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dual advances, and the end of the
Bo play is the end of expectation.
To the unities of time and place he has shewn no regard; and perhaps a nearer view of the principles on which they stand will diminish
56 their value, and withdraw from them the veneration which, from the time of Corneille, they have very generally received, by discovering that they have given more trouble to the poet
60 than pleasure to the auditor.
The necessity of observing the unities of time and place arises from the supposed necessity of making the drama credible. The critics hold it
65 impossible that an action of months or years can be possibly believed to pass in three hours, or that the spectator can suppose himself to sit in the theatre, while ambassadors go
To and return between distant kings, while armies are levied and towns besieged, while an exile wanders and returns, or till he whom they saw courting his mistress, shall lament
76 the untimely fall of his son. The mind revolts from evident falsehood, and fiction loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality.
eo From the narrow limitation of time necessarily arises now the contraction of place. The spectator, who knows that he saw the first act at Alexandria, cannot suppose that he
65 sees the next at Rome, at a distance to which not the dragons of Medea could, in so short a time, have transported him; he knows with certainty that he has not changed
w his place; and he knows that place cannot change itself, that what was a house cannot become a plain, that what was Thebes can never be Persepolis.
96 Such is the triumphant language with which a critic exults over the misery of an irregular poet, and ex
ults commonly without resistance or reply. It is time therefore to tell him, by the authority of Shakspere, 100 that he assumes, as an unquestionable principle, a position which, while his breath is forming it into words, his understanding pronounces to be false. It is false that any representation Iob is mistaken for reality, that any dramatic fable in its materiality was ever credible, or, for a single moment, was ever credited.
The objection arising from the im- no possibility of passing the first hour at Alexandria, and the next at Rome, supposes that, when the play opens, the spectator really imagines himself at Alexandria, and believes that his Iib walk to the theatre has been a voyage to Egypt, and that he lives in the days of Antony and Cleopatra Surely he that imagines this may imagine more. He that can take the stage 120 at one time for the palace of the Ptolemies, may take it in half an hour for the promontory of Actium. Delusion, if delusion be admitted, has no certain hmitation; if the spec- 126 tator can be once persuaded that his old acquaintance are Alexander and Caesar, that a room illuminated with candles is the plain of Pharsalia, or the bank of Granicus, he tso is in a state of elevation above the reach of reason, or of truth, and from the heights of empyrean poetry, may despise the circumscriptions of terrestrial nature. There is no reason 135 why a mind thus wandering in ecstasy should count the clock, or why an hour should not be a century in that calenture of the brains that can make the stage a field. 140
The truth is that the spectators are always in their senses, and know, from the first act to the last, that the stage is only a stage, and that the players are only players. They 115 come to hear a certain number of
lines recited with just gesture and elegant modulation. The lines relate to some action, and an action must
150 be in some place; but the different actions that complete a story may be in places very remote from each other; and where is the absurdity of allowing that space to represent
155 first Athens, and then Sicily, which was always known to be neither Sicily nor Athens, but a modern theatre.
By supposition, as place is introi6o duced, time may be extended; the time required by the fable elapses for the most part between the acts; for, of so much of the action as is represented, the real and poetical 16a duration is the same. If, in the first act, preparations for war against Mithridates are represented to be made in Rome, the event of the war may, without absurdity, be reno presented in the catastrophe as happening in Pontus; we know that there is neither war, nor preparation for war; we know that we are neither in Rome nor Pontus, that 176 neither Mithridates nor Lucullus are before us. The drama exhibits successive imaginations of successive actions, and why may not the second imitation represent an action that i8o happened years after the first; if it be so connected with it, that nothing but time can be supposed to intervene? Time is, of all modes of existence, most obsequious to the 165 imagination; a lapse of years is as easily conceived as a passage of hours. In contemplation we easily contract the time of real actions, and therefore willingly permit it to be 190 contracted when we only see their imitation.
It will be asked how the drama moves, if it is not credited. It is credited with all the credit due to 195 a drama It is credited, whenever
it moves, as a just picture of a real original; as representing to the auditor what he would himself feel, if he were to do or suffer what is there feigned to be suffered or to be done, aoo The reflection that strikes the heart is not that the evils before us are real evils, but that they are evils to which we ourselves may be exposed. If there be any fallacy, it is not aos that we fancy the players, but we fancy ourselves unhappy for a moment, but we rather lament the possibility than suppose the presence of misery, as a mother weeps over her babe, aio when she remembers that death may take it from her. The delight of tragedy proceeds from our consciousness of fiction; if we thought murders and treasons real, they would ais please no more.
