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when he wore their cloaths.' But since I have otherwise a great veneration for him, and you, Eugenius, prefer him above all other poets, * I will use no farther argument to you than his example : I will produce before you Father Ben, dressed in all the ornaments and colours of the ancients ; you will need no other guide to our party, if you follow him; and whether you consider the bad plays of our age, or regard the good plays of the last, both the best and worst of the modern poets will equally instruct you to admire the ancients,
Crites had no sooner left speaking, but Eugenius, who had waited with some impatience for it, thus began :
I have observed in your speech, that the former part of it is convincing as to what the moderns
! So again, (as Langbaine has observed,) in our author's Prologue to ALBUMAZAR, which, I find, was revived at the Duke's Theatre in 1668, the year in which this Essay was first published :
“ Subtle was got by our Albumazar,
“ He liked the fashion well, who wore the cloaths." The thought, if I remember right, is originally Suck, ling's; but I cannot at present turn to the passage.
Dryden, however, was inaccurate in supposing that the ALCHEMIST was formed on AĻBUMAZAR; for the AlCHEMIST was acted and printed in 1610, and ALBUMAZAR did not appear till four years afterwards.
* See a high eulogy on Ben Jonson, by lord Buckhurst, (the Eugenius of this piece,) written about the year 1668, Dryden's Miscel. V. 123. edit. 1716.
have profited by the rules of the ancients; but in the latter you are careful to conceal how much they have excelled them. We own all the helps we have from them, and want neither veneration nor gratitude, while we acknowledge that, to overcome them, we must make use of the advantages we have received from them : but to these assistances we have joined our own industry; for, had we sat down with a dull imitation of them, we might then have lost somewhat of the old perfection, but never acquired any that was new. We draw not therefore after their lines, but those of nature ; and having the life before us, besides the experience of all they knew, it is no wonder if we hit some airs and features which they have missed. I deny not what you urge of arts and sciences, that they have flourished in some ages more than others; but your instance in philosophy makes for me : for if natural causes be more known now than in the time of Aristotle, because more studied, it follows that poesy and other arts may, with the same pains, arrive still nearer to perfection ; and, that granted, it will rest for you to prove that they wrought more perfect images of human life than we; which seeing in your discourse you have avoided to make good, it shall now be my task to shew you some part of their defects, and some few excellencies of the moderns. And I think there is none among us can imagine I do it enviously, or with purpose to detract from them ; for what interest of fame or profit can the living lose by the reputation of the dead ? On the other side, it is a great truth which Velleius Paterculus affirms : Audita visis libentius laudamus ; et præsentia invidia, præterita admiratione prosequimur ; et his nos obrui, illis instrui credimus : that praise or censure is certainly the most sincere, which unbribed posterity shall give us.
Be pleased then in the first place to take notice, that the Greek poesy, which Crites has affirmed to have arrived to perfection in the reign of the old comedy, was so far from it, that the distinction of it into acts was not known to them; or if it were, I it is yet so darkly delivered to us that we cannot make it out.
All we know of it is, from the singing of their Chorus; and that too is so uncertain, that in some of their plays we have reason to conjecture they sung more than five times. Aristotle indeed divides the integral parts of a play into four. First, the Protasis, or entrance, which gives light only to the characters of the persons, and proceeds very little into any part of the action. Secondly, the Epitasis, or working up of the plot ; where the play grows warmer, the design or action of it is drawing on, and you see something promising that it will come to pass. Thirdly, the Catastasis, called by the Romans, Status, the height and full growth of the play: we may call it properly the counterturn, which destroys that expectation, imbroils the action in new difficulties, and leaves you far distant from that hope in which it found you; as you may have observed in a violent stream resisted by a narrow passage, -it runs round to an eddy, and carries back the waters with more swiftness than it brought them on. Lastly, the Catastrophe, which the Grecians called aúris, the French le dénouement, and we the discovery, or unravelling of the plot : there you see all things settling again upon their first foundations; and the obstacles which hindered the design or action of the play once removed, it ends with that resemblance of truth and nature, that the audience are satisfied with the conduct of it. Thus this great man delivered to us the image of a play; and I must confess it is so lively, that from thence much light has been derived to the forming it more perfectly into acts and scenes : but what poet first limited to five the number of the acts, I know not; only we see it so firmly established in the time of Horace, that he gives it for a rule in comedy, Neu brevior quinto, neu sit productior actu.* So that you see the Grecians cannot be said to have consummated this art; writing rather by entrances, than by acts, and having rather a general indigested notion of a play, than knowing how and where to bestow the particular graces of it.
But since the Spaniards at this day allow but three acts, which they call Jornadas, to a play, and the Italians in many of theirs follow them, when I condemn the ancients, I declare it is not
* Horace's line is,
Neve minor, neu sit quinto productior actu.
altogether because they have not five acts to every play, but because they have not confined themselves to one certain number : it is building an house without a model ; and when they succeeded in such undertakings, they ought to have sacrificed to Fortune, not to the Muses.
Next, for the plot, which Aristotle called có μυθος, and often των πραγμάτων σύνθεσις, and from him the Romans Fabula; it has already been judiciously observed by a late writer, that in their tragedies it was only some tale derived from Thebes or Troy, or at least something that happened in those two ages; which was worn so threadbare by the pens of all the epick poets, and even by tradition itself of the talkative Greeklings, (as Ben Jonson calls them,) that before it came upon the stage, it was already known to all the audience : and the people, so soon as ever they heard the name of Oedipus, knew as well as the poet, that he had killed his father by a mistake, and committed incest with his mother, before the play; that they were now to hear of a great plague, an oracle, and the ghost of Laius : so that they sat with a yawning kind of expectation, till he was to come with his eyes pulled out, and speak a hundred or more verses in a tragick tone, in complaint of his misfortunes. But one Oedipus, Hercules, or Medea, had been tolerable : poor people, they escaped not so good cheap; they had still the chapon bouillé set before them, till their appetites were cloyed with the same dish, and, the novelty being gone, the