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to Antony, remarkable as perhaps the sole instance of genuine pathos throughout the entire range of Dryden's dramatic writings:

'Look on these ;
Are they not yours? or stand they thus neglected
As they are mine? Go to him, children, go;
Kneel to him, take him by the hand, speak to him ;
For you may speak, and he may own you, too,
Without a blush ; and so he cannot all
His children. Go, I say, and pull him to me,
And pull him to yourselves, from that bad woman.
You, Agrippina, hang upon his arms ;
And you, Antonia, clasp about his waist :
If he will shake you off, if he will dash you
Against the pavement, you must bear it, children,
For you are mine, and I was born to suffer.'


Antony's sarcasms upon Augustus reveal the ripening satirist of Absalom and Achitophel :


Ant. Octavius is the minion of blind chance,
But holds from virtue nothing.

Has he courage ?
Ant. But just enough to season him from coward.
O, 'tis the coldest youth upon a charge,
The most deliberate fighter! if he ventures,
(As in Illyria once, they say, he did,
To storm a town) 'tis when he cannot choose ;
When all the world have fixt their eyes upon him ;
And then he lives on that for seven years after;
But, at a close revenge he never fails.

Vent. I heard you challenged him.

I did, Ventidius.
What think'st thou was his answer ? 'Twas so tame!-
He said, he had more ways than one to die;
I had not.

Vent. Poor!

He has more ways than one;
But he would choose them all before that one.

Vent. He first would choose an ague, or a fever.

Ant. No; it must be an ague, not a fever ;
He has not warmth enough to die by that.

Vent. Or old age and a bed.

Ay, there's his choice.
He would live, like a lamp, to the last wink,
And crawl upon the utmost verge of life.
0, Hercules! Why should a man like this,
Who dares not trust his fate for one great action,
Be all the care of heaven? Why should he lord it
O'er fourscore thousand men, of whom each one
Is braver than himself?

You conquer'd for him :
Philippi knows it; there you shared with him
That empire, which your sword made all your own.

Ant. Fool that I was, upon my eagle's wings
I bore this wren, till I was tired with soaring,
And now he mounts above me.
Good heavens, is this,—is this the man who braves me?
Who bids my age make way ? drives me before him
To the world's ridge, and sweeps me off like rubbish ?'

Don Sebastian (1690) is generally regarded as Dryden's dramatic masterpiece. It did not please upon its first appearance, owing to its excessive length. Dryden ingenuously confesses that he was obliged to sacrifice twelve hundred lines, which he restored when the play was printed. Mr. Saintsbury more than hints a preference for All for Love, which we entirely share. Were even the serious part of the respective dramas of equal merit, the scale would be turned in favour of All for Love by the wretchedness of the comic scenes which constitute so large a portion of the rival drama. They are at best indifferent farce, and cannot be even called excrescences on the main action, inasmuch as they do not grow out of it at all. In unity of action, therefore, and uniformity of literary merit, All for Love excels its competitor, and its personages are more truthful and


more interesting. Sebastian, though a gallant, chivalrous figure, takes no such hold on the imagination as Antony and Ventidius; and Almeyda, one of the least interesting of Dryden's heroines, is a sorry exchange for Cleopatra. Muley Moloch and Benducar are wholly stagey. Nothing, then, remains but Dorax, and his capabilities are chiefly evinced in one great scene.

