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and drawing fine pictures of it, is so far here is a culprit guilty of one thing, accused from necessarily conducing to form a vir- of another, and punished for a third. Howtuous babit, that it may harden the mind in ever awfully Destirry is developed in this a contrary course, and make it gradually play, it works only upon, not through, the more insensible to all moral considerations. human character; and therefore the human It is manifest that the mere excitement of lesson is comparatively wanting, Solger, the natural feelings by a composition which indeed (in the preface to his translation of leads to nothing practical, and does nothing Sophocles), maintains that this is human to modify them, will come under the same life in its fullest beauty, inasmuch as the head with the passive impressions' of Gods and Fate do not appear fighting, but Bishop Butler. I'he tendency will be to they work. This is a point which we are blunt them; and every time that the ex- not concerned to argue; nor shall we inperiment is tried, it diminishes their power quire too jealously whether Æschylus is of moving the mind at all, and so generates inferior in this. But the difference of effect the 'passive habit' of callousness. But this must be pointed out which exists between is not a ' purifying' of the passions, unless these two plans, in the formation of the in that sense of the word in which Garrick spectator's or the student's character. And purified' a manuscript play from half its this is the true end of all poetry, of all infaults, by the expedient of blotting out tellectual effort whatsoever. For if beauty every other line.
of any kind be the sole or highest aim of the Let us, for the time, adopt the common poet, the highest beauty is not and cannot view of what is requisite for a tragedy :—a be attainable by him. Not only is poesy chief character, not perfect, lest his misery what Aristotle calls it, worthier and more should cause horror and disgust, but yet, philosophical than history; but it is, in comparatively speaking, undeserving of reality, as much above philosophy as this is evil, is to be led on—if blindfold, so much above history; though each, as it rises, the better-to the brink and over the pre- loses itself in the other; witness the phicipice of ruin. This is the popular notion losophy of Thucydides, and the poetry of of the proper catastrophe of a tragedy. It | Plato. For, how is it that they act ? Hismust, indeed, be acknowledged that many tory takes and arranges the facts of life. of the Greek stage do not answer to this To combine them, and subject them to the description, being merely mythical plays intellect, is the province of philosophy; and (with which we may compare Shakspeare's it is then that they come into the region of historical plays), or, as Herder * does not poetry, to be illuminated by her light from hesitate to call them, melodramas. But heaven. The first is the brute matter of this, without doubt, is what is looked upon the body; the second the animal life; the as the genuine tragedy. If we analyze that last the human soul divine. Poetry is one which is always considered the most humanity mirrored in the soul of the inperfect specimen of a single Greek tragedy, spired poet. It is the highest and fullest The King Edipus of Sophocles, we find in truth, and therefore, from its very nature, him a hot-tempered, jealous, spoilt-child of of necessity the most beautiful and glorious : fortune (ipaveiv raida tis Túxns viuwwe this yup beautiful with a heavenly, not a sensual ni muka untp's, v. 1080), involved in calamity; beauty, such as Britomart's was, when and if his evils had borne any fair propor- Arthegal, tion to his infirmities, there would have
long gazing thereupon, been, indeed, a satisfactory moral lesson;
At last fell humbly down upon his knee, but, then, what would have become of the
And of his wonder made religion, tragedy? As the case stands, though his
Weening some heavenly goddess he did see.' petulance is the means of his coming to the sense of his wretchedness a little more It must, indeed, charm at once and tame speedily, yet it is remarkable that the the heart;' charming necessarily, but at the catastrophe is brought about rather by his same time unconsciously: if consciously, if good than his bad qualities; that is to say,
as an end, if with an effort, then it may be that it is his devotion to a praiseworthy beautiful, it may be beguiling, it may be object, which brings to light the full truth enrapturing;--but the appeal is to the lower and the horror of that position, in which he part of our nature ; it is of earth, not of has been involved by a destiny working heaven. The goddess is not there ; and in externally and mechanically upon him. if her substitute, fair in form, and winning in we try to connect the plot with any moral motion (perhaps even more so, as being lesson, we are led singularly astray; for less severe in beauty) as she may be, we are
embracing only the earthly nymph or the Literatur und Kunst, vol. xvii. p. 207. cloud of air. It is the fate of Ixion; and
his wheel is always coming round and round. I in this world; though this is not called for On these grounds our tragedy may be pro- where a religion of better promises comes nounced defective. And not tragedy alone, in to support the soul. How bitterly this but any fictitious composition which only void was felt may be seen in the dreary excites the feelings, whether in the way of pictures which Homer, and after him the ministering as a stimulant to listlessness, other Greek poets, give us of all that attends • furnishing a languid mind with fantastic the decline of life! Not to refer only to shows and indolent emotions, or by tho- the chilling words of Achilles in the nether roughly rousing and stirring up the soul world, through the passions,-if it then ceases
Μη δή μοι θάνατόν γε παραιδα, φαίδιμ’ Οδυσσεύς from its work, and neither teaches a moral βουλοίμην κ' επίρουρος των θητείεμεν άλλα lesson nor leads to a practical result.
