: for then he will cry out: 
"Charming, excellent, judicious"; he 
will turn pale; at some parts he will 
even distill the dew from his friendly 
eyes; he will jump about; he will beat 
the ground [with ecstasy]. As those 
who mourn friends at funerals for pay, 
do and say more than those that are 
afflicted from their hearts; so the sham 
admirer is more moved than he that 
praises with sincerity. Certain kings are 
said to ply with frequent bumpers, and 
by wine make trial of a man whom they 
are sedulous to know, whether he be 
worthy of their friendship or not. Thus, 
if you compose verses, let not the fox's 
concealed intentions impose upon you. 

If you had recited anything to Quin- 
tilius, he would say, " Alter, I pray, this 
and this": if you replied, you could do 
it no better, having made the experiment 
twice or thrice in vain; he would order 
you to blot out, and once more apply to 
the anvil your ill-formed verses: if you 
choose rather to defend than correct a 
fault, he spent not a word more nor 
fruitless labor, but you alone might be 
fond of yourself and your own works, 
without a rival. A good and sensible 
man will censure spiritless verses, he will 
condemn the rugged, on the incorrect 
he will draw across a black stroke with 
his pen; he will lop off ambitious [and 
redundant] ornaments; he will make him 
throw light on the parts that are not 
perspicuous; he will arraign what is ex- 
pressed ambiguously; he will mark what 
should be altered; [in short,] he will 
be an Aristarchus: 12 he will not say, 
" Why should I give my friend offense 
about mere trifles?" These trifles will 
lead into mischiefs of serious conse- 
quence, when once made an object of 
ridicule, and used in a sinister manner. 

1 2 Aristarchus was a critic, who wrote above 
four score volumes of comments on the Greek 
poets. His criticisms on Homer were so much 
esteemed that no line was thought genuine 
until he had acknowledged it. He was sur- 
named the prophet or diviner, for his sagac- 
ity. — Francis. 



Like one whom an odious plague or 
jaundice, fanatic phrensy or lunacy, dis- 
tresses; those who are wise avoid a mad 
poet, and are afraid to touch him: the 
boys jostle him, and the incautious pur- 
sue him. If, like a fowler intent upon 
his game, he should fall into a well or a 
ditch while he belches out his fustian 
verses and roams about, though he should 
cry out for a long time, "Come to my 
assistance, O my country-men"; not one 
would give himself the trouble of tak- 
ing him up. Were any one to take pains 
to give him aid, and let down a rope; 
" How do you know, but he threw him- 
self in hither on purpose?" I shall say: 
and will relate the death of the Sicilian 
poet. Empedocles, while he was ambi- 
tious of being esteemed an immortal god, 
in cold blood leaped into burning .Etna. 
Let poets have the privilege and license 

to die [as they please]. He who saves 
a man against his wilL does the same 
with him who kills him [against his 
will J. Neither is it the first time that 
he has behaved in this manner; nor, were 
he to be forced from his purposes, would 
he now become a man, and lay aside 
his desire of such a famous death. 
Neither does it appear sufficiently, why 
he makes verses: whether he has defiled 
his father's ashes, or sacrilegiously re- 
moved the sad enclosure of the vindic- 
tive thunder: it is evident that he is 
mad, and like a bear that has burst 
through the gates closing his den, this 
unmerciful rehearser chases the learned 
and unlearned. And whomsoever he 
seizes, he fastens on and assassinates 
with recitation: a leech that will not quit 
the skin, till satiated with blood. 


Dramatic Criticism of the Middle Ages 41 

Bibliography 41 

JElics Donatds 42 

Bibliography 42 

On Comedy and Tragedy \_De Comcedia et Tragcedia] translated by 

Mildred Rogers. (4th Century A. D.) Complete .... 43 

Dante Alighieiu 45 

Bibliography 46 

Letter to Can Grande [Eputola XZ] translated by C. S. Latham. 

(1318?) Extracts ... „ . . 47 


The absence of any body of dramatic 
work, and the unsettled conditions of 
Europe between the disintegration of the 
Roman Empire and the earliest dawn of 
the Renaissance, easily account for the 
dearth of dramatic criticism during the 
Dark Ages. Such doctrine as exists is 
in the form of more or less cut-and-dried 
commentary, most of it based on other 
work of a similar nature. Or else we 
have the altogether moral — chiefly non- 
literary — treatises of Tertullian (De 
Spectaculis) and of St, Cyprian on the 
same subject, dating respectively from 
the second and third centuries. The 
greater part of these treatises and frag- 
ments are little other than repetitions 
of the ideas of Aristotle and Horace or 
of other early Greek and Latin writers. 
The chief interest of the fragmentary 
tractates of Donatus, Evanthius, and Di- 
omedes, is due to their preserving stray 
sentences from Cicero and Theophrastus. 
Donatus quotes Cicero's famous saying 
on comedy — that it is " imitatio vitae, 
speculum consuetudinis, imago veritatis " 
— Diomedes, Theophrastus' definitions of 
comedy and tragedy. Donatus (together 
with Evanthius — the commentaries De 
Comcedia et Tragcedia are often printed 
together) acquired no small degree of 
fame for his Commentary on Terence, 
which appeared for many years in nearly 
every edition of the Roman dramatist. 
Diomedes, another fourth century gram- 
marian, devotes sections of the Third 
Book of his Ars Grammatica to a sum- 

mary treatment of dramatic principles. 
This is based upon the non-extant De 
Poet is of Suetonius. The early Church 
Fathers — St. Ambrose, Lactantius, 
Chrysostom, and Prudentius and even 
Augustine — had written on the drama, 
but their attitude, needless to say, was 
almost exclusively a moral one. The 
Seventh century scholar, Isidore of Se- 
ville, in his encyclopedic Origines — or 
Etymologiae — gives two small sections 
to drama, but these yield nothing new. 
They merely help bridge the gap from 
Horace to the Renaissance. The Moor- 
ish philosopher Averroes made an 
abridged version of Aristotle's Poetics 
in the Twelfth century, and added his 
commentary. Mr. Spingarn mentions 
Johannes Januensis de Balbis, who in 
the year 1286", distinguishes tragedy and 
comedy in his Catholicon. Horace* who, 
as has been pointed out, was the chief 
inspiration of these sporadic treatises, is 
at least referred to by John of Salisbury 
(Twelfth century), in his Policraticus. 
The ilagnae Derivationes of Uguccione 
da Pisa has been pointed out as a source 
of Dante's definitions of comedy and 
tragedy. Dante himself, in the four- 
teenth century, on the threshold of the 
Renaissance, still adheres to the Hora- 
tian theory. The brevity, the tone of 
final authority, the dependence on clas- 
sical precedent in Dante's Epistle may 
well serve to illustrate the state of mind 
of mediaeval scholars so far as they were 
concerned with dramatic theory. 

General references on the literature of 
the Middle Ages: 

J. E. Sandys, A History of Classical 
Scholarship from the Sixth Century 
B. C. to the end of the Middle Ages 
(Cambridge, 1903). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. I (New York, 1900). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (^nd ed., 
New York, 1908). For additional 
matter, fuller bibl. and notes, see 
Fusco's translation, as La Critica Let- 
teraria nel Rinascimento, with a pref- 
ace bv Croce (Bari, 1905). 

W. P. Ker, The Dark Ages (New York, 




A. Ebert, Allgemeine Geschichte der 
Literatur des Mittelalters im Abend- 
lande, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1874-87). 

Max Manitius, Geschichte der latein- 
ischen Literatur des Mittelalters. Teil 
I. (From Justinian to the middle of 
the 10th century.) (Mi'mchen, 1911.) 

F. J. Snell, The Fourteenth Century 
(New York, 1899). 

A. H. L. Heeren, Geschichte der klas- 
sischen Literatur im Mittelalter, 2 
vols. (330-1400 a. d.) (Gottingen, 1822). 

Amable Jourdain, Recherches critiques 
sur Vage et Vorigine des traductions 
latines d'Aristote, et sur les commen- 

taires grecs ou arabes employe's par 
les docteurs scolastiques (2nd ed., 
Paris, 1843). 

G. Gregory Smith, The Transition Period 
(New York, 1900). 

Henry Hallam, Introduction to the Lit- 
erature of Europe, in the Fifteenth, 
Sixteenth, and Sevententh Centuries 
(new ed., London, 1872). 

Karl Borinski, Die Antike in Poetik und 
Kunsttheorie. I. Mittelalter, Renais- 
sance, Barock (Leipzig, 1914). 

Leon C16dat, Le Th4dtre au moyen-age 
(Paris, 1897). 


The only facts known about Donatus 
are that he flourished in the middle of 
the fourth century, a. d., and that he was 
the teacher of St. Jerome. His best 
known works are the various grammat- 
ical and rhetorical treatises recently gath- 
ered together under the title of Ars 
Grammatica; the Enarrationes and 
scholia on the plays of Terence, and the 
fragment De Comcedia et Tragcedia. 
The Grammar was used for centuries 
and the word Donat became a common 
noun designating an elementary gram- 
mar. The Commentaries and fragment 
on Comedy and Tragedy were included 
in all the early printed editions of Ter- 
ence. The influence exerted by these 
works extended throughout the middle 
ages into the seventeenth century, until 
the Poetics of Aristotle was known and 
accepted throughout the greater part of 
civilized Europe. Giraldi Cintio in 
Italy, and Lope de Vega in Spain, owe 
not a little to the Commentaries and the 
De Comcedia et Tragcedia. 

The fragment here printed contains 
little that is new and original; the ref- 
erences and quotations from Horace are 
sufficient indication of the source of most 
of his ideas. His importance lies rather 
in the fact that he is the last of the Lat- 
ins to formulate any theory, even a de- 
rived one, of the drama. He belongs 
to the Middle Ages in spirit; his schol- 
astic mind and temper were evidently 
what appealed to his followers. He is 

the connecting link between Horace and 
Dante; Donatus is the last of the Ro- 
mans; Dante, though his meager refer- 
ence to drama is of the spirit of the 
dark ages is chronologically the imme- 
diate precursor of the early Renaissance 

Aeli Donat % quod tertur 
Terenti, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 


P. Wessner, 

C omentum 

Donati Fragmentum de Comcedia et 

Tragcedia (in Gronovius' Thesaurus 

Graecarum Antiquitatum) , vol. VIII 

(Venetiis, 1735). i 

The first printed edition of the Commen- 
taries on Terence was published at 
Cologne, 1470-72, and was followed by 
three others in the same century. — 
Most of these contained the De Comce- 
dia et Tragcedia. 

References: (On late Latin and Mid- 
dle Ages literature, see references under 
Latin Dramatic Criticism.) 

On Donatus and his works: 

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. 8 

(Cambridge, 1910). 
Nouvelle Biographie ginirale, vol. 14 

(Paris, 1855). 

l Together with this fragment is another, en- 
titled Eranthii et Donati de Tragaedia et 
Comcedia. — Ed. 



Bioqraphie unicerseUe, vol. 11 (Paris, 

Ludwig Schopen, De Terentio et Donato 
eius interprete (Bonn, 18^1). 

Minton Warren, On Five Xezv Manu- 
scripts of the Commentary of Donatus 
to Terence (in Harvard Studies in 
Classical Philology, vol. XVII, Cam- 
bridge, V. S. A., 1906). 

J. E. Sandvs, A History of Classical 
Scholarship, vol. I (Cambridge, 1903). 

G. Saintsbury, A History of Criticism, 
vol. 2 (New York, 190-2). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (New 
York, 1908). 

Gustave Lanson, L'Idee de la tragidie 
avant Jodelle (in Recue d'histoire lit- 
teraire de la France, Paris, 1904). 

Wilhelm Cloetta, Beitrcige zur Littera- 
turgeschichte des Mittelalters und der 
Renaissance (Halle, 1S90-92). 

H. T. Karsten, De comm. Don. ad Ter- 
enti fabulas origine et compositione 
(Leiden, 1907). 


[De Comcedia et Tragcedia] 

(4th Century a. d.) 

Comedy is a story treating of various 
habits and customs "of public and private 
affairs, from which one may learn what 
is of use in life, on the one hand, and 
what must be avoided, on the other. 
The Greeks denned it as follows: Kuftatdia 
early ISiwtikuv Kal icokiTiKwv xpaffiarwy 
clkivovvos repioxv- Cicero says that com- 
edy is " a copy of life, a mirror of cus- 
tom, a reflection of truth." Comedies, 
moreover, are so named from early cus- 
tom; since in country towns composi- 
tions of this sort were originally played 
among the Greeks; as in Italy the people 
used to be held at crossroads by games 
where a measure of speech was intro- 
duced while the acts were being changed. 
Or dvo Tbiv Kw/iuv; this is, from the acts 
of the lives of men who inhabit country 
towns because of the mediocrity of the 
happy; not in kingly halls, like tragic 
characters. Comedy, indeed, comprises 
action and speech, since it is verse based 
upon a representation of life and an 
imitation of customs. It is uncertain 
which of the Greeks first invented com- 
edy; of the Latins there is no doubt. 
Livius Andronicus first invented comedy 
and the national drama ; he said, ** Com- 
edy is the mirror of everyday life," nor 
was this without reason. For as we gaze 
into a mirror we easily perceive the fea- 
tures of the truth in the reflection; and 
so, in reading a comedy do we easily ob- 
serve the reflection of life and of cus- 

i Translated, complete, for the present col- 
lection by Mildred Rogers. It has not before 
appeared in English. — Ed. 

torn. The plan of its origin moreover 
comes all the way from foreign states 
and customs, for the Athenians, preserv- 
ing the culture of Attica, when they 
wished to observe people living evil lives, 
used to come from every quarter with 
joy and alacrity to the country towns 
and there used to make known the life 
of individuals using their names; hence 
the name is made, as it is called in a 
comedy. These compositions, moreover, 
were first acted in pleasant meadows. 
Xor were rewards lacking whereby the 
talents of learned men might be incited 
to the art of writing; prizes were offered 
to the actors as well, that they might 
practice the pleasing modulations of 
speech for the pleasure of praise. Also 
a goat was given to them, because this 
animal was considered a charm against 
mistakes; hence the name of tragedy. 
Some, however, preferred that tragedy 
should be spoken of and called from the 
lees, or dregs of oil, which is a watery 
fluid. When these plays were first acted 
by artists for the glory of Father Liber, 
the actual authors of the comedies and 
tragedies began to worship and adore 
the divinity of this god as to a paternal 
deity. A probable explanation of this 
exists; for these unfinished verses were 
so produced that it was best for his 
glory and wondrous deeds to be thereby 
honored and proclaimed; then, little by 
little the renown of this art spread. 
Thespis, however, first brought these 
writings to the notice of every one. 
Afterwards, .Eschylus, following the ex- 



ample, made some public. Of these Hor- 
ace speaks thus in his De Arte Poetica: 

lgnotum tragicae genus invenisse Ca- 
viaenae dicitur, et plaustris vex-isse Poe- 
7iiata Thespis, quae cane-rent, agerentque 
pemncti faecibus ora post hunc per- 
sonae, pallaeque repertor honestae 
AUschylus, et modicis instravit pulpita 
tignis: Et docuit magnumque loqui, 
nitique cothurno. Successit vetus hie 
Comoedia non sine multa laude: sed in 
vitiwm libertas excidit, et vim Dignam 
lege regi: lex est accepta: chorusque tur- 
piter obticuit sublato jure noeendi. Nil 
intentatum nostri liquere Poetae: nee 
minimum meruere decus, vestigia Oraeca 
ausi deserere, et celebrare domestica 
facta, vel qui praetextas, vel qui docuere 

[see p. 33] 

Story [fabula] is the generic term, and 
its two chief divisions are comedy and 
tragedy. If the plot be Latin it is called 
Praetexta; comedy has, moreover, many 
subdivisions. For it may be in Greek 
dress; in Roman, it may be a comedy 
of the booths — Atellanian — or farcical 
— Rhintonica — or the bare-foot — Plani- 
pedia. This term of Bare-foot is ap- 
plied because of the low order of the 
plot or the poorness of the players, who 
wear no sock or buskin on the stage 
or platform, but go bare- footed; or it 
may be because these comedies are not 
concerned with the affairs of people in 
towers or attics but of the inhabitants of 
low humble places. Cincius and Faliscus 
are said to have been the first actors 
who played comedy; Minutius and Pro- 
thonius the first who played tragedy. 

All comedies are subdivided into four 
classes: the title-role, the scene of action, 
the situation, and the outcome. Here 
follow certain examples: of the title role, 
are the Phormio, the Hecyra, the Cur- 
culio, the Epidicus. Of the scene are 
the Andria, the Leucadia, and the Brun- 
disina. Of the situation are the Eu- 
nuch us, the Asinaria, and the Captivi. 
Of the outcome are the Commorientes, 
the Adelphi, and the Heautontimoru- 
menos. There are three kinds of com- 
edy: the Palliata, in which the actors 
wear Greek costumes; by some this is 
called the Tabernaria. Secondly, the To- 

gata, in which the actors wish to wear 
togas. Thirdly, the Atellana; this sort 
of comedy is full of witticisms and jokes; 
this is a time-honored form. Every com- 
edy is divided into four parts: the pro- 
logue, the Protasis, the Epitasis, and the 
Catastrophe. The prologue is the first 
speech, called irpoXoyos by the Greeks; 
that is, an address preceding the actual 
structure of the story. There are four 
kinds of prologues: HvaariKos, a lauda- 
tory passage wherein the author or the 
story is praised; Avairopticbs, one in which 
an opponent is cursed or the audience 
thanked; 'TTroOeriKbs, one telling the plot 
of the play; and one, M(kt6j, a com- 
posite which contains all of the above 
elements. There were some who wished 
this to be between a prologue and a 
preface, inasmuch as a prologue is to a 
certain extent the introduction of the 
story wherein something more is told 
than in the plot, to the audience; either 
from the poet or from needs of the 
drama itself or the actor. The preface 
is where an account of the plot is given. 
The first part, or Protasis, is the be- 
ginning of the action of the drama, 
wherein part of the play is developed, 
and part withheld in order to create sus- 
pense. The second part, or Epitasis 
marked the ascent and further develop- 
ment of difficulties or, as I have said, 
the knot of the entire coil. The last 
part, or Catastrophe, is the solution, 
pleasing to the audience, and made clear 
to every one by an explanation of what 
has passed. 

In a great many stories the titles 
themselves stand before the authors' 
names; in some, the authors precede the 
titles. Antiquity explains this variety of 
usage, for when certain narratives were 
first given out their titles were men- 
tioned before their authors, so that no 
unpopularity could harm them l>ecause 
of the author. When, however, after the 
publication of many works the author 
had gained some renown, their names 
stood first, so that through the attrac- 
tion of their names their works were 

It is obvious that acts were written 
for various games. For there are four 
kinds of games which the Curule /Ediles 
provided for the public. There are the 
Megalenses games, sacred to the great 



gods; these are called iieyaKeaios by the 
Greeks. There are the funeral games in- 
stituted to keep back the populace while 
the funeral rites decreed for a Patrician 
were being carried out. There are the 
plebeian games given for the benefit of 
the plebs. There are the Apollonian 
games sacred to Apollo. On the stage 
there were always two altars; one to the 
right for Liber, one to the left for the 
god in whose honor the festival was held. 
Hence Terence's Andrian says, Ex ara 
hac sumc verbenas. [Take some foliage 
from the altar.] 

They always bring on Ulysses in Greek 
costume either because he finally pre- 
tended madness when he wanted to be 
ruler so that he should not be forced 
ignorantly to go to war, or because of 
his unusual wisdom under the cover of 
which he was of such great help to his 
comrades. For his nature was always 
that of a deceitful person. Some say 
that the inhabitants of Ithaca, like the 
Locrians, always wore pallas. The ac- 
tors impersonating Achilles and Xeo- 
ptolemus wear diadems, though never 
royal scepters. The reason of this con- 
vention is held to be that they never 
entered the rites of conspiracy with the 
other Greek youths to carry on the war 
with Troy, nor were they ever under 
the command of Agamemnon. 

The old men in comedies wear white 
costumes, because they are held to be 
the oldest sort. Young men wear a va- 
riety of colors. The slaves in comedy 
wear thick shawls, either as a mark of 
their former poverty, or in order that 
they may run the faster. Parasites wear 
twisted pallas. Those who are happy 
wear white robes; the unhappy wear 
soiled robes; the rich wear royalpurple, 
paupers wear reddish-purple"; the sol- 
dier carries a purple chlamys; a girl 
wears a foreign robe; a procurer, a robe 

of many colors; yellow, to designate 
greed, is given to the courtesan. These 
garments are called syrmata — attired in 
trains because they are dragged. This 
custom originated from the luxuriant ex- 
travagances of the stage. The same gar- 
ments worn by mourning characters de- 
note neglect through carelessness. 

Woven curtains are spread on the 
stage as ornament; they are painted in 
many colors, and were used in Rome after 
the custom of the AttaUan kingdom; in 
place of these, Liparian hangings were 
used at a later period. There is also a 
curtain used for farces; this is hung be- 
fore the audience while the sets of the 
production are being changed. 

The actors speak the dialogue. The 
songs are arranged in measures, not by 
the author, but by some one skilled in 
music of this sort. For all the songs are 
not sung throughout in the same meas- 
ures, but in different ones, in order to 
mark which group of three are singing 
the reciprocal measures of the song. The 
people who used to make this sort of 
measures placed their name at the front, 
above the title and the author and the 

Songs of this sort were arranged for 
flutes so that when these had been heard, 
many of the people could learn what play 
was going to be acted before the title 
was announced to the audience. They 
were, moreover, played on " equal " or 
" unequal " flutes, and right- or left- 
handed. The right-handed, or Lydian, 
ones proclaimed the production of a com- 
edy of serious and solemn character; 
the left-handed, or Serranian, ones an- 
nounced humor in the comedy in the 
lightness of its catastrophe. In cases, 
though, where a " right " and " left " 
ceremony was required, it meant that the 
play combined seriousness and gayety 


Dante Alighieri was born at Florence 
in May, 1265. His familv was of noble 
extraction, though they "had been for 
some time in reduced circumstances. 
Little is known of the poet's early years 

except what is told in the Vita Nuova: 
his love for Beatrice, whom he first saw 
when he was nine years old. His second 
meeting, nine years later, resulted in the 
writing of his first known work, a sonnet. 



This sonnet, copies of which he sent to 
various poets, brought him friends, chief 
among whom was Guido Cavalcanti. 
Beatrice died in 1390, and the young 
Dante devoted himself heart and soul to 
the study of philosophy and literature. 
At the same time, however, he engaged 
in business and political enterprises. In 
1289 he fought with the Florentine Guelfs 
in the Battle of Campaldino. In the Di- 
vina Com/media he relates that he was en- 
gaged in other battles. Not later than 
1298 Dante married. Of his married 
life little is known, except that when he 
settled at Ravenna in later years his 
wife was not with him. They had four 
children, all of whom were born in Flor- 
ence before 1304. In 1295, or the year 
after, he enrolled in the Guild of Phy- 
sicians and Apothecaries, and began an 
active political career, which was to end 
in disaster. In the year 1300 he went 
as ambassador to San Gemignano on 
a special mission. Soon after, in the 
same year, he was elected one of the 
six Priors, who stood highest in the gov- 
ernment of Florence. It was not long 
before one of the numerous political 
feuds — between the Blacks and the 
Whites — broke out. The leaders of both 
factions were banished, and Dante was 
sent on a mission to Rome. In his ab- 
sence from home, in 1301, Charles of 
Valois entered Florence and sewed 
seeds of discord. The next year Dante 
learned that he had been fined on a 
false charge of corrupt dealings. He dis- 
regarded the fine and was condemned to 
exile on pain of death. He never saw 
Florence again. For nearly twenty years 
he lived in poverty, wandering from city 
to city. Very little is known of these 
last years. He went first to Siena, 
where he joined other conspirators in an 
attempt to return, but in 1304 he left 
the conspirators, and went to Verona and 
later Padua. He was in Paris, and per- 
haps in England during the following 
years, but was again in Italy in 1310 and 
1311. The letters he wrote to the Flor- 
entines at that time, full of imprecations 
and threats, resulted in his exclusion from 
the number of exiles who were finally 
allowed to return in 1311. After further 
wanderings, he went to Verona again, 
where he was the guest of Can Grande 
della Scala, to whom he wrote his famous 

Epistle. In 1317 or 1318 he went to Ra- 
venna, where he lived with his children 
and finished the Divina Commedia, on 
which he had been working for many 
years. Toward the end of his life he vis- 
ited Mantua and Piacenza. In 1321 he 
was sent as ambassador to Venice to set- 
tle a dispute, but the Venetians, refusing 
to allow the ambassadors to return by 
sea, forced them to pursue a difficult and 
unhealthy route; Dante was taken ill in 
consequence, and in September, 1321, died 
at Ravenna. 

The Epistle to Can Grande was written 
not later than 1318, and was first printed, 
in very corrupt form, by G. Baruffaldi 
(Venice, 1700). It contains a full ex- 
planation of the scope and purpose of 
the Divina Commedia. Dante's remarks 
on comedy, which are here re-printed, 
are incidental. They are interesting 
rather as a link in the dramatic tradi- 
tion extending from Donatus to the early 
Renaissance critics, than as an intrin- 
sically valuable document. Dante reiter- 
ates the usual philological statement as 
to the etymology of the word " Comedy " 
and quotes Horace in support of his use 
of the word in connection with his poem. 

Editions : 

Among the standard texts of Dante 
containing the Epistolce is Tutte le opere 
di Dante Alighieri; nuovamente rivedute 
nel testo dal Dr. E. Moore, etd., with dic- 
tionary, indexes, etc., by Paget Toynbee 
(3rd ed., Oxford, 1904), and Karl Witte's 
Dantis Alighieri Epistolae quae extant, 
cum notis (Patavii, 1827). Besides the 
translation here used, are: P. H. Wick- 
steed, Translation of the Latin Works of 
Dante (London, 1904), and Katharine 
Hilliard's translation of the Convito 
(London, 1889). 

On Dante and his works: 
Edward Moore, Studies in Dante, 4 

series (Oxford, 1896-1917). 
Charles Allen Dinsmore, Aids to the 

Study of Dante (Boston, 1903). 
C. H. Grandgent, Dante (New York, 

J. R. Smith, The Earliest Lives of Dante 

(\ew York, 1901). 
Paget Toynbee, Dante. Alighieri, His Life 

and his Works (4th ed., New York, 




Paget Toynbee, Dante Studies and Re- 
rches (London, 1902). 

CI. A. Seartazzini, Encyclopedia Dantesca, 
2 vols. (Milano, 1905). 

George Saintsburv, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 1 (New York, 1902). 

Vittorio Imbriani, Studi Danteschi (Fi- 
renze, 1891). 

Karl Witte, Dante-Forschungen, 1st and 
2nd series (Halle, 1869, Heilbronn, 
1876. Translated by C. Mabel Law- 
rence and Philip H. Wieksteed as Es- 
says on Dante, Boston, 1898). 

Cesare Balbo, Vita di Dante (augmented 
ed., Firenze, 1853). 

F. J. SnelL Handbook to the Works of 
Dante (London, 1909). 

Special references on the Epistle to 
Can Grande: 
C. S. Latham, A Translation of Dante's 

Eleven Epistles (Boston, 1892). 
Francesco d'Ovidio, L'Epistola a Can- 

grande (In Rerista d'ltalia, anno 2, 

v. 3, Roma, 1899). 
Francesco Torraca, L'Epistola a Can- 

grande (In Rerista d'ltalia, anno 2, 

pp. 601-636, Roma, 1899). 
C. H. Herford, Dante's Theory of Poetry 

(In Quarterly Review, v. 213, London, 



[Epistola XI] 

(Written about 1318) 

Section 10.— The title of the book is: 
" Here beginneth the Comedy of Dante 
Alighieri, a Florentine by birth, but not 
by character." And for the comprehen- 
sion of this it must be understood that 
the word " Comedy ■ is derived from 
kuut], village, and w5ij, which meaneth 
song; hence comedy is, as it were, a vil- 
lage song. Comedy is in truth a certain 
kind of poetical narrative that differeth 
from all others. It differeth from trag- 
edy in its subject-matter, — in this way, 
that Tragedy in its beginning is admir- 
able and quiet, in its ending or catas- 
trophe foul and horrible; and because of 
this the word " Tragedy " is derived from 
rpd'/oj, which meaneth goat, and uSy. 
Tragedy is, then, as it were, a goatish 
song; that is, foul like a goat, as doth 
appear in the tragedies of Seneca. Com- 
edy, indeed, beginneth with some adverse 
circumstances, but its theme hath a 
happy termination, as doth appear in 

1 Extract from A Translation of Dante's 
Eleven Letters, by C. S. Latham (Boston, 

the comedies of Terence. And hence cer- 
tain writers were accustomed to say in 
their salutations in place of a greeting, 
" a tragic beginning and a comic end- 
ing." Likewise they differ in their style 
of language, for Tragedy is lofty and 
sublime, Comedy mild and humble, — as 
Horace says in his Poetica, where he con- 
cedeth that sometimes comedians speak 
like tragedians and conversely: 

Interdum tamen et vocem comoedia tollit, 
Iratusque Chremes tumido delitigat ore; 
Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pe- 

From which it is evident why the present 
work is called a comedy. For if we con- 
sider the theme, in its beginning it is hor- 
rible and foul, because it is Hell; in its 
ending, fortunate, desirable, and joyful, 
because it is Paradise; and if we con- 
sider the style of language, the style is 
careless and humble, because it is the 
vulgar tongue in which even housewives 
hold converse. . . . 



Italian Renaissance Dramatic Criticism 51 

Bibliography 52 

Bernardino Daniello 54 

Bibliography 54 

Poetics [Poetica] translated by Lander MaeClintock. (1536.) Ex- 
tracts 54 

Antonio Sebastiano Minturno 55 

Bibliography 55 

The Art of Poetry [Arte Poetica] translated by Ida Treat O'Xeil. 

(1564.) Extracts 56 

Julius Cesar Scaliger 60 

Bibliography 60 

Poetic* [Poetices Libri Septem] translated by F. M. Padelford. 

(1561.) Extracts 61 

Lodoyico Casteltetro 63 

Bibliography 63 

Poetics [Poetica d'Aristoiele vulgarizzata e esposta] translated by 

H. B. Charlton. (1570.) Extracts 64 

Miscellaneous Critical Works [Opere Varie Critiche] (Posthumous. — 

Late 16th Century) translated by H. B. Charlton. Extracts. . 64 

Note. Brief Extract from Cecchi's Prologue to La Romanesca 

(1574) 66 


The Italian Renaissance, bringing with 
it as it did a re-birth of interest in the 
art and literature of antiquity, is the 
starting point of modern literary criti- 
cism. After the discovery of the ancient 
texts, commentators, translators, editors 
were not wanting, and it was not long 
before they began to expound theories 
of their own. It has already been shown 
(p. 2S) how the Ars Poet tea of Horace 
had been the basis of what was written 
on the subject of the drama between 
the Augustan period and the early Ren- 
aissance. Donatus and Diomedes both 
quote largely from it, and most of their 
ideas were based upon it. Aristotle, on 
the other hand, was practically unknown; 
his influence in classical antiquity was, 
according to Spingarn, u so far as it is 
possible to judge, very slight." The 
manuscript of the Poetics was preserved 
in the East. The first Oriental version 
was translated from the Syriac into Ara- 
bic (about 935 a. d.) by Abu-Baschar. 
In the twelfth century Averroes made an 
abridged version; this in turn was trans- 
lated into Latin in the thirteenth century 
by a German of the name of Hermann, 
and by Mantinus of Tortosa in Spain in 
the fourteenth. One of the extremely 
rare references to Aristotle is found in 
Roger Bacon; Petrarch just mentions 

Giorgio Valla published his Latin trans- 
lation of the Poetics at Venice in 149S. 
This was followed by the Aldine edition 
of the original Greek text in 1508. In 
1536 Allessandro de' Pazzi published the 
Greek original together with a revised 
Latin text, and in 1548 Robortello pub- 
lished the first commentary (with a Latin 
translation). Bernardo Segni, hi 1549, 
was the first to publish an Italian trans- 

Among the earliest treatises on the art 
of poetry was that of Vida, whose De 
Arte Poetica appeared in 15^7; con- 
trary to practically every other work of 
similar title, this influential poem con- 

tains no reference to the drama. Two 
years later, however, Trissino published 
the first four books of his Poetica, but 
not until 1563, when two books were 
added, did he consider the drama. 
Dolce's translation of Horace in 1535 
was followed the next year by the ver- 
nacular Poetica of Daniello, whose few 
references to tragedy and comedy, based 
upon Horace and Aristotle, are "the first 
of their kind to appear in the Italian 
language. The same year saw Pazzi's 
edition and Trincaveli's Greek text. 
From this time on, the influence of Aris- 
totle as an arbiter in the art of poetry 
was to spread. Robortello's In Librvm 
Aristotelis de Arte Poetica Explicationes 
(1548) is the first complete commentary 
of the Poetics. Segni's translation was 
published the next year. In 1550 ap- 
peared Maggi's Explicationes (written 
with Lombardi), similar to the commen- 
tary of Robortello. Both are diffuse, de- 
tailed, and pedantic, and rarely depart 
from what the authors understood, or 
misunderstood, in Aristotle. Muzio [Mu- 
tio] published an Arte Poetica in 1551. 
Varchi in his Lezzioni (1553) upheld the 
Aristotelian ideals of tragedy. The Dis- 
corso sulle Comedie e sulle Tragedie of 
the famous novelist Giraldi Cintio, which 
was written in 1543, but not published 
until 1554, carried on the Ari-totelian 
tradition begun by Daniello. This was 
to continue in one form or another 
throughout the Renaissance and be taken 
up later in France. Minturno's two 
treatises, De Poeta (1559) and Arte 
Poetica (1564), the first in Latin, the 
second in Italian, were the fullest discus- 
sions of the theory of poetry and drama 
yet written. The influence of Aristotle 
and Horace is everywhere evident, but, as 
will be seen from the extracts here print- 
ed, the Italian critic has expounded and 
amplified after his own manner. The 
Commnxtarii of Vettori [Victorius], 
printed in 1560, was another Latin treat- 
ise explaining the Poetics. The folio w- 




ing year Julius Caesar Scaliger, one of the 
most influential theorists since antiquity, 
published his Latin work, Poetices Libri 
Septem. As Scaliger had lived in France 
for some years (his book was published 
at Lyons) and was acquainted with many 
contemporary writers, his influence was 
widespread, though not so much during 
the sixteenth as the seventeenth century. 
The Poetics of Scaliger, which was an 
" attempt to reconcile Aristotle's Poetics, 
not only with the precepts of Horace 
and the definitions of the Latin gram- 
marians, but with the whole practice of 
Latin tragedy, comedy, and epic poetry," 
is a long, erudite and dogmatic treatise 
in which the canons of Aristotle are nar- 
rowed and confined to rules of the strict- 
est sort. In 1563 the last two parts of 
Trissino's Poetica appeared. Castejvfitro 
was the next to enter the field of criti- 
cism. His Poetica (a commentary on 
and translation of Aristotle's Poetics) 
was published in 1570. This work was 
of prime importance, for one reason be- 
cause it contained the first formulation 
of the unity of place, supposed to have 
been derived from Aristotle. The imme- 
diate effect of this, as will be seen later, 
was to start the endless discussion in 
France of the famous " three Unities." 
Jean de la Taille, in 1572, was the first 
to insist on them in that country. Castel- 
vetro was likewise the first to consider 
a play as limited and directly affected by 
stage representation. The Italian critics 
from the time of Castelvetro to the end 
of the century, carried on discussions of 
varying degrees of importance, though 
none of them exerted an influence equal 
to that of Scaliger, Castelvetro or Min- 
turno. Piccolomini's edition of the Poet- 
ics was published in 1575, Viperano's De 
Arte Poetica in 1579. Patrizzi's Delia 
Poetica (1586), Tasso's Discorsi dell' 
Arte Poetica (1587), Denores' Poetica 
(1588), Buonamici's Discorsi Poetici 
(1597), Ingegneri's Poesia Bappresenta- 

References on Italian literature in 

G. Tiraboschi, Storia delta letteratura 
italiana, 9 vols. (Firenze, 1805-1813). 

F. De Sanctis, Storia delta letteratura 
italiana, 2 vols. (6th ed., Napoli, 1893). 

tiva (1598), and Summo's Discorsi Poet- 
ici (1600), testify to the prodigious activ- 
ity of the period. 

Such are the outstanding works which 
treat in greater or less degree the theory 
of the drama. If we add the prefaces 
and prologues to the plays of Cecchi, 
Giraldi Cintio, Gelli, Aretino, and II 
Lasca (the Gelosia, Strega, and JCArzi- 
goglio in particular) and the references 
in the works of Speroni,* Luisino,2 Par- 
tenio,3 Fracastoro,^ Capriano,s Michele,o 
Beni,7 and Zinano 8 are added, the list of 
writers on the subject of the drama is 
nearly exhausted. 

The Renaissance critics had discovered 
Aristotle; the study of the Poetics, and 
that of the Ars Poetica of Horace, was 
the basis of their commentaries. Much 
of the great mass of this material is 
textual comment, more or less intelli- 
gent and illuminating; much is repeti- 
tion, classification, philological analysis; 
but out of it all there emerges the true 
spirit of enlightened criticism. The be- 
ginning of the sixteenth century was a 
period of darkness; the end found Italy 
the fountain-head of Europe. France, 
Spain, and England, followed in her 
wake, adopting with modifications what 
she had been the first to discover and 

1 A letter, written in 1565, on the interpre- 
tation of the word katharsis. (Sperone Bpe- 
roni, vol. V, Opere, Venezia, 1740.) Also 
Giuditio sopra la trayedia de Canace, etc. 

2 F. Luisino, In Librura Q. Eoratii Flacci 
de Arte Poetica Commentarius (1554). 

3 B. Partenio, Delia Imitatione Poetica 

4 G. Fracastoro, Naugerius, sive de Poetica 
Dialogus (1555). 

5 G. P. Capnano, Delia Vera Poetica (1555). 
c Agostino Michele, Disco mo in cui si <ti- 

viostra come si possono sc rive re le Commedie 
e le Tragedie in Prosa (1592). 

1 Paolo Beni. Disputatio in qua ostenditur 
prcestare Comwdiam atque Tragtediarn me- 
trorum vinexdis solvere (1600). 

8 Zinano, Discorso delta Trayedia (Reggio, 

A. Bartoli, Storia delta letteratura itali- 
ana, 7 vols. (Firenze, 1878-89). 

F. Flamini, Studi di storia lettcrnria 
italiana e straniera (Livorno, 1895). 

G. Koerting, Geschichte der Literatur 
Italien* im Zeitaltcr der Renaissance, 
3 vols. (Leipzig, 1878-84.). 



A. Gaspary, Geschichte der italienischen 
Littraiu'r, 2 vols. (Strassburg, 1885- 

A. Lbert, Allgemeine Geschichte der 
Literatur des Mittelalters im Abend- 
land. 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1S74-87). 
Nicola Zingarelli, Storia letteraria d'ltalia 
(Milano, 1903). 

A. D'Ancona e O. Bacci, Manuel* della 
letteratura italiana, 5 vols. (Torino, 

G. Mazzoni, Avriamento alio studio cri- 
tico delle letters italiane (Firenze, 

J. A. Svmonds, Renaissance ro Italy, 1 
vols. (New York, 1888). 

V . Canello, Storia della letteratura itali- 
ana nel secolo XVI (Milano, 1880). 

B. Croce, La Critica letteraria (-2nd ed., 
Roma, 1896). 

, Estetica come scienza delT espres- 

sione e linguistica generate {-2nd ed., 
Milano, 1904). 

, Per la storia della critica e storio- 

grafia letteraria (Napoli, 1903). 

, Saggi sulla letteratura italiana del 

seicento (Bari, 1910). 

Francis Henry Cliffe, A Manual of Ital- 
ian Literature (London, 1896). 

Richard Garnett, A History of Italian 
Literature (New York, 1898). 

\V. Cloetta, Beitrage zur Litteratur- 
geschichte des Mittelalters und der 
Renaissance, 2 vols. (Halle, 1890-92). 

Kritischer Jahresbericht uber die Fort- 
schritte der Romanischen Philologie 
(Miinchen, Leipzig, Erlangen, etc., 1890 
to date), is always useful. 

Robert F. Arnold, Kultur der Renais- 
sance (Leipzig, 1905). 

Nicola Zingarelli, Storia letteraria d'ltalia 
(Milano, 1903). 

References on Italian drama: 

A. d'Ancona, Oriqini del teatro italiano, 

2 vols, (2nd ed.', Torino, 1891). 
Des Boulmiers, Histoire anecdotique et 

raisomu-e du theatre italien, etc., 7 

vols. (Paris, 1769). 
G. Apollinaire, Le Theatre italien (Paris, 

P. Bettoli, Storia del teatro drammatico 

italiano dalla fine del secolo XV alia 

fine del secolo XIX (Bergamo, 1901). 
P. Emiliani-Giudici, Storia del teatro in 

Italia (Milano, 1860). 

J. L. Klein, Geschichte des italienischen 
Dramas (Leipzig, 1868). 

E. Masi, Studi sulla storia del teatro 
italiano (Firenze, 1891). 

F. et C. Parfaict, Histoire de I'ancien 
theatre italien, etc. (Paris, 1767). 

L. Riccoboni, Histoire du thidtre italien, 

etc. (Paris, 1730). 
, Dell' Arte Rappresentativa, Capi- 

toli sei (Ixmdon, 1728). 

E. Bertana, La Tragedia (In the Storie 
dei generi Utterati italiani, Milano, 

F. Neri, La tragedia italiana del cinque- 
cento (Roma, 1904). 

G. B. Pellizzaro, La commedia del secolo 
XVI (Yicenza, 1901). 

D'Origny, Annates du Theatre italien de- 
puis son origine jusqu'a nos jours, 3 
vols. (Paris, 1788). 

A. Biancale, La Tragedia italiana del 500 
(Roma, 1901). 

References on the literature of the 
Italian Renaissance, especially on dra- 
matic criticism: 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (2d ed., 
New York, 1908. Italian translation, 
La Critica letteraria nel Rinascimento, 
by Antonio Fusco, Bari, 1905, contains 
additional material and full bibliog- 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 

J. E. Sandys, A History of Classical 
Scholarship, vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1903). 

Alfredo Rolla, Storia delle idee estitiche 
in Italia (Torino, 1905). 

I. G. Isola, Critica del Rinascimento, 2 
vols. (Livorno, 1907). 

T. Klette, Beitrage zur Geschichte und 
Litteratur der italienischen Gelehrten- 
renaissance, 3 parts (Greifswald, 1S8S- 

K. Yossler, Poetische Theorien in der 
italienischen Friihrenaissance (Berlin, 

F. Foffano, Ricerche letterarie (Livorno, 

Max J. Wolff, Die Theorie der italien- 
ischen Tragbdie im 16. Jahrhundert 
(In Archiv fur der neueren Sprachen 
und Literaturen, Bd. 128, n. serie, bd. 
28, Braunschweig, 1912). 

K. Borinski, Die Poetik der Renaissance, 
und die Anfange der litterarischen 



Kritik in Deutschland (Berlin, 1886). 
, Die Ant ike in Poetik und Kunst- 

theorie. I, Mittelalter, Renaissance, 

Barock (Leipzig, 1914). 
H. Breitinger, Les Unite's d'Aristote 

avant le Cid de Corneille (2nd ed., 

Geneve, 1895). 
J. Ebner, Beitrag zu einer Oeschichte 

der dram.atisch.en Einheiten in It alien 

(Erlangen, 1898). 
A. Graf, Attraverso il Cinquecento (To- 
rino, 1888). 
A. Benoist, Les Theories dramatiques 

avant les Disc ours de Corneille (In 
Annates de la Faculty des Lettres de 
Bordeaux, 1891). 

Aug. Thery, Histoire des opinions lit- 
ter aires chez les anciens et chez les 
modernes, 2 vols, (new ed., Paris, 

L. Ceci, Un' occhiata alio svolgvmento 
storico della critica letteraria e politico 
del seicento (Firenze, 1878). 

Dannheisser, Zur Oeschichte der Einhei- 
ten (In Zeitschrift fur franzbsische 
Sprache und Litteratur, v. XIV (1892). 


Nothing is known of the life of Ber- 
nardino Daniello except that he was a 
native of Lucca and that he died at 
Padua in 1565. He was known as a 
scholar, made translations from and com- 
mentaries on classical works, and wrote 
on Dante. His Poetica was his most fa- 
mous work. 

Daniello's Poetica (1536) is without 
doubt the first work of its sort since 
antiquity, and the few passages relative 
to the drama are of great historical im- 
portance. Daniello's ideas are of course 
derived from the ancients, but they are 
clearly stated, and must have exercised a 
profound influence over his contempor- 
aries and successors. Saintsbury says: 
"The first author of one [a theory of 
poetry] is generally taken to be Daniello 
... it has such good claims to be among 
the very earliest vernacular disputations 
of a general character on poetry in 
Italy." There is a mixture of Aristotle 
and Horace in the work. According to 

Spingarn, " In the Poetica of Daniello 
(1536) occurs the first allusion in mod- 
ern literary criticism to the Aristotelian 
notion of ideal imitation." The idea that 
it is the function of the poet to teach 
fand to delight is decidedly Horatian, as 
are indeed the critic's rules for tragedy 
and comedy. 


The only edition of Daniello's Poetic 
is that printed at Venice in 1536: La 
Poetica di Bernardino Daniello Luc- 


On Daniello and his works: 

Colle, Storia scientifica-letteraria dello 
studio in Padua (Padova, 1824-25). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (New 
York, 1908). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 


[La Poetica] 


... And the materials and subjects 
may be many and varied, for to some, as 
to the writers of comedy, they may be of 
more common stuff: everyday occur- 
rences, not to say lowly and common- 

l Translated selections by Leander MacOlin- 
tock. — Ed. 

place, while the tragic poets treat of 
deaths of high kings and the ruin of 
great empires. ... [p. 34.] 

. . . Similarly, one must be careful that 
the plot of tragedies be clearly put to- 
gether, and as tragedy is an imitation of 



the most terrible and pitiful things, it 
does not seem to me permissible to intro- 
duce into it just and virtuous men 
changed into unjust and wicked ones 
through the adversity of fortune — a 
thing rather shocking than pitiful or 
fearful. On the contrary, one must show 
the wicked and the evil changed by for- 
tune into good and just men. Nor does 
one deny the right to the tragic poet to 
lower himself when he wishes, to humble 
speech, in order to weep and lament. 
For it does not seem right for a man 
who is banished from his country, how- 
ever great and noble his lineage, to use 
pompous and proud words to other peo- 
ple. Nor is the writer of comedy to be 
prevented from using some of the gran- 
diloquence of the tragic poet, on occa- 
sion. As for instance, an angry father to 
his son in order to have more power and 
influence over him. And since some 
things are done on the stage and some 
only referred to, it behoves us to see 
what can be acted, and what cannot. 
The things which cannot be done are the 
cruel deeds, the impossible, and the un- 
seemly. As if Medea, in full view of the 
gaping multitude should kill her own 
children and then tear the murdered ones 

limb from limb. And as if Progne with 
her husband and sister and sons should, 
in full view of the spectators, grow wings 
and become birds; and in comedies there 
should be lascivious kisses, embraces, and 
the like. Comedy should not exceed the 
limit of five acts, nor comprise less; four 
characters must not speak at once, but 
only two or three at most, while the 
others stand to one side quietly listening. 
Nor must any deity be brought in, except 
in cases where man is unable by his own 
efforts to unravel some tangle without 
divine aid and intercession. Let the 
chorus in tragedy (since they are no 
longer employed in comedy, but in their 
stead, and between the acts music and 
songs and Morenche and jesters, in order 
that the stage may not remain empty) — 
let the chorus in tragedy, I say, take the 
part of the just and the good, wrong- 
fully oppressed, and favor these. Let 
them advise friends, favor those who 
hate sin, laud sobriety, justice, law, and 
peace, and pray the gods that, disdain- 
ing fortune, lofty palaces and proud 
towers with their summits menacing 
heaven, they descend to console the mis- 
erable and "the afflicted. [p. 38.] 


Antonio Sebastiano, better known un- 
der the name of Minturno, was born at 
Trajetto. Very little is known of his life, 
which was spent in the church. He was 
Bishop of Ugento, and assisted at the 
Council of Trent. In 1565 he was trans- 
ferred to Crotone in Calabria, where he 
died in 1574. Besides his Poetica and 
De Poeta, he wrote a number of retigious 
works and some Rime. In his day, he 
was considered a man of great learning. 

Among the contributions to the Ren- 
aissance theory of poetry in general — 
Minturno has added the Horatian ele- 
ment of " delight," as well as instruc- 
tion. Minturno's interpretation of Aris- 
totle is on the whole intelligent and 
illuminating. The first of Minturno's two 
treatises was the De Poeta, written in 
Latin and published in 1559. It is a 
long and thoroughgoing Art of Poetry, 

based upon Latin literature; the Arte 
Poetica, in Italian and published in 1563, 
takes its examples to a certain extent 
from Italian literature, though of neces- 
sity most of the plays discussed are 
Greek and Latin. While both works are 
similar in character, there is, on the 
whole, very little repetition in the Poet- 
ica, which is a much clearer and more 
interesting treatment of the subject than 
the De Poeta. Minturno's treatises soon 
became known abroad, and his influence 
was perceivable in Spain, France, and 
England, at a comparatively early date. 

The De Poeta Libri Sex was published 
at Venice in 1559, the Arte Poetica, 
also at Venice, in 1563. Neither has 
been translated. In H. B. Charlton's 
Castelvetro't Theory of Poetry (Man- 



Chester, 1913), there are many quota- 
tions from both works. 



On Minturno and his works: 

Nouvelle Biographic generate, vol 
(Paris, 1801). 

Nuova Enciclopedia italiano, vol. 
(Torino, 1882). 

Crescimbeni, Istoria della vulgar poesia 
Lib. II (Roma, 1698, and later). 

Rene Rapin, Avertissement (In Reflex- 
ions touchant la Poetique, Paris, 1674. 

His critical Works, translated, ap- 
peared in London in 1706). 

Ughelli, Italia Sacra, vol. IX (ed. 1721). 

H. Breitinger, Les Unitis d'Aristote 
avant le Cid de Corneille (Geneve, 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism, in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 
New York, 1908). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism., vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 


[Arte Poetica] 


Ang. What is dramatic poetry? 

Min. Imitations of things — to be pre- 
sented in the theater — complete and per- 
fect in form and circumscribed as to 
length. Its form is not that of narra- 
tion; it introduces several persons who 
act and converse. Their speech is suave 
and pleasing, and they may dance or 
sing, since dramatic poetry employs the 
three mediums of expression, using them 
individually or conjointly. Nor should 
there be lacking a proper stage equip- 
ment for the pleasure and profit of the 

Ang. How many kinds of subjects 
are treated in the theater? 

Min. Three in all. One class records 
serious and grave happenings and con- 
cerns those of high rank — the great and 
the illustrious. This is the field of the 
tragic poet. A second recognizes the 
middle strata of society — common folk 
of the city or the country: the fanner, 
the common soldier, the petty merchant, 
and similar persons. These afford mat- 
ter for comedy. The third division has 
to do with humble persons, mean and 
ludicrous, with all those in fact who 
seem most fitted to provoke merriment, 
thus supplying subject matter for satiri- 
cal poetry. 

Ang. So, then, dramatic poetry is di- 
vided into three parts? 

Min. It has in truth three divisions. 

l Extracts here translated — by Ida Treat 
O'Neil — for the first time in English. The 
treatise is in dialogue, form. — Ed. 

The first of these is called tragedy, the 
second comedy, and the third by the an- 
cients was termed satyric drama. 

Ang. A little later I will question you 
in detail concerning the nature of each 
of these forms. But now I should like 
to have you elucidate further the general 
definition of dramatic poetry. 

Min. You will understand it clearly 
if you remember that during our conver- 
sation of yesterday I said that the dra- 
matic poet differs in technique from the 
lyric or the epic poet. The lyric poet 
simply narrates, without laying aside his 
own personality; the epic poet some- 
times retains his personality and some- 
times abandons it, speaking at times for 
himself, and as often introducing other 
persons who speak. But the dramatic 
poet, of whom we are now speaking, 
from first to last speaks through the 
lips of others. This may be observed 
not only in the tragedies of Sophocles 
and of Euripides but also in some of our 
own — notably the work of Dolce and of 
Alemanni, two of the brightest orna- 
ments of our literature — as well as in 
the comedies of Terence and Plautus. 

Min. The common purpose of all poets 
is, as Horace teaches, that of providing 
pleasure and profit. But the manner in 
which each poet may delight and instruct 
will be demonstrated when we discuss the 
different forms of poetry. And although 
stage apparatus is a necessary comple- 
ment of dramatic poetry, however, since 
dramatic poetry has three divisions, we v 



can better understand what each division 
demands in the way of apparatus when 
discussing each of the three forms sepa- 
rately. So that, reserving the discussion 
of these two topics to a fitting place and 
time, there now remains for me to answer 
your question concerning the length of 
the dramatic form. 

Ang. That, indeed, remains for dis- 

Min. How long a time should be given 
to the actual performance of the dra- 
matic poem is not for the poet to deter- 
mine. For even if there were a hun- 
dred tragedies or a hundred comedies to 
be presented, each would demand a cer- 
tain definite period of time. Just as 
when there are many speakers and law- 
yers concerned in a single case, each 
must be given an opportunity for expres- 
sion. But in so far as the nature of the 
subject is concerned, the action should 
be prolonged until there ensues some 
change of fortune — from good to ill, or 
from grievous to gay. One who care- 
fully studies the works of the greatest 
among the ancients will discover that the 
action of the dramatic poem transpires 
in a day, or is never prolonged beyond 
two, just as it is said that the action of 
the longest epic poem should transpire 
in a year. 

Ang. How much time shall we give to 
the performance of these poems, since 
their action takes place in less than two 

Min. Not less than three— hours nor 
more than four; lot neither too great 
brevity rob the work of its beauty and 
leave the desire of the hearers unsatis- 
fied, nor excessive length deprive the 
poem of its proportion, spoil its charm, 
and render it boresome to the beholders. 
And indeed the wise poet should so meas- 
ure the time with the matter to be pre- 
sented that those who hear the work 
should rather deplore its brevity than re- 
gret having remained too long to listen. 

Ang. I now understand perfectly the 
definition of dramatic poetry. Now will 
you tell me how many divisions there are 
to the dramatic poem, that I may better 
understand its composition? 

Min. I shall answer you as I answered 
Sipnor Vespasiano yesterday when he 
questioned me concerning the parts of 
the epic poem, that the divisions are not 

of the same nature, since some concern 
the quality and some the quantity — that 
is, the body — of the work. And since 
the quality of the poem is due partly to 
the very essence of the work and partly 
to chance, there are six essential parts of 
such a poem: the plot, the manners or 
customs, the sentiments expressed, the 
words, the singing, and the apparatus of 
the stage. I shall not attempt to define 
four of these divisions, for they are char- 
acteristic of every form of poetry, and I 
have already spoken sufficiently concern- 
ing them during the discussion of epic 
poetry yesterday. I shall refer to them 
when it is necessary during the explana- 
tion of the individual poems. If you 
have no objection I shall postpone until 
that time the discussion of the singing 
and of the stage apparatus 

Ang. And why not? 

Min. It is a most reasonable arrange- 
ment, for dramatic poetry is either trag- 
edy, or comedy, or satyric drama; that 
is to say, the genus is found in each of 
its species, nor can it be separated from 
them, as you may easily understand. 
Just as the animal is to be found in 
man, in the horse, in the lion, and in 
every other sort of animal, so it cannot 
exist independently, separated from 
them, except in the mind, or accord- 
ing to Plato, where mortal eye may not 

Ang. I shall not ask you how the acci- 
dental quality of the poem may be di- 
vided, for I remember well that yester- 
day you informed Signor Vespasiano that 
such divisions are the episodes. These, 
like the plot, are imitations of the deeds 
and the sayings of others; they are gar- 
nished with the same ornaments as the 
plot, adorned with like colors, and tend- 
ing toward the same end. And since the 
action of the poem must transpire in one 
or two days, and must arrive speedily at 
its conclusion in order to satisfy the im- 
patience of the onlookers who cannot re- 
main indefinitely in the theater, these epi- 
sodes should be neither so frequent nor 
so long as in epic poetry, which may in- 
clude the happenings of a year as well as 
many other incidents brought from with- 
out to render the poem longer and more 
varied. The episodes in a dramatic poem 
should be few and brief. But I should 
like to inquire how many and of what 



nature are the parts into which the body 
of the poem may be divided? 

Min. We may say that there are four 
of them, since that was the opinion of 
Aristotle, and we shall name them as he 
did: Prologues, Discourses, Choruses, 
and Exits. I will reserve the explana- 
tion of each of these until I come to 
treat the different forms of dramatic 
poetry, since each of them has its pro- 
logues, its discourses, its choruses, and 
its exits. 

Min. Tragedy is concerned with the 
imitation of serious and weighty happen- 
ings, embodied in a complete and per- 
fect form, circumscribed as to length. 
The language of tragedy is suave. The 
divisions of the poem are so organized 
that each has its place. It does not sim- 
ply narrate, but introduces persons who 
act and speak, arousing feelings of pity 
and terror, and tending to purge the 
mind of the beholder of similar passions, 
to his delight and profit. 

Ang. Will you elucidate all the parts 
of the definition? 

Min. In yesterday's discussion I spoke 
at length of the meaning of " imitation," 
which may be regarded as the basis of 
all poetry, as well as of painting and 
sculpture. In the same discourse I ex- 
plained in full how the form, in every 
sort of poetry, must be unified, complete, 
and perfect, and of a given length. To- 
day I have said enough concerning the 
length. But since every complete action 
has a beginning, a middle, and an end, 
as I demonstrated yesterday, we should 
consider not only how long the action 
should be prolonged and where it should 
finish, but also where it should begin. 
And truly, he who would make a good 
beginning in narrating an incident, should 
begin where it is fitting, neither com- 
mencing his narration with the most re- 
cent details, nor going back to those most 
remote and faraway. 

Min. You are doubtless aware already 
that what distinguishes tragedy from 
comedy and satyric drama is the imita- 
tion of grave and weighty happenings, 
together with the ennobling influence 
upon manners. Thus, since these grave 
and weighty happenings furnish the mat- 
ter for tragedy, the ennobling or purifi- 

cation of manners is the end toward 
which all effort is directed. 

Ang. I should like you to speak at 
greater length concerning the matter and 
the purpose, particularly the purpose. 

Min. Then, you will understand the 
purpose of tragic poetry when you have 
learned the mission of the tragic poet. 
His mission is no other than that of em- 
ploying verses so instructive, so pleasing, 
and so moving, that they tend to purge 
of passion the mind of the hearer. All 
dramatic poets whose plays are presented 
in the theater declare that their mission 
is to instruct, but the tragic poet creates 
before our eyes an image of life, showing 
us the behavior of those who, remark- 
able among men for their rank, their posi- 
tion, and for the favors of fortune, have 
fallen into extreme misery through hu- 
man error. Froni this we learn not to 
place too great trust in worldly prosper- 
ity, that nothing here below is so dur- 
able and stable that it may not fall and 
perish, no happiness but may change to 
misery, nothing so high but that it may 
become base and infamous. And seeing 
others endure such changes of fortune, 
we learn to guard against unexpected 
evil, and if misfortune does come, we 
may learn to endure it patiently. The 
tragic poet aside from the suavity of his 
verse and the elegance of his speech, 
affords much pleasure to the onlooker by 
the use of singing and dancing. In fact, 
he presents nothing that does not please 
us, nor does he move us without charm; 
but with the force of his words and the 
weight of his thoughts, he can stir up 
passions in the mind, producing wonder, 
fear, and pity. What is more tragic than 
to move others? What is so moving as 
the terrible unexpected, such as the cruel 
death of Hippolytus, the wild and pite- 
ous madness of Hercules, the unhappy 
exile of CEdipus? And all this terror 
and pity frees us most pleasantly from 
similar passions, for nothing else so 
curbs the indomitable frenzy of our 
minds. No one is so completely the vic- 
tim of unbridled appetites, that, being 
moved by fear and pity at the unhappi- 
ness of others, he is not impelled to throw 
off the habits that have been the cause 
of such unhappiness. And the memory 
of the grave misfortunes of others not 
only renders us more ready and willing 



to support our own; it makes us more 
wary in avoiding like ills. The physi- 
cian who with a powerful drug extin- 
guishes the poisonous spark of the mal- 
ady that afflicts the body, is no more 
powerful than the tragic poet who purges 
the mind of its troubles through the emo- 
tions aroused by his charming verses. 

Min. Before I define comedy, I shall 
speak briefly of its three general divisions 
and how and when they came into being. 
During the feasts of Bacchus, or of the 
pastoral Apollo, the young men warmed 
with food and wine used to jest among 
themselves, speaking often of the defects 
of the great men of those days when the 
Republic was in the hands of the people, 
who listened eagerly to slander of the 
nobles and of the prominent citizens. It 
was this that gave the idea of comedy to 
the poets, already given to attacking the 
evil customs of the age. So it was that 
these poets, possessing a certain erudi- 
tion and charm of style, following the 
custom of the young men at the feasts 
of their gods, began to write little plays 
and present them publicly. 

Ang. But before you define comedy, 
tell me what is the mission of the comic 

Min. What else but that of teaching 
and pleasing? According to Plato, the 
gods took pity on the tedious life of 
mortals, wearied with never-ending tasks 
and labors, and that they might not lack 
recreations and that they might take 
heart again, the gods established festi- 
vals, banquets, and games, favored by 
Bacchus, Apollo, and the Muses. Then 
mankind, celebrating these holidays with 
poetry and with music, discovered com- 
edy. And comedy not only delighted the 
hearer with imitations of pleasant things 
and with the charm of words, but since 
in those days poetry afforded a certain 
way in which to educate children to a 
proper manner of living — it even bet- 

tered their lives, affording as it did an 
image of their customs and everyday ex- 
istence. It pleased them greatly to see 
the happenings of their own lives enacted 
by other persons. I shall not speak of 
the suavity of the language which is al- 
ways one of the delights of comedy. The 
comic poet moves his hearers, though he 
does not stir them as deeply as the tragic 
poet. The comic poet awakes in the 
souls of those who listen pleasant and 
humane feelings. 

Ang. Will you define comedy for us? 

Min. Though Cicero may define com- 
edy as an imitation of life, a mirror of 
manners, an image of truth, neverthe- 
less according to the opinion of Aris- 
totle, we might say that it is no other 
than an imitation of pleasing and amus- 
ing happenings, whether public or pri- 
vate. It must be presented in a complete 
and perfect form, and is circumscribed 
as to length. It does not consist of 
simple narration, but introduces persons 
of humble or mediocre fortune, who 
act and converse just as do the others. 
Its language is suave and pleasing, and 
it lacks neither singing nor dancing. . . . 
Its construction is even, and each part 
has its proper place. 

Ang. Explain to me the divisions of 
the definition. 

Min. I shall not speak of its presen- 
tation — in verses, with dancing and sing- 
ing, sometimes with all three forms and 
sometimes with only part — nor concern- 
ing the subject matter or the form (that 
it should be unified and perfect and of a 
given length). I have already said 
enough concerning these things. Xor will 
I lose time in explaining that the inci- 
dents adapted to comedy are amusing and 
ludicrous, and that the persons are of 
humble station and equal rank; for this 
is the very nature of comedy, and is 
what distinguishes it from tragedy. 




Julius Caesar Sealiger, as he called 
himself, was born probably at Padua 
in 1484. He was the son of Benedetto 
Bordoni, a miniature painter. His own 
version of his noble parentage and life's 
adventures has been discredited and it 
has been established that he studied 
at the University of Padua, was gradu- 
ated with a degree of M.D., and left 
home to seek his fortune. He went to 
Verona, where he made many acquaint- 
ances. In 1525 the Bishop of Agen in- 
duced him to come to Agen, where he 
continued his practice. In France, where 
he spent the remainder of his life, he 
soon fell in love with a young woman, 
and in 1528 became a naturalized French- 
man and married her. He pursued lit- 
erary and scientific studies, which occu- 
pied him to the end of his life. Among 
his first literary efforts are his tracts 
attacking Erasmus; but the great scholar 
refused to reply. He then attacked Car- 
dan, who died shortly after. During his 
long residence at Agen he gradually be- 
came known not only in France, but 
throughout Europe. One of the few 
events in his life of which any record ex- 
ists is a charge of heresy in 1538, but 
Sealiger was acquitted. He died at Agen 
in 1558, one of the. most celebrated men 
of his time. 

Besides the Poetices, Scaliger's literary 
works include a number of rather crude 
poems, several ietters, dissertations and 
commentaries on Hippocrates, Aristotle, 
and Theophrastus, various fragments of 
treatises on botany, and a tractate on 
comic meters, De comics dimensionibus. 
Few similar works have enjoyed such uni- 
versal renown as the Poetices Libri Sep- 
ta m, first published at Lyons in 1561. 
The work, written in Latin, is long, ram- 
bling, sketchy, violent in tone, dogmatic, 
scholastic, and pedantic, but with all its 
imperfections, it was the first work to 
attempt a standardization of literary 
form and content. Aristotle was not 
only Scaliger's guiding light; he was so 
twisted and misinterpreted as to become 
the most rigorous of taskmasters. 


The Poetices Libri Septem was first pub- 
lished at Lyons in 1561. Often re- 
printed during the sixteenth and sev- 
enteenth centuries. The only English 
translation is a slim volume of selec- 
tions: Select Translations from Scali- 
ger's Poetics, by F. M. Padelford (New 
York, 1905). 

On Sealiger and his works: 

Biographie universelle, vol. 38 (Paris, 

Joseph Justus Sealiger, De Vetustate et 

splendore gentis Scaligene et Julii 

Cceseris Scaligeri (Leyden, 1594). 
Magen, Documents sur Julius Cwsar 

Sealiger et sa famille (Agen, 1873). 
Bourrousse de Laffore, Etude sur Jules 

Cesar de Lescale (Agen, 1860). 
J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 

Criticism in the Renaissance (New 

York, 1908). 
George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 
Victor Beranek, Martin Optiz in seinem 

Verhaltnis zu Sealiger und Bonsard 

(Wien, 1883). 
Jakob Bernays, Zwei Abhandlungen iiber 

die aristotelische Theorie des Dramas 

(Berlin, 1880). 
E. Lintilhac, De J.-C. Scaligeri Poetica 

(Paris, 1887). 
Scaligeriana, 2 series (complete ed., Am- 
sterdam, 1740). 
Eduard Brinkschulte, Julius Ccesar Sruli- 

gers kunsttheoretische Anschauungen 

(Bonn, 1913). 
Charles Nisard, Les Oladiateurs de In R<'- 

publique des lettres au XV", XVI*, 

et XV IP siecles, 2 vols. (Paris, 1800). 
H. Breitinger, Les Unitis d' A nutate 

avant le Cid de Corneille (2nd ed., 

Geneve, 1895). 
Antoine Benoist, Les Theories drama- 

tiques avant les Dixcours de Corneille 

(In Annates des Paculth des lettres 

de Bordeaux, 1892). 




[Poetices Libri Septem] 


Tragedy, like comedy, is patterned 
after real life, but it differs from comedy 
in the rank of the characters, in the na- 
ture of the action, and in the outcome. 
These differences demand, in turn, differ- 
ences in style. Comedy employs charac- 
ters from rustic, or low city life, such 
as Chremes, Davus, and Thais. The be- 
ginning of a comedy presents a confused 
state of affairs, and this confusion is 
happily cleared up at the end. The lan- 
guage is that of everyday life. Tragedy, 
on the other hand, employs kings and 
princes, whose affairs are those of the 
city, the fortress, and the camp. A trag- 
edy opens more tranquilly than a com- 
edy, but the outcome is horrifying. The 
language is grave, polished, removed from 
the colloquial. AH things wear a trou- 
bled look; there is a pervading sense of 
doom, there are exiles and deaths. Tra- 
dition has it that the Macedonian king 
Archelaus, the intimate friend and pa- 
tron of Euripides, asked the poet to 
make him the hero of a tragedy, but 
that Euripides replied: "Indeed, I can- 
not do it; your life presents no ade- 
quate misfortune." 

The definition of tragedy given by 
Aristotle is as follows: "Tragedy is an 
imitation of an action that is illustrious, 
complete, and of a certain magnitude, in 
embellished language, the different kinds 
of embellishments being variously em- 
ployed in the different parts, and not in 
the form of narration, but through pity 
and fear effecting the purgation of such- 
like passions." I do not wish to attack 
this definition other than by adding my 
own: A tragedy is the imitation of the 
adversity of a distinguished man; it em- 
ploys the form of action, presents a dis- 
astrous denouement, and is expressed in 
impressive metrical language. Though 
Aristotle adds harmony and song, they 
are not, as the philosophers say, of the 
essence of tragedy; its one and only 
essential is acting. Then the phrase " of 

l Re-printed from Stl'ct Translations from 
. by F. M PaiMford (Yale 
University Press, New Haven, 1905). — Ed. 

a certain magnitude" is put in to dif- 
ferentiate the tragedy from the epic, 
which is sometimes prolix. It is not 
always so, however, as the work of Mu- 
saeus illustrates. Further, the mention 
of purgation is too restrictive, for not 
every subject produces this effect. " A 
certain magnitude," to return to the 
phrase, means not too long and not too 
short, for a few verses would not satisfy 
the expectant public, who are prepared to 
atone for the disgusting prosiness of 
many a day by the enjoyment of a few 
hours. Prolixity, however, is just as bad, 
when you must say with Plautus: "My 
legs ache with sitting, and my eyes with 
looking." (1, 6.) 

Although tragedy resembles this epic 
poetry, it differs in rarely introducing 
persons of the lower classes, such as mes- 
sengers, merchants, sailors, and the like. 
Comedies, on the other hand, never admit 
kings, save in such a rare instance as the 
Amphitryon of Plautus. I would limit 
this generalization, of course, to those 
plays which employ Greek characters and 
the Greek dress, for the Romans have 
admitted at will the dignified toga and 
trabea. . . . Tragedy and comedy are 
alike in mode of representation, but 
differ in subject-matter and treatment. 
The matters of tragedy are great and 
terrible, as commands of kings, slaugh- 
ters, despair, suicides, exiles, bereave- 
ments, parricides, incests, conflagrations, 
battles, the putting out of eyes, weeping, 
wailing, bewailing, eulogies, and dirges. 
In comedy we have jests, revelling, wed- 
dings with drunken carousals, tricks 
played by slaves, drunkenness, old men 
deceived and cheated of their money. . . . 

Now, a tragedy, provided it is a gen- 
uine tragedy, is altogether serious, but 
there have been some satyrical plays 
which differed little from comedies. 
Save in the gravity of some of the 
characters. We have an illustration in 
the Cyclops of Euripides, where all is 
wine and jesting, and where the outcome 
is so happy that all the companions of 
Ulysses are released, and the Cyclops 



alone suffers in the loss of his eye. The 
conclusion of this play was not unlike 
that of a mime, for the stage was 
wholly deserted on the exit of Ulysses, 
the giant with the rock alone remaining. 

There are, on the other hand, many 
comedies which end unhappily for some 
of the characters. . . . Hence it is by no 
means true, as has hitherto been taught, 
that an unhappy issue is essential to 
tragedy. It is enough that the play con- 
tain horrible events. 

When authors take their plots from 
history, they must be careful not to de- 
part too widely from the records. In 
the early writers such care was by no 
means taken. Thus ^Eschylus followed 
Greek history in binding Prometheus to 
the rock, but he invented the fiction of 
his undoing by the thunderbolt, for tragic 
effect. There should be no dire event at 
the end, but only at the beginning, where 
he is bound to Caucasus. However, 
some have it that the eagle was driven 
away by Hercules; others that he killed 
it with his arrows; and still others that 
Prometheus was set free by Jupiter 
himself, because he warned the god not 
to cohabit with Thetis, lest she should 
bear him a son more illustrious than the 
father. Euripides invented stories about 
Helen which were utterly contrary to 
well-known history. The same author 
has been censured for bringing wicked 
and impure women into his plays. What 
is viler, the critic says, than Phaedra, 
Jocasta, Canace, and Pasiphae, by whose 
infamy society is corrupted? But we 
reply that these women were not crea- 
tures of his imagination, but were taken 
from life. Forsooth, if we are to hear 
of no wickedness, history must be done 
away with. So those comedies should be 
prized which make us condemn the vices 
which they bring to our ears, especially 
when the life of impure women ends in 
an unhappy death. 

The events themselves should be made 
to have such sequence and arrangement 
as to approach as near as possible to 
truth, for the play is not acted solely to 
strike the spectator with admiration or 
consternation — a fault of which, accord- 
ing to the critics, /Eschylus was often 
guilty — but should also teach, move, and 
please. We are pleased either with jests, 

as in comedy, or with things serious, if 
rightly ordered. Disregard of truth is 
hateful to almost every man. Therefore 
neither those battles or sieges at Thebes 
which are fought through in two hours 
please me, nor do I take it to be the 
part of a discreet poet to pass from 
Delphi to Athens, or from Athens to 
Thebes, in a moment of time. Thus 
.(Eschylus has Agamemnon killed and 
buried so suddenly that the actor has 
scarcely time to breathe. Nor is the 
casting of Lichas into the sea by Her- 
cules to be approved, for it cannot be 
represented without doing violence to 

The content of a play should be as 
concise as possible, yet also as varied and 
manifold as possible; for example, He- 
cuba in Thrace, Achilles forbidding her 
return, Polydorus already killed, the 
murder of Polyxena, and the blinding of 
Polymnestor. Since dead persons can- 
not be introduced, their apparitions, or 
ghosts, or specters, are substituted. 
Thus, as noted above, .Eschylus intro- 
duces the apparitions of Polydorus and 
Darius, and in Ovid, Ceyx appears to 
Alcyone. If a tragedy is to be com- 
posed from this last story, it should not 
begin with the departure of Ceyx, for as 
the whole time for stage-representation 
is only six or eight hours, it is not true 
to life to have a storm arise, and the 
ship founder, in a part of the sea from 
which no land is visible. Let the first act 
be a passionate lamentation, the chorus 
to follow with execrations of sea-life; 
the second act, a priest with votive offer- 
ings conversing with Alcyone and her 
nurse, altars, fire, pious sentiments, the 
chorus following with approbation of the 
vows; the third act, a messenger an- 
nouncing the rising of a storm, together 
with rumors as to the ship, the chorus to 
follow with mention of shipwrecks, and 
much apostrophizing of Neptune; the 
fourth act tumultuous, the report found 
true, the shipwrecks described by sailors 
and merchants, the chorus bewailing the 
event as though all were lost; the fifth 
act, Alcyone peering anxiously over the 
sea and sighting far off a corpse, fol- 
lowed by the resolution, when she was 
about to take her own life. This sample 
outline can be expanded by the introduc- 
tion of other characters. (Ill, 97.) 




Lodovieo Castelvetro was born at Mo- 
dena in 1505 of an old and noble family. 
His education was thorough and varied. 
He attended the universities of Bologna, 
Ferrara, Padua, and Siena. He studied 
law and took a degree at Siena in that 
profession out of deference to his fa- 
thers wishes. After making a trip to 
Rome, he returned to Siena where he 
applied himself to the studies for which 
he felt himself best suited. His relin- 
quishment of the law displeased his par- 
ents, and he returned, in bad health, to 
Modena. There he engaged in literary 
pursuits, in spite of his poor health. He 
was a conspicuous figure in Modena in 
what practically amounted to an acad- 
emy. In 1553 he began the bitter liter- 
ary quarrel with Caro which resulted 
eventually in bis exile. It began with a 
criticism of a poem of Caro's, and soon 
both parties resorted to intrigue and 
even violence. Caro is said to have 
started the inquiry which led to the ar- 
rest of several members of the ** acad- 
emy " on the suspicion of heresy. While 
Castelvetro himself was not arrested, he 
decided to go to Rome and defend him- 
self, but seeing that he was not likely to 
make out a good case he escaped and 
went to Chiavenna on the Swiss-Italian 
frontier. In 1561 he was excommuni- 
cated. He then appealed to the Coun- 
cil of Trent and was advised to return 
to Rome. He determined, however, to 
leave the country, and went to Lyons, 
but the war of the Catholics and Prot- 
estants, then in progress, soon forced 
him to leave. He went to Geneva, and 
thence to Chiavenna, where he lectured. 
Not long after, Castelvetro's brother, 
who was in the good graces of Maxi- 
milian II, urged Lodovieo to come to 
Vienna. In that city he published his 
Poetica, dedicating it to Maximilian. On 
the outbreak of the plague he returned to 
Chiavenna, where he died in 1571. 

Castelvetro's translation of Aristotle's 
Poetics and his lengthy commentary are, 
like the work of Scaliger, a landmark in 
modern dramatic criticism. Like with 
Sealiger's treatise, Castelvetro's is crude, 
pedantic, inaccurate, but to the scholars 

of the time it was infinitely suggestive. 
Castelvetro not only interpreted Aristotle 
too freely, he frequently mistranslated 
him in order to establish a point. Cas- 
telvetro's formulation of the three Unities 
was the beginning of innumerable dis- 
putes throughout Europe. 


The Poetica d'Aristotele vulgarizzata e 
esposta was first published at Vienna 
in 1570. But the second edition (Basle, 
1576) contains important additions. 
The Opera Varie Critiche, with Mura- 
tori's Life of Castelvetro, appeared in 
Milan in 17^7. The only English 
translation of the Poetica consists in 
the important passages, quoted in H. 
B. Charlton's Castelvetro's Theory of 
Poetry (Manchester, 1913). 

On Castelvetro and his work: 

L. Muratori, Vita dell' autore (in the 
Opere Varie Critiche, Milano, 1727). 

Xoucells Biographie generate, vol. 9 
(Paris, 1854). 

A. Caro, Apologia degli Ac'ademici di 
Bianchi di Roma contra M. Lodovieo 
Castelvetro (Parma, 1588). 

Cavazzuti, Lodovieo Castelvetro (Mo- 
dena, 1903). 

A. Plonchar, I) Ala Vita e delle opere 
di L. Castelvetro (Conegliano, 1878). 

Bavle, Dictionary (2nd ed., London, 

H. B. Charlton, Castelvetro's Theory of 
Poetry (Manchester Univ. Press, 1913). 

A. Fusco, La Poetica di Lodovieo Cas- 
telvetro (Xapoli, 1904). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 190-2). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd etL, 
New York, 1908). 

H. Breitinger, Les Unite's d'Aristote 
avant le Cid de Corneille (Geneve, 

A. Benoist, Les Theories dramatiques 
avant les Diseours de Corneille (in 
Annates de la Faculty des lettres de 
Bordeaux, 1891). 




[Poetica d'Ariatotele vulgarizzata e esposta] 


[Opere Varie Critiche] 1 

(printed 1727) 

Tragedy cannot effect its proper func- 
tion with a reading, without staging and 

In poetry there are possible two modes 
of representing action, viz., either by 
words and things, or by words alone; 
one of these modes is more similar to the 
thing represented, the other less; words 
and things together are the more sim- 
ilar mode, words alone the less; for in 
the former, words are represented by 
words and things by things, whilst in 
the latter both words and things are 
represented by words alone. 

The time of the representation and 
that of the action represented must be 
exactly coincident . . . and the scene of 
the action must be constant, being not 
merely restricted to one city or house, 
but indeed to that one place alone which 
could be visible to one person. 

Tragedy ought to have for subject an 
action which happened in a very limited 
extent of place and in a very limited 
extent of time, that is, in that place 
and in that time, in which and for which 
the actors representing the action re- 
main occupied in acting; and in no other 
place and in no other time. . . . 

The time of action ought not to ex- 
ceed the limit of twelve hours. 

There is no possibility of making the 
spectators believe that many days and 
nights have passed, when they them- 
selves obviously know that only a few 
hours have actually elapsed; they refuse 
to be so deceived. 

It is more marvelous when a great 

1 Re-printed from Castelvetrn'g Theory of 
Poetry, by H. B. Charlton (Manchester, 1913). 
— Ed. 

mutation of a hero's fortune is made, 
in a very limited time and a very 
limited place, than when it is made in 
a longer time and in varied and larger 

It was Aristotle's opinion that the plot 
of tragedy and comedy ought to com- 
prise one action only, or two whose in- 
terdependence makes them one, and 
ought rather to concern one person than 
a race of people. But he ought to have 
justified this, not by the fact that a plot 
is incapable of comprising more actions, 
but by the fact that the extreme tem- 
poral limit of twelve hours and the re- 
striction of the place for the perform- 
ance, do not permit a multitude of ac- 
tions nor the action of a whole race, nor 
indeed do they permit the whole of one 
complete action, if it is of any length i 
and this is the principal reason and the 
necessary one for the unity of action, 
that is, for the limitation of the plot to 
but one action of one person, or two 
actions, which by their interdependence 
can be counted one. 

No drama can be praiseworthy which 
has not two actions, that is, two plots, 
though one is principal and the other 

There is no doubt that there is more 
pleasure in listening to a plot contain- 
ing many and diverse actions than in 
listening to that which contains but one. 

Singleness of plot is not in the least 
introduced on account of its necessity, 
but on account of the poet's eagerness 
for glory, and to demonstrate the ex- 
cellence and the singularity of his genius 
. . . for the judgment and the industry 
of the poet is demonstrated when with 
a plot comprising but a single action of 



a single person, that is, with a plot ap- 
parently without any promise of success 
in it, he nevertheless furnishes the spec- 
tators with as much delight as other 
poets can scarcely do with plots com- 
prising many persons. . . . The plot of 
drama should necessarily comprise one 
action of one person, or two, interde- 
pendent on each other. . . . 

Tragedy is an imitation of an action, 
magnificent, complete, which has magni- 
tude, and comprises each of those species, 
which represent with speech made de- 
lightful separately in its parts, and not 
by narration, and, moreover, induces 
through pity and fear, the purgation 
of such passions. 

Tragedy can have either a happy or 
a sorrowful ending, as can comedy; but 
the joy or the sorrow of the tragic end- 
ing is different from the joy or the sor- 
row of the comic ending. The joyful 
denouement of tragedy is formed by the 
cessation to the hero or to one dear to 
him, of impending death or sorrowful 
life or threatened loss of kingship; and 
the sorrowful denouement is formed by 
the occurrence of these things. The 
happy denouement of comedy is formed 
by the removal of insult from the hero 
or from one dear to him, or by the ces- 
sation of a longstanding shame, or by 
the recovery of an esteemed person or 
possession which was lost, or by the ful- 
fillment of his love; and the sorrowful 
denouement of comedy is formed by the 
occurrence of the opposite of these 

Tragedy without a sad ending cannot 
excite and does not excite, as experience 
shows, either fear or pity. 

The solution of the plot ought to be 
brought about by the plot itself, i.e., the 
striking of the danger and the ceasing 
of the difficulty should themselves be 
constituents of the plot, following the 
nature of the danger and of the differ- 
ence bv verisimilitude. 

. . . Tragedy is not imitation of men, 
but of actions. 

The plot is the constitution of the 
things, i.e., the invention of the things 
or the subject: which invention or sub- 
ject comprises the invention of the vis- 
ible things and the invention of the in- 
visible things. 

In most actions, men do not hide their 
character, but exhibit them. 

Poets who make tragedies without 
character and thought, do not really imi- 
tate human action; for in the operation 
of human action, character and thought 
are always revealed, though sometimes 
more, sometimes less. 

I fail to see how there could be a good 
tragedy without character. 

If the plot is the end of tragedy and 
of all poetry, if it is not a thing "acces- 
sory to character, but on the contrary, 
character is necessary to the plot, the'n 
many authors of great fame, ancient and 
modern, including Julius Caesar Scaliger, 
have gravely erred in their opinion that 
it was the intention of good poets like 
Homer and Vergil to depict and demon- 
strate to the world, let us say, an in- 
dignant captain as excellently as pos- 
sible, a valiant soldier, a wise man, and 
their moral natures; with much more 
of the same twaddle: for if this were 
true, then character would not be, as 
Aristotle says, secondary to action, but 
action would be secondary to character. 
Moreover, such a subject could not be 
really poetic: it is much rather philo- 

Character comes in because persons 
come in in action; but persons are not 
introduced in action because a display 
of character is required. 

Though character is not a part of the 
action, yet it accompanies it inseparably, 
being revealed together with the action: 
hence character ought not to be consid- 
ered as part separate from the action, for 
without it the action would not be per- 

• » • • • • 

In questions constituting the species 
of poetry, no account at all should be 



taken of goodness or badness, extreme 
or moderate: these things should be con- 
sidered only in so far as the aim is to 
arouse pity and fear in the minds of the 

If poetry has been fashioned primarily 
for delight, and not for utility, why in 
one species of poetry, i.e., tragedy, is 
utility chiefly sought? Why is not de- 
light sought primarily in this species, 
without regard to utility? 

According to Aristotle, there are four 
kinds of pleasure. The first is the pleas- 
ure arising from the sad state of a per- 
son, good or moderately good, who falls 
from happiness to misery: this pleasure 
we have called oblique, and shown that 
it is caused obliquely. The second is the 
pleasure arising from the happy fate of 
a person, good or moderately good, and 
from the sad state of the wicked; this 
pleasure we have called direct, and shown 
that it arises directly. The third is the 
pleasure of the happy fate common to 
persons of all kinds, friends and enemies: 
this pleasure can be called direct popu- 
lar pleasure. The fourth is the pleasure 
caused by a fearful and monstrous spec- 
tacle; this can be called artificial spec- 
tacular pleasure. Now, Aristotle accepts 
in tragedy the first and second kinds of 
pleasure, and commends them, the first, 
however, more than the second; but he 
will not have them in comedy: the third 
and the fourth, as far as tragedy is con- 
cerned, he dismisses with blame. 

[In the same work Castelvetro states in 
tabular form the various functions and 
parts of comedy.] 

The function of comedy is the being 
moved by pleasing things appealing to 

the sentiments or the imagination. Com- 
edy has to do with human turpitude, 
either of mind or of body; but if of the 
mind, arising from folly, not from vice; 
if of the body, a turpitude neither pain- 
ful nor harmful. 

The greatest source of the comic is 
deception, either through folly, drunken- 
ness, a dream, or delirium; or through 
ignorance of the arts, the sciences, and 
one's own powers; or through the nov- 
elty of the good being turned in a wrong 
direction or of the engineer hoist with 
his own petard; or through deceits fash- 
ioned by man or by fortune. 

Its plot comprises only actions pos- 
sible to happen, those which have actually 
happened having no place in it at all. - 

[From the Opere Varie Critiche, p. 81 J 

The private action of a private citizen 
is the subject of comedy, as the actions 
of kings are the subject of tragedy. 

2 By way of comparison with the theoretical ' 
treatises above-printed, a few lines are here in- 
cluded from the Prologue to Gianmaria 
Cecchi's play. La Rumanesca (1574): "The 
Farsa is a new third species between tragedy 
and comedy. It enjoys the liberties of both, 
and shuns their limitations ; for it receives into 
its ample boundaries great lords and princes, 
which comedy does not, and, like a hospital 
or inn, welcomes the vilest and most plebeian 
of the people, to whom Dame Tragedy has 
never stooped. It is not restricted to certain 
motives ; for it accepts all subjects — grave 
and gay, profane and sacred, urbane and 
crude, sad and pleasant. It does not care for 
time or place. The scene may be laid in a 
church, or a public square, or where you will; 
and if one day is not long enough, two or 
three may be employed. What, indeed, does it 
matter to the Farsa f In a word, this mod- 
ern mistress of the stage is the most amusing, 
most convenient, the sweetest, prettiest country 
lass that can be found upon our earth. 
(From J. A. Symonds' Renaissance in Italy, | 
vol. 2. New York, n. d.) .— Ed. 


French Dramatic Criticism of the Renaissance 69 

Bibliography 70 

Thomas Sebillet 73 

Bibliography 73 

Art of Poetry [Art Poetique Francois pour I'inst ruction des jeune* 
studieus et encor peu avancez en la poesie francoise\ translated 
by the editor. (15±8.) Extracts 71 

Jean de la Taille 75 

Bibliography 76 

The Art of Tragedy [Art de la Tragedie, in Saul le furieujc] trans- 
lated by the editor. (1572.) Extracts 76 

Note. Extracts from the Art poetique of Pierre de Laudun 
d'Aigaliers, and the Premiere Preface to La Franciade of Pierre 
de Ronsard 78 


While many of the ideas incorporated 
into the dramatic treatises of the later 
Renaissance in France were derived from 
Minturno. Scaliger, Castelvetro, and 
other Italian theorists, the beginnings 
in France hark back to the Middle Ages 
and antiquity. The commentaries and 
fragments of Donatus and Diomedes 
were first published toward the end of 
the fifteenth century. Horace was also 
known to the grammarians and schol- 
ars, while the architectural treatises of 
Vitruvius and Alberti, containing chap- 
ters on the theater, were freely drawn 
upon. As in Italy, Aristotle's Poetict 
was seldom referred to; not until the 
middle of the sixteenth century does he 
become a force to be reckoned with. 
Among the earliest French writings on 
the drama was the introductory mat- 
ter — Praenotamenta — to Jodocus Ba- 
dius' edition of Terence (1504). This is 
practically a summing-up of the doc- 
trines of the Middle Ages. Badius' edi- 
tion of Seneca (15 14), in which he was 
aided by others, contains commentaries, 
and the usual excerpts from Donatus 
and Diomedes. These preliminary and 
running commentaries constituted a ver- 
itable " practical dramaturgy." Mean- 
time, foreign influences were at work: 
Polydorus Vergil's De rerum inventori- 
bus (1513), with its section on comedy, 
was known, and later (1544) translated 
into French; Erasmus' Adages, Collo- 
quies, and Letters, however meager in 
their references to Aristotle, helped to 
disseminate the ideas of preceding ages. 
Lazare de Baif, one of the first transla- 
tors of Greek plays, composed a DiMni- 
tinn de la tragedie which he prefixed to 
his version of the Electra (1537). His 
conception in this note, as in the Dedica- 
tion to his Hecuba (1544), was purely 
classical. In Buchanan's Dedication to 
his Latin translation of the Alcestis 
(printed 1554), there is a new note: 
the poet urges the tragic writer to turn 
aside from the conventional themes of 


murder, parricide, etc. Meanwhile, the 
numerous editions of Terence (1529, 1542, 
and 1552) continued to print the commen- 
taries of Donatus, Diomedes, and 
ably quote Horace. In Jean Bouchot's 
Epistre responsive au Roy de la Basoche 
de Bordeaux (written in 1526, and pub- 
lished in 1545) the usual classification of 
drama into the two categories of Comedy 
and Tragedy is modified to include the 

The very earliest Rhetorics and Arts 
of Poetry are of little importance as re- 
gards dramatic theory — the first of 
these is Eustache Deschamps' Art de 
dictier (finished in 1393). Together with 
the numerous treatises on versification, 
they may be ignored. Pierre Fabri's 
manual, Le Grand et vray art de pleine 
Rhetorique, was published in 1521; this 
was followed in 1539 by Gracian du 
Pont's L'Art poetique, which contains 
little that is not found in Fabri's work. 
Both Arts belong in spirit to the late 
Middle Ages. The Art poetique of 
Thomas Sebillet, published in 1548, is in- 
teresting chiefly because of the parallel 
made between the old French " moralite " 
and the tragedies of antiquity. The 
work likewise contains probably the first 
trace of the influence of Aristotle's 
Poetics in France. Sebillet, whose work 
appeared only a year before Du Bellay's 
Defense, foreshadows, in spirit at least, 
some of the reforms advocated by the 
spokesman of the Pleiade. Joachim Du 
Bellay's Defense et illustration de la 
langue francoise (1549) heralded the 
opening of a new era and announced 
the close of the old. Of vast importance 
in the realm of French literature, it con- 
tains nothing but a single brief reference 
to drama — in which he urges dramatists 
to write plays after the manner of the 
ancients. This manifesto was answered 
in 1550 by the Quintil Horatian sur la 
Defense et illustration de la langue fran- 
coise, the author of which was recently 
proved to be Barthelemy Aneau, instead 



of Charles Fontaine, to whom it had been 
ascribed as late as 1898. Among the 
early distinct references to Aristotle's the- 
ory is the three-line sentence * from a 
speech in Jodelle's CUopdtre, the first 
French tragedy (1555); it states the fa- 
mous Unity of Time, derived and devel- 
oped from a passage in the Poetics. An- 
other Art Poitique, that of Jacques Pe- 
letier du Mans (1555), though based to a 
great extent so far as drama is con- 
cerned, upon Horace, Donatus, and Dio- 
medes, incorporates many of the theories 
of the Pleiade. It was up to that date 
the fullest exposition of dramatic theory 
in France. One of the few independent- 
minded dramatists of the period was 
Jacques Grevin who, in his prefatory 
Bref Discours pour I 'intelligence de ce 
theatre, printed with his tragedy, La 
Mort de Cesar (1562), maintained that 
he was justified in using the soldiers in 
his play as a chorus, that he should not 
be blamed for refusing to follow the 
example of the ancients, because " dif- 
ferent nations demand different ways of 
doing things." While he mentions Aris- 
totle, he is hopelessly ignorant of the 
meaning and significance of the Poetics. 
Pierre Ronsard, the chief of the Pleiade, 
makes a few references to drama in his 
three short treatises on poetry: Abrege 
de VArt poUique francois (1565), and 
the first and second Prefaces to the 
Franciade (1572 and 1587, respectively). 
But by all odds the most significant 
treatise of the period was Jean de la 
Taille's Art de la T rage" die, prefixed to 
his play Saul le furieux (1572). By this 
time Aristotle was an authority, and his 
Italian commentators well known in 
France. As has already been pointed 

1 Avant que ce soleil, qui vient ores de 

Ayant trace" son jour chez sa tante se 

CUopdtre mourral 

out, Taille was influenced by Castelvetro, 
from whom he received and stated the 
theory of the three unities, which were 
for the first time in France distinctly 
formulated in his short preface. Two 
important works, the Arts poeliques of 
Pierre de Laudun d'Aigaliers (1598), 
and of Vauquelin de la Fresnaye (pub- 
lished 1605), are among the last works 
of their kind of the French Renaissance. 
Laudun was "probably the first Euro- 
pean critic to argue formally against " 2 
the twenty-four rule supposed to have 
been laid down by Aristotle. Vauquelin 
practically translates the whole of Hor- 
ace's Ars Poetica in his treatise, while 
the rest of his work is based on Aristotle 
and his Italian commentators. 

It is impossible to mention every writes 
of this period who in a preface, an Art 
of Poetry, or letter, refers to the drama. 
There are, however, a number of dram- 
atists and a few others whose casual 
references are of value and interest. To 
the two books on architecture already 
mentioned as containing sections on the 
theater may be added Serlio's work on 
perspective, which was translated into 
French in 1545 by Jehan Martin. The 
prefaces, dedications, etc., of many 
printed plays of Alexandre Hardy and 
Robert Gamier may be consulted; like- 
wise the prefaces to the following plays: 
Les Abuzez (1543), by Charles Ltienne; 
Abraham sacrifiant (1550) by Theo- 
dore de Beze; Les Corrivaux (1562) 
by Jean de la Taille; Avian, by Andr6 
de Rivaudeau; Les Jaloux, Les E sprits, 
and Dedication to Monsieur d'Ambroise 
(all of 1579) by Pierre de Larivey, also 
the same author's Prologue to La Con- 
stance, printed in 1611; Rigulus (1582) 
by Jean de Beaubreuil; Les Neapoli- 
taines (1584) by Francois d'Amboise; 
and Esther (1585) by P. Mathieu. 

2 J. H. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (1908). 

General References on French litera- 

L. Petit de Julleville (editor), Histoire 
de la langue et de la litte'rature fran- 
caise des origines a 1900, 8 vols. (Paris, 

Ferdinand Brunetiere, Histoire de la lit- 
te'rature francaise classique, 3 vols. 
(Paris, 1905-12). 

