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of place, and only of the time which was employed in the recitation. For the unity of action more is to be said; since in every composition of human art it seems necessary to prevent confusion in the minds of the hearers.

A modern play, you must perceive, is a very different composition, and therefore to confine us to the same narrow limits as the Greek dramatists, is to say mankind shall never improve: yet upon this ridiculous system bave critics proceeded; nay, it has even been doubted by some of them whether the moderns have judged well in laying aside the chorus: it certainly added, they allege, both to the magnificence and morality of the stage, as it was always employed in commending virtue; but surely it detracted very much from the probability of the performance. Either the chorus is detached from the tragedy, and then it is quite unnatural, or the persons of the chorus have some connection with the subject, and then it is very difficult for the poet to preserve the probability. As the chorus was first invented, it is no wonder it was retained so long a time; but had the tragedy been first, it is very probable the other would never have had a being.

Upon these principles let us now examine what Aristotle had deemed indispensable-the three unities, of action, time, and place; the first of these I have always thought important to every composition, and I have already shewn in what it consists, namely, the relation of every incident to some great action or end; and it is no less necessary to preserve it in epic poetry than in tragedy. It is essential even to history, for the detail of two narratives at once, or the intermixture of them can only serve to confuse. The common practice is to divide the whole performance into five acts, though this practice has no foundation in nature: the first, it is said, should contain an exposition of the design of the representation; this was formerly performed in a long speech by way of prologue by one actor. Thus it is in Sophocles and Euripides; but the moderns have judged better in making the actors open the subject by discoursing together in the first act. In the second, third, and fourth acts, the plot should proceed and draw towards a crisis, and prepare gradually for the developement in the fifth act. It is a rule, which should always be observed, that no person should ever come upon the stage and go

off again without the reason of his appearance being obvious, and absolutely essential to the plot. Another rule is, that all the persons should be actually engaged in the business of the tragedy, and not introduced merely as hearers of the principal personages. This is a rule which has been greatly neglected by modernwriters of tragedies, as the principal persons are commonly attended by a mute companion, or bumble friend, who seems to have no other business on the stage than to afford them an opportunity of relating their story.

The second unity is that of time, which (according to those absurd critics who have merely copied from the imperfect sketches left by the antients) requires that a play should occupy no more time in the supposed action than it does in the representation. Unity of place (according to the same prejudiced judges, who never looked at the origin of the prejudice) required that the scene should be never shifted from one place to another. By observing the first of these, the antients had great difficulty to find any interesting events which could be supposed to be acted in so short a time; on this account Aristotle himself, who was a slave to precedent,

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was obliged to change the time, and allowed them twenty-four hours.

That they might not violate the third unity, they were obliged to fix their action in some public place, such as a court or area before a palace; on which account much business was transacted there which ought to have been done in private.

The truth is, as I before observed, these two last unities arose out of the imperfection of the Greek drama. As the chorus never left the stage, the curtain was not let down between the acts. Shakspeare understood nature better than those pedantic critics who have extolled the unities of Aristotle; and surely, according to the modern custom, the spectators can, with no degree of violence upon the imagination while the action is suspended, suppose a certain time to elapse between the acts; and by a very small effort of the imagination, they can also suppose themselves transported, or the scene shifted, from one place to another.

Upon the whole then, it is plain the moderns have judged rightly in laying aside the chorus; and Shakspeare, who rejected the unities of time and place, has produced the best dramas.

Corneille and Racine, on the other hand, are generally very exact in the observation of Aristotle's rules, and their plays are proportionably vapid and lifeless.

The plot and the sentiment in tragedy should conspire to leave favourable impressions and opinions of virtue on the mind; if virtuous men suffer, it must render their virtues more amiable this may be done by representing their misfortunes as the effects of the vices of others, or of their own failings; but they should never be made to suffer on account of their virtues. Aristotle observes, that the characters brought upon the stage should never be perfectly good or ill, but of a mixed kind. Mr. Addison's Cato is a very stiff character; as he is not affected with his own misfortunes, he does not raise in us that admiration which tragedy is designed to inspire. A stoic philosopher makes a bad hero of a tragedy.

Dr. Blair is justly surprised that the antient critics have thought the play of Edipus the most proper subject of tragedy. Edipus kills his father, and marries his mother, so that he is guilty both of parricide and incest without knowing it; and though he is represented as a

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