ανδρι παρ' άκλήρου, ώ μή βίοτος πολύς είη, The greatest tragic poet of recent times,
ή πάσιν νεκίεσσι καταφθιμενoισι ανίσσειν,in his . Essay on Tragic Art,' has a passage there is precisely the same spirit in the which, in great part, serves singularly to living picture of Laertes in the Odyssey, confirm our views; though it leads him and in that which Achilles draws of his (strangely, as we must think) to a conclu- father Peleus in the Iliad. As soon as their sion very different from that which we have way of life has fallen into the sere, they are, presumed to draw :-
as a matter of course, set aside; and the
remainder of their existence is a ghastly • Whatever convenience there may be in spectral life in death, haunting the scenes having destiny to solve our perplexities, the of their old pride and prowess. This is notion of a blind subjection to it is degrading to man; and this leaves something to be wished man, hanging on to earth, clinging the more for, even in the finest specimens of the Greek closely to it as he feels it slipping from his stage ; for by this final appeal to destiny, while grasp, because he knows or will know our reason demands reason, they in effect leave nothing beyond, which can fill its hollowthe perplexities absolutely unsolved.
Afterwards philosophy tried to do the highest point of the development of our better things : but a miserable comforter moral nature this, too, is reconciled, and there is nothing any longer left to jar. Here even our the nature of heathen consolations,
was she; and rather exposed, by analysing, quarrel with destiny is at an end, vanishing in a
supfeeling, or rather a full consciousness, how all plied the aching void in the weary heart. things are working together, providentially and No; Virtue's triumph and Vice's punishpropitiously, to one end. We then not only ment must in heathen poetry be visible, or feel at one within ourselves, but are sensible of we lose that moral lesson, which to the the exquisite adaptation of all the parts in one Christian is more perfect when kept clear great whole; and the seeming irregularity which of all the transitory rewards and punishhurts us in the isolated case only serves as a spur ments of this life. Bearing on this point to make us look, for the vindication of the particular fact, into the general law, which will there are some admirable remarks of Scott turn the seeming discord into perfect harmony. (Preface to Ivanhoe) in answer to those To this height Greek art never raised itself
, who would have wished him to reward the from the deficiency of their natural religion and lofty character of Rebecca with worldly philosophy.'*
prosperity :If tbis be taken simply as based on an A character of a highly virtuous and losiy induction of most single plays (such as the stamp is degraded rather than exalted by an King @dipus before named), it is both true attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosand very important : and with that limita- perity. Such is not the recompense which tion we must assent to the position that in Providence has deemed worthy of suffering this respect the
religion and philosophy of merit; and it is a dangerous and fatal doctrine Greece were a fetter to the poet. Speaking and of principle are either naturally allied with as heathens, it must be confessed that the or adequately rewarded by the gratification of calamities of Edipus, and the utter want our passions or attainment of our wishes. In a of connection between them and the parts word, if a virtuous and self-denied character is of his character which stand in need of dis- dismissed with temporal wealth, greatness, cipline, are not to be reconciled with a &c., the reader will be apt to say, Virtue has right order of things. For surely in heathen had its reward.' poetry there is an absolute nécessity for Will it then be said that this very truth, poetical justice and a visible adjustment of that virtue has not always its reward nor the balance of good and evil, by the resto- vice its punishment in this world, does away ration of virtue and right to their privileges with our objection to the want of a moral
lesson in the catastrophe of a modern, i, e, a Schiller, Ueber die tragische Kunst, Werke, Christian tragedy? We apprehend that it vol. xxii. p. 333, seq.; 1828.