, Manuel de Vhistoire de la litera- 
ture francaise (Paris, 1897). 

Gustave Lanson, Histoire de la litte'ra- 
ture francaise (12th ed., Paris, 1912). 


Emile Faguet, Histoire de la litterature 
francaise, 2 vols. (Paris, 1900). 

Rene" Doumic, Histoire de la litterature 
francaue (Paris, 1900). 

J. Demogeot, Histoire de la litterature 
francaise (24 th ed., Paris, 1S92). 

H. P. Junker, Grundriss der Geschichte 
der franzosischen Literatur, (2nd ed., 
Munster, 1894). 

Edward Dowden, A History of French 

' Literature (New York, 1897). 

C. H. Conrad Wright, A History of 
French Literature (Oxford, 1912). 

Niceron, Memoires pour servir a Vhistoire 
des hommes illustres dans la ripub- 
lique des lettres, 43 vols. (Paris, 1729- 

[La Valliere] Bibliotheque du Theatre 
Francois, 3 vols. (Dresde, 1768). 

De Leris, Dictionnaire portatif historique 
et litteraire des theatres (2nd ed., 
Paris, 1763). 

P.-L. Jacob (ed.), Bibliotheque drama- 
tique de Monsieur de Soleinne (cat- 
alog), 5 vols. (Paris, 1843-44). 

Gustave Lanson, Manuel bibliographique 
de la litterature francaise moderne, 
(1500-1900), 5 vols. (Paris, 1909-14). 

L.-P. Betz, La litterature comparee (2nd 
ed., Strasbourg, 1904). 

Charles GideL, Histoire de la litterature 
francaise, depuis son origine jusqu'a 
la Renaissance, (Paris, 1875). 

, The same: . . . depuis la Renais- 
sance jusqu'a la fin du XVII' siecle 
(Paris, 1S77). 

F. Godefroy, Histoire de la litterature 
francaise depuis le XVI' siecle jus- 
qu'a nos jours, 10 vols. (2nd ed., Paris, 

General References on French Drama: 

Francois et Claude Parfaict, Histoire du 
Theatre Francois depuis son origine 
jusqu'a present (Paris, 1754—55). 

S. Chappuzeau, Le Theatre francois (ed., 
Paris, 1876). 

Beauchamps, Recherches sur les Theatres 
de France (Paris, 1735). 

J. Baudrais, Essais historiques sur Vori- 
gine et les progres de Vart dramatique 
en France 3 vols. (Paris, 1791). 

Germain Bapst, Essai sur Vhistoxre du 
theatre ("Paris, 1893). 

W. Creizenach, Geschichte des neueren 
Dramas, 3 vols. (Halle, 1893-1909). 

J. L. Klein, Geschichte des Dramas, 13 

vols. (Leipzig, 1865-76). 
L. Petit de Julie vile, Le Theatre en 

France (7th ed., Paris, 1908). 
C. Barthelemy, Histoire de la Comedie 

en France (Paris, 1886). 
A. Rover, Histoire unicerselle du theatre, 

4 vols. (Paris, 1869-70). 
Ferdinand Brunetiere, Les Epoques du 

Theatre francais (1636-1850). (Paris, 

, L' Evolution d'un genre: la Trag- 

e'die (In Etudes critiques sur Vhistoire 

de la litterature franqaise, 7 erne serie, 

Paris, 1905). 
Fontenelle, Histoire du Theatre francois 

(In vol. Ill, (Euvres, Paris, 1790). 
J.-L. Geoffroy, Cours de litte'rature dra- 

matique, 6 vols. (Paris, 1819-20). 
Julien Le Rousseau, Le Progres de la lit- 
te'rature dramatique (Paris, 1865). 
Leon Levrault, Drame et Tragedie 

(Paris, n. d.). 

, La Comedie (Paris, n. d.). 

Eugene Lintilhac, Histoire generate du 

theatre en France, 5 vols. (Paris, 1904- 

H.-J.-J. Lucas, Histoire philosophique et 

litteraire du theatre francais depuis 

son origine jusqu'a nos jours, 3 vols. 

(2nd ed., Bruxelles, 1862-63). 
Frederick Hawkins, Annals of the 

French Stage, 2 vols. (London, 1884). 
Chevalier de Mouhy, Abrege de Vhistoire 

du theatre franqois, 3 vols. (Paris, 

Karl Mantzius, A History of Theatrical 

A rt, trans, by Louise von Cossel, 5 vols. 

(London, 1903-09). 

D. Germano, Evolution historique du 
theatre francais (Caltanissetta, 1902). 

Paul de Saint-Victor, Les Deux Masques, 
3 vols. (Paris, 1880-84). 

References on early French literature 
and Criticism: 

Paul Albert, La Litterature francaise des 
origines a la fin du XVI' siecle (Paris, 

E. Langlois, De Artibus Rhetorica 
Rhythmica (Paris, 1890). 

Heinrich Morf, Geschichte der franzosi- 
schen Literatur im Zeitalter der Ren- 
aissance (2nd ed., Strassburg, 1914). 

Emile Egger, L'HellenUme en France, 
3 vols. (Paris, 1869). 



Emile Faguet, Le Seizieme siecle (Paris, 

, La Tragedie franqaise au XVI* 

siecle (2nd ed., Paris, 1912). 

, Les Manif estes dramatiques avant 

Corneille (In Revue des cours et con- 
ferences, IX, No. 6, Paris, 1900). 

Emile Chasles, La Comedie en France au 
XVI* siecle (Paris, 1862). 

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Tableau historique 
et critique de la Poesie franqaise et du 
theatre franqais au XVI" siecle (Re- 
vised and augmented eds., Paris, 1842 
and after). 

Ferdinand Brunetiere, L'Evolution des 
genres dans I'histoire de la literature. 
Introduction: L'Evolution de la crit- 
ique depuis la Renaissance jusqu'a nos 
jours (6th ed., Paris, 1914). 

Henri Carton, Histoire de la critique 
litteraire en France (Paris, 1886). 

Leon Levrault, La Critique litteraire 
(Paris, n. d.). 

Eugene Lintilhac, La TMorie du theatre 
en France de Scaliger a Victor Hugo 
(In Nouvelle Revue, N. S., IX, Paris, 

J. Marsan, La Pastorale dramatique en 
France a la fin du XVI" siecle et au 
commencement du XVII" siecle (Paris, 

E. J. B. Rathery, Influence de I'ltalie 
sur les lettres franqaises depuis le 
XIII s siecle jusqu'au regne de Louis 
XIV (Paris, 1853). 

Eugene Rigal, De Jodelle a Moliere 
(Paris, 1911). 

, Le Theatre franqais avant la pdri- 

ode classique (Paris, 1901). 

, Alexandre Hardy et le theatre 

franqais a la fin du XVI" siecle et au 
commencement du XV IP siecle (Paris, 

A. Rosenbauer, Die poetischen Theorien 
der Plejade nach Ronsard und Dubel- 
lay (Erlangen, 1895). 

Emile Roy, Etude sur le Th6dtre fran- 
qais du XIV" et XV" siecles (Paris, 

T. Rucktaschel, Einige Arts poitiques 
aus der Zeit Ronsard's und Malherbe's 
(Leipzig, 1889). 

G. Gregory Smith, The Transition Pe- 
riod (New York, 1900). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 
New York, 1908). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 

Joseph Texte, L'Influence italienne dans 
la Renaissance franqaise (In Etudes de 
litterature europeene, Paris, 1898). 

Arthur Tilley, From Montaigne to Mo- 
liere (London, 1908). 

, The Literature of the trench Ren- 
aissance, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1904). 

Henri Tivier, Histoire de la literature 
dramatique en France depuis ses or- 
igines jusqu'au Cid (Paris, 1873). 

Pierre Toldo, La Comedie franqaise de 
la Renaissance (In Revue d'histoire 
litUraire de la France, Paris, 1897-98- 
99, 1900). 

P. Villey, Les Sources d'idees au XVI* 
siecle. Textes choisis et commentes 
(Paris, 1912). 

Ernest Martineche, La Comedie es- 
pagnole en France (Paris, 1900). 

J. W. Cunliffe, Early French Tragedy in 
the Light of Recent Scholarship {Jour- 
nal of Comparative Literature, I, 

Jules Guillemot, L'Evolution de I'idee 
dramatique etc. (Paris, 1910). 

A. Benoist, Les Theories dramatiques 
avant les Discours de Corneille (In 
Annates de la Faculte des Lettres de 
Bordeaux, 1891). 

H. Breitinger, Les Unites d'Aristote 
avant le Cid de Corneille (2nd ed., 
Geneve, 1895). 

M.-A.-A. Chassang, Des essais drama- 
tiques invites de lantiquitd au XIV et 
XV* siecles (Paris, 1852). 

E. Cougny, Des Representations drama- 
tiques et particulierement de la come- 
die politique dans les colleges au seiz- 
ieme siecle (Paris, 1868). 

Jules Haraszti, La Comedie franqaise de 
la Renaissance et la scene (In Revue 
d'histoire litteraire de la France, 
Paris, 1905). 

H. C. Lancaster, A Neglected Passage 
on the Three Unities of the French 
Classical Drama (In Modern Language 
Ass'n Publications, vol. XXI II, Cam- 
bridge, Mass., 1908). 

, The French Tragi-comedy : its Or- 
igin and Development from 1552 to 
1628 (Baltimore, 1907). 

Gustave Lanson, Le Theatre franqais au 
temps d' Alexandre Hardy (In II om- 
mes et Livres, Paris, 1895). 

, Les Origines de la tragtdie clas- 



tique en France (In Revue d'histoire 

litteraire de la France, Paris, 1903). 
, L'ldee de la tragedie avant Jodelle 

(In Revue d'hutoire litteraire de la 

France, Paris, 1904). 
, La Substitu(iori~de la tragedie aux 

mysteres et aux moralites (Revue 

d'hutoire litteraire de la France, 

Paris, 1903). 
, La Tragedie en France avant Cor- 

neille (In Bulletin de V Association des 

E It res de Sevres, 1906). 
Georges Pellissier, Les Arts Poitiques 

anttrieurs a Vauquelin (In L'Art 

PoUique de Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, 

Paris, 1885). 
Charles Arnaud, Les Theories drama- 

tiques au XVII* siecle. Etude sur la 

vie et les ceuvres de I' Abbe d'Aubignac 

(Paris, 1888). 

Adolf Ebert, E ntvcicklungsgeschichte der 

franzbsuche Tragbdie, vornehmlich im 

XVI. Jahrhundert. (Gotha, 1858). 
Hecq et Paris, La Poetique francaise au 

Moyen-dge et a la Renaissance (Brux- 

elles, 1896). 
Marcel Hervier, Les Ecrivains francais 

jug4s par leurs contemporains. I. 

7 VI' et XVII* siecles (Paris, 1911). 
Alfred Michiels, Histoire des idees lit- 

teraires en France, 2 vols. (Bruxelles, 

3rd ed., 1848). 
Philarete Chasles, Etudes sur le seizieme 

siecle en France (Paris, 1848). 

A. Darmsteter et A. Hatzfeld, Le Seiz- 
ieme siecle en France (Paris, 1878). . 

B. Pifteau and J. Goujon, Histoire du 
theatre en France des origines au Cid 
(1396-1630) (Paris, 1879). 


Thomas Sebillet — or Sibilet, as it is 
often spelled — was born in 1512, prob- 
ably at Paris. The little that is known 
of his life has been gleaned from his 
writings. He studied for the law and 
was an " avocat " in the Parleinent de 
Paris, but he soon turned to literary pur- 
suits. He went to Italy in 1549. He 
was the friend of some of the most prom- 
inent literary men of his day, among 
them Du Bellay, Pasquier, and L'Es- 
toile. He was imprisoned for political 
reasons. A speech of his, made in Parle- 
ment in 1589, gives evidence of his more 
or less reactionary attitude toward the 
political movements of his day. He died 
at Paris the same year. 

Sebillet's Art Poetique is a distinct de- 
parture from the Rhetorics and Poetics 
which preceded it. Sebillet, as the friend 
of Du Bellay, must have been influenced 
by many of the ideas which were about 
to be promulgated by the members of the 
Pleiade. It is highly significant that his 
book, which precedes Du Bellay's Def- 
fense by one year, advocates some of the 
reforms suggested in that epoch-making 
manifesto. Spingarn says that Sebillet's 
parage about the French Morality "ex- 
hibits perhaps the earliest trace of the 

influence of Italian ideas on French crit- 
icism." He also remarks that it exhib- 
its in all probability the "first trace of 
Aristotefianism in French critical litera- 
ture." Sebillet's work may, therefore, 
stand as a sort of dramatic manifesto of 
the Pleiade, for as has been said, Du 
Beilay scarcely touches upon the drama. 


The Art Poetique Francois pour f in- 
struction des jeunes studieus et encor 
peu avancez en la poesie francoise was 
first published at Paris in 154S. It went 
through seven editions in a little over 
twenty-five years. It has been re-printed 
by the Societe des Textes francais mod- 
ernes, and edited by Felix Gaiffe, Paris, 

Among Sebillet's other works are polit- 
ical tracts, various translations (1581 
and 1584), and a translation of Euri- 
pides Iphigenia (Paris, 1549). 

On Sebillet and his work: 

Felix Gaiffe, Introduction to re-print of 
the Art Poetique (Paris, 1910). 

Erich Liiken, Du Bellay's Defence et 

illustration de la largue francoyse ta 



ihrem Verhaltnis zu Sebillets Art 

Poetique (Oldenburg, 1913). 
Nouvelle Biographie generate, vol. 43 

(Paris, 1867). 
Biographie universelle, vol. 39. 
Ferdinand Brunetiere, Histoire de la Lit- 

terature franqaise classique, vol. 1 
(Paris, 1905). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 
New York, 1908). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 


[Art poetique] 

(Book 2. Chapter VIII) 

Dialogue and its Kinds. The Eclogue, 
the Morality, and the Farce 

A common and successful sort of poem 
is that written in the " prosomilitical " 
or conversational style, which, by proso- 
popoeia employs personalities speaking in 
tbeir own persons. This sort of poem is 
called by the Greeks a Dialogue. 

Dialogue. — The Dialogue includes a 
number of sub-divisions, which we shall 
consider in due order. But you must 
notice that each of these kinds has a com- 
mon and particular name by which it is 
known: as, for instance, Eclogue, Moral- 
ity, and Farce. But, exclusive of these 
particular terms, the poem in which char- 
acters are introduced, speaking to each 
other, goes under the generic term of 
Dialogue. What, I ask, is Marot's Le 
Jugement de Minos? And what are 
many other such poems which you will 
find in reading the French poets? In- 
deed, you will find the Dialogue utilized 
even in epigrams, as in the second book 
of Marot's Epigrammes, the one begin- 


Muse, dy moy, pourquoy a ma maitresse 
Tu n'as sceu dire Adieu a son depart? 


Pource que lors je mouru de dvstresse, 
Et que d'un mort un mot jamais ne part. 


Muse, dy moy, comment donques Dieu- 

Tu luy peus dire ainsi de mort ravie? 

l Here translated, with omissions, for the 
first time into English, by the editor. — Ed. 


Va pauvre sot, son celeste regard 
La revoyant ma redonne la vie. 

And Saint-Gelays' Epiiaphe de feu 
Monsieur Bude", which is as follows: 

A. Qui est ce corps que si grand peuple 

B. Las c'est Bude" au cercceil estendu. 

A. Que ne font done les cloches plus 
grand bruit. 

B. Son bruit sans cloche est assez en- 

A. Que n'a Ion plus en torches de- 

Selon la mode acoustumie et saint? 

B. A fin qu'il soit par Vobscur entendu 
Que des Franqois la lumiere est 


The Eclogue. — The Eclogue is Greek 
by invention, Latin by usurpation, and 
French by imitation. For Theocritus the 
Greek poet is the one whom Vergil used 
as a model in his Eclogues, and these 
works of Vergil were the models of 
Marot and other French poets. All 
three sorts [that is, Greek, Latin, and 
French] must be your example. Notice 
now that this poem, which they called 
Eclogue, is more often than not in dia- 
logue form, in which shepherds and the 
like are introduced, in pastoral settings, 
conversing of deaths of princes, the ca- 
lamities of the times, the overthrow of 
republics, the happy outcomes and events 
of fortune, poetic praises, or the like, in 
the form of very obvious allegory, so 
obvious that the names of the characters, 
the people themselves and the rightful . 
application of the pastoral dialogue will 
stand revealed like painting under a glass 



— as in the Tityre of M. de Vergile and 
in the Eclogue he wrote on the death of 
Madame Loyse [de Savoye] mother of 
the late King Francois, first of his name 
and of glorious memory; and in that 
which he wrote at the request of the late 
King, the characters in which went under 
the names of Pan and Robin. . . . 

The Morality. — Greek or Latin Trag- 
edy. — The French Morality in some way 
represents Greek and Latin tragedy, 
principally in that it treats of grave and 
important subjects. If the French had 
managed to make the ending of the Mor- 
ality invariably sad and dolorous, the 
Morality would now be a tragedy. 

The Temper of the French. — But in 
this, as in everything else, we have fol- 
lowed our temperament, which is to take 
from what is foreign not everything we 
see, but only what we judge will be to 
our advantage. For in the Morality, as 
the Greeks and Latins did in their trag- 
edies, we show illustrious deeds, magni- 
ficent and virtuous, true, or at least true 
to life; and otherwise as regards what is 
useful for information on our customs 
and life, not binding ourselves to any 
sadness or pleasure of the issue. . . . 

The Second Kind of Morality. — There 
is another sort of Morality, besides the 
one I have already spoken about, in 
which we follow the allegory, or moral 
sense (hence the name Morality), which 
treats either a moral proposition, in 
which some character, neither man nor 
woman, represents some attributed ab- 
straction, or else some other allegory in- 

tended for our instruction, or guidance 
in our manners. 

The Virtue of the Morality. — In spite 
of everything, I believe that the first vir- 
tue of "the Morality, and of every other 
sort of Dialogue, is the expression of the 
moral sense of the piece, or allegory. . . . 
In spite of the fact that, as Horace says 
in his A rs Poetica the poet mingles the 
delightful with the profitable and earns 
the applause and approbation of every 
one, we to-day do not write pure Moral- 
ities nor pure and simple farces, de- 
siring rather to mix the two, and derive 
pleasure and profit, by employing con- 
secutive and alternate rhyme, short and 
long lines, and making of our plays a 

Farce. Latin Comedy. — Our farce 
has little of the Latin Comedy in it 
And, to tell the truth, the acts and 
scenes of Latin comedy would result only 
in a tiresome polixity. For the true 
subject of the French Farce or Sottie is 
a trifling, broad piece, inciting pleasure 
and laughter. 

The subjects of Greek and Latin com- 
edy were far different, for in them there 
was more morality than laughter, and 
often as much of truth as of fable. Our 
Moralities stand midway between comedy 
and tragedy and our Farces are in reality 
what the Latins caDed Mimes, or Pria- 
peet, the purpose and end of which was 
unrestrained laughter, for every licence 
was permitted, as is nowadays the case 
with our own farces. 


Jean de la Taille was born at Bonda- 
roy about 1540. His noble birth and 
good education enabled him to make a 
name for himself, which he did, both as 
soldier and man of letters. He studied 
at first under Muret, then entered the 
law department of the University of 
Orleans. But his interest in literature 
led him to abandon his profession. It is 
sure that he was influenced by Ronsard 
and Du Bellay. Regarding his military 
exploits, we know that he was in camp 

near Blois in 1563, in the battle of Dreux, 
at Arnay-le-Duc with the Prince of Na- 
varre, and at Loudun in 1568. After 
Arnay-le-Duc he entered the service of 
the Prince. He took cold after the battle 
of Coutras, and died. 

Taille was not merely a theorist, like 
Sebillet, but a practising dramatist as 
well. Although he disagreed with Se- 
billet and maintained that the old French 
farce and morality were ameres epiceries, 
and that the true drama had scarcely 



begun in France, he was none the less an 
innovator. Perhaps his chief importance 
consists in his having formulated the 
third Unity, that of place. It is prob- 
able that this was derived from Castel- 
vetro's Poetica, which had just appeared 
(1570). In common with other theorists, 
he upheld the dignity of tragedy, and 
forbade the dramatist's introducing vio- 
lence and bloodshed on the stage. His 
references to Aristotle mark the final ac- 
ceptance in France of the Poetics, 

On the drama: 

Preface to Les Corrivaux (1562). Art 
de la Tragedie, in Saul le furieux (1572). 


With the exception of the very rare 
first edition of Taille's Saul le furieux 
(1572) which contains the Art de la Tra- 
gedie, there is only one edition, the re- 
print of the Art by itself in Hugo Schlen- 
sog's dissertation on the Lucelles of 

Louis le Jars and Jacques Duhamel 
(Freiburg i. Br., 1906). Taille's comedy 
Les Corrivaux (1562) with prefatory 
matter touching upon the drama, is re- 
printed in the (Euvres (see below). 
Taille's works, including two plays be- 
sides those already mentioned, but ex- 
cluding Saul and the Art de la Tragtdie, 
and with a Notice on the author, are re- 
printed: (Euvres, 4 vols., edited by Ren£ 
de Maulde (Paris, 1878). 

On Taille and his works: 

Prefaces to the editions cited. 
A. Werner, Jean de la Taille und sein' 

Saul le furieux (Leipzig, 1908). 
G. Baguenaulr de Puchesse, Jean et 

Jacques de la Taille (in Lectures et 

Memoires de Sainte-Croix, vol., VI, 

Orleans, '1889). 
Biographie universelle, vol. 40 (Paris). 
J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 

Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 

New York, 1908). 


{Art de la trag&die (in) Saul le furieux] 

Madame, the pitiable disasters falling 
to the lot of France during your Civil 
Wars, and the death of King Henry, and 
the King his son, and the King of Na- 
varre your uncle, and the deaths of so 
many other princes, lords, knights and 
gentlemen, are all so great and sorrowful 
that one needs no other material with 
which to make tragedies. Although such 
things are the proper material for trag- 
edy, they would only remind us of past 
and present sorrows, and I shall willingly 
leave them aside, preferring rather to 
scribe the unhappiness of others than 
our own. ... I now wish to dedicate to 
you a tragedy about the most miserable 
prince who ever wore crown, the first 
whom God chose to rule over His peo- 
ple. This is the first play I have ever 
written. I wish here, in making this ded- 
ication, to reveal to all one of the most 
marvelous secrets of the whole Bible, one 

1 Translated for the first time, with slight 
abridgments, by the editor. — Ed. 

of the greatest mysteries of that great 
Lord of the World, and one of His most 
terrible providences. In order that you 
may enjoy the pleasure I desire for you 
without further delay, it has occurred to 
me to give you a sort of overture, and 
some foretaste of the tragedy, by clarify- 
ing the principal points, merely in touch- 
ing upon them. 

Tragedy is by no means a vulgar kind 
of poetry; it is rather the most elegant, 
beautiful, and excellent of all. Its true 
province is the depiction of the pitiful 
ruin of lords, the inconstancy of for- 
tune, banishments, wars, pests, famines, 
captivity, and the execrable cruelties of 
tyrants; in short, tears and extreme mis- 
ery. It does not treat of those things 
which happen every day and for clear 
reasons — such as a natural death, or the 
death of a man by the hand of his 
enemy, or an execution according to law, 
— the result of one's just deserts. 
Such occurrences do not easily move us, 



would scarcely bring a tear to the eye. 
This is because the true and only end 
of tragedy is to move and arouse keenly 
the passions of each of us; and to this 
end the subject must be pitiful and poig- 
nant in itself, and able at once to arouse 
in us some passion, }, Such a subject is 
the story of him who was made to eat 
his own" sons, the father, though unwit- 
tingly, being the sepulchre of his chil- 
dren"; or of him who could find no exe- 
cutioner to end his days and his sor- 
rows, and was forced to perform the 
terrible deed with his own hand. Nor 
must the story treat of very bad lords, 
who deserve punishment for their hor- 
rible crimes; nor, for the same reason, 
must it treat of the wholly good, men of 
pure and upright lives, like Socrates — 
even though he was unjustly poisoned. 
This is why subjects of the sort will 
always be cold, and unworthy the name 
of tragedy. This is why the story of 
Abraham, in which God merely tries 
Abraham and pretends to make him sac- 
rifice Isaac, is not a fit subject, because 
there is no misfortune at the end. Like- 
wise with the story of Goliath, the enemy 
of Israel and of our religion; when 
Goliath is killed by his enemy David, we 
are so far from feeling compassion that 
we are rather delighted and relieved. 
The story, or play, must alway^be pre- 
sented as occurring on the same day, in 
the same time, and in the sameplace. 
One must also be careful to do nothing 
on the stage but what can easily and 
decently be performed; no murders or 
other "forms of death, pretended or 
otherwise, for the audience will invar- 
iably detect the trick. It was not art 
when some one, with too little reverence, 
performed the crucifixion of our great 
Savior on the stage. As to those who 
declare that a tragedy must always be 
joyous at the first and sad at the end, 
and a comedy (which is like a tragedy 
as regards the art and general form, 
but not the subject) be just the reverse, 
let me tell them that this is not always 
the case, among the great diversity of 
subjects and manner of treating them in 
both kinds. The principal point in trag- 
edy is to know how to dispose and con- 
struct it well, so that the story may 
change, rise and fall, turning the minds 
of the spectators hither and thither, al- 

lowing them to see joy suddenly turned 
to sorrow, and sorrow to joy, as hap- 
pens in actual life. The story must be 
well combined, interlaced, broken up, and 
begun again, and most especially, con- 
ducted at the end to the resolution and 
point which the author originally de- 
signed. Nor must there be anything in 
it useless, superfluous, or out of place. 
If the subject be taken from the divine 
writings, avoid long discourses on the- 
ology, for these are what detract from 
the plot; they belong rather to a ser- 
mon. And for the same reason, do not 
introduce that sort of character which 
is called Faincte [Invented] which never 
existed, like Death, Truth, Avarice, the 
World, and suchlike, for it would be 
necessary to have people " invented " in 
the same way to take pleasure in them. 
So much for the subject. As for the art 
necessary to treat it and write it down, 
it must be divided into five acts, at 
end of each of which the stage is free 
of actors, and the sense perfectly clear. 
There must be a chorus, that is, a com- 
pany of men or women who, at the end 
of the act, hold discourse upon what has 
been said during it, and, above alL to 
keep silent and yet express without 
words what is happening off-stage. The 
tragedy must not start with the very 
beginning of the story or subject, but 
toward the middle, or the end (and this 
is one of the principal secrets of the art 
I am speaking of), after the manner of 
the best ancient poets and their great 
heroical works, in order that the audience 
may not listen coldly, but with the at- 
tention, born of the knowledge of the 
beginning, and being in sight of the end 
afterward. But it would take me too 
long to outline in detail that which the 
great Aristotle in his Poetics, and Hor- 
ace after him (though not so adroitly) 
has written at greater length than I, 
who am attempting only to make clear 
this matter to you; my discourse is not 
intended for the ears of the very serious 
and learned. I shall treat only of the 
tragedies, comedies, farces, and morali- 
ties (wherein there is often neither sense 
nor reason, but only ridiculous dis- 
courses and nonsense), and other sorts 
of plays which are not constructed with 
true art, as were the plays of Sophocles, 
Euripides, and Seneca, and are conse- 



quently ignorant, ill-made, and insig- 
nificant things, good merely as pastimes 
for the lower classes, the common people, 
and frivolous-minded. I wish that all 
such trivial nonsense which spoils the 
purity of our language, could be ban- 
ished from France, and that we had 
adopted and naturalized true tragedy and 
comedy, which have scarcely become 
known to us, and which would indeed in 
French form possess what grace they 
now have in Latin and Greek. I would 
to heaven that our kings and great ones 
knew what pleasure there is in hearing 
recited and seeing acted a real tragedy 
or comedy on a stage such as I could de- 
vise, and which was formerly held in 
such high esteem as a pleasure for the 
Greeks and Romans. And I venture 
to assert that such plays, simply acted 
by intelligent actors who, with the 
propriety of their acting and recita- 
tion, in a language not smacking of 
Latin, by a direct and fearless pro- 
nunciation not reminiscent of the student 
nor the pedant, and with none of the non- 
sense of farce, would serve as the most 
pleasant pastime to the great — when 
they come for rest to the city, after ex- 
ercising, hunting and hawking. Besides, 
I do not care (in thus writing) about the 
bitter malice and brutal contempt of 
those who, because they are fighters, look 
down upon men of letters, as if knowl- 
edge and virtue, which reside only in the 
spirit, enfeebled the body, the heart, and 
the arms; and nobility were dishonored 
by another sort of nobility, to wit, knowl- 

Now, as France has not yet a true 
tragedy, unless it be a translation, I pub- 
lish this one, under your protecting 
favor, Madame, as you are one of the 
few of our time who protect the arts 
and sciences, and in order to make your 
name known to posterity, your kindness, 
your knowledge and courtesy, and that 

future generations may know that you 
sometimes took notice of those who had 
something to say besides the usual vul- 
garities and barbarities of the ignor- 
ant.2 . . . 

2 It may be well to record the words 
of at least one critic, probably the first in Eu- 
rope, who vigorously protested against the 
Unity of Time. In the Art poetique (1598) of 
Fierre de Laudun d'Aigaliers, the author says: 
" In the first place, this law, if it is observed 
by any of the ancients, need not force us to 
restrict our tragedies in any way, since we are 
not bound by their manner of writing or by 
the measure of feet and syllables with which 
they compose their verses. In the second place, 
if we were forced to observe this rigorous law, 
we should fall into one of the greatest of ab- 
surdities, by being obliged to introduce impos- 
sible and incredible things in order to enhance 
the beauty of our tragedies, or else they would 
lack all grace; for besides being deprived of 
matter, we could not embellish our poems with 
long discourses and various interesting events. 
In the third place, the action of the Troades, 
an excellent tragedy by Seneca, could not have 
occurred in one day, nor could even some of 
the plays of Euripides or Sophocles. In the 
fourth place, according to the definition al- 
ready given [on the authority of Aristotle J, 
tragedy is the recital of the lives of heroes, the 
fortune and grandeur of kings, princes, and 
others ; and all this could not be accomplished 
in one day. Besides, a tragedy must contain 
five acts, of which the first is joyous, and the 
succeeding ones exhibit a gradual change as I 
have already indicated above; and this change 
a single day would not suffice to bring about. 
In the fifth and last place, the tragedies in 
which this rule is observed are not any better 
than the tragedies in which it is not observed; 
and the tragic poets, Greek and Latin, or even 
French, do not and need not and cannot ob- 
serve it, since very often in a tragedy the 
whole life of a prince, king, emperor, noble, 
or other person is represented ; — besides a 
thousand other reasons which I could advance 
if time permitted, but which must be left for 
a second edition." Translated by J. E. Spin- 
garn, in his History of Literary Criticism in 
the Renaissance. 

Ronsard's brief plea on behalf of the Unity 
of Time (in the Premiere Pre" face to La Fran- 
ciade, 1572) runs as follows: "Tragedy and 
comedy are circumscribed and limited to a 
short space of time, that is, to one whole day. 
The most excellent masters of this craft com- 
mence their works from one midnight to an- 
other, and not from sunrise to sunset, in order 
to have greater compass and length of time." 
(Translated by Spingarn, in the book cited 
above.) — Ed. 


Spanish Dramatic Criticism of the Golden Age 81 

Spanish Dramatic Criticism of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and 

Twentieth Centuries 82 

Bibliography 83 

Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra 85 

Bibliography 86 

Don Quixote [Don Quixote] anonymous translation (1605). Ex- 
tracts from Chap. 48 86 

Lope de Vega 88 

Bibliography 88 

The New Art of Making Plays in This Age [Arte nuevo le hacer 
comedias en este tiempo] translated by William T. Brewster. 

(1609.) Complete text 89 

Tirso de Molina [Gabriel Tellez] 93 

Bibliography 93 

The Orchards of Toledo [Cigarrales de Toledo'] translated by Wini- 
fred Ayres Hope. (1624.) Extracts 94 


Spanish literature as a whole has been 
rather freer from outside influence than 
that of other nations. The drama of the 
great age — the late sixteenth and early 
seventeenth centuries — was decidedly 
unclassic. The masterpieces of Lope de 
Vega and Calderon are, compared with 
the masterpieces of Corneille and Ra- 
cine, shapeless and crude; they re- 
semble rather the plays of the Eliza- 
bethans. The earliest Spanish criticism 
touching upon the theory of the drama 
are: the Arte de Trobar (written 1423, 
and later known as the Arte cinoria) 
of Enrique, Marquis (?) de Villena; the 
Preface to The Proverbs (1437) the 
Letter to the Constable of Portugal, of 
the Marquis de Santillana; and the Arte 
of Juan del Encina. The first of these 
was finished in 1434, the next two about 
the same time, while the last was pub- 
lished in 1496. Argore de Molina wrote 
a treatise on poetics which he prefixed to 
his Conde Lucanor (1575). But Spanish 
criticism proper did not begin until to- 
ward the close of the sixteenth century. 
Juan Diaz (or Alfonso) Rengifo's Arte 
Poetica Espanola (1592), was a standard 
treatise on rhetoric, and was derived for 
the most part from Italian Renaissance 
critics.i Alfonso Lopez [El Pinciano] 
published in 1596 his Filosofla Antigua 
Poetica, in effect a protest against the 
prevailing "irregular" drama; Juan de 
la Cueva finished the writing of his 
Egemplar poetico about 1606 (published 
in 1774) ; Carvallo published his Cisne de 
A polo in 1602; Luis Carillo his Libro de 
Erudicion Poitica in 1611; while Cas- 
cales' Tablas poeticas did not appear 
until 1616. All these works are unmis- 
takably Italian in origin, and such ele- 
ments of classicism as are found in them 
are derived through Minturno, Scaliger, 
Robortello, and their contemporaries 

l A curious and valuable document of the 
time, though not dealing with dramatic tech- 
nique, is El viage entrenido (1603-04) of 
Agustin de Rojas Villandrando. — Ed. 


Juan de Mariana's Tratado contra lot 
Juegos Publico* (1609) may be men- 
tioned among the attacks on the drama 
of the day. (An earlier attack, De 
Bege, appeared ten years before.) In 
1609 Lope de Vega published his famous 
manifesto, the Arte neuvo de hazer come- 
dian en este tiempo, which was a protest 
against the rules, especially the Unities. 
Cervantes' attack on Lope s practice ap- 
peared in the 48th chapter of Don 
Quixote, part I, which was published in 
1605. Lope had already won his case, 
however, and a number of " defenders " 
of the form in which he had succeeded, 
published their justifications of his dra- 
matic methods. The most interesting of 
these defenses is found in the Cigarrales 
de Toledo of the dramatist Tirso de 
Molina, which was published in 1624. 
Before this defense appeared, however, 
Lope had been defended by Francesco 
de la Barreda (in his Invectiva y Apolo- 
gia, 1622), Julius Columbarius (in his 
Expostulate Spongiae — 1618), Alfonso 
Sanchez; and by Carlos Boil and " Ric- 
ardo del Turia" (Pedro Juan de Rejaule 
y Toledo). Boil's Romance a un licen- 
ciado que desebea hacer comedian, and 
Turia's Apologetico de lag comedian es- 
panolas both appeared in the Norte de 
la Poenia espanola (1616). In the Dedi- 
cation to his play Pampeyo (1618) 
Christ6val de Mesa protests against the 
licence of Lope's dramas. There is an- 
other in Cristobal Suarez de Figueroa's 
El Pasagero (1618). Among the later 
manifestos may be mentioned Diego de 
Colmenares' Centura de Lope de Vega 
Carpio, o dincurso de la nueva poenia, 
con una respuesta (1630), Gonzales de 
Salas' Neuva Idea de la Tragedia An- 
tigua, etc. (1633), and Juan Perez de 
Montalban's Prologue to the first volume 
of his Comedian (1638), his Para Todos 
(1632), Jos£ Pellicer de Salas de Tovar's 
Idea de la Comedia de Costilla (1639). 
Calderon, the dominating figure of the 
mid-seventeenth century, is said to have 



written on the drama, but his Defensa de 
la comedia has not yet been published. 
The various Prefaces contain very little 
dramatic theory. One of the most im- 
portant critics of the period was the cele- 
brated Balthazar Gracian, whose Agu- 
deza y certe de ingenio was published in 
1648. In 1650 appeared Diego Vich's 
Breve discurso de las Comedias y de su 
representation. With the decline of the 
drama came a corresponding decline of 
dramatic criticism and theory. Not until 
the advent of Luzan was there any out- 
standing Art of Poetry, criticism, or 

The Eighteenth Century 

The eighteenth century in Spain marks 
the decline of the Golden Age of Spanish 
drama, and the ascendancy of foreign, 
chiefly French, influence. The outstand- 
ing figure is Luzan, whose Poetica was 
published in 1737. It was the author's 
purpose to make Spanish poetry con- 
form to " rules prevailing among the cul- 
tured nations." He drew largely upon 
Boileau, Aristotle and the contemporary 
Italian critics: Muratori, Gravina, etc. 
His ideas were opposed in the Diaro de 
los Literatos de Espana, founded in 1737 
by Francisco Manuel de Huerta y Vega 
and Juan Martinez Salafranca, and Leo- 
poldo Geronimo Puig. He was likewise 
defended, in the same paper, by Jose 
Gerardo de Hervas y Cobo de la Torre, 
who in 1742 wrote a Satira contra los 
rnalos escritores de su tiempo. Feyjoo's 
magazine, in imitation of the Spectator, 
the Teatro Critico universal, first ap- 
peared in 1726, and continued until 1739. 
His Cartas eruditas y curiosas (1740-60) 
went far to disseminate European ideas 
of literature into Spain. Martin Sar- 
miento is the author of a posthumous 
Memorias para la historia de la poesia, y 
poetas espanoles (1745). In 1749 Bias 
de Nasarre wrote a preface (Dissertation 
o prologo) to two of Cervantes' plays, 
and attempted to discredit the old plays 
of Spain. Joseph Carillo attacked 
Nasarre the following year in his Sin 
Razon itnpugnada, and Zabaleta in his 
Discurso critico (1750) defended Lope 
and his school. In the same year, 
Thomas de Yriarte published a transla- 
tion of Horace's Ars Poetica. Mon- 

tiano y Luyando furthered the work of 
gallicizing Spanish literature in his de- 
fense of the French rules as used in his 
plays; his Discurso sobre las Tragedias 
appeared in 1750; one of comedies being 
published the same year, and a third in 
1753. Among the more pedantic writ- 
ings was the Betorica (1757) of Greg- 
orio Mayans y Siscar, chiefly derived 
from the Latins. Luis Joseph Velazquez 
published his Origines de la Poesia Cas- 
tellana three years before. Nicolas Fer- 
nandez de Moratin, a dramatist of un- 
equal power, wrote a number of trac- 
tates and prefaces, some of which de- 
fended his own plays, while others at- 
tacked the old autos, which were at the 
time prohibited. In 1762 he plead for 
the French rules in the preface of his 
unsuccessful play, La Petimetra. The 
same year he published three discourses, 
chief among which was the Desengano al 
Teatro Espafwl. In 1770 he published 
the preface to his play Hortnesinda, 
which was written, however, by Bernas- 
cone. It was attacked by Juan Pelaez 
in the Beparos sobre la Tragedia in- 
titulada Hortnesinda. The quarrel con- 
tinued, and in 1773 Sebastian y Latre 
issued a defense of the Unities in his 
Ensayo sobre el Teatro Espanol. The 
publication, in 1785-86, of Vicente Gar- 
cia de la Huerta's selection of old plays 
in his Theatro Hespanol, and the pre- 
faces, especially the Escena Espanola 
defendida (1786), called down upon him 
the wrath of a number of writers, who 
blamed him for omitting such dramatists 
as Lope de Vega, Tirso, and Alarc6n. 
The tracts and pamphlets of the time 
were numerous, though few of them are 
of any value. Among Huerta's antag- 
onists may be mentioned Forner, Sanian- 
Sego, Yriarte and Jovellanos. The 
popular dramatist, Ramon de la Cruz, 
especially in his preface to the Teatro 
(1786-91), did much to free the drama 
from formal restrictions. He was also 
the first to introduce Shakespeare to his 
country. His version of Hamlet is 
dated 1772. Leandro Fernandez de 
Moratin, one of the best dramatists of 
the late eighteenth century, was an ar- 
dent admirer of Shakespeare (he made a 
version of Hamlet in 1798*), and of 
Moliere. His early plays were written 
according to the French " rules," but he 



soon freed himself, and in his prefaces 
and pamphlets declared the independence 
of the stage. His plays, Derotta de los 
Pedantes (1789), and the Nueva Drama 
(1792) are attacks on dramatists and out- 
worn rules. In the Prologo of the first 
part of the second volume of his Works, 
he further discusses his theories. The 
Duke of Almodovar went still further in 
destroying the old Spanish tradition; his 
Decada Epistolar sobre el Estado de las 
Letras en Francia appeared in 1781. 

nlxeteexth akd twentieth 

The modern epoch in Spain produced 
many dramatists: from the very begin- 
nings to the present time Spain's 
dramatic output has been uninterrupted. 
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 

however, contributed little beyond the 
plays themselves, and recently, a mass of 
historical erudition. The Romantic im- 
petus from France was felt early in 
Spain, with the dramatist Martinez de la 
Rosa, who was followed by the Duke de 
Revas, and Antonio Garcia Gutierrez 
(author of El Trovador), Hartzenbusch, 
Zorilla, and Tamayo y Baus, all repre- 
sentatives of the drama during the first 
half of the century. 

The recent drama — with Jose Eche- 
garay and Benito Perez-Galdos pre- 
eminent — held its own with that of mod- 
ern nations, and the twentieth century 
boasts at least a dozen younger drama- 
tists. Chief among the critics and his- 
torians is Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo, 
whose Historia de las ideas esteticas en 
Espana belongs to the eighties. 

General references on Spanish Litera- 

George Ticknor, History of Spanish Lit- 
erature, 3 vols. (6th ed., Boston, 1888. 
Spanish translation, with additions and 
corrections, by Gayangos and Yedia, 4 
vols., Madrid, 1851-56). 

J. C. L. S. de Sismondi, De la Literature 
du midi de I' Europe (3rd ed., 4 vols., 
Paris, 1829. Translated as Historical 
View of the Literature of the South 
of Europe, 2 vols. Bonn ed., London, 

James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, History of 
Spanish Literature (London, 1898). 

, Bibliographie de I'histoire de la 

littirature espagnole (Paris, 1913). 

Heinrieh Morf, Die romanishen Litera- 
turen uml Sprachen (Berlin, 1909). 

F. Wolf, Studien zur Geschichte der 
spanischen und portugiesischen Na- 
tionalliteratur (Berlin, 1859). 

H. B. Clarke, Spanish Literature: an 
Elementary Handbook (2nd ed., Lon- 
don, 1909). 

Rudolf Beer, Spanische Literatur- 
geschichte, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1903). 

Angel Salcedo y Ruiz, La Literatura 
Espanola, 3 vols. (2nd ed., Madrid, 

Ernest Merimee, Pricis d'histoire de la 
littirature espagnole (Paris, 1908). 

Julio Cejador y Frauca, Historia de la 
lengua y literatura castellana, 5 vols, 
to date (Madrid, 1915-16). 

Hispanic Society of America (pub.) 
Biblioyraphie hispanique (New York, 
annual nos. 1905 to date). 

P. Bouterwek, History of Spanish Liter- 
ature (Trans, by T. Ross, London, 

P. A. Becker, Geschichte der spanishen 
Literatur (Strassburg, 1904). 

Spanish Literature [a bibliography] (in 
Pratt Institute Lectures, nos. 30-31, 
Brooklyn, 1894-95). 

William Hanssler, A Handy Biblio- 
graphical Guide to the Study of the 
Spanish Language and Literature, etc. 
(St Louis, 1915). 

A. Puibusque, Histoire comparee des lit- 
teWatures espagnole et francaise, 2 
vols. (Paris, 1843). 

B. de los Rios de Lamperez, Del siglo 
d'oro (Estudios literarios) (Madrid, 

M. Menendez y Pelayo, Estudios de 

critica literaria, 5 vols. (Madrid, 1893- 

Boris de Tannenberg, L'Espagne lit- 

teraire, portraits d'hier et d'aujourd'- 

hui (Paris, 1903). 
A. Morel-Fatio, L'Espagne au XVI* et 

au XVII' siecle (Heilbronn, 1878). 
, Etudes sur I'Espagne, 2 vols. (2nd 

ed., Paris, 1895-1906). 



P. F. B. Garcia, La Literatura espanola 
en el siglo XIX (Madrid, 1891). 

Jose Manuel Aicardo, De literatura con- 
temporania (2d ed., Madrid, 1905). 

General references on Spanish drama: 

Casiano Pellicer, Tratado historico sobre 

el Origen y progresos de la Comedia 

y del histrionismo en Espana (Madrid, 

A. F. von Schack, Geschichte des drama- 

tischen Literatur und Kunst in 

Spanien, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1845-46). 
, Nachtrdge, etc. (Frankfurt a/M., 

Adolf Schaeffer, Geschichte des span- 

ischen Nationaldramas, 2 vols. (Leip- 
zig, 1890). 
Franz Grillparzer, Studien zum span- 

ischen Theater (in vol. 17, Cotta ed. 

Grillparzers sdmtliche Werke). 
Louis de Viel-Castel, Essai sur le ThMtre 

espagnol, 2 vols. (Paris, 1882). 
Jose Yxart, El arte esce"nico en Espana 

(Madrid, 1894-96). 
C. A. de la Barrera y Leirado, Catdlogo 

bibliogrdfico del teatro antiguo Es- 

pahol desde sus origenes hasta med- 

iados del siglo XVIII (Madrid, 1860). 
John Chorley, Notes on the National 

Drama in Spain (Fraser's Magazine, 

London, July, 1859). 
Cotarelo y Mori, Bibliografla de las con- 

troversias sobre la Licitud del Teatro 

en Espana (Madrid, 1904). 
M. Damas-Hinard, Discours sur Vhis- 

toire et Vesprit du theatre espagnol 

(Paris, 1847). 
J. Ebner, Zur Geschichte des klassischen 

Dramas in Spanien (Passau, 1908). 
Juan Nicolas Bohl von Faber, Teatro 

Espanol anterior d Lope de Vega 

(Hamburgo, 1832). 
Alfred Gassier, Le ThMtre espagnol 

(Paris, 1898). 
Antonio Canovas del Castillo, El Teatro 

espanol (Barcelona, 1906). 
M. A. Fee, Etudes sur Vancien thMtre 

espagnol (Paris, 1873). 
Manuel Cafiete, Teatro Espanol del siglo 

XVI (Madrid, 1885). 
G. H. Lewes, The Spanish Drama (Lon- 
don, 1845). 
H. Lucas, Le ThMtre espagnol (Paris, 


A. Morel-Fatio and L. Rouanet, Le 
ThMtre espagnol (Paris, 1900). 

Jos6 Francos Rodriguez, El Teatro en 
Espana (Madrid, 1908). 

J. Sanchez Arjona, Noticias referentes 
d los anales del teatro en Sevilla desde 
Lope de Rueda hasta fines del siqlo 
XVII (Sevilla, 1898). 

A. Ludwig Stiefel, Spanisches Drama bis 
1800 (in Kritischer Jahresbericht uber 
die Fortschritte der romanischen 
Philologie, vol. 7, 1905). 

Thomas de Erauso y Zavaleta, Discurso 
Critico sobre . . . las Comedias de Es- 
pana (Madrid, 1750). 

C. Perez Pastor, Nuevos Datos acerca 
del Histrionismo espanol en los siglos 
XVI-XVII (Madrid, 1901). 

Henri Merimee, L'Art dramatique a Va- 
lencia, depuis les origines jusqu' a« 
commencement du XVIIe siecle (Tou- 
louse, 1913). 

The. G. Ahrens, Zur Charakteristik des 
spanischen Dramas im Anfang des 
XVII. Jahrhunderts (Halle, 1911). 

M. Damis-Hinard, Le ThMtre espagnol 
au siecle d'or (Paris, 1853). 

David Hannay, The Later Renaissance 
(New York, 1898). 

A. Morel-Fatio, La Comedia espagnole 
du XVII" siecle (Paris, 1885). 

, Les defenseurs de la Comedia (in 

the Bulletin hispanique Bordeaux, 

H. A. Rennert, The Spanish Stage in the 
Time of Lope de Vega (New York, 

A. Anaya, An Essay on Spanish Liter- 
ature . . . followed by a History of 
the Spanish Drama (London, 1818). 

L. Viardot, Etudes sur Vhistoire des in- 
stitutions de la UttSrature, du thMtre, 
et des beaux-arts en Espagne (Paris, 

J.-J.-A. Bertrand, L. Tieck et le thMtre 
espagnol (Paris, 1914). 

Henry Lyonnet, Le ThMtre en Espagne 
(Paris, 1897). 

Manuel Bueno, Teatro Espaiiol contem- 
pordneo (Madrid, 1909). 

A. J. Bastinos, Arte dramdtico espanol 
contempordneo (Barcelona, 1914). 

F. W. Chandler, Aspects of Modern 
Drama (New York, 1914). 

Barrett H. Clark, The Continental Drama 
of Today (2nd ed., New York, 1914). 



References on Spanish criticism: 

Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo, Historia 
de las Ideas estt'ticas en Espaua, 9 
vols. (2nd ed., Madrid, 1890, and fol- 
lowing) . 

F. Fernandez y Gonzalez, Historia de la 
Critica literaria en Espana, etc. (Ma- 
drid, 1870). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 
Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 
New York, 1908). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 

H. Breitinger, Les Unites d'Aristote 
avant le Cid de Corneille (Geneve, 


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was 
born at Alcala de Henares in 1547. In 
all probability Miguel was with his 
father and the rest of the family in 
their various residences, in Valladolid, 
Madrid, Seville, and again, in 1556, Ma- 
drid. It was in this city that he first 
met Lope de Rueda, one of the early 
Spanish dramatists. In 15G9 Cervantes' 
first work — six small poems — appeared 
in a large collection edited by Cervantes' 
supposed schoolmaster, Juan Lopez de 
Hoyos. Toward the end of the same 
year, Cervantes was in Rome with Car- 
dinal Acquaviva. It is probable that in 
1570 he enlisted in the regular army, 
that the following year he was on board 
the iJarquesa during the Battle of Le- 
panto, and that he was wounded. He 
returned to Messina and recuperated, and 
was, in 157-2, transferred to another regi- 
ment. He spent the greater part of the 
ensuing three years in Palermo and Na- 
ples. In 1575 he was granted leave to 
return to Spain, but the ship in which he 
and his brother embarked was captured 
by pirates, the passengers carried into 
slavery and placed under guard at Al- 
giers. During the next two years he 
made two or three unsuccessful at- 
tempts to escape, and in 1577 was bought 
by the Viceroy. Several attempts on> 
the part of Cervantes and his family to 
free him, proved fruitless, until in 1580 
a ransom was raised and he went 
to Constantinople; thence he returned to 
Spain. During the next few years he 
wrote a number of plays. In 1584 he 
married and the following year published 
his novel, Galatea. In 1587 Cervantes 
went to Seville to assist in the provis- 

ioning of the Armada, for he found it 
impossible to make a living by writing. 
He was employed in the commissary de- 
partment until 1590, when he applied to 
the king for a position in the American 
colonies, but was refused. Two years 
later he was imprisoned for an unknown 
reason, but was soon released. He was 
continually getting into financial diffi- 
culties with the government, and was 
finally dismissed. Between the publica- 
tion of the Galatea and Don Quixote, in 
1605, Cervantes had written only a few 
occasional poems. Don Quixote was im- 
mediately successful, though the author 
received little compensation. During the 
next few years he wrote very little. In 
1612 he became reconciled with Lope de 
Vega, whom he had criticized in Don 
Quixote. The next year he published his 
Xovelas exemplares, in 1614 the Viage 
del Parnaso. In 1615 he published a 
volume of plays and entremeses. with an 
interesting preface. Meanwhile a second 
part of the Don Quixote had made its 
appearance in 1614, in which the author, 
who called himself Alonso Fernandez de 
Avellaneda, tried to cover the subjects 
which Cervantes had announced in the 
first part. In all probability this im- 
posture set Cervantes to work, for in 
1615 the true second part appeared. 
While he was engaged in publishing 
his Persiles y Siyismunda he died, in 

Cervantes' importance as a critic of 
the drama lies in his having set himself 
against the national type of drama. 
There may have been some personal 
animus in his attack, as Lope de Vega 
had referred slightingly to him a short 



time before the publication of Don 
Quixote, and Lope was the chief repre- 
sentative of the popular drama. It is 
rather odd, too, that many of Cervantes' 
own plays were written more or less in 
the manner of Lope. The famous pas- 
sage on the drama (Chapter 48 of the 
first part) contains, as has been pointed 
out, a curious parallel to Sidney's stric- 
tures on English drama, particularly 
where he speaks of the absurdity of the 
violation of the Unity of Time. 

On the drama: 

Don Quixote, part 1, chapter 48 (1605). 
Viage del Parnaso (1614). 
Preface to Ocho comedias y ocho en- 
tremeses nuevos (1615). 

The first part of Don Quixote was pub- 
lished at Madrid in 1605. There are 
innumerable editions, among the best 
of which is that in the Hartzenbusch 
edition of the Obras completas, 1-2 vols. 
(Madrid, 1863-64). The Complete 
Works are in course of publication, 
under the editorship of James Fitz- 
maurice-Kelly, 8 vols. (Glasgow, 1901- 
06). Among the editions of Don Quix- 
ote may be mentioned those of 
Clemenciu, 6 vols. (Madrid, 1833-39), 
and Fitzmaurice-Kelley and Ormsby, 

2 vols. (London, 1899-1900). English 
translations by Shelton, Motteux, 
Smollett and Ormsby (numerous mod- 
ern editions). There is a French 
translation of some of Cervantes' 
plays, together with the Preface re- 
ferred to: ThSdtre de Michel Cer- 
vantes, translated by Alphonse Itoyer 
(Paris, n. d.). The Viage del Parnaso, 
with an interesting appendix, is trans- 
lated by James Y. Gibson (London, 

On Cervantes and his works: 

Leopold Rius, Biblografia critica de las 
obras de Miguel de Cervantes Saave- 
dra, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1895-1905). 

Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, Vida de 
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Mad- 
rid, 1819). 

James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, Miguel de Cer- 
vantes Saavedra, a Memoir (Oxford, 

M. A. Buchanan, Cervantes as a Drama- 
tist (in Modern Language Notes, vol. 
33, 1908). 

N. Diaz de Escovar, Apuntes escenicos 
cervantinos, etc. (Madrid, 1905). 

Marcel Dieulafoy, Le The'dtre e'difiant 
(Paris, 1907). 

S. Salas Garrido, Exposicion de los ideas 
esteticas de Miguel de Cervantes 
Saavedra (Malaga, 1905). 


[Don Quixote] 


". . . . I was discouraged, too, when- 
ever I reflected on the present state of 
the drama, and the absurdity and inco- 
herence of most of our modern comedies, 
whether fictitious or historical; for the 
actor and author both say that they must 
please the people, and not produce com- 
positions which can only be appreciated 
by half a score of men of sense; and 
that they would rather gain subsistence 
by the many than reputation by the few. 
What other fate, then, could I expect 
but that, after racking my brains to 
produce a reasonable work, I should get 

1 Reprinted extracts from the anonymous 
translation of Don Quixote (New York, n. d.). 
— Ed. 

nothing but my labor for my pains? I 
have occasionally endeavored to persuade 
theatrical managers that they would not 
only gain more credit, but eventually 
find it much more advantageous to pro- 
duce better dramas; but they will not 
listen to reason. Conversing one day 
with a fellow of this kind, I said, ' Do you 
not remember that, a few years since, 
three tragedies were produced which 
were universally admired; that delighted 
both the ignorant and the wise, the vul- 
gar as well as the cultivated; and that 
by those three pieces the players gained 
more than by thirty of the best which 
have since been represented?' 'I sup- 
pose you mean the Isabella, Phyllis, and 






Alexandra' he replied. 'The same,' said 
1 ; ' And pray recollect, that although they 
were written in strict conformity to the 
rules of art, they were successful: the 
whole blame, therefore, is not to be as- 
cribed to the taste of the vulgar. There 
is nothing absurd, for instance, in the 
play of Ingratitude Revenged, nor in the 
Xuman'ta, nor in the Merchant Lover, 
much less in the Favorable Enemy, or in 
some others composed by ingenious poets, 
to their own renown and the profit of 
Bm»c who acted them.' To these I added 
other arguments, which I thought in some 
degree perplexed him, but were not so 
convincing as to make him reform his 
erroneous practice." 

" Signor Canon," said the priest, " you 
have touched upon a subject which has 
revived in me an old grudge I have borne 
against our modern plays, scarcely less 
than I feel towards books of chivalry; 
for though the drama, according to 
Cicero, ought to be the mirror of human 
life, an exemplar of manners and an im- 
age of truth, those which are now pro- 
duced are mirrors of inconsistency, pat- 
terns of folly, and images of licentious- 
ness. What, for instance, can be more 
absurd than the introduction in the first 
scene of the first act of a child in swad- 
dling clothes, that in the second makes 
his appearance as a bearded man? Or 
to represent an old man valiant, a young 
man cowardly, a footman rhetorician, a 
page a privy councillor, a king a water 
carrier, and a princess a scullion? Nor 
are they more observant of place than of 
time. I have seen a comedy, the first 
act of which was laid in Europe, the 
second in Asia, and the third in Africa; 
and had there been four acts, the fourth 
would doubtless have been in America. 
If truth of imitation be an important 
requisite in dramatic writing, how can 
anyone with a decent share of under- 
standing bear to see an action which 
passed in the reign of King Pepin or 
Charlemagne ascribed to the Emperor 
Heraclius, who is introduced carrying the 
cross into Jerusalem, or receiving the 
holy sepulchre, like Godfrey of Boulogne, 
though numberless years had elapsed be- 
tween these actions? and. when the piece 
is founded on fiction, to see historical 
events mingled with facts relating to dif- 
ferent persons and times? — and, all this 

without any appearance of probability, 
but, on the contrary, full of the grossest 
absurdity? And yet there are people 
who think all this perfection, and call 
everything else mere pedantry. The 
sacred dramas, too — how they are made 
to abound with faults and incomprehen- 
sible events, frequently confounding the 
miracles of one saint with those of an- 
other; indeed, they are often introduced 
in plays on profane subjects, merely to 
please the people. Thus is our natural 
taste degraded in the opinion of culti- 
vated nations, who, judging by the ex- 
travagance and absurdity of our produc- 
tions, conceive us to be in a state of ig- 
norance and barbarism. It is not a suf- 
ficient excuse to say that the object in 
permitting theatrical exhibitions being 
chiefly to provide innocent recreation for 
the people, it is unnecessary to limit and 
restrain the dramatic author within strict 
rules of composition; for I affirm that 
the same object is, beyond all compar- 
ison, more effectually attained by legiti- 
mate work. The spectator of a good 
drama is amused, admonished, and im- 
proved by what is diverting, affecting 
and moral in the representation; he is 
cautioned against deceit, corrected by ex- 
ample, incensed against vice, stimulated 
to the love of virtue. Such are the effects 
produced by dramatic excellence; but 
they are not to be expected on our pres- 
ent ?tage, although we have many au- 
thors perfectly aware of the prevailing 
defects, but who justify themselves by 
saying that, in order to make their works 
saleable, they must write what the thea- 
ter will purchase. We have a proof of 
this even in the happiest genius of our 
country, who has written an infinite num- 
ber of dramatic works with such vivacity 
and elegance of style, such loftiness of 
sentiment, and richness of elocution, that 
his fame has spread over the world; 
nevertheless, in conforming occasionally 
to the bad taste of the present day, his 
productions are not all equally excel- 
lent. Besides the errors of taste, some 
authors have indulged in public and pri- 
vate scandal, insomuch that the actors 
have been obliged to abscond. These and 
every other inconvenience would be ob- 
viated if some intelligent and judicious 
person of the court were appointed to 
examine all plays before they are acted, 


and without whose approbation none 
should be performed. Thus guarded, the 
comedian might act without personal 
risk, and the author would write with 
more circumspection; and by such a 
regulation, works of merit might be 
more frequent, to the benefit and honor 
of the country. And, in truth, were the 
same or some other person appointed to 
examine all future books of chivalry, we 

might hope to see some more perfect 
productions of this kind to enrich our 
language, and which, superseding the old 
romances, would afford rational amuse- 
ment, not only to the idle alone, but to 
the active; for the bow cannot remain 
always bent, and relaxion both of body 
and mind, is indispensable to all." 

(I, 48). 


Lope Felix de Vega Carpio — better 
known simply as Lope de Vega — was 
born at Madrid in 1562. According to 
all accounts, he was very precocious; he 
himself claims to have written a four-act 
play at the age of twelve. Very little 
is known of his youth except that he 
became a page in the service of the 
Bishop of Carthagena, and 'that he went 
to the University at Alcala de Henares. 
When he left the University — probably 
in 1581 — he worked under Geronimo 
Velazquez, a theater manager in Madrid. 
In 1583 he became a member of the Ex- 
pedition to the Azores. On his return, he 
had begun to acquire a reputation as a 
poet and dramatist. In 1588 he was ban- 
ished temporarily for writing libels. He 
went to Valencia, but shortly after re- 
turned to Madrid, and carried off and 
married the daughter of a former regidor 
of the city. They went to Lisbon, 
whence Lope embarked in the Armada, 
on the San Juan. During the stormy 
voyage and in the midst of the combat 
Lope was writing with the utmost assid- 
uity. When he returned to Spain he 
settled at Valencia, where he continued 
to write. In 1590 he left and went to 
Alba de Tonnes, where he became secre- 
tary to the Duke of Alba. After the 
death of his wife, probably in 1595, Lope 
left Alba de Tormes and went to 
Madrid, where he married again in 1598, 
the same year in which he published his 
novel, the Arcadia. He continued to 
publish poems, novels and epics. About 
the year 1609 Lope seems to have 
turned his thoughts toward religion, and 
in that year he describes himself as a 

Familiar of the Inquisition. The follow- 
ing year he entered a monastery and in 
1614 was admitted to the order, after the 
death of his son and wife. But, as ever, 
he found time to make love, write poems 
and plays, and participate in state func- 
tions. Toward the end of his life, he 
seems to have been overcome by remorse, 
after the death of one of his favorite 
mistresses and the drowning of another 
son. He died in 1635. Throughout his 
long career he wrote plays, the number 
of which ranges somewhere between 
twelve and twenty-five hundred. 

Lope is primarily important as a 
dramatist, though in his prefaces, dedi- 
cations, and verses, and above all in his 
Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este 
tiempo (probably 1609), he had clear 
vision and common sense as a critic of 
his own work. His Arte nuevo is a 
document of the utmost importance, be- 
cause it voices the sentiments of the 
greater part of the dramatists and public 
of the time. It is an explanation and 
justification of the free and unclassic 
romantic drama of the Golden Age of 

On the drama: 

Prefaces and dedications to the various 
Comedias, especially in Partes IX 
(1618), XIII (1620), XVII (1622), 
XIX (1627), and XXIII (1638). 
These are reprinted in Obras ed. by 
Menendez y Pelayo and the Real Acad- 
emia Kspaiiola, 13 vols. (Madrid, 1890- 
1902). The Arte nuevo de hacer 
comedias en este tiempo originally ap- 



peared in the Rimas (Madrid, 1609). 
The Rimas are published in fac-simile 
bv the Hispanic Society of America 
("New York, 1903). The Arte by 
Morel-Fatio, with notes, in the Bulletin 
hispanique (Paris, Oct.-Dec., 1904). 
It is translated as The Xew Art of 
Making Plays in This Age, by Wil- 
liam T. Brewster, with an introduction 
by Brander Matthews (Dramatic Mu- 
seum of Columbia University, New 
York, 1914). 

On Lope de Vega and his works: 

Perez de Montalban, Fama Postuma 
(Madrid, 1636). 
— , Para todos (Madrid, 1632). 

Henry Richard, Lord Holland, Some Ac- 
count of the Lives and Writings of 
Lope Felix de Vega Carpio and Guil- 
len de Castro (London, 1817). 

Cayetano Alberto de la Barrera, Nueva 
Biografia de Lope de Vega (Madrid, 

Alfred Morel-Fatio, Les Origines de 

Lope de Vega (In the Bulletin his- 
panique, VII, p. 38, Paris, 1905). 
Cristobal Perez Pastor, Datos descono- 

cidos para la Vida de Lope de Vega 

(In Homenaje d Menendez y Pelayo. 

Madrid, 1900. New ed. in Tomillo's 

Proceso de Lope de Vega, etc., Madrid, 

Hugo Albert Rennert, The Life of Lope 

de Vega (London, 1904). 
, The Spanish Stage in the Time of 

Lope de Vega (New York, 1909). 
James Fitzmaiirice-Kelly, Lope de Vega 

and the Spanish Drama (London, 

Camille Le Senne and Guillot de Saix, 

Lope de Vega, L'Etoile de Seville. 

Etude et version francaise integrals. 

Preface par Henry Roujon (Paris, 

Brander Matthews, Introduction to The 

Xt-io Art of Writing Plays, etc. (Xew 

York, 19U). 
Camille Pitollet, La Poetique de Lope 

(In Le Siecle, Paris, Nov., 1905). 


[Arte wuevo de hacer comedies en este tiempo] 


1. You command me, noble spirits, 
flower of Spain, — who in this congress 
and renowned academy will in short 
space of time surpass not only the as- 
semblies of Italy which Cicero, envious 
of Greece, made famous with his own 
name, hard by the Lake of Avernus, but 
also Athens, where in the Lyceum of 
Plato was seen high conclave of philos- 
ophers, — to write you an art of the play 
which is to-day acceptable to the taste of 
the crowd. 

2. Easy seems this subject, and easy it 
would be for any one of you who had 
written very few comedies, and who 
knows more about the writing of them 
and of all these things; for what con- 
demns me in this task is that I have 
written them without art. 

3. Not because I was ignorant of the 
precepts; thank God, even while I was a 

1 Translated by "William T. Brewster in the 
Papers on Plauilakinn I, with an introduction 
by Brander Matthews (Dramatic Museum of 
Columbia University, New York, 1914), 

tyro in grammar, I went through the 
books which treated the subject, before 
I had seen the sun run its course ten 
times from the Ram to the Fishes; 

4. But because, in fine, I found that 
comedies were not at that time, in Spain, 
as their first devisers in the world 
thought that they should be written; 
but rather as many rude fellows man- 
aged them, who confirmed the crowd in 
its crudeness; and so they were intro- 
duced in such wise that he who now 
writes them artistically dies without fame 
and guerdon; for custom can do more 
among those who lack light of art than 
reason and force. 

5. True it is that I have sometimes 
written in accordance with the art which 
few know; but, no sooner do I see com- 
ing from some other source the mon- 
strosities full of painted scenes where 
the crowd congregates and the women 
who canonize this sad business, than I 
return to that same barbarous habit, and 
when I have to write a comedy I lock in 



the precepts with six keys, I banish Ter- 
tence and Plautus from my study, that 
they may not cry out at me; for truth, 
«even in dumb books, is wont to call aloud ; 
.and I write in accordance with that art 
which they devised who aspired to the 
applause of the crowd; for, since the 
crowd pays for the comedies, it is fitting 
to talk foolishly to it to satisfy its 

6. Yet the comedy has its end estab- 
lished like every kind of poem or poetic 
art, and that has always been to imitate 
the actions of men and to paint the 
customs of their age. Furthermore, all 
poetic imitation whatsoever is composed 
of three things, which are discourse, 
agreeable verse, harmony, that is to say 
music, which so far was common also to 
tragedy; comedy being diiferent from 
tragedy in that it treats of lowly and 
plebeian actions, and tragedy of royal 
and great ones. Look whether there be 
in our comedies few failings. 

7. Auto was the name given to them, 
for they imitate the actions and the 
doings of the crowd. Lope de Rued a 
was an example in Spain of these princi- 
ples, and to-day are to be seen in print 
prose comedies of his so lowly that he 
introduces into them the doings of 
mechanics and the love of the daughter 
of a smith; whence there has remained 
the custom of calling the old comedies 
entremeses, where the art persists in all 
its force, there being one action and 
that between plebeian people; for an en- 
tremes with a king has never been seen. 
And thus it is shown how the art, for 
very lowness of style, came to be held in 
great disrepute, and the king in the com- 
edy to be introduced for the ignorant. 

8. Aristotle depicts in his Poetics, — 
although obscurely. — the beginning of 
comedy; the strife between Athens and 
Megara as to which of them was the first 
inventor; they of Megara say that it was 
Epicarmus, while Athens would have it 
that Maynetes was the man. ^Elius 
Donatus says it had its origin in ancient 
sacrifices. He names Thespis as the 
author of tragedy, — following Horace, 
who affirms the same, — as of com- 
edies, Aristophanes. Homer composed 
the Odyssey in imitation of comedy, but 
the Iliad was a famous example of 
tragedy, in imitation of what I called 

my Jerusalem an epic, and added the 
term tragic; and in the same manner 
all people commonly term the Inferno, 
the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso of the 
celebrated poet, Dante Alighieri, a. 
comedy, and this Manetti recognizes in 
his prologue. 

9. Now, everybody knows that comedy, 
as if under suspicion, was silenced for 
a certain time, and that hence also sa- 
tire was born, which being more cruel, 
more quickly came to an end, and gave 
place to the New Comedy. The chor- 
uses were the first things; then the fixed 
number of the characters was intro- 
duced; but Menander, whom Terence fol- 
lowed, held the choruses in despite, as 
offensive. Terence was more circum- 
spect as to the principles; since he never 
elevated the style of comedy to the great- 
ness of tragedy, which many have con- 
demned as vicious in Plautus; for in this 
respect Terence was more wary. 

10. Tragedy has as its argument his- 
tory, and comedy fiction; for this rea- 
son it was called flat-footed, of humble 
argument, since the actor performed 
without buskin or stage. There were 
comedies with the pallium, mimes, come- 
dies with the toga, fabulae alellanae, and 
comedies of the tavern, which were also, 
as now, of various sorts. 

11. With Attic elegance the men of 
Athens chided vice and evil custom in 
their comedies, and they gave their prizes 
both to the writers of verse and to the 
devisers of action. For this Tully called 
comedies " the mirror of custom and a 
living image of the truth," — a very high 
tribute, in that comedy ran even with 
history. Look whether it be worthy of 
this crown and glory! 

12. But now I perceive that you are 
saying that this is merely translating 
books and wearying with painting this 
mixed-up affair. Believe me, there has 
been a reason why you should be re- 
minded of some of these things; for you 
see that you ask me to describe the art 
of writing plays in Spain, where what- 
ever is written is in defiance of art; and 
to tell how they are now written con- 
trary to the ancient rule and to what is 
founded on reason, is to ask me to draw 
on my experience, not on art, for art 
speaks truth which the ignorant crowd 



13. If, then, you desire art, I beseech 
you, men of genius, to read the very 
learned Robortello of Udine and you will 
see in what he says concerning Aristotle 
and especially in what he writes about 
comedy, as much as is scattered among 
many books; for everything of to-day is 
in a state of confusion. 

14. If you wish to have my opinion of 
the comedies which now have the upper 

id and to know why it is necessary 
that the crowd with its laws should main- 
tain the vile chimera of this comic mon- 
ster, I will tell you what I hold, and do 
ou pardon me, since I must obey who- 
ever has power to command me, — that, 
gilding the error of the crowd, I desire 
to tell you of what sort I would have 
them; for there is no recourse but to fol- 
low art, observing a mean between the 
two extremes. 

15. Let the subject be chosen and do 
not be amused, — may you excuse these 
precepts ! — if it happens to deal with 
kings; though, for that matter, I under- 
stand that Philip the Prudent, King of 
Spain and our lord, was offended at see- 
ing a king in them; either because the 
matter was hostile to art or because the 
royal authority ought not to be repre- 
sented among the lowly and the vulgar. 

16. This is merely turning back to the 
Old Comedy, where we see that Plautus 
introduced gods, as in his Amphitryon 
he represents Jupiter. God knows that 
I have difficulty in giving this my appro- 
bation, since Plutarch, speaking of Men- 
ander, does not highly esteem Old Com- 
edy. But since we are so far away 
from art and in Spain do it a thousand 
wrongs, let the learned this once close 
their lips. 

IT. Tragedy mixed with comedy and 
Terence with Seneca, though it be like 
» another minotaur of Pasiphae, will ren- 
der one part grave, the other ridiculous; 
for this variety causes much delight. 
Nature gives us good example, for 
through such variety it is beautiful. 

IS. Bear in mind that this subject 
should contain one action only, seeing to 
it that the story in no manner be epi- 
sodic; I mean the introduction of other 
things which are beside the main pur- 
pose; nor that any member be omitted 
which might ruin the whole of the con- 
text. There is no use in advising that 

it should take place in the period of one 
sun, though this is the view of Aristotle; 
but we lose our respect for him when 
we mingle tragic style with the humble- 
ness of mean comedy. Let it take place 
in as little time as possible, except when 
the poet is writing history in which some 
years have to pass; these he can relegate 
to the space between the acts, wherein, 
if necessary, he can have a character go 
on some journey; a thing that greatly 
offends whoever perceives it. But let 
not him who is offended go to see them. 

19. Oh! how lost in admiration are 
many at this very time at seeing that 
years are passed in an affair to which 
an artificial day sets a limit; though for 
this they would not allow the mathemat- 
ical day ! But, considering that the 
wrath of a seated Spaniard is immoder- 
ate, when in two hours there is not pre- 
sented to him everything from Genesis 
to the Last Judgment, I deem it most fit- 
ting if it be for us here to please him, 
for us to adjust everything so that it 

20. The subject once chosen, write in 
prose, and divide the matter into three 
acts of time, seeing to it, if possible, that 
in each one the space of the day be not 
broken. Captain Virues, a worthy wit, 
divided comedy into three acts, which be- 
fore had gone on all fours, as on baby's 
feet, for comedies were then infants. I 
wrote them myself, when eleven or 
twelve years of age, of four acts and of 
four sheets of paper, for a sheet con- 
tained each act; and then it was the 
fashion that for the three intermissions 
were made three little entremeses, but 
to-day scarce one, and then a dance, for 
the dancing is so important in comedy 
that Aristotle approves of it, and Athen- 
aeus, Plato and Xenophon treat of it, 
though this last disapproves of indecor- 
ous dancing; and for this reason he is 
vexed at Callipides, wherein he pre- 
tends to ape the ancient chorus. The 
matter divided into two parts, see to the 
connection from the beginning until the 
action runs down; but do not permit the 
untying of the plot until reaching the 
last scene; for the crowd, knowing what 
the end is, will turn its face to the door 
and its shoulder to what it has awaited 
three hours face to face; for in what ap- 
pears, nothing more is to be known. 



21. Very seldom should the stage re- 
main without some one speaking, be- 
cause the crowd becomes restless in these 
intervals and the story spins itself out 
at great length; for, besides its being a 
great defect, the avoidance of it increases 
grace and artifice. 

22. Begin then, and, with simple lan- 
guage, do not spend sententious thoughts 
and witty sayings on family trifles, which 
is all that the familiar talk of two or 
three people is representing. But when 
the character who is introduced per- 
suades, counsels or dissuades, then there 
should be gravity and wit; for then 
doubtless is truth observed, since a man 
speaks in a different style from what is 
common when he gives counsel, or per- 
suades, or argues against anything. 
Aristides, the rhetorician, gave us war- 
rant for this; for he wishes the language 
of comedy to be pure, clear, and flexible, 
and he adds also that it should be taken 
from the usage of the people, this being 
different from that of polite society; for 
in the latter case the diction will be ele- 
gant, sonorous, and adorned. Do not 
drag in quotations, nor let your language 
offend because of exquisite words; for, 
if one is to imitate those who speak, it 
should not be by the language of Pan- 
chaia, of the Metaurus, of hippogriffs, 
demi-gods and centaurs. 

23. If the king should speak, imitate as 
much as possible the gravity of a king; 
if the sage speak, observe a sententious 
modesty; describe lovers with those pas- 
sions which greatly move whomever lis- 
tens to them; manage soliloquies in such 
a manner that the recitant is quite trans- 
formed, and in changing himself, changes 
the listener. Let him ask questions and 
reply to himself, and if he shall make 
plaints, let him observe the respect due 
to women. Let not ladies disregard 
their character, and if they change cos- 
tumes, let it be in such wise that it may 
be excused; for male disguise usually is 
very pleasing. Let him be on his guard 
against impossible things, for it is of the 
chiefest importance that only the like- 
ness of truth should be represented. The 
lackey should not discourse of lofty af- 
fairs, not express the conceits which we 
have seen in certain foreign plays; and 
in no wise let the character contradict 
himself in what he has said; I mean to 

say, forget,— as in Sophocles one blames 
CKdipus for not remembering that he has 
killed Laius with his own hand. Let the 
scenes end with epigram, with wit, and 
with elegant verse, in such wise that, at 
his exit, he who spouts leave not the audi- 
ence disgusted. In the first act set for 
the case. In the second weave together 
the events, in such wise that until the 
middle of the third act one may hardly 
guess the outcome. Always trick ex- 
pectancy; and hence it may come to pass 
that something quite far from what is 
promised may be left to the understand- ' 
ing. Tactfully suit your verse to the 
subjects being treated. Dtcimas are 
good for complainings; the sonnet is good I 
for those who are waiting in expecta- | 
tion; recitals of events ask for romances, I 
though they shine brilliantly in octavas. 
Tercets are for grave affairs and redon- 
dillas for affairs of love. Let rhetorical 
figure be brought in, as repetition or 
anadiplosis, and in the beginning of these j 
same verses the various forms of ana- 
phora; and also irony, questions, apos- 
trophes, and exclamations. 

24. To deceive the audience with the ) 
truth is a thing that has seemed well, as 1 
Miguel Sanchez, worthy of this memorial | 
for the invention, was wont to do in all : 
his comedies. Equivoke and the uncer- I 
tainty arising from ambiguity have al- I 
ways held a large place among the crowd, 
for it thinks that it alone understands J 
what the other one is saying. Better still 1 
are the subjects in which honor has a 
part, since they deeply stir everybody; 
along wth them go virtuous deeds, for 
virtue is everywhere loved; hence we see, 
if an actor chance to represent a traitor, 
he is so hateful to every one that what lie 
wishes to buy is not sold him, and the 
crowd flees when it meets him; but if he 
is loyal, they lend to him and invite him, 
and even the chief men honor him, love 
him, seek him out, entertain him, and ac- 
claim him. 

25. Let each act have but four sheets, 
for twelve are well suited to the time and 
the patience of him who is listening. In 
satirical parts, be not clear or open, since 
it is known that for this very reason 
comedies were forbidden by law in 
Greece and Italy; wound without hate, 
for if, perchance, slander be done, ex- 
pect not applause, nor aspire to fame. 



26. These things you may regard as 
jiphorisms which you get not from the 
Undent art, which the present occasion 
jillows no further space for treating; 
jiince whatever has to do with the three 
fesinds of stage properties which Vitru- 
Irius speaks of, concerns the impresario; 
iust as Valerius Max'unus, Petrus Crini- 
itus, Horace in his Epistles, and others 
■describe these properties, with their 
•drops, trees, cabins, houses, and simu- 
llated marbles. 

2~. Of costume Julius Pollux would 
itell us if it were necessary, for in Spain 
jit is the case that the comedy of to-day 
[is replete with barbarous things: a Turk 
{wearing the neck -gear of a Christian, 
land a Roman in tight breeches. 

28. But of all, nobody can I call more 
barbarous than myself, since in defiance 
[of art I dare to lay down precepts, and 
I allow myself to be borne along in the 
vulgar current, wherefore Italy and 
France call me ignorant. But what can 
1 1 do if I have written four hundred and 
eighty-three comedies, along with one 
which I have finished this week ? For all 
of these, except six, gravely sin against 
art. Yet, in fine, I defend what I have 

written, and I know that, though they 
might have been better in another man- 
ner, they would not have had the vogue 
which they have had; for sometimes that 
which is contrary to what is just, for that 
very reason, pleases the taste. 

How Comedy reflects this life of man, 
How true her portraiture of young and 
How subtle rcit, polished in narrow span, 
And purest speech, and more too you 
What grave consideration mixed with 
What seriousness, along with pleasant 
Deceit of slaves; how woman oft beguiles 
How full of slyness is her treacherous 
How silly, awkward swains to sadness 
How rare success, though all seems 
well begun. 

Let one hear with attention, and dis- 
pute not of the art; for in comedy every- 
thing will be found of such a sort that in 
listening to it everything becomes evi- 


Gabriel Tellez, known as Tirso de Mo- 
lina, was born at Madrid probably in 
1570. He was graduated from the Uni- 
versity of Alcala, and in 1613 he took 
orders. Very little is known of his life, 
though it is likely that he traveled a great 
deal and was a soldier. Toward the end 
of his life he became prior of the Mon- 
astery at Soria. He was a prolific play- 
wright, whose chief claim lies in his hav- 
ing created the character of Don Juan, 
in his Don Juan. He died at Soria in 

Tirso was one of the defenders of the 
free romantic comedia, and his few refer- 
ences to the drama are in defense of 
Lope de Vega, the greatest of the writ- 
ers of that sort of play. In his Cigar- 
rales de Toledo (1624), he includes a 
play, El Yergonzoso en Palacio, and 
after it, introduces a fictitious discussion 

in dialogue-form. One person attacks 
Tirso for violating the Unities. Another, 
Tirso himself, speaking through him, as- 
sails the critic and defends the free form. 
Tirso's criticism is rather a reflection of 
the spirit of the time than a true defense 
of a form which very few writers adhered 
to or wished for. 

On the drama: 
Tirso's only remarks on dramatic theory 
are found in the Cigarrales de Toledo 

The various editions of the plays con- 
tain biographies, and in some cases 
extracts from the Cigarrales de Toledo. 
The passages on the drama are quoted 
fully in Menendez y Pelayo's Historia 
de las ideas esteticas en Espana (2nd 



ed., Madrid 1890, ff.). The plays are 
found in the Comedias escogidas, 2 
vols. (Madrid, 1850), and in the Com- 
edias de Tirso de Molina, 2 vols. (Ma- 
drid, 1906-07). 

On Tirso de Molina and his works: 
M. Menendez y Pelayo, Estudios de 
critica literdria, 5 vols. (2nd series, 
Madrid, 1893-1908). 

P. Mufioz Pefia, El teatro del Maestro 
Tirso de Molina (Madrid, 1889). 

B. de los Rios de Lamperez, Tirso de \ 
Molina (Madrid, 1906). 

Articulos biograficos y criticos de varios 
autores acerca de . . . Tellez y sus > 
obras (In the Biblioteca de autores es- 
paiioles, vol. 5, pp. xi-xxxv, Madrid, 


[Cigarrales de Toledo] 

". . . Among the many blemishes (par- 
don my presumption ! ) what tries my 
patience is to see how ruthlessly the poet 
disregards in this play the limits and 
laws with which the first inventors of 
drama [comedia] so carefully defined its 
cardinal principle, namely, that a play 
must concern itself with an action whose 
beginning, middle, and end occupy at the 
most twenty-four hours, and one and the 
same place. He has cunningly given us 
a spectacle of the conquest of love cov- 
ering a period of at least a month and a 
half. And yet, even in that time, it seems 
to us impossible (with the preservation 
of any decency) that so illustrious and 
discreet a lady should bring herself so 
blindly to pursue a shepherd, make him 
her secretary, declare her purpose 
through riddles, and finally risk her rep- 
utation to the bold ruthlessness of a man 
of such humble origin." The ill-natured 
disputant was continuing when Don Al- 
ejo, interrupting him, answered: "Your 
point is not well taken, since the play 
under discussion has observed the laws 
which are now recognized; and it seems 
to me that the position merited by our 
modern Spanish plays, which are com- 
parable to those of antiquity, marks a 
distinct step in advance, however they 
fail to take into account the cardinal 
principle of the Masters. What if these 
Masters did maintain that a play must 
represent an action which could logically 
take place within twenty-four hours? 
What greater inconvenience can there be 
than that within that short time a dis- 

l Especially translated sections for this col- 
lection by Winifred Ayres Hope. — Ed. 

creet gallant should fall in love with a 
prudent lady, court her, make love to 
her, woo her — all within a single day, if 
you please, and after claiming her for the 
morrow, must needs marry her that very 
night? What opportunity is there to 
arouse jealousy, engender despair, bring 
hope to the lover, and depict all the 
other uncertainties and accidents without 
which love is a matter of no importance? 
Or how can a lover boast that he 
is constant and loyal, if there be not 
allowed several days to elapse, — months, 
even years, — in which he may prove his 
constancy? These inconveniences are 
greater in the judgment of any one of 
moderate intelligence, than that which 
would ensue were the audience allowed 
to witness everything without leaving 
their seats, in order to follow the hap- 
penings of many days. Just as he who 
reads a story in a few pages covering 
the events of a protracted period and oc- 
curing in many places, so the spectator at 
a play — which is an image and represen- 
tation of the story's action — can see it 
interpret and shadow forth the ortunes 
of the lovers, depicting to the life what 
happens to them. Now, since these 
things cannot happen in the space of a 
single day, the dramatist must assume 
that everything happens as he shows it, 
in order that the action may be perfect. 
Not in vain is poetry called a living 
picture, imitating the passive picture 
which, in the small space of a yard and 
a half of plane surface shows perspective 
and distance in manner to bestow upon 
the beholder an illusion of reality. It is 
not just that the license granted to the 



dl be withheld from the pen. And if 
ou argue by way of reply that we of the 
ame craft owe it to the initiators to 
rd their principles intact, I answer 
t although veneration is due the mas- 
rs for having set out in difficulty — 
hich hampers all things in their begin- 
ing — yet it is undeniable that, adding 
lerfection to their invention (a thing 
sary, but at the same time easy), 
is Genius which, when the fundamental 
ws fail to help, knows how to change 
le accidental, improving it by experi- 
There is this difference between 
Mature and Art: that what the former 
■egan, cannot be changed; thus the pear- 
will bear pears to eternity, and the 
the uncouth acorn, and notwithstand- 
g the difference of soil and the varying 
"uences of the atmosphere and climate 
which they are subject, she produces 
hem over and over again. Amid other 
hanges, species is constant- Does it 
natter how much the Drama may modify 
he laws of its ancestors, ingeniously mix- 
ng tragedy with comedy and producing 
i pleasant type of play of the two — and 
>artaking of the character of each — in- 
:roducing serious characters from the 

one, and waggish and absurd characters 
from the other? I claim that if the pre- 
eminence in Greece of ^Eschylus and 
Euripides (as among the Latins of Sen- 
eca and Terence) suffices to establish the 
laws of these M asters who are now so 
vigorously upheld, the excellence of our 
Spanish Lope de Vega makes his im- 
provements in both styles of play so con- 
spicuous that the authority be brings to 
this improvement is sufficient to reform 
the old laws. And since the Drama is so 
highly esteemed for subtlety and perfec- 
tion, "that fact makes it a school in itself, 
and gives us, who are proud to be fol- 
lowers, the right to be proud of such a 
Master, and gladly to defend his doctrine 
against whosoever shall violently impugn 
it. As to the fact that in many passages 
of his writings he says that he does not 
observe the ancient art, in order that he 
may make his own acceptable to the peo- 
ple", that is only the result of his innate- 
modesty; it is said so that malicious ig- 
norance may not attribute to arrogance 
what is as a matter of fact well-bred per- 
fection. As for us, it is right that we- 
should look to him as the reformer of the 
Xew Drama; and such we esteem him. 



Note. Brief extracts from prefaces by John Fletcher, John Web- 
ster, and Thomas Middleton 100 

Bibliography 101 

r Philip Sidney 103 

Bibliography 103 

An Apologie for Poetry [or The Defence of Poesie]. (1595.) Ex- 
tracts 104 

•ex Joxsox 106 

Bibliography 107 

Timber; or, Discoveries made upon Men and Matter. (1641.) Ex- 
tracts 108 

To the Readers [In Sejanus, printed 1605]. Complete .... Ill 

Dedication to Yolpone, or the Fox (printed 1607). Extracts . .111 


English literary criticism is derived 
>artly from the ancients, and partly from 
he Italian scholars. Recent research has 
■evealed many Italian sources drawn 
lpon by Sidney and Jonson. The earliest 
formal" treatise touching upon literature 
n England is Leonard Coxe's Arte or 
Jrafte of Rhetoryke, written about 15^4; 
ius was derived in part from Melanch- 
ix>n. Thomas Wilson's Arte of Rhet- 
)rike followed in 1553. More important 
still is Roger Ascham's Scholemaster 
(1570) which contains the first reference 
in English to Aristotle's Poetic*. George . 
Whetstone's Dedication to Promo* and 
Cassandra (1578) is a curious criticism 
of the drama of other nations and an at- 
tempt to reconcile Platonism and the 
drama. The English stage was at sev- 
eral times the subject of controversies be- 
tween the dramatists and their adherents, 
and the Puritanical element. The first of 
these controversies called forth a number 
of interesting attacks and defenses, 
among them three or four of some value 
as criticism of the drama. In 1577 John 
Xorthbrooke published his Treatise 
wherein Dicing, Dauncing, vaine Playet 
or Enterluds, with other idle Pastime*, 
§c, commonly used on the Sabaoth Day, 
and reproued by the Authoritie of the 
Word of God and auntient Writer*. 
Then followed Stephen Gosson's The 
Schools of Abuse (1579), another attack. 
Thomas Lodge replied in his Defence of 
Poetry, Music, and Stage Play* (1579). 
Later in the same year Gosson published 
his A Short Apologie of the Schools of 
Abuse, etc. Henry Denham's A Second 
and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays 
and Theatres appeared in 1580. Gosson's 
Playes confuted in five Action*, etc., was 
published about 1582. About this time 
Sir Philip Sidney wrote his Defence of 
Poesy, or Apologie for Poetry (published 
1595), a reply to the Puritan attacks on 
the stage. Three further attacks may be 
mentioned: Philip Stubbes' The Anat- 


omie of Abuses (1583), George Whet- 
stone's A Touchstone for the Time 
(1584), and William Rankins' A Mirrour 
of Mon*ter* (1587). William Webbe's 
A Discourse of English Poetrie (1586) 
is a more ambitious formal treatise on 
writing, while Puttenham's Arte of Bng- 
lish Poesie (1589) furthered the work of 
classification and introducing foreign — 
chiefly Italian — meters and forms. Sir 
John Harington's Apologie of Poetry 
(1591) was, like Sidney's similar work, a 
defense against the " Puritan attacks. 
When Sidney's Defence was published in 
1595, it was already fairly well known, 
as it had circulated in manuscript for 
some years. It is rigidly classical in its 
remarks on the drama, and follows the 
Italian Renaissance scholars in demand- 
ing greater verisimilitude, and an adher- 
ence to the Unities. It is curious to note 
the absence of any such declaration of 
independence as Lope de Vega's 2Ve» 
Art among the Elizabethan dramatists, 
most of whom were directly opposed to 
all formulas. The greatest" critical trea- 
tises of the period were classic in tend- 
ency, and the two most important — Sid- 
ney's and Jonson's — are directed against 
current practices in playwriting. Ba- 
con's remarks on the drama — in the Es- 
say*, the Advancement of Learning, and 
the De Augment is — could be condensed 
into one or two pages. The dramatists 
themselves had comparatively little to 
say of their art; a dozen Dedications and 
a few Prologues of Jonson,i Chapman,* 
Fletcher.s Marston,* Middleton.5 Hey- 

1 Prologue to Every Man in His Humour 
(printed 1616). To the Readers in Seianu* 
(printed 1605); Dedication to Vol pone 
(printed 1607) ; Prologue to Epicane (printed 

2 Dedication to The Revenge of Bussy d'Am- 
bois (printed 1613). 

3 Pre/are to The Faithful Shepherdess 
(printed 1609). 

*To the General Reader, in Sophronisba 
(printed 1606). 

5 Preface to The Roaring Girl (printed 



wood,o Webster/ and Field.s are prac- 
tically all that have direct bearing upon 
the subject. Ben Jonson's Discoveries 
closes the period. This work (pubbshed 
in 164.1) is of prime importance, though 
unfortunately it is, as has been said, not 
a representative apology or explanation 
of the current practice, but an attack 
upon it» 

Note. If only to prove the scantiness of 
dramatic theory among the dramatists of the 
Elizabethan period, I have below re-printed a 
few brief extracts from the most important 
prefaces to plays: 

John Webster, To the Reader (in The 
White Devil, 1612): ". . . If it be ob- 
jected this is no true dramatic poem, I 
shall easily confess it; non potes in nugas 
dicere plura meas, ipse ego quam dixi. 
Willingly, and not ignorantly, in this 
kind have I faulted; for should a man 
present to such an auditory the most 
sententious tragedy that ever was written, 
observing all the critical laws, as height 
of style and gravity of person, enrich it 
with the sententious chorus, and, as it 
were, liven death in the passionate and 
weighty Nuntius; yet, after all this di- 
vine rapture, O dura messorum ilia, the 
breath that comes from the uncapable 
multitude is able to poison it; and, ere it 
be acted, let the author resolve to fix to 
every scene this of Horace, Haec porcis 
hodie comedenda relinques. ..." 

John Fletcher, To the Reader (in The 
Faithful Shepherdess, 1609) : " If you be 
not reasonably assured of your knowledge 
in this kind of poem, lay down the book, 
or read this, which I would wish had been 
the prologue. It is a pastoral tragi- 
comedy, which the people seeing when it 
was played, having ever had a singular 
gift in denning, concluded to be a play 
of country hired shepherds in gray cloaks, 
with curtailed dogs in strings, sometimes 
laughing together, and sometimes killing 
one another; and, missing Whitsun-ales, 
cream, wassail, and morris-dances, began 
to be angry. In their error I would not 
have you fall, lest you incur their cen- 

6 Dedication to The Iron Age (printed 

7 To the Reader, in The White Devil 
(printed 1612). 

8 To the Reader in A Woman is a Weather- 
cock (1612). 

sure. Understand, therefore, a pastoral 
to be a representation of shepherds and 
shepherdesses with their actions and pas-» 
sions, which must be such as may agree 
with their natures, at least not exceeding 
former fictions and vulgar traditions; 
they are not to be adorned with any art, 
but such improper ones as nature is said 
to bestow, as singing and poetry; or such 
as experience may teach them as the vir- 
tues of herbs and fountains, the ordinary 
course of the sun, moon, and stars, and 
such like. But you are ever to remem- 
ber shepherds to be such as all the an-, 
cient poets, and modern, of understand- 
ing, have received them; that is, the own-] 
ers of flocks, and not hirelings. A tragi- 
comedy is not so called in respect of 
mirth and killing, but in respect it wants 
death, which is enough to make it no 
tragedy, yet it brings some near it, which 
is enough to make it no comedy, which 
must be a representation of familiar peo- 
ple, with such kind of trouble as no life 
be questioned; so that a god is as lawful 
in this as in a tragedy, and mean people 
as in a comedy. Thus much I hope will 
serve to justify my poem, and make you 
understand it; to teach you more for 
nothing, I do not know that I am in con- 
science bound." 

Thomas Middleton, To the Comic Play- 
readers, Venery and Laughter (in The 
Roaring Girl, 1611): "The fashion of 
play-making I can properly compare to 
nothing so naturally as the alteration of 
apparel; for in the time of the great 
crop-doublet, your huge bombastic plays, 
quilted with mighty words to lean pur- 
pose, was only then in fashion: and as 
the doublet fell, neater inventions began 
to set up. Now, in the time of spruce- 
ness, our plays follow the niceness of 
our garments, single plots, quaint con- 
ceits, lecherous jests, dressed up in hang- 
ing sleeves; and those are fit for the 
times and termers. Such a kind of light- 
color stuff, mingled with divers colors, 
you shall find this published comedy; 
good to keep you in an afternoon from 
dice at home in your chambers; and for 
venery, you shall find enough for six- 
pence, but well couched an you mark 
it. . . ." 