Even this is in some respects inartificially conducted. The spectator is insufficiently prepared for it. The special ground of Dorax's resentment comes upon us as a surprise; and his repentance is too hasty and sudden. A similar defect may be alleged against the whole of the tragic action. The centre of interest is gradually shifted, not intentionally, but from the author's omission to foreshadow the events to come after the fashion of a masterpiece he must have studied, the Edipus Tyrannus. At first all our interest is enlisted for Sebastian's life, and it is with a sort of puzzlement that we feel our. selves at last listening to a story of incest. Muley Moloch and Benducar have disappeared, and their place is occupied by a new character, Alvarez. In every respect, therefore, regarded as a work of art, Don Sebastian fails to sustain comparison with All for Love, and there is no countervailing superiority in the diction, whose general nobility and spirit occasionally swell into bombast. The worst fault remains to be told : Dorax's ludicrous escape from death by reason of being poisoned by two enemies at once. If either the Emperor or the Mufti would have let him alone he would never have lived to be reconciled to Sebastian, but the fiery drug of the one is neutralized by the icy bane of the other, and vice versa. Dryden thinks it sufficient excuse that a similar incident is vouched for by Ausonius, but really there is nothing so farcical in the Rehearsal. On the whole, we cannot but consider Don Sebastian a very imperfect play, redeemed from mediocrity by the general vigour and anima

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tion of the diction, and the loftiness of soul which seldom forsakes Dryden, except when he wilfully panders to the popular taste.

But little space can here be devoted to Dryden's other plays. Some are not worth criticism. The Mock Astrologer, largely borrowed from French and Spanish sources, contains some of his best lyrics. Many parts of Cleomenes are very noble, but it is somewhat heavy as a whole. King Arthur, a musical and spectacuļar drama, is an excellent specimen of its class. Dryden's portion of Edipus, written in conjunction with Lee, shows how finely he, like his model Lucan, could deal with the supernatural. This is by no means the case with his State of Innocence and Fall of Man, which is, nevertheless, one of his pieces most worthy of perusal. It measures the prodigious fall from the age of Cromwell to the age of Charles; while Dryden yet displays such fine poetical gifts as to command respect amid all the absurdities of his unintentional burlesque of Milton.

Dryden undeniably took up the profession of playwright without an effectual call. He became a dramatist, as clever men in our day become journalists, discerning in the stage the shortest literary cut to fame and fortune. He can hardly be said to have possessed any strictly dramatic gift in any exceptional degree, but he had enough of all to make a tolerable figure on the stage, and was besides a great poet and an admirable critic. His poetry redeems the defects of his serious plays, if we except such a mere pièce de circonstance as Amboyna. The best of them have very bad faults, but even the worst are impressed with the stamp of genius. It is only in comedy that his failure is sometimes utter and irretrievable; yet a perception of the humorous cannot be denied to the author of Amphitryon. But we nowhere find evidence of any supreme dramatic


faculty, anything that would have constrained him to write plays if plays had not happened to be in fashion. As he was not born a dramatic poet he had to be made one, and he became one mainly in virtue of his eminent critical endowment. His prefaces are a most interesting study. They exhibit the steady advance of a slow, strong, sure mind from rudimentary conceptions to as just views of the requisites of dramatic poetry as could well be attained in an age encumbered with venerable fallacies. Dryden's manly sense, homely sagacity, and piercing shrewdness, break through many trammels, as when, in the preface to All for Love, he vindicates his breach of the conventions of the French stage. In that to Troilus and Cressida he

Shakespeare with Fletcher, and pronounces decidedly in favour of the former, a preference far from universal in his day. The preface to The Spanish Friar is the most remarkable any, and shows how much he had learned and unlearned. We shall, nevertheless, find his special glory in his character as the most truly representative dramatist of his time. Otway might have been an Elizabethan, Dryden never could. If we seek for the dramatic author to whom he is on the whole nearest of kin, we may perhaps find him in Byron. Byron had no more genuine dramatic vocation than Dryden had, but, like Dryden, produced memorable works by force and flexibility of genius. From the theatrical point of view Dryden's plays are greatly superior to Byron's; if the latter's rank higher as literature the main cause is the existence of more favourable conditions. Dryden's worst faults would have been impossible in the nineteenth century; and his treatment of the supernatural, his frequent visitations of speculation, and the lofty tone of his heroic passages, prove that he could have drawu a Manfred, a Cain, or a Myrrha, if he had lived like Byron in a renovated age.


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