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Τραγωδία μίμησις πράξεως σπεδαίας, &c. " Tragoedia est imitatio actionis feriæ, &c. per “ mifericordiam et metum perficiens talium
« affectuum luftrationem.”
Of that sort of Dramatic Poem which is called Tragedy.
RAGEDY, as it was anciently compos'd, hath
been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems: therefore said by Aristotle to be of power, by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like pasions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirr'd up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his affertion : for fo in physic things of melancholic hue and quality are us'd against melancholy, four against sour, salt to remove falt humors. Hence philosophers and other graveit writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their discourse. The Apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33. and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguish'd each by a chorus of heavenly barpings and long between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have labor'd not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honor Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæfar also had begun his Ajax, but, unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinish'd. Seneca the philosopher is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church, thought it not unbeseeming the fanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is intitled Christ suffering. This is mention'd to vindi. cate tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes; hap’ning through the poets error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic fad.
ness and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd; and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defense, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epiftle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us passes for best, thus much before-hand may be epistled ; that chorus is here introduc'd after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modeling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the Ancients and Italians are rather follow'd, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse us’d in the chorus is of all sorts, call’d by the Greeks Monoftrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epod, which were a kind of stanzas fram'd only for the music, then us’d with the chorus that sung; not essential to the poem, and therefore not material ; or, being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be call's Allæoftropha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produc'd beyond the fifth act, Of the stile and uniformity, and that commonly call'd the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such economy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with versimilitude and decorum; they only will beit judge who are not unacquainted with Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets unequal'd yet by any, and the best rule to all who endevor to write tragedy. The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama be. gins and ends, is according to ancient rule, and best example, within the space of twenty-four hours.