General references on English litera- 

W. Ward and A. R. Waller, editors, 

The Cambridge Hiitory of English 

Literature, 14 vols. (Cambridge and 

New York, 1907-17). 

enrv Morley, English Writers, 11 vols. 
(London, 1887-95). 

ndrew Lang, History of English Litera- 
ture (London, 1912). 

. P. Halleck, History of English Litera- 
ture (New York, 1900). 

ichard Garnett and Edmund Gosse, 

English Literature, 4 vols. (New York, 

topford A. Brooke, English Literature 
(Ed., New York, 1907). 

I. L. Mezieres, Histoire critique de la 
litterature anglaise, 3 vols. (Paris, 

William Vaughn Moody and R. M. 
Lovett, A History of English Litera- 
ture (New York, 1911). 

V. R. Nieoll and T. Seecombe, A His- 
tory of English Literature, 3 vols. 
(New York, 1907). 

I. S. Pancoast, An Introduction to Eng- 
lish Literature (New York, 1894. See 
3rd ed.). 

Jeorge Saintsbury, A Short History of 
English Literature (New York, 1898). 
. Korting, Orundriss der Oeschichte der 
englischen Literatur (3rd ed., Minister, 

Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Diction- 
ary of National Biography, 66 vols. 
(London, 1885-1901). 

E. F.ngel, A History of English Litera- 
ture (London, 1902). 

General references on English drama: 

R. W. Lowe, Bibliographical Account of 
En'ilish Theatrical Literature (Lon- 
don, 1888). 

K. L. Bates and L. B. Godfrey, English 
Drama, a Working Basis (WelleMey, 

David Erskine Baker, Biographia Dra- 
matica. etc., 3 vols. (Continuation, Lon- 
don, 1S11). 

, The Companion to the Playhouse, 

2 vols. (London, 1764). 

W. R. Chetwood, The British Theatre 
(Dublin. 1750). 

J. L. Klein. Oeschichte des Dramas, vols. 
IS and 13 (Leipzig, 1S65-76). 

W. Creizenach, Geschichte des neueren 
Dramas (Halle, 1893-1909; vol. iv 
translated by Cecile Hugon as The 
English Drama in the Age of Shake- 
speare, London, 1916). 
John Doran, A nnals of the English Stage, 

2 vols. (London, 1864). 
Percy Fitzgerald, .ZVeip History of the 

English Stage (London, 1882). 
F. G. Fleay, A Biographical Chronicle of 

the English Drama (London, 1891). 
John Genest, Some Account of the Eng- 
lish Stage, 10 vols. (Bath, 1S3-2). 
E. Malone, Historical Account of the Rise 
and Progress of the English Stage (in 
3rd vol., ed. of Shakespeare, London, 
D. E. Oliver, The English Stage (Lon- 
don, 1912). 
A. S. Rappoport, The English Drama 

(London, n. d.). 
R. F. Sharp, A Short History of the Eng- 
lish Stage (London, 1909). 
A. W. Ward, History of English Dra- 
matic Literature to the Death of Queen 
Anne, 3 vols, (new ed., New York, 
Arnold Wynne, The Growth of English 

Drama (Oxford, 1914). 
Felix E. Schelling, English Drama (New 

York, 1914). 
T. Hawkins, The Origin of the English 

Drama, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1773). 
E. K. Chambers, The Mediaval Stage, 2 

vols. (Oxford, 1903). 
Charles Dibdin, A Complete History of 

the Stage, 5 vols. (London^ 1800). 
John Downes, Roscius Anglicanus, or an 
historical view of the Stage, etc. (new 
ed., London, 1789). 
S. A. Dunham, Lives of British Drama- 
tists, -2 vols. (London, 1847). 
Thomas Gilliland, The Dramatic Mirror: 
containing the History of the Stage, 
from the earliest period to the present 
time, etc., 2 vols. (London, 1808). 
L. N. Chase, The English Heroic Play 

(New York, 1903). 
Jeannette Marks, English Pastoral 

Drama (London, 1908). 
F. H. Ristine, English Tragicomedy 

(New York, 1910). 
Felix E. Schelline. The English Chronicle 

Play (New York, 1902). 
A. H. Thorndvke, Tragedy (Boston, 



Watson Nicholson, The Struggle for a 
Free Stage in London (Boston, 1906). 

Charles Hastings, The Theatre in France 
and England (London, 1901). 

References on Elizabethan drama: 

Felix E. Schelling, Elizabethan Drama, 2 
vols. (Boston, 1908). 

J. P. Collier, The History of English 
Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shake- 
speare, and Annals of the Stage to the 
Restoration, 3 vols, (new ed., London, 

J. M. Robertson, Elizabethan Literature 
(New York, 1914). 

Felix E. Schelling, English Literature 
During the Lifetime of Shakespeare 
(New York, 1910). 

T. Seccombe and J. W. Allen, The Age 
of Shakespeare, 2 vols. (London, 1903). 

F. Guizot, Shakespeare and His Times 
(trans., New York, 1855). 

William Hazlitt, Lectures on the Dra- 
matic Literature of the Age of Queen 
Elizabeth (London, 1821). 

James Russell Lowell, The Old English 
Dramatists (ed., Boston, 1892). 

A. Mezieres, Pr4d4cesseurs et contem- 
porains de Shakespeare (Paris, 1881). 

, Contemporains et successeurs de 

Shakespeare (Paris, 1881). 

George Saintsbury, History of Eliza- 
bethan Literature (ed., London, 1906). 

M. A. Scott, The Elizabethan Drama, 
especially in its Relations to the Ital- 
ians of the Renaissance (New Haven, 

A. C. Swinburne, The Age of Shake- 
speare (London, 1908). 

J. A. Symonds, Shakespeare's Predeces- 
sors in the English Drama (London, 

Barrett Wendell, The Temper of the 
Seventeenth Century in English Litera- 
ture (New York, 1904). 

E. P. Whipple, Literature of the Age of 
Elizabeth (Boston, 1869). 

F. S. Boas, Shakespeare and his Prede- 
cessors (ed., New York, 1904). 

J. W. Cunliffe, The Influence of Italian 
on Early Elizabethan Drama (in Mod- 
ern Philology, 4, 1906). 

, The Influence of Seneca on Eliza- 
bethan Tragedy (London, 1893). 

IN. Drake, Shakespeare and His Times 
(London, 1817). 

Harriet Ely Fansler, The Evolution of 

Technique in Elizabethan Tragedy 

(Chicago, 1914). 
W. J. Courthope, History of English 

Poetry, vols. I-III (London, 1895- 

F. G. Fleay, A Chronicle History of the 

London Stage (1559-1642) (London, 

J.-J. Jusserand, Le ThMtre en Angle- 

terre jusqu' aux predecesseurs immedi- 

ats de Shakespeare (2nd ed., Paris, 

[W. C. Hazlitt, ed.] The English Drama 

and Stage Under the Tudor and Stuart 

Princes — 1543-1664 — Illustrated by a 

Series of Documents, Treatises, and 

Poems, etc. (London, 1869). 
J. A. Lester, Connections Between the 

Drama of France and Great Britain, 

particularly in the E lizabelhan Period 

(Cambridge, Mass., 1902). 
L. Einstein, The Italian Renaissance in 

England (New York, 1902). 
J. P. Collier, ed., The Alley n Papers 

(London, 1843). 

References on English criticism, Eliza- 
bethan in particular : 

George Saintsbury, A History of English 

Criticism (New York, 1911). 
H. S. Symmes, Les Debuts de la critique 
* dramatique en Angleterre jusqu' a la 

mort de Shakespeare (Paris, 1903). 
J. E. Spin gam, A History of Literary 

Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 

New York, 1908). 
Felix E. Schelling, Poetic and Verse 

Criticism of the Reign of Elizabeth 

(Philadelphia, 1891). 
L. S. Friedland, Dramatic Unities in 
, England (in Journal of English ana 

Germanic Philology, vol. 10, no. 1 

David Klein, Literary Criticism from thi 

Elizabethan Dramatists (New York 

Laura J. Wylie, Studies in the Evolution 

of English Criticism (Boston, 1894). 
P. Hamelius, Die kritik in der englischtt 

Litteratur der 17. und 18. Jahrhunderti 

(Leipzig, 1897). 
C. W. Moulton, The Library of Litrran, 

Criticism of English and American Au- 
thors, 8 vols. (Buffalo, 1901-05). 
F. Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical 

Essays, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1904). 




Philip Sidney was born at Penshurst 
n 1554. He came of a noble and well- 
cnown family, his father being Deputy of 
'. Ireland. He attended school at Shrews- 
>ury and later went to Oxford, which he 
left in 1571 without taking his degree, 
and went to stay with his father at Lud- 
low. The next year he went to Paris 
with a commission to negotiate for the 
marriage of the Queen with the Duke 
d A It- neon. He remained there in the 
King's service and was a witness of the 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and es- 
caped with his life only by taking refuge 
in the English Embassy. From Paris 
the young Philip escaped to Germany, 
visiting Strassburg, Heidelberg, and 
Frankfurt. Together with his friend 
Languet, he traveled for the next three 
years, through Austria, Hungary, and 
Italy; he returned through Bohemia and 
Germany, and was again at Ludlow in 
1575. His uncle Leicester readily took 
the young man under his protection, and 
Sidney became a courtier. In 1577 he 
was sent to confer with Rudolf II and 
the Elector Palatine in Germany on polit- 
ical business, and returned home by way 
of the Netherlands, where he met William 
of Orange. His diplomatic missions were 
highly successful, and Sidney soon found 
himself in the Queen's confidence. He 
was later involved in trouble incident 
to attacks made upon his father's admin- 
istration in Ireland. In 1579 the Queen 
was again considering an alliance with 
the former Duke d'Alengon, now the 
Duke d'Anjou. His opposition to the 
match brought him into disfavor, and in 
1580 he retired from Court, and began 
work on his Arcadia. Soon, however, the 
disgraced Leicester induced his nephew 
to return to Court In 1583 he was 
knighted, and the same year his marriage 
to a daughter of Walsingham caused him 
to relinquish certain claims he had in 
America. But two years after, he was 
planning an expedition to the New 
World, and would have gone had not 
Drake informed the Queen that he was 
about to sail — contrary to her wishes. 
Two months later Sidney went to the 

Low Countries, and the following year 
engaged in war. He died from a wound 
received at Zutphen. 

Sidney's only work concerned with the 
drama was the Apologie for Poetry — 
or Defence of Poesie. This was begun 
in all probability in 1581, as a reply to 
Gosson's The Schoole of Abuse (1579), 
a Puritan attack on plays and poetry. 
Sidney's Defence is more than a reply, 
it is a glorification of art and its influence 
on the mind and conduct of human 
beings. He touches, incidentally, as it 
were, on the various forms of literature, 
and his remarks on the drama reveal an 
extensive knowledge of the classics and 
the Italian commentators on Aristotle. 
Aristotle first became an influence in 
English literature through the Apologie, 
and the first mention of the Unities is 
likewise found in this work. It must be 
borne in mind that the Apologie was 
written before the great period of activ- 
ity in the field of Elizabethan drama, and 
that the plays upon which Sidney might 
base his judgments or make strictures, 
were the indigenous interludes, morali- 
ties, farces, and classical tragedies writ- 
ten prior to 1580. 


Two editions appeared at London in 
1595: The Defence of Poetie, and An. 
Apologie for Poetrie. The latter is 
generally regarded as the better text of 
the two. It is re-printed in Arber's 
English Reprints and in the first vol- 
ume of G. Gregory Smith's Elizabethan 
Critical Essays, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1904). 

On Sidney and his works: 

Collins, Sidney Papers, 2 vols. (London, 

Fulke Greville, Life of Sidney (London, 

Fox Bourne, Memoir of Sir Philip Sid- 
ney (London, 1862). 

Julius Llovd, Life of Sir Philip Sidney 
(London, 1862). 

Prefaces to the Arber, Grosart, and 
Smith eds. of Sidney's works. 



J. A. Symonds, Sir Philip Sidney {Eng- 
lish Men of Letters Series, late ed., 
London, 1906). 

J. E. Spingarn, A History of Literary 

Criticism in the Renaissance (2nd ed., 
New York, 1908). 
George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 


(or A Defence of Poesie) 


No, perchance it is the Comic, whom 
naughty play-makers and stage-keepers 
have justly made odious. To the argu- 
ment of abuse, I will answer after. Only 
thus much now is to be said, that the 
comedy is an imitation of the common 
errors of our life, which he representeth 
in the most ridiculous and scornful sort 
that may be; so as it is impossible that 
any beholder can be content to be such 
a one. 

Now, as in Geometry the oblique must 
be known as well as the right, and in 
Arithmetic the odd as well as the even, 
so in the actions of our life, who seeth 
not the filthiness of evil wanteth a great 
foil to perceive the beauty of virtue. 
This doth the comedy handle so in our 
private and domestical matters, as with 
hearing it we get as it were an experi- 
ence, what is to be looked for of a nig- 
gardly Demea, of a crafty Davus, of a 
flattering Gnato, of a vainglorious 
Thraso, and not only to know what ef- 
fects are to be expected, but to know 
who be such, by the signifying badge 
given them by the comedian. And little 
reason hath any man to say that men 
learn by seeing it so set out, sith, as I 
said before, there is no man living but, 
by the force truth hath in nature, no 
sooner seeth these men play their parts, 
but wisheth them in Pistrinum; although 
perchance the sack of his own faults lie 
so behind his back that he seeth not him- 
self dance the same measure; whereto 
yet nothing can more open his eyes than 
to find his own actions contemptibly set 
forth. So that the right use of comedy 
(I think) by nobody be blamed, and 
much less of the high and excellent trag- 
edy, that openeth the greatest wounds, 

1 Re-printed, with omissions, from Smith's 
Elizabethan Critical Essays (Oxford, 1904). — 

and showeth forth the ulcers that are 
covered with tissue; that maketh kings 
fear to be tyrants, and tyrants manifest 
their tyrannical humors; that with stir- 
ring the effects of admiration and com- 
miseration, teacheth the uncertainty of 
this world, and upon how weak founda- 
tions guilden roofs are builded; that 
maketh us know 

Qui sceptra saevus duro bnperio regit, 
Timet timentes, met us in auclorem 

But how much it can move, Plutarch 
yieldeth a notable testimony of the abom- 
inable tyrant Alexander Pherasns, from 
whose eyes a tragedy well made and 
represented, drew abundance of tears, 
who, without all pity, had murdered infi- 
nite numbers, and some of his own blood. 
So as he, that was not ashamed to make 
matters for tragedies, yet could not re- 
sist the sweet violence ot a tragedy. 
And if it wrought no further good in 
him, it was that he, in despite of himself, 
withdrew himself from hearkening to that 
which might mollify his hardened heart. 

. Our Tragedies, and Comedies (not 
without cause cried out against), observ- 
ing rules neither of honest civility nor of 
skillful poetry, excepting Oorboduo 
(again, I say, of those that I have seen), 
which notwithstanding, as it is full of 
stately speeches and M'ell sounding 
phrases, climbing to the height of Sene- 
ca's style, and as full of notable moral- 
ity, which it doth most delightfully teach, 
and so obtain the very end of poesy; yet 
in truth it is very defectious in the cir- 
cumstances: which grieveth me, because 
it nrght not remain as an exact model of 
all tragedies. For it is faulty both in 
place and time, the two necessary com- 
panions of all corporal actions. For 



where the stage should always represent 
but one place, and the uttermost time 
presupposed in it should be, both by 
Aristotle's precept and common reason, 
but one day: there is both many days, 
and many places, inartificially imagined. 
But if it be so in Gorboduc, how much 
more in all the rest? Where you sliall 
have Asia of the one side, and Afric of 
the other, and so many other under- 
kingdoms, that the player, when he 
cometh in, must ever begin with telling 
where he is, or else the tale will not be 
conceived. Now ye shall have three 
ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we 
must believe the stage to be a garden. 
By and by we hear news of shipwreck in 
the same place, and then we are to blame, 
if we accept it not for a rock. Upon the 
back of that, comes out a hideous mon- 
ster, with fire and smoke, and then the 
miserable beholders are bound to take it 
for a cave. While in the meantime, two 
armies fly in, represented with four 
swords and bucklers, and then what hard 
heart will not receive it for a pitched 

Now, of time they are much more lib- 
eral. For ordinary it is that two young 
princes fall in love: after many traverses, 
she is got with child, delivered of a fair 
boy; he is lost, groweth a man, falls in 
love, and is ready to get another child, 
and all this in two hours' space: which 
how absurd it is in sense, even sense may 
Imagine, and art hath taught, and all an- 
cient examples justified: and at this day, 
the ordinary players in Italy will not err 
in. Yet will some bring in an example 
of Eunuchus in Terence, that containeth 
matter of two days, yet far short of 
twenty years. True it is, and so was it 
to be played in two days, and so fitted to 
the time it set forth. And though Plau- 
tus hath in one place done amiss, let us 
hit with him, and not miss with him. 

But they will say, how then shall we 
set forth a story, which containeth both 
many places, and many times? And do 
they not know that a tragedy is tied to 
the laws of poesy, and not "of history? 
not bound to follow the story, but having 
liberty either to feign a quite new 
matter, or to frame the history to the 
most tragical conveniency? Again, many 
things may be told which cannot be 
shewed, if they know the difference be- 

twixt reporting and representing. As 
for example, I may speak (though I 
am here) of Peru, and in speech digress 
from that to the description of Calcutta: 
but in action, I cannot represent it with- 
out Pacolet's horse: and so was the man- 
ner the ancients took, by some Nuncius 
to recount things done in former time, 
or other place. 

Lastly, if they will represent an his- 
tory, they must not (as Horace saith) 
begin Ab ovo: but they must come to 
the principal point of that one action, 
which they will represent. By example 
this will be best expressed. I have a 
story of young Polydorus delivered for 
safety's sake, with great riches, by his 
father Priam to Polymnestor, king of 
Thrace, in the Trojan War time. He, 
after some years, hearing the overthrow 
of Priam, for to make the treasure his 
own, murdereth the child : the body of the 
child is taken up by Hecuba; she the 
same day findeth a sleight to be revenged 
most cruelly of the tyrant. Where now 
would one of our tragedy-writers begin 
but with the delivery of the child? Then 
should he sail over into Thrace, and so 
spend I know not how many years, and 
travel numbers of places. But where 
doth Euripides? Even with the finding 
of the body, leaving the rest to be told 
by the spirit of Polydorus. This need 
no further to be enlarged, the dullest wit 
may conceive it. 

But besides these gross absurdities, how 
all their plays be neither right tragedies, 
nor right comedies: mingling kings and 
clowns, not because the matter so carrieth 
it: but thrust in clowns by head and 
shoulders, to play a part in majestical 
matters, with neither decency nor discre- 
tion. So as neither the admiration and 
commiseration, nor the right sportfulne>s, 
is by their mongrel Tragi-comedy ob- 
tained. I know Apuleius did somewhat 
so, but that is a thing recounted with 
space of time, not represented in one 
moment: and I know, the ancients have 
one or two examples of Tragi-comedies, 
as Plautus hath Amphitryo. But if we 
mark them well, we shall find that they 
never, or very daintily, match hornpipes 
and funerals. So falleth it out, that, 
having indeed no right comedy, in that 
comical part of our tragedy we have 
nothing but scurrility, unworthy of any 



chaste ears: or some extreme shew of 
doltishness indeed fit to lift up a loud 
laughter and nothing else: where the 
whole tract of a comedy should be full of 
delight, as the tragedy should be still 
maintained in a well-raised admiration. 
But our comedians think there is no 
delight without laughter: which is very 
wrong, for though laughter may come 
with delight, yet cometh it not of de- 
light, as though delight should be the 
cause of laughter. But well may one 
thing breed both together. Nay, rather 
in themselves they have as it were a kind 
of contrariety: for delight we scarcely 
do, but in things that have a conveniency 
to ourselves or to the general nature: 
laughter almost ever cometh of things 
most disproportioned to ourselves and na- 
ture. Delight hath a joy in it, either 
permanent or present. Laughter hath 
only a scornful tickling. For example, 
we are ravished with delight to see a fair 
woman, and yet are far from being moved 
to laughter. We laugh at deformed crea- 
tures, wherein certainly we cannot de- 
light. We delight in good chances, we 
laugh at mischances; we delight to hear 
the happiness of our friends or country, 
at which he were worthy to be laughed 
at that would laugh; we shall contrarily 
laugh sometimes to find a matter quite 
mistaken and go down the hill against 
the bias, in the mouth of some such men, 
as for the respect of them, one shall be 
heartily sorry, yet he cannot choose but 
laugh; and so is rather pained, than de- 
lighted with laughter. Yet I deny not, 
but that they may go well together; for 
as in Alexander's picture well set out, 
we delight without laughter, and in 
twenty mad antics we laugh without de- 
light: so in Hercules, painted with his 

great beard and furious countenance, in 
woman's attire, spinning at Omphale's 
commandment, it breedeth both delight 
and laughter. 

But I speak to this purpose, that all- 
the end of the comical part be not upon; 
such scornful matters as stirreth laugh-', 
ter only : but, mixt with it, that delight- \ 
ful teaching which is the end of poesy, j 
And the great fault even in that point ' 
of laughter, and forbidden plainly by 
Aristotle, is, that they stir laughter in 
sinful things, which are rather execrable 
than ridiculous; or in miserable, which 
are rather to be pitied than scorned. 
For what is it to make folks gape at a 
wretched beggar, or a beggarly clown; or, 
against law of hospitality, to jest at 
strangers because they speak not Eng- 
lish so well as we do? What do we 
learn? Sith it is certain 

Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se, 
Quam quod ridicuhs homines facit. 

But rather a busy loving courtier, a 
heartless threatening Thraso; a self-wise- 
seeming schoolmaster; an awry -trans- 
formed traveler: these if we saw walk in 
stage names, which we play naturally, 
therein were delightful laughter, and 
teaching delightfulness: as in the other, 
the tragedies of Buchanan do justly 
bring forth a divine admiration. But I 
have lavished out too many words of this 
play matter. I do it because, as they 
are excelling parts of poesy, so is there 
none so much used in England, and none 
can be more pitifully abused. Which 
like an unmannerly daughter, shewing a. 
bad education, causeth her mother Poesy's 
honesty to be called into question. 


Ben Jonson was born at Westminster 
in 1573. His first education was received 
at a school near his home, and continued 
at the Westminister School, where he re- 
ceived a thorough training. It has some- 
times been said that he went to Cam- 
bridge, but this has never been proved. 

It is likely that he applied himself to a 
trade, probably bricklaying — his step- 
father's trade. Either a few years be- 
fore or after 1592 he was a soldier in the 
Low Countries. He was married no later 
than that year. About five years after, 
he had become an actor, and in 1597 was 



engaged to revise plays. The next year 
he produced Every Man in his Humour, 
in which Shakespeare acted. The Case is 
Altered also belongs to the same year. 
At this time he was in prison as tiie re- 
sult of a duel in which he had killed his 
adversary. He was released by benefit 
of clergy — having turned Catholic mean- 
while — and again set to work for the 
stage. In Cynthia? $ Revels (1600) he 
gave offense to two of his fellow-drama- 
tists, Dekker and Marston, and fore- 
stalled their attack by writing The Poe- 
taster (1601). Dekker replied with his 
Histriomastrix (160:?). Jonsou next 
turned his attention to tragedy, and 
produced Sejanus in 1603. He then 
turned his hand to masques for the court 
of King James, recently called to the 
throne, and was associated for years 
with Inigo Jones. By 1604 he had be- 
come reconciled with Dekker and Mars- 
ton and collaborated with them in the 
writing of the comedy Eastward Ho 
(1604). Together with "his collaborators, 
Jonson was again sent to prison for some 
offense caused by the play, and the next 
year he and Chapman were imprisoned 
for the same reason, but were soon after 
freed. The next few years saw the pro- 
duction of Jonson's best works: Volpone, 
or the Fox (1605), Epiccene (1609), The 
Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair 
(1614), and a number of his finest 
masques. In 1616 Jonson determined to 
write no more for the stage, except to 
compose occasional masques. In 1618 he 
went to Scotland, remaining there a year 
and a half and making the acquaintance 
of Drummond of Hawthorndon, who has 
preserved the famous Conversations with 
Jonson. His return to England was 
marked by several visits to his noble 
friends and patrons, for he had become 
a well-known figure. After the acces- 
sion of Charles I, Jonson turned once 
more to the stage, and produced his later 
comedies. He died in 1637. 

Jonson's attitude toward poetry and 
drama was largely influenced by Sidney's 
Defence. In the Introduction to his 
Seventeenth Century Essays, Mr. Spin- 
garn quotes parallel passages from the 
two poets. Jonson's critical utterances, 
in his Prologues, Prefaces, his Conversa- 
tions with Drummond, and, throughout 
the Discoveries, were to a great extent 

the result of definite literary influences. 
He was a classic, no doubt, and sought 
support in the doctrines of Aristotle, 
Horace, and their modern imitators. 
The influence exerted on him by Heinsius 
has been pointed out. Jonson had him- 
self translated Horace's Ars Poetica. 
Mr. Spingarn regards Jonson as "per- 
haps the first Englishman with the criti- 
cal temper." Jonson's criticism is to be 
found in many places, but its crystalliza- 
tion is in the Discoveries, published in 
1641. But it was left to Dryden to de- 
velop a well-defined system of criticism. 

On the drama: 

Jonson's critical utterances are scattered 
through the prologues and in the dia- 
logue of Every Man in his Humour, 
Every Man Out of his Humour, and 
The Poetaster. 

The more important criticisms are: 

To the Readers, in Sejanus (printed 

To the Most Noble and Most Equal Sis- 
ters, the two Famous Universities, etc., 
in Volpone, or the Fox (printed 1607). 

Prologue to Epicame (printed 1609?). 

Timber; or, Discoveries made upon Men 
and Matter (1641). 

Ben Jonson's Conversations with William 
Drummond of Hawthornden (published 
London, 184;?). 


The first and second folios of Jonson' 
works appeared respectively in 1616 
and 1640. The first modern edition is 
that of Gifford, 9 vols., London, 1816. 
This is re-printed in 3 vols. (London, 
1870). There are numerous other edi- 
tions, among them a 2-volume selection 
of the plavs (Mermaid Series, London 
and New York, 1S93-94). 

The Discoveries have been often re- 
printed: bv Felix E. Schelliner (Boston, 
1892) ; by" J. E. Spingarn, Critical Es- 
says of the Seventeenth Century, voL 1 
(Oxford, 1908); Maurice Castelain 
(Paris, 1907); and H. Morlev (Lon- 
don, IS9-2). 

On Jonson and his works: 

Prefatory material to editions cited. 
A. C. Swinburne, A Study of Ben Jonsou 
(London, 1889). 



J. A. Symonds, Ben Jonson (London, 

C. H. Herford, Ben Jonson (in Diction- 
ary of National Biography, vol. 30, 

London, 1892). 
W. H. T. Bandissin, Ben Jonson und 

seine Schule, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1836). 
M. Castelain, Ben Jonson, I'homme et 

I'ceuvre (Paris, 1907). 
P. Aronstein, Ben Jonson's Theorie des 

Lustspiels (in Anglia, vol. 17, Halle, 

H. Grossmann, Ben Jonson als Kritiker 

(Berlin, 1898). 
H. Reinsch, Jonson's Poetik und seine 

Beziehungen zu Horaz (Nauinburg, 

Felix E. Schelling, Jonson and the Clas- 
sical School (Modern Language Asso- 
ciation Publications, Baltimore, 1898). 

P. Simpson, " Tanquam Explorator": 
Jonson's Method in the Discoveries 
(Modern Language Review, vol. 2, 

R. A. Small, The Stage-quarrel Between 
Ben Jonson and the so-called Poetas- 
ters (in Forschungen zu englische 
Sprache und Literatur, Breslau, 1899). 

J. E. Spingarn, Sources of Jonson's 
" Discoveries " (in Modern Philology, 
vol. 2, 1905). 



The parts of a comedy and tragedy. — 
The parts of a comedy are the same with 
a tragedy, and the end is partly the same, 
for they both delight and teach; the 
comics are called SiSdcncaXot of the Greeks 
no less than the tragics. 

A ristotle. — Plato. — Homer. — Nor is 
the moving of laughter always the end 
of comedy; that is rather a fowling for 
the people's delight, or their fooling. 
For, as Aristotle says rightly, the mov- 
ing of laughter is a fault in comedy, a 
kind of turpitude that depraves some 
part of a man's nature without a dis- 
ease. As a wry face without pain moves 
laughter, or a deformed vizard, or a rude 
clown dressed in a lady's habit and using 
her actions; we dislike and scorn such 
representations which made the ancient 
philosophers ever think laughter unfitting 
in a wise man. And this induced Plato 
to esteem of Homer as a sacrilegious per- 
son, because he presented the gods some- 
times laughing. As also it is divinely 
said of Aristotle, that to seem ridiculous 
is a part of dishonesty, and foolish. 

The wit of the old comedy. — So that 
what either in the words or sense of an 
author, or in the language or actions of 
men, is awry or depraved does strangely 
stir mean affections, and provoke for the 
most part to laughter. And therefore it 

l Re-printed, with omissions, from Spel- 
ling's edition of the Discoveries (Boston, 
1892).— Ed. 

was clear that all insolent and obscene 
speeches, jests upon the best men, in- 
juries to particular persons, perverse and 
sinister sayings (and the rather unex- 
pected) in the old comedy did move 
laughter, especially where it did imitate 
any dishonesty, and scurrility came forth 
in the place of wit, which, who under- 
stands the nature and genius of laughter 
cannot but perfectly know. 

A ristophanes. — Plautus. — Of which 
Aristophanes affords an ample harvest, 
having not only outgone Plautus or any 
other in that kind, but expressed all the 
moods and figures of what is ridiculous 
oddly. In short, as vinegar is not ac- 
counted good until the wine be corrupted, 
so jests that are true and natural seldom 
raise laughter with the beast, the multi- 
tude. They love nothing that is right 
and proper. The farther it runs from 
reason or possibility with them the better 
it is. 

Socrates. — Theatrical wit. — What could 
have made them laugh, like to see Socra- 
tes presented, that example of all good 
life, honesty, and virtue, to have him 
hoisted up with a pulley, and there play 
the philosopher in a basket; measure how 
many foot a flea could skip geometrically, 
by a just scale, and edify the people from 
the engine. This was theatrical wit, right 
stage jesting, and relishing a playhouse, 
invented for scorn and laughter; whereas, 
if it had savored of equity, truth, perspi- 
cuity, and candor, to have fasten a wise 



or a learned palate, — spit it out pres- 
ently! this is bitter and profitable: this 
instructs and would inform us: what 
need we know anything, that are nobly 
born, more than a horse-race, or a hunt- 
ing-match, our day to break with citizens, 
and such innate mysteries? 

The cart. — This is truly leaping from 
the stage to the tumbril again, reducing 
all wit to the original dung-cart. 

Of the magnitude and compass of any 
fable, epic or dramatic. 

What the measure of a fable is. — The 
fable or plot of a poem defined. — The 
epic fable, differing from the dramatic. — 
To the resolving or this question we must 
first agree in the definition of the fable. 
The fable is called the imitation of one 
entire and perfect action, whose parts are 
so joined and knit together, as nothing in 
the structure can be changed, or taken 
away, without impairing or troubling the 
whole, of which there is a proportion- 
able magnitude in the members. As for 
example: if a man would build a house, 
he would first appoint a place to build 
it in, which he would define within cer- 
tain bounds; so in the constitution of a 
poem, the action is aimed at by the poet, 
which answers place in a building, and 
that action hath his largeness, compass, 
and proportion. But as a court or king's 
palace requires other dimensions than a 
private house, so the epic asks a magni- 
tude from other poems, since what is 
place in the one is action in the other; 
the difference is in space. So that by 
this definition we conclude the fable to be 
the imitation of one perfect and entire 
action, as one perfect and entire place 
is required to a building. By perfect, 
we understand that to which nothing is 
wanting, as place to the building that is 
raised, and action to the fable that is 
formed. It is perfect, perhaps not for a 
court or king's palace, which requires a 
greater ground, but for the structure he 
would raise; so that space of the action 
may not prove large enough for the epic 
fable, yet be perfect for the dramatic, 
and whole. 

What we understand by whole. — 
Whole we call that, and perfect, which 
hath a beginning, a midst, and an end. 
So the place of any building may be 

whole and entire for that work, though 
too little for a palace. As to a tragedy 
or a comedy, the action may be con- 
venient and perfect that would not fit 
an epic poem in magnitude. So a lion 
is a perfect creature in himself, though 
it be less than that of a buffalo or a 
rhinocerote. They differ but in specie: 
either in the kind is absolute; both have 
their parts, and either the whole. There- 
fore, as in every body so in every action, 
which is the subject of a just work, there 
is required a certain proportionable 
greatness, neither too vast nor too mi- 
nute. For that which happens to the 
eyes when we behold a body, the same 
happens to the memory when we contem- 
plate an action. I look upon a mon- 
strous giant, as Tityus, whose body cov- 
ered nine acres of land, and mine eye 
sticks upon every part; the whole that 
consists of those parts will never be 
taken in at one entire view. So in a 
fable, if the action be too great, we can 
never comprehend the whole together in 
our imagination. Again, if it be too lit- 
tle, there ariseth no pleasure out of the 
object; it affords the view no stay; it is 
beheld, and vanisheth at once. As if we 
should look upon an ant or pismire, the 
parts fly the sight, and the whole con- 
sidered is almost nothing. The same 
happens in action, which is the object of 
memory, as the body is of sight. Too 
vast oppresseth the eyes, and exceeds the 
memory; too little scarce admits either. 
What w the utmost bounds of a fable. — 
Now, in every action it behooves the poet 
to know which is his utmost bound, how 
far with fitness and a necessary propor- 
tion he may produce and determine it; 
that is, till either good fortune change 
into the worse, or the worse into the 
better. For as a body without propor- 
tion cannot be goodly, no more can the 
action, either in comedy or tragedy, with- 
out his fit bounds: and every bound, for 
the nature of the subject, is esteemed the 
best that is largest, till it can increase 
no more; so it behooves the action in 
tragedy or comedy to be let grow till 
the necessity ask a conclusion; wherein 
two things are to be considered: fir^t, 
that it exceed not the compass of one 
day; next, that there be place left for 
digression and art. For the episodes and 
digressions in a fable are the same that 



household stuff and furniture are in a 
house. And so far from the measure and 
extent of a fable dramatic. 

What by one and entire. — Now that it 
should be one and entire. One is consid- 
erable two ways; either as it is only 
separate, and by itself, or as being com- 
posed of many parts, it begins to be one 
as those parts grow or are wrought to- 
gether. That it should be one the first 
away alone, and by itself, no man that 
hath tasted letters ever would say, espe- 
cially having required before a just mag- 
nitude and equal proportion of the parts 
in themselves. Neither of which can pos- 
sibly be, if the action be single and sepa- 
rate, not composed of parts, which laid 
together in themselves, with an equal 
and fitting proportion, tend to the same 
end; which thing out of antiquity itself 
hath deceived many, and more this day 
it doth deceive. 

Hercules. — Theseus. — Achilles. — 
Ulysses. — Homer and Vergil. — Apneas. — 
Venus. — So many there be of old that 
have thought the action of one man to 
be one, as of Hercules, Theseus, Achilles, 
Ulysses, and other heroes; which is both 
foolish and false, since by one and the 
same person many things may be sever- 
ally done which cannot fitly be referred 
or joined to the same end: which not 
only the excellent tragic poets, but the 
best masters of the epic, Homer and 
Vergil, saw. For though the argument 
of an epic poem be far more diffused 
and poured out than that of tragedy, 
yet Vergil, writing of yEneas, hath pre- 
termitted many things. He neither tells 
how he was born, how brought up, how 
he fought with Achilles, how he was 
snatched out of the battle by Venus; 
but that one thing, how he came into 
Italy, he prosecutes in twelve books. 
The rest of his journey, his error by sea, 
the sack of Troy, are put not as the 
argument of the work, but episodes of 
the argument. So Homer laid by many 
things of Ulysses, and handled no more 
than he saw tended to one and the same 

Theseus. — Hercules. — Juvenal. — 
Codrus. — Sophocles. — Ajax. — Ulysses. — 
Contrary to which, and foolishly, those 
poets did, whom the philosopher taxeth, 
of whom one gathered all the actions of 
Theseus, another put all the labors of 

Hercules in one work. So did he whom 
Juvenal mentions in the beginning, 
"hoarse Codrus," that recited a volume 
compiled, which he called his Theseide, 
not yet finished, to the great trouble 
both of his hearers and himself; amongst 
which there were many parts had no 
coherence nor kindred one with another, 
so far they were from being one action, 
one fable. For as a house, consisting of 
divers materials, becomes one structure 
and one dwelling, so an action, composed 
of divers parts, may become one fable, 
epic or dramatic. For example, in a 
tragedy, look upon Sophocles his Ajax: 
Ajax, deprived of Achilles' armor, which 
he hoped from the suffrage of the Greeks, 
disdains; and, growing impatient of the 
injury, rageth, and runs mad. In that 
humor he doth many senseless things, 
and at last falls upon the Grecian flock 
and kills a great ram for Ulysses: re- 
turning to his senses, he grows ashamed 
of the scorn, and kills himself; and is by 
the chiefs of the Greeks forbidden burial. 
These things agree and hang together, 
not as they were done, but as seeming 
to be done, which made the action whole, 
entire, and absolute. 

The conclusion concerning the whole, 
and the parts.— Which are episodes. — 
Ajax and Hector. — Homer. — For the 
whole, as it consisteth of parts, so with- 
out all the parts it is not the whole; and 
to make it absolute is required not only 
the parts, but such parts as are true. 
For a part of the whole was true; which, 
if you take away, you either change the 
whole or it is not the whole. For if it 
be such a part, as, being present or ab- 
sent, nothing concerns the whole, it can- 
not be called a part of the whole; ant 
such are the episodes, of which here 
after. For the present here is one exam- 
ple: the single combat of Ajax an( 
Hector, as it is at large described ir 
Homer, nothing belongs to this Ajax of 

You admire no poems but such as n 
like a brewer's cart upon the stones 

Et, quae per salebras, altaque sc 

Accius et quidquid Pacuviusque vc 

Attonitusque legis terrai, frugiferai. 




(Dedication of Sejanus: His Fall) 


. . . First, if it be objected that what 
I publish is no true poem in the strict 
laws of time, I confess it: as also in the 
want of a proper chorus; whose habit 
and moods are such and so different, as 
not any, whom I have seen since the an- 
cients, no, not they who have most pres- 
ently affected laws, have yet come in the 
way of. Nor is it needful, or almost pos- 
sible in these our times, and to such audi- 
tors as commonly things are presented, 
to observe the old state and splendor or 
dramatic poems, with preservation of any 

2 Re-printed, with omissions, from the Gif- 
ford-Cunningham edition of Jonson's Works. — 

popular delight. But of this I shall take 
more seasonable cause to speak, in my 
observations upon Horace his Art of 
Poetry, which, with the text translated, 
I intend shortly to publish. In the mean- 
time, if in truth of argument, dignity of 
persons, gravity and height of elocution, 
fullness and frequency of sentence, I have 
discharged the other offices of a tragedy 
writer, let not the absence of these forms 
be imputed to me, wherein I shall give 
you occasion hereafter, and without my 
boast, to think I could better prescribe, 
than omit the due use for want of con- 
venient knowledge. . . . 


[To the Most Noble and Most Equal 


The Two Famous Universities, 

For Their Love and Acceptance Shown 

to His Poem in the Presentation, 

Ben Jonson, 

The Grateful Acknowledger, 

Dedicates both it and Himself] 


... I have labored for their instruc- 
tion and amendment, to reduce not only 
the ancient forms, but manners of the 
scene, the easiness, the propriety, the 
innocence, and last, the doctrine, which 
is the principal end of poesy, to inform 
men in the best reason of living. And 
though my catastrophe may, in the strict 
rigor of comic law, meet with censure, 

3 Re-printed, with omissions, from the Gif- 
ford-Cunningham edition of the Works. — Ed. 

as turning back to my promise; I desire 
the learned and charitable critic to have 
so much faith in me, to think it was done 
of industry: for, with what ease I could 
have varied it nearer his scale (but that 
I fear to boast my own faculty) I could 
here insert But my special aim being 
to put the snaffle in their mouths that 
cry out, We never punish vice in our in- 
terludes, &c, I took the more liberty; 
though not without some lines of exam- 
ple, drawn even in the ancients them- 
selves, the goings out of whose comedies 
are not always joyful, but oft-times the 
bawds, the servants, the rivals, yea, and 
the masters are mulcted; and fitly, it be- 
ing the office of a comic poet to" imitate 
justice, and instruct to life, as well as 
purity of language, or stir up gentle af- 
fections: to which I shall take the occa- 
sion elsewhere to speak. . . . 



? rexch Dramatic Criticism of the Seventeenth Century . . .115 
1 Bibliography 116 

■"rancois Ogier 117 

Bibliography . .117 

! Preface to Tyre and Sidon [Preface (to the) Tyr et Sidon (of) Jean 
de Schelandre] translated by August Odebrecht. (1628.) With 
minor omissions 118 

~EAN Chapelain 123 

I Bibliography 123 

The Cid Quarrel 123 

| Opinions of the French Academy on the Tragi-Comedy " The Cid " 
[Les Sentimens de I'Academie francoise sur la T ragi-comedie du 
Cid] translated by the editor. (1637.) Extracts 125 

Summary of a Poetic of the Drama [Sommaire d'une Poetique 
dramatique] translated by the editor. (Posthumous.) Complete 127 

Francois Hedelin, Abbe d'Aubignac 128 

Bibliography 128 

The Whole Art of the Stage [La Pratique du theatre'] anonymous 
translation (1657). Extracts 129 

j ierre Corneille 136 

Bibliography 137 

First Discourse. On the Uses and Elements of Dramatic Poetry 
[Premier Discours. De I'Utilite et des Parties du Poeme drama- 
tique] translated by Beatrice Stewart MacClintock. (1660.) 
With minor omissions 139 

Ieax-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere 148 

Bibliography 149 

School for Wives Criticized [La Critique de I'Ecole des femmes] 
translated by Henri Van Laun. (1663.) Extracts from scenes . 150 

Preface to Tartufe [Preface (to) Tartufe] translated by Henri Van 

Laun. (1669.) Extracts 152 



Jean Racine 152 

Bibliography 153 

Preface to La Thebaide [Preface (to) La Thebaide] translated by 
the editor. (1664.) Complete 154 

First Preface to Andromaque [Premiere Preface (to) Andromaque} 
translated by the editor. (1668.) Extracts 154 

First Preface to Britannicus [Premiere Preface (to) Britannicus] 
translated by the editor. (1670.) Extracts 155 

Preface to Berenice [Preface (to) Berenice] translated by the editor. 
(1674.) Extracts 156 

Preface to Phedre [Preface (to) Phedre] translated by the editor. 
(1677.) Extracts 157 

Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux 157 

Bibliography 158 

The Art of Poetry [Art Poetique\ translated by Soames 

Extracts 158 

Saint-Evremond 162 

Bibliography 163 

Of Ancient and Modern Tragedy [De la Tragedie ancienne et mo- 
derne\ anonymous translation (written 1672). Complete . . .164 



While no very distinct line of demarca- 
on can be drawn between the end of the 

xteenth and beginning of the seven- 
renth centuries in French literary criti- 

-111. it is at least convenient to consider 
sixteenth as marking the end of a 

age in the development from the tra- 
itions of the middle ages and an im- 
ortant connecting link with the een- 
jry in which the classic ideal received 
s" final impetus in the Art Poe'tique 
f Boileau (1674). The main current 

as in favor of classicism, i. e., an ad- 
erence to the precepts, however misun- 
erstood, of Aristotle and Horace; but 
rom time to time there arose a voice 
1 protest; Grevin and Laudun d'Aiga- 
ers, among others, objected to the rigid 
lules, and declared in favor of greater 
iberty. The same sort of protest was 
eard occasionally in the following een- 
ury, from Ogier, in his Preface to 
lchelandre*s Tyr et Sidon (16^8), from 
lardy, rather by his practice, however, 
han in his prefaces; from Durval in his 
ireface to Agarite (1636), from Moliere 
iter in the century; and from numerous 
thers. But in spite of these more or 
jss sporadic manifestos, the main cur- 
ent was rigidly classic. The earlier 
irefaces, like that of Pierre Troterel to 
is play Les Corricaux (161-2), of Ma- 
esehal to La Genereuse AUemande 
1621), Isnard's preface to Pichou's La 
7 Uis de Scire (1631), Gombauld's to 
imaranthe (1631), Jean de Mairet's veri- 
able Poetic prefixed to his Silvanire 
[1631), the occasional prefaces to Du 
tyer's, Claveret's, and Desmarets de 
iaint-Sorlin's plays — all helped to pave 
he way for Jean Chapelain's many and 
•ft-repeated pleas for the Unities, and the 
amous Cid Controversy. This eontro- 
ersy, which will lie treated at greater 
ength in connection with Chapelain, 
•ailed forth a large number of pamphlets, 
for and against the young Corneille, 
vhose " irregular " Cid, produced in 1636, 

was one of the most successful plays of 
the century. Georges de Seudery's 06- 
serrations sur le Cid (published in 1637, 
when nearly all the controversial tracts 
appeared) was followed in quick succes- 
sion by Faret's (?) Defense du Cid, 
further attacks and defenses by Corneille 
himself, Mairet, Scudery again, Sorel, the 
anonymous Discours a Cliton, and finally 
by the Sentiment de I'Academie fran- 
coise tvr la tragi-comedie du Cid (1638), 
written principally and edited by Chape- 
lain. Corneille's Preface*, Avertisse- 
ments, and the like, begun in 1632 in 
Clitandre — were appearing meanwhile, 
but his most important critical and theo- 
retical contributions, the Discours and 
Examens, were not printed until the edi- 
tion of 1660. Other indications of the 
general trend of ideas on the drama may 
be found in works of less importance 
from the viewpoint of actual influence on 
contemporaries; in the Lett res of Chape- 
lain and of Jean-Louis Guez de Bal- 
zac, many of which are concerned with 
the question of the Rules and the Cid 
Controversy, while a single letter of 
Racan (to Menage, 1654) registers an- 
other protest against the strict regula- 
tions of classicism. Following immedi- 
ately upon the Cid controversy came 
Sarasin's Discours sur la fragidie 
(1639), a formal treatise founded upon 
Aristotelian principles, and, the next 
year, La Mesnardiere's Art Poe'tique, a 
pedantic and voluminous ultra-classic 
work. Another pedantic work, but of 
vaster importance and fame, appeared in 
1657, the Pratique du theatre, of Francois 
Hedelin, Abbe d'Aubignac. This was the 
first work attempting to treat of the 
actual writing of plays, though the au- 
thor more often than not strays from his 
professed purpose and theorizes at great 
length. Corneille, who had long strug- 
gled to reconcile his practice with his 
theory, and his theory with his practice, 
replied to d'Aubignac and his other 




critics in his famous Discours and Exa- 
vi f ns (1660). Moliere, on the other 
hand, whose first critical words appeared 
in 1659, nowhere attempts to "justify" 
himself in like manner, but roundly de- 
clares that to please is the great and 
only rule. Racine, whose Preface to La 
Thebaide was first printed in 1664, is in 
his own way a follower of Aristotle. 
Rapin's Reflexions sur In Podtique 
(1674), translated into English by Rymer 
almost immediately after its publication 
in French, is a rather heavy and scholas- 
tic piece of work. But the same year 
(1674) saw the publication of the cele- 
brated Art Poetique of Boileau, which 
contains in concise form all the more or 
less consistent attempts to formulate a 
definite classic standard. Boileau stands 

for order, " good sense," and reason. 
Among the earliest French " essays " are 
the handful of short writings of Saint- 
Evremond, composed between 1666 and 
1677, on Racine and Corneille, on ancient, 
French, English, and Italian drama. To- 
ward the end of the century there ap- 
peared a number of larger treatises, 
dealing with aspects of the drama, none 
of which, however, was of great impor- 
tance. Baillet's Jugement des savantt 
(1687), and Bayle's celebrated Diction- 
naire historique et critique (1697), and 
the welter of pamphlets and books oc- 
casioned by the Ancients and Modems 
Quarrel, are not primarily concerned 
with the drama, though they may be con- 
sulted on particular points. 

General references on Seventeenth 
Century French literature: 

Paul Albert, La Litterature francaise au 
XV IP siecle (Paris, 1895). 

A. Dupuy, Histoire de la litterature 
francaise au XVIP siecle (Paris, 

Emile Faguet, Le Dix-septieme siecle 
(Paris, 1890). 

L.-H. Follioley, Histoire de la litterature 
frangaise au XVH" siecle, 3 vols. 
(Tours, 1885). 

F. Lotheissen, Geschichte der fran- 
zosischen Literatur im 17. Jahrhundert, 
4 vols. (Wien, 1874-84). 

Georges Longhaye, Histoire de la littera- 
ture francaise au XVH" siecle, 5 parts 
(Paris, 1895-98). 

F. Guizot, Corneille et son temps (new 
ed., Paris, 1852. Translated as Cor- 
neille and his Times, New York, 1871). 

Paul Lacroix, XVIP Siecle: Lettres, Sci- 
ences, et arts (Paris, 1882). 

Voltaire, Le Siecle de Louis XIV (Paris, 

Demogeot, Tableau de la Litterature 
francaise au XVH" siecle avant Cor- 
neille et Descartes (Paris, 1859). 

On the drama of the seventeenth cen- 

Jules Bonnassies, Les Auteurs dra- 
matiques et la Comedie francaise h 

Paris aux XVII' et XVI IP siecles 
(Paris, 1874). 

F. Delavigne, La Trai/Sdie chretienne au 
XVIP siecle. Etudes litteraires (Tou- i 
louse, 1847). 

Eugene Despois, Le Theatre franga'a j 
sous Louis XIV (Paris, 1874). 

G. Fagniez, L'Art dramatique et le (/out i 
public dans la premiere moitie du i 
XVIP siecle (in the Correspondant, - 
N. S., vol. 216, Paris, 1913). 

Victor Fournel, La Litterature ind6- f 
pendante et les ecrivains oublies au I 
XVIP siecle (Paris, 1862). 

Eleanor Jourdain, An Introduction to the 
French Classical Drama (Oxford, 1912). 

Jules Lemaitre, La Comedie apre* Mo- 
liere et le The&tre de Dancourt (Paris, 

Eugene Lintilhac, La Comedie: XVIP 
siecle (Paris, 1908). 

Eugene Rigal, Le Thedtre francais avant \ 
la periode classique (Paris, 1901). 

On French criticism in the seventeenth 

Francisque Vial et Louis Denise, I(Ues et 
doctrines du XVIP siecle (Paris, 

Auguste Bourgoin, Les Maitres de la 
critique au XVIP siecle (Paris, 1889). 

Charles Arnaud, Les Theories dra- 
matiques au XVIP siecle. Etude sur 
la vie et les ceuvres de I'Abbe d'Aubig- 
nac (Paris, 1888). 



lharles Livet, Predeux et ridicules (2nd 

I ed., Paris, 1870). 

L Wilrnotte, La Critique litte'raire au 
XVII Steele (in Etudes critiques sur la 

[ tradition litteraire en France, Paris, 

icorge Saintsbuiy, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 190-2). 

L Delfour, Les Ennemis de Racine au 
XVII' sucle (Paris, 1859). 

General references on the Acadimie 

elli>son et d'Olivet, Histoire de VAcadi- 
vt ie francoise (new ed., 2 vols., Paris, 


Paul Mesnard, Histoire de I'Academie 
francaise (Paris, 1857). 

A. Fabre, Chapelain et nos deux pre- 
mieres Academies (Paris, 1890). 

L. Petit de Julleville, Histoire de la 
langue et de la Litterature francaise, 
vol i (Paris, 1897). 

G. Boissier, L'Academie francaise sous 
VAncien RSghne (Paris, 1909). 

Charles Marty-Laveaux, Les Rigistres de 
PAcademie francaise, 3 vols. (Paris, 

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, L'Academie fran- 
caise (in Xouveaux Lundis, voL 12, 
Paris, 1863-70). 

Leon Vincent, The French Academy 
(Boston, 1901). 


Francois Ogier (who signs himself in 
ne place as a "native of Paris") was 
orn early in the seventeenth century, 
."othing is known of him except through 
is various writings. He entered the 
hurch at an early age and became 
predicateur du roi." He manifested 
|n early liking for letters, and began his 
terary career with an attack on Ga- 
asse's Doctrine curieuse (1623)-. The 
rgument was continued, and resulted in 
'gier's Jugement et Censure of the Doc- 
rine. After a good deal of controversy 
:\e opponents were reconciled. J.-L. G. 
e Balzac took part in the quarrel and 
ided with Ogier, who later defended 
lalzac in the Apologie, in 1627. In 
e published the Preface to Jean de 
chelandre's plav, Tyr et Sidon, orig- 
lally published "in 1608. In 1648 Ogier 
r ent to Munster and was present at the 
igning of the Treaty of Westphalia. 
A he next year he returned to Paris, 
reached for some time, and finally re- 
ired, devoting his efforts entirely to 
writing and the publishing of his works, 
le died at Paris in 1670. 

With the exception of the Preface to 
•chelandre's play, Ogier's works con- 
ist of poems, sermons, and various 
riticisms of literature. Ogier was not 
. man of the theater, though his inter- 
■st in the drama is manifest in the 

Preface. He was, indeed, little more 
than an amateur, but perhaps as such 
he was the better able to see the futility 
of subjecting poets and dramatists to 
rules. It was he, rather than Chapelain 
and Boileau, who applied the standard 
of reason and commonsense to works 
of art. But, as has been pointed out, 
the current of the time was against him, 
and it did not turn until the early years 
of the nineteenth century. 


The second edition of Schelandre's Tyr 
et Sidon, which contains Ogier's pref- 
ace, was published at Paris in 1628. 
Its exact title is Preface au Lecleur, 
par F.OJ 3 . [Francois Ogier, Parisien]. 
The Preface and play are re-printed 
in the eighth volume of Viollet-le-duc's 
Ancien Theatre francois (Paris, 1856). 

On Ogier and his work: 

Bavle, Dictionnaire (English ed., Lon- 
don, 1735). 

Xouvelle Biographie g&nbrale, voL 38 
(Paris, 1861). 

George Saintsburv, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 

Aulard, article in Bulletin de la Faculti 
des lettres de Poitiers (Avril, 1883). 




[Preface au Lecteur (to) Tyr et Sidon] 


. . . Those who favor the ancient poets 
will find something to criticize in our 
author's invention, and those who follow 
the moderns will find some little fault 
with his style. These former, who are 
the erudite, for whose criticism we have 
the highest regard, say that our tragi- 
comedy is not composed according to 
the rules that the ancients have pre- 
scribed for the stage, on which they were 
willing to perform nothing but events 
which can take place in the course of 
one day. And yet, in the first as well 
as in the second part of our play, there 
are found things which cannot be in- 
cluded in a single day, but which re- 
quire an interval of several days to be 
put into execution. 

But then, too, the ancients, in order 
to avoid this inconvenience of connect- 
ing in a few hours events far removed 
in time, have fallen into two errors as 
important as those that they wished to 
avoid: the one, in the fact that, fore- 
seeing very well that a variety of events 
is necessary to render the performance 
pleasing, they cause a number of inci- 
dents and encounters to take place in 
one and the same day, which probably 
cannot have happened in such a short 
space of time. That offends the judi- 
cious spectator who desires a real or 
imaginary interval between those events, 
in order that in his mind he may not 
discover anything too unnatural in # them, 
and that it may not seem that the char- 
acters are assigned to appear at a given 
moment, like Dei ex Machind, which 
were also used very often out of season. 
This fault is noticeable in nearly all the 
plays of the ancients, and especially in 
those in which there occurs some recog- 
nition of a child formerly abandoned; 
for directly, in order to strengthen some 
conjecture founded on age, features, or 
on some ring or other clew, the person 
who was employed to lose it, the shep- 
herd who has reared it, the old woman 
who has nursed it, etc., all meet and 

l Translated, with minor omissions, for the 
first time in English, by August Odebrecht. — 

suddenly appear on the stage, as if by 
magic, although it is probable that all 
these people can be assembled only after 
the expenditure of much time and pains. 
All the tragedies and comedies of the an- 
cients are full of examples of this kind. 

Sophocles himself, the most regular of 
all, in his (Edipus Rex, which is offered 
to us by the experts as the model of a 
perfect tragedy, has fallen into this 
error: for, at the very moment when 
Creon has returned from the Delphian 
oracle, when great difficulty is being 
experienced in attempting to discover 
the author of Laius' death, at the mo- 
ment when they have sent for a former ( 
servant who may have some information j 
concerning it, and who is to arrive forth- j 
with, suddenly the poet brings upon the 
scene the old man who had formerly j 
carried off the child CEdipus, and who i 
had received him from the hands of this 
old servant whom they are expecting. \ 
So that the entire affair is revealed in a 
moment, for fear that the action of the 
tragedy may exceed in length the time of i 
one day. Who does not see at this point 
that the unexpected arrival of the old ; 
man from Corinth has been prepared j 
beforehand and is too farfetched, and 
that it is not at all likely that a man 
who was not called in for this purpose, 
should arrive and converse with CEdipus i 
just in the short interval of time which , 
elapses since Laius' old servant has been J 
sent for? Is not this to bring these two 
characters together in spite of them- 
selves, and to discover at one moment 
the secret of the death of this unfortu- 
nate prince? 

Because of this consideration for put- 
ting off nothing to an imaginary mor- 
row, it happens, too, that the poets 
cause certain actions to follow one other 
immediately, although of necessity they 
require an appreciable interval between 
them in order to be appropriately car- 
ried out. As when ^Eschylus brings in 
Agamemnon with funeral ceremony, ac- 
companied by a long train of mourners 
and by libations, at the very moment 
when he has just been killed. Whereas: 



!us murder must have thrown the entire 
n al house and the whole city into dis- 
order, when the body is to be concealed 
jr abandoned by the murderers, and 
then the whole stage should be filled 
jith violent outbursts of compassion and 
f vengeance, they march in great 
Memnity and in good order in the 
liner al procession of this unhappy 
jrince, whose blood is still warm and 
Iho, so to speak, is only half dead. 
I The second disadvantage that the an- 
ient poets have incurred because they 
fish to confine the events of a tragedy 
Hthin one day, is their being compelled 
jbntinually to introduce messengers in 
frder to relate the events which have oc- 
lurred on the preceding days, and the 
purpose of the events which are taking 
i lace on the stage at the moment So 
[nat, in nearly all the acts, these gen- 
Ueiuen entertain the audience with a 
ttngthy enumeration of tiresome in- 
trigues which make the spectator lose 
Uatience, however well disposed he may 
[je to listen. Indeed it is a tedious 
hing, that one and the same person 
hould occupy the stage all the time, 
;nd it is more suitable for a good inn 
han becoming to an excellent tragedy 
p see messengers continually arriving 
here. Here it is necessary to avoid as 
puch as possible those tiresome speakers 
►'ho relate the adventures of others, and 
o put the persons themselves into ac- 
ion, leaving these long narrations to the 
listorians or to those who have taken 
.harge of composing the plots and the 
Tibjects of the plays that are being per- 
ormed. What difference is there, pray, 
tetween The Persians of .Escbylus and a 
imple narrative of what occurred be- 
ween Xerxes and the Greeks? Is there 
my thing so dull or so uninteresting? 
Vnd the disgust of the reader, whence 
■omes it if not from the fact that a 
nessenger plays in it the part of all the 
•haracters, and that the poet has re- 
cused to violate that law that we are 
vrongfully accused of having violated? 
3ut 1 am in no mood to criticize further 
he works of a poet who had the cour- 
age to fight valiantly for the liberty of 
lis country, during those famous days 
if Marathon, of Salamis and of Plataea. 
Let us leave him to hold forth in such a 
•vay as may please him concerning the 

flight of the Persians, since he had such 
a good share in their defeat, and let us 
pass on. 

Poetry, and especially that which is 
written for the theater, is composed only 
for pleasure and amusement, and this 
pleasure can arise only from the va- 
riety of the events which are represented 
on the stage, which events, not being able 
to occur easily in the course of one day, 
the poets have been constrained to aban- 
don gradually the practice of their 
predecessors who confined themselves 
within too narrow limits; and this change 
is not so recent that we have no exam- 
ples of it from antiquity. Whoever will 
carefully consider the Antigone of 
Sophocles will find that a night inter- 
venes between the first and the second 
burial of Polynices; otherwise, how 
could Antigone have deceived the guards 
of the body of this unfortunate prince 
the first time, and avoid being seen by 
so many people, except in the darkness 
of the night? For on the second occa- 
sion she comes to the body aided by a 
heavy rain which causes all the guards 
to retire, while she, in the midst of the 
storm, buries her brother and pays her 
last respects to him. Whence it hap- 
pens that the tragedy of Antigone repre- 
sents the events of two days at least; 
since the pretended crime of that princess 
presupposes Creon's law which is pro- 
claimed publicly and in broad daylight, 
on the stage and in the presence of the 
elders of Thebes. Here then is the order 
of this tragedy: the law or the inter- 
diction of Creon, made and proclaimed 
during the day; the first burial of Poly- 
nices, that I maintain took place at 
night; the second during a great storm 
in broad daylight; that is the second 

But we have a much more famous ex- 
ample of a comedy by Menander (for 
our critics demand that we observe the 
same rule in comedies as in tragedies in 
relation to the difficulty that we are 
considering) entitled 'EavrorTiftopvperos, 
translated by Terence, in which, without 
any doubt, the poet includes the events 
of two days, and introduces the actors 
who bear witness to the fact in very 
plain terms. In act one, scene two, 
Chremes warns his son not to stray too 
far from the house, in view of the fact 



that it is already very late. In act two, 
scene four, Clitipho and his band enter 
the house to sup with the old man, and 
the night is spent there in pleasant oc- 
cupations. The next day Chreines rises 
early to inform Menedemus of the re- 
turn of his son, and he goes out of the 
house rubbing his eyes and uttering 
these words: Luces cit hoc iatn, etc., tha 
day is bee/inning to dawn, etc. For if 
there is any one bold enough to say that 
Menander and Terence have erred in 
this passage, and that they have forgot- 
ten themselves in respect to the propri- 
eties that must be preserved in the the- 
ater, let him beware lest he offend as 
well the leading men among the Romans, 
Scipio and Laelius, whom Cornelius Nepos 
considers to be the real authors of this 
comedy, rather than Terence. 

It can be seen, then, by this, that the 
ancients and the most excellent masters 
of the profession have not always ob- 
served that rule which our critics de- 
sire to make us so religiously preserve at 
the present time. For if, however, they 
have nearly always observed it, it is not 
because they believed themselves abso- 
lutely compelled to do so in order to 
satisfy the spectator's imagination, to 
which they had done just as much vio- 
lence in the two ways that I have pointed 
out, but it was their custom to dare to 
deviate only very slightly from the path 
that had been marked out for them by 
their predecessors. Which appears in 
the fact that the least innovations in the 
theater are cited by the ancients as very 
important and very remarkable changes 
in the state. Sophocles invented the 
buskin and added three actors to the 
choruses that before his time consisted 
only of twelve. This change is of very 
little importance and concerns only the 
stature of the actor and the size of the 
choruses, which are always unpleasant of 
whatever size or quality they appear. 

Now, in my opinion, there are two 
reasons why the ancient writers of 
tragedy have not dared to deviate, un- 
less it be very little and by degrees, 
from their first models. The first is 
that their tragedies formed a part of 
the worship of the gods and of the cere- 
monies of religion, in which, innovations 
being always offensive and changes hard 
to appreciate, unless they take place of 

their own accord and, as it were, imper- 
ceptibly, it happened that the poets 
dared undertake nothing that was not 
in keeping with the usual custom. And 
perhaps that is also the reason why, al- 
though they represent atrocious deeds, 
accompanied and followed by murders 
and other kinds of cruelty, on the other 
hand, they never shed blood in the pres- 
ence of the audience, and all those bloody 
executions are understood to take place 
behind the scenes, and that, for fear that 
the solemnity of the occasion may be 
desecrated by the sight of some homi- 
cide; for, if one consider well, the Ajax 
of Sophocles does not kill himself on 
the stage, but in a neighboring thicket^ 
from which his voice and his last sighs 
can be easily heard. 

The second reason why ancient trage- 
dies are nearly all alike and are, nearly 
all of them, full of choruses and of mes- 
sengers, arises from the fact that the 
poets, wishing to carry off the prize 
destined to the one who composed the 
best work, forced themselves to write 
according to the desire and taste of the 
people and of the judges, who, without 
doubt, would have refused to admit 
among the number of contestants any 
one who had not followed the rules of 
composition observed before his time on 
such occasions. The subject matter it- 
self, on which the poets were to work 
that year, was prescribed and suggested. 
From which it can be seen that nearly 
all ancient tragedies have the same sub- 
ject, and that the same plots are treated 
by vEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, 
tragic authors of whom alone a few com- 
plete works have come down to us. 
From this it has also happened that these 
subjects and plots have been taken from 
a small number of Greek tales or stories 
well known to the people, who would 
not have been contented to being enter- 
tained by other exhibitions than those 
based upon events that had occurred at 
Thebes and at Troy. Add to this that 
the Athenians who had received the 
tragedies of ^Eschylus with extraordinary, 
applause, desired as a special favor that 
they might still be performed in public 
after the death of their author. A fact 
which gave them such a reputation that 
the tragic poets who followed concluded 
that they must not deviate from a modeJ ; 



that was held in such high repute, and 
that it was necessary to conform to pub- 
lic opinion since it was that of the 

Since then, the Latins, who had sub- 
mitted themselves to the inventions of the 
Greeks, as holding the arts and the sci- 
ences from them, did not dare to dis- 
turb the limits that had been prescribed, 
for them, and especially in regard to 
the subject of which we are speaking. 
For the' Romans, who had imitated the 
Greeks in other kinds of poetry, and who 
had even competed with them for the 
prize in epic and lyric poetry, confined 
themselves, or very nearly so, to mere 
translation of their tragedies, and they 
have treated no subject which had not 
been exhibited several times on the stages 
of Greece. 

I will not mention Accius, Naevius, 
Pacuvius, and a few others, of whose 
works we possess many fragments classed 
by the grammarians under the title of 
Greek tales; the only Latin tragedies 
which were composed in a better age, 
and that remain to us, are nearly all 
Greek, as well in subject matter as in 
form, except the Thebaid, in the fact 
that it does not introduce any choruses, 
and the Octavia, because its subject is a 
roman story; but the latter is the work 
of an amateur, if we are to believe Justus 
Lip^ius, and scarcely deserves to be 
taken into consideration. 

After the Latins, the drama, as well 
as the other forms of more polite litera- 
ture having been abandoned, barbarism 
! succeeded this long interregnum of the 
humanities, that resumed their authority 
only within the memory of our fathers. 
In this restoration, however, several er- 
rors were committed, but it is not my 
purpose to speak of that in this place, 
and I cannot undertake it without mak- 
ing a volume out of a preface, and say- 
ing many good things that are not to the 
point. Only, I should wish that Francis 
Bacon, the public critic of human knowl- 
edge, had made some mention of it in his 
books, for it seems that his subject 
obliged him to do so. 

I confine myself here to poetry alone, 
and say that the too intense eagerness 
of wishing to imitate the ancients has 
caused our best poets to fail to attain 
cither the reputation or the excellence 

of the ancients. They did not consider 
that the taste of nations is different, as 
well in matters pertaining to the mind 
as in those of the body, and that, just 
as the Moors, and without going so far, 
the Spaniards, imagine and prefer a type 
of beauty quite different from that which 
we prize in France, and just as they 
desire their sweethearts to have a dif- 
ferent figure, and features other than 
those that we desire to see in ours, to 
such a degree that there are some men 
who will form an idea of their beauty 
from the same features that we should 
consider homely, just so, it must not be 
doubted that the minds of nations have 
preferences quite different from one an- 
other, and altogether dissimilar feelings 
for the beauty of intellectual things, 
such as poetry; but philosophy, never- 
theless, has no part in this matter: for 
it expects, to be sure, that the minds of 
all men, under whatever sky they may 
be born, shall agree in one and the .same 
opinion concerning the tilings necessary 
for the sovereign good, and it strives as 
far as possible to unite them in the search 
after truth, because there can be but 
one truth; but as for matters that are 
merely amusing and unimportant, such 
as this of which we are speaking, it 
allows our opinions to take whatever 
direction they please, and does not ex- 
tend its jurisdiction over this matter. 

This truth granted, it opens a gentle 
and pleasing way to settle the quarrels 
that arise daily between those who at- 
tack and those who defend the works of 
the ancient poets; for, as I cannot re- 
frain from censuring two or three scrib- 
blers who call Pindar stupid and extrava- 
gant, Homer a dreamer, etc., etc., and 
those who have imitated them in these 
latter days, so too, I think it remarkable 
that they should be proposed to us as 
perfect models, from which we are not 
permitted to deviate ever so little. To 
this we must reply, that the Greeks 
worked for Greece, and were successful 
in the judgment of the cultured people 
of their day, and that we shall imitate 
them much better if we grant something 
to the genius of our own country and 
to the preferences of our own language, 
than if we compel ourselves to follow 
step by step their plan and their style 
as a few of our writers have done. Here 



it is that the judgment must be brought 
into play as in everything else, choosing 
from the ancients that which can adapt 
itself to our own times and to the tem- 
perament of our nation, without, how- 
ever, finding fault with the works that, 
during so many centuries, have met with 
public approval. They were considered 
in their day from a point of view dif- 
ferent from that of the present time, 
and people perceived a certain charm 
in them which is concealed from us and 
to discover which it would be necessary 
to have breathed the air of Attica at 
birth and to have been reared in the 
midst of those excellent men of ancient 

Surely, just as our stomachs refuse 
some meats and fruits which are con- 
sidered delicacies in foreign countries, 
in the same manner our minds fail to 
enjoy a certain passage or a certain com- 
position by a Greek or by a Latin which, 
in former times, has been held in high 
admiration. The Athenians must cer- 
tainly have found other beauties in the 
verses of Pindar than those which our 
minds of the present day discover in 
them, since they rewarded a single word 
with which this poet favored their city, 
more generously than would the princes 
of to-day recompense an Iliad composed 
in their honor. 

We must not then be so infatuated 
with the theories that the ancients have 
held, nor with the art which they have 
set up, allowing ourselves to be led like 
the blind; but we must examine and con- 
sider these theories themselves by the 
circumstances of time, place, and the 
persons for whom they were composed, 
adding to them and taking away in order 
to adapt them to our use, a method that 
Aristotle would have sanctioned: for 
this philosopher, who demands that su- 
preme reason be obeyed on all occasions, 
and who concedes nothing to popular 
opinion, does not refrain from admitting 
at this point that poets should grant 
something to the convenience of the 
actors, in order to facilitate their acting, 
and should make many allowances for 
the stupidity and the mood of the spec- 
tators. Surely he would have conceded 
much more to the preference and to the 
judgment of a whole nation, and if he 
had laid down rules for a play which 

was to have been performed before a 
people as impatient and fond of change 
and novelty as we are, he would have 
been very careful not to weary us with 
those narrations of the messengers, so 
frequent and so tiresome, nor would he 
have made a chorus recite almost a hun- 
dred and fifty lines at a stretch, as does 
Euripides in his Iphigenia in Aulis. 

Hence, the ancients themselves, recog- 
nizing the faults of their drama, and that 
the little variety observed in their plays 
depressed the spectators, were compelled 
to introduce satyrs as a form of inter- 
lude, which, by virtue of an unrestrained 
license to slander and abuse persons of 
the highest rank, held the attention of 
the people, who delight ordinarily to hear 
ill spoken of others. 

This plan of ordering and arranging, 
which they used, is our reason for not 
hesitating to justify the invention of 
tragi-comedies, introduced by the Ital- 
ians, in view of the fact that it is much 
more reasonable, in the course of the 
same conversation, to mingle grave mat- 
ters with the least serious, and to bring 
them together in a single plot for a 
play or for a story, than to mingle ex- 
traneously satyrs with tragedies that 
have no connection with one another, 
and that confuse and disturb the sight 
and the understanding of the audience; 
for, to say that it is improper to sbow 
in a single play the same persons speak- 
ing now of serious, important, and tragic 
matters, and immediately after of com- 
monplace, vain, and humorous things, is 
to be unacquainted with the nature of 
human life, whose days and hours are 
very often interrupted by laughter and 
by tears, by joy and by sorrow, accord- 
ing as they are filled with happiness or 
troubled by misfortune. Some one of 
the gods endeavored formerly to mingle 
joy with sorrow in order to make of 
them a single compound; he was unabie 
to accomplish this, but then he joined 
them behind one another. That is why 
they ordinarily follow so closely after one 
another, and nature herself has shown 
us that there is scarcely any difference 
between them, since artists note that the 
movements of muscles and nerves that 
give an expression of laughter to the 
countenance, are the same that serve to 
make us weep and to assume the expres- 



I sion of sorrow by which we manifest ex- 
treme grief. And then, after all, those 

>who demand no variation or change in 
the inventions of the ancients, are argu- 
ing here merely about the word and not 
aUmt the thing itself: for, what is the 
ps of Euripides but a tragi-comedy 
full of jests and wine, of satyrs and 
Silenus, on the one hand; of blood and 
rage and baffled Polyphemus on the 

The question, then, is an old one, al- 
though it goes by a new name; it merely 
remains to treat it as is fitting, to make 
each character speak in a manner that 

is becoming to the subject, and to know 
how to step down appropriately from 
the cothurnus of tragedy (for it" is per- 
missible in this discussion to make use 
of these terms) to the slipper of comedy, 
as our author has done. 

Even-body knows how different should 
be the style that is used in such different 
matters: the one lofty, elevated, superb; 
the other, mediocre and less serious. 
That is why Pliny the Younger 
humorously nicknamed two of his coun- 
try homes Tragedy and Comedy, because 
one was situated on a mountain, and the 
other below on the sea-shore. . . . 


Jean Chapelain, the son of a notary 
and an ambitious mother, was born at 
Paris in 1595. From the first, Jean was 
destined by his parents for a literary 
career. He studied early under the 
famous Nicolas Bourbon. As a young 
man, his knowledge and his ability as a 
conversationalist, afforded him a place in 
many of the literary salons of the day. 
His Preface to the Adone of Marini in- 
creased his already growing reputation. 
He was the friend and counsellor of the 
Precieux, and a welcome guest at the 
Hotel de Rambouillet. Among his 
friends and admirers were Balzac, Mal- 
herbe, Corneille, Richelieu, while the Due 
de Longueviile pensioned him in order 
that he might devote all his time to writ- 
ing. The work upon which he most 
prided himself was the famous La 
Pucelle, upon which he worked for 
twenty-five years. The first twelve 
cantos were published in 1656, and 
proved a disastrous failure. The criti- 
cisms and attacks on the poem did much 
to destroy Chapelain's reputation as the 
greatest poet of his time, though he was 
still considered an important critic. He 
died at Paris in 1674. 

Ever since Boileau's venomous at- 
tacks, Chapelain has presented a rather 
ridiculous figure in French literature. 
But that he was a man of great im- 
portance — and even paved the way for 
much of Boileau's own work, — is" un- 

doubted. His work in connection with 
the foundation of the Academic fran- 
caise, his formulation of various critical 
dogmas, and the role he played in the 
Cid Controversy, entitle him to a position 
of the utmost importance in seventeenth 
century French criticism. 

The Cid Controversy 1 

The enormous success of Corneille's 
Le Cid, first produced in 1636, occasioned 
considerable jealousy among the so- 
called u arbiters of taste." Georges de 
Scudery, a rival of the author's, pub- 
lished early in 1637 his Observation* tur 
le Cid, in which he set out to prove that 
the subject of the play was worthless, 
that it violated the chief rules of the 
drama, that the handling of the subject 
was not good, that it contained many bad 
lines, and that its chief beauties were 
stolen. Corneille answered this on- 
slaught in his Lettre apologetique, which 
was rather a counter-attack in Scudery"s 
manner, than a dignified response. Sev- 
eral others took up the quarrel, some 
championing Corneille and some his op- 
ponent. Of lesser importance were the 
Defense du Cid, considered by some to 
have been written by Faret; Le Souhait 
du Cid, possibly from the hand of Sir- 

1 For a history of the Quarrel and re-print 
of the principal pamphlets, see Armand Gasti, 
La QuereUe du Cid (Paris, 1898). 



mond; then Scudery's own La Preuve 
des passages alUguez dans les Observa- 
tions sur le Cid, and Sorel's (?) Le 
Jugement du, Cid. Of considerable in- 
terest is the anonymous Discours a 
Cliton — which has been attributed in 
turn to the Comte de Behn, Claveret, 
and Mairet — containing the Traicte" de 
la disposition du Poeme Dramatique, et 
de la prUendue Regie de vingt-quatre 
heures. Mairet's Epistre familiere au 
Sieur Corneille sur la Tragi-comidie du 
Cid was answered by Corneille, or a 
friend of his, in the Advertissement au 
Besanqonnois Mairet. Then came the 
famous Les Sentimens de l'Acade"mie 
franqaise sur la Tragi-come'die du Cid, 
published at the end of the year 1637. 
Among the many comments on this docu- 
ment the most interesting are letters of 
Balzac to Scudery (1638), Scudery's 
reply, and Scudery's Lettre de Monsieur 
de Scudiri a Messieurs de VAcademie 
franqaise; and, finally, Chapelain's 
twenty-six Letttres (re-printed in the 
Thamizey de Larroque edition, cited be- 
low) written in 1637, all touching upon 
the Quarrel. 

After Corneille's first reply to Scudery, 
the latter suggested referring the matter 
to the recently-founded Academy, and 
Corneille at least made no protest. The 
Academy accepted the task, and Chape- 
lain wrote out a first draft of what was 
afterwards to become the Sentimens. 
The committee appointed to collaborate 
with Chapelain seems to have done noth- 
ing, and Chapelain presented his draft to 
Richelieu, to whose advantage it was to 
bring discredit upon Corneille's play. 
The Cardinal was pleased with the work 
in general, but suggested changes and 
asked Chapelain to make it more " worthy 
of the Academy." For some time the 
Academy deliberated and finally passed 
the MS, which was sent to press; but 
Richelieu, finding it too " flowery," 
stopped the printing, revised certain sec- 
tions, and at last allowed the whole to 
be published in December, 1637. 

That the Sentimens is essentially the 
work of Chapelain seems sure; he was 
a man of integrity, and he himself de- 
clares that the "whole idea" and "all 
the reasoning " are his. Possibly some 
allowance must be made for Chapelain's 
" absolute deference " and " blind obedi- 

ence" to the Cardinal's wishes; Richelieu 
undoubtedly saw in Corneille a dangerous 
rival, and not only requested but com- 
manded that the Academy bring an ad- 
verse criticism against Le Cid. Still, 
Chapelain's conscience forced him to ac- 
knowledge the many beauties of the "ir- 
regular " play. 

In this work, as well as in the Lett res, 
prefaces, dissertations, and other mis- 
cellaneous work, he went far to establish 
that set of absolute rules which guided,— 
and cramped — the French drama and 
literature for many years. In the words 
of Lanson, Chapelain "practically 
founded dogmatic criticism." He was 
the disciple of Good-Sense and Reason, 
the corner-stones of Neo-classicism. 

On the drama: 

The Letlres belong to two different pe- 
riods, and are full of literary discus- 
sions, criticism, and ideas. The first 
group includes the correspondence with 
Balzac, and belongs to the years 
1632-40. The second, written to many 
European scholars, including Gro- 
novius, Huet, Heinsius, and Vossius, 
belong to the period 1659-73. The 
principal edition is the selection of 
Lettres, 2 vols, (edited by Ph. Ta- 
mizey de Larroque, Paris, 1880-83). 
Selections from the Lettres and miscel- 
laneous material are found in Camu- 
sat's Melanges de Littdrature, tirez des 
Lettres manuscrites de M. Chapelain 
(Paris, 1726). The last section of this 
book, on the men of letters of the day, 
is re-printed in Collas' Chapelain, cited 

A great many letters and other MSS. of 
Chapelain have never been printed. 
There are three of interest, however, 
re-printed in the appendix of Charles 
Arnaud's Les Theories dramatique^ am 
XVII" siecle (Paris, 1887). The first 
of these, Trots Dissertations ineditcs de 
Chapelain, is a Demonstration de la 
Regie des Vingt-quatre heures et 
Refutation des Objections, dated 
1630; the second, a Sommaire d'une 
Poetique dramatique; and the third 
(undated, like the preceding) a 
Variante du Sommaire pr6ce"dent. 
This last is translated in the present 



I Editions: 

,es Sentiment de VAcademie francoise 
sur la Tragi-comedie da Cid was first 
published in 1637, though the title-page 
bears the date of 1G38. It was re- 
printed in 1678, probably in 1693, and 
in 1701; also in the Marty-Laveaux 
edition of Les (Euvres de Pierre Cor- 
neille, vol. 12 (Paris, 1S62), in Gaste's 
La Querelle du Cid (Paris, 1898), in 
Georges Collas' Jean Chapelain (Paris, 
1911), and in Colbert Sear les' Leg Sen- 
timents de VAcademie francoise sur 
la Tragi-comedie du Cid (Univ. of 
Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1916). This 
edition contains in parallel columns 
Chapelain's original MS., the correc- 
tions, and the printed version. 

On Chapelain and his works: 

ntroductions to the Thamizey de Lar- 

roque, Camusat, and Searles editions 

above cited, 
jeorges Collas, Jean Chapelain (Paris, 

Pierre Brun, Jean Chapelain (in Revue 

d'histoire lilteraire de la France, Paris, 

\lois Miihlan, Jean Chapelain alt lit- 

terarischer Kritiker (Leipzig, 1884). 

Biographic universelle, voL 1 (Paris, 

La Grande Encyclopedie, vol. 10 (Paris). 
Xouvelle Biographie generate, vol. 9 

(Paris, 1854). 
Segrais, Segraisiana, 2 vols. (Paris, 17:21; 

Amsterdam, 1723). 
J.-E. Fidao-J ustiniani, L' Esprit classique 

et la Priciosite au XVII' siecle (Paris, 

Adrien Baillet, Jugement des savants, 8 

vols. (Paris, 1722-30). 
Goujet, Bibliotheque francoise, 18 vols. 

(Paris, 1701-26. See vol. 17). 
F. Guizot, Corneille et son Temps, trans- 
lated as Corneille and his Times, New 

York, 1871 (chap, on Chapelain). 
Abbe Fabre, Les Ennemis de Chapelain 

(Paris, 1888). 
E. Hunger, Der Cidstreit in chronolo- 

gischen Ordnung (Leipzig, 1891). 
Rene Kerviter, La Bretagne a I'Academie 

francaise au XVII' sie~cle (Paris, 

Charles Arnaud, Les Theories dra- 

matiques au XVII* siecle. Etude sur 

la vie et les ceucres de I' Abbe d'Aubig- 

nac (Paris, 1887). 
H. Moulin, Chapelain, tluet, Menage 

(Caen, 1882). 
A. Bourgoin, Les Slaitres de la critique 

au XV 11" siecle (Paris, 1889). 


•THE CID "2 

(Les Sentimens de I'Academie francoise sur la Tragi-comtdie du Cid) 


. . Nature and Truth have put a cer- 
tain value to things, which cannot be al- 
:ered by that which chance or opinion 
>et up: to attempt to judge them by 
what they seem, and not what they are, 
s to condemn oneself at the outset. It 
s true enough that the great Masters are 
not themselves in very close agreement 

this point. Some, too much inclined, 
it »eems, toward pleasure, hold that de- 
light is the true purpose of dramatic 
poetry; others, more sparing of men's 
time and holding it too dear to be given 
;>ver to amusements which yield only 
pleasure and no profit, maintain that its 

\ - Here translated for the first time, by the 
editor. — Ed. 

real end is to instruct. Though each 
expresses himself in such different terms, 
it will on closer examination be seen 
that both are in agreement; and if we 
judge them with what favor we should, 
we shall see that those who claim pleas- 
ure as the sole end are too reasonable to 
exclude anything that is not conformable 
to reason. We must believe — if we 
would do them justice — that by pleas- 
ure they mean the pleasure which is not 
the enemy but the instrument of virtue, 
and which purges men, insensibly and 
without disgust, of their vicious prac- 
tices, and which is useful because it is 
good, and which can never leave regret 
in the mind for having surprised it, nor 



in the soul for having corrupted it. And 
so they only seem to disagree with the 
others, for it is true that if the pleasure 
they demand be not profit itself, it is 
at "least the source whence of necessity 
it flows; and that wherever there is pleas- 
ure there is profit, and that both are pro- 
duced from the same sources. 

Hence, they are at one, and we agree 
with them both, and we can all of us to- 
gether say that a play is good when it 
produces a feeling of reasonable content. 
But, as in music and painting, we should 
not consider every concert and every pic- 
ture good if it please the people but 
fail in the observance of the rules of 
their respective arts, and if the experts, 
who are the sole judges, did not by their 
approval confirm that of the multitude. 
Hence we must not say with the crowd 
that a poem is good merely because it 
pleases, unless the learned and the ex- 
pert are also pleased. Indeed, it is im- 
possible that there can be pleasure con- 
trary to reason, unless it be to a de- 
praved taste — as, for instance, a liking 
for the bitter and the acid. We are not 
here concerned with satisfying the liber- 
tine and the vicious man, who only laughs 
at adulteries and incests, and who does 
not object to violations of the laws of 
nature, provided he is amused. Nor 
have we to do with pleasing those who 
are ignorant and untutored, who would 
be no more moved at seeing the suffer- 
ings of Penelope than of Clytemnestra. 
Evil examples are contagious, even in the 
theater; the representations even of 
feigned acts produce only too many real 
crimes; and there is great danger in di- 
verting the people with pleasures which 
may some day result in public catas- 
trophes. We must be careful to guard 
their eyes and ears against things of 
which they should not know, and keep 
them from learning of cruelty or perfidy, 
unless at the same time examples are ac- 
companied with the just retribution, so 
that they may take home with them after 
the performance at least some fear mixed 
with their pleasure. But, for that mat- 
ter, it is impossible to please any one 
with disorder and confusion, and if it 
happens that irregular plays sometimes 
please, it is only by reason of what is 
regular in them, because of certain un- 
questioned and extraordinary beauties 

which transport the soul so far that for 
a long time after, it is incapable of de- 
tecting the deformities which accompany 
them, and which serve, imperceptibly, to 
bring out the faults, while the under- 
standing is yet dazzled by the brilliancy 
of the good. And on the other hand, if 
certain regularly-constructed plays give 
little pleasure, it must not be thought 
that this is the fault of the rules, but of 
the author, whose sterile wit was unable 
to exercize his art upon sufficently rich 
material. . . . 

. . . Now, the natural, rather than the 
true is, according to Aristotle, the prov- 
ince of epic and dramatic poetry, which, 
having for its purpose the pleasure and 
profit of the auditor or the spectator, the 
epic or dramatic poet can the more surely 
encompass by making use of the natural, 
or verisimilar, rather than what is simply 
true, or matter of fact, because it con- 
vinces men the more easily as it finds no 
resistance in them, which it would if the 
poet adhered to mere facts, and which 
might well be so strange and incredible 
that they would think them false and re- 
fuse to be persuaded of them. But since 
several things are required to make a 
story natural — that is, observation of 
time, of place, of the condition, age, man- 
ners and customs, and passions, — the 
principal point of all is that each person! 
age must behave according to his charac- 
ter as set forth early in the poem. For 
instance, an evil man must not do good 
deeds. And the reason why this exact ob- 
servation is required is that there is no 
other way of producing the Marvelous, 
which delights the mind with astonishment 
and pleasure, and is the perfect means 
adopted by poetry to arrive at the end 
of profit. It is indeed a great under- 
taking to try to create the rare effect 
of the Marvelous from so common a thing 
as the natural. And so, we believe with 
the Masters that herein lies the greatest 
merit for him who knows well how to do 
it; and as the difficulty is great, there 
are few who can succeed. And that is 
why so many, despairing of success, re- 
sort to that false Marvelous which re- 
sults in the unnatural, what is not true 
to life, and which may be called the .Mon- 
strous, and try to pass off on the crowd 
as the true Marvelous that which deserve^ 
only the name of Miraculous. 




(Sommaire d'une Poetique dramatiqug) 

The object of representative as well 
as of narrative poetry is the imitation of 
human action; their necessary condition 
is truth to life [le vray*emblable\\ in its 
perfection it strives for the marvelous. 

From the judicious union of the veri- 
similar and the marvelous springs the 
excellence of works of this sort. Both 
these elements belong to invention. 

In Tragedy, which is the noblest form 
of drama, the poet imitates the actions 
of the great; in Comedy, those of people 
in middle or low condition. The ending 
of Comedy is happy. 

Tragi-comedy was known to the An- 
cients only as tragedy with a happy end- 
ing. Witness the Iphigenia in Tauris. 
The modern trench have made the form 
very popular, and as a result of the char- 
acters and the action have put it into a 
class nearer to tragedy than to comedy. 

The Pastoral was invented and intro- 
duced by the Italians less than a hundred 
years after the Eclogue; it is a sort of 
Tragi-comedy, imitating the actions of 
shepherds, but in a more elevated man- 
ner and with higher sentiments than can 
be employed in the Eclogue. 

In plays, poets depict, besides action, 
the various manners, customs, and pas- 
sions of human beings. 

They take particular care to make each 
personage speak according to his condi- 
tion, age, and sex; and by propriety they 
mean not only that which is decent, but 
what is fitting and appropriate to the 
characters — be they good or evil — as 
they are at first set forth in the play. 

In their tragedies and comedies a good 
plot never had more than one principal 
action, to which the others are related. 
This is what is termed Unity of Action. 

They have allowed to the development 
of the action of a play the space of a 
single natural day. This is what is 
termed the Twenty-four-hour rule. 

1 Translated complete, for the first time, by 
the editor. — Ed. 

They have set the physical limit of 
their action to a single place. This is 
what is termed the Unity of Place. 

All this is a necessary corollary to the 
verisimilar, without which the mind is 
neither moved nor persuaded. 

The action of the play consists in ex- 
position of the story, its complication 
[embrouillement] and its development. 

The most worthy and agreeable effect 
that can be produced by a play, is that 
as a result of the artful conduct of the 
story the spectator is left suspended 
and " puzzled to know the outcome, and 
cannot decide what the end of the ad- 
venture will be. 

The Latins divided plays into five acts, 
while the Greeks divided them only into 

Each act has several scenes. It will 
seem too short if it have only four, and 
too long if more than seven. 

In the first act the principal points of 
the story are made clear; in the second, 
complications arise; in the third, the trou- 
ble deepens; in the fourth, matters look 
desperate; in the fifth, the knot is loosed 
— in a natural way, however, but in an 
unforeseen manner — and from this re- 
sults the Marvelous. 

There are some who insist that no 
more than three characters should ap- 
pear on the stage at the same time in 
the same scene, in order to avoid confu- 
sion. I approve of this, except when it 
applies to the last scenes of the last act, 
where everything ought to point toward 
the end and where confusion only ren- 
ders the unraveling more noble and more 

Others insist that each scene be inti- 
mately bound to the other. This, it is 
true, ^produces a more agreeable effect; 
but fbe practice of the Ancients proves 
how unnecessary it is. 

^Tiat seems "most necessary to me is 
that no character should enter or leave 
without apparent reason. 




Francois H£delin, better known as the 
Abbe d'Aubignac, was born at Paris in 
1604. His father was an M avoeat " at 
the Parlement and his mother a daugh- 
ter of the famous Ambroise Pare. In 
1610 the family moved to Nemours. At 
an early age Francois took part in the 
conversations of the Precieux and liter- 
ary people with whom his father, a man 
of some literary taste and accomplish- 
ments, was acquainted. His own educa- 
tion, a part of which was the study of 
modern and ancient languages, was, ac- 
cording to him, of his own making; his 
precocity was the wonder and delight of 
his parents and their friends. In his 
twenty-third year he was made an 
" avoeat au Parlement " ; the same year, 
1627, he published his first work, a study, 
Des Satyres, brutes, monstres et demons. 
For a time he practiced law at Nemours, 
with some success, but he soon went to 
Paris and entered the Church. Just after 
his ordination as a priest, he was ap- 
pointed private tutor to the Due de 
Fronsae, a nephew of Cardinal Richelieu, 
and son of the Marshal de Breze. This 
was a turning-point in his life, for in 
the house of the Duke he became ac- 
quainted with the great men of his time, 
chief among them the Cardinal himself, 
who did much toward the shaping of his 
career. He was given the Abbey of 
Aubignac in recognition of his services, 
but in the meantime he had spent his 
patrimony on the education of the Duke. 
He experienced considerable difficulty in 
securing the pension to which he was en- 
titled. His political opinions seemed suf- 
ficient reason to Conde for a refusal. 
As a result, d'Aubignac says (in 1663) 
that for seventeen years he had not been 
to court. He preached, wrote plays, 
pamphlets, a novel, dissertations of vari- 
ous kinds, and his celebrated Pratique du 
theatre. He founded an Acadimie des 
belles-lettres, probably in 1654. His last 
years were filled with disappointments. 
He died in 1676. 

D'Aubignac touched the life of his time 
at many and diverse points. A recog- 
nized arbiter of taste, a scholar, an au- 
thor, a Precieux, a man of the world, 

and an abb£, he was for many years re- 
garded as one of the foremost men of 
his age. Even after his death his opin- 
ions were respected by such men as Cor- 
neille and Racine. His principal title to 
fame rests on the famous Pratique du 
thMlre (1657), which was studied by 
many practicing dramatists. Racine's 
copy of the book is still in existence and 
his annotations are re-printed in M. 
Arnaud's life of d'Aubignac. (See be- 
low.) The curious mixture of pedantry 
and absurdity which goes hand in hand 
with much that is wise and sane, has done 
great harm to the author's reputation, 
while possibly Conde's mot, " I am 
obliged to Monsieur d'Aubignac for hav- 
ing so exactly followed Aristotle's rules, 
but I will never forgive the rules of Aris- 
totle for having put Monsieur d'Aubignac 
upon writing so bad a tragedy," has 
served to call attention to the great dis- 
parity between the author's theory and 
his practice. The Pratique was intended, 
and to a certain extent is, a practical 
manual, the first of its kind. Its im- 
portance lies in the author's having in- 
sisted that a play is intended to be per- 
formed, and not merely read. This is 
by no means a new idea; Aristotle him- 
self had laid down the principle, though 
he had not developed it, while Castel- 
vetro was the first in modern times to 
insist on the close relation between the 
dramatist and the performance of a play 
in a theater before an audience. 

On the drama: 

D'Aubignac's dramatic writings are not 
confined to the Pratique du thedtre, 
though this is his most important con- 
tribution to the subject. He carried 
on a long and rather absurd discussion 
with Menage on the duration of the 
action in the Heautontimorurnenos of 
Terence. The first published work of 
d'Aubignac on the subject was the 
Discours sur la troisidme comtdie de 
Terence, intitule" e: " Htautontimorn- 
menos," published at Paris anony- 
mously in 1640. The next was the 
Terence justifhi, published in 1656. 



Both were re-printed under the title 
of Tirence justifie in the Amsterdam 
2-voluiue edition of the Pratique, in 
1715. In lo'03 came the Deux Disser- 
tations en forme de remarques sur deux 
tragedies de M. Corneille (Paris, 16"63), 
and, later in the same year, the Troi- 
sieme et Quatrieme Dissertations on 
further plays of Corneille. These are 
vitriolic attacks on Corneille. The Dis- 
sertation tur la condamnation des 
Theatres was published in 1666. He is 
likewise the author of two plays, 
Cyminde (1642), and Zinobie (1647). 

