Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in a very childish and inconsequential manner; and urges, as an argument for a certain degree of laxity in morals, that men are not very particular in finishing the roofs of their houses!

Ουδ' εκπονείν τοι κρη βίον λίαν βροτούς: ουδ' αν στεγήν γάρ, ής κατήρεφείς δόμοι καλώς ακριβώσειαν, Hippol. 469.

OP.

With the same disregard for decorum he introduces in the Supiplices, and at a very critical period of the drama, a sententious coxcomb in the person of a herald, whom an Athenian audience could not have listened to without laughing. The Phrygians were pro. verbially cowards, and a slave of that nation might be supposed to have recourse to any meanness, however abject, for the purpose of saving his life ; accordingly in the Orestes a character of this sort is introduced in a manner totally incompatible with the gravity of the tragic muse. If Sophocles had chanced to be present at the representation of that play, he must infallibly have quitted the theatre in disgust when Orestes began to sport with the fears of the Phrygian slave. Such a passage as the following could only have been intended to excite the risibility of the spectators. ΟΡ. ενδίκως η Τυνδάρειος άρα παίς διώλετι;

ένδικώτατ, εί γε λαιμούς είχε τριπτύχους θανείν. OP. όμoσον, ει δε μη, κτενώ σε, μη λέγειν εμην χάριν. ΦΡ. την εμήν ψυχήν κατώμοσ', ήν αν ευορκοίμ' εγώ.

ουκ άρα κτενείς μ' ; οΡ. αφεϊσαι. ΦΡ. καλόν έπος λέγεις τόδες ΟΡ. αλλά μεταβουλευσόμεσθα, ΦΡ. τούτο δ' ού καλός λέγεις.

Orest. 1526. Many similar instances might be adduced from the plays of Euripides ; and it is deserving of consideration, whether his frequent failures in the dramatic contests of the Dionysia may not have been in part attributable to his deviations from that majestic and decorous style, which the Athenians had been accustomed to admire in Sophocles : for it cannot be denied that these are blemishes in his compositions. They may be natural, but they are not poetical. Whatever borders upon the low or the ludicrous, gives a revolting shock to those finer feelings of the human breast, which it is the peculiar province of tragedy to excite and keep alive. For the same reason, although gross or profligate characters are more commonly to be met with than heroes, yet it is not the business of tragedy to bring them upon the stage in their native colours ; nor in a picture, which is intended to rouse our pity or terror, should the painter introduce an object of disgusting deformity, however skilfully it may be wrought.

VOL, XY. NO, XXIX.

άλλ' αποκρύπτειν κρη το πονηρόν τόνγε ποιητήν,

και μη παράγειν μηδε διδάσκειν.* The propensity, which is so frequently discoverable in Euripides, to raise a laugh at the expense of certain characters against which he seems to have had a particularanimosity, and to the gross violation of dramatic consistency, is the more remarkable, because all accounts concur in representing the poet himself as a man of grave and austere manners, and an enemy to that species of buffoonery which he has introduced with so ill an effect into the most interesting parts of his tragedies. It is scarcely probable that this should not have given offence to the correct taste of those audiences, whom the sustained and uniform dignity, and laboured accuracy of Sophocles had probably rendered fastidious and critical. Aeschylus rarely offends in this way, at least in his surviving dramas; and when he does, it is rather from want of judgment than from inclination. The priestess in the Eumenides, who comes out of the adytum crawling upon all-fours from excess of fear, and the nurse of Orestes in the Choëphori, who pathetically expatiates upon the trouble which dirty children give in the night, are to be sure many notes below the pitch of tragedy; but we know of only one instance, in which this lofty poet has purposely descended into the regions of comedy, and has made one of his heroes appear in a burlesque character. The classical reader will immediately perceive that we allude to the Exodus of the Persæ, in which the tattered plight of the beaten Xerxes, and the obsequious wailings of the chorus were evidently intended to amuse the spectators. But this was a particular case. To burlesque Xerxes before an Athenian audience, was natural. With these exceptions, we are not aware that Aeschylus has fallen into the faults which we have pointed out in Euripides. His faults were of an opposite description, although the effects which they produced might be nearly the same ; rò ràp éviote περαιτέρω προεκπίπτειν αναιρεί την υπερβολήν, και τα τοιαύτα υπερτεινάκενα χαλάται, έσθ' ότε δε και εις υπεναντιώσεις αντιπεριϊσταται.