Imitations produce pain or pleasure, not because they are mistaken for realities, but because they bring realities to mind. When the imagi- aao nation is recreated by a painted landscape, the trees are not supposed capable to give us shade, or the fountains coolness; but we consider how we should be pleased with such 225 fountains playing beside us, and such woods waving over us. We are agitated in reading the history of Henry the Fifth, yet no man takes his book for the field of Azincourt 230 A dramatic exhibition is a book recited with concomitants that increase or diminish its effect Familiar comedy is often more powerful on the theatre than in the page; im- 235 perial tragedy is always less. The humour of Petruchio may be heightened by grimace; but what voice or what gesture can hope to add dignity or force to the soliloquy of 240 Cato?
A play read effects the mind like a play acted. It is therefore evident that the action is not supposed to
2« be real; and it follows that between the acts a longer or shorter time may be allowed to pass, and that no more account of space or duration is to be taken by the auditor of a
250 drama than by the reader of a narrative, before whom may pass in an hour the life of a hero, or the revolutions of an empire.
Whether Shakspere knew the uni
255 ties, and rejected them by design, or deviated from them by happy ignorance, it is, I think, impossible to decide and useless to inquire. We may reasonably suppose that,
260 when he rose to notice, he did not want the counsels and admonitions of scholars and critics, and that he at last deliberately persisted in a practice which he might have begun
by chance. As nothing is essential 265 to the fable but unity of action, and as the unities of time and place arise evidently from false assumptions, and, by circumscribing the extent of the drama, lessen its variety, I cannot 270 think it much to be lamented that they were not known by him, or not observed; nor, if such another poet could arise, should I very vehemently reproach him that his first act passed 275 at Venice, and his next in Cyprus. Such violations of rules merely positive become the comprehensive genius of Shakspere, and such censures are suitable to the minute and slender 280 criticism of Voltaire:
Non usque adeo penniscuit imis LoDgus summa dies, ut non, si voce Metelli Serventur leges, malint a Cssare tolli.
[From A Journey to tht Western Islet of ScoUand (1775)]
We were now treading that illustrious Island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving
5 barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would
10 be foolish, if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances
is us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me and from my friends be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been
20 dignified by wisdom, bravery, and virtue. That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not
grow warmer among the ruins of 25 Iona!
We came too late to visit monuments: some care was necessary for ourselves. Whatever was in the island, Sir Allan could demand, for 30 the inhabitants were Macleans; but having little they could not give us much. He went to the head-man of the island, whom fame (but fame delights in amplifying) represents as 35 worth no less than fifty pounds. He was perhaps proud enough of his guests, but ill prepared for our entertainment; however, he soon produced more provision than men not luxurious 40 require. Our lodging was next to be provided. We found a barn well stocked with hay, and made our beds as soft as we could.
In the morning we rose and sur- v> veyed the place. The churches of the two convents are both standing, though unroofed. They were built
of unhewn stone, but solid, and not
60 inelegant I brought away rude measures of the buildings, such as I cannot much trust myself, inaccurately taken and obscurely noted. Mr. Pennant's delineations, which are
66 doubtless exact, have made my unskilful description less necessary.
The episcopal church consists of two parts, separated by the belfry, and built at different times. The
eo original church had, like others, the altar at one end, and tower at the other; but as it grew too small, another building of equal dimension was added, and the tower then was
66 necessarily in the middle.
That these edifices are of different ages seems evident The arch of the first church is Roman, being part of a circle; that of the addi
70 tional building is pointed, and therefore Gothic, or Saracenical; the tower is firm, and wants only to be floored and covered.
Of the chambers or cells belonging
75 to the monks, there are some walls remaining, but nothing approaching to a complete apartment
The bottom of the church is so encumbered with mud and rubbish,
so that we could make no discoveries of curious inscriptions, and what there are have been already published. The place is said to be known where the black stones he concealed
86 on which the old Highland chiefs, when they made contracts and alliances, used to take the oath, which was considered more sacred than any other obligation, and which could
90 not be violated without the blackest infamy. In those days of violence and rapine, it was of great importance to impress upon savage minds the sanctity of an oath by some
95 particular and extraordinary circumstances. They would not have recourse to the black stones upon
small or common occasions, and, when they had established their faith by this tremendous sanction, inconstancy 100 and treachery were no longer feared.