Editions : 

La Pratique du thMtre was first pub- 
lished at Paris in 1657, and re-printed 
there in 1669. The same work, to- 
gether with the Discours on Terence, 
and one of Menage, was re-printed in 

2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1715). It was 
translated, anonymously, as The Whole 
Art of the Stage, now made English 
(London, 1634). Several passages of 
the original French are quoted in 
Arnaud's ufe of d'Aubignac. 

On the Abbe d'Aubignac and his 
works : 

Charles Arnaud, Les Theories dra- 
matiques au XVII' siecle. Etude sur 
la vie et les ceuvres de YAbbe" d'Aubig- 
nac (Paris, 1887). 

Charles Livet, Pre" deux et ridicules (2nd 
ed., Paris, 1870). 

Adrien Baillet, Jugement des savants 
(new ed., Paris, 1722-30). 

Saint-Marc Girardin, J.-J. Kosseau (in 
vol. 2, Paris, 1870). 

George Saintshurv, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 


[La Pratique du theatre] 



. . . Therefore, here are five objections 
hich have been ordinarily made to me 
igainst the rules of the Ancients: 

First, that we are not to make laws to 
ourselves from custom and example, but 
from reason; which ought to prevail over 
any authority. 

Secondly, "that the Ancients themselves 
have often violated their own rules. 

Thirdly, that divers poems of the An- 
cients had been translated and acted 
upon our stage with very ill success. 

Fourthly, that divers of our modern 
plays, though quite contrary to these 
rules, have been acted with great ap- 

And last of all, that if these rigorous 
maxims should be followed, we should 
very often lose the greatest beauty of all 
true stories, their incidents having most 
commonly happened at different times 
and in different places. 

As to the first objection, I answer that 

1 Re-printed from the anonymous translation, 
Ike Whole Art of the Stage (London, 1684). 

the rules of the stage are not founded 
upon authority, but upon reason; they 
are not so much settled by example as 
by the natural judgment of mankind, and 
if we call them the rules and the art of 
the Ancients 'tis only because they have 
practiced them with great regularity and 
much to their glory; having first "made 
many observations upon the nature of 
moral actions and upon the probability 
of human accidents in this life and 
thereby drawing the pictures after the 
truth of the original and observing all 
due circumstances, they reduce to an art 
this kind of poem whose progress was 
very slow, though it were much in use 
among them and much admired all the 
world over. But, however, I am very 
sparing of citing their poems and when 
I do it it is only to show with what 
agreeable artifice they kept to these rules, 
and not to buoy up my opmion by their 

As for the second objection, it seems 
not considerable; for reason, being alike 
all the world over, does equally require 
everybody's submission to it. and if our 
modern authors cannot without offense 



be dispensed from the rules of the stage, 
no more could the Ancients; and where 
they have failed I do not pretend to ex- 
cuse them. My observations upon Plau- 
tus show very well that I do propose the 
Ancients for models only in such things 
as they appear to have followed rea- 
son; and their example will always be an 
ill pretext for faults, for there is no 
excuse against reason. In things which 
are founded only in custom, as in gram- 
mar, or in the art of making a verse 
with long or short syllables, the learned 
may often use a license against the re- 
ceived practice and be imitated in it by 
others, because custom may often have 
countenanced a thing not well of itself. 
But in all that depends upon common- 
sense and reason, such as are the rules 
of the stage, there to take a license is 
a crime; because it offends not custom 
tut natural light, which ought never to 
suffer an eclipse. 

I must not omit, for the glory of the 
Ancients, that if they have sometimes 
violated the art of dramatic poems, they 
have done it for some more powerful 
and inducing reason than all the interest 
of the play could amount to. As for ex- 
ample, Euripides in The Suppliants has 
preferred the glory of his country to that 
of his art, of which I have spoken else- 

The third objection has no force but 
in the ignorance of those that allege it. 
For if some poems of the Ancients, and 
even those which were most in esteem 
with them, have not succeeded upon our 
stage, the subject and not the want of 
prt, has been the cause of it; and some- 
times likewise the changes made by the 
translators, which destroyed all the 
graces of the original; they have added 
improbable scenes between princes and 
have showed out of time that which the 
Ancients had carefully concealed with 
art; and very often changed a fine rela- 
tion into an impertinent, ridiculous spec- 
tacle. But that which is more worthy 
our consideration is that there were cer- 
tain stories, fitted for the stage of Athens 
with great ornaments, which would be 
an abomination upon ours. For example, 
the story of Thyestes, so that we may 
say that either the moderns have cor- 
rupted the Ancients, by changing their 

whole economy, or the imperfection of 
the matter stifled the excellency of the 

To destroy the fourth objection, we 
need only to remember that those plays 
of ours which took with the people and 
with the Court, were not liked in all their 
parts, but only in those things which 
were reasonable and in which they were 
conformable to the rules. When there 
were any passionate scenes they were 
praised; and when there was any great 
appearance or noble spectacle, it was 
esteemed; and if some notable event was 
well managed, there was great satisfac- 
tion shown; but if in the rest of the play 
or even in these beauties of it, any irregu- 
larities were discovered or any fault 
against probability and decency, either in 
the persons, time, or place, or as to the 
state of the things represented, they were 
condemned as faults. And all the favor 
that was shown the poet was that out of 
the desire of preserving what was fine, 
the spectators were somewhat more in- 
dulgent to what was amiss. 

There, that success so much bragged 
on is so far from contradicting the rules 
of the stage that, quite contrary, it es- 
tablished their authority. For these 
rules being nothing but an art, to cause 
the finest incidents to please with de- 
cency and probability, it sufficiently ap- 
pears how necessary they are since by 
common consent all that comes up to 
them is approved of and all that varies 
from them is in some measure condemned. 
Examples would extremely illustrate this 
truth if I were not afraid to anger some 
of our poets by instructing the others at 
their cost. 

The fifth objection is absolutely ri- 
diculous. For the rules of the stage do 
not at all reject the most notable inci- 
dents of any story, but they furnish us 
with inventions, how so to adjust the 
circumstances of the action, time, and 
place as not to go against all probable 
appearance, and yet not to represent 
them always as they are in story, but 
such as they ought to be, to have noth- 
ing but. what's agreeable in them. 'Tis 
that, then, that we are to seek, and of 
which in the following Discourse I shall 
communicate my thoughts. 




(Book 2, Chapter 1) 

Supposing here what the poet ought to 
of that part of a drama which the 
\ncients called the Fable, we, the Story 
ir Romance, and I in this place the Sub- 
ect — I will only say that for subjects 
aerely invented and of which one may 
5 well make a tragedy as a comedy, if 
they do not take, 'tis perfectly the poet's 
'ault, and a fault without excuse or pre- 
ext, which he can never clear himself of; 
or, being master as well of the matter 
of the form, the miscarriage of the 
ilay can be attributed to nothing but to 
lis want of conduct in the thing and to 
he errors of his own imagination. But, 
is for subjects drawn from story or 
from the fables of the Ancients, he is 
nore excusable if he misses of success 
n the representation of them, for he 
nay be many ways constrained; as if a 
rreat man command him to preserve cer- 
tain circumstances, not so fit for the 
;tage, or that he does it himself out of 
iome consideration more important to 
lim than the glory of being a good poet 
would be. But if he be free of his choice, 
•ne may be sure that he shall be blamed 
if his play does not take, it being certain 
that art out of an ill story may make an 
?xcellent drama; as for example, if there 
De no plot, the poet must make one; if it 
be too intricate, he must make it looser 
and easier, if too open and weak, he must 
strengthen it by invention, and so for the 
rest. On the other side, there is no story 
50 rich in itself but an ill poet may so 
spoil the beauty of it that it will be 
hardly known to be the same story. 

Besides, one is not to think that all 
fine stories are fit to appear with suc- 
cess upon the stage, for very often the 
Deautifullest part of them depends upon 
some circumstance which the theater can- 
not suffer; and it was for this that I ad- 
vised one who had a mind to undertake 
the loves of Antiochus and Stratonica 
to let it alone; for the most considerable 
incident in it being the cunning of the 
physician in discovering the prince's pas- 
sion by causing all the ladies in the court 
to pass one by one before the prince's 
oed that so by the emotion of his pulse 
ne might judge which of them it was 
that caused his disease. I thought it 

would be very odd to make a play where 
the hero of it should always be abed, and 
that it would be hard to change the cir- 
cumstance so as to preserve the beauty 
of it, and that besides, the time and place 
of the scene would be difficult to bring 
together; for if Antiochus be supposed 
sick abed in the morning, 'twould be im- 
probable to lay much action upon him 
all the rest of that day; and to place the 
scene in a sick man's chamber or at bis 
door would be as unlikely. 

'Twas for the same reason that the 
Theodore of Corneille had not all the ap- 
probation it deserved; 'tis in itself a 
most ingenious play, the plot being well 
carried and full of variety, where all the 
hints of the true story are made use of 
to advantage, the changes and turns very 
judicious and the passions and verse 
worthy the name of so great a man. But 
because the whole business turns upon 
the prostitution of Theodora to the pub- 
lic stews, it would never please; not but 
that the poet, in that too, has taken care 
to expose things with great modesty and 
nicety, but still one is forced to have the 
idea of that ugly adventure so often in 
one's imagination, particularly in the nar- 
rations of the fourth act, that the spec- 
tators cannot but have some disgust at it. 

There are a hundred stories like these, 
and harder yet to manage for the stage; 
and likewise, on the contrary, there are 
lucky ones which seem to have happened 
on purpose, as that of Sophonisba, who 
is a widow, and married again, loses her 
kingdom and recovers it, all in one day. 

The way, therefore, of choosing a sub- 
ject is to consider whether it be founded 
upon one of these three things; either 
upon noble passions, as Maria nine and 
the Cid; or upon an intricate and pleas- 
ing plot, as Cleomedon or The Disguis'd 
Prince; or upon some extraordinary spec- 
tacle and show, as Cyminda or The Two 
Victims; and if the story will bear more 
circumstances of this nature or that the 
poet's imagination can fitly supply the 
play with them, it will be still the better, 
provided he observe a just moderation, 
for though a poem ought not to be with- 
out a plot nor without passions or noble 
spectacles, yet to load a subject with any 
of them, is a thing to be avoided. Vio- 
lent passions too often repeated do, as it 
were, numb the soul and its sympathy: 



the multitude of incidents and intrigues 
distract the mind and confound the mem- 
ory, and much show takes up more time 
than can be allowed it, and is hard to 
bring on well. 'Tis for this reason that 
some of our poets who had contrived in 
every act a memorable incident and a 
moving passion did not find that the suc- 
cess answered their expectation. 

I am asked what is the measure of em- 
ploying those things? I shall answer, 'tis 
every one's natural judgment; and it may 
happen that a drama may be so luckily 
contrived that the preparation of the in- 
cidents and the variety of the passions 
shall correct the defect of the abundance 
of them, and that the art of the ma- 
chines shall be so well understood that 
they may easily be made use of in every 
act, as I formerly propounded to Cardi- 
nal Richelieu, but hitherto they are little 
in use in our ordinary theaters. 

'Tis besides most commonly asked here 
how far the poet may venture in the al- 
terations of a true story, in order to the 
fitting of it for the stage. Upon which 
we find different opinions among both 
the ancient and modern critics; but my 
opinion is that he may do it not only in 
the circumstances but in the principal 
action itself, provided he make a very 
good play of it; for as the dramatic poet 
does not much mind the time, because he 
is no chronologist, no more does he nor 
the epic poet much mind the true story, 
because they are no historians. They 
take out of the story so much as serves 
their turn and change the rest, not ex- 
pecting that anybody should be so ridicu- 
lous as to come to the theater to be in- 
structed in the truth of history. 

The stage, therefore, does not present 
things as they have been, but as they 
ought to be, for the poet must in the 
subject he takes reform everything that 
is not accommodated to the rules of his 
art; as a painter does when he works 
upon an imperfect model. 

'Twas for this reason that the death 
of Camilla by the hands of her brother 
Horatius was never liked of upon the 
stage, though it be a true adventure; and 
I for my part gave my opinion that to 
save in some measure the truth of the 
story and yet not to offend against the 
decency of the stage, it would have been 
better that that unfortunate maid, seeing 

her brother come towards her with his 
sword drawn, had run upon it of herself, 
for by that means she would still have 
died by the hand of Horatius, and yet he 
might have deserved some compassion, as 
unfortunate but innocent, and so the 
story and the stage would have agreed. 

In a word, the historian ought to recite 
matter of fact, and if he judges of it he 
does more than he ought to do; the epic 
poet is to magnify all events by great 
fictions where truth is, as it were, sunk 
and lost; and the dramatic poet ought to 
show all things in a state of decency, 
probability, and pleasingness. 'Tis true 
that if story is capable of all the orna- 
ments of dramatic poetry, the poet ought 
to preserve all the true events ; but if not, 
he is well grounded to make any part of 
it yield to the rules of his art and to the 
design he has to please. 

Many against this do allege the author- 
ity of Horace, who says that "he ought 
in story to follow the common received 
opinion, or at least to invent things that 
may be as conformable to it as possible." 
But I answer that Horace in that place 
does not treat of the subject of the play, 
but of the customs and morals that ought 
to be given the actors [characters], who 
ought not to be represented different 
from what they were believed ; as it would 
be to make Caesar a coward, or Messalina 
chaste. And this Vossius has well ob- 
served in his Poetic Art, and I wonder 
that people should be abused by citations 
applied quite contrary to the sense of the 
author; and yet I am not of opinion that 
a known story yet fresh in the minds of 
the people can suffer to be considerably 
changed without great caution; but in 
such a case I should advise the poet 
rather to abandon such a subject than to 
make an ill play of it out of a humor of 
following truth; or at least to manage it 
so as not to check directly the received 
opinion among the vulgar. If we ex- 
amine well the sense of Aristotle, I be- 
lieve he will be found to be of this opin- 
ion; and as for the Ancient poets, they 
have always taken that liberty, the same 
story having hardly ever been treated the 
same way by different poets. As for ex- 
ample, the adventures of Polydorus are 
very different in Euripides and Vergil. 
Sophocles kills Hemon and Antigone, but 
Euripides, who has made the same story 



n two plays, marries them together in 
3ne, contrary to what he himself had 
done before in the other called The Phoe- 
nician Ladies. The same Sophocles in 
(Edipus makes Jocasta strangle herself, 
md Euripides makes her live till the 
'omhat of her sons Eteocles and 
Polynices, and then kill herself upon 
Jieir dead bodies". Orestes and Electro 
ire very different in many circumstances, 
though "both works of the same poet- In 
1 word, the four [three] tragic poets of 
lie Greeks whose works we have, are all 
different in the disposition of the same 
.tories, and I believe that they were the 
cause of that grand disorder and con- 
fusion there is in story and chronology 
in those old times, because that they hav- 
ing changed both the times and events 
for their own ends, have influenced some 
listorians who thought to pick out of 
them the truth of story, and so made 
all things uncertain. Anybody that will 
Tead the Electra of Euripides, that of 
Sophocles, and the Choephorce of .Eschy- 
lus, will easily see that they made no diffi- 
culty of contradicting one another and 

As for the different kinds of subjects, 
letting alone those ordinary divisions of 
Aristotle and his commentators, I here 
propose three sorts of subjects. 

The first consists of incidents, intrigues, 
and new events, when almost from act to 
act there is some sudden change upon the 
stage which alters all the face of affairs, 
when almost all the actors have different 
designs; and the means they take to make 
them succeed come to cross one another 
and produce new and unforeseen acci- 
dents, all which gives a marvelous satis- 
faction to the spectators, it being a con- 
tinual diversion, accompanied with an 
agreeable expectation of what the event 
will be. 

The second sort of subjects are of 
those raised out of passions; when out of 
a small fund the poet does ingeniously 
draw great sentiments and noble passions 
to entertain the auditory; and when out 
of incidents that seem natural to his sub- 
ject, he takes occasion to transport his 
actors into extraordinary and violent sen- 
timents, by which the spectators are rav- 
ished and their soul continually moved 
with some new impression. 
The last sort of subjects are the mixed 

or compound of incidents and passions, 
when by unexpected events, but noble 
ones, the actors break out into different 
passions; and that infinitely delights the 
auditory, to see at the same time sur- 
prising accidents and noble and moving 
sentiments, to which they cannot but yield 
with pleasure. 

Now, 'tis certain that in all these three 
sorts of subjects the poet may succeed, 
provided the disposition of his play be 
ingenious; but yet I have observed B aie 
difference, according to which they take 
more or less. 

Subjects full of plot and intrigue are 
extreme agreeable at first, but being once 
known, they do not the second time please 
us so well, because they want the graces 
of novelty, which made them charm us at 
first, all our delight consisting in being 
surprised, which we cannot be twice. 

The subjects full of passions last 
longer and affect us more, because the 
soul which received the impression of 
them does not keep them so long nor so 
strongly as our memory does the events 
of things; nay, it often happens that they 
please us more at second seeing, because 
that the first time we are employed about 
the event and disposition of the play, and 
by consequent do less enter into the 
sentiments of the actors; but having once 
no need of applying our thoughts to the 
story, we busy them about the things that 
are said, and so receive more impressions 
of grief or fear. 

But it is out of doubt that the mixed 
or compound are the most excellent sort, 
for in them the incidents grow more 
pleasing by the passions which do as it 
were uphold them, and the passions seem 
to be renewed and spring afresh, by the 
variety of the unthought-of incidents; so 
that they are both lasting and require a 
great time to make them lose their graces. 

We are not to forget here (and I think 
it one of the best observations that I have 
made upon this subject) that if the sub- 
ject is not conformable to the customs 
and manners as well as opinions of the 
spectators, it will never take, what pains 
soever the poet himself take, and what- 
soever ornaments he employs to set his 
play off. For all dramatic poems must 
be different according to the people be- 
fore whom they are represented; and 
from thence often proceeds that the sue- 



cess is different though the play be still 
the same. Thus the Athenians delighted 
to see upon their theater the cruelties of 
kings and the misfortunes befalling them, 
the calamities of illustrious and noble 
families, and the rebellion of the whole 
nation for an ill action of the prince, be- 
cause the state in which they lived being 
popular, they loved to be persuaded that 
monarchy was always tyrannical, hoping 
thereby to discourage the noble men of 
their own commonwealth from the at- 
tempt of seizing the sovereignty, out of 
fear of being exposed to the fury of a 
commonalty who would think it just to 
murder them. Whereas, quite contrary 
among us, the respect and love which we 
have for our princes cannot endure that 
we should entertain the public with such 
spectacles of horror. We are not willing 
to believe that kings are wicked, nor that 
their subjects, though with some appear- 
ance of ill-usage, ought to rebel against 
their power, or touch their persons, no, 
not in effigy. And I do not believe that 
upon our stage a poet could cause a 
tyrant to be murdered, with any ap- 
plause, except he had very cautiously laid 
the thing. As for example, that the ty- 
rant were an usurper and the right heir 
should appear and be owned by the peo- 
ple, who should take that occasion to re- 
venge the injuries they had suffered from 
the tyrant. But usurpation alone against 
the will of the people, would not justify 
without horror the death of the sovereign 
by the hands of his rebellious subjects. 
We have seen the trial of it in a play 
called Timoleon, whom no consideration 
of state or common good, no love nor 
generosity towards his country, could 
hinder from being considered as the mur- 
derer of his brother and his prince; and 
for my part, I esteem that author who 
avoided to have Tarquin killed upon the 
stage after the violence he had offered to 
Lucretia. The cruelty of Alboin in- 
spired horror into the whole French 
Court, though otherwise it were a tragedy 
full of noble incidents and lofty lan- 

We have had upon our stage the Esther 
of Mr. Du Ryer, adorned with great 
events, fortified with strong passions, and 
composed in the whole with great art; 
but the success was much unluckier at 
Paris than at Rouen; and when the play- 1 

ers at their return to Paris told us the 
good fortune they had had at Rouen, 
everybody wondered at it without being 
able to guess the cause; but for my part 
I think that Rouen, being a town of great 
trade, is full of a great number of Jews, 
some known and some concealed, and 
that by that reason they making up a 
good part of the audience, took more 
delight in a piece which seemed entirely 
Jewish, by the conformity it had to their 
manners and customs. 

We may say the same thing of come- 
dies, for the Greeks and Romans, with 
whom the debauches of young people 
with courtesans was but a laughing mat- 
ter, took pleasure to see their intrigues 
represented, and to hear the discourses 
of those public women, with the tricks of 
those ministers of their pleasures coun- 
tenanced by the laws. They were also 
delighted to see old covetous' men over- 
reached and cheated of their money by 
the circumvention of their slaves in favor 
of their young masters. They were sen- 
sible to all these things because they were 
subject to them one time or another. 
But amongst us all this would be ill re- 
ceived, for as Christian modesty does not 
permit persons of quality to approve of 
those examples of vice, so neither do the 
rules by which we govern our families all 
of those flights of our servants, nor do 
we need to defend ourselves against them. 
'Tis for the same reason that we see in 
the French Court tragedies take a great 
deal better than comedies, and that on 
the contrary, the people are more af- 
fected with the latter and particularly 
with the farces and buffooneries of the 
stage; for in this Kingdom the persons 
of good quality and education have gen- 
erous thoughts and designs, to which they 
are carried either by the motives of vir- 
tue or ambition, so that their life has a 
great conformity with the characters of 
tragedy, but the people, meanly born and 
dirtily bred, have low sentiments and are 
thereby disposed to approve of the mean- 
ness and filthiness represented in farces, 
as being the image of those things which 
they both use to say and do; and this 
ought to be taken notice of, not only in 
the principal part of the poem, but in all 
its parts and particularly in passions, as 
we shall say more amply in a chapter 
about them; for, if there" be any act or 



that has not that conformity of 
nanners to the spectators, you will sud- 
ienly see the applause cease and in its 
ilace a discontent succeed, though they 
hemselves do not know the cause of it. 
? or the stage and eloquence are alike in 
his, that when even it triumphs and over- 
■omes, it is in abomination with the audi- 
:nce who thereupon are apt to conclude 
rith themselves, That 'tis better to em- 
brace virtue through the hazard of perfe- 
ction, than to follow vice even with 
iopes of impunity. 

Tis thus principally that the stage 
night to be instructive to the public by 
he knowledge of things represented ; and 
! have always observed that it is not 
igreeable to the audience that a man who 
werves from the way of virtue should 
>e set right, and repent, by the strength 
>f precepts and sentences: we rather de- 
ire it should be by some adventure that 
jresses him, and forces him to take up 
■easonable and virtuous sentiments. We 
hould hardly endure that Herod should 
■ecall his sentence against Mariamne 
lpon a remonstrance of one of the seven 
wise men of Greece: but we are pleased 
o see that after the death of the Queen, 
lis love becomes his tormentor; and, hav- 
ng opened his eyes, drives him into so 
Sincere a repentance, that he is ready to 
lacrifice his life to the regret he has for 
sis crime. 

As for the other way of teaching mo- 
lality, it depends much on the ingenious- 
tiess of the poet, when he strengthens his 
Jieatrical action with divers pithy and 
x»ld truths, which being imperceptibly 
worked into his play, are as it were the 
lerves and strength of it. For, in a 
>vord, that which I condemn in common 
didactics, is their style and manner of 
expression, not the things themselves, 
iince those great truths which are as it 
•vere the foundation of the conduct of 
numan actions, I am so far from ban- 
•shing them off the stage, that quite con- 
:rary, I think them very necessary and 
ornamental, which to attain, I give these 
following observations. 

First, these general maxims must be 
so fastened to the subject, and linked by 
many circumstances with the persons act- 
ing, that the actor may seem to think 
more of that concern of his he is about, 
than of saying fine things; that is, to 

speak in terms of rhetoric, he must re- 
duce the thesis to the hypothesis, and of 
universal propositions make particular 
applications; for by this means the poet 
avoids the suspicion of aiming to in- 
struct pedantically, since his actors do 
not leave their business which they are 
about. For example, I would not have 
an actor spend many words to prove that 
Virtue is always persecuted; but he may 
say to the party concerned: 

Do you think to have better measure 
than virtue has always had, and can you 
expect to be privileged from persecution 
more than Socrates or Cato? 

And so continue a little speaking still 
to the party present, and upon the sub- 
ject in hand, by which means these dis- 
courses seem a little to keep off from 
being too general precepts, and so dis- 
gust the less. 

Secondly, in all these occasions the poet 
must use figurative speech, either by 
interrogation, irony, or others that his 
fancy shall suggest; for these figures, by 
not circumstaneing minutely the general 
propositions, make them more florid, and 
so by ornaments free them from the di- 
dactic character. As, for example, if 
there be a design of advising a young 
woman to obey her parents: instead of 
preaching downright obedience to her, I 
think an irony would do better. As thus: 

That's a fine way indeed, for a virtu- 
ous young lady to attain the reputation 
of a good daughter, to be carried away 
by her own passions, and neglect not 
only the censure of the best sort of peo- 
ple, but break through the fences of duty 
and honor! 

My third observation is, that when any 
of these great maxims are to be proposed 
bluntly and in plain words, it be done in 
as few words as may be; by that means 
they do not cool the stage, but add some- 
thing to the variety of it; but there must 
be care taken that this do not happen 
in the midst of a violent passion; for 
besides that in those cases men do not 
naturally speak sentences, the actor can- 
not then appear with that moderation 
which those reflections require. Seneca 
is very guilty of this fault in all his trage- 
dies, where most commonly in the heat 
of passion all his fine commonplaces are 
bestowed upon the audience. 

We have nevertheless some examples 



of didactic propositions made in direct 
terms and at length not without some 
success in Corneille, which to attain as 
well as he, requires the same ingenuity 
and art. The expressions must be strong, 
and seem to have been said only for that 
particular subject to which they are ap- 
plied, and that requires a particular ge- 
nius and much study to accomplish. 

I have observed besides, that common 
truths, though in a didactic style, yet do 
very well upon the stage in the mouth 
of a rogue or a cheat, when his character 
is known; for the spectator is delighted 
to see him cunningly use all the maxims 
and discourses of a good man to intents 
and purposes quite contrary, so that by 
that means 'tis all figurative, and moves 
the attention of the audience. 

One may likewise successfully enough 
burlesque all these common truths, but 
that can be performed nowhere but in 
comedy, where by that means they for- 
sake their natural state, and are dis- 
guised under a new appearance, which 
causes both variety and ornament. But 
tragedy in its own nature is too grave to 
admit of anything so low and buffoon as 
this would be; neither do I remember to 
have met with anything of that kind in 
any serious tragedy; I say serious trag- 
edy, because that in satirical tragedy 
there was admitted a mixture of heroic 
actions and low buffooneries; and there- 
fore this disguising of serious precepts 
might have room among the rest in them. 


Pierre Corneille was born at Kouen in 
1606. He came of a middle-class family 
of lawyers and petty officials. He at- 
tended the Jesuit College at Kouen, where 
he received a sound training in the clas- 
sics; he later studied law and received a 
degree in 1624, and practiced at least 
part of the time, both as lawyer and in an 
official capacity in the department of 
waters and forests and the marine. Dur- 
ing his early years he was a student of 
literature, and at the age of twenty- 
three he wrote his first play, Melite. 
This was successfully produced by Mon- 
dory in Paris. It was followed in quick 
succession by five comedies, a tragi- 
comedy, and a tragedy, all of which ap- 
peared and were produced between 1629 
and 1636. Although he went to Paris 
occasionally, Corneille resided in Rouen 
until 1662. In 1636, or early in 1637, he 
produced Le Cid, which marked not only 
the beginning of the poet's success, but 
the veritable beginning of modern French 
tragedy. Aside from its incalculable in- 
fluence on the drama of the time and of 
succeeding times, it precipitated the fa- 
mous Cid Controversy. The success of 
the play and the honors heaped upon Cor- 
neille, brought the poet into disfavor 
with Richelieu, who sought to discredit 

the author of the " irregular " Cid. But 
the public would be influenced by no 
Academic attacks, and the poet's future 
was assured. And yet, Corneille was 
troubled and discouraged by the many at- 
tacks on his work, and we find him years 
afterward attempting to justify himself 
and reconcile his theory with his prac- 
tice. In his next play, Horace (1640), 
he replied to his critics by writing a 
" regular " play, which is little below Le 
Cid in power. Then followed Cinna 
(1640), Polyeucte (1642 or 1643), and 
La Mort de Pompde (1643-44). After 
this play, there is a noticeable diminu- 
tion in the poet's power, followed by 
discouragement and what practically 
amounted to poverty, together with a 
certain measure of neglect. His last 
play, Sur6na, was produced in 1674. 
His later years were once more troubled 
with a quarrel, this time over his Sojihi- 
nisbe (1663), in which the Abbe d'Aubig- 
nac and Donneau de Vise were his adver- 
saries. In 1647 Corneille, after two un- 
successful attempts to secure election, 
was admitted to the Academy. He died 
at Paris in 1684. 

The theoretical works of Moliere and 
Racine are only relatively important; 
those of Corneille would entitle him to 



me had he written no plays. Cor- 
ille's various prefaces, his Examens, 
d three Discours, are indicative of the 
end of classicism in the literature of 
e seventeenth century. Together with 
similar writings of Chapelain, Boi- 
ui, and d'Aubignac, they established the 
leudo- Aristotelian and" Horatian pre- 
pts in France. That these commenta- 
rs on and idolators of Aristotle under- 
ood the Poetics imperfectly, makes lit- 
difference. Jules Lemaitre, in his 
tmeille et la Pottique cCAristote says, 
Corneille's critical work taken as a 
wle is nothing but an ingenious, and by 
rns triumphant and despairing com- 
itary on Aristotle's Poetics; or, rather 
lengthy duel with Aristotle." Lemaitre 
ry wisely goes on to say that Corneille 
Mists in places of having dared do what 
one before him had done, and else- 
here prides himself on having observed 
e Rules more rigorously than any one 
But out of the great mass of 
orneille's controversial writing there 
nerges the basic ideal of the century: 
please, but please according to the 

Corneille was influenced by the Italian 
enaissance critics — Kobortello, Min- 
lrno, Castelvetro, and Scaliger — and by 
Dutch scholar, Daniel Heinsius, whose 
e Tragoediae Constitution*, an Aris- 
otelian treatise, appeared in 1611 at 
.eyden. Heinsius, together with his fel- 
aw-countryman Vossius [or VossJ, who 
mblished a De Arte Poetica in 1609, ex- 
rcised considerable influence throughout 

Of the various prefaces, notices, dedi- 
cations, exclusive of the Examens, the fol- 
lowing may be consulted on the subject 
if the drama: 

Priface to Clitandre (1632). 

-in Lecteur in La Veuve (1634). 

A Monsieur XXX in La Suivante (1637). 

A Monsieur P. T. X. G. in Medee (1635). 

Mariana (Avertissement) in Le Cid 

(1648 ed.). 
Epitre in Le Menteur (1644). 
Au Lecteur in La Mort de Pompee 

Epitre in La Suite du Menteur (1645). 
Appian Alerandrin (Avertissement) in 

Rodogune (1647). 

Au Lecteur 
A Monsieur 
d'A ragon 
Au Lecteur 
Au Lecteur 
Au Lecteur 
Au Lecteur 
Au Lecteur 
Au Lecteur 
Au Lecteur 


in Heraclius (1647). 

de Zvylichem in Don Sanche 


in Xicomede (1651). 

in (Edipe (1659). 

in Sertorius (1662). 

in Sophonisbe (1663). 

in Othon (1665). 

in Agesilas (1666). 

in Attila (1668). 

Corneille's earlier works were published 
separately and in small collections 
prior to 1660 (when the Theatre de Cor- 
neille was published at Paris, in three 
volumes). Each of these contained one 
of the Discours; the Examens also ap- 
peared in this edition for the first time. 
Voltaire's edition, with his full com- 
mentaries, appeared at Geneva, as the 
ThSdtre de Pierre Corneille, in 12 vols. 
The standard modern edition of the 
complete works (with biography, an 
album, notes, etc.) is in the Grands 
Ecrivains series: QZuvres de P. Cor- 
neille, edited by Ch. Marty -La veaux, 
\2 vols. (Paris, 1862-68). 

The edition of 1660 contains the three 
Discours — De I'Utilile et des parties 
du poeme dramatique; De la Tragedie, 
et des moyens de la trailer selon le 
vraisemblable et le necessaire; and Des 
Trois Unitis, cPAction, de Jour, et de 
Lieu, Each is printed in a volume, 
prefatory to the plays. All the early- 
plays are each accompanied with an 
Examen; the plays from Sertorius to 
SurSna are without them. Among the 
QZuvres dxcerses in the Marty-Laveaux 
edition are a few letters and verses 
touching upon the drama. The most 
interesting of these is the already cited 
Lettre apologHique to Scudery; there 
is another, To Zuylichem (no. 14, dated 
1650) that is also curious. The edi- 
tions of 1644 (first part), 1648 (sec- 
ond part), and 1663, of Corneille's 
plays, each contains an Au Lecteur. 
The prefaces, etc., are almost invariably 
printed in any edition of Corneille, the 
Discours occasionally. Outside the 
Marty-Laveaux edition, they are to be 
found in the CEuvres des deux Cor- 
neille (Pierre and Thomas), in two 
volumes, edited by Charles Louandre 



(Paris, 1889), and in the Calmann- 
Levy re-print. 

On Corneille and his works: 

See introductions to Voltaire, Louandre, 
and Marty-Laveaux eds. above referred 

See references to the Cid Quarrel under 

E. Picot, Bibliographic comUienne 
(Paris, 1876). 

P. Le Verdier et Ed. Pelay, Additions a 

la Bibliographic corneliewne (Paris, 

Abbe Granet, Recueils de dissertations 

sur plusieurs tragedies de Corneille et 

de Racine, 2 vols. (Paris, 1740). 
J.-L. G. de Balzac, Dissertations sur la 

gloire, and Sur le Bomain (in CEuvres, 

2 vols., Paris, 1665). 
Fontenelle, Vie de Corneille (in CEuvres, 

vol. 3, 1790 ed.). 
— — , Parallele de Corneille et de Racine 

(in (Euvres, vol. 3, 1790 ed.). 

F. Guizot, Corneille et son Temps (2nd 
ed., Paris, 1852. Translated as Cor- 
neille and his Times, New York, 1871). 

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Portraits littiraires, 

vol. 1 (Paris, 1862). 
, Nouveaux Lutidis, vol. 7 (Paris, 

, Port-Royal (3rd ed., 7 vols., 1869- 

St. Rene Taillandier, Corneille et ses 

contemporains (Paris, 1864). 
M. J. Taschereau, Histoire de la vie et 

des ouvrages de P. Corneille (Paris, 

Charles Arnaud, Les Theories dra- 

matiques au XVII" siecle. Etude sur 

la vie et les ceuvres de I'Abbe" d'Aubig- 

nac (Paris, 1887). 
F. Bouquet, Points obscurs et nouveaux 

de la vie de Corneille (Paris, 1888). 
Ferdinand Brunetiere, Corneille (in 

Etudes critiques sur I'histoire de la 

litterature franqaise, vol. 6, 3rd ed., 

Paris, 1911). 
Emile Deschanel, Le Romantisme des 

classiques I ir * strie, Corneille, Rotrou, 

Moliere, les don Juan de toutes les lit- 

teratures (Paris, 1882). 
Rene Dournic, Corneille (in Etudes sur la 

litterature franqaise, vol. 5, Paris, 

Jules Lemaitre, Corneille et la Poelique 

d'Aristote (Paris, 1888). 
Eugene Rarabert, Corneille, Racine, et 

Moliere, deux cours sur la poisie draA 

malique franqaise au XV IP siecle* 

(Paris, 1862). 
Henry M. Trollope, Corneille and Racine' 

(Philadelphia, 1881). 
Gustave Lanson, Corneille (4th ed., 

Paris, 1913). 
, Sur les Discours de Corneille (in 

the Revue des Cours et Conferences! 

Paris, 1900-01). 
Francisque Sarcey, Quarante ans dm 

theatre, vol. 2 (Paris, 1900). 
Emile Faguet, Propos de thedtre, vols. I 

& 2 (Paris, 1903-08). 

, En Lisant Corneille (Paris, 1913)J 

, Drame ancien, drarne moderne 

(Paris, 1898). 

, XV IP Siecle (Paris, 1890). 

Hippolyte Parigot, Le Genie et le metier 

de Corneille (in Genie et metier, Paris, 

Prosser Hall Frye, Corneille: the Neo' 

classic Tragedy and the Greek (in Lit- 
erary Reviews and Criticisms, New 

York, 1908). 
Guillaume Huszar, Corneille et le theatre 

espagnol (Paris, 1903). 
J. B. Segall, Corneille and the Spanish 

Drama (New York, 1902). 
R. Le Brun, Corneille devant trois sii-des 

(Paris, 1906). 
Leon H. Vincent, Corneille (Boston, 

Saegert, Essai sur les t theories dra- 

matiques de Corneille, d'apres sex 3M 

cours et sesjexamens (Colberg, I860). 
J.-A. Lisle, Essai sur les dheori4* dra- 

matiques de Corneille d'apres des dis- 

cours et ses examens (Paris, 1852). 
Dr. Kewitsch, Stir les theories dim 

matiques de Corneille, d'apres ses Dis- 

cours et ses examens (Paris, 1852). 
J. Boehm, Die dramatischen Theorien P. 

Corneille' s (Berlin, 1901). 





[Premier Discours. De FUtilite" et des Parties du Poeme dramatique] 


Although, according to Aristotle, the 
Ae end of dramatic poetry is to please 
ie audience, and although the majority 
f these poems have pleased, nonetheless 
maintain that many of them have failed 
i achieve their end. " It must not be 
aimed," says this philosopher, ** that 
atic poetry gives us every sort of 
easure, but only that which is fitting," 
d continues to say that in order to find 
lat pleasure which it fitting to the audi- 
lce, the poet must follow the precepts 
f the art and give that pleasure accord- 
lg to them. It is evident that there are 
recepts because there is an art, but it 
not evident just what the precepts are. 
e agree on the name but not on the 
fling; on the words but not on their 
leaning. The poet must observe unity 
f action, time and place. No one denies 
his, but it is a matter of no small diffi- 
ulty to determine what unity of action is 
nd to realize the extent and limit of the 
.Hotted unity of time and place. The 
>oet must treat his subject according to 
' the probable " and " the necessary." 
This is what Aristotle says, and all his 
ommentators repeat the words which ap- 
>ear to them so clear and intelligible that 
lot one of them has deigned any more 
han Aristotle himself to tell us what the 
'probable" and the "necessary" are. 
And many of them have so neglected the 
atter requisite, which in all cases save 
)ne, — in connection with the discussion 
on comedy, — is always mentioned in com- 
pany with the former, that a false maxim 
has been established. " The subject of a 
tragedy must be probable"; thus apply- 
ing only half of the philosopher's precept 
to the matter of subject and the manner 
in which it is to be treated. A subject 
of tragedy must not be merely probable. 
Aristotle himself cites as an example The 
Flower of Agatho wherein the names 
of people and things were purely fic- 
titious, as in comedy. The great sub- 

_ ! Translated, with occasional omissions, espe- 
cially for this collection by Beatrice Stewart 
HacClintock. Never before translated. — Ed. 

jects which appeal to our emotions and I 
in which our inclinations are set in con- j 
flict with the laws of duty and human- l 
ity, ought always to extend beyond the \ 
limits of the probable. 

Such plays would indeed find no audi- 
ence capable of believing, unless they 
were aided by the authority of history,^ 
which is empirically persuasive, or by 
common knowledge, which supplies an 
audience of those whose attitudes are al- 
ready formed. It is not " probable " 
that Medea should kill her children; that 
Clytemnestra should murder her husband; 
or Orestes stab his mother, but historical ^ 
legend states these facts, and the repre- 
sentation of these great crimes excites no 
incredulity in the minds of the audience. { 
It is neither true nor " probable " that 
Andromeda, at the mercy of a sea-mon- 
ster, was rescued from her perilous situ- 
ation by a flying knight with wings on 
his feet; but this is a story which has 
been handed down, and which was ac- 
cepted by the ancients; and, since it has 
been transmitted even to us, no one 
would think of taking offense when be 
sees the story represented on the stage. 
In giving these instances I do not mean 
to imply that the poet may invent at 
haphazard: that which truth or common 
belief takes for granted would be re- 
jected were there no other basis for a 
play than mere versimilitude or public 
opinion. That is why our wise man says 
"Subjects come "from fortune, or 
chance," — which causes things to hap- 
pen, — "and not from art," which imag-' 
ines them. She is the mistress of hap- 
penings, and the choice she allows us to 
make among those happenings which she 
presents to us contains a mystic warning 
not to take advantage of her, nor to 
utilize for dramatic purposes any hap- 
penings which are not to her liking. And 
so " the ancient tragedies are concerned 
with the stories of very few families, be- 
cause very few families were fit sub- 
jects for tragedies." Succeeding genera- 
tions have, however, afforded us a suifi- 



cient number of other family tragedies to 
enable us to go beyond the limits of an- 
cient times and not follow in the footsteps 
of the Greeks, but this does not mean that 
we should overstep their precepts. We 
should, if possible, accommodate our- 
selves to them and make thein applicable 
to our practice. We have in our plays 
left out the chorus, and this has forced 
us to substitute more episodes than the 

; Greeks used. This is an instance of go- 
ing beyond the precepts. We should 
never go against them, even though in 
practice we do go beyond. 

We should know what these precepts 
are, but unfortunately, Aristotle, and 
Horace after him, wrote in so obscure a 
fashion that they needed interpreters; 

i but also, unfortunately, those who have 
endeavored to act in that capacity have, 
for the most part, considered the text 
from a philosophical and dramatic view 
point. Since these men were better 
versed in scholarship and metaphysics 
than in a knowledge of the theater, their 
commentaries are likely rather to render 
us more learned but not one jot more 
enlightened as to the actual meaning. 
With fifty years of practical experi- 
ence of the theater I shall make bold 
to set forth in a straightforward manner 
some of my ideas on the subject without 
attempting any definite evidence and 
with no intention of trying to persuade 
any one to reject his theories for mine. 

At the opening of this Discourse, when 
I said that " the sole end of the drama is 
to please the audience," I did not mean 
to enforce this maxim arbitrarily upon 

. those who strive to ennoble dramatic art 
by considering it as a means to supply 

" moral purpose as well as pleasure. A 
dispute on this question would be useless 

(because it is impossible to please accord- 
ing to the rules without at the same time 
supplying a moral purpose, [" utilite "J 
of some sort. It is a fact that from one 
end to the other of Aristotle's Poetics 
not once does he make use of the word; 
on the contrary, he says that the end 
of drama is the pleasure we experience 
in observing the actions of men imitated. 
He prefers that part of the drama which 
has to do with the subject rather than 
with the " manners " portrayed, because 
the former contained what was most 
pleasing, like the " agnitions " and the 

" peripeties." Also, in his definition of 
tragedy, he includes the elements of 
pleasure in the subject which is at the 
bottom of it. And, finally, he preferred 
tragedy to the epic because it included 
material decoration and music, — both 
powerful agents of pleasure — because 
it was the shortest and least diffuse of 
literary forms, and the pleasure he de- 
rived made it therefore the more per- 
fect. But let us remember that we 
learned from Horace that we cannot 
please the greatest number unless we in- 
clude in our work a moral purpose. 
Grave and serious people, old men and 
lovers of virtue, will be bored if they 
find nothing of profit for them. C'ew- 
turiae seniorum, etc. Thus, if the moral 
purpose does not enter into it unless it is 
decked out in pleasant style, it is none 
the less needful and much wiser, as I have 
already said, to endeavor to find just 
what place it should assume, than to start 
a useless dispute regarding the value of 
plays of this kind. It appears that there 
are four kinds of plays in which there 
is some sort of moral intent. 

The first sort of play is that which 
contains maxims and moral instructions,) 
scattered throughout. These should be I 
sparingly used and only on the rarest oc- 
casions inserted in general discourses, 
and then in small doses, especially when 
they are put into the mouth of an im- 
passioned character, or into the mouth 
of another with whom he is speaking, 
for, under the circumstances, he would 
not have the patience to listen or peace 
of mind to conceive and speak them. In- 
stinct counsels, for instance, where a man 
of importance who is trained and sure 
of himself, is being consulted by a king, 
and then speeches of this sort may In- 
found more frequently and be of greater 
extent, but it is always well to recline 
them from the general to the specific. I 
vastly prefer having my character say, 
" Love gives you great cause for uneasi- 
ness," than " Love gives those who are in 
its power great cause for uneasiness.' 
Be it understood, I do not wish to do 
away entirely with this latter method of 
pronouncing moral and political maxims. 

Every one of my poems would present 
a sorry appearance if I eliminated that 
which I mixed into it; but again one 
must not accentuate them too much with-' 



: applying the general to the partic- 
.r, otherwise it is an ordinary situa- 

I which never fails to tire the listener, 
:ause it slackens the action. However 

II this exhibition of morality succeeds, 
must always suspect it of being one 

the vain ornaments which Horace or- 
•s us to curtail. 

rhe second use of dramatic poetry is 
the simple description of the vices and 
tues, which never misses its effect if 
11 conceived, and if the marks of it 
: so clear that one cannot confuse the 
a nor take vice for virtue, 
[lie one, though unhappy, is loved, and 
: other is hated, though triumphant- 
e ancients were often satisfied with 
s description without troubling to have 
xi actions rewarded and bad ones 
nished. Clytemnestra and her lover 
I Agamemnon with impunity. Medea 
es the same with her own children and 
reus with those of her brother, Thyes- 
i, which are served to him to eat. 
It is true that, on carefully consider- 
r, these actions which they chose for 
1 climax of their tragedies, they who 
re punished were criminals in crimes 
eater than their own. Thyestes had 
used the wife of his brother, but the 
ngeance which he exacts has something 
>re horrible in it than the first crime, 
.son was a traitor to abandon Medea, 
whom he owed all; but for her to kill 
> children under his eyes is too strong 
punishment Clytemnestra complained 
the concubines which Agamemnon 
ought from Troy, but he had not 
tempted to take her life as she at- 
mpts to take his; and these masters of 
t have found the crime of his son, 
restes, who kills her to avenge his fa- 
er, still greater than the first, since they 
.ve him avenging Furies to torment him 
d gave none to his mother who peace- 
■ly enjoys with her .Egisthus the king- 
»m of the husband whom she assassi- 

Our theater rarely allows such sub- 
cts. The Thyestet of Seneca did not 
ive great success. Medea was more 
jjpular at the same time. To under- 
and it rightly, the perfidy of Jason and 
ie violence of the king of Corinth, makes 
a appear so unjustly oppressed that the 
itener takes her side very easily and 
)nsiders her vengeance as a just act 

which she commits herself against those 
who oppress her. It is this interest 
which one has in the virtuous which 
forces one to come to this other manner 
of ending the dramatic poem, by the 
punishment of wicked actions and the 
reward of good ones which is not an 
art precept but a custom which we have 
adopted, which one can abandon only at 
one's own risk. It has existed since the 
time of Aristotle, and it may be that it 
did not please this philosopher to excess, 
since he says, — " It has had a vogue only I 
by the imbecility of the judgment of the 
spectators, and those who practice it are 
gratifying the tastes of the populace and 
write according to the desires of their 
audience. Truly it is certain that we 
could not see an honest man in our thea- 
ter without wishing him prosperity and 
regretting his misfortune. That is why 
when he (the honest man) remains over- 
come by them, we leave with sorrow and 
carry away a kind of indignation against 
the author and the actor, but when the 
plot fills our expectations and virtue is 
rewarded, we leave with complete joy, 
and carry with us entire satisfaction, 
both of the work and those who repre- 
sent it. The success of virtue against 
misfortunes and perils excites us to em- 
brace it, and the fatal success of crime 
or injustice is capable of enlarging the 
natural of it, through the fear of like 
misfortune." It is in this that the third 
use of the theater consists, just as the 
fourth consists in the purgation of the 
passions through the means of pity and 
fear. But since this use is peculiar to 
tragedy I shall explain myself on that 
subject in the second volume, where I 
shall treat of tragedy in particular, and 
proceed now to the examination of the 
parts which Aristotle attributes to the 
dramatic poem. 

I say the dramatic poem in general, as 
in treating this material, he speaks only 
of tragedy, since all that he says of it 
is applicable to comedy also, and that the 
difference in these two kinds of poetry 
consists only in the dignity of the char- 
acters and in the actions which they imi- 
tate and not in the manner of the imita- 
tion nor in the things which serve in 
this imitation. The poem is composed 
of two kinds of parts. 

The first are called parts of quantity or 



extension, and Aristotle names four of 
them,— the prologue, the episode, the 
exodus and the chorus. The others can 
he called integral parts; they meet each 
other in each of these first to form the 
whole. This philosopher finds six of 
them, — the subject, the manners, the 
sentiments, the diction, the music and the 
stage decoration. Of these six only the 
technique of the subjects depends rightly 
on the art of poetry. The others need 
.subsidiary arts. The manners on moral, 
lthe sentiments on rhetoric, the diction 
|on grammar, and the two other parts 
have each their art of which the poet 
need not be instructed because he can 
have it supplied by others. That is why 
Aristotle does not treat of them. But 
since it is necessary that he execute 
everything concerning the first four him- 
self, the knowledge of the arts on which 
they depend is absolutely necessary un- 
less he has received from nature suffi- 
ciently strong and deep judgment to sup- 
ply that lack. The requirements of the 
subject are different for tragedy and 
comedy. I shall speak only on that which 
concerns the latter, which Aristotle de- 
fines simply an imitation of low and 
knavish persons. I cannot refrain from 
saying that this definition does not sat- 
isfy me, and since many scholars hold 
that his treatise on Poetry has not come 
to us in its entirety I want to believe 
that in that which time has stolen of it 
there was a more complete one. Dra- 
matic Poetry, according to him, is an 
imitation of actions, and he stops here 
at the condition of the person, without 
saying what must be the actions. How- 
ever, this definition is in agreement with 
the custom of his time when only people 
of very mediocre condition were made to 
speak in comedy. But it (the defini- 
tion) is not entirely just for our time, 
in which even kings may come into com- 
edy when their actions are not above it. 
When one puts on the scene a simple 
love intrigue between kings, and when 
they run no risk either of their life or 
of their State, I do not think that even 
though the characters are illustrious the 
action is sufficiently important to aspire 
to the dignity of tragedy. The dignity 
of tragedy needs some great State in- 
I terest or passion nobler and more virile 
^ than love, such as ambition or vengeance, 

which leads us to expect greater misfor- 
tune than the loss of a mistress. It is fit 
to mix love in it because it always has 
much attraction and can serve as a basis 
to those other interests and other pas- 
sions of which I speak. But it must con- 
tent itself with second rank in the poem 
and leave the first to the other. 

This maxim will at first seem new. It 
is, however, a practice of the ancients, 
with whom we see no tragedy in which 
there is only a love-interest to unravel. 
Quite the contrary: they often banished 
it completely from their poems, and 
those who wish to consider mine will 
acknowledge that, following their exam- 
ple, I have never let it take the first 
place, and that in Le Cid, which is with- 
out doubt the play most full of love 
which I have made, the duty of birth 
and the care of honor assume a more im- 
portant place than the two lovers in- 

I shall go further, even though there 
are big State interests, and a royal char- 
acter stills his passion through the care he 
must have of his glory, as in Don Sanche, 
if one does not meet the risk of death, 
loss of States, or banishments, I do not 
think that it has a right to a higher name 
than comedy, but to answer at all to 
the dignity of which it (comedy) repre- 
sents the actions, I have thought to call 
it heroic to distinguish it from ordinary 
comedies. This is without example 
amongst the ancients, but is it also with- 
out example amongst them that put kings 
on the stage without one of those great 
hazards. We must not bind ourselves 
slavishly to the imitation of them so 
that we dare not try something of our 
own when this does not go contrary to 
the rules of art, were it only to deserve 
that praise Horace gave the poets of 
his time: Nee minimum meruere decus, 
etc., and not to come under the shame- 
ful judgment: O imitatores, servum pe- 
dis I " What will serve now as an ex- 
ample," says Tacitus, " has been once 
without example, and what we do with- 
out example may serve as such one day." 

Comedy, then, differs from tragedy in 
that the latter requires an illustrious, ex- 
traordinary, serious subject, while the 
former stops at a common, playful sub- 
ject. The latter demands great dangers 
for its hero; the former contents it- 



with the worry and displeasures of 
se to whom it" gives the first rank 
ongst the actors. Both have this in 
mion, that the action must be com- 
te and finished, that is, in the event 
ch finishes it the spectator must be 
clearly informed of the feelings of 
who have had a part in it that he 
,-es with his mind quiet and doubting 
aothing. Cinna conspires against Au- 
tus. His conspiracy is discovered, 
gustus has him arrested. If the poem 
jped there the action would be incom- 
e, because the listener would leave 
he uncertainty of what this Emperor 
dd have commanded of the ungrate- 
favorite. Ptolemy fears that Caesar, 
> comes to Egypt, will favor his sis- 

with whom he is in love, and forces 

to give her her part of the king- 
i which her father left her in his 
To attract favor on his side by 
at sacrifice, he slays Pompey. This 
lot enough. We must see how Caesar 
;ives this great sacrifice. He arrives, 
omes angry and threatens Ptolemy, 

wants to force him to slay the in- 
rs of this attack and illustrious death. 
: latter, surprised at the unexpected 
come, resolves to anticipate Caesar, 

conspires against him to avoid, by 

loss, the misfortune with which he 
j himself threatened. That is still not 
ugh. We must know what will re- 
from this conspiracy. Caesar is 
ned and Ptolemy, dying in a combat 
his ministers, leaves Cleopatra in 
ceful possession of the kingdom of 
ch she demanded half. Caesar is out 
anger. The Ustener has nothing more 
isk, and leaves satisfied because the 
on is complete. For comedy, Aris- 
demands as the only precept that 

ay have as ending, the enemies be- 

ng friends. Which must be under- 
ixi in a more general sense than what 

words seem to carry and to extend 
o a reconciliation, as when one sees 

son returning into the good favor 
a father who has been angry with 

for his debauchery, which was the 

lal end to ancient comedies; or two 

rrs separated by some trick done 

sn, or by some controlling power, are 

*nited by the unraveling of that trick 

itby the consent of those who placed 

ft obstacle there, as nearly always hap- 

pens in our comedy, which very rarely 
has other endings than marriages. We 
must be careful, however, that this agree- 
ment does not come by a simple change 
of will but by an event which furnishes 
the occasion for it. Otherwise there 
would be no great art to the " denoue- 
ment " of a play, if, after having up- 
held it during two acts, on the authority 
of a father who does not approve the 
love of his son or daughter, he should 
suddenly consent to it in the fifth for 
the sole reason that it is the fifth and 
that the author would not dare to make 
six. It needs a considerable motive 
which forces him to it as say, his daugh- 
ter's lover saved his life in some meet- 
ing or when, on the point of being as- 
sassinated by his enemies or that by 
some un-hoped for incident he should be 
recognized as being of high rank and 
greater fortune than he appeared. 

Since it is necessary that the action be 
complete, one must also not add any- 
thing further, since when the effect has 
been attained, the listener desires noth- 
ing more and is bored by all the rest. 
So it is that the expressions of joy which 
two lovers show on being reunited after 
many obstacles, must be very short. I 
know not what beauty the arguments 
between Menelaus and Teucer on the 
burial of Ajax, whom Sophocles has pass 
away in the fourth act, could have had 
for the Athenians, but I do know that 
in our time the quarrel between Ajax 
and Ulysses for the weapons of Achilles 
after the latter's death wearied many 
ears, although it (the subject) came from 
a good hand. I have not been able to see 
how one can bear the fifth act of Melite 
and of La Veuve. One only sees the 
first actors reunited and they have no 
place there but to be made acquainted 
with the authors of the treachery and ' 
the violence which has separated them. 
Nevertheless, they could have been in- 
formed of them already, had I wished 
it, and they seemed to be on the stage 
only to serve as witnesses to those of 
secondary importance, which makes all 
this end slackened in which they have no 
part. I dare not attribute the success, 
of these two comedies to ignorance of 
the rules — which was very general at 
that time — inasmuch as those rules, well 
or poorly observed, must make their 

i 4 4 


good or bad effect on those who, even 
without knowing them, abandon them- 
selves to the current of natural feeling. 
But I can only acknowledge that that old 
habit which was observed at the time, 
of not seeing anything better ordered, 
was the cause of the lack of indignation 
against these defects and the newness 
of an agreeable kind of comedy which 
up to that time had not appeared on 
the scene, has caused the admiration, all 
the parts of the whole pleasing at sight 
even though it did not have all the just 

Comedy and tragedy resemble each 
other again in that their subjects "must 
have the requisite size, that is, that it 
must not be so little that it escapes from 
sight at an atom, nor so vast that it con- 
fuses the memory of the listener and be- 
wilders his imagination." In such man- 
ner does Aristotle explain the conditions 
of a poem, and he adds that " to be of the 
proper size it must have a beginning, a 
middle, and an end." These terms are so 
general that they seem to signify nothing, 
but, to understand them well, they ex- 
clude the momentary actions which have 
not these three parts. A poem must 
have, then, to be of the right size, a begin- 
ning, a middle and an end. Cinna con- 
spires against Augustus and tells of his 
conspiracy to Emilia. This is the begin- 
ning. Maximus warns Augustus of it. 
This is the middle. Augustus forgives 
him. This is the end. Therefore, in the 
comedies of this first volume I have 
nearly always had two lovers on good 
terms, then I had them quarrel as a result 
of some treachery. I reunited them by 
the unraveling of this treachery which 
had separated them. . . . Enough on the 
subject of comedy and the requirements 
1 necessary to it. Truth to nature is one 
| of which I shall speak later. Besides, 
the developments of it must always be 
happy — which is not a requirement of 
tragedy, where we have the choice of 
making a change from happiness to un- 
happiness, and vice versa. This needs 
no remark. I come to the second part 
of the poem, which is Manners. Aris- 
totle prescribes four conditions: that 
they be good, suitable, similar, and equal. 
These are terms which he says so little 
about that he leaves great occasion to 
doubt his meaning. 

I cannot imagine how one can conceive 
" good " to mean " virtuous." Most po- 
ems, ancient as well as modern, would 
remain in a pitiful state if one cut out 
all in the way of bad or vicious char- 
acter, or characters stained by some 
weakness which does not comport with 
virtue. Horace took great care gener- 
ally to describe the " manners " of everjr 
age, and attributes to them more faults 
than virtues, and when he advises us 
to describe Medea as proud and in- 
domitable, Ixion as treacherous, Achilles 
carried away by anger to the point of 
holding that laws are not made for 
him and declaring that he takes right 
by might, Horace allows us very few 
virtues. One must therefore find a good- 
ness compatible with this kind of man- 
ners; and if I may express my conjec- 
tures on what Aristotle requires by that, 
I believe it is the brilliant and elevated 
character of a criminal or virtuous habit 
Just as much as is proper and suit- 
able to the person that one presents. 
Cleopatra in Rodogune is very wicked. 
There is no parasite which repels her so 
long as she can be kept on her throne, 
which she prefers to everything, so great 
is her attachment to power; but all her 
crimes are accompanied by a loftiness 
of soul which has something so high in 
it that, while one despises her actions, 
one admires the source from which they 
spring. I dare say the same of Le Men- 
teur. Lying is doubtless a vicious habit, 
but the chief character in this play 
utters his lies with such presence of 
mind and quickness that this imperfec- 
tion acquires grace and makes the listen- 
ers acknowledge that to lie in such a 
manner is a vice of which imbeciles are 
incapable. As a third example, tlS 
who wish to consider the way in W^Bi 
Horace describes the anger of Achilla 
will not be far from my idea. It hi 
for foundation a passage of Aristotle's 
which follows closely enough the one I 
am trying to explain. "Poetry," says 
he, "is an imitation of people bettei 
than in actual life, and, as painters ofter 
make flattering portraits which are noon 
beautiful than the original and still kce] 
the resemblance, in such a manner tb 
poets representing choleric or sloven! 
men must idealize these qualities whic 
they give them, so that from them 



leautiful example of equity and stoicism 
;an be drawn. It is thus that Homer 
nade Achilles good." These last words 
;bould be noticed to show that Homer 
*ave to Achilles' transports of anger 
hat goodness necessary to manners which 
t think consists in that loftiness of 
character, of which Robortello speaks in 
lie following manner, — " Unum quodque 
jenus per se supremos quosdam habet 
iecoris gradus, et absolutissimam recipit 
'ormam, non tamen degenerans a sua 
tatura, et effigie pristina." This text of 
Aristotle's which I mentioned may pre- 
sent some difficulty in that it says that 
iie manners of choleric or slovenly men 
nust be depicted with such a degree of 
sxcellence that one sees in them a high 
example of equity and austerity. There 
s a likeness between austerity and an- 
*er, and that is what Horace attributes 
to Achilles in this verse: Iracundus in- 
ixorabilis acer. But there is no likeness 
jetween equity and slovenliness. I can- 
lot see what it has to do in his character. 
It is that which causes me to doubt if 
the Greek word padvua has been given 
the meaning of Aristotle's by the Latin 
interpreter which I have followed. Pa- 
rius says, Besides; Victorius, Inertes; 
HeinMiis, Segnes; and the word Faineants 
pf which I have made use to put it into 
our language, answers these three ver- 
sions well enough, but Castelvetro ex- 
iresses it in his by mansueti, or debon- 
•, or full of mildness; and not only 
this word mean the opposite of an- 
r, but also it would agree better with 
what Aristotle calls erictjceia, of which 
he requires a good example from us. 
These three interpreters translate the 
Greek word by that of equity or integ- 
rity, which would agree better with the 
Boave [mild] of the Italian, than with their 
wegnes, desides, inertes, provided one un- 
derstands by that only a natural kind- 
ness which slowly angers, but I would 
still prefer that of good humor, of which 
the other makes use to express it in his 
language, and I think that to keep its 
value in our language one could change 
it to compliance, or equitable facility — 
to approve, to excuse and to support 
everything that happens. It is not that 
I wish to be judged among such great 
men, but I cannot deny the Italian ver- 
sion of this passage seems to me to have 

something more correct than any of the 
three Latin versions. Among this diver- 
sity of interpretations everyone is free to 
choose, since one has the right even to put 
them all aside, when a new one appears. 
Another idea comes to me concerning 
what Aristotle means by this goodness 
that he imposes on them as a first condi- 
tion. That is, that they must be as 
virtuous as possible, so that we do not ex- 
hibit the vicious and criminal on the stage 
if the subject which we are treating does 
not require them. He himself expresses 
this thought when wishing to mark an 
example of mistake against this rule, 
he uses that of Menelaus in Euripedes' 
Orestes, whose fault is not in being un- 
just but in being unjust without neces- 

In the second place, morals must be 
suitable. This requirement is easier to 
understand than the first. The poet must 
consider the age, dignity, birth, occupa- 
tion and country of those whom he 
paints; he must know what one owes to * 
one's country, to one's parents, to one's ' 
friends, to one's king; what the office of 
a magistrate or an army general, so that 
he may verify and then show what he 
wants his public to love, and eliminate 
those whom he wants it to hate, because 
it is an infallible maxim that to achieve 
success one must get the audience on the 
side of the important characters. It is 
well to remark also that what Horace 
says of the morals of each age is not a 
rule that one can dispose of without 
scruple. He makes young men prodigal 
and old men avaricious. The contrary 
often happens each day without causing 
surprise, but one must not act like the 
other even though he sometimes has pas- 
sions and habits which would be more 
suitable to him. It is only natural for 
a young man to be in love; not so, an old 
man. This does not prevent an old man 
from falling in love. We have enough 
proof before us, but he would be con- 
sidered insane if he wanted to court like 
a youth, and if he tried to win by his 
personal charm. He may hope that be 
will be listened to, but this hope must 
be founded on his wealth or his qualities, 
but not on his person, and his preten- 
tions cannot be reasonable if he does not 
think to have to do with the soul inter- 



ested sufficiently to put aside every- 
thing for the attraction of riches or the 
ambition of rank. The quality of " equal- 
ness " which Aristotle asks of morals 
refers particularly to the people which 
history or fable teach us to know and 
which we must always depict such as we 
find them. That is what Horace means 
by this verse, Sit Medea, etc. He who 
should depict Ulysses as a great warrior 
or Achilles as a great orator or Medea 
as a mild and humble woman would com- 
mit himself to public ridicule. There- 
fore, these two qualities between which 
some interpreters have great pains in 
finding the difference, but which Aris- 
totle finds without pointing it out, will 
agree easily as long as one separates 
them and uses the word "seemly" 
to designate persons who have never 
existed except in the soul of the poet, 
reserving the other who are known 
through history or through fable as I 
have just said. There remains to speak 
of equality, which forces us to keep in 
our character the manners which we 
gave them in the beginning: Servetur, 
etc. Inequality can enter into it all the 
same, not only when we bring persons 
of a light and uncertain spirit, but also 
when in keeping the equality inside, we 
show inequality on the exterior, accord- 
ing to the occasion. Such is Chimene in 
the matter of her love. She still strongly 
loves Rodrigue in her heart, but this love 
acts differently in the presence of the 
King and differently in the presence of 
Rodrigue, and that is what Aristotle calls 
" manners," unequally equal. One diffi- 
culty presents itself which must be 
cleared up as to what Aristotle means 
when he says, " that tragedy can be made 
without morals and that most of those 
of the moderns of his time have none." 
The meaning of this passage is quite 
difficult to understand, seeing that, ac- 
cording to him, it is by morals that a 
man is a wicked man or a good man, 
witty or stupid, timid or bold, constant 
or irresolute, good or bad politically, 
and that it is impossible to put any on 
the stage who is not good or wicked and 
that he have not any of those other 
qualities. To make these two sentiments 
agree which seem so opposed to each 
other, I notice that this philosopher goes 
on to say that " if a poet has done some 

fine moral narrations and very senten- 
tious discourses, he has not by that done 
anything yet which concerns tragedy." 
This has made me consider that " man- 
ners " are not only the foundation of ac- 
tion, but also of reasoning. A man of 
condition thinks and acts as such; a 
wicked man acts and thinks as such, and 
both the one and the other depict divers 
moral maxims according to his habit. It 
is, therefore, these maxims of conduct 
that tragedy can do without, not the con- 
duct itself, since it is the essence of ac- 
tion, and that action is the soul of trag- 
edy, where one must speak only in and 
for the action of the tragedy. There- 
fore, to explain this passage of Aris- 
totle's by the other, we can say that when 
he speaks of a tragedy without " man- 
ners " he means a tragedy in which the 
actors simply announce their feelings or 
base them only on reasonings drawn 
from fact as Cleopatra in the second act 
of Rodogune, and not on maxims of 
morality or politics, as Rodogune in 
the first act. I must repeat again: to 
create a theatrical poem in which none 
of the actors are either good or bad, 
prudent or imprudent, is entirely im- 
possible. After "manners" come senti- 
ments, by which the actor makes known 
what he wishes or does not wish, and 
in which he can content himself with a 
simple acknowledgment of what he pro- 
poses to do, without strengthening it 
with moral reasoning, as I have just said. 
This part requires rhetoric to depict 
the passions and troubles of the soul, 
to consult, deliberate, exaggerate or ex- 
tenuate; but there is this difference, 
between the dramatic poet and the or- 
ator, that the latter can exhibit his 
art and make it extraordinary with full 
freedom, and the other must hide with 
care, because it is never he who speaks, 1 
and those whom he has speak are not 
orators. To complete this Discourse I 
need only speak of the parts, of quan- 
tity, which are, — the prologue, the epi- 
sode, the exodus and the chorus. The 
prologue is that which is recited before 
the first song of the chorus. The episode 
is that which is recited between the 
songs of the chorus and the exodus, that 
which is recited after the last song of 
the chorus. That is all Aristotle tells 
us of it; he gives us an idea of the posi- 



tion of the parts and their order, in 
representation, rather than the part of 
the action which they contain. There- 
fore, to apply them to our use, the pro- 
.ogue is our first act, the episode con- 
stitutes the three following, and the 
exodus the last I reduce this prologue 
:o our first act following the intention 
jf Aristotle and to supplement in part 
.vhat he has not told us or what the 
,-ears have robbed from his books. I 
;ay that it must contain the seed of all 
hat is going to happen, as much for the 
principal action as for the episode, so 
;hat no actors come into the following 
ict who are not known by this first, or 
it least named by someone who shall 
lave been brought into it. This maxim 
s new and rather strict; I have not 
dways kept it, but I judge that it helps 
l great deal to create a veritable unity 
jf action by the binding of all those 
vhich come in the poem. The ancients 
jften have left it particularly in the 
-Ignitions, for which they nearly always 
|ise people who appeared by chance in 
che fifth act, and would have appeared 
in the tenth if the piece had had ten 
acts. Such is that old man of Corinth 
In the (Edipus of Sophocles and Seneca 
.vhere he seems to fall from a cloud by 
1 miracle, at a time when the actors 
;vould not know what to do next nor 
vhat pose to take if he came an hour 
ater. I have brought him in only in the 
ifth, just as they did, but I have pre- 
pared his coming from the first in mak- 
ing CEdipus say that he expects him. 
In like manner in La Veuve, though 
Zelidan does not appear until the third 
act, he is brought in by Alcidon, who is 
A the first. It is not the same with 
:he Moors in he Cid, for which there is 
no preparation whatsoever in the first 
act. The litigant of Poitiers in Le Men~ 
cut had the same fault, but I found 
:he means of correcting it in this edition 
.vhere the denouement is prepared by 
Philiste and not by the litigant. I desire, 
then, that the first act contain the basis 
of all the acts and shut the door to all 
)ther extraneous matter. Though this 
first act often does not give all the neces- 
sary information for the entire under- 
standing of the subject and all the actors 
do not appear in it it is sufficient if 
they are spoken of, which they must be in 

this act. That which I say must only be 
understood of the characters who act 
in the piece through some important 
personal interest or carry important 
news to produce a notable effect A 
servant who acts only by his master's 
order, a father who shows himself only 
to consent to or prevent a marriage of 
his children, a wife who consoles or ad- 
vises her husband; in a word, all those 
people without action do not have to be 
introduced in the first act This first 
act was called the prologue in Aris- 
totle's time and ordinarily one made it 
the opening of the subject to instruct 
the listener in all that happened before 
the beginning of the action, and in all 
that he would have to know in order to 
understand what he was going to see. 
The method of giving this instruction 
has changed with the times. Euripides 
used it quite boldly in bringing in now 
a god in a machine through whom the 
listeners received this knowledge, now 
one of the principal characters who in- 
structed them himself, as in Iphigenia 
and Helena, where his two heroines first 
tell all their history to the listener with- 
out having any actor to whom to ad- 
dress her speech. I do not mean to say 
that when an actor speaks he cannot 
inform the listener about many things, 
but he must do so through the passion 
which moves him, and not through a sim- 
ple narration. The monologue of Emilia 
which opens the play of Cinna acquaints 
the public with the fact that Augustus 
killed his father, and that to avenge his 
death she forces her lover to plot against 
him; but it is by the unrest and fear 
which the danger to which he exposes 
Cinna arouses in her mind that we have 
the knowledge of it. The poet especially 
must remember that when an actor is 
alone in the theater it is taken for 
granted that he is thinking to himself, 
and speaks but to let the listener know 
what he thinks. Therefore it would be 
an unforgivable error if another actor 
should by this means learn his secret. 
One excuses that in a passion which is 
so violent that it is forced to burst out 
even though one has no one to listen 
to; I should not want to condemn it in 
another, but I would have difficulty in 
bearing it myself. Our century has also 
invented a sort of prologue for plays 

1 48 


of the Deus ex Machind type, but they do 
not bear upon the subject and are only 
a clever eulogy of the prince before 
whom these plays are to be enacted. 
In Andromdde, Melpomene borrows rays 
from the sun in order to light up her the- 
ater for the king for whom she has pre- 
pared a magnificent pageant. The pro- 
logue of La Toison d'or referring to His 
Majesty's wedding and the peace with 
Spain has something still more brilliant. 
These prologues must be full of inven- 
tion and I believe to do them justice 
only imaginary gods of antiquity may 
play a part in them. These, however, 
also talk about matters relating to our 
time in poetic fiction, which is a great 
help to our theater. The episodes ac- 
cording to Aristotle at this point are 
three middle acts, but as he applies this 
name elsewhere to actions which have 
nothing to do with the principal one and 
which are ornaments of no value what- 
soever, I shall say that, although these 
three acts are called episodes, it does 
not mean that they are only made up of 
episodes. Augustus' consultation in the 
second act of Cinna, the remorse of this 
ungrateful one, that which he tells Emi- 
lia, Maximus' effort to persuade the ob- 
ject of his hidden love to flee with him, 
are only episodes, but Maximus' advice 
to the emperor through Euphorbus, the 

Erince's uncertainties and Livia's advice 
elong to the principal action, and in 
Hirudins those three acts have more 
principal action than episode. These epi- 
sodes are of two kinds and can be made 
up of the principal actors' special acts. 
These acts, however, are not needed in 
the principal action, or else they are 
made up of the secondary lovers' inter- 
ests. These people are commonly called 
episodic characters. Both of these must 
start in the first act and be part of the 
principal action, that is, be of some use, 
and especially the episodic characters 

must be so closely intermingled with 
the principal ones that but one in- 
trigue embroils them all. Aristotle con- 
demns detached episodes and says, " that 
poor poets write them through igno- 
rance and good ones in favor of the 
actors to furnish them with work." 
The Infante of Le Cid belongs to this 
number and she can be condemned or 
exonerated by Aristotle's words accord- 
ing to the rank that I shall be given 
among our moderns. I shall not men- 
tion the exodus, which is nothing more 
than our fifth act. I think I have ex-> 
plained the principal use of it when I say 
that the action of the Dramatic Poem 
must be complete. I shall only add this 
word, that one must if one can, reserve 
all the climax and even defer it until 
the end. The more one defers it the 
more the mind will remain in expec- 
tancy and the desire to know to which 
side it will turn, creates the impatience 
which causes it to be received with more 
pleasure. This does not happen when 
it begins with this act. The listeners i 
who know too much have no more curi- ! 
osity, and their attention wanes during 
all the rest, which tells nothing new. ; 
The opposite is seen in Mariamne whose 
death, though coming in the interval I 
which separates the fourth act from the 
fifth, has not prevented the displeasure 
of Herod which occupies all the latter 
to please extraordinarily, but I would ' 
not advise every one to depend on this 
example. Miracles do not occur every 
day, and though the author has well de- 
served the great success on account of 
the great mental effort he made to de- 
pict the despair of the monarch, perhaps 
the excellency of the author which up- 
held this character contributed much to 
this. That is what came to me in think- 
ing of the uses and elements of the Dra- 
matic Poem. 


Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known as Mo- 
liere, was born in Paris in 1622. He 
came of a good middle-class family, his 
father being an upholsterer, and one of 

the king's valets de chambre tapissiers. 
About 1636 the boy was sent to tin 
best "college" of the time, the Collegt 
de Clermont, where his first instruc- 



?ion was received from the Jesuits, 
lifter a four years' course he went to 
Orleans to study law, and there it seems 
I kely he received a degree. His move- 
ments are little known, though it is 
'airly certain that for a while he worked 
h his father's shop in Paris, while there 
••; evidence of his having definitely given 
Dp in 1643 what intention he may have 
[,ad of pursuing his father's calling. In 
that year he joined ten actors and ac- 
tresses in order to help found a com- 
any called L'! 'lustre Theatre. Not long 
, fter, he took the stage name of Moliere. 
'he strolling players were unsuccessful 
1 their attempts to win the public, and 
rjn one occasion Moliere was sent to 
rison for debt After three years, what 
as left of the original troupe decided 
d leave Paris and tour the provinces, 
^he twelve years which the young actor 
pent in this way were full of valuable 
xperiences. When he returned to Paris 
e was the head of a company of highly 
rained actors, an artist himself, and a 
;ood man of business. The first of his 
•lays, with the exception of a few purely 
aiitative attempts, was L'Etourdi, which 
vas produced at Lyon in 1653. The sec- 
ond play, Le Depit amoureux was pro- 
;uced at Beziers in 1656. Two years la- 
M", after having secured the protection of 
lie Due d'Anjou, Moliere brought his 
roupe to Paris and presented Corneille's 
s'icomede before the King and Queen in 
he Louvre. A little interlude of Mo- 
iere's, now lost, followed the tragedy; 
his so pleased the King that he allowed 
he company to remain in Paris and play 
m alternate nights in the theater at the 
3 etit-Bourbon. From this time on, Mo- 
tere was firmly established in the favor 
If the King and the Court, and put forth 
iis dramatic masterpieces in quick suc- 
ession. In the year 1673, during a pro- 
tuction of Le Malade imaginaire, in 
vhich he was himself playing, he was 
eized with a convulsion, and taken home, 
vhere he died soon after. 

Compared with his work as a prac- 
icing playwright, Moliere's critical con- 
ributions are not of prime importance, 
n his neglect of the Rules, and in his 
principle that to please is the best cri- 
erion of success, he seems distinctly 
nodern. He has no creed but this, and 
n the few places (in his plays and pref- 

aces) where he states it, he never tries to 
impose his theories, or want of them, 
upon others. His practice came first, 
and the theory after. 

On the drama: 

Preface to Leg Precieuses ridicules 

Avertissement to Les Fdcheux (1662). 
Preface to L'Ecole des fertilities (1663). 
La Critique de VEcole des f emmet 

L'Impromptu de Versailles (produced 

1663, printed 1682). 
Preface (1st ed., 1669) and Placets au 

Roi (2nd ed., 1669), in Tartufe. 
Au Lecteur in L'Amour me'decin (1676). 

Editions : 

The first complete edition of the works 
of Moliere is Les CEuvres de Monsieur 
de Moliere, 8 vols. (Paris, 1682). 
Among the numerous modern editions, 
see that edited by Despois and Mes- 
nard in the Grands Ecrivains series: 
(Euvres de Moliere, 13 vols. (Paris, 
1873-1900). See also, Henri Van 
Laun's The Dramatic Works of J. B. 
Poquelin Moliere, 6 vols. (Edinburgh, 
1878), and Katharine Prescott Worme- 
ley's translation of seventeen plavs: 
Moliere, 6 vols. (Boston, 1894). 

On Moliere and his works: 

Charles Varlet de La Grange, Reqistre 

J.-L. Le G. Grimarest, La Vie de M. de 

Moliere (Paris, 1705). 
Louis Riccoboni, Observations stir la 

Comedie et sur le genie de Moliere 

(Paris, 1736). 
J.-F. Cailhava, Etudes sur Moliire, etc. 

(Paris, 1S0-2). 
C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Port-Royal, 6 vols. 

(6th ed., Paris, 1901). 
, Cauteries du Lundi, 13 vols. (Paris, 

Jules Claretie, Moliere, sa vie et ses 

ceuvres (Paris, 1873). 
Edouard Fournier, Etudes sur la vie et 

les ceuvres de Moliere (Paris, 1885). 
Gustave Larroumet, La Comedie de Mo- 
liere (Paris, 1886). 
Jules Loiseleur, Les Points obscurs dans 

la vie de Moliere (Paris, 1877). 



A. P. Malassis, Moliere juge" pas ses con- 

temporains (Paris, 1877). 
E. Martineche, Moliere et le ThMtre 

espagnol (Paris, 1905). 
Paul Mesnard, Notice biographique sur 

Moliere (in vol. X of the Grands Ecri- 

cains series, Paris, 1889). 
Louis Moland, Vie de J.-B. P. Moliere 

(Paris, 1892). 
, Moliere et la comidie italienne 

(Paris, 2nd ed., 1867). 
Jules- Antoine Taschereau, Histoire de la 

vie et des ouvrages de Moliere (Paris, 

Henri Davignon, Moliere et la vie (Paris, 

Brander Matthews, Moliere, his Life and 

his Works (New York, 1910). 
H. C. Chatfield-Taylor, Moliere, a Biog- 
raphy (New York, 1906). 
Leon H. Vincent, Moliere (Boston, 


Eud. Soulie, Recherches sur Moliere et 

sur sa famille (Paris, 1863). 
Henry M. Trollope, The Life of Moliere 

(New York, 1905). 
Emile Faguet, En Lisant Moliere (Paris, 

Sir F. T. Marzials, Moliere (London, 


Special bibliographies and reprints of 
documents may be found in Lacroix's 
Collection Molieresque (Paris, 1867- 
75) ; Lacroix and Monval's Nouvelle 
Collection Molieresque (Paris, 1879- 
90) ; Monval's Le Molieriste, 10 vols. 
(Paris, 1879-89); Lacroix's Bibliog- 
raphie Molieresque (Paris, 1875); Ar- 
thur Desfeuilles' Notice bibliographique 
in vol. 9 in the Mesnard-Despois Mo- 
liere; the Catalogue of the Moliere 
Collection in Harvard College Library; 
and the Bibliography in Chatfield- 
Taylor's Moliere. 


[La Critique de I'Ecole des femmes] 


(Scene vi.) 

Dorante. — You are, then, Marquis, 
one of those grand gentlemen who will 
not allow the pit to have common sense, 
and who would be vexed to join in their 
laugh, though it were at the best thing 
conceivable? . . . Speaking generally, I 
would place considerable reliance on the 
applause of the pit, because, amongst 
those who go there, many are capable 
of judging the piece according to rule, 
whilst others judge it as they ought, al- 
lowing themselves to be guided by cir- 
cumstances, having neither a blind prej- 
udice, nor an affected complaisance, nor 
a ridiculous refinement. . . . 

(Scene vii.) 

Uranie. — . . . Let us not apply to 
ourselves the points of general censure; 
let us profit by the lesson, if possible, 
without assuming that we are spoken 

l Re-printed extracts from Henri Van Laun's 
Dramatic Works of J. B. Poquelin Moliire, 
6 vols. (Edinburgh, 1878). — Ed. 

against. All the ridiculous delineations 
which are drawn on the stage should be 
looked on by every one without annoy- 
ance. They are public mirrors, in which 
we must never pretend to see ourselves. 
To bruit it about that we are offended 
at being hit, is to state openly that we 
are at fault. . . . 

Dorante. — . . . Indeed, I think that; 
it is much easier to soar with grand sen- 1 
timents, to brave fortune in verse, to 
arraign destiny and reproach the Gods., 
than to broach ridicule in a lit manner.; 
and to make the faults of all mankind 
seem pleasant on the stage. When yoi 
paint heroes you can do as you like 
These are fancy portraits, in which wt 
do not look for a resemblance; you hav< 
only to follow your soaring imagination 
which often neglects the true in orde 
to attain the marvelous. But when yo> 
paint men, you must paint after natun 
We expect resemblance in these por 
traits ; you have done nothing, if yo 
do not make us recognize the people o 
your day. In a word, in serious piece 
it suffices to escape blame, to speak goo 



► sense, and to write well. But this is not 
J enough in comedy. You must be merry; 
and it is a difficult undertaking to make 
gentlefolk laugh. . . . 

Lysidas. — Those who are versed in 
Horace and Aristotle, Madame, see at 
once that this comedy sins against all 
the rules of Art 

I'ranie. — I confess that I am not fa- 
miliar with those gentlemen, and that I 
do not know the rules of Art. 

Dorante. — You are a most amusing 
set with your rules of Art, with which 
you embarrass the ignorant, and deafen 
us perpetually. To hear you talk, one 
would suppose that those rules of Art 
were the greatest mysteries in the world; 
and yet they are but a few simple ob- 
servations which good sense has made 
upon that which may impair the pleas- 
ure taken in that kind of poems; and 
the same good sense which in former 
idays made these observations, makes 
Athem every day easily, without resort- 
Ning to Horace and Aristotle. I should 

I like to know whether the great rule of 
all rules is not to please; and whether 
a play which attains this has not fol- 
lowed a good method? Can the whole 
public be mistaken in these matters, and 
cannot every one judge what pleases 

Eim? ... in short, if pieces according 
o rule do not please, and those do 
please which are not according to rule, 
then the rules must, if necessary, have 
been badly made. So let us laugh at 
the sophistry with which they would 
trammel public taste, and let us judge 
a corned}- only by the effect which it 
produces upon ourselves. Let us give 
Durselves up honestly to whatever stirs 
us deeply, and never hunt for argu- 
ments to mar our pleasure. 

i'ranie. — For my part, when I see a 
play, I look only whether the points 
strike me; and when I am well enter- 
rained, I do not ask whether I have been 
■vrong, or whether the rules of Aris- 
rotle would forbid me to laugh. 

Dorante. — It is just as if a man were 
:o taste a capital sauce, and wished to 
inow whether it were good according 
:o the recipe in a cookery-book. 

I'ranie. — Very true; and I wonder at 
the critical refinements of certain people 
«bout things in which we should think 
"or ourselves. 

Dorante. — You are right, Madame, in 
thinking all these mysterious critical re- 
finements very odd. For really, if they 
are to subsist, we are reduced to dis- 
crediting ourselves. Our very senses 
must be slaves in everything; and, even 
in eating and drinking, we must no longer 
dare find anything good, without per- 
mission from the committee of taste. 

Lysidas. — So, Monsieur, your only 
reason is that The School for Wives 
[L'Ecole des femmes\ has pleased you; 
you care not whether it be according to 
rule, provided — 

Dorante. — Gently, Monsieur Lysidas; 
I do not grant you that I certainly 
say that the great art is to please; and 
that as this comedy has pleased those 
for whom it was written, I think that is 
enough, and that we need not care about 
anything else. But at the same time, 
I maintain that it does not sin against 
any of the rules to which you allude. I 
have read them, thank Heaven! as well 
as other men, and I could easily prove 
that perhaps we have not on the stage 
a more regular play than this. . . . 

Lysidas. — What, sir ! when the pro- 
tasis, the epitasis, the peripetia — 

Dorante. — Nay, Monsieur Lysidas, you 
overwhelm us with your fine words. 
Pray, do not seem so learned. Human- 
ize your discourse a little, and speak in- 
telligibly. Do you fancy a Greek word 
gives more weight to your arguments? 
And do you not think that it would look 
as well to say, "the exposition of the 
subject" as the "protasis"; "the prog- 
ress of the plot," as the "epitasis"; 
" the crowning incident," as the " peri- 
petia "? 

Lysidas. — These are terms of art that 
we are allowed to make use of. But as 
these words offend your ears, I shall 
explain myself in another way; and I ask 
you to give me a plain answer to three 
or four things which I have to say. 
Can a piece be endured which sins 
against the very description of a play? 
For, after all, the name of a dramatic 
poem comes from a Greek word which 
signifies to act in order to show that the 
nature of the form consists in action. 
But hi this comedy, there are no ac- 
tions. . . . 




[Preface (to) Tartufe] 


... I am well aware that, in reply, 
those gentlemen have endeavored to in- 
sinuate that the stage is not fit for the 
discussion of these subjects; but, by 
their leave, I ask them upon what they 
base this beautiful axiom. It is a theory 
which they only advance, and which they 
do not prove by any means; and it 
would doubtless not be difficult to show 
them that with the ancients, comedy 
derived its origin from religion, and was 
a part of their mysteries; that the Span- 
iards, our neighbors, never celebrate a 
feast in which a comedy is not mixed 
up; and that, even amongst us it owes 
its birth to the cares of a brotherhood 
to which the Hotel de Bourgogne still 
belongs; that it was a place given to 
them to represent in it the most im- 
portant mysteries of our faith; that 
comedies printed in Gothic characters, 
under the name of a doctor of the Sor- 

2 Re-printed extracts from Van Laun's 
translation (see "On Moliere," ante). — Ed. 

bonne, may still be seen there; and, 
without carrying the matter so far, that, 
in our days, sacred pieces of M. de 
Corneille have been performed, which 
were the admiration of the whole of 
France. If it be the aim of comedy to 
correct man's vices, then I do not see 
for what reason there should be a priv- 
ileged class. Such a one is, in the State, 
decidedly more dangerous in its conse- 
quences than any other, and we have 
seen that .the stage possesses a great vir- 
tue as a corrective medium. The most 
beautiful passages in a serious moral are 
most frequently less powerful than those 
of a satire; and nothing admonishes the 
majority of people better than the por- 
trayal of their faults. To expose vices 
to the ridicule of all the world is a se- 
vere blow to them. Reprehensions are 
easily suffered, but not so ridicule. Peo- 
ple do not mind being wicked; but they 
object to being made ridiculous. . . . 


Jean Racine was born at Ferte-Milon, 
Le Valois, in 1639, of middle-class par- 
ents, both of whom died within three 
years of his birth. The child was 
brought up by his grandparents. The 
grandfather dying when the boy was 
ten years old, he was left alone with his 
grandmother, whom he regarded thence- 
forth as his mother. His preliminary 
education was received at the College 
de Beauvais, where he spent the years 
between 1650 or 1651 and 1655, and then 
entered the famous school of Port-Royal, 
where he remained for three years. In 
all probability he was a good student, 
and when he left he possessed a wide 
acquaintance with and love for the 
Greek and Latin authors, especially the 
Greek tragedians. On leaving Port- 
Royal, he went to the College d'Harcourt 

to study philosophy and logic. Not find- 
ing these to his taste, he left the College 
and became a sort of secretary to the 
Due de Luynes. One of his earliest 
works, an ode written on the occasion 
of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660, 
was highly praised by the venerable 
Chapelain. Racine wished to write — 
he had also written two plays besides 
the ode — but his friends at Port-Royal 
feared that his interest in literature 
would prove an evil influence upon him, 
and persuaded him to go south and put 
himself under the care of his uncle, a 
canon. During the year or more which 
he spent at Uzes, he applied himself to; 
the study of theology, although his note? 
on Pindar and Homer prove that hi' 
interest in his beloved authors was not 
dead. In fact, his first play, La Thi- 



ide, was written at this period, and 
if he did more or less formally en- 
• the Church, his subsequent mores 
nr that he soon ceased active work 
connection with it- La Thebaide was 
xpted by Moliere and produced at 
; Palais-Royal in 1664. He left Uzes 
1663 and returned to Paris. Here 
made the acquaintance of Boileau, 
[ produced his plays. After the pro- 
ction of Phedre in 1677, for reasons 
are somewhat obscure, he aban- 
playwriting, and lived on the va- 
is pensions and salaries of which he 
the recipient, married, and produced 
work until he was commissioned by 
de Main tenon to write a play 
the girls of Saint-Cyr. He pro- 
Eftker, in 1689, and followed it 
1691, by Athalie, which was performed 
Saint-Cyr and Versailles. He died in 

Racine, like Moliere, is important 
;ther as a practicing dramatist than as 
critic. His remarks on his own plays 
full of interest, however, as they ex- 
how and why be wrote as he did; 
are, like Moliere's prefaces, the 
leory after the performance. Racine 
J is from first to last a classical writer; 
s passion was for clearness and com- 
j actness, and it is little wonder that his 
•itical theories are founded on Aris- 
»tle and Horace. His very first mani- 
sto, the Preface to La Thebaide (1664), 
mtains a protest against the double 
lot The Premiere Preface to Alexan- 
re le grand (1666) is a defense of his 
natural" treatment of character; like- 
ise the Premiere Preface to Andro- 
taque (1668). The various prefaces to 
tritanuicus (1670), Bajazet (167:?), 
tUkridate (1673), Phedre (1677), and 
wo or three others, are, taken as a 
'hole, pleas for regularity, order, and 

On the drama: 

*reface to La Thebaide (1664). 
^remiere Preface (1666), to Alexandre 

le grand, and Seconde Preface (1676). 
^rentier e Preface (1668) to Andro- 
' maque; Seconde Preface (1676). 
in Leeteur to Let Plaideurs (1669). 
Premier e Preface (1670) to Britannicus, 

and Seconde Preface (1676). 

Preface to Berenice (1674). 

Premiere Preface (1672) to Bajazet; 

Seconde Preface (1676). 
Preface to Mithridate (1673). 
Preface to Iphigenie (1675). 
Preface to Phedre (1677). 
Preface to Esther (1669). 
Preface to Athalie (1691). 

The Lettres in volumes VI and VII of 
the Mesnard edition are interesting, 
but contain little on the drama. The 
Fragments de la Poetique d'Aristote 
are to be found in voL V of the same 


The standard edition of the complete 
works is the (E wares de J. Racine, 
edited by Paul Mesnard, in the Grands 
Ecrrcains series, 8 vols. (Paris, 1865- 

On Racine and his works: 

Louis Racine, Memoires sur la vie de 

Jean Racine, 3 vols. (Lausanne and 

Geneve, 1747. Reprinted in voL I of 

the Mesnard ed.). 
Fontenelle, Parallile de Comeille et de 

Racine (Paris, 1693). 
Stendhal, Racine et Shakespeare (Paris, 

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Portraits liiteraires, 

voL I (Paris, 1830). 

, Port-Rogal, voL 6 (Paris, 1860). 

, Xouveaux Lund is, vols. 3 and 10 

(Paris, 1863 ff). 
F. Deltour, Les Ennemis de Racine em 

XVIf siecle (Paris, 1859). 
H. Taine, Xvuveaux essais de critique et 

d'histoire (Paris, 1865). 
Ferdinand Brunetiere, Racine (in Etudes 

critiques sur Vhutoire de la Htterature 

francaise, voL 1, 7th ed., Paris, 1911). 
Paul Mesnard, Introduction to Grands 

Ecrrcains ed. of (Euvres (cited above. 

Also Bibliography in voL 7). 
£. DeschaneL Le Rcmemtieme dee elas- 

siques. Racine (Paris, 1883). 
P. Stapfer, Racine et Victor Hugo 

(Paris, 1887). 
Frandsque Sarcey, Quarante An* de 

theatre, voL 3 (Paris, 1900). 
Emile Fagoet, Propos de theatre, voL 1 

(Paris, 1908). 
Jules Lemaitre, Impressions de theatre, 

vols. 1, 3, and 4 (Paris, 1888-90). 



Jules Lemaitre, Jean Racine (Paris, 

P. Robert, La Poetique de Racine (Paris, 


P. Monceaux, Racine (Paris, 1892). 
Gustave Larroumet, Racine (4th. ecL, 
Paris, 1911). 


[Preface (to) La Thtbaide] 


The reader will surely be a little more 
indulgent toward this play than toward 
those that follow, because I was very 
young when I wrote it. Certain verses 
I had previously written happened to fall 
into the hands of some people of culture, 
who urged me to write a tragedy, and 
proposed the subject of La Th4baide. 
This subject had already been treated 
by Rotrou, in his Antigone; but he killed 
off the two brothers at the beginning of 
the third act. The remainder of the 
drama was in a way the beginning of 
another tragedy, introducing entirely 
new interests. It combined within itself 
two distinct plots, one of which was the 
plot of Euripides' Phoenician Women, the 
other that of Sophocles' Antigone. I saw 
that the double plot tended to spoil his 
[Rotrou's] play, which was, however, full 
of beautiful things. I constructed my 
play on practically the same plot as the 
Phoenician Women of Euripides. As to 
the Thebaid which is found among Sen- 
eca's works, I am inclined to agree with 
Heinsius and maintain not only that it 
was not written by Seneca, but that it is 

l Translated, for the first time into English 
by the editor. — Ed. 

the work of some rhetorical declaimer 
who had no idea what a tragedy was. 

The catastrophe of my play is possibly 
a little too sanguinary; indeed, there is 
scarcely a character who is not killed off 
at the end. But then, this is the story 
of the Thebaid, the most tragic of an- 

Love which, ordinarily, assumed so 
important a role in tragedy, I have prac- 
tically neglected; I doubt whether 1 
should give it a more important place 
were I to re-write the play. It would 
be necessary to have one of the brothers 
in love, or else both; but what chance 
had I to give them any other interest but 
that famous hatred, which consumed 
them both? If I could not have either 
of the brothers in love, there remained 
for me only to place the love-interest in- 
characters of secondary importance; and| 
this is what I have done. But even then, \ 
the passion of love seems strangely out | 
of place and ineffective. In short, I ami 
of the opinion that lovers' tenderness 
and jealousies can have no legitimate 
place amid all the incest, parricide, and 
other horrors which go to make up the ! 
story of CEdipus and his fated family. 


