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Ut tremor æthera per magnum, latèque natantes
HACTENUS haud segnis Naturæ arcana retexi
Cessare est, reducemque iterum roseo ore Salutem
luctûs, Stellanti templo, sincerique ætheris igne, Unde orta es, fruere ; atque ô si secura, nec
ultra Mortalis, notos olim miserata labores Respectes, tenuesque vacet cognoscere curas; Humanam si fortè altâ de sede procellam Contemplêre, metus, stimulosque cupidinis acres, Gaudiaque & gemitus, parvoque in corde tu
multum Irarum ingentem, & sævos sub pectore fluctus; Respice & has lacrymas, memori quas ictus amore Fundo ; quod possum, juxtà lugere sepulchrum Dum juvat, & mutæ vana hæc jactare favillæ.
* * *
FIRST SCENE OF A TRAGEDY,
DESIGNED IN 1742, BY MR. GRAY,
ON THE SUBJECT OF
THE DEATH OF AGRIPPINA .
[Mr. Mason's account of this Fragment is as follows: “ The Britannicus
“ of M. Racine, I know, was one of Mr. Gray's most favourite plays; “ and the admirable manner in which I have heard him say that he u saw it represented at Paris, seems to have led him to choose the « death of Agrippina for this his first and only effort in the drama. « The execution of it also, as far as it goes, is so very much in Racine's « taste, that I suspect, if that great poet had been born an English"man, he would have written precisely in the same style and mar“ ner. However, as there is at present in this nation a general pre“ judice against declamatory plays, I agree with a learned friend, « who perused the manuscript, that this fragment will be little re“ lished by the many; yet the admirable strokes of nature and cha“ racter with which it abounds, and the majesty of its diction, pre“ vent me from withholding from the few, who I expect will relish " it, so great a curiosity (to call it nothing more) as part of a tragedy « written by Mr. Gray. These persons well know, that till style and
iment be a little more regarded, mere action and passion will “ never secure reputation to the Author, whatever they may do to “ the Actor. It is the business of the one " to strut and fret his hour " upon the stage ;” and if he frets and struts enough, he is sure to find
 See Tacitus' Annals, Book xiii, xiv.
“ his reward in the plaudit of an upper gallery ; but the other ought “ to have some regard to the cooler judgment of the closet: For I
6 will be bold to say, that if Shakespeare himself had not written a “ multitude of passages which please there as much as they do on the “ stage, his reputation would not stand so universally high as it does “ at present. Many of these passages, to the shame of our theatrical “ taste, are omitted constantly in the representation : But I say not « this from conviction that the mode of writing, which Mr. Gray 6 pursued, is the best for dramatic purposes. I think myself, that a “ medium between the French and English taste would be preferable 66 to either; and yet this medium, if hit with the greatest nicety, would “ fail of success on our theatre, and that for a very obvious reason.
Actors (I speak of the troop collectively) must all learn to speak as « well as act, in order to do justice to such a drama.
“ But let me hasten to give the reader what little insight I can into Mr.
“ Gray's plan, as I find, and select it from two detached papers. The « Title and Dramatis Personæ are as follow:
SCENE, the Emperor's villa at Baiæ.
“ The argument drawn out by him, in these two papers, under the idea
6 of a plot and under-plot, I shall here unite; as it will tend to show “ that the action itself was possessed of sufficient unity.
* The drama opens with the indignation of Agrippina, at receiving her
" son's orders from Anicetus to remove from Baiæ, and to have her " guard taken from her. At this tiine Otho having conveyed Pop* pra from the house of her husband Rufus Crispinus, brings her to “ Baiæ, where he means to conceal her among the crowd; or, if his “ fraud is discovered, to have recourse to the Emperor's authority ; “ but, knowing the lawless temper of Nero, he determines not to " have recourse to that expedient but on the utmost necessity. “ In the meantime he commits her to the care of Anicetus, « whom he takes to be bis friend, and in whose age he thinks “ he may safely confide. Nero is not yet come to Baiæ ; but “Seneca, whom he sends before him, inforins Agrippina of the ac“ cusation concerning Rubellius Plancus, and desires her to clear “ herself, which she does briefly; but demands to see her son, who, “ on his arrival, acquits her of all suspicion, and restores her to her “ honours. In the mean while Anicetus, to whose care Poppæa had “ been entrusted by Otho, contrives the following plot to ruin Agrip“ pina: He betrays his trust to Otho, and brings Nero, as it were by « chance, to the sight of the beautiful Poppæa; the Emperor is im“ mediately struck with her charms, and she, by a feigned resistance, “ increases his passion; though, in reality, she is from the first daz“ zled with the prospect of empire, and forgets Otho: She therefore “ joins with Anicetus in his design of ruining Agrippina, soon per“ ceiving that it will be for her interest. Otho hearing that the Em, “ peror had seen Poppæa, is much enraged; but not knowing that " this interview was obtained through the treachery of Anicetus, is “ readily persuaded by him to see Agrippina in secret, and acquaint “ her with his fears that her son Nero would marry Poppæa. Agrip“ pina, to support her own power, and to wean the Emperor from " the love of Poppxa, gives Otho encouragement, and promises to “ support him. Anicetus secretly introduces Nero to hear their dis« course ; who resolves immediately on his mother's death, and, by “ Anicetus's means, to destroy her by drowning. A solemn feast, in " honour of their reconciliation, is to be made ; after which she “ being to go by sea to Bauli, the ship is so contrived as to sink or “ crush her; she escapes by accident, and returns to Baiæ. In this “ interval, Otho has an interview with Poppæa ; and, being duped a “ second time by Anicetus and her, determines to fly with her into « Greece, by means of a vessel which is to be furnished by Anicetus ; 6 but he, pretending to remove Poppæa on board in the night, con