Of Dramatick Poesie

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Moreover, in his discussion of the ancients versus the moderns, in his defense of the use of rhyme, and in his argument concerning Aristotelian prescripts for drama, Dryden depicts and reflects upon the tastes of literate Europeans who shaped the cultural climate in France and England for a century. Although it is clear that Dryden uses Neander as a mouthpiece for his own views about drama, he is careful to allow his other characters to present cogent arguments for the literature of the classical period, of France, and of Renaissance England.

More significantly, although he was a practitioner of the modern form of writing plays himself, Dryden does not insist that the dramatists of the past are to be faulted simply because they did not adhere to methods of composition that his own age venerated. For example, he does not adopt the views of the more strident critics whose insistence on slavish adherence to the rules derived from Aristotle had led to a narrow definition for greatness among playwrights.

Instead, he pleads for commonsensical application of these prescriptions, appealing to a higher standard of judgment: For this reason, Dryden can champion the works of William Shakespeare over those of many dramatists who were more careful in preserving the unities of time, place, and action. It may be difficult to imagine, after centuries of veneration, that at one time Shakespeare was not held in high esteem; in the late seventeenth century, critics reviled him for his disregard for decorum and his seemingly careless attitudes regarding the mixing of genres.

Dryden sets his discussion in June, , during a naval battle between England and the Netherlands. Four cultivated gentlemen, Eugenius, Lisideius, Crites, and Neander, have taken a barge down the River Thames to observe the combat and, as guns sound in the background, they comment on the sorry state of modern literature; this naval encounter will inspire hundreds of bad verses commending the victors or consoling the vanquished.

The old Rule of Logick might have convinc'd him, that contraries when plac'd near, set off each other. A continued gravity keeps the spirit too much bent; we must refresh it sometimes, as we bait upon a journey, that we may go on with greater ease. A Scene of mirth mix'd with Tragedy has the same effect upon us which our musick has betwixt the Acts, and that we find a relief to us from the best Plots and language of the Stage, if the discourses have been long. I must therefore have stronger arguments ere I am convinc'd, that compassion and mirth in the same subject destroy each other; and in the mean time cannot but conclude, to the honour of our Nation, that we have invented, increas'd and perfected a more pleasant way of writing for the Stage then was ever known to the Ancients or Moderns of any Nation, which is Tragicomedie.

Their Plots are single, they carry on one design which is push'd forward by all the Actors, every Scene in the Play contributing and moving towards it: Ours, besides the main design, have under plots or by-concernments, of less considerable Persons, and Intrigues, which are carried on with the motion of the main Plot: In the mean time he must acknowledge our variety, if well order'd, will afford a greater pleasure to the audience.

Neither indeed is it possible for them, in the way they take, so to express passion, as that the effects of it should appear in the concernment of an Audience: When the French Stage came to be reform'd by Cardinal Richelieu , those long Harangues were introduc'd, to comply with the gravity of a Churchman. Look upon the Cinna and the Pompey , they are not so properly to be called Playes, as long discourses of reason of State: Since that time it is grown into a custome, and their Actors speak by the Hour-glass, as our Parsons do; nay, they account it the grace of their parts: I deny not but this may sute well enough with the French; for as we, who are a more sullen people, come to be diverted at our Playes; they who are of an ayery and gay temper come thither to make themselves more serious: And this I conceive to be one reason why Comedy is more pleasing to us, and Tragedies to them.

But to speak generally, it cannot be deny'd that short Speeches and Replies are more apt to move the passions, and beget concernment in us then the other: Grief and Passion are like floods rais'd in little Brooks by a sudden rain; they are quickly up, and if the concernment be powr'd 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 chiefest graces; they greatest pleasure of the Audience is a chase of wit kept up on both sides, and swiftly manag'd. And this our forefathers, if not we, have had in Fletchers Playes, to a much higher degree of perfection then the French Poets can arrive at. But this hinders not that there may be more shining characters in the Play: If then the parts are manag'd so regularly that the beauty of the whole be kept intire, and that the variety become not a perplex'd and confus'd mass of accidents, you will find it infinitely pleasing to be led in a labyrinth of design, where you see some of your way before you, yet discern not the end till you arrive at it.