{Premiere Preface (to) Andromaque] 


. . . However that may be, the pub- 
lic has treated me so well that I am not 
bothered by the disappointment of two 
or three individuals who would have us 
re-cast all the heroes of antiquity and 
make them paragons of perfection. I 
think their intention of putting only such 
impeccable examples of humanity on the 
stage admirable, but I beg them to re- 

2 Extracts, here translated for the 
time into English, by the editor. — Ed. 


member that it is not for me to changi 
the laws of the drama. Horace tell 
us to describe Achilles as ferocious, in 
exorable, violent — as he actually was ; 
And Aristotle, far from asking us fc! 
portray perfect heroes, demands on th< 
contrary that tragic characters — whos> 
misfortunes bring about the tragic ca 
tastrophe — should be neither wholl; 
good nor wholly bad. He does not wan 
them to be extremely good, because tli 



mishment of a good man would excite 
dilation rather than pity in the au- 
ence; nor that they be excessively bad, 
■cause there can exist no pity for a 
oundrel. They must therefore stand 

midway between the two extremes, be 1 
virtuous and yet capable of folly, and 
fall into misfortune through some fault 
which allows us to pity without detesting 


[Premiere Preface (to) Britannicus] 


. . . Personally, I have always be- 
eved that since tragedy was the imita- 
bn of a complete action — wherein sev- 
t -al persons participate — that action is 
mplete until the audience knows 
I 1 what situation the characters are 
' nally left. Sophocles always informs 
' s of this: in the Antigone he writes as 
lany lines to show Haemon's fury and 
reon's punishment after the death of 
le princess, as I have written in Agrip- 
ina's imprecations, the retreat of Junia, 
le punishment of N'arcissa and the de- 
pair of Nero, after the death of Britan- 
How could these difficult judges be 
leased? It would be an easy task, had 
wished to violate commonsense a little, 
should have but to abandon the natural 
or the extraordinary. Instead of a sim- 
le plot, with very little material — as 
efits an action supposed to take place 
/ithin the compass of a single day and 
,hich, proceeding by degrees toward the 
;nd, is sustained solely by the interest, 
j ]entiments, and passions of the charac- 
ters — I could just as well have crowded 
he very same story with a number of 
neidents which could not actually have 
lappened within a whole month, with 
•my number of stage-tricks, as aston- 
ishing as tht*y would be false to nature, 
vith a number of declamatory passages 
vherein the actors would utter the ex- 
act opposite of what they ought to ut- 
ter. I might, for instance, have repre- 
sented some hero as drunk, wishing to 
•nake his mistress hate him, out of 
sheer caprice; or a mouthing Lacedae- 
iionian, a conqueror scattering maxims 
upon love; a woman giving lessons in 
pride to a warrior — in any of these 
ways I might have satisfied the gentle- 

1 3 Extracts, here translated, by the editor, 
for the first time into English. — Ed. 

men. But what would that small group 
of intelligent people whom I mustl 
please, have said ? How would I have 1 
dared appear, so to speak, before those 
great men of antiquity whom I have 
taken for my models? Because, when I 
make use of their thoughts, I think of 
them actually as spectators. When we 
take our inspiration from them we 
should always ask ourselves, " What 1 
would Homer and Vergil say, if they 1 
were to read these lines? What would J 
Sophocles say if he saw this scene?"' 
However all this may be, I have never 
tried to prevent any one's criticizing my 
works adversely; that would be impossi- 
ble: Quid de te alii loquantur ipsi vi- 
deant, says Cicero, sed loquentur tamen: 
" Others must be careful how they speak 
of you; but be sure that they will speak 
of you, in some way or other." 

I only beg the reader's forgiveness for 
this little preface, which I wrote merely 
to explain and justify my tragedy. 
What more natural than to defend one- 
self when one believes oneself unjustly 
attacked? I think that Terence wrote 
his prologue solely to justify and defend 
himself against the critics who spoke in 
disparagement of the old poet of evil in- 
tentions, malevoli veteris poetae, and 
who came to raise their voices against 
him, up to the very moment his comedies 
were performed. 

. . . occcepta est agi: 

Exclamat, etc. 

Hardly has the curtain risen, but there 

he is, crying out, etc. (Prologue to the 

" Eunuchus " of Terence.) 

There is one objection which might have, 
but has not, been urged against me. 
Still, what escaped the spectators may 
become evident to the reader: I make 

i 5 6 


Junia join the Vestals. Now, accord- 
ing to Aulus Gellius the Vestals received 
no one under six years of age, nor over 
ten. But here the people take Junia 
under their protection, and I thought 
that in consideration of her rank, her 

virtue, and her misfortune, an excep- 
tion might be made regarding her age, 
as other exceptions had been made in 
the cases of so many men who deserved 
to be made consuls. 


[Preface (to) Be"r4nice] 



... I have for some time cherished 
the desire to try whether I could write 
a tragedy with the extremely simple plot 
so much admired by the ancients, for 
simplicity is one of the first precepts 
which they have left us. " Whatever 
you write," says Horace, " it must be sim- 
.ple, and it must be one." The ancients 
.admired the Ajax of Sophocles, which is 
concerned wholly with the story of Ajax 
killing himself with sorrow over the re- 
fusal to give him Achilles' arms. They 
admired the Philoctetes, the subject of 
which is merely the coming of Ulysses 
for the arrows of Hercules. The (Edi- 
pus itself, though full of incidents, is 
less crowded than the simplest tragedy 
of our times. And finally, we see those 
who favored Terence justly placing him 
above all other comic poets, for the ele- 
gance of his style and his careful obser- 
vation of the manners of his day, but 
confessing none the less that Plautus had 
a distinct advantage over him, namely, 
in the simplicity of the majority of his 
plots. It was doubtless this marvelous 
simplicity that caused the ancients to 
praise him so highly. How much simpler 
must Menander have been, since Terence 
was obliged to take two of that poet's 
comedies to make one of his own! 

Nor must one assume that this rule 
• was based entirely upon caprice; no, 
I nothing but what is true to life can ap- 
( peal to us in tragedy. But what sort of 
truth to life is there when within the 
space of one day a multitude of things 
happen that would in actual life occupy 
many weeks? There are some who be- 
lieve that this simplicity is a confession 
of the author's poverty of invention. 
They are not aware that on the contrary, 

4 Extracts, here translated, by the editor, 
for the first time into English. — Ed. 

an author's invention is most severely 
put to the test in making something out 
of nothing, and that the introduction of 
a host of incidents has always been the 
refuge of poets who felt their own want I 
of genius, and power to interest their ' 
auditors through five acts of simple plot, 
sustained by the force of passion, beauty ! 
of ideas, and elegance of expression. I i 
am far from believing that my play' 
contains all these elements, but on the 
other hand, I do not think that the au- 
dience blamed me too much for having 
written a tragedy so honored with their 
tears, the thirtieth performance of which 
was as well attended as the first. 

Not that certain people have not cen- 
sured me for that very simplicity 1 j 
strove so diligently to attain: they be- I 
lieved that a tragedy so denuded of in- 
trigue could not be according to the rules 
of dramatic art. I wished to know 
whether the tragedy had bored then), 
and learned that they all admitted that j 
it had not, but had moved them, and 
that they would willingly witness it 
again. What more could they demand? 
I beg them to think well enough of them- 
selves not to believe that a play which j 
stirs them and gives them pleasure, con ! 
be absolutely at variance with the rules, j 
The principal rule is to please and to 
stir; all others are simply means to ar- 
rive at that end. The rules are Jong; 
and complicated, and I advise those 
who criticize the play on the ground' 
just mentioned not to bother about them 
they have more important business b 
attend to. Let them leave to us tin 
trouble of interpreting Aristotle's theorj 
of poetry, and reserve for themselves tin 
pleasure of weeping and being moved 
and allow me to tell them what a musi 
cian said to King Philip of Macedor 



ben the latter maintained that a cer- 
in song was not written according to 
»e rules: " Heaven keep you, Sire, from 

being so unfortunate as to know such 
things better than I do!" 


[Preface (to) Phedre] 


I. . . What I can say is that in no 
her of my plays have I given virtue 
> exalted a place as in this: the slight- 
.1 is severely punished; the very 
iought of crime is made as horrible as 
le commission of it; the weaknesses of 
ve itself are treated as veritable short- 
juiings; the paosions are exhibited with 
le purpose of showing the disorder into 
hieh they lead us; vice is introduced in 
ith wise as to make us detest it in all 
s horrible deformity. This should prop- 
'lv be the chief purpose of those who 
ork for the public; this is what the an- 
ents kept constantly in mind. Their 
lays were a veritable school where vir- 

Extracts, here translated by the editor, 
«r the first time into English. — Ed. 

tue was of no less importance than with 
the philosophers. Hence it was that 
Aristotle laid down the rules of dramatic 
poetry, and Socrates, the wisest of the 
philosophers, did not disdain to speak 
of the tragedies of Euripides. We should 
like our works to be as solid and full 
of useful instruction as were those of 
antiquity. This might be a means to 
reconcile tragedy to a number of cele- 
brated persons who either because of 
their piety or their beliefs, have of late 
condemned it, and who would undoubt- 
edly cast a more favorable eye upon it 
if the dramatists endeavored to instruct \ 
as well as please their auditors, and so \ 
came nearer to the true end of all trag- 


Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, the son of 
iilles Boileau, was born at Paris in 
636. His mother died when he was two 
ears old, and the lad seems to have been 
omewhat neglected. From his early 
outh he is said to have had but one pas- 
ion, " the hatred of dull books." He 
s-as educated at the College de Beau- 
iais, and later went to study theology at 
he Sorbonne. Giving this up, he stud- 
ed law and was admitted to the bar in 
606, but the law disgusted him and 
he next year, on the death of his father 
vho left him a comfortable income, he 
Urected his attention exclusively to 
tudy and writing. Among his earliest 
vorks are a few indifferent poems. The 
irst of his Satiret, in which his true 
renious found expression, dates from 
660. Though it was u imitated " from 
Juvenal, it is distinctly of the poet's 
»wn time and spirit. This was followed 

by others, of which there ultimately ap- 
peared twelve. In these he attacked 
many authors of the preceding genera- 
tions — among them Chapelain, Scudery, 
and Quinault — and went far toward 
doing away with the earlier traditions. 
He was, on the other hand, friendly to- 
ward Racine and Moliere. Another of 
his effective attacks contributed to the 
downfall of the elaborate romance of 
the Mile, de Scudery type, and was 
called Dialogue des hiros de roman. 
Though it was written in 1664, it was 
not published until 1713. The Satires 
appeared in the first authorized edition 
in 1666, and the Epitres from 1669 on. 
These attracted considerable attention 
and brought him into Court favor. 
Louis XIV granted him a generous pen- 
sion and in 1S77 made him Historiog- 
rapher to the King. In the 1674 edition 
of his CEuvres diverse* he published for 



the first time his celebrated poems, L'Art 
poetique and mock-heroic poem Le Lu- 
trin. In the same year he also published 
his translation of Longinus On the Sub- 
lime, the Reflexions on which appeared 
in 1693. He was admitted to the Acad- 
emy in 1684. His last years were spent 
partly at Auteuil and partly at Paris. 
They were not very productive. He 
died in 1711. 

The Art poetique was primarily the 
poet's justification of his attacks in the 
Satires. In it he tried to bring to the 
bar of reason the various " bad " poems 
which he had ridiculed. At first he had 
ridiculed, now he was to criticize. His 
Rules, his precepts, his generalities are 
but obiter dicta, conclusions rather than 
statements. But the work as a whole 
exercised incalculable influence until the 
so-called Romantic revolt in the early 
years of the nineteenth century. 

On the drama: 

The Art poetique (1674), is practically 
Boileau's only drama criticism, though 
he incidentally touches upon the sub- 
ject in a few of his Epitres and Sa- 


The Art poetique first appeared in the 
CEuvres diverses in 1674. Of the " orig- 
inal " editions the best are in the (Euvres 
published in 1674, 1694, 1701, and 
1713. Among the annotated (Euvres, 
see the 4-volume ed. by Berriat Saint- 
Prix, 1830; the 4-volume Gidel ed., 
1873, and the Pauly 2-volume ed., 1891. 
The best ed. of the Art poetique is 
in the single volume, with notes and 
introduction by Brunetiere (7th ed., 

Paris, 1911). The Works of Monsieu 
Boileau were translated " by severs 
hands " and with a Life by De 
Maizeaux in 2 vols., London, 171i 
The Art of Poetry was translated b' 
Sir William Soames, " revised by Dry 
den," London, 1683. This is reprints 
in Albert S. Cook's The Art of Poetry 
together with the similar treatises o 
Horace and Vida, Boston, 189s?. 

On Boileau and his work: 

P. Desmaizeaux, La Vie de Monsieu, 

Boileau-Despreaux (Paris, 1712). 
Bolaana (Paris, 1713). 
D'Alembert, Eloge de Despriaux (Paris 

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Port-Royal, voL i 

(latest ed., Paris, 1901). 
, Portraits litteraires, vol. 1 (Pari' 

, Causeries du Lundi, vol. 6 (Paris 

Ferdinand Brunetiere, Article on Boilea 

in La Grande Encyclopedic, voL J 

, Introduction to L'Art Poetiqv, 

(7th ed., Paris, 1911). 
, L'Esthetique de Boileau (in Etude 

critiques sur I'histoire de la litteratut 

francaise, vol. 6, Paris, 3rd ed., 1911 
D. Nisard, Exarnen des Po4tiques d'Aril 

tote, d' Horace, et de Boileau (S j 

Cloud, 1845). 
George Saintsbury, A History of Crit 

cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 
Charles Dejob, Lessing et Boileau (i 

the Revue des Cours et Confercnc 

Paris, 1897). 
A. Bourgoin, Les Maitres de la eritiqt 

au XV IP siecle (Paris, 1889). 


[Art poetique] 

There's not a monster bred beneath the 

But, well-disposed by art, may please the 

A curious workman, by his skill divine, 

1 Re-printed from Sir William Soames' edi- 
tion of Boileau's Art of Poetry (London, 
1683 ) . — With omissions. — Ed. 

From an ill object makes a good dcsig 
Thus, to delight us, Tragedy, in tears 
For CEdipus, provokes our hopes ai 

fears ; 
For parricide Orestes asks relief, 
And to increase our pleasure, caus 





You then that in this noble art would 

dme and in lofty verse dispute the 

1 ould you upon the stage acquire re- 

^id for your judges summon all the 
town ? 

''ould you your works forever should 

Ad after ages past be sought again? 

] all you write observe with care and 

j» move the passions and incline the 

J in a labored act, the pleasing rage 

i&nnot our hopes and fears by turns en- 

br in our mind a feeling pity raise, 

J vain with learned scenes you fill your 
plays ; 
>ur cold discourse can never move the 

: mind 

*• a stern critic, naturally unkind, 

'ho. justlv tired with "your pedantic 
flight, " 

t- falls asleep or censures all you write. 

"he secret is, attention first to gain, 

') move our minds and then to enter- 

"lat, from the very opening of the 

I scenes, 

"ie first may show us what the author 

I'm tired to see an actor on the stage 
' lat knows not whether he's to laugh or 

*mo, an intrigue unraveling in vain, 
^stead of pleasing keeps my mind in 

1 rather much the nauseous dunce 

should say 
ownright, " My name is Hector in the 

ian with a mass of miracles, ill- 
On found my ears, and not instruct my 

ie subject's never soon enough ex- 

Your place of action must be fixed, and 

Spanish poet may with good event 

1 one day's space whole ages repre- 

There oft the hero of the wandering 

Begins a child, and ends the play of 

But we, that are by reason's rule con- 
Will that with art the poem be designed, 
That unity of action, time, and place, 
Keep the stage full, and all our labors 

Write not what cannot be with ease 

Some truths may be too strong to be be- 

A foolish wonder cannot entertain; 

My mind's not moved if your discourse 
be vain. 

You may relate what would offend the 

Seeing indeed would better satisfy, 

But there are objects which a curious 

Hides from the eyes, yet offers to the 

The mind is most agreeably surprised, 
When a well-woven subject, long dis- 
You on a sudden artfully unfold, 
And give the whole another face and 

At first the Tragedy was void of art, 
A song, where each man danced and 

sung his part, 
And of god Bacchus roaring out the 

Sought a good vintage for their jolly 

Then wine and joy were seen in each 

man's eyes, 
And a fat goat was the best singer's 

Thespis was first, who, all besmeared 

with lee, 
Began this pleasure for posterity, 
And with his carted actors and" a song 
Amused the people as he passed along. 
Next .^ischylus the different persons 

And with a better mask his players 

Upon a theater his verse expressed, 
And showed his hero with a buskin 

Then Sophocles, the genius of his age, 



Increased the pomp and beauty of the 

Engaged the Chorus song in every part, 

And polished rugged verse by rules of 

He in the Greek did those perfections 

Which the weak Latin never could at- 

Our pious fathers, in their priest-rid 
As impious and profane abhorred the 

A troop of silly pilgrims, as 'tis said, 
Foolishly zealous, scandalously played, 
Instead of heroes and of love's com- 
The angels, God, the Virgin, and the 

At last right reason did his laws reveal, 
And showed the folly of their ill-placed 

Silenced those nonconformists of the age, 
And raised the lawful heroes of the 

stage ; 
Only the Athenian mask was laid aside, 
And Chorus by the music was supplied. 

Ingenious love, inventive in new arts, 
Mingled in plays, and quickly touched 

our hearts; 
This passion never could resistance find, 
But knows the shortest passage to the 

Paint, then, I'm pleased my hero be in 

But let him not like a tame shepherd 

Let not Achilles be like Thyrsis seen, 
Or for a Cyrus show an Artamene; 
That, struggling oft, his passions we 

may find 
The frailty, not the virtue of his mind. 

Of romance heroes shun the low de- 

Yet to great hearts some human frailties 

Achilles must with Homer's heart en- 

For an affront I'm pleased to see him 

Those little failings in your hero's heart 

Show that of man and nature he has 

To leave known rules you cannot be al- 
lowed ; 

Make Agamemnon covetous and proud, 

JEneas in religious rites austere; 

Keep to each man his proper character. 

Of countries and of times the humors 

From different climates different cus- 
toms grow; 

And strive to shun their fault, who 
vainly dress 

An antique hero like a modern ass, 

Who make old Romans like our English 

Show Cato sparkish, or make Brutus 

In a romance those errors are excused; 
There 'tis enough that, reading, we're 

Rules too severe would there be useless 

found ; 
But the strict scene must have a juster 

Exact decorum we must always find. 

If then you form some hero in you) 
Be sure your image with itself agree, ! 
For what he first appears he still raus 

Affected wits will naturally incline j 
To paint their figures by their own dr 

Your bully poets bully heroes write; 
Chapman in Bussy D'Ambois took d< 

U « ht » . „ 

And thought perfection was to huff an 


Wise nature by variety does please 
Clothe differing passions in a differii 

dress ; 
Bold anger in rough haughty words a; 

pears ; 
Sorrow is humble and dissolves in tea: 

Make not your Hecuba with fury raj ; 
And show a ranting grief upon the staj i 

2 The original runs : 

Cardez done de donner, ainsi que dans OU , 
L'air, ni V esprit francois a V antique Italie. 

— Ed 

3 The original reads: 

Tout a I'humeur gaseonne en un out 
Calprenede et Juba parlent du meme ton. 



tell in vain how " the rough Tanals 

> sevenfold waters to the Euxine 

ese swollen expressions, this affected 

ows like some pedant that declaims 

to boys, 
sorrow you must softer methods keep, 
d, to excite our tears, yourself must 

ose noisy words with which ill plays 


me not from hearts that are in sad- 
ness drowned. 

rhe theater for a young poet's rimes 

a bold venture in our knowing times. 

author cannot easily purchase fame; 

itics are always apt to hiss and blame; 

lu may be judged by every ass in 

I town — 

je privilege is bought for half-a-crown. 
please, you must a hundred chances 


netimes be humble, then must soar on 


noble thoughts must everywhere 


easy, pleasant, solid, and profound; 

these you must surprising touches 

d show us a new wonder in each line; 

t all, in a just method well-designed 
j leave a strong impression in the 


se are the arts that tragedy main- 

lie great success which tragic writers 

Athens first the comedy renowned. 
: abusive Grecian there, by pleasing 

ipersed his natural malice in his plays ; 
adorn and virtue, honor, wit, and 

■e subject to buffooning insolence; 
its were publicly approved and 
Tat vice extolled and virtue set at 

/iSocrates himself, in that loose age, 
■ks made the pastime of a scoffing 

/ last the public took in hand the cause, 

And cured this madness by the power of 

Forbade, at any time or any place 
To name the persons or describe the face. 
The stage its ancient fury thus let fall, 
And comedy diverted without gall, 
By mild reproofs recovered minds dis- 
And, sparing persons, innocently pleased.* 

Each one was nicely shown in this new 

And smiled to thin* he was not meant 
the ass. 

A miser oft would laugh at first, to find 

A faithful draught of bis own sordid 

And fops were with such care and cun- 
ning writ, 

They liked the piece for which themselves 
did sit 

You, then, that would the comic laur- 
els wear, 
To study nature be your only care. 
Whoe'er knows man, and by a curious art 
Discerns the hidden secrets of the heart; 
He who observes, and naturally can paint 
The jealous fool, the fawning sycophant, 
A sober wit, an enterprising ass, 
A humorous Otter, or a Hudibras, — 
May safely in those noble lists engage, 
And make them act and speak upon the 

Strive to be natural in all you write, 
And paint with colors that may please 

the sight. 
Nature in various figures does abound, 
And in each mind are different humors 

found ; 
A glance, a touch, discovers to the wise, 
But every man has not discerning eyes. 

All-changing time does also change the 

And different ages different pleasures 

Youth, hot and furious, cannot brook de- 

By flattering vice is easily led astray; 

Vain in discourse, inconstant in desire, 

In censure rash, in pleasures all on fire. 

The manly age does steadier thoughts 

* Original : 
. . . Et plut innocemment dans let vert de 
ile'nandre. — Ed. 

1 62 


Power and ambition do his soul emply; 
Against the turns of fate he sets his 

And by the past the future hopes to find. 
D«crepit age, still adding to his stores, 
For others heaps the treasure he adores, 
In all his actions keeps a frozen pace, 
Past time extols, the present to debase; 
Incapable of pleasures youth abuse, 
In others blames what age does him re- 
Your actors must by reason be con- 
trolled ; 
Let young men speak like young, old men 
like old. 

Observe the town and study well the 

For thither various characters resort. 
Thus 'twas great Jonson purchased his 

And in his art had borne away the 

If, less desirous of the people's praise, 
He had not with low farce debased his 

P la ^ s ' ... * . 

Mixing dull buffoonry with wit refined, 

And Harlequin with noble Terence 

"When in The Fox I see the tortoise 

I lose the author of The Alchemist.* 

The comic wit, born with a smiling air, 
Must tragic grief and pompous verse 

forbear ; 
Yet may he not, as on a market-place, 

5 In the above passage — beginning with 
*' Thus 'twas," it is necessary to restore 
" Moliere " for "Jonson"; "Tabarin" for 
" Harlequin " ; " ridiculous sack in which 
Scapin is rolled," for "When in The Fox I 
Bee the tortoise hissed " ; and " Le Mis- 
anthrope " for " The Alchemist." — Ed. 

With bawdy jests amuse the populace. 
With well-bred conversation you mi 

And your intrigue unravelled be wi 

Your action still should reason's rul 

Nor in an empty scene may lose its wa 
Your humble style must sometimes gent 

And your discourse sententious be ai 

The passions must to nature be confine 
And scenes to scenes with artful weavii 

Your wit must not unseasonably play, 
But follow business, never lead the wa 
Observe how Terence does this evil shu 
A careful father chides his amorous so 
Then see that son whom no advice c 

Forget those orders, and pursue his lot 
'Tis not a well-drawn picture we d 

'Tis a true son, a father, and a lover. I 

I like an author that reforms the a 
And keeps the right decorum of i| 

That always pleases by just reaso 

But for a tedious droll, a quibbling f< 
Who with low nauseous bawdry fills 

Let him begone, and on two trestles r; 
Some Smithfield stage, where he may 

his pranks, 
And make Jack-Puddings speak t 

mountebanks. 6 

(Book III. | 

6 Original: "Amusing the Pont-Neuf I 
his stale nonsense, and playing his prank * 
the assembled lackeys." — Ed. 


Charles de Marguetel de Saint-Denis, 
sieur de Saint-Evremond, was born of an 
old and noble family at the Chateau de 
Saint-Denis-le-Guast (near Coutances), 
in 1610. He was destined to a career in 
the magistrature and was sent to Paris 
to study in 1619. His education was 

continued, with special emphasis on J" 
losophy, at Paris and at Caen. He b u> 
his law study in 1628, but gave it u *-* 
the end of a year and entered thi 
He participated in many campa * 
After twenty years of service he * 
made mare'chal de camp, after losinj u* 



•utenancy as the result of an ill-advised 
ke on his former friend Conde. Dur- 
g his military career he read and stud- 
id and wrote. The Comedie det acade- 
iciens (written 1642-43) and Maximes 
647), belong to this period. In 1659 
h wrote a letter to Crequi criticizing the 
Teaty of the Pyrenees, which resulted in 
ing forced to leave France. He 
feat at first to Holland, then (1661) to 
ngland, where he spent the remainder 
life. His existence in England 
■as evidently a not unhappy exile, for 
i was in particular favor with Charles 

and his two successors; and when in 
588, he was permitted to return to his 
itive country, he did not take advan- 
jge of the offer. He died at London in 
03, and was buried in Westminster 

Saint-Evremond is important in the 
story of dramatic criticism both rela- 
vely and intrinsically. His knowledge, 
>th of books and life, and his compara- 
ve freedom from prejudice, gave him 
^culiar advantages over such contem- 
jraries as Boileau. It seems that his 
in England, besides affording him 
ie incalculable advantage of knowing 
luther nation and its literature, gave 
fcn a vantage point from which he was 
ile to judge and discriminate wisely in 
e questions which were being debated in 
s own country. His impartiality in the 
ncients and Moderns Quarrel is an ex- 
nple of this detachment. He was one 

the few Frenchmen of his time who 
as able, or cared, to adopt what is now 
lown as the comparative system of criti- 
sm. His championship of Corneille is 
me, invigorating, and interesting. The 
ore of writings in which he discussed 
*e drama are probably the earliest 
^ecimens of the modern essay. 

On the drama: 

issertation sur la tragedie de Racine 
intitulee: Alexandre le Grand (1666). 
espouse de 21. de Saint-Evremond a 21. 
de Corneille (1668). 

'e la Tragedie ancienne et moderne 

Mr let Caracteres des tragedies (1672). 

( un auteur qui me demandait man sen- 
timent d'une piece ok I'heroine ne fai- 
sait que se lamenter (1672). 

Sur let tragedies (1677). 

Sur not comedies, excepts celles de Mo~ 

liere, ou Von trouve le vrai esprit de la 

comedie, et tur la comedie etpagnole 

De la comedie italienne (1677). 
De la comedie anglaite (1677). 
Sur let operas (1677). 
Defense de quelques pieces de theatre de 

M. Corneille (1677).i 

(All the above are in the English trans- 
lation cited.) 


With the exception of the works already 
mentioned, very little of Saint-Evre- 
mond was published during his life- 
time. The first authorized edition, 
which is not, however, complete, was 
the (Euvret met lees, 3 vols., London, 
1705. This was followed by the 7-vol. 
ed. of 1708, the Amsterdam ed. in 
1727, and Paris ed. in 1740. Among 
the modern editions, see the (Euvret 
melees, edited in 3 vols, by Giraud 
(Paris, 1865), and Ch. Gidel's single- 
volume ed. of the (Euvres choisis (Gar- 
nier, Paris, after 1866). The (Euvres 
were translated as The Works of Mon- 
sieur de St. Evremond, 3 vols. (Lon- 
don, 1714. This contains a Life by P. 
Des Maizeeaux). 

On Saint-Evremond and his works: 

Introductions to the various editions 

G. Merlet, Saint-Evremond (Paris, 1869). 
F. Pastrello, Etude sur Saint-Evremond 

et son influence (Trieste, 1875). 
A. Bourgoin, Les Maitres de la critique 

au XVll> siecle (Paris, 1889). 
C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Cauteries du Lundi, 

voL 4 (Paris, 1857-62). 
Gilbert et Gidel, Eloges de Saint-Evre- 
mond (Paris, 1866). 
La Grande Encvclopedie, voL 29 (Paris). 
George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 

citm, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 
W. Melville Daniels, Saint-Evremond en 

Angleterre (Versailles, 1907). 

1 The dates in each case refer to writing. 
All these essays were first published in 1705. — 




[De la Trag6die ancienne et moderne] 

(Written 1672) 

There were never so many rules to 
write a good tragedy by, and yet so few 
good ones are now made that the players 
are obliged to revive and act all the old 
ones. I remember that the Abbe" d'Au- 
bignac wrote one according to the laws 
he had so imperiously prescribed for the 
stage. This piece had no success, not- 
withstanding which he boasted in all com- 
panies that he was the first French 
writer that had exactly followed the pre- 
cepts of Aristotle; whereupon the Prince 
of Conde said wittily : "I am obliged 
to Monsieur d'Aubignac for having so 
exactly followed Aristotle's rules, but I 
will never forgive the rules of Aristotle 
for having put Monsieur d'Aubignac upon 
writing so bad a tragedy." 

It must be acknowledged that Aris- 
totle's Art of Poetry is an excellent 
piece of work; but, however, there's noth- 
ing so perfect in it as to be the stand- 
ing rules of all nations and all ages. 
Descartes and Gassendi have found out 
truths that were unknown to Aristotle. 
Corneille has discovered beauties for the 
stage of which Aristotle was ignorant; 
and as our philosophers have observed 
errors in his Physic*, our poets have 
spied out faults in his Poetics, at least 
with respect to us, considering what 
great change all things have undergone 
since his time. The gods and goddesses 
amongst the Ancients brought events that 
wore great and extreme upon the thea- 
ter, either by their hatred or their friend- 
ship, by their revenge or their protection; 
and among so many supernatural things, 
nothing appeared fabulous to the people, 
who believed there passed a familiar cor- 
respondence between gods and men. 
Their gods, generally speaking, acted by 
human passions; their men undertook 
nothing without the counsel of the gods, 
and executed nothing without their assist- 
ance. Thus in this mixture of the di- 
vinity and humanity, there was nothing 
which was not credible. 

But all this profusion of miracles is 
downright romance to us at this time of 

2 Re-printed from the anonymous transla- 
tion of the Works (London, 1714). — Ed. 

day. The gods are wanting to us, am 
we are wanting to the gods; and if, i 
imitation of the Ancients, an autho 
would introduce his angels and saint 
upon our stage, the bigots and puritan 
would be offended at it, and the libei 
tines would certainly think him weal 
Our preachers would by no means suffe 
a confusion of the pulpit and the theate 
or that the people should go and lear 
those matters from the mouth of com< 
dians which themselves deliver in the 
churches, with such authority to tl 
whole people. 

Besides this, it would give too great a 
advantage to the libertines, who migi 
ridicule in a comedy those very thinj 
which they receive at church with a seen 
ing submission, either out of respect " 
the place or to the character of the pe| 
son that utters them. 

But let us put the case that our do 1 
tors should freely leave all holy matte i 
to the liberty of the stage; let us lik ■' 
wise take it for granted that men of t \ 
least devotion would hear them with 
great an inclination to be edified as p< 
sons of the profoundest resignation; J 
certain it is that the soundest dextrin 
the most Christian actions, and the m<| 
useful truths, would produce a kind 
tragedy that would please us the 1© 
of anything in the world. 

The spirit of our religion is direc 
opposite to that of tragedy. The hun 
ity and patience of our saints carry 
direct an opposition to those heroical \ 
tues that are so necessary for the th! 
ter. What zeal, what force is th 
which Heaven does not bestow ujl 
Nearchus and Polyeucte? And what 
there wanting on "the part of thes< 
Christians to answer fully the end 
these happy gifts? The passion M 
charms of a lovely young bride mal 
the least impression upon the mind* 
Polyeucte. The politic considerations' 
Felix, as they less affect us, so thej 
a less impression. Insensible both ' 
prayers and menaces, Polyeucte ha » 
greater desire to die for God than 
men have to live for themselves. Ne "■ 



-. this very subject, which would 
like one of the finest sermons in the 
'jrld, would have made a wretched trag- 
ly, if the conversation of Pauline and 
Ivere, heightened with other sentiments 
Id other passions, had not preserved 

Kit reputation to the author which the 
ristian virtues of our martyrs had 
Bde him lose. 

The theater loses all its agreeableness 
Ipen it pretends to represent sacred 
fngs: and sacred things lose a great 
•al of the religious opinion that is due 
1 them by being represented upon the 

To say the truth, the histories of the 
<d Testament are infinitely better 
sited to our stage. Moses, Samson, and 
vshua would meet much better suc- 
an Polyeucte and N'earchus, for 
fc wonders they would work there would 
I a fitter subject for the theater. But 
] am apt to believe that the priests 
vuld not fail to exclaim against the 
jofanation of these sacred histories, 
1 th which they fill their conversations, 
books, and their sermons; and to 
soberly upon the point, the mirac- 
passage through the Red Sea, the 
stopped in his career by the prayer 
Joshua, and whole armies defeated by 
n with the jawbone of an ass — 
these miracles, I say, would not be 
«edited in a play, because we believe 
fem in the Bible; but we should be 
ither apt to question them in the Bible, 
Icause we should believe nothing of 
fem in the play. 

If what I have delivered is founded on 
^od and solid reasons, we ought to con- 
tit ourselves with things purely natural, 
kt at the same time, such as are extraor- 
«nary; and in our heroes to choose the 
pal actions which we may believe 
>le as human, and which may cause 
i miration in us, as being rare and of 
vated character. In a word, we 
fonld have nothing but what is great, 
11 let it be human. In the human, 
: must carefully avoid mediocrity; and 
;ble in that which is great. 
I arn by no means willing to compare 
e Phartalia to the JEneid; I know the 
ifference of their value; but as for 
tat purely regards elevation, Pompey, 
. Cato, Curio, and Labienus, have 
>ne more for Lucan than Jupiter, Mer- 

cury, Juno, Venus, and all the train of 
the other gods and goddesses have done 
for Vergil. 

The ideas which Lucan gives us of 
these great men are truly greater, and 
affect us more sensibly, than those which 
Vergil gives us of his deities. The latter 
has clothed his gods with human infirmi- 
ties to adapt them to the capacity of 
men; the other has raised his heroes so 
as to bring them into competition with 
the gods themselves. 

Victrix causa diu placuit, ted victa 

In Vergil, the gods are not so valuable 
as the heroes; in Lucan, the heroes equal 
the gods. To give you my opinion 
freely, I believe that the tragedy of the 
Ancients might have suffered a happy 
loss in the banishment of their gods, their 
oracles and their soothsayers. 

For it proceeded from these gods, these 
oracles, and these diviners, that the 
stage was swayed by a spirit of super- 
stition and terror, capable of infecting 
mankind with a thousand errors, and 
overwhelming them with numerous mis- 
chiefs. And if we consider the usual im- 
pressions which tragedy made at Athens 
in the minds of the spectators, we may 
safely affirm that Plato was more in the 
right, who prohibited the use of them, 
than Aristotle, who recommended them; 
for as their tragedies wholly consisted in 
excessive motions of fear and pity, was 
not this the direct way to make the thea- 
ter a school of terror and of compassion, 
where people only learnt to be affrighted 
at all dangers, and to abandon them- 
selves to despair upon every misfortune? 

It will be a hard matter to persuade 
me that a soul accustomed to be terrified 
for what regards another, has strength 
enough to support misfortunes that con- 
cern itself. This perhaps was the reason 
why the Athenians became so susceptible 
of the impressions of fear, and that this 
spirit of terror which the theater inspired 
into them with so much art became at 
last but too natural to their armies. 

At Sparta and Rome, where only ex- 
amples of valor and constancy were pub- 
licly shown, the people were no less brave 
and resolute in battle than they were 
unshaken and constant in the calamities 
of the Republic. Ever since this art of 
fearing and lamenting was set up at 



Athens, all those disorderly passions 
which they had, as it were, imbibed at 
their public representations, got footing 
in their camps and attended them in their 

Thus a spirit of superstition occasioned 
the defeat of their armies, and a spirit 
of lamentation made them sit down con- 
tented with bewailing their great misfor- 
tunes, when they ought to have found 
out proper remedies for them. For how 
was it possible for them not to learn 
despair in this pitiful school of commis- 
eration? The persons they usually repre- 
sented upon it were examples of the 
greatest misery and subjects but of ordi- 
nary virtues. 

So great was their desire to lament 
that they represented fewer virtues than 
misfortunes, lest a soul raised to the 
admiration of heroes should be less in- 
clined to pity the distressed; and in 
order to imprint these sentiments of af- 
fliction the deeper in their spectators, 
they had always upon their theater a 
chorus of virgins or of old men, who fur- 
nished them upon every event, either 
with their terrors or with their tears. 

Aristotle was sensible enough what 
prejudice this might do the Athenians, 
but he thought he sufficiently prevented 
it by establishing a certain Purgation, 
which no one hitherto has understood, 
and which in my opinion he himself never 
fully comprehended. For can anything 
be so ridiculous as to form a science 
which will infallibly discompose our 
minds, only to set up another, which 
does not certainly pretend to cure us? 
Or to raise a perturbation in our souls 
for no other end than to endeavor after- 
wards to calm it, by obliging it to re- 
flect upon the dejected condition it has 
been in? 

Among a thousand persons that are 
present at the theater, perhaps there 
may be six philosophers that are capa- 
ble of recovering their former tranquil- 
lity by the assistance of these prudent 
and useful meditations; but the multitude 
will scarce make any such judicious re- 
flections, and we may be almost assured 
that what we see constantly represented 
on the theater, will not fail, at long run, 
to produce in us a habit of these un- 
happy motions. 

Our theatrical representations are not 

subject to the same circumstances t 
those of the Ancients were, since our fea 
never goes so far as to raise this supei 
stitious terror, which produced such i 
effects upon valor. Our fear, general] 
speaking, is nothing else but an agre< 
able uneasiness, which consists in tfc 
suspension of our minds; 'tis a dear coi 
cern which our soul has for those objecl 
that draw its affection to them. 

We may almost say the same of pity i 
'tis used on our stage. We divest it t 
all its weakness, and leave it all that w 
call charitable and human. I love to sc 
the misfortune of some great unhapp 
person lamented; I am content with a 
my heart that he should attract our cod 
passion; nay, sometimes, command 01 
tears; but then I would have these tei 
der and generous tears paid to his mi 
fortunes and virtues together, and th 
this melancholy sentiment of pity be a 
companied with vigorous admiratio 
which shall stir up in our souls a sort ■ 
an amorous desire to imitate him. 

We were obliged to mingle somewhj 
of love in the new tragedy, the better ! 
remove those black ideas which the a 
cient tragedy caused in us by supers 
tion and terror. And in truth there 
no passion that more excites us to ever 
thing that is noble and generous than 
virtuous love. A man who may co < 
ardly suffer himself to be insulted by 
contemptible enemy will yet defend wl 
he loves, though to the apparent haze 
of his life, against the attacks of the mi | 
valiant. The weakest and most fear 
creatures — those creatures that are n 
urally inclined to fear and to run away 
will fiercely encounter what they dre 
most, to preserve the object of their lo 
Love has a certain heat which suppl 
the defect of courage in those that w 
it most. But to confess the truth, < ' 
authors have made as ill an use of \ '• 
noble passion as the Ancients did of tl ' 
fear and pity; for if we except eight ' 
ten plays where its impulses have h ' 
managed to great advantage, we have > 
tragedies in which both lovers and 1 > 
are not equally injured. 

We have an affected tenderness wife 
we ought to place the noblest sentime ^ 
We bestow a softness on what ought" 
be most moving; and sometimes when c 
mean plainly to express the graces <t 



: ture, we fall into a vicious and mean 

We imagine we make kings and emper- 

rfect lovers, but in tragedy we 

ridiculous princes of them; and by 

'e complaints and sighs which we be- 

ow upon them where they ought neither 

complain nor sigh, we represent them 
'*ak, both as lovers and as princes. 
Our great heroes upon the theater gen- 
tally make love like shepherds; and thus 
e innocence of a sort of rural passion 
:.pplies with them the place of glory and 

If an actress has the art to weep and 
■moan herself after a moving lively 
anner, we give her our tears, at cer- 
in places which demand gravity; and 
■cause she pleases best when she seems 

be affected, she shall put on grief all 
ong, indifferently. 

Sometimes we must have a plain, unar- 
ficial, sometimes a tender and some- 
mes a melancholy whining love, with- 
it regarding where that simplicity, ten- 
erness, or grief is requisite; and the 
bason of it is plain: for as we must 
teds have love everywhere, we look for 
versity in the manners, and seldom or 
ever place it in the passions. 

I am in good hopes we shall one day 
hd out the true use of this passion, 
hich is now become too common. That 
hich ought to sweeten cruel or calami- 
>us accidents, that which ought to affect 
jar very souls, to animate our courage 
ad raise our spirits, will not certainly 
e always made the subject of a little 
ffected tenderness or of a weak sim- 
licity. Whenever this happens, we need 
ot envy the Ancients; and without pay- 
ig too great a respect to Antiquity, or 
eing too much prejudiced against the 
resent age, we shall not set up the trag- 
dies of Sophocles and Euripides as the 
nly models for the dramatic composi- 
ions of our times. 

However, I don't say that these trag- 
dies wanted anything that was necessary 
p recommend them to the palate of the 
Athenians; but should a man translate 
he (Edipus, the best performance of all 
Vntiquity, into French, with the same 
pirit and force as we see it in the orig- 
inal, I dare be bold to affirm that noth- 
ng in the world would appear to us 
nore cruel and more opposite to the 

true sentiments which mankind ought to 

Our age has at least this advantage 
over theirs, that we are allowed the lib- 
erty to hate vice and love virtue. As the 
gods occasioned the greatest crimes on 
the theater of the Ancients, these crimes 
captivated the respect of the spectators, 
and the people durst not find fault with 
those things which were really abomin- 
able. When they saw Agamemnon sac- 
rifice his own daughter, and a daughter 
too that was so tenderly loved by him, 
to appease the indignation of the gods, 
they only considered this barbarous sac- 
rifice as a pious obedience, and the high- 
est proof of a religious submission. 

Now, in that superstitious age, if a 
man still preserved the common senti- 
ments of humanity, he could not avoid 
murmuring at the cruelty of the gods; 
he must needs be cruel and barbarous 
to his own fellow-creatures; he must, like 
Agamemnon, offer the greatest violence 
both to nature and to his own affection. 
Tantum relligio potuit suadere malo- 
rum, says Lucretius, upon the account 
of this barbarous sacrifice. 

Nowadays we see men represented 
upon the "theater without the interposi- 
tion of the gods; and this conduct is infi- 
nitely more useful both to the public and 
to private persons, for in our tragedies 
we neither introduce any villain who is 
not detested, nor any hero who does not 
cause himself to be admired. With us, 
few crimes escape unpunished and few 
virtues go off unrewarded. In short, by 
the good examples we publicly represent 
on the theater, by the agreeable senti- 
ments of love and admiration that are 
discreetly interwoven with a rectified 
fear and pity, we are in a capacity of 
arriving to that perfection which Horace 
desires : 

Omne tulit punctvm, qui miscuit utile 
dulci, which can never be effected by the 
rules of ancient tragedy. 

I shall conclude with a new and daring 
thought of my own, and that is this: we 
ought, in tragedy, before all things what- 
ever, to look after a greatness of soul 
well expressed, which excites in us a ten- 
der admiration. By this sort of admira- 
tion our minds are sensibly ravished, our 
courages elevated, and our souls deeply 


From the Restoration to the Nineteenth Century 

Restoration and Eighteenth Century English Dramatic Criti- 
cism 171 

Bibliography 173 

John Dryden 174 

Bibliography 175 

An Essay of Dramatick Poesie. (1668.) Extracts 176 

Preface to Troilus and Cressida. (1679.) Extracts 193 

John Milton 202 

Bibliography 202 

Of that sort of Dramatic Poem which is call'd Tragedy [Preface to 
Samson Agonistes] (1671). Complete 203 

Thomas Rymer 204 

Bibliography 204 

A Short View of Tragedy, Its Original Excellency and Corruption, 
with Some Reflections on Shakespeare and Other Practitioners for 
the State. (1693.) Extracts 205 

William Congheve 210 

Bibliography 211 

Concerning Humour in Comedy. (1696.) Complete . . . .211 

George Farquhar 216 

Bibliography . "217 

A Discourse upon Comedy, in Reference to the English Stage. 
(1702.) Extracts 217 

Joseph Addison 226 

Bibliography 227 

The Special or, Nos. 39 and 40 (1711). Extracts 227 

Samuel Johnson 228 

Bibliography 230 

The Rambler, Nos. 125 and 156 (1751) No. 125 complete; No. 156, 
extracts 230 

Oliver Goldsmith 235 

Bibliography 235 

An Essay on the Theatre; or, a Comparison Between Laughing and 
Sentimental Comedy (1772). Complete 236 



Between the publication of Jonson's 
Discoveries (1641) and that of Dryden's 
Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668), there 
is no outstancL-ig piece of dramatic criti- 
cism in English. However, Davenant's 
efforts to create the opera, his Preface 
to Gondibert and Hobbes' reply, in 1650, 
together with the former's Dedication 
iand To the Reader prefixed to his Siege 
of Rhodes (printed 1663), deserve pass- 
ing notice as connecting links. Sir Rob- 
ert Howard's Preface to Four yew 
Plages (1665), which called forth Dry- 
den's reply, and Howard's further Pref- 
ace — to The Great Favourite (1668) — 
Richard Flecknoe's A Short Discourse 
of the English Stage (1664), and the 
various prefaces, dedications, and pro- 
logues, especially of ShadwelTs The Sul- 
len Lovers (1668) and of The Humour- 
ists (1671), are other signs of the times, 
and are evidences of interest in dramatic 
controversies. Thomas Rymer entered 
the field a few years after Dryden. His 
Preface to his translation of Rapin's Re- 
flexions sur la poetique (1674) attacked 
all stragglers from the narrow path pre- 
scribed by the rigid neo-classicists ; he 
followed this with a severe criticism of 
the Elizabethans, in The Tragedies of 
the Last Age Considered, etc. (1678), 
and in 1693 he published his Short View 
of Tragedy, etc., containing the famous 
onslaught on Othello. Milton published 
his short dissertation on tragedy with his 
Samson Agonistes (1671) as a sort of 
apology. It is based almost entirely 
upon the Italian Renaissance critics' con- 
ception of Aristotle's remarks on trag- 
edy. Other contemporaries of Dryden, 
who dominated the last years of the cen- 
tury are, among others of less impor- 
tance: the Duke of Buckingham, whose 
Essay upon Poetry was published in 
1682; Ravenscroft's preface to the play 
Dame Dobson (1684); Sedley, whose 
Bellamira (1687) bore a short Preface; 
Sir Thomas Pope Blount, whose exten- 

sive treatise — De Re Poetica — with nu- 
merous excerpts from ancient and mod- 
ern poets, appeared in 1694; and 
the dramatists, Blackmore — Prefaces to 
Prince Arthur (1695) and King Ar- 
thur (1697)— and Dilke — Preface to 
The City Lady (1697). Of Dryden's 
thirty odd prefaces, essays, etc., on 
the drama, the first, the Epistle Ded- 
icatory to his play The Rival Ladies, 
was published in 1664. This was fol- 
lowed by the Essay of Dramatick Poesie 
(1668), and the Defence, the same year. 
Nearly every one of his plays contains 
a preface, dedication, or separate essay 
defending his dramatic practice, setting 
forth some theory, or attacking the prac- 
tice or theory of others. His last word 
on the drama is found in the Discourse 
on Epick Poetry, prefixed to his trans- 
lation of the j£neid in 1697, three years 
before his death. Dryden was a great 
critic, one of the greatest of all time. 
" He established (let us hope for all 
time)," says Saintsbury, "the English 
fashion of criticizing, as Shakespeare did 
the English fashion of dramatizing, — 
the fashion of aiming at delight, at truth, 
at justice, at nature, at poetry, and let- 
ting the rules take care of themselves." 
The controversy between the Puritans 
and the stage assumed its most violent 
form in the famous Collier dispute. In 
1696 Jeremy Collier, a Nonjuring clergy- 
man, published his Short View of the 
Profaneness and Immorality of the Eng- 
lish Stage. This pamphlet was aimed 
primarily against the dramatists who 
" profaned " the stage with immoral 
characters and situations, and who at- 
tacked the clergy. While his purpose 
was primarily a moral one, there is a 
good deal of literary criticism in his 
work. There is no doubt that he was 
a most important factor in changing the 
tone of the plays of his generation, and 
stultifying the comedies of the next. 
The Short View called forth many re- 




plies, some of which were anonymous. 
Congreve replied with his Amendments 
upon Mr. Collier's False and Imperfect 
Citations, etc., the same year. Collier 
at once riposted with his Defence of 
the Short View, etc. Farquhar is the 
probable author of The Adventures of 
Covent Garden, which replied to Collier 
by suggesting that the " best way of an- 
swering Mr. Collier was not to have 
replied at all." Vanbrugh, who together 
with Congreve and Dryden, was speci- 
fically attacked, replied in his Vindica- 
tion of the Relapse, etc. (1699). John 
Dennis, a critic of no mean ability, de- 
fended the stage in a lengthy treatise 
on The Usefulness of the Stage to the 
Happiness of Mankind, to Government, 
and to Religion, etc. (1698). When, in 
1705, Collier published his Dissuasive 
from the Play House, Dennis again an- 
swered with A. Person of Quality's An- 
swer to Mr. Collier's Letter. Before the 
Collier controversy started, Dennis had 
written his first criticism, the Impartial 
Critick (1693), in reply to Rymer's 
Short View of Tragedy. Among his 
subsequent dramatic criticisms may be 
mentioned: An Essay on the Operas 
(1706), An Essay on the Genius and 
Writings of Shakespeare (1712), Re- 
marks upon Cato, A. Tragedy (1713), 
A Defence of Sir Fopling Flutter, a 
Comedy (1722), Remarks on a Play, 
call'd The Conscious' Lovers, a Comedy 
(1723), The Stage Defended from Scrip- 
ture, Reason and the Common Sense of 
Mankind for Two Thousand Years 
(1726). Drake's Antient and Modern 
Stages survey'd (1699) called forth Col- 
lier's Second Defence of the Short View, 
etc. (1700). E. Kilmer's A Defence of 
Plays, etc. (1707), found Collier once 
more ready with an answer, A Farther 
Vindication of the Short View, etc. 
(1708). Mr. Collier's Dissuasive from 
the Play House (1703), completes the 
list of the clergyman's attacks on the 
stage. Among the many defenses of 
Collier may be mentioned the anonymous 
A Representation of the Impiety and 
Immorality of the English Stage, etc. 
(1704). Formal treatises on the art of 
poetry made their appearance early in 
the new century. Edward Bysshe's Art 
of English Poetry (probably 1700) is 
of great historical importance, and sums 

up the neo-classic tendencies of the time. 
This was followed in 1721 by Charles 
Gildon's Complete Art of Poetry. It 
was probably Gildon who "improved" 
and continued Gerard Langbaine's Lives 
and Characters of the English Dramatic 
Poets, etc., which was published in 
1699 (?). Addison, great as he was in 
other fields, is not important as a dra- 
matic critic. In the Spectator, however, 
he touches on drama at several points.i 
In The Tatler, The Guardian, and other 
papers, Richard Steele also occasionally 
wrote on the drama, and the dedications 
and prefaces to his plays (The Funeral, 
1702, The Lying Lover, 1704, The Con- 
scious Lovers, 1723). Farquhar, the 
last of the great Restoration dramatists, 
made his contributions to dramatic criti- 
cism in the Prologue to Sir Harry Wild- 
air (1701) and in the Discourse upon 
English Comedy (1702). The latter, 
which is of course much fuller, is a sort 
of summing-up of the theories of drama 
held by many dramatists. It contains 
a vigorous protest against Aristotle and 
the Rules, and a loose definition of com- 
edy as a moral guide, with the Horatian 
ingredient of the "useful" and the 
" pleasing." The Shakespearean Pref- 
aces of the seventeenth century contain 
interesting critical matter. The most 
important are collected by D. Niehol 
Smith in his Eighteenth Centur^Ksxays 
on Shakespeare, and contain the follow- ; 
ing, among others: Nicholas Rowe's 
Some Account of the Life . . . of Mr. ] 
William Shakespeare (1707); Pope's! 
Preface (1725); those of Theobald) 
(1733), Hanmer (1744), Warburton ; 
(1747), Johnson (1765), and Fanner's i 
Essay on the Learning of Shakesprarg ' 
( 1 767 ) . Pope's Essay on Criticism (1711) 
may also be consulted for its sections re- i 
lating to the drama. Many literary crit- ; 
ics of the period referred to the drama 
in the course of their writings on general i 
literature, rhetoric, and poetry. David 
Hume's Essay on Tragedy (1742), Jo- ( 
seph Warton's papers in The Adventurer' 
(on The Tempest, Nos. 93 and 97, and on ' 
King Lear, Nos. 113, 116, and 122);, 
Colley Cibber's Apology (1740); deal 
with various aspects of the drama, while 
Blair, Hurd, and Karnes, are more es- ; 

lln Nos. 39 to 42, 44, 45, 58 to 63, 258, 
290, 296, 419, 446. 


pecially concerned with the historical, 
rhetorical, and esthetic sides. Burke's 
Essay on Tragedy, and On the Sublime 
and Beautiful (1756), are concerned al- 
most wholly with purely esthetic consider- 
ations, Samuel Foote's Roman and Eng- 
lish Comedy Considered and Compared 
(1747) is little more than a curious docu- 
ment on contemporary plays and acting. 
Dr. Johnson's contribution to the criti- 
cism of the drama is not great in extent, 
but is important as an indication of the 
spirit of the times. His essays in the 
Rambler, the Idler, and the Adventurer, 
the casual remarks in the Lives of the 
Poets (1789-91), and the Preface to his 
edition of Shakespeare (1765) are prac- 
tically his only dramatic criticism. 

Goldsmith was not a great critic, but 
his knowledge of the stage and inborn 
shrewdness make his observations in The 
State of Polite Learning (1759), the Pref- 
ace to The Good-Saturd Man (1768), 
and the Essay on the Theatre (1772), 
dramatic manifestos of prime impor- 
tance. They indicate the reaction against 
the Sentimental Comedy, which was at 
that time in its heyday. The century 
closed with a few treatises on the more 
formal aspects of dramatic criticism, like 
Cooke's Elements of Dramatic Criticism 
(1775), J. Penn's Letters on the Drama 
(1796), B. Walwyn's Essay on Com- 
edy (1782), and Samuel Wyte's The The- 
atre, a Didactic Essay (1790). 

General references on the literature of 
the Restoration and the eighteenth cen- 

T. S. Perrv. Enalish Literature of the 
Eighteenth Century (New York, 1883). 

John Dennis, The Age of Pope (Lon- 

, don, 1899). 

-Leslie Stephen, English Literature and 
Society in the Eighteenth Century 
(London, ed., 1910). 

, History of English Thought in the 

Ei'ihteenth Century, 2 vols. (ed. New 
York, 1877). 

Edmund Gosse, A History of Eighteenth 
Century Literature (London, 1889). 

, Seventeenth Century Studies (Lon- 
don, 1883). 

R. Garnett. The Age of Dryden (Lon- 
don, 1903). 

A. Beljame, Le Public et les hommes de 
lettres en Angleterre au dix-huitieme 
sieele (2nd ed., Paris, 1897). 

George Saintsbury, The Peace of the 
Augustan* (London, 1916). 

General references on the drama: 

Downs, John, Roscius Anglicanus, or, 
An Historical Review of the Stage 
. . . from 1660 to 1706 (London, 1708. 
"With additions," by Davies, 1789). 

G. H. Nettleton, English Drama of the 
Restoration and Eighteenth Century 
(New York, 1914). 

Theophilus Cibber, Dissertations on the 
Theatres, etc. (London, 1756). 

Ernest Bernbaum, The Drama of Sensi- 
bility (1696-1780) (Boston, 1915). 

Thomas Betterton (?), The History of 
the English Stage, from the Restaura- 
tion to the Present Time, etc. (Lon- 
don, 1741). 

A. -A. de Grisy, Histoire de la comedie 
anglaise au dix-septieme sieele (Paris, 

W. Harvey-Jeilie, Les Sources du theatre 
anglaise a I'epoque de la Restauration 
(Paris, 1906). 

D. H. Miles, The Influence of Moliere 
on Restoration Comedy (New York, 

J. Fitzgerald Molloy, Famous Plays, 
tcith a Discourse by way of Prologue 
on the Playhouses of the Restoration 
(London, 1886). 

John Palmer, The Comedy of Manners 
(New York, 1913). 

, Comedy (New York, n.d.). 

O. Waterhouse, The Development of 
English Sentimental Comedy in the 
ISth Century (in Anglia, vol. 30, Halle, 

William Cooke, Memoirs of Charles 
Macklin . . . forming an History of 
the Stage during almost the whole of 
the last century (2nd ed., London, 

E. X. S. Thompson, The Controversy 
Between the Puritans and the Stage 
(New Haven, 1903). 

Percy Fitzgerald, A New History of the 
English Stage, from the Restoration 



to the Liberty of the Theatres, etc. 
(London, 1882). 

Special works on criticism: 

P. Hamelius, Die Kritik in der eng- 
lischen Literatur der 17. und 18. Jahr- 
hunderts (Leipzig, 1897). 

A. Beljame, he Public et les hommes de 
lettret en Angleterre au dix-huitieme 
sticle (2nd ed., Paris, 1897). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 

George Saintsbury, A History of English 
Criticism (New York, 1911). 

For collections of contemporary es- 
says, see J. E. Spingarn, Critical Essays 
of the Seventeenth Century, 3 vols. (Ox- 
ford, 1908-09) ; W. H. Durham, Critical 
Essays of the Eighteenth Century (New 
Haven, 1915); R. M. Alden, Readings in 
English Prose of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury (Boston, 1911). 


John Dryden was born at Aldwinkle, 
Northamptonshire, in 1631. He came of 
a Puritan family, long was prominent 
in the political world. Dryden was sent 
to school at Westminster. He published 
some verses at the age of eighteen. In 
1650 he entered Trinity College, Cam- 
bridge, and took a degree of B.A. four 
years later, but it is probable that he 
spent also the next three years at Cam- 
bridge. He went to London in 1657. 
His first important literary effort, Heroic 
Stanzas to the memory of Cromwell, 
were published in 1659. These were fol- 
lowed the next year by verses on the 
return of Charles. In order to add to 
his slender income, he turned to the 
stage, and after two unsuccessful at- 
tempts he produced his first play, The 
Wild Gallant, in 1663. This comedy was 
not well received, and Dryden confesses 
that his forte was not comedy. The 
same year he produced The Rival Ladies, 
and married Lady Elizabeth Howard. 
The Indian Queen (1664), written in 
collaboration with Sir Robert Howard, 
his wife's brother, enjoyed considerable 
success. Dryden followed this with The 
Indian Emperor (1665). During the 
Plague Dryden lived with his father- 
in-law in Wiltshire, where he wrote his 
Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668). 
Howard's preface to his Four New 
Playes (1665) called forth a reply from 
Dryden: A Defence of an Essay of 
Dramatique Poesie (1668). From the 
re-opening of the theaters in 1666, to 
1681, Dryden wrote little except his 

plays. The production of Buckingham's 
satirical play The Rehearsal in 1671, in 
which Dryden was the chief personage, 
called forth the preface Of Heroic Plays 
and Defence of the Epilogue (1672). 
All for Love, in all probability the poet's 
greatest play, was performed in 1678. 
He continued to produce plays to the 
end of his career. In 1681 he turned to 
satire and wrote Absalom and Achito- 
phel, which achieved instant and wide- 
spread popularity. This was followed 
by other satires. In 1687, after his 
conversion to the Catholic Church, he 
wrote The Hind and the Panther, a plea | 
for Catholicism. His Catholic leanings 
lost for him the laureateship and other 
offices when the Revolution came. Dur- 
ing his last ten years he translated many ! 
of the Latin classics : Vergil, Ovid, Lu- 
cretius, Horace, Theocritus, and others, I 
and modernied Chaucer. He died in 
1700, and was buried in Westminster 

Dryden's contribution to English lit- 
erature, besides his poems and plays, i 
lay in his having found a direct and; 
simple style for literary criticism. Hf 
improved upon the prose of the Eliza- 
bethan writers in the matter of riddim 
English of its involved forms, even i: 
through that process he lost some of it: 
gorgeous ornament and rugged strength 
Jonson's method in criticism was an* 
all not much more than the note-bool 
method of jotting down stray thought 
and opinions and reactions. Dryde 
elaborated his ideas, sought the weigh 



of authority, argued both sides of the 
question, and adduced proofs. Dryden 
performed inestimable service to his 
countrymen in applying true standards 
of criticism to the Elizabethans and in 
showing them a genuine and sympa- 
thetic if occasionally misguided love for 
Shakespeare. Dryden also enjoyed the 
advantage of being able to bring his 
knowledge of the drama of Spain and 
France to bear on his criticism of Eng- 
lish dramatists, while it has already been 
pointed out what debts he owes to Cor- 
neille as a critic. 

On the drama: 

Epistle Dedicatory, in The Rival Ladies 

An Essay of Dramatick Poesie, with its 

Epistle Dedicatory (16(58). 
A Defence of an Essay of Dramatique 
I Poesie (1668). 
Dedication to The Indian Emperor 

Preface to Secret Love, or, The Maiden 

Queen (1668). 
Preface to The Wild Gallant (1669). 
Preface to The Tempest (1670). 
Preface to Tyrannick Love (1670). 
Preface to The Mock Astrologer (1671). 
Of Heroick Plays, in The Conquest of 

Granada (167:2). 
Epilogue, and Defence of the Epilogue 

to the second part of The Conquest of 

Granada (167;?). 
Epistle Dedicatory in Marriage a-la- 

Mode (1673). 
Epistle Dedicatory in The Assignation 

Preface to The State of Innocence 

Dedication to Aurengzebe (1676). 
Preface to All for Love (1678). 
Dedication of Limberham (1678). 
Preface to GZdipus (1679). 
Preface to Troilus and Cressida (1679). 
Dedication of The Spanish Fryar (1681). 
The Vindication of the Duke de Guise 

Preface to Albion and Albanius (1685). 
Preface to Don Sebastian (1690). 
Dedication of Amphitryon (1690). 
Preface to Cleomenes (1692). 
A Discourse on the Origin and Progress 
of Satire (preface to Dryden*s and 
others' translation of Juvenal, 1693). 

Dedication of Third Part of Poetical 

Miscellanies (1693). 
Dedication of Love Triumphant (1694). 
A Parallel of Poetry and Painting (in 

Dryden's translation of Du Fresnoy's 

De Arte Graphica, 1695). 
Preface to Dryden's son's The Husband 

his own Cuckold (1696). 
A Discourse on Epick Poetry (preface 

to Dryden's translation of the JUneid, 


Editions : 

The Comedies, Tragedies and Operas 
written by John Dryden, Esq., were 
published in 2 vols. (London, 1701). 
Congreve edited the Dramatick Works 
in 6 vols. (London, 1717). The first 
collected edition of the Works was ed- 
ited by Sir Walter Scott, 18 vols. 
(1808). This edition, revised and cor- 
rected by George Saintsbury (18 vols., 
Edinburgh, 1882-93) is the standard. 
Edmund Malone edited the prose 
works as Critical and Miscellaneous 
Prose Works, 4 vols. (London, 1800). 
The important essays are edited as 
Essays of John Dryden, by W. P. Ker, 
2 vols. (Oxford, 1900). The Best 
Plays of John Dryden, 2 vols., edited 
by Saintsbury (New York, n.d.) con- 
tain numerous essays. Dramatic Es- 
says of John Dryden, edited by W. H. 
Hudson, are published in Everyman's 
Library (New York, n.d.). There are 
annotated editions of the Essays of 
Dramatick Poesie by T. Arnold (Ox- 
ford, 1903), and Von Schunck (New 
York, 1899). Essays on the Drama, 
edited by W. Strunk (1908). 

The Letters may be consulted for bio- 
graphical data. One (No. IX, Malone 
ed.) refers to Rymer and his ideas. 
The Heads of an Answer to Rymer 
(1711); and the Preface to Notes and 
Observations on the Empress of Mo- 
rocco (1674, attributed to Dryden), 
may be consulted, as well as the Notes 
and Observations, etc., 2nd edition, by 
Settle (1687). 

On Dryden and his works: 

Prefaces to works cited. 

Samuel Johnson, John Dryden (in Lives 



of the Most Eminent English Poets 

(ed., London, 1871). 
T. B. Macaulay, Dryden (in Critical and 

Miscellaneous Essays, in Complete 

Works, London, 1879). 
George Saintsbury, John Dryden (in 

English Men of Letters series, Lon- 
don, 1881). 
James Russell Lowell, Among My Books 

(Boston, 1870). 
A. Beljame, Le Public et les hommes de 

lettres en Angleterre, 1660-1744 (2nd 

ed., Paris, 1897). 
J. Churton Collins, Essays and Studies 

(London, 1895). 
F. Bobertag, Dryden's Theorie des 

Dramas (in Englische Studien, vol. 4, 

Heilbronn, 1881). 
William E. Bohn, The Development of 

John Dryden's Criticism (in Modern 

Language Association Publications, 

vol. 22, Cambridge, U. S. A., 1907). 

G. S. Collins, Dryden's Dramatic Theory 

and Praxis (Leipzig, 1892). 
P. H. Frye, Dryden and the Critical 

Canons of the Eighteenth Century (in 

Literary Reviews and Criticisms, New 

York, 1908). 
F. Ohlsen, Dryden as a Dramatist and 

Critic (Altona, 1883). 
Margaret Sherwood, Dryden's Dramatic 

Theory and Practice (New Haven, 

F. Weselmann, Dryden als Kritiker 

(Gottingen, 1893). 
R. Garnett, The Age of Dryden (Lon- 
don, 1895). 
W. J. Courthope, History of English 

Poetry, vols. 3 and 4 (London, 1903). 
N. Delius, Dryden und Shakespeare 

(Berlin, 1869). 
P. Hamelius, Die Kritik in der eng- 

lischer Litteratur der 17. und 18. Jahr- 

hunderts (Leipzig, 1897). 


6. Eugenius 2 was going to continue 
this discourse, when Lisideius 3 told him 
that it was necessary, before they pro- 
ceded further, to take a standing meas- 
ure of their controversy; for how was 
it possible to be decided who writ the 
best plays, before we know what a play 
should be? But, this once agreed on by 
both parties, each might have recourse 
to it, either to prove his own advantages, 
or to discover the failings of his adver- 

He had no sooner said this, but all 
desired the favor of him to give the 
definition of a play; and they were the 
more importunate, because neither Aris- 
totle, nor Horace, nor any other who 
had writ of that subject, had ever done 

Lisideius, after some modest denials, 
at last confessed he had a rude notion 

1 Re-printed — with omissions of portions 
not relating to the drama — from the Every- 
man's Library edition of Dramatic Essays by 
John Dryden (London and New York, n. d.). 

— Ed. 

2 Generally thought to be Lord Buckhurst. — 

3 Generally thought to be Sir Charles Sedley. 

— Ed. 

of it ; indeed, rather a description than 
a definition; but which served to guide; 
him in his private thoughts, when he wasj 
to make a judgment of what others writ: 
that he conceived a play ought to be..' 
A just and lively image of human no- J 
ture, representing its passions and hu- 
mors, and the changes of fortune ti ! 
which it is subject, for the delight ant 
instruction of mankind. 

This definition, though Crites * raisec , 
a logical objection against it — that i| 
was only genere et fine, and so not alto 
gether perfect, was yet well received by 
the rest, Crites, being desired by th I 
company to begin, spoke on behalf 
the ancients, in this manner: 

"If confidence presage a victory, Euj 
genius, in his own opinion, has already 
triumphed over the ancients : nothin | 
seems more easy to him, than to overconi 
those whom it is our greatest praise t| 
have imitated well; for we do not onl; 
build upon their foundations, but by the 
models. Dramatic Poesy had tin, 
enough, reckoning from Thespis (wl 
first invented it) to Aristophanes, to 1 

4 Generally thought to be Sir Robert Ho 
ard. — Ed. 



K>rn, to grow up, and to flourish in 
uaturity. It has been observed of arts 
nd sciences, that in one and the same 
entury they have arrived to great per- 
ection; and no wonder, since every age 
ias a kind of universal genius, which in- 
lines those that live in it to some par- 
icular studies: the work then, being 
•ushed on by many hands, must of neces- 
ity go forward. 

"Is it not evident, in these last hun- 
red years, when the study of philosophy 
as been the business of all the virtuosi 
1 Christendom, that almost a new nature 
as been revealed to us? That more 
rrors of the school have been detected, 
lore useful experiments in philosophy 
ave been made, more noble secrets in 
pties, medicine, anatomy, astronomy, 
iscovered, than in all those credulous 
nd doting ages from Aristotle to us? — 
3 true it is, that nothing spreads more 
1st than science, when rightly and gen- 
rally cultivated. 

" Add to tbis, the more than common 
nidation that was in those times of 

riting well; which though it be found 
1 all ages and all persons that pretend 
1 the same reputation, yet poesy, being 
len in more esteem than now it is, had 
reater honors decreed to the professors 
it, and consequently the rivalship was 

ore high betwen them; they had judges 
•dained to decide their merit, and prizes 

• reward it; and historians have been 
ligent to record of .Eschylus, Euripides, 
jphocles, Lycophron, and the rest of 
iem, both who they were that van- 
ished in these wars of the theater, 
id how often they were crowned: while 

. -ian kings and Grecian coimnon- 

ealths scarce afforded them a nobler 

lbject than the unmanly luxuries of a 

?bauched court, or giddy intrigues of 

factious city: — A lit a mulatto inyenia 

Paterculus), et nunc incidia, nunc 

Imiratio incitatio nem accendit: Eniu- 

tion is the spur of wit; and sometimes 

-ometimes admiration, quickens our 


" But now, since the rewards of honor 
e taken away, that virtuous emulation 
turned into direct malice; yet so sloth- 
1, that it contents itself to condemn 
ry down others, without attempt- 
do better: it is a reputation too 

* profitable to take the necessary pains 

for it; yet, wishing they had it, that 
desire is incitement enough to hinder 
others from it. And this, in short, Eu- 
genius, is the reason why you have now 
so few good poets, and so many severe 
judges. Certainly, to imitate the an- 
cients well, much labor and long study 
is required; which pains, I have already 
shown, our poets would want encourage- 
ment to take, if yet they had ability to 
go through the work. Those ancients 
have been faithful imitators and wise 
observers of that nature which is so 
torn and ill represented in our plays; 
they have handed down to us a perfect 
resemblance of her; which we, like ill 
copiers, neglecting to look on, have ren- 
dered monstrous, and disfigured. But, 
that you may know how much you are 
indebted to those your masters, and be 
ashamed to have so ill requitted them, 
I must remember you, that all the rules 
by which we practice the drama at this 
day (either such as relate to the just- 
ness and symmetry of the plot, or the 
episodical ornaments, such as descrip- 
tions, narrations, and other beauties, 
which are not essential to the play), 
were delivered to us from the observa- 
tions which Aristotle made, of those 
poets, who either lived before him, or 
were his contemporaries: we have added 
nothing of our own, except we have the 
confidence to say our wit is better; of 
which, none boast in this our age, but 
such as understand not theirs. Of that 
book which Aristotle has left us, repi 
rrjs TloniTtKijs, [The Poetic*] Horace his 
Art of Poetry is an excellent comment, 
and, I believe, restores to us that Sec- 
ond Book of his concerning Comedy, 
which is wanting in him. 

" Out of these two have been extracted 
the famous Rules, which the French call 
Des Troig Unites, or, The Three Unities, 
which ought to be observed in every 
regular play; namely, of Time, Place, 
and Action, 

" The unity of time they comprehend 
in twenty-four hours, the compass of a 
natural day, or as near as it can be con- 
trived; and the reason of it is obvious 
to every one, — that the time of the 
feigned action, or fable of the play, 
should be proportioned as near as can 
be to the duration of that time in which 
it is represented: since, therefore, all 



plays are acted on the theater in the 
space of time much within the compass 
of twenty-four hours, that play is to be 
thought the nearest imitation of nature, 
whose plot or action is confined within 
that time; and, by the same rule which 
concludes this general proportion of 
time, it follows, that all the parts of it 
are (as near as may be) to the equally 
subdivided; namely, that one act take 
not up the supposed time of half a day, 
which is out of proportion to the rest; 
since the other four are then to be 
straitened within the compass of the re- 
maining half: for it is unnatural that one 
act, which being spoke or written is not 
longer than the rest, should be supposed 
longer by the audience; it is therefore 
the poet's duty to take care that no act 
should be imagined to exceed the time 
in which it is represented on the stage; 
and that the intervals and inequalities of 
time be supposed to fall out between the 

"This rule of time, how well it has 
been observed by the ancients, most of 
their plays will witness; you see them in 
their tragedies (wherein to follow this 
rule is certainly most difficult), from the 
very beginning of their plays, falling 
close into that part of the story which 
they intend for the action or principal 
object of it, leaving the former part to 
be delivered by narration: so that they 
set the audience, as it were, at the post 
where the race is to be concluded; and, 
saving them the tedious expectation of 
seeing the poet set out and ride the be- 
ginning of the course, they suffer you 
not to behold him till he is in sight of 
the goal, and just upon you. 

" For the second unity, which is that 
of Place, the ancients meant by it, that 
the scene ought to be continued through 
the play, in the same place where it was 
laid in the beginning: for, the stage on 
which it is represented being but one 
and the same place, it is unnatural to 
conceive it many, — and those far dis- 
tant from one another. I will not deny 
but, by the variation of painted scenes, 
the fancy, which in these cases will con- 
tribute to its own deceit, may sometimes 
imagine it several places, with some ap- 
pearance of probability; yet it still car- 
ries the greater likelihood of truth if 
those places be supposed so near each 

other as in the same town or city; whic] 
may all be comprehended under thi 
larger denomination of one place; for < 
greater distance will bear no proportioi 
to the shortness of time which is allotted 
in the acting, to pass from one of then 
to another; for the observation of this 
next to the ancients, the French are tx 
be most commended. They tie them 
selves so strictly to the unity of plao 
that you never see in any of their play 
a scene changed in the middle of an act 
if the act begins in a garden, a street 
or chamber, 'tis ended in the same place 
and that you may know it to be th 
same, the stage is so supplied with per 
sons, that it is never empty all the time 
he who enters second, has business wit 
him who was on before; and before tb 
second quits the stage, a third appeal 
who has business with him. This Coi 
neille calls la liaison des scenes, the coi 
tinuity or joining of the scenes; and 't 
a good mark of a well-contrived pla; 
when all the persons are known to eac 
other, and every one of them has son I 
affairs with all the rest. 

" As for the third unity, which is thi ; 
of Action, the ancients meant no othi • 
by it than what the logicians do by the; 
finis, the end or scope of any actioij 
that which is the first in intention, ai] 
last in execution: now the poet is to ai 
at one great and complete action, to t! 
carrying on of which all things in \ 
play, even the very obstacles, are to 
subservient; and the reason of this is 
evident as any of the former. For ti 
actions, equally labored and driven 
by the writer, would destroy the uni 
of the poem; it would be no longer o 
play, but two: not but that there may 
many actions in a play, as Ben Jons 
has observed in his Discoveries; but thi 
must be all subservient to the great o:| 
which our language happily expresses 
the name of under-plots: such as 
Terence's Eunuch is the difference aj 
reconcilement of Thais and Phaedi 
which is not the chief business of I 
play, but promotes the marriage . 
Chajrea and Chremes's sister, princips 1 
intended by the poet. There ought 
be but one action, says Corneille, t! 
is, one complete action, which haves 
mind of the audience in a full repc ! 
but this cannot be brought to pass * 



>y many other imperfect actions, which 
onduce to it, and hold the audience in a 
lelightful suspense of what will be. 

"If by these rules (to omit many other 
Irawn from the precepts and practice 
>f the ancients) we should judge our 
nodern plays, 'tis probable that few of 
hem would endure the trial: that which 
ihould be the business of a day, takes up 
n some of them an age; instead of one 
i.ction, they are the epitomes of a man's 
ife; and for one spot of ground, which 
he stage should represent, we are some- 
imes in more countries than the map 
jan show us. 

" But if we allow the Ancients to have 
wntrived well, we must acknowledge 
hem to have written better. Question- 
less we are deprived of a great stock of 
/it in the loss of Menander among the 
ireek poets, and of Caecilius, Afranius, 
nd Yarius, among the Romans; we may 
uess at Menander's excellency by the 
lays of Terence, who translated some 
f his; and yet wanted so much of him, 
lat he was called by C. Caesar the half- 
lenander; and may judge of Yarius, 
y the testimonies of Horace, Martial, 
nd Yelleius Paterculus. 'Tis probable 
aat these, could they be recovered, 
r ould decide the controversy; but so 
>ng as Aristophanes and Plautus are 
stant, while the tragedies of Euripides, 
ophocles, and Seneca, are in our hands, 

can never see one of those plays which 
re now written but it increases my 
dmiration of the ancients. And yet I 
mst acknowledge further, that to ad- 
nre them as we ought, we should un- 
erstand them better than we do. 
doubtless many tilings appear flat to 
s, the wit of which depended on some 
ustom or story, which never came to 
ur knowledge; or perhaps on some criti- 
ism in their language, which being so 
mg dead, and only remaining in their 
ooks, 'tis not possible they should make 
s understand perfectly. To read Ma- 
robius, explaining the propriety and ele- 
ancy of many words in Vergil, which 

had before passed over without con- 
deration as common things, is enough 
} assure me that I ought to think the 
ime of Terence; and that in the puritv 
f his style (which Tully so much val- 
ed that he ever carried "his works about 
5m) there is yet left in him great room 

for admiration, if I knew but where to 
place it. In the meantime I must desire 
you to take notice that the greatest man 
of the last age, Ben Jonson, was willing 
to give place to them in all things: he 
was not only a professed imitator of 
Horace, but a learned plagiary of all 
others; you track him everywhere in 
their snow: if Horace, Lucan, Petronius 
Arbiter, Seneca, and Juvenal, had their 
own from him, there are few serious 
thoughts which are new in him: you will 
pardon me, therefore, if I presume he 
loved their fashion, when he wore their 
clothes. But since I have otherwise a 
great veneration for him, and you, Eu- 
genius, prefer him above all other poets, 
I will use no farther argument to you 
than his example: I will produce before 
you Father Ben, dressed in all the orna- 
ments and colors of the ancients; you 
will need no other guide to our party, if 
you follow him; and whether you con- 
sider the bad plays of our age, pr regard 
the good plays of the last, both the best 
and worst of the modern poets will 
equally instruct you to admire the an- 

Crites had no sooner left speaking, 
but Eugenius, who had waited with some 
impatience for it, thus began: 

" I have observed in your spech, that 
the former part of it is convincing as 
to what the moderns have profited by 
the rules of the ancients; but in the 
latter m are careful to conceal how 
much they have excelled them; we own 
all the helps we have from them, and 
want neither veneration nor gratitude, 
while we acknowledge that, to overcome 
theia, w r e must make use of the advan- 
tages we have received from them: but 
to these assistances we have joined our 
own industry; for, had we sat down 
with a dull imitation of them, we might 
then have lost somewhat of the old per- 
fection, but never acquired any that was 
new. We draw not therefore after their 
lines, but those of nature; and having 
the life before us, besides the experience 
of all they knew, it is no wonder if we 
hit some airs and features which they 
have missed. I deny not what you urge 
of arts and sciences, that they have flour- 
ished in some ages more than others; but 
your instance in philosophy makes for 
me: for if natural causes be more known 



now than in the time of Aristotle, be- 
cause more studied, it follows that poesy 
and other arts may, with the same pains, 
arrive still nearer to perfection; and, 
that granted, it will rest for you to prove 
that they wrought more perfect images 
of human life than we; which seeing 
in your discourse you have avoided to 
make good, it shall now be my task to 
show you some part of their defects, 
and some few excellencies of the mod- 
erns. And I think there is none among 
us can imagine I do it enviously, or 
with purpose to detract from them; for 
what interest or fame or profit can the 
living lose by the reputation of the dead? 
On the other side, it is a great truth 
which Velleius Paterculus affirms: Au- 
dita visis libentivs laudamus; et privsen- 
tia invidia praiterita admiratione prose- 
quimur; et hit nos obrui, Mis instrui 
credimus: that praise or censure is cer- 
tainly the most sincere, which unbribed 
posterity shall give us. 

" Be pleased then in the first place to 
take notice that the Greek poesy, which 
Crites has affirmed to have arrived to 
perfection in the reign of the old comedy, 
was so far from it that the distinction of 
it into acts was not known to them; or if 
it were, it is yet so darkly delivered to 
us that we cannot make it out. 

" All we know of it is from the sing- 
ing of their Chorus; and that too is so 
uncertain, that in some of their plays we 
have reason to conjecture they sung more 
than five times. Aristotle indeed divides 
the integral parts of a play into four. 
First, the Protasis, or entrance, which 
gives light only to the characters of the 
persons, and proceeds very little into 
any part of the action. Secondly, the 
Epitasis, or working up of the plot; 
where the play grows warmer, the de- 
sign or action of it is drawing on, and 
you see something promising that it will 
come to pass. Thirdly, the Cantastasis, 
called by the Romans, Status, the height 
and full growth of the play: we may call 
it properly the counter-turn, which de- 
stroys that expectation, imbroils the ac- 
tion in new difficulties, and leaves you 
far distant from that hope in which it 
found you; as you may have observed 
in a violent stream resisted by a narrow 
passage, — it runs round to an eddy, and 
carries back the waters with more swift- 

ness than it brought them on. Lastly, 
the Catastrophe, which the Grecians 
called \vais, the French le denouement, 
and we the discovery, or unraveling of 
the plot: there you see all things settling 
again upon their first foundations; and, 
the obstacles which hindered the design 
or action of the play once removed, it 
ends with that resemblance of truth and 
nature, that the audience are satisfied 
with the conduct of it. Thus this great 
man delivered to us the image of a play; 
and I must confess it is so lively, that 
from thence much light has been derived 
to the forming it more perfectly into 
acts and scenes: but what poet first 
limited to five the number of the acts, 
I know not; only we see it so firmly 
established in the time of Horace, that 
he gives it for a rule in comedy, — j\'eu 
brevior quinto, neu sit productior actu. 
So that you see the Grecians cannot be 
said to have consummated this art; writ- 
ing rather by entrances than by acts, 
and having rather a general indigested J 
notion of a play, than knowing how and i 
where to bestow the particular graces j 
of it. 

44 But since the Spaniards at this day 
allow but three acts, which they call:' 
Jornadas, to a play, and the Italians! 
in many of theirs follow them, when I' 
condemn the ancients, I declare it is 
not altogether because they have not five t 
acts to every play, but because they have! 
not confined themselves to one certain 
number: it is building an house without 
a model; and when they succeeded k|| 
such undertakings, they ought to haw | 
sacrificed to Fortune, not to the M 

44 Next, for the plot, which Arislotlt 
called to pvOos, and often tuv irpa'judTou 
avvdeais, and from him the Roman 
Fabula; it has already been judicious!} 
observed by a late writer, that in thei: i 
tragedies it was only some tale derive( 
from Thebes or Troy, or at least some 
thing that happened in those two ages 
which was worn so threadbare by th 
pens ,of all the epic poets, and even b; 
tradition, itself of the talkative Greek 
lings (as Ben Jonson calls them), thu 
before it came upon the stage it 
already known to all the audience: SB 
the people, so soon as ever they hear 
the name of CEdipus, knew as well 8 
the poet, that he had killed his father b 



mistake, and committed incest with 
is mother, before the play; that they 
ere now to hear of a great plague, an 
racle, and the ghost of Laius: so that 
ley sat with a yawning kind of expecta- 
on, till he was to come with his eyes 
idled out, and speak a hundred or more 
•rses in a tragic tone, in complaint of 

Is misfortunes. But one (Edipus, Her- 
\les, or Medea, had been tolerable: poor 
;ople, they escaped not so good cheap; 
icy had still the ckapon bouille set be- 
>re them, till their appetites were cloyed 
ith the same dish, and, the novelty be- 
Ig gone, the pleasure vanished; so that 
Ke main end of Dramatic Poesy in its 
ifinition, which was to cause delight, 
-as of consequence destroyed. 
■** In their comedies, the Romans gen- 
ially borrowed their plots from the 
♦reek poets; and theirs was commonly 
ilittle girl stolen or wandered from her 
rents, brought back unknown to the 
there [falling into the hands ofj 
young fellow, who, by the help of 
servant, cheats his father; and when 
time comes, to cry, — Juno Lucina, 
, opem, — one or other sees a little box 
< cabinet which was carried away with 
Br, and so discovers her to her friends, 
isome god do not prevent it, by coming 
( wn in a machine, and taking the thanks 
c it to himself. 

"' By the plot you may guess much of 

e characters of the persons. An old 

t:her, who would willingly, before he 

. see his son well married; his de- 

luched son, kind in his nature to his 

ss, but miserably in want of money; 

■servant or slave, who has so much wit 

irce in with him, and help to dupe 

her; a braggadocio captain, a para- 

se, and a lady of pleasure. 

for the poor honest maid, on whom 
t? story is built, and who ought to be 
«p of the principal actors in the play, 
m is commonly a mute in it: she has 
t- breeding of the old Elizabeth way, 
was for maids to be seen and not 
t be heard; and it is enough you know 
willing to be married, when the 
fi:h act requires it. 

These are plots built after the Ital- 
I mode of houses, — you see through 
tin all at once: the characters are in- 
d?d the imitation of nature, but so nar- 
pr, as if they had imitated only an eye 

or an hand, and did not dare to venture 
on the lines of a face, or the proportion 
of a body. 

" But in how strait a compass soever 
they have bounded their plots and char- 
acters, we will pass it by, if they have 
regularly pursued them, and perfectly ob- 
served those three unities of time, place, 
and action; the knowledge of which you 
say is derived to us from them. But in 
the first place give me leave to tell you, 
that the unity of place, however it might 
be practiced by them, was never any of 
their rules: we neither find it in Aris- 
totle, Horace, or any who have written of 
it, till in our age the French poets first 
made it a precept of the stage. The 
unity of time, even Terence himself, who 
was the best and most regular of them, 
has neglected: his Heautontimorumenos, 
or Self-Punisher, takes up visibly two 
days, says Scaliger; the two first acts 
concluding the first day, the three last 
the day ensuing; and Euripides, in tying 
himself to one day, has committed an 
absurdity never to be forgiven him; for 
in one of his tragedies he has made The- 
seus go from Athens to Thebes, which 
was about forty English miles, under the 
walls of it to give battle, and appear vic- 
torious in the next act; and yet, from the 
time of his departure to the return of the 
Xuntius, who gives the relation of his vic- 
tory, /Ethra and the Chorus have but 
thirty-six verses; which is not for every 
mile a verse. 

" The like error is as evident in Ter- 
ence his Eunuch, when Laches, the old 
man, enters by mistake into the house of 
Thais; where, betwixt his exit and the 
entrance of Pythias, who comes to give 
ample relation of the disorders he has 
raised within, Parmeno, who was left 
upon the stage, has not above five lines 
to speak. C'est bien employer tin temps 
si court, says the French poet, who fur- 
nished me with one of the observations: 
and almost all their tragedies will afford 
us examples of the like nature. 

" It is true, they have kept the con- 
tinuity, or, as you called it, liaison des 
scenes, somewhat better: two do not per- 
petually come in together, talk, and go 
out together; and other two succeed 
them, and do the same throughout the 
act, which the English call by the name 
of single scenes; but the reason is, be- 



cause they have seldom above two or 
three scenes, properly so called, in every 
act; for it is to be accounted a new scene, 
not only every time the stage is empty; 
but every person who enters, though to 
others, makes it so; because he intro- 
duces a new business. Now the plots of 
their plays being narrow, and the persons 
few, one of their acts was written in a 
less compass than one of our well- 
wrought scenes; and yet they are often 
deficient even in this. To go no further 
than Terence; you find in the Eunuch, 
Antipho entering single in the midst of 
the third act, after Chremes and Pythias 
were gone off; in the same play you have 
likewise Dorias beginning the fourth act 
alone; and after she had made a relation 
of what was done at the Soldiers' enter- 
tainment (which by the way was very in- 
artificial, because she was presumed to 
speak directly to the audience, and to 
acquaint them with what was necessary 
to be known, but yet should have been so 
contrived by the poet as to have been 
told by persons of the drama to one an- 
other, and so by them to have come to the 
knowledge of the people), she quits the 
stage, and Phaedria enters next, alone 
likewise: he also gives you an account of 
himself, and of his returning from the 
country, in monologue; to which unnat- 
ural way of narration Terence is subject 
in all his plays. In his Adelphi, or 
Brothers, Syrus and Demea enter after 
the scene was broken by the departure 
of Sostrata, Geta, and Canthara; and in- 
deed you can scarce look unto any of his 
comedies, where you will not presently 
discover the same interruption. 

" But as they have failed both in laying 
of their plots, and in the management, 
swerving from the rules of their own art 
by misrepresenting nature to us, in which 
they have ill satisfied one intention of a 
play, which was delight; so in the in- 
structive part they have erred worse: in- 
stead of punishing vice and rewarding 
virtue, they have often shewn a prosper- 
ous wickedness, and an unhappy piety: 
they have set before us a bloody image of 
revenge in Medea, and given her dragons 
to convey her safe from punishment, a 
Priam and Astyanax murdered, and Cas- 
sandra ravished, and the lust and murder 
ending in the victory of him who acted 
them: in short, there is no indecorum in 

any of our modern plays, which if I 
would excuse, I could not shadow with 
some authority from the ancients. . . . 

" But, to return from whence I have 
digressed, to the consideration of the an- 
cients' writing, and their wit (of which 
by this time you will grant us in some 
measure to be fit judges). Though I see 
many excellent thoughts in Seneca, yet he 
of them who had a genius most proper 
for the stage, was Ovid; he had a way of 
writing so fit to stir up a pleasing admi- 
ration and concernment, which are the 
objects of a tragedy, and to show the va- 
rious movements of a soul combating be- 
twixt two different passions, that, had he 
lived in our age, or in his own could have 
writ with our advantages, no man but 
must have yielded to him; and therefore 
I am confident the Medea is none of his: 
for, though I esteem it for the gravity 
and sententiousness of it, which he him- 
self concludes to be suitable to a trag-: 
edy, — Omne genus scripti gravitate tra- 
gadia vincit, — yet it moves not my soul 
enough to judge that he, who in the epic ' 
way wrote things so near the drama at' 
the story of Myrrha, of Caunus and Bib- 
lis, and the rest, should stir up no more 
concernment where he most endeavorec 
it. The masterpiece of Seneca I hold t( 
be that scene in the Troades where Uly& 
ses is seeking for Astyanax to kill him 
there you see the tenderness of a mothe 
so represented in Andromache, that i 
raises compassion to a high degree in tfo 
reader, and bears the nearest resemblanc 
of anything in the tragedies of the air 
cients to the excellent scenes of passion i 
Shakspeare, or in Fletcher: for lovei 
scenes, you will find few among them 
their tragic poets dealt not with the 
soft passion, but with lust, cruelty, n 
venge, ambition, and those bloody action 
they produced; which were more capabl 
of raising horror than compassion in a 
audience: leaving love untouched, who. 1 
gentleness would have tempered then 
which is the most frequent of all the pa' 
sions, and which, being the private coi 
cernment of every person, is soothed ! 
viewing its own image in a public cnte 

" Among their comedies, we find a seer 
or two of tenderness, and that where y 
would least expect it, in Plautus; but 
speak generally, their lovers say littl 



vhen they see each other, but anima 
•ita mea; Zttfr; Kal ifaxv* as the women in 
'uvenal's time used to cry out in the 
ury of their kindness. Any sudden gust 
»f passion (as an ecstasy of love in an 
inexpected meeting) cannot better be ex- 
ressed than in a word and a sigh, break- 
one another. Nature is dumb on such 
ions; and to make her speak would 
to represent her unlike herself. But 
re are a thousand other concernments 
,f lovers, as jealousies, complaints, con- 
rivances, and the like, where not to open 
heir minds at large to each other, were 

be wanting to their own love, and to 
ae expectation of the audience; who 
r atch the movements of their minds, as 
luch as the changes of their fortunes. 

or the imaging of the first is properly 
ie work of a poet; the latter he borrows 
roni the historian." 

nius was proceeding in that part 
|f his discourse, when Crites interrupted 
im. " I see," said he, *' Eugenius and I 
re never like to have this question de- 
ded betwixt us; for he maintains the 
»oderns have acquired a new perfection 

1 writing; I can only grant they have 

I the mode of it. Homer described 
s heroes men of great appetites, lovers 
: beef broiled upon the coals, and good 
•Hows; contrary to the practice of the 
rench Romances, whose heroes neither 
it, nor drink, nor sleep, for love. Ver- 
1 makes -Eneas a bold avower of his 
vn virtues: 

um pius JEntas, fama super txthera 

hich, in the civility of our poets is the 
»aracter of a fanfaron or Hector: for 
ith us the knight takes occasion to walk 
it, or sleep, to avoid the vanity of tell- 
g his own story, which the trusty 'squire 
ever to perform for him. So in their 
ve-scenes, of which Eugenius spoke last, 
e ancients were more hearty, were more 
lkative: they writ love as it was then 
e mode to make it; and I will grant 
us much to Eugenius, that perhaps one 

• their poets had he lived in our age, 

• foret hoe nostrum fato delapsus in 
pnm (as Horace says of Lucilius), he 

tered many things; not that they 

not natural before, but that he 

ight accommodate himself to the age 

in which he lived. Yet in the meantime, 
we are not to conclude anything rashly 
against those great men, but preserve to 
them the dignity of masters, and give 
that honor to their memories, quot Libi- 
tina sacravit, part of which we expect 
may be paid to us in future times." 