We have before observed that the anomalies in the plays of Euripides were very likely to displease his critics. This, of course, is mere conjecture. That they did not always outweigh the intrinsic beauties of the piece in which they occurred, is proved by the instance of the Orestes; a tragedy which had great success upon the stage, as we are told by the writer of the Argument, in the following odd sentence;

το δράμα των επί σκηνής ευδοκιμούντων, χείριστον δε τοις ήθεσι. Is it not possible, that the attempt which Euripides made to diversify his plays with scenes, which partook more of the nature of comedy than of tragedy, may have been one of the causes of offence, which procured for him the enmity and abuse of Aristophanes ?-May not the comic poet have been jealous of these encroachments upon his own province,and indignant thata tragedian should attempt to please his audience by artifices which were the rightful property of himself and his fellows? We lay no great stress upon this supposition, which is thrown out as a bare conjecture; but if admitted, it would

* Aristoph. Ran. 1080.

+ Longinus de Subl. § 38.

go some way towards accounting for that bitter animosity with which the name and writings of Euripides are persecuted by the witty, but foul-mouthed Aristophanes. It will no doubt have already occurred to our readers, that these reflections were suggested to us by the well-known eating and drinking scene in the play before us, which is better adapted to the grotesque caricatura of a satirical drama, than to a tragedy so full of interest as the Alcestis. This play'exhibits, in a remarkable manner, some of the leading beauties and defects of its author. Many parts of it are tender and pathetic in the highest degree; while some are revolting and improbable, and others disgusting and offensive. The character of Alcestis is highly amiable; her disinterested affection for her husband, and self-devotion to death for his preservation,are depicted in the most affecting colours. But there is an obvious and great defect in the character of Admetus, which diminishes the interest of the piece. We see no possible reason why he should have procured a substitute in the person of his wife to die for him. He was undoubtedly bound in honour and affection to die himself rather than to sacrifice her. This selfishness renders him an uninteresting character. The story should have been so contrived, that Alcestis might have devoted herself to death to purchase the life of Admetus, without his knowledge ; and he should not have discovered the truth till it was too late to save her. And this is the contrivance which has been adopted by Wieland in his Alcestis.

The opening of the play is well imagined, but ill executed. The dialogue between Apollo and Death is only fit for a couple of biglers at a pig-fair; but the following scenes are in the best style of Euripides. Nothing can be more pathetic than the description of Alcestis, crowning, for the last time, the altars of her palace with a serene and steady eye, but bursting into tears at the sight of the nuptial chamber, and apostrophizing the scene of her happiness and cause of her destruction. How skilfully is that thought in troduced

Θνή σκω" σε δ' άλλη τις γυνη κεκτησεται,

σώφρων μεν ουχί μάλλον, ευτυχώς δ' ίσωε. The altercation between Admetus and his father is unnatural and offensive in the greatest degree. The stupidity of Hercules in not conjecturing the cause of the mourning which he saw in the family of Admetus, although he knew that the death of Alcestis was inevitable, is very ridiculous; but the scene in which he comes upon the stage drunk, and bawling out to the attendants (äuovo inqxrwr) maxims fit for a club of good fellows, is a lamentable interruption to those feelings of commiseration, which the calamities of Admetus had excited in the minds of the spectators. The con. clusion is better managed; but the effect is in a great measure destroyed by a fault, for which Euripides is notorious, viz. the giving his audience to understand very clearly beforehand, what the catastrophe is to be. In this respect he is not to be put in competition with Sophocles.

Having premised these observations upon the defects which characterize the writings of Euripides, and this play in particular, we now proceed to discharge that part of our duty as critics, which concerns rather the editor than the author.