And that all this is practicable, I can produce for examples many of our English Playes: So that to judge equally of it, it was an excellent fifth Act, but not so naturally proceeding from the former. And indeed, the indecency of tumults is all which can be objected against fighting: For why may not our imagination as well suffer it self to be deluded with the probability of it, as with any other thing in the Play?

dryden essay of dramatick poesie

For my part, I can with as great ease perswade my self that the blowes which are struck are given in good earnest, as I can, that they who strike them are Kings or Princes, or those persons which they represent. For objects of incredibility I would be satisfied from Lisideius , whether we have any so remov'd from all appearance of truth as are those of Corneilles Andromede? A Play which has been frequented the most of any he has writ? If the Perseus , or the Son of an Heathen God, the Pegasus and the Monster were not capable to choak 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: But for death, that it ought not to be represented, I have besides the Arguments alledg'd by Lisideius , the authority of Ben. Johnson , who has forborn it in his Tragedies; for both the death of Sejanus and Catiline are related: To conclude on this subject of Relations, if we are to be blam'd for showing too much of the action, the French are as faulty for discovering too little of it: I hope I have already prov'd in this discourse, that though we are not altogether so punctual as the French, in observing the lawes of Comedy; yet our errours are so few, and little, and those things wherein we excel them so considerable, that we ought of right to be prefer'd before them.

But what will Lisideius say if they themselves acknowledge they are too strictly ti'd up by those lawes, for breaking which he has blam'd the English? How many beautifull accidents might naturally happen in two or three dayes, which cannot arrive with any probability in the compass of 24 hours?

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There is time to be allowed also for maturity of design, which amongst great and prudent persons, such as are often represented in Tragedy, cannot, with any likelihood of truth, be brought to pass at so short a warning. Farther, by tying themselves strictly to the unity of place, and unbroken Scenes, they are forc'd many times to omit some beauties which cannot be shown where the Act began; but might, if the Scene were interrupted, and the Stage clear'd for the persons to enter in another place; and therefore the French Poets are often forc'd upon absurdities: Many times they fall by it into a greater inconvenience; for they keep their Scenes unbroken, and yet change the place; as in one of their newest Playes, 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 Fathers house; they talk together, and the first goes out: This Gentleman is call'd away, and leaves his servant with his Mistress: After this, the Father enters to the Daughter, and now the Scene is in a House: In this ridiculous manner the Play goes on, the Stage being never empty all the while: Now what I beseech you is more easie than to write a regular French Play, or more difficult then to write an irregular English one, like those of Fletcher , or of Shakespeare.

Hence the reason is perspicuous, why no French Playes, when translated, have, or ever can succeed upon the English Stage. For, if you consider the Plots, our own are fuller of variety, if the writing ours are more quick and fuller of spirit: We have borrow'd nothing from them; our Plots are weav'd in English Loomes: In Catiline and Sejanus sometimes thirty or forty lines; I mean besides the Chorus, or the Monologues, which by the way, show'd Ben. You find him likewise commending Fletcher's Pastoral of the Faithful Shepherdess; which is for the most part Rhyme, though not refin'd 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.

First, That we have many Playes of ours as regular as any of theirs; and which, besides, have more variety of Plot and Characters: And secondly, that in most of the irregular Playes of Shakespeare or Fletcher for Ben. Johnson's are for the most part regular there is a more masculine fancy and greater spirit in all the writing, then there is in any of the French. Johnson , who was a careful and learned observer of the Dramatique Lawes, and from all his Comedies I shall select The Silent Woman ; of which I will make a short Examen, according to those Rules which the French observe.

Besides, in performing them, it will be first necessary to speak somewhat of Shakespeare and Fletcher , his Rivalls in Poesie; and one of them, in my opinion, at least his equal, perhaps his superiour. All the Images of Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of Mankind.

