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awful character. In fact the strongest evi-, in cutting her down : nay, her dear Orestes dence against her, until this time, is to be had been taken from her, from some vague drawn from her extreme and anxious self- anticipation of his being hanged or deposexculpations. Methinks, the lady doth pro-ed, we are not sure which. And as for test too much : and her whole appearance tears, they must not be surprised that she is, as it is intended to be, that of a person sheds none; she has none left; the very talking at random to conceal her thoughts, fount of them is dry! But her eyes are or occasionally venting them obscurely, as sore (if this will do as well) with weeping if in demi-soliloquy.* And then, what an by unsnuffed candles (so we presume to array of crimes we have, brought up against translate τας αμφί σου κλαίουσα λαμπτηρουχίας ατηKing Agamemnon, and with what skill pod úrovs diév); and the very buzzing nightmarshalled! His very entrance, accompa- flies' had kept her awake instead of hushnied by the captive Cassandra, carries his ing her to her slumbers.' But now, it is wife back to all the infidelities of his ab- all past : Agamemnon is come! And now sence, while she forsooth, poor bird, was that he is come, what shall she say, what pining in her widowed nest at home. And shall she call him ? A house-dog--a cable in truth it does remind one vividly of the -a pillar--an only child--a friendly shore naiveté of the Homeric King of Men, who —a fair day—a running stream! His very tells us that Chryseis was no whit inferior foot is a glorious foot, for it spurned Troy to his wedded wife; and that, therefore, he over; and it must not tread upon the earth.* naturally preferred her:
All this Agamemnon takes meekly; pro
testing indeed against the splendour of his – και γίρ ρα Κλυταιμνήστρας προβεβουλα, κουριδίης αλόχου επεί ου εθεν εστί χε- speech,-which latter he compares to the
reception, as well as the length of her ρείων. ου δέμας, ουδέ φυήν, ούτ' άρ φρένας, ούτε τι έργα.' siege of Troy; but giving way at last, for
the sake of a quiet life. Again the slaughter (for in Æschylus we It
doubtless be said that this is luhear nothing of Iphigenia in Tauris) of his dicrous; so, in itself, it undoubtedly is : but eldest child as the victim of his brother's how true to nature, and how wonderfully uxoriousness and his own ambition, is, not contrived to further the poet's purpose ! unnaturally, much and variously dwelt Let us take Macbeth : if, at least, we may upon ; until at last the picture of the mur- be forgiven for venturing, against certain dered inaiden welcoming to the banks of modern authorities, to retain our belief that Acheron the father whı had sacrificed her there is a family likeness between Lady (v. 1503), makes the student feel the tri. Macbeth and Clytæmnestra. She, indeed, umph of the poet in having, for a moment, is more sparing of her rhetoric; but in her trimmed the balance between the parties; speech of welcome to Duncan there is the though there is nothing in the perplexity same frigid elaborateness : with both of thus produced which can permanently per- them alike all is vert the judgment. Again, let the Queen's inflated language,
• In every point twice done, and then done
double.' and the insidious pomp of Agamemnon's reception, be noticed. Here is no devia. In the same taste is that earlier speech of tion from nature ; rather, under her cir: Clytæmnestra, wherein the description of cumstances, it is the highest nature ;-but the courier flame, which announced the the effect is, for the time, to throw a shade of caricature over all his greatness and his capture of Troy, is worked up with the
most marvellous union of real excitement person. All is forced to such an excess as and perturbation, with cold and inflated to provoke reaction. She has become bold bombast. In a modern work, which has in length of time to tell her love-tale in the fallen into our hands in the course of our public ear; and an invidious one it is of a
professional labours as the scavengers of disconsolate, deserted wife, weeping to literature,' we have found it authoritatively hear story after story of her husband's remarked, that it is the orthodox custom death, until his body had been (said to be) of translators to render the dialogue of thrice over drilled with eyelet-wounds like a net, and himself-had he been three
gen- • The reader can hardly have forgoten the parody tlemen at once-buried thrice deep! For- on this in the Knights of Aristophanes (v.783 seq.) gotten and woeful matron, she had done επί ταϊσι πέτραις ου φροντίζει σκληρώς σε καθήμενον
ούτως, , nothing but weave herself halters, and her
ουχ ώςπερ εγώ ραψίμενός σοι τουτί φέρω’ αλλ' maidens had had their time fully occupied
κατα καθίζου μαλακώς, ίνα μή τρίβης την εν Σαλαμίνι. * Cf. v. 319, etc.