The chapel of the nunnery is now used by the inhabitants as a kind of general cow-house, and the bottom is consequently too miry for examination. 105 Some of the stones which covered the later abbesses have incriptions, which might yet be read, if the chapel were cleansed. The roof of this, as of all the other buildings, is totally no destroyed, not only because timber quickly decays when it is neglected, but because in an island utterly destitute of wood, it was wanted for use, and was consequently the first 115 plunder for needy rapacity.
The chancel of the nuns' chapel is covered with an arch of stone, to which time has done no injury; and a small apartment, communicating 120 with the choir on the north side, like the chapter-house in cathedrals, roofed with stone in the same manner, is likewise entire.
In one of the churches was a 125 marble altar, which the superstition of the inhabitants has destroyed. Their opinion was that a fragment of this stone was a defence against shipwrecks, fire, and miscarriages, iso In one corner of the church the bason for holy water is yet unbroken.
The cemetery of the nunnery was, till very lately, regarded with such reverence, that only women were 135 buried in it These reliques of veneration always produce some mournful pleasure. I could have forgiven a great injury more easily than the violation of this imaginary sanctity. 110
South of the chapel stand the walls of a large room, which was probably the hall, or refectory of the nunnery. This apartment is capable of repair. Of the rest of the convent there are ut only fragments.
Besides the two principal churches, there are, I think, five chapels yet standing, and three more remem
160 bered. There are also crosses, of which two bear the names of St John and Si Matthew.
A large space of ground about these consecrated edifices is covered
166 with grave-stones, few of which have any inscription. He that surveys it, attended by an insular antiquary, may be told where the kings of many nations are buried; and if he
160 loves to soothe his imagination with the thoughts that naturally rise in places where the great and the powerful lie mingled with the dust, let him listen in submissive silence;
16& for if he asks any questions, his delight is at an end.
Iona has long enjoyed, without any very credible attestation, the honour of being reputed the cemetery
170 of the Scottish kings. It is not unlikely that, when the opinion of local sanctity was prevalent, the chieftains of the isles, and perhaps some of the Norwegian or Irish i 176 princes were reposited in this venerable enclosure. But by whom the subterraneous vaults are peopled is now utterly unknown. The graves are very numerous, and some of
180 them undoubtedly contain the remains of men who did not expect to be so soon forgotten.
Not far from this awful ground may be traced the garden of the
185 monastery: the fish-ponds are yet discernible, and the aqueduct, which supplied them, is still in use.
There remains a broken building, which is called the Bishop's house,
190 I know not by what authority. It was once the residence of some man above the common rank, for it has two stories and a chimney. We were shewn a chimney at the other
196 end, which was only a niche, without
Htrrig-Fortttr, British Author!.
perforation; but so much does antiquarian credulity, or patriotic vanity prevail, that it was not much more safe to trust the eye of our instructor than the memory. 200
There is in the island one house more, and only one, that has a diimney: we entered it, and found it neither wanting repair nor inhabitants; but to the farmers, who 205 now possess it, the chimney is of no great value; for their fire was made on the floor in the middle of the room; and, notwithstanding the dignity of their mansion, they rejoiced like their 210 neighbours in the comforts of smoke.
It is observed that ecclesiastical colleges are always in the most pleasant and fruitful places. While the world allowed the monks their choice, 215 it is surely no dishonour that they chose well. This island is remarkably fruitful. The village near the churches is said to contain seventy families, which, at five in a family, is 220 more than a hundred inhabitants to a mile. There are perhaps other villages; yet both corn and cattle are annually exported.
But the fruitfulnes8 of Iona is 225 now its whole prosperity. The inhabitants are remarkably gross and remarkably neglected: I know not if they are visited by any minister. The island, which was once the metro- 230 polis of learning and piety, has now no school for education, nor temple for worship, only two inhabitants that can speak English, and not one that can write or read. 235
The people are of the clan of Maclean; and though Sir Allan had not been in the place for many years, he was received with all the reverence due to their chieftain. One of 240 them being sharply reprehended by him for not sending him some rum, declared after his departure, in Mr. Boswell's presence, that he had no 16