He is many times flat, insipid; his Comick wit degenerating into clenches; his serious swelling into Bombast. But he is alwayes great, when some great occasion is presented to him: Hales of Eaton say, That there was no subject of which any Poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better treated of in Shakespeare ; and however others are now generally prefer'd before him, yet the Age wherein he liv'd, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Johnson never equall'd them to him in their esteem: And in the last Kings Court, when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling , and with him the greater part of the Courtiers, set our Shakespeare far above him.

Beaumont especially being so accurate a judge of Playes, that Ben. Johnson while he liv'd, submitted all his Writings to his Censure, and 'tis thought, us'd his judgement in correcting, if not contriving all his Plots. What value he had for him, appears by the Verses he writ to him; and therefore I need speak no farther of it. The first Play which brought Fletcher and him in esteem was their Philaster: Johnson , before he writ Every Man in his Humour.

Their Plots were generally more regular then Shakespeare's , especially those which were made before Beaumont's death; and they understood and imitated the conversation of Gentlemen much better; whose wilde debaucheries, and quickness of wit in reparties, no Poet can ever paint as they have done. This Humour of which Ben. Johnson deriv'd from particular persons, they made it not their business to describe: I am apt to believe the English Language in them arriv'd to its highest perfection; what words have since been taken in, are rather superfluous then necessary.

Their Playes are now the most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the Stage; two of theirs being acted through the year for one of Shakespeare's or Johnsons: Shakespeares language is likewise a little obsolete, and Ben. Johnson's wit comes short of theirs. He was a most severe Judge of himself as well as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit and Language, and Humour also in some measure we had before him; but something of Art was wanting to the Drama till he came.


Of Dramatic Poesie, an Essay

He manag'd his strength to more advantage then any who preceded him. You seldome find him making Love in any of his Scenes, or endeavouring to move the Passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such an height. Humour was his proper Sphere, and in that he delighted most to represent Mechanick people. He was deeply conversant in the Ancients, both Greek and Latine, and he borrow'd boldly from them: But he has done his Robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any Law.

He invades Authours like a Monarch, and what would be theft in other Poets, is onely victory in him. With the spoils of these Writers he so represents old Rome to us, in its Rites, Ceremonies and Customs, that if one of their Poets had written either of his Tragedies, we had seen less of it then in him. If there was any fault in his Language, 'twas that he weav'd it too closely and laboriously in his serious Playes; perhaps too, he did a little to much Romanize our Tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latine as he found them: If I would compare him with Shakespeare , I must acknowledge him the more correct Poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit.

To conclude of him, as he has given us the most correct Playes, so in the precepts which he has laid down in his Discoveries, we have as many and profitable Rules for perfecting the Stage as any wherewith the French can furnish us. A beauty perhaps not much observ'd; if it had, we should not have look'd upon the Spanish Translation of five hours with so much wonder. The Scene of it is laid in London ; the latitude of place is almost as little as you can imagine: The continuity of Scenes is observ'd more than in any of our Playes, excepting his own Fox and Alchymist.

They are not broken above twice or thrice at most in the whole Comedy, and in the two best of Corneille's Playes, the Cid and Cinna , they are interrupted once apiece. The action of the Play is intirely one; the end or aim of which is the setling of Morose 's Estate on Dauphine. The Intrigue of it is the greatest and most noble of any pure unmix'd Comedy in any Language: As first, Morose , or an old Man, to whom all noise but his own talking is offensive. Some who would be thought Criticks, say this humour of his is forc'd: Besides this, I am assur'd from diverse persons, that Ben.

Johnson was actually acquainted with such a man, one altogether as ridiculous as he is here represented. Others say it is not enough to find one man of such an humour; it must be common to more, and the more common the more natural. To prove this, they instance in the best of Comical Characters, Falstaff: But to convince these people, I need but tell them, that humour is the ridiculous extravagance of conversation, wherein one man differs from all others. If then it be common, or communicated to many, how differs it from other mens?