Greek plays in blank verse ; but in this in the Atridæ; or rather-for the historical stance the whole animation and rapidity of account of the shipwreck is ably applied to the original would be utterly lost in the wilhdraw Menelaus on the one head of stiff construction and protracted rhythm of Agamemnon. And she stands forth as the blank verse!' Alas for Shakspeare then! Até within the family, as Ægisthus from Alas for Æschylus, who--though the whole without; and this, rather than their illicit range of rapid' and 'animated' choral love (which, in fact, flows from il), is the metres was before him-chose so unac bond of their unhallowed union. countably to clothe this speech in a metre This forms one means by which a catasadopted, as Aristotle tells us, because it trophe is prepared. But a still more imwas the most proselike, the most like com- portant agent is the Chorus; and this is so mon discourse, of all! Alas for the lyrical employed by Æschylus as to need a more translator, who has to soften down into careful analysis. It was not (says the fine • animated and rapid' phraseology such old Platonist, Philip van Heusde) merely expressions as old-womanish heather by the outward improvements in his art, (ypaia épei«n), 'a huge beard of flame' (ployis which we learn from Horace and the Méyav nøywva), and the like, and especially archæologers, that Æschylus did his work. that glorious description of the last beacon, It was by the masterpieces of his tragedy, ovx árantov ldaiou supós-—'which,' to translate the deep impression which they made on accurately,
the spectator, filling him now with pity,
now with terror, but always with elevating is not un-grandfather'd by Ida's fire ! emotions. And this he attained, not by
action and language, but most chiefly by Are we disparaging Æschylus by show the influence of the chorus. The tragedian ing that among the fervid thoughts of this was also probably the first lyric poet of speech there are such frigid tropes inter- Greece ; and thus by the chorus in the mingled ? Quite the reverse; because we pauses of his dramas his aim was to work believe it to be natural, and that he knew it, up the souls of his hearers to the pitch of to one in Clytæmnestra’s situation, to use the tragedy which they were hearing, and such language instead of the gay prettiness to inspire them with a capacity for the feelof our modern Midas, who turns every: ings which were to be called forth. It is thing that he touches to-tinsel.* To esti- to this chorus that we chiefly trace the mate her character, we must compare her higher spirit which possesses us when we language before and after the deed was study the Greek tragedy: done. Afterwards there is no elaboration, no disguise, no frigidity. Every word Ille bonis faveatque, et concilietur amicis; burns,—burus with hell-fire. Public and Et regat iratos, et amet peccare timentes: private ills have converged on the heads of Ille dapes laudet mensæ brevis, ille salubrem
Justitiam, legesque, et apertis otia portis : ' Here's a present you'll prize : come, arise, sir,
Ille tegat commissa, Deosque preceiur, et oret arise!
Ut redeat miseris, abeat Fortuna superbis.' Then sit you down softly upon her:
HOR. A. P., 196, seq. Since Salamis' shock, what a shame the hard
It is remarked by Schlegel, that the Should be chafing the seat-of your Honour ! Greek chorus is the idealised spectator,
* We cannot resist the temptation to give one giving the fair comments of man's judgment more specimen of Æschylus puppy-fied. It is chars in the abstract upon the acts or sentiments acterized as one of those soft passages so, rare in of the characters, and so, by the impersonal Æschylus, (!), nor less exquisite than rare:'
character of its moralising, gently leading " Ah! soon alive, to miss and
mourn, The form beyond the ocean borne,
the audience to do the like. But this is Shall start the lonely king!
not a sufficient description of the chorus in And thought strall fill ihe lost one's room, Æschylus. With him it is no mere external And darkly through the palace gloom critic upon the plot; it is the plot itself. Shall stalk a ghusily thing.'