Professor Monk has published the Alcestis upon the same plan which he pursued in his edition of the Hippolytus, of which we gave an account in a former volume of this journal; that is to say, he has given us a correct text, with notes critical and explanatory; the former containing his reasons for rejecting or adopting a new reading, the latter such philological illustration as was necessary to elucidate the text. It is the almost total absence of this species of commentary, which renders Porson's editions of the first four plays of Euripides so ill adapted to young students. His notes are, in themselves, perfect specimens of Greek criticism ; but they have too often little or nothing to do with the passage to which they are appended. They are precious jewels out of place. But Porson was so perfect a master of this kind of critical writing, that we are not certain whether we regret that he did not bestow any portion of his time and labour upon philological illustration. At least we are certain that we should have lost by any change of plan, which might have caused him to withhold from us any of those exquisite morsels of criticism with which his notes on Euri, pides abound. There can be no doubt that the form of Professor Monk's edition is much better adapted to the necessities of ninetynine readers out of a hundred; for that is, perhaps, about the proportion of those who care nothing for critical remarks to those who have any relish for them. The ordinary Greek reader will find short and satisfactory explanations of the difficult passages and rarer words, while the more advanced student may sharpen his tusks upon the tough and knotty points which are discussed in the critical remarks. The present editor does not deviațe from his author; he is content to convey a great deal of pertinent informa. tion in a concise and pleasing form, without digressing into remarks

P. 21.

upon the corpus poetarum. He seldom rejects the received read. ing where it can safely be retained, and is more solicitous to ascertain what Euripides did write, than to determine what he ought to have written. We shall proceed to specify the principal improvements which Mr. Monk has introduced into the present edition, interspersing a few remarks of our own. ARGUMENT.---This argument we believe to be the production of the

modern Grammarian; at least we have a more ancient one in the Scholiast on Plato, p. 44, who gives us first, a more correct

copy

of that which is now prefixed to the play; and secondly, the following, which is obviously of older date. "Αλκηστις ή Πελίoν θυγατηρ υπομείνασα υπέρ του ιδίου ανδρός τελευτήσαι, Ηρακλέους επιδημήσαντος εν τη Θετταλία, διασώζεται βιασαμένου τους χθονίους θεούς, και αφελομένου την γυναίκα, παρ' ουδετέρω κείται η μυθοποιία.

The same argument is transcribed by Eudocia into her Violet-Bed, Line 16. Πατέρα, κεραιών θ' ή σφ' έτικτε μητέρα.

• Fortasse legendum Ilatépve te ypaidy 6.' Nec tamen mutatio necessaria est : mediam enim eopulum interdum supprimi monet Porso

nus ad Med. 750.' 36. *Η τόθ' υπέστη, πόσιν έκλύσασ' = αυτή προθανείν Πελίου παίς. Vulgo rád uioth.

Corrigit Elmsleius rót', quod sine ulla dubitatione amplexus sum.' We see no need of this alteration. The common reading is good Greek, and good sense, and has all the autho

rities in its favour. 48. Λαβών 78', ου γαρ οίδ' άν ει πείσαιμί σε,

This construction ofă v appears to be very unusual. Mr. Elmsley and Mr. Monk say that we are to take the words as if they stood thus, Où gápoida ei testarter är of, as in the Medea 937. Dúxoids ay ki Tairakel where Porson prints aúx oido aép'. Plato Tim. iii. p. 26. B. εγώ ά μέν χθές ήκουσα, ούκ άν οίδα ει δυναίμην άπαντα εν μνή μη παλιν λαβείν. The force of the expression, according to Mr. Elmsley, is this--I am afraid, I shall not prevail upon you. The particles åv & ci have a similar relative position in the phrase coasp av ti dimos, as if he were to say.

Plato Apol. s 14. 74. Στείχω δ επ' αυτήν, ώς κατάρξωμαι ξίφει.

Lascaris and the MSS, have xotápšopeke, which Brunck (on Sophocl. Oed. Col. 1725.) thinks the true reading; we do not. as is most commonly joined with a subjunctive aorist, was with an indi

cative future. See Fischer, in Welleri, Gr. Gr. III. b. p. 292. 76. ότου τόδ' έγχος κρατος αγνίσει τρίχα. Mr. Monk has restored the true reading

ayviamo To the instances quoted in his note may be added Iphig. T. 1064. xaidáy at ydwar', prw niotis tap. Mr. Schaefer in his note on Sophocl. Aj. 1074,

had observed that áyrion was the true reading. 113. ουδέ-έσθ' οποι τις αίας στείλας-διατάνου παραλύσαι=ψυχών,

'Conj. Wakef. Troepenúrsi sed unice verus est optativus. Eandem habes constructionem supra v. 52. Aesch. Prom. 299. Agam. 629.

« AnteriorContinuar »