And here having a place so proper for it I cannot but enlarge somewhat upon this subject of humour into which I am fallen. The Ancients had little of it in their Comedies; for the to geloion , of the Old Comedy, of which Aristophanes was chief, was not so much to imitate a man, as to make the people laugh at some odd conceit, which had commonly somewhat of unnatural or obscene in it.

Thus when you see Socrates brought upon the Stage, you are not to imagine him made ridiculous by the imitation of his actions, but rather by making him perform something very unlike himself: Ex homine hunc natum dicas. The same custome they observ'd likewise in their Tragedies.

As for the French , though they have the word humeur among them, yet they have small use of it in their Comedies, or Farces; they being but ill imitations of the ridiculum , or that which stirr'd up laughter in the old Comedy. But among the English 'tis otherwise: The description of these humours, drawn from the knowledge and observation of particular persons, was the peculiar genius and talent of Ben. Johnson ; To whose Play I now return. I shall not waste time in commending the writing of this Play, but I will give you my opinion, that there is more wit and acuteness of Fancy in it then in any of Ben.

Besides, that he has here describ'd the conversation of Gentlemen in the persons of True-Wit , and his Friends, with more gayety, ayre and freedom, then in the rest of his Comedies. For the contrivance of the Plot 'tis extream elaborate, and yet withal easie; for the lysis , or untying of it, 'tis so admirable, that when it is done, no one of the Audience would think the Poet could have miss'd it; and yet it was conceald so much before the last Scene, that any other way would sooner have enter'd into your thoughts.

An Essay of Dramatic Poesy Summary by John Dryden

But I dare not take upon me to commend the Fabrick of it, because it is altogether so full of Art, that I must unravel every Scene in it to commend it as I ought. And this excellent contrivance is still the more to be admir'd, because 'tis Comedy where the persons are onely of common rank, and their business private, not elevated by passions or high concernments as in serious Playes. Here every one is a proper Judge of all he sees; nothing is represented but that with which he daily converses: One of these advantages is that which Corneille has laid down as the greatest which can arrive to any Poem, and which he himself could never compass above thrice in all his Playes, viz.

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This day was that design'd by Dauphine for the setling of his Uncles Estate upon him; which to compass he contrives to marry him: Thus, in Bartholomew Fair he gives you the Pictures of Numps and Cokes , and in this those of Daw , Lasocle , Morose , and the Collegiate Ladies ; all which you hear describ'd before you see them. So that before they come upon the Stage you have a longing expectation of them, which prepares you to receive them favourably; and when they are there, even from their first appearance you are so far acquainted with them, that nothing of their humour is lost to you.

The second is greater then the first; the third then the second, and so forward to the fifth. There too you see, till the very last Scene, new difficulties arising to obstruct the action of the Play; and when the Audience is brought into despair that the business can naturally be effected, then, and not before, the discovery is made. But that the Poet might entertain you with more variety all this while, he reserves some new Characters to show you, which he opens not till the second and third Act.

All which he moves afterwards in by-walks, or under-Plots, as diversions to the main design, least it should grow tedious, though they are still naturally joyn'd with it, and somewhere or other subservient to it. Thus, like a skilful Chest-player, by little and little he draws out his men, and makes his pawns of use to his greater persons. But we need not call our Hero's to our ayde; Be it spoken to the honour of the English, our Nation can never want in any Age such who are able to dispute the Empire of Wit with any people in the Universe.

We have seen since His Majesties return, many Dramatick Poems which yield not to those of any forreign Nation, and which deserve all Lawrels but the English. I will set aside Flattery and Envy: And if I do not venture upon any particular judgment of our late Playes, 'tis out of the consideration which an Ancient Writer gives me; Vivorum, ut magna admiratio ita censura difficilis: Onely I think it may be permitted me to say, that as it is no less'ning to us to yield to some Playes, 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 surpass'd all the Ancients, and the Modern Writers of other Countreys.

