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No. XLII. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18.
Garganum mugire putes nemus, aut mare Tuscum ;
Loud as the wolves, on Orca's stormy steep,
ARISTOTLE has observed, that ordinary writers in tragedy, endeavour to raise terror and pity in their audience, not by proper sentiments and expressions, but by the dresses and decorations of the stage. There is something of this kind very ridiculous in the English theatre. When the author has a mind to terrify us, it thunders; when he would make us melancholy, the stage is darkened. But among all our tragic artifices, I am the most offended at those which are made use of to inspire us with magnificent ideas of the persons that speak. The ordinary method of making an hero, is to clap a huge plume of feathers upon his head, which rises so very high, that there is often greater length from his chin to the top of his - head, than to the sole of his foot. One would believe, that we thought a great man and a tall man the same
thing. This very much embarrasses the actor, who is forced to hold his neck extremely stiff and steady all the while he speaks; and notwithstanding any anxieties which he pretends for his mistress, his country, or his friends, one may see by his action, that his greatest care and concern is to keep the plume of feathers from falling off his head. For my own part, when I see a man uttering his complaints under such a mountain of feathers, I am apt to look upon him rather as an unfortunate lunatic, than a distressed hero. As these superfluous ornaments upon the head make a great man, a princess generally receives her grandeur from these additional incumbrances that fall into her tail; I mean the broad sweeping train that follows her in all her motions, and finds constant employment for a boy who stands behind her to open and spread it to advantage. I do not know how others are affected at this sight, but I must confess, iny eyes are wholly taken up with the page's part; and as for the queen, I am not so attentive to any thing she speaks, as to the right adjusting of her train, lest it should chance to trip up her heels, or incommode her, as she walks to and fro upon the stage. It is, in my opinion, a very odd spectacle, to see a queen venting her passion in a disordered motion, and a little boy taking care all the while that they do no rufle the tail of her gown. The parts that the two persons act on the stage at the same time, are very different; the princess is afraid lest she should incur the displeasure of the king her father, or lose the hero, her lover; whilst her attendant is only concerned lest she should entangle her feet in her petticoat.
We are told; that an ancient tragic poet, to move the pity of his audience for his exiled kings and distressed heroes, used to make the actors represent them in dresses and clothes that were thread-bare and decayed. This artifice for moving pity, seems as ille
contrived as that we have been speaking of to inspire us with a great idea of the persons introduced upon the stage. In short, I would have our conceptions raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity of expression, rather than by a train of robes or a plume of feathers.
Another mechanical method of making great men, and adding dignity to kings and queens, is to accompany them with halberts and battle-axes. Two or three shifters of scenes, with the two candle-snuffers, make up a complete body of guards upon the English stage ; and by the addition of a few porters dressed in red coats, can represent above a dozen legions. I have sometimes seen a couple of armies drawn up together upon the stage when the poet has been disposed to do honour to his generals. It is impossible for the reader's imagination to multiply twenty men into such prodigious multitudes, or to fancy that two or three hundred thousand soldiers are fighting in a room of forty or fifty yards in compass. Incidents of such a nature should be told, not represented.
........ Non tamen intus
Yet there are things improper for a scene,
I should therefore, in this particular, recommend to my countrymen the example of the French stage, where the kings and queens always appear unattended, and leave their guards behind the scenes. I shoul likewise be glad if we imitated the French in banishing from our stage the noise of drums, trumpets, and huzzas; which is sometimes so very great, that when
there is a battle in the Hay-Market theatre, one may hear it as far as Charing-Cross.
I have here only touched upon those particulars which are made use of to raise and aggrandize the persons of a tragedy; and shall shew in another paper the several expedients which are practised by authors of a vulgar genius to move terror, pity, or admiration in their hearers.
The taylor and the painter often contribute to the success of a tragedy more than the poet. Scenes affect ordinary minds as much as speeches; and our ac. tors are very sensible, that a well-dressed play has sometimes brought them as full audiences, as a wellwritten one. The Italians have a very good phrase to express this art of imposing upon the spectators by appearances: they call it the · Fourberia della scena,
the knavery or trickish part of the drama.' But however the show and outside of the tragedy may work upon the vulgar, the more understanding part of the audience immediately see through it and despise
A good poet will give the reader a more lively idea. of an army or a battle in a description, than if he ac. tually saw them drawn upin squadrons and battalions, or engaged in the confusion of a fight. Our minds should be opened to great conceptions, and inflamed with glorious sentiments, by what the actor speaks, more than by what he appears. Can all the trappings or equipage of a king or hero give Brutus half that pomp and majesty which he receives from a few lines in Shakspeare?
No. XLIII. THURSDAY, APRIL 19.
Hæ tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
Be these thy arts; to bid contention cease,
THERE are crowds of men, whose great misfortune it is that they were not bound to mechanic arts or trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be led by some continual task or employment. These are such as we commonly call dull fellows; persons, who for want of something to do, out of a certain vacancy of thought, rather than curiosity, are ever meddling with things for which they are unfit. I cannot give you a notion of them better than by presenting you with a letter from a gentleman, who belongs to a society of this order of men, residing at Oxford.
Oxford, April 13, 17il. "Sir,
"Four o'clock in the morning. IN some of your late speculations, I find some + sketches towards an history of clubs: but you ( seem to me to shew them in somewhat too ludicrous 6 a light. I have well weighed that matter, and think ! that the most important negotiations may best be ó carried on in such assemblies. I shall, therefore,
for the good of mankind (which, I trust, you and I I are equally concerned for) propose an institution of " that nature for example sake.
"I must confess the design and transactions of too * many clubs are trifling, and manifestly of no conse+ quence to the nation or public weal: those I will give - you up. But you must do me then the justice to