The dialogue of the Agamemnon could be (1. e., as a note tells us, Menelaus, as lean as a ghost!)
dispensed with as easily as the lyric portion · Her slatues meel, as round they rise,
of it. The chorus is no critical looker-on; The leaden stare of sighlless eyes :
it is the poet soliloquising at his work, and
mysterious imaginations which crowd upon Hath swept the Venus from her face !
his soul, while he strives to embody them With some difficulty we have discovered that this
in their more definite, but thus less spiritual is meant to be a translation from Agnm., vv. 414. form. Witbout the chorus we could no 419 (πόθω δ' υπερποντίας –πώς' 'Αφροδίτα).
more attain to the fulness of the poet's
meaning than we could attune ourselves to tell the rest ; but this is sure, that prophecy the harmonies in which he clothes it. The will work its way, and those that will not chorus is altogether rapt out of the region learn, shall learn by suffering. But away of reflection. It is inspired.
with inquiries into the future. Enough It will be worth while to trace the clue that it will come, surely and speedily! of their strains through the earlier part of After hearing what the queen has to tell the play, from their entrance, summoned by them of the conquest, and her rambling Clytæmnestra to hear the news of the strain of moralizing upon it, they again triumph which has been telegraphed from take up their parable, their theme being the Troy. This carries them back ten years, sin of Troy and the certainty of judgment. to the time when the Atridæ departed, But mark whither this leads them! shouting for vengeance on Troy, like Zeus has bent his bow against the guilty. vultures wheeling over their empty nest, Ay, though men are found to say that the •Right sorrowfully mourning their bereaved gods reck not of evil deeds, it was his do
ing: he shows himself in vengeance to the cares.'
sons of an overweening race. Ours be Well ! things must be as they may; and the lowlier lot which knows no ill; for destiny and wrath will have their course; there is no redemption for the high and but ‘our way of life is in the sere (puldúoos wealthy ones who spurn the altar of right. min xatarap popévns), we linger on, unmeaning They are driven on to inevitable ill: the as a dream at mid-day.'
light within has ceased to be of heaven, but Yet old as they are, the spirit of song blazes lurid forth, hurrying them downsurvives; and now the fated time suggests wards; and no one hears their prayer, but the strain,--how omens met the avengers mischief hunts the man who for a toy, a on their way. And this was the rede of bird of gay plumage, transgresses. And the prophet : time will come when Troy even such a bird was Helen! Lightly she shall fall before the host ; but a hostile glided from her home, leaving a legacy beinfluence darkens the future: the goddess hind her, the clash of arms and the battle of the wild-wood tribes is at the throne of stir,-bearing with her a dowry, ruin to Zeus to ask the fulfilment of the sign, Troy. . . . And he, the dishonoured, the prosperous in the main, yet deeply dashed unreproaching ! Silent is he : he cannot with ill (δεξιά μίν, κατάμορφα δέ). Heaven deem her gone : her form will haunt him forefend that she demand a horrid sacrifice yet in every hall where she has reigned as -horrid in itself, and source of future queen : all else in them is a blank; for horror, treachery, and domestic vengeance the desire of his eyes is gone, and what is Sing woe, sing woe, and well away! loveliness to him ? In dreams he snatches (αϊλινον, αϊλινον εις T3 d' củ vixátw)... A weight an empty joy, and lo the vision is gone is on their soul, and who shall relieve them ? with the slumber!... But private sorThe ancient powers of heaven are gone by; rows are not all. There is a cry of mournonly Zeus remains; and he has ordained ing through universal Greece: Men ask that by suffering shall mortals be taught to for their children, and what have they? bow beneath the rod. Thus was his hand Ashes and an urn! And when they tell of on Agamemnon, what time the host pined this man's courage and that man’s death, away to watch day after day the refluent there comes the murmur, that it was all for waters of Euripus. But the remedy was one frail wife! Far off sleep the beautiful; worse than all; the monarch smote the but whispers deepen into curses here at earth and cried, 'A sorry choice! It is home,-curses which fall not to the ground; hard to disobey! and how hard to shed a for blood will have blood; and glory overvirgin daughter's blood ! and yet I owe a much is not for good, but calls heaven's duty to my comrades; and must they not lightning down. Ours be no such fortune, demand it ? Then he bowed to the yoke but rather the unenvied lot, unbarmed, unof fate, and steeled himself to dare the harming! worst; for in the first guilt madness lies, Up to this point, at which the chorus and hardens man to recklessness ; and so seems to be interrupted by a shout of be set at naught his daughter's prayer and the citizens without, welcoming the arrival appeals to a father's name; muffling the of the herald, we can clearly trace the idea curses which might fall from that melodious of the drama in the lovely ode, which, for tongue, which had so often charmed the critical purposes, we