I am confident, said he, the most material things that can be said, have been already urg'd on either side; if they have not, I must beg of Lisideius that he will defer his answer till another time: I will not dispute how ancient it hath been among us to write this way; perhaps our Ancestours knew no better till Shakespeare's time.

I will grant it was not altogether left by him, and that Fletcher and Ben. Johnson us'd it frequently in their Pastorals, and sometimes in other Playes. Farther, I will not argue whether we receiv'd it originally from our own Countrymen, or from the French; for that is an inquiry of as little benefit, as theirs who in the midst of the great Plague were not so sollicitous to provide against it, as to know whether we had it from the malignity of our own air, or by transportation from Holland.

I have therefore onely to affirm, that it is not allowable in serious Playes; for Comedies I find you already concluding with me. To prove this, I might satisfie my self to tell you, how much in vain it is for you to strive against the stream of the peoples inclination; the greatest part of which are prepossess'd so much with those excellent Playes of Shakespeare , Fletcher , and Ben. Johnson , which have been written out of Rhyme that except you could bring them such as were written better in it, and those too by persons of equal reputation with them, it will be impossible for you to gain your cause with them, who will still be judges.

This it is to which in fine all your reasons must submit. But when Laberius , a Roman Knight, at his request contended in the Mime with another Poet, he was forc'd to cry out, Etiam favente me victus es Liberi. But I will not on this occasion, take the advantage of the greater number, but onely urge such reasons against Rhyme, as I find in the Writings of those who have argu'd for the other way.

First then I am of opinion, that Rhyme is unnatural in a Play, because Dialogue there is presented as the effect of sudden thought. For a Play is the imitation of Nature; and since no man, without premeditation speaks in Rhyme, neither ought he to do it on the Stage; this hinders not but the Fancy may be there elevated to a higher pitch of thought then it is in ordinary discourse: For this Reason, sayes Aristotle , 'Tis best to write Tragedy in that kind of Verse which is the least such, or which is nearest Prose: These numbers therefore are fittest for a Play; the others for a paper of Verses, or a Poem.

Blank verse being as much below them as rhyme is improper for the Drama. And if it be objected that neither are blank verses made ex tempore , yet as nearest Nature, they are still to be preferr'd. But there are two particular exceptions which many besides my self have had to verse; by which it will appear yet more plainly, how improper it is in Playes. And the first of them is grounded upon that very reason for which some have commended Rhyme: Now what is more unreasonable then to imagine that a man should not onely light upon the Wit, but the Rhyme too upon the sudden?

The hand of Art will be too visible in it against that maxime of all Professions; Ars est celare artem. That it is the greatest perfection of Art to keep it self undiscover'd. Nor will it serve you to object, that however you manage it, 'tis still known to be a Play; and consequently the Dialogue of two persons understood to be the labour of one Poet.

For a Play is still an imitation of Nature; we know we are to be deceiv'd, and we desire to be so; but no man ever was deceiv'd but with a probability of truth, for who will suffer a grose lie to be fasten'd on him? Thus we sufficiently understand that the Scenes which represent Cities and Countries to us, are not really such, but onely painted on boards and Canvass: But shall that excuse the ill Painture or designment of them; Nay rather ought they not to be labour'd with so much the more diligence and exactness to help the imagination?

And yet this miserable necessity you are forc'd upon. But Verse, you say, circumscribes a quick and luxuriant fancy, which would extend it self too far on every subject, did not the labour which is requir'd to well turn'd and polish'd Rhyme, set bounds to it.

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Yet this Argument, if granted, would onely prove that we may write better in Verse, but not more naturally. Neither is it able to evince that; for he who wants judgment to confine his fancy in blank Verse, may want it as much in Rhyme; and he who has it will avoid errours in both kinds. Latine verse was as great a confinement to the imagination of those Poets, as Rhime to ours: Nescivit sayes Seneca quod bene cessit relinquere: Thus Ovid's fancy was not limited by verse, and Virgil needed not verse to have bounded his. Johnson confining himself to what ought to be said, even in the liberty of blank Verse; and yet Corneille , the most judicious of the French Poets, is still varying the same sence an hundred wayes, and dwelling eternally upon the same subject, though confin'd by Rhyme.