This moderation of Crites, as it was 
pleasing to all the company, so it put an 
end to that dispute; which Eugenius, 
who seemed to have the better of the 
argument, would urge no farther: but 
Lisideius, after he had acknowledged 
himself of Eugenius his opinion concern- 
ing the ancient, yet told him, he had for- 
borne, tall his discourse were ended, to 
ask him why he preferred the English 
plays above those of other nations? and 
whether we ought not to submit our 
stage to the exactness of our next neigh- 

" Though," said Eugenius, " I am at all 
times ready to defend the honor of my 
country against the French, and to main- 
tain, we are as well able to vanquish 
them with our pens, as our ancestors 
have been with their swords; yet, if you 
please," added he, looking upon Nean- 
der,s " I will commit this cause to my 
friend's management; his opinion of our 
plays is the same with mine, and besides, 
there is no reason, that Crites and I, who 
have now left the stage, should reenter 
so suddenly upon it; which is against the 
laws of comedy.*' 

" If the question had been stated," re- 
plied Lisideius, "who had writ best, the 
French or English, forty years ago, I 
should have been of your opinion, and 
adjudged the honor to our own nation; 
but since that time " (said he, turning 
towards Neander), "we have been so 
long together bad Englishmen that we 
had not leisure to be good poets. Beau- 
mont, Fletcher, and Jonson (who were 
only capable of bringing us to that de- 
gree of perfection which we have), were 
just then leaving the world; as if in an 
age of so much horror, wit, and those 
milder studies of humanity, had no far- 
ther business among us. But the Muses, 
who ever follow peace, went to plant in 
another country: it was then that the 
great Cardinal Richelieu began to take 
them into his protection ; and that, by his 

5 Generally thought to be Dryden. — Ed, 

1 84 


encouragement, Corneille, and some other 
Frenchmen, reformed their theater 
(which before was as much below ours, 
as it now surpasses it and the rest of 
Europe). But because Crites in his dis- 
course for the ancients has prevented me, 
by observing many rules of the stage 
which the moderns have borrowed from 
them, I shall only, in short, demand of 
you, whether you are not convinced that 
of all nations the French have best ob- 
served them? In the unity of time you 
find them so scrupulous that it yet re- 
mains a dispute among their poets, 
whether the artificial day of twelve 
hours, more or less, be not meant by 
Aristotle, rather than the natural one of 
twenty-four; and consequently, whether 
all plays ought not to be reduced into 
that compass. This I can testify, that 
in all their dramas writ within these last 
twenty years and upwards, I have not 
observed any that have extended the 
time to thirty hours: in the unity of 
place they are full as scrupulous; for 
many of their critics limit it to that very 
spot of ground where the play is sup- 
posed to begin; none of them exceed the 
compass of the same town or city. The 
unity of action in all plays is yet more 
conspicuous; for they do not burden them 
with under-plots, as the English do: 
which is the reason why many scenes of 
our tragi-comedians carry on a design 
that is nothing of kin to the main plot; 
and that we see two distinct webs in a 
play, like those in ill-wrought stuffs; and 
two actions, that is, two plays, carried 
on together, to the confounding of the 
audience; who, before they are warm in 
their concernments for one part, are di- 
verted to another; and by that means 
espouse the interest of neither. From 
hence likewise it arises that the one half 
of our actors are not known to the other. 
They keep their distances, as if they were 
Montagues and Capulets, and seldom 
begin an acquaintance till the last scene 
of the fifth act, when they are all to 
meet upon the stage. There is no thea- 
ter in the world has anything so absurd 
as the English tragi-comedy; 'tis a drama 
of our own invention, and the fashion of 
it is enough to proclaim it so; here a 
course of mirth, there another of sadness 
and passion, and a third of honor and a 
duel: thus, in two hours and a half, wc 

run through all the fits of Bedlam. The 
French affords you so much variety on 
the same day, but they do it not so unsea- 
sonably, or mal a propos, as we: our 
poets present you the play and the farce 
together; and our stages still retain 
somewhat of the original civility of the 
Red Bull: 

Atque ursum et pugiles media inter car- 
mina poscunt. 

The end of tragedies or serious plays, 
says Aristotle, is to beget admiration, 
compassion, or concernment; but are not 
mirth and compassion things incompat- 
ible? and is it not evident that the poet 
must of necessity destroy the former by 
intermingling of the latter? that is, he 
must ruin the sole end and object of his 
tragedy, to introduce somewhat that is 
forced into it, and is not of the body of 
it. Would you not think that physician 
mad, who, having prescribed a purge, 
should immediately order you take re- 

" But to leave our plays, and return to 
theirs. I have noted one great advan- 
tage they have had in the plotting of 
their tragedies; that is, they are always; 
grounded upon some known history: ac- 
cording to that of Horace, Ex noto fictvm 
carmen seguar; and in that they have so 
imitated the ancients that they have sur-j 
passed them. For the ancients, as was 
observed before, took for the foundation 
of their plays some poetical fiction, such 
as under that consideration could move! 
but little concernment in the audience, 
because they already knew the event of it j 
But the French goes farther: 

A tque ita menitur, sic veris falsa remiscti ! 
Primo ne medium, medio ne discrepeO 

He so interweaves truth with probable 
fiction that he puts a pleasing fall.u' 
upon us; mends the intrigues of fab 
dispenses with the severity of history, t j 
reward that virtue which has been 
dered to us there unfortunate. Son* 
times the story has left the succ< 
doubtful that the writer is free, I 
privilege of a poet, to take that wbk 
of two or more relations will besl 
with his design: as for example, in U 



death of Cyrus, whom Justin and some 
others report to have perished in the 
Scythian war, but Xenophon affirms to 
have died in his bed of extreme old age. 
Nay more, when the event is past dis- 
pute, even then we are willing to be de- 
ceived, and the poet, if he contrives it 
with appearance of truth, has all the 
audience of his party ; at least during the 
time his play is acting: so naturally we 
are kind to virtue, when our own inter- 
est is not in question, that we take it up 
as the general concernment of mankind. 
On the other side, if you consider the 
historical plays of Shakspeare, they are 
rather so many chronicles of kings, or 
the business many times of thirty or 
forty years, cramped into a representa- 
tion of two hours and a half; which is 
aot to imitate or paint nature, but rather 
to draw her in miniature, to take her in 
attle; to look upon her through the 
.vrong end of a perspective, and receive 
ler images not only much less, but infi- 
litely more imperfect than the life: this, 
nstead of making a play delightful, ren- 
ders it ridiculous: — 

Quodcunque ostendU tnihi tic, incredulus 

for the spirit of man cannot be satisfied 
jut with truth, or at least verisimility ; 
uid a poem is to contain, if not rd 
Wv^a, yet irvnoiOLv 6/j.oia, as one of the 
ireek poets has expressed it. 

" Another thing in which the French 
liffer from us and from the Spaniards, 
s that they do not embarrass or cumber 
iiemselves with too much plot; they only 
•epresent so much of a story as will con- 
titute one whole and great action suffi- 
ient for a play ; we, who undertake more, 
lo but multiply adventures which, not 
jeing produced from one another, as 
•ffects from causes, but rarely following, 
institute many actions in the drama, 
md consequently make it many plays. 

" But by pursuing closely one argu- 
nent, which is not cloyed with many 
urns, the French have gained more lib- 
rty for verse, in which they write; they 
lave leisure to dwell on a subject which 
ieserves it; and to represent the passions 
which we have acknowledged to be the 
ipet's work), without being hurried from 
>ne thing to another, as we are in the 

plays of Calderon, which we have seen 
lately upon our theaters under the name 
of Spanish plots. I have taken notice 
but of one tragedy of ours whose plot 
has that uniformity and unity of design 
in it, which I have commended in the 
French; and that is Rollo, or rather, 
under the name of Rollo, the Story of 
Bassianus and Geta in Herodian: there 
indeed the plot is neither large nor intri- 
cate, but just enough to fill the minds of 
the audience, not to cloy them. Besides, 
you see it founded upon the truth of 
history, — only the time of the action is 
not reducible to the strictness of the 
rules; and you see in some places a little 
farce mingled, which is below the dignity 
of the other parts, and in this all our 
poets are extremely peccant: even Ben 
Jonson himself, in Sejanus and Catiline, 
has given us this oleo of a play, this 
unnatural mixture of comedy and trag- 
edy; which to me sounds just as ridicu- 
lously as the history of David with the 
merry humors of Golia's. In Sejanun 
you may take notice of the scene betwixt 
Livia and the physician which is a pleas- 
ant satire upon the artificial helps of 
beauty: in Catiline you may see the par- 
liament of women; the little envies of 
them to one another; and all that passes 
betwixt Curio and Fulvia: scenes admir- 
able in their kind, but of an ill mingle 
with the rest. 

" But I return again to the French 
writers, who, as I have said, do not bur- 
den themselves too much with plot, which 
has been reproached to them by an in- 
genious person of our nation as a fault; 
for, he says, they commonly make but 
one person considerable in a play; they 
dwell on him, and his concernments, while 
the rest of the persons are only subservi- 
ent to set him off. If he intends this by 
it, — that there is one person in the play 
who is of greater dignity than the rest, 
he must tax, not only theirs, but those of 
the ancients and, which he would be loth 
to do, the best of ours; for it is impos- 
sible but that one person must be more 
conspicuous in it than any other, and con- 
sequently the greatest share in the action 
must devolve on him. We see it so in 
the management of all affairs; even in 
the most equal aristocracy, the balance 
cannot be so justly poised but some one 
will be superior to the rest, either in 

1 86 


parts, fortune, interest, or the considera- 
tion of some glorious exploit; which will 
reduce the greatest part of business into 
his hands. 

" But, if he would have us to imagine, 
that in exalting one character the rest of 
them are neglected, and that all of them 
have not some share or other in the 
action of the play, I desire him to pro- 
duce any of Corneille's tragedies, wherein 
every person, like so many servants in a 
well-governed family, has not some em- 
ployment, and who is not necessary to 
the carrying on of the plot, or at least 
to your understanding it. 

"There are indeed some protatic per- 
sons in the ancients, whom they make use 
of in their plays, either to hear or give 
the relation: but the French avoid this 
with great address, making their narra- 
tions only to, or by such, who are some 
way interested in the main design. And 
now I am speaking of relations, I can- 
not take a fitter opportunity to add tliis 
in favor of the French, that they often 
use them with better judgment and more 
d, propos than the English do. Not that 
I commend narrations in general, — but 
there are two sorts of them. One, of 
those things which are antecedent to the 
play, and are related to make the con- 
duct of it more clear to us. But 'tis a 
fault to choose such subjects for the 
stage as will force us on that rock be- 
cause we see they are seldom listened to 
by the audience and that is many times 
the ruin of the play; for, being once let 
pass without attention, the audience can 
never recover themselves to understand 
the plot: and indeed it is somewhat un- 
reasonable that they should be put to so 
much trouble, as that, to comprehend 
what passes in their sight, they must 
have recourse to what was done, perhaps, 
ten or twenty years ago. 

" But there is another sort of relations, 
that is, of things happening in the action 
of the play, and supposed to be done 
behind the scenes; and this is many times 
both convenient and beautiful; for by it 
the French avoid the tumult to which we 
are subject in England, by representing 
duels, battles, and the like; which ren- 
ders our stage too like the theaters where 
they fight prizes. For what is more ridic- 
ulous than to represent an army with a 
drum and five men behind it; all which 

the hero of the other side is to drive in 
before him; or to see a duel fought, and 
one slain with two or three thrusts of 
the foils, which we know are so blunted 
that we might give a man an hour to kill 
another in good earnest with them. 

" 1 have observed that in all our trag- 
edies, the audience cannot forbear laugh- 
ing when the actors are to die; it is the 
most comic part of the whole play. All 
passions may be lively represented on 
the stage, if to the well-writing of them 
the actor supplies a good commanded 
voice, and limbs that move easily, and 
without stiffness; but there are many 
actions which can never be imitated to a 
just height: dying especially is a thing 
which none but a Roman gladiator could 
naturally perform on the stage, when he 
did not imitate or represent, but do it; 
and therefore it is better to omit the 
representation of it. 

" The words of a good writer, which 
describe it lively, will make a deeper im- 
pression of belief in us than all the 
actor can insinuate into us, when he seems 
to fall dead before us; as a poet in the 
description of a beautiful garden, or a 
meadow, will please our imagination more 
than the place itself can please our 
sight. When we see death represented, 
we are convinced it is but fiction; but 
when we hear it related, our eyes, the 
strongest witnesses, are wanting, which 
might have undeceived us; and we are all 
willing to favor the sleight, when the 
poet does not too grossly impose on us. 
They therefore who imagine these rela- 
tions would make no concernment in the 
audience, are deceived, by confounding 
them with the other, which are of tilings 
antecedent to the play: those are made 
often in cold blood, as I may say, to the ! 
audience; but these are warmed with our I 
concernments, which were before awak- 
ened in the play. What the philosophers 
say of motion, that, when it is once be- 
gun, it continues of itself, and will do so 
to eternity, without some stop put to it, 
is clearly true on this occasion : the soul j 
being already moved with the characters 
and fortunes of those imaginary persons, 
continues going of its own accord ; and 
we are no more weary to hear what be- 
comes of them when they are not on the 
stage, than we are to listen to the i 
of an absent mistress. But it is objected, 



.hat if one part of the play may be re- 
ated, then why not all? I answer, some 
jarts of the action are more fit to be 
•epresented, some to be related. Cor- 
leille says judiciously that the poet is 
iot obliged to expose to view all particu- 
ar actions which conduce to the princi- 
)al: he ought to select such of them to 
>e seen, which will appear with the great- 
est beauty, either by the magnificence of 
he ^how, or the vehemence of passions 
vhich they produce, or some other charm 
vhich they have in them; and let the rest 
irrive to the audience by narration. 
Tis a great mistake in us to believe the 
French present no part of the action on 
ihe stage; every alteration or crossing of 
i design, every new-sprung passion, and 
urn of it, is a part of the action, and 
nuch the noblest, except we conceive 
lothing to be action till the players come 
o blows; as if the painting of the hero's 
nind were not more properly the poet's 
vork than the strength of his body, 
sor does this anything contradict the 
•pinion of Horace, where he tells us, 

iegnius irritant animos demissa per au- 

. rem, 

juam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus. 

7 or he says immediately after, 

Xon tamen intus 
)igna geri promes in scenam; multaq; 

Ix oralis, quae mox narret facundia prae- 


Auiong which many he recounts some: 

>ec pueros coram populo Medea truci- 

Vut in avem Progne rautetur, Cadmus in 

anguem, etc. 

-hat is, those actions which by reason of 
heir cruelty will cause aversion in us, 
•r by reason of their impossibility, un- 
»elief, ought either wholly to be avoided 
>y a poet, or only delivered by narration. 
.0 which we may have leave to add, 
uch as, to avoid tumult (as was before 
»inted), or to reduce the plot into a more 
easonable compass of time, or for de- 
ect of beauty in them, are rather to be 
elated than presented to the eye. Ex- 

amples of all these kinds are frequent, 
not only among all the ancients, but in 
the best received of our English poets. 
We find Ben Jonson using them in his 
Magnetic Lady, where one comes out 
from dinner, and relates the quarrels 
and disorders of it, to save the undecent 
appearance of them on the stage, and to 
abbreviate the story; and this in express 
imitation of Terence, who had done the 
same before him in his Eunuch, wh *re 
Pythias makes the like relation of what 
had happened within at the Soldiers' 
entertainment. The relations likewise of 
Sej anus's death, and the prodigies before 
it, are remarkable; the one of which was 
hid from sight, to avoid the horror and 
tumult of the representation; the other, 
to shun the introducing of things impos- 
sible to be believed. In that excellent 
play, A King and no King, Fletcher goes 
yet farther; for the whole unraveling of 
the plot is done by narration in the fifth 
act, after the manner of the ancients; 
and it moves great concernment in the 
audience, though it be only a relation of 
what was done many years before the 
play. I could multiply other instances, 
but these are sufficient to prove that there 
is no error in choosing a subject which 
requires this sort of narrations; in the 
ill management of them, there may. 

"But I find I have been too long in 
this discourse, since the French have 
many other excellencies not common to 
us; as that you never see any of their 
plays end with a conversion, or simple 
change of will, which is the ordinary way 
which our poets use to end theirs. It 
shows little art in the conclusion of a 
dramatic poem, when they who have hin- 
dered the felicity during the four acts, 
desist from it in the fifth, without some 
powerful cause to take them off their 
design; and though I deny not but such 
reasons may be found, yet it is a path 
that is cautiously to be trod, and the 
poet is to be sure he convinces the audi- 
ence that the motive is strong enough. 
As for example, the conversion of the 
Usurer in The Scornful Lady seems to 
me a little forced; for, being an Usurer, 
which implies a lover of money to the 
highest degree of covetousness, — and 
such the poet has represented him, — the 
account he gives for the sudden change 
is, that he has been duped by the wild 


young fellow; which in reason might ren- 
der him more wary another time, and 
make him punish himself with harder 
fare and coarser clothes, to get up again 
what he had lost: but that he should 
look on it as a judgment, and so repent, 
we may expect to hear in a sermon, but 
I should never endure it in a play. 

"I pass by this; neither will I insist 
on the care they take that no person 
after his first entrance shall ever appear, 
but the business which brings him upon 
the stage shall be evident; which rule, if 
observed, must needs render all the 
events in the play more natural; for 
there you see the probability of every 
accident, in the cause that produced it; 
and that which appears chance in the 
play, will seem so reasonable to you, that 
you will there find it almost necessary: 
so that in the exit of the actor you have 
a clear account of his purpose, and de- 
sign in the next entrance (though, if the 
scene be well wrought, the event will 
commonly deceive you) ; for there is 
nothing so absurd, says Corneille, as for 
an actor to leave the stage only because 
he has no more to say. 

Lisideius concluded in this manner; 
and Neander, after a little pause, thus 
answered him: 

" I shall grant Lisideius, without much 
dispute, a great part of what he has 
urged against us; for I acknowledge that 
the French contrive their plots more reg- 
ularly, and observe the laws of comedy, 
and decorum of the stage (to speak 
generally), with more exactness than the 
English. Farther, I deny not but he has 
taxed us justly in some irregularities of 
ours, which he has mentioned; yet, after 
all, I am of opinion that neither our 
faults nor their virtues are considerable 
enough to place them above us. 

" For the lively imitation of nature 
being in the definition of a play, those 
which best fulfill that law ought to be 
esteemed superior to the others. 'Tis 
true, those beauties of the French poesy 
are such as will raise perfection higher 
where it is, but are not sufficient to give 
it where it is not: they are indeed the 
beauties of a statue, but not of a man, 
because not animated with the soul of 
poesy, which is imitation of humor and 
passions: and this Lisideius himself, or 

any other, however biassed to their 
party, cannot but acknowledge, if he will 
either compare the humors of our com- 
edies, or the characters of our serious 
plays, with theirs. He who will look 
upon theirs which have been written till 
these last ten years, ,or thereabouts, will 
find it a hard matter to pick out two or 
three passable humors amongst them. 
Corneille himself, their arch-poet, what 
has he produced except The Liar, and 
you know how it was cried up in France; 
but when it came upon the English stage, 
though well translated, and that part of 
Dorante acted to so much advantage as 
I am confident it never received in its 
own country, the most favorable to it 
would not put it in competition with 
many of Fletcher's or Ben Jonson's. In 
the rest of Corneille's comedies you have 
little humor; he tells you himself, his way 
is, first to show two lovers in good intel- 
ligence with each other; in the working 
up of the play to embroil them by some 
mistake, and in the latter end to clear it, 
and reconcile them. 

" But of late years Moliere, the young- 
er Corneille, Quinault, and some others, 
have been imitating afar off the quick 
turns and graces ,of the English stage. 
They have mixed their serious plays with 
mirth, like our tragi-comedies, since the 
death of Cardinal Richelieu; which Lisi- 
deius and many others not observing, 
have commended that in them for a vir- 
tue which they themselves no longer prac- 
tice. Most of their new plays are, like 
some of ours, derived from the Spanish J 
novels. There is scarce one of them with- \ 
out a veil, and a trusty Diego, who drolls | 
much after the rate of The Adventure*. ! 
But their humors, if I may grace them 
with that name, are so thin-sown, that I 
never above one of them comes up in any 
play. I dare take upon me to find more i 
variety of them in some one play of Hen | 
Jonson's than in all theirs together; as he 
who has seen The Alchemist, The Silent 
Woman, or Bartholomew Fair, cannot 
but acknowledge with me. 

" I grant the French have performed 
what was possible on the ground-work 
of the Spanish plays; what was pleasant 
before, they have made regular: but there 
is not above one good play to be writ on 
all those plots; they are too much alike 
to please often; which we need not the 



experience of our own stage to justify. 
\s for their new way of mingling mirth 
vith serious plot, I do not, with Lisideius, 
tondemn the thing, though I cannot ap- 
prove their manner of doing it. He tells 
is, we cannot so speedily recollect our- 
elves after a scene of great passion and 
oncernment, as to pass to another of 
uirth and humor, and to enjoy it with 
ny relish: but why should he imagine 
id of man more heavy than his 
rases? Does not the eye pass from an 
npleasant object to a pleasant in a 
mch shorter time than is required to 
nd does not the unpleasantness of 
^e first commend the beauty of the lat- 
fhe old rule of logic might have 
jnvinced him, that contraries, when 
laced near, set off each other. A con- 
nued gravity keeps the spirit too much 
lent; we must refresh it sometimes, as 
e bait in a journey that we may go on 
ith greater, ease. A scene of mirth, 
lixed with tragedy, has the same effect 
moo us which our music has betwixt the 
which we find a relief to us from 
le best plots and language of the stage, 
the discourses have been long. I must 
lerefore have stronger arguments, ere I 
ji convinced that compassion and mirth 
1 the same subject destroy each other; 
id in the meantime cannot but con- 
ude, to the honor of our nation, that 
e have invented, increased, and per- 
tcted a more pleasant way of writing for 
tge than was ever known to the 
:.ts or moderns of any nation, which 

" And this leads me to wonder why 

isideius and many others should cry up 

le barrenness of the French plots above 

iriety and copiousness of the Eng- 

,h. Their plots are single; they carry 

1 one design, which is pushed forward 

all the actors, every scene in the play 

•ntributing and moving towards it. 

ur plays, besides the main design, have 

ider-plots or by-concernments, of less 

nsiderable persons and intrigues, which 

e carried on with the motion of the 

• n .in plot: as they say the orb of the fixed 

. and those* of the planets, though 

have motions of their own, are 

hirled about by the motion of the pri- 

•im mobils. in which they are contained. 

lat similitude expresses much of the 

nglish stage; for if contrary motions 

may be found in nature to agree; if a 
planet can go east and west at the same 
time ; — one way by virtue of his own 
motion, the other by the force of the first 
mover ; — it will not be difficult to imag- 
ine how the under-plot, which is oidy 
different, not contrary to the great de- 
sign, may naturally be conducted along 
with it. 

" Eugenius has already shown us, from 
the confession of the French poets, that 
the unity of action is sufficiently pre- 
served, if all the imperfect actions of the 
play are conducing to the main design; 
but when those petty intrigues of a play 
are so ill ordered, that they have no co- 
herence with the other, I must grant that 
Lisideius has reason to tax that want of 
due connection; for coordination in a 
play is as dangerous and unnatural as 
in a state. In the meantime he must 
acknowledge, our variety, if well ordered, 
will afford a greater pleasure to the audi- 

" As for his other argument, that by 
pursuing one single theme they gain an 
advantage to express and work up the 
passions, I wish any example he could 
bring from them would make it good; 
for I confess their verses are to me the 
coldest I have ever read. Neither, in- 
deed, is it possible for them, in the way 
they take, so to express passion, as that 
the effects of it should appear in the con- 
cernment of an audience, their speeches 
being so many declamations, which tire 
us with the length ; so that instead of per- 
suading us to grieve for their imaginary 
heroes, we are concerned for our own 
trouble, as we are in tedious visits of bad 
company; we are in pain till they are 
gone. When the French stage came to 
be reformed by Cardinal Richelieu, those 
long harangues were introduced to com- 
ply with the gravity of a churchman. 
Look upon the Cinna and the Pompey; 
they are not so properly to be called 
plays, as long discourses of reason of 
state; and Polyeucte in matters of reli- 
gion is as solemn as the long stops upon 
our organs. Since that time it is grown 
into a custom, and their actors speak by 
the hour-glass, like our parsons; nay, 
they account it the grace of their parts, 
and think themselves disparaged by the 
poet, if they may not twice or thrice in a 
play entertain the audience with a speech 



of an hundred lines. I deny not but this 
may suit well enough with the French; 
for as we, who are a more sullen people, 
come to be diverted at our plays, so they, 
who are of an airy and gay temper, come 
thither to make themselves more serious: 
and this I conceive to be one reason why 
comedies are more pleasing to us, and 
tragedies to them. But to speak gen- 
erally: it cannot be denied that short 
speeches and replies are more apt to move 
the passions and beget concernment in 
us, than the other; for it is unnatural for 
any one in a gust of passion to speak 
long together, or for another in the same 
condition to suffer him, without interrup- 
tion. Grief and passion are like floods 
raised in little brooks by a sudden rain; 
they are quickly up; and if the concern- 
ment be poured unexpectedly in upon us, 
it overflows us: but a long sober shower 
gives them leisure to run out as they 
came in, without troubling the ordinary 
current. As for comedy, repartee is one 
of its chief est graces; the greatest pleas- 
ure of the audience is a chase of wit, 
kept up on both sides, and swiftly man- 
aged. And this our forefathers, if not 
we, have had in Fletcher's plays, to a 
much higher degree of perfection than 
the French poets can reasonably hope to 

" There is another part of Lisideius 
his discourse, in which he rather excused 
our neighbors than commended them; 
that is, for aiming only to make one per- 
son considerable in their plays. 'Tis very 
true what he has urged, that one char- 
acter in all plays, even without the poet's 
care, will have advantage of all the 
others; and that the design of the whole 
drama will chiefly depend on it. But this 
hinders not that there may be more shin- 
ing characters in the play: many persons 
of a second magnitude, nay, some so very 
near, so almost equal to the first, that 
greatness may be opposed to greatness, 
and all the persons be made considerable, 
not only by their quality, but their action. 
'Tis evident that the more the persons 
are, the greater will be the variety of the 
plot. If then the parts are managed so 
regularly, that the beauty of the whole 
be kept entire, and that the variety be- 
come not a perplexed and confused mass 
of accidents, you will find it infinitely 
pleasing to be led in a labyrinth of de- 

sign, where you see some of your wa] 
before you, yet discern not the end til 
you arrive at it. And that all this L 
practicable, I can produce for exam 
pies many of our English plays: as Th 
Maid's Tragedy, The Alchemist, Th 
Silent Woman: I was going to havi 
named The Fox, but that the unity oi 
design seems not exactly observed in it 
for there appear two actions in the play 
the first naturally ending with the fourtl 
act; the second forced from it in th< 
fifth; which yet is the less to be con- 
demned in him, because the disguise o1 
Volpone, though it suited not with hi 
character as a crafty or covetous person 
agreed well enough with that of a volup 
tuary; and by it the poet gained the enc 
at which he aimed, the punishment o 
vice, and the reward of virtue, both whicl 
that disguise produced. So that to judgi 
equally of it, it was an excellent fifth act 
but not so naturally proceeding from th' 

"But to leave this, and pass to th 
latter part of Lisideius his discourse 
which concerns relations : I must acknowl 
edge with him, that the French have rea j 
son to hide that part of the action whic 
would occasion too much tumult on th ; 
stage, and to choose rather to have i| 
made known by narration to the aud '■ 
ence. Farther, I think it very corner 
ient, for the reasons he has given, tint 
all incredible actions were removed ; bi 
whether custom has so insinuated itse f 
into our countrymen, or nature has l 
formed them to fierceness, I know no 
but they will scarcely suffer combats an 
other objects of horror to be taken froi| 
them. And indeed, the indecency of ti 
mults is all which can be objected again 
fighting: for why may not our imaginj 
tion as well suffer itself to be delud< 
with the probability of it, as with (U 
other thing in the play? For my pai 
I can with as great ease persuade in 
self that the blows are given in good ea 
nest, as I can that they who strike tin 
are kings or princes, or those perso 
which they represent. For objects 
incredibility, — I would be satisfied f r< 
Lisideius, whether we have any so : 
moved from all appearance of truth, 
are those of Corneille's Andromhh: 
play which has been frequented the in< 
of any he has writ. If the Perseus, 



the son of a heathen god, the Pegasus, 
and the Monster, were not capable to 
choke a strong belief, let him blame any 
representation of ours hereafter. Those 
indeed were objects of delight; yet the 
reason is the same as to the probability: 
for he makes it not a ballet or masque, 
mt a play, which is to resemble truth. 
3ut for death, that it ought not to be rep- 
resented, I have, besides the arguments 
alleged by Lisideius, the authority of Ben 
Jonson, who has forborne it in his trag- 
for both the death of Sejanus and 
Jatiline are related: though in the latter 
{ cannot but observe one irregularity of 
Jiat great poet; he has removed the 
scene in the same act from Rome to 
Catiline's army, and from thence again 
.0 Rome; and besides, has allowed a very 
nconsiderable time, after Catiline's 
.peeeh, for the striking of the battle, and 
he return of Petreius, who is to relate 
he event of it to the senate: which I 
hould not animadvert on him, who was 
•therwise a painful observer of to -roeroF, 
>r the decorum of the stage, if he had 
tot used extreme severity in his judg- 
ment on the incomparable Shakspeare for 
he same fault — To conclude on this sub- 
ect of relations; if we are to be blamed 
or showing too much of the action, the 
rench are as faulty for discovering too 
ttle of it: a mean betwixt both should 
e observed by every judicious writer, so 
s the audience may neither be left un- 
atisfied by not seeing what is beautiful, 
r shocked by beholding what is either 
^credible or undeeent. 
" I hope I have already proved in this 
iseourse, that though we are not alto- 
ether so punctual as the French in ob- 
:rving the laws of comedy, yet our errors 
re so few, and little, and" those things 
•herein we excel them so considerable, 
lat we ought of right to be preferred 
efore them. But what will Lisideius 
iy, if they themselves acknowledge they 
re too strictly bounded by those laws, 
n breaking which he has blamed the 
nglishr I will allege Corneille's words, 
J I find them in the end of his Discourse 
f the Three Unities: 'II est facile aux 
xkrulatifs d'estre severes,' etc. 'Tis 
fsy for speculative persons to judge 
:verely; but if they would produce to 
ublic view ten or twelve pieces of this 
ature, they would perhaps give more 

latitude to the rules than I have done, 
when by experience they had known how 
much we are limited and constrained by 
them, and how many beauties of the 
stage they banished from it.' To illus- 
trate a little what he has said: By their 
servile observations of the unities of time 
and place, and integrity of scenes, they 
have brought on themselves that dearth 
of plot, and narrowness of imagination, 
which may be observed in all their plays. 
How many beautiful accidents might nat- 
urally happen in two or three days, which 
cannot arrive with any probability in the 
compass of twenty-four hours? There is 
time to be allowed also for maturity of 
design, which, amongst great and pru- 
dent persons, such as are often repre- 
sented in tragedy, cannot, with any like- 
lihood of truth, be brought to pass at so 
short a warning. Farther; by tying 
themselves strictly to the unity of piace, 
and unbroken scenes, they are forced 
many times to omit some beauties which 
cannot be shown where the act began; 
but might, if the scene were interrupted, 
and the stage cleared for the persons to 
enter in another place; and therefore the 
French poets are often forced upon ab- 
surdities; for if the act begins in a cham- 
ber, all the persons in the play must have 
some business or other to come thither, 
or else they are not to be shown that 
act; and sometimes their characters are 
very unfitting to appear there: as, sup- 
pose it were the king's bed-chamber; yet 
the meanest man in the tragedy must 
come and dispatch his business there, 
rather than in the lobby or oourtyard 
(which is fitter for him), for fear the 
stage should be cleared, and the scenes 
broken. Many times they fall by it in a 
greater inconvenience; for they keep 
their scenes unbroken, and yet change 
the place; as in one of their newest 
plays, where the act begins in the street. 
There a gentleman is to meet his friend; 
he sees him with his man, coming out 
from his father's house; they talk to- 
gether, and the first goes out: the sec- 
ond, who is a lover, has made an appoint- 
ment with his mistress; she appears at 
the window, and then we are to imagine 
the scene lies under it This gentleman 
is called away, and leaves his servant 
with his mistress; presently her father is 
heard from within; the young lady is 



afraid the serving-man should be dis- 
covered, and thrusts him into a place of 
safety, which is supposed to be her closet. 
After this, the father enters to the daugh- 
ter, and now the scene is in a house; for 
he is seeking from one room to another 
for this poor Philipin, or French Diego, 
who is heard from within, drolling and 
breaking many a miserable conceit on 
the subject of his sad condition. In this 
ridiculous manner the play goes forward, 
the stage being never empty all the while: 
so that the street, the window, the houses, 
and the closet, are made to walk about, 
and the persons to stand still. Now 
what, I beseech you, is more easy than 
to write a regular French play, or more 
difficult than to write an irregular Eng- 
lish one, like those of Fletcher, or of 

"If they content themselves, as Cor- 
neille did, with some flat design, which, 
like an ill riddle, is found out ere it be 
half proposed, such plots we can make 
every way regular, as easily as they; but 
whenever they endeavor to rise to any 
quick turns and counterturns of plot, as 
some of them have attempted, since Cor- 
neille's plays have been less in vogue, you 
see they write as irregularly as we, 
though they cover it more speciously. 
Hence the reason is perspicuous why no 
French plays, when translated, have, or 
ever can succeed on the English stage. 
For, if you consider the plots, our own 
are fuller of variety; if the writing, ours 
are more quick and f idler of spirit; and 
therefore 'tis a strange mistake in those 
who decry the way of writing plays in 
verse, as if the English therein imitated 
the French. We have borrowed nothing 
from them; our plots are weaved in 
English looms: we endeavor therein to 
follow the variety and greatness of char- 
acters which are derived to us from 
Shakespeare and Fletcher; the copious- 
ness and well-knitting of the intrigues 
we have from Jonson; and for the verse 
itself we have English precedents of 
elder date than any of Corneille's plays. 
Not to name our old comedies before 
Shakespeare, which were all writ in verse 
of six feet, or Alexandrines, such as the 
French now use, — I can show in Shake- 
speare many scenes of rhyme together, 
and the like in Ben Jonson's tragedies: 
in Catiline and Sejanus sometimes thirty 

,or forty lines, — I mean besides the 
Chorus, or the monologues ; which, by the 
way, showed Ben no enemy to this way 
of writing, especially if you read his Sad 
Shepherd, which goes sometimes on 
rhyme, sometimes on blank verse, like 
an horse who eases himself on trot and 
amble. You find him likewise commend- 
ing Fletcher's pastoral of The Faithful 
Shepherdess, which is for the most part 
rhyme, though not refined to that purity 
to which it hath since been brought. 
And these examples are enough to clear 
us from a servile imitation of the French. 

" But to return whence I have di- 
gressed: I dare boldly affirm these two 
things of the English drama; — First, 
that we have many plays of ours as 
regular as any of theirs, and which, be- 
sides, have more variety of plot and char- 
acters; and secondly, that in most of the 
irregular plays of Shakspeare or Fletcher 
(for Ben Jonson's are for the most part! 
regular), there is a more masculine fancy! 
and greater spirit in the writing than I 
there is in any of the French. I could 
produce, even in Shakspeare's anr 
Fletcher's works, some plays which an! 
almost exactly formed; as The Merrt^ 
Wives of Windsor, and The Scornfv 
Lady: but because (generally speaking/ 
Shakspeare, who writ first, did not per 
fectly observe the laws of comedy, an(; 
Fletcher, who came nearer to perfection i! 
yet through carelessness made man; 

" If this comedy and some others of hi 
were translated into French prose (whic! 
would now be no wonder to them, sine ,' \ 
Moliere has lately given them plays oujj 
of verse, which have not displeased them) ) 
I believe the controversy would soon b ] 
decided betwixt the two nations, ev*| 
making them the judges. But we nee 
not call our heroes to our aid. Be 'I 
spoken to the honor of the English, <>i 
nation can never want in any age sue 
who are able to dispute the empi 
wit with any people in the universe. An 
though the fury of a civil war, and powt 
for twenty years together abandoned ' 
a barbarous race of men, enemies of 8' 
good learning, had buried the mus< 
under the ruins of monarchy; yet, wi 
the restoration of our happiness, we B 
revived poesy lifting up its head, a' 
already shaking off the rubbish which h 



;o heavy on it. We have seen since his 
najesty's return, many dramatic poems 
vhich yield not to those of any foreign 
lation, and which deserve all laurels but 
he English. I will set aside flattery and 
nvv: it cannot be denied but we have 
(ad some little blemish either in the plot 
rr writing of all those plays which have 
^een made within these seven years; (and 
perhaps there is no nation in the world 
jo quick to discern them, or so difficult 
p pardon them, as ours:) yet if we can 

ersuade ourselves to use the candor of 
hat poet, who, though the most severe 
5 critics, has left us this caution by 

hich to moderate our censures — 

ubi plura nitent in carmine, non 
ego paucis 
Mfendar maculis; — 

', in consideration of their many and 

reat beauties, we can wink at some 

light and little imperfections, if we, I 

iy, can be thus equal to ourselves, I 

• favor from the French. And if 

do not venture upon any particular 

tent of our late plays, T tis out of 

•e consideration which an ancient writer 

Ives me: mvorum, ut magna admiratio, 

ita censura dijficilis: betwixt the extremes 
of admiration and malice, 'tis hard to 
judge uprightly of the living. Only I 
think it may be permitted me to say, 
that as it is no lessening to us to yield 
to some plays, and those not many, of our 
own nation in the last age, so can it be 
no addition to pronounce of our present 
poets, that they have far surpassed all 
the ancients, and the modern writers of 
other countries. . . . For a play is still 
an imitation of nature; we know we are 
to be deceived, and we desire to be so; 
but no man ever was deceived but with 
a probabUity of truth; for who will 
suffer a gross lie to be fastened on him? 
Thus we sufficiently understand that the 
scenes which represent cities and coun- 
tries to us are not really such, but only 
painted on boards and canvas; but shall 
that excuse the ill painture or design- 
ment of them? Nay, rather ought they 
not be labored with so much the more 
diL'gence and exactness, to help the imag- 
ination? since the mind of man does nat- 
urally tend to truth; and therefore the 
nearer anything comes to the imitation 
of it, the more it pleases." 



Tragedy is thus defined by Aristotle 
•mitting what I thought unnecessary in 
s definition). It is an imitation of 
%e entire, great, and probable action; 
Id, but represented; which, by mov- 

us fear and pity, is conducive to 

e purging of those two passions in our 

More largely thus: Tragedy de- 

iribes or paints an action, which action 

have all the proprieties above 
toned. First, it must be one or single; 

, it must not be a history of one 

life, suppose of Alexander the 

••eat, or Julius Caesar, but one single 

jtion of theirs. This condemns all 

; eare's historical plays, which are 

Hher chronicles represented, than trag- 

1 Re-printed, complete, from the Everyman's 
tition of Dramatic Essay* by John Dryden 
♦ondon and Xew York, n. d.). — Ed. 

edies; and all double action of plays. 
As, to avoid a satire upon others, I will 
make bold with my own Marriage a la 
Mode, where there are manifestly two 
actions not depending on one another: 
but in (Edipus there cannot properly be 
said to be two actions, because the love 
of Adrastus and Eurydice has a neces- 
sary dependence on the principal design 
into which it is woven. The natural rea- 
son of this rule is plain; for two differ- 
ent independent actions distract the at- 
tention and concernment of the audience, 
and consequently destroy the intention of 
the poet ; if his business be to move terror 
and pity, and one of his actions be comi- 
cal, the other tragical, the former will 
divert the people, and utterly make void 
his greater purpose. Therefore, as in 
perspective, so in Tragedy, there must be 



a point of sight in which all the lines 
terminate; otherwise the eye wanders, 
and the work is false. This was the 
practice of the Grecian stage. But Ter- 
ence made an innovation in the Roman: 
all his plays have double actions; for it 
was his custom to translate two Greek 
comedies, and to weave them into one of 
his, yet so that both their actions were 
comical, and one was principal, the other 
but secondary or subservient. And this 
has obtained on the English stage, to 
give us the pleasure of variety. 

As the action ought to be one, it ought, 
as such, to have order in it; that is, to 
have a natural beginning, a middle, and 
an end. A natural beginning, says Aris- 
totle, is that which could not necessarily 
have been placed after another thing; 
and so of the rest. This consideration 
will arraign all plays after the new 
model of Spanish plots, where accident 
is heaped upon accident, and that which 
is first might as reasonably be last; an 
inconvenience not to be remedied, but by 
making one accident naturally produce 
another, otherwise it is a farce and not a 
play. Of this nature is The Slighted 
Maid; where there is no scene in the first 
act which might not by as good reason 
be in the fifth. And if the action ought 
to be one, the tragedy ought likewise to 
conclude with the action of it. Thus in 
Mustapha, the play should naturally 
have ended with the death of Zanger, 
and not have given us the grace-cup after 
dinner, of Solyman's divorce from Roxo- 

The following properties of the action 
are so easy that they need not my ex- 
plaining. It ought to be great, and to 
consist of great persons, to distinguish 
it from Comedy, where the action is triv- 
ial, and the persons of inferior rank. 
The last quality of the action is, that it 
ought to be probable, as well as admir- 
able and great. 'Tis not necessary that 
there should be historical truth in it; 
but always necessary that there should 
be a likeness of truth, something that is 
more than barely possible; probable being 
that which succeeds, or happens, oftener 
than it misses. To invent therefore a 
probability, and to make it wonderful, 
is the most difficult undertaking in the 
art of Poetry; for that which is not won- 
derful is not great; and that which is 

not probable will not delight a reasonable 
audience. This action, thus described, 
must be represented and not told, to dis- 
tinguish Dramatic Poetry from Epic: but 
I hasten to the end or scope of Tragedy, 
which is, to rectify or purge our pas- 
sions, fear, and pity. 

To instruct delightfully is the general 
end of all poetry. Philosophy instructs, 
but it performs its work by precept; 
which is not delightful, or not so delight- 
ful as example. To purge the passions 
by example is therefore the particular 
instruction which belongs to Tragedy. 
Rapin, a judicious critic, has observed 
from Aristotle, that pride and want of 
commiseration are the most predominant 
vices in mankind; therefore, to cure us 
of these two, the inventors of Tragedy 
have chosen to work upon two other pas- 
sions, which are fear and pity. We are 
wrought to fear by their setting before 
our eyes some terrible example of mis- 
fortune, which happened to persons of 
the highest quality; for such an action 
demonstrates to us that no condition is 
privileged from the turns of fortune; 
this must of necessity cause terror in 
us, and consequently abate our pride. 
But when we see that the most virtuous, [ 
as well as the greatest, are not exempt j 
from such misfortunes, that consideration 
moves pity in us, and insensibly works us 
to be helpful to, and tender over, the ' 
distressed ; which is the noblest and most 
god-like of moral virtues. Here it is ob- 
servable that it is absolutely necessary 
to make a man virtuous, if we desire he 
should be pitied: we lament not, but de- 
test, a wicked man; we are glad when! 
we behold his crimes are punished, and 
that poetical justice is done upon him , 
Euripides was censured by the critics oi; 
his time for making his chief character. 1 
too wicked; for example, Phaedra, thouglj 
she loved her son-in-law with reluctaucy 
and that it was a curse upon her faniilj 
for offending Venus, yet was thought to< 
ill a pattern for the stage. Shall w< 
therefore banish all characters of vil 
lainy ? I confess I am not of that opin j 
ion; but it is necessary that the hero o 
the play be not a villain; that is, th 
characters, which should move our pit} 
ought to have virtuous inclinations, an< 
degrees of moral goodness in them. A 
for a perfect character of virtue, it neu 



v&s in Nature, and therefore there can 
>e no imitation of it; but there are alloys 
f frailty to be allowed for the chief per- 
ons, yet so that the good which is in 
hem shall outweigh the bad, and conse- 
uently leave room for punishment on the 
he side and pity on the other. 

After all, if any one will ask me 
'hether a tragedy cannot be made upon 
ny other grounds than those of exciting 
ity and terror in us, [Le] Bossu, the 
est of modern critics, answers thus in 
eneral: That all excellent arts, and 
articularly that of poetry, have been in- 
?nted and brought to perfection by men 
f a transcendent genius; and that, there- 
pre, they who practice afterwards the 
une arts are obliged to tread in their 
wtsteps, and to search in their writings 
ie foundation of them; for it is not just 
tat new rules should destroy the author- 
y of the old. But Rapin writes more 
articularly thus, that no passions in a 
ory are so proper to move our con- 
•rnment as fear and pity*; and that it is 
om our concernment we receive our 
easure is undoubted; when the soul he- 
mes agitated with fear for one charac- 
r, or hope for another, then it is that 
e are pleased in Tragedy, by the inter- 
<t which we taken in their adventures. 
Alter the plot, which is the foundation 
the play, the next thing to which we 
«ght to apply our judgment is the man- 
ors; for now the poet comes to work 
*ove ground. The ground-work, indeed, 
i that which is most necessary, as that 
T>on which depends the firmness of the 
lole fabric; yet it strikes not the eye 
: much as the beauties or imperfee- 
1>ns of the manners, the thoughts, and 
e expressions. 

The first rule which [Le] Bossu pre- 
Iribes to the writer of an Heroic Poem, 
id which holds too by the same reason 
5 all Dramatic Poetry, is to make the 
pral of the work; that is, to lay down 
i yourself what that precept of morality- 
all be which you would insinuate into 
le people; as, namely, Homers (which 
have copied in my Conquest of Gra- 
was, that union preserves a com- 
ixiwealth and discord destroys it; 
iphocles. in his (Edipus, that no man is 
accounted happy before his death. 
he moral that directs the whole 
n of the play to one center; and that 

action or fable is the example built upon 
the moral, which confirms the truth of it 
to our experience: when the fable is de- 
signed, then, and not before, the persons 
are to be introduced, with their man- 
ners, characters, and passions. 

The manners, in a poem, are under- 
stood to be those inclinations, whether 
natural or acquired, which move and 
carry us to actions, good, bad, or indif- 
ferent, in a play; or which incline the 
persons to such or such actions. I have 
anticipated part of this discourse already 
in declaring that a poet ought not to 
make the manners perfectly good in his 
best persons; but neither are they to be 
more wicked in any of his characters than 
necessity requires. To produce a villain', 
without other reason than a natural in- 
clination to villainy, is, in Poetry, to pro- 
duce an effect without a cause; and to 
make him more a villain than he has just 
reason to be is to make an effect which 
is stronger than the cause. 

The manners arise from many causes; 
and are either distinguished by "complex- 
ion, as choleric and phlegmatic, or by 
the differences of age or sex, of climates, 
or quality of the persons, or their pres- 
ent condition. They are likewise to be 
gathered from the several virtues, vices, 
or passions, and many other common- 
places, which a poet must be supposed to 
have learned from Natural Philosophy, 
Ethics, and History; of all which whoso- 
ever is ignorant does not deserve the 
name of poet. 

But as the manners are useful in this 
art, they may be all comprised under 
these general heads: first, they must be 
apparent; that is, in every character of 
the play some inclinations of the person 
must appear; and these are shown in the 
actions and discourse. Secondly, the 
manners must be suitable, or agreeing 
to the persons; that is, to the age, sex, 
dignity, and the other general heads of 
manners: thus, when a poet has given 
the dignity of a king to one of his per- 
sons, in all his actions and speeches that 
person must discover majesty, magnanim- 
ity, and jealousy of power, because these 
are suitable to the general manners of a 
king. The third property of manners is 
resemblance; and this is founded upon 
the particular characters of men as we 
have them delivered to us by relation or 



history; that is, when a poet has the 
known character of this or that man be- 
fore him, he is bound to represent him 
such, at least not contrary to that which 
fame has reported him to have been. 
Thus, it is not a poet's choice to make 
Ulysses choleric or Achilles patient, be- 
cause Homer has described 'em quite 
otherwise. Yet this is a rock on which 
ignorant writers daily split; and the ab- 
surdity is as monstrous as if a painter 
should draw a coward running from a 
battle, and tell us it was the picture of 
Alexander the Great. 

The last property of manners is that 
they be constant and equal, that is, main- 
tained the same through the whole de- 
sign: thus, when Vergil had once given 
the name of pious to .ZEneas, he was 
bound to show him such, in all his words 
and actions, through the whole poem. 
All these properties Horace has hinted 
to a judicious observer: 1. Notandi sunt 
tibi mores; 2. Aut famam sequerej 3. 
Aut sibi convenientia finge; 4. Servetur 
ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit, 
et sibi constet. 

From the manners, the characters of 
persons are derived; for, indeed, the 
characters are no other than the inclina- 
tions as they appear in the several per- 
sons of the poem; a character being thus 
defined — that which distinguishes one 
man from another. Not to repeat the 
same things over again which have been 
said of the manners, I will only add what 
is necessary here. A character, or that 
which distinguishes one man from all 
others, cannot be supposed to consist of 
one particular virtue, or vice, or passion 
only; but 'tis a composition of qualities 
which are not contrary to one another in 
the same person; thus, the same man 
may be liberal and valiant, but not lib- 
eral and covetous; so in a comical char- 
acter, or humor (which is an inclination 
to this or that particular folly), Falstaff 
is a liar, and a coward, a glutton, and 
a buffoon, because all these qualities may 
agree in the same man; yet it is still to 
be observed that one virtue, vice, and 
passion ought to be shown in every man 
as predominant over all the rest; as 
covetousness in Crassus, love of his coun- 
try in Brutus; and the same in charac- 
ters which are feigned. 

The chief character or hero in a trag- 

edy, as I have already shown, ought in 
prudence to be such a man who has so 
much more of virtue in him than of vice, 
that he may be left amiable to the audi- 
ence, which otherwise cannot have any 
concernment for his sufferings; and it is 
on this one character that the pity and 
terror must be principally, if not wholly, 
founded: a rule which is extremely neces- 
sary, and which none of the critics, that 
I know, have fully enough discovered to 
us. For terror and compassion work but 
weakly when they are divided into many 
persons. If Creon had been the chief 
character in CEdipus, there had neither 
been terror nor compassion moved, but 
only detestation of the man and joy for 
his punishment; if Adrastus and Eury- 
dice had been made more appearing 
characters, then the pity had been di- 
vided and lessened on the part of 
CEdipus : but making CEdipus the best 
and bravest person, and even Jocasta 
but an underpart to him, his virtues, and ' 
the punishment of his fatal crime, drew* 
both the pity and the terror to himself. I 
By what has been said of the man- 
ners, it will be easy for a reasonable man 
to judge whether the characters be truly' 
or falsely drawn in a tragedy; for il 
there be no manners appearing in tin 
characters, no concernment for the per; 
sons can be raised; no pity or horroi 
can be moved but by vice or virtue \ 
therefore, without them, no person car 
have any business in the play. If tin 
inclinations be obscure, it is a sign tli 
poet is in the dark and knows not wha 
manner of man he presents to you ; 
consequently you can have no idi 
very imperfect, of that man, in 
judge what resolutions he ought to 
or what words or actions are pi 
for him. Most comedies made uj 
accidents or adventures are liable 1 
into this error; and tragedies with 
turns are subject to it; for the mi 
can never be evident where the sin 
of fortune take up all the busines 
the stage; and where the poet is mo 
in pain to tell you what happened 
such a man than what he was. Ti 
of the excellencies of Shakespeare tb 
the manners of his persons are general 
apparent, and you see their bein 
inclinations. Fletcher comes far shf 
of him in this, as indeed he does alm< 




n everything: there are but glimmerings 
jif manners in most of his comedies, which 
un upon adventures; and in his trag- 
dies, Rollo, Otto the King and no King, 

iius, and many others of his best, 
.re but pictures shown you in the twi- 
ight; you know not whether they re- 
emble vice or virtue, and they are either 
»od, bad, or indifferent, as the present 
cene requires it. But of all poets, this 
onimendation is to be given to Ben Jon- 
on, that the manners even of the most 
^considerable persons in his plays are 
verywhere apparent. 

By considering the second quality of 
fanners, which is, that they be suitable 
the age, quality, country, dignity, etc., 
f the character, we may likewise judge 
hether a poet has followed nature. In 
his kind, Sophocles and Euripides have 
lore excelled among the Greeks than 
ius, and Terence more than Plau- 
us among the Romans. Thus, Sophocles 
jves to CEdipus the true qualities of a 
ing in both those plays which bear his 
ame; but in the latter, which is the 

us Colonaus, he lets fall on pur- 
use his tragic style; his hero speaks 
ot in the arbitrary tone, but remem- 
ers, in the softness of his complaints, 
iiat he is an unfortunate blind old man, 
;iat he is banished from his country, 
nd persecuted by his next relations, 
he present French poets are generally 
.cused that, wheresoever they lay the 
ene, or in whatsoever age, the manners 
f their heroes are wholly French. Ra- 
ni's Bajazet is bred at Constantinople, 
ut his civilities are conveyed to him, 
v some secret passage, from Versailles 
ito the Seraglio. But our Shakspeare, 
iving ascribed to Henry the Fourth 
se character of a king and of a father, 

him the perfect manners of each 
•lation, when either he transacts with 
s son or with his subjects. Fletcher, 
1 the other side, gives neither to Ar- 

nor to his king, in the Maid's Trag- 
/</, the qualities which are suitable to 

larch; though he may be excused 

little in the latter, for the king there 

not uppermost in the character; 'tis 

ie lover of Evadne, who is king only in 

second consideration; and though he 

1 unjust, and has other faults which 

iall be nameless, yet he is not the hero 

the play. Tistrue, we find him a 

lawful prince (though I never heard of 
any king that was in Rhodes), and 
therefore Mr. Rymer's criticism stands 
good, that he should not be shown in 
so vicious a character. Sophocles has 
been more judicious in his Antigone; 
for, though he represents in Creon a 
bloody prince, yet he makes him not a 
lawful king, but an usurper, and An- 
tigona herself is the heroine of the trag- 
edy: but when Phil aster wounds Are- 
thusa and the boy, and Perigot his mis- 
tress, in the Faithful Shepherdess, both 
these are contrary to the character of 
manhood. Nor is Valentinian managed 
much better; for though Fletcher has 
taken his picture truly, and shown him 
as he was, an effeminate, voluptuous 
man, yet he has forgotten that he was 
an emperor, and has given him none of 
those royal marks which ought to appear 
in a lawful successor of the throne. If 
it be inquired what Fletcher should have 
done on this occasion — ought he not to 
have represented Valentinian as he was? 
— [Le] Bossu shall answer this ques- 
tion for me by an instance of the like 
nature: Mauritius, the Greek emperor, 
was a prince far surpassing Valentinian, 
for he was endued with many kingly 
virtues; he was religious, merciful, and 
valiant, but withal he was noted of ex- 
treme covetousness, a vice which is con- 
trary to the character of a hero or a 
prince: therefore, says the critic, that 
emperor was no fit person to be repre- 
sented in a tragedy, unless his good 
qualities were only to be shown and his 
covetousness (which sullied them all) 
were slurred over by the artifice of the 
poet. To return once more to Shak- 
speare; no man ever drew so many char- 
acters, or generally distinguished 'em 
better from one another, excepting only 
Jonson. I will instance but in one to 
show the copiousness of his intention; 
it is that of Caliban, or the monster, in 
the Tempest. He seems there to have 
created a person which was not in na- 
ture, a boldness which, at first sight, 
would appear intolerable; for he makes 
him a species of himself, begotten by 
an incubus on a witch ; but this, as I have 
elsewhere proved, is not wholly beyond 
the bounds of credibility, at least the 
vulgar still believe it. We have the 
separated notions of a spirit and of a 



witch (and spirits, according to Plato, 
are vested with a subtle body; accord- 
ing to some of his followers have differ- 
ent sexes) ; therefore, as from the dis- 
tinct apprehensions of a horse and of a 
man imagination has formed a centaur, 
so from those of an incubus and a sor- 
ceress Shakspeare has produced his mon- 
ster. Whether or no his generation can 
be defended I leave to philosophy; but 
of this I am certain, that the poet has 
most judiciously furnished him with a 
person, a language, and a character, 
which will suit him, both by father's and 
mother's side: he has all the discontents 
and malice of a witch and of a devil, 
besides a convenient proportion of the 
deadly sins; gluttony, sloth, and lust are 
manifest; the dejectedness of a slave is 
likewise given him, and the ignorance of 
one bred up in a desert island. His per- 
son is monstrous, and he is the product 
of unnatural lust; and his language is 
as hobgoblin as his person; in all things 
he is distinguished from other mortals. 
The characters of Fletcher are poor and 
narrow in comparison of Shakspeare's ; 
I remember not one which is not bor- 
rowed from him, unless you will accept 
that strange mixture of a man in the 
King and no King; so that in this part 
Shakspeare is generally worth our imi- 
tation, and to imitate Fletcher is but to 
copy after him who was a copyer. 

Under this general head of manners 
the passions are naturally included as 
belonging to the characters. I speak not 
of pity and of terror, which are to be 
moved in the audience by the plot; but 
of anger, hatred, love, ambition, jeal- 
ousy, revenge, etc., as they are shown 
in this or that person of the play. To 
describe these naturally, and to move 
them artfully, is one of the greatest 
commendations which can be given to a 
poet: to write pathetically, says Longi- 
nus, cannot proceed but from a lofty 
genius. A poet must be born with this 
quality: yet, unless he help himself by 
an acquired knowledge of the passions, 
what they are in their own nature, and 
by what springs they are to be moved, 
he will be subject either to raise them 
where they ought not to be raised, or 
not to raise them by the just degrees of 
nature, or to amplify them beyond the 
natural bounds, or not to observe the 

crises and turns of them in their cool- 
ing and decay; all which errors proceed 
from want of judgment in the poet, and 
from being unskilled in the principles 
of moral philosophy. Nothing is more 
frequent in a fanciful writer than to 
foil himself by not managing his strength; 
therefore, as in a wrestler, there is first 
required some measure of force, a well- 
knit body and active limbs, without which 
all instruction would be vain; yet, those 
being granted, if he want the skill which 
is necessary to a wrestler he shall make 
but small advantage of his natural ro- 
bustuousness: so, in a poet, his inborn 
vehemence and force of spirit will only 
run him out of breath the sooner if it 
be not supported by the help of Art. 
The roar of passion, indeed, may please 
an audience, three parts of which are 
ignorant enough to think all is moving 
which is noise, and it may stretch the 
lungs of an ambitious actor who will 
die upon the spot for a thundering clap; j 
but it will move no other passion than j 
indignation and contempt from judicious i 
men. Longinus, whom I have hitherto j 
followed, continues thus: 7/ the fa*-' 
sions be artfully employed, the discourse 
becomes vehement and lofty: if other-\ 
wise, there is nothing more ridiculous, 
than a great passion out of season: and; 
to this purpose he animadverts severely' 
upon ^Eschylus, who writ nothing in cold; 
blood, but was always in a rapture and; 
in fury with his audience: the inspira- 
tion was still upon him, he was eveij 
tearing it upon the tripos; or (to ruri 
off as madly as he does from one simili- 
tude to another) he was always at high 
flood of passion, even in the dead ebl 
and lowest water-mark of the scene. 1 1 
who would raise the passion of a judii 
cious audience, says a learned critic 
must be sure to take his hearers aIoni 
with him; if they be in a calm, 'tis ii 
vain for him to be in a huff: he muSj 
move them by degrees, and kindle wit 
'em; otherwise he will be in clanger o 
setting his own heap of stubble on fin 
and of burning out by himself, withcn 
warming the company that stand aboi 
him. They who would justify the mat 
ness of poetry from the authority < 
Aristotle have mistaken the text M 
consequently the interpretation: I 
ine it to be false read where he says i 




poetry that it is ~Ev<pvovs fj imivikov, that 
it had always somewhat in it either of a 
sjenius or of a madman. 'Tis more prob- 
able that the original ran thus, that 
poetry was Eixpvovs ov fiavtKov, that it be- 
longs* to a witty man, but not to a mad- 
man. Thus then the passions, as they 
ire considered simply and in themselves, 
Suffer violence when they are perpetually 
naintained at the same height; for what 
nelody can be made on that instrument, 
ill whose strings are screwed up at first 
:o their utmost stretch and to the same 
;ound? But this is not the worst: for 
he characters likewise bear a part in the 
reneral calamity if you consider the pas- 
sions as embodied in them; for it follows 
>f necessity that no man can be distin- 
guished from another by his discourse 
vhen every man is ranting, swaggering, 
tnd exclaiming with the same excess: 
is if it were the only business of all the 
haracters to contend with each other 
!or the prize at Billingsgate, or that the 
eene of the tragedy lay in Bet'lem. 
iuppose the poet should intend this man 
o be choleric and that man to be pa- 
ient, yet when they are confounded in 
he writing you cannot distinguish them 
rom one another: for the man who was 
ailed patient and tame is only so before 
e speaks; but let his clack be set agoing, 
nd he shall tongue it as impetuously, 
nd as loudly, as the errantest hero in 
le play. By this means the characters 
re only distinct in name; but, in reality, 
U the men and women in the play are 
le same person. No man should pre- 
•nd to write who cannot temper his 
incy with his judgment: nothing is more 
ous to a raw horseman than a hot- 
louthed jade without a curb. 
It is necessary therefore for a poet, 
ho would concern an audience by de- 
•ribing of a passion, first to prepare it 
id not to rush upon it all at once, 
vid has judiciously shown the differ- 
lce of these two ways in the speeches 
Ajax and Ulysses: Ajax, from the 
ry beginning, breaks out into his ex- 
amations, and is swearing by his Maker, 
• Agimus. proh Jupiter, inquit. Ulysses, 
1 the contrary, prepares his audience 
ith all the submissiveness he can prac- 
e, and all the calmness of a reasonable 

r; he found his judges in a tranquil- 
of spirit, and therefore set out lei- 

surely and softly with 'em, till he had 
warmed 'em by degrees; and then he be- 
gan to mend his pace and to draw them 
along with his own impetuousness: yet 
so managing his breath that it might not 
fail him at his need, and reserving his 
utmost proofs of ability even to the last. 
The success, you see, was answerable; 
for the crowd only applauded the speech 
of Ajax — 

Vulgique secutum 
Ultima murmur erat: 

but the judges awarded the prize, for 
which they contended, to Ulysses — 

Mota manus procervm est; et quid fa- 

cundia posset 
Turn patuit, fortisque viri tulit arma 


The next necessary rule is to put noth- 
ing into the discourse which may hinder 
your moving of the passions. Too many 
accidents, as I have said, encumber the 
poet as much as the arms of Saul did 
David; for the variety of passions which 
they produce are ever crossing and 
justling each other out of the way. He 
who treats of joy and grief together is 
in a fair way of causing neither of those 
effects. There is yet another obstacle 
to be removed, which is pointed wit, and 
sentences affected out of season; these 
are nothing of kin to the violence of pas- 
sion: no man is at leisure to make sen- 
tences and similes when his soul is in an 
agony. I the rather name this fault 
that it may serve to mind me of my 
former errors; neither will I spare my- 
self, but give an example of this kind 
from my Indian Emperor. Montezuma, 
pursued by his enemies and seeking 
sanctuary, stands parleying without the 
fort and describing his danger to Cydaria 
in a simile of six lines — 

As on the sands the frighted traveler 
Sees the high seas come rolling from 
afar, etc. 

My Indian potentate was well skilled 
in the sea for an inland prince, and well 
improved since the first act, when he sent 
his son to discover it. The image had 
not been amiss from another man at an- 



other time: sed nunc non erat hisce locus: 
he destroyed the concernment which the 
audience might otherwise have had for 
him; for they could not think the danger 
near when he had the leisure to invent a 

If Shakspeare be allowed, as I think 
he must, to have made his characters dis- 
tinct, it will easily be inferred that he 
understood the nature of the passions: 
because it has been proved already that 
confused passions make undistinguishable 
characters: yet I cannot deny that he 
has his failings; but they are not so 
much in the passions themselves as in his 
manner of expression: he often obscures 
his meaning by his words, and sometimes 
makes it unintelligible. I will not say 
of so great a poet that he distinguished 
not the blown puffy style from true sub- 
limity; but I may venture to maintain 
that the fury of his fancy often trans- 
ported him beyond the bounds of judg- 
ment, either in coining of new words 
and phrases, or racking words which 
were in use into the violence of a cata- 
chresis. It is not that I would explode 
the use of metaphors from passion, for 
Longinus thinks 'em necessary to raise 
it: but to use 'em at every word, to say 
nothing without a metaphor, a simile, an 
image, or description, is, I doubt, to 
smell a little too strongly of the buskin. 
I must be forced to give an example of 
expressing passion figuratively; but that 
I may do it with respect to Shakspeare, 
it shall not be taken from anything of 
his: 'tis an exclamation against fortune, 
quoted in his Hamlet but written by 
some other poet — 

Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! all 

you gods, 
In general synod, take away her power; 
Break all the spokes and felleys from 

her wheel, 
And bowl the round nave down the hill 

of Heav'n, 
As low as to the fiends. 

And immediately after, speaking of 
Hecuba, when Priam was killed before 
her eyes — 

The mobbled queen 
Threatening the flame, ran up and down 
With bisson rheum; a clout about that 

Where late the diadem stood; and for a 

About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins, 
A blanket in th' alarm of fear caught up. 
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom 

'Gainst Fortune's state would treason 

have pronounced; 
But if the gods themselves did see her 

When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious 

In mincing with his sword her husband's 

The instant burst of clamour that she 

(Unless thinqs mortal move them not at 

Would have made milch the burning eyes 

of heaven, 
And passion in the gods. 

What a pudder is here kept in rais- 
ing the expression of trifling thoughts! 
Would not a man have thought that the 
poet had been bound prentice to a wheel- 
wright for his first rant? and had fol- 
lowed a ragman for the clout and blanket 
in the second? Fortune is painted on a 
wheel, and therefore the writer, in a 
rage, will have poetical justice done upon 
every member of that engine: after this 
execution, he bowls the nave down-hill, 
from Heaven, to the fiends (an unrea- 
sonable long mark, a man would think); 
'tis well there are no solid orbs to stop 
it in the way, or no element of fire to 
consume it: but when it came to the 
earth it must be monstrous heavy to 
break ground as low as the center. His 
making milch the burning eyes of heaven 
was a pretty tolerable flight too: and I 
think no man ever drew milk out of 
eyes before him: yet to make the wonder 
greater, these eyes were burning. Such 
a sight indeed were enough to have raisg 
passion in the gods; but to excuse the 
effects of it, he tells you perhaps they 
did not see it. Wise men would be ^lad 
to find a little sense couched under all 
these pompous words; for bombast ii 
commonly the delight of that audienM 
which loves poetry but understands I 
not: and as commonly has been the prac- 
tice of those writers who, not being able 
to infuse a natural passion into the mind, 
have made it their business to ply the 


20 1 

irs, and to stun their judges by the 
oise. But Shakspeare does not often 
lbs; for the passions in his scene be- 
*veen Brutus and Cassius are extremely 
atural, the thoughts are such as arise 
rom the matter, the expression of 'em 
ot viciously figurative. I cannot leave 
lis subject before I do justice to that 
Jvine poet by giving you one of his pas- 
.onate descriptions: 'tis of Richard the 
(econd when he was deposed and led 
1 triumph through the streets of Lon- 
jn by Henry of Bullingbrook: the paint- 
ig of it is so lively, and the words so 
loving, that I have scarce read any- 
ping comparable to it in any other lan- 
page. Suppose you have seen already 
Le fortunate usurper passing through 
ie crowd, and followed by the shouts 
ad acclamations of the people; and now 
-hold King Richard entering upon the 
iene: consider the wretchedness of his 
•ndition and his carriage in it; and re- 
tain from pity. if you can — 

s in a theater, the eyes of men, 
.fter a well-graced actor leaves the 
\ stage, 

pre idly bent on him that enters next, 
hinking his prattle to be tedious: 
pen so, or with much more contempt, 

men's eyes 
.id srowl on Richard: no man cried, 

God save him: 

iful tongue gave him his welcome 
1 home, 
.ut dust was thrown upon his sacred 

thich with such gentle sorrow he shook 

I. °V> 

its face still combating with tears and 

1 smiles 

Whe badges of his grief and patience), 

mat had not God (for some strong pur- 

| pose) steel' d 

au hearts of men, they must perforce 

have melted, 
-nd barbansin itself have pitied him. 

To speak justly of this whole matter- 
's neither height of thought that is dis- 
«mmended, nor pathetic vehemence, nor 
■';>' nobleness of expression in its proper 
lace; but 'tis a false measure of all 
something which is like them, and 
i not them; 'tis the Bristol-stone which 
f pears like a diamond; 'tis an extrava- 

gant thought instead of a sublime one; 
'tis roaring madness instead of vehem- 
ence; and a sound of words instead of 
sense. If Shakspeare were stripped of 
all the bombasts in his passions, and 
dressed in the most vulgar words, we 
should find the beauties of his thoughts 
remaining; if his embroideries were burnt 
down, there would still be silver at the 
bottom of the melting-pot: but I fear 
(at least let me fear it for myself) that 
we, who ape his sounding words, have 
nothing of his thought, but are all out- 
side; there is not so much as a dwarf 
within our giant's clothes. Therefore, let 
not Shakspeare suffer for our sakes; 'tis 
our fault, who succeed him in an age 
which is more refined, if we imitate him 
so ill that we copy his failings only and 
make a virtue of that in our writings 
which in his was an imperfection. 

For what remains, the excellency of 
that poet was, as I have said, in the more 
manly passions; Fletcher's in the softer: 
Shakspeare writ better betwixt man and 
man; Fletcher betwixt man and woman: 
consequently, the one described friend- 
ship better; the other love: yet Shak- 
speare taught Fletcher to write love: 
and Juliet and Desdemona are originals. 
'Tis true the scholar had the softer soul; 
but the master had the kinder. Friend- 
ship is both a virtue and a passion essen- 
tially; love is a passion only in its na- 
ture, and is not a virtue but by acci- 
dent: good nature makes friendship; but 
effeminacy love. Shakspeare had an uni- 
versal mind, which comprehended all 
characters and passions; Fletcher a more 
confined and limited: for though he 
treated love in perfection, yet honor, 
ambition, revenge, and generally all the 
stronger passions, he either touched not, 
or not masterly. To conclude all, he 
was a limb of Shakspeare. 

I had intended to have proceeded to 
the last property of manners, which is, 
that they must be constant, and the char- 
acters maintained the same from the be- 
ginning to the end; and from thence to 
have proceeded to the thoughts and ex- 
pressions suitable to a tragedy: but I 
will first see how this will relish with 
the age. It is, I confess, but cursorily 
written; yet the judgment, which is given 
here, is generally founded upon experi- 
ence; but because many men are shocked 



at the name of rules, as if they were a 
kind of magisterial prescription upon 
poets, I will conclude with the words of 
Rapin, in his Reflections on Aristotle's 
work of Poetry: "If the rules be well 
considered, we shall find them to be 
made only to reduce Nature into method, 
to trace her step by step, and not to 
suffer the least mark of her to escape 
us: 'tis only by these that probability in 
fiction is maintained, which is the soul of 
poetry. They are founded upon good 

sense, and sound reason, rather than on 
authority; for though Aristotle and Hor- 
ace are produced, yet no man must argue 
that what they write is true, because they 
writ it; but 'tis evident, by the ridicu- 
lous mistakes and gross absurdities which 
have been made by those poets who 
have taken their fancy only for their 
guide, that if this fancy be not regu- 
lated, it is a mere caprice, and utterly 
incapable to produce a reasonable and 
judicious poem." 


John Milton was born at London in 
1608. His father was an Oxford man, 
and a musician of note. John received a 
very careful education both at school and 
at home. He was graduated from St. 
Paul's at the age of fifteen. Even before 
that time he is said to have written 
verses, in Latin and in English. He 
attended Christ's College, Cambridge, 
where he remained for over seven years. 
Some of his earliest known poems date 
from his college days, especially the Ode 
on the Morning of Christ's Nativity 
(1629). The years between 1632 and 
1638 Milton spent with his father at Hor- 
ton. He intended to enter the church, 
but could not bring himself to subscribe 
to its tenets, and decided to devote his 
energies to literature. During his stay 
in the country he wrote L' Allegro and 
II Penseroso, Comus, which was per- 
formed in 1634, and Lycidas (1638). 
From Horton he went to the Continent. 
Toward the end of the year he was 
brought home by news of the Civil War. 
He returned in August of the next year, 
and became imbroiled in various religious 
controversies. At the same time he was 
giving a great deal of thought to projects 
for an epic or tragedy he hoped to write. 
In 1643 he was married, but his wife de- 
serted him soon after. This called forth 
his tract on divorce, The Doctrine and 
Discipline of Divorce, etc. (1643). Two 
years later he was reconciled with his 
wife, who returned to him. In 1649 he 
became a Latin Secretary under Crom- 
well, and wrote a number of political 

pamphlets. He became blind in 1652, 
and his wife died the next year. He 
married again in 1656. He continued as 
secretary until the Restoration. At that 
time he was considered a menace to the 
government, and was arrested, but soon 
after released. His second wife died in 
1660, and he married for the third time 
in 1663. Paradise Lost was begun in 
1658, and finished five years later, but 
not published until 1667. In 1671, to- 
gether with Paradise Found, he pub- 
lished his drama Samson Agonistes, with 
the preface on tragedy. He died in 1674. 

Milton's contribution to the theory of j 
the drama is slight enough, for practi- 
cally his only mention of the subject is in 
the preface — Of that sort of Dramatic 
Poem which is call'd Tragedy — to his 
unactable pseudo-Greek play, Samson 
Agonistes. This is a defense of the form, 
based not primarily on Greek, but on 
Italian Renaissance ideas. The play il 
an exemplification of the theory. Pro- j 
fessor Thorndike in his Tragedy, says: 
* 4 Though the play stands by itself, it 
may be said to represent a tendency to 
turn to Greek rather than to French 
models, a tendency boasted of by Dryden 
and Crowne, and fully manifest in the 
next century. And it takes its place at 
the head of the numerous, if sporadic, 
tragedies on Greek models that extend 
from the Restoration to the present day." 

On the drama: 

Of that sort of Dramatic Poem which « 
call'd Tragedy (1671). 




'he Works of John Milton, etc^ 8 vols., 
ed. by I. Mitford (London, 1851). See 
See aso The Poetical Work* of John 
Milton, edited by John Masson (Globe 
ed., London, 1S77 ff). For special 
editions of Samson Agonistes, see 
those edited by J. C. Collins (Oxford, 
1883), and by A. W. Verity (Cam- 
bridge, 1892). The Preface alone is 
re-printed in the second volume of 
J. E. Spingarn's Critical Essays of the 
Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 1908). 

On Milton and his works: 
. A. Brooke, Milton (London, 1879). 

R. Garnett, Life of John Milton (Lon- 
don, 1890). 

D. Masson, The Life of John Milton, 6 
vols. (Cambridge, 1859-80. Index vol., 

W. A. Raleigh, Milton (London, 1890). 

A. Schmidt, Mil tons dramatische Dich- 
tungen (Konigsberg, 1864). 

W. P. Trent, John Milton (New York, 

Matthew Arnold, Mixed Essays (Lon- 
don, 1879). 

, Essays in Criticism, 2nd series 

(London, 1888). 

I. Bywater, Milton and the Aristotelian 
Definition of Tragedy (In Jour, of 
Phil., xxvii, p. 267, 1900). 

([Preface to] Samson Agonistes) 

Tragedy, as it was anciently composed, 
ith been ever held the gravest, moral- 
t, and most profitable of all other 
Mms; therefore said by Aristotle to be 
er, by raising pity and fear, or 

. to purge the mind of those and 

ch like passions, that is, to temper and 

duce them to just measure with a kind 

delight, stirred up by reading or see- 

:g those passions well imitated. Xor 

ire wanting in her own effects to 

lake good this assertion; for so in 

iysic, things of melancholic hue and 

•ality are used against melancholy, sour 

{ainst sour, salt to remove salt humors. 

ence philosophers and other gravest 

-. as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, 
equentlv cite out of tragic poets, both 
adorn and illustrate their discourse. 
'*? Apostle Paul himself thought it not 
lworthy to insert a verse of Euripides 
to the text of Holy Scripture, / Cor. 
. 33; and Paraeus, commenting on the 
evelation, divides the whole Book, as 

- dv, into acts, distinguished each 
\ a chorus of heavenly harpings and 
:ng between. Heretofore men in high- 
«t dignitv have labored not a little to be 
ought able to compose a tragedy. Of 
at honor Dionysius the Elder was no 

1 Reprinted from the second volume of J. E. 
'ingarn's Critical Essays of the Seventeenth 
ntury (Oxford, 1903). — Ed. 

less ambitious than before of his attain- 
ing to the Tyranny. Augustus Caesar 
also had begun his Ajax, but, unable to 
please his own judgment with what be 
had begun, left it unfinished. Seneca the 
philosopher is by some thought the 
author of those tragedies (at least the 
best of them) that go under that name. 
Gregory Xazianzen, a Father of the 
Church, thought it not unbeseeming the 
sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, 
which he entitled Christ Suffering. This 
is mentioned 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; 
happening through the poets' error of in- 
termixing 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 grat- 
ify the people. And though ancient 
tragedy use no Prologue, yet using some- 
times, "in case of self-defense or explana- 
tion, that which Martial calls an Epistle, 
in behalf of this tragedy, coming forth 
after the ancient manner, much differ- 
ent from what among us passes for best, 
thus much beforehand may be Epistled: 
that Chorus is here introduced after the 
Greek manner, not ancient only, but 
modern, and still in use among the Ital- 



ians. In the modeling therefore of this 
poem, with good reason, the Ancients 
and Italians are rather followed, as of 
much more authority and fame. The 
measure of verse used in the Chorus is of 
all sorts, called by the Greeks Monos- 
trophic, or rather Apolelyrnenon, without 
regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or 
Epode, which were a kind of stanzas 
framed only for the music, then used 
with the chorus that sung, not essential 
to the poem, and therefore not material; 
or being divided into stanzas or pauses, 
they may be called Allceostropha. Di- 
vision 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 produced beyond the fifth act; of the 
style and uniformity, and that commonly 
called the plot, whether intricate or ex- 
plicit — which is nothing indeed but such 
economy or disposition of the fable as 
may stand best with verisimilitude and 
decorum — they only will best judge who 
are not unacquainted with ^Eschylus, 
Sophocles, and Euripides, the three 
tragic poets unequaled yet by any, and 
the best rule to all who endeavor to write 
tragedy. The circumscription of time, 
wherein the whole drama begins and ends 
is, according to the ancient rule and best 
example, within the space of twenty-four 


Thomas Rymer was born, probably at 
Yafforth Hall, Yorkshire, in 1641. He 
distinguished himself for scholarship at 
school, and entered Cambridge in 1658. 
He did not, however, take his degree. 
He studied law and in 1673 was admitted 
to the bar. His first published work 
was a translation of Cicero's Prince 
(1668). In 1674 he published his trans- 
lation of Rend Rapin's Reflexions sur 
la potitique, as the Reflexions on Aris- 
totle's Treatise of Poesie. Three years 
later he published his tragedy of Edgar, 
which failed. Tt appeared in print the 
following year, when his Tragedies of the 
Last Age Consider' d were first published. 
The next few years he put forth a few 
occasional poems some political works 
and translations from the Latin. In 1695 
he was appointed historiographer royal, 
and in 1693 published his Short View of 
Tragedy, which called forth considerable 
comment. The same year he began work 
on his Foedora, a collection of historical 
documents relative to England's foreign 
alliances, which appeared between 1704 
and 1713. Rymer died at London in 

Rymer's criticism of Shakespeare has 
brought him into such disrepute that to 
this day he is regarded rather as a wild 
heretic than the sincere though often mis- 
guided critic he really was. He was a 

strict neo-classic, and the carelessness of 
the Elizabethans aroused all his ire "as 
a follower of Rapin and the extremists 
from across the Channel. Rymer stood 
for verisimilitude, good sense, order, and 
balance; he could not see the greatness of 
a Shakespeare when that greatness was 
accompanied by absurdities and short- 
comings. A great deal of what he says 
about the Elizabethans is quite true, and 
many of his remarks are sane, but he was 
utterly unable to make necessary allow- 
ances. In an age that sould see little of 
good in the Elizabethans, it was but 
natural that Pope should consider Rymer 
" one of the best critics we ever had,' 1 
just as it was to be expected that Mac- 
aulay should think him " the worst critic ; 
that ever lived." 

On the drama: 

The Preface of the Translator, in Rap- 
in's Reflexions on Aristotle's TreatU* 
of Poesie (1674). 

The Tragedies of the Last Age Consid- 
er'd and Examin'd by the Practice of 
the Ancients and by the Common 
Sense of All Ages (1678). 

A Short View of Tragedy, Its Original 
Excellency and Corruption, With Som« 
Reflections on Shakespear and Other 
Practitioners for the Stage (1693). 




.""he Preface to Rapin, and excerpts from 
The Tragedies of the Last Age and 
A Short View are reprinted in the sec- 
ond volume of Spingarn's Critical Et- 
ta ys of the Seventeenth Century (Ox- 
ford, 1908). 

< On Rymer and his works: 

ntroduction to the first volume of Spin- 
garn's Critical Etta us of the- Seven- 
teenth Century (Oxford, 1908). 

Samuel Johnson, Dryden (in Livet of 
the Poett; ed., Oxford, 1908). 

Encyclopedia Britannica, voL 23 (11th 
ed., Cambridge, 1910). 

Sir T. X. Talfourd, Critical and Miscel- 
laneous Writings, 3rd American ed., 
Boston, 1854). 

A. Hofherr, Thomas Rymer't drama- 
titche Kritik (Heidelberg, 1908). 

George Saintsburv, A Hittory of Criti- 
cism, voL 2 (New York, 1902). 




fie Chorut keeps the poet to rules. A 
{show to the spectators. Tico tenset 
\to be pleated. The eye, by the thaw 
and the action. Playt acted -without 
icords. Words often better out of the 
joay. Instance in Shakespeare. Ben 
yonton and Seneca noted. To the ear, 
pronunciation is all in all. The story 
of Demosthenes. Mistakes in judging. 
Two sorts of judges. At Athens a 
third sort. Judges upon oath. In 
France judgrs divided about the 
" Cid.'' Cardinal Richelieu against 
majority. At the *' Thomus Ai^rus," 
[meping unawares. Horace angry tcith 
■3. The French opera inconsistent 
vith nature and good tense. Bur- 
-se. At Paris Christ's Pat- 
ion in burletque. A tragedy of 
Etchylus. The defeat of Xerxes. 
The subject and economy. How imi- 
ated for our English stage. King 
f ohn of I- ranee, Francis I prisoners. 
The Spanish Armada in '88. An imi- 
ation recommended to Mr. Dryden. 

.Vhat reformation may not we expect, 
dv that in France they" see the necessity 

Re-printed from the extracts in the second 
bum of J. E. Spingarn's Critical Essays of 
'■* Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 1908). 
: ter is complete. — Ed. 

of a chorus to their tragedies? Boyer 
and Racine, both of the Royal Academy, 
have led the dance: they have tried the 
success in the last plays that were pre- 
sented by them. 

The chorus was the root and original, 
and is certainly almost always the neces- 
sary part, of tragedy. 

The spectators thereby are secured that 
their poet shall not juggle, or put upon 
them in the matter of place and time 
other than is just and reasonable for the 

And the poet has this benefit: the 
chorus is a goodly show, so that he need 
not ramble from his subject, out of his 
wits for some foreign toy or hobby-horse 
to humor the multitude. 

Aristotle tells us of two senses that 
must be pleased: our sight and our ears. 
And it is in vain for a poet, with Bayes 
in The Rehearsal, to complain of injus- 
tice and the wrong judgment in his audi- 
ence, unless these two senses be grati- 

The worst on it is that most people 
are wholly led by these senses, and follow 
them upon content, without ever trou- 
bling their noodle farther. 

How many plays owe all their success 
to a rare show? Even in the days of 
Horace, enter on the stage a person in a 
costly strange habit. Lord, what clap- 
ping, what noise and thunder, as heaven 
and earth were coming together! Yet 
not one word 



Dixit adhuc aliquid? Nil sane: quid 

placeat ergo 
Lana Tarentino violas imitata veneno. 

Was there aught said? Troth, no! 
What then did touch ye? Some Prince 
of Bantam, or a Mamamouche. 

It matters not whether there be any 
plot, any characters, any sense, or a wise 
word from one end to the other, pro- 
vided in our play we have the Senate of 
Rome, the Venetian Senate in their Pon- 
tificalibus, or a blackamoor ruffian, or 
Tom Dove, or other four-legged hero of 
the Bear-garden. 

The eye is a quick sense, will be in 
with our fancy and prepossess the head 
strangely. Another means whereby the 
eye misleads our judgment is the action. 
We go to see a play acted; in tragedy is 
represented a memorable action, so the 
spectators are always pleased to see ac- 
tion, and are not often so ill-natured to 
pry into and examine whether it be 
proper, just, natural, in season or out 
of season. Bayes in The Rehearsal well 
knew this secret. The two Kings are at 
their Coranto; nay, the moon and the 
earth dance the Hey; anything in nature 
or against nature, rather than allow the 
serious council or other dull business to 
interrupt or obstruct the action. 

This thing of Action finds the blind- 
side of humankind an hundred ways. 
We laugh and weep with those that laugh 
or weep; we gape, stretch, and are very 
dotterels by example. 

Action is speaking to the eyes; and all 
Europe over, plays have been represented 
with great applause in a tongue unknown 
and sometimes without any language at 

Many, peradventure, of the tragical 
scenes in Shakespeare, cried up for the 
action, might do yet better without 
words. Words are a sort of heavy bag- 
gage that were better out of the way at 
the push of action, especially in his bom- 
bast circumstance, where the words and 
action are seldom akin, generally are in- 
consistent, at cross purposes, embarrass 
or destrov each other; yet to those who 
take not the words distinctly, there may 
be something in the buzz and sound that, 
like a drone to a bagpipe, may serve to 
set off the action. 

For an instance of the former, would 

not a rap at the door better expresi 
Iago's meaning than 

— Call aloud. 
Iago. Do, with like timorous accent and 

dire yell 
As when, by night and negligence, the fin 
Is spied in populous cities? 

For what ship? Who is arrived? The 
answer is: 

'Tis one Iago, Ancient to the General. 
He has had most favorable and happt, 

Tempests themselves, high seas, anc 

howling winds, 
The guttered rocks and congregatec 

Traitors ensteeped to clog the guiltles 

As having sense of beauty, do omit 
Their common natures, letting go safel 

The divine Desdemona. 

Is this the language of the Exchang 
or the Insuring office? Once in a man') 
life he might be content at Bedlam t 
hear such a rapture. In a play on; 
should speak like a man of business; h 
speech must be HoXtri/cds, which tr 1 
French render Agissante, the Italiar 
Negotiosa and Operativa; but by th 
gentleman's talk one may well guess if 
has nothing to do. And he has mar| 
companions that are 

— Hey day! 
I know not what to do nor what to say. j 

It was then a strange imagination 
Ben Jonson to go stuff out a play wij 
Tully's Orations, and in Seneca, to thi)| 
his dry morals and a tedious str.iin 
sentences might do feats or ha \ 
wonderful operation in the drama. 

Some go to see, others to hear, a pli 
The poet should please both; but bi 
the spectators are satisfied, whatever < 
tertainment he give his audience. 

But if neither the show nor the acti, 
cheats us, there remains still a m 
vehicle to carry off nonsense, which : 
the pronunciation. 

By the loud trumpet which our courom 



T t learn, that sound as well as sense 

Demosthenes had a good stock of sense, 
as a great master of words, could turn 

period, and draw up his tropes in a 
le of battle; and fain would he have 

en some effect of his Orations: nobody 
•jjs moved, nobody minded him. He 
j»es to the playhouse, bargains with an 
;tor, and learned of him to speak 
sundry and gracefully. From that time, 

ho but Demosthenes? Never such a 
hding man! Whenever he spake, no 
(vision, not a vote to the contrary, the 
Mole House were with him, Nemine cou- 
nt e. This change observed, a 
i end went to him for the secret. " Tell 
r," says he, "Your nostrum, tell me 
\ur receipt. What is the main in- 
jedient that makes an orator?" De- 
nsthenes answered: "Pronunciation." 
-"What then the next thing?" — " Pro- 
rnciation." — " Pray then what the 
t rd ? " — Still was the answer, " Pro- 

Now, this was at Athens, where want 
o wit was never an objection against 
tin. So that it is not in song only that 
arood voice diverts us from the wit and 
sise. From the stage, bar, or the pul- 
ps a good voice will prepossess our ears 
al, having seized the pass, is in a fair 
wy to surprise our judgment. 

.onsidering then what power the show, 
tl action, and the pronunciation have 
or us, it is no wonder that wise men 
oen mistake and give an hasty judg- 
nnt, which upon a review is justly set 

iorace divides the judges into Ma- 
jtes Numero, and the few of better 
s*t; and these for the most part were 

different judgments. The like dis- 

n may hold in all nations; only at 
wens there was a third sort, who were 
j'ges upon oath, Judges in Commission, 
b the government sworn to do right, 
ajl determine the merits of a play with- 

01 favor or affection. 

lut amongst the moderns never was a 
canvassed with so much heat be- 
tven the play-judges as that in France 
alut CorneUle's Tragedy of the Cid. 
1 majority were so fond of it that 
lem it became a proverb, Cela est 
P» beau que le Cid. On the other side, 

Cardinal Richelieu damned it, and said: 
* All the pudder about it was only be- 
tween the ignorant people and the men 
of judgment." 

Yet this Cardinal with so nice a taste 
had not many years before been several 
times to see acted the Tragedy of Sir 
Thomas More, and as often wept at the 
representation. Never were known so 
many people crowded to death as at 
that play. Yet was it the manufacture 
of Jehan de Serre, one about the form 
of our Flecknoe or Thomas Jordan, the 
same De Serre that dedicated a Book of 
Meditations to King Charles I and went 
home with pockets full of medals and 

By this instance we see a man the most 
sharp and of the greatest penetration 
was imposed upon by these cheating 
senses, the eyes and the ears, which 
greedily took in the impression from the 
show, the action, and from the emphasis 
and pronunciation, though there was no 
great matter of fable, no manners, no 
fine thoughts, no language; that is, noth- 
ing of a tragedy, nothing of a poet all 
the while. 

Horace was very angry with these 
empty shows and vanity, which the gen- 
tlemen of his time ran like mad after. 

Insanos oculos, et gaudia vana. 

What would he have said to the French 
opera, of late so much in vogue? There 
it is for you to bewitch your eyes and to 
charm your ears. There is a cup of 
enchantment, there is music and ma- 
chine; Circe and Calypso in conspiracy 
against nature and good sense. 'Tis a 
debauch the most insinuating and the 
most pernicious; none would think an 
opera and civil reason should be the 
growth of one and the same climate. 
But shall we wonder at anything for a 
sacrifice to the Grand Monarch? Such 
worship, such idol! All flattery to him 
is insipid unless it be prodigious. Noth- 
ing reasonable or within compass can 
come near the matter. All must be mon- 
strous, enormous, and outrageous to 
nature, to be like him, or give any echo 
on his appetite. 

Were Rabelais alive again, he would 
look on his Gargantua as but a pigmy. 

The hero's race excels the poefs 



thought. The Academy Royal may pack 
up their modes and methods, and pen- 
sees tngenieuses; the Racines and the 
Corneilles must all now dance to the 
tune of Baptista. Here is the opera; 
here is Machine and Baptista, farewell 
Apollo and the Muses! 

Away with your opera from the thea- 
ter ! Better had they become the heathen 
temples, for the Corybantian priests and 
(Semiviros Gallos) the old capons of 
Gaul, than a people that pretend from 
Charlemagne or descend from the un- 
doubted loins of German and Norman 

In the French, not many years before, 
was observed the like vicious appetite 
and immoderate passion for vers bur- 

They were current in Italy an hundred 
years ere they passed to this side the 
Alps. But when once they had their 
turn in France, so right to their humor, 
they overran all; nothing wise or sober 
might stand in their way. All were pos- 
sessed with the spirit of burlesque, from 
Doll in the dairy to the matrons at Court 
and maids of honor. Nay, so far went 
the frenzy, that no bookseller would med- 
dle on any terms without burlesque; in- 
somuch that Ann. 1649 was at Paris 
printed a serious treatise with this title: 

— La Passion de Nostre Seigneur, En 
Vers Burlesques. 

If we cannot rise to the perfection of 
intrigue in Sophocles, let us sit down 
with the honesty and simplicity of the 
first beginners in tragedy. As for ex- 
ample : 

One of the most simple now extant is 
The Persians by ^Eschylus. 

Some ten years after that Darius had 
been beaten by the Greeks, Xerxes (his 
father Darius being dead) brought 
against them such forces by sea and 
land, the like never known in history; 
Xerxes went also in person, with all the 
Maison de Boy, Satrapie, and Gendar- 
merie: all were routed. Some forty years 
afterwards the poet takes hence his sub- 
ject for a tragedy. 

The Place is by Darius' tomb, in the 
Metropolis of Persia. 

The Time is the night, an hour or two 
before daybreak. 

First, on the stage »re seen flftee 
persons in robes proper for the Satrapi 
or chief Princes in Persia. Suppose the 
met so early at the tomb, then sacra 
and ordinarily resorted to by peop] 
troubled in mind, on the accounts o 
dreams or any thing not boding gooc 
They talk of the state of affairs: o 
Greece and of the Expedition. Afte 
some time take upon them to be th 

The next on the stage comes Atossa 
the Queen Mother of Persia; she coul< 
not. lie in bed for a dream that trouble! 
her, so in a fit of devotion comes to be 
husband's tomb, there luckily meets witl 
so many wise men and counselors to eas 
her mind by interpreting her drean 
This, with the Chorus, makes the Secon 

After this, their disorder, lamentatioi 
and wailing is such that Darius is dis 
turbed in his tomb, so his ghost appear 
and belike stays with them till daybreal 
Then the Chorus concludes the Act. 

In the fourth Act come the Mess 
with sad tidings which, with the renV 
tions and troubles thereupon, and tl 
Chorus, fill out this Act. 

In the last, Xerxes himself arrivt 
which gives occasion of condoling, how 
ing and distraction enough to the end 
the tragedy. 

One may imagine how a Grecian aw 
ence that loved their country and glori 
in the virtue of their ancestors, would 
affected by this representation. 

Never appeared on the stage a 
of greater consequence. The Gra 
Monarch Darius, who had been so si 
fully beaten by those petty provinces 
the united Grecians, could not now 
quiet in his grave for them, but in 
raised from the dead again, to be witn 
of his son's disgrace and of their I 

Were a tragedy after this model to 
drawn for our stage, Greece and Pf 
sia are too far from us. The scene m : 
be laid nearer home : as at the Low I 
and instead of Xerxes we might t • 
John King of France, and the Battl< ' 
Poitiers. So if the Germans or S| ' 
iards were to compose a play on the J " 
tie of Pavia, and King Francis » ' 
there taken prisoner, the scene shi ^ 
not be laid at Vienna or at Madrid, t 



at the Louvre. For there the tragedy 
would principally operate, and there all 
the lines most naturally center. 

But perhaps the memorable adventure 
of the Spaniards in 'SS against England 
may better resemble that of Xerxes. 
Suppose, then, a tragedy called The In- 
vincible Armada. 

The place, then, for the action may be 
at Madrid, by some tomb or solemn place 
of resort; or, if we prefer a turn in it 
from good to bad fortune, then some 
drawing-room in the palace near the 
King's bed-chamber. 
The time to begin, twelve at night. 
The scene opening presents fifteen 
jrandees of Spain, with their most sol- 
emn beards and accouterments, met there 
'suppose) after some ball or other pub- 
ic occasion. They talk of the state of 
iffairs, the greatness of their power, the 
'astness of their dominions, and prospect 
.0 be infallibly, ere long, lords of all. 
rVith this prosperity and goodly thoughts 
ransported, they at last form themselves 
nto the Chorus, and walk such measures, 
vith music, as may become the gravity 
>f such a Chorus. 
Then enter two or three of the Cabinet 
ounciL who now have leave to tell the 
ecret, that the preparations and the In- 
incible Armada was to conquer Eng- 
md. These, with part of the Chorus, 
communicate all the particulars, 
he provisions, and the strength by sea 
nd land, the certainty of success, the 
dvantages of that accession, and the 
tun of tar-barrels for the Heretics, 
hese topics may afford matter enough, 
<ith the Chorus, for the Second Act. 
In the Third Act, these gentlemen of 
le Cabinet cannot agree about sharing 
ie preferments of England, and a 
lighty broil there is amongst them. One 
ill not be content unless he is King 
f Man; another will be Duke of Lan- 
aster. One, that had seen a coronation 
1 England, will by all means be Duke of 
icquitaine, or else Duke of Normandy. 
And on this occasion two competitors 
ave a juster occasion to work up and 
low the muscles of their passion than 
hakespeare's Cassius and Brutus.) 
^fter — the Chorus. 