have so rudely anaguests of his palace-hall; for there she tomized The chorus endeavour to wake stood as if in act to speak, fair as some the song of triumph over Troy; but they pictured form, darting her glances round in are impressed with an undefinable though pitiful appeal. , ... We saw not, dare not sure foreboding of evil, which always returns, however they may try to shake iting. Here is a problem for the sticklers off; and so offensa resultat imago, the echo for the unity of time. Afterwards, in the of their song comes back upon them. Eumenides, the scene shifts from Delphi Every topic of triumph, by alluding to to Athens, if not also from one part of Trojan misfortunes, suggests the dangers Athens to another. So that the unities of of the Greeks. Nemesis, who waits on time and place may equally be dispensed overmuch fortune, and overweening reck with. The technical canons of which one lessness of right, bears heavily on those has heard so much from the French school who have sacked a heaven-built city, and of expositors of Hellenic art, are not binddestroyed a sacred kingdom. There is ing upon Æschylus. Indeed, these soblood crying to heaven. There is the mut- called Greek, or rather Gallo-Grecian, unitered curse of those that dare not cry aloud. ties are but a modern forgery, foisting upon And there is a sure avenger for them that Aristotle a doctrine of which he never have no helper! And so they see but little dreamt, and for oneness of conception, for difference between the misery of victor and the living whole of creative poetry, substivanquished, master and captive ; and they tuting a dead, mechanical union of parts pray to be delivered from both alike. filling up an arbitrary outline :-one inThese are intimations of evil to come, clear deed, but one as a volume, not as a work is enough to him who hears or reads; natu- one. Like other falsehoods, they are built rally more clear to him than to the chorus upon a truth ; and that is, that unity is exthemselves, who are possessed, rapt into cellence, and consistency indispensable. futurity while they utter them; and who, Hence, the more perfectly a tragedy comwhen their dark hour passes, are too much bined all in detail, the more in that point it mixed up with the events to rise to the would approach perfection. Of this excelpitch of their own inspiration, or judge of lence no one was a more consummate masthe fulness of their prophecy. But it must ter than Æschylus. The whole Trilogy is be borne in mind that, even to the hearer a proof of this : for it is one in a sense in or reader, the warning does not stand so which no other dramatic poem extant can startlingly as we have represented it. It be called so. But, in the detail, all minutiæ is all there, but invested in mystery by the must be duly subordinated to the grand art of the poet, which has been taxed to whole; and one essential point in the deficlothe the skeleton which is given above, nition was, that the subject matter must in a wondrous form of beauty and glory. be of weight and importance (πράξις μέγεθος
At this conjuncture the herald enters xovoa), involving therefore various interests, with a thanksgiving for his safe return. events, and characters, and often spreading He tells of the army's sufferings and over a considerable time, in proportion to triumph ; but this is not all. His most that greatness which gives it its fitness for important announcement is, that the end tragic handling. The niceties, therefore, has begun. The storm which has been which go by the name of the unities of hanging over the Greeks has burst; and time and place, will frequently interfere the shipwreck of the returning warriors is with the development of the plot, in exact the earnest of all that the chorus has fore- proportion to its tragic grandeur :-that is, told. In this tempest they lose sight of when the plot is a good plot,' artfully deMenelaus. Probably, indeed, thus much vised and complicated, there will be far is historical ; but it is not introduced here more difficulty in accommodating everymerely as an historical fact. As he does thing to these niceties than where there is not appear again in the trilogy, some scho- little plot or none at all. When such diffilars conjecture that this allusion was meant culties occur, the minor consideration should to connect the trilogy with the fourth drama, give way. In scenes of a purely domestic the Proteus. But this is not necessary to character, it would be comparatively easy explain it. It is, as has been before hint- to adhere strictly to place and punctually ed, a sufficient reason for his disappearance, to time; and hence in the later comedy we that he was one of the two sons of Atreus usually find this done; because here the (or Pleisthenes), on whom vengeance has intricacies of the plot extend no further been accumulating; and that by his being than the concerns of two neighbouring spirited away and lost sight of, the full families. But it is otherwise in such draweight of destiny is concentrated on the mas as we are treating of. one head of the devoted Agamemnon. And here let not the real questions be