Some other exceptions I have to Verse, but being these I have nam'd are for the most part already publick; I conceive it reasonable they should first be answer'd. Yet since you are pleas'd I should undertake this Province, I will do it, though with all imaginable respect and deference both to that person from whom you have borrow'd your strongesst Arguments, and to whose judgment when I have said all, I finally submit.

But before I proceed to answer your objections, I must first remember you, that I exclude all Comedy from my defence; and next that I deny not but blank verse may be also us'd, and content my self onely to assert, that in serious Playes where the subject and characters are great, and the Plot unmix'd with mirth, which might allay or divert these concernments which are produc'd, Rhyme is there as natural, and more effectual then blank Verse. May not I conclude against blank verse by the same reason? If the words of some Poets who write in it, are either ill chosen, or ill placed which makes not onely rhime, but all kind of verse in any language unnatural; Shall I, for their vitious affection condemn those excellent lines of Fletcher , which are written in that kind?

Is there any thing in rhyme more constrain'd than this line in blank verse? I Heav'n invoke, and strong resistance make, where you see both the clauses are plac'd unnaturally; that is, contrary to the common way of speaking, and that without the excuse of a rhyme to cause it: Therefore, Crites , you must either prove that words, though well chosen, and duly plac'd, yet render not Rhyme natural in it self; or, that however natural and easie the rhyme may be, yet it is not proper for a Play.

If you insist upon the former part, I would ask you what other conditions are requir'd to make Rhyme natural in it self, besides an election of apt words, and a right disposing of them? For the due choice of your words expresses your sence naturally, and the due placing them adapts the rhyme to it.

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If you object that one verse may be made for the sake of another, though both the words and rhyme be apt; I answer it cannot possibly so fall out; for either there is a dependance of sence betwixt the first line and the second, or there is none: He may break off in the Hemystich , and begin another line: Variety of cadences is the best rule, the greatest help to the Actors, and refreshment to the Audience. You say the Stage is the representation of Nature, and no man in ordinary conversation speaks in rhime. But you foresaw when you said this, that it might be answer'd; neither does any man speak in blank verse, or in measure without rhime.

Therefore you concluded, that which is nearest Nature is still to be preferr'd. As for that place of Aristotle , where he sayes Playes should be writ in that kind of Verse which is nearest Prose; it makes little for you, blank verse being properly but measur'd Prose. Now measure alone in any modern Language, does not constitute verse; those of the Ancients in Greek and Latine, consisted in quantity of words, and a determinate number of feet.

But when, by the inundation of the Goths and Vandals into Italy new Languages were brought in, and barbarously mingled with the Latine of which the Italian , Spanish , French , and ours, made out of them and the Teutonick are Dialects: This new way consisted in measure or number of feet and rhyme. The sweetness of Rhyme, and observation of Accent, supplying the place of quantity in words, which could neither exactly be observ'd by those Barbarians who knew not the Rules of it, neither was it suitable to their tongues as it had been to the Greek and Latine.

No man is tied in modern Poesie to observe any farther rule in the feet of his verse, but that they be dissylables; whether Spondee , Trochee , or Iambique , it matters not; onely he is obliged to rhyme: Neither do the Spanish , French , Italian or Germans acknowledge at all, or very rarely any such kind of Poesie as blank verse amongst them. Therefore at most 'tis but a Poetick Prose, a Sermo pedestris , and as such most fit for Comedies, where I acknowledge Rhyme to be improper. Farther, as to that quotation of Aristotle , our Couplet Verses may be rendred as near Prose as blank verse it self, by using those advantages I lately nam'd, as breaks in a Hemistick, or running the sence into another line, thereby making Art and Order appear as loose and free as Nature: Neither is that other advantage of the Ancients to be despis'd, of changing the kind of verse when they please with the change of the Scene, or some new entrance: But I need not go so far to prove that Rhyme, as it succeeds to all other offices of Greek and Latine Verse, so especially to this of Playes, since the custome of all Nations at this day confirms it: All the French , Italian and Spanish Tragedies are generally writ in it, and sure the Universal consent of the most civiliz'd parts of the world, ought in this, as it doth in other customs, include the rest.