The Fourth Act may, instead of Atossa, 
resent some old Dames of the Court, 
sed to dream dreams and see sprites, 

in their night-rails and forehead-clothes, 
to alarm our gentlemen with new appre- 
hensions, which make distraction and dis- 
orders sufficient to furnish out this Act. 

In the last Act the King enters, and 
widely discourses against dreams and 
hobgoblins, to quiet their minds. And 
the more to satisfy them and take off 
their fright, he lets them to know that 
St. Loyola had appeared to him and 
assured him that all is welL This said, 
comes a Messenger of the ill news; his 
account is lame, suspected, he sent to 
prison- A Second Messenger, that came 
away long after but had a speedier pas- 
sage; his account is distinct, and all 
their loss credited. So, in fine, one of 
the Chorus concludes with that of Eu- 
ripides : - Thus you see the gods brings 
things to pass often otherwise than was 
by man proposed." 

In this draft we see the fable, and the 
characters or manners of the Spaniards, 
and room for fine thoughts and noble 
expressions, as much as the poet can 

The First Act gives a review or osten- 
tation of their strength in battle array. 

In the Second, they are in motion for 
the attack and we see where the action 

In the Third, they quarrel about di- 
viding the spoil. 

In the Fourth, they meet with a re- 
pulse, are beaten off by a van-guard of 
dreams, goblins, and terrors of the 

In the Fifth, they rally under their 
King in person, and make good their 
ground, till overpowered by fresh 
troops of conviction, and mighty Truth 

For the First Act, a painter would 
draw Spain hovering and ready to 
strike at the Universe. 

In the Second, just taking England 
in her pounces. 

But it must not be forgotten, in the 
Second Act, that there be some Spanish 
Friar or Jesuit, as St Xavier (for he 
may drop in by miracle anywhere), to 
ring in their ears the Northern Heresy, 
like Iago in Shakespeare — " Put money 
in thy purse, I say, put money in thy 
purse." — So often may he repeat the 
Northern Heresy. " Away with your 
secular advantages, I say, the Northern 



Heresy; there is roast meat for the 
Church; Voto a Christo, the Northern 
Heresy ! " 

If Mr. Dryden might try his pen on 
this subject doubtless to an audience 
that heartily love their country and glory 

in the virtue of their ancestors, his imi- 
tation of ^schylus would have better 
success, and would pit, box, and gallery, 
far beyond anything now in possession 
of the stage, however wrought up by the 
unimitable Shakespeare. 


William Congreve was born at Bard- 
sey in 1670. His father was sent, soon 
after the son's birth, to Ireland, where 
he was in command of a garrison at 
Youghal. William received his first 
schooling at Kilkenny, and later attended 
the University of Dublin, where he made 
the acquaintance of Swift. He then 
went to London and entered the Middle 
Temple as a law student. His first lit- 
erary work was a novel, Incognita. In 
1693 he was, however, to give evidence 
of his genius, in The Old Bachelor, a 
brilliant comedy, which was eminently 
successful. The next year he produced 
The Double Dealer, which was not suc- 
cessful, but which Dryden, who had 
stood sponsor for the first play, highly 
praised. Love for Love (1695) and 
The Mourning Bride (1697) a trag- 
edy, followed the unsuccessful play. 
Then came Collier's famous attack on 
the stage (1698), which called forth Con- 
greve's Amendments upon Mr. Collier's 
False and Imperfect Citations, etc., the 
same year. Meanwhile he had written 
his Letter Concerning Humour in Com- 
edy in 1696. In 1700 Congreve produced 
his masterpiece, The Way of the World. 
The play was not a success, and from 
the year 1700 to his death in 1729 Con- 
greve never wrote another; a small vol- 
ume of indifferent verses, a sort of 
masque, and parts of a play translated 
from Moliere, are the result of his liter- 
ary efforts during the rest of his life. 
Congreve was doubtless somewhat dis- 
couraged over the Collier controversy; 
he was piqued over the coolness with 
which his last, and greatest, comedy was 
received, he was in poor health — and 
besides, he did not need money. Con- 
breve's life during the eighteenth century 
contains little of interest. He spent his 

time in traveling, in cultivating his 
friends, in writing occasional verses, and 
a poor opera; he was a victim of the 
gout, and became blind by 1710. He was 
next employed in several minor capaci- 
ties, which assured him at least a com- 
fortable income, for when he died he 
left ten thousand pounds to the Duchess 
of Marlborough. 

Congreve is the master of the English 
comedy of manners. His remarks on the 
drama possess not only some of the 
qualities which make his dramatic work 
effective, they are in addition a valuable 
comment on the comedies of Congreve's 
own age. Like Dryden, Congreve uses 
the comparative method, but maintains 
truthfully that real humor is indigenously i 
English, and that "it does not seem to 
have found such increase on any other | 
soil." The Prefaces and Dedications to 
the plays, while their brevity precludes 
any detailed discussion, are full ol 
interesting remarks. For instance, ir 
the Epistle Dedicatory to The DoubU 
Dealer, he says: " I designed the mora 
first, and to that moral I invented UK- 
fable, and do not know that I hav. 
borrowed one hint of it anywhere, 
made the plot as strong as I could, be- 
cause it was single; and I made it sin 
gle, because I would avoid confusion 
and was resolved to preserve the thre 
unities of the drama." Like many prac- 
ticing theorists, Congreve's theory am, 
his practice do not always coincide, bu 
his plea for the Unities is more ser 
sible than that of any other theorif 
of the time. The same Epistle contain 
equally interesting remarks on the Bom 
quy and characterization. The Dedv< 
tion to The Way of the WorUl also coi 
tains sundry references to the art » 
the dramatist. The Dedication to V 



Mourning Bride contains a few of the 
cut-and-dried formulas on tragedy and 
the moral end of that form. 

On the drama: 

Epistles Dedicatory to The Double- 
Dealei (1694). 

Concerning Humour in Comedy (in Let- 
ters upon /Several Occasions, etc., 

Dedication to The Mourning Bride 

Amendments upon Mr. Collier's False 
and Imperfect Citations, etc. (1698). 

Dedication to The Way of the World 


The first edition of Congreve's collected 
Works appeared in 3 vols. (London, 
1710). The dramatic works have been 
often reprinted: The Dramatic Works 
of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh 
and Farquhar, by Leigh Hunt (Lon- 
don, 1849); The Comedies of William 
Congreve, edited by W. G. S. Street, 
2 vols. (London, 1895); The Best Plays 
of William Congreve, edited by A. C. 
Ewald (Mermaid ed., New York, 1903). 
A number of Congreve's letters are 
found in Monck Berkeley's Literary 
Relics. Concerning Humour in Com- 
edy is reprinted by J. E. Spingarn in 
vol. 3, of Critical Essays of the /Seven- 
teenth Century, Oxford, 1909. 

On Congreve and his works: 

Prefaces to editions cited. 

Samuel Johnson, Congreve (in Lives of 
the Poets, eds. cited). 

William Hazlitt, Lectures on the Eng- 
lish Comic Writers, etc. (London, 1818. 
Reprint in Everyman's Library, New 
York, n.d.). 

Charles Lamb, The Artificial Comedy of 
the Last Century (in Essays of Elia, 
E. V. Lucas ed. of the Works, Lon- 
don, 1907). 

T. B. Macaulay, Leigh Hunt (in Critical 
and Miscellaneous Essays, ed. Mon- 
tague, London, 1903). 

Leslie Stephen, William Congreve (in 
Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 
12, London, 1887). 

A. C. Swinburne, Miscellanies (London, 

W. M. Thackeray, The English Humour- 
ists of the Eighteenth Century, etc. 
(London, 1853. Reprinted in Every- 
man's Library, New York, n.d.; also 
Biographical ed., vol. 7, London, 1897). 

Charles Wilson, Memoirs of the Life, 
Writings and Amours of W. Con- 
greve, Esq., etc. (London, 1730). 

C. P. Armstrong, William Congreve (in 
From Shakespeare to Shaw, London, 

Edmund Gosse, Life of William Con- 
greve (London, 1888). 

A. Bennewitz, Congreve und Moliere 
(Leipzig, 1890). 

George Meredith, An Essay on Comedy 
(London, 1897). 

D. Schmid, Congreve, sein Leben und 
seine Lustspiele (W'ien, 1897). 



Dear Sir: 

You write to me that you have enter- 
ained yourself two or three days with 
eading several comedies of several au- 
hors; and your observation is that there 
I more of humor in our English writers 
ban in any of the other comic poets, 
ncient or modern. You desire to know 
"iy opinion, and at the same time my 

i Re-printed from the third volume of J. E. 
pingarn's Critical Essays of the Seventeenth 
entury (Oxford, 1909). — Ed. 

thought, of that which is in general 
called Humor in comedy. 

I agree with you in an impartial pref- 
erence of our English writers in that 
particular. But if I tell you my thoughts 
of humor, I must at the same time con- 
fess that which I take for true humor 
has not been so often written by them 
as is generally believed; and some who 
have valued themselves and have been 
esteemed by others for that kind of writ- 
ing, have seldom touched upon it. To 



make this appear to the world would 
require a long and labored discourse, 
and such as I neither am able nor will- 
ing to undertake. But such little re- 
marks as may be within the compass of 
a letter, and such unpremeditated 
thoughts as may be communicated be- 
tween friend and friend without incur- 
ring the censure of the world, or setting 
up for a dictator, you shall have from 
me, since you have enjoined it. 

To define humor perhaps were as diffi- 
cult as to define wit ; for, like that, it is 
of infinite variety. To enumerate the 
several humors of men were a work as 
endless as to sum up their several opin- 
ions. And, in my mind, Quot homines 
tot sententiae, might have been more 
properly interpreted of humor; since 
there are many men of the same opinion 
in many things, who are yet quite differ- 
ent in humors. But though we cannot 
certainly tell what wit is, or what humor 
is, yet we may go near to show some- 
thing which is not wit or not humor, and 
yet often mistaken for both. And since 
I have mentioned wit and humor to- 
gether, let me make the first distinction 
between them, and observe to you that 
wit is often mistaken for humor. 

I have observed that when a few things 
have been wittily and pleasantly spoken 
by any character in a comedy, it has 
been very usual for those who make their 
remarks on a play while it is acting, to 
say, Such a thing is very humorously 
spoken; There is a great deal of humor 
in that part. Thus the character of the 
person speaking, may be, surprisingly 
and pleasantly is mistaken for a charac- 
ter of humor, which indeed is a character 
of wit. But there is a great difference 
between a comedy wherein there are 
many things humorously, as they call 
it, which is pleasantly, spoken, and one 
where there are several characters of 
humor, distinguished by the particular 
and different humors appropriated to the 
several persons represented, and which 
naturally arise from the different con- 
stitutions, complexions, and dispositions 
of men. The saying of humorous things 
does not distinguish characters; for 
every person in a comedy may be al- 
lowed to speak them. From a witty 
man they are expected; and even a fool 
may be permitted to stumble on 'em by 

chance. Though I make a difference be- 
twixt wit and humor, yet I do think that 
humorous characters exclude wit: no, 
but the manner of wit should be adapted 
to the humor. As, for instance, a char- 
acter of a splenetic and peevish humor 
should have a satirical wit. A jolly and 
sanguine humor should have a facetious 
wit. The former should speak positively; 
the latter, carelessly: for the former ob- 
serves and shows things as they are; 
the latter rather overlooks nature, and 
speaks things as he would have them, 
and wit and humor have both of them 
less alloy of judgment than the others. 

As wit, so its opposite, folly, is some- 
times mistaken for humor. 

When a poet brings a character on the 
stage committing a thousand absurdities, 
and talking impertinencies, roaring aloud, 
and laughing immoderately on every or 
rather upon no occasion, this is a char- j 
acter of humor. 

Is anything more common than to have I 
a pretended comedy stuffed with such i 
grotesques, figures and farce fools? j 
Things that either are not in nature, or, i 
if they are, are monsters and births of ! 
mischance, and consequently, as such, 
should be stifled and huddled out of the 
way, like Sooterkins. That mankind may 
not be shocked with an appearing pos- 
sibility of the degeneration of a god- 
like species. For my part, I am as will- 
ing to laugh as anybody, and as easily 
diverted with an object truly ridiculous; 
but at the same time, I can never can 
for seeing things that force me to ( 
tain low thoughts of any nature. 1 
don't know how it is with others, but 
confess freely to you, I could never lool 
long upon a monkey without very morti 
fying reflections, though I never hear 
anything to the contrary why that 
ture is not originally of a distinct specie 
As I don't think humor exclusive of wi 
neither do I think it inconsistent wit 
folly; but I think the follies should I 
only such as men's humors may inclii 
'em to, and not follies entirely abstract* 
from both humor and nature. 

Sometimes personal defects are *?» 
represented for humors. 

I mean, sometimes characters an 
barously exposed on the stage, ridici 
ing natural deformities, casual defe< 
in the senses, and infirmities of aj 



Sure the poet must be very ill-natured 
himsi-lf, and think his audience so, when 
he proposes by showing a man deformed, 
or deaf, or blind, to give them an agree- 
able entertainment, and hopes to raise 
their mirth by what is truly an object 
of compassion. But much need not be 
said upon this head to anybody, espe- 
cially to you, who, in one of your Let- 
ters to me concerning Mr. Jonson's Fox, 
have justly expected against this im- 
mortal part of ridicule in Corbaccio's 
character; and there I must agree with 
you to blame him whom otherwise I 
cannot enough admire for his great mas- 
tery of true humor in comedy. 

External habit of body is often mis- 
taken for humor. 

By external habit I do not mean the 
ridiculous dress or clothing of a charac- 
ter, though that goes a good way in some 
received characters. (But undoubtedly, 
a man's humor may incline him to dress 
differently from other people.) But I 
mean a singularity of manners, speech, 
and behavior, peculiar to all or most of 
the same country, trade, profession, or 
education. I cannot think that a humor 
which is only a habit or disposition con- 
tracted by use or custom; for by a dis- 
use, or compliance with other customs, it 
may be worn off or diversified. 

Affectation is generally mistaken for 

These are indeed so much alike that at 
a distance they may be mistaken one for 
die other. For what is humor in one may 
oe affectation in another; and nothing is 
more common than for some to affect 
oarticular ways of saying and doing 
ihings, peculiar to others whom they ad- 
mire and would imitate. Humor is the 
dfe, affectation the picture. He that 
draws a character of affectation shows 
uimor at the second hand; he at best 
out publishes a translation, and his pic- 
:ures are but copies. 

But as these two last distinctions are 
he nicest, so it may be most proper to 
explain them by particular instances 
roTn some author of reputation. Humor 

take either to be born with us, and so 
»f a natural growth, or else to be grafted 
nto us by some accidental change in the 
onstitution, or revolution of the internal 
iabit of body, bv which it becomes, if I 
aay so call it, naturalized. 

Humor is from nature, habit from cus- 
tom, and affectation from industry. 

Humor shows us as we are. 

Habit shows us as we appear under a 
forcible impression. 

Affectation shows what we would be 
under a voluntary disguise. 

Though here I would observe by the 
way that a continued affectation may in 
time become a habit 

The character of Morose in The Silent 
Woman I take to be a character of 
Humor. And I choose to instance this 
character to you from many others of 
the same author, because I know it has 
been condemned by many as unnatural 
and farce; and you have yourself hinted 
some dislike of it for the same reason, in 
a Letter to me concerning some of Jon- 
son's plays. 

Let us suppose Morose to be a man 
naturally splenetic and melancholy; is 
there anything more offensive to one of 
such a disposition than noise and clamor? 
Let any man that has a spleen (and 
there are enough in England) be judge. 
We see common examples of this humor, 
in little, every day. Tis ten to one but 
three parts in four of the company that 
you dine with are discomposed and star- 
tled at the cutting of a fork or scratch- 
ing a plate with a knife. It is a propor- 
tion of the same humor that makes such 
or any other noise offensive to the person 
that hears it; for there are others who 
will not be disturbed at all by it. Well, 
but Morose, you will say, is "so extrava- 
gant, he cannot hear any discourse or 
conversation above a whisper. Why, it 
is his excess of this humor that makes* him 
become ridiculous, and qualifies his char- 
acter for comedy. If the poet had given 
him but a moderate proportion of that 
humor, 'tis odds but half the audience 
would have sided with the character and 
have condemned the author for exposing 
a humor which was neither remarkable 
nor ridiculous. Besides, the distance of 
the stage requires the figure represented 
to be something larger than the life; and 
sure a picture may have figures larger in 
proportion, and yet be very like the orig- 
inal. If this exactness of quantity were 
to be observed in wit, as some would 
have it in humor, what would become of 
those comedies that are designed for men 
of wit? I believe that if a poet should 



steul a dialogue of any length from the 
extempore discourse of the two wittiest 
men upon earth, he would find the scene 
but coldly received by the town. But to 
the purpose. 

The character of Sir John Daw in the 
same play is a character of affectation. 
He everywhere discovers an affectation 
of learning, when he is not only con- 
scious to himself, but the audience also 
plainly perceives that he is ignorant. Of 
this kind are the characters of Thraso in 
The Eunuch of Terence, and Pyrgopoli- 
nices in the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus. 
They affect to be thought valiant, when 
both themselves and the audience know 
they are not. Now, such a boasting of 
valor in men who were really valiant 
would undoubtedly be a humor; for a 
fiery disposition might naturally throw a 
man into the same extravagance, which 
is only affected in the characters I have 

The character of Cob in Every Man in 
his Humour and most of the under char- 
acters in Bartholomew Fair, discover only 
a singularity of manners, appropriate to 
the several educations and professions of 
the persons represented. They are not 
humors, but habits contracted by custom. 
Under this head may be ranged all coun- 
try-clowns, sailors, tradesmen, jockeys, 
gamesters, and such-like, who make use 
of cants or peculiar dialects in their sev- 
eral arts and vocations. One may almost 
give a receipt for the composition of 
such a character: for the poet has nothing 
to do but to collect a few proper phrases 
and terms of art, and to make the per- 
son apply them by ridiculous metaphors 
in his conversation with characters of 
different natures. Some late characters 
of this kind have been very successful; 
but in my mind they may be painted 
without much art or labor, since they re- 
quire little more than a good memory 
and superficial observation. But true 
humor cannot be shown without a dissec- 
tion of nature, and a narrow search to 
discover the first seeds from whence it 
has its root and growth. 

If I were to write to the world, I should 
be obliged to dwell longer upon each of 
these distinctions and examples, for I 
know that they would not be plain 
enough to all readers. But a bare hint 
is sufficient to inform you of the notions 

which I have on this subject: and I hope 
by this time you are of my opinion, that 
humor is neither wit, nor folly, nor per- 
sonal defect, nor affectation, nor habit, 
and yet that each and all of these have 
been both written and received for 

I should be unwilling to venture even on 
a bare description of humor, much more 
to make a definition of it, but now my 
hand is in, I'll tell you what serves one 
instead of either. I take it to be A sin- 
gular and unavoidable manner of doing 
or saying anything, peculiar and natural 
to one man only, by which his speech and 
actions are distinguished from those of 
other men. 

Our humor has relation to us and to 
what proceeds from us, as the accidents 
have to a substance; it is a color, taste, 
and smell, diffused through all; though 
our actions are never so many and differ- 
ent in form, they are all splinters of the 
same wood, and have naturally one com- 
plexion, which, though it may be dis- 
guised by art, yet cannot be wholly 
changed: we may paint it with other ' 
colors, but we cannot change the grain. ! 
So the natural sound of an instrument 
will be distinguished, though the notes 
expressed by it are never so various, and 
the divisions never so many. Dissimula- I 
tion may by degrees become more easy J 
to our practice; but it can never abso- J 
lutely transubstantiate us into what we J 
would seem: it will always be in some 
proportion a violence upon nature. 

A man may change his opinion but I 
believe he will find it a difficulty to part 
with his humor, and there is nothing more 
provoking than the being made sensible 
of that difference. Sometimes one shall 
meet with those who perhaps innocently 
enough, but at the same time imperti- 
nently, will ask the question, Why are yov 
not merry? Why are you not gay, pleas- 
ant, and cheerful/ then, instead of an 
swering, could I ask such a one, Whi 
are you not handsome? Why have yw 
not black eyes and a better complexion 
Nature abhors to be forced. 

The two famous philosophers of Epbe 
sus and Abdera have their different sect 
at this day. Some weep and other 
laugh, at one and the same thing. 

I don't doubt but you have observe 
several men laugh when they are angr; 



thers who are silent, some that are loud; 
et I cannot suppose that it is the pas- 
ion of anger which is in itself different, 
r more or less in one than in t'other, 
[ut that it is in the humor of the man 
lat is predominant, and urges him to 
tpeet it in that manner. Demonstra- 
ons of pleasure are as various: one man 
is a humor of retiring from all tom- 
my, when anything has happened to 
[ease him beyond expectation; he hugs 
mself alone, and thinks it an addition 
1 the pleasure to keep it secret. An- 
her is upon thorns till he has made 
•oclamation of it, and must make other 
:ople sensible of his happiness before 
: can be so himself. So it is in grief 
id other passions. Demonstrations of 
ve and the effects of that passion upon 
veral humors are infinitely different; 
it here the ladies who abound in serv- 
its are the best judges. Talking of the 
dies, inethinks something should be ob- 
rved of the humor of the fair sex, since 
ey are sometimes so kind as to furnish 
t a character for comedy. But I must 
nfess I have never made any observa- 
nt of what I apprehend to be true 
mor in women. Perhaps passions are 
a powerful in that sex to let humor 
Jve its course; or may be by reason of 
^eir natural celdness, humor cannot 
«ert itself to that extravagant degree 
Mich it often does in the male sex. For 
iever anything does appear comical or 
iliculous in a woman, I think it is little 
ijre than an acquired folly or an affec- 
ttion. We may call them the weaker 
st, but I think the true reason is be- 
tjuse our follies are stronger and our 
tults are more prevailing. 
One might think that the diversity of 
fcmor, which must be allowed to be dif- 
fsed throughout mankind, might afford 
tjdless matter for the support of corn- 
ties. But when we come closely to con- 
fer that point, and nicely to distin- 
jish the differences of humors, I believe 
v shall find the contrary. For though 
V allow every man something of his 
en, and a peculiar humor, yet every 
i;m has it not in quantity to become re- 
rirkable by it; or, if many do become 
rnarkable by their humors, yet all those 
Imors may not be diverting. Xor is it 
oly requisite to distinguish what humor 
MU be diverting, but also how much of 

it, what part of it to show in light, and 
what to cast in shades, how to set it off 
by preparatory scenes, and by opposing 
other humors to it in the same scene. 
Through a wrong judgment, sometimes, 
men's humors may be opposed when 
there is really no specific difference be- 
tween them, only a greater proportion 
of the same in one than in t'other, occa- 
sioned by his having more phlegm, or 
choler, or whatever the constitution is 
from whence their humors derive their 

There is infinitely more to be said on 
this subject, though perhaps I have al- 
ready said too much; but I have said it 
to a friend, who I am sure will not ex- 
pose it, if he does not approve of it. I 
believe the subject is entirely new, and 
was never touched upon before; and if I 
would have anyone to see this private 
essay, it should be some one who might 
be provoked by my errors in it to pub- 
lish a more judicious treatise on the sub- 
ject. Indeed I wish it were done, that 
the world, being a little acquainted with 
the scarcity of true humor and the dif- 
ficulty of finding and showing it, might 
look a little more favorably on the la- 
bors of them who endeavor to search into 
nature for it and lay it open to the 
public view. 

I don't say but that very entertaining 
and useful characters, and proper to 
comedy, may be drawn from affectation 
and those other qualities which I have 
endeavored to distinguish from humor; 
but I would not have such imposed on 
the world for humor, nor esteemed with 
equal value with it. It were perhaps the 
work of a long life to make one comedy 
true in all its parts, and to give every 
character in it a true and distinct humor. 
Therefore every poet must be beholding 
to other helps to make out his number 
of ridiculous characters. But I think 
such a one deserves to be broke, who 
makes all false monsters; who does not 
show one true humor in a comedy, but 
entertains his audience to the end of the 
play with everything out of nature. 

I will make but one observation to 
you more, and have done; and that is 
grounded upon an observation of your 
own, and which I mentioned at the begin- 
ning of my letter, viz., that there is more 
of humor" in our English comic writers 



than in any others. I do not at all wonder 
at it, for I look upon humor to be almost 
of English growth; at least, it does not 
seem to have found such increase on any 
other soil. And what appears to me to 
be the reason of it is the greater free- 
dom, privilege, and liberty which the 
common people of England enjoy. Any 
man that has a humor is under no re- 
straint or fear of giving it vent; they 
have a proverb among them, which, may 
be, will show the bent and genius of the 
people as well as a longer discourse: 
"He that will have a may-pole, shall 
have a may-pole." This is a maxim with 
them, and their practice is agreeable to 

it. I believe something considerable too 
may be ascribed to their feeding so much 
on flesh, and the grossness of their diet 
in general. But I have done; let the 
physicians agree that. Thus you have 
my thoughts of humor, to my power of 
expressing them in so little time and 
compass. You will be kind to show me 
wherein I have erred; and as you are 
very capable of giving me instruction, so 
I think I have a very just title to de- 
mand it from you, being without reserve, 
Your real friend, 
and humble servant, 

W. Cokgeeve. 


George Farquhar was born in London- 
derry, Ireland, in 1677 .or 1678. Little is 
known of his early years beyond the fact 
that he went to school in his native town 
and entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 
1694. He remained there about a year. 
Not long after he made the acquaintance 
of the actor Robert Wilks, through whom 
he obtained a position in the Dublin 
stage, where he acted many parts dur- 
ing 1696. He accidentally wounded an 
actor and left the stage, having decided 
to write plays. He went to London that 
or the following year. Love and a Bot- 
tle, his first comedy, was produced at 
Drury Lane in 1698, and enjoyed a fair 
degree of popularity. It is interesting to 
know that soon after his arrival he dis- 
covered Nance Oldfield and with Van- 
brugh's help, secured her a place with 
Rich. Farquhar's next play brought him 
reputation. This was The Constant 
Couple, produced in 1699. The next 
year found him in Holland, probably for 
his health. Sir Harry Wildair, his next 
play, was produced in 1701. The Incon- 
stant and The Twin Rivals belong to the 
year 1702. Later in the same year Far- 
quhar published a little collection of mis- 
cellaneous prose and verse, in which he 
included his Discourse upon- Comedy. 
He was married probably the next year. 
He spent the following three in recruit- 

ing for the army, though he collaborated 
with Motteux in an adaptation from 
the French, called The Stage Coach 
(1704). Two years later The Recruit- 
ing Officer was performed at Drury 
Lane. Though it was successful, Farqu- 
har was harassed with debts and was 
forced to sell a commission which he held. 
During an illness in 1707 he wrote The 
Beaux' Stratagem, at the instigation of 
his friend Wilks. He died a few weeks 
after the first - performance. 

Farquhar's importance as a dramatist 
consists in his having combined many of 
the elements of the comedy of his time 
and evolving them into a form which was 
later developed by Goldsmith and Sheri- 
dan. One of the dire results of Collier's 
attack on the stage was the conversion of 
Farquhar. The Twin Rivals (1702) and 
its Preface constitute Farquhar's reply 
to Collier; the play, in the author's 
words, sets out to prove that " an Eng- 
lish comedy may answer the strictness of 
poetical justice." This was precisely the 
"poetical justice" which Addison at- 
tacked in the Spectator, the conventional 
reward of virtue and punishment of vice. 
The Discourse published the same year 
contains a defense of the drama against 
Collier and his followers, but in general, 
it is merely a light essay, anti-classic in 
its rejection of the Unities, 



On the drama: 

Preface: To the Reader, in The Con- 
stant Couple (1700). 

Prologue to Sir Harry Wildalr (1701). 

A Discourse Upon Comedy in Reference 
to the English Stage (1702). 

Preface to The Inconstant (1703). 

Preface to The Twin-Rivals (1705). 

To All Friends round the Wrekin, in 
The Recruiting Officer (170o). 


The first collected edition of the plays is 
The Comedies of Mr. George Farqahar, 
published at London in 1709. The Dis- 
course appeared in the Works, in 1714. 
It was first published in 1702, in the 
volume entitled Love and Business. 
The Letters are published in most of 
the editions after 172S, together with 
biographical notices. The Discourse is 
reprinted in A Discourse upon Comedy, 
The Recruiting Officer, and The Beaux 
Stratagem, by Louis A. Strauss (Bos- 
ton, 1914), and by W. H. Durham, 
in Critical Essays of the Eighteenth 
Century (New Haven, 1915). The 
Dramatic Works, edited by A. C. 
Ewald in 2 vols., are reprinted (Lon- 

don, 1892), and Four Plays, edited by 
William Archer, Mermaid Series (New 
York, 1905); also in Leigh Hunt's 
Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Con- 
greve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar (Lon- 
don, 1849 ff.). 

On Farquhar and his works: 

Prefatory matter to editions cited. 
Christian Heinrich Schmid, George Far- 
quhar (in Englisches Theater, erster 

theiL Introduction, Leipzig, 1772). 
Heinrich During, George Farquhar (in 

Encyclopadie der Wissenschaften und 

Kunste, Leipzig, 1818). 
Otto Hallbauer, Life and Works of 

George Farquhar (Holzminden, 1880). 
Leslie Stephen, George Farquhar (in 

Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 

18, London, 1889). 
Edmund Gosse, Gossip in a Library 

(London, 1S91). 
David Schmid, George Farquhar; sein 

Leben, und seine Original-Dramen 

(Wien, 1904). 
J. G. Robertson, Leaning and Farquhar 

(In Modern Language Review, vol. 2, 




In a Letter to a friend 1 


But in the first place I must beg you, 
sir, to lay aside your superstitious ven- 
eration for antiquity, and the usual ex- 
pressions on that score; that the present 
age is illiterate, or their taste is vitiated; 
that we live in the decay of time, and the 
dotage of the world is fallen to our 
share. — 

'Tis a mistake, sir; the world was 
never more active or youthful, and true 
downright sense was never more univer- 
sal than at this very day; 'tis neither 
confined to one nation in the world, nor 
to one part of a city; 'tis remarkable in 

1 Re-printed, with omissions, from A Dis- 
course Upon Corned!/, The Recruiting Officer, 
and The Beaux' Stratagem, by George Farqu- 
har, edited by Louis A. Strauss (Boston, 
1914).— Ed. 

England as well as France, and good 
genuine reason is nourished by the cold 
of Sweden [SwedelandJ as by the warmth 
of Italy; 'tis neither abdicated the court 
with the late reigns, nor expelled the city 
with the play-house bills; you may find 
it in the Grand Jury at Hick's-Hafj, and 
upon the bench sometimes among the jus- 
tices: then why should we be hampered 
so in our opinions, as if all the ruins of 
antiquity lay so heavily on the bones of 
us that we could not stir hand nor foot ! 
No, no, sir, ipse dixit is removed long 
ago, and all the rubbish of old philoso- 
phy, that in a manner buried the judg- 
ment of mankind for many centuries, is 
now carried off; the vast tomes of Aris- 
totle and his commentators are all taken 
to jpieces, and their infallibility is lost 



with all persons of a free and unpreju- 
diced reason. 

Then above all men living, why should 
the poets be hoodwinked at this rate, and 
by what authority should Aristotle's rules 
of poetry stand so fixt and immutable? 
Why, by the authority of two thousand 
years' standing; because thro' this long 
revolution of time the world has still 
continued the same. — By the authority of 
their being received at Athens, a city the 
very same with London in every particu- 
lar, their habits the same, their humors 
alike, their public transactions and pri- 
vate societies A la mode France; in short, 
so very much the same in every circum- 
stance that Aristotle's criticisms may 
give rules to Drury Lane, the Areopagus 
give judgment upon a case in the King's 
Bench, and old Solon shall give laws to 
the House of Commons. 

But to examine this matter a little far- 
ther: All arts and professions are com- 
pounded of these two parts, a specula- 
tive knowledge, and a practical use; and 
from an excellency in both these, any 
person is raised to eminence and author- 
ity in his calling. The lawyer has his 
years of student in the speculative part 
of his business; and when promoted to 
bar, he falls upon the practice, which is 
the trial of his ability. Without all dis- 
pute, the great Cook has had many a 
tug at the bar, before he could raise 
himself to the bench; and had made suf- 
ficiently evident his knowledge of the 
laws in his pleadings, before he was ad- 
mitted to the authority of giving judg- 
ment upon the case. 

The physician, to gain credit to his 
prescriptions, must labor for a reputa- 
tion in the cure of such and such dis- 
tempers; and before he sets up for a 
Galen or Hippocrates, must make many 
experiments upon his patients. Philoso- 
phy itself, which is a science the most 
abstract from practice, has its public 
acts and disputations; it is raised grad- 
ually, and its professor commences doc- 
tor by degrees; he has the labor of main- 
taining theses, methodizing his argu- 
ments, and clearing objections; his mem- 
ory and understanding is often puzzled 
by oppositions counciled in fallacies and 
sophisms, in solving all which he must 
make himself remarkable, before he pre- 
tends to impose his own systems upon 

the world. Now, if the case be thus in 
philosophy, or in any branch thereof, as 
in ethics, physics, which are called sci- 
ences, what must be done in poetry, that 
is denominated an art, and consequently 
implies a practice in its perfection? 

Is it reasonable that any person that 
has never writ a distich of verses in his 
life should set up for a dictator in 
poetry; and without the least practice in 
his own performance must give laws and 
rules to that of others? Upon what 
foundation is poetry made so very cheap 
and so easy a task by these gentlemen? 
An excellent poet is the single production 
of an age, when we have crowds of phil- 
osophers, physicians, lawyers, divines 
every day, and all of them competently 
famous in their callings. In the two 
learned commonwealths of Rome and 
Athens, there was but one Vergil and 
one Homer, yet have we above a hundred 
philosophers in each, and most part of 
'em, forsooth, must have a touch at 
poetry, drawing it into Divisions, Sub- 
divisions, etc., when the wit of 'em all 
set together would not amount to one of 
Martial's Epigrams. 

Of all these I shall mention only Aris- 
totle, the first and great law-giver in 
this respect, and upon whom all that 
followed him are only commentators. 
Among all the vast tracts of this volum- 
inous author we don't find any fragment 
of an epic poem, or the least scene of a 
play, to authorize his skill and excellence 
in that art. Let it not be alleged that 
for ought we know he was an excellent 
poet, but his more serious studies would 
not let him enter upon affairs of this na- 
ture; for everybody knows that Aris- 
totle was no cynic, but lived in the splen- 
dor and air of the court; that he loved 
riches as much as others of that station, 
and being sufficiently acquainted with his 
pupils' affection to poetry, and his com- 
plaint that he wanted an Homer to ag- 
grandize his actions, he would never have 
slipt such an opportunity of farther in- 
gratiating himself in the king's favor, 
had he been conscious of any abilities in 
himself for such an undertaking; and 
having a more noble and copious theme 
in the exploits of Alexander than what 
inspired the blind bard in his hero Achil- 
les. If his epistles to Alexander were 
always answered with a considerable 



present, what might he have expected 
from a work like Homer's upon so great 
a subject, dedicated to so mighty a 
prince, whose greatest fault was his vain 
glory, and that took such pains to be 
deified among men? 

It may be objected that all the works 
of Aristotle are not recovered; and 
among those that are lost some essays of 
this kind might have perished. This 
supposition is too weakly founded; for 
altho' the works themselves might have 
'scaped us, 'tis more than probable that 
some hint or other, either in the life of 
the conqueror, or philosopher, might ap- 
pear to convince us of such a production. 
Besides, as 'tis believed he writ philoso- 
phy, because we have his books ; so I dare 
swear he writ no poetry, because none 
is extant, nor any mention made thereof 
that ever I could hear of. 

But stay — without any farther en- 
quiry into the poetry of" Aristotle, his 
ability that way is sufficiently apparent 
by that excellent piece he has left behind 
him upon that subject. — By your favor, 
sir, this is Petitio Principii, or, in plain 
English, give me the sword in my own 
hand, and I'll fight with you. — Have but 
a little patience till I make a flourish or 
two, and then, if you are pleased to de- 
mand it, I'll grant you that and every- 
thing else. 

How easy were it for me to take one 
of Doctor Tillotson's sermons, and, out 
of the oeconomy of one of these dis- 
courses, trump you up a pamphlet and 
call it The Art of Preaching! In the 
first place I must take a Text, and here 
I must be very learned upon the etymol- 
ogy of this word text; then this text 
must be divided into such and such Par- 
: titions, which partitions must have their 
hard names and derivations; then these 
must be spun into Subdivisions, and these 
backed by proofs of Scripture, Ratio- 
cinatio Oratoris, Ornamental Figurarum 
Rhetoricarum, and Authoritas Pat rum 
Ecclesitp, with some rules and directions 
how these ought to be managed and ap- 
plied. And closing up this difficult pe- 
dantry with the Dimensions of Time for 
such an occasion, you will pay me the 
compliment of an excellent preacher, and 
affirm that any sermon whatsoever, either 
by a Presbiter at Geneva, or Jesuit in 
Spain, that deviates from these rules de- 

serves to be hissed, and the priest kicked 
out of his pulpit. I must doubt your 
complaisance in this point, sir; for you 
know the forms of eloquence are divers, 
and ought to be suited to the different 
humor and capacities of an audience. 
You are sensible, sir, that the fiery, cho- 
leric humor of one nation must be enter- 
tained and moved by other means than 
the heavy, flegmatic complexion of an- 
other; and I have observed in my little 
travels, that a sermon of three-quarters 
of an hour that might please the congre- 
gation at St. James's would never satisfy 
the meeting house in the City, where peo- 
ple expect more for their money; and, 
having more temptations of roguery, 
must have a larger portion of instruction. 

Be pleased to hear another instance of 
a different kind, tho' to the same pur- 
pose. I go down to Woolwich, and there 
upon a piece of paper I take the dimen- 
sions of the Royal Sovereign, and from 
hence I frame a model of a man-of-war: 
I divide the ship into three principal 
parts, the keel, the hulk and the rigging; 
I subdivide these into their proper de- 
nominations, and by the help of a sailor, 
give you all the terms belonging to every 
rope and every office in the whole ship; 
will you from hence infer that I am an 
excellent shipwright, and that this model 
is proper for a trading junck upon the 
Volga, or a Venetian galley in the Adri- 
atic sea? 

But you'll object, perhaps, that this is 
no parallel case, because that Aristotle's 
Ars Poetica was never drawn from such 
slight observations, but was the pure 
effect of his immense reason, thro' a nice 
inspection into the very bottom and 
foundation of nature. 

To this I answer, that verity is eternal, 
as that the truth of two and two making 
four was as certain in the days of Adam 
as it is now; and that, according to his 
own position, nature is the same apud 
omnes Gentes. Now, if his rules of 
poetry were drawn from certain and im- 
mutable principles, and fixed on the 
basis of nature, why should not his Ars 
Poetica be as efficacious now as it was 
two thousand years ago? And why 
should not a single plot, with perfect 
unity of time and place, do as well at 
Lincoln's-Inn-Fields as at the play-house 
in Athens? No, no, sir, I am apt to 



believe that the philosopher took no such 
pains in poetry as you imagine; the 
Greek was his mother tongue, and Homer 
was read with as much veneration among 
the school-boys as we learn our Cate- 
chism. Then where was the great busi- 
ness for a person so expert in mood and 
figures as Aristotle was to range into 
some order a parcel of terms of art, 
drawn from his observations upon the 
Iliads, and these to call the model of an 
epic poem? Here, sir, you may imagine 
that I am caught, and have all this while 
been spinning a thread to strangle my- 
self. One of my main objections against 
Aristotle's criticisms is drawn from his 
non-performance in poetry; and now I 
affirm that his rules are extracted from 
the greatest poet that ever lived, which 
gives the utmost validity to the precept, 
and that is all we contend for. 

Neither is Aristotle to be allowed any 
farther knowledge in dramatic than in 
epic poetry. Euripides, whom he seems 
to compliment by rules adapted to the 
model of his plays, was either his con- 
temporary or lived but a little before 
him ; he was not insensible how much this 
author was the darling of the city, as 
appeared by the prodigious expense dis- 
bursed by the public for the ornament of 
his plays; and, 'tis probable, he might 
take this opportunity of improving his 
interest with the people, indulging their 
inclination by refining upon the beauty 
of what they admired. And besides all 
this, the severity of dramatic rage was 
so fresh in his memory in the hard usage 
that his brother soph not long before met 
with upon the stage, that it was conven- 
ient to humor the reigning wit, lest a 
second Aristophanes should take him to 
task with as little mercy as poor Socra- 
tes found at the hands of the first. 

I have talked so long to lay a founda- 
tion for these following conclusions: 
Aristotle was no poet, and consequently 
not capable of giving instructions in the 
art of poetry; his Ars Poetica are only 
some observations drawn from the works 
of Homer and Euripides, which may be 
mere accidents resulting casually from 
the composition of the works, and not 
any of the essential principles on which 
they are compiled; that without giving 
himself the trouble of searching into the 

nature of poetry, he has only compli- 
mented the heroes of wit and valor of his 
age, by joining with them in their appro- 
bation; with this difference, that their 
applause was plain, and his more scho- 

But to leave these only as suppositions 
to be relished by every man at his pleas- 
ure, I shall without complimenting any 
author, either ancient or modern, inquire 
into the first invention of comedy; what 
were the true designs and honest inten- 
tions of that art; and from a knowledge 
of the end, seek out the means, without 
one quotation of Aristotle, or authority 
of Euripides. 

In all productions either divine or hu- 
man, the final cause is the first mover, 
because the end or intention of any ra- 
tional action must first be considered be- 
fore the material or efficient causes are 
put in execution. Now, to determine the 
final cause of comedy we must run back 
beyond the material and formal agents, 
and take it in its very infancy, or rather 
in the very first act of its generation, 
when its primary parent, by proposing 
such or such an end of his labor, laid 
down the first sketches or shadows of the 
piece. Now, as all arts and sciences 
have their first rise from a final cause, 
so 'tis certain that they have grown from 
very small beginnings, and that the cur- 
rent of time has swelled 'em to such a 
bulk that nobody can find the fountain 
by any proportion between the head and 
the body; this, with the corruption of 
time, which has debauched things from 
their primitive innocence to selfish de- 
signs and purposes, renders it difficult to 
find the origin of any offspring so very 
unlike its parent. 

This is not only the case of comedy, 
as it stands at present, but the condition 
also of the ancient theaters; when great 
men made shows of this nature a rising 
step to their ambition, mixing many lewd 
and lascivious representations to gain 
the favor of the populace, to whose taste 
and entertainment the plays were chiefly 
adopted. We must therefore go higher 
than either Aristophanes or Menander to 
discover comedy in its primitive institu- 
tion, if we would draw any moral design 
of its invention to warrant and author- 
ize its continuance. 

I have already mentioned the difficulty 



of discovering the invention of any art 
in the different figure it makes by suc- 
cession of improvements; but there is 
something in the nature of comedy, even 
in its present circumstances, that bears 
so great a resemblance to the philosophi- 
cal mythology of the ancients, that old 
.^Esop must wear the bays as the first and 
original author; and whatever alterations 
or improvements farther application may 
have subjoined, his Fables gave the first 
rise and occasion. 

Comedy is no more at present than a 
well-framed tale handsomely told as an 
agreeable vehicle for counsel or reproof. 
This is all we can say for the credit of 
its institution, and is the stress of its 
charter for liberty and toleration. Then 
where should we seek for a foundation 
but in ./Esop's symbolical way of moral- 
izing upon tales and fables? with this 
difference: that his stories were shorter 
than ours. He had his tyrant Lyon, his 
statesman Fox, his beau Magpie, his cow- 
ard Hare, his bravo Ass, and his buf- 
foon Ape, with all the characters that 
crowd our stages every day; with this 
distinction, nevertheless, that .<Esop made 
his beasts speak good Greek, and our 
heroes sometimes can't talk English. 

But whatever difference time has pro- 
duced in the form, we must in our own 
defense stick to the end and intention 
of his fables. Utile Dulce was bis motto, 
and must be our business; we have no 
other defense against the presentment 
of the grand jury, and, for ought I know, 
it might prove a good means to mollify 
the rigor of that persecution, to inform 
the inquisitors that the great iEsop was 
the first inventor of these poor comedies 
that they are prosecuting with so much 
eagerness and fury; that the first lau- 
reate was as just, as prudent, as pious, 
as reforming, and as ugly as any of them- 
selves; and that the beasts which are 
lugged upon the stage by the horns are 
not caught in the city, as they suppose, 
but brought out of -Esop's own forest. 
We should inform them, besides, that 
those very tales and fables which they 
apprehend as obstacles to reformation 
were the main instruments and machines 
used by the wise JEsop for its propaga- 
tion; and as he would improve men by 
the policy of beasts, so we endeavor to 
reform brutes with the examples of men. 

Fondlewife and his young spouse are no 
more than the eagle and cockle; he 
wanted teeth to break the shell himself, 
so somebody else run away with the 
meat. The fox in the play is the same 
with the fox in the fable, who stufft his 
guts so full that he could not get out at 
the same hole he came in; so both Rey- 
nards, being delinquents alike, come to 
be trussed up together. Here are pre- 
cepts, admonitions, and salutary innu- 
endoes for the ordering of our lives and 
conversations couched in these allegories 
and allusions. The wisdom of the an- 
cients was wrapt up in veils and figures; 
the ^Egyptian hierogliphics and the his- 
tory of the heathen gods are nothing 
else. But if these pagan authorities give 
offense to their scrupulous consciences, 
let them but consult the tales and par- 
ables of our Savior in holy Writ, and 
they may find this way of instruction to 
be much more Christian than they imag- 
ine. Nathan's fable of the poor man's 
lamb had more influence on the con- 
science of David than any force of down- 
right admonition. So that by ancient 
practice and modern example, by the 
authority of Pagans, Jews, and Chris- 
tians, the world is furnished with this so 
sure, so pleasant, and expedient an art 
of schooling mankind into better man- 
ners. Now, here is the primary design 
of comedy illustrated from its first insti- 
tution; and the same end is equally al- 
leged for its daily practice and continu- 
ance. — Then, without all dispute, what- 
ever means are most proper and expedi- 
ent for compassing this end and inten- 
tion, they must be the just rules of com- 
edy, and the true art of the stage. 

We must consider, then, in the first 
place, that our business lies not with a 
French or a Spanish audience; that our 
design is not to hold forth to ancient 
Greece, nor to moralize upon the vices 
and defaults of the Roman Common- 
wealth. No, no; an English play is in- 
tended for the use and instruction of an 
English audience, a people not only sep- 
arated from the rest of the world by 
situation, but different also from other 
nations as well in the complexion and 
temperament of the natural body as in 
the constitution of our body politic As 
we are a mixture of many nations, so we 
have the most unaccountable medley of 



humors among us of any people upon 
earth; these humors produce variety of 
follies, some of 'em unknown to former 
ages; these new distempers must have 
new remedies, which are nothing but new 
counsels and instructions. 

Now, sir, if our Utile, which is the end, 
be different from the ancients, pray let 
our Dulce, which is the means, be so too; 
for you know that to different towns 
there are different ways; or, if you would 
have it more scholastically, ad diversos 
fines non idem conducit medium; or, 
mathematically, one and the same line 
cannot terminate in two centers. But 
waving this manner of concluding by 
induction, I shall gain my point a nearer 
way, and draw it immediately from the 
first principle I set down: That we have 
the most unaccountable medley of hu- 
mors among us of any nation upon earth; 
and this is demonstrable from common 
experience. We shall find a Wildair in 
one corner, and a Morose in another; 
nay, the space of an hour or two shall 
create such vicissitudes of temper in the 
same person that he can hardly be taken 
for the same man. We shall have a fel- 
low bestir his stumps from chocolate to 
coffee-house with all the joy and gaiety 
imaginable, tho' he want a shilling to pay 
for a hack; whilst another, drawn about 
in a coach and six, is eaten up with the 
spleen, and shall loll in state with as 
much melancholy, vexation, and discon- 
tent, as if he were making the Tour of 
Tyburn. Then what sort of a Dulce, 
(which I take for the pleasantry of the 
tale, or the plot of the play) must a man 
make use of to engage the attention of 
so many different humors and inclina- 
tions? Will a single plot satisfy every- 
body? Will the turns and surprises 
that may result naturally from the an- 
cient limits of time be sufficient to rip 
open the spleen of some and physic the 
melancholy of others, screw up the atten- 
tion of a rover and fix him to the stage 
in spight of his volatile temper and the 
temptation of a mask? To make the 
moral instructive, you must make the 
story diverting. The splenetic wit, the 
beau courtier, the heavy citizen, the fine 
lady, and her fine footman come all to 
be instructed, and therefore must all be 
diverted; and he that can do this best, 
and with most applause, writes the best 

comedy, let him do it by what rules he 
pleases, so they be not offensive to reli- 
gion and good manners. 

But hie labor, hoc opus: how must this 
secret of pleasing so many different 
tastes be discovered? Not by tumbling 
over volumes of the ancients, but by 
studying the humor of the moderns. The 
rules of English comedy don't lie in the 
compass of Aristotle or his followers, 
but in the pit, box, and galleries. And 
to examine into the humor of an English 
audience, let us see by what means our 
own English poets have succeeded in this 
point. To determine a suit at law we 
don't look into the archives of Greece or 
Rome, but inspect the reports of our 
own lawyers, and the acts and statutes 
of our Parliaments; and by the same 
rule we have nothing to do with the 
models of Menander or Plautus, but must 
consult Shakespeare, Johnson, Fletcher, 
and others, who, by methods much dif- 
ferent from the ancients, have supported 
the English stage and made themselves 
famous to posterity. We shall find that 
these gentlemen have fairly dispensed 
with the greatest part of critical for- 
malities; the decorums of time and place, 
so much cried up of late, had no force 
of decorum with them; the economy of 
their plays was ad libitum, and the ex- 
tent of their plots only limited by the 
convenience of action. I would will- 
ingly understand the regularities of 
Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry the Fourth, and 
of Fletcher's plays: and yet these have 
long been the darlings of the English 
audience, and are like to continue with 
the same applause, in defiance of all the 
criticisms that ever were published in 
Greek and Latin. 

But are there no rules, no decorums, 
to be observed in comedy? Must we 
make the condition of the English stage 
a state of anarchy? No, sir — for there 
are extremes in irregularity as dangerous 
to an author as too scrupulous a defer- 
ence to criticism; and as I have given 
you an instance of one, so I shall pre- 
sent you an example of the t'other. 

There are a sort of gentlemen that 
have had the jaunty education of danc- 
ing, French, and a fiddle, who, coming to 
age before they arrive at years of dis- 
cretion, make a shift to spend a hand- 
some patrimony of two or three thou- 



sand pound, by soaking in the tavern 
all night, lolling a-bed all the morning, 
and sauntering away all the evening be- 
tween the two play-houses with their 
hands in their pockets; you shall have a 
gentleman of this size, upon his knowl- 
edge of Covent-Garden and a knack of 
witticizing in his cups, set up immedi- 
ately for a playwright. But besides the 
gentleman's wit and experience, here is 
another motive: there are a parcel of 
saucy, impudent fellows about the play- 
house called door-keepers, that can't let 
a gentleman see a play in peace, without 
jogging and nudging him every minute. 
Sir, will you please to pay? — Sir, the 
act's done, will you please to pay, sir? 
I have broke their heads all round two 
or three times, yet the puppies will still 
be troublesome. Before gad, I'll be 
plagued with 'em no longer; I'll e'en 
write a play myself; by which means my 
character of wit shall be established, I 
shall enjoy the freedom of the house, and 

to pin up the basket, pretty Miss 

shall have the profits of my third night 
for her maidenhead. Thus we see what 
a great blessing is a coming girl to a 
play-house. Here is a poet sprung from 
the tail of an actress, like Minerva from 
Jupiter's head. But my spark pro- 
ceeds: — My own intrigues are sufficient 
to found the plot, and the devil's in 't if 
I can make my character talk as wittily 
as those in the Trip to the Jubilee. But 
stay — What shall I call it, first? Let 
me see — The Rival Theatres. — Very 
good, by gad, because I reckon the two 
houses will have a contest about this very 
play. — Thus having found a name for his 
play, in the next place he makes a play 
to his name, and thus he begins. 

ACT I. Scexe: Covent-Garden. Enter 
Portico, Piaza, and Turnstile. 

Here you must note that Portico, being 
a compound of practical rake and specu- 
lative gentleman, is ten to one the au- 
thor's own character, and the leading card 
in the pack- Piaza is his mistress, who 
lives in the square, and is daughter to old 
Pillariso, an odd, out-o'the-way gentle- 
man, something between the character of 
Alexander the Great and Solon, which 
must please because it is new. 

Turnstile is maid and confident to 

Piaza, who, for a bribe of ten pieces, lets 
Portico in at the back-door; so the first 
act concludes. 

In the second, enter Spigotoso, who 
was butler, perhaps, to the Czar of Mus- 
covy, and Fossetana his wife. After 
these characters are run dry, he brings 
you in, at the third act, Whmewell and 
Charmarillis for a scene of love to please 
the ladies, and so he goes on without 
fear or wit till he comes to a marriage 
or two, and then he writes — Finis. 

'Tis then whispered among his friends 
at Will's and Hippolito's, that Mr. Such- 
a-one has writ a very pretty comedy ; and 
some of 'em, to encourage the young au- 
thor, equip him presently with prologue 
and epilogue. Then the play is sent to 
Mr. Rich or Mr. Betterton in a fair, 
legible hand, with the recommendation 
of some gentleman that passes for a man 
of parts and a critic. In short, the gen- 
tleman's interest has the play acted, and 
the gentleman's interest makes a present 

to pretty Miss ; she's made his 

whore, and the stage his cully, that for 
the loss of a month in rehearsing, and a 
hundred pound in dressing a confounded 
play, must give the liberty of the house 
to him and his friends for ever after. 

Now, such a play may be written with 
all the exactness imaginable, in respect 
of unity in time and place; but if you 
inquire its character of any person, tho' 
of the meanest understanding of the 
whole audience, he will tell you 'tis intol- 
erable stuff; and upon your demanding 
his reasons, his answer is, / don't like it. 
His humor is the only rule that he can 
judge a comedy by, but you find that 
mere nature is offended with some irreg- 
ularities; and tho' he be not so learned in 
the drama, to give you an inventory of 
the faults, yet I can tell you that one 
part of the plot had no dependence upon 
another, which made this simple man 
drop his attention, and concern for the 
event; and so, disengaging his thoughts 
from the business of the action, he sat 
there very uneasy, thought the time very 
tedious, because he had nothing to do. 
The characters were so uncoherent in 
themselves, and composed of such vari- 
ety of absurdities, that in his knowledge 
of nature he could find no original for 
such a copy; and being therefore unac- 



quainted with any folly they reproved, 
or any virtue that they recommended, 
their business was as flat and tiresome to 
him as if the actors had talked Arabic. 

Now, these are the material irregular- 
ities of a play, and these are the faults 
which downright mother-sense can cen- 
sure and be offended at, as much as the 
most learned critic in the pit. And 
altho' the one cannot give me the reasons 
of his approbation or dislike, yet I will 
take his word for the credit or disrepute 
of a comedy sooner perhaps than the 
opinion of some virtuosos; for there are 
some gentlemen that have fortified their 
spleen so impregnably with criticism, and 
hold out so stiffly against all attacks of 
pleasantry, that the most powerful efforts 
of wit and humor cannot make the least 
impression. What a misfortune is it to 
these gentlemen to be natives of such an 
ignorant, self-willed, impertinent island, 
where let a critic and a scholar find 
never so many irregularities in a play, 
yet five hundred saucy people will give 
him the lie to his face, and come to see 
this wicked play forty or fifty times in a 
year. But this Vox Populi is the devil, 
tho', in a place of more authority than 
Aristotle, it is called Vox Dei. Here is 
a play with a vengeance, (says a critic,) 
to bring the transaction of a year's time 
into the compass of three hours; to carry 
the whole audience with him from one 
kingdom to another by the changing of a 
scene: where's the probability, nay, the 
possibility of all this? The devil's in the 
poet, sure; he don't think to put contra- 
dictions upon us? 

Look'ee, sir, don't be in a passion. The 
poet does not impose contradictions upon 
you, because he has told you no lie; for 
that only is a lie which is related with 
some fallacious intention that you should 
believe it for a truth. Now, the poet ex- 
pects no more that you should believe 
the plot of his play than old vEsop de- 
signed the world should think his eagle 
and lion talked like you and I; which, I 
think, was every jot as improbable as 
what you quarrel with; and yet the fables 
took, and I'll be hanged if you yourself 
don't like 'em. But besides, sir, if you 
are so inveterate against improbabilities, 
you must never come near the play- 
house at all; for there are several improb- 
abilities, nay, impossibilities, that all the 

criticisms in nature cannot correct: as, 
for instance, in the part of Alexander 
the Great, to be affected with the trans- 
actions of the play, we must suppose 
that we see that great conqueror, after 
all his triumphs, shunned by the woman 
he loves, and importuned by her he hates; 
crossed in his cups and jollity by his own 
subjects, and at last miserably ending 
his life in a raging madness. We must 
suppose that we see the very Alexan- 
der, the son of Philip, in all these un- 
happy circumstances, else we are not 
touched by the moral, which represents 
to us the uneasiness of human life in the 
greatest state, and the instability of for- 
tune in respect of worldly pomp. Yet 
the whole audience at the same time 
knows that this is Mr. Betterton who is 
strutting upon the stage and tearing his 
lungs for a livelihood. And that the 
same person should be Mr. Betterton and 
Alexander the Great at the same time is 
somewhat like an impossibility, in my 
mind. Yet you must grant this impossi- 
bility in spite of your teeth, if you han't 
power to raise the old hero from the 
grave to act his own part. 

Now for another impossibility: The 
less rigid critics allow to a comedy the 
space of an artificial day, or twenty- 
four hours; but those of the thorough 
reformation will confine it to the natural, 
or solar, day, which is but half the time. 
Now, admitting this for a decorum abso- 
lutely requisite, — this play begins when 
it is exactly six by your watch, and ends 
precisely at nine, which is the usual time 
of the representation. Now, is it feazible 
in rerum natura, that the same space or 
extent of time can be three hours by 
your watch and twelve hours upon the 
stage, admitting the same number of min- 
utes or the same measure of sand to both? 
I'm afraid, sir, you must allow this for 
an impossibility, too; and you may with 
as much reason allow the play the extent 
of a whole year; and if you grant me a 
year, you may give me seven, and so to a 
thousand. For that a thousand years 
should come within the compass of three 
hours is no more an impossibility thun 
that two minutes should be contained in 
one; Nullum niinu eontinet in se maju$ 
is equally applicable to both. 

So much for the decorum of Time : now 
for the regularity of Place. I might 



make the one a consequence of t'other, 
and allege that by allowing me any ex- 
tent of time, you must grant me any 
change of place, for the one depends 
upon t'other; and having five or six years 
for the action of a play, I may travel 
from Constantinople to Denmark, so to 
France, and home to England, and rest 
long enough in each country besides. 
But you'll say: How can you carry us 
with you? Very easily, sir, if you be 
willing to go. As for example: here is 
a new play; the house is thronged, the 
prologue's spoken and the curtain drawn 
represents you the scene of Grand Cairo. 
Whereabouts are you now, sir? Were 
not you the very minute before in the 
pit in the English play-house talking to 
a wench, and now, presto pass, you are 
spirited away to the banks of the river 
Nile. Surely, sir, this is a most intoler- 
able improbability; yet this you must 
allow nig, or else' you destroy the very 
constitution of representation. Then, in 
the second act, with a flourish of the 
fiddles, I change the scene to Astrachan. 
O, this is intolerable! Look'ee, sir, 'tis 
not a jot more intolerable than the other; 
for you'll find that 'tis much about the 
same distance between Egypt and Astra- 
chan, as it is between Drury-Lane and 
Grand Cairo; and if you please to let 
your fancy take post, it will perform 
the journey in the same moment of time, 
without any disturbance in the world to 
your person. You can follow Quintus 
Curtius all over Asia in the train of Alex- 
ander, and trudge after Hannibal, like a 
cadet, through all Italy, Spain, and Afric, 
in the space of four or five hours; yet 
the devil a one of you will stir a step 
over the threshold for the best poet in 
Christendom, tho he make it his business 
to make heroes more amiable, and to 
surprise you with more wonderful acci- 
dents and events. 

I am as little a friend to those ram- 
bling plays as anybody, nor have I ever 
espoused their party by my own prac- 
tice; yet I could not forbear saying 
something in vindication of the great 
Shakespear, whom every little fellow can 
form an A[o\ristus primus will presume 
:o condemn for indecorums and absurd- 
ties; sparks that are so spruce upon 
heir Greek and Latin that, like our fops 
n travel, they can relish nothing but 

what is foreign, to let the world know 
they have been abroad forsooth; but it 
must be so, because Aristotle said it; 
now, I say it must be otherwise, because 
Shakespear said it, and I'm sure that 
Shakespear was the greater poet of the 
two. But you'll say that Aristotle was 
the greater critic. — That's a mistake, sir, 
for criticism in poetry is no more than 
judgment in poetry; which you will find 
in your lexicon. Now, if Shakespear was 
the better poet, he must have the most 
judgment in his art; for everybody 
knows that judgment is an essential part 
of poetry, and without it no writer is 
worth a farthing. But to stoop to the 
authority of either, without consulting 
the reason of the consequence, is an 
abuse to a man's understanding; and 
neither the precept of the philosopher 
nor example of the poet should go down 
with me, without exam[injing the weight 
of their assertions. We can expect no 
more decorum or regularity in any busi- 
ness than the nature of the thing will 
bear; now, if the stage cannot subsist 
without the strength of supposition and 
force of fancy in the audience, why 
should a poet fetter the business of his 
plot and starve his action for the nicety 
of an hour or the change of a scene; 
since the thought of man can f.y over 
a thousand years with the same ease, 
and in the same instant of time, that 
your eye glances from the figure of six 
to seven on the dial-plate; and can glide 
from the Cape of Good-Hope to the Bay 
of St. Nicholas, which is quite across the 
world, with the same quickness and activ- 
ity as between Covent-Garden Church 
and Will's Coffee-House. Then I must 
beg of these gentlemen to let our old 
English authors alone. — If they have 
left vice unpunished, virtue unrewarded, 
folly unexposed, or prudence unsuccess- 
ful, the contrary of which is the Utile 
of comedy, let them be lashed to some 
purpose; if any part of their plots have 
been independent of the rest, or any of 
their characters forced or unnatural, 
which destroys the Dulce of plays, let 
them be hissed off the stage. But if by 
a true decorum in these material points, 
they have writ successfully and answered 
the end of dramatic poetry in every re- 
spect, let them rest in peace, and their 
memories enjoy the encomiums due to 



their merit, without any reflection for 
waving those niceties, which are neither 
instructive to the world nor diverting to 
mankind, but are, like all the rest of 
critical learning, fit only to set people 
together by the ears in ridiculous con- 
troversies, that are not one jot material 
to the good of the public, whether they 
be true or false. 

And thus you see, sir, I have concluded 
a very unnecessary piece of work; which 
is much too long if you don't like it. 
But let it happen any way, be assured 
that I intended to please you, which 
should partly excuse, sir, 

Your most humble Servant. 


Joseph Addison was born at Milston, 
Wiltshire, in 167s?. He was a student at 
the Charter House, which he left in 
1687, to enter Queen's College, Oxford. 
After two years he was transferred to 
Magdalen, where he was graduated in 
1693. He distinguished himself while at 
college for his shyness and his scholar- 
ship. In the year of his graduation he 
published his Account of the Greatest 
English Poets. Through Dryden, to 
whom he addressed some complimentary 
verses, he was introduced to Tonson, who 
set him to work translating Juvenal, Per- 
sius, Vergil, and Herodotus. While he 
was still at Oxford, where he remained 
on a fellowship after his graduation, he 
was on the point of taking orders, but 
a royal pension was obtained for him, 
and he set forth on his travels on the 
Continent. He started in 1699, spent a 
year and a half in France, a year in 
Italy, and another in Switzerland, Aus- 
tria, and Germany; and after a stay of 
some months in Holland, he returned to 
England toward the end of 1703. He 
was reduced in circumstances, and had 
little hope of preferment in politics, so 
that he was forced to join the writers in 
Grub Street. But, owing to a change in 
the tide of affairs, and to Addison's popu- 
larity after the publication of his poem, 
The Campaign, he was made Under- 
Secretary of State. Meantime he was 
engaged in literary work, and in 1706 
he produced an unsuccessful opera Rosa- 
mond. Two years later Addison was de- 
prived of his position as Under-Secre- 
tary, but was offered a Secretaryship in 
Ireland under the Lord Lieutenant. In 
1711 he lost the post owing to a change 

of the Ministry. Steele's Tatler papers 
began to appear in 1709, and Addison's 
first contribution dates from the same 
year. In 1711 he and Steele brought out 
the first number of The Spectator, which 
continued until 1714. In 1713 his trag- 
edy of Cato was performed and met with 
great success because rather of its politi- 
cal timeliness than for any dramatic 
power inherent in it. An unsuccessful 
play, The Drummer, was produced, 
anonymously, in 1714. During the win- 
ter of 1715-16 Addison was employed by 
the Whig Party to uphold its interests, 
and he published The Freeholder, a po- 
litical paper; his reward was in all prob- 
ability the position of Commissioner for 
Trade and Colonies. In 1716 he married 
the Countess of Warwick. In 1717 he 
was made a Secretary of State. Failing 
in health, he resigned the position a year 
later. The next year he engaged in fur- 
ther political controversy, which resulted 
in a break with Steele. The following 
year he died. 

Of Addison's criticism as a whole it 
may be said that it represented a com- 
monsense attitude based upon neo-classic 
ideals. Of his dramatic criticism proper, 
confined as it was almost wholly to five 
or six Spectator essays, there is not so 
much to be said. These essays were 
written before he had evolved the criti- 
cal standards which add so materially to 
the value of his later contributions. 
However, the drama essays briefly sum 
up the rationalistic tendency of criticism j 
in the early eighteenth century. Addi-j 
son condemned English tragedy because 
it was not sufficiently moral, and he pro- 
ceeded to write a dull tragedy in order 



to show what beautiful and stately senti- 
ments should go into tragedy. He was 
rigidly classic in his denunciation of the 
tragi-comedy. Not until Johnson pub- 
lished his 156th Rambler (in 1751) was 
the classic spell broken. 

On the drama: 

The Spectator, nos. 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 
58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 258, 290, 296, 419, 
and 446 (1711-12). 


The best modern edition of the complete 
works, is Hurd's The Works of Joseph 
Addison, 6 vols. (Bohn ed., London, 

1854-^56)). A convenient edition of 
The Spectator is the reprint of the 
first edition, in Everyman's Library, 
4 vols. (London and New York, 1906). 
See Thomas Arnold's Selections from 
Addison's papers contributed to the 
Spectator (Oxford, 1866 ff.). 

On Addison and his works: 

Thomas Tickell, Life of Joseph Addison 

(Preface to 1st ed. of Addison's 

Works, London, 1721). 
Lucy Aikin, The Life of Joseph Addison, 

2 vols. (London, 1843). 
W. J. Courthope, Addison (London, 



No. 39. 

Saturday, April 14. 

Multa fero, ut placem genus irritabile 

Cum scribo. . . . Hoh. 

As a perfect tragedy is the noblest 
production of human nature, so it is capa- 
ble of giving the mind one of the most 
delightful and most improving entertain- 
ments. A virtuous man, says Seneca, 
struggling with misfortunes, is such a 
spectacle as gods might look upon with 
pleasure. And such a pleasure it is 
which one meets with in the representa- 
tion of a well-written tragedy. Diver- 
sions of this kind wear out of our 
thoughts everything that is mean and 
[little. They cherish and cultivate that 
I humanity which is the ornament of our 
I nature. They soften insolence, soothe 
affliction, and subdue the mind to the 
dispensations of Providence. 

It is no wonder, therefore, that in all 
the polite nations of the world, this part 
of the drama has met with public en- 

The modern tragedy excels that of 
Greece and Rome in the intricacy and 
disposition of the fable; but, what a 
Christian writer would be ashamed to 

1 Re-printed, with omissions, from vol. 1 of 
Ihe Spectator (Everyman's Library, London 
and New York. 1906). — Ed. 

own, falls infinitely short of it in the 
moral part of the performance. . . . 

No. 40. 

Monday, April 16. 

The English writers of tragedy are 
possessed with a notion that when they 
represent a virtuous or innocent person 
in distress, they ought not to leave him 
till they have delivered him out of his 
troubles, or made him triumph over his 
enemies. This error they have been led 
into by a ridiculous doctrine in modern 
criticism, that they are obliged to an 
equal distribution of rewards and pun- 
ishments, and an impartial execution of 
poetical justice. Who were the first that 
established this rule I know not; but 1 
am sure it has no foundation in nature, 
in reason, or in the practice of the an- 
cients. We find that good and evil hap- 
pen alike to all men on this side of the 
grave; and as the principal design of 
tragedy is to raise commiseration and 
terror in the minds of the audience, we 
shall defeat this great end if we always 
make virtue and innocence happy and 
successful. Whatever crosses and dis- 
appointments a good man suffers in the 
body of the tragedy, they will make but 
small impression on our minds, when we 
know that in the last act he is to arrive 
at the end of his wishes and desires. 



When we see him engaged in the depth 
of his afflictions, we are apt to comfort 
ourselves, because we are sure he will 
find his way out of them; and that his 
grief, how great soever it may be at pres- 
ent, will soon terminate in gladness. For 
this reason the ancient writers of tragedy 
treated men in their plays as they are 
dealt with in the world, by making vir- 
tue sometimes happy and sometimes mis- 
erable, as they found it in the fable 
which they made choice of, or as it might 
affect their audience in the most agree- 
able manner. Aristotle considers trag- 
edies that were written in either of these 
kinds, and observes that those which 
ended unhappily, had always pleased the 
people, and carried away the prize in 
the public disputes of the stage, from 
those that ended happily. Terror and 
commiseration leave a pleasing anguish 
in the mind, and fix the audience in such 
a serious composure of thought, as is 
much more lasting and delightful than 
any little transient starts of joy and 
satisfaction. Accordingly, we find that 
more of our English tragedies have suc- 
ceeded, in which the favorites of the 
audience sink under their calamities, than 
those in which they recover themselves 
out of them. The best plays of this kind 
are The Orphan, Venice Preserved, Alex- 
ander the Great, Theodosius, All for 
Love, (Edipus, Oroonoko, Othello, etc. 
King Lear is an admirable tragedy of 
the same kind as Shakespeare wrote it, 
but as it reformed according to the 
chimerical notion of poetical justice, in 
my humble opinion it has lost half its 
beauty. At the same time I must allow 
that there are very noble tragedies which 
have been framed upon the other plan 
and have ended happily; as indeed most 
of the good tragedies which have Deen 
written since the starting of the above- 

mentioned criticism, have taken this turn, 
as The Mourning Bride, Tamerlane, 
Ulysses, Phwdra and Hippolytus, with 
most of Mr. Dryden's. I must also allow 
that many of Shakespeare's, and several 
of the celebrated tragedies of antiquity, 
are cast in the same form. I do not 
therefore dispute against this way of 
writing tragedies, but against the criti- 
cism that would establish this as the only 
method, and by that means would very 
much cramp the English tragedy, and 
perhaps give a wrong bent to the genius 
of our writers. 

The tragi-comedy, which is the product 
of the English theater, is one of the most 
monstrous inventions that ever entered 
into a poet's thoughts. An author might 
as well think of weaving the adventures 
of iEneas and Hudibras into one poem, 
as of writing such a motley piece of 
mirth and sorrow. But the absurdity of 
these performances is so very visible that 
I shall not insist upon it. 

The same objections which are made 
to tragi-comedy may in some measure 
be applied to all tragedies that have a 
double plot in them; which are likewise 
more frequent upon the English stage 
than upon any other. For though the 
grief of the audience in such perform- 
ance be not changed into another pas- 
sion, as in tragi-comedies, it is diverted 
upon another object, which weakens their 
concern for the principal action, and 
breaks the tide of sorrow by throwing 
it into different channels. This incon- 
venience, however, may in a great meas- 
ure be cured, if not wholly removed, by 
the skillful choice of an under-plot, 
which may bear such a near relation to 
the principal design, as to contribute 
towards the completion of it, and be con- 
cluded by the same catastrophe. 


Samuel Johnson, the son of a book- 
seller and magistrate, was born at Lich- 
field, in 1709. At school he soon dis- 
tinguished himself as a talented scholar 
and at the age of eighteen returned home, 

where he studied and read. The John- 
son family was unable to send Samuel to 
college, but through the generosity of a 
friend he was sent to Oxford, where he re- 
mained only two years, when he reached 



the end of his meager resources. He 
spent the next five years near his home, 
endeavoring to make a living by hack 
work. In 1735 he married Elizabeth Por- 
ter, who brought him a small dowry. 
After his marriage he tried to secure 
pupils, but during a year and half only 
three came to him. One of these was 
David Garrick. In 1737 he went to Lon- 
don, and after many privations, in the 
following year was employed to write 
for the Gentleman's Magazine, for which 
he reported parliamentary proceedings. 
His first work of any importance was 
London (1738), a satirical poem in imi- 
tation of Juvenal. The book was pub- 
lished anonymously, but the author's 
name soon became known. As a re- 
sult, Pope tried to get Johnson a posi- 
tion as teacher, but was unable to do so. 
Johnson again went to work as before. 
He had made the acquaintance of Sav- 
age, and at his death in 1743 he wrote 
his biography, which was published 
anonymously. From this time forward, 
Johnson's reputation grew, so that in 
1747 he was employed by a number of 
booksellers to write the Dictionary of the 
English Language, which was the great- 
est monument of his life. It appeared in 
1755. Meanwhile he sought relaxation in 
other work, and published The Vanity 
of Human Wishes, after Juvenal, in 1749. 
The same year Garrick produced his 
tragedy of Irene, part of which was writ- 
ten before Johnson's arrival in London. 
Although the play was scarcely success- 
ful, Johnson reaped considerable profit. 
In 1750 he began publishing articles and 
essays after the manner of The Specta- 
tor, and continued until two years later. 
The Rambler was at first coldly received, 
but after the essays had been collected 
into book-form, it was one of the most 
popular works of the day. Mrs. John- 
son died in 175:?, and her death left 
Johnson in a more melancholy mood than 
usual. The publication of the Dictionary 
did much for his fame, but little for his 
pocket, and twice in 1755 he was sent 
to jail for debt. He wrote miscellaneous 
essays for the Literary Magazine and 
planned his edition of Shakespeare, and 
in 1758 issued in book-form another col- 
lection of essays, The Idler. At this 
time he wrote Rasselas in a week, and 
sold it for a hundred pounds, to defray 

the expenses of his mother's funeral. 
In 176:2 George III offered Johnson a 
pension of three hundred pounds, which 
the needy author accepted, and which 
enabled him henceforward to do work 
of a more congenial nature. But he had 
a duty to discharge: for nine years he 
had been planning the edition of Shake- 
speare and spending the money sent in 
by subscribers. In 1765 the work ap- 
peared. The Introduction and yotes 
were very unequal, and Johnson was 
severely criticized for the slovenliness 
and inadequacy of his work. His lazi- 
ness was such that between 17G5 and 
1775 he produced nothing but three po- 
litical tracts. But his personal influence 
was growing, and he reigned over the 
famous literary coterie of which Gold- 
smith, Burke, Reynolds, Gibbon, Gar- 
rick, and others were members. Boswell 
was ever present, and it is due to his 
assiduity that we possess the celebrated 
Life of Johnson. In 1773 Boswell ac- 
companied him on a trip to the Hebrides, 
which resulted in the publication of his 
Journey to the Hebrides, two years later. 
In 1777 he undertook to write brief bio- 
graphical notices for an edition of the 
English poets which was about to be 
published. The short notices which he 
had originally intended to supply grew 
to considerable size. The first four vol- 
umes appeared in 1779, the last six, two 
years later. His last years were spent 
in pain and anxiety, and after a long 
period of ill-health, he died in 1784. 

Johnson is the representative orthodox 
critic of the eighteenth century, and yet 
his orthodoxy, so far as his opinions on 
the drama are concerned, was not too 
exclusive or rigid. While he is contin- 
ually insisting upon the necessity for a 
moral in works of art, and judging 
poetry by the sense rather than by the 
music, he was not intolerant to the au- 
thors who violated accepted rules. In 
his Preface to Shakespeare (1768) he 
mentions the poet's mingling of the 
tragic and the comic in a single play, 
saying that " this i* a practice con- 
trary to the rules of criticism will be 
readily allowed," but he adds what is 
of great significance: "but there is al- 
ways an appeal open from criticism to 
nature." This sentence belongs with the 
famous one in the 156th Rambter, on 



Tragi-comedy : " It ought to be the first 
endeavor of a writer to distinguish na- 
ture from custom, or that which is estab- 
lished because it is right from that which 
is right only because it is established; 
that he may neither violate essential 
principles by a desire of novelty, nor 
debar himself from the attainment of 
beauties within his view by a needless 
fear of breaking rules which no literary 
dictator had authority to enact." Pro- 
fessor Saintsbury declares that " With 
this utterance, this single utterance, all 
the ruling doctrines of sixteenth, seven- 
teenth, and eighteenth century criticism 
receive notice to quit." 

On the drama: 

Lives of the Poets (especially Howe, 
Conyreve, Dryden, Otway, Addison, 
and Gay); in The Rambler (especially 
Nos. 135, 139, and 156) ; the Preface 
to Shakespeare (1765). 

Editions : 

The first collected edition — The Works 
of Samuel Johnson, edited by Arthur 
Murphy, in 12 vols., — appeared in 
London in 1795. The Oxford Edition 
of the Works (11 vols., Oxford, 1835) is 
a standard. A good modern edition is 
The Works of Samuel Johnson, 16 vols. 
(Troy, N. Y., 1903). Special editions 
of the Lives of the Poets are edited 
by Mrs. Alex. Napier, 3 vols. (London, 
1890), and by Arthur Waugh, 6 vols. 
(London, 1896). See also Matthew 

Arnold's Six Chief '•Lives of the 
Poets," with a preface (London, 1878). 
The Letters of Samuel Johnson, col- 
lected and edited by G. Birkbeck Hill, 
2 vols. (Oxford, 1895), and Johnsonian 
Miscellunies, arranged and edited by 
the same, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1893-97); 
together with The Essays of Samuel 
Johnson, edited by Stuart J. Reid 
(London, 1888), should be consulted. 
Also Raleigh's Johnson on Shakespeare 
(London, 1908). 

On Johnson and his works: 

See prefatory matter to editions cited 

Sir John Hawkins, Life of Samuel John- 
son (London, 1787). 

James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 
2 vols. (London, 1791). Standard edi- 
tion by G. Birkbeck Hill, 6 vols., Ox- 
ford, 1887). 

Leslie Stephen, Samuel Johnson (Lon- 
don, 1878). 

Lieut.-Col. F. Grant, Samuel Johnson 
(London, 1887). 

W. P. Courtney, A Bibliography of Sam- 
uel Johnson (Oxford, 1905). 

T. B. Macaulay, Samuel Johnson (in 
Works, London, 1879). 

G. Birkbeck Hill, Johnson; his Friends 
and Critics (London, 1878). 

Thomas Seccombe, The Age of Johnson 
(London, 1900). 

John Dennis, Dr. Johnson (London, 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1903). 



No. 125. Tues., May 28, 1751. 

Descriptas servare vices, operumque col- 

Cur ego, si nequeo ignoroque, poeta salu- 

Hor. De Ar. Poet. 86. 

But if, through weakness, or my want 

of art, 
I can't to every different style impart 

l Re-printed from the Works of Samuel 
Johnson, Troy, N. Y„ 1903 

The proper strokes and colors it may 

Why am I honor'd with a poet's name? 


It is one of the maxims of the civil 
law, that definitions are hazardous. 
Things modified by human understand- 
ings, subject to varieties of complica- 
tion, and changeable as experience ad- 
vances knowledge, or accident influence 
caprice, are scarcely to be included in 
any standing form of expression, be- 



cause they are always suffering some 
alteration of their state. Definition is, 
indeed, not the province of man; every- 
thing is set above or below our faculties. 
The works and operations of nature are 
too great in their extent, or too much 
diffused in their relations, and the per- 
formances of art too inconstant and un- 
certain, to be reduced to any determi- 
nate idea. It is impossible to impress 
upon our minds an adequate and just 
representation of an object so great that 
we can never take it into our view, or so 
mutable that it is always changing under 
our eye and has already lost its form 
while we are laboring to conceive it. 

Definitions have been no less difficult 
or uncertain in criticisms than in law. 
Imagination, a licentious and vagrant 
faculty, unsusceptible of limitations and 
impatient of restraint, has always en- 
deavored to baffle the logician, to per- 
plex the confines of distinction, and burst 
the inclosures of regularity. There is 
therefore scarcely any species of writ- 
ing, of which we can tell what is its es- 
sence, and what are its constituents; 
every new genius produces some inno- 
vation, when invented and approved, 
subverts the rules which the practice of 
foregoing authors had established. 

Comedy has been particularly unpro- 
pitious to definers; for though perhaps 
they might properly have contented 
themselves with declaring it to be such 
a dramatic representation of human life, 
as may excite mirth, they have em- 
barrassed their definition with the means 
by which the comic writers obtained 
their end, without considering that the 
various methods of exhilarating their au- 
dience, not being limited by nature, can- 
not be comprised in precept. Thus, 
some make comedy a representation of 
mean, and others of bad, men; some 
think that its essence consists in the 
unimportance, others in the fictitiousness, 
of the transaction. But any man's re- 
flections will inform him, that every dra- 
matic composition which raises mirth, 
is comic; and that, to raise mirth, it is 
by no means universally necessary that 
the personages should be either mean or 
corrupt, nor always requisite that the 
action should be trivial, nor ever that it 
should be fictitious. 

If the two kinds of dramatic poetry 
had been defined only by their effects 
upon the mind, some absurdities might 
have been prevented, with which the com- 
positions of our greatest poets are dis- 
graced, who, for want of some settled 
ideas and accurate distinctions, have un- 
happily confounded tragic with comic 
sentiments. They seem to have thought 
that as the meanest of personages con- 
stituted comedy, their greatness was 
sufficient to form a tragedy; and that 
nothing was necessary but that they 
should crowd the scene with monarchs, 
and generals, and guards; and to make 
them talk at certain intervals of the 
downfall of kingdoms, and the rout of 
armies. They have not considered that 
thoughts or accidents, in themselves ridic- 
ulous, grow still more grotesque by the 
solemnity of such characters; that rea- 
son and nature are uniform and inflex- 
ible: and that what is despicable and 
absurd, will not, by any association with 
splendid titles become rational or great; 
the most important affairs, by an inter- 
mixture of an unseasonable levity, may 
be made contemptible; and the robes of 
royalty can give no dignity to nonsense 
or to folly. 

"Comedy," says Horace, "sometimes 
raises her voice " ; and tragedy may like- 
wise, on proper occasions, abate her dig- 
nity; but as the comic personages can 
only depart from their familiarity of 
style, when the more violent passions 
are put in motion, the heroes and queens 
of tragedy should never descend to trifle, 
but in the hours of eSse and intermis- 
sions of danger. Yet in the tragedy of 
Don Sebastian, when the King of Por- 
tugal is in the hands of his enemy, and, 
having just drawn the lot, by which he 
is condemned to die, breaks out into a 
wild boast that his dust shall take pos- 
session of Afric, the dialogue proceeds 
thus between the captive and his con- 
queror : 

Muley Moluch. What shall I do to con- 
quer thee? 

Seb. Impossible. 

Souls have no conquerors. 

M. Mol. I'll shew thee for a monster 
thro' my Afric. 

Seb. No, thou canst only shew me for a 



Afric is stored with monsters; man's a 

Thy subjects have not seen. 
M. Mol. Thou talk'st as if 
Still at the head of battle. 
Seb. Thou mistak'st, 
For then I would not talk. 

Benducar. Sure he would sleep. 

This conversation, with the sly remark 
of the Minister [Benducar J, can only 
be found not to be comic because it 
wants the probability necessary to rep- 
resentations of common life, and degen- 
erates too much towards buffoonery and 

The same play affords a smart return 
of the General to the Emperor, who, en- 
forcing his orders for the death of Se- 
bastian, vents his impatience in this 
abrupt threat: 

. . . No more replies, 
But see thou dost it, or — 

To which Dorax answers, 

Choke in that threat: I can say Or as 

A thousand instances of such impro- 
priety might be produced, were not one 
scene in Aureng-Zebe sufficient to ex- 
emplify it. Indamora, a captive queen, 
having Auren-Zebe for her lover, em- 
ploys Arimant, to whose charge she had 
been intrusted, and whom she had made 
sensible of her charms, to carry her mes- 
sage to his rival. 

{Arimant, with a letter in his hand; 

Arim. And I the messenger to him from 

Your empire you to tyranny pursue: 

You lay commands, both cruel and un- 

To serve my rival, and betray my trust. 

Ind. You first betrayed your trust, in 
loving me; 

And should not I my own advantage see? 

Serving my love, you may my friendship 

You know the rest of your pretences 

You must, my Arimant, you must be 

'Tis in your nature, and your noble mind. 

Arim. I'll to the king, and straight my 
trust resign. 

Ind. His trust you may, but you shall 
never mine. 

Heaven made you love me for no other 

But to become my confidant and friend: 

As such, I keep no secret from your 

And therefore make you judge how ill 
I write: 

Read it, and tell me freely then your 

If 'tis indited, as I meant it, kind. 

Arim. "I ask not Heaven my freedom 
to restore. 


But only for your sake — " I'll read no 
more : 

And yet I must — 

"Less for my own, than for your sor- 
rows sad — • 


Another line, like this, would make me 
mad — 

Heaven! she goes on — yet more — and 
yet more kind! 

{As reading. 

Each sentence is a dagger to my mind. 

" See me this night — 


Thank fortune who did such a friend 

For faithful Arimant shall be your 

Not only to be made an instrument, 

But pre-engaged without my own con- 
sent ! 

Ind. Unknown to engage you still aug- 
ments my score, 

And gives you scope of meriting the 

Arim. The best of men 

Some interest in their actions must con- 
fess : 

None merit, but in hope they may pos- 

The fatal paper rather let me tear, 

Than, like Bellerophon, my own sentence 

Ind. You may; but 'twill not be your 
best advice: 

'Twill only give me pains of writing 

You know you must obey me, soon or 



Why should you vainly struggle with 
your fate? 

Arim. / thank thee, Heaven, thou has 
been wondrous kind! 

Why am I thus to slavery designed, 

And yet am cheater with a free-born 

Or make thy orders with my reason suit, 

Or let me live by sense, a glorious 
brute — 

(She frowns. 

You frown, and I obey with speed, be- 

The dreadful sentence comes, See me no 
more : 

In the same scene every circumstance 
concurs to turn tragedy to farce. The 
wild absurdity of the expedient; the 
contemptible suggestion of the lover; 
the folly of obliging him to read the 
letter, only because it ought to have been 
concealed from him; the frequent inter- 
ruptions of amorous impatience; the 
faint expostulations of a voluntary slave; 
the imperious haughtiness of a tyrant 
without power; the deep reflection of the 
yielding rebel upon fate and free-will; 
and his wise wish to lose his reason as 
soon as he finds himself about to do what 
he cannot persuade his reason to ap- 
prove, are sufficient to awaken the most 
torpid risibility. 

There is scarce a tragedy of the last 
century which has not debased its most 
important incidents, and polluted its 
most serious interlocutions with buffoon- 
ery and meanness; but though perhaps 
it cannot be pretended that the present 
age has added much to the force and 
efficacy, it has at least been able to es- 
cape many faults, which either ignorance 
have overlooked or indulgence had li- 
censed. The later tragedies, indeed, 
have faults of another kind, perhaps more 
destructive to delight, though less open 
to censure. That perpetual tumor of 
phrase %vith which every thought is now 
expressed by every personage, the pau- 
city of adventurers which regularly ad- 
mits, and the unvaried equality of flow- 
ing dialogue has taken away from our 
present writers almost all that dominion 
over the passions which was the boast of 
their predecessors. Yet they may at 
least claim this commendation, that they 
avoid gross faults, and that if they can- 

not often move terror or pity, they are 
always careful not to provoke laughter. 

Xo. 156. Saturday, September 14, 1751. 

Xunquam aliud, natura, aliud sapient ia 

Juv. SAT. XIV. 321. 
For wisdom ever echoes Nature's voice. 

That many rules have been advanced 
without consulting nature or reason, we 
cannot but suspect when we find it per- 
emptorily decreed by the ancient mas- 
ters, that only three speaking person- 
ages should appear at once upon the 
stage; a law which, as the variety and 
intricacy of modern plays has made it 
impossible to be observed, we now vio- 
late without scruple, and, as experience 
proves, without inconvenience. 

The original of this precept was merely 
accidental. Tragedy was a monody, or 
soliloquy sung in honor of Bacchus, im- 
proved afterwards into a dialogue by 
the addition of another speaker; but the 
ancients, remembering that the tragedy 
was at first pronounced only by one, 
durst not for some time venture beyond 
two; at last, when custom and impunity 
had made them daring, they extended 
their liberty to the admission of three, 
but restrained themselves by a critical 
edict from further exorbitance. 

By what accident the number of acts 
was limited to five, I know not that any 
author has informed us; but certainly it 
is not determined by any necessity aris- 
ing either from the nature of action or 
propriety of exhibition. An act is only 
the representation of such a part of the 
business of the play as proceeds in an 
unbroken tenor, or without any interme- 
diate pause. Nothing is more evident 
than that of every real, and by conse- 
quence of every dramatic action, the 
intervals may be more or fewer than 
five; and indeed the rule is upon the 
English stage every day broken in effect, 
without any other mischief than that 
which arises from an absurd endeavor to 
observe it in appearance. Whenever the 
scene is shifted the act ceases, since some 
time is necessarily supposed to elapse 
while the personages of the drama change 
their place. 



With no greater right to our obedi- 
ence have the critics confined the dra- 
matic action to a certain number of 
hours. Probability requires that the 
time of action should approach some- 
what nearly to that of exhibition, and 
those plays will always be thought most 
happily conducted which crowd the 
greatest variety into the least space. 
But since it will frequently happen that 
some delusion must be admitted, I know 
not where the limits of imagination can 
be fixed. It is rarely observed that 
minds, not prepossessed by mechanical 
criticism, feel any offense from the ex- 
tension of the intervals between the 
acts; nor can I conceive it absurd or 
impossible, that he who can multiply 
three hours into twelve or twenty-four, 
might imagine, with equal ease, a greater 

I know not whether he who professes 
to regard no other laws than those of 
nature, will not be inclined to receive 
tragi-comedy to his protection, whom, 
however generally condemned, her own 
laurels have hitherto shaded from the 
fulminations of criticism. For what is 
there in the mingled drama which im- 
partial reason can condemn? The con- 
nection of important with trivial inci- 
dents, since it is not only common but 
perpetual in the world, may surely be 
allowed on the stage, which pretends 
only to be the mirror of life. The im- 
propriety of suppressing passions before 
we have raised them to the intended agi- 
tation, and of diverting the expectation 
from an event which we keep suspended 
only to raise it, may be speciously urged. 
But will not experience show this ob- 
jection to be rather subtle than just? 
Is it not certain that the tragic and comic 
affections have been moved alternately 
with equal force, and that no plays have 
oftener filled the eye with tears, and the 
heart with palpitation, than those which 
are variegated with interludes of mirth? 
I do not, however, think it safe to 
judge of works of genius merely by the 
event. The resistless vicissitudes of the 
heart, this alternate prevalence of mer- 
riment and solemnity, may sometimes be 
more properly ascribed to the vigor of 
the writer than the justness of the de- 

sign; and, instead of vindicating tragi- 
comedy by the success of Shakespeare, 
we ought, perhaps, to pay new honors 
to that transcendent and unbounded 
genius that could preside over the pas- 
sions in sport; who, to actuate the affec- 
tions, needed not the slow gradation of 
common means, but could fill the heart 
with instantaneous jollity or sorrow, and 
vary our disposition as he changed his 
scenes. Perhaps the effects even of 
Shakespeare's poetry might have been 
yet greater, had he not counteracted 
himself; and we might even have been 
more interested in the distresses of his 
heroes, had we not been so frequently 
diverted by the jokes of his buffoons. 

There are other rules more fixed and 
obligatory. It is necessary that of every 
play the chief action should be single; 
and since a play represents some trans- 
action, through its regular maturation 
to its final event, two actions equally im- 
portant must evidently constitute two 

As the design of tragedy is to instruct 
by moving the passions, it must always 
have a hero, a personage apparently and 
incontestably superior to the rest, upon 
whom the attention may be fixed and the 
anxiety suspended. For though of two 
persons opposing each other with equal 
abilities and equal virtue, the auditor 
will inevitably in time choose his fa- 
vorite, yet as that choice must be with- 
out any cogency of conviction, the hopes 
or fears which it raises will be faint and 
languid. Of two heroes acting in con- 
federacy against a common enemy, the 
virtues or dangers will give little emo- 
tion, because each claims our concern 
with the same right, and the heart lies 
at rest between equal motives. 

It ought to be the first endeavor of a 
writer to distinguish nature from cus- 
tom; or that which is established because 
it is right, from that which is right only 
because it is established; that he may 
neither violate essential principles by a 
desire of novelty, nor debar himself from 
the attainment of beauties within his 
view, by a needless fear of breaking 
rules which no literary dictator had au- 
thority to enact. 




Oliver Goldsmith was born, probably 
at Smith-Hill House, Elphin, Roscom- 
mon, Ireland, in 1758. Soon after his 
birth his family moved to Kilkenny 
West, where Oliver first went to school. 
At the age of nine he left the little 
school at Kilkenny, and attended sev- 
eral academies. In 1744 he went to 
Trinity College, Dublin, where he barely 
managed to make a living. His per- 
sonal ungainliness and crude manners 
prevented his making many acquaint- 
ances, so that his college fife was a mis- 
erable one. He was graduated in 1749, 
after the death of his father, and went 
to live with his mother. He cast about 
him in search of a profession. He was 
a tutor at one time, but lost his position 
as the result of a quarrel. He decided 
later to emigrate to America, but missed 
his ship. He then determined to study 
law, and once again set forth to Dub- 
lin, where he gambled away the fifty 
pounds which had been given him. 
When he was twenty-four he was again 
endowed and went to Edinburgh to 
study medicine, where for a year and 
a half he made some slight pretense at 
attending lectures, and then went to Ley- 
den, presumably to continue his studies. 
From Holland he proceeded on a walk- 
ing tour through Flanders, France, 
Switzerland, and the north of Italy, 
gaining a subsistence on the road with 
his flute. In 1756 he returned to Eng- 
land, without a penny in his pocket, al- 
though he had, according to his own 
statement, received a doctor's degree. 
In London he turned his hand to every 
sort of work: translation, the writing 
of superficial histories, children's books, 
and general articles. One of the works 
of this period which is still included in 
the Works is the Enquiry into the State 
of Polite Learning in Europe. Through 
the publication of The Bee and the Life 
of Beau yash, Goldsmith achieved consid- 
erable popularity, and his fortunes be- 
gan to mend. He belonged to the cir- 
cle of Johnson, Burke, Revnolds, and 
was one of "The Club." The Traveller 
appeared in 1764, and his reputation as 
a poet was firmly established. The Vi- 

car of Wakefield, published two years 
later, increased his popularity, and "when 
he produced his first play, The Good- 
natur'd Man (1768), though the play 
was not a success, it was widely read in 
book-form. In 1770 came The' Deserted 
Village, and three years after his dra- 
matic masterpiece, She Stoops to Con- 
quer, which was highly successful. 
Goldsmith was meanwhile busy with a 
great deal of hack-work — the" Xatural 
History, the histories of England, Rome, 
and Greece — which were very remunera- 
tive. But Goldsmith's carelessness, his 
intemperance, and his habit of gambling, 
soon brought him into debt. Broken in 
health and mind, he died in 1774. 