cannot be justly said, for two reasons. The
deficiency has not been the result of any ciated until we study the full group of the alteration made to suit our different posi- tympanum :-nay, until the temple too be tion as Christians, but has been received as taken into consideration, and the framehanded down by the tradition of our heathen work of earth and sky in which it stands. forerunners, with whom it could have no It is now necessary to go back to the such significance. But a more important period at which the Satyric Drama was ground is, that modern tragedies are no established, and the ludicrous element thus more Christian than ancient ones. The removed from tragedy. It is recorded that religious view is never brought out :—the at this time the competitors were bound to religious, at least Christian, virtues are not exhibit a tetralogy, consisting of three traheroic:-Christian sufferings are not tragic: gedies (a trilogy), and a satyric drama. - the Christian character is not adorned by All the details of this arrangement are quite such bravery as the world loves, such mag- unknown, so that it is a fair subject for spenanimity as the world can appreciate, or culation; and as a speculation the remark such human passion as creates a deep inte- may be hazarded, that this proportion of rest with the world. The Christian hero three to one is a strange and startling one humbles himself, is as nothing in his own for the úsposdiúvvoa to bear to the worship of eyes, prefers all to himself
. His sufferings Bacchus in the compact or composition do not raise him in human eyes. A spec- made between the poetry of the drama and tacle' indeed he may be to men and angels; the religio temporis. It seems, à priori, but how different a spectacle! Angels much more probable that the tragic portion minister to him: but before men he fights was originally looked upon as one whole, with beasts. His greatness is such as men and the satyric portion as another. This cannot see-could not comprehend or be view would suggest the theory of one tragedy lieve if they did see it.
in three acts or parts, rather than of three Thus, in the light in which we stand, it tragedies; and as it is not difficult to trace is much to be feared that tragedy has a a progressive system of encroachment on tendency to heathenise our minds; whereas the worship of the god by the chartered to heathens the antique poet, when he knew libertines of poetry, this account of the first his vocation, was the messenger and author- step would help to make their gradual sucitative teacher of morality and religion, and cess more intelligible, and to explain how from him the nations were fain to glean it happens that so little is heard of the revoscattered fragments of the truth.
lution until it is found to be quietly, but But if we place Schiller's objection side fully accomplished; when the satyric drama by side with the definition of Aristotle, it is so far from being any longer sole posvanishes : it is an objection only to a de- sessor of the field, that it does not even scription of tragedy which does not come share it with one corrival, but is driven up up to the definition. We have yet to seek, as it were into a corner, struggling hard to and this is our next object, whether there keep one quarter of its ancient kingdom ;be not something in which the idea of the nay, even rudely jostled at times from this ancient philosopher will be fully embodied its last stronghold; as is known to have so as to annihilate the modern poet's objec- been the case in the tetralogy to which The tion to the Greek drama. As to his asser- Alcestis of Euripides belonged.* tion of the superiority of modern tragedy, To come to the plays extant, --of Æschywe may content ourselves with protesting against it in passing. The present inquiry scarcely to be called a tragedy; and especially that
* It had often been remarked that the Alcestis was shall be strictly limited to the consideration Hercules sustains exactly that character in it which of Greek tragedy, as in the highest sense a made him so popular in the satyric dramas; we work of art, working on the most definite are now
enabled to say positively (from a fragment principles ; and we are not without hopes Tetralogy, and consequently did duty for a satyric of imparting to the reader something of our play δεύτερος Ευριπίδης Κρήσσαις, Αλκμαιώνει το δια own conviction that Eschylus stands un- Ψωφιδος, Τηλέφω, 'Αλκηστίδι" το δε δράμα κωμικωτέραν rivalled as a consummate artist.
έχει κατασκευήν. The other tetralogies positively This must be done, however, not by con
(Æschylus) Phineus, Persæ, Glaucus Potnieus, sidering single plays, which may have been, (Prometheus Luprasts). and which in many cases we know to have (Æschylus) A gamemnon, Choephore, Eumenibeen only parts of a whole, but by examin. des, (Proieus)- The Orestea. ing the groups into which the poet formed
(Æschylus) Edoni, Bassarides, Navtokol, (Lythem; for it is with the Greek drama as
curgus)- The Lycurgia.