I answer, no Poet need constrain himself at all times to it. It is enough he makes it his general Rule; for I deny not but sometimes there may be a greatness in placing the words otherwise; and sometimes they may sound better, sometimes also the variety it self is excuse enough. But if, for the most part, the words be plac'd as they are in the negligence of Prose, it is sufficient to denominate the way practicable; for we esteem that to be such, which in the Tryal oftner succeeds then misses.

And thus far you may find the practice made good in many Playes; where you do not, remember still, that if you cannot find six natural Rhymes together, it will be as hard for you to produce as many lines in blank Verse, even among the greatest of our Poets, against which I cannot make some reasonable exception. Johnson , Fletcher , and Shakespeare , had writ out of it.

Of Dramatic Poesie Summary

But it is to raise envy to the living, to compare them with the dead. They are honour'd, and almost ador'd by us, as they deserve; neither do I know any so presumptuous of themselves as to contend with them. Yet give me leave to say thus much without injury to their Ashes, that not onely we shall never equal them, but they could never equal themselves, were they to rise and write again. We acknowledge them our Fathers in wit, but they have ruin'd their Estates themselves before they came to their childrens hands. There is scarce an Humour, a Character, or any kind of Plot, which they have not blown upon: This therefore will be a good Argument to us either not to write at all, or to attempt some other way.

For the Genius of every Age is different; and though ours excel in this, I deny not but that to imitate Nature in that perfection which they did in Prose, is a greater commendation then to write in verse exactly.

Of dramatick poesie: an essay, - John Dryden, Thomas Stearns Eliot - Google Книги

As for what you have added, that the people are not generally inclin'd to like this way; if it were true, it would be no wonder, that betwixt the shaking off an old habit, and the introducing of a new, there should be difficulty. If by the people you understand the multitude, the hoi polloi. Horace sayes it of the vulgar, judging Poesie.

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But if you mean the mix'd audience of the populace, and the Noblesse, I dare confidently affirm that a great part of the latter sort are already favourable to verse; and that no serious Playes written since the Kings return have been more kindly receiv'd by them, then the Seige of Rhodes , the Mustapha , the Indian Queen, and Indian Emperour.

You said the Dialogue of Playes is presented as the effect of sudden thought, but no man speaks suddenly, or ex tempore in Rhyme: And you inferr'd from thence, that Rhyme, which you acknowledge to be proper to Epique Poesie cannot equally be proper to Dramatick, unless we could suppose all men born so much more then Poets, that verses should be made in them, not by them. I answer you therefore, by distinguishing betwixt what is nearest to the nature of Comedy, which is the imitation of common persons and ordinary speaking, and what is nearest the nature of a serious Play: The Plot, the Characters, the Wit, the Passions, the Descriptions, are all exalted above the level of common converse, as high as the imagination of the Poet can carry them, with proportion to verisimility.

Tragedy we know is wont to image to us the minds and fortunes of noble persons, and to portray these exactly, Heroick Rhime is nearest Nature, as being the noblest kind of modern verse. For though Tragedy be justly preferr'd above the other, yet there is a great affinity between them as may easily be discover'd in that definition of a Play which Lisideius gave us.

The Genus of them is the same, a just and lively Image of human nature, in its Actions, Passions, and traverses of Fortune: The Characters and Persons are still the same, viz. Tragedy performs it viva voce , or by action, in Dialogue, wherein it excels the Epique Poem which does it chiefly by narration, and therefore is not so lively an Image of Humane Nature.

However, the agreement betwixt them is such, that if Rhyme be proper for one, it must be for the other.

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