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May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world!
Jane Shore. Let me branded for the public scorn,-
Give me your drops, ye soft-descending rains, Give me your streams, ye never-ceasing springs, That my sad eyes may still supply my duty, And feed an everlasting flood of sorrow. Jane Shore utters her last breath in a witty conceit.
IBID. ACT V."
Then all is well, and I shall sleep in peace-
'Tis very dark, and I have lost you now
Was there not something I would have bequeath'd you ?
Nothing but one sad sigh. Oh mercy, heav'n!
JANE SHORE.-ACT V.
Guilford to Lady Jane Grey, when both were condemned to die:
Thou stand'st unmov'd;
Calm temper sits upon thy beauteous brow;
LADY JANE GREY.-ACT IV. near the end.
The concluding sentiment is altogether finical, unsuitable to the importance of the occasion, and even to the dignity of the passion of love. Corneille observes, that if poets did not indulge sentiments more ingenious or refined than are prompted by passion, their performances would often be low, and extreme grief would never suggest but exclamations merely. This is in plain language to assert, that forced thoughts
are more agreeable than those that are natural, and ought to be preferred!!!
The second class is of sentiments that may belong to an ordinary passion, but are not perfectly concordant with it, as tinctured by a singular character.
If the sentiments of a passion ought to be suited to a peculiar character, it is still more necessary that actions be suited to the character. In the 5th Act of the Drummer, Addison makes his gardener act even below the character of an ignorant credulous rustic; he gives him the behavior of a gaping idiot.
The following instances are descriptions rather than sentiments, which compose a third class. Of this descriptive manner of painting the passions, there is in the Hippolytus of Euripides, Act V., an illustrious instance, namely, the speech of Theseus, upon hearing of his son's dismal exit. In Racine's tragedy of Esther, the queen, hearing of the decree issued against her people, instead of expressing sentiments suitable to the occasion, turns her attention upon herself, and describes with accuracy her own situation.
A man stabbed to the heart in a combat with his enemy, expresses himself thus:
So, now I am at rest:
I feel death rising higher still, and higher,
The fourth class is of sentiments introduced too early or too late.
Some examples mentioned above belong to this class. Add the following from Venice Preserved, Act V. at the close of the scene between Belvidera and her father Priuli. The account given by Belvidera of the danger she was in, and of her husband's threatening to murder her, ought naturally to have alarmed her relenting father, and to have made him express the most per
Instead of which he dissolves into tenderness and love for his daughter, as if he had already delivered her from danger, and as if there was a perfect tranquillity :
Canst thou forgive me all my follies past?
Immoral sentiments exposed in their native colors, instead of being concealed or disguised, compose the fifth class. The Lady Macbeth, projecting the death of the King, has the following soliloquy :
The raven himself's not hoarse
MACBETH.-ACT I. Sc. 5.
This speech is not natural. A treacherous murder was never perpetrated without compunction: and that the lady here must have been in horrible agitation, appears from her invoking the infernal spirits to fill her with cruelty, and to stop up all the avenues to remorse. But in that state of mind, it is a never-failing artifice of self-deceit, to draw the thickest veil over the wicked action, and to extenuate it by all the circumstances that imagination can suggest: and if the crime cannot bear disguise, the next attempt is to thrust it out of mind altogether, and to rush on to action without thought. This last was the husband's method:
Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
ACT III. Sc. 4.
The lady follows neither of these courses, but in a deliberate manner endeavors to fortify her heart in the commission of an execrable crime, without even
attempting to color it. This is not natural. In the Pompey of Corneille,* Photine counsels a wicked action in the plainest terms without disguise.
In the tragedy of Esther,† Haman acknowledges, without disguise, his cruelty, insolence, and pride. And there is another example of the same kind in the Agamemnon of Seneca.‡ In the tragedy of Athalie,§ Mathan, in cool blood, relates to his friend many black crimes he had been guilty of, to satisfy his ambition. In Congreve's Double-dealer, Maskwell, instead of disguising or coloring his crimes, values himself upon them in a soliloquy :
Cynthia, let thy beauty gild my crimes; and whatsoever I commit of treachery or deceit, shall be imputed to me as a merit.Treachery! what treachery? Love cancels all the bonds of friendship, and sets men right upon their first foundations.
ACT II. Sc. 8.
In French plays, love, instead of being hid or disguised, is treated as a serious concern, and of greater importance than fortune, family, or dignity. The reason is, that, in the capital of France, love, by the easiness of intercourse, has dwindled down from a real passion to be a connexion that is regulated entirely by the mode or fashion.|| This may in some measure excuse their writers, but will never make their plays be relished among foreigners.
The last class comprehends sentiments that are unnatural, as being suited to neither character nor passion. When the fable is of human affairs, every event, every incident, and every circumstance, ought to be natural, otherwise the imitation is imperfect. But an imperfect imitation is a venial fault, compared with that of running cross to nature. In the Hippolytus of
*Act. I. Sc. 1. † Act II. Sc. 1.
Beginning of Act II.
Act III. Sc. 3. at the close.
|| A certain author says humorously, "Les mots mêmes d'amour et d'amant sont bannis de l'intime société des deux sexes, et relegués avec ceux de chaine et de flamme dans les Romans qu'on ne lit plus." And where nature is once banished, a fair field is open to every fantastic imitation, even the most extravagant.
Euripides,* Hippolytus, wishing for another self in his own situation, “How much," says he, "should I be touched with his misfortune!" as if it were natural to grieve more for the misfortunes of another than for one's own.
In Moliere's L'Avare,† Harpagon, being robbed of his money, seizes himself by the arm, mistaking it for that of the robber. This is so absurd as scarce to provoke a smile, if it be not at the author.
Of inconsistent sentiments the following are examples:
Now bid me run,
And I will strive with things impossible,
JULIUS CESAR.-ACT II. Sc. 2.
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
PARADISE LOST.-BOOK IV.
The following passages are pure rant. Coriolanus, speaking to his mother,
What is this?
Your knees to me? to your corrected son?
CORIOLANUS.-ACT V. Sc. 3.
JULIUS CESAR.-ACT II. Sc. 2.
Almanzor. Good Heav'n, thy book of fate before me lay,
* Act IV. Sc. 5.
† Act IV. Sc. 7.