(Euripides) Medea, Philoctetes, Dictys, (Theriswith the Greek sculpture, in which every tæ), torso or separate limb of a single figure
(Euripides) Alexander, Palamedes, Troades, (Sibears indeed the impress of the master
syphus). mind; but that mind is not rightly appre- 1 (Philocles) Tre Pandionis.
(Xenocles) Edipus, Lycaon, Bacchæ,(Athamas).
lus there is none of which it has not been come down to us; since this, as formerly conjectured that it formed part of a trilogy stated, was produced almost at the close of on some connected subject; but how closely the poet's life. Another tetralogy of Æsconnected and artificially worked up we chylus is mentioned under one collective cannot tell, and dare not guess; for we must name, and consequently, as may be surconfess that our mind is always thrown into mised, consisting of a connected plot ;an attitude of suspicion by the extreme and of this it may further be remarked that plausibility with which Welcker plays at the satyric drama is also in union with the thimble-rig with these luckless trilogies. three tragedies. This is the Lycurgia ;
In every book that he publishes (and he and the subject of it being taken from the 'writes unceasingly) they alter their form: Bacchic mythology, makes the introduction the plays are never at rest, but are now of the satyrs easy and natural. In the case here, now there, back and forwards, in and of the Orestea there seems to have been no out of their respective groups; like the such quadruple alliance, in spite of Scho. single eye of the mythical Trilogy of the ell's theory, which we formerly propounded Phorcides, which was transferred from one with such gravity as we were capable of. to another as it was wanted for the day; or It is true that the Orestea is sometimes that more anciently recorded trilogy still, called a tetralogy; but this would not unwhich was
naturally happen even if the afterpiece was Πρόσθε λίων, όπιθεν δε δράκων, μέσση δε χίμαιρα» | dies: and the scholiast on the Range of Aris
not on the same subject with the three trageBut one trilogy has come down to us en- tophanes, who gives it this name, tells us at tire ; and this, therefore, is safe ground the same time that Aristarchus called it a upon which to try conclusions.
trilogy, which the critic could not have done Of Sophocles there remain no trilogies : if the plot had extended through all the indeed the grammarians record that he was four. To illustrate this by a modern author of the innovation of exhibiting sin- analogy ;-one series of the Tales of my gle plays. This, however, can scarcely Landlord' contained Old Mortality' in mean (as it was understood formerly) that three volumes and the Black Dwarf' in he brought forward only one drama at one one. This being so, though there is no contime. For we have the distinct record of nection between the stories, there would his satyric plays, as well as of the trilogies be nothing surprising in hearing the whole and tetralogies with which his contempo- tetralogy (so to speak) called loosely Old raries and juniors contended against him Mortality;' whereas, if the fourth volume for the prize. Now it is contrary to rea- had been a continuation of the three first, son to suppose that he could have been no one could have called these a trilogy. allowed to contend with one play, against The scholiast on the Birds of Aristothose who exhibited four; Welcker's ex- phanes mentions a group of tragedies on planation must therefore here be adopted, the story of Pandion, a Pandionid, by Phiand single plays be understood simply to locles : and among the tragedies of Euripimean unconnected. Sophocles then was the des we find that the Alexander, Palamedes, author of the next step in the revolution, and Troades were exhibited together : in wherein there was no longer one story which, if we may judge from the names, handled tragically and another embodied the plot was continuous. Here the satyric in a satyric play, but the three parts of the drama was the Sisyphus. trilogy became wholly disunited, except by For the other trilogies--indeed for all the external accident of their juxtaposition. the other plays which we find named—it is This was not done, it must be inferred, by an easy task to divine some theme of a others until Sophocles had set the exam- common plan of interest ; because the few ple; but doubtless it may be taken for poor fragments that remain can scarcely granted, on the one hand, that Sophocles contradict one; or, if they do, they can be had written upon the old model—that is, lopped and cropped-a new name put upon in connected trilogies—before he arrived one, -
--a ley cut off another,-a Taliacolian at sufficient eminence to make such an in- nose grafted upon a third, until all are novation; and, on the other, that Æschy- made to correspond in some measure to lus, before the end of his career, may have one's notions of the names intended for availed himself of this new licence, as he them; and if a first experiment is unsucadopted other alterations which are as- cessful, it is but to shift the labels and becribed to Sophocles. But we may rejoice gin again. 'Tis as easy as writing nonthat he did not entirely abandon the original sense verses. But when we find that, after law ;-as we should have then been with all this labour, the unity claimed for most out the specimen of the trilogy which has of them is but a oneness of moral, thrice
illustrated by three unconnected stories, the horrible revenge of Atreur. But the what inducement is there for us to go fur-revenge was incomplete : according to the ther ? Such performances are not trilo- eastern proverb gies ; they are acted charades ; and if Athenian cleverness could have discovered that
• Tyrants kill the Phincus, Persæ, and Glaucus had no
Whom they will: meaning but "Greece triumphant over But never tyrant killed his heir.' Barbary,'—they would have hooted the conundrum off the stage. How different And the youngest, an infant child, is resfrom this is the unity in which the Orestea cued, to grow up the born enemy, the Goel, came, as one perfect whole, from the head or (may il not be said ?) the personified of the poet!
