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Of that fort of Dramatic Poem which is called Tragedy. T!
"RAGEDY, as it was anciently compos’d, hath
been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poeins : therefore said by Aristotle to be of power, by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirr'd up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion: for fo in physic things of melancholic hue and quality are us’d against melancholy, four against four, salt to remove falt humors. Hence philosophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their discourse. The Apoftle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33. and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguish'd each by a chorus of heavenly harpings and fong between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have labor'd not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honor Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also had begun his Ajax, but, unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinish'd. Seneca the philosopher is by fome thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazian zen, a Father of the Church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is intitled Chrif suffering. This is mention'd to vindicate tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes; hap’ning through the poets error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic sad
ness and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar perfons, which by all judicious hath been counted abfurd; and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defense, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epiftle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us paffes for best, thus much before-hand may be epiftled ; that chorus is here introduc'd after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modeling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the Ancients and Italians are rather follow'd, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse us'd in the chorus is of all forts, call'd by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epod, which were a kind of stanzas framid only for the music, then us’d with the chorus that sung; not efíential to the poem, and therefore not material; or, being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be call’d Allæostropha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produc'd beyond the fifth act. Of the stile and uniformity, and that commonly call’d the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such oeconomy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with versimilitude and decorum; they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets unequal'd yet by any, and the best rule to all who endevor to write tragedy. The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends, is according to ancient rule, and bef example, within the fpace of twenty-four hours.
Τ Η Ε
Gaza, there to labor as in a common workhouse, on
The SCEN E before the Prison in Gaza.
A little onward lend thy guiding
To these dark steps, a little further on; For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade : There I am wont to sit, when any
chance Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
S Daily' in the common prison else injoin’d me, Where I, a prisoner chain’d, scarce freely draw The air imprison'd also, close and damp, Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends, The breath of Heav'n fresh blowing, pure and sweet, With day-spring born ; here leave me to respire. This day a solemn feast the people hold To Dagon their sea-idol, and forbid Laborious works; unwillingly this rest Their superstition yields me; hence with leave Retiring from the popular noise, I seek This unfrequented place to find some ease, Ease to the body fome, none to the mind From restless thoughts, that, like a deadly swarm Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone, But rush upon me thronging, and presen Times past, what once I was, and what am now.