The return of the herald follows the sig mistaken: for mistaken it will be, if we are nal of the beacons, and is again followed to inquire whether Æschylus leaves time by the appearance of Agamemnon, with enough to let the spectator or reader think little more than two choral odes interven-' that Agamemnon may have returned. This is an absurdity. We know that we are ter :-a curtain drops, or a scene changes. (as the case may be) witnessing or reading This at once breaks the sequence of our a play, with full purpose to give ourselves ideas, and, with or without the aid of the up to the illusion, if it be not rudely dis- orchestra, we are wafted over minutes or pelled by some awkwardness in the artist : years, as the case may be. The chorus' —we dream until we are forcibly awaken- or “grex' coming in to apologize, like a ed. The real question then is, whether the showman interpreting his puppets, as we want of unity is such as to dispel the illu- frequently find it in the Elizabethan drasion, and to bring us back to the work-day matists, betrays a rude state of the art. It world and the measurement of time. If we is true that the mystery of the sceneshifter measure the choral odes, as Sterne's critic was not so much studied by the ancients did the soliloquy, by the stop-watch, the as by the moderns ; but there was the enAgamemnon cannot stand such a test as tire change of performance to serve the this. But, under such circumstances, what same purpose. The chorus, with its solemn is there that can stand, which will be worth evolutions—the lyre—the song—the dance standing room? Let all the sticklers for -carried the spectators at once into a new the unities lay their heads together, and world ; and if they had any feeling for whence will they exhume, or when will what was going on, and could discharge they manufacture, a play in which the ma- from their minds the dialogue of the past nager's or poet's clock will keep time with scene, so far as to enter into that which the clocks at the outside of the theatre, or was before them, they had at once lost count with the watches of the audience? There of time, sufficiently to surrender themselves never was a play in which some scenes did to the poet, and to justify his experience not require an indefinite interval to elapse by its success. between them. Let this be of minutes, or It cannot be denied that this is a hazardhours, or days, the stop-watch critic is an- ous enterprise ; so hazardous, indeed, that swered ; and with reasonable beings the whole crowds of most respectable playmatter is sooner or later brought to this writers will best consult their reputation issue. If the
poet does not carry the spec- by not trying it. But it is not the less true tator with him so completely as to make that one who dares not run this hazard will him lose count of time, he has failed ; and scarcely make good his title to the name of no observation of the unities can make up poet; and in cases like that one which has for his failure. In the matters of real life, led us to the present digression, where the while we stand on the earth and are acted irregularity in a point of detail is directly upon by its influence, what matters it to us, subservient to the grouping and unity of practically speaking, that we are spinning the whole, there is nothing to defend or along at the rate of millions of miles in a apologise for ; but rather everything to minute? Do we stand the less steadily? praise, as the direct means towards an allDoes our full belief in the physical truth important excellence. But this reminds interfere with the impressions which we us that our digression is, in its way, a serireceive from our senses? And so it is ous violation of the unities; and also that that, if we are rapt into the sphere of the time and paper and the reader's patience poet, and whirled along with him whither will all fail us, if we go on as we have behis orbit leads us, we can no more measure gun, doing the choral songs into prose. or take account of such minute points as Nor is it necessary for our purpose ; since these, than we can measure how far we enough has been said to show the idea of have travelled through space since we sat the chorus, which is carried on still further down to our intellectual treat. We are in the following strains : until at last, when entitled to demand that the poet shall do Agamemnon has returned, and all adverse thus much for us : and it is sufficiently done, destiny seems overruled, the chorus comif there is any such interruption occupying plain wonderingly, that some mysterious the theatre for a time, as will serve to dis- influence makes their highest notes of trisolve the continuity of the action. If, umph die away into a funereal strain ; and during such a pause, new train of thought pray, yet dare not hope, that their souls' be successfully interpolated, then the laws prophecy may prove false. of mind make the interval for all practical All now is wound up to the pitch where purposes an indefinite one.
some catastrophe is expected ; and, ere it Hence it follows that the objection touch- comes, we have shadowed forth in dim ing the chorus, as having only so many lines oracular grandeur by the swan-song of Casto sing, while Agamemnon' has so many sandra, who is the very impersonation of leagues to sail, is a mere quibble. Modern Destiny--which must give warning, or it playwrights find no difficulty in the mat- I would not be known as such ; yet must