Erinnys of the house of Atreus. It is in To this we now return ; and in tracing
this capacity that he appears; and-notit we must start with a view of that des-wi:hstanding the allusions of the chorus to tiny, which was doubly working for evil the enseamed bed,' and Cassandra's revein public and in private-on the family of lations of the wolf stealing into the lion's the Pelopidæ. The drama opens upon us
lair-Ægisthus, with all his vileness, is yet at the point where these two independent, evil is punished by evil
. His adultery is
but one of the instruments through which but equally hostile influences converge.
In their public character the princes of kept comparatively in the background. We • Pelops' line' were exalted above all their hear nothing of the story of the guardian contemporaries : and all made them but minstrel; how his holy strains preserved the more obnoxious to that jealousy of Clytæmnestra from evil; and how the heaven--plovepòv yap tù Ocion—which always faithful man was borne to a lonely island, attended on more than mortal fortune, ready and her fall soon followed.* Their adulto avenge the more heavily the slightest tery is not the one grand crime bringing false step of those who were so higlily all others in its train ; it is only one link in favoured. The taking of Troy, which was the chain of horrors, one thread in the endthe climax of their glory, was also the crisis less inextricable web (ütsipov apoißlqotpor) of their fate ; for Troy too was divine;' which involves, not Agamemnon only, but Troy was a fated city, both in its glories them all. It is the hereditary curse which and its sins; and the reckoning which it is working itself out in each generation paid was proportionally fearful. But the through the evil passions of man's heart, reckoning was paid, and the victors now and visiting alternately each branch of the stood within the same danger. Raised on
family by the agency of the other. the ruins of the heaven-built city, her
And if this be so with Ægisthus, still more scourge could hardly fail to fall on them : emphatically is it so with Clytæmnestra. all that had affronted heaven in Troy now
Probably very few, even of those who bave redounded on their heads : and, besides, read the Agamemnon most carefully, are there was a long account of actual wicked conscious of the art with which this, the ness to settle, for violence and bloodshed more degrading portion of her wickedness, in the siege, horrors and godlessness in the is kept out of sight; because all come to sack of the town. Nor was there wanting the study of Æschylus with the details of a cry to heaven against the sons of Atreus, the mythology in their minds: they are from their own home, among their own
admitted into the mansion of the Pelopidæ people. All Greece had suffered the ills up the back-stairs by Dr. Lempriere (the of the expedition, which had served only to scandalous chronicler of the ancients), inavenge the quarrel of the one, and to en:
stead of coming with the triumphal prohance the renown of the other. Abroad, cession of Agamemnon to the palace-gates. the flower of Greece was 'wede away ;'
But let us recommend to our readers to and at home, in the absence of their lawful glance over the play, with the special view monarchs, the people were ground down of remarking the extreme delicacy with by anarchy or tyranny.
which this is shaded. One or two figuraAnd there were other horrors, more pri- tive hints of the chorus, one or two oracuvate, yet not less fearful. The line of Pe. lar metaphors of Cassandra, are all that lops was, from their very origin, under a prepare us for the bold and unembarrassed curse, mysteriously bound up, as by a prin- language of Clytæmnestra herself, after the ciple of compensation, with all their great
deed of death is done, and the load of disness. It is traced to the slaughter of Myr-simulation off her mind : by which time the tilus in one generation : in another it bursts special sin of ber connexion with Ægisthus forth in the quarrel of Atreus and Thyestes, is, as it were, merged in the unity of her the incest of Thyestes with Aërope, and
• Od. iii., 267, seq.