In one of his earliest works, the En- 
quiry into the Present State of Polite 
Learning (1759) Goldsmith gave utter- 
ance to the thought which was to be his 
guiding star in the field of the drama. 
He says : " Does the poet paint the ab- 
surdities of the vulgar, then he is low; 
does he exaggerate the features of folly, 
to render it more ridiculous, he is then 
very low. In short, they have proscribed 
the comic or satirical muse from every 
walk but high life, which, though abound- 
ing in fools as well as the humblest sta- 
tion, is by no means so fruitful in ab- 
surdity." It was Goldsmith's mission to 
render more natural the comedy of his 
time, and strike a decisive blow at the 
genteel or sentimental comedy, which he 
later termed a " kind of mulish produc- 
tion, with all the defects of its opposite 
parents, and marked with sterility." 
Goldsmith wrote comparatively little on 
the drama — the passages in the Enquiry 
already referred to, an occasional para- 
graph in the Essays, the important Essay 
on the Theatre, and the brief Preface to 
The Good-natured Man — are practically 
all he had to say on the subject. 

On the drama: 

An Enquiry into the Present State of 
Polite Learning in Europe (London, 
1759). (The Citizen of the World and 
The Bee mav also be consulted for 
occasional references to the drama.) 



Preface to The Qood-natur'd Man 

An Essay on the Theatre; or, a Com- 
parison Between Laughing and Senti- 
mental Comedy (1772). 

Editions : 

The first general edition of Goldsmith 
is the Miscellaneous Works (London, 
1775). The best modern edition is the 
Works, edited by J. W. M. Gibbs, 5 
vols. (London, 1884-86). A good an- 
notated edition of the plays, with a 
bibliography and reprint of the Essay 
on the Theatre, is The Qood-natur'd 
Man and She Stoops to Conquer, with 
an introduction by Austin Dobson 
(Boston, 1911). 

On Goldsmith and his works: 

Sir James Prior, The Life of Oliver 
Goldsmith, 2 vols. (London, 1837). 

John Forster, The Life and Adventures 
of Oliver Goldsmith, 2 vols. (2nd ed., 
London, 1854). 

Washington Irving, The Life of Oliver 
Goldsmith, 2 vols. (New York, 1844 ff.). 

W. M. Thackeray, The English Humour- 
ists of the Eighteenth Century (mod- 
ern reprint in Everyman's Library, 

William Black, Goldsmith (London, 

Austin Dobson, Life of Oliver Gold- 
smith (revised ed., Ney York, 1899). 

F. F. Moore, The Life of Oliver Gold- 
smith (latest ed., New York, 1911). 



The theater, like all other amusements, 
has its fashions and its prejudices: and 
when satiated with its excellence man- 
kind begin to mistake change for im- 
provement. For some years tragedy 
was the reigning entertainment; but of 
late it has entirely given way to comedy, 
and our best efforts are now exerted in 
these lighter kinds of composition. The 
pompous train, the swelling phrase, and 
the unnatural rant, are displaced for 
that natural portrait of human folly and 
frailty, of which all are judges, because 
all have sat for the picture. 

But as in describing nature it is pre- 
sented with a double face, either of mirth 
or sadness, our modern writers find them- 
selves at a loss which chiefly to copy 
from; and it is now debated, whether 
the exhibition of human distress is likely 
to afford the mind more entertainment 
than that of human absurdity? 

Comedy is defined by Aristotle to be 
a picture of the frailties of the lower 
part of mankind, to distinguish it from 
tragedy, which is an exhibition of the 
misfortunes of the great. When com- 
edy, therefore, ascends to produce the 

l Re-printed from The Qood-Natur'd Man 
and She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Gold- 
smith,, with an Introduction by Austin Dobson 
(Boston, 1911). — Ed. 

characters of princes or generals upon 
the stage, it is out of its walks, since 
low life and middle life are entirely its 
object. The principal question, there- 
fore, is, whether, in describing low or 
middle life, an exhibition of its follies 
be not preferable to a detail of its ca- 
lamities? Or, in other words, which de- 
serves the preference, — the weeping sen- 
timental comedy so much in fashion at 
present, or the laughing, and even low 
comedy, which seems to have been last 
exhibited by Vanbrugh and Cibber? 

If we apply to authorities, all the 
great masters in the dramatic art have 
but one opinion. Their rule is, that as 
tragedy displays the calamities of the 
great, so comedy should excite our laugh- 
ter by ridiculously exhibiting the follies 
of the lower part of mankind. Boileau, 
one of the best modern critics, asserts 
that comedy will not admit of tragic 
distress: — 


Le comique, ennemi des soupirs et des 
'admet point dans ses vers de tragiques 

Nor is this rule without the strongest 
foundation in nature, as the distresses of 
the mean by no means affect us so 



strongly as the calamities of the great. 
When tragedy exhibits to us some great 
man fallen from his height, and strug- 
gling with want and adversity, we feel 
his situation in the same manner as we 
suppose he himself must feel, and our 
pity is increased in proportion to the 
height from which he fell. On the con- 
trary, we do not so strongly sympathize 
with one born in humbler circumstances, 
and encountering accidental distress: so 
that while we melt for Belisarius, we 
scarcely give halfpence to the beggar 
who accosts us in the street. The one 
has our pity, the other our contempt. 
Distress, therefore, is the proper object 
of tragedy, since the great excite our 
pity by their fall; but not equally so of 
comedy, since the actors employed in it 
are originallv so mean, that they sink 
but little by "their fall. 

Since the first origin of the stage, 
tragedy and comedy have run in distinct 
channels, and never till of late en- 
croached upon the provinces of each 
other. Terence, who seems to have made 
the nearest approaches, always judi- 
ciously stops short before he comes to 
the downright pathetic; and yet he is 
even reproached by Caesar for wanting 
the vis co mica. All the other comic 
writers of antiquity aim only at render- 
ing folly or vice ridiculous, but never 
exalt their characters into buskined 
pomp, or make what Voltaire humorously 
calls a tradesman's tragedy. 

Yet notwithstanding this weight of au- 
thority, and the universal practice of 
former ages, a new species of dramatic 
composition has been introduced, under 
the name of sentimental comedy, in 
which the virtues of private life are ex- 
hibited, rather than the vices exposed; 
and the distresses rather than the faults 
of mankind make our interest in the 
piece. These comedies have had of late 
great success, perhaps from their nov- 
elty, and also from their flattering every 
man in his favorite foible. In these 
plays almost all the characters are good, 
and exceedingly generous; they are lav- 
ish enough of their tin money on the 
stage; and though they want humor, 
have abundance of sentiment and feel- 
ing. If they happen to have faults or 
foibles, the spectator is taught, not only 
to pardon, but to applaud them, in con- 

sideration of the goodness of their hearts; 
so that folly, instead of being ridiculed, 
is commended, and the comedy aims at 
touching our passions without the power 
of being truly pathetic. In this manner 
we are likely to lose one great source 
of entertainment on the stage; for while 
the comic poet is invading the province 
of the tragic muse, he leaves her lovely 
sister quite neglected. Of this, however, 
he is no way solicitous, as he measures 
his fame by his profits. 

But it will be said, that the theater 
is formed to amuse mankind, and that 
it matters little, if this end be answered, 
by what means it is obtained. If man- 
kind find delight in weeping at comedy, 
it would be cruel to abridge them in 
that or any other innocent pleasure. If 
those pieces are denied the name of com- 
edies, yet call them by any other name 
and, if they are delightful, they are 
good. Their success, it will be said, is 
a mark of their merit, and it is only 
abridging our happiness to deny us an 
inlet to amusement. 

These objections, however, are rather 
specious than solid. It is true that 
amusement is a great object of the thea- 
ter, and it will be allowed that these 
sentimental pieces do often amuse us; 
but the question is, whether the true 
comedy would not amuse us more? The 
question is, whether a character sup- 
ported throughout a piece, with its ridi- 
cule still attending, would not give us 
more delight than this species of bastard 
tragedy, which only is applauded be- 
cause it is new? 

A friend of mine, who was sitting un- 
moved at one of these sentimental pieces, 
was asked how he could be so indiffer- 
ent? " Why, truly," says he, " as the 
hero is but a tradesman, it is indifferent 
to me whether he be turned out of his 
counting-house on Fish Street Hill, since 
he will still have enough left to open shop 
in St. Giles's." 

The other objection is as ill-grounded; 
for though we should give these pieces 
another name, it will not mend their 
efficacy. It will continue a kind of mul- 
ish production, with all the defects of its 
opposite parents, and marked with 
sterility. If we are permitted to make 
comedy weep, we have an equal right 
to make tragedy laugh, and to set down 



in blank verse the jestg and repartees 
of all the attendants in a funeral pro- 

But there is one argument in favor of 
sentimental comedy, which will keep it 
on the stage, in spite of all that can be 
said against it. It is, of all others, the 
most easily written. Those abilities that 
can hammer out a novel are fully suffi- 
cient for the production of a sentimental 
comedy. It is only sufficient to raise the 
characters a little; to deck out the hero 
with a riband, or give the heroine a 
title; then to put an insipid dialogue, 
without character or humor, into their 
mouths, give them mighty good hearts, 
very fine clothes, furnish a new set of 
scenes, make a pathetic scene or two, 
with a sprinkling of tender melancholy 

conversation through the whole, and 
there is no doubt but all the ladies will 
cry and all the gentlemen applaud. 

Humor at present seems to be depart- 
ing from the stage, and it will soon hap- 
pen that our comic players will have 
nothing left for it but a fine coat and a 
song. It depends upon the audience 
whether they will actually drive those 
poor merry creatures from the stage, 
or sit at a play as gloomy as at the 
Tabernacle. It is not easy to recover 
an art when once lost; and it will be 
but a just punishment, that when, by our 
being too fastidious, we have banished 
humor from the stage, we should our- 
selves be deprived of the art of laugh- 


From the Renaissance to the Present Day 

Italian Dramatic Criticism of the Seventeenth Century . . . 241 
Italian Dramatic Criticism of the Eighteenth Century . . . 241 

Italian Dramatic Criticism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth 

Centuries 242 

Note. Brief extract from Gozzi's Memoirs (1797) 242 

Bibliography 243 

Carlo Goldoni 244 

Bibliography 245 

The Comic Theater [11 Teatro comico] translated by H. C. Chatfield- 
Taylor (1751). Extracts 246 

Memoirs [Memoires] translated by the editor (1787). Extracts . 247 



For at least a century the great Ren- 
aissance critics overshadowed their suc- 
cessors in Italy, and the record of sev- 
enteenth century criticism is largely one 
of more or less pedantic compilation, 
classification, and repetition. The lack 
of a new interest in antiquity, such as 
served Daniello, Trissino, Scaliger and 
Castelvetro, and the scanty offerings of 
native dramatic products, are sufficient 
to account for the lack of outstanding 
contributions to dramatic theory. Beni's 
DUpulatio (1600) was among the last 
works mentioned under Italian Renais- 
sance Criticism. Close upon it, in 1601, 
came Giovanni Bernardo Brandi's Trat- 
tato dell' Arte Poetica. In 1613 ap- 
peared Chiodino da Monte Melone's rhe- 

torical treatise, and in 1618 Pellegrino's 
Discorso della Poetica, and soon after, 
the similar works of Udeno Nisieli and 
Giovanni Colle Bellunese. A curious 
work of the time is P. M. Cecchini's 
Frutti delle moderne commedie etavisi 
a chi le recita (1628). An ambitious ef- 
fort was Celso Zani's Poetica ecclesias- 
tica e civile . . . nella quale si pone in 
chiaro la Diffinizione della Poesia com- 
mune alia Tragedia e alV Epopeja 
(1643). The list is practically complete 
with the minor works on poetics by 
Flavio Querengo and Benedetto Men- 
zini. In 1699 A. Perrucci published his 
Dell' arte rappregentativa premeditata e 
all' improvviso. 



Four critics of varying importance 
opened the new century with works 
which exerted considerable influence: 
Crescimbeni, Gravina, Muratori, and 
Quadrio, contributed historical and crit- 
ical works many of which were effective 
in restoring Italy to a position of honor 
in the critical world. Giovanni Maria 
Crescimbeni published La Bellezza della 
volyar Poesia in 1700, but enlarged it for 
the edition of 1730. For the most part 
his work was one of compilation. An- 
other work, a sort of historical survey, 
was Gianvincenzo Gravina's Della Ra- 
tion poetica (170i), though of course his 
Delia Tragedia is of greater interest and 
importance as a dramatic tract. A man 
of greater insight and learning was Ludo- 
vico Antonio Muratori, whose Della per- 
fetta Poesia italiana (1706) exerted 

greater influence than the works of any 
of his group. Scipione Maffei and F. 
Palesi wrote minor works on litera- 
ture and the drama, while Luigi Ricco- 
boni wrote his treatises on the theaters 
in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, be- 
sides a theoretical work, Dell' arte rap- 
presentatica (1725). Francesco Xavier 
Quadrio opened the way to the compara- 
tive study and criticism of literature, 
and his Della Storia della Ragione 
d'ogni Poesia (1739-52) is an ambitious 
attempt to cover the entire field of 
poetry. Francesco Maria Zanotti wrote 
a Poetica in 1768, and Girolamo Tira- 
boschi continued, though with greater 
knowledge and insight, the work of Cres- 
cimbeni, in his Storia della Letteratura 
italiana (1772-82). Meantime the dram- 
atists themselves began to explain their 




theories. The eighteenth century marks 
the dawn of a truly national Italian 
drama. Scipione Maffei's Merope was 
produced in 1714, and not long after 
Apostolo Zeno, considered the father of 
modern opera, came into prominence. 
With the advent of Carlo Goldoni, an 
innovator of the greatest importance, the 
Commedia dell' Arte (Comedy of Masks, 
or Improvised Comedy), was attacked. 
The Commedia dell' Arte, in which a 
scenario served as the basis of a series 
of improvised dialogues by a number of 
well-recognized type characters, had 
been the most typical of Italian dramatic 
products. Goldoni, whose aim it was to 
imitate Moliere and introduce a sort 
of realistic comedy into Italy, felt it 
necessary to do away with the Commedia 
dell' Arte, and in his numerous prefaces, 
and particularly in his Memoires (1787) 
he argued against the old form. His 
principal antagonist was the dramatist 
Carlo Gozzi, whose ftabi, or dramatized 
fairy tales, were an attempt to resusci- 
tate the art of the old Commedia dell' 
Arte. In his Prefaces, or RagionamenU 
and in his Memorie (1797) i he maintains 

1 A brief extract from Carlo Gozzi's Mem- 
oirs (1797), translated by J. A. Symonds 
(London, 1890) : 

" You cannot fabricate a drama worthy to 
impress the public mind for any length of 
time by heaping up absurdities, marvels, scur- 
rilities, prolixities, puerilities, insipidities, and 
nonsense. The neglect into which the imita- 
tions of my manner speedily fell proves this. 
Much the same may be said about those other 
species — romantic or domestic, intended to 
move tears or laughter — those cultured and 
realistic kinds of drama, as people call them, 
though they were generally devoid of culture 
and of realism, and were invariably as like 
each other as two peas, which occupied our 
stage for thirty years at least. All the good 

his theories against Goldoni's. Mean- 
while Zeno's successor, Pietro Metas- 
tasio, carried on his work, and his operas 
were popular throughout the world until 
the nineteenth century. His chief crit- 
ical contribution to the theory of the 
drama was a commentary on Aristotle, 
Estratto dell' Arte Poetica d'Aristotile 
(1782). Vittorio Alfieri, one of the 
greatest dramatists of Italy, touched 
upon dramatic matters in his auto- 
biography (Vita di Vittorio Alfieri 
scritta da esso, 1804), and in his various 
Lettere and essays on tragedy, but his 
revolutionary spirit was manifest rather 
in his plays than in his references to the 
theory behind them. 

Almost contemporary with Alfieri 
were the three great Revolutionary poets 
and dramatists: Manzoni, Foscolo, and 
Monti, each of whom contributed to the 
Romantic triumph in Italy. Manzoni, in 
particular, was an important figure; his 
Preface to the play Carmagnola (1820) 
and his Letter on the Unities (1823), are 
landmarks of dramatic theory. 

and bad that has been written and printed 
about my fables; the fact that they still hold 
the stage in Italy and other countries where 
they are translated in spite of their compara- 
tive antiquity ; the stupid criticisms which are 
still being vented against them by starving 
journalists and envious bores, who join the 
cry and follow these blind leaders of the blind 
— criticisms only based upon the titles and 
arguments I chose to draw from old wives' 
tales and stories of the nursery — all this 
proves that there is real stuff in the fabulous, 
poetical allegorical genre which I created. I 
say this without any presumptuous partiality 
for the children of my fancy ; nor do I resent 
the attacks which have been made upon them, 
for I am human enough to pity the hungry and 
the passioa-blindecL" — Ed. 


The Italian drama of the nineteenth 
century — or all but the closing years — 
was based upon the traditions of the 
past. There is very little of note in the 
field of dramatic criticism proper, though 
at least two great literary critics and 
estheticians ought to be named: Fran- 
cesco de Sanctis and Benedetto Croce. 

Each of these writers has contributed 
valuable material to esthetics and criti- 
cism, but comparatively little to dra- 
matic theory. 

The modern dramatists have likewise 
had little to say, though Giuseppe Gia- 
cosa has lectured widely on the subject 
of his own art. 



General references on Italian litera- 
ture from the Renaissance to the pres- 
ent day: 

A. d'Ancona e O. Bacci, Manuale della 

letteratura italiana, 6 vols. (Firenze, 

Vernon Lee, Studies of the Eighteenth 

Century in Italy (2nd ed., Chicago, 

M. Mignon, Etudes de litterature itali- 

enne (Paris, 1912). 
Richard Garnett, A History of Italian 

Literature (New York, 1909). 
L. Collison-Morley, Modern Italian Lit- 
erature (Boston, 1912). 
V. Rossi, Storia della letteratura italiana 

per uso dei licei, 3 vols. (Milano, 1907). 
Tullio Concari, II Settecento (in series 

Storia letteraria, etc* Milano, 1898- 

M. Landau, Geschichte der italienischen 

Literatur im IS. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 

Amedee Roux, Histoire de la litterature 

contemporaine en Italic, etc (1859— 

7-1) (Paris, 1896). 
L. Etienne, Histoire de la litterature 

italienne (Paris, 1884). 
H. Hauvette, La Litterature italienne 

(Paris, 1906). 
G. Mazzoni, L'Ottocento (in series, Storia 

letteraria, etc., Milano, 1898-1913). 

References on Italian drama from the 
Renaissance to the present day: 

E. Masi, Studi sulla Storia del teatro 

italiana (Firenze, 1891). 
Giuseppe Guerzoni, // Teatro italiano nel 

secolo XVIII (Milano, 1876). 
Philippe Monnier, Venise au XVIII' 

siecle (Lausanne, 1907. Translated 

anonymously, Boston, 1910). 
Eugenio Camerini, / Precursori del Gol- 

doni (Milano, 1872). 
G. G. de Rossi, Del Moderno teatro 

italiano (Bassano, 1794). 
P. F. Biancolelli, Xouveau The"dtre ital- 

ien (An vers, 1713). 
L. Stoppate, La Commedia popolare in 

Italia (Padova, 1887). 
Michele Scherillo, La Commodia dell' 

Arte in Italia (Torino, 1880). 
O. Marchini-Capasso, Goldoni e la Com- 
media delt' Arte (Napoli, 1912). 
L. Riccoboni, Histoire du Theatre italien 

(Paris, 1731). 

Winifred Smith, The Commedia dell' 
Arte (New York, 1912). . 

Anonymous, An Essay upon the Present 
State of the Theatre in France, Eng- 
land, and Italy (London, 1760). 

J. C. Walker, Historical and Critical Es- 
say on the Revival of the Drama in 
Italy (Edinburgh, 1805). 

, Historical Memoir on Italian Trag- 
edy, etc (London, 1799). 

Charles Rabany, Carlo Goldoni. Le 
Theatre et la vie en Italie au XVIII' 
siecle (Paris, 1896). 

Carlo Goldoni, Me moires (Paris, 1787. 
Reprinted with preface and notes by 
Guido Mazzoni in two volumes as 
Memorie di Carlo Goldoni, Firenze, 
1907. Translated by John Black as 
Memoirs of Carlo Goldoni, 2 vols., 
London, 1814. Abridged ed., edited 
by W. D. Howells, Boston, 1877). 

, Lettere (Modern edition, Bologna, 


H. C. Chatfield-Taylor, Goldoni, a Biog- 
raphy (New York, 1913). 

E. M. Leopardi, II Melodramma del 
Metastasio e la sua fortuna nel secolo 
XVIII (Napoli, 1909). 

Charles Burney, Memoirs of the Life 
and Writings of the Abate Metastasio, 
etc., 3 vols. (London, 1796). 

Nathan Haskell Dole, A Teacher of 
Dante, etc (New York, 1908). 

Carlo Gozzi, Memorie inutili, etc, 3 vols. 
(Venezia, 1797. Translated, with an 
introduction, by J. A. Symonds, as 
Memoirs of Carlo Gozzi, 2 vols., Lon- 
don, 1890). 

Giovanni Battista Magrini, I Tempi, la 
Vita e gli Scritti di Carlo Gozzi 
(Benevento, 1883). 

G. Costetti, II Teatro italiano nel 1800 
(Rocca di S. Cassiano, 1901). 

Gaetano Zocchi, II Teatro italiano a' 

tempi nostri (Prato, 1885). 
Addison McLeod, Plays and Players of 

Modern Italy (London, 1912). 
Henrv Lyonnet, Le Thidtre en Italie 

(Paris, 1900). 

, Pulcinella et Cie (Paris, 1901). 

Jean Dornis, Le Theatre italien contem- 

porain (Paris, 1898). 
A. Lalia-Paternostro, Studi drammatici 

(Napoli, 1903). 
Barrett H. Clark, The Continental Drama 

of Today (2nd ed., New York, 




G. M. Scalinger, Teatro sociologico (Na- 
poli, 1902). 

F. Martini, Al teatro (Firenze, 1908). 
Cesare Levi, Letteratura drammatica 

(Milano, 1900). 

References on Italian dramatic criti- 
cism and theory from the Renaissance to 
the present day: 

G. Trezza, La critica moderna (2nd ed., 
Bologna, 1880). 

L. Morandi, Antologia delta nostra crit- 
ica letteraria moderna (4th ed., Citta 
di Castello, 1889). 

P. Ferrieri, Francesco de Sanctis e la 
critica letteraria (Milano, 1888). 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vols. 2 and 3 (New York, 1902- 

A. Galletti, Le Teorie drammatiche e la 
tragedia in Italia nel secolo XVIII 
(Cremona, 1901). 


Carlo Goldoni was born at Venice in 
1707. From his earliest years he ap- 
pears to have been interested in the 
theater: his toys were puppets and his 
books, plays. It is said that at the age 
of eight he attempted to write a play. 
The boy's father placed him under the 
care of the philosopher Caldini at Ri- 
mini but the youth soon ran away with 
a company of strolling players and came 
to Venice. There he began to study law; 
he continued his studies at Pavia, though 
he relates in his Memoirs that a consid- 
erable part of his time was spent in 
reading Greek and Latin comedies. He 
had already begun writing at this time, 
and, as the result of a libel in which 
he ridiculed certain families of Pavia, 
he was forced to leave the city. He 
continued his law studies at Udine, 
and eventually took his degree at Mo- 
dena. He was employed as law clerk 
at Chioggia and Feltre, after which he 
returned to his native city and began 
practicing. But his true vocation was 
the theater, and he made his bow with 
a tragedy, Amalasunta, produced at Mi- 
lan, but this was a failure. His next 
play, Belisario, written in 1734, succeeded. 
He wrote other tragedies for a time, but 
he was not long in discovering that his 
bent was for comedy. He had come to 
realize that the Italian stage needed re- 
forming, and adopting Moliere as his 
model, he went to work in earnest, and 
in 1738 produced his first real comedy, 
L'Uomo di mondo. During his numer- 
ous wanderings and adventures in Italy, 
he was constantly at work, and when, at 

Leghorn, he becoming acquainted with 
the manager Medebac, he determined to 
pursue the profession of playwriting in 
order to make a living. He was em- 
ployed by Medebac to write plays for 
his theater in Venice. He worked for 
other managers, and produced during his 
stay in that city some of his most char- 
acteristic works. In 1761 he went to 
Paris, where he continued to write. 
Among the plays which he wrote in 
French, the most successful was Le 
Bourru bienfaisant, produced on the oc- 
casion of the marriage of Louis XVI 
and Marie Antoinette in 1771. He en- 
joyed considerable popularity in France, 
and when he retired to Versailles the 
King gave him a pension. But when the 
Revolution broke out, he was deprived 
of it. The day after his death, how- 
ever, the Convention voted to restore the 
pension. He died in 1793. 

Goldoni was the great reformer of 
Italian comedy. His importance, which 
consisted rather in giving good examples 
than precepts, lay in his having regu- 
larized the drama of his country, and 
brought it from the conventionality of 
the Commedia dell' Arte, or improvised 
comedy. He rightly maintained that 
Italian life and manners were susceptible 
of artistic treatment on a much higher 
plane than had been accorded it before 
his day. Although Goldoni admired 
Moliere and often tried to emulate if 
not imitate him, his plays are gentler 
and more optimistic in tone. He relates 
at considerable length in his Memoirs 
the state of Italian comedy when he be- 



gan writing, and his works are a lasting 
monument to the changes which he 
brought about. Goldoni's plays are 
themselves the justification of his theory, 
and need no explanation, but his theories 
are interesting and valuable. These he 
set forth in his Memoirs, his prefaces, 
and in many places throughout the play 
II Teatro comico. 

On the drama: 

Outside the many prefaces to the va- 
rious editions, Goldoni's principal 
writings on the drama are in the 
Teatro Comico (1751) and the MSm- 
oires (1787). 


The early editions are not complete, and 
there is considerable confusion in col- 
lating them. The Pasquali edition, in 
17 vols. (Venice, 1761, and following), 
authorized by Goldoni, is the best of 
the early editions. The Tasso edition, 
45 vols. (Venice, 1823-27), is a good 
modern edition, while the Opere com- 
plete, published by the Municipality of 
Venice (begun in 1907 and now in 
course of publication) will take its 
place as the definitive edition. The 
Me moires de M. Goldoni pour servir 
a Yhistoire de sa vie et a celle de son 
theatre, were published in three vols., 
Paris, 1787. The best modern edition 
is the reprint, Memorie di Carlo Gol- 
doni, with preface and notes by Guido 
Mazzoni, in 2 vols. (Firenze, 1907). 
These are translated as Memoirs of 
Goldoni, translated by John Black, 2 
vols. (London, 1814. Reprinted in A 
Collection of the Most Instructive and 
Amusing Lives ever Published, vol. 23, 
London, 18.28). An abridgement, with 
an essay by \V. D. Howells, was pub- 
lished at Boston in 1877. H. C. Chat- 
field-Taylor's biography (see below) 
contains translated extracts from the 
plays, prefaces, and Memoirs. 

On Goldoni and his works: 

Prefaces to various editions of the works. 
Mdmoires de M. Goldoni, 2 vols. (Paris, 
1787). V 

Luigi Carrer, Saggi su la vita e le opere 
di Carlo Goldoni, 3 vols. (Venezia, 

Giovanni Gherardini, Vita di Carlo Gol- 
doni (Milano, 1821). 

Ferdinando Meneghezzi, Delia Vita e 
delle opere di Carlo Goldoni (Milano, 

Edward Copping, Alfieri and Goldoni 
(London, 1857). 

Carlo Borghi, Memorie sulla Vita di 
Carlo Goldoni (Modena, 1859). 

V. de Amicis, La Commedia po polar e 
latina e la commedia dell' arte (Na- 
poli, 1882). 

Alfonso Aloi, 7/ Goldoni e la Commedia 
delf Arte (Catania, 1883). 

G. Bertoni, Carlo Goldoni e il teatro fran- 
cese del suo tempo (Modena, 1907). 

Virgilio Brocchi, Carlo Goldoni a Venezia 
nel secolo XV III (Bologna, 1907). 

Giulio Caprin, Carlo Goldoni, la sua vita, 
le sue opere (Milano, 1907). 

A. Cuman, La Riforma del Teatro com- 
ico italiano e Carlo Goldoni (in Ateneo 
veneto, vols. 22 & 23, Venezia, 1899- 

Angelo de Gubernatis, Carlo Goldoni (Fi- 
renze, 1911). 

Vernon Lee, Studies of the Eighteenth 
Century in Italy (2nd ed., Chicago, 

E. Von Lohner, Carlo Goldoni e le sue 
Memorie (in Archivio veneto, vols. 23 
6: 24, Venezia, 1882). 

Olga Marchini-Capasso, Goldoni e la 
commedia dell' arte (Bergamo, 1907). 

P. G. Molmenti, Carlo Goldoni (2nd ed., 
Venezia, 1880). 

Giuseppe Ortolani, Delia Vita e delV 
arte di Carlo Goldoni (Venezia, 1907). 

E. Pasqualini, Carlo Goldoni (Assisi, 

P. Petrocchi, Carlo Goldoni e la com- 
media (Milano, 1893). 

Charles Kabanv, Carlo Goldoni (Paris, 

Michele Scherillo, La Commedia delV 
arte in Italia (Torino, 1884). 

Winifred Smith; The Commedia dell' 
Arte (New York, 1912). 

Marietta Tovini, Studio su Carlo Goldoni 
(Firenze, 1900). 

H. C. Chatfield-Taylor, Goldoni, a Biog- 
raphy (Xew York, 1913). 




[II Teatro Cotnico] 


Comedy was invented to correct foibles 
and ridicule disagreeable babits; when 
the comedy of the ancients was written 
in this wise, the whole world liked it, for 
on seeing a fac-simile of a character upon 
the boards, everybody saw the original 
either in himself or in some one else. 
When comedy became merely ridiculous, 
nobody paid further attention to it, since 
under the pretext of causing laughter, 
the most high-sounding absurdities were 
permitted. Now that we are again fish- 
ing comedies out of the Mare viagnum 
of nature, men find themselves again 
searching their hearts and identifying 
themselves with the passion or the char- 
acter which is being represented, for 
they know how to discern whether a pas- 
sion is well depicted, whether a charac- 
ter is well sustained: in short, they 
observe. . . . 

The French have triumphed in the art 
of comedy during a whole century; it is 
now time for Italy to proclaim that in 
her the seed of good authorship is not 
dried up, Italian authors having been, 
after the Greeks and the Romans, the 
first to enrich and adorn the stage. The 
French in their comedies, it must be ad- 
mitted, present fine and well-sustained 
characters; moreover, they delineate pas- 
sions well, and their conceptions are 
acute, witty, and brilliant, but the public 
of that country is satisfied with a little. 
One single character is sufficient to main- 
tain a French comedy. Around a single 
passion well conceived and drawn, a great 
number of speeches vibrate which by dint 
of elocution present the air of novelty. 
We Italians demand much more. We 
wish the principal character to be strong, 
original, and well recognized . . . that 
the plot shall be fertile in incidents and 

1 Re-printed from the translated passages by 
the author in H. C. Chatfield-Taylor's Goldoni, 
A Biography (New York, 1913). — Ed. 

novelties. We demand morals mingled 
with quips and humor. We insist that 
the end be unexpected, but plainly de- 
rived from the trend of the action. We 
like to have an infinity of things too 
many to relate here, and it is only in the 
course of time that we can succeed in 
learning by practice and usage to know 
them and to obtain success with them. 

Aristotle began to write concerning 
comedy, but he did not finish, and we 
have from him but a few imperfect frag- 
ments regarding it. In his Poetics he 
prescribed the unity of place for trag- 
edy ; yet he did not mention comedy then. 
There are those who maintain that his 
statements about tragedy must be inter- 
preted as referring to comedy also, and 
that if he had finished his treatise on 
comedy, he would have prescribed the 
unity of place. But my answer is, that 
if Aristotle were now alive, he would 
cancel this obnoxious precept, because a 
thousand absurdities, a thousand blun- 
ders and improprieties are caused by it. 
I distinguish two kinds of comedy: pure 
comedy and comedies of intrigue. Pure 
comedy can be written with the unity of 
place. Comedy of intrigue cannot be 
thus written without crudity and incon- 
gruity. The ancients had not, like our- 
selves, a way to shift scenery, and for 
that reason they observed the unities. 
We have always observed the unity of 
place when the action occurs in the same 
city, and all the more when it remains in 
the same house. . . . Therefore, I con- 
clude that if comedy with the unity of 
places can be written without hair-split- 
ting or unseemliness, it should be done; 
but if on account of the unity of place 
absurdities have to be introduced, it is 
better to change the scenes and observe 
the rules of probability. 




[Memoiret to M. Goldoni, etc.] 


I wish that the Italian authors had 
continued after the appearance of this 
comedy [Macchiavelli's Mandragora] to 
write decent and honorable comedies, and 
that characters taken from nature had 
been substituted for fantastic intrigues. 

But it was left to Moliere to ennoble 
and render useful the comic stage, in 
exposing the vices and the laughable side 
of man to ridicule, for the purpose of 

1 was not yet acquainted with the 
works of that great man, for I did not 
understand French; but I made up my 
mind to learn it, and meantime I ac- 
quired the habit of observing men care- 
fully, and never lost sight of an original 
character. . . . (First Part, Ch. X.) 

..." I am now," said I to myself, 
" perfectly at my ease, and I can give 
free rein to my imagination. Hitherto I 
have labored on old subjects, but now I 
must create and invent for myself. I 
have the advantage of very promising 
actors; but in order to employ them use- 
fully I must begin with studying them. 
Every person has his peculiar character 
from nature; if the author gives him a 
part to represent in unison with his own, 
he may lay his account with success. 
Well, then," continued I, " this is perhaps 
the happy moment to set on foot the re- 
form which I have so long meditated. 
Yes, I must treat subjects of character: 
this is the source of good comedy; with 
this the great Moliere began his career, 
and he carried it to a degree of perfec- 
tion which the ancients merely indicated 
to us, and which the moderns have never 
seen equalled." 

Was I wrong to encourage myself in 
this way? No, for comedy was my forte, 
and good comedy was my ambition. I 
should have been in the wrong had I been 
so ambitious as to set myself alongside 
the masters of the art, but my sole de- 
sire was to reform and correct the abuses 
of the stage of my country; no great 

2 Translation by the Editor, based in part 
upon the John Black translation (1814) of the 
Memoirs. Selections. — Ed. 

scholarship was necessary to accomplish 
that. . . . 

That any character may be productive 
of effect on the stage, it has always ap- 
peared to me necessary to contrast it 
with characters of an opposite descrip- 
tion. . . . 

This play [Momolo Cortesan] was emi- 
nently successful, and I was happy. I 
saw my compatriots turn from their old 
love of farce: the reformation was at 
hand. But I could not yet flatter my- 
self that it was an accomplished fact, 
for the dialogue of the play is not 
written down. . . . That consistent style 
which is the mark of true authors, was 
not to be observed: 1 could not reform 
everything at once without shocking the 
lovers of the old style of national com- 
edy. I then awaited a favorable moment 
to attack them directly with more vigor 
and added sureness of touch. 

(First Part, Ch. XL.) 

. . . And, acting upon the maxim of 
comedy, ridendo castigat mores, I imag- 
ined that the theater might be converted 
into a school for the prevention of abuse 
and the consequences resulting from it 
(First Part, Ch. XLII.) 

The unities requisite for the perfection 
of theatrical works have in all times been 
the subject of discussion among authors 
and amateurs. 

The censors of my plays of character 
had nothing to reproach me with in re- 
spect to the unity of action and of time, 
but they maintained that in the unity of 
place I had been deficient. 

The action of my comedies was always 
confined to the same town, and the char- 
acters never departed from it It is true t 
that they went from one place to another ; 
but all these places were within the same 
walls ; and I was then and am still of the 
opinion that in this manner the unity of 
place was sufficiently observed. 

In every art and every discovery, expe- 
rience has always preceded precepts. In 



the course of time, a method had been 
assigned by writers to the practice of the 
invention, but modern . authors have al- 
ways possessed the right of putting an 
interpretation on the ancients. 

For my part, not finding either in the 
Poetics of Aristotle or Horace a clear 
and absolute precept founded on rea- 
son for the rigorous unity of place, I 
have always adhered to it when my sub- 
ject seemed susceptible of it; but I 
could never induce myself to sacrifice a 
good comedy for the sake of a prejudice 
which might have spoiled it. . . . 

In speaking of virtue, I do not mean 
an heroical virtue, affecting from its 
distresses, and pathetic from its diction. 
Those works which in France are called 
drames, have certainly their merit; they 
are a species of theatrical representation 
between tragedy and comedy, and an 
additional subject of entertainment for 
feeling hearts. The misfortunes of the 
heroes of tragedy interest us at a dis- 
tance, but those of our equals are calcu- 
lated to affect us more closely. 

Comedy, which is an imitation of na- 
ture, ought not to reject virtuous and 
pathetic sentiments, if the essential ob- 
ject be observed of enlivening it with 
those comic and prominent traits which 
are the very foundations of its existence. 

Far be it from me to indulge the fool- 
ish presumption of setting up for a pre- 
ceptor. I merely wish to impart to my 
readers the little I have learned, and 
have myself done; for in the most con- 
temptible books we always find some- 
thing deserving of attention. 

(Second Part, Ch. III.) 

In this city [Bologna], the mother of 
wisdom and the Athens of Italy, com- 
plaints had been made some years be- 
fore, of my reformation, as having a tend- 
ency to suppress the Four Masks of Ital- 
ian comedy. 

This sort of comedy was in greater esti- 
mation at Bologna than elsewhere. 
There were several persons of merit in 
that place who took delight in composing 
outlines of pieces, which were very well 
represented there by citizens of great 
ability, and were the delight of their 

The lovers of the old comedy, on see- 
ing the rapid progress of the new, de- 

clared everywhere that it was unworthy 
of an Italian to give a blow to a species 
of comedy in which Italy had attained 
great distinction, ond which no other na- 
tion had ever been able to imitate. 

But what made the greatest impression 
on the discontented, was the suppression 
of masks, which my system seemed to 
threaten. It was said that these per- 
sonages had been for two centuries the 
amusement of Italy, and that it ought 
not to be deprived of a species of comic 
diversion which it had created and so 
well supported. 

Before venturing to give my opinion 
of this subject I imagine the reader will 
have no objection to listen for a few 
moments to a short account of the origin, 
employments, and effects, of these four 

Comedy, which in all ages has been the 
favorite entertainment of civilized na- 
tions, shared the fate of the arts and sci- 
ences, and was buried under the ruins of 
the empire during the decay of letters. 

The germ of comedy, however, was 
never altogether extinguished in the fer- 
tile bosom of Italy. Those who first en- 
deavored to bring about its revival not 
finding, in an ignorant age, writers of 
sufficient skill, had the boldness to draw 
out plans, to distribute them into acts 
and scenes and to utter extempore, the 
subjects, thoughts, and witticisms which 
they had concerted among themselves. 

Those who could read (and neither the 
great nor the rich were of the number), 
finding that in the comedies of Plautus 
and Terence there were always duped 
fathers, debauched sons, enamored girls, 
knavish servants, and mercenary maids; 
and running over the different districts 
of Italy, they took the fathers from 
Venice and Bologna, the servants from 
Bergamo, and the lovers and waiting- 
maids from the dominions of Rome and 

Written proofs are not to be expected 
of what took place in a time when writ- 
ing was not in use: but I prove my asser- 
tion in this way: Pantaloon has always 
been a Venetian, the Doctor a Bolog- 
nese, and Brighella and Harlequin, Ber- 
gamasks; and from these places, there- 
fore, the comic personages called the 
Four Masks of the Italian comedy, were 
taken by the players. 



What I say on this subject is not alto- 
gether the product of my imagination: 
I possess a manuscript of the Fifteenth 
century, in very good preservation, and 
bound "in parchment, containing one hun- 
dred and twenty subjects, or sketches, 
of Italian pieces, called commedie dell' 
arte, and of which the basis of the comic 
humor are always Pantaloon, a Venetian 
merchant; the Doctor, a Bolognese law- 
yer; and Brighella and Harlequin, Berga- 
mesk valets, the first clever and sprightly, 
and the other a mere dolt. Their antiq- 
uity and their long existence indicate 
their origin. 

With respect to their employment, 
Pantaloon and the Doctor, called by the 
Italians the two old men, represent the 
part of fathers, and the other parts 
where cloaks are worn. 

The first is a merchant, because Venice 
in ancient times was the richest and 
most extensively commercial country in 
Italy. He has always preserved the an- 
cient Venetian costume; the black dress 
and woolen bonnet are still worn in Ven- 
ice; and the red under-waistcoat and 
breeches, cut out like drawers with red 
stockings and slippers, are a most exact 
representation of the equipment of the 
first inhabitants of the Adriatic marshes. 
The beard, which was considered an orna- 
ment in those remote ages, has been 
caricatured and rendered ridiculous in 
subsequent periods. 

The second old man, called the Doctor, 
was taken from among the lawyers, for 
the sake of opposing a learned man to 
a merchant; and Bologna was selected, 
because in that city there existed a uni- 
versity, which, notwithstanding the igno- 
rance of the times, still preserved the 
offices and emoluments of professors. 

In the dress of the Doctor we observe 
the ancient costume of the university and 
bar of Bologna, which is nearly the same 
at this day; and the idea of the singular 
mask which covers his face and nose was 
taken from a wine stain which disfigured 
the countenance of a lawyer of those 
tunes. This is a tradition still existing 
among the lovers of the commedia delT 

Brighella and Harlequin, called in 
Italy the two Zani, were taken from 
Bergamo; because, the former being a 
very sharp feJow and the other a stupid 

clown, these two extremes are only to be 
found among the lower orders of that 
part of the country. 

Brighella represents an intriguing, de- 
ceitful and knavish valet. His dress is a 
species of livery: his swarthy mask is a 
caricature of the color of the inhabitants 
of those high mountains, tanned by the 
heat of the sun. 

Some comedians in this character have 
taken the name of Fenocchio, Fiqueto, 
and Scapin; but they have always repre- 
sented the same valet and the same 

The harlequins have also assumed other 
names; they have been sometimes Tracag- 
nins, Truffaldins, Gradehns, and Meze- 
tins; but they have always been stupid 
Bergamasks. Their dress is an exact re- 
production of that of a poor devil who 
has picked up pieces of stuffs of differ- 
ent colors to patch his dress; but his hat 
corresponds with his mendicity, and the 
hare's tail with which it is adorned is 
still a common article of dress of the 
peasantry of Bergamo. 

I have thus, I trust, sufficiently demon- 
strated the origin and employment of the 
four masks of Italian comedy; it now 
remains for me to mention the effects 
resulting from them. 

The mask must always be very preju- 
dicial to the action of the performer 
either in joy or sorrow; whether he be 
in love, cross, or good-humored, the same 
features are always exhibited; and how- 
ever he may gesticulate and vary the 
tone, he can never convey by the coun- 
tenance, which is the interpreter of the 
heart, the different passions with which 
he is inwardly agitated. 

The masks of the Greeks and Romans 
were a sort of speaking-trumpets, in- 
vented for the purpose of conveying the 
sound through the vast extent of their 
amphitheaters. Passion and sentiment 
were not, in those times, carried to the 
pitch of delicacy which is now necessary. 
The actor must, in our day, possess a 
soul; and the soul under a mask is like 
a fire under ashes. 

These were the reasons which induced 
me to endeavor the reformation of the 
Italian theater, and to substitute com- 
edies for farces. 

(Second Part, Ch. XXIV.) 


Earliest and Neo-Classic Periods 

German Dramatic Criticism from the Beginnings to Lessing . . 253 
Bibliography „ . 254 

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing 255 

Bibliography 256 

Hamburg Dramaturgy [Hamburgische Dramaturgie] translated by 
E. C. Beasley and Helen Zimmern. (1767-69.) Extracts . . 256 




Owing to a variety of causes — the lack 
of political unity, among others — Ger- 
many was late in developing her litera- 
turej and what dramatic criticism there 
is before Lessing is more or less of the 
old style — Latin commentaries, state- 
ment and re-statement of the Rules, 
and grammatical disquisitions. Individ- 
ual figures stand out, however — like 
Opitz, Gottsched, and Johann Elias 
Schlegel — but none of these contributed 
theories of epoch-making importance. 

German dramatic criticism begins with 
German general criticism, somewhere to- 
ward the middle of the sixteenth century. 
It is doubtful just who was the beginner, 
though Sturm, Fabricius, and Pontanus 
all have just claims, while Schosser's pe- 
dantic Disputationes de Tragcedia ante- 
dated them all (1559). Johann Sturm 
was a scholar of no mean attainments, 
and his commentaries, letters, and the 
work on rhetoric, exercised some influ- 
ence, especially on his pupil Johann Lo- 
bart, who edited a commentary of Hor- 
ace's Art Poetica in 1576. Georgius 
Fabricius, the first part of whose De Re 
Poetica appeared in 1565 (an enlarged 
edition was published in 1571), shows 
signs of his acquaintance with Scaliger. 
Jacobus Pontanus [Spanmiiller] wrote 
an Institutiones Poeticae, a pedantic and 
unoriginal treatise which appeared in 
1594.1 But the first of the truly mod- 
ern and vernacular tractates was Martin 
Opitz' Buch von der Deutscher Poeterei 
(1624). This work, with all its short- 
comings, was the signal for a good deal 
jf more or less original work in Ger- 
many, though between its appearance 

l Some critics include two great Dutch 
-iters — Heinsius and Yoss — with the Early 
Germans. Daniel Heinsius published his De 
ragaediee Constitutione in 1611, and Gerard 
Toss his Commentarioritm Rhrtoricorum sive 
>ratoriarum Institutionum Libri Sex in 1609, 
hough the enlarged edition of 1643 contains 
auch more on the drama. 

and that of Gottsched's Versuch in 1730 
there was a large amount of the usual 
Latin scholarship and pedantic compila- 
tion. With Andreas Gryphius, the most 
important dramatist of the century, the 
English influence, which was beginning to 
be felt even in the days of Opitz, became 
more widespread, and in his plays, lec- 
tures, and prefaces he combatted the old 
rules of drama. Erdmann Neumeister 
followed Gryphius in his disregard of 
convention, while Philip von Zesen (in his 
De Poetica, 1656) and Augustine Buch- 
ner, in his Kurzer Wegiceiser sur Deutsch 
Tichtkunst (1663), continued the pedan- 
tic tradition. Johann Christoph Gott- 
sched exerted considerable influence 
over his contemporaries and successors. 
He was during a great part of the first 
half of the eighteenth century a literary 
dictator, and his Versuch einer kritischen 
Dichtkunst (1730) opened the eyes of 
Germany to the possibility of develop- 
ing her own literature. The spirit of the 
work was neo-classical, and Gottsched 
was a staunch admirer of the French 
critics. His quarrels with Bodmer and 
Breitinger, the Swiss critics, over Milton 
and other subjects, resulted in ignomini- 
ous defeat. Johann Jakob Bodmer is the 
author of the famous Diskurse der Mah- 
ler (1721), and J. J. Breitinger of the 
Kritische Dichtkunst (1740). Gott- 
sched's ideas were soon rejected by the 
public, but he had a number of follow- 
ers, chiefly among the small group of 
writers who founded the Bremer Bei- 
trdge in 1745. Among these were Gel- 
lert, Klopstock, and Johann Elias Schle- 
gel. Schlegel wrote a number of inter- 
esting essays on the drama, among the 
best of which is the Gedanken zur Auf- 
nahme des danischen Theaters. He was 
likewise a Shakespearian enthusiast, and 
has been called the founder of Shakes- 
peare study in his country. Moses Men- 
delssohn's Brief e are concerned, among 




other things, with Shakespeare criticism. 
But by all odds the greatest critic of 
the time, and one of the greatest of all 
time, was Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. 
While he wrote a vast amount of miscel- 
laneous criticism and a purely esthetic 
work — the Laokoon (1776) — his chief 
contribution to dramatic theory is his 
Hamburgische Dramaturgic (1769). 
These papers were originally published 
as disconnected dramatic criticisms, but 

taken as a whole, they none the less con- 
stitute a body of dramatic theory. Les- 
sing's principal task was to destroy the 
French models set up by Gottsched and 
others, to explain Aristotle, and to ex- 
hort his fellow dramatists to turn to 
England, where they would find a dra- 
matic form more flexible and better 
adapted to their genius than the rigidly 
fixed classical dramas of France. 

General references on German litera- 

K. Goedeke, Grundriss zur Geschichte der 
deutschen Dichtung, 4 vols. (Dresden, 

J ahresberichte fur neuere deutsche 
Liter -atur geschichte, 14 vols. (Berlin, 
1892 ff). 

K. Breul, Handy Bibliographical Guide 
to the German Language and Litera- 
ture (London, 1895). 

K. A. Koberstein, Grundriss zur Ge- 
schichte der deutschen Nationallitera- 
tur (New ed. by K. Bartsch, 5 vols., 
Leipzig, 1872-74). 

G. G. Gervinus, Geschichte der poetischen 
Nationalliteratur der Deutschen (New 
ed. by K. Bartsch, 5 vols., Leipzig, 

W. Wackernagel, Geschichte der 
deutschen Literatur (new ed. and con- 
tinuation by E. Martin, 2 vols., Basel, 
1879, 1885-94). 

A. F. C. Vilmar, Geschichte der 
deutschen Nationalliteratur (ed. by A. 
Stern, 1906). 

W. Scherer, Geschichte der deutschen 
Literatur (latest ed., Berlin, 1905). 

J. G. Robinson, A History of German 
Literature (New York, 1902). 

Kuno Francke, History of German Lit- 
erature as Determined by Social Forces 
(New York, 1911). 

Calvin Thomas, A History of German 
Literature (New York, 1908). 

General references on German drama: 

Robert E. Prutz, Vorlesungen iiber die 
Geschichte des deutschen Theaters 
(Leipzig, 1847). 

Carl Heine, Das Theater in Deutsch- 
land (1891). 

Carl Weitbrecht, Das deutsche Drama 

(Berlin, 1900). 
R. Prolss, Katechismus der Dramaturgie 

(2nd ed., Leipzig, 1890). 
, Geschichte der neueren Dramas, 3 

vols. (Leipzig, 1880-83). 

References on early German drama and 
German criticism: 

George Saintsbury, A History of Criti- 
cism, vol. 2 (New York, 1902). 

Karl Borinski, Die Poetik der Renais- 
sance und die Anfdnge der liter ari- 
schen Kritik in Deutschland (Berlin, 

Friedrich Braitmaier, Geschichte der po- 
etischen Theorie und Kritik von den 
Diskursen der Maler bis auf Lessing 
(Frauenfeld, 1889). 

C. M. Gayley and F. N. Scott, An Intro- 
duction to the Methods and Materials 
of Literary Criticism (Boston, 1899). 

R. Weitbrecht, Blatter fur literarische 
Unterhaltung (1891-11: 625, Kritiker 
und Dichter). 

T. S. Perry, From Opitz to Lessing 
(Boston, 1885). 

E. Grucker, Histoire des Doctrines lit- 
te"raires et esthetiques en Allemagne 
(Paris, 1883). 

Richard Beckherrn, M. Opitz, P. Bon- 
sard und D. Heinsius (Konigsberg, 

G. Belouin, De Gottsched a Lessing 
(Paris, 1909). 

Karl Holl, Zur Geschichte der Lustspielr 
theorie (Berlin, 1911). 

O. Wichmann, L'Art poUique de Boileau 
dans celui de Gottsched (Berlin, 1879). 

Walter Schinz, Le ProbUme de la tra- 
gidie en Allemagne (Paris, 1903). 



Max Poensgen, Oeschichte der Theorie 
der Tragodie von Gottsched bis Lea- 
sing (Leipzig, 1899). 

Danzel, Gottsched und seine Zeit (Leip- 
zig, 1848). 

J. Bintz, Der Ein/luss der Ars Poetica 
des Horaz auf die deutsche Literatur 
des xviii. Jahrhundert (Hamburg, 

Hugo Dinger, Dramaturgie als Wissen- 
schaft, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1904-05). 

Wilhelm von Scholz, Deutsche Drama- 
turgie, 3 vols. (Miinchen, 1913-14). 

Johann Cruger, /. C. Gottsched und die 
Schweher (Berlin, 1884). 

Madame de Stael, De VAllemagne (1810). 

Ida Bruhning, Le Theatre en Allemagne 
(Paris, 1887). 

A. W. Schlegel, Vorlesungen iiber dra- 
matische Kunst und Literatur (Ber- 
lin, 1809-11. Translated by J. Black, 
as Lectures on Dramatic Art and 
Literature; Bohn ed., London, 1914). 


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was born at 
Kainenz in 1739. His preliminary school- 
ing was received at Meissen, whence he 
went to the University of Leipzig, where 
he studied theology. He was not long in 
discovering that his interests lay rather 
in literature and philosophy, and he went 
to Berlin, where for five years he led a 
precarious and hand-to-mouth existence 
as a literary hack. Thence he went to 
Wittenberg, where he took his M.A. de- 
gree. He did some miscellaneous writ- 
ing, alone, and in collaboration with 
Moses Mendelssohn. He had been early 
attracted to the theater, and in his youth 
be had written a number of small plays 
and translated others. His first impor- 
tant play, Hiss Sara Sampson, appeared 
in 1755. The next few years found him 
doing all sorts of work and in many 
cities, but in 1758 he returned to Berlin 
and edited a review, Litteraturbriefe, 
which attracted a great deal of attention. 
From 1760 to 1765 he was secretary to 
the Governor of Breslau, and in 1766 he 
mblished his famous Laokoon. The fol- 
owing year he produced Minna von 
iBarnhelm, the first great German com- 
edy. In 1767 he was called to Hamburg 
'is critic of the new National Theater, 
ind for two years he published the criti- 
cisms which were re-printed as the Ham- 
mrgische Dramaturgie. When the thea- 
er closed Lessing became librarian at 
Volfenbiittel. Shortly after, he traveled 
n Italy and in 177-2 he published Emilia 
Halotti. In 1776 he married Eva Konig, 
rho died within a year of the marriage. 
for some time he engaged in various 

theological disputes, turning finally to 
dramatic writing. Nathan der Weise 
made its appearance in 1779. This was 
his last important literary work. He 
died in 1781. 

Lessing was a dramatist of the first 
rank, and a critic, coming as he did at a 
turning-point in German literature, of 
supreme importance. Throughout the 
Hamburgische Dramaturgie there is a 
tendency to correct the fallacious no- 
tions then current, and above all a 
healthy note of constructive criticism. 
His interpretation of Aristotle, his at- 
tacks on French forms were of inestim- 
able importance to the dramatists of his 
day. The Dramaturgie contains a mass 
of arguments favoring the theory that 
no true drama can rest upon any but 
AristoteUan laws. He insists especially 
upon unity of action. A large num- 
ber of papers are devoted to attack- 
ing the French classical dramatists, and 
others to showing how Shakespeare was 
basically a follower of Aristotle. Says 
Lessing in his Preface to the Drama- 
turgie: "This Dramaturgie is to form 
a critical index of all the plays per- 
formed, and is to accompany every step 
made here by the art of the poet or the 
actor. . . . At the same time it is well 
that the mediocre should not pretend to 
be more than it is, so that the dissatisfied 
spectator may at least learn to judge 
from it. It is only needful to explain to 
a person of healthy mind the reasons why 
something has not pleased him if one 
desires to teach him good taste." 




On the drama: 

Beitrage zur Historie und Aufnahme des 

Theaters (1750). 
Theatralische Bibliothek (1754-58). 
Vorrede zu Thomsons Trauerspielen 

Vorrede des Uebersetzers in Das Theater 

des Herrn Diderot (1760). 
Briefe, die neueste Litteratur betreffend 

(1759, 1760). 
Hamburgische Dramaturgic (1769). 
Leben des Sophokles (1760-90). 
Dramaturgische Entwurfe und Frag- 

tnente (posthumous). 
Kollektaneen zur Litteratur (vol. 20, 

Cotta ed. also contain casual refer- 
' ences to the drama). 
The Briefe, likewise. See also especially 

Lessings Briefwechsel mit Mendelssohn 

und Nicolai Uber das Trauerspiel (in 

Philosophische Bib., vol. 2, Leipzig, 



G. E. Lessings Schriften, 6 vols. (Berlin, 
1753-55), and G E. Lessings summt- 
liche Schriften, 30 vols. (1771-94) were 
the only collected editions appearing 
during the author's life-time. Among 
the modern editions are the Lachmann- 
Muncker 15 vols. ed. (1900), and the 
Boxburger and Blumner eds., 14 vols. 
(1883-90). A convenient and accessi- 
ble edition is the Cotta edition, under 
the supervision of Hugo Goring, 20 
vols. (Stuttgart and Berlin, n. d.). 
There are numerous editions of the 
Hamburgische Dramaturgic: the first 
edition appeared in Hamburg, 2 vols. 
1769. See in above-mentioned col- 
lected works. 

On Lessing and his works: 

C. G. Lessing, Q. E. Lessings Leben, etc., 
3 parts (Berlin, 1793). 

T. W. Danzel, Ootthold Ephraim Lessing, 
sein Leben und seine Werke, 2 vols. 
(2nd ed., Berlin, 1880-81). 

Adolph Stahr, G. E. Lessing, sein Leben 
und seine Werke, 2 parts (Berlin, 

(Translation of the above: The Life 
and Works of G. E. Lessing, trans- 
lated by E. P. Evans, 2 vols., Boston, 

Erich Schmidt, Lessing. Geschichte 
seines Lebens und seiner Schriften 
(Berlin, 1884). 

James Sime, Lessing, 2 vols. (London, 

Heinrich Diintzer, Lessings Leben (Leip- 
zig, 1882). 

T. W. Rolleston, Lessing (London, n. d.). 

Hermann Baumgart, Aristoteles, Lessing, 
und Goethe. Ueber das ethische und 
das aesthetische Princip der Tragbdie 
(Leipzig, 1877). 

Emil Brenning, Lessing als Dramatiker 
und Lessings Nathan der Weise (Bre- 
men, 1878). 

Wilhelm Cosack, Materialcn zu G. E. Les- 
sings Hamburgischer Dramaturgic, etc. 
(Paderborn, 1876). 

L. Eckart, Lessing und das erst deutsche 
Nationaltheater in Hamburg (Ham- 
burg, 1864). 

Emil Gotschlich, Lessings aristotelische 
Studien und der Einfluss derselben auf 
seine Werke (Berlin, 1876). 

Eugen Sierke, G. E. Lessing als angt- 
hender Dramatiker, etc. (Konigsberg, 

J. Kont, Lessing et la definition de la 
tragbdie par Aristote (in Rev. des 
Etudes grecques, p. 387, Paris, 1893). 


[Hamburgische Dramaturgic] 


No. 1.— May 1, 1767. 

The theater was successfully opened on 
the 22nd of last month with the tragedy 

l Re-printed, with omissions, from Leading's 
.Laokiion, Dramatic Notes, and the Representor 

Olindo and Sophronia. Olindo and So- 
phronia is the work of a young poet, and 
is a posthumous incomplete work. Its 

Hon of Death by the Ancients, translated by 
E. C. Beasley and Helen Zimmern (New Bobn 
Eds.).— Ed. 



theme is the well-known episode in Tasso. 
It is not easy to convert a touching little 
story into a touching drama. True, it 
costs little trouble to invent new compli- 
cations and to enlarge separate emotions 
into scenes. But to prevent these new 
complications from weakening the inter- 
est or interfering with probability; to 
transfer oneself from the point of view 
of a narrator into the real standpoint of 
each personage; to let passions arise be- 
fore the eyes of the spectator in lieu of 
describing them, and to let them grow up 
without effort in such illusory continuity 
that he must sympathize, whether he will 
or no; this it is which is needful, and 
which genius does without knowing it, 
without tediously explaining it to itself, 
and which mere cleverness endeavors in 
vain to imitate. 

Here I wish to make a double remark 
which, borne in mind, will save young 
tragic poets from committing some great 
faults. If heroic sentiments are to -arouse 
admiration, the "poej^ jpust not be too 
lavish of them, for what we see often, 
what we see in many persons, no longer 
excites astonishment. Every Christian 
in Olindo and Sophrunia holds being mar- 
tyred and dying as easy as drinking a 
glass of water. We hear these pious 
bravadoes so often and out of so many 
mouths, that they lose all their force. 

The second remark concerns Christian 
tragedies in particular. Their heroes are 
generally martyrs. Now we live in an 
age when the voice of healthy reason re- 
sounds too loudly to allow every fanatic 
who rushes into death wantonly, without 
need, without regard for all his citizen 
duties, to assume to himself the title of 
a martyr. We know too well to-day 
how to distinguish the false martyr from 
the true, but despise the former as much 
as we reverence the latter, and at most 
they extort from us a melancholy tear 
for the blindness and folly of which we 
see humanity is capable. But this tear 
is none of those pleasing ones that trag- 
edy should evoke. If therefore the poet 
chooses a martyr for his hero let him be 
careful to give to his actions the purest 
and most incontrovertible motives, let 
him place him in an unalterable neces- 
sity of taking the step that exposes him 
to danger, let him not suffer him to seek 
death carelessly or insolently challenge it. 

Else his pious hero becomes an object of 
our distaste, and even the religion that 
he seeks to honor may suffer thereby. 
I have already said that it could only be 
a superstition that led Olindo to steal 
the image from the mosque as contemp- 
tible as that which we despise in the 
wizard Ismenor. It does not excuse the 
poet that there were ages when such su- 
perstition was general and could subsist 
side by side with many excellent quali- 
ties, that there still are countries where 
it would be nothing strange for pious 
ignorance. For he wrote his tragedy as 
little for those ages as he intended that 
it should be performed in Bohemia or 
Spain. The good author, be he of what- 
ever species he will, if he does not write 
merely to show his wit and learning, has 
ever the best and most intelligent of his 
time and country before his eyes and he 
only condescends to write what pleases 
and can touch these. Even the dramatic 
author, if he lowers himself to the mob, 
lowers himself only in order that he may 
enlighten and improve the mass and not 
to confirm them in their prejudices or in 
their ignoble mode of thought. 

No. 2 

Yet another remark, also bearing on 
Christian tragedies might be made about 
the conversion of Clorinda. Convinced 
though we may be of the immediate oper- 
ations of grace, yet they can please us 
little on the stage, where everything that 
has to do with the character of the per- 
sonages must arise from natural causes. 
We can only tolerate miracles in the 
physical world; in the moral world every- 
thing must retain its natural course, be- 
cause the theater is to be the school of 
the moral world. The motives for every 
resolve, for every change of opinion or 
even thoughts, must be carefully bal- 
anced against each other so as to be in 
accordance with the hypothetical char- 
acter, and must never produce more than 
they could produce in accordance with 
strict probability. The poet, by beauty 
of details, may possess the art of delud- 
ing us to overlook misproportions of this 
kind, but he only deceives us once, and 
as soon as we are cool again we take 
back the applause he has lured from us. 



Even Corneille's Polyeucte is to be 
condemned in view of the above remarks, 
and since the plays made in imitation of 
it are yet more faulty, the first tragedy 
that deserves the name of Christian has 
beyond doubt still to appear. I mean a 
play in which the Christian interests us 
solely as a Christian. But is such a 
piece even possible? Is not the charac- 
ter of a true Christian something quite 
untheatrical? Does not the gentle pen- 
siveness, the unchangeable meekness that 
are his essential features, war with the 
whole business of tragedy that strives to 
purify passions by passions? Does not 
his expectation of rewarding happiness 
after this life contradict the disinter- 
estedness with which we wish to see all 
great and good actions undertaken and 
carried out on the stage? 

Until a work of genius arises that in- 
contestably decides these objections, — for 
we know by experience what difficulties 
genius can surmount, — my advice is this, 
to leave all existent Christian tragedies 
unperformed. This advice, deduced 
from the necessities of art, and which 
deprives us of nothing more than very 
mediocre plays, is not the worse because 
it comes to the aid of weak spirits who 
feel I know not what shrinkage, when 
they hear sentiments spoken from the 
stage that they had only expected to 
hear in a holier place. The theater 
should give offense to no one, be he who 
he may, and I wish it would and could 
obviate all preconceived offense. 

... In another still worse tragedy 
where one of the principal characters 
died quite casually, a spectator asked his 
neighbor, "But what did she die of?" — 
"Of what? Of the fifth act," was the 
reply. In very truth the fifth act is an 
ugly evil disease that carries off many a 
one" to whom the first four acts promised 
a longer life. 

... I know full well that the senti- 
i ments in a drama must be in accordance 
' with the assumed character of the person 
who utters them. They can therefore 
not bear the stamp of absolute truth, it 
is enough if they are poetically true, if 
we must admit that this character under 
these circumstances, with these passions 
could not have judged otherwise. But 

on the other hand this poetical truth 
must also approach to the absolute and 
the poet must never think so unphilo- 
sophically as to assume that a man could 
desire evil for evil's sake, that a man 
could act on vicious principles, knowing 
them to be vicious and boast of them to 
himself and to others. 

No. 9 

It is right and well if in every-day life 
we start with no undue mistrust of the 
character of others, if we give all cre- 
dence to the testimony of honest folk. 
But may the dramatic poet put us off 
with such rules of justice? Certainly 
not, although he, <}6uld much ease his 
business thereby. "l)n the stage we want 
to see who the people are, and we can 
only see it from their actions. The good- 
ness with which we are to credit them, 
merely upon the word of another, can- 
not possibly interest us in them. It 
leaves us quite indifferent, and if we 
never have the smallest personal experi- 
ence of their goodness it even has a bad 
reflex effect upon those on whose faith 
we solely and only accepted the opinion. 
Far therefore from being willing to be- 
lieve Siegmund to be a most perfect and 
excellent young man, because Julia, her 
mother, Clarissa and Edward declare him 
to be such, we rather begin to suspect 
the judgment of these persons, if we 
never see for ourselves anything to jus- 
tify their favorable opinion. It is true a 
private person cannot achieve many 
great actions in the space of four-and- 
twenty hours. But who demands great 
actions? Even in the smallest, character 
can be revealed, and those that throw the 
most light upon character, are the great- 
est according to poetical valuation..* 
Moreover how came it that four-and- 
twenty hours was time enough to give 
Siegmund opportunity to compass two 
of the most foolish actions that could 
occur to a man in his position? The 
occasion was suitable, the author might 
reply, but he scarcely will reply that. 
They might have arisen as naturally as 
possible, be treated as delicately as pos- 
sible; for all that the foolish actions, 
that we see him commit, would leave a 
bad impression on our minds concerning 



this young impetuous philosophise That 
he acts badly we see; that he can act 
well we hear, not even by examples but 
in the vaguest of general terms. 

No. 11 

. . . For the dj^amatic_poet_is no. his- 
torian, he does not relate to us what was 
once believed to have happened, but he 
really produces it again before pur eyes, 
and produces it again not on account of 
mere historical truth but for a totally 
different and a nobler aim. Historical 
accuracy is not his aim, but only the 
means by which he hopes to attain his 
aim; he wishes to delude us and touch 
our hearts through this delusion. . . . 

No. U 

I will not say that it is a fault when 
the dramatic poet arranges his fable in 
such a manner that it serves for the 
exposition or confirmation of some great 
moral truth. But I may say that this 
arrangement of the fable is anything but 
needful; that there are very instructive 
and perfect plays that do not aim at such 
a single maxim, and that we err when 
we regard the moral sentences that are 
found at the close of many ancient trag- 
edies, as the keynote for the existence 
of the entire play. 

No. 16 

, . . The only unpardonable fault of 
a tragic poet is this, that he leaves us 
cold; if he interests us he may do as he 
likes with the little mechanical rules. 

No. 19 

Now, Aristotle has long ago decided 
how far the tragic poet need regard his- 
torical accuracy: not farther than it re- 
sembles a well-constructed fable where- 
with he can combine his intentions. He 
does not make use of an event because 
it really happened, but because it hap- 
pened in such a manner as he will 
scarcely be able to invent more fitly for 

his present purpose. If he finds this fit- 
ness in a true case, then the true case is 
welcome; but to search through history 
books does not reward his labor. And 
how many know what has happened? If 
we only admit the possibility that some- 
thing can happen from the fact that it 
has happened, what prevents us from 
deeming an entirely fictitious fable a 
really authentic occurrence, of which we 
have never heard before? What is the 
first thing that makes a history prob- 
able? Is it not its internal probability? 
And is it not a matter of indifference 
whether this probability be confirmed by 
no witnesses or traditions, or by such as 
have never come within our knowledge? 
It is assumed quite without reason, that 
it is one of the objects of the stage to 
keep alive the memory of great men. 
For that we have history and not the 
stage. From the stage we are not to 
learn what such and such an individual 
man has done, but what every man of a 
certain character would do under certain 
given circumstances. The object of trag- 
edy is more philosophical than the ob- 
ject of history, and it is degrading her 
from her true dignity to employ her as a 
mere panegyric of famous men or to 
misuse her to feel national pride. 

No. 21 

Nanine belongs to pathetic comedy. It 
has also many laughable scenes, and only 
in so far as these laughable scenes alter- 
nate with the pathetic. Voltaire would 
admit of them in comedy. An entirely 
serious comedy, wherein we never laugh, 
not even smile, wherein we should rather 
always weep, is to him a monstrosity. 
On the other hand he finds the transi- 
tion from the pathetic to the comic, and 
from the comic to the pathetic, very nat- 
ural. Human life is nothing but a con- 
stant chain of such transitions, and com- 
edy should be a mirror of human life. 

No. 24 

In short, tragedy is not history in dia- 
logue. History is for tragedy" nothing 
but a storehouse of names wherewith we 



are used to associate certain characters. 
If the poet finds in history circumstances 
that are convenient for the adornment or 
individualizing of his subject; well, let 
him use them. Only this should be 
counted as little a merit as the contrary 
is a crime. 

No. 25 

" In short, no single part in this trag- 
edy is what it should be, all are per- 
verted and yet the play has pleased. 
When this pleasure? Obviously out of 
the situation of the personages that is 
touching in itself. A great man who is 
led to the scaffold will always interest; 
the representation of his fate makes an 
impression even without the help of 
poetry; very nearly the same impression 
that reality itself would make." 

So much is the tragic poet dependent 
on his choice of subject. Through this 
alone the weakest and most confused 
play can achieve a kind of success, and 
I do not know how it is that in such 
plays good actors always show them- 
selves to best advantage. . . . 

No. 27 

. . . the tragic poet loves the unex- 
pected, the sudden, more than any 
other; . . . 

No. 28 

There is nothing to object to in this 
verdict, but against another criticism 
that attacks the poet on the score of 
morality, there is the more. An absent- 
minded person is said to be no motif for 
a comedy. And why not? To be absent, 
it is said, is a malady, a misfortune and 
no vice. An absent man deserves ridi- 
cule as little as one who has the head- 
ache. Comedy must only concern itself 
with such faults as can be remedied. 
Whoever is absent by nature can merit 
this as little by means of ridicule, as 
though he limped. 

Well, but now granted that absence of 
mind is incurable, where is it written that 

comedy should only laugh at moral faults, 
and not at incurable defects? Every ab- 
surdity, every contrast of reality and 
deficiency is laughable. But laughter 
and derision are far apart. We can 
laugh at a man, occasionally laugh about 
him, without in the least deriding him. 
Indisputable and well-known as this dif- 
ference is, yet all the quibbles which 
Rousseau lately made against the use of 
comedy only arose from the fact that 
he had not sufficiently regarded it. He 
sa) r s, for instance, Moltere makes us 
laugh at a misanthrope and yet the mis- 
anthrope is the honest man of the play, 
Moliere therefore shows himself an en- 
emy to virtue in that he makes the vir- 
tuous man contemptible. Not so; the 
misanthrope does not become contempti- 
ble, he remains what he was, and the 
laughter that springs from the situations 
in which the poet places him does not 
rob him in the least of our esteem. The 
same with the dish ait, we laugh at him, 
but do we despise him on that account? 
We esteem his other good qualities as 
we ought; why, without them we could 
not even laugh at his absence of mind. 
Let a bad, worthless man be endowed 
with this absence of mind, and then see 
whether we should still find it laughable? 
It will be disgusting, horrid, ugly, not 

No. 29 

Comedy is to do us good through;' 
laughter; but not through derision; not 
just to counteract those faults at which 
it laughs, nor simply and solely in those 
persons who possess these laughable 
faults. Its true general use consists in 
laughter itself, in the practice of our 
powers to discern the ridiculous, to dis- 
cern it easily and quickly under all 
cloaks of passion and fashion; in all ad- 
mixture of good and bad qualities, even 
in the wrinkles of solemn earnestness. 
Granted that Moliere's Miser never 
cured a miser; nor Regnard's Gambler, 
a gambler; conceded that laughter never 
could improve these fools; the worse for 
them, but not for comedy. It is enough 
for comedy that, if it cannot cure an 
incurable disease, it can confirm the 
healthy in their health. The Miser is 
instructive also to the extravagant man; 



and to him who never plays The Gam- 
bler may prove of use. The follies they 
have not got themselves, others may have 
with whom they have to live. It is well 
to know those with whom we may come 
into collision; it is well to be preserved 
from all impressions by example. A pre- 
servative is also a valuable medicine, 
and all morality has none more powerful 
and effective, than the ridiculous. 

No. 30 

This triple murder should constitute 
only one action, that has its beginning, 
its center and its end in the one passion 
of one person. What therefore does it 
lack as the subject for a tragedy? 
Nothing for genius, everything for a 
bungler. Here there is no love, no en- 
tanglement, no recognition, no unexpected 
marvelous occurrence; everything pro- 
ceeds naturally. This natural course 
tempts genius and repels the bungler. 
Genius is only busied with events that 
are rooted in one another, that form a 
chain of cause and effect. To reduce the 
latter to the former, to weigh the latter 
against the former, everywhere to ex- 
clude chance, to cause everything that 
occurs to occur so that it could not have 
happened otherwise, this is the part of 
genius when it works in the domains of 
history and converts the useless treas- 
ures of memory into nourishment for the 
soul. Wit, on the contrary, that does 
not depend on matters rooted in each 
other, but on the similar or dissimilar, 
if it ventures on a work that should be 
reserved to genius alone, detains itself 
with such events as have not further 
concern with one another except that 
they have occurred at the same time. 
To connect these, to interweave and con- 
fuse their threads so that we lose the 
one at every moment in following out 
the other and are thrown from one sur- 
prise into another, this is the part of wit 
and this only. From the incessant cross- 
ing of such threads of opposed colors re- 
sults a texture, which is to art what 
weavers call changeant : a material of 
which we cannot say whether it be blue 
or red, green or yellow; it is both, it 
seems this from one side, that from an- 

other, a plaything of fashion, a juggling 
trick for children. 

No. 32 

X The poet finds in history a woman who 
murders her husband and sons. Such in- 
deed can awaken terror and pity, and he 
takes hold of it to treat it as a tragedy. 
But history tells him no more than the 
bare fact and this is as horrible as it is 
unusual. It furnishes at most three 
scenes, and, devoid of all detailed cir- 
cumstances, three improbable scenes. 
What therefore does the poet do? 

As he deserves this name more or 
less, the improbability or the meager 
brevity will seem to him the greatest 
want in this play. 

If he be in the first condition, he will 
consider above all else how to invent a 
series of causes and effects by which 
these improbable crimes could be ac- 
counted for most naturally. Not satis- 
fied with resting their probability upon 
historical authority, he will endeavor so 
to construct the characters of his per- 
sonages, will endeavor so to necessitate 
one from another the events that place 
his characters in action, will endeavor to 
define the passions of each character so 
accurately, will endeavor to lead these 
passions through such gradual steps, that 
we shall everywhere see nothing but the 
most natural and common course of 
events. Thus with every step we see his 
personages take, we must acknowledge 
that we should have taken it ourselves 
under the same circumstances and the 
same degree of passion, and hence noth- 
ing will repel us but the imperceptible 
approach to a goal from which our imag- 
ination shrinks, and where we suddenly 
find ourselves filled with profound pity 
for those whom a fatal stream has car- 
ried so far, and full of terror at the con- 
sciousness that a similar stream might 
also thus have borne ourselves away to 
do deeds which in cold blood we should 
have regarded as far from us. If the 
poet takes this line, if his genius tells 
him that he cannot ignobly falter in its 
course, then the meager brevity of his 
fable has vanished at once, it no longer 
distresses him how he shall fill his five 
acts with so few events, he is only afraid 



lest five acts should not suffice for all 
his material, that enlarges more and 
more under his treatment now that he 
has discovered its hidden organization 
and understands how to unravel it. 

Meantime the poet who less deserves 
this name, who is nothing but an ingen- 
ious fellow, a good versifier, he, I say, 
will find so little obstacle in the improb- 
ability of his scheme that he actually 
seeks therein its claim to admiration, 
which he must on no account diminish if 
he would not deprive himself of the sur- 
est means to evoke pity and terror. For 
he knows so little wherein this pity and 
terror really consist that in order to 
evoke them he thinks he cannot pile up 
enough marvelous, unexpected, incredible 
and abnormal matters, and thinks he 
must ever have recourse to extraordinary 
and horrible misfortunes and crimes. 
Scarcely therefore has he scented in his- 
tory a Cleopatra, the murderess of her 
husband and sons, than he sees nothing 
further to do, in order to form this into 
a tragedy, than to fill in the interstices 
between the two crimes and to fill it 
with matter as strange as the crimes 
themselves. All this, his invention and 
the historical materials, he kneads into 
a very long, very incomprehensible ro- 
mance, and when he has kneaded it as 
well as flour and straw can be kneaded 
together, he places his paste upon the 
skeleton wires of acts and scenes, relates 
and relates, rants and rhymes, and in 
four to six weeks, according to rhyming 
is easy or difficult to him, the wonder- 
work is finished, is called a tragedy, is 
printed and performed, read and looked 
at, admired or hissed, retained or for- 
gotten as good luck will have it* For et 
ihabent sua fata libelli. 

May I presume to apply this to the 
great Corneille? Or must I still make 
this application? According to the se- 
cret fate that rules over writings as over 
men, his Rodogune has been held for 
more than a hundred years the greatest 
masterpiece of the greatest tragic poet 
of all France and has occasionally been 
admired by all Europe. Can an admira- 
tion of a hundred years be groundless? 
Where have mankind so long concealed 
their eyes, their emotions? Was it re- 
served from 1644 to 1767 to a Hamburg 

dramatic critic to see spots in the sun 
and to debase a planet to a meteor? 

Oh no! Already in the last century a 
certain honest Huron was imprisoned in 
the Bastille at Paris; he found time hang 
heavy on his hands although he was in 
Paris, and from sheer ennui he studied 
the French poets; and this Huron could 
not take pleasure in Rodogune. After 
this there lived, somewhere in Italy at 
the beginning of this century, a pedant 
who had his head full of the tragedies of 
the Greeks and of his countrymen of the 
sixteenth century, and he also found 
much to censure in Rodogune. Finally, 
a few years ago there was a Frenchman,? 
a great admirer of Corneille's name, who 
because he was rich and had a good heart, 
took pity on the poor deserted grand- 
daughter of the great poet, had her edu- 
cated under his eyes, taught her to make 
pretty verses, collected alms for her, 
wrote a large lucrative commentary to 
the works of her grandfather as her 
dowry, and so forth; yet even he de- 
clared Rodogune to be a very absurd 
play, and was utterly amazed how so 
great a man as the great Cornelle could 
write such wretched stuff. Under one 
of these the above dramatic critic must 
have gone to school and most probably 
under the last named, for it is always a 
Frenchman who opens the eyes of a for- 
eigner to the faults of a Frenchman. 
Beyond question he repeats after him; or 
if not after him, after the Italian, or 
perhaps even after Huron. From one 
of these he must have learnt it. For 
that a German should think of himself, 
should of himself have the audacity to 
doubt the excellence of a Frenchman, 
who could conceive such a thing? . . . 

No. 33 

But moral or no moral, it is the same 
thing to a dramatic poet whether a gen- 
eral truth can be deduced or no from 
his fable, . . . 

No. 34 

P^or according to the indicated concej 
tion that we make to ourselves of genii 
we are justified in demanding purpc 

2 Voltaire. — Ed. 



and harmony in all the characters a 
poet creates; that is, if he demands from 
us that we should regard him in the 
light of a genius. 

Harmony; for nothing in the charac- 
ters must be contradictory; they must 
ever remain uniform and inherently 
themselves; they must express themselves 
now with emphasis, now more slightly as 
events work upon them, but none of the 
events must be mighty enough to change 
black to white. . . . 

To act with a purpose is what raises 
man above the brutes, to invent with a 
purpose, to imitate with a purpose, is 
that which distinguishes genius from the 
petty artists who only invent to invent, 
imitate to imitate. They are content 
with the small enjoyment that is con- 
nected with their use of these means, and 
they make these means to be their whole 
purpose and demand that we also are to 
be satisfied with this lesser enjoyment, 
which springs from the contemplation of 
their cunning but purposeless use of their 
means. It is true that genius begins to 
learn from such miserable imitations; 
they are its preliminary studies. It 
also employs them in larger works for 
amplification and to give resting-places 
to our warmer sympathy, but with the 
construction and elaboration of its chief 
personages it combines larger and wider 
intentions; the intention to instruct us 
what we should do or avoid; the inten- 
tion to make us acquainted with the ac- 
tual characteristics of good and bad, fit- 
ting and absurd. It also designs to show 
us the good in all their combinations 
and results still good and happy even in 
misery; the bad as revolting and un- 
happy even in unhappiness. When its 
plot admits of no such immediate imita- 
tion, no such unquestionable warning, 
genius still aims at working upon our 
powers of desire and abhorrence with 
objects that deserve these feelings, and 
ever strives to show these objects in their 
true light, in order that no false light 
may mislead us as to what we should 
desire, what we should abhor. 

No. 35 

I have once before, elsewhere, drawn 
the distinction that exists between the 

action in an iEsopian fable and a drama. 
What is valid for the former, is valid for 
every moral tale that intends to bring 
a general moral axiom before our con- 
templation. We are satisfied if this in- 
tention is fulfilled and it is the same to 
us whether this is so by means of a 
complete action that is in itself a rounded 
whole, or no. The poet may conclude 
wherever he wills as soon as he sees his 
goal. It does not concern him what in- 
terest we may take in the persons through 
whom he works out his intention; he 
does not want to interest but to instruct 
us; he has to do with our reason, not 
with our heart; this latter may or may 
not be satisfied so long as the other is 
illumined. 'Now, the drama on the con- 
trary makes no claim upon a single defi- 
nite axiom flowing out of its story. It 
aims at the passions which the course 
and events of its fahle arouse and treat, 
or it aims at the pleasure accorded by a 
true and vivid delineation of characters 
and habits. Both require a certain in- 
tegrity of action, a certain harmonious 
end which we do not miss in the moral 
tale because our attention is solely di- 
rected to the general axiom of whose 
especial application the story affords 
such an obvious instance. 

No 36 

Let us instance the Matron of Ephe- 
stu. This acrid fable is well known, it 
is unquestionably the bitterest satire 
that was ever made on female frivolity. 
It has been recounted a thousand times 
after Petrpnius, and since it pleased even 
in the worst copy, it was thought that 
the subject must be an equally happy 
one for the stage. Houdar de la Motte 
and others made the attempt, but I ap- 
peal to all good taste as to the results of 
these attempts. The character of the 
matron in the story provokes a not un- 
pleasant sarcastic smile at the audac- 
ity of wedded love; in the drama this 
becomes repulsive, horrible. In the 
drama the soldier's persuasions do not 
seem nearly so subtle, importunate, tri- 
umphant, as in the story. 

In the story we picture to ourselves a 
sensitive little woman who is really in 



earnest in her grief, but succumbs to 
temptation and to her temperament; her 
weakness seems the weakness of her sex, 
we therefore conceive no especial hatred 
towards her, we deem that what she does, 
nearly every woman would have done. 
Even her suggestion to save her living 
lover by means of her dead husband we 
think we can forgive her, because of its 
ingenuity and presence of mind ; or rather 
its very ingenuity leads us to imagine 
that this suggestion may have been ap- 
pended by the malicious narrator who 
desired to end his tale with some right 
poisonous sting. Now, in the drama we 
cannot harbor this suggestion; what we 
hear has happened in the story, we see 
really occur; what we would doubt of in 
the story, in the drama the evidence of 
our own eyes settles incontrovertibly. 
The mere possibility of such an action 
diverted us; its reality shows it in all its 
atrocity; the suggestion amused our 
fancy, the execution revolts our feelings, 
we turn our backs to the stage and say 
with the Lykas of Petronius, without 
being in Lykas's peculiar position : " Si 
Justus Imperator fuisset, debuit patris 
familiae corpus in monimentum referre, 
mulierem adfigere cruci." And she seems 
to us the more to deserve this punish- 
ment, the less art the poet has expended 
on her seduction, for we do not then 
condemn in her wea^. woman in general, 
but an especially volatile, worthless fe- 
male in particular. In short, in order 
happily to bring Petronius's fable on the 
stage it should preserve its end and yet 
not preserve it; the matron should go as 
far and yet not as far. The explanation 
of this another time. 

No. 38 

Now, Aristotle commends nothing more 
to the tragic poet than a good conception 
of his fable, and he has endeavored to 
render thie easy to him by various and 
subtle remarks. For it is the fable that 
principally makes a poet; ten will suc- 
ceed in representing customs, reflexions, 
expressions, for one who is excellent and 
blameless in this. He declares a fable 
to be an imitation of an action, irpd£ews, 
and an action by a combination of events 
is ovvOecit irpayfidrwv. The action is the 
whole, the events are the parts of this 

whole, and as the goodness of any whole 
rests on the goodness and connexion of 
its several parts, so also tragical action 
is more or less perfect, according as the 
events of which it is composed separately 
and collectively coincide with the inten- 
tions of the tragedy. Aristotle classes 
the events that can take place in a tragic 
action under three main heads: change 
of circumstances, irepiweTeia; recognition, 
dvayvcopia-iMos ; and suffering, irdOos. What 
he means by the two first, the names 
sufficiently reveal. Under the third he 
comprehends all that can occur of a pain- 
ful and destructive nature to the acting 
personages: death, wounds, martyrdom 
and so forth. Change of circumstances 
and recognition are that by which the 
more intricate fable, fivdos TreTr\eynei>os, is 
distinguished from the simple, drXovs. 
■They are therefore no essential part of 
the fable, they only make the action more 
varied and hence more interesting and 
1 beautiful, but an action can have its full 
unity, completion and greatness without 
them. But without the third we can con- 
ceive of no tragical action; every trag- 
edy must have some form of suffering, 
ivdOy], be its fable simple or involved, for 
herein lies the actual intention of trag- 
edy, to awaken fear and pity ; while not 
every change of outward circumstances, 
not every recognition, but only certain 
forms of these attain this end, and other 
forms are rather disadvantageous than 
profitable. While, therefore, Aristotle 
regards and examines separately the va- 
rious parts of tragical action that he has 
brought under these three main divisions, 
explaining what are the best outward 
changes, the best recognition, the best 
treatment of suffering, he finds in regard 
to the former that such changes of for- 
tune are the best and most capable of . 
awakening and stimulating pity and fear,' 
which change from better to worse. In 
regard to the latter division he finds that 
the best treatment of suffering in the 
same sense is when the persons whom 
suffering threatens do not know each 
other or only recognize each other at the 
moment when this suffering is to become 
reality and it is therefore stayed. 

And this is called a contradiction? I 
do not understand where can be the 
thoughts of him who finds the least con- 
tradiction here. The philosopher speaks 



of various parts; why must that which 
he maintains of one of these parts of 
necessity apply to the others? Is the 
possible perfection of the one also the 
perfection of the other? Or is the per- 
fection of a part also the perfection of 
the whole? If change of circumstances 
and that which Aristotle includes under 
the word suffering, are two different 
things, as they are indeed, why should 
not something" quite different be said of 
them? Or is it impossible that a whole 
should have parts of opposed character- 
istics? Where does Aristotle say that 
the best tragedy is nothing but a repre- 
sentation of changes of fortunes from 
prosperity to adversity? Or where does 
he say that the best tragedy results 
from nothing but the recognition of him 
on whom a fearful and unnatural deed 
was to have been committed? He says 
neither one thing nor the other of trag- 
edy generally, but each of these things 
of an especial part that more or less con- 
cerns the end, which may or may not 
have influence. Change of fortune may 
occur in the middle of the play, and even 
if it continues thus to the end of the 
piece, it does not therefore constitute its 
end. For example, the change of for- 
tune in (Edipus that evinces itself already 
at the close of the fourth act but to 
which various sufferings, xdfrij, are added 
and with which the play really concludes. 
In the same manner suffering can attain 
its accomplishment in the play and at the 
same moment be thwarted by recognition, 
so that by means of this recognition the 
play is far from concluded, as in the 
second Iphiyenia of Euripides where 
Orestes is already recognized in the 
fourth act by his sister who was in the 
act of sacrificing him. And how per- 
fectly such tragical changes of fortune 
can be combined with tragical treatment 
of suffering in one and the same fable, 
can be shown in Me rope itself. It con- 
tains the latter but what hinders it from 
having the former also, if for instance 
Merope, when she recognizes her son 
under the dagger in her eagerness to 
defend him from Polyphontes, contributes 
to her own or to her loved son's destruc- 
tion? Why should not this play close as 
well with the destruction of the mother 
as with that of the tyrant? Why should 
it not be open to the poet to raise to 

the highest point our pity for a tender 
mother and allow her to be unfortunate 
through her tenderness? Or why should 
it not be permissible to let the son whom 
a pious vengeance has torn from his 
mother, succumb to the pursuit of the ty- 
rant? Would not such a Merope in both 
cases combine those two characteristics 
of the best tragedy, in which the critic 
has been found so contradictory? 

I perceive very well what caused the 
misunderstanding. It was not easy to 
imagine a change of fortune from better 
to worse without suffering, or suffering 
that has been obviated by recognition 
otherwise than connected with change of 
fortune. Yet each can equally be with- 
out the other, not to mention that both 
need not touch the same person, and even 
if it touches the same person, that both 
may not occur at the same time, but one 
follows the other, and one can be caused 
by the other. Without considering this, 
people have only thought of those in- 
stances and fables in which both parts 
either harmonize, or in which one of 
necessity excludes the other. That such 
exist is unquestionable. But is the art 
critic to be censured because he composes 
his rules in the most general manner, 
without considering the cases in which 
his general rules come into collision and 
one perfection must be sacrificed to an- 
other? Does such a collision of neces- 
sity bring him into contradiction with 
himself? He says: This part of the 
fable, if it is to have its perfection, must 
be of such and such a constitution, that 
part of another, a third again of another. 
But where has he said that every fable 
must of necessity have all these parts? 
Enough for him that there are fables 
that could have them all. If your fable 
is not among the number of these happy 
ones; if it only admits of the best 
changes of fortune, the best treatment of 
suffering, then examine with which of the 
two you would succeed best as a whole, 
and choose. That is all! 

No. 41 

". . . For you cannot think how severe 
the master is whom we must strive to 
please: I mean our public. They demand 
that in a tragedy the hero should speak 
everywhere and the poet nowhere, and 



contend that at critical junctures in as- 
semblies, at violent scenes, at a threat- 
ening danger, no king, no minister would 
make poetical comparisons." Now does 
such a public demand anything unfair? 
Does it not contend the truth? Should 
not every public demand this? contend 
this? • . . 

No. 42 

. . . The tragedian should avoid every- 
thing that can remind the audience of 
their illusion, for as soon as they are 
reminded thereof the illusion is gone. It 
almost seems here as though Maffei 3 
sought to strengthen this illusion by as- 
suming the idea of a theater outside the 
theater. . . . 

No. 46 

It is one thing to circumvent the rules, 
another to observe them. The French do 
the former, the latter was only under- 
stood by the ancients. 

Unity of action was the first dramatic 
law of the ancients; unity of time and 
place were mere consequences of the for- 
mer which they would scarcely have ob- 
served more strictly than exigency re- 
quired had not the combination with the 
chorus arisen. For since their actions 
required the presence of a large body of 
people and this concourse always re- 
mained the same, who could go no further 
from their dwellings nor remain absent 
longer than it is customary to do from 
mere curiosity, they were almost obliged 
to make the scene of action one and the 
same spot and confine the time to one 
and the same day. They submitted bond 
fide to this restriction; but with a sup- 
pleness of understanding such that in 
seven cases out of nine they gained more 
than they lost thereby. For they used 
this restriction as a reason for simplify- 
ing the action and to cut away all that 
was superfluous, and thus, reduced to 
essentials, it became only the ideal of an 
action which was developed most felici- 
tously in this form which required the 
least addition from circumstances of time 
and place. 

The French, on the contrary, who 
found no charms in true unity of action, 
who had been spoilt by the wild intrigues 

3 The author of Merope. — Ed. 

of the Spanish school before they had 
learnt to know Greek simplicity, re- 
garded the unity of time and place not as 
consequences of unity of action, but as 
circumstances absolutely needful to the 
representation of an action, to which they 
must therefore adapt their richer and 
more complicated actions with all the 
severity required in the use of a chorus 
which, however, they had totally abol- 
ished. When they found, however, how 
difficult, nay at times how impossible 
this was, they made a truce with the 
tyrannical rules against which they had 
not the courage to rebel. Instead of a 
single place, they introduced an uncer- 
tain place, under which we could imagine 
now this, now that spot; enough if the 
places combined were not too far apart 
and none required special scenery, so 
that the same scenery could fit the one 
about as well as the other. Instead of 
the unity of a day they substituted unity 
of duration, and a certain period during 
which no one spoke of sunrise or sunset, 
or went to bed, or at least did not go to 
bed more than once, however much might 
occur in this space, they allowed to pass 
as a day. 

Now, no one would have objected to 
this, for unquestionably even thus excel- 
lent plays can be made, and the proverb 
says, cut the wood where it is thinnest. 
But I must also allow my neighbor the 
same privilege. I must not always show 
him the thickest part, and cry, " There 
you must cut ! That is where I cut ! " 
Thus the French critics all exclaim, espe- 
cially when they speak of the dramatic 
works of the English. What an ado they 
then make of regularity, that regularity 
which they have made so easy to them- 
selves! But I am weary of dwelling on 
this point! . . . 

The strictest observation of the rules 
cannot outweigh the smallest fault in 
a character. How tamely Polyphontes 
talks and acts in Maffei's play has not 
escaped Lindelle. He is right to mock 
at the needless maxims that Maffei places 
in the tyrant's mouth. . . . 

. . . And finally what do we mean by 
the mixtures of genres? In our primers 
it is right we should separate them from 
one another as carefully as possible, but 
if a genius for higher purposes amalga- 



mates several of tliem in one and the 
same work, let us forget our primer and 
only examine whether he has attained 
tiiese higher purposes. What do I care 
whether a play of Euripides is neither 
wholly a narrative nor wholly a drama, 
call it a hybrid, enough that this hybrid 
pleases me more, edifies me more, than 
the most rule-correct creations of your 
correct Racines or whatever else they 
may be called. Because the mule is 
neither a horse nor an ass, is it there- 
fore the less one of the most useful beasts 
of burden? 

No. 69 

Nothing is more chaste and decent 
than simple Nature, coarseness and con- 
fusion are as far removed from her as 
pomposity and bombast from the sub- 
lime. The same feeling which makes the 
boundary there, makes it here. The most 
ponJpous poet is therefore infallibly the 
most vulgar. Both faults are insepar- 
able, and no species gives more oppor- 
tunities of falling into both than tragedy. 

No. 70 

. . . There are persons who will not 
admit of any nature which we can imi- 
tate too faithfully, they insist that even 
what displeases us in nature, pleases us 
in a faithful imitation, by means of imi- 
tation. There are others who regard 
beautifying nature as a whim; a nature 
that intends to be more beautiful than 
nature is just on that account not na- 
ture. Both declare themselves to be ad- 
mirers of the only nature such as she is; 
the one sees not