« AnteriorContinuar »
But, we have an instance in the sacred writings, which seems to come much nearer to our idea of the modern, or rather of the ancient Drama. The Song of Solomon is now almost universally acknowledged to have been the Epithalamium, or marriage song, of that monarch, composed on the celebration of his nuptials with the Shulamite, in the year 1014 B. C.; and was probably performed on that occasion, somewhat after the manner of our Cathedral Service, or of the Sacred Dramas, called Oratorios, in these days. The author of The Key to the Old Testament observes, This book may be considered as to its form, as a dramatical poem of the pastoral kind. There is a succession of time, and a change of place, to different parts of the palace and royal gardens. Thé personages introduced as speakers, are the bridegroom and bride, with their respective attendants, together, as some suppose, with the sister of the bride; and, if the ingenious theory of Harmer be admitted, the first and degraded wife of Solomon, whom he considers as the figure of the Jewish Church. There is certainly an interchange of dialogue.—The companions of the bride compose a kind of Chorus, which seems to bear some resemblance to that which afterwards obtained in the Grecian Tragedy. Solomon and his Queen sometimes speak in assumed characters, and represent themselves in fictitious circumstances. They descend, as it were, from
the throne; and adopt, with the pastoral dress, that simplicity of style, which is favourable to the communication of their sentiments.”*
There is another of the sacred books, the Book of Job, which, though it cannot be considered as a regular Drama, yet certainly is written
much in the dramatic form, “ as the parties are introduced speaking with great fidelity of character, and as it deviates from strict historical accuracy for the sake of effect.” (Gray, p. 250.) An Expositor of the Bible, indeed, goes so far as to say, “ It is undoubtedly a piece of dramatic poetry; that the several answers to Job's pleas make three distinct acts, Elihu's reply a fourth, the Deity concluding in the fifth, the historical parts at the beginning and the end are a kind of prologue and epilogue, which, like those of the ancients, are plain narrations, illustrating the poetical parts.' The opinion most anciently and generally entertained respecting this Book, was, that it was composed by Moses to comfort the Israelites during their afflictions in Egypt; and others have supposed it to have been written by Ezekiel to comfort them during their captivity in Babylon.”+
* Gray's Key, p. 307. | Quoted by Orton in his Exposition of the Old Testament. Vol. iv,
+ See Gray's Key, p. 248, 242.--and Orton, vol. iv. p. 139– Also Lowth's Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vol. ii. Lect. xxxiii.
Now, although it must be acknowledged, that this Sacred Poem does not bear the form of a regular Drama, and was not written for the purpose of being represented by different persons, sustaining the different characters introduced, which must always be considered as constituting what we mean by the general term Drama, yet thus much we certainly learn from it, that this form of writing was considered, by persons acting under divine direction, as admirably well adapted to convey moral and religious truths. And though, in this particular instance, it would have been presumption in any one to have taken upon himself to represent the Almighty, or his Angel, yet, of the other characters it may be said, that, if, instead of being read to the Jews by one person, it had been read by several, or if, instead of reading, the different parts had been committed to memory, and spoken, as if they had been the characters themselves, the effect would have been considerably increased; and one cannot conceive wherein would have consisted the harm of thus delivering this lesson, or any other one of similar concern. If, indeed, in doing this, other circumstances had been, added, such as profaneness towards God, or if false morals had been taught, or if the persons assembling to hear this lesson had been guilty of immoralities, then had these circumstances in themselves been wrong; but they would have
been no part of the original design, and might have been separated from it again, and thus have left it in its original purity: and this I take to be the case in the general question of the lawfulness of the Stage. Abuses, and those grievous ones, no doubt, exist; but, though they have been long attached to the Stage, they are by no means necessarily so, and might be separated from it, leaving it, not only an innocent amusement, but a highly rational and pleasing source of instruction.*
It may be remarked, too, that St. Paul, (Acts xvii. 28.) in his address to the Athenians, quotes the saying of one of their poets, and, in the xvth ch, of 1. Cor. (v. 33.) he quotes the words of the dramatic poet Menander. Now, had he considered Dramas as so absolutely unlawful, so bad in their origin, and so corrupt
very nature, surely he would not have given this sanction to their instructive sayings?+
Nor is it fair to object against the Stage, That it hath been abused to the worst of purposes. What gift of God, and which of his institutions have not been so ? Hath not even the holy worship appointed by himself been perverted to the exaltation of Baal, Moloch, and the myriad
* Note E.
of heathen Deities? Hath not the abomination of Desolation been set up in the Holy Place?
And here it may be remarked, that the exhortation of St. Paul to the Corinthians to separate from the corruptions of the world, “ Come out of her my people,” (2 Cor. vi. 17) and which was, in a particular manner, urged upon Christians, at the time of the Reformation, to separate from the corruptions of Popery, hath been applied to those who profess themselves to be Christians in these days, to prevail upon them to avoid the corruptions of the Stage.
Be it so. But how was our Reformation carried on? Not by pulling down the Church which was corrupted, but by purging it from the corruptions which had obtained, and bringing it 'nearer to the standard of original purity.
We are told by the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus, (xxvii. 2.) that, 66 As a nail sticketh fast between the joinings of the stones, só doth sin stick close between buying and selling.” But what, then? is all buying and selling unlawful, and must we give up all merchandize? No, let us put away the sin of it, and let our merchandize be « Holiness unto the Lord.” (Isaiah xxiii. 18. Zach. xiv. 20, 21.) Let us be like the